Thursday, July 02, 2015

Rolling In The Deep

Adele's "Rolling In The Deep" is probably one of the best recordings of the last ten years.

So it's hard to cover because Adele's done it so perfectly.

Then, last year, Aretha Franklin's Aretha Sings The Great Diva Classics came out.

It was the first track, her cover of "Rolling In The Deep," and it was the lead single -- in fact it became her 100th charting single.

It's an amazing cover and it's my favorite cover song.



"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, July 1, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, even the UN's undercount of deaths finds June's death toll the highest since last September, Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) reports nearly 5,000 deaths for the month of June, the refugee crisis continues, Matthew Hoh and Jesse Ventura take on Barack's Iraq War spin, and much more.



Yesterday's snapshot focused basically on an e-mail Hillary Clinton sent and how the New York Times' lazy 'reporting' was distorting the e-mail.


Did it matter that they distorted?

Wouldn't most people have the brains to realize the distortion?

It did matter and clearly most people don't have the brains needed.

Presumably an outlet calling itself "Pink News" wants to accurately report on LGBT issues.


Yet Joseph Patrick McCormick kicks off his nonsense with:


Newly released emails show Hillary Clinton discussed Saddam Hussein’s treatment of LGBT people, calling it “sad and terrible”.



No, you are wrong, you are grossly incorrect.

You should be embarrassed and ashamed of yourself for writing such stupidity.

E-mails?

Two were released.

The first is Cheryl Mills forwarding to Hillary a news report: Ashley Byrne's "Saddam's rule 'better' for gay Iraqis" (BBC News).

The second is Hillary replying:

So sad and terrible.  We should ask Chris Hill to raise this w govt.  If we ever get Posner confirmed we should emphasize LGBT human rights.


The news report is that things were better for Iraq's LGBT community under Saddam.

Bynre writes in the report:

All the LGBT Iraqis interviewed for Gay Life After Saddam maintained that life was easier for them when Saddam Hussein was in power, from 1979 to 2003. 


So if you write, as McCormick does at Pink News today:


Newly released emails show Hillary Clinton discussed Saddam Hussein’s treatment of LGBT people, calling it “sad and terrible”.



You are flaunting your ignorance in the public square and really need to sit your tired ass down.

Hillary did not discuss Saddam's treatment of LGBT people and the article she was commenting on was noting that in the post-Saddam era, life had become very dangerous for Iraq's gay community.


This is what happens when 'reporters' like Peter Baker and Steve Eder get away with lazy and inaccurate work -- it quickly spreads and the truth is distorted.



Today, UNAMI announced the figures for Junes death toll in Iraq.  They go with 1,466 dead and 1,687 injured and those are the number you'll see.  Add 801 deaths for 2,488 deaths from violence (that includes security forces) and  2342 for the injured (includes security forces).

After over a year of criticism, they've made some attempt to include Anbar Province in the body of the report (136 killed and 163 injured).

This is an undercount.

They do not include the civilians in Falluja killed by the Iraqi military bombings of residential neighborhoods, for example.



Even so, AP notes, "The monthly death toll was the highest since last September, and the rise from last month appeared to be almost entirely due to higher casualties among security forces."


Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) reports, "Antiwar.com, using news reports, found at least 3,311 militants were killed and 287 were wounded. Many of these deaths were reported by the Iraqi government, which could be exaggerating its successes. On the other hand, many of the wounded might not have fallen into government hands and therefore are uncountable. In total, 4,777 were killed and 1,974 were wounded during June."


The violence takes place in a populated country with a very young population.  The United Nations notes:



The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today said that over the past year in Iraq, it has seen a 75 per cent increase in grave violations against children that include killing and maiming, abduction, recruitment as soldiers, sexual violence, attacks against schools and denial of humanitarian access.
“We could never have predicted that one year on we would be looking at a violent crisis that has affected more than eight million people,” said Colin MacInnes, UNICEF’s Acting Representative in Iraq briefing the press in Geneva from Irbil. This month marks the anniversary of the beginning of the widespread violence across the country.
This time last year, many communities in Iraq, particularly in locations such as Mosul and Tikrit, witnessed violence that displaced people on a scale that caught everyone by surprise. It led to the collapse of the healthcare system, the education system the public safety net. The situation for children in particular was desperate. In the 2014-15 school year more than 650,000 children had received no schooling whatsoever and over three million did not attend a regular school cycle.
“For those children not in school and who did not have services the situation continued to worsen,” said Mr. MacInnes.

The speed and scope of the crisis has been very severe, he continued, affecting both national and international actors. The ability of families to access even basic items was also harshly impacted. Recently nearly 3,000 people from Anbar were being displaced every week. 



The refugee crisis is so great that even the Iraqi government has to acknowledge it in some form.  Andolu Ajansi reports the Ministry of Migration and Displacement is stating that the last 12 months have seen 493,990 Iraqi families displaced within Iraq.  Those numbers are an undercount and they do not include the number of families who have fled Iraq in the last 12 months due to the ongoing violence.



On the internally displaced, Mushreq Abbas (Al-Monitor) reported last week:


Al-Monitor met with people who had been displaced from the towns of al-Alam, al-Dor and Tikrit in Salahuddin governorate who refuse to return for other reasons. Samer al-Douri, a civil engineer from al-Dawr who was displaced to the city of Sulaimaniyah, said that returning to al-Dawr is now impossible in light of the Popular Mobilization Units imposing their control over the areas that were recently liberated.
He added, “We will not be safe even though we ran away from al-Dawr when IS invaded it. The government and the Popular Mobilization Units still deny the return of our families.”
Iqbal al-Ojaili, who was displaced with her family from Tikrit to Sulaimaniyah, told Al-Monitor, “I refuse to return at the government's discretion. I have three boys and their lives are in the hands of a security member. If the latter decides that they are terrorists, it will be over for them.”
Ali Issam, who also fled to Sulaimaniyah, told Al-Monitor that his house in Tikrit had been completely looted. He owned a food store that was burned to the ground. “How do I get back, and where and how will I live?” Issam asked.




Last week, Shalaw Mohammed (Niqash) reported on a refugee camp in Kirkuk:


Omar Sabbah has not left the displaced persons' camp where he is now living for two whole months. Originally from Tikrit, he says that if he wanted to leave, he'd have to walk a long way on an unpaved road. There are no easy ways to get out of here, he complains. “Life in the camps is another kind of prison,” he says. “We can only hope conditions improve in our own home towns soon so we can return there.”
Sabbah is one of around 8,500 people living in 1,800 tents in the Laylan camp for displaced people, about 20 kilometres out of the northern city of Kirkuk.
When he managed to escape the extremist group known as the Islamic State that had control of Tikrit until recently, Sabbah said he'd never expected to end up living in such a remote area.
Although the Islamic State, or IS, group was pushed out of Tikrit Sabbah doesn't think he can go back to the city anytime soon. The city was liberated by a mixture of pro-government Iraqi forces, which also included a large number of fighters from Shiite Muslim militias. These have been both celebrated for their victories and controversial because of bad behaviour after the fighting ended.

Omar knows this only too well. He has already changed his first name to Ammar. In Iraq, it is possible to tell which sect or tribe any person is from because of their names. “The Shiite militias hate the name Omar, which is why I changed mine,” Sabbah explains. “It's going to make it easier for me to return home in the future.”



The above and so much more should result in the US State Dept spearheading a diplomatic mission which would include making a sizable donation to the United Nations' aid programs in Iraq and encouraging other nations to do the same.


Instead, the UN has to repeatedly note that their aid programs in Iraq are in danger due to serious shortfalls in the budget.

They could also foster an environment which would allow for reconciliation and a political solution.  Instead, the State Dept mistakes itself for the Pentagon and when Iraqi officials take tentative steps, there's no encouragement or support from the White House.


For example, National Iraqi News Agency reports that the three presidencies (Iraqi Preisdnet Fuad Masum, Speaker of Parliament Salim al-Jubouri and Prime Minster Haider al-Abadi) were supposed to meet tonight:

 A source told the National Iraqi News Agency / NINA / "The meeting will deal with a number of issues in the forefront will be the national reconciliation and the political agreement document as well as some of the bills that are still waiting for legislation."

He noted that "the three presidencies perhaps, will call to convene a meeting for the political blocs, explaining that there is a consensus among the three presidencies on the need to come out of usual routine meetings and reach clear decisions on the files that are discussed."

Salim al-Jubouri, House Speaker held a meeting yesterday evening with MPs and ministers of the Iraqi forces coalition to discuss a number of important files, particularly the political file and what was achieved from the terms of the political agreement, in addition to the bills that await to be approved in the House of Representatives during its legislative term and laws sent by the Council of Ministers. "/ 



This news is apparently so unimportant to the administration that it can't even get a Tweet from the State Dept's Brett McGurk -- McGurk who Tweets daily on US airstrikes on Iraq.



Were Barack Obama and the White House not being held hostage by the government of Iran, maybe they could address issues in Iraq?

Instead, the wasted time continues.  We were told that all the focus would end in March when a deal was arrived at.

There was no deal.

The White House insisted that by the end of June, they'd have a deal.


June has ended.

Currently, they've tacked on another week.

As former US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker has repeatedly noted in the last weeks, Iran is not helping Iraq, it is assisting in the hardening of divisions among Iraqis and in inciting ill will.

But that can't be addressed when Barack is held hostage by Tehran.

Some news reports today made the laughable claim that Barack knows how to walk away from the bargaining table.

No, he doesn't.

And when you demonstrate that, and he did last March, you have no power.

That's why tacking three more months to the 'talks' did not result in a deal.

Tehran knows Barack will do anything to avoid walking away.

Tehran knows they're calling the shots.

It's not a debate among equals, it's one group insisting on what they want (Tehran) and another party too scared to end the talks.

And while he continues to allow Iran to take center stage, Iraq suffers every day.



Barack Obama's 'plan' for Iraq doesn't stem the violence, it only adds to it.  The US Defense Dept announced today:


Attack, bomber, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft conducted nine airstrikes in Iraq, approved by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense:
-- Near Baghdadi, three airstrikes struck land features, denying ISIL a tactical advantage and destroying two ISIL excavators.
-- Near Fallujah, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL tunnel system.
-- Near Haditha, two airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit, destroying two ISIL vehicles.
-- Near Mosul, two airstrikes struck an ISIL fighting position and an ISIL mortar firing position, destroying an ISIL building.
-- Near Waleed, an airstrike destroyed three ISIL armored personnel carriers.



None of that steers Iraq towards a political solution.


None of that addresses the very real grievances of the Sunni population, a population targeted under the (mis)leadership of Nouri al-Maliki for years and still targeted by the man who replaced him as prime minister Haider al-Abadi.

In January 2014, Nouri began bombing civilians areas in Falluja (Sunni-dominate Falluja).  These bombings continue under Haider al-Abadi (they are collective punishment which is legally defined as a War Crime).


On Falluja, Rudaw reports:

Airstrikes carried out over the last two weeks by the Iraqi Army against the Islamic State, or ISIS, have been causing heavy collateral damage on the civilian residents of Fallujah, the city's top health official reported Wednesday.

“The random airstrikes carried out by the Iraqi air forces against Daesh [ISIS] gunmen have killed 71 people and wounded 90 others,” Ahmad Shami, head of physicians in Fallujah Hospital, told Rudaw.




Iraqi Spring MC notes today's Iraqi military bombings of Falluja's residential area left 4 children dead and their mother and father injured.


Falluja is only one city in Anbar Province.  Middle East Monitor reports:


The Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq denounced what it described as "crimes and flagrant human rights violations" committed in the city of An-Nukhayb in the Anbar province, adding that the area is being emptied of its indigenous people as part of a systematic policy of demographic change carried out by the Popular Mobilisation Forces with the support of the government.
In a statement released yesterday, the association quoted eyewitnesses from the area as saying that on Monday "members of the Popular Mobilisation Forces started to burn dozens of safe homes and houses inhabited by the people of the area. They also attacked the inhabitants by beating them and yelling obscene and sectarian insults at them."










Iraq War veteran Matthew Hoh appeared on Jesse Ventura's Off The Grid today.  Excerpt:


Jesse Ventura:  What do you think of this latest troop deployment?  We already have 3,100 troops in Iraq and now we're sending in at least 450 more to "train local security forces" -- whatever that means.  What do you make of it, Matt?


Matthew Hoh:  Oh, it's completely absurd, Governor.  You know, it's -- What does anybody expect to come out of this?  Except more violence in Iraq, more violence in Syria, more violence where ever we put our troops into the middle of a civil war.  It only benefits groups like the Islamic State or Shia militias that get all riled up because of the presence of foreign troops and basically us trying to pick winners and losers again in someone else's civil war that we had a lot to do with starting, of course. But also too, the other people that make a ton of money off of this, the only other people that benefit, are the defense companies.  And the amount of money that goes into these conflicts is-is just obscene -- particularly when you look and compare it to the declining states of our nation -- how our own schools are failing, our infrastructure is failing, etc. But we are more than willing to send troops overseas to fight in foreign civil wars.  And most of that -- or a good deal of that -- has to do with American defense companies making billions and billions of dollars of it.

Jesse Ventura:  Now Obama said, Matt, that these are not combat troops, they're "trainers."   What the hell does that mean?

Matthew Hoh:  You're talking about putting American troops into the middle of Iraq.  More American troops into the middle of Iraq where we had already lost 4,500 troops, 4,500 Americans in the Iraq War, tens of thousands wounded, 100,000 or more with mental issues, homeless issues, etc. But this notion that they're just going to be trainers is just -- is just a politician trying to sound both tough and safe at the same time.





Lastly,, Trevor Timm explores the topic of civilian deaths at the Guardian.  He's noting the calls for more civilian deaths in Iraq.  We noted this when we reported on the House Armed Services Committee hearing on June 24th.  And you can also refer to the June 4th snapshot as well as in "Iraq: Failed follow ups and whining that bombs aren't being dropped quick enough"












Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Hillary and Bernie, two of a kind

I do not know who I'll be voting for.

I know I won't be voting for Hillary.

And I won't be voting for fake ass Bernie.

Tom Hall (WSWS) explains the reality of Bernie:

Virtually unmentioned in Sanders' numerous statements against the TPP is the basic geopolitical agenda that underlies the proposed trade bloc. The TPP is the economic component of the Obama administration’s anti-Chinese “pivot to Asia.” Sanders does not want to raise this issue because he, along with his congressional colleagues in both parties, supports such an aggressive policy towards China.
His interest in opposing the trade deal is to divert popular anger over unemployment, wage cuts and austerity along reactionary nationalist lines.

Since his election to Congress in 1991, Sanders has repeatedly attacked the extension to China of “most favored” trade status, called Normal Trade Relations in the parlance of the federal government. His very first piece of legislation as a congressman was a 1992 bill he co-sponsored with the current Democratic House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, attacking the extension of most favored status to China, which was later vetoed by George H. W. Bush.


Bernie has little to be proud of and I don't see him as very different from Hillary.


"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, June 30, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the New York Times does more bad 'reporting,' they fail to provide the context for the LGBT community in Iraq when Hillary Clinton received an e-mail in July 2009, we note the context, we also note a comment on Posner which may indicate Hillary's frustrations with Barack Obama, and a little more.



Where there is wasted resources and bad reporting, there is the New York Times.

It's a fact the paper never seems to stop flaunting.

The ridiculous Peter Baker and Steve Eder rush forward to remind us of that today in an article about . . .

Well is there a point to it?

The State Dept released some of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's e-mails.

This is a paragraph in the blather Baker and Eder offer:

Her policy priorities come through in the messages as well. In July 2009, when an aide forwarded Mrs. Clinton a message about treatment of gays and lesbians in Iraq, both before and after the reign of Saddam Hussein, she wrote back quickly: “So sad and terrible. We should ask Chris Hill,” the American ambassador, “to raise w govt.”


No policy priorities come through in that paragraph.

They fail to establish anything and seem less like reporters and more like two dishy teens at first lunch.

"So sad and terrible," Hillary wrote.

About what?

Despite being paid to be reporters, neither Peter Baker nor Steve Eder care to share that with the readers.

"We should ask Chris Hill to raise w govt"?

Why?

The writers fail to establish what the communication was about or what was going on in Iraq at the time or even why the issue was raised?

Here's the reality piss panties Peter and Stevie can't tell you because they're too busy whoring and lying (for this you left the Washington Post, Peter?), life in Iraq had turned deadly for the LGBT community.

Under Nouri al-Maliki.

Not under Saddam.

Under Nouri al-Maliki.

It's a fact, quit whoring and lying, Peter Baker and Steve Eder.

Human trash is that which covers for the crimes of a thug.  By that definition, Peter and Steve are human trash.

Oh, C.I., you always blame Nouri!

Because I pay attention and I'm not in a coma.

And maybe if others paid attention as well, Baker and Eder wouldn't get away with this garbage.

July 2009 is when Hillary's suddenly learning of "so sad" life for Iraq's LGBT community.

Who's raising the issue?

Not the moronic New York Times, never the idiotic and homophobic New York Times.

But July of 2009 is when Ashley Byrne's "Saddam's rule 'better' for gay Iraqis" (BBC News) appears,


What else was the BBC offering as coverage that month?


From the July 7, 2009 snapshot:


Gay Life After Saddam is a documentary the BBC commissioned which was set to air Sunday, July 5th on BBC Radio 5 Live; however, the Wimbledon Men's Final ran late Sunday and the program has been rescheduled to air Sunday July 12th from nine to ten p.m. (1:00 to 2:00 p.m. PST).  Ashley Byrne did the investigative reporting for the documentary and, at the BBC, Byrne explains, "What is clear, and confirmed by separate evidence from various human rights groups, is that some gay men have been subjected to appalling violent abuse. . . . Gay men inside Iraq have been able to seek santuary in safe houses, thanks to the UK-based Iraqi Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) group, which manages them from London.  The documentary team were granted exclusive access to one of the homes on the outskirts of Baghdad".  The people Byrne speaks to maintain it was easier to be a gay Iraqi when Saddam Hussein was in charge of Iraq.  So much for 'liberation' and 'democracy.'  Again, the specail has been rescheduled for this coming Sunday, July 12th. 


Now some whine, 'I'd love to listen but BBC's webpage says it's no longer available.'

How is that my problem?

You didn't pay attention in real time?  How is that my problem?

No, the special's no longer available.  It was six years ago.

But we did cover it in real time and we can offer this lengthy excerpt of the transcript we did of the program:


Aasmah Mir: Since the invasion six years ago a steep rise in sectarian violence has claimed thousands of victims throughout the country but this could just be the tip of the iceberg because murders and attacks against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community are also on the increase but often go unreported. So what is happening to gay people inside Iraq? We've spoken to a range of people -- to those still inside the country and to those who fled to different parts of the world.  The names of victims appearing in this program have been changed to protect their identities.  Researchers from the US-based Human Rights Watch recently spent several months investigating the treatment of gay people in Iraq.
 
Scott Long: Today we're going to look at a new issue for us --
 
Aasmah Mir: The director of the organization LGBT program, Scott Long, outlined some of their findings at a briefing in New York.
 
Scott Long: I'm going to start by reading a testimony, or part of a testimony, from a man we spoke to who was 35-years-old.  He actually developed a severe speech impediment from strain and grief.  This is what he told us: "It was late one night in early April and they  came to take my partner at his parent's house.  Four armed men barged into the house. they were masked and wearing black.  They asked for him by name.  They insulted him and they took him in front of his parents.  He was found in the neighborhood the day after.  They had thrown his corpse in the garbage, his genitals were cut off and a piece of his throat was ripped out.  Since then, I've been unable to speak properly. I feel as if my life is pointless now.  I don't have friends other than those you see.  For years, it's just been my boyfriend and myself in that little bubble by ourselves.  I have no family now.  I can't go back to them."

Aasmah Mir: Back in Britain, I went to see asylum seeker Ali Hilli who runs a group called Iraqi LGBT.
 
Aasmah Mir: Hello Ali.
 
Ali Hilli: Hello Ashram, how are you?
 
Aasmah Mir: I'm fine thank you.  How are you?

Ali Hilli: Good thank you.
 
Aasmah Mir: Thanks very much for talking to us.
 
Aasmah Mir: While I was with him, Ali showed me some of the shocking video evidence of torture his group has been collecting. The images he showed me concerned attacks on transsexuals
 
Aasmah Mir:  People were -- had their heads shaved.  In this video we see one of the victims, his name is Ali also, he was a member of our group in Najaf, a trans person lived all his life as a transwoman.  They took him away.  They had his head shaved.  And they distributed this video everywhere in Iraq and we still don't have an idea
 
Aasmah Mir: And that's what we can actually see right now, he's sitting on a stool, dressed in female clothes, long hair and someone is shaving his head.
 
Ali Hilli: Yes and uh it's so degrading.
 
Aasmah Mir: Yeah.  How do you feel when you watch this kind of video because obviously you probably see a lot of it.  This is the first time I've seen anything like this and, you know, obviously I'm quite shocked by it.  But you, you must see this stuff all the time.  Do you still feel shocked by it or are you almost becoming -- getting used to it in a kind of way?
 
Ali Hilli: No, I will never get used to atrocities against humanity.  If I see the video for the first time, I'm quite shaken because the only thing that I-I afraid to catch is the moment of death. This is what I-I don't want to see in my life.   I-I can - I can bear anything, I can accept anything but to kill a human?  I just can't.
 
Aasmah Mir: We were granted exclusive access to one of the so-called safe houses set up and funded and managed by the London-based Iraqi LGBT group.  On the outskirts of Baghdad, in an anonymous street behind heavily curtained windows we found Kassim a man in his late thirties.  Kassim describes himself as a woman in a man's body.  He's had a lifetime of trouble coming to terms with his gender identity.  Kassim's been the victim of violence on several occasions most recently earlier this year
 
Kassim: One day, um, someone stopped his car by me and he said "Taxi" and I said, "Why?  Why taxi?" Where are you going?  And I said I was going to this certain place.  He took me to an empty house and put a white blindfold on my eyes and then put a gun to my head and I said, "Just give me a time to pray to God before you kill me."  And he said, "I won't give you time to pray."  And he threatened me and I wasn't moving because I was afraid that he would kill me with the gun and then finally he said, "Okay, I'll let you go for this time but your day will come where you will die
 
Aasmah Mir: Amil's a young Iraqi man whose seeking asylum in London.  A gay friend of his was killed by extremists in Iraq.
 
Amil: I used to have a friend, he was student with me and they find out he was gay and they kill him and they chop him like a -- like a lamb or I couldn't or I can't - I can't hardly say because it was really awful.  They kill him and they chop it him and they put him in front of the institute, the one I was studying, to show and to scare the people to not be gay or homosexual.
 
Aasmah Mir: Most shocking of the recent reports to emerge from Iraq is a form of torture used on gay men involving glue.  Hossein Alizadeh is the Middle East and North Africa researcher for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
 
Hossein Alizadeh: The most horrendous form of torture that I have heard and seen is what happened during March and April in Iraq.  Members of the Iraqi Shi'ite militia  al-Mahdi group, they went around posted lists, names of the people who were supposed to be gay and when they arrest them they basically use glue to shut down their digestive system -- the anus. Others who managed to escape go to the hospitals and the hospitals refuse treatment to those people because, again, they look gay or they're perceived to be gay.  So we had numerous cases -- I can tell you about fifty or sixty cases I've heard -- that have been tortured in that way.
 
Aasmah Mir: Rasha Moumneh is the Middle East researcher for Human Rights Watch
 
Rasha Moumneh: You know some of the gay men have actually talked about internet entrapment, a lot of men would be kidnapped, blackmailed for money.  We've talked to people whose partners have been killed in the most brutal of ways.
 
Aasmah Mir: And it appears that it is not just people who are gay, bi or transsexual who find themselves the target of violence
 
Ali Hilli: Anyone who's gay, who looks like gay, or have an effeminate behavior, certain Western dress, we've heard of so many examples of people who were, they were even married with children      
 
Aasmah Mir: There seems to have been an increase in violence in recent months but according to the London-based Iraqi LGBT the killings and torture go back a long way.  They claim more than 600 people have been executed since 2003.
 
Ali Hilli: There are so many other areas like villages, little towns, also big cities, we can't have people reach to or investigate about incidents.  Also sometimes security situation is quite very complicated, people can't travel often to check or find out what's happening in certain areas.  So I believe the number is far more higher than 600.  
 
Aasmah Mir: Gay people are seeking sanctuary from the violence in Iraq in all parts of the world.  At a secret location by the banks of the Seine in Paris we met Omar a twenty year old gay man who just weeks earlier had been facing death in Iraq. A small, slightly built young man, who looks younger than his age, told us his story.  At times clearly traumatized.
 
Omar: I was arrested and I was in retention and there I found five other gay persons.  We suffered torture.  There was the electrical way -- to use electricity to torture us.  And there's a position where my head is down through my legs -- and  my head is down, it's something horrible.  While you have another mean of torture using the belts -- you cannot imagine -- a normal person cannot imagine such torture.
 
Aasmah Mir:  I'm Aasmah Mir and you're listening to Gay Life After Saddam on BBC Radio 5 live. So what was life like for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people before the fall of Saddam Hussein
 
Scott Long: There was no possibility of leading a particularly public gay life. There are reports from Amnesty International that 2002 as Saddam was attempting to sort of shore up his Islamist credentials, before the invasion, he passed decrees mandating the death penalty for prostitution and for homosexual conduct.  We haven't actually seen those decrees and we can't confirm what they contain.
 
Aasmah Mir: This Iraqi student who wishes to remain anonymous now lives in New York
 
Anonymous: I had a pretty, you know, reasonable gay lifestyle under the table -- in terms of, you know,  circle of friends, gatherings, get-togethers, we'd get together at homes.  Before the war, there were a couple of bars, a couple of clubs that on weekends are pretty much publicly gay and everybody knew about it and we used to go and hang out there and that's fine as long as we don't take that out in the streets.
 
Aasmah Mir:  Ali Hilli was a young gay men in Iraq during the 1990s.  He has fond memories of the underground gay scene that flourished without much interference in Saddam's Baghdad.
 
Ali Hilli: Well we had - we had lots of theater actually plays that we were -- people always have to refer to the gay character which is always taken as a sense of humor in shows.  We used to go to -- to see lots of theaters and plays.  I don't know, for some reason there is always a gay character in these plays and I quite like it because I know some of the actors who are really gay themselves and we enjoy it because they really make the most of it.  They camp it up.  And there were lots of gay famous singers.
 
Aasmah Mir: Kassim remembers a better life under Saddam    .  
 
Kassim: Life was good, everything was okay.  There were clubs, cafeterias and we could choose where we sat.  We could choose any place to sit and meet other gays  and frankly compared to the current situation the times under Saddam were much better.
 
Aasmah Mir: Haider is an Iraqi seeking asylum in England.  He's been living in Huntersfield.  He left Iraq shortly after the US invasion six years ago.
 

Haider: If you respect yourself and live and you don't cause any problems nobody is going to kill you we didn't hear of anybody being killed because of his sexuality in Saddam's regime. Now after that, everything got worse, everything got fluctuated.  I fled from Iraq in 2003 because of one of the worst experiences I've had in my life. I was kidnapped for 9 days, they took me in a small car and they send me about to a place about half an hour.  I was.  I was eye-folded, they call it.  [. . .]  on the border of Baghdad. One of the officers there, he raped me. And then he said "if you're going to tell anyone from the rest of the gang, I will kill you directly." I was scared.  Just a one meal a day which is not enough. They were always telling us that they were going to kill you.



This is the context that Peter Baker and Steve Eder -- two people who are paid to do a job -- fail to provide.

The above is being covered by the BBC in July of 2009 when Hillary's having the issue raised to her in some form.

"Some form" because the New York Times fails to provide you with any context but it also fails to provide you with what the e-mail to Hillary said.



If you're among the many late to the party, SPOILER ALERT, it gets worse for Iraq's LGBT community in Nouri's second term as prime minister.


That's when he refuses to nominate anyone to head the Ministry of the Interior (over the police) so that he can control the Ministry.  He then sends Ministry employees into Iraqi schools to tell them that gay men are vampires who will drain their blood and kill them, that exposure to gay men will turn the children day, that gay men must be killed.

When word gets out on this and Alsumaria and Al Mada begin reporting on it, Nouri and his flunkies will deny that the Minister of Interior employees said any such thing.

But then Alsumaria and Al Mada get a hold of the hand outs the Ministry employees provided the students with.

Suddenly, the denials (lies) stop because the hand outs make clear that Nouri was trying (and succeeding) to instigate violence against Iraq's LGBT community with a pack of lies designed to frighten young people.

Now we could walk through that time period -- Goodness knows we owned the story in terms of English language coverage.  We were so good at covering it that Jim ends up showing me a US newspaper report and asks me to read it.  I do, I read along and it seems familiar and then the rhythm sets in and I recognize it as my own writing.  It was.  It appeared here word for word (four paragraphs) but that didn't stop a US newspaper from printing it as their own.

We could walk through that time period but, as Ben Taylor sings, "I'm not going to make you cry or break your heart, Girl, we don't have the time" -- "Wicked Way," written by Ben and David Saw, first appears on Ben's The Legend of Kung Folk [Part1 (The Killing Bite)].

But the point is that if you weren't paying attention then, you're exactly the type of person that Peter Baker and Steve Eder are playing for a fool with their article.

They're not even being fair to Hillary.

"So sad," written by Hillary, takes on a different context if you know what was taking place in July 2009.


Let's go over the e-mails briefly.  On July 6, 2009 at 8:33 a.m., Cheryl Mills forwards to Hillary "BBC: Saddam's rule 'better' for gay Iraqis"  Cheryl is rather infamous (thanks to Benghazi) so we'll assume most are familiar with that State Dept figure.

She is forwarding Hillary the BBC report we linked to at the top.  She's been e-mailed it by Richard Socarides.

Who?

From Wikipedia:


Richard Socarides (born 1954) is a Democratic political strategist, writer, commentator and a New York attorney. Socarides was named Head of Public Affairs for Gerson Lehrman Group in August 2013. He was a White House adviser under United States President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 1999 in a variety of senior positions, including as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Adviser for Public Liaison. He worked on legal, policy and political issues and served as principal adviser to Clinton on gay and lesbian civil rights issues. Under Clinton, he was Chief Operating Officer of the 50th Anniversary Summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Socarides also worked as special assistant to Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). From 2000 to 2006, Socarides held senior positions at Time Warner, including at its divisions New Line Cinema and AOL.
Socarides has written extensively on political and legal topics in his regular column in The New Yorker, as well as for The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and Politico. He is a frequent commentator on television.
Socarides is a Trustee of the State University of New York (SUNY), appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and of Antioch College, which he attended.

Socarides, who is openly gay,[1] was the founding president of Equality Matters in 2011. He is the son of the late Charles Socarides (1922–2005), a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who was outspoken critic of the American Psychiatric Association's 1973 decision to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. In 1992 the elder Socarides co-founded NARTH, in response to the American Psychoanalytic Association's 1992 decision to change its position on homosexuality.




Hillary's full response on Iraq (she moves on to other topics in her reply) is:

So sad and terrible.  We should ask Chris Hill to raise this w govt.  If we ever get Posner confirmed we should emphasize LGBT human rights.


If we ever get Posner?

Apparently, Hillary was frustrated with Barack Obama.

At this point, Posner wasn't even nominated for a post.


It would be two days after her e-mail exchange that Barack would nominate Michael Posner for the State Dept position of Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.


At the end of February 2013, New York University Stern School of Business would announce Posner would be joining the faculty the next month.  From that press release:



Since 2009, Posner has served as the top U.S. diplomat on human rights as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the U.S. Department of State. Prior to joining the State Department, Posner was the founder and president of Human Rights First, a non-partisan organization working to advance universal rights and American values at home and around the world.

Throughout his career, Posner has focused on the role of business and the private sector in respecting human rights. His experience across industries – from labor rights in the global supply chain, to freedom of expression in the information and communication sector, to security and human rights in the extractives industry – emphasizes that smart companies work to respect human rights not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it helps them manage risk, create markets, and meet the expectations of consumers, investors and employees.

NYU President John Sexton said, “Having Mike join the NYU and Stern faculty as a professor and leader of the first-ever center on human rights at a business school is a powerful signal of NYU’s innovative approach to higher education and commitment to meeting the challenges of the 21st century. Mike’s leadership in the area of business and human rights at Stern is an example of the distinctive value that our global network university can provide.”

“Global businesses are confronting complex human rights challenges that demand approaches that go beyond ‘corporate social responsibility’. We need rules of the road that address companies’ responsibilities to respect human rights in their own operations,” said Posner. The center on business and human rights will convene major stakeholders in the business, academic, NGO, investment and government sectors; conduct academic research; and train business students. Posner added, “The center will seek to answer the hard questions 21st century companies face: What can companies do to respect human rights? What should they do? What are the smartest companies already doing?” Posner will teach at NYU Stern in the Business and Society Program Area beginning in the fall 2013 semester.

Posner began his advocacy career in 1978 and is recognized as a pioneer in the human rights movement. He has played a major role in shaping U.S. policy from inside and outside of government on issues ranging from refugee and asylum law and policy, national security and human rights, Internet freedom, and business and human rights. Before coming into government, he was active in several leading organizations in the field of business and human rights, including the Fair Labor Association, the Global Network Initiative, and the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights. Posner holds a B.A. from the University of Michigan and a J.D. from the University of California, Boalt Hall.



The Guardian's coverage -- unlike the Times' -- of the e-mails noted Hillary's strained/skeptical relationship with Barack during the period covered in the e-mails.


Her "if we ever" remarks could feed into that pattern of frustration.

That's another prospect 'reporters' Peter Baker and Steve Eder missed.


(For those wanting to see the e-mails themselves, click here and they're the top two e-mails -- Hillary's is on top, Cheryl's is below.  Don't e-mail next month and say, 'They're not there!"  When next month's batch of e-mails are released, you may have to search.  I searched "Iraq" and used the dates July 1, 2009 through July 30, 2009.  The e-mails are from July 5, 2009.)


LGBT rights are human rights and should be defended by all.  On that point, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America issued the following last week:


NEW YORK (June 26, 2015) — IAVA today applauded the U.S. Supreme Court ruling recognizing the equality of our LGBTQ members and their families. IAVA was the only national veterans organization to support the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) and it submitted an amicus brief arguing for overturning the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). We will continue to work with state, local and national policy makers to ensure an equality of benefits and dignity of our membership effected by today’s decision.


Note to media: Email press@iava.org or call 212-982-9699 to speak with IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff or IAVA leadership.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is the leading post-9/11 veteran empowerment organization (VEO) with the most diverse and rapidly growing membership in America. Celebrating its 10th year anniversary, IAVA has repeatedly received the highest rating - four-stars - from Charity Navigator, America's largest charity evaluator.




Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts 98 violent deaths across Iraq today.

The plan was to go over counter-insurgency in this snapshot -- we might do it next time.  You were saved my pontificating on the weakness you convey when you continue to refuse to leave the bargaining table, but we may cover counter-insurgency next time.


















Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Chrissie Hynde

The Hollywood Reporter has some big music news:

Take a first look at the cover of Pretenders’ lead singer Chrissie Hynde’s forthcoming memoir, revealed here for the first time. 
Reckless: My Life as a Pretender will be published simultaneously in the U.S. and abroad on Sept. 8 by Doubleday, a division of Penguin Random House.


As a fan of Chrissie and of her band, I can't wait to read this book.

In honor of the book, here -- in no particular order -- are my top ten favorite Pretenders' songs:

1) "Chill Factor"

2) "Brass In Pocket"

3) "Criminal"

4) "Middle of the Road"

5) "2000 Miles"

6) "Precious"

7) "My Baby"

8) "Let's Make A Pact"

9) "Sense Of Purpose"

10) "Hymn to Her"


"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Monday, June 29, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, a US Congressional delegation visits Iraq, Haider accepts a resignation, Sunni civilians remain targeted by their own government, and much more.



Al Bawaba carries one of today's most important stories:


At least 71 civilians have been killed and 90 injured since the beginning of Ramadan due to the repeated shelling of Fallujah city in Iraq’s western Anbar province, a local medical source said Monday.
On June 23, Anbar’s provincial council called on the Iraqi army to refrain from shelling civilian areas of Fallujah, which is currently held by the Daesh militant group.
Ahmed al-Shami, chief doctor at the Fallujah Educational Hospital, told Anadolu Agency that the hospital’s emergency room had received 71 dead and 90 injured, “mostly women and children,” since the beginning of Ramadan on June 18.


The War Crimes, the never ending War Crimes.


Oh, whatcha gonna do when time runs out on you
Run down, ghost town
Barren pastures all around

How y'gonna explain it to your grandkids
Where did the mountain go
How y'gonna tell them you sold it
Where did the mountain go

-- "Chalice Borealis," written by Carole King and Rick Sorensen, first appears on her Speeding Time


How you going to pretend a decade from now, as the world recoils in horror over the then-past crimes, that you didn't know what was going on?

Yes, the White House pretends not to know.

They have to.

These actions -- the Iraqi military bombing civilians homes in Falluja -- meet the legal definition of War Crimes.

Recognizing them means the White House would have to halt all arm shipments to Iraq.

That's even if you set aside the Leahy Amendment.

Treaties and international law recognized by the US government demands that the shipments be stopped if the government is attacking civilians.

So the White House looks the other way.

What's the American people's excuse?

And let's stop pretending that people don't know.

These bombings began under Nouri al-Maliki in January 2014.


They continue under Haider al-Abadi.

They got a flurry of western media attention briefly -- on September 13th when Haider announced they had stopped.

Then the western press, so silent on the bombings for months, rushed to cover the announcement.

And then fell back into silence when, the next day, September 14th, the bombings continued.

There is no excuse for the silence.

And ten years from now, lots of luck explaining that silence.

The youth can be very unforgiving.

They've often not experienced serious regret.

Things are often very clear cut to them.

And the fact that the left in the United States refused to call out the bombing of civilians in Iraq?


Lots of luck defending your silence then.


For 18 months and counting, these attacks on Sunni civilians, attacks carried out by the Iraqi military, have gone on.


Today, AFP reports:

Iraqi premier Haider al-Abadi has “retired” the army’s chief of staff, the most senior officer removed since jihadists overran large parts of the country last year, his spokesman said Monday.

General Babaker Zebari “has been retired” on Abadi’s orders, Saad al-Hadithi told AFP, without providing further details.


All Iraq News, citing a source in the Ministry of Defense, maintains that Zibari is the one who decided to retire and the decision was made "to enjoy retirement because he is getting too old."


Poor Haider, it could have been his big moment.

Could have been.

Dropping back to Saturday's snapshot:


The laughable Haider al-Abadi is in the news again today.  AFP reports:



Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Saturday that Iraqi forces made an “unauthorized” withdrawal from Ramadi last month, leading to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group’s takeover of the Anbar provincial capital.

“The withdrawal of the forces from Ramadi was unauthorized -- the orders were the opposite. The forces had to resist, and if they had resisted, we would not have lost Ramadi,” Abadi said in televised remarks.



I seem to recall a similar point made by US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and how Haider and various underlings strongly objected to the remarks.
It's becoming obvious, by the way, that Haider is not in charge of the military.




And today, once it was revealed that the resignation was not on the orders of Haider, it just became even more obvious how little power Haider has over the military.

Speaking of little power, the US Defense Dept announced today:


Airstrikes in Iraq
Attack, bomber and fighter aircraft conducted 17 airstrikes in Iraq, approved by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense:
-- Near Beiji, two airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and land features denying ISIL a tactical advantage, destroying an ISIL vehicle.
-- Near Habbaniyah, two airstrikes struck an ISIL logistics compound and an ISIL staging area.
-- Near Haditha, an airstrike struck an ISIL large tactical unit.
-- Near Makhmur, two airstrikes struck two ISIL tactical units, destroying an ISIL building and an ISIL heavy machine gun.
-- Near Mosul, two airstrikes struck two ISIL tactical units, destroying an ISIL building and an ISIL vehicle.
-- Near Sinjar, three airstrikes struck three ISIL tactical units and three ISIL heavy machine guns, destroying four ISIL buildings.
-- Near Tal Afar, five airstrikes struck four ISIL tactical units and three ISIL bunkers, and also struck land features to deny ISIL a tactical advantage. Two ISIL mortar firing positions, an ISIL heavy machine gun and an ISIL vehicle were destroyed.



All of these bombings, all these months of bombs dropped on Iraq, and it means nothing in terms of progress.  It's reducing the country to ruins but it's not accomplishing much of anything else.

That's because these strikes were supposed to free up space for the Iraqi government to work on a political solution.

But they haven't done that.

They didn't during Bully Boy Bush's 'surge' and they're not doing it during Barack's air strikes.


Alsumaria reports that Iraqi Vice President Ayad Allawi met with Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani in Erbil today and the two issued a statement noting that the only way to successfully defeat the terrorists (Islamic State) is via a political solution and process that brings all segments of Iraq to the table and follows the Constitution.



Those who pay attention will note this is very similar to the 2011 through 2012 positions of Allawi and Barzani -- when they joined with many others (including Moqtada al-Sadr and Ammar al-Hakim) to insist on a political solution.


Nouri al-Maliki was prime minister then and it's a sign of how little has changed under Haider al-Abadi that we're seeing the same summer repeats play out yet again.


Another sign of how ineffective Barack's 'plan' is?  Sgt William Reinier (Fayetteville Observer) reports:

The 82nd Airborne Division took command of the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command – Iraq, from the 1st Infantry Division during a transfer of authority ceremony in Baghdad, Iraq, June 28.

Yes, the bombings have gone on so long that it's time for a new US team to take over.


At what point does Barack demand Haider work on a political solution?

He's the one, June 19, 2014, who insisted the only answer was a political solution.

For basically a year now, he's been willing to send US troops into Iraq while looking the other way as no progress is made on the political solution.

He's risking American lives and doesn't have the guts to demand that Haider al-Abadi live up to his side of the effort?


And increasingly, this is resulting in more and more criticism.  La Salle University in Philadelphia's associate professor Michael J. Boyle (at the New Jersey Star-Ledger) notes:

In May, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter caused a firestorm when he noted that the collapse of Iraqi government forces in Ramadi was not due to a lack of manpower or resources, but rather the "will to fight" ISIS. The Obama administration quickly swung into spin mode, calling the advances of ISIS a "setback" but insisting that the territory could be retaken soon. Yet the hard truth is that the recent gains of ISIS have laid bare the flawed assumptions of President Obama's Iraq strategy and the dishonesty with which it has been sold to the American people.

Since September 2014, the United States has engaged in an aerial bombing campaign against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria, destroying more than 6,278 targets. The Obama administration rushed back into Iraq by a sense of moral outrage at the horrific abuses committed by ISIS, but its instinctive response – to crush a group described as an evil and a "cancer" by prominent administration officials – did not lend itself to an effective military strategy or produce a long-term plan to reconstruct the Iraqi state.  



The frustration with the White House mounts.

And while it refuses to address a political solution, others in the US government are not shy.

US House Rep Stephen Lynch is part of a Congressional delegation visiting Iraq currently.  Kimberly Atkins (Boston Herald) reports:


“We are trying to help the Sunni who are fighting with ISIS right now,” Lynch said.
But that help will require building a coalition strong enough to take on the terrorist network, a tough task of skillful diplomacy to bring together disparate groups — Shia fighters in Baghdad, Kurdish militia in northern Iraq and Turkish fighters battling ISIS on its border with Syria.
“They have not worked together, these three factions. There is very little trust there,” Lynch said. “But the military experts think they have to work together if they have any hope of beating ISIS.”


Senator Joe Donnelly is also part of the delegation and he tells Brian Francisco (Journal Gazette), "With more than 3,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and more on the way, I felt it was critical to hear directly from our commanders on the ground and our Iraqi allies Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish about the current strategy. We also discussed what role the U.S. and our coalition partners in the region should play going forward."


Say a little prayer till they all get home
Say a little prayer till they all get home
I knew when we woke up
You would be leaving
You knew when you left me
It might be too long
That kiss on your shoulder
It's me looking over
Close to your heart
So you're never alone
Say a little prayer till they all get home
Say a little prayer till they all get home

-- "Till They All Get Home," written by Melanie (Safka) and first appears on Melanie's Crazy Love





US House Rep Tulsi Gabbard is part of the delegation and she Tweeted the following:





  1. Thank you for welcoming us





Senator Tim Kaine Tweeted:




  1. CODEL was in Erbil yesterday. Met w/Kurdistan Regional Government PM & President



The delegation also includes US House Rep Brian Higgins, Tim McGovern and Peter Welch.



With Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counting 157 violent deaths across Iraq today, a political solution is needed even more than a year ago.



Mosul fell over a year ago.  A Parliamentary committee has been tasked with determining what happened.  Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) reports that Nouri al-Maliki has now twice refused to answer the committee's questions.  Such behavior should probably result in his being removed as one of Iraq's three vice presidents.



















Sunday, June 28, 2015

Krugman

Andre Damon (WSWS) calls out the fake ass Paul Krugman:



Krugman’s column, headlined “Hooray for Obamacare,” consists of one cynical lie after another aimed at convincing the public that Obama’s right-wing health care overhaul is an historic achievement for low-income Americans.
Krugman declares that Obamacare is doing “better than even many supporters realize.” He pronounces it a “policy triumph—a law that, despite everything its opponents have done to undermine it, is achieving its goals, costing less than expected, and making the lives of millions of Americans better and more secure.”
The Affordable Care Act, signed into law by Obama in March 2010, provides partial government subsidies for low-income residents to purchase health insurance on state and federal “marketplaces” from private companies..
The first section of the Affordable Care Act’s official write-up on the White House web site is titled “Quality, Affordable Health Care for All Americans,” language that is intended to convey to the popular imagination that it is a means of creating a universal health care system similar to those that exist in other industrialized, developed countries.
Yet, in practice, the program has left 35 million people uninsured (and subject to fines), down from the 52 million who were uninsured before its passage.


Paul Krugman used to have some credibility.

These days, he's about twenty notches below Joe Klein.


At least twenty notches below.

It's amazing how some will rush to self-destroy so they can whore.





"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Saturday, June 27, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Corrine Brown provides the laughs, VA may start rationing care this fall, Haider al-Abadi attempts to explain the fall of Ramadi, and much more.



Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley is running for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.  Friday, he gave a speech that is attracting attention. Dan Merica (CNN) reports:


Throughout the speech, his first detailed comments on global issues since announcing his candidacy last month, O'Malley criticized the way that foreign policy has been dealt with for years, an implicit critique of Clinton given her role as secretary of state during the first Obama administration. He particularly highlighted the war in Iraq and the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, two events inextricably tied to Clinton.
"The invasion of Iraq -- along with the subsequent disbanding of the Iraqi military -- will be remembered as one of the most tragic, deceitful and costly blunders in U.S. history," O'Malley said at TruCon 2015, a foreign policy conference in Washington. "And we are still paying the price of a war pursued under false pretenses."


O'Malley has been on a streak of late and gave a speech this week to the Truman National Security Project -- a speech that offered a rallying cry, "No nation ever off-shored its way to greatness."

In the speech, O'Malley also addressed the issue of global warming:


Nowhere is this more collaborative approach more important than in confronting the growing and immediate challenge of severe climate change.
For years, the Pentagon has recognized global warming as an urgent national security threat.
Your organization’s leader—former Army Captain Mike Breen—put it best at a recent Congressional hearing, when he said:
“Over 97 percent of climate scientists say that man-made climate change is a reality.”
“As a combat leader, if 97 percent of my intelligence indicated that I was about to face a lethal danger that would risk the lives of my paratroopers—I would be committing unconscionable malpractice if I did not listen and act.”
Mike is right.
The energy technologies needed to combat climate change exist today—it’s only the political will that is lacking.
America can, and must, lead the way—by pursuing an ambitious plan to ensure our country is powered 100 percent by clean energy, by 2050.
Climate change is not only a very real existential threat to human life, it is also the greatest business opportunity to come to our country in a hundred years.
We must seize this opportunity by creating an American Green Jobs Agenda that is a match for the climate challenge.
We need to invest in resilience—from the Jersey Shore to California’s Central Valley.
We need to spur innovation—to develop cutting-edge technologies that will create jobs at home, and unlock new markets abroad.
We need to embrace new ideas at the state level, as we have in Maryland— where, in just eight years, we increased renewable energy capacity by 57 percent, became a clean-tech jobs hub, and cut carbon emissions by 10 percent.
America’s leadership and example are essential.
Because climate change is a global challenge—with global consequences. It is the transformation that transforms everything.
And by confronting this challenge, we can realize global economic opportunities—and job opportunities—for the United States.
We must partner with emerging markets, in our own hemisphere and beyond, to distribute renewable energy solutions and green design.
We must aggressively push for global emissions agreements in venues like the upcoming UN climate summit in Paris.
And we must seed, scale, and deploy American-made renewable energy technologies throughout the world.
To reduce mankind’s carbon footprint.
To preserve the living systems of this earth—for ourselves and our posterity.




That's where we could be.

Let's drop back to where we are.


"We're short -- we're short in '16," declared VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson on Thursday regarding Hepatitis C care.  "I  -- You know, the budget's what, 650? six-hundred-and-fifty-million?  Somewhere in that neighborhood.  Six-hundred-and-fifty to seven-hundred-million dollars for '16 and-and that -- We won't -- That won't be adequate unless we ration that care."


Gibson was testifying before the US House Veterans Affairs Committee Thursday morning.


To avoid rationing care for Hepatitis C cases in 2016?


Gibson advised, "The other option is -- as we're doing right now -- is basically, when we run out of money to do it inside VA, we refer those to care under Choice and-and rely on that-that sort of safety valve."


The problems go beyond 2016.


Gibson insisted, "We're in a situation where we're going to have to start denying care to veterans because we don't have the resources to be able to pay for it.  And-and that's -- I don't think anybody wants to see that happen.  It will be a very -- a very unpleasant and unsatisfactory situation.

And that's not him talking about the 2016 budget or about Hep C.  That was in reply to US House Rep Julia Brownley's question about the current shortfall this year and what that means come August.


Over $350 million can be pulled from the Veterans Choice Program funds to cover costs that do not meet the criteria for Veterans Choice Programs, Gibson and the VA are insisting.



US House Rep Jeff Miller is the Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.  In his opening remarks, he outlined many problems revolving around the newly announced 'shortfall' in the budget.  We're using his written statement and using it as written (with paragraph breaks) because a number of topics are covered in it and it will be easier to read and comprehend



Given the extensive pent-up demand for care that was exposed during last year’s hearings on wait time manipulation, VA had ample time to adjust its budgetary needs with the Office of Management and Budget to prevent what we are now seeing.  
In February through April of this year, Secretary McDonald appeared at four separate budget hearings.
Since those have concluded, the Secretary and I have met and spoken regularly on a number of important, emerging issues.
At no point in those hearings or in our subsequent discussions since, has the Secretary expressed to me that the Department had a budget shortfall of such a magnitude – one that threatens VA’s ability to meets its obligations to our nation’s veterans.
Nor did other VA leaders or officials communicate how much in the red VA was either - even though the Committee was informed late last week that the Department knew as early as March that there were giant disparities between the amount of money that VA was spending and the amount of money budgeted.
The only message that Congress received in March regarding the state of VA’s budget was the quarterly financial report VA submitted to the Appropriations Committee  for the first quarter of fiscal year 2015, which showed that VA was actually under plan in terms of its spend out rate.
Meanwhile, just two weeks ago VA proposed a plan – that Congress authorized at the Department’s urging - to transfer one hundred and fifty million dollars in fiscal year 2015 funding to support the continued construction of the replacement medical center project in Denver, Colorado.
VA also proposed an across the board recession of just under a one percent in fiscal year 2016 funds to devote to the Denver project – a proposal, by the way, that the Veterans Health Administration’s Chief Financial Officer told Committee staff last week that she did not even know about until after it had already been transmitted to Congress.
Those actions clearly show that VA leaders believe that moving forward with the Denver project – which is not scheduled to open to veteran patients until 2017 at the earliest - is a higher priority for the Department than ensuring that veterans who need care now are able to access that care.
I have come to expect a startling lack of transparency and accountability from VA over the last years; but failing to inform Congress of a multi-billion dollar funding deficit until this late in the fiscal year while continuing to advance what I believe are lower priority need that further deplete the Department’s coffers in support of a construction project that benefits no veteran for at least two more years is disturbing on an entirely different level.    
Earlier this week, VA issued a “fact sheet” that claims that VA “formally requested limited budget flexibility” in February and March and May of this year and, “plainly articulated” VA’s need for additional resources.
Buried on page one hundred and sixty seven of the second volume of VA’s budget submission is a single statement that reads: “[i]n the coming months, the Administration will submit legislation to reallocate a portion of Choice program funding to support essential investments in VA system priorities…”

Secretary McDonald repeated this statement in his budget testimony without providing any additional supporting details or justification and, to-date, no legislative proposal has been submitted by the Administration. 




Miller is the Chair and, thanks to Nancy Pelosi's shenanigans, the laughable Corrine Brown is the Ranking Member.


Thursday, I didn't have my Corrine-To-English translator ring on me so we'll just note a little bit of her opening remarks.


Ranking Member Corrine Brown:  The VA is facing a shortfall of 2.6 billion for veterans healthcare.  This shortfall must be address [sic] ammediately [sic].  We cannot put the health and lives of our veterans at ris [sic] by spending our time and attention pointing fingers and assigning blame.  VA will be facing an additional shortfall at the start of the next fistal [sic] year in October 



We have to stop there.

We have to.

Corrine goes on to say that the country is headed towards a government shutdown -- she uses shutdown twice.  Both times she probably would have been bleeped on TV.

She always invents her own words and here she took the "u" in "shutdown" and replaced it with an "i" both times she said it.

A government sh*tdown.

The fist time she said it, people were looking around.  Then she said, "Let me say that again, we are headed towards a government sh*tdown" and several on the Committee appeared to bite their lips to avoid laughing.

On her third time using the term, she did manage to say "shutdown."

Keep playing with the English language, Corrine, it works if you work it.


Corrine used her time to ask about fee based care and Choice.  Yes, Choice is fee based.  Many grasped that before Corinne's question but everyone grasped it after Sloane explained Choice.

Well . . .

Everyone but Corinne Brown.


After he finished describing it, she asked, "And Choice?"


A confused Sloan Gibson replied softly, "That is Choice."


Oh, Corrine Brown.

We're not done with the wig hatted Corrine but for now let's note an important exchange in the hearing.



US House Rep Ralph Abraham:  I was in a district last weekend and had three separate providers come up and say, "I haven't got my money.'  And this has been going on for two and three years.  So what are we doing about this, Secretary?  I know that you gave us some good figures before that the VISN 16 [South Central VA Health Care Network] -- of which I'm a part of 

VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson:  Yes.

US House Rep Ralph Abraham: -- was doing better  --

VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson:  Yes.

US House Rep Ralph Abraham (Con't):  -- but the word on the street, so to speak, is --

VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson:  Yes. 

US House Rep Ralph Abraham (Con't):  -- there's still some issues out there.

VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson: Two things.  First, of all, it's one of the advantages of Choice -- the provider gets paid by the third party administrator and that's consistently happening within thirty days.  We watch that and monitor that. VA is historically known to pay low and slow and, uh, that is not how you want to deal with your provider network --

US House Rep Ralph Abraham:  So we got something in place that --

VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson (Con't): -- and so what we've done over the last nine months or so is-is organizationally consolidate.  We-we were -- We were organizationally doing this payment processing through twenty-one separate VISN headquarters in seventy different physical locations -- processing invoices for care.  And I would tell you, based on what we've heard, we were probably doing it in 150 different ways. And so we've consolidated organizationally.  We've be-begun to tackle the staffing issues, the process issues and the technology issues -- none of which were being tackled unless they were being addressed in some kind of a workaround situation and in some location somewhere.  We had, for example, locations where instead of establishing a call center that's available to handle inbound questions from providers about their payment, we'd have a processor that's processing a payment and the phone would ring, they'd answer the phone and-and, you know, doing business in a way that you'd never see in the private sector.

US House Rep Ralph Abraham:  Right.

VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson: So we've now got that all organizational reporting.  We're seeing the times improve.  Part of what they're doing is they're sailing into a head wind.  They've got a 40% increase in invoices being presented for payment over last year.  Now the good news is-is they're processing a lot more invoices then they did a year ago.  But they're barely keeping up.



And now for what we'll call When Corrine Brown Attacks.



Ranking Member Corrine Brown: Uh-uh-uh -- May I respond to your comments because I don't think you was [sic] here when we spassed [sic] the prescription drug bill.  And when we passed it, WE DIRECTED THE SECRETARY NOT to negotiate the price of the drugs so that [popping and rolling eyes] was a part of the bill.

US House Rep Mark Takano:  Oh, Ms. Brown, I was -- 


Ranking Member Corrine Brown:  It would be illegal for the Secretary to uh-uh-uh address the issue.  [Entire Committee looks appalled at the crazy woman in the wig.  Corrinne notes it slowly.]  I'm just clearing up.  You waddn't even here when we did it.  But in addition to that, in the Affordable Care Act that is now standing, we are doing away with that doughnut hole that you talking 'bout so that seniors will not be out of pocket for that additional money.


US House Rep Mark Takano:  Ms. Brown, I was aware of that and I was merely trying to suggest 

Ranking Member Corrine Brown:  [Yelling to cut him off] The veterans --

US House Rep Mark Takano:  [Calmly] The VA is doing business in a better way 

Ranking Member Corrine Brown:  Well absolutely.  Thank you.


Like an old grizzly bear in a bad wig, Corrine went after another Committee member.

It should be noted that Takano is a Democrat, that Corrine was ripping into a Democrat.

And that Takano's concern was with the drugs the Hepatitis C patients were receiving.

But when a grizzly Corrine Brown gets angry, she snarls, growls and paws at her prey.


In New Zealand, there's concern over what the attack on Iraqi military leader means for New Zealand's Kiwi troops in Iraq.  Bevan Hurley (Stuff) reports:

A top Iraqi commander at Camp Taji was killed in an ambush at his home, according to reports, in a sign of deteriorating security at the base where Kiwi troops are stationed.
Iraqi media reported the officer, said to be a Lieutenant Colonel, was shot dead this week and a further 13 people have been killed by improvised explosive devices, rocket and gun fire in Taji since 143 Kiwi troops arrived May.


Meanwhile, Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts 68 violent deaths across Iraq on Friday.  And today the US Defense Dept announced:

Attack, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft conducted seven airstrikes in Iraq, approved by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense:
-- Near Baghdadi, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL excavator.
-- Near Huwayjah, two airstrikes struck two ISIL tactical units, destroying two ISIL buildings, an ISIL cache, an ISIL heavy machine gun and an ISIL vehicle.
-- Near Beiji, an airstrike struck an ISIL vehicle.
-- Near Habbaniyah, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL mortar tube.

  -- Near Tal Afar, two airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and an ISIL heavy machine gun firing position, destroying an ISIL building.



Barack can drop bombs, he just can't lead on a political solution.  It's now a year since he insisted the only answer was a political solution and yet he's done nothing to arrive at one.

Struan Stevenson (The Hill) observes:



When Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi assumed office in September 2014, many held high hopes that he would alter the sectarian policies of his predecessor Nouri al-Maliki, who alienated the Sunni population and facilitated the rise of ISIS. Nine months into his tenure, al-Abadi’s plan for national reconciliation lies in tatters, leaving many to believe that Iraq is now a failed state. Urgently needed judicial reforms have never been implemented, nor has Abadi supported the creation of a national guard to arm and train the Sunni tribes to fight against ISIS. These are major mistakes. Instead, al-Abadi has relied upon the brutal Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias, which operate outwith any official framework and openly target and discriminate against Sunnis and other ethnic minorities. 


The laughable Haider al-Abadi is in the news again today.  AFP reports:



Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Saturday that Iraqi forces made an “unauthorized” withdrawal from Ramadi last month, leading to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group’s takeover of the Anbar provincial capital.

“The withdrawal of the forces from Ramadi was unauthorized -- the orders were the opposite. The forces had to resist, and if they had resisted, we would not have lost Ramadi,” Abadi said in televised remarks.



I seem to recall a similar point made by US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and how Haider and various underlings strongly objected to the remarks.

It's becoming obvious, by the way, that Haider is not in charge of the military.

Clearly, Nouri al-Maliki remains the defacto ruler and that's why Iraq is not progressing politically.



We've noted a POLITICO roundtable this week.  I recommend it and think it has a wide range of opinions.  At Foreign Policy, Peter D. Feaver is less impressed and offers a critique which includes:


The latest issue of Politico Magazine has a lengthy conversation between several experts on the subject of “Who Lost Iraq?” The piece, which puts the question to a dozen panelists, including veterans from both administrations, purports to be a comprehensive discussion, but I found it oddly incomplete and unsatisfying. In particular, I found it striking that the group did not address the long list of actions that the Obama administration took (and didn’t take) that plausibly contributed to the predicament in which we currently find ourselves. Bush’s actions and Iraqi actions are covered in some detail, and rightly so. But Obama’s? Not so much (except for a brief but trenchant summary from Kim Kagan).
For the record, let’s stipulate that the Bush administration will always bear some responsibility for the situation in Iraq, for good or for ill. Invading Iraq was a consequential step, one that President Bush likely would not have made if he had known then what we know now about Iraq. (Of course, that counterfactual is a logical impossibility, because the only reason we know what we know now is because the United States invaded — a fact that partisan critics consistently ignore.)

Let’s also stipulate that the Iraqis will always bear some responsibility for the situation. I would go further: They bear the lion’s share of the responsibility. U.S. leaders made many mistakes, but not nearly as many as Iraqi leaders did and continue to make.