Saturday, December 03, 2011

Talking post

Did you read C.I.'s "White House goes after Mark Landler's reporting"? Most likely you did. At the main site and at the two mirror sites, in one day (Thursday), it became the all-time most read piece.

That's the piece I told you was coming.

To pick up from Wednesday, C.I. drank Don Henley under the table -- in the drinking contest. She could have lorded it over him or over all the people who lost. Instead, she was gracious.

Which was the method she followed in that popular post. I knew she was going to do that. That comes from knowing her for so many years. She can still surprise, yes. But I knew how she'd handle this one -- especially after Marcia told me she burst out laughing when she heard Spencer Ackerman had destroyed his own work and changed his post.

It's an amazing piece. All the more amazing if you stop to think that it was one of two pieces that morning. All the more amazing if you stop to think how quickly she wrote it.

People who know us are always asking about her writing if they know The Common Ills. They'll mainly say, "Why didn't she go into the news business?" Because her gift was the world of the arts. That's where her talents were. That's where her interests were.

But, yeah, she could have had an easy path if she'd agreed to go into the news industry.

That's what both parents assumed, that C.I. would go into the family business. She was rather surprised by that assumption -- she'd made it clear she wasn't interested.

But they didn't believe her and that was in part because she hated journalism in high school (that's when I meet her, when she's dating my brother). But she'd do the national competitions and all of that. She would place in them. Feature writing? Few could touch her. But she only did that to get out of school and she had no great desire to go into journalism.

But with her talent -- she started editing features when she was eleven, for her grandfather's paper -- they just assumed she was being modest and was going to go into journalism.

When she told them "no," they cut her off financially. They told her they wouldn't pay for college, wouldn't pay for her place to live. They thought, with the semester starting in two weeks, she would panic and agree to major in journalism.

They didn't know their own daughter. You really can't force C.I. to do anything. Any interest she might have had in journalism died the moment her parents tried to force her towards that. So she ended up getting a job. It was really amazing to see.

I'm not implying she was spoiled. She wasn't. She was raised with money (as was I, I'm a trust-fund baby). But it was amazing to see this young woman take a full course load and also be active on campus and also work a minimum of two jobs. Often times, she worked three.

She did that until she turned 21 and her trust-fund kicked in. After that, she didn't stop working. But she dropped it down to one job while carrying a full course load.

So when people who knows us both read her writing, they marvel over it. Including a columnist friend who can't get over how much "copy" she produces. He's always saying that. Talking about all the copy she produces.

Marveling over it.

It is amazing. But so is she.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, December 2, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri appears to want a third term as prime minister, a rumor's presented that Nouri was the target of an assassination attempt, NATO negotiations with Iraq continue, Senator Patty Murray expresses serious concerns about the way the VA is handling mental health care, and more.
Starting with veterans issues.
Chair Patty Murray: Dr. Zeiss, I wanted to ask you, when you testified before a hearing for this Committee May 25th, I asked you whether VA had enough resources to meet OEF OIF veterans needs for health care and you said the resources weren't the problem. In light of what you've learned from last May, especially from your own providers do you stand by that statement from me?
Antonette Zeiss: I believe that we have unprecedented resources and that we have gotten them out to the field and that we have hired an enormous amount of staff. And at the time, I believed that they were adequate if used in the most effective ways possible. We continue to have an increasing number of mental health patients. We have looked at the FY'11 data and the numbers have again jumped from FY'10 and we are proactively predicting what kinds of increases there will be in FY 12 and we're working with the Office of Policy and Planning to ensure that those projection are embedded into the actuary model that drives the budget predictions so that I can say that we will be aggressively following all the data that we have available to ensure that we can make effective predictions at the policy level about what level of funding and level of staffing will be essential and we will be partnering very closely with Dr. Schohn's office who are responsible for ensuring that those resources are are used most effectively are used in the field to deliver the kinds of care that we have.
Chair Patty Murray: So you still today do not believe that it's resources that's the issue?
Antonette Zeiss: I believe that we're at a juncture where we need to be looking absolutely at resources because of the greatly increased number of mental health patients that we are serving. And some of that is because of very aggressive efforts we've made to outreach and ensure that people are aware of the care that VA can provide. The more we succeed in getting that word across and serving increasing number of veterans, the more you're absolutely right, we have to look at what's the level of resources to keep -- to be able to sustain the level of care that we believe is essential.
Chair Patty Murray: You're looking at it, we're asking. We need to have this information upfront now if you need more resources. You just look at the stories out there, the thousands of people coming home, the people that aren't getting served, the people are reaching out to. It just feels to me that this is something we should know now. We've been ten years into this.
Anonette Zeiss: We . . . Uhm. We believe that people are receiving an enormous amount of service from VA and we agree -- as Dr. Schohn has said -- that we need to focus on some specific aspects of care, particularly the evidence based therapies. And we are working with Dr.Schohn who will be developing a very specific staffing model so that we can identify what are the levels of staffing that are available at specific sites and how does that --
Chair Patty Murray: Well let me ask a specific question then. Dr. Schohn according to the mental health wait data provided to the Committee by the VA, Veterans at Spokane VA, my own home state, wait an average of 12 days with a psychiatrist, with a maximum wait for a psychiatrist being 87 days. Now I've been told that all of the psychiatrists in VA in Spokane are booked solid for several months and that there are other places in the country that are far worse than that. You mentioned that the VA is working to fill those vacancies but the hiring process is very slow. What can the Dept do now to make sure that we are shortening these wait times?
Mary Schohn: In fact there is efforts already underway in Spokane to improve the hiring. The waiting time has decreased. There is a shortage and there is variability in our system in terms of ability to, for example, hire a psychiatrist in Spokane. One of the efforts that's being made is to use tele-psychiatry. Essentially to use -- to provide service from a site where there's a greater ability to recruit psychiatrists and to use their services at the site where they are at and to then be able to provide resources to Spokane, for example. The chief medical officer in Spokane has worked to ensure that coverage can come from other facilities within VSN 20, to where the needs of the veterans in Spokane are met. Those are the kinds of things that we're working on as we come across evidence that we're short in some areas. We know that in some other areas, there are not shortages and there may be some surpluses that can be used in those sites.
Chair Patty Murray: Well let me ask you another question. There was a provision on using community providers for mental health services in the Caregivers Omnibus that was passed by Congress earlier this year. It included peer-to-peer services and we heard from our first panel how important peer-to-peer services are. I am told that the Department is making very little progress on implementing that. Can you tell me what's holding up that?
Mary Schohn: We have made some progress. I'm going to ask Dr. Kemp to talk specifically on that.
Janet Kemp: As you're aware most of our peer-to-peer services -- Or a lot of our peer-to-peer services are provided by the vet centers which is an exceptional program that you are all very familiar with which we endorse and support. We've grown the number of vet centers. By the end of the year, we will have three hundred vet centers across the country open and running in addition to the 70 mobile vet centers that will be up and traveling across the country. So I think that we have made huge strides in providing those services to combat veterans and their families across the country. We also have a contract which has been let out and is in the process of being filled to provide training to train more peer type support counselors. We're looking forward to that being completed and we will get those people up and going as soon as we're able to get them on board.
Chair Patty Murray: Okay --
Janet Kemp: We agree with the intent of that legislation for lots of good reasons and we will continue to implement those services.
Chair Patty Murray: Okay, well this Committee will be following that very closely. And before I turn it over to Senator Burr, I just want to say that I'm really disturbed by the disconnect between the provider data and your testimony on the wait time issue. And I am going to be asking the Inspector General for a review of that issue. I assume, Senator Burr, you will join me in that. [Senator Burr nods] And I would like all of your [VA witnesses on the panel] commitment to work with them on that.
The three Witnesses replied "Absolutely" in unison, no doubt hoping they came off like the charites when in fact they more closely resembled the beastly cerberus. We'll come back to the beast.
It was Wednesday morning and Committee Chair Senator Patty Murray was calling to order the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee for a hearing, "Today's hearing builds upon our July hearing on the same subject. At that hearing, the Committee heard about two service members who, even after attempting to take their own lives, had their appointments postponed and difficulties getting through red tape in order to access the care that they needed. I know that, like me, many on this Committee were angered and frustrated by their stories and I'm glad that today we are going to have the opportunity to get more information and answers on why these delays persist. [. . .] At our hearing in July, I requested that the VA survey their frontline professionals about whether they have sufficient resources in order to get veterans into treatment. The results that came back to me shortly after that were not good. Of the VA providers surveyed, nearly 40% said they cannot schedule an appointment in their own clinic within the VA mandated 14 day window, 70% said they did not have adequate staff or space to meet the mental health care needs of the veterans they serve, and 46% said the lack of off-hour appointments prevented veterans from accessing care. The survey not only showed that our veterans are being forced to wait for care -- it also captured the tremendous frustration of those who are tasked with healing veterans. It showed wide discrepancies between facilities in different parts of the country -- including the difference between access in urban and rural areas. And it provided a glimpse at a VA system that, 10 years into war, is still not fully equipped for the influx of veterans seeking mental health care."
10 years into war, the VA is still not fully equipped to deal with the influx of veterans seeking mental health care. That's what the hearing was about.
The Committee heard from two panels of witnesses. The first panel was composed of retired Col Charles W. Hoge (who is a medical doctor), Barbara Van Dahlen, Michelle Washington and John Roberts. They shared important experiences within the VA system. We'll skip the panel to focus on the VA's incompentence and we're able to do that because we'll include questioning from Ranking Member Richard Burr which includes him asking about the testimony from the first panel.
The second panel? We're back to the ceberus -- a multi-headed beast in Greeky mythology that guards the entrance to the Underworld: the VA's Mary Schohn, Janet Kemp and, especially, Antonette Zeiss.
Zeiss is a lousy witness. She's such a lousy witness that you doubt she can do her job properly. There's an issue of being professional. This is the fourth or fifth time, I've registered her outfits. When you appear before Congress as a witness, you need to look professional. Now were I to wear my hair a color of gray with garish off-yellow waxy streaks in it and it was down inches below my shoulder, I'd put some color on it or have the yellow waxy streaks removed. [Looking at her hair, one is forever reminded of Mary Hartman (Louise Lasser) discussing yellow waxy build up on kitchen floors.] Were I not to cut it (and I would cut it), I would at the very least pin it up to try to look professional instead of showing up with a rat's nest spilling down my shoulders thereby revealing to the world that I can't afford either a comb or a brush. But,okay, maybe I'm a little too focused on hair. (I don't think so. And, again, she could and should pin it up if she's not going to cut it. She's supposed to be appearing before Congress not chatting with Hugh Hefner on Playboy After Dark.) There is the issue of your professional uniform. And the first time I noticed this with her, I thought, "Well, sure, we can all forget an appointment and then have no time to change. And just have to pull together something to show up in." Either she's always forgetting or no one ever taught her what constitutes professional dress. Here's your first hint, an ugly blazer that needs to be dry cleaned (that sorely needs to be dry cleaned) and pressed to get all the wrinkles out doesn't qualify as professional. Not even when quickly put it on top of a dress that doesn't qualify as professional but might qualify as a house dress. (Did she buy it on her way into DC, from a vendor on the side of the road?) That's before you get to her putting that ratty blazer with every dress regardless of whether they match or not. (Thus far, I haven't seen her match it with anything when testifying before Congress. If she' suffers from color blindness, she should ask for help.)
Then there's her condescending way of answering questions. She speaks slowler and in the tone of a voice that you'd use when speaking to a very young child. It's patronizing and off-putting.
Now let's get to her profession's issues. She's working for the VA. Has been promoted throughout the VA. There are problems in the VA and as Chair Murray noted, things are going to get more hectic with the huge influx of veterans about to be added to the system. So Zeiss might either need to agree to earn that salary or turn in her resignation to continue her on-the-side work on geropsychology.
She's paid a salary by the tax payer and her little sidelines could be justified in the past with the claim (illusion or reality) that the VA was doing just great. It's doing a lousy job and, specifically, her own areas need improvement. So she can earn her salary by devoting her full attention to this issue or she can leave and do her geropscyhology work. Or how about her more recent work on marriage? So let's not pretend she's giving her all to the administrative role she's paid to perform. And, after 29 years with the VA, she really shouldn't need anyone else pointing out that obvious fact. Of that, when you're salary, and not hourly, and things go wrong, you have to put in more than 40 hours.
Meanwhile the VA should be explaining why she and others oversee a psychiatry program. Meaning? That's a medical program. Do you see me calling her "Dr. Zeiss"? No. Nor do I call anyone in these snapshots "doctor" unless they're a medical doctor. (Or unless they're a veterinarian.) Zeiss appears before the Congress and wants to be called "Doctor" and wants to talk about medical issues including psychiatry which is a medical license. I have nothing against psychology (I have many friends who are psychologists including one of my best friends) but why is a psychologist over the VA's pyschiatry program?
Would we put a gastroenterologist over a cardiac ward?
Well, we wouldn't. But the US government might.
And they have. Outside of Lousiana, I don't believe a psychologist can prescribe medicine in the US. (Correct me if I'm wrong on that.) Now when I hear the testimony of Schohn and Zeiss -- neither of whom is a psychiatrist -- that psychiatrist from one VA will be providing medical care to VA patients at another VA via the telephone, my first question is about meds. That's what psyhaiatrists do that draws the line between them and psychologists. So let's pretend I'm a veteran. You're telling me I'm going to get the same level of care from a VA psychiatrist whether I'm on the phone with her or face to face?
Is she able to prescribe for me over the phone?
These are questions that should be asked.
Ranking Member Burr had questions about flexibility and Schohn insisted they had flexible off hours and then tossed to Zeiss who needed a definition from Burr of "flexible." Again, this is someone in charge of oversight? We'll pick up right after that in the exchange.
Antonette Zeiss: Well I believe, as Dr. Schohn has been saying, we do have flexibility in hours of service. What we've discovered, in looking at the data, is that the initial requirement was for evening clinic -- one evening clinic at least once a week and others as needed. And what we're finding is that the data suggests is what works much better for veterans is early morning hours and weekend hours. And so the policy group is looking very carefully at that in terms of changing and creating even more flexibility than the original after hours policy. The Uniform Mental Health Services Handbook that Dr. Schohn referenced also has an incredible array of flexible programs and defines a very broad range and flexible range of mental health services.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: Let me stop you there if I can. Let me just say, I have a tremendous amount of respect for all of you. I mirror what you've heard from other colleagues. I thank all the VA employees for what they do. But the fact that you've got something written in a book or you've put out a guideline and believe that you can still come in front of this Committee and say, "We've got it written! It's right there!" What we hear time and time again, and I heard from Mr. Roberts, in his testimony. There is no evening options in areas. It doesn't exist. Whether your data shows that it's preferred to be in the morning or the afternoon. In his particular case, your guideline shows the evening and he said, testified, it doesn't exist. So I hope you understand our frustration and, Dr. Schohn, I'm going to ask you if you would provide, for the Committee, a detailed audit of how the $5.7 billion has been spent. And I'm not talking about breaking it down in 403 million dollar categories. I'm talking about, for the Committee, a detailed description of how we spent that $5.7 billion in additional mental health money. Now let me just ask you, is Dr. Washington correct when she said a majority of the patients seen in the 14 day window are there for the purpose of information gathering, not necessarily treatment and many are not seen by a health care professional, they are seen by a staffer there to collect data.
Mary Schohn: That was -- That is not how the policy was written. And if that is happening --
Ranking Member RIchard Burr: Well let me ask it again: Is she right or is she wrong?
Mary Schohn: I -- I don't know about Wilmington. I will admit. That is something I would certainly want to follow up on because that is not the expectation of how services are to be measured.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: Let me, let me read you some comments that have been made today, Dr. Schohn, and you just tell me whether these are acceptable. "Veterans have little access to follow up care."
Mary Schohn: That is not acceptable.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: "VA-- VA focuses on medication management."
Mary Schohn: That is not acceptable and we have a huge policy and training program to ensure, in fact, that veterans have access to evidenced-based psycho-therapy.
Ranking Member RIchard Burr: "Can't fill appointments for the proscribed amount of time."
Mary Schohn: That -- I'm not totally clear what that means.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: I would take for granted that an attending has said somebody with PTSD needs to have X amount -- a frequency of consults, a frequency of treatments and it should extend for X amount of time. Would you find it unacceptable if, in fact, the system was not providing what the health care professional prescribed them to have.
Mary Schohn: Absolutely. We do have a system set up in place to actually monitor if in fact this is not happening, we are concerned by reports that it's not happening in places, we have many evidences of places where it is happening, but as we hear these reports, we are as concerned as you are and have developed a plan to go out and visit sites to ensure that these things are happening and to make corrections when they're not.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: The inability to get appointments.
Mary Schohn: Same thing. We -- The VA is available to veterans. We want to assure that any veteran needing medical health care has access to health care in the timeliness standards that we think are important.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: "Mental health treatment is trumped by new entries into the system."
Mary Schohn: Again, not acceptable.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: These are all issues that exist with the current mental health plan at VA.
Again, Burr covers many of the issues raised by the first panel. Now we're going back to the issue I was raising. All three heads of the beastly cerbeus lack a medical degree. And yet they're evaluating mental health care treatment being carried out by doctors with medical degrees. Okay. Well an administrator with a degree in administration can be very effective. But yet again not one of them has that either.
Part of the problem -- a very big part of the problem -- is that they're not qualifed. A large number at the VA shares that quality. They were basically grandfathered in -- often during the eighties -- some were psychologists, some were social workers. It's past time that when this class that's graduated to management repeatedly fails that their qualifications for the position they hold are examined. And when their qualifications are found lacking, they need to be reassigned to an area they are qualified for. And those who would argue experience is a qualification, I don't doubt that it is and can be. Except when there are the same repeat problems. At which point, clearly the experience or alleged experience is not making up for the lack of formal education in the required field.
Further evience of failure can be found in, as Senator Burr noted, the fact that there has been a 136% increase in the VA's mental health services budget since 2006 and yet when the VA's Inspector General surveyed the VA centers, it was discovered "only 16% of the sites they visited met the staffing requirements for mental health care." That's something good adminstrators are aware of and on top of before an IG researches the issue.
In the excerpt of the exchange with Ranking Member Burr, Zeiss brags about flexible hours -- but they clearly aren't flexible or VA centers would have changed them on their own. Mary Schohn talks about how when she hears of a problem it makes her think they should check out a VA center. I'm sorry, I thought their job did require supervision. In fact, it does. They're really not paid the big salaries they are to write manuals every other year. They're paid to be administrators who supervise and ensure a quality of care. This is the Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal only because the wounds are mental and/or emotional and not solely physical, the press appears little skittish to really sink their teeth into this story.
If a veteran lost a limb would it be acceptable for them to wait 14 days for care? Then why is it acceptable for that time limit to be considered a good time limit for someone with mental or emotional wounds?
It is unacceptable.
And it is unacceptable that Mary Schohn appears to think she never needs to check out the facilities unless there's a complaint to Congress. It would never get to that level if Mary and the other two heads of the cerberus were doing their job.
It was a strong hearing. Senator Jon Tester had a very strong exchange. The first panel had witnesses who were really honest. Senator Daniel Akaka, who used to Chair the Committee, showed up and underscored with Chair Murray and Ranking Member Burr just how important these issues were and how unacceptable the VA's problems are.
From VA spin, let's go to Iraqi spin. Want to try to build sympathy for Nouri? Take an assassination attempt and declare he was the target -- even though it makes no sense. Fortunately, the press will play along with you and your flunky -- a flunky only AP doesn't feel the need to use a military title -- "Major General" insists AFP and Reuters. AP's correct, spokespeople -- no matter how masterful of word craft and covert propaganda -- really don't need military titles. Yes, those titles give weight to their claims but that is why they're given the titles in the first place. So military spokesperson Qassim Atta insists that Monday's attack on Parliament was, in fact, an assassination attempt on Nouri. This is how, Atta claims, it was supposed to go down: The car filled with bombs would (and did) enter the Green Zone, it would then park near the Parliament. On Thursday, it would go off taking out Nouri who was in the Parliament.
What a bunch of lies. First, the bombs weren't enough to blow up Parliament -- as evidenced by the minimal physical damage done on Monday. So to target Nouri, they would need to park as close as possible to where he would be. How would they know where he would be?
And where did they get the idea that he would be in Parliament on Thursday? It wasn't announced Monday or prior that he'd be in Parliament Thursday. Dropping back to Wednesday's snapshot:
In major news on violence today, Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers via the San Francisco Chronicle) reports that the Monday attack on Parliament was a suicide car bomber and Issa observes, "The admission that a suicide car bomber had penetrated the fortified Green Zone, the first suicide attack there since April 2007, sent a wave of concern across the capital about the abilities, and loyalties, of Iraq's security agencies." As Sheikah (Dar Addustour) notes the questions about the attack in terms of how heavily protected the Green Zone is and how a "strange car with unknown identities" was able to penetrate the Green Zone. Al Rafidayn notes the need for permits to carry explosives in the Green Zone and indicates that some aspect of the attack was caught on cameras "deployed" in the area. This is major news and has been treated as such in the Iraqi press for two news cycles. As part of Monday's violence, it was noted as an aside in the small number of US outlets that cover Iraq. And a large number of that small number treated the notion that it could be a suicide bomber as some sort of Iraqi delusion. But it was a suicide bomber (not a mortar or a rocket) and the US press is strangely silent.
That may or may not be who was targeted. But it is believable. And it would go to how the car entered the Green Zone in the first place. (Osama al-Nujaifi was already a target of Nouri's ire before he began speaking out in favor of the Constitution -- specifically Article 119.) Some press accounts are insisting that the story changed on Monday with claims that al-Nujaifi was targeted and then claims that he wasn't. Nouri's people (employees and supporters) are the ones who were saying on Monday that it was a mortar or a rocket. Parliament sources and the spokesperson for Parliament were saying on Monday that it was a car bombing and that Osama al-Nujaifi was the target. From Tuesday's snapshot, here's a small sample of the way the bombing was being covered:
However, Iraqi papers are more focused this morning on yesterday's Parliament attack. Al Sabaah notes that Osama Nujaifi's office has stated that bombing was an attempted assassination (Nujaifi is the Speaker of Parliament) and that he was the target. They also maintain it was a suicide bomber and not mortars. The article notes a National Alliance insists it was a mortar while a police source states it was a suicide bomber. Sources tell Dar Addustour it was a suicide bomber in a car (black GMC) and that al-Nujaifi was the target. In addition, Dar Addustour reminds that following the April 16, 2007 attack on Parliament, security measures were beefed up. Dar Addustour's report indicates that had the man not raised suspicion by his actions, he would have gotten closer to the Parliament. Alsumaria TV picks up that thread as well, quoting al-Nujaifi's spokesperson Aidan Helmi stating, "The suicide bomber tried to join Parliament Speaker's convoy but Green Zone's guards suspected him and stopped his car. The driver changed his direction and slammed into a high sidewalk before the explosion." Aswat al-Iraq adds, "Northern Iraq's Kurdistan Alliance has expressed surprise towards a booby-trapped car being snuck into west Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, calling for an investigation to uncover 'those responsible' among the security bodies inside the Green Zone, according to a statement made by the Alliance and received by Aswat al-Iraq news agency on Tuesday."
Why would Nouri need the sympathy "aaaahhhh" of "He was almost assassinated!"? Because of a development that AFP, Reuters and AP don't seem at all interested in.
Al Mada reports Nouri al-Maliki's legal advisor Fadhil Mohammad Jawad is informing the press that there is no law barring Nouri from a third term as prime minister. Remember in January, as protests began in Iraq, there were complaints about the do-nothing government, about how elections had taken place (March 7, 2010) and nothing had changed -- the prime minister was the same, the president was the same, even the two vice presidents were them same (at that point, there were two vice presidents, shortly afterwards, there would be three until one resigned in July)? This happened despite the fact that Nouri's political slate, State of Law, came in second in the elections, Iraqiya, headed by Ayad Allawi, came in first. By the end of February, Iraq no longer saw scattered protests around the country but major protests throughout Iraq and the people were demanding a functioning and a responsive government (and jobs and that justice system be reformed and other things).

In this climate, as regimes in the MidEast were either falling, thought to be about to fall or trembling, Nouri attempted to garner support and made a string of announcements, ones that the press ran with as gospel. He claimed salaries would be cut, for example. And then he made his really big claim. For those who've forgotten, we're dropping back to the February 7th snapshot:

Of course no one does easy, meaningless words like Nouri. Saturday, his words included the announcement that he wouldn't seek a third term. His spokesperson discussed the 'decision' and Nouri himself announced the decision to Sammy Ketz of AFP in an interview. Ketz reported him stating he won't seek a third term, that 8 years is enough and that he supports a measure to the Constitution limiting prime ministers to two terms.
Well Jalal Talabani declared he wouldn't seek a second term as President of Iraq in an interview and then . . . took a second term. Point, if you're speaking to a single journalist, it really doesn't seem to matter what you say. Did Nouri announce his decision to the people? No, is quite clear that an advisor made an announcement and that Malliki made no "public statement" today.
In other words, a statement in an interview is the US political equivalent of "I have no plans to run for the presidency" uttered more than two years before a presidential election. That's Iraqi politicians in general. Nouri? This is the man who's never kept a promise and who is still denying the existence of secret prisons in Iraq.
Deyaar Bamami ( notes the Human Rights Watch report on the secret prisons and that they are run by forces Nouri commands.
And Nouri couldn't even make it 24 hours with his latest 'big promise.' Sunday, Ben Lando and Munaf Ammar (Wall St. Journal) reported that Nouri's spokesperson, Ali al-Mousawi, declared today, "We would like to correct this article. Maliki said, 'I think that the period of eight years is adequate for the application of a successful program to the prime minister, and if he is not successful, he must vacate his place'." Of course he's not announcing that. He's a thug. His previous four year term was an utter failure.
That's not speculation, that's not opinion. He agreed to the benchmarks that the White House set. He was supposed to achieve those in 2007. Those benchmarks, supposedly, were what would determine whether or not the US tax payer continued to foot the bill for the illegal war. But he didn't meet those benchmarks and apologists rushed forward to pretend like they weren't a year long thing and that, in fact, he had 2008 as well. Well 2008 came and went and the benchmarks were still not met. Nor were they in 2009. Nor were they in his last year in 2010.
That's failure. When you agree you will meet certain things -- such as resolving the Kirkuk issue -- and you do not, you are a failure. Not only did he fail at the benchmarks, he failed in providing Iraqis with basic services. He failed in providing them with security.
There is no grading system by which Nouri can be seen as a success.
But just as he will not admit to or own his failures from his first term as prime minister, do not expect to own or admit to his failures in his second term. In other words, Little Saddam wants to be around, and heading the Iraqi government, for a long, long time.
Credit to the Wall St. Journal and Lando and Ammar; however, even when they reported Nouri was going back on his word, the US press continued to breathlessly repeat 'Nouri al-Maliki, for the good of Iraq, will not seek a third term! He's putting the needs of the country first!'
In today's reported violence, Reuters notes 2 Tuz Khurmato roadside bombings claimed the life of 1 police officer and left four more injured and an attack last night on a Shirqat Sahwa checkpoint resulted in 3 Sahwa being killed and two more injured. Aswat al-Iraq reports a Sharta bombing left three people injured.
Earlier this week, Al Sabaah reported that the Iraqi Parliament's Security and Defense Committee has declared it was close to making an agreement which will put NATO forces on the ground in Iraq, according to a statement read by the Security and Defense Committee Chair Hassan Sinead. Sinead states it will be a one-year agreement and that it can be renewed. Yesterday AP reported that the issue of immunity was causing problems in the negotiations. Today Josh Rogin (Foreign Policy) reports:
Here we go again. Only months after the United States and Iraq failed to come to an agreement on a post-2011 troop presence, NATO is now scrambling to negotiate an extension of its own training mission in Iraq, and the prospects don't look good.
"Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has repeatedly asked NATO to stay," Ivo Daalder, the U.S. Ambassador to NATO, said at a Friday morning breakfast meeting of the Defense Writers Group, an organization that brings reporters together with senior officials to discuss world affairs over greasy eggs and bacon.
"We are trying to make that desire for the NATO training mission to stay a reality," said Daalder, explaining that intense negotiations are underway but that, without an agreement by Dec. 31, all NATO trainers will have to leave Iraq.
Meanwhile Al Rafidayn reports that KRG President Massoud Barzani stated Wednesday that the US reposturing in Iraq may mean that the unresolved issue of Kirkuk remains undecided for a longer length of time. He vowed that the KRG will continue to call for a vote on the issue of Kirkuk. Per the Constitution (Article 140), the issue was supposed to have already been resolved. The 2005 Constitution explained that a census would be taken and then a referendum would be held. It was expected that the next prime minister (selected after the December 2005 elections) would oversee this since Article 140 mandated that these steps be taken no later than the end oof 2007. Nouri al-Maliki was installed in the spring of 2006 after the US rejected the Iraqi poltiical blocs' choice. Throughout his first term, Nouri ignored the Constitution. In 2010, during the long political stalemate, a desperate to hold onto the position of prime minister Nouri, swore the census would take place in December. In November he was named prime minister-designate. Weeks later, he called off the census. And we'll close with this from the Great Iraqi Revolution:

  • Iraqi community in America have organized a demonstration on the day of the visit of the Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Maliki to the U.S. .
    The demonstration will be held in December 12th 2011 at 10 am in front of the White House..
    Please support us in this demonstration against the crimes of Al-Maliki regime in Iraq..

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

No worries

Marcia called me a little while ago. She wanted to make sure C.I. was okay with something. In the snapshot today, she's noting someone she doesn't like and giving him credit for what he's done despite her own personal opinion of him. Well the little coward backed down after the snapshot was up. Marcia called C.I. to tell her.

C.I. was about to start speaking (to college students, I think) and only had a few seconds. She asked Marcia what was wrong and when Marcia told her, she let loose a string of laughter. She assured Marcia that wasn't a problem and, of course, she should repost the snapshot as is.

So Marcia called me to check that out? (Rebecca and I have known C.I. forever. We all went to college together.)

I told Marcia it was not a problem and C.I. wasn't pretending when she laughed. I know her and you'll want to read tomorrow morning. I'm guessing that will be a full entry. Will it be blistering? Actually, no. As I'm reading the snapshot today, I think C.I. will actually have pity for the man.

But I'll tell you what I told Marcia in case anyone else is worried: We're talking about the woman who drank Don Henley under the table, okay?

Do you know how hard, back in the day, that was to do?

They were drinking straight vodka when the challenge was issued. (Actually, someone made an insult -- Joe Walsh? -- about women not being able to drink that much.) They didn't know what they were up against, One by one everyone crumbled except C.I. representing the women and Don Henley representing the men.

It was never a question who was going to win. Alcohol has very little effect on C.I. The only thing I've ever worried with regards to her drinking was that she'd get alcohol poisoning. (Because most of us would be drunk or passed out when she's really not even buzzed.)

What does that have to do with don't worry? Events after the all night drinking. No sleep on her part (I crashed myself) as she went through all the day's engagements including a photo session and TV interview without ever missing a beat. At one point, around 4:30 a.m., I noted her schedule for the day ahead and she laughed and said, "It's no big deal."

Nor is this. I could explain it in detail but it's in the snapshot if you read it and I'm sure she'll be noting those things tomorrow morning.

She'll come out smelling like a rose.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Wednesday, November 30, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri announces he's fine with US troops being 'trainers,' Joe Biden, continuing his Iraq visit, rushes to say that they can do that and more, a video of an Iraqi woman being tortured by police emerges, Parliament was attacked by a suicide bomber on Monday, the Senate decided yesterday not to end the Iraq War, realities for women living in Iraq, and more.
In what will hopefully be a front page piece on tomorrow's New York Times, Mark Landler reports that Nouri announced today that "he was open to the eventual return of American troops as trainers." That, of course, is not new. It's long been noted by the Iraqi press, you've had people with State of Law explaining that Nouri needed to be able to say he got all the troops out (and we've noted that Barack needed to pretend on that point as well). So welcome to the party, the appetizers and salad are gone, we just finished the entrees but maybe we can re-slice the dessert for your late arrival?
Mark Landler's piece will be an important one in tomorrow's paper and I applaud him for it but if it just doesn't feel all that amazing to me it's because we've been going over this now for almost two months while others have been silent or lied. Or while others have offered fantasies of Barack Obama.
One of the few not serving up fantasies of rainbows and lollypops was Spencer Ackerman. He writes for Wired and my thoughts on Wired are known but he gets credit for what he did. He gets a link today because a friend called in a favor. He's covering what Nouri said and also what Joe Biden, US vice president, said. And offering, "If Biden gets his way, then U.S. troops returning to Iraq next year won't just be training their Iraqi counterparts, even if that's how Maliki sells it to a skeptical Iraqi populace."
US troops going back in should remind you of something. It reminds me of filling in for Kat last night and noting, "What AFP doesn't tell you is that Rand Paul's measure would have ended the Iraq War, key point coming up, which means if Barack wanted to send US troops back into Iraq, he would need to get permission from the Congress." What was that about? Senator Rand Paul's bill to end the Iraq War finally had a vote on the Senate floor yesterday. Donna Cassata (AP) noted, "The Senate also rejected an amendment by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., that would have ended the authority for using force in Iraq. The vote was 67-30." AFP reported: Senator Carl Levin voted against it and insisted, "I just am unwilling to take this risk during the critical transition period." What risk? Hadn't Barack declared the Iraq War over? What does Carl mean about "transition period"?
He means (a) it's not a withdrawal, (b) negotiations continue and (c) Barack might send troops back in. Rand Paul's measure would have ended the Iraq War which meant that if Barack wanted to send US troops back into Iraq, he would need to get permission from the Congress. 30 senators voted for Rand Paul's bill, 67 voted against it. Here are the ones who voted in favor of the bill:

Baucus (D-MT)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Boxer (D-CA)
Brown (D-OH)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Cardin (D-MD)
DeMint (R-SC)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Franken (D-MN)
Gillibrand (D-NY)
Harkin (D-IA)
Heller (R-NV)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Leahy (D-VT)
Manchin (D-WV)
McCaskill (D-MO)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Merkley (D-OR)
Murray (D-WA)
Nelson (D-NE)
Paul (R-KY)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Sanders (I-VT)
Snowe (R-ME)
Tester (D-MT)
Udall (D-CO)
Udall (D-NM)
Wyden (D-OR)

25 Democrats, 4 Republicans and 1 independent (Socialist Bernie Sanders). If you've forgotten, in 2007, candidate Barack stated that he was comfortable, after withdrawal, sending US troops back into Iraq if Iraq wasn't 'stable.' For more on that refer to the November 2, 2007 snapshot and this piece by Third. So passing Senator Paul's end the war bill would have been highly problematic for the administration. After the vote, Paul declared, "This year we have seen the President commit our armed forces to combat, while Congress has been ignored or remained silent. No present or future administration should be given an indefinite blank check to conduct military operations in Iraq by Congress. Congress must reclaim its constitutional authority over the decision to go to war, or to end a war -- is it one of the body's most important powers."
Let's move over to the violence reported today. Reuters notes a Balad Ruz car bombing left seven people injured, a Mosul roadside bombing claimed 1 life, 1 corpse was discovered in Mosul (a person "kidnapped in 2008"), a Kirkuk sticky bombing claimed 1 life and, dropping back to last night for the rest, a Udhaim roadside bombing injured a shepherd and a Samarra home invasion resulted in the deaths of "a fortune teller, his wife, sone and two guests."
In major news on violence today, Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers via the San Francisco Chronicle) reports that the Monday attack on Parliament was a suicide car bomber and Issa observes, "The admission that a suicide car bomber had penetrated the fortified Green Zone, the first suicide attack there since April 2007, sent a wave of concern across the capital about the abilities, and loyalties, of Iraq's security agencies." As Sheikah (Dar Addustour) notes the questions about the attack in terms of how heavily protected the Green Zone is and how a "strange car with unknown identities" was able to penetrate the Green Zone. Al Rafidayn notes the need for permits to carry explosives in the Green Zone and indicates that some aspect of the attack was caught on cameras "deployed" in the area. This is major news and has been treated as such in the Iraqi press for two news cycles. As part of Monday's violence, it was noted as an aside in the small number of US outlets that cover Iraq. And a large number of that small number treated the notion that it could be a suicide bomber as some sort of Iraqi delusion. But it was a suicide bomber (not a mortar or a rocket) and the US press is strangely silent.
The answer why can be found in CNN's write-up: "Violence in Iraq remains at its lowest overall level since 2003, according to the White House."
Of course, the press isn't supposed to run with a party line. The press is supposed to be independent and skeptical. It's supposed to be a watchdog forever questioning official pronouncements. But it doesn't do that. As noted this morning, in reply to visitors who felt their favorite news outlet had been treated harshly by me in yesterday's snapshot with regards to the coverage of Joe Biden's visit to Iraq, I was more than kind. Read those articles again, but do so after you go to Time magazine. and read Mark Halperin's "Surprise Visit." You'll note all the details you thought the press had hunted down on their own were in fact spoon fed by the White House.
While the White House pretends violence is at a record low, earlier this week Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reported violence was on the rise in Iraq with over 100 recorded deaths this month in Baghdad alone. Who was telling the truth? Sahar Issa who doesn't need to worry about how the truth will effect personal polling or an upcoming election.
On Biden's visit, Al Rafidayn reports that "hundreds" of Moqtada al-Sadr's followers protested Biden's visit by taking to the streets of Najaf and Basra. In Basra, they chanted slogans such as "No, no, to America! No to colonization!" and "Death to America! Death to Israel!" while carrying banners with statements such as "We demand the Iraqi government expel the Zionist Biden from Iraq." Aswat al-Iraq report that Biden's scheduled to visit Erbil today. Erbil is in the KRG and the Kurdistan Regional Government is in the news today for another reason. Al Rafidayn is reporting a crackdown is taking place with the arrest of approximately 2636 people -- a list that includes journalists and activists.
Still on Biden's visit, we're about to present a press release from the White House and do so without comment. Without comment? I agreed to run it before I knew how long it was (and also after an administration friend insisted that they "really don't get to have a say here" -- whatever). This is the White House's official statement and we still have to address the topic of Iraqi women so we don't have time to dispute or reply to it.
For Immediate Release
November 30, 2011

Joint Statement by The United States of America and The Republic of Iraq Higher Coordinating Committee

The United States of America and the Republic of Iraq are committed to forging a strong partnership based on mutual interests that will continue to grow for years to come. Our two nations are entering a new phase in our relationship. We have a historic opportunity to strengthen our ties beyond security and build a multi-faceted relationship through trade, education, culture, law enforcement, environment, energy, and other important areas.
Three years ago, our nations signed the Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA), affirming both sides' desire to establish long-term bonds of cooperation and friendship. The SFA is a lasting agreement, and one that serves as the foundation on which we are building a durable and mutually beneficial relationship. Today, we gather again in Baghdad to reaffirm our commitment to this important partnership and to the principles of cooperation, sovereignty, and mutual respect articulated in the SFA.
Vice President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki convened the SFA's Higher Coordinating Committee on November 30. Together, they affirmed the significant accomplishments under the SFA thus far and charted a course for further joint efforts.
Cultural and Education Cooperation
The Republic of Iraq seeks the cooperation of the United States in its efforts to build a stronger higher education system, expanding English language programs, and preserving Iraq's rich cultural heritage, especially through assistance in conserving archeological sites such as the Babylon historical site, which the United States has helped preserve, and through support to the Iraqi Institute for Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage.
Energy Cooperation
The United States is committed to supporting the Republic of Iraq in its efforts to develop the energy sector. Together, we are exploring ways to help boost Iraq's oil production, including through better protection for critical infrastructure. The U.S. also supports Iraq through training in operations and maintenance, the provision of spare parts, and the development of the Government of Iraq's Electricity Master Plan, which will guide Iraq's electricity sector development over the next 30 years.
Law Enforcement and Judicial Cooperation
The United States and the Iraq believe that an independent judicial system is an essential component of a stable, democratic Iraq. The United States has provided assistance and professional support to develop and professionalize the Iraqi corrections system through judicial training programs for Iraqis through the Judicial Development Institute. Under the Police Development Program, the United States will continue providing advisory and technical assistance to the Iraqi police, including an exchange program that will bring groups of Iraqi police to the United States for leadership development over the next three years.
Political and Diplomatic Cooperation
The United States will continue to cooperate closely with Iraq in international fora in pursuit of shared interests. The United States also reaffirms its support for efforts aimed at resolving all remaining Chapter VII issues. In December 2010, the U.S. chaired a special session of the United Nations Security Council to bring closure to several Chapter VII issues dating to the time of the former regime in Iraq.
Services, Technology, Environment, and Transportation Cooperation
The United States is committed to supporting the Iraqi government's plans to improve services, develop its system of roads and bridges, and bring its airports up to international standards. We will improve agriculture and irrigation, support trade, and generate export opportunities through exchange programs between U.S. and Iraqi businessmen. The United States is providing Iraq the expertise it needs to design and implement an advanced banking system that will meet Iraq's current and future needs. The United States pledges to support Iraq in developing its health care services, improving public health, and health awareness campaigns.
Trade and Finance Cooperation
The United States and Iraq will continue their efforts to reinforce their financial and trade cooperation and to strengthen ties between our nations' business communities. For the first time since 1988, the U.S. participated in the recent Baghdad International Trade Fair, showcasing 85 American businesses and organizations and building on the success of the Business and Investment Conference held in Washington, D.C. in 2009. The United States is supporting the Government of Iraq's efforts in the financial sector by providing the technical expertise needed to develop private banks and microfinance institutions. In this context, the United States is developing new lending products for small and medium enterprises, in addition to the roughly $50 million set aside for such loans. Our governments are looking forward to the next meeting and recommendations of the U.S.-Iraq Business Dialogue, a forum of Iraqi and U.S. companies that promises to strengthen commercial ties between our countries.
Security and Defense Cooperation
The United States and Iraq recognize the importance of working closely together in the area of security and defense to strengthen our two countries' security and stability. Through the Strategic Framework Agreement, we have committed ourselves to continuing and strengthening our cooperation, guided by our common interests and shared goals. At the dawn of a new chapter in our relationship, the United States and Iraq stand shoulder to shoulder in increasing our efforts to build a better future for our two nations
I'd argue the purpose of the never-ending press release is to distract from the 'trainer' remarks by Nouri and Joe today.
In yesterday's snapshot, we noted that Minority Rights Group International had issued a new report by Preti Taneja entitled [PDF format warning] "Iraq's Minorities: Participation in Public Life" and it notes that female minorities are especially at risk of abuse and that "Minority women are subject to fiolence and discrimination both because of their sex and their minority affiliation." Pages 23 through 28 deal specifically with women.
UNAMI's "16 Days Campaign" at the end of 2010 to raise awareness about violence against women is noted as are these statistics from the campaign:
It was said that domestic violence is a major problem in the country with one in five women reporting that they have suffered physical violence at the hands of their husbands. Fourteen per cent of these were pregnant at the time. Thirty-three per cent said they have suffered emotional violence and 83 per cent have been subject to emotional abuse by their husbands. The report also highlighted the other specific problems women face -- including early marriage, trafficking, female genital mutilation, a lack of access to care and justice, and a lack of awareness about their rights.
Let's stay with human trafficking. Earlier this month, Social Change through Education in the Middle East released a report entitled [PDF format warning] "Karamatuna: An investigation into the sex trafficking of Iraqi women and girls."
SCEME's founder and director Iman Abou-Atta explains in the report's foreword, "When I heard of women trafficking in the Middle East, I simply never believed it. Being an Arab female, I never witnessed any talk or a history of women-trafficking within the Arab world and to find out that this was happening in Iraq, made me want to discover the facts. I started two years ago and as someone who has lived under occupation and suffered attacks due to their ethnicity, I was inspired by those who searched for truth and justice and was determined to find out the reality of this awful sitatuion. What I came across was closed doors, shame, the unwillingness of authorities in Syria and Jordan and the quietness of civil society on this issue. Questions were met with aggression from authorities, letters of dismissal from British Ministers and the unwillingness of families and women to talk about what happened."
The KRG and the Baghdad-based central government both have done little to address the issue of sex trafficking. The report sketches out the reality the Iraq War has provided women:
The occupation; its resulting chaos; the absence of the rule of law; corruption amongst government authorities; the rise of religious extremism; economic strife; as well as familial pressures, have all been identified as contributing to the rise in transnational trafficking. [. . .] The human rights violations taking place against women have been exacerbated by war, moving them into a new dimension in which young women and girls are trafficked, no longer primarily within state borders, but internationally, to countries including Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, UAE, Turkey, Iran and Yemen. Children are especially vulnerable to being trafficked because they are often poorly educated, easy to overpower and easy to convince that they must do what an adult tells them to do. As witnessed in the case of Iraq, children may also be sold and trafficked across state boundaries by family members to support their families.
There's also the Baghdad sex-trade, "Brothels (some of which have been established purely to meet the demand created by United States service personnel), restaurants, beauty salons and places of entertainment are used for the purposes of exploiting women and girls; as well as night clubs, legal in the capital since 2009, which constitute a major supplier of young girls who have been exploited into the sex industry."
The report finds that young girls and women targeted within Iraq are targeted by professional sex traffickers -- often women, sometimes men. They use methods such as kidnapping, misleading a young girl or woman into believing they are in love and want to elope, etc. Cab drivers and female sex workers are often used to lure the girls and women. Throughout the report are personal stories such as this one about Farrah exploited by a health worker:
Following the death of her father in 2003, Farrah was taken to a Baghdad orphanage. Befriended by a nurse who offered to adopt her in order to protect her from the death she faced over the shame she had put upon her family; Farrah was lured to leave the orphanage whereupon she was kidnapped by the nurse and tortured for three weeks, while negotiations were made over her price with a bidder in Dubai. With the help of a local boy, Farrah managed to escape and her captor was arrested. Farrah and her captor shared the same prison for the following 6 months, before Safah was released back to the orphanage.
There's Salma's story of being exploited by her own family:

Salma was forced by her father into a mut'a marriage with her cousin at age 15. After 48 hours, upon sexually exploiting her, he abandoned her. Her father refused to take her back; instead insisting that he take her to Syria to find her mother. At the border, her father left, selling her to a stranger who subjected her to a series of rapes and forced her into sex work in a Damascus nightclub for 2 years. Upon becoming pregnant, she was once again abandoned to the streets of Damascus.
Last week, Andrew E. Kramer (New York Times) noted that "across Iraq women now outnumber men." And that was a huge step for the paper that's fallen back to its habit of ignoring women. Under the go-go boys Dexy Filkins and Johnny Burns, NYT wasn't interested in Iraqi women, it took real reporters to start covering women but in the last year or so women again vanished from the paper's coverage of Iraq. It's interesting to note that when a strong reporter who happened to be a woman, I'm thinking of Sabrina Tavernise, was assigned to Iraq, women suddenly began to appear in the coverage. And while other strong reporters who were women -- Alissa J. Rubin, Erica Goode and Cara Buckley being three examples -- were part of the team providing covergae, Iraqi women were covered. But when it became a frat boy atmosphere in the last year or so -- when it again became a frat boy atmosphere -- the first thing that happened was women vanished. That it happened is appalling, that it happened when the New York Times is, for the first time ever, headed by a woman, when the executive-editor is a woman, is beyond sad. But while Kramer took a huge step in focusing on Iraqi women (and hopefully indicating a change in the paper's coverage of Iraq), he seemed completely unaware of divorced women in Iraq and the ways in which they are victimized (he wrongly stated that the term "female head of household" was used to denote a widow in Iraq -- no, that's only one of the many designations). Salma was forced into a marriage and then tossed aside. She's far from the only Iraqi women to experience that are something similar.
For example, Charlotte Ashton (BBC's The World Tonight) spoke with Iraqi women this month to determine how they see their lives since the start of the war. Note the mother in the report, lamenting how divorce changed the way her daughter was seen:

Mariam, who is 38, has six children and has lived in Sadr City all her life. We find the family watching cartoons on a massive TV screen in the corner of their spacious living room. She says their lives have changed for the better since the US-led invasion.
"We have democracy now, freedom of expression. People can breathe and the economy has improved, so it's good for us."
But Mariam has one big worry. Her 19-year-old daughter got married last year but divorced shortly afterwards.
"My daughter used to be a star in the neighbourhood but now people look down on her. They never blame the man. Only the woman. They say she must have done something wrong."
For most women in Baghdad the democracy the US and her allies delivered has not brought more freedom. In fact, Lubna says women's rights have deteriorated.
"Women used to behave in a more liberal way under Saddam. And I hate to say that, because I hate Saddam so much, but women were freer under Saddam."

In 2006, Nouri became prime minister. He's now had a longer run -- five years and counting -- than any of the post-invasion prime ministers. But Iraqi women have seen no improvement in their lives as a result of Nouri's 'leadership.' Over the weekend, however, Nouri wanted to grandstand. Aswat al-Iraq reported:

"We need laws to be activated , as well as education, enlighten and reform to prevent violence against women", he [Nouri] confirmed.
He praised Iraqi women role in the society, particularly in scientific, cultural, media and security spheres.

And Nouri exclaimed that 100 women were currently in the police academy. Yet he failed to point out that when building his cabinet -- November to December 2010 -- he managed to ignore women. Not one minister was a woman. It took extreme pressure on Nouri to even get a woman in the post of the Minister of State for Women's Rights. Mohammed Sawaf (AFP) quoted that minister, Ibtihal al-Zaidi, declaring today, "One-fifth of Iraqi women are subjected to two types of violence, physical and psychological, constituting a very serious danger to the family and society. The most dangerous violence against woman is family violence, from the father, the brother, the husband or even the son."
Women in violence were in the news cycle today as Al Mada reported on a video recording that was spreading across Baghdad like wildfire and one which captured a blindfolded woman in a police station who was tortured mentally and physically. It's being stated that the woman is from Wasit Province and the officials there insist that this video, which was spread via cell phones, is going to be investigated. Deputy Haider Mohammed states that while the woman is from the area, the torture took place somewhere else.

Back to Social Change through Education in the Middle East's [PDF format warning] "Karamatuna: An investigation into the sex trafficking of Iraqi women and girls" which explains, "IMC monitors noted that it is not unusual to see women abused by officials at all levels, from police and security men, to those who work for politicians or state officials, or who have close ties with religious parties or who have personal bodyguards. Such people operate in a climate of impunity, protected by their status and material wealth." Rape has increased in Iraq. In some communities, the actual numbers are not known. The Mandaean community notes 11 rapes since the start of the Iraq War; however, that number is thought to be higher but the stigma attached to rape keeps some families from discussing what's taken place. The Mandaeans do note that 33 females of their community, since 2003, were "forced to convert to Islam." That's usually due to abduction and forced marriage. On that topic:
Yezidi activists have reported that, since 2003, there have been around 30 known cases of Yezidi women being abducted and forced to marry members of the Kurdish security force Asayish. Yezidi families are threatened with reprisals if women and girls refuse marriage with militia members. Such marriages not only condemn women to a life with a man who has proven himself to be capable of violence and abuse, they also effectively seal off these women from their families and communities. Both the Yezidi and Mandaean faiths prohibit marriage outside the religion, and those who undertake such vows thereby renounce their faith.
These threats and others limit women's mobility in Iraq and increase the stress and fears that they have to live with. Christian women report pressure to wear Muslim dress, such as the hijab, Sabean-Mandaeans report pressure not only to convert to Islam but also to cover their heads while they are out in public. 57% of respondents basically state that they cannot be who they are and must pretend to be something else: "Fifty-seven per cent of respondents to the IMC survey said that they believed that women needed to hide their religious affiliation, either by not wearing their religious symbols or traditional makeup, by covering their heads even if they are secular or non-Muslims, or by not speaking in their traditional languages".

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Real news

"US Census: One third of US population poor or near poor" (Debra Watson, WSWS):
One hundred million US residents—one third of the US population—live in households with perilously low incomes, according to a recent report from the US Census Bureau. The shocking figures were derived from the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), an alternate measure of poverty and income that was released in November.

The SPM has been under development by the Census Bureau, working with the National Academy of Sciences, since the mid-1990s. This is the first year it has been formally released. By law, it is not allowed to replace the official poverty level in determining funding levels for existing social programs.

Under the alternative measure the portion of the US population that is poor or near poor rises to 33 percent, up from 25 percent under the Census Bureau’s official measure.

In a comment to the New York Times, Trudi J. Renwick, the bureau’s chief poverty statistician, said, “These numbers are higher than we anticipated. There are more people struggling than the official numbers show.”

That's really disturbing. OWS has taken up way too much press attention. All the outlets that have wasted so much time on OWS should be forced to spend one day on children living below poverty.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Tuesday, November 29, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Joe Biden arrives in Baghdad, Iraq's minorities get some attention, the Bradley Manning Support Network is linking to the publication that has misled on Bradley from the beginning, and more.
Mercer Consulting has released its 2011 Quality of Living survey and, out of 221 cities worldwide, Vienna is ranked first for quality of living. And who came in last? Baghdad. Apparently unrelated to the findings, US Vice President Joe Biden arrived in the Iraqi capital today. AP notes, "During his visit, Biden is expected to hold meetings with Iraqi officials over what the future U.S.-Iraqi relationship will look like." Carol E. Lee, Julian E. Barnes and Jay Solomon (Wall St. Journal) add, "While in Iraq, Mr. Biden will chair a meeting of the Higher Coordinating Committee of the Strategic Framework Agreement, a body that was launched to examine the non-security aspects of the U.S.-Iraqi relationship. Boosting Iraqi oil production is an ongoing part of U.S.-Iraqi discussions." Mark Lander (New York Times) explains Nouri al-Maliki and Biden are co-chairs of that Higher Coordinating Committee and that this is Joe's eighth trip to Iraq since being sworn in as Vice President in January 2009. Lander notes reported surprise that Biden was put in charge of Iraq instead of Hillary Clinton (Secretary of State) or Robert Gates (Secretary of Defense until last July). I have no idea who was surprised by the move. It took place during the transition planning (after the election, before being sworn in). Hillary wasn't considered because, at that point, her joining the administration was not a given. Gates was a holdover from the Bush administration and it would have been an early slap in the face of Barack's supporters to put Gates in charge. (The two also pointedly disagreed over the "surge.") Joe had the best relationship with Iraq of any Democrat due to repeat visits to the region, reaching out to the various leaders while serving in the Senate (remember, he chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) and more. He also had the strongest relationship with the Kurds of anyone in Barack's administration (during the transition phase or since).
Maybe the persons who expressed surprise to Mark Lander are the same ones he refers to in this statement: "Analysts said the United States and Iraq are likely to resume negotiations next year for a small American force that would train a Western-style Iraqi officer corps, manage tensions with the Kurds, and help with counterterrorism operations." Did "analysts" say that? Did they whisper it? Was it pillow talk?
I have no idea. I know that PUBLICLY it was stated by US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, stated this month, that negotiations continue -- they haven't ended CNN, you stupid liar -- and that Panetta stated PUBLICLY that he expected a deal to emerge early next year. I know that because we attended and covered the November 15th Senate Armed Services Committee hearing: see the November 15th "Iraq snapshot," the November 16th "Iraq snapshot" and the November 17th "Iraq snapshot" and other community reporting on the hearing included Ava's "Scott Brown questions Panetta and Dempsey (Ava)," Wally's "The costs (Wally)" and Kat's "Who wanted what?" ]. And let's drop back to the November 15th snapshot for this exchange from that hearing:

Senator Joe Lieberman: Let me, Secretary Panetta, pick up from that point. I've heard from friends in Iraq -- Iraqis -- that Prime Minister Maliki said at one point that he needed to stop the negotiations -- leave aside for one moment the reasons -- but he was prepared to begin negotiations again between two sovereign nations -- the US and Iraq -- about some troops being in Iraq after January 1st. So that's what I've heard from there. But I want to ask you from the administration point of view. I know that Prime Minister Maliki is coming here in a few weeks to Washington. Is the administration planning to pursue further discussions with the Iraqi government about deploying at least some US forces in Iraq after the end of this year?
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta: Senator, as I pointed out in my testimony, what we seek with Iraq is a normal relationship now and that does involve continuing negotiations with them as to what their needs are. Uh, and I believe there will be continuing negotations. We're in negotiations now with regards to the size of the security office that will be there and so there will be -- There aren't zero troops that are going to be there. We'll have, you know, hundreds that will be present by virtue of that office assuming we can work out an agreement there. But I think that once we've completed the implementation of the security agreement that there will begin a series of negotiations about what exactly are additional areas where we can be of assistance? What level of trainers do they need? What can we do with regards to CT [Counter-Terrorism] operations? What will we do on exercises -- joint-exercises -- that work together?
When Panetta has testified publicly to the Senate Armed Services Committee this month that negotiations continue and that yhe expects additional negotiations, I have no idea why you have to go to "analysts." Panetta's testimony was on the record. Or at least, it was if you paid attention to it. CNN might need to.
If they wish to call Leon a liar, have at it and hopefully they can establish why they're making that charge. But until they've got the guts to do so, they need to stop LYING. Negotiations continue, he testified. In addition, many outlets need to catch this part of the testimony: "There aren't zero troops that are going to be there," Panetta testified. "We'll have, you know, hundreds that will be peresent by virtue of that office assuming we can work out an agreement there." CNN isn't stupid enough to claim zero US troops will be in Iraq or that all US troops in Iraq will return home. But a lot of other outlets are doing it. At Third Sunday, we took on The NewsHour and Judy Woodruff at the request of a woman who's brother will continue to serve in Iraq beyond December 31, 2011. Since then, a lot of e-mails are coming in from the families of troops who are going to be stationed in countries surrounding Iraq and they are furious that the media keeps saying ALL are coming HOME. I don't know how stupid the media is or if they're deliberately trying to be insensitive. I can't imagine having a loved one who will remain in Iraq or move over to Kuwait, for example, and have to hear on PBS that ALL are coming HOME when I know damn well that my loved one is not coming home yet. It's insulting and it goes to how shallow their pretense of caring about military families actually is. If they gave a damn, they'd tell the truth. They obviously don't give a damn.
Still on the silly, these claims of "surprise" visit. That it's today is a surprise. But the Iraqi press has been reporting that this visit was coming since October. It's only the US press that's kept their lips sealed. NBC's Shawna Thomas may be stupidist of all the press, not only does she claim "surprise," she also insists all troops are leaving. What an idiot. Someone might also want to tell her that a reporter does not say "He will also meet with . . ." They say, "He is scheduled to meet . . ." Will implies it will happen. Life can alter events. Reporters are not psychics, something they apparently need to be drilled on repeatedly. Ann Currey (NBC's Today) Tweets:
Ann Curry
AnnCurry Landed Bagdad lights off, pilots in infrared goggles.
Ann Curry will have an interview with Joe Biden on Thursday's Today Show (NBC). Biden arrives in Iraq on the day Al Sabaah reports that the Iraqi Parliament's Security and Defense Committee has declared it is close to making an agreement which will put NATO forces on the ground in Iraq, according to a statement read by the Security and Defense Committee Chair Hassan Sinead. Sinead states it will be a one-year agreement and that it can be renewed.
AFP is the only outlet that has any knowledge of Iraq apparently. Only AFP notes, "Biden's visit comes after a bloody seven days for Iraq, during which at least 61 people were killed in a wave of attacks." That's the kind of detail that the others should have included. But missed. Demonstrating how little they and their outlets pay attention to Iraq. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) noted yesterday that violence is on the rise in Iraq with over 100 recorded deaths this month in Baghdad alone. (Had McClatchy the wisdom to allow Sahar, Laith Hammoudi or any of their Baghdad correspondents to cover the visit, they might have had a story worth linking to instead of one that I delayed the snapshot for 30 minutes for at the request of a McClatchy friend only to be read the copy over the phone and ask, "Someone got paid to write that crap?" Lesley Clark got paid to write that crap. And, no, we're not linking to it.)

Al Rafidayn reports that yesterday's attack on a Taji prison is thought by sources in the Ministry of the Interior to have been carried out by a new al Qaeda splinter group (Eagles Paradise). The sources state the the group operates out of northern Baghdad. Iraqi papers focused more on the Parliament attack than the prison attack. Al Sabaah notes that Osama Nujaifi's office has stated that bombing was an attempted assassination (Nujaifi is the Speaker of Parliament) and that he was the target. They also maintain it was a suicide bomber and not mortars. The article notes a National Alliance insists it was a mortar while a police source states it was a suicide bomber. Sources tell Dar Addustour it was a suicide bomber in a car (black GMC) and that al-Nujaifi was the target. In addition, Dar Addustour reminds that following the April 16, 2007 attack on Parliament, security measures were beefed up. Dar Addustour's report indicates that had the man not raised suspicion by his actions, he would have gotten closer to the Parliament. Alsumaria TV picks up that thread as well, quoting al-Nujaifi's spokesperson Aidan Helmi stating, "The suicide bomber tried to join Parliament Speaker's convoy but Green Zone's guards suspected him and stopped his car. The driver changed his direction and slammed into a high sidewalk before the explosion." Aswat al-Iraq adds, "Northern Iraq's Kurdistan Alliance has expressed surprise towards a booby-trapped car being snuck into west Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, calling for an investigation to uncover 'those responsible' among the security bodies inside the Green Zone, according to a statement made by the Alliance and received by Aswat al-Iraq news agency on Tuesday." Liz Sly's covered Iraq for a number of publications including the Los Angeles Times. Currently her reporting is carried by the Washington Post. On the Parliament attack, she Tweeted today:

lizsly Still disputed whether it was a car bomb or Katyusha that hit #Iraq parliament yesty. Mps competing to prove they were the real target.
Today's reported violence? Reuters notes a Baghdad attack in which a Ministry of Oil official was shot and injured, a Mosul roadside bombing which left four people injured, a Hit truck bombing which injured three people (two are Iraqi soldiers who were the apparent target), a Baghdad roadside bombing which left four people injured, a Mahmudiya sticky bombing which injured one Sahwa, a Tarmiya grenade attack which injured two Sahwas (the target) and three bystanders, a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left two more injured, one police offer was injured in a Mosul shooting and, dropping back to Monday, 3 Kirkuk roadside bombings (apparently targeting a Turkman provincial council member) left 1 person dead and fifteen people injured.
Today Minority Rights Group International issued a new report by Preti Taneja entitled [PDF format warning] "Iraq's Minorities: Participation in Public Life" and it notes, among other things, that "the situation for minority women is still largely ignored in policy and media." The 32 page report comes with a list of recommendations for the Iraqi government, Parliament, the KRG and NGOs. Within the report are recommendations as well. Chief among what is needed is "a comprehensive anti-discrimination law and amendments to various laws and policies that dscriminate against minorities, and minority women in particular." Of minorities, the report notes:
The Iraqi population is extremely diverse in terms of ethnicity and religion. The three largest groups are Shi'a Arbas, Sunni Arabs and Kurds. In addition, Iraq is home to communities of Armenians, Baha'is, Black Iraqis, Chaldeans, Syriacs and Assyrians, Circassians, Faili Kurds, Jews, Kaka'i, Palestinians, Roma, Sabean Mandaeans, Shabaks, Turkmen and Yezidis. The last eight years of conflict have seen the numbers of minorities diminish as many have fled the country. Others have abandoned their traditional locations for new areas of the country. Statistics on the number of people who have fled, or current populations of minority groups remaining in Iraq, are disputed. Government treatment that set minorities apart under the old regime continues to have ramifications for these communities. Some restrictive legislation remains in force, such as limitations on Baha'is freedom to access basic rights. In other situations, such as in the case of Palestinian Iraqis, old resentments based on perceived favourable treatment by the Ba'ath regime continue to stoke current prejudice.
Early on the report notes, "The research highlighted a number of concerns. It emerged that members of minorities are unable to access public services or employment because of ethnic or religious prejudice, or because they do not belong to the right political party." Later in the report, it's noted, "Leading representatives of minority communities, including Christian, Sabean Mandaean, Shabak and Yezidis have reported that access to work, eeducation and employment, freedom of movement and freedom to worship, and access to resources and recreational services are high on their list of concerns. Addressing discrimination, improving participation in and access to government, and achieving greater self-governance, which would all
For Iraqi Christians, 2010 was "the worst of years." There was the October 31st attack on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad (in which "56 Christian and 12 others were killed") prompting further displacement of Iraqi Christians with 4,000 to 8,000 Iraqi families fleeing Baghdad -- most for the Kurdistan Regional Government others for the Nineveh Plains and some leaving Iraq all together. And while the minority groups are usually harmed by either the Shi'ite or the Sunni group (Kurds in disputed areas), they can also harm one another. For example, the report notes that Shabak and Christians have long-standing tensions that predate the Iraq War. A Shabak tells the researchers, "When trying to enter into the car park of the Hamdaniyah hospital, I was prevented from entering by the Christian guards and they allowed other Christians to enter."
The brain drain is noted -- the war and violence has caused many of Iraq's professional class to leave the country -- and that conditions in hospitals have gone down hill which effects all Iraqis; however, minorities face additional problems and minority women even more so. One example noted, "Yezidis in Sinjar have claimed that there are no women's health services to be found in their area; they must travel to Dohuk in the Kurdistan Region." I believe that's approximately 61 miles (check my math) that they would have to travel. Like the conditions of hospital, the issue of potable water is one that effects all Iraqis; however, here too, minorities are more harshly impacted. 71% of the minorities surveyed "said they suffer from the absence of sufficient water in their area." In addition, there areas are not high priority when it comes to repairs as evidenced by the July 10th attack on the Shabak's Bazwaya village by the Harkia tribe which was attempting to take over "the water and electricity resources" but succeeded only in damaging the plant. The report notes, "Around 12,000 Shabak people have been left without water and, at the time of writing, the authorities still have not addressed this issue."
Minorities suffer in terms of access to education. The hardest hit is thought to be the Roma who, as a result, have "the highest rates of illiteracy (29 per cent) and only 7 per cent held a university degree." The areas they are concentrated in are without "primary or secondary schooling." Minorities with access to 'Iraqi schools' suffer as well due to the bais in curriculum "towards 'a sect, nation or bloc, or a reference in favour of certain parties, or against them', according to 90 per cent of survey respondents." I'm using the term 'Iraqi schools.' The report has no term of that kind. But they're referring to schools teaching the state curriculum -- whether they are public or private. I'm calling those 'Iraqi schools' because some minorities -- such as Assyrian Christians -- have their own schools with their own curriculum. Some, not all. It's noted in the report that Human Rights Watch has interviewed "a Sabean-Mandaean elder in Basra [who stated] there are no schools that teach their children in their language, Mandaic."
The report notes how much easier life would be for many minorities in Iraq if the national ID card were not noting ethnicity and religion:

Some have argued that the Iraqi government should speed up development and issue of national identity cards that do not state religious or ethnic identity;113 ID cards that include this data can easily be used to discriminate in access to rights, and even to target people for violence. Including towns and villages of residence or birth on such cards can also be an indicator of religion or ethnicity.
The benefit of disaggregating data by minority in any research and evaluation of their situation cannot be underestimated. Only then can a clear picture of the situation for each group, and for women from those communities, emerge, and improvements pertinent to their particular history and present conditions begin to be found. Collecting disaggregated data does not require the existence of national ID cards stating religion or ethnicity and, as the survey conducted for this report shows, such material can be gathered anonymously.

Of course, women in Iraq are the majority of the population but they are a political minority when it comes to rights and representation. Though they would benefit, as all Iraqis would, from the step proposed above, such a step would not conceal gender. Women in Iraq face many problems, some covered by the report, some not covered. We'll note the report with regards to women tomorrow as well as several other issues relating to Iraqi women's rights and status.

Turning to the US and the topic of Bradley Manning who is finally headed for a military courtroom and an Article 32 hearing on December 16th at Fort Meade, Maryland.
Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements. Manning has been at Quantico in Virginia, under military lock and key, for months. In March, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. David E. Coombs is Bradley's attorney and he provided a walk through on Article 104.
What's going on with Bradley is very important. Shirley passes on that a number of people have e-mailed the public account about an item at the Bradley Manning Support Network. Note what we did there: Linked to the network, didn't link to the item.
Not interested.
Not interested for two big reasons. We reported on the filings yesterday and, excuse me, but I did a damn better job of it than Wired did. (And thanks to my attorney who went over two points with me.) There's no reason for us to repeat ourselves here after we've analyzed the filings by going to an inferior report on them. That's (A). (B)? I don't like Wired. If we link to it, we do so only because I have had a friend call in a favor. Otherwise, we ignore them and you should be able to count on one hand the number of times we've linked to Wired since this site started in 2004.
Among the reasons I don't care for Wired? They're very tight with paid government snitch Adrian Llamo. They've misled in their coverage -- as Glenn Greenwald has established many times. They've failed to release the alleged transcripts in full. They've shaped the story -- the attack on Bradley -- from the start and it really appears they did so with US government help.
So why the hell the Bradley Manning Support Network would link to them is a question that needs to be asked of Kevin Zeese and everyone else involved. If you're not getting, there is no DAMN reason for the support network to ever, EVER, link to Wired magazine after what Wired did to Bradley. If that's still not clear, let's drop back one year. This is Glenn Greenwald writing at Salon last December:
For more than six months, Wired's Senior Editor Kevin Poulsen has possessed -- but refuses to publish -- the key evidence in one of the year's most significant political stories: the arrest of U.S. Army PFC Bradley Manning for allegedly acting as WikiLeaks' source. In late May, Adrian Lamo -- at the same time he was working with the FBI as a government informant against Manning -- gave Poulsen what he purported to be the full chat logs between Manning and Lamo in which the Army Private allegedly confessed to having been the source for the various cables, documents and video that WikiLeaks released throughout this year. In interviews with me in June, both Poulsen and Lamo confirmed that Lamo placed no substantive restrictions on Poulsen with regard to the chat logs: Wired was and remains free to publish the logs in their entirety.
Despite that, on June 10, Wired published what it said was only "about 25 percent" of those logs, excerpts that it hand-picked. For the last six months, Poulsen has not only steadfastly refused to release any further excerpts, but worse, has refused to answer questions about what those logs do and do not contain. This is easily one of the worst journalistic disgraces of the year: it is just inconceivable that someone who claims to be a "journalist" -- or who wants to be regarded as one -- would actively conceal from the public, for months on end, the key evidence in a political story that has generated headlines around the world.
You should read the piece in full but just the above should make it clear that there's no reason to link to Wired. (That's not "Link to me!" Unlike Kevin Zeese, I don't write people asking them to link to me -- and I would prefer not to be linked to by what is striking me right now as the so-called Bradley Manning Support Network. But POLITICO's Josh Gerstein and others have covered the topic as well and Wired was not the so-called BMSN's only option.)
Grasp that the Bradley Manning Support Network praising a Wired article is a bit like Iraq's Association of Muslim Scholars praising Judith Miller for her Iraq coverage in the lead-up to the Iraq War. In other words, it just shouldn't happen.
How did it happen? Most likely no one's paying attention.
F**k mic check, reality check: You can't do everything, no one can.
Meaning, in less than 20 days, Bradley has his Article 32 hearing. If you're the Bradley Manning Support Network, you can't have any other focus right now. I grasp that Kevin Zeese has half-assed his way through life but that has to end now. If you're going to help Bradley that means you're going to stop whining about OWS and everything else under the sun. That means you're going to stop defocusing from Bradley.
Every damn day between now and the Article 32 hearing, you're going to find some way to get people talking about Bradley. If you're the "Bradley Manning Support Network," that's your job, that's your role. Nothing else.
My personal opinion: The Article 32 hearing will be a rubber stamp as it was in Ehren Watada's Article 32 hearing, as it was in Camilo Mejia's Article 32 hearing, as it was . . . But Barack Obama, US president, can, in his role as commander in chief, call a halt to everything. He can do that before the Article 32 hearing, he can do it after. He can do it in the midst of a military trial (which I believe the Article 32 hearing will lead to). Would he call a stop to it? Barack's nothing but vanity. You have to be very vain to dress the way he does (and grasp this manner of dress is only after he's been repeatedly advised to "dress down"). You have to be very vain to write two books about your life -- when you've failed to even make partner at the law firm that employs you, let alone do anything monumental. You have to be very vain to be completely unprepared for the US presidency but think, what the heck, you'll run anyway and, if you win, you can always learn as you go. Barack's vanity is the only thing the might hold him in check.
Grasping that he's in danger of being a one-term president, grasping that what's being done to Bradly, the railroading of this young man, the torture of this young man, is outrageous to Americans today, he is smart enough to realize that what's outrageous today usually doesn't become acceptable tomorrow. He's vain enough and aware enough to be worried about his historical meaning. And, as he was saying recently to a group of people, he hopes he's going to be something "more than a symbolic president" when history is written. Generate some outrage, make people aware, Barack just might pay attention especially at a time when he's already aware of just how much support he's lost.
What do I think the chances are? I'd give it a single-digit percentage of happening. But I have no faith in Barack, I haven't since I met him during his Senate run. A lot of other people do or did have faith. They voted for him. They need to hold him accountable.
And even if Barack doesn't do the right thing with regards to Bradley, the historical record needs to show objection to the railroading of Bradley, to the ignoring of the Sixth Amendment and his right to a speedy trial, to the failure of Barack to honor the most basic premise in the American judicial system: Innocent until proven guilty. They don't have that in every country. In many countries, the accused is assumed guilty and has to prove innocence. In the United States, we have innocent until proven guilty. When Barack took it upon himself to announce that Bradley was guilty, he crossed many lines. Not just the lines of commander in chief -- though surely those lines were crossed. How comfortable, for instance, is someone serving in the military going to be declaring Bradley innocent in a trial knowing that their commander in chief has stated Bradley is guilty? That's a serious issue. Even more troubling is that the president of the United States took a giant piss on the American legal system, showed complete ignorance of it and disregard for it.