Saturday, February 27, 2010

Kat's Korner: Joanna Newsom's triumph

But, like a Bloody Mary,
seen in the mirror
speak my name
and I appear.
Kat: "Speak my name and I appear."

Joanna Newsom.

Okay, didn't work that time. Who is Joanna Newsom?

joanna newsom

An ambitious artist strolling through a world of commerce and laying down a triple-album entitled Have One On Me. An ambitious artist riffing through our collective conscious and our collective unconscious, the most Jungian songwriter grabbing the detail you remember and pairing it with the insight you never reached. An ambitious artist who is a woman writing epic songs so wrongly compared to Kate Bush (the knee jerk reaction -- especially among those male critics who sole knowledge of Bush apparently consists of the "Don't Give Up" duet). An ambitious artist with traces of Tori Amos and Joni Mitchell and Syd Barrett and Melanie but, in the end, uniquely her very own voice and very own creation.

You saw me rise to our occasion
and so deny the evidence.
You caused me to burn, and twist, and grimace against you
like something caught on a barbed-wire fence.

Now you can see me fall back here, redoubled,
full bewildered and amazed.
I have gotten into some terrible trouble
beneath your blank and rinsing gaze.

It does not suffice for you to say I am a sweet girl
or to say you hate to see me sad because of you.
It does not suffice to merely lie beside each other
as those who love each other do.

The three disc album is a love cycle that ends, above, with "Does Not Suffice." The details are there and the conclusion, when it comes, is not surprising but it is moving. Details and clues such as in the second song, title track (and the most Melanie-like song on the album) where she works in this, "Though the long road begins and ends with you, I cannot seem to make amends with you".

The problem with reviewing Joanna Newsom is that you can get lost in her amazing and deep lyrics for hours and end up forgetting the music. You could very easily turn in a review that made it appear Joanna was a spoken word poet and not a working musician. "In California" has rightly been likened by some to Joni Mitchell but I heard two critics on college radio say "Blue" and it's not like either the title track or the album. You have to drop back two albums before Blue to Clouds and to the song "I Don't Know Where I Stand." Joanna appears to confess it's a musical nod to that song by penning the lyric "I did not understand." She's borrowed the tentative nature of the music to that song and added some more darker chords and a second melody that could have been a song all it's own (I'm referring to the melody during: "And if you come and see me, you will upset the order, You cannot come and see me for I set myself apart, But when you come and see me, in California, you cross the border of my heart"). The multiple melodies are a special province of Joanna's. "Soft As Chalk" has a wonderful dominant melody with hints of two other ones that become more than hints starting at 4 minutes and fifty seconds in. Possibly when you paint big canvases, you need multi-melodies to play around with?

The album's immediate musical masterpiece "Good Intentions Paving On" has a pulsating piano melody that the tracked backing vocals echo and but vary ever so slightly. (In her main vocal, Joanna sticks to the main melody.) It's a gorgeous, rocking song and you really need to hear it on headphones to enjoy Joanna's backing vocals and the way they've been layered including a grouping you hear in both ear phones and some you hear only in one or the other. But it's not just the studio wizardry, it's the intensity and the way she attacks the notes in her background vocals.

Back to Kate Bush. I love Kate. She's a true artist, an original artist. But I don't understand the comparison because the two women are nothing alike and because it's not helpful. If you're one of Kate Bush's many fans and you buy this album thinking, "It's like a new Kate release!" -- well, you're going to be hugely disappointed. Then there's the other fact that Kate Bush, in the US, was largely dismissed by the bulk of male listeners in real time and by many female ones as well (in the US more people know her amazing "Wuthering Heights" as a song on Pat Benatar's Crimes of Passion album than as a Kate song). So the mistaken comparison not only sets up Kate Bush fans to be disappointed, it also sets up a large potential pool of listeners to have an easy out for not listening.

And you should listen. But I get that the Great Recession shows no signs of abating and that a triple disc may be a bit pricey to some in good times. Prices? Drag City is Joanna's label and you can get Have One On Me on three vinyl discs for $25.99 (may not include shipping & handling), on three Compact Discs for $20.00 (may not include shipping and handling) and you can download it (MP3) for $17.99. (Link takes you to Joanna's page and all those options and more.) Amazon currently has the CDs on sale for $17.69 and the MP3s for $17.82. I've spent several weeks living on C.I.'s advance copy and the packaging is great for those who'd prefer to have the album on compact disc. For myself, I downloaded from Amazon and my only problem was the one we all have. You go to download an album and Amazon randomly decides they don't recognize your Amazon Downloader so you have to reinstall it all over again. I had to do that multiple times before it would allow me to download the album. As most of you know, Amazon provides snippets -- about 15 seconds -- of tracks. That's not enough to judge even a song of Joanna's by. I'd instead refer you to this NPR page where you can hear a review from All Things Considered and also at this page, FOR A LIMITED TIME, you can hear the entire album. Repeating, "For a limited time." Don't e-mail me in three months whining, "Kat, I just had time to go to that page and they don't have the album up there anymore." It won't be up there forever. So make a point to go listen now if you're not familiar with Joanna Newsom.

If you are familiar with her and you're still reading, I'll assume you either already own Have One On Me or you've flipped screens earlier to order it. I didn't know her.

I'd never heard of her. In earlier days, the Tower Record Days, Before Foreclosure Days, I would spend hours in there, at the listening booths, listening to small artists, discovering people I never heard of, talking to the employees for suggestions, etc. And since it closed, a number of community members have e-mailed to say that in the last years it seems like the albums I review are all the ones they'd see advertised on TV. Meaning that they may not really need a push. And that's a fair criticism. I cop to it, I don't deny it. But when I write back and ask for suggestions, I get 'I can't think of anyone right now.' This may be the last year of TCI -- it may not be, that's C.I.'s call (I think she just bought the place in the DC area in part to justify another a year -- in a 'I bought this house so I better offer congressional hearings in the snapshots' -- but that's just my opinion). And knowing that possibility, I wanted to find an artist to open my 2010 reviews with that you might not have heard of and hopefully one not on a huge label.

I asked friends for suggestions and came up with zilch. Then I asked C.I. around January 13th and she recommended Joanna's upcoming album. I spent the next two weeks listening to her back catalogue Walnut Whales, Yarn and Glue, The Milk-Eyed Mender and Ys. I never had time for the live album from 2007 because by that time I was living on C.I.'s advance copy of the album.

Joanna Newsom's previous albums got me excited about the new one but they didn't prepare me for it. I've talked about her lyrics and music and melody already so I'll zoom in now on the voice. This is her Ladies Of The Canyon. That's the album when Joni Mitchell's vocals were truly her own. The first album, she's said, was more bell-like. The second album was a stripped down style as she felt around. The third album was the start of the amazing voice we'd come to love and know. And that's Have One On Me. Joanna's vocals have so much more confidence and they reach and they soar.

As the song cycle nears its end, she takes a trip to the "municipal pound" ("Ribbon Bows") and sings:

I am not like you, I ain't from this place
And I do reserve the right
to repeat all my same mistakes.
And, in night, like you,
I certainly bit and chew
what I can find
and never seem to lose the taste.

If you can relate to that passage in any way (and I'm betting most people can), Have One On Me is an album you need to purchase. It's one of the most ambitious works of 2010 and, even with the year still so young, it's hard to think anyone else is going to top it.


The slaughter of Iraqi Christians and election madness

In a letter sent to the Iraqi prime minister, the patriarch of the Syriac Catholic Church accused the authorities of complicity with the perpetrators of the massacre of Mosul Christians.
His Beatitude Ignace Joseph III Younan, 65, sent the letter on Wednesday to Nouri al-Maliki, decrying the murder of Christians in Mosul, northern Iraq.
Eight Christians have been killed in 10 days, while others are leaving the area where their families have lived for 2,000 years in order to flee for safety.
The patriarch affirmed: "While we write you, our hearts bleed over the tragic news we receive every day from Mosul, where Christians constantly suffer the attacks of 'unknown' criminals.
"They are murdered, massacred, threatened on the streets, in schools and even in their homes for the fact of belonging to a religion that is different from that of the majority of inhabitants of the city."

The above is from Zenit's "Iraqi Government Accused of Complicity in Murders" which, as per usual with the targeting of Christians in Mosul, has resulted in no governmental action. Nouri's announced a 'probe.' He announces that every time, doesn't he? Have his probes ever turned up anything? Nope. Not a thing. Again Iraqi-Christians are being persecuted in Mosul and again they're having to flee because no protection is provided for them. Spero News reports that Christians and supporters will march in tomorrow ("Bishops, priests, religious, and lay people") and quotes Archbishop Georges Casmoussa stating, "The march will take place in Mosul and in a dozen Christian towns and villages of the surrounding territory. The community is shocked and wants to draw the attention of the authorities who so far have done nothing to stop this killing. The march has no political or electoral motives, only religious ones. The Christians want to stay in Iraq and live their faith in peace."

Meanwhile the country gears up for their elections -- voting begins March 5th and end March 7th. We'll note two releases in this entry from the Ahrar Political Party. This one first:

Ayad Jamal Aldin reinforces Ahrar's electoral credentials on al-Sumaria tonight

On a rising tide of public support, Ahrar Party Leader Ayad Jamal Aldin reinforces Ahrar's electoral credentials on al-Sumaria's prestigious programme 'You Decide' tonight at 20:40 AST.

Jamal Aldin presents Ahrar's comprehensive plans to deliver water, jobs, electricity and security under the next Iraqi parliament and appeals directly to the people of Iraq to force that change.

Following other senior political figures and leaders on the prime time show, Ayad Jamal Aldin urges the Iraqi people to remember that they alone can force the change that Iraq so urgently needs, as they alone will be in the voting booth on March 7.

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.

Ayad Jamal Aldin is only one candidate vying for votes. Ernesto Londono and Leila Fadel (Washington Post) report on one-time CIA asset Ahmed Chalabi's efforts to come out on top:

On the eve of Iraq's parliamentary elections, Chalabi is driving an effort aimed at weeding out candidates tied to Saddam Hussein's Baath Party. Chalabi is reprising a role he played after the U.S.-led invasion -- which many critics believe he helped facilitate with faulty intelligence -- and, in the process, is infuriating American officials and some Iraqis, who suspect his motive is to bolster his own political bloc.
Chalabi, a Shiite, has defended the work of the commission he is leading as legal and crucial during a period of transition to Iraq's first sovereign government. But his reemergence on the political scene has rankled U.S. officials and fueled concerns that Sunnis and other secular Iraqis will be marginalized.
Some Iraqi and U.S. officials think Chalabi might have his eyes on the ultimate prize, however unlikely he can attain it.

If the rumors of the deal he struck with Iran supposedly guaranteeing him the prime ministership are true, does that mean that Jordan could still extradite him for the crimes he's been convicted of in that country? On the candidates in general, Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers' Inside Iraq) observes:

Suddenly, our politicians talk only about the people suffering. They all talk about the lack of services, lack of electricity, the housing crisis, the unemployment crisis and the security issues. Suddenly, most of them who were gaining millions during the last four years started thinking about the financial situation of the poor families who never dreamed of earning even one million Iraqi Dinars ($850). Suddenly, many politicians started visting the rural areas and meeting the innocent poor who were begging for a visit by one of the officials to listen to them or to tell him about a sewage problem or lack of drinking water or the absence of any medical services.

Marc Santora (New York Times) reports on Sunnis in Baquba who intend to cast votes even though some have arrest warrants pending and one Sunni candidate in the area was just arrested. Sami Dawoud Salman states, "If the government does not change, there will be a problem between the Sunni and the Shia, and it will not be good." Al Jazeera notes Shi'ite cleri Ali al-Sistani has issued an edict for clerics to stay out of the political races and not do endorsements. Hannah Allam (Miami Herald) reports on reactions in Baghdad to the political posters:

Analyzing, judging and - especially - mocking all this posturing has become a national pastime as Iraqis prepare to vote on March 7. Not only a way to needle the political elite, it's much safer for ordinary Iraqis to make fun of the 6,000 or so candidates than it is for them to voice their opinions on the issues: securing the nation, religious vs. nationalist agendas, rampant corruption, the lack of basic services and a dismal economy.
"Everyone puts his photo up with a very nice motto, but they're already in the government, so why haven't they implemented these mottos? It's all lies," said Ali Falah, 27, who's unemployed. "I was walking with my wife, and raindrops were falling on posters for a cleric. I told her, 'Wipe his face, he's crying.' She wiped his face with the edge of her sleeve until it was smudged."
Cheeky opponents of Ahmad Chalabi, the onetime U.S. ally and perennially controversial Shiite Muslim politician, are sending out e-mails of a faux poster with Chalabi's face superimposed on an ad for the classic 1940 film, "The Thief of Baghdad."
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, also a Shiite, is another frequent target. One of al-Maliki's campaign posters shows him standing shoulder to shoulder with the education minister. The men are wearing matching gray suits. The joke on the street: "Which one's the groom?"

Early voting begins March 5th but most voting will take place March 7th. They will be voting in Iraq and, due to the refugee population, in 16 other countries. Again from the Ahrar Party:

The Ahrar Party launched two new ads this week which explain how under Ahrar security, jobs, electricity and water would be brought to Iraq.

In the ads, the leader of Ahrar, Ayad Jamal Aldin, tells young Iraqis that Iraq's future is in their hands.

He says that Ahrar would sign contracts to ensure that there is a water purification network and electricity for all homes. These programmes, and others like them, would create 1 million new jobs for Iraq's young people.

Ayad Jamal Aldin said: "It is important that we get our message out to the people of Iraq. The government has lost control and it has been taken over by corrupters and outsiders intent on dividing and destroying Iraq.

"Iraq's young people are full of energy, ideas and aspirations. We must encourage them to stand up and fulfill their potential.

"On March 7 the Iraqi people face a choice - they can vote for more of the same - outsiders, corrupters, and more violence in the streets. Or they can vote for change - bringing security and jobs for our young people. A vote for Ahrar is a vote for change."


Watch the first ad here.

Read the transcript below:

VO: The corrupters have only one plan - to continue looting Iraq. The Iraqi Ayad Jamal Aldin has his plan for Iraq.

This is Ahrar's plan.

After extensive studies we got the best practical solutions,

We will start launching this plan by signing contracts with the world's best companies and obtaining the world's best expertise to build Iraq.

To construct the best power plant stations and supplying electricity to all homes.

To develop and construct networks for water purification, irrigation and drinking with the latest technology.

To support our air and military forces by developing and supplying them with the latest equipment for the sake of protecting our beloved Iraq.

These contracts will guarantee our young people more than one million job opportunities.

You have to choose.

VO: Either corruption and quotas or Ahrar's plan.


Watch the second ad here.

Read the transcript below:

VO: The Iraqi Ayad Jamal Aldin

What did the Government offer to the citizen?

Electricity? Water? Jobs? Or Security?

Of course the corrupt government only offers corruption,

You, the young people are Iraq's future.

Choose new leaders with new people and a clean government.

We are rich with our ideas and resources.

Let the young people take their chances to run the country.

Young Iraqis, be united. It is your time, it is your day.

You have to choose.

VO: Ahrar list 374

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.

We'll note this from ETAN:

ETAN To Obama Administration: U.S. military assistance will harm reform and set back human rights

Contact: John M. Miller, East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN),
+1-718-596-7668; 917-690-4391,

February 27 - The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) today urged the Obama administration not to offer increased military assistance to Indonesia.

"U.S. military assistance harms reform and sets back human rights accountability in Indonesia," said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN.

Testifying before a U.S. Senate committee this week ( video), Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton talked about expanded cooperation with the Indonesian military, including in the area of counter-terrorism. The Obama administration is currently considering offering resumed cooperation with Indonesia's Kopassus notorious special forces when the President visits the country next month.

Clinton said while seeking to expand security cooperation "We are looking at ensuring... there is no resumption of any human rights abuses or other kinds of behavior that we deplore."

"Clinton's remarks imply that Indonesian military human rights violations are a thing of the past. They aren't," said Miller.

"The best way to prevent future violations is to hold accountable those responsible for the multitude of human rights crimes committed by the Indonesian military in East Timor (Timor-Leste), West Papua, and elsewhere. Many of these crimes occurred while the U.S. was most deeply engaged with the Indonesian military providing the bulk of its weapons and training," he added.

"While Indonesia has made progress in many areas since the fall of Suharto, reform of the military has stalled. The shedding of military businesses has become a farce. And the military continues to resist efforts to bring soldiers and former soldiers into court for rights violations," said Miller

"Restrictions on military assistance provide important leverage to encourage accountability and reform," he added.

Secretary of State Clinton also spoke about Indonesia's successful counter-terrorism efforts. In Indonesia, the police have the major role in this area. "U.S. support for greater Indonesian military involvement will only undercut the police, strengthen the military internal, territorial role and further undermine reform," he said.

"Working with the military on counter-terrorism means working with Kopassus," said Miller.


For many years, the U.S. Congress conditioned military assistance to Indonesia on reform, respect for human rights and real accountability. In 2005, when the Bush administration waived those restrictions, it pledged to "carefully calibrate" any security assistance to promote reform and human rights. Neither the Bush administration nor its successor have published any such plan.

At a recent UN Security Council meeting on Timor-Leste, the U.S. representative said that "We are, however, concerned about the need to address impunity.... We also encourage Timor-Leste to support the recommendations of the Commission for Truth and Reconciliation." One recommendation of Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor (CAVR) calls on States [to] regulate military sales and cooperation with Indonesia more effectively and make such support totally conditional on progress towards full democratisation, the subordination of the military to the rule of law and civilian government, and strict adherence with international human rights, including respect for the right of self-determination.

ETAN was formed in 1991 to advocate for self-determination for occupied East Timor. The U.S.-based organization continues to advocate for democracy, justice and human rights for Timor-Leste and Indonesia. For more information, see ETAN's web site:

John M. Miller, National Coordinator
East Timor & Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)
PO Box 21873, Brooklyn, NY 11202-1873 USA
Phone: (718)596-7668 Mobile phone: (917)690-4391
Email; Mobile phone: (917)690-4391 Skype: john.m.miller

Web site:

Kat's latest music review goes up after this. The e-mail address for this site is

Another US service member announced dead

The number of US service members who have died due to the Iraq War now stands at 4380. DoD issued the following yesterday: "The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. Sgt. William C. Spencer, 40, of Tacoma, Wash., died Feb. 25 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany, of wounds sustained Feb. 20 while supporting combat operations at Combat Outpost Marez, Iraq. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 146th Field Artillery Regiment, Olympia, Wash. For more information, media may contact the Washington National Guard public affairs office at 253-512-8481." The Washington Governor's office issued the following:

OLYMPIA -- Gov. Chris Gregoire today issued the following statement on the loss of Sergeant William Spencer of Tacoma, who died from non-combat related injuries while serving in Iraq:
"I stand with all Washingtonians today as we mourn the loss of Sergeant William Spencer. Sergeant Spencer was a proud member of the 81st -- and chose to stay in Iraq with the Mississippi Army National Guard when his unit came home. He is a true hero who sacrificed his life to protect our freedoms, and provide a better life for those living in the Middle East.
"I extend my deepest condolences to Sergeant Spencer's friends, family and loved ones. My family will certainly keep them in our thoughts and prayers."

Meanwhile Al Arabiya News Channel reports tribal chief Thaher Zhihud al-Zhaheri's son Ahmed was shot dead by the US military today and that the chief's wife, Sabiha Nahath Saud, was shot and injured by the US military. Local witnesses dispute the US military's account of it being a tragic accident but the news channel forgets to ask why the US military was doing patrols in Kaanan by themselves. Didn't last June 30th end all of that? No, it didn't. But the lie is still pimped that it did.

In other reported violence, Reuters notes 1 Imam was shot dead in Baghdad yesterday and that a home bombing took place in Qaim targeting a member of the State of Law party (Burkan Abdul Razaq) who was not harmed.

Marie Colvin (Times of London) reports on Monday's al-Kaabi attack in which a family was muredered including Ahmed who was eight years old and "found hanging from a ceiling fan, blood dripping from slashed wrists tied behind his back." His sister Rafel had her throat slit, their father Hussein al-Kaabi was shot dead, their mother Widad was shot and knifed (she had been pregnant) and their four siblings were also killed.

On the subject of violence, James Denselow (Guardian) weighs in:

While much has been made of the significant improvement in security in the country, it is worth taking a moment to remember how dangerous Iraq really is. Nearly seven years after the toppling of Saddam it is only the multiple bombings such as the targeting of government ministries and Shia pilgrimages that break into the international media; the constant daily stories of death and destruction are largely unnoticed outside the country.
Indeed, although much of the western media has largely abandoned covering Iraq, McClatchy news publishes an important daily report of violence from police, military and medical sources. But even this fails to tally the actual daily violence, much of which goes unreported. Still, a typical report from last Monday shows, in Baghdad alone, terrifying levels of violence with several bombings, minibuses raked by gunfire, a family of eight massacred in their home, a policeman killed by a sniper and a university lecturer gunned down on the street.

To correct an error in the above excerpt, McClatchy does not publish a daily report of violence. It used to. It may resume doing so after the elections. But Feburary was the death of that daily violence report. I believe Laith Hammoudi published one on Monday. I believe that was the last one for the week. They have been moving their location this month and that may be part of the reason but for February, they produced no daily violence report. They sometimes had a weekly or a little more than that but they did not have a daily report. In fact, let's just cut and paste links to the entire February output:

Recent Daily Violence Headlines

27 days in the month thus far, five days of reported violence. No, it's not been a daily report.

Yesterday's snapshot noted some of the press attention Andrew Rawnsley's new book The End of the Party was receiving in England. Today Toby Helm (Guardian) reports:

Rawnsley's explosive account is in The End of the Party, which is published on Monday , extracts from which appear in tomorrow's Observer. It lays bare, for the first time, how Blair was haunted and tormented by the deepening chaos and bloodshed in Iraq at the same time as being worn down by the constant psychological warfare being waged by Brown, his next-door neighbour in Downing Street, who was increasingly desperate to take his job.

If true, good. He should have been haunted. Not only should he have been haunted by his actions, he should continue to be haunted. Until the day he dies, he should be plagued with guilt and remorse over his lies and the deaths that resulted from them. He should never have a moment's peace.

Iraq's elections are about to start and one political party vying for votes is the Ahrar Party which released the following:

Watch Ahrar Party Leader Ayad Jamal Aldin on Al Rasheed tonight

After yesterday's poll from Baghdadiya TV which placed Ahrar Party in fourth place, Ayad Jamal Aldin will continue to cement Ahrar's electoral credentials tonight in an interview with Al Rasheed.

He will use a prime time interview at 7:00pm AST to take questions on Ahrar's comprehensive plans to deliver water, jobs, electricity and security under the next Iraqi parliament.

Speaking from Baghdad, where he has been addressing a group of Iraq's leading academics, Jamal Aldin said, "The people want change - real change. The corrupters and outside agents can use all the tricks they like, we are strong enough to prevail. One group has the power in Iraq right now, and that is the Iraqi people. We are calling for the Iraqi people to implement this change by demonstrating bravery at the polling booths on March 7."

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.

The following community sites updated last night:

Quickly. Yesterday's snapshot had a lengthy note at the end. And I meant that no apology was necessary. Brief background, Salem-News has an article (no link, I don't have time) about questions being raised re: 9-11. On Thursday morning, I noted that and noted we'd include it in the snapshot. I forgot when trying to whittle down the snapshot (the one I dictated was too large and we had to whittle it down). The position at this site has been (and remains) 9-11 is not our issue or focus. If it someone's, that's fine and great and more power to you. But we're focused on Iraq. That's always been the motto and it's the motto community wide. We've never ridiculed citizens who search for the truth. But a large number of e-mails came in after I forgot Thursday to include a link to the piece (I'm not referring to Mia who e-mailed just to remind me that I forgot to link). I said in the note in Friday's snapshot that no apology was necessary and that I knew this is a heated topic. If you're a visitor or a drive-by who let me have it on Thursday because the link wasn't in Thursday's snapshot, let it go. It didn't destroy me, it didn't hurt my feelings. I knew it wasn't about me. It's a heated issue and my part of the blame was forgetting to include it in Thursday's snapshot. There's no need for any apologies. My feelings are not hurt and were not hurt. If you're confused regarding our stand on this issue, by all means e-mail and tell me you're confused and I need to explain it better. But I don't need any apologies and I didn't take anything personally. So let's please just table the apology e-mails because they are not needed. I've started the next entry but some of it will be dictated, I've got to head out the door right now.

The e-mail address for this site is

thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends

Friday, February 26, 2010

Iraq snapshot

 Friday, February 26, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, election frenzy continues in Iraq, KBR gets a set back as well as a win (on a technicality), did Gordon Brown scream "You ruined my life" at a well known figure and why, Iraqi Christians flee Mosul, and more.
Iraq elections start in less than seven days (voting lasts from March 5th through March 7th) and there's been very little coverage of the campaigns.  In part that's due to the restrictive press environment in Iraq which has only gotten more restrictive.  Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) speaks with Iraqi journalist Nadjha Khadum who made her name with repeated investigative reporting during Saddam Hussein's era.  She says that back then, you only had to prove that it was true.  Today, it's much worse and journalists are targeted for assassinations for exposes.  (This is true throughout Iraq -- in the KRG as well as central and southern Iraq.) Since the start of the Iraq War, things have only gotten worse for the press. Londono notes, "The guidelines that Iraq's Communications and Media Commission issued last month bar journalists from withholding the names of sources and threaten action against those who publish information that incites violence -- a criterion that is ill-defined. The rules also say news organizations must apply for licenses, register equipment with the commission and provide a list of employees."  Supposedly this elections (voting starts March 5th and ends the 7th) are monumental. The press and the US administration has invested all this meaning in them which, alone, would mean the campaigning would be covered. When you add in that the increase in violence as well as the bannings give it an increased 'timely' quality and news value (conflict is always news), you should expect to read tons of coverage on the campaigning. That's not happening. And it's in part because Nouri's insisting that those covering the elections register with the government. Most outlets rely on Iraqi journalists to be stringers and eyes and ears as well as to be the co- or sole reporter on news reports but many of the Iraqis cannot register as journalists due to threats that might follow as a result of their occupation being known. This has seriously curtailed a great deal of coverage news consumers would otherwise be receiving.  And Reporters Without Borders releases an overview today of the problems in the north where the Kurdistan Regional Government rules.  Awene newspaper's founder Asos Hardi states, "The authorities do not stop talking about freedom of expression, constantly boasting of media's independence. But these words are meaningless. In practice, the authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan do not believe in freedom of expression."  AFP reports on the overview and also notes, "Iraq's election commission has imposed a 9:00 pm curfew on campaigning in Sulaimaniyah province after a number of violent incidents were reported. The province has been the focus of considerable tension between rival Kurdish parties, vying for maximum leverage in the event that the Kurds are kingmakers in the next Iraqi government." Sarwar Salar Chuchani (The Comment Factory) interviews Joost Hiltermann -- he's with the Crisis Group which makes him US government adjacent:
Chuchani: Do you believe the Kurdish participation in multi-list Iraqi elections will weaken their position in Baghdad?               
Hiltermann: It will not affect the Kurds' position with regard to key questions concerning Kirkuk and other disputed territories, oil and gas, or the powers of the Kurdistan region. But it may have an impact on a host of other questions, such as most importantly the Iraqi presidency, unless -- I suppose -- the Kurdistani list make certain concessions to Goran that Goran is asking for. I don't know whether they will be able to reach an agreement.  
Chuchani: What is the debate over Kirkuk leading to?                   
Hiltermann: Hopefully to a peaceful, negotiated, compromise solution that can be sustainable.                        
Chuchani: Do you believe Kurdish parties are committed to the establish of the rule of law, democracy and human rights?   
Hiltermann: I don't know. But since they have said they are committed to this, they should be held to their word. In this respect, the opposition parties and the KRG's international sponsors could play a constructive role. International pressure has certainly contributed to a certain progress on this front since 1991.         
Kirkuk is the disputed region claimed by both the KRG and the central government or 'government' in Baghdad.  Each side argues historical rights to the area.  The Kurds have repeatedly called for a census and a vote on the issue.  In that call, they are on strong ground because the Iraq Constitution mandates that both take place -- both were supposed to have taken place by 2007 and still haven't.  Missy Ryan, Mustafa Mahmoud, Khalid al-Ansary and Samia Nakhoul (Reuters) note today that, "The dispute over Kirkuk, which Kurds want to make part of their semi-autonomous northern region, is now seen as a chief threat to security as Iraq emerges from a bloody sectarian war and tests its fragile democracy in national polls on March 7."

Voting will take place in 16 other countries besides Iraq due to Iraq's large refugee population. Bassel Oudat (Al-Ahram Weekly) reports from Damascus that no campaigning is going on there yet within the Iraqi refugee community and Oudat notes, "Many had expected changes in the electoral process, but their hopes have been dashed. Now, the refugees believe that the forthcoming Iraqi elections may well turn out to be a farce."  In Iraq, Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports, "A little over a week before the Iraq eleciton, the country is a cauldron of political attacks, sectarian divisions, and conspiracy theories that could limit the turnout in the country's most important national elections to date."  Sami Moubayed (Asia Times) offers, "In Karbala, a massive turnout of poor people showed up at a rally for Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, breaking through security to present him with petitions, knowing that no time is better for ordinary Iraqis to reach out directly to top officials -- and have all their requests answered immediately."
Candidates are running to become one of the 325 members of Parliament. The Parliament elects the Prime Minister. Technically, the current Parliament and Prime Minister (Nouri) aren't 'in office' -- their terms have expired. Elections were supposed to take place in December and then moved back to January and now March. In Iraq, the process is such that the votes will not be counted for several days or weeks. After the vote tallies are released, the Parliament will be known. However, it could be (could be) weeks before a prime minister is named. The naming could take place quickly. If, for example, State of Law holds a large number of seats and enters into political alliance with other major blocs, Nouri could be re-named prime minister in a matter of days. How likely is that? Well, when you run off all your competition, you make it a lot easier. But naming any prime minister may take much longer. There are new factions and parties and the creation of those may have led to grudges that could be hard to put aside. December 15, 2005, the last Parliamentary elections were held (for only 275 seats back then). The election results were not 'official' until January 20, 2006. (They still weren't certified at that point.) And Nouri, who was not the first choice, was not named as prime minister until April 22, 2006.

Something similar may take place this time around. If it took as long as last time (which most observers -- including at the UN -- do not expect), it would be July before a prime minister was selected.  On the second hour of today's The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), Diane's panel was composed of Thom Shanker (New York Times), Farah Stockman (Boston Globe) and David Wood ( and, discussing the arrest in Pakistan of Abdolmalek Rigi, Iraq came up.
Thom Shanker: [. . .] and this arrest came literally one week after Gen Ray Odierno, the senior American commander in Iraq, was in Washington spoke very forcefully and for the first time about Iranian influence in the upcoming elections in Iraq and the fact that two leading Shi'ite politicians had been in Iran recently meeting with Quods forces commanders who are on the terror watch list. So this is a lot of sort of, you know, tic-tac-toe and tit-for-tat going on here.
Diane Rehm: Now what about these elections scheduled for March 7th?  We're told that the anti-American bloc is gaining power, Thom?
Thom Shanker: Well it's a very complicated situation. The Shi'ite majority have been trying to block some of the Sunni candidates on the grounds that some of their leaders were former members of the Saddam Hussein political party, the Ba'ath Party.  Uh -- the Sunni were going -- many parties were going to stay out of the election.  They just announced this morning [C.I. note, he means they announced yesterday] they got wisdom and they will participate after all. Although, you know, if it's a fair majority rule vote, they're going to lose.  But the Shi'ite majority government did something else very interesting.  It reinstated several thousands maybe 10 - 20,000 former Saddam era military officers not at the highest levels but at the mid-levels so there's lots of politicking going on which, overall, is healthy and it's probably going to be thirty, sixty or ninety days after the vote whether we see it will be a stable movement forward or whether things fall apart.
Diane Rehm: And how strong is Nouri al-Maliki right now -- the prime minister?
Thom Shanker: Well, he's in the driver's seat so he has all the advantages of incumbancy but the problem is again that we see in these very tense, kind of confrontations, it's the more radical people who always get the upper hand. In this case, it's Moqtar [Moqtada] al-Sadr who has -- I think the name "fire brand" is permanently attached to his name. He's an extremest, uh, Islamic cleric and led a militia which fought bitterly against US forces for years and was sort of based in Sadr City and so on. It's likely that he will have a major hand in the next government and so the interesting thing is: So what? He can have a lot of anti-American rhetoric and so forth which would be politically helpful but what will it actually mean?  US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill said the other day that he'd gotten assurances from major Iraqi political features that whatever agreements Iraq had reached under the current government would still be held by who ever takes power next. Uh, he also said that they'd agreed during his campaign to be nice to each other, not to call each other names and abide by the outcome of the elections, so who knows?
Diane Rehm: Farah?
Farah Stockman: Well it's just fascinating to watch Iraqi politics unfold and if you go back to the days when we were orchestrating everything and the people we put in power and now it's just going to be a surprise to see what happens.
Programming note: Al Jazeera's Inside Iraq begins airing this evening and repeats throughout (and streams online) the weekend.  The guest will be Ahmed Chalabi who will respond to comments by Odierno and others. One of the political parties competing in the elections is the Ahrar Party and they issued the following today:
Ayad Jamal Aldin unveils Ahrar plan for security, public services and employment within Iraq   
Last night Ayad Jamal Aldin, leader of the Ahrar Party, cemented the Ahrar Party's electoral credentials in a live TV interview, with questioning from a three-man panel and the public, for Al Baghdadiya.                   
Revealing Ahrar's plan for security, public services and employment within Iraq, Ayad Jamal Aldin received an unprecedented reaction from the viewers.                         
Following the interview, Al Baghdadiya reported that they received over 1,000 callers and emails supporting Ayad Jamal Aldin and predicting that he could well be the future prime minister of Iraq.                
During the interview, the outspoken leader once again challenged current Prime Minister, Nouri Al-Maliki, to a live TV debate where he promised to "demonstrate to the Iraqi people how corrupt the current government has become." So far, Maliki has yet to respond to any of Jamal Aldin's previous invitations.                  
Jamal Aldin, a descendent of the prophet Mohammed, was asked by viewers how his party's secular policies conformed with his clerical garments. "You make a big issue about my clothes. There are many men wearing clerical dress and they used to wear the military uniform during Saddam's time. It doesn't matter what you wear, what matters is how wear it."                               
Jamal Aldin's secular views and strong anti-Iranian stance have not made him popular amongst certain factions within the country. He's been the victim of six assassination attempts since 2003. However, he reassured viewers over Ahrar's stance on Israel. "Iraq is an Arabic nation and we are part of the Arab League. We take the same position on Israel as the rest of the Arab world."
The Ahrar Plan for reconstruction within Iraq includes inviting the leading construction companies in the world to pitch for business in the future development projects within the country.
One caller stated that other parties were offering free housing; which Jamal Aldin dismissed as frivolous lies. "If any politician says he will build you a housing compound and give it to the people for free, he is lying. Ahrar knows what needs to be done. We will create a new bank, specifically for these projects, and inject an initial $5 billion dollars. We will then ask rich companies from around the world to be part of the bank. This bank's role will be to provide low-interest loans to the Iraqi people to enable them to build their own houses."
Another viewer asked him about the financing of his campaign and the reported $10 million - of his own money - he was using to fund the party. "Would this money not be better off being spent on reconciliation projects for the poor?"
"$10 million is incomparable to the billions of dollars that the people of Iraq have been deprived of through the corruption and wastage of the current government. If my $10 million enables me to win a position where I am able to force changes within Iraq then it has been an extremely worthwhile investment."
When asked about the likelihood of this occurring, Jamal Aldin accepted it was probable that some cheating would occur however urged people to "come out and vote in order to ensure that corruption within the polls is less likely."
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.
Today, Reuters notes a Mosul dumpster bombing which claimed 2 lives and left ten people injured and a Mosul car bombing which wounded nine people (three were Iraqi soliders). Staying with violence, earlier this week Ruth offered "The assault on Iraq's Christians."  She's not 'mass media,' but she's covered the topic. Edward Pentin (Catholic News Agency) notes the "mass media" silence on the attcks and on the fact that "Christian families are leaving the northern Iraqi city of Mosul in their droves to excape a concerted campaign of violence and intimidation."  He writes:
Chaldean Bishop Emil Shimoun Nona has said that Mosul is experiencing a "humanitarian emergency" and that "hundreds of Christian families" left the city Feb. 24 in search of shelter, leaving behind their homes, property, commercial activities, according to Asia News. The situation "is dramatic", he said, and warned that Mosul could be "emptied completely of Christians".
The families have chosen to flee after a spate of violent attacks which left five Christians dead last week, and members of a whole family murdered on Tuesday. "In one house all the family members were killed -- five people," said an Iraqi member of Open Doors, a non-denominational charity helping persecuted Christians.

Adel Kamal (Niqash) explains how this may be tied into the elections:
Following the Archbishops' memorandum, the Naynawa governor, Osama al-Nujaifi, ordered the Naynawa Operations Command to restore security in Mosul. He called on the army command to "shoulder their responsibilities for protecting the Christian community and disclosing the results of the criminal investigations regarding the crimes committed against them."
Al-Nujaifii told Niqash that after the earlier attacks on Christians he asked the Operations Command to set-up a joint security. They responded curtly: "Security is our responsibility." "In that case," al-Nujaifi said, "They must take that responsibility and restore security."
The Kurds in the area have boycotted the Governorate Council since al-Nujaifi took office and the governor sees the violence as politically motivated.   
"There are sides wanting to draw the Christians into a conflict that they are not part of." 
The conflict he is referring to is between the Arab al-Hadba list, which al-Nujaifi heads, and the Kurdish List. Like al-Nujaifi, the Deputy Chairman of Naynawa Governorate Council, Dildar Zaybari, refused to accuse the Kurds.
Meanwhile Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reports on the extra-legal Justice and Accountability Commission's decision to remove 580 Iraqis from the country's security forces for being alleged 'Ba'athists.' Mohammed Tawfeeq and CNN report on the simultaneous announcement yesterday that 20,000 military officers under Saddam Hussein would be reinstated, "Kurdish lawmaker Mahmoud Othman said al-Maliki was simply trying to secure more votes. 'This contradicts his anti-Baathist election campaign and it is very obvious that he wants to appeal to voters'." Leila Fadel and K.I. Ibrahim (Washington Post) quote the extra-legal commission's Ali Falial al-Lami stating they have proof that banned candidate Saleh al-Mutlaq is a 'Ba'athist.' Apparently, they've forced some more confessions in Iraq yet again. Al Jazeera adds, "Mohammed al-Askari, the defence ministry spokesman, said on Friday the resinstatement would begin immediately."
On Monday the top US commander in Iraq, Gen Ray Odierno, gave a briefing in DC where he noted that the draw down could be slowed. This was a testing the water move (by the administration -- though some want to pretend Odierno was a 'loose canon' acting alone). Wednesday morning's New York Times featured a column by former journalist Thomas E. Ricks (speaking for Michele Flournoy to be sure) advocating for a longer US presence in Iraq. Thursday, it was learned that slowing the draw down was actually a request currently submitted to the administration. That's the background. Today Jason Ditz ( observes that Barry O's "soft pullout" just got softer while Michael Hastings (The Hastings Report, True/Slant) takes on Rick's suck up to Australian -- who really needs to take his ass home -- David Kilcullen's assertion that entering stupidly doesn't mean you have to depart stupidly. Hastings observes, "So, if you never leave, there's no worry of acting stupid. Except that you never leave. Which seems kind of stupid, too." 
Turning to the issue of one-time Haliburton subsidiary KBR, the Democratic Policy Committee earlier in this entry and we'll close with this news release:

( WASHINGTON , D.C. ) --- U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), who chaired Senate hearings on electrocutions of soldiers in Iraq resulting from shoddy contracting work by KBR, said Thursday the Army's decision to deny million of dollars in bonuses to the firm for its 2008 work in Iraq "is the right call, but it is only a first step."           
Dorgan chaired two Senate Democratic Policy Committee (DPC) hearings in 2008 and 2009 on KBR's shoddy electrical work in Iraq . The hearings revealed widespread problems with KBR's electrical work there including countless electrical shocks including one that killed Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, and perhaps others, and injured dozens more on their own bases as they showered and engaged in other routine activities.                 
Following the hearings, Dorgan and Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) wrote the Army asking that it review KBR's work and the electrocution death of Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth. They also asked the Army to re-evaluate the millions of dollars in bonuses it has routinely awarded KBR for supposedly excellent work, even when the Army's own evidence made clear it was highly questionable.           
The Army's investigation of Maseth's January 2008 death found that KBR's work exposed soldiers to "unacceptable risk." A theatre-wide safety review that resulted from the Dorgan-Casey request -- Task Force SAFE -- also found widespread problems with KBR's electrical work that exposed soldiers to life threatening risks. "The decision to deny KBR millions in bonuses for its work in 2008 is welcome news, and is a significant change from the Army's past practice, but the Army clearly needs go much further," Dorgan said. "Specifically, it needs to review the $34 million bonus and other bonuses it awarded KBR for shoddy work that may have contributed to other electrocution deaths and other serious electrical shocks."          
Dorgan said the Army's decision "will send a long overdue message to military contractors that they will be held accountable for their performance. But the Army needs to send that message much more powerfully. Not awarding a bonus for widespread sloppy contracting work that killed soldiers is just the beginning, not the end point, of accountability."      
Dorgan has chaired 21 Senate DPC hearings on waste, fraud and corruption in military contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003. Evidence at those hearings he said, "has been overwhelming that KBR's work was shoddy and put the lives of U.S. soldiers at risk. KBR's electrical workers were often unqualified, poorly trained and poorly supervised. When questions were raised, they simply denied there was a problem and proceeded with the same shoddy business as usual."

Senator Byorn Dorgan addresses the issue in a video at DPC as well.   A large number of veterans and contractors have filed suit against Halliburton and/or its subsidiary KBR.  Jon Murray (Indianapolis Star) reports that Judge Richard Young of the US District Court for the Southern District of Indiaina dismissed the case filed on behalf of 47 members of the Indiana National Guard with the finding that that he lacked jurisdiction due to KBR being based in another state (Texas) and the exposure (he would say "alleged exposure") took place in Iraq. He only ruled on jurisidiction and did not address the merits of the case.  There are at least 22 cases against KBR/Halliburton filed in 22 different district courts across the country. Whether or not the judges in 21 of those will find as Judge Young did isn't known. 21? One of the cases is filed in Texas.
We're moving to England but, before we do, shouts of joy echo all over DC with this White House announcement.  And have fun under the bus, dear.  Monday the the Iraq Inquiry announced that the current Prime Minister of England, Gordon Brown, will offer testimony to the Inquiry on March 5th. When former prime minister Tony Blair's date was announced, BBC noted that "3,000 people have applied for seats at Tony Blair's appearance" and yesterday the BBC attempted to make it seem that Gordon Brown was 'in demand' as well by insisting, "More than 300 people have applied . . ." Alice Tarleton (Channel 4 News) points out that there are 120 seats available because Brown testifies in the morning and afternoon -- while there were only 60 available for Tony Blair's and that this is "a fraction of the 3,041" applying for Tony tickets.  Is that why Gordon Brown screamed "You ruined my life!" at Tony Blair? No. Patrick Wintour and Andrew Sparrow (Guardian) report that "Gordon Brown repeatedly shouted at Tony Blayr: "You ruined my life" in the final confrontation that forced Blair to agree to announce a date by which he would stand down as prime minister, according to Andrew Rawnsley's new book" The End of the Party. The Telegraph of London adds that he also plotted to undermine Alastair Campbell and that Brown's response to the assertions is, "Given that they are both completely wrong, and that you can almost laugh them off, they are so ridiculous."  The Iraq Inquiry is chaired by John Chilcot and Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) reports today:
On Tuesday Labour MP Graham Allen met Sir John Chilcot. Allen was one of the organisers of the rebellion of Labour MPs against the war and wanted to highlight "the three fundamental institutional flaws which were revealed by the lead-up to the Iraq War so that they are not repeated."               
Allen told me: "I wanted to give Sir John Chilcot a perspective he has not been exposed to before. I'm hopeful that the story of those who tried to stop the war will form part of the report. The three things I put forward, had they happened the first time round, would have significantly diminished, if not eliminated, the prospect of Parliament authorising the war." Although he declined to reveal what Chilcot's response was, Allen told me that he was "extremely generous with his time" and "open and frank and well-informed".
TV notes. NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):

In 1995 and 1996, 66 gray wolves were relocated from Canada to
Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho to help recover a wolf
population that had been exterminated in the northern Rockies. The
wolf relocation
is considered one of the most successful wildlife
recovery projects ever attempted under the Endangered Species Act; today
there are more than 1,600 wolves in the region. But a debate has erupted
between conservationists and ranchers over the question: how many wolves
are too many?

Last year, the Obama Administration entered the fray by removing
for some of these wolves, paving the way for controversial
state-regulated wolf hunts. The move has wolf advocates fuming, with
more than a dozen conservation groups suing the Interior Department to
restore federal protections. On February 26 at 8:30 pm (check local
listings), NOW reports on this war over wolves and implications for the

Staying with TV notes, Washington Week begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and we'll note who joins Gwen around the table this are Naftali Bendavid (Wall St. Journal), John Dickerson (CBS News and Slate), David Shepardson (Detroit News) and Karen Tumulty (Time magazine).  Meanwhile, has a president, in the 'modern era,' ever refused to deliver a State of the Union speech? Washington Week, as part of its site redesign and increased web presence provides an answer to that by dipping into the archives and making available a February 2, 1973 installment of Washington Week. You can also view the Webcast Extra for last week's show (or any other show this year or last year) which is an additional segment where Gwen and her guests discuss topics submitted by viewers of the show. Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Karen Czarnecki, Avis Jones-DeWeever, Melinda Henneberger and Tara Setmayer to discuss the week's events on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes:

Stealing American Secrets
"60 Minutes" has obtained an FBI videotape showing a Defense Department employee selling secrets to a Chinese spy that offers a rare glimpse into the secretive world of espionage and illustrates how China's spying may pose the biggest espionage threat to the U.S. Scott Pelley reports. |
Watch Video

Battle Over History
Bob Simon reports on what the Armenians call their holocaust - the 1915 forced deportation and massacre of more than a million ethnic Armenians by the Turks - an event that the Turks and our own government have refused to call genocide. |
Watch Video

Kathryn Bigelow
Lesley Stahl talks to Academy Award best-director nominee Kathryn Bigelow about her award-winning film, "The Hurt Locker." If she's chosen, she would be the first woman ever to win in that category. |
Watch Video

60 Minutes, Sunday, Feb. 28, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Lastly the Salem-News has a feature on the questions regarding 9-11 (link has text and video) by Tim King and here's the opening, "The mainstream press is showing interest in a taboo, however glaring subject; the inconsistencies in the Bush White House 9/11 account. As The Washington Post reports today, 'A lingering technical question about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks still haunts some, and it has political implications: How did 200,000 tons of steel disintegrate and drop in 11 seconds? A thousand architects and engineers want to know, and are calling on Congress to order a new investigation into the destruction of the Twin Towers and Building 7 at the World Trade Center'." Thank you for community member Mia for catching the above.  I'd written it would be noted in Thursday's snapshot, I forgot.  Others wondered if I was 'scared off' by the subject?  Tim King covers Iraq and does a fine job.  If he goes into another area, we can make a little space to note that from time to time.  If he goes into this area?  He's raising questions and, in a democracy, we should all welcome that. 9-11 is not our issue at this site (or my issue offline) but we do not attack people who question here (or people who offer theories -- for example, we've never attacked the 911 Commission and, yes, there 'findings' are a theory).  If we were a religious site, we'd say, "Go with God." We're not so we'll just note that Tim King's a fine reporter and anytime we have the space to note him, we will. In my offline life, I have friends on all sides of this topic (there's more than just two sides) and I respect everyone's opinion (even those friends whose opinion is the same as the 911 Commission's).  I know this is a controversial topic and I know people look for signs and indications.  My forgetting on Thursday was just my forgetting.  There was too much for that snapshot and I was trying to squeeze in the House Veterans Affairs hearing.  That hearing was covered by Kat covered it last night in "Subcommittee on Oversight hears about Iraq," Wally filled in for Rebecca and covered it in "Filner asks the money question"  and Ava filled in for Trina and covered it in "Stats aren't science."  Back to the topic of King's articles about questions. This has been addressed here many times before but my forgetting led to e-mails (and I understand that but I did just forget, I wasn't trying to be 'respectable' -- no one who knows me would ever accuse me of that, trust me). Those who search for answers -- on any issue or question -- are not attacked here.  Our fire is aimed at the gas bags and the politicians.  There is enough frivilous in the country -- especially among so-called adults -- and anyone dedicating themselves to a 9-11 search has a worthy and admirable topic and, as with the researchers into the assassination of JFK, their work may never turn up a single answer but it will turn up many things of value, that's what research does.  And in a democracy, we don't attack those who ask questions (we welcome a free exchange), and in terms of discourse and information, independent research has produced so much information throughout the history of this country. I hope that clarifies it (and if you wrote an angry e-mail, don't worry about it, this is a heated topic, I understand that but, no, we're not part of any clampdown here, nor do we think we're any better than any other citizens of the US, we'll leave the sneering at We The People to the gas bags of cable TV).  If not, please e-mail again and I'll try to make it more clear.  (And if you're late to the party and wondering what "my issue" is -- it's the word in the title before "snapshot.")