book 'em friday: liz taylor

Elizabeth Taylor

it's book 'em friday and that's the cover of darwin porter and danforth prince's 'elizabeth taylor: there is nothing like a dame.'  marcia and i have covered darwin porter's books on paul mccartney and steve mcqueen:

"he wasn't gay, he just swallowed our ..." and "Steve ordered us to rape him"

we wanted to cover porter's book on humphrey bogart.  but?  we hurried to read the book in a little over a week.

you can't do that.  the elizabeth taylor book is 562 pages.  if you rush it, you're going to miss a ton.  each page has details.  and marcia and i are covering the book tonight so be sure and click over to marcia's site to get her thoughts on the book.

this is an interesting read, to put it mildly.  you will not be able to put it down.  as always, the temptation is to speed read.  don't do that.  you'll miss so much (like we did when we hurried through the bogart book).  you've got the story of taylor from the start on through 1968.

she's with richard burton at the end.

before she gets there, she's with a ton of men many have lusted over.

though she was never able to make love with montgomery clift, she got rock hudson in bed, gay or not.  the same with james dean.  her marriages are nothing compared to the men she made love with.  lex braker, victor mature, ronald reagan (yes, that ronald reagan), vittorio gassman, marlon brando, fernando lamas, peter lawford, johnny stompanato (yes, the man lana turner was sleeping with - the gangster - that her daughter supposedly stabbed to death) and so many more.

many more men struck out, of course.  that list would include howard hughes.  the authors tell you that liz wasn't impressed with hughes manner of dress (hobo) but loathed the way he thought he could buy her.  she rebuffed him repeatedly.

so he had to make do with his porno movie of her instead.

and yet --


the porno movie?

no liz didn't set out to make a porno movie and might not be aware she had.

johnny stompanato took her to a room to make love.  what she didn't know was that he was taping it for mob boss mickey cohen. when howard hughes learned about the porn movie, he bought it from cohen for $50,000.

the biggest surprise to me was that elizabeth taylor had an affair with frank sinatra.  i was surprised by it and surprised that i was surprised by it because frank sinatra was the warren beatty of his day so of course his pairing with taylor was going to happen.

elizabeth taylor's life is a hard 1 to cover because it was such a full life.

but porter and prince really do a good job of including the major events and keeping things moving.

you'll want to read it to find out what happens when liz, in her bra and panties, rejects joan crawford's pass.

but you'll want to read it for a hundred reason. including the way she and mike todd circled for some time before they got together.  the book is in soft cover and had a list price of $23.95. we both found it at our local barnes & noble.

so pick up the book and learn about her conflicts with crawford, katharine hepburn, marlene dietrich. and especially marilyn monroe.  it's all there, a fascinating book.

let's close with c.i.'s 'Iraq snapshot:'

Friday, November 23, 2012.  Chaos and violence continues in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani wades into the latest crisis, Iraq increases crude oil exports by 1.1%,  some in Iraq's special needs community participate in a hunger strike, Iraqi women face increased harassment from fundamentalists, David Lawly-Wakelin weighs in on protesting Tony Blair, and more.
Last week at Highgate Magistrates' Court, in answer to my interrupting Tony Blair whilst he was giving evidence at the Leveson Inquiry, I was found guilty of causing him 'harassment, alarm or distress', and ordered to pay a £100 fine plus £250 costs.
The Leveson Inquiry was set up specifically to look into the lies and deceit of others. Some might just scream double hypocrisy when one also considers the harassment, alarm or distress caused to the families of well over half a million lives lost as the John Hopkins Bloomberg school of public health estimated (654,965 up until 2006) let alone the harassment alarm or distress to those families still giving birth to deformed babies in Fallujah.
As a nation, just as with Hillsborough, we are being asked to turn a blind eye to what millions of us believe - that former prime minister Tony Blair, in a conspiracy with George W. Bush, deceived us into a corrupt and illegal Iraq war that took the lives of well over half a million people. Since he has left office it's been reported that he has accumulated well over £60million on the back of his lies.
Knowing that Iraq was crippled from 10 years of sanctions, George W. Bush and Tony Blair believed the war would be over in months. No one would then care or notice, five years later, the business deals that would follow.
Last Friday, Oliver Laughland and Emine Saner (Guardian) reported that Lawley-Wakelin was found guilty by the court and ordered to pay 250 British pounds in court costs and another 100 pounds as a fine.  They quote him stating, For me to have been found guilty of causing Tony Blair harassment, alarm or distress, for calling him a war criminal while he is giving evidence in an inquiry that is looking into the lies and deceits of others is the greatest hypocrisy I've heard in a very long time."  From the May 29th snapshot:
Samira Shackle (New Statesman) reported that while Tony Blair gave testimony a the Royal Courts of Justice, he was shouted down with a cry of, "This man should be arrested for War Crimes!"  Tom Chivers (Telegraph of London) identifies the truth-teller as David Lawley-Wakelin who made the documentary Alternative Iraq Enquiry. Sam Lister, Rosa Silverman and Brian Farmer (Independent of London) report that Lawley-Wakelin shouted, "This man should be arrested for War Crimes.  JP Morgan paid him off for the Iraq War.  Three months after he invaded Iraq they held upt he Iraq bank for 20 billion.  He was then paid six million dollars every year and still is from JP Morgan six month after he left office.  This man is a War Criminal!" As Connor Simpson's piece for The Atlantic noted, "Tony Blair Can't Escape the Iraq War."
Suzannah Hills (Daily Mail) reports that Lawley-Wakelin appeared on James O'Brien's LBC radio program today You go through the metal detectors, any member of the public can actually go in, and I tried to get in through the front entrance of the Leveson inquiry but was evicted as I don't have any press accreditation. But I figured out there must be a back way in as Lord Leveson himself must have one.  When I got there I was surprised to find out that there was no security at all and in fact the door to the court was wide open in the same way that Lord Leveson himself would have got in there."  The Telgraph of London quotes Leveson telling the inquiry today, "Yesterday morning a man by the name of David Lawley-Wakelin interrupted and disrupted the proceedings of this Inquiry for purposes of his own.  I directed that an inquiry should take place and it has now been completed.  Appropriate measures to prevent any risk of repetition have been taken."  Lawley-Wakelin appeared on Press TV (link is video and transcript) today and was asked if War Criminal Blair would ever appear before the Hague?
Lawley-Wakelin: You know, whether he ever gets to court that's another thing.  Taking on the American government, Bush and Blair and the British government it's just an enormous thing.  There are lots of websites where you can join petitions to get Blair indicated for war crimes and perhaps one day we can hope that he will be taken down to the Hague but it's a long road and we can only hope that it will happen.  There is plenty of evidence to point towards it.  The sad thing is that the Chilcot Inquiry [so named after its chairman Sir John Chilcot] over here in England which is known as the Iraq Inquiry won't be looking into any criminal activity, they'll only be making inquiry into what went wrong in the decision-making by the politicians and the government and putting guidelines towards that but they won't be looking at all the money that washed around at the time and that Blair is still making.
War Ciminal Tony Blair is not forgotten in England where the former prime minister remains at large and is wanted for citizens arrests as noted at Arrest Blair.  Blair, Bully Boy Bush, Gordon Brown and Barack Obama have all overseen the illegal war on Iraq.  They are all responsible for the state of Iraq today but it's apparently too gruesome for any of them to look straight-on.
So don't look at me sideways
Don't even look me straight on
And don't look at my hands in my pockets, baby,
I ain't done anything wrong
-- "Never Said Nothing," written by Liz Phair, first appears on Phair's Exile in Guyville

In Iraq, the political crisis on top of the political crisis continues.  And it dwarfs the original one.  Earlier this week,  Rami Ruhayem (BBC News) described the origins of the first political crisis this way:
Straight after the withdrawal of US troops at the end of last year, a warrant was issued for the arrest of Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi, the most senior Sunni politician in Iraq.
He was accused of running death squads, tried in absentia, and sentenced to death.
And Mr [Nouri al-]Maliki has kept both the defence and interior ministries under his control, refusing to hand them over to his partners within the government.
That was alarming and had led to calls for a National Conference to resolve it -- calls by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi.  But Nouri's created yet another crisis and it's so huge even some who normally stay out of the political process are wading in to try to resolve the issues.  Kitabat notes things are so fraught that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has had to weigh in to try to resolve the situation.  The Grand Ayatollah is calling for the Constitution to be followed with regards to the conflict.          All Iraq News notes that Sheikh Abdul Mahdi al-Karabalai has joined the Grand Ayatollah's call.
Along with the clergy, others are alarmed as well.  Hurriyet reports:
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan warned about a sectarian and ethnic-based civil war in Iraq on Nov. 22 and pointed to energy wars as the main motivation behind it. The next day, Iraq's Shiite-origin Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, sent a strong "Not if you trigger it" reply to Erdoğan, only to be snubbed as "delusional" by the Turkish Foreign Ministry. Almost simultaneously, al-Maliki released a photo showing the deployment of Iraqi troops to Tuzhurmatu in order to face Kurds piling up along the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) borders, despite still being part of Iraq on paper.
It is surely about energy resources. There are still untapped oil and natural gas beds in the KRG territory, for which the energy giants of the world - from Exxon and Chevron of the United States to Total of
France and Gazprom of Russia (Turkish companies too) - have sealed deals with the KRG President Massoud Barzani in Arbil. Despite the strong protests of al-Maliki in Baghdad and disapproving lip service from Washington, D.C., they are not taking any steps back. Al-Maliki knows that if Kurds manage to sell their oil and gas via NATO member Turkey without interference from Arabs, Russians and Iranians, that would mean a de-facto change in Iraqi borders and sovereignty, if not de jure.
Nouri had his own response, he publicly stated that the conflict in Syria could take over Turkey, implying that the Turkish government should focus on that and not speak of Iraq.  UPI notes the response of the Turkish government, "Turkish officials labeled delusional statements by Iraqi [Prime Minister] Nouri al-Maliki warning sectarian violence in Syria could engulf Turkey.  Roy Gutman (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Nouri's response also hinted that Erdogan would soon be ousted in Turkey.  Nouri declared, "Erdogan should focus his attention on addressing Turkey's domestic issues, which raise our concern, as Turkey heads toward civil war.  [. . .]  Turkish people are looking forward to changing the political situation to protect Turkey from worsening domestic and foreign problems."

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2012/11/23/3931699/turkey-iraq-exchange-sharp-rhetoric.html#storylink=cpy
The crisis results from Nouri sending forces into the disputed areas after years of refusing to implement Article 140 of the Constitution (which states that disputed areas will be resolved via census and referendum).  The Kurds see this is as an attempt by Nouri to seize the areas and claim them for the Baghdad-based area.  Realizing too late that Barack Obama's for-show trip to Asia was a mistake, the White House is scrambling to get more face-to-face diplomats into Iraq.  (The trip was a joke and Barack made a fool of himself.  Americans didn't give a damn about the visit, his reception on the trip was lukewarm and Hillary Clinton seized all the news interest with her trip to the MidEast leaving Barack looking like a glorified extra on the world stage.)  Reuters adds:,  "Washington intervened to end a similar standoff in August and is now again in contact with Iraqi and Kurdish officials to ease tension mounting over the formation of a new command center for Iraqi forces to operate in the disputed areas."  Iran's Trend News Agency notes that Iraq's Col Dhia al-Wakeel is alleging that "Kurdish forces, backed by rocket launchers and artillery, reinforced troops already in the cities of Khaniqeen and Kirkuk on Thursday."

Iraqi politicians are attempting to resolve the issue as well.  Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi visited with KRG President Massoud Barzani Wednesday and returned to Bahgdad yesterday to meet with Nouri al-Maliki.  All Iraq News notes that they met late yesterday evening and that a statement issued by al-Nuajaif called the meeting productive.

Bit by bit, all of the political blocs are getting into the process.All Iraq News notes that the National Alliance leader Ibrahim al-Jaafari is preparing a paper on the issue.  Alsumaria notes that Kurdistan Alliance MP Mahmoud Othman is calling for Nouri al-Maliki and Massoud Barzani to sit down together (this echoes Moqtada al-Sadr's call for a working lunch between the two to be hosted by Moqtada).Kitabat reports that sources are stating Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and KRG President Massoud Barzani are discussing the option of withdrawing confidence from Nouri. Dar Addustour reports that Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi traveled to Erbil yesterday to meet with Talabani and Barzani to discuss this issue.  All Iraq News says that Moqtada al-Sadr, leader of the Sadr bloc, has given the green light for such talks.  
Rebwar Karim Wali (Rudaw) offers his opinions on the political situation:
The Shia will stand by him, and the Sunnis will too since most of his officers are former Baathist Sunnis.
Then, he thinks, if everything goes according to plan, he will turn on the Kurdistan Region and what the Kurds have achieved so far. Maliki wants to show the Kurds that Kurdistan is part of Iraq, and he does not conceal this sentiment.
At this time, Kurds and their political groups have reached a unanimous conclusion that this is Maliki's intention. In the meantime, they have admitted that they lack a united voice.
However, when the Dijla Operations Command deployed, the leader of the Change Movement (Gorran) -- who had previously sided with keeping Maliki in his seat -- went to Kirkuk and vehemently rejected the actions of the forces.
Judging from the tone of its media, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) is waging a full war against Maliki. The party's secretary general, Jalal Talabani, concurs with President Barzani that Maliki is a threat to both Iraq and Kurdistan.
Territories defined as "disputed" through constitutional Article 140 include 43 percent of Kurdish land. According to international laws, when an area is considered disputed, no one side has the right to make decisions about it unilaterally. If the two sides do not trust each other, then a third force -- often an international one -- comes to mediate.

Yesterday,  Al Mada reported Nouri' had announced that KRG officials may not leave Iraq without the permission of the federal government (his permission).  Kitabat picks up the story about Nouri al-Maliki declaring that Kuridstan officials could not leave the country without the federal government/s permission -- that would be Nouri's permission.  It is intended to be an inflammatory insult.  It has no teeth.  Not unlike when Nouri was screeching that the KRG had to hand over Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi and they didn't have to do that and they didn't do that.  They will continue to do as they want.  They share a border with Turkey which doesn't take orders from Nouri.  Hurriyet Daily News notes:

The Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement on its website today calling for the Iraqi government to "not make imaginary assumptions about the expectations of the Turkish public, but to listen to advice instead," according to daily Hurriyet. 
The statement was released Nov. 23 in response to a statement issued by the Iraqi Prime Ministry several days before that accused Turkey of "meddling with regional problems." 
In other news, the Telegram reports that Iraq's crude oil exports for October increased by 1.1%. According to the World Bank, Iraq's GDP for 2010 was $82.15 billion.  And yet even with increased crude oil output, Azzaman reports, "Iraq imports 70% of its needs from foreign countries, especially neighboring states, said the head of the Iraqi Chamber of Commerce Jaafar al-Hamadani."  That's the reality of Nouri's Iraq where demonstrations have not vanished. Al Mada reports that yesterday, for the third day in a row, special needs persons staged a strike outside the Kurdistan Parliament in Sulaimaniya.   They are staging a hunger strike, spokesperson Iara Mohammed explained, that the money allocated to those with special needs does not meet the most basic needs.  Azzaman notes, "The wars Iraq has gone through in the last three decades have produced a nation of disabled people -- six million out of a population of 30 millions."  Najaf alone has at least 120,000 people who are challenged or have special needs.  Meanwhile, a strike is threatened in Babylon.  Al Mada reports that teachers in Babylon are considering going on strike for, among other reasons, a lack of protection and accountability.  A school headmaster was killed and Wednesday saw demonstrations over it.  It is not felt that the death is being taken seriously or being investigated as needed.
In Iraq, Parliament's Human Rights Commission announced earlier this week that they will begin making prison inspections due to the increased reports of women being abused and treated poorly in prison, Al Mada reports.  The announcement led the Ministry of Justice to announce mid-week that they are responsible for prison interrogations.  And outside of prison?  Hanaa Edwar states, "Day after day, I am seeing more indicators that there is discrimination against women who choose not to wear hijab in Iraq."  Dina al-Shibeeb (Al Arabiya) speaks with Hanaa Edwar who founded the Iraqi Women's Network and is the General Secretary of Iraqi al-Amal Association:

Edwar, also founder of Iraqi Women's Network, sounded the alarm about attempts to force women to wear the hijab, especially in government offices.
Head of Iraq's Ministry of Women, Ibtihal Kasid al-Zubaidi, ordered in January that women working in government offices dress "modestly." Zubaidi axed tight pants, short skirts and colorful clothes.
Zubaidi, who segregated genders in her ministry, was lambasted as "anti-female" and her ministry described as an "anti-women ministry."
Edwar's Iraqi Women Network, made up of 18 civil society organizations, protested against Zubaidi's policy, describing it as seeking to curb women's civil liberties.
More women are approaching Edwar to file their complaints about government institutions and even TV channels belonging to religious political which enforce strict dress code and gender segregation.

Hanaa Edwar also decries the increase in temporary marriages in Iraq.  Kelly McEvers (NPR's  All Things Considered -- link is audio and text) reported on temporary marriages in October of 2010 with Robert Siegel observing in the introduction that the practice is popular in Iraq but had not been in Iraq where it was banned by Saddam Hussein.  After the US invaded Iraq in 2003, things changed.  Excerpt:
KELLY MCEVERS: This woman is so ashamed about what happened to her, she doesn't want to give her name. A mother of three, she says her husband abandoned her when she found out he preferred men. She had no way to support the family.

Unidentified Woman: (Foreign language spoken) 

MCEVERS: A religious figure in her neighborhood promised to help. He brought her to his home, locked the door and had sex with her. He offered her $15.
For the man at least, it was a brief moment of muta'a, the Arabic word for pleasure and the Arabic word for temporary marriage.

Unidentified Woman: (Foreign language spoken)

MCEVERS: The woman says the man who had sex with her worked with leading Shiite religious clerics in the Iraqi City of Najaf. It's one of the most revered places in Shiite Islam.
We're standing on a main street in the Holy City of Najaf. Just down some of these smaller streets are the offices of the Marjah. That's the four top clergymen for the Shiite community in all of Iraq.
Al Mada notes that Parliament's Integrity Commission disputes their ranking by Transparency International on the corruption index.  Today is the International Day to End Impunity.  Transparency International explains:

Friday, 23 November marks the International Day to End Impunity. At Transparency International we view impunity as getting away with bending the law, beating the system or escaping punishment. Impunity is anathema to the fight against corruption.
Earlier this month, activists, businesspeople, politicians, public officials, journalists, academics, youth and citizens who convened at the 15th International Anti-Corruption Conference in Brazil made it clear that transparency alone is not enough but must be accompanied by prosecution and punishment.
In a joint declaration, the gathering of 1,900 representatives from 140 countries called on political, business and community leaders everywhere "to embrace not only transparency in public life but a culture of transparency leading to a participatory society in which leaders are accountable."
"We are watching those who act with impunity and we will not let them get away with it," said the declaration, adopted in Brasília on 10 November.
The International Day to End Impunity is organized by IFEX, a global network that defends and promotes free expression. Events in more than 14 countries raise public awareness about what creates and sustains a culture of impunity. Transparency International supports the goals of protecting journalists and others engaged in the vitally important work of exposing corruption.
Dictionary definition of impunity im·pu·ni·ty  [im-pyoo-ni-tee]
1. exemption from punishment.
2. immunity from detrimental effects, as of an action.
Many of Transparency International's some 100 national chapters are involved in initiatives that work toward ending impunity for corruption in their country, including helping in the detection of corruption, facilitating access to the judiciary, strengthening the judiciary's independence and capacity, or by analysing and monitoring how corruption cases are being judged.
TI's Advocacy and Legal Advice Centres (ALACs) offer the opportunity for citizens to pursue complaints about corruption. ALACs also play an instrumental role in identifying corruption hotspots that demand reform or official action. These centres are already functioning in more than 50 countries.
Our Rwandan ALAC pursued a case of land grabbing involving a mining cooperative president who sought to renew the mine's certificate under his name. With the help of the ALAC, an investigation was launched with the Public Prosecutor Authority; after being taken to court the cooperative president's was sentenced to 10 years in jail and fined nearly US$3,500.
Many TI chapters have conducted election monitoring, including in Serbia, Bahrain and the Dominican Republic. In Venezuela, our chapter is part of an initiative, Alerta Electoral, which monitors electoral irregularities including potential misuse of taxpayer money by political candidates.
Several TI chapters are also working to improve whistleblower protections by advocating for strong legislation and assisting whistleblowers. These include chapters in Hungary, Lebanon and Zambia.
Our chapter in Ireland has established "Speak Up", a free, secure helpline and online system for employees considering reporting wrongdoing. The Ireland chapter is also campaigning for the passage of a national whistleblower law that would cover all employees.
The need to fight impunity was also stressed at the closing session of the 15th International Anti-Corruption Conference, which called for the promotion of a culture of transparency leading to a participatory society in which leaders are held accountable.
Transparency International believes that 'impunity undermines integrity everywhere' and is proud to participate on 23 November along with citizens who are fighting to end impunity for corruption and other crimes.

Press contact(s):

Chris Sanders
Manager, Media and Public Relations
+49 30 3438 20 666



truth will be told on michael moore

fat and ridiculous michael moore is trying to rally the zombies to march behind barack.  you can read about it at truthdig.

but honestly, i would say skip it.

go directly to the comments.

ObamaFreeInFour a day ago
Moore has no authority, he already capitulated..
He failed the test and joined the compromisers .. 'Vote Obama or get the Romney magic underpants evil' .. We don't have Romney (magic underpants or not) so we can't say if we have a better deal with Obama II.. One thing is for sure, Moore and all the sell-out compromisers who supported Obama 'as is' have zero credibility or leverage to demand anything from Obama or the Democrats..
Moore and the rest are now court jesters... At best!
I say that notwithstanding Moore's great films and insight.. I grieve for him and all that with him left their credibility in the voting booth after asking for more Obama..
How sad.

the truth is out about michael more.

fatty better get used to the fact that his film career is over.  he's pissed off the people who would pay to see a documentary.

little whore.  he really is an embarrassment.

let's close with c.i.'s 'Iraq snapshot:'

Wednesday, November 21, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Thanksgiving looms in the US, Osama al-Nujaifi attempts to ease tensions between Baghdad and Erbil, Nouri's power grab continues, and more.
In the United States, Thanksgiving will be celebrated tomorrow. Today, the White House offers some Thanksgiving history:
Did you know that before the 1940s Thanksgiving was not on a fixed date but was whenever the President proclaimed it to be?
George Washington issued the first Presidential proclamation for the holiday in 1789. That year he designated Thursday, November 26 as a national day of "public thanksgiving." The United States then celebrated its first Thanksgiving under its new Constitution. Seventy-four years later, in 1863, Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday on the last Thursday in November
By the beginning of Franklin D. Roosevelt's Presidency, Thanksgiving was not a fixed holiday; it was up to the President to issue a Thanksgiving Proclamation to announce what date the holiday would fall on. Tradition had dictated that the holiday be celebrated on the last Thursday of the month, however, this tradition became increasingly difficult to continue during the challenging times of the Great Depression. 
Roosevelt's first Thanksgiving in office fell on November 30, the last day of the month, because November had five Thursdays that year. This meant that there were only about 20 shopping days until Christmas and statistics showed that most people waited until after Thanksgiving to begin their holiday shopping. Business leaders feared they would lose the much-needed revenue an extra week of shopping would afford them. They asked President Roosevelt to move the holiday up from the 30th to the 23rd. He chose to keep the Thanksgiving holiday on the last Thursday of the month, however, as it had been for nearly three-quarters of a century.
In 1939, with the country still reeling from the effects of the Great Depression, Thanksgiving once again threatened to fall on the last day of November. This time President Roosevelt did move Thanksgiving up a week to the 23rd. Changing the date seemed harmless enough, but it proved to be quite controversial. Small business owners felt it put them at a disadvantage and they sent letters of protest to the President. 
While Thanksgiving is tomorrow,  US Vice President Joe Biden celebrated early. CBS News reported Monday, "The Bidens hosted wounded warriors for Thanksgiving dinner. It was their fourth Early Thanksgiving for servicemen and women and their families. At the dinner were five from the Army, four from the Marines and one from the Air Force."   On Thanksgiving, the American Legion notes:
Two thousand veterans across America are $60 richer for Thanksgiving, thanks to checks sent to them by The American Legion to pay for food during the holiday. The checks went to veterans who have disabilities suffered while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Included with each check was a letter from the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes, the Connecticut-based organization that donated the money, thanking veterans for their "enormous personal sacrifices."
Verna Jones, director of the Legion's Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Division, said that $60 can make a big difference for a veteran's family on Thanksgiving Day – especially if that veteran is out of work. "Given the high jobless rate among our younger veterans and the state of our economy, these checks do a lot for veterans and their families," she said. "Over the years that we've been distributing these checks, you'd be surprised by the thank-yous that we get back. Veterans call us and say, 'You know what? I would not have had a Thanksgiving meal for my family – I didn't know how I was going to put food on the table for my children – and this check came, and I was able to give my family a good Thanksgiving.' And they have food left over to carry through the rest of the week."
The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) estimates the average cost this year for a 10-serving Thanksgiving dinner is $49.48. AFBF says that amount of money can provide a 16-pound turkey, 12 rolls, a 1-pound relish tray of carrots and celery, a half-pint of whipping cream, 14 ounces of cubed stuffing, three pounds of sweet potatoes, one gallon of whole milk, 12 ounces of fresh cranberries, one pound of green peas, 30 ounces of pumpkin pie mix and two pie shells.
Turkeys cost slightly more this year, according to the AFBF. In 2011, a 16 pounder went for an average price of $21.57; this year it has increased to $22.23.
The American Legion's national headquarters contacted its department service officers across the country, asking them to submit contact information for wounded or disabled veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Then the Legion started mailing out checks last week.
Jones said many disabled veterans can't work or are working part-time, and sometimes are still waiting for disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. "So a $60 check showing up in your mailbox that makes it possible to treat your family at Thanksgiving – it makes it seem more like Christmas," she said.
The jobless rate for veterans who have left active duty since 9/11 stands at 10 percent, higher than the national average of 7.9 percent. Women veterans are even worse off, with an unemployment rate of 15.5 percent.
The letter that accompanied the checks thanked veterans for their "enormous personal sacrifices" and said the $60 was being presented by the coalition and The American Legion "to help you celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday by sharing a special meal with those closest to you." A "Thank You and Get Well" card was also enclosed.
"On behalf of our organization and the Legion," the letter continued, "please accept this gift and card as a combined gesture of gratitude, along with our best wishes for a wonderful holiday and continued success along your personal road to recovery."
The American Legion has chapter throughout the country.  Many will be hosting Thanksgiving dinners tomorrow for veterans and many of those dinners will be at no charge. If you are a veteran and don't know where your closest American Legion chapter is located, you can visit the American Legion website and in the top right-hand corner there is a gold box labeled "FIND IT QUICK" -- in the box click on "Find a Post" and a pop up will allow you to enter the address you are at and search for the closest chapter.
The things that I have done that I regret
The things I seen, I won't forget
For this life and so many more
And I'm trying to find my way home
Child inside me is long dead and gone
Somewhere between lost and alone
Trying to find my way home
-- "Trying To Find My Way Home," written by Jason Moon, from Moon's latest album Trying To Find My Way Home
Jason Moon is an Iraq War veteran and has released the album Trying to Find My Way Home (which you can download from Amazon for $8.99).  Britta Reque-Dragicevic profiles Jason for American Songwriter.  Excerpt:
It wasn't until after being misdiagnosed with major depression and insomnia, after telling a VA mental health worker what he'd seen in combat only to be told to "just forget about it," after a failed suicide attempt, that music resurfaced and quite literally saved his life. Today, Jason Moon works with veterans of all wars to put the emotions of combat and the hidden terror of dealing with it alone into song. WarriorSongs is a non-profit that matches veterans with songwriters and together, a song becomes the saving grace that embodies what veterans so often cannot find the words to say. How war impacts the human soul. How combat affects the mind. How life after war is never a matter of "just getting on with it."
And how there is hope. For healing, for managing symptoms, for making something meaningful out of something that took all meaning away.
"It was an incredibly dark time," recalls Moon. "The VA system wasn't prepared for PTSD when my unit got home. No one even mentioned it to me. So all that time I thought I was weak, that there was something wrong with me, that I was the only one this was happening to. I mean, they tried me on nine different anti-depressants and several different sleeping pills -- but when the cause of your symptoms is not depression or insomnia, those pills do weird things to you. I started drinking, I'd go out looking for a fight, I was hypervigilant, couldn't work, couldn't do anything. After four years of this, I took all the pills I had and some alcohol. I was done."
But life wasn't done with Moon yet. "I woke up three days later in the hospital. The VA finally decided I had PTSD -- but only thanks to a music therapist who happened to have a pamphlet on it and gave it to me. It laid out every symptom I'd had for the last four years. It meant I wasn't weak or alone. There was a name for this and a reason I was feeling the way I was," Moon says. It took a suicide attempt to get the attention he should have had from the day he arrived home. "All of a sudden, I had the top professional at the VA attending to me, they got my medication figured out, I was able to get three to four hours of medicated sleep. I took every program they offered from biofeedback to meditation, to breathing exercises."
But his big "aha" moment came at a Soldier's Heart retreat -- where they take groups of vets and lead them through a healing process based on the ancient traditions of warriors. "I had Vietnam vets coming up to me, one after another and telling me: 'hey, I lost my marriage, my kids, I've lost it all, don't wait 30 years to deal with your war.' I realized if it could happen to these hard-core veterans, it could happen to me. I knew I had to fight to win this battle."
And for those who are fortunate enough to be able to spare some money and are looking for a worthy cause, this is the donation page for Paralyzed Veterans of America.  (That is not a guilt trip. Times are tough, most people are struggling, the economy remains in the toilet. I'm not suggesting anyone do without or suffer to make a donation.  I'm merely tossing that out as a worthy organization if, this time of year, you're looking for one to make a donation to.)  We'll note another organization worthy of donations at the end of the snapshot.
In Iraq, the rains have been falling with significant consequences.  Tuesday, All Iraq News reported that the rest of the week would be rainy and foggy.  And Iraq had already seen heavy rain fall.  Sadr City was one of the areas effected.   Joseph Muhammadwi and Mahmoud Raouf (Al Mada) reported on the flooding of Sadr City and included a photo of the water up to the frame of a mini-van. Despite the flooding and continuing heavy rains, traffic police stand outside directing vehicles. One resident jokes that Nouri can replace the food-ration cards with free small boats.  The water's flooded the streets and also gone into homes and schools and a makeshift bridge of bricks has been constructed to allow access to one school.  Dar Addustour noted that many of the cities, such as Kut, have been hit with the heavy rains.  Baghdad residents protested the lack of public services -- proper sanitation (i.e. drainage) would alleviate a great deal of the standing water. Nouri's had six years to address Baghdad's sewer system and done nothing.  AFP reports today the heavy rains in Kut led to houses collapsing resulting in the death of six children and leaving one adult male injured.
Dropping back to yesterday's snapshot:
Amani Aziz (Al Mada) reports that Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc is ready to oust Nouri al-Maliki over the arms deal which has led to confessions from State of Law that there was huge corruption in the Russian arms deal. MP Jawad al-Hasnawi states it is a logical step to remove him after Nouri signed the deal while refusing to provide details including who were the go-betweens.  This was the deal -- that's now supposedly broken -- that found Nouri signing a contract worth $4.2 billion.  Alsumaria reports the Kudistan Alliance today announced that an investigative committee was being formed in Parliament to review the Russian arms deal.  Omar Sattar (Al-Ayyam via Al-Monitor) adds, "The Iraqi parliament's Security and Defense Committee collected the names of more than 50 MPs demanding the formation of a committee to investigate the caneled Russian arms deal.  The committee has confirmed its intention to interrogate all the officials whose names were linked to this case."   Dar Addustour reported yesterday on Nouri's plan to isolate Jalal and that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi, Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi and KRG President Massoud Barzani are in conversations with people assuming it is over withdrawing confidence in Nouri.
As rumors continue to circulate about the corruption involved in the arms deal, All Iraq News reports Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh felt the need today to publicly deny that he had any involvement in the deal.  Alsumaria adds that al-Dabbagh declared he warned Nouri about suspicions before Nouri left on the trip to Russia.
Nouri's problems never go away.  Al Mada reports that in the Kurdistan Regional Government, the KRG is able to meet 85% of the electricity needs in the region but in the rest of Iraq that Nouri's responsible for?  Nouri's still not even able to meet 50% of the electricity needs.
That would be bad news any day but espeically today when Parliament was supposed to hold a session.  But first, they delayed the start for two hours because they didn't have enough present to meet a quorum.  That didn't work.  They still didn't have enough so Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi sent everyone homeThey were supposed to hear from the Minister of Electricity and the Minister of Oil about the progress and projects being worked on and MP Susan Saad expected them to address the crisis related to new electricity stations.  When Nouri's not even able to ensure that Iraq meets 50% of its electricity needs, hearing testimony from the Minister of Energy and the Minister of Oil was probably needed. 
Security's needed in Iraq as well.  Alsumaria reports that 1 Sahwa and one assailant were killed in a Baghdad clash, a Bahgdad home invasion claimed the life of 1 council member and 2 of his sons, a Mosul kidnapping resulted in the abduction of a Ministry of the Interior employee and a Kirkuk roadside bombing left a husband and wife injured.
Tensions continue in Iraq and threaten to roll the region over Nouri's decision to send forces into Iraq's disputed areas. That should come as no real surprise.  Dropping back to the July 26, 2011 snapshot:
Of greater interest to us (and something's no one's reported on) is the RAND Corporation's  report entitled "Managing Arab-Kurd Tensions in Northern Iraq After the Withdrawal of U.S. Troops."  The 22-page report, authored by Larry Hanauer, Jeffrey Martini and Omar al-Shahery, markets "CBMs" -- "confidence-building measures" -- while arguing this is the answer.  If it strikes you as dangerously simplistic and requiring the the Kurdish region exist in a vacuum where nothing else happens, you may have read the already read the report.  CBMs may strike some as what the US military was engaged in after the Iraqi forces from the central government and the Kurdish peshmerga were constantly at one another's throats and the US military entered into a patrol program with the two where they acted as buffer or marriage counselor.  (And the report admits CBMs are based on that.)  Sunday Prashant Rao (AFP) reported US Col Michael Bowers has announced that, on August 1st, the US military will no longer be patrolling in northern Iraq with the Kurdish forces and forces controlled by Baghdad. That took years.  And had outside actors.  The authors acknowledge:
Continuing to contain Arab-Kurd tensions will require a neutral third-party arbitrator that can facilitate local CMBs, push for national-level negotiations, and prevent armed conflict between Iraqi and Kurdish troops.  While U.S. civilian entities could help implement CMBs and mediate political talks, the continued presence of U.S. military forces within the disputed internal boundaries would be the most effective way to prevent violent conflict between Arabs and Kurds.
There is no neutral third party present today.  The study came out in 2011.  Where was the White House?   Diaa Hadid (AP) explains, "The commander of Kurdish forces dispatched fighters to a disputed northern area of Iraq Wednesday, as tensions mounted between Iraq's central government and the Kurdish-ruled autonomous region."  Alsumaria quotes the Ministry of Peshmerga's Anwar Haji Osman stating that the Peshmerga remain prepared to act if needed. 
  AFP quotes Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stating, "The [Baghdad] regime wants to lead this [country] into a civil war."  He's referring to the crisis Nouri's provoked by sending his forces (Tigris Operation Command) into disputed territories in the north. Trend News Agency sums up the comment and notes a skirmisk outside Tikrit that appears to be last Friday's -- but that claimed 1 or 2 lives depending upon the outlet (1 of Nouri's forces and some outlets also noted a civilian) whereas Trend News Agency is saying "12 Iraqi soldiers and one civilian" died in the skirmish.  Unless the wounded died -- which the Iraqi press hasn't covered, if the outlet's covering Friday's incident, their fatality numbers are incorrect.  Liz Sly (Washington Post) offers a different take on who was involved with the fight on Friday -- it involves unpaid for gasoline, the Iraqi police, the Tigris forces and Kurdish guards with, in the words of Tuk Hurmatu's Mayor Shalal Abdul, "everyone started shooting at everyone else."  Sly also establishes just how up-in-the-air and tense things are:
But Kurds said they suspect that the reinforcements, which include tanks and heavy artillery, signal an intent to attack their forces. "If the central government keeps sending these extra troops, we fear there may be clashes," said Jabar Yawar, the pesh merga's secretary general. "If one bullet is fired, the whole of the disputed areas will erupt in flames."
Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) observes, "The fight goes well beyond just Kirkuk, however. KRG officials have been predicting a fight for years, and earlier this month Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki demanded the KRG transfer the Peshmerga to his personal control. With Maliki also the nation's Defense Minister, Interior Minister, Public Security Minister, etc, he currently directly every single force in Iraq except for the Peshmerga."

Remember when, at the start of 2011, Iraqiya said Nouri was staging a power-grab by refusing to nominate people to head the Ministry of the Defense, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of National Security?  And remember how the Western press scoffed, rolled their eyes and swore Nouri would nominate people to those posts in a matter of weeks?

Weeks?  Weeks turned into months and now we're approximately six weeks away from the two year mark when they were promising Nouri would fill those spots.  And he never has.  That was a power grab.

It's a power grab today on Nouri's part -- sending troops into disputed territories.  Condi Rice pens a piece that tells you all you need to know about US policy in one sentence: "If Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki cannot count on the Americans, he will take no risks with Tehran."  Condi is the former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor during the Bully Boy Bush years.  Bully Boy Bush installed Nouri as prime minister.  Ibrahim al-Jafaari was the choice of the Iraqi Parliament (which -- on paper -- elects their prime minister).  Bully Boy Bush said no and wanted Nouri to get the job.  The US puppet went on to run secret prisons -- bravely and repeatedly exposed by Ned Parker and the Los Angeles Times -- and do other crimes against humanity.

But Barack Obama loves Nouri al-Maliki.  So much so that when Nouri's State of Law came in second in the 2010 elections and this meant that he didn't get a second term, Barack pulled out his penis and pissed on the Iraqi people, pissed on their votes, pissed on their Constitution and pissed on any thoughts of democracy.  Nouri would get a second term, Barack would ensure it, votes be damned.  So the White House backed Nouri as he refused to budge, refused to give up the post he no longer had.  For eight long months this political stalemate continued in Iraq.  Then the US government negotiated the Erbil Agreement, a contract that they swore was legal and that the US government would stand by.  The parties signing the contract?  All of the leaders of the political blocs.  Kurds wanted Article 140 of the Constitution implemented?  Okay, you let Nouri have his second term, he'll implement that.  That's how they got people to sign off.  What was Nouri willing to trade to have a second term?

Nouri used that contract to get the second term and then refused to honor it.

And Barack did nothing.  Gone were the promises of the US government standing by this contract.

Why?  Because, as Condi puts it, "If Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki cannot count on the Americans, he will take no risks with Tehran."

The White House has put the interests of Iraqis behind -- far behind -- the desires of Nouri al-Maliki and they have done so repeatedly and done so because they doubt there would be a better puppet for the US government.    So they look the other way as he demonizes Iraqi youths -- starts a witch hunt on Emo and LGBTs.  That came from the Ministry of the Interior -- they sent out a letter, they went to schools encouraging the targeting, this was all Nouri.  He's refused to nominate anyone to head the Ministry of the Interior which makes him the head of it.  Add that to the secret prisons.  Add that to his possible involvement in murder (the former governor of Basra, journalists including Hadi al-Mahdi).  But it doesn't matter to the White House.  Like Condi Rice, they believe, "If Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki cannot count on the Americans, he will take no risks with Tehran."  So they indulge the petty tyrant.  And dishonor the Iraqi people.
Hints by al-Maliki and his supporters in parliament that they will seek a majority government have become more frequent, even as news reports say that the president of the Kurdistan region, Masoud Barzani, has been leading a movement alongside Allawi and others to thwart al-Maliki's efforts to create such a government. Al-Maliki has also been quick to respond to his political opponents' threats to oppose his running for a third four-year term in 2014. Discussion of a majority government emerged earlier in the year from within al-Maliki's camp, as a response to threats of a motion of no confidence issued by his opponents in parliament, specifically members in Allawi's coalition and the parliamentary faction supporting Barzani.
There are three likely scenarios that could play out as a push for a majority government grows, beyond the maintenance of the status quo. The first, as some of al-Maliki's supporters have speculated, would be that some members of the Iraqiya and Kurdish parliamentary coalition join elements of the Shiite coalition to form a majority government that maintains at least a minimum level of sectarian and ethnic representation. However, the viability of this scenario is uncertain, at least in the current parliamentary session, and it is even less likely given the lack of international and American support.
The second scenario would be the resurrection of the 2005 Shia-Kurdish coalition which would keep Iraqiya out of the government and maintain the historical Shiite-Kurdish alliance. If this were to occur, it would completely exclude the bloc that represents the Arab Sunni population from the government and could possibly lead to the return of armed Sunni rebellion -- something al-Maliki's ally, former Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari, has warned of.
The third scenario would be the revival of the "Erbil Alliance" between the Kurds, Sunnis, and the Sadrist bloc. However, this possibility already failed earlier in the year and does not currently have much resonance among politicians or the media, due to the prevailing mistrust between the three parties in this alliance.
In this climate, Nouri's moves are especially striking.  Ipek Yezdani (Hurriyet Daily News) speaks with the KRG's Dr. Molla Basher al-Hadad and Yezdani notes, "Authorities in Baghdad want to run the country like a dictatorship that recalls Saddam Hussein's rule by using anti-democratic and sectarian policies, according to the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) top cleric."  That's a description that certainly seem apt.

Yesterday, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was in Erbil where he met with KRG President Massoud Barzani.  Al Mada reports that they were also meeting with the National Alliance.  That is a large Shi'ite political group headed by Ibrahim al-Jafaari.  Al Mada notes Talabani was surprised that Nouri was sending in the Tigris forces while he and Barzani were awaiting a delegation from the National Alliance.

In March 2010, Iraq held parliamentary elections.  The winner was Iraiqya, headed by Ayad Allawi, which won the most seats.  Any so-called 'majority government' that shuts out Iraqiya would be shutting out the most popular political slate in Iraq.  Alsumaria reports Iraqiya's Haider Mulla is stating that mediation between Baghdad and Erbil is needed and that Iraqiya is more than willing to play the role of mediator. Already an Iraqiya member is acting as mediator.  AFP reports Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi is speaking to political leaders on both sides "in order to defuse the crisis."  Representing approximately a half-million of Iraq's 31 million people, Amin Farhan Jeju spoke today.  All Iraq News reports that the Yazidi Movement for Reform and Progess head is saying Nouri is within his rights to send the Tigris forces into disputed area.  Probably a good idea to read the Constitution before commenting on it.  Just a thought.  Also carrying water for Nouri is Shaker Darraji.  All Iraq News notes that the State of Law MP is accusing the Kurds of upsetting the political process.
In the US, the winter holiday season has begun.  Some people, this time of year, look for an organization to donate to.  One of the many worthy organizations is Doctors Without Borders and their donation page is here.  Where people are in need, Doctors Without Borders goes.  That includes Iraq.  Doctors Without Borders notes:
Domeez camp, near the city of Dohuk in the Kurdish region of Iraq, was set up at the beginning of 2012 and is now serving as a temporary home for nearly 15,000 Syrian refugees of Kurdish origin. Since May 2012, Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières(MSF) has been running a 24-hour clinic in the camp, in collaboration with Dohuk's Department of Health.
As the camp's main health provider, MSF has been offering medical consultations and mental health care to the refugees, while also providing training for local health staff. To date, MSF teams have provided more than 20,500 consultations.
"Until June, there were about 2,000 people settled in Domeez, and the camp was running well," says Anja Wolz, MSF field coordinator in Dohuk. "But in August, the situation deteriorated because of a sudden massive arrival of refugees. With up to 1,000 people crossing the border each day [at the time], the camp quickly became overcrowded and, despite the efforts of the authorities, the level of assistance was clearly insufficient."
For the past few months, major efforts have been made to improve the situation before the onset of winter. But at present, as roughly 500 people cross the border into Dohuk governorate each day, some of the newly arrived refugees in Domeez camp still have to share tents, blankets, mattresses, and food with other families. 
"I arrived with two of my children, but had to leave my husband and my two other daughters behind," says a middle-aged Syrian woman. "We walked for more than six hours to cross the border. We don't have our own tent yet, so we must share with another family. I have a kidney stone and it is very painful. Since we arrived here I have been lying down all the time because of the pain. I need surgery to remove the stone. Here, we Syrians suffer from sickness, but also from the difficult situation we have gone through."
Most of the refugees in Domeez arrived with nothing, having left everything behind in Syria. Once in Iraq, they are issued with a six-month renewable residence permit by the Kurdish authorities, which allows them to look for work. Most find jobs as daily laborers. People who have been here for some time have begun to build extensions to their shelters, and some have opened small shops within the camp. 
Some of the refugees have had no news from their families back in Syria, and many report having lost family members as a result of the violence. 
"In our consultations, we see many patients suffering from psychological distress," says Wolz. "So in August we decided to open a mental health program to provide them with specific care." By the end of September, MSF's mental health team had carried over 290 psychological consultations. 
Lastly, the departure of David Petraeus as CIA director continues to stir interest and commentary.  The former top US commander in Iraq left the CIA in disgrace. Nick Mottern (Truthout) points to an earlier disgrace:
In 2007, Consumers for Peace, of which I am director, published an analysis of the Petraeus counterinsurgency manual and the "surge" in Iraq. The studies document the degree to which General Petraeus was willing to ignore international law and engage military activities that can be defined as war crimes; this must be further investigated and exposed. 
The major US press organizations will not do this. They aggrandized General Petraeus through the surge and after, willfully ignoring the horrific consequences of the Iraq occupation and then abandoning coverage of Iraq when President Obama announced US troops were leaving Iraq at the end of 2010. (There is no press mention of the large US mercenary forces that remain in Iraq and the guerilla war there.)