Tuesday, February 15, 2011






It amaze me how members of the pseudo-Left tries to “embrace” the Egyptian Revolution yet when it had a modicum of an opening to alter the system they sabotage it. Mr. Glick was instrumental in sabotaging the 2004 Nader Campaign and an opportunity to build a viable 3rd Party and now wants to convince us he’s supports what’s happening in Egypt.



Today PJ Harvey's Let England Shake is released. Kat reviewed it here. and Kat weighed in on PJ's online concert here. Today Mike Conkin (Crawdaddy) calls it "unmistakably an anti-war album" and observes, "One gets the feeling this album, Ms. Harvey's eight, could wind up on an awful lot of year-end lists." Fiona Shephard (Scotsman) raves, "Let England Shake is a superlative suite of songs about war and imperialism, in which she assumes the role of war poet/songwriter." Ben Macintyre (The Australian) says the album "is an extraordinary evocation of the nature of modern war, vivid and furious, in which the landscape is churned 'by tanks and feet marching' and troops are torn apart like 'lumps of meat'. One critic has described Let England Shake as 'the most powerful work yet by any British artist about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan'." Ann Powers (Los Angeles Times) asserts, "Harvey's song structures give rise to the feelings we've been taught are proper about nationhood (pride, vigor), but her arrangements -- the off-kilter instruments and the sometimes almost Mueezin oscillations of her singing -- topple that response, send it somewhere dark and dangerous. The double in the room on Let England Shake is the whole modern world. PJ Harvey has given us a righteous scare." Andrew Burgess (MusicOMH) argues the album will be "lingering in the mind long after its engrossing runtime." Kitty Empire (Observer) contends that "running through Let England Shake is, perhaps, the unspoken hope that this land might be reminded of the horrors of war and, perhaps, shake off some of its torpor." Jessica Steinhoff (Isthmus) believes, "Though Let England Shake coldly condemns war's destruction of human life, it contains an empathetic warmth that cuts through the vitriol." Jim Farber (New York Daily News) offers that the album "rages with songs more blood-soaked than a Quentin Tarantino movie and more withering about the wages of war than any disk since the prime works of Phil Ochs and Pete Seeger. Each cut drips with the cruel indifference of the privileged, the murderous schemes of Western governments and the doomed soldiers and citizens it all falls upon." Mike Williams (NME) declares, "Francis Ford Coppola can lay claim to the war movie. Ernest Hemingway the war novel. Polly Jean Harvey, a 41-year-old from Dorset, has claimed the war album. And like Coppola and Hemingway, she calls it straight: 'Death was everywhere/ In the air and in the sounds coming off the mounds of Bolton's Ridge/ Death's anchorage'." Scott Plagenhoef (Pitchfork) maintains, "Even considering all of the horror on display, this is her most straightforward and easy to embrace album in a decade. Along with 'The Words That Maketh Murder', the bouncing title track ['Let England Shake'], the radio rock of 'The Last Living Rose', and 'Written on the Forehead' would all make excellent singles." Allison Stewart (Washington Post) stakes out similar ground, "These are warmblooded, frequently up-tempo, bluesy alt-rock tracks propelled by curious devices: an onmipresent Autoharp; a sampling of Niney the Observer's reggae obscurity 'Blood and Fire' (on 'Written on the Forehead'). 'The Glorious Land' features bugles calling the charge to war, and it's dark and visceral and goose-bump-raising -- but not menacing, just sad." Baghdad born Arwa Haider (Metro) concludes, "The sound is both earthy and exotic. Harvey's imgaery is heady and brutal, ranging from the battleground to foreign playgrounds ('people throwin' dinars at the belly dancers' in Written On The Forehead), while her melodies are gorgeously disarming. The production is also exceptionally vital, layers with folky instruments (Harvey on autoharp and zither) and startling samples -- The Words That Maketh Murder features a bugle reveille -- while a reworked snippet of Eddie Cochran's Summertime Blues ('What if I take my problem to the United Nations?') becomes an ominous modern mantra." At Newsweek (link has text and video), Seamus Murphy explains the video films for the album he's made with PJ. Audio can be found here as Clash Music discusses PJ's album and the Strokes.
Emily Mackay (NME, January 29, 2011, with photos by Seamus Murphy and Cat Stevens) recently profiled PJ Harvey. Excerpt:
The realm of geopolitics is unusual for Harvey, one of Britain's best, and most consistently fascinating songwriters; her work has often throbbed with darkness and violence through her 20-year career, but on an individual level, as with the vengeful, twisted or borken scratchings of 'Dry', the haunting histories of 'Is This Desire?', and even in the personal, romantic exuberance of 'Stories From The city, Stories From The Sea'. You might think she'd missed the boat for an anti-Iraq War album, but that's not what 'Let England Shake' is, at least not entirely. And Polly's a more political creature than you might imagine.
"I've followed it every day, always, of my life," she asserts keenly. "I've always been profoundly affected by what's happening in the world, politically, socially and on all levels. But I hadn't ever approached that in my songwriting before at any great depth like I have with this record, I knew if I was going to start to try and approach such huge subject matter, I had to have the skill with the language to do that, and I didn't feel that I was still at that stage as a songwriter. And I've been writing now for many, many years, and something in me felt like I could now begin to try and approach this."
We started with music because, many days, that's all there is. Certainly if you're looking for truth, that's all there is.
You are an unruly, translucent
A dirty windshield with a shifting view
So many cunning running landscapes
For my dented door to open into

I just wanna tune out all the billboards
Weld myself a mental shield
I just wanna put down all the pressures
And feel how I really feel

Just show me a moment that is mine
Its beauty blinding and unsurpassed
Make me forget every moment that went by
And left me so half-hearted
'Cuz I felt it so half-assed

-- "Half-Assed," written by Ani DiFranco, first appears on her Reprieve album.
"Half-Assed" is James Denselow's "Egypt's Shockwaves Hit Iraq" (Guardian to the Huffington Post), Jack Healy (New York Times) article and Ben Lando, Munaf Ammar and Ali Nabhan (Wall St. Journal) article. All feel the need to be 'creative' and, someone please break the news to them, they don't have that kind of talent.
Iraq is not Egypt. Protests were taking place before Egypt's unrest that (finally) caught the media attention. To have any idea what's going on in Iraq, you'd have to follow Iraq. Not check in every three months. Equally true is pimping a narrative is the easiest way to get into print, always has been. Skeptical Editor, "What's the story?" Reporter, "Uh, it's just like what happened in Egypt!" There's not a great deal of difference between a press bullpen and a pitch meeting in LA except for the beverages. And, of course, the fact that a film doesn't try to pass itself off as fact. The narrative of "Egypt's Impact!" may get you onto the page, but it's highly dishonest.

The unrest in Iraq is different from what's taken place in Egypt. And, yes, you can trace the public sentiment if you were paying attention. March 7, 2010, Iraq held national elections. What followed was a long, long stalemate that the media likes to pretend ended around the nine month mark. The stalemate continues, even if US press refuses to acknowledge that fact, and that's one reason for the protests. Most recently, from the Feburary 3rd snapshot:
Ali Abdel Gentlemen (Al Mada) reports, many Iraqis see not the progress Jeffreys spoke of but "a paralysis of government" and more and more and more are taking to the streets to protest "the deterioration of living conditions" which is why leather and textile workers protested in Baghad and Hilla this week and activist Mohammed Salami is quoted stating, "There is daily frustration over the fact that successive political changes have not brought a new [better] level of service."
There was an uneasy feeling throughout the long political stalemate as the sitting prime minister (Nouri) was revealed to have only his own interests at heart. Even some of his supporters picked up on that but dismissed it as untrue, unfounded. It was a nagging thought that didn't go away, however, and the last four months have reinforced those nagging thoughts. As Nouri lives high on the hog (and his family is the talk of Iraq -- despite not living there), they have no jobs, they have no basic services and the ration card system is a joke. All of these conditions were present in September. The big difference is that the long political stalemate did not show Nouri in a good light and events since have further tarnished the glow.
What the stalemate did was raise a lot of negatives about Nouri and what he's done since November is confirm those negatives. That is how one gets tarnished and Nouri is tarnished.
In November, a deal was brokered and there was resignation on the part of many when backdoor deals allowed Nouri to become prime minister-designate and then prime minister. You've already had Sahwa battling with Nouri (for jobs and payment) for some time. You've got a country which appears -- based upon voting -- to want to unite to some degree. That's what was beyond Iraqiya's win. Even Nouri had to try to run as something other than a secularist in 2010. A secularist just wasn't enough (line between church and state). The people were sick of the zealots that had been elected previously. They were sick of the bickering, they were appalled by the ethnic cleansing on the streets of Iraq in 2006 and 2007. Secularist? That wasn't enough. You had to offer unity with other Iraqis. That's what Iraqiya offered and why they won the most votes. Nouri attempted to ape their strategy but undercut himself (and lost some votes) because while pretending to want a united Iraq with all Iraqis, he was attempting to ban this Sunni candidate or that one, or imprison this Sunni candidate or that one.
But the March 2010 elections had one big takeaway and that was it. The bulk of the Iraqi people (who voted) wanted an Iraq that included all. Which was why the US-backing Nouri's installation was so horrible. The message was clear and the message was ignored and US government officials damn well better remember that before pontificating about 'democracy' in Iraq.

Some of Nouri's Iraqi supporters -- and this was clear in Arab media -- during the long drawn out process began to have second thoughts as they saw his resistance to change and his refusal to put Iraq's interests ahead of his own. This was a thread -- a sub-thread, granted -- developing in Iraq.

To become prime minister, he needed the US nudging the Kurds to back Nouri on his falsification -- the lie that he'd formed a Cabinet which allowed him to move from prime minister-designate to prime minister. This received harsh criticism outside English-language media. You need to put all these negatives together. They're just out they're floating.

And then events start hardening feelings. The waves of bombings that have been going on in Iraq for weeks now -- which today's writers appear unaware of -- go to the lack of security. Which goes back to those earlier feelings and to the fact that Nouri did not form a complete Cabinet. Nouri never named a Minister of Interior, a Minister of National Security or a Minister of Defense. He grabbed all three of those positions himself. These are Iraq's security positions. And Iraq is suffering a wave of bombings, one after the other. The most obvious answer to those bombings? "If we had a Minister of Defense, we'd be secure!" Not only is the post not being filled a reflection on Nouri, his 'temporary' possession of it only adds to that and leads to more blame directed at him.
Grasp for a moment how poorly Nouri comes off. He's prime minister now. Has been since December 21st. That's two months ago. He's prime minister. And he can't name a Minister of the Interior? And he can't name a Minister of Defense? And he can't name a Minister of National Security? These aren't minor posts. Especially with the violence Iraq's seen in the last weeks. So he appears ineffectual and, when the bombs go off, he appears ineffectual and completely to blame.

The writers want to credit Egypt. It's not Egypt.

It's all that and, most improtantly, it's Ned Parker. It's Human Rights Watch. It's Amnesty International.

All three (in the order listed) have been covering Nouri's secret prisons run by his forces. And Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) did so as January wound down. Then Human Rights Watch and then, last week, Amnesty. This wasn't one day. And throughout it all, Nouri and his spokespersons have provided denials. Over and over. On and to Iraqi media. This is not a minor issue in Iraq although that's just a blip to a disinterested west. Iraqis remember secret prisons before the war, remember them throughout Nouri's reign and Nouri's claim in 2010 that they were no more. Many of the demonstrations -- especially the ones featuring attorneys in three cities (Baghdad, Basra and Mosul) but also the spot where the demonstrations kicked off and where demonstrators were attacked by police (Diwaniya) -- have included demands for families to see the prisoners and for attorneys to see them and for speedy trials.
Kevin Charles Redmon (The Atlantic) points out today that it's the abuses of Nouri that are responsible for the unrest and points to Human Rights Watch and the Los Angeles Times (Ned Parker is the reporter on the secret prison stories). He speaks to Human Rights Watch's Samer Muscati who declares, "And if you look at what the Prime Minister said to the Associated Press, calling our report lies, he mentioned that everyone there is either a terrorist or Baathist. There's this sense that it's okay, because these guys aren't even worthy of their rights to begin with." Iraqis do not have a democracy -- they don't even have their own government, they're still occupied -- but they know what they don't want and that's a return to (or continuation of) brutality from the goverment. Their country has been torn apart for eight years and counting and they don't have basic services, and they don't have jobs and now Nouri thinks they're going to look the other way as he mirrors Saddam Hussein's secret prisons? Not a chance. And it is the exasperation and the frustration that is showing up on the streets of Iraq.
Marwan Ibrahim (AFP) reports at least 800 Iraqis have protested today in Falljua and 200 in Kirkuk with calls for jobs and "better basic services" leading the demands which also includ "civil freedoms' and corruption. Ibrahim notes, "Angry Iraqis staged violent demonstrations last summer in several southern cities over power rationing as temperatures reached 54 degrees Celsius (130 Fahrenheit)." DPA adds that signs also carried the message "No to arbitrary arrests." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports that, along with Falluja, there was a protest in "the Shiite district of Sadr City in eastern Baghdad. Police also reported smaller protests elsewhere in Baghdad and in several provinces." And especially important is this section of the report:
Some demonstrators shouted, "Down with al-Maliki," referring to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Others carried banners saying, "No for dividing Iraq, yes for its unity" and "No for sectarianism, yes for unity, down with al-Maliki's governments." Still others said, "No restriction on freedom of expression, no for random detentions and raids, no for corrupted (politicians) and thieves," and "We demand better basic services -- electricity, oil and improving the food rations."
Again, the big message from the March 2010 elections was that Iraqis who voted wanted to see their country united as one. And, as we noted Saturday, the refusal to listen to a native people explain why they are doing something, the desire to instead impose your own narrative on them is xenophobia. Iraqis are just as smart as Americans or any other people in the world. If they're saying, "I'm doing this because ____," try listening. It may not fit your preconceived notions but the reason for that is that they are describing what they feel, not what you feel.
Recommended: "Iraq snapshot"