Saturday, May 17, 2014

Music (Carly's Hello Big Man)

"What We’re Listening to This Week" (CounterPunch):

Introducing…Kat Wright and the Indomitable Soul Band.
I first heard Kat Wright and her band at a little hippie/hipster bar called Radio Bean near Burlington, Vermont’s downtown, where they played almost every Thursday night for the past three or more years.  Her sound filled the small room, causing folks who never danced to get up and shake it, while stifling conversations while all in attendance turned toward the little stage in one corner of the venue.  The next time I heard the band was at an outdoor show in another part of Burlington. These days, this tight combo has been venturing to places in New York and Massachusetts as their reputation spreads.  This EP is a debut for the rest of the world.  This is a complete package.  Sax, trumpet, keyboard, guitar, and rhythm sharing the stage with Kat’s voice—sounding sometimes like Amy Winehouse reborn, sometimes like Bonnie Raitt, even Tina Turner, and always like the soulful enchantress her stage presence presumes.  The band is tight, the product of dozens and dozens of performances in a packed room so small you are always gonna’ bump someone even if you do your best to shake it all in one place.
El Sonido Nuevo—Cal Tjader & Eddie Palmieri.
Jazz and Latin make Latin jazz and Cal and Eddie make music of the gods, especially if those gods are those in charge of bacchanal.  This disc is worth the price just for the Tito Puente tune titled “Picadillo.”  The groove of this song is more infectious than the common cold, more ecstatic than a high school kiss, and more inviting than a catalog of temptation.  Of course, there ‘s no saying what temptations you will give in to if you dance to it.  Palmieri is touring this summer.  Maybe he’ll perform his current take on this song.  The entire disc is an easy invitation for those uninitiated into Latin sounds.
Life’s Rich Pageant—REM.
The 1980s were not my favorite decade for a number of reasons.  Let’s see, Ronald Reagan, missiles in Europe, the US wars against the people of El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras, the other contra war in Afghanistan, the turn of the Iranian revolution away from democratic socialism to the social reactionary mullahs, MTV, George Michael, the Thompson Twins…..I could go on.  One band bucking the trend was this outfit from Athens, GA. called REM.  Life’s Rich Pageant  is their second album.  Produced with a slightly fuzzy sound, the songs are classic REM.  The titles include the ecologically conscious tunes “Fall on Me,” “Cuyahoga,” the unsettlingly beautiful “Flowers of Guatemala,” and the joyfully anthemic “I am Superman.”
Ron Jacobs’ book on the Seventies, Daydream Sunset, will published by CounterPunch this summer.

I usually highlight Kevin Alexander Gray but he didn't have on this time.

Why do I highlight him?

I generally agree with his choices.

Ron Jacobs got the pick this time.  I doubt Joshua Frank ever will.

It's not about the music genre.  I listen to a wide range of genres.

It's the fact that he doesn't usually note women.

In fact, the women taking part in the CounterPunch feature, don't feel the need to note women.

What stands out about the playlist is how little women occur to the CounterPunch staff and guests.

"This edition's playlist" (The Third Estate Sunday Review):

1) Ben Harper and Ellen Harper's Childhood Home.

2) Carly Simon's Hello Big Man.

3)  Rickie Lee Jones' The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard.

4) Natalie Merchant's Natalie Merchant.

5) Prince's The LOtUSFLOW3R.

6) Sade's Soldier of Love.

7) Jack Johnson's From Here To Now To You.

8) White Stripes' Get Behind Me, Satan.

9) Aimee Mann's The Forgotten Arm.

10) Boy Hits Car's All That Led Us Here.

FYI, the ten are listed in the order we listened.  We're not ranking them.  Also, FYI, links on artists' names?  We only feel we have to do them if they're still together (group) or still alive (solo).  The album title links?  They go to reviews of the albums.

I'm a big Jack Johnson fan -- as I've noted here many times.  So that was me tossing in, "Let's listen to Jack" this edition.

Aimee Mann's album may be the best thing she ever recorded -- solo or with 'Til Tuesday -- and I loved every track on the band's Everything's Different Now.

The new Ben Harper album (with his mother Ellen Harper) is also rather amazing.

But of all the albums on the list, my favorite is Carly Simon's Hello Big Man.

This was her first album after her divorce.

I prefer "It Happens Every Day" on her Greatest Hits Live album a few years after this.  But that is the mindset of the album ("Two lovers with the best intention to stay together decide to separate/ Just how it happens neither is certain But it happens every day").  (I prefer the arrangement on the live album and prefer that it's slowed down a little and in a different key.

"You Don't Feel The Same" is the shock of finding out only one of you is still vested in the relationship.

And I remember times when I was your storm
I blew hot and cold
And you were so warm
But, now you don't feel the same

I remember when you were looking up at me
Like I was the only one
That you'd ever wanna see

Honey, how can I ask you to stay
When you've already gone
There's no one to blame
It's just that you don't feel the same

"Menemsha" is another great

Peter's on the loose
I'd like to see him again
I remember when
We made love
On the jetty in the rain
When the fishing boats would
Come back in
At the end of the day
He'd run up the hill to my cabin
With a swordfish and he'd say:
"Girl I want you all over again"'
All over again

Unlike the two other songs I noted, this one had a co-writer.  Carly wrote the lyrics.  The music? She wrote it with Peter Wood.

It's a heartbreaking album about, yes, heartbreak.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, May 16, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, another VA scandal emerges (this one in Dallas), Shinseki tries to sell a retirement announced last September as 'accountability,' he suffers pushback, Joe Biden talks to Nouri, and much more.

Starting with veterans issues, US House Rep Eddie Bernice Johnson told her local Fox4 News today that she has been receiving complaints from veterans in her district about problems getting medical appointments in a timely fashion.  She explained this is not just one or two veterans and the problem appears persuasive.  She contacted Veterans Affairs' Office of Inspector General to report the allegations and they have already sent a representative to the Dallas VA earlier this week to investigate the allegations.

She tells Fox4, "Just the other day, we received additional calls that [they] were ordered to shred records and I reported that right away to the Inspector General."

The Congress woman's region is only the latest across the nation to experience this problem.

Yesterday, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee heard from VA Secretary Eric Shinseki as the Committee explored the information VA whistle-blowers have revealed: The VA has two lists for medical appointments.

The first list is entered in computers and is the official list VA officials point to for bonuses and raises -- and Shinseki and other high ranking officials cite when painting rosy pictures for Congress. It suggests that the VA is responsive and pro-active, actively working to ensure that veterans get medical attention within 14 days of requesting an appointment.

It's a happy little fairy tale that goes like this, "Once upon a time, the VA was plagued with problems and scandals but along came Sir Eric Shinseki, the brave knight, to vanquish the problems and scandals."

In the real world, however, there is a second list, a secret list kept 'off book' where veterans wait weeks, months and years for the medical help they need.  It is said that 40 veterans died due to the VA medical center in Phoenix, Arizona's use of these secret lists.

Yesterday, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee attempted to get answers or even a course of immediate action and they only thing they received from Shinseki was an endless series of non-answers and non-responses.  We covered the hearing in yesterday's snapshot, Ruth covered it in "Senator Richard Blumenthal says call in the F.B.I.," Kat covered it in "Shinseki needs to be fired," Ava covered it in "Shineski (Ava)" and Wally covered it in "More talk, no action (Wally)."

Thursday, Shinseki appeared to dodge questions and today he appears to have attempted to trick and deceive the American people.  Bryant Jones ( wrote early today, "The head of Veteran Affairs Health Care resigned Friday following allegations that scheduling delays had led to 40 deaths at an Arizona VA hospital."  Jones was referring to the VA's Dr. Robert Petzel, Undersecretary for Health Care.  Jones we give the benefit of the doubt.  We don't extend that courtesy to MSNBC's Amanda Sakuma.  Not because she writes for MSNBC but because she writes poorly.. Not only does she repeat the lie that Petzel resigned due to the scandal, she gets a number of other key details wrong.  Someone introduce her to CBS News since she either is mistaken or lying by claiming that Phoenix is the only facility accused of running a real list and a fake list. Tuesday, for example, Wyatt Andrews (CBS News -- link is text and video) reported on the whistle-blower coming forward to make similar claims regarding an Illinois VA center.  Similar to the wait lists at the Phoenix VA -- two sets, the real one and the cover one to make it look like vets are getting timely treatment -- Chicago steps into the spotlight.  Whistle-blower Germaine Clarno has stepped forward.

As the day wore on, people began to feel lied to as it was noted Shinseki turned in his notice last September (he's retiring) and Barack had already nominated Dr. Jeffrey Murawsky to be the new Undersecretary for Health Care.

Pete Kasperowicz (The Blaze) quotes three people on Shinseki's attempted con.  The Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee Jeff Miller states, "Today's announcement from VA regarding Undersecretary Robert Petzel's 'resignation' is the pinnacle of disingenuous political doublespeak.  Petzel was already scheduled to retire in 2014 and President Obama has already announced his intention to nominate Petzel's replacement, so characterizing this as a 'resignation' just doesn’t pass the smell test."  Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America's Tom Tarantino is quoted stating, "To be clear, Dr. Petzel's resignation is not the step toward accountability that our members need to see from VA leaders.  Anyone who has been following this situation knows that Dr. Petzel had already announced his retirement earlier this year."  The American Legion's Daniel Dellinger is quoted declaring, "This move by VA is not a corrective action, but a continuation of business as usual. Dr. Petzel was already scheduled to retire this year, so his resignation now really won’t make that much of a difference."

A veteran with a veterans VSO discussed Shinseki's appearance before the Committee at length with me today.  He is also grossly offended by Senator Bernie Sanders.  As Wally pointed out in his report, after the hearing Sanders went on CNN and was so craven in toadying up to the VA that host Chris Cuomo even pointed it out.  My friend does not feel Sanders stuck up for veterans in the hearing either.

He feels Sanders made a strong statement in the opening ("when all the press was present") and then "faded quickly."  He's not alone in feeling that way.  I spoke to four other veterans present to get their take on Bernie Sanders' performance as Chair on Thursday and no one's impressed.

I noted that everyone -- in the snapshot yesterday, I noted -- on the Committee spoke at length to express outrage.  They did.  But as my friend points out, Bernie Sanders faded quickly.

Reviewing my notes and evaluating the points made by five veterans present for the hearing, I will state that my opinion was wrong -- or whatever term you want to apply (opinions aren't 'wrong,' they're opinions but I will state mine was wrong) -- the points made by those offering input today were valid.  I painted with broadstrokes and probably with relief (after press predictions that a huge split was going to take place on the Committee).  That was wrong, my apologies for that.

I can be wrong and often am.

Reviewing the notes, I'd say this stands out the most, "One of the concerns that I have to be very honest is that there has been a little bit of a rush to judgment."

The most repeated criticism of Sanders was that he was deferential to the VA and swept veterans under the rug.  If you're going to make that criticism, I'd argue that line from Sanders ("One of the concerns that I have to be very honest is that there has been a little bit of a rush to judgment.") captures it.

40 veterans may be dead because of the VA's actions.  And Bernie's big concern is "a rush to judgment"?

Equally true, the biggest outrage expressed about veterans being denied timely health care should come from the Chair.  In the conversations with the five veterans, it was noted that Ranking Member Richard Burr demonstrated real passion on the topic.  It was noted that Senator Patty Murray doesn't raise her voice but gets chilly when extremely bothered "and she went freezer on Petzel."  Senators Mark Begich and Dean Heller were also noted as conveying how unacceptable the crisis was.  Senator Richard Blumenthal's call for the FBI was noted by three as needed.  But no one bought that Sanders was putting veterans first.

"Great opening statement that then went nowhere."

I am fine with disagreeing with any of the five or all of them.  And they know that.  But as they made their case, I didn't find myself disagreeing.  I was wrong, they are correct.

One pointed out, and this is a very important point on this topic, that Sanders has promised "hearings."

"When," the veteran asked, "has Sanders ever held hearings?  We're lucky to get a hearing on one topic with him.  Hearings?  Do you really see him devoting any real time to this?  We'll be lucky to get one more hearing on this topic.  And you can talk about his acupuncture and yoga issues for the hearing last month [April 30th] but the reality is his pet causes don't trump dead veterans.  When this became the topic in the news, his pet causes should have been put on hold.  In that hearing, he promised there would be a serious hearing on the wait lists but I don't feel he offered anything serious in yesterday's hearing."

Excusing the VA in the CNN interview did not help Sanders but the veterans can all point to moments in the hearing where they felt Sanders was placing VA officials over the health and lives of veterans.

On Thursday's hearing, US House Rep Jeff Miller's office issued the following:

May 15, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Following VA’s testimony at today’s Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Hearing and the temporary assignment of White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors to VA to oversee the department’s review of patient safety and appointment scheduling policies, Chairman Jeff Miller released the following statement:
“After Sec. Shinseki’s out-of-touch performance today, it’s no wonder President Obama felt compelled to assign someone from the White House to help clean up the mess at the department. Had the president heeded our calls last year to help address the growing pattern of preventable deaths and patient safety incidents at VA medical centers across the country, perhaps VA would not find itself mired in the scandal it is today. While I appreciate the fact that the president has assigned a crisis manager to help deal with what is indeed a crisis, I have no confidence whatsoever an internal VA review will yield results that are either accurate or useful. VA officials in Washington have known about problems with medical care access for at least six years and have failed to fix them. That’s why the only way we can begin to fix VA’s delays in care problem is via an independent bipartisan commission. Anything less is unacceptable.   – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
Chairman Miller letter to President Obama Requesting Bipartisan VA Medical Care Access Commission
May 13, 2014
Chairman Miller letter to President Obama
May 21, 2013

The White House issued the following today:

The White House

Office of the Vice President

Readout of the Vice President's Call with Iraqi Prime Minister of Nouri al-Maliki

Vice President Biden spoke this morning with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.  The Vice President congratulated the Iraqi people on their participation in the parliamentary elections, and emphasized the importance of a new parliament acting to pull the country together given the many challenges confronting Iraq.  The two leaders spoke about the security situation in Anbar province.  The Vice President stressed the importance of pursuing a holistic approach that includes political outreach as well as security measures consistent with the goal of gaining local support and cooperation.   He welcomed initiatives that are now underway to mobilize the population against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and strongly urged the Government of Iraq to ensure that their difficult fight against terrorism is conducted in a manner that protects the civilian population and adheres to the rule of law.  The Vice President and the Prime Minister reaffirmed the long-term partnership between Iraq and the United States pursuant to the Strategic Framework Agreement, including their commitment to coordination in the fight against ISIL, which represents a threat to the entire region.

Before we go further, there's a Biden issue.  Ann's noted it at her site:

  • The New Dick Cheneys
  • The one where the Joe Bidens become the Dick Cheneys

  • Adam Taylor (Washington Post) explains, "Vice President Biden's son, Hunter Biden, has accepted a position on the board at Ukraine's largest private gas firm. According to a news release posted Tuesday, the vice president's son would join the board of Burisma Holdings."  Meanwhile the idiots of the useless CREW can't find anything wrong with this.  It leaves a bad impression.  Hunter doesn't need this work and should walk away.  If he doesn't, he's responsible for the impression left.  (And CREW's responsible for again looking like an idiot.)

    Patrick Martin (WSWS) notes:

    Hunter Biden, in addition to being an investment banker, is active in think tanks that develop the strategy being pursued by US imperialism in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. He is on the board of directors of the Center for National Policy, a national security think tank aligned with the Democratic Party, including such prominent figures as Madeleine Albright, secretary of state in the Clinton administration, and Leon Panetta, CIA director and secretary of defense in the Obama administration.
    According to a press release from Burisma, Biden is also on the chairman’s advisory board of the National Democratic Institute, an arm of the National Endowment for Democracy, a federal agency. The NED plays an active role in political subversion against governments targeted by Washington for overthrow, and the NDI is sending a high-level delegation to Ukraine to monitor the upcoming presidential elections, headed by Madeleine Albright.

    Back to Biden's call to Nouri.  Did Biden "strongly urged the Government of Iraq to ensure that their difficult fight against terrorism is conducted in a manner that protects the civilian population and adheres to the rule of law"?

    If so, did Nouri laugh at that?

    Because Nouri's been carrying out War Crimes for months now and the US government has aided and abetted these War Crimes.  Collective punishment is when a War Criminal targets civilians in their supposed efforts to get at crooks, criminals, terrorists whatever.  Nouri's just burning the village to save the village, you understand.  His bombing of residential neighborhoods in Falluja?  War Crimes.

    Margaret Griffis ( observes, "At least 6,000 people have fled Falluja this month due to 'indiscriminate' shelling by the Iraqi military. Although the Iraq government has denied using barrel bombs, residents keep describing what appears to be usage of such devices."  Ned Parker, Isra' al-Rubei'i and Raheem Salman (Reuters) note 55 deaths since May 6th and the denail from Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Moussawi ("There are strict orders to stay away from residential areas.") and, most importantly, they report:

    However, a mid-level security officer in Anbar province confirmed that barrel bombs had in fact been dropped in Falluja.  “It’s the scorched-earth policy – the destruction of a whole area. The army is less experienced in house-to-house fighting, which the rebels have mastered. That’s why they’ve resorted to this,” said the officer who has been involved in planning to retake the city, speaking on condition of anonymity.

    And the US government is supplying Nouri with weapons (and 'intelligence') which means they are co-conspirators in War Crimes.

    National Iraqi News Agency reports Nouri's shelling of Falluja's residential neighborhoods today killed 1 civilian and left four more injured.

    In other violence today, National Iraqi News Agency reports a Mosul suicide bomber took his own life and left two bystanders and one Iraqi soldier injured, the Iraqi military killed 9 suspects outside of Ramadi, a Hit roadside bombing left 1 police officer dead, security forces killed 3 suspects in Alsigar, a husband and wife were shot dead in Alsadah and their child was left injured, an al-Hermat battle left 1 police member killed and another injured, Judge Zuhair Abdul Razzaq was assassinated today east of Mosul, and a Diwaniyah roadside bombing left one person injured.  All Iraq News adds 3 Sahwa were shot dead in Tikrit and one more was left injured.

    Let's turn to the topic of Camp Ashraf.  As of September, Camp Ashraf in Iraq is empty.  All remaining members of the community have been moved to Camp Hurriya (also known as Camp Liberty).  Camp Ashraf housed a group of Iranian dissidents who were  welcomed to Iraq by Saddam Hussein in 1986 and he gave them Camp Ashraf and six other parcels that they could utilize. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq.The US government had the US military lead negotiations with the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US government wanted the residents to disarm and the US promised protections to the point that US actions turned the residents of Camp Ashraf into protected person under the Geneva Conventions. This is key and demands the US defend the Ashraf community in Iraq from attacks.  The Bully Boy Bush administration grasped that -- they were ignorant of every other law on the books but they grasped that one.  As 2008 drew to a close, the Bush administration was given assurances from the Iraqi government that they would protect the residents. Yet Nouri al-Maliki ordered the camp repeatedly attacked after Barack Obama was sworn in as US President. July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out."  Those weren't the last attacks.  They were the last attacks while the residents were labeled as terrorists by the US State Dept.  (September 28, 2012, the designation was changed.)   In spite of this labeling, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."  So the US has an obligation to protect the residents.  3,300 are no longer at Camp Ashraf.  They have moved to Camp Hurriyah for the most part.  A tiny number has received asylum in other countries. Approximately 100 were still at Camp Ashraf when it was attacked Sunday.   That was the second attack this year alone.   February 9, 2013, the Ashraf residents were again attacked, this time the ones who had been relocated to Camp Hurriyah.  Trend News Agency counted 10 dead and over one hundred injured.  Prensa Latina reported, " A rain of self-propelled Katyusha missiles hit a provisional camp of Iraqi opposition Mujahedin-e Khalk, an organization Tehran calls terrorists, causing seven fatalities plus 50 wounded, according to an Iraqi official release."  They were attacked again September 1, 2013.   Adam Schreck (AP) reported that the United Nations was able to confirm the deaths of 52 Ashraf residents.  In addition, 7 Ashraf residents were taken in the assault.  Last November, in response to questions from US House Rep Sheila Jackson Lee, the  State Dept's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Brett McGurk, stated, "The seven are not in Iraq."  McGurk's sworn testimony wasn't taken seriously.  Once a liar and a cheater . . .
    At the start of the year, the US Embassy in Baghdad issued the following on McGurk's January 11th visit to Camp Liberty:
    Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk visited Camp Hurriya in Baghdad on January 10, accompanied by Gyorgy Busztin, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and officials from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). DAS McGurk met with senior representatives from the Mujahedine-e-Khalq (MEK) as well as survivors of the attack on Camp Ashraf and reiterated the importance the U.S. Government places on the safety and security of Camp Hurriya.  He noted that in meetings with senior Iraqi officials the U.S. will continue to press the Government of Iraq (GOI) to buttress security inside the camp, and welcomed the commitment to install additional t-walls following the next Camp Management meeting among camp residents, UNAMI and the GOI. DAS McGurk stressed the urgency of relocating the residents of Camp Hurriya to third countries as soon as possible and noted the full-time efforts of Jonathan Winer, Senior Advisor for MeK Resettlement, towards that objective. Given the special challenges involved in addressing these issues, DAS McGurk expressed deep appreciation to UNAMI and UNHCR for their work and ensured ongoing U.S. Government support of their efforts.

    Ron Nabors is supposed to fix the VA problems.  Just like Jonathan Winer was supposed to fix the Ashraf issue.  How's that working out?  He's had nine months, is the community out of Iraq yet?  No.

    He can point to a few who've left Iraq.  There's a woman, for example, who recently made it to Albania.  And then died.

    The National Council of Resistance of Iran explains:

    Ms Razieh Kermanshahei, an official of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) and a member of the National Council of Resistance (NCRI) that due to the six-year anti-human medical siege against camps Ashraf and Liberty was in dire physical condition, passed away on Tuesday, May 13, a few weeks after her transfer to Albania and undergoing a difficult surgery in a hospital in Tirana.
    Ms Kermanshahei, 57, had spent her life since the age of 19 in the struggle against the dictatorships of the Shah and mullahs in Iran. She had been arrested, imprisoned and tortured at the time of the Shah.
    Her brother, PMOI  member Gholamreza Kermanshahei, was arrested in 1975 and martyred under torture by the SAVAK (Shah’s secret police).
    While in critical condition due to the criminal medical siege imposed by the Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki on Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty that denied her of free access to medical services, Ms Razieh Kermanshahei was transferred to Albania in mid-March 2014 and placed under medical treatment. After a few weeks, she underwent a major surgery, but despite physicians’ endeavors passed away in the evening on May 13.
    A few days prior to her passing away, Mr Struan Stevenson, the President of the Delegation for Relations with Iraq at the European Parliament, had visited her in the hospital in Tirana. Mr. Stevenson strongly condemned the six-year-siege on Ashraf and Camp Liberty by Maliki’s government.
    Ms Kermanshahei is the fourth PMOI member that has passed away shortly after transfer to Albania due to the anti-human medical siege.
    Since the onset of transfer of Camp Ashraf residents to Camp Liberty in February 2012, the residents have repeatedly requested from the Iraqi government, the United States, and the United Nations to force the Iraqi government to transfer the medical equipment belonging to the residents to the Camp, but as part of the anti-human medical siege the Iraqi government has obstructed.

    The Iranian Resistance warns of the increasing and irreversible human damages of the medical siege on Camp Liberty, and reminds the U.S. government and the United Nations of their commitments concerning the safety and security of Liberty residents, and calls for an urgent action by the international community to end the tyrannical siege, secure free access of residents to medical services, and to transfer residents’ medical equipment from Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty.

    Lastly, David Bacon's latest book is The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration  is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press). We'll close with this from Bacon's  "WHAT 'CESAR CHAVEZ' MISSED - THE DIVERSITY OF THE FARM WORKERS MOVEMENT" (In These Times):

    The new movie, Cesar Chavez - History is Made One Step at a Time, directed by Diego Luna, tells the story of the Grape Strike of 1965.  This epic 5-year labor battle led to the organization of the United Farm Workers, and made Cesar Chavez a social movement hero.  The movie has provoked controversy over its depiction of his role, and the accuracy of the history it recounts of those events.  In this roundtable, labor journalist David Bacon, a former organizer for the UFW and other unions, explores these themes with four guests.  Eliseo Medina was a farm worker when the strike started, and became a noted labor organizer, first in the UFW and later in the Service Employees Union.  Doug Adair was an activist in the 1965 strike, and then worked the rest of his life as a farm laborer in the grapes in the Coachella Valley.  Dawn Mabalon is a professor of history at San Francisco State University, and an authority of the history of Filipinos in California.  Rosalinda Guillen comes from a farm worker family in Washington State, worked as a UFW organizer, and today organizes farm labor in Skagit and Whatcom Counties, north of Seattle, with Community2Community.

    David:  How did the movie square with your memories of the grape strike as a participant?

    Eliseo:  It's a good time for this movie to come out and show not only the challenges immigrants face, but also the fact that they're willing to struggle and that when they do they can win, regardless of the power structure. It could've done a much better job of telling the full story, but it's impossible to tell 10 years worth of history in 2 hours. It's a movie, not a documentary, and its aim is not to tell the story of the whole movement.  To do that would take a lot more than just one movie. 

    David:  The film presents the UFW as a movement mostly of Chicanos and Mexicanos, but it was also a multinational union, including African-Americans, Arab, and even white people.  That doesn't come through as much.

    Eliseo:  When I was a farm worker, before the strike began, we lived in different worlds -- the Latino world, the Filipino world, the African-American world and the Caucasian world. We co-existed but never understood who we were or what each other thought and dreamed about. It wasn't until the union began that we finally began to work together, to know each other and to begin to fight together. I do wish that that had been more explicit because certainly the contribution that was made by the Filipino workers to the strike and the movement was an incredible part of the success of the union. The fact that we also had Caucasians and African-Americans participating in the strike never even gets brought up. It was always multi-racial. I do wish it had focused more on showing what can happen when people work together and fight together and make changes, not only for one group, but for everybody. 

    Thursday, May 15, 2014

    Tori Amos and some reaction to the new album

    Tori Amos's new album came out this week -- Kat reviewed it here

    I love the album.

    I ended up buying it twice.  First, it's in Mike and my Amazon cloud, we downloaded it from Amazon.  Second, there's a small music store by my office and they have vinyl and a few new CDs and a lot of used CDs and I was walking past it Wednesday at lunch and ended up darting inside as I so often do.

    I ended up buying it on CD.

    I am glad I did.  I like the booklet.

    It didn't provide any bonus tracks because the store just had the basic version.

    The other reason I liked buying it was that -- and I tell myself this all the time -- I was supporting an independent store and a music store at that -- in a time when they're disappearing.

    Also, I'm supporting real music by an artist.

    On the topic of Tori, what is Sady Doyle's problem?

    Ann wrote "Sade Doyle disappoints" (no, that's not a typo, Ann was calling her "Sade").  In it, she rightly noted how Doyle pits Tori against one woman after another.  That makes no sense.

    Now there is this:

    Here's a startling fact: Tori Amos's first single in advance of Little Earthquakes was "," backed with "Me and a Gun." On one side, a viscerally disturbing account of sexual assault; on the other, a string-laden piano ballad in which the narrator updates you on her menstruation. That was the first impression Tori Amos ever sought to make. Right away, it was clear: This woman had GUTS. She's taken huge risks: Singles aiming for the ever-trendy "techno harpsichord" aesthetic? Building her reputation on solo piano performance, then knocking that down to tour with a huge, loud band? Nine-minute song that's just a list of plants, 18-track album about American history, dramatic readings of ? You can find all this in Amos' catalog, along with attacks on homophobia, sexism and Christian fundamentalism. Unlike, say, Lady Gaga , you never get the sense that Amos' politics or "shocking" choices are part of a cynical marketing strategy. It's just the sound of a woman who is absolutely assured of what she has to say, and how she wants to say it. Which, given the world we live in, is the most courageous thing of all. —Sady Doyle

    First off, way to piss of Lady Gaga fans unfamiliar with Tori.  Why would they listen to Tori now if they never had before?  If she was someone new to them, why bother to listen?

    It's bad in terms of promoting the album, it's bad terms of women.  Doyle's already tried to promote Tori this week by trashing Jewel, Joan Osborne and other women.  Now she's trashing Lady Gaga.

    If you read beyond my excerpt, Doyle returns to trash Shirley Manson (Garbage).

    Tori really isn't about trashing female artists.  She goes out of her way to be compassionate towards other females in the recording industry.

    Kat provided context for Tori -- noting that, like Joni Mitchell and Van Morrison, she's an artist and an original.  When it was time for compare and contrast, she went with Bruce Springsteen.  Documenting how Sony promotes the hell out of him and he can't deliver sales and the art is gone and he's just a coward with nothing to say.

    But Doyle sees Tori as a stick to beat other women.

    That's not going to turn people on to Tori.

    You also have to wonder why does Doyle hate women so much, why is she always creating the 'exception,' the queen bee?

    "Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
    Wednesday, May 14, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee gears up to question VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, prior to that a new VA scandal breaks today, some Iraqi parliamentarians continue to pursue the war on Iraqi women and girls, we examine WMC's inability to cover this and their other problems (which are many), and much more.

    Starting in the US with veterans issues, Senator Patty Murray's office issued the following today:

    FOR PLANNING PURPOSES                                 CONTACT: Murray Press Office
    Wednesday, May 14th, 2014                                                            (202) 224-2834
    VETERANS: TOMORROW: Murray to Question Sec. Shinseki on VA Health Care, Disturbing Allegations
    (Washington, D.C.)  – TOMMORROW, Thursday, May 15th, 2014, at 10:00 AM ET/ 7:00 AM PST, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) a senior member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, will attend a hearing to examine the State of VA Health Care with Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. At the hearing, Murray will question Secretary Shinseki on recent allegations that patients died while waiting for treatment at VA hospitals, and ask him what immediate changes will be made to finally restore long-overdue accountability, transparency, and confidence in the VA system. 
    WHO:             U.S. Senator Patty Murray
    WHAT:          Sen. Murray will attend Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing on the State of VA Health Care
    WHEN:          TODAY: Thursday, May 15th, 2014
    Hearing begins at 10:00 AM ET/7:00 AM PST
    WHERE:        106 Dirksen Senate Office Building
    Meghan Roh
    Press Secretary | New Media Director
    Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
    Mobile: (202) 365-1235
    Office: (202) 224-2834

    Two of the articles we're about to highlight on this issue try to put this in terms of Democrats and Republicans, they see that as how the hearing tomorrow will play out with Democrats supporting/rescuing Shinseki and Republicans being harsh.

    First off, Ranking Member Richard Burr is always 'harsh.'  He demands accountability of Shinseki.  He did the same thing when Bully Boy Bush was in the White House.

    Second, if Democrats do that, then they're creating problems for themselves in an election year.

    If Democrats on the Comittee -- that includes Senator Murray -- and Socialist Bernie Sanders who Chairs the Committee and votes with the Democrats -- are seen as soft, they're hurting themselves in an election year.

    Since January 2007, Democrats have controlled the Senate.

    And if they're rescuing Shinseki tomorrow and not holding him accountable, it's going to be noticed and it's going to lead to a suspicion/charge/accusation that they're not holding Shinseki accountable right now because, while in power the entire time he has been VA Secretary, they haven't provided proper oversight so they're trying to mitigate the scandal.

    I don't expect Patty Murray to go soft.  She's not done gone soft in the past with Shinseki or with the VA.

    Chair Sanders?

    A lot of veterans are complaining that he already went soft in an April 30th hearing (see the May 1st snapshot for that hearing).  I have countered that the topic of the hearing -- alternative treatments -- is his key issue as Chair and that he was focused on that.  But I could be wrong and I often am so I guess we'll find out tomorrow where he stands on this issue because we will be covering the hearing and if the Democrats on the Senate embarrass themselves by forgetting they're on that Committee to serve the veterans and not to provide cover for the VA, we'll be noting it.  And if that means we're calling out like we do with the ridiculous US House Rep Corrine Brown, then that's what it means.

    And on Corrine and her wacky wigs, someone noted Women's Media Center and it's crappy charge that Fishbowl was sexist for asking if Corrine wore a wig.  Now I know the issue of wigs is sensitive for the elderly women of Women's Media Center.  When you're elderly and still try to pass yourself off as a sex kitten it can be a little embarrassing.  Equally true when you show up for hearings with your wig not on proper, people will talk.  Corrine has had it half way around her head in a hearing and not even noticed.  Equally true, when you hair changes colors and length daily, it's a pretty good tip off that it's a wig.  Equally true, cheap is cheap.  When I had chemo, I bought a wig expecting my hair to fall out.  I got lucky, it didn't.  But I wasn't going to put a cheap wig on my head.  Robert Redford wears a cheap rug.  I've noted that before too.  It's not sexist.  But it's great to know WMC wastes everyone's time -- including their own limited time  -- but can't say a word to defend the women of Iraq.  We will be coming back to that in the snapshot.

    On the latest VA scandal, Lisa Mascaro (Los Angeles Times) reports:

    Shinseki's leadership has come under fire after claims that up to 40 veterans' deaths have been linked to excessive wait times for service at a Phoenix VA facility, where officials may have kept separate record books to hide the problem.
    Whistle-blowers in other states have raised similar concerns of long waits and other problems with VA care, including in Mississippi, Missouri and Texas.

    Charles S. Clark (National Journal) offers, "The tales of delays, 40 perhaps unnecessary deaths and alleged secret waiting lists in Phoenix -- announced in late April by Miller -- were first publicized in a CNN interview with Dr. Samuel Foote, now retired after 25 years in VA clinical work. Foote had also contacted the VA inspector general. The nonprofit Project on Government Oversight just before Shinseki’s Thursday appearance is joining with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America in a press conference on how to protect whistleblowers who expose wrongdoing at the VA." Rob Hunter (KTAR) notes, "Phoenix isn't the only place affected. Whistleblowers, following Phoenix VA Dr. Sam Foote's example, are coming forward in many other cities and states detailing health care problems and cover-ups. Clearly it's a nationwide problem. This isn't a secret. The care has been horrible for years and nothing is ever done to fix it. See, providing veterans health care is a social contract, an obligation."

    Is US President Barack Obama taking the issue seriously?  Julie Pace (AP) reports that Barack has "temporarily assigned" his Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors "to oversee a review" of the VA.  Let's hope Rob Nabors does a better job than Jonathan Winer.  We'll come back to Winer tomorrow.

    Mark Thompson has a very strong article on the issue for Time and, in it, he notes there were warning signs:

    • The VA’s “method of calculating the waiting times of new patients understates the actual waiting times,” the agency’s inspector general said in a 2007 report on outpatient visits. “Because of past problems associated with schedulers not entering the correct desired date when creating appointments, [the VA] uses the appointment creation date as the starting point for measuring the waiting times for new appointments.”
    • In 2012, the IG said that when it came to getting a mental-health appointment within the VA goal of 14 days, the agency claimed it met that target 95% of the time. But after drilling deeper into VA data, the IG concluded only 49% got their appointments within two weeks.
    • That same year, the IG reported that patients at a VA facility in Temple, Texas, had “prolonged wait times for GI [gastroenterology] care [that] lead to delays in diagnosis of colorectal and other cancers…staff indicated that appointments were routinely made incorrectly by using the next available appointment date instead of the patient’s desired date.”
    • Not surprisingly, the longer the wait for care, the worse the result. “Long-term outcomes, such as death and preventable hospitalizations, are more common for veterans who seek care at facilities that have longer wait times than for veterans at facilities that have shorter wait times,” the federal Institute of Medicine said last year.

    I hope the two reports (we link to them above but don't quote from that part of it) are wrong about Thursday's hearing splitting into Democrats and Republicans.  The two reports are wrong to treat the current scandal as isolated when, in fact, it's part of a broad vista of never-ending VA scandals.

    Aaron Glantz (Center for Investigative Reporting) reports today:

    The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has systematically failed to follow its own rules governing the prescription of addictive narcotic painkillers, contributing to overdoses and deaths, according to 68-page report released today by the agency’s inspector general.
    The audit comes a day before Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki is to testify before a Senate committee to answer allegations that dozens of veterans in Phoenix died waiting for care.

    “They don’t know what they’re doing. They don’t care,” said Steven Harvey, a 57-year-old Army veteran who was sent home with morphine even after he fell into a coma when he was given 10 times the recommended dose of the painkiller fentanyl during a routine procedure to remove a kidney stone at a Los Angeles VA in August 2012.

    Every time you take a breath it seems, a new VA scandal emerges.

    And if it's not a corruption scandal -- where people lie about wait times to get bonuses -- then it's incompetence scandal.  Eric Shinseki has shown no leadership.  Jordain Carney and Stacy Kaper offer "Obama Has Ever Reason To Fix The VA.  Why Hasn't He?" (National Journal) and we'll note this from the article:

    The backlog list was cut to more than 300,000 as of May 10. If the VA maintains the current average monthly rate, the backlog could be cut by mid-2015. That would meet Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki's 2010 pledge to eliminate the backlog by the end of next year.
    Critics, however, say the shrinking backlog is something of a farce, the result of an administrative maneuver that has not delivered results for the veterans in the backlog, but has instead moved them into a different waiting line. When taking into consideration all VA claims, including those were the veterans died waiting for a decision, those stuck in appeals, and award adjustments—often adding a spouse or child—the VA's inventory of claims is much higher still hovering just under a whopping 1.3 million. (By comparison when Obama took office in January 2009, the inventory of claims was about half that amount: 631,000.)
    As of May 10, the VA's number of appealed claims stood at 274,660, almost 100,000 more than the 174,891 appeals in late 2009. Between 2012 and 2013 the number of claims that ended up in appeal grew 5 percent, and between the end of 2013 and March 31 the number of appeals kept rising 2.7 percent. Once in the appeals process, veterans can wait in limbo for an average of two and a half years.

    Critics contend that list is growing because, as the agency endeavored to quickly work through the claims, it has made more errors.

    We've covered that issue extensively here.  We've done that because I called out when the VA presented to Congress as the answer.  It's not an answer, it's a shell game.  We called it that then, we call it that now.  It's taken nearly two years but at least the press acknowledges the possibility that this is what's happening.

    Let's move to the topic of Iraq.  At the conservative Commentary, Michael Rubin takes issue with the International Crisis Group's report at the end of April, "Iraq: Falluja’s Faustian Bargain."  We noted the report when it was released but only briefly.  Everything that wasn't elections (Iraq held parliamentary elections April 30th) had to be brief or put on hold.  I meant to get back to that report and two others and haven't thus far.  I'm not a fan of the ICG and, in better times, we didn't even note them.

    Better times?  That's when the whole left was concerned about Iraq.  Of course, now I realize they really weren't, the bulk was just concerned with electing Democrats and they pretended to care about Iraq so they could tap into the outrage and use it as motivation tool.

    So in late 2005, ICG got an e-mail from me explaining just what I thought of them and asking them to stop sending links to their Iraq reports, talking points, et al to the public e-mail account for this site.

    Now days, they, RAND, Brookings and other sites we would never note can get links because we don't have a lot to work with since so many walked away from Iraq.  We also now link to conservatives -- like Rubin -- on Iraq (a) to note their arguments and (b) with the hope that the left may grow the hell up and realize their silence on Iraq is handing the topic to the right-wing.

    Rubin writes:

    This is a pretty problematic recasting of a narrative of what happened. While I fault Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for letting electoral calculations color the timing of military action against al-Qaeda in al-Anbar (and while I find reason to criticize Maliki for other aspects of his administration as well), it is inane to suggest that the protest camps did not include al-Qaeda elements. Indeed, there is quite a lot of video evidence to suggest they did. The ICG, for its part, confuses chronology when they declare, “The crisis has rescued Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s chances in the parliamentary elections, which, until ISIL entered the picture, appeared grim.” As the Syrian conflict has metathesized, ISIL had been a growing threat in Iraq, responsible for dozens of attacks that killed hundreds of Iraqi civilians. And while Maliki’s third term was and is far from certain, the idea that his chances were ever “grim” is simply wrong. Elections should determine destiny. Alas, rather than simply let elections determine al-Anbar’s fate, the ICG appears to castigate the many Sunnis from local parties who have joined in coalition against the terrorists in al-Anbar. Encouraging cross-sectarian (and cross-ethnic) political groupings is something the ICG should encourage. Shame on them and anyone else who does not do so.

    Actually, the ICG is correct in everything Rubin says they're wrong in above.  Nouri did use the attack on Anbar for "electoral calculations" -- even Rubin agrees with that.  But he then insists that using the attack on Anbar was not about 'rescuing' Nouri's "chances in the parliamentary elections."  Then why did he use it for electoral calculations -- which, again, Rubin admits happened.

    Does Michael Rubin not grasp his inconsistency?

    He's right that a third term is far from certain but it was a lot less certain in the closing months of 2013.

    He's failed to prove that Syria is responsible for attacks.

    In fact, basic logic would be that Syria is a drain on terrorism in Iraq.  That if it's as out of control as Rubin agrees it is in Syria, then that's pulling actors who could be blowing things up in Iraq.

    Michael's claim of "video evidence" is laughable.

    It'll convince some uninformed idiots, I'm sure -- his link to his earlier piece.

    But unlike Commentary, we covered the Iraqi protests here every Friday while they took place.

    Did people dubbed al Qaeda join in?

    Yes, at various points they did.  One of the most successful aspects of the protests was blocking the main highway.  And when Nouri threatened the lives of those protesters, men with dark scarves over their lower face came to the protests -- which wasn't a surprise because a Sunni genocide was taking place and the fighters had long said if Nouri crossed X-line with the protesters, they would be out with their guns.

    And that is what happened.

    And the protests weren't just in Anbar.  How stupid does Michael think we all are?  They were in Baghdad, they were in Kirkuk Province, they were in Nineveh Province and elsewhere.

    Rubin doesn't know what he's talking about.

    This is why I address only a certain number of topics and am never embarrassed to say, "I don't know."

    Rubin is like Phyllis Bennis.  By 2006, Phyl lost in Iraq.  So when it would become a hot topic, she'd try to 'brush' up before her media appearence and she'd get everything wrong.  For example, months after Nancy A. Youssef had published (on the last day of Knight-Ridder) that the US military was keeping a count of the Iraqi dead, there was Phyllis on the Pacifica airwaves insisting that the US probably was keeping a body count even though they said they weren't.  Months after Youssef had reported this, Phyllis was still unaware.  She's so bad these days that she doesn't even bother to back herself up, offering one commentary that contradicts another.

    Rubin didn't care about the protests.

    He's still not interested in the violence Nouri's thugs carried out -- in the murders they carried out.  He never bothered to address the protesters demands -- I'm talking about Michael Rubin never bothered.  He feels the need to whine a little like the useless voice he is and it's all for naught.

    A Republican Senator asked me last month why the conservative media -- National Review, Commentary, etc. -- doesn't hit on The Erbil Agreement?

    I said I was no expert on conservative media but if I had to guess it would be because they're uninformed and stupid -- like the bulk of the media in the middle, on the left, wherever.

    Again note this:

    Alas, rather than simply let elections determine al-Anbar’s fate, the ICG appears to castigate the many Sunnis from local parties who have joined in coalition against the terrorists in al-Anbar. Encouraging cross-sectarian (and cross-ethnic) political groupings is something the ICG should encourage. 

    Not all areas of Anbar were allowed to vote and we should note that.

    But why's he slamming ICG?  He doesn't think they respect elections.  But the ICG didn't broker The Erbil Agreement.  The US government did and did so, in fall 2010, to give a Nouri a second term after he'd lost it at the ballot box in the March 2010 elections.  And a cross-sectarian grouping needs to be encouraged?

    That's what was put into The Erbil Agreement.  And Nouri, after he was named prime minister, refused to honor the contract.

    So why isn't Michael Rubin writing about that?

    Again, my best guess is because uninformed.

    Not unlike Mitt Romney who decided to campaign on a falsehood of Barack withdrawing from Iraq.

    What an idiot.

    Not only did Barack send special-ops back into Iraq in the fall of 2012, but Tim Arango reported on it for the New York Times mere days before the first debate between Barack and Mitt.

    Not only was it not factual, the argument Mitt wanted to make, it was also just plain stupid.

    If Barack had done a withdrawal from Iraq?

    He would have gotten my vote in 2012.  He really would have.  (I voted in the 2012 election, I did not vote for the office of president -- no one earned my vote in that race.)

    And portraying Barack as having pulled out of Iraq was not going to cost him voters.  Even Republicans were against the war at the end.  Over 60% of Americans wanted the Iraq War to end.  In fact, they wanted it so badly that some lie to themselves today and pretend that it did end.

    It was stupid.

    It's like accusing Barack of having given candy to children -- who's going to be mad about that (other than parents of diabetic children)?

    The criticism that need to be leveled at Barack on Iraq included (a) you say you withdrew troops so why don't you get honest in this debate and tell the American people that you sent a brigade of special-ops back into Iraq mere weeks ago?  Why don't you tell the American people tonight what Tim Arango reported days ago, "At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence"?

    Now it's not a surprise Barack did that.  In sotto voice, he said he would.  He said it to the New York Times while he was running for president.  But the New York Times always protects Barack so they didn't print in their story.  You had to read the transcript of the interview which they posted to discover that Barack was saying if violence increased after 'combat forces' left, he'd send US troops back in.

    But Mitt should have hit him with that and then hit him with (b) your administration has mismanaged Iraq as evidenced by the increased violence, as evidenced by the fact you can't keep an ambassador to Iraq for more than a year, that you go through ambassadors like Murphy Brown went through assistants, and that you refused to back the Iraqi people when they gave the win in the 2010 elections to Ayad Allawi.  Not only that, but you promised Allawi things.  You got on the phone with him in November 2010 to talk him into sending Iraqiya back into Parliament (they walked when Nouri refused to implement The Erbil Agreement on the spot -- he insisted he needed time, time never came for Nouri and he never honored it).

    That was how Mitt should have addressed Iraq: "You said troops out and then you sent them back in while you played musical chairs with the post of Ambassador to Iraq and refused to fight for The Erbil Agreement that you swore had the full backing of the US government."

    Mitt's an idiot.

    So is Michael Rubin unless he just wants to talk to himself.

    On the left, we've gotten really good about doing that.  That's why we make jokes about the dead in Benghazi (Tyrone Woods, Glen Doherty, Sean Smith and Ambassador Chris Stevens -- and, no, I don't make jokes about them) because we only talk to ourselves and we think it's cute and funny.

    It's disgusting and it makes us look disgusting.

    But clearly Michael Rubin on the right is only interested in talking to the right so he will invent this fantasy of Iraq failing because Barack pulled all troops out and walked away.

    I wish that had happened -- if it had, again, Barack would have gotten my vote in 2012.

    We make come back to Rubin's article because it's dishonest on another point.  For now, we need to move on to Iraqi girls and women.

    April 16th, on KPFA's Voices of the Middle East and North Africa, the controversial bill which passed Iraq's Cabinet of Ministers and that chief thug and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki  has forwarded to the Parliament was discussed. 

    Shahram Aghamir: Last month the Iraqi Cabinet approved a new personal status legislation called the Ja'fari law which is named after the sixth Shi'ite Imam, Ja'far al-Sadiq who established a school of jurisprudence in Medina in the 8th century.  This legislation has created an uproar among Iraqi women's rights and the civil rights community.  If approved, the Ja'fari law will abolish the current Personal Status Law 188 which is considered one of the most progressive in the Arab world.  The new law will roll back the rights of women in marriage, divorce and child custody as well as inheritance.  It will lower the age of marriage for girls from 18 to 9 and boys to 15.  Who has initially proposed the law and what are the implications of this law for Iraqi women?  Malihe spoke with Iraqi women's rights activist Basma al-Khateeb who volunteers with Iraq's 1st Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women Shadow Report Coalition as an expert and a trainer.

    Basma al-Khateeb:  Actually, the Minister of Justice by the end of October declared that they have a committee -- expert committee -- and they have finished drafting the Ja'fari law.  It consists of 256 articles and he's going to present it to the Cabinet by the next session.  He says that they've been working on for the past two years.

    Malihe Razazan:  Back in 2004, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim who died in 2009, he was in exile in Iran for 20 years before the invasion, and after the occupation of Iraq, he worked very closely with the Americans.  His party worked to pass Decision 137 issue by interim governing council to abolish the Personal Status Law Number 188 which was passed  in 1959 --

    Basma al-Kahteeb:  That was actually the first thing that he -- that he issued, this Resolution 137 -- as if Iraq had no problems.  This was the only rule that he came up with.  And we had demonstrations and we managed to defeat that.  They withdrew it.

    Malihe Razazan:   Yeah, because there was a huge backlash against it.

    Basma al-Khateeb:  But this is historical.  His father, Muhsin al-Hakim, back in 1959, when the civil Personal Status Law was issued, the religious institutes led by Muhsin al-Hakim back then, his father, refused this Personal Status Law because it will take all the authority from the cleric.

    Malihe Razazan:  In matters regarding women's divorce, child custody, inheritance it will be left to civil courts.

    Basma al-Khateeb:  Yes.  And this is how our judicial system and lawyers and colleges and scholars all -- I mean, we're talking about sixty years that all our institutions -- judicial, court, everything -- is built on it.  This -- going back just to abolish all of this -- this law --the formal law, the Personal Status Law that's still active now. It doesn't go to clerics, only the judge rules.  This current law puts another council that is in control of judges of courts.  It just turns everything into chaos.  Every lawyer has to study all these religious and cleric institution and legal issues.  It doesn't mean that we have one court.  It means that we have more than 20 courts because each Ayatollah is different in examination with the other.  Havilah?  Even though they're Sh'itie, they're different from the Sadr group, they're different from Sistani interpretation which means multi courts.

    Women's Media Center couldn't be bothered with that.  They could fret over Corrine Brown's wig.  She puts it on every day -- puts one of them on every day -- I don't think Corrine's suffering.  Nor is it sexism to note that a woman wears an obvious wig or a man wears an obvious toupee.  Those are what's known as "observations."
    At the WMC blog, they haven't blogged since January. They managed four features in April and not one was on the bill above.
    April 22nd, they 'joined' up with F-Bomb which also hasn't written about Iraqi girls and women but has managed to urge high school girls and women to reject the trappings of prom -- make up, blah, blah, blah.  Can you find a real issue?  Not really, they also took on (and I hope Max K is a woman or the article's even more insulting) women who play "geek girl" but really, according to the article, don't know about video games or whatever, they're just faking!  That is a sexist article and it's even more sexist if Max K turns out to be a man.
    Well wait, they have, WMC, their Name It Change It nonsense, right?  Oh, wait.  They haven't done a damn thing with that since last year.
    We keep getting e-mails about Robin Morgan's radio show.  And I keep telling Shirley and Martha, "It's still airing.  Ask them why they think it's not."  And the reply is that it's at the website.  I didn't have time until today -- and I'm also not Robin Morgan's assistant or WMC's p.r. person -- but while looking to see if our Ladies Columbus have yet to discover Iraq, I saw this:

    Women's Media Center Live with Robin Morgan RSS

    October 5, 2013 | Pre-Women’s Media Center Awards Gala show. Robin on World Bank ranking of women’s status. Awardee guests: Christiane Amanpour on her greatest pride and greatest regret; Maria Teresa Kumar (MSNBC & Voto Latino); Sheila Johnson (producer of “The Butler”); and Carol Jenkins and Pat Mitchell. More »
    That's on the main page.
    Are you that incompetent Gloria, Jane, Robin, et al?
    How stupid are you?  It's May and your main page promotes a radio show of Robin's from October.
    No wonder people think the radio show is no more.  It's May and the main page promotes an October show after Robin shut the program down for a month in August.  You need to promote the show.  You also need to get a substitute host for Robin when she takes her vacation this year so that new episodes can be broadcast because repeats aren't going to cut it. I would suggest Jemu Greene as the substitute host because she can do the job, she's lively and smart, perfect for radio and didn't she prove that on WBAI?
    Go to this WMC subpage and you'll see Robin's show continues -- in fact Jimmy Carter's been one of her guests this month.
    Women's Media Center?
    Jane and Gloria, you're making Greenstone Media look like a success.
    Get your acts together, it's embarrassing.
    And, yes, pointing out all the above does mean Iraqi women and girls just got a lot more attention than they normally would.  And they need it.  Yesterday, Alice Fordham (All Things Considered, NPR -- link is audio and text) reported the bill is still alive.  Excerpt.

    BABAKHAN: (Through translator) There is regression in terms of women's personal freedom, in terms of women's rights.

    FORDHAM: The law she's talking about was proposed by the justice minister and passed by the cabinet. If voted by parliament into law, it would be voluntary - people can choose to use its rules to set marriage contracts or write wills. But the lawyer says it could be forced on young girls and boys. And, it would only apply to Iraq's Shiite Muslims, not its Sunnis or other minorities

    BABAKHAN: (Through translator) This, of course, nurtures sectarianism and divisions in society.

    FORDHAM: Many analysts say that the law is unlikely to be passed, but that it is a political pitch to shore up support with conservative Shiites. In Iraq's hinterlands, tribal traditions sometimes allow violence against women and early marriage.

    AHLAM AL OBEIDI: (Through translator) We are a society plagued by patriarchal attitudes and outdated tribal laws which are all conducive to violence against women.

    FORDHAM: That's Ahlam al Obeidi, who hosts a radio show about women's rights in Baghdad. She says years of war left Iraq with a surplus of women and lots of poverty. Some people marry off young girls for the dowry.

    OBEIDI: (Through translator) This is not marriage though, but rather, the selling and buying of young women.
    This matters.  As does Nouri's War Crimes.  He is using collective punishment in Falluja (collective punishment is a legally defined War Crime).  Saying that terrorists are in Falluja, Nouri uses this to bomb residential neighborhoods -- again, a War Crime.  National Iraqi News Agency notes that five civilians -- all from the same family -- were injured in  today's bombing of civilian neighborhoods. 

    In other violence today,  National Iraqi News Agency reports 1 person was shot dead in Ghazaliya, 1 police member was shot dead in Shiekh Hamad Village, a Mosul roadside bombing left four people injured (two were police members), another roadside bombing south of Mosul left two people injured, an Abu Ghraib bombing left four people injured, 3 members of a police patrol were shot dead in Tikrit, a Jurfis-Sakhar roadside bombing left four Iraqi soldiers injured, a second Jurfis-Sakhar roadside bombing left 1 Iraqi soldier dead and two more injured,  an Alrifai roadside bombing left 2 Iraqi soldiers dead, a Mosul roadside bombing killed 1 police member and left three more injured, a Hit suicide bomber took his own life and the life of 1 police member with four more left injured, a Baquba attack left 4 police members dead and four more injured, 1 intellignece officer was shot dead in Balad, a Badush roadside bombing left three people injured, a mosque guard in Mehajeran was shot dead, and 1 corpse was discovered dumped in the streets of Abu Ghraib. In her much more complete rundown of today's violence (much more complete than mine) Margaret Griffis ( counts 40 dead and forty-seven injured.

  • Wednesday, May 14, 2014

    The unnaccountable

    Chris Floyd (Empire Burlesque) notes the lies and spin being used to promote war on Russia:

    At every turn in the Western press, Putin is being portrayed as the usual maniacal monster bent on world conquest, pushing his agenda forward with ruthless determination and consummate skill. The Potomac elite never tire of this trope. They pretend it's an echo of Hitler, and seek to draw on the deep wells of trauma and fear still lurking in the global psyche from the unbearable horrors of the Second World War -- but in truth, it is actually the projection of their own obvious agenda. An never-ending series of stock villains are painted with a Hitler moustache and brandished before the people, like some perversion of Christian doctrine of resurrection: He is risen, he is coming again, he is coming for your soul! It is now Putin's turn in this monstrous minstrel show.

    But of course Putin is clearly on the back foot in this crisis. Acts portrayed as aggressive are in fact defensive, even desperate, and come in response to more than 20 years of remorseless military expansion by the West to Russia's borders. Western elites have not been coy about their intentions to keep Russia weak and quiescent, or even to smash it altogether. William Blum quotes an apposite passage from the memoirs of that quintessential imperial courtier, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who ran the Washington war machine for both George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

    [Gates writes:]  “When the Soviet Union was collapsing in late 1991, [Defense Secretary Dick Cheney] wanted to see the dismemberment not only of the Soviet Union and the Russian empire but of Russia itself, so it could never again be a threat to the rest of the world.”
    As Blum goes on to note: "Soon thereafter, NATO began to surround Russia with military bases, missile sites, and NATO members, while yearning for perhaps the most important part needed to complete the circle – Ukraine."

    Yet the Cult of St. Barack fails to hold their precious leader accountable.  If this were happening in 2010, Robert Parry would be frothing at the mouth explaining it was all Hillary's doing!  (Yes, Floyd quotes Parry.  Floyd's a problematic writer.)

    Now the Medea Benjamins try to blame John Kerry -- as though he were president.

    They'll do anything but blame their precious.

    That's not only bad in terms of Ukraine, it's bad in terms of he's never held accountable for anything so he just gets worse and worse.

    If he'd had his wrists slapped a long time ago, he wouldn't be going after journalists, he wouldn't dare.

    But he knows his Cult will excuse his actions, will find someone else to blame and that he can get away with anything.

    That he can get away with murder.

    That is what The Drone War is: murder.

    You can thank every American who enables Barack and refuses to hold him to any standrards, thank them for the continued Drone War, thank them for the killings.

    Also, somebody please pie Medea Benjamin again.  That loser really needs another pie in the face.  Plus, we can all laugh at her whine again about how wrong and mean and unfair it was for her to be pie-d.

    "Iraq snapsot" (The Common Ills):
    Tuesday, May 13, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Massoud Barzani does not want Nouri to have a third term, Barack Obama loves to lecture but does he listen (apparently not when it comes to Falluja -- he doesn't even listen to himself), this year Barack termed Iraq "a failed state," the US has a failed VA, CBS News breaks the latest VA scandal of another facility with alleged fake wait lists, a War Crimes investigation is launched by the ICC,  Chair of the US House Veterans Affairs Committee Jeff Miller calls for the creation of "a bipartisan commission on VA medical care access" and much more.

    Major news breaks in the US today.  Wyatt Andrews (CBS News -- link is text and video) reports the latest on the never-ending VA scandals. Similar to the wait lists at the Phoenix VA -- two sets, the real one and the cover one to make it look like vets are getting timely treatment -- Chicago steps into the spotlight.  Whistle-blower Germaine Clarno has stepped forward.

    Wyatt Andrews:  Germaine Clarno is a VA social worker and employee representative in Chicago.  She alleges there are multiple waiting lists for veterans kept here at the Hines VA Medical Center.  Which divisions of the hospital kept these secret waiting lists

    Germaine Clarno:  Well employees are coming to me from all over the hospital -- from outpatient, inpatient, surgery, radiology.  

    Wyatt Andrews:  Clarno says veterans were put on a secret waiting lists when they called for an appointment but wouldn't formally get an appointment booked in the computer until one came up within the VA's goal of 14 day The purpose of the list, she says, was to hide how often veterans were not being seen on time.  Is it too strong to call this fraud?

    Germaine Clarno: No.

    Wyatt Andrews:  To what purpose 

    Germaine Clarno:  To make the numbers look better for their own recognition and for bonuses

    Wyatt Andrews:  The VA grants bonuses to executives and doctors partly based on wait times.  Whistle-blowers, including Dr. Sam Foote who revealed the scandal in Phoenix where up to 40 veterans may have died, believe that bonuses give an incentive to conceal delays in care. Clarno says it's easier for bosses to claim short wait time and collect the reward than it is to explain the targets cannot be met. And you think, throughout the VA, people were faking these numbers to get bonuses? 

    Germaine Clarno:  Yes.

    Wyatt Andrews:  And never mind how long veterans truly waited for care?

    Germaine Clarno:  Correct.

    And this is when Eric Shinseki needs to go.

    The Secretary of Veterans Affairs needed to resign in the fall of 2009.

    That's when many veterans attempting to attend college were suffering.

    The VA lied.

    They flat out lied in every damn way possible and, in a functioning administration, Shinskei wouldn't have resigned, he would have been fired.

    'We care about veterans, support the blah, blah, we'll do a parade . . .'

    Save all your b.s.

    When you let veterans suffer, when some aren't able to provide their children Christmas because of your screw up that you don't fix month after damn month, stop pretending you give a damn.

    Veterans were waiting for fall tuition checks.  Many didn't get them.

    For those who've forgotten, VA tried to blame colleges and universities.

    They lied.  The outright lied.

    They knew it wasn't the colleges.

    What's even worse, they knew months ahead of time the new program wouldn't work for all veterans.  And they didn't inform veterans and they didn't inform Congress.

    From the October 14, 2009 snapshot, reporting on that day's House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing:

    Erick Shinseki: A plan was written, very quickly put together, uh, very short timelines, I'm looking at the certificates of eligibility uh being processed on 1 May and  enrollments 6 July, checks having to flow through August.  A very compressed timeframe. And in order to do that, we essentially began as I arrived in January, uh, putting together the  plan -- reviewing the plan that was there and trying to validate it. I'll be frank, when I arrived, uh, there were a number of people telling me this was simply not executable. It wasn't going to happen. Three August was going to be here before we could have everything in place. Uh, to the credit of the folks in uh VA, I, uh, I consulted an outside consultant, brought in an independent view, same kind of assessment.  'Unless you do some big things here, this is not possible.'  To the credit of the folks, the good folks in VBA, they took it on and they went at it hard. We hired 530 people to do this and had to train them. We had a manual system that was computer assisted. Not very helpful but that's what they inherited. And we realized in about May that the 530 were probably a little short so we went and hired 230 more people. So in excess of 700 people were trained to use the tools that were coming together even as certificates were being executed.  

    He came and was told of a serious problem and didn't alert Congress.  He hired an outsider to evaluate and was told the plan in place "was simply not executable."  He still didn't inform Congress.  He tried training additional employees but, if you remember, that wasn't the problem.  And maybe if he'd been honest with Congress about what was looming, the issue could be addressed.

    Instead, veterans had to take out loans.  They had to work with landlords on delaying rent.  Even after lying to Congress -- and he lied -- in October that this was going to be wrapped up quick, as late as December, some veterans had to delay Christmas for their kids because they still were waiting for the check that shouldn't have come months ago.

    Shinseki should have been fired.

    There has been one scandal after another including the backlog which has not been fixed, which is a shell game and VSOs are only now starting to grasp this due to complaints from their members.

    It's only going to get worse.

    And Barack Obama doesn't have another term as president of the United States.  This is it.  He's in the second year of his second term.

    Through one scandal after another, he's allowed Shinseki to continue as VA Secretary.

    How does Barack think that will look in the history books?  His infamous paragraph that he's spoken of?

    It's not going to look good at all.  VA and DoD still aren't integrated so that they can produce the one electronic record -- a record which would be created for a service member and, when the service member became a veteran, the record would follow the veteran into the VA.  This would help with claims, this would reduce paperwork, you name it.

    While Shinseki's been VA Secretary for Barack's full first term and now into his second, the Secretary of Defense was Robert Gates, then it was Leon Panetta, then it was Chuck Hagel (who remains in the position today).  Shinseki wasted Gates' time with a plan for the electronic record.  He never implemented it.  Then Shinseki wanted to start at square one when Panetta came in.  He'd probably still be delaying if he hadn't pissed off Hagel by lying to Congress and insisting the delay was Hagel's fault.

    Hagel hit the roof (and had every reason to) and went to the White House.  That's the only reason there's been any movement (finally) on this issue.

    May 5th, the American Legion called for the resignations of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, VA's Dr. Robert Petzel and the VA's Allison Hickey.

    In front of local media and a live Internet audience, American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger today called for the resignations of Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, Under Secretary of Health Robert Petzel and Under Secretary of Benefits Allison Hickey.
    Dellinger cited poor oversight and failed leadership as the reason for calling for the resignations – something The American Legion hasn’t done regarding a public official in more than 30 years.
    “Gen. Eric Shinseki has served his country well,” Dellinger said. “His patriotism and sacrifice for this nation are above reproach. However, his record as the head of the Department of Veterans Affairs tells a different story. The existing leadership has exhibited a pattern of bureaucratic incompetence and failed leadership that has been amplified in recent weeks.”
    Dellinger pointed to allegations from multiple whistleblowers of a secret waiting list at the Phoenix VA Health Care System that may have resulted in the death of approximately 40 veterans, that VA previously had acknowledged that 23 veterans throughout the health-care system have died as a result of delayed care in recent years, and a the findings of an investigation by VA’s Office of Medical Inspector that clerks at the VA clinic in Fort Collins, Colo., were instructed last year how to falsify appointment records so it appeared the small staff of doctors was seeing patients within the agency's goal of 14 days, according to the investigation.
    “These disturbing reports are part of what appear to be a pattern of scandals that has infected the entire system,” said Dellinger, noting issues that have come up in Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Augusta, Ga. “Those problems need addressed at the highest level – starting with new leadership. The existing leadership has exhibited a pattern of bureaucratic incompetence and failed leadership that has been amplified in recent weeks.”
    Dellinger said that the failure to disclose safety information or to cover up mistakes is unforgivable – as is fostering a culture of nondisclosure. “VA leadership has demonstrated its incompetence through preventable deaths of veterans, long wait times for medical care, a benefits claims backlog numbering in excess of 596,000, and the awarding of bonuses to senior executives who have overseen such operations,” he said. “Some veterans have waited years to have their claims decided. That same leadership has failed to provide answers to why these issues continue to occur.”
    Dellinger said that while errors and lapses can occur in any system, “The American Legion expects when such errors and lapses are discovered, that they are dealt with swiftly and that the responsible parties are held accountable. This has not happened at the Department of Veterans Affairs. There needs to be a change, and that change needs to occur at the top. “
    When asked by media what the Legion would do if the trio didn’t resign, Dellinger said a draft of the request was being sent to the White House. “This is a very serious situation,” he said. “The administration needs to take steps now. It’s long overdue. Whenever you’re talking about a patient’s life – a veteran’s life – in jeopardy, it’s always serious.”

    Dellinger also wrote an op-ed piece calling for the resignations. Read it here

    It needs to happen.

    The latest scandal?

    If true, there's nothing that ties it to Eric Shinseki . . .

    except lack of leadership.

    One scandal after another indicates he's not leading and he's certainly not demanding accountability.

    If the worst that can be said is that Shinseki may have encouraged fudging of the numbers, the best that can be said is he's incompetent, unable to properly review those employees under him and completely unaware of what's taking place in the department he heads.

    US House Rep Jeff Miller is the Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.  His office issued the following:

    May 13, 2014
    WASHINGTON, D.C. --  Today, Chairman Jeff Miller wrote President Obama to request that he establish a bipartisan commission on VA medical care access. Afterwards, he released the following statement:
    “Judging by the throngs of veterans, families and whistleblowers who keep courageously stepping forward, VA’s delays in care problem is growing in size and scope by the day. That’s why I am asking for President Obama’s personal involvement in helping fix this crisis. For nearly a year, we have been pleading with top Department of Veterans Affairs leaders and the president to take immediate steps to stop the growing pattern of preventable veteran deaths and hold accountable any and all VA employees who have allowed patients to slip through the cracks. In response, we’ve received disturbing silence from the White House and one excuse after another from VA. Right now, President Obama is faced with a stark choice: take immediate action to help us end the culture of complacency that is engulfing the Veterans Health Administration and compromising patient safety, or explain to the American people and America’s veterans why we should tolerate the status quo.”  – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
    Chairman Miller letter to President Obama
    May 13, 2014
    Chairman Miller letter to President Obama
    May 21, 2013

    The scandal plagued VA is not a star on Barack's record and Shinseki's excuses/failures/both are now apparently costing lives.  It's past time this issue was addressed.

    In other news, Matt Maupin  was captured April 9, 2004 in Iraq. In a briefs roundup, March 30th, 2008,  the Washington Post noted:

    The father of a soldier listed as missing-captured in Iraq since 2004 says the military has informed him that his son's remains were found in Iraq.
    Keith Maupin said that an Army general told him Sunday that DNA was used to identify the remains of his son, Sgt. Keith Matthew Maupin, who went by "Matt."
    Matt Maupin was a 20-year-old private first class when he was captured April 9, 2004, after his fuel convoy was ambushed west of Baghdad. Arabic television network al-Jazeera aired a videotape a week later showing Maupin sitting on the floor surrounded by five masked men holding automatic rifles.

    Friday, Amanda Lee Myers (AP) reported that a trial date has been set in Iraq for next Tuesday for an Iraqi whom Lt Col Alayne Conway states has "confessed to killing Maupin."  An unnamed Iraqi judge states the confession took place in 2009 and led to a conviction and sentence of death; however, the conviction's set aside or reversed as a result of some paperwork issue resulting in the need for a new trial.  Central Illinois' 31 News (link is video and text) reported Matt's father Keith Maupin "is traveling to the Pentagon on Monday to learn more about the confession." Jessica Jerreat (Daily Mail) adds this will involve Keith Maupin speaking "to the [Iraqi] judge through a translator."  Monday, Karin Johnson (WLWT -- link is video and text) spoke with Keith Maupin at the airport before he left for DC. I'm not going up there for revenge.  I'm going up there for accountability and just justice, I guess."

    Brad Evans (WLWT) speaks with Keith Maupin today and Maupin tells him, "Well I think maybe it might be just a shade a little bit closer (for closure) because what I always thought was that I got justice or I got resolve having them bring Matt home.  I really thought it would all go away after that but it didn't, so this comes up and it will I think when this guy is finally, whatever happens to him, I think it will. [. . .] They got the guy that actually pulled the trigger. That’s important to me."

    The lies that led to the Iraq War are important to many.  In England, the Iraq Inquiry was held and was long ago supposed to have published its results.  That has still not taken place.  James Chapman (Daily Mail) reports:

    Tony Blair was blamed yesterday for a delay in publishing an official report into the Iraq War.
    Norman Baker, a Home Office minister, accused the former premier of trying to block the release of secret communications between him and George W Bush.
    He has told Sir John Chilcot, who is heading the inquiry, of his deep concern at the length of time it is taking.
    A letter from the former Whitehall mandarin – seen by the Daily Mail – shows that publication of notes sent by Mr Blair to former US president Bush, and records of their conversations, is an issue.

    Let's stay with England for a moment.  Ian Cobain (Guardian) reports:

    Allegations that British troops were responsible for a series of war crimes following the invasion of Iraq are to be examined by the international criminal court (ICC) at the Hague, officials have announced.
    The court is to conduct a preliminary examination of around 60 alleged cases of unlawful killing and claims that more than 170 Iraqis were mistreated while in British military custody.

    Gavin Cordon (Scotsman) observes, "The inquiry will be the first time the UK has been the subject of an ICC investigation."  BBC News' Jonathan Beale offers:

    There'll be a mixture of emotions in government to today's news.
    There'll be anger, frustration as well as a sense of embarrassment.
    When Britain signed up to the International Criminal Court it would not have envisaged itself being the subject of any investigation - albeit the earliest "preliminary examination" stage.

    Britain joins the likes of Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Guinea and Georgia. 

    KUNA reports the International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda held a press conference today explaining "that she cannot go after American forces who allegedly committed war crimes in Iraq during the same period, because the US is not party to the Rome Statue."  Press TV explains, "In January, her [Bensouda's] office received documents from the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) together with the Birmingham-based Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), alleging British involvement in torture. The documents were based on interviews with over 400 Iraqi prisoners."  Jill Reilly and Ian Drury (Daily Mail) expand on that:

    It took the first step towards a formal investigation after studying more than 400 allegations of beating, sexual assault, mock executions and electric shocks of Iraqi captives.

    The claims are made in a 250-page dossier compiled by Phil Shiner’s Public Interest Lawyers.
    It raises the prospect of soldiers, commanders and politicians, including four former Labour defence secretaries – Geoff Hoon, John Reid, Des Browne and John Hutton – who are named in the file being put on trial for war crimes.

    Chris Ship (ITV News) files a video report which includes Phil Shiner declaring,  "Many of these cases are deaths in custody so they couldn't be more serious.  People taken into British military facilities very much alive coming out a few hours or days later very much dead in body bags."
    The International Criminal Court issued the following statement: 

    Today, 13 May 2014, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (“ICC”), Mrs Fatou Bensouda, announced that she has decided to re-open the preliminary examination of the situation in Iraq, previously concluded in 2006, following submission of further information to the Office of the Prosecutor in January 2014 in accordance with article 15 of the Rome Statute. The new information received by the Office alleges the responsibility of officials of the United Kingdom for war crimes involving systematic detainee abuse in Iraq from 2003 until 2008.  Iraq is a not a State Party to the Rome Statute, however, the ICC has jurisdiction over alleged crimes committed on the territory of Iraq by nationals of States Parties. The re-opened preliminary examination will analyse, in particular, alleged crimes attributed to the armed forces of the United Kingdom deployed in Iraq between 2003 and 2008.
    During the preliminary examination, the Prosecutor shall consider issues of jurisdiction, admissibility and the interests of justice, in order to decide whether or not the criteria to open an investigation under article 53(1) of the Rome Statute have been met.  No decision on the opening of an investigation will be taken until a thorough analysis of all the relevant information is completed by the Office.
    On 9 February 2006, Mr Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the then Prosecutor of the ICC announcedhis decision not to seek authorisation to initiate an investigation of the situation in Iraq because based on the information available to the Prosecutor at the time, the required gravity threshold of the Rome Statute was not met. In that decision, the Prosecutor indicated that this conclusion could be reconsidered in the light of new facts or evidence, in accordance with article 15(6) of the Rome Statute.
    On 10 January 2014, the Office of the Prosecutor received a new communication from the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (“ECCHR”) together with the Public Interest Lawyers (“PIL”), alleging the responsibility of officials of the United Kingdom for war crimes involving systematic detainee abuse in Iraq from 2003 until 2008. The United Kingdom deposited its instrument of ratification of the Rome Statute on 4 October 2001. The ICC has therefore jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed on the territory of the United Kingdom, or by UK nationals as of 1 July 2002, representing the date of the entry into force of the Rome Statute.
    Based on an initial assessment of the information received, the 10 January 2014 communication provides further information that was not available to the Office in 2006. In particular, the communication alleges a higher number of cases of ill-treatment of detainees and provides further details on the factual circumstances and the geographical and temporal scope of the alleged crimes. The Prosecutor will therefore conduct a preliminary examination in order to analyse the seriousness of the information received, in accordance with the requirements of article 15(2) of the Rome Statute, and ultimately determine whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation.

    Mike Corder (AP) adds, "War crimes cases at the ICC are not considered admissible at the Hague-based court if a country can prove it is prosecuting them itself."

    It would be great if the issue of War Crimes could aim a little bit higher than boots on the grounds and zoom in on the master criminals who plan and carry out illegal wars. Public Interest Lawyers agrees and issued the following statement today:

    There are considerable reasons to allege that those who bear the greatest responsibility for the crimes are situated at the highest levels, including all the way up the chain of command of the UK Army, and implicating former secretaries of state for defence and ministers for the armed forces personnel.

    Jonathan Owen (Independent) notes, "Some of Britain’s most senior military and political figures came a step closer to facing a war crimes inquiry today, as the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced it would make a “preliminary examination” into claims of “systemic” abuse by British forces in Iraq."

    Nouri's War Crimes continue.  Maybe he'll be next at the Hague?  As he continues the shelling of residential neighborhoods in Falluja, NINA reports 1 civilian was killed by this and five more injured.

    As this slaughter continues daily, it's worth noting this from David Reminick's  New Yorker profile of Barack last January: regarding the issues of Falluja and 'terrorists':

    “The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” Obama said, resorting to an uncharacteristically flip analogy. “I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian.
    “Let’s just keep in mind, Falluja is a profoundly conservative Sunni city in a country that, independent of anything we do, is deeply divided along sectarian lines. And how we think about terrorism has to be defined and specific enough that it doesn’t lead us to think that any horrible actions that take place around the world that are motivated in part by an extremist Islamic ideology are a direct threat to us or something that we have to wade into.”

    He went on, “You have a schism between Sunni and Shia throughout the region that is profound. Some of it is directed or abetted by states who are in contests for power there. You have failed states that are just dysfunctional, and various warlords and thugs and criminals are trying to gain leverage or a foothold so that they can control resources, populations, territory. . . . And failed states, conflict, refugees, displacement—all that stuff has an impact on our long-term security. But how we approach those problems and the resources that we direct toward those problems is not going to be exactly the same as how we think about a transnational network of operatives who want to blow up the World Trade Center. We have to be able to distinguish between these problems analytically, so that we’re not using a pliers where we need a hammer, or we’re not using a battalion when what we should be doing is partnering with the local government to train their police force more effectively, improve their intelligence capacities.”

    So why did the US government choose sides on Falluja and why is the White House arming Nouri?

    Follow up: Does Nouri know Barack's called Iraq a failed state?

    And why has no one pointed that out?

    Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 376 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month.

    Along with Nouri's killing of civilians, National Iraqi News Agency reports an Albo-Nimir battle left 4 Sahwa dead and four more injured, a Mosul roadside bombing left 1 Iraqi military officer dead, 1 person was shot dead in Doura, Joint Operations Command announced they killed 5 suspects in Falluja, 1 man was shot dead in an attack on a Mosul barbershop, an al-Yarmouk roadside bombing left two people injured, an al-Ghufran roadside bombing left four college students injured, an attack on a Mosul elementary school left 1 student dead, a Balad car bombing left 11 people dead and sixteen injured, 1 man was shot dead in Latifiya, a southern Baghdad shooting left one attorney injured, and 1 corpse was discovered dumped in Baghdad ("handcuffed and blindfolded").  In addition, AP reports 28 people were killed in a wave of Baghdad car bombings this evening.

    Wednesday, April 30th, Iraqis voted in parliamentary elections. Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission has named May 25th as the date the tally of the votes will be released. All Iraq News notes that the Independent High Electoral Commission stated today they are investigating complaints about the election process.

    Ned Parker and Isabel Coles (Reuters) report, "The president of Iraqi Kurdistan, Masoud Barzani, said Iraq had been led in an authoritarian direction by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and threatened to end the oil-rich autonomous region's participation in the federal government."  National Iraqi News Agency notes Barzani met with the US State Dept's Brett McGurk today to discuss "the political situation and the general election and the formation of the next Iraqi government."   Rudaw speaks with Kurd Muhsin Abd al-Hamid about the elections.  al-Hamid was "head of the Iraqi Governing Council after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003."  Exceprt. 

    Rudaw: How do you see the situation in Iraq after the elections? Will a coalition be easily formed this time if they choose Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister?

    Muhsin Abd al-Hamid: The situation in Iraq is an incentive to make some changes after the elections and creating new alliances, because many of the political groups have realized that the old sectarian alliances have pushed Iraq backward. The old alliances have harmed Iraq a great deal by disintegrating the social fabric, causing bloody crimes, causing failure of economic projects and spreading sectarianism. Now is the chance for Maliki and the other groups to form a broad-based national alliance. This will include the entire political process and the constitution as its source.

    Rudaw: Is the Kurdish and Sunni concern about a third term for Maliki justified?

    Muhsin Abd al-Hamid: The Kurds have been through many issues with Baghdad. They are worried about a third term for Maliki as the Iraqi PM because they do not believe that the issues can be solved with Maliki. Therefore, they insist on their positions.

    Saad Jawad (The Conversation) offers his take on the election here.  All Iraq News notes Ammar al-Hakim, head of the Islamic Supreme Council in Iraq -- and the new Citizen Coaliton -- declared that the Citizen Coalition is the best way to end the ongoing crises and to be a path to change.

    Moving over to the US State Dept.  Today's press briefing was handled by spokesperson Jen Psaki.  We'll note this on the issue of the subpoena of Secretary of State John Kerry:

    QUESTION: All right. And then I have one more housekeeping issue before people can go to Ukraine or Syria or whatever.

    MS. PSAKI: Okay.

    QUESTION: And that is: Yesterday, there seemed to be some conflicting statements coming from the Hill and then from you about the subpoena issue. Has this been resolved in a way that is agreeable to both sides? Because the committee spokesman seemed to say that you guys had said, “Well, let’s just reschedule Secretary Kerry for after he returns from Mexico,” but then your statement suggested that Secretary Kerry might not be the most appropriate witness at all.

    MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

    QUESTION: So can you enlighten us as to where you are on this?

    MS. PSAKI: Well, as both of our statements noted, we’ve been in close touch with the Hill. We’ve noted several times from here that Secretary Kerry was previously scheduled to be in Mexico on the day he was subpoenaed to testify, and we have not yet made arrangements for a hearing date. Obviously, satisfying the request and the needs of the committee is an utmost priority for us and has been for months, but no, there hasn’t been a resolution at this time.

    QUESTION: Okay. Well, so when you said that there – you’re – you want to work with the committee, but the committee seems to be – at least this committee in this instance seems to be focused on document production issues.

    MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

    QUESTION: You suggested yesterday in the statement that the Secretary’s time would – he’s spending most of his time conducting important foreign policy business, and that perhaps – or not perhaps, but there might be – there would be a more appropriate witness. Is that still your position? And if there would be a more appropriate witness on document production issues, who might that be?

    MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have any specifics on that. Obviously, that’s part of our discussions we’ll continue to have with the committee. And there’s been some issues around which committee has oversight over these types of issues, so we simply want to be responsive to the committee, but the person who testifies and what information we provide, of course, will be dependent on a range of factors on their end.

    QUESTION: So my – okay. So my last one on this: So you will provide someone, a witness of some – an appropriate – what you would consider an appropriate witness to the committee to answer their questions? Is that in response to their --

    MS. PSAKI: Certainly, we’re open to doing that. We haven’t made a determination yet in terms of how this will be resolved.

    That is a how a spokesperson responds.  Not with nonsense about 'rules' that have nothing to do with the Constitution or any law in the United States, not by citing what a Republican did a million years ago, not by being a smart ass, not by being rude.  Last week, Marie Harf was clowning at the podium and it was unworthy behavior for a State Dept spokesperson.  We called her out.  Whether you agree with Psaki's comments or not, that is how a government spokesperson should speak.  She's not ridiculing anyone, she's not taking partisan swipes.  Jen Psaki's comments went to the dignity her position and her department is supposed to demonstrate.

    Lastly, we'll note Alice Fordham's NPR report in tomorrow's snapshot.