Thursday, April 18, 2013

Violence, curfews, closing borders -- it's election time in Iraq

As always, violence continues in Iraq.  National Iraqi News Agency reports a Mosul roadside bombing has left three police officers injured, a Mosul car bombing claimed the lives of 3 Iraqi soldiers and left five more injured, a Basra explosion left two city workers injured, and a Falluja sticky bombing claimed 1 lifeAll Iraq News adds that the Basra explosion has left three city workers injured.

On violence, All Iraq News reports Iraqiya MP Jamal Kilani has called out the lack of coverage in the media of the targeted killings of political candidates, "Targeting the candidates and killing them is one of the major violations that are neglected by the media." There have been 15 assassinations so far this election cycle.  I agree with Kilani and I'll go him one better.  When these assassinations have been noted here (I'm not the media and am not likening myself to them, I'm just trying to be accountable), it's been two paragraphs at most and usually tying in that we saw this in the lead up to the 2010 elections.  I don't think I've written anything this go round that's properly expressed the horror of even one assassination.  The 15 are Sunni and all fall under the Iraqiya umbrella. This is clearly the targeting of one group.  This is an attempt to 'win' the elections by killing off your opponents.  It's like the years 1963 to 1968 all compressed into a matter of days -- when the US saw the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Robert F. Kennedy.  The shock and the horror of those assassinations left a huge impression on the nation.  And they were shocking.  But that was four assassinations over five years.  In Iraq, they've seen 15 assassinations of politicians over the last few weeks.  It is horrible, it is tragic and it doesn't get the attention it deserves -- and that includes from me.  The message this sends isn't explored, the impact it has on efforts of democracy isn't explored. So much isn't explored and, at least with me, it's a topic I only pick up when it's time to note another assassination or another assassination attempt -- and it's worth noting that if you include the attempts, the number's nearly double.  (Most recent high profile assassination attempt?  Atheel al-Nujaifi, Governor of Nineveh Province, brother of Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi.)

Last Saturday, the security forces participated in early voting.  I'm not reading of any other early voting which is strange because, in 2010, we saw the elderly and others allowed to early vote on the same day as the security forces.  Are they not being allowed to early vote this year?

If not, they'll vote on Saturday -- if they vote -- if they're residents of one of the 12 provinces voting -- Iraq has 18 provinces.  They can be living in Anbar Province right now, for example, but be displaced and residents of Basra and they will be allowed to vote because they are residents of Basra.  However, their neighbors in Anbar who are residents of Anbar will not be able to vote.  Nouri al-Maliki has decreed that Anbar and Nineveh will not be voting.  They may vote, he says, in six months.

Can you imagine Barack Obama, Bully Boy Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter or Gerald Ford getting away with that?

Shutting down voting in areas where they were unpopular?

Nouri's not supposed to have that right.  The 'Independent' High Electoral Commission is supposed to be the sole authority on the elections.

But this is how Nouri's become Little Saddam.  He does something illegal like this and instead of international condemnation -- which would force him to allow the two provinces to vote -- he gets 'urged' to reconsider by the United Nations and the US.  Urging doesn't work with Nouri.  Public shaming on the world stage does.

Various bans and curfews are being imposed.  NINA notes a traffic ban in Dhi Qar, All Iraq News notes Tikrit's just been placed on curfew, and Alsumaria notes that Basra's announced a curfew and closing of border crossings.  You can be sure there will be more. 

Alsumaria reports that the expectation is that 13 million people will be voting on Saturday.  That's nearly half the country.  (The CIA estimates Iraq's population to be around 30 million.  There has not been a census in Iraq since the 90s and it excluded the KRG.  The last full census was in 1987.)  All Iraq News adds that the electoral commission says the results will be announced five days after the voting.  Could someone please pass that onto Quil Lawrence so he does not go on air on NPR again and call the election the day after?  And call it for the person who ended up coming in second?  Could someone please pass that onto Quil?

Kitabat reports that tribal leaders in Dhi Qar have signed a letter apologizing to activists.  For what?  For Nouri's "abusive verbal attack" on them.  Nouri gave a little speech where he called the peaceful activists lawless rebels and threatened to use force against them.  Peaceful protests have been going on across Iraq, peaceful protests against Nouri, since December.

They aren't the only ones condemning Nouri for those remarks.  NINA notes that Osama al-Nujaifi's party has condemned the remarks and called for Nouri to stop verbally attacking demonstrators and return to Baghdad to oversea security issues.  Osama al-Nujaifi is part of the Iraqiya political slate but this was his Motahedoon Coalition issuing the condemnation.  Iraqiya also condemned the remarks.  Maysoun al-Damlouji, Iraqiya spokesperson, is quoted by NINA stating, "Describing our honorable people who peacefully demonstrate across Iraq demanding their legitimate rights as conspirators is the ugliest words you can use against the oppressed people." Iraqiya MP Ahmed al-Alwani added that Nouri's attacks on demonstrators "incite sectarian strife."

Even Nouri's new bride Saleh al-Mutlaq is calling out the remarks leading Kitabat to wonder if the honeymoon is over for Nouri and Saleh or if this is just more propaganda from Saleh in an attempt to boost the votes for the National Dialogue Front?

Nouri has returned to Baghdad. Kitabat explains that he rushed back to Baghdad after his speech in Nasiriyah was interrupted with cries of "Liar!" when he began verbally attacking the protesters.

Moving over to the US, tonight Ann and Nancy Wilson  are honored as their band Heart gets inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame.  Hitting early on with "Magic Man," "Crazy On You,""Straight On," "Barracuda"  "Dog and Butterfly," "Heartless," "Even It Up," "Tell It Like It Is," and on through "What About Love," "Alone," "These Dreams," "All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You," "Never," "Will You Be There In The Morning," "Who Will You Run To," "Stranded," "There's The Girl" and so many more.  They're not an oldies band but a band that's rocking out with the best of them today -- Kat raved over 2010's Red Velvet Car and last fall's Fanatic.


There are a lot of serious omissions in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame so it's good to see the Hall get at least one thing right.  Tavis Smiley spoke with the sisters last week on his PBS program ("Rock band Heart").  It's a richly deserved honor that Heart's more than earned.

Donna Summer passed away.  She's being inducted as well.  I knew Donna.  I'm reading some of the press this morning and no, it's not good the way she's being remembered.  It's not good because the whole point of her art and her zenith has been lost.  She never wanted to be considered the Queen of Disco.  She went along with it while trying to have a comeback.  But at the heart of her art was not 'dance music.'  There's nothing wrong with dance music but it's really insulting that her work is being so misconstrued.  Those trying to sound informed this morning would do themselves a favor by viewing her seventies ABC special.  In that special, you'll get the point of Donna's music and how she saw herself and it wasn't as the dance coochie who sold sex.  Donna was an artist, she was not a pop tart.  It would make far more sense to have New Wave artists inducting her because, at her zenith, she was at the cutting edge of music.  There seems to be no respect or acknowledgment of the songs she actually wrote and co-wrote in the push to turn her into a joke.

In 1984, Donna destroyed her own career and if she hadn't who knows what might have happened.  We'll be kind and leave it at that.

Before that?  Donna started out moaning her way through "Love To Love You Baby" and that has some reducing her to a pop tart today.  That's exactly why she hated that song.  (She also hated that so many failed to catch her nod to Laura Nyro in the song.  But if you reduce it to just sex, I guess that's all you're capable of handling.)  She was on Casablana which wasn't known for giving artists control.  You were frequently told what to record.  Her success led to her having some say in the theme albums she began to do.

She did those because she hated disco.  Disco wasn't respectable.  That might have been due to the fact that many identified it with the gay subculture of the seventies.  It was due to the fact that many Black groups were being shoved aside as soul couldn't get airplay during the disco craze.

For her to stay in the genre, she was going to have to expand it.  And those albums dealt with a lot of things that shaking your booty will never touch on.

She was the queen of the double album.  The seventies, especially by the end of the decade, saw sales fall.  But Donna was moving expensive double disc albums.  And because of that and because she found someone who believed in her (husband Bruce Sudano) she stretched and expanded.  "Heaven Knows" (like so many of the songs she was doing) was a revelation when it was released.  It was a completely different sound.  (Now it's been copied by everyone.)  She did Bad Girls which is her masterpiece.  It's dance, it's rock, it's disco, it's soul, it's pop, it's techno.  And it's Donna.  "Hot Stuff" (which she didn't write) and "Bad Girls" (which Donna co-wrote) and "Dim All The Lights" (which Donna wrote) are still strong singles, radio-ready and fresh.  But those are side one of the double disc album.  (One disc on CD today.)  It was sides three and sides four that really went to Donna's art as her vocals showed more flexibility and maturity and her songwriting more knowing in tracks like "On My Honor," "There Will Always Be A You" and "All Through The Night."

 She followed that with The Wanderer which seems forgotten today.  But as New Wave was breaking, that album earned her strong praise.  Rolling Stone compared her to Bob Dylan, noting she was running through genres, ditching one as soon as she defined it and in search of new musical formats to explore.

Geffen (the label) pressured her to turn out product and do so quickly.  She'd left Casabalanca to make real money.  But where she'd been badly paid but queen of the label, she was now one of many high profile names on a label that needed product, needed product, needed product, Christmas is coming we have to stock the stores!  It wouldn't be until 1983's She Works Hard for the Money that she'd again be proud of a full album.  1984's Cats Without Claws was a mixture and it was when she lost airplay sadly because it would have been interesting to see where she was headed (there are elements that are very Nine Inch Nails in that album).  (Her vocal on "There Goes My Baby" remains one of my all time favorite Donna vocals from the 80s.  From the 70s?  "There Will Always Be A You.")  She laid low for three years before returning with All Systems Go.  That was an assembled album, not a recorded one.  But Richard Perry and Brenda Russell producing "Dinner With Gershwin" (and Brenda playing piano on it) may have made it worth the cost.  That was it for Donna.

All albums that followed were attempts at a comeback where she was told what to do.  And she allowed herself to be told.  She never came back.  And that's probably because she wasn't the Queen of Disco.  Every expert in the world just knew that's what she was.  Donna actually knew better, she should have stuck to her own instincts. If she'd returned with an album of something she loved (like the country tracks she worked forever on recording), she might have regained her footing.  Instead it was, "Oh, she a disco queen!  Send her off to England and let some synthesizers carry her up the charts!"

Each release was greeted with excitement and then the crash that always followed because they weren't worth anything.  There's one album where there's not a song on the whole thing.  There are beats.  There are repeated lines.  But a song tells you something, it moves you.  Those things did nothing but harm Donna's image further.

So today in discussions and tonight at the Hall, she's going to be reduced to a coochie girl who shook her ass.  Which is really a distortion because Donna really didn't dance.  She was often, frankly, stiff onstage.  The truth may get hidden all day and all night but the reality is that if she was only what so many are saying today, she wouldn't be inducted into the Hall tonight.  

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