Friday, May 30, 2014

Diana Ross' Swept Away

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

Brad Paisley: American Saturday Night (Arista, 2009)
Michael Henderson: In the Night-Time (Superbird, 2010)
Jessi Colter: Diamond in the Rough (Capitol, 1976)
Lee Ballinger co-edits Rock and Rap Confidential and writes about music and politics for CounterPunch magazine. Check out RRC’s latest video: Dreamscape.

I found Lee Ballinger's choices interesting.

"This edition's playlist" (The Common Ills):

22)      Dashboard Confessional's The Places You Have Come To Fear The Most.
33)     Diana Ross' Swept Away.
44)      Donovan's A Gift From A Flower To A Garden.
77)      Love's Forever Changes.
88)      Prince's Parade.
99)      Aretha Franklin's A Rose Is Still A Rose.

There is nothing on that list that I don't love.

Aretha's A Rose Is Still A Rose?  It was proof positive that Aretha could still pull an entire album together.  There was a big gap between this and Who's Zoomin' Who and I had really wondered if she had another strong album in her.  Then she proved it with this.

Parade?  Prince was basically assaulted for this album (and the movie it was the soundtrack to -- Under The Cherry Moon).  I loved this album.  "Kiss" was the hit from it but it is so not typical of the album.  "You need another lover like you need a hole in your head."  "Sometimes it snows in April . . ."  I really think this was one of his classic albums.

The Rolling Stones surprised with an excellent studio album.

Forever Changes is a classic.

Cass?  It's a collection of her first solo work after leaving the Mamas and the Papas (it doesn't cover her last albums which were for RCA).  Cass was a one of kind singer, one of the greatest.  "Dream A Little Dream" is here, her solo recording.  This is not the version that was a hit.  The hit was from the Mamas and the Papas' The Papas and the Mamas album.

The solo recording here came from Cass' first solo album.  It has thunder and other sound effects.  You do get hits she recorded like "California Earthquake," "Make Your Own Kind Of Music," etc.  You also get her recording of Joni Mitchell's "Sistobell Lane" and Laura Nyro's "He's A Runner."  This is a double disc set and probably no longer available new -- it was a limited edition.  But if you can get a copy of it, you should.  I really love this album.

I could write about all of them like this but I'll instead focus on Diana Ross' Swept Away.  I like some of the albums Diana did after she returned to Motown.  I think there are at least two classics there: Every Day Is A New Day and The Force Behind The Power.

But for a long time, this was Diana's best album and last classic.

The hits were "Swept Away," "Missing You," "All of You" (duet with Julio Iglesias) and "Telephone."

A lot of people worked on this album.  Bernard Edwards (of Chic, whom Diana worked with on her diana album) produced "Telephone."  Daryl Hall (Hall & Oates) wrote the title track (with Sara Allen) and produced it.  Diana wrote the spoken intro to the song.  Lionel Richie wrote "Missing You," etc.

Along with those solid tracks, Diana did a great cover of Fontella Bass' "Rescue Me."  She covered Bob Dylan's "Forever Young" (and did a great job with it).  I was always fond of "It's Your Move" and Diana's great on the Robbie Benson & Karla DeVito song "Nobody Makes Me Crazy Like You Do."

It really was a great album.  If RCA had been a better label it would have been huge.  As it was, the album went gold in its chart run and was almost at a million in US sales when RCA deleted the album.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, May 30, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri bombs Falluja General Hospital again, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigns, a culture of secrecy exists at VA that goes beyond secret waiting lists, and much more.

Starting in the United States with the news that Eric Shinseki has resigned from his post as Secretary of the VA.  Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee, serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and is the former Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Her office issued the following statement today:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                 CONTACT: Murray Press Office (202) 224-2834
Friday, May 30th, 2014                                                          
Murray Statement on the Resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki
(Washington, D.C.)  Today, Friday, May 30th, 2014, Senator Patty Murray made the following statement on the resignation of Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki.
“There are serious problems at the VA that won’t be solved simply by replacing the Secretary, but I am hopeful that this leadership change will spark structural, cultural, and personnel changes, from the top of the organization to the bottom, to make sure our veterans are getting the care and support they expect and deserve.
“I will be working closely with President Obama and his Administration as they look for a new Secretary who will provide strong leadership for the Department and who will work with me and others to make much-needed changes and improvements at the VA. This transition is also a time for every employee at the VA to step up and do everything they can to help veterans and work toward a culture of transparency as changes are being implemented. And as these changes are being made, I will work with my colleagues in Congress to make sure these improvements are being supported.
“I stand with veterans and families in Washington state and across the country in thanking Secretary Shinseki for his years of work for veterans and for his lifetime of service to the United States of America.
Kathryn Robertson
Deputy Press Secretary 
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
154 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington D.C. 20510


Anna Mulrine (Christian Science Monitor) notes the periodical's own poll (which is still taking place) had shown the American people wanted Shinseki removed from his post and that the call from elected officials had been increasing as well:

Calls throughout the week had increased for the VA chief to step down. Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona – who once lauded Shinseki’s willingness to speak truth to power – joined that chorus “with some reluctance,” adding that if Shinseki did not step down voluntarily, the president should “fire him.”
Along with the Republican chairmen of the House Armed Services and Intelligence committees, Democrats had also begun to call for Shinseki to step down. Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, up for reelection this year, pointed to a “systemic problem that this leadership has not been addressing.” Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D) of Illinois, who lost both legs in the Iraq war and who served as a VA official, said Friday it was time for her former boss to resign.

Mulrine, like others, then goes on to miss the point when quoting various 'experts.'  She's not the only one missing the point.  Congress is far from perfect.  But Congress isn't responsible for this.

They're supposed to provide oversight, yes.  Maybe the press could have helped there.  I'm not referring to breaking scandals and certainly CNN and Drew Griffin and Anderson Cooper and others did their part and then some on that.  But I'm talking about the silence that allows nonsense about Congress to be said.

Right now, Bernie Sanders is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and Jeff Miller is the Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.  But I can remember Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Patty Murray having to demand the truth repeatedly in hearings, I can remember House Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Bob Filner calling VA's Allison Hickey out for her efforts to lie to the Committee.  I can, for example, remember all the times Chair Patty Murray had to demand the VA supply her with the facts regarding what was happening at Madigan Army Medical Center.  (What was happening?  Among other things vets with PTS were not being classified as such in what was clearly a 'cost-saving' measure by the government.)

I realize that outside of the Associated Press, few major outlets bother to show up the Congressional Veterans Affairs Committees hearings.  I grasp that.  And the cost cutting excuses for that.  But are you so stupid you don't notice a rare night hearing?  One took place Wednesday night, the House Veterans Affairs Committee called VA officials before it.

Why?  What was that hearing about?

It was about Congressional requests that are not being honored.  Congress is supposed to provide oversight.  But since 2009, the VA has stonewalled Congress and outright ignored requests for information.

You can blame the White House for that since it's over the VA.  I don't know that I would or wouldn't.  But it is a problem and everyone should be aware of it now and the White House should order the VA to start complying with all Congressional requests as, in fact, they're legally supposed to.

I'm not seeing where you blame Congress and say they weren't doing their job when they're requests for information are not honored even when they're made via subpoena.

Eric Shinseki took over the VA in January 2009.  When he did, he was immediately informed that one of the signature pieces of legislation, the Post-9/11 GI Bill, was in trouble.  While it was due to be implemented in the fall of 2009, Shinseki was told in January of 2009, the VA couldn't handle it, checks were not going to be going out.  That's when you inform Congress there's a problem.  He didn't.  He hired an outside contractor to examine the system and the results were the same: When the program was rolled out in the fall, many veterans would suffer because the system was inadequate.

Did Shinseki inform Congress then?


He stayed silent.  And nothing was said as fall rolled around.  Then a few problems emerged, a few veterans weren't getting their checks.  These semester checks would cover tuition, rents, etc.  And a few were having problems.  The VA immediately blamed the veterans and the educational institutions.  Their mouthpiece on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Corinne Brown, announced she'd been watching MSNBC at three in the morning and it was time for these institutions to get their act together.

It wasn't the colleges.

And as a few turned to many, finally in October, Eric Shinseki revealed that he'd always known there was a problem.  He revealed that October 14, 2009 when he appeared before the House Veterans Affairs Committee. The press didn't care to report that revelation.  Even those who were present ignored it.  For months after that, veterans continued to suffer.  Some families had to postpone Christmas because all the money was being used to cover bills as a result of their still waiting on checks they should have received in August and September.

This was outrageous.

Some of the liars in the press today wanted you to know about the antiquated computers at VA.


Thanks for that 2006 flashback.

Shinseki, at the start of his tenure as VA Secretary, was tasked with determining whether or not his computer system would change -- one had to.  DoD and VA were supposed to offer a seamless transition for those going from service member to veteran.  How?  They'd do it with electronic records.  But the two systems couldn't communicate -- this was all determined before Barack Obama was sworn in for his first term as President of the United States.  So one of the two would have to change.

Shinseki chose not to.  He also sat on this issue that Congress poured billions of dollars into.  He's been Secretary of the VA since 2009.  This was supposed to have been handled immediately.  Robert Gates told him to do what he wanted and the Pentagon would adapt.  Then Leon Panetta became Secretary of Defense.  He told Shinseki that whatever Gates had already approved was fine.  And still nothing.  Then Chuck Hagel becomes Secretary of Defense.

Something finally happens.

Hagel's not shedding any tears today over Shinseki's departure. Not after Shinseki tried to blame him to Congress.

April 11, 2013, Shinseki appeared before the House Veterans Affairs Committee which was irritated by the budget request coming to them late and not coming to them in full because, as they pointed out, what the administration submitted did not include all the costs -- even if you set aside issues of discretionary spending, the VA 'budget' request was a joke.  Ranking Member Mike Michaud noted the money that was being poured into the VA -- others did as well but he's the one who asked for a status on the electronic health record.  And this is where Shinseki chose to lie.  There was no progress, he admitted, but that was because Chuck Hagel hadn't added any input.

What the hell was that?  It's so high school cafeteria.  Did he think it wouldn't get back to Hagel that the House Veterans Affairs Committee was vocal about the fact that there was no progress on this issue despite the funds provided for it in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and now 2013?

It had nothing to do with Chuck Hagel.  Good for Hagel he wasn't going to stay under the bus.  He complained to Barack who had a sit-down with Hagel and Shinseki to ensure that a decision was made and there was no 'confusion' about the status.

If you're not getting what a little bitch move Shinseki pulled before Congress, grasp that Hagel was confirmed as Secretary of Defense on February 26, 2013.  Not two months later, Shisenski was blaming a multi-year delay to starting the program on Hagel.

You think this delay doesn't matter?  Iraq War veteran Travis Fugate testified at the Wednesday morning hearing. From his opening statement:

 In 2006, I went for a follow-up visit with an ENT doctor at the Lexington VA Medical Center. The nurse brought him a big stack of my paper military medical files, and he told her, “There’s absolutely nothing relevant that I need in there.” He told me the anatomy of my sinuses was so disfigured, he didn’t know what in my face tissue was natural and what was artificially implanted. He said he wouldn’t feel comfortable doing any further procedures, I trusted that decision because my experience was that the medics and Army doctors are all professionals, and I was used to putting my faith in them.
          For two years, things were OK. I went back to community college, and I started being active with many different disabled sporting events and programs where I had chance to meet other injured OIF veterans, and attended the Blinded Veterans Association national convention in August 2007 and returned to other BVA OIF peer group meetings since.
          Then in November 2008, three weeks before finals, I had to call my dad at 10 p.m. to tell him I thought I had one of those headaches that the doctors at Walter Reed warned me about. They said the damaged sinus and orbit area around my left eye could lead to a severe infection in area around my sighted eye. He took me to the ER, and I was in the hospital for 10 days with a serious infection. The upper left hemisphere of my face was so swollen that my eyelids swelled together, that was the last time I had any sight.
          In December I had been told that when sinus infections cleared maybe some vision would return like before. I strongly believe today the lack of having my eye surgery records in an electronic joint registry where both VA and DOD medical staff can find out immediately what treatments and surgery was done could have made a difference.

          In January, I returned to Walter Reed, where the doctors would have better access to all my surgery trauma records. I saw a retina specialist, and within five minutes, he’d scheduled a five-hour surgery the following day for detached retina and bleeding in left eye. Then, I have had more surgeries, the last one March 6th 2009 where they again tried to save my damaged retina because of another detachment but it failed and have no eye sight since then.

He strongly believes "the lack of having my eye surgery records in an electronic joint registry where both VA and DoD medical staff and find out immediately what treatments and surgery was done could have made a difference."  2008?  That's before the transition was supposed to take place.  If everyone gotten on it sooner, his vision probably could have been saved.  It's very sad that everyone didn't and that he lost his vision.  But this could be any number of veterans with the same issue or others.  That's why the electronic medical record is needed.  And the system's still not up and running.  How many more have to suffer?  The failure to implement this system falls on Shinseki.

In "Another VA scandal brought to you by Shinseki," Kat reports on the Thursday morning House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing:

What was being discussed?
The Eye Injury and Vision Registry of for DoD and the VA.  DoD has added 23,663 names to the list.  The VA?
One name.
Let me repeat that, one name.
1 name.
As VA admitted in the hearing, they had taken in $6.9 million in funding for this program.  Excuse me, that money was supposed to be the budget for 2010 all the way through this year.
And they've had the money and they've done nothing.
But they are looking to hire an independent contractor.
That's supposed to be good news.
Benishek's comments were about the five years VA's had money for this and failed to do anything but add one name to the list.

Do you really think the only failure at VA currently is the issue of secret lists?

If you're a gasbag or a reporter who never does any work, you may think so.  Those of us who've done the work, who've attended these hearings know the wait list is only one of many failures at the VA.  We also grasp that the VA has operated under a culture of secrecy.  They tell Congress there's progress, Congress requests proof of that, proof is not supplied and, if the veterans community is lucky, a press expose reveals the VA is lying.  Without that expose, the Congress is repeatedly stonewalled by Congress.

With the exception of field hearings, I believe I've only missed three Congressional VA hearings since 2006. I'm really not in the mood for lies and I'm especially not in the mood for lies from people who didn't bother to ever attend even one hearing in the last eight years.

On the Thursday morning hearing, Ruth reported on it in "Blind veteran describes computer issues" and I covered it in yesterday's snapshot and it's noted at the end of "VA did not make providing quality care a primary goal" and "A few comments on Senator Richard Burr."  We were going to cover it today. Hopefully, we'll have room and time.  But Shinseki's resignation and the press spin means we have to go the second hearing yesterday, yesterday afternoon's hearing of the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Disability and Memorial Affairs.

First, let's note the statement Chair Jeff Miller issued today:

May 30, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Following the announcement of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation, Chairman Jeff Miller released the following statement.

"Everybody knows Eric Shinseki is an honorable man whose dedication to our country is beyond reproach. I thank him for his legacy of service to our nation. Unfortunately, Shinseki's tenure at the Department of Veterans Affairs will forever be tainted by a pervasive lack of accountability among poorly performing VA employees and managers, apparent widespread corruption among medical center officials and an unparalleled lack of transparency with Congress, the public and the press. Appropriately, Shinseki is taking the brunt of the blame for these problems, but he is not the only one within VA who bears responsibility. Nearly every member of Shinseki's inner circle failed him in a major way. Those who surrounded Shinseki shielded him from crucial facts and hid bad news reports, in the process convincing him that some of the department’s most serious, well documented and systemic issues were merely isolated incidents to be ignored. Eric Shinseki trusted the VA bureaucracy, and the VA bureaucracy let him down.”

“Right now, VA needs a leader who will take swift and decisive action to discipline employees responsible for mismanagement, negligence and corruption that harms veterans while taking bold steps to replace the department’s culture of complacency with a climate of accountability. VA’s problems are deadly serious, and whomever the next secretary may be, they will receive no grace period from America’s veterans, American taxpayers and Congress.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

I think that's a fair assessment.  I don't think many -- if any -- believe Shinseki set out to deceive or that he was trying to damage veterans.  He fought some members of Congress (Senator Jim Webb) to get those suffering from Agent Orange the help they need.  That's a major accomplishment and no one can take that away from Shinseki.  We gave him credit for that.  When there were some veterans groups attacking him because a veteran got arrested and would be prosecuted by a relative of Shinseki, we stated here that Eric Shinseki is responsible for his role as Secretary of the VA and he is not responsible for family members carrying out actions in other jobs and positions.

Shinseki couldn't provide oversight.  He was said to be to easy to please.  He didn't dig for answers.  The next person who heads the VA has to be determined and needs a new staff who will repeatedly probe various programs and various medical centers to ensure that problems within the VA are known at the top.

Now for yesterday afternoon's hearing.  We're going to the second panel and to Assistant Inspector General for Audits and Evaluations Linda Halliday.

Disability claims.  How's that going?  Shinseki had said it would be down to 125 days by 2015 -- Fiscal Year 2015 which means October of this year.  Mere months away.  And the number of days currently to process these disability claims?  249.

But, somehow, by magic?, in five months, that 249 is supposed to drop to 125.

This is part of the VA problem and where's the press on it?

With Quick Start claims-processing, Halliday explained, VBA had managed, over the last two years to drop down to 249 days -- from 291.  But in five months, they're going to magically halve the current 249 and have 125?

That's going to be some feat to pull off.  (No, they're not going to meet the deadline.)

If you paid attention to her testimony, you saw how it might happen.  VBA wanted to shave off 41 days -- just not count them -- and claim they didn't count.  That's the sort of nonsense that goes to a lack of accountability.  VA gets the numbers they want by lying about the numbers.  That needs to stop immediately.  You can't shave off 41 days, pretend they never took place, just because it will give you better numbers.  Honesty is a core value that needs to be stressed, taught and reinforced at the VA.

Quick Star has not improved the number of days for these claims -- despite having "quick" in the title -- but maybe it's done something with accuracy?


In 2011, the accuracy rate was 62%.  Last year, they raised that to 69% which might seem good except the October 1st deadline, when Fiscal Year 2015 kicks off?  Shinseki had pledged Quick Start would have reached 98% accuracy by that point.  So in five months, watch for it, the accuracy rate is supposed to jump from 69% to 98% on Quick Start's disability claims.

Quick aside, the VA's shell game with the backlog.  We called that out when it was presented in a hearing as the big new plan that was going to save every veteran.  Briefly, slap a ruling on a claim and then the claim isn't in the backlog!  No, but it may be in the appeals system.  And that's what's happened.  That is now the fast growing segment on disability claims.  The press is beginning to notice but mainly because VSOs are raising the issue.  But when this came up and we called it out here I noted at one point that if an error was made in the favor of a veteran it should be like a Monopoly card "Bank error in your favor."  And this led to e-mails about how the government couldn't afford it and I noted that the more likely scenario was veterans getting underpayment not overpayments.  In her testimony, Halliday addressed inaccurate claims that had been re-decided.  Here are the amounts through July 2012:  veterans were overpaid $463,000 and veterans were underpaid $2.8 million.

You can keep that mind as we note this exchange from the hearing. Chair Jon Runyan is the Subcommittee Chair.

Chair Jon Runyan: As you know, while VBA is reporting timeliness an equal, if not greater, concern is the accuracy for each veteran. VBA is looking at hundreds of thousands of claims. And the veteran is looking at one and only one. Ms. Halliday, accuracy, as highlighted in your testimony, is a serious concern.  I'd like to also ask you a question about of VBA's quality components Start.  You noted that VBA's Start program has several classification errors such as benefit entitlement, decision documentation/notification and administrative.  Mr. Murphy [VA's Thomas Murphy, from the hearing's first panel] responded to an inquiry of Star's failure to count error incidents with potential to effect veterans benefits such as when a claims folder lacked required evidence including medical examination or an opinion needed to make an accurate decision.  Can you comment on that?

Linda Halliday: Yes, I would appreciate that.  The OIG [Office of Inspector General] uses a broader definition of what constitutes an error.  We report errors that effect veterans benefits as well as those that have the potential to effect veterans benefits in the future if left uncorrected. We think this is important.  It's a veteran-centric approach. We do not feel that the Start program counts all of its errors.  There is a disagreement between what OIG considers an error and how VBA calculates its accuracy rate. I have a couple of examples here that we think might help you understand.  VBA does not consider an incorrect disability evaluation to be a benefit entitlement error unless the error impacted the veterans overall combined disability evaluation.  However, OIG would identify this case as an error because it has the potential to effect the future benefits if left undetected.  And that also has a corresponding effect -- it could effect other programs too as the ratings change.  Also, cases where VBA staff simply do not request or significantly delay requesting the mandatory routine future examinations to determine whether the temporary 100% disability rating should continue, we clearly call an error.  We see a significant financial impact associated with not managing those claims appropriately.  

Okay, right there is where the gas bags need to be paying attention.

Cooked books?  How did they get to that point?

With a long-standing practice of weaseling the truth.

The OIG is the watchdog for the VA.  If they're calling it an error, it's an error.  Stop fighting the terms and definitions.  More plainly: Stop lying to make yourselves look better.

Tolerating these lies encourages more fudging and more dishonesty.

No Department should lie.  But with the VA, the lies just never end.  The next Secretary of the VA should make the announcement that what the OIG defines as an error will be the same definition that the VA will use.

Some of the gas bags are blaming it on a "vacationing Congress."  Gasbag Brent Budowsky (at The Hill) insists,  "Congress, deeply enmeshed in another one of its many ludicrous recesses of vacationing and fundraising, successfully demanded the head of the general." While Memorial Day was Monday, I've sat through three Congressional hearings this week.  The House Veterans Affairs Committee -- in full and in Subcommittees -- has held three hearings this week.

Wednesday night's hearing was covered by me in "VA did not make providing quality care a primary goal" and the Thursday snapshot, by Ruth in "VA censors who appears before Congress," by Wally in "Time for a criminal investigation (Wally)" and by Ava in "US House Rep Corrine Brown should retire."

We're talking about errors and they can have serious and lasting impact.  The IG found fault, as Halliday testified in the Thursday afternoon hearing, with VA's training of employees on Quick Start.  VA insists that is not the case.  Remember that when the problems with Quick Start continue.

El Paso is poorly served because it doesn't have a fully functioning VA medical center.  This was noted in the Thursday morning hearing.  US House Rep Beto O'Roarke shared the convoy approach it took to get a prescription filled -- a large amount of travel.  That's an issue that needs to be addressed immediately.

The US needs more jobs.  The White House should be creating more jobs at VA.

In that Thursday morning hearing, US House Rep Phil Roe explained why VA doctors were so overloaded. It's not just the issue of the number of patients.  They're also having to do things that a clerical employee could do.  Roe talked about how, at his own medical practice, he could spend 50% of his work day on these tasks -- such as data entry.  The VA needs to be hiring more employees.  This is needed to reduce the workload of doctors (and allow them to focus on patients) and it's needed in a country where so many seeking work are confronted with a lack of jobs.

Obama says "change of culture" needed at VA.

Gasbags want to talk VA?  They can start with the issues above.  There are many more but the above are reality based issues as opposed to spin and conventional wisdom.

I've already offered my opinion that Iraq War veteran and former US Rep Patrick Murphy should be named by Barack as the next Secretary of the VA -- he's got the energy to tackle this, he's got the desire to and he has experience as a veteran and as a member of Congress.  Whomever gets nominated, the issue is not just the secret list.  There is a huge problem with accountability, there is a huge problem with honesty.  The VA needs to start complying with Congressional requests and it needs to stop inventing new definitions for terms like "error" to make itself look better.

Briefly to Iraq.  Since January, Nouri al-Maliki has been committing War Crimes.  He claims that terrorists are among those people in Falluja.  Falluja is a populated city with many civilians.  Nouri has been bombing it which is collective punishment -- when you attack a populated area because of the presence of 'evil doers.'  It is a legally defined War Crime.  The US government recognizes it as such in treaties and laws.

Yet they've looked the other way while Nouri's carried out War Crimes by bombing civilian areas of Falluja killing and wounding civilians.

A White House friend insists they are not looking the other way and notes Vice President Joe Biden's call to Nouri earlier this month as proof since Joe stressed the need to ensure the protection of civilians.

Well the call obviously did nothing because Nouri's continued to target civilians.

But I'll be fair and note that point -- much fairer than the White House is to Iraqi civilians.

NINA reports Falluja General Hospital has been hit with 7 mortars.  This is not the first time Nouri has bombed hospitals in Falluja or even the fist time that he's bombed Falluja General.  Also, NINA reports that Nouri's bombing of the residential neighborhoods of Falluja have left ten people injured today -- two of which were children.

In other violence, National Iraqi News Agency reports an Aljazeerah roadside bombing left 1 "explosives expert" dead, 2 corpses were discovered in Sharqat (Sahwa), an attack on a Ramadi police station left 2 fighters dead and two more injured,  and 3 women were killed in Wlowash Village when assailants stormed homes,.  All Iraq News adds that 2 Sahwa were killed in Muqdadiya with a third left injured,

Ban Ki-moon is the United Nations Secretary General.  Nickolay Mladenov is his Special Envoy to Iraq.

We noted Ghaith Abdul-Ahad's honor earlier this week but it's worth noting again.

Moving over to England where the Iraq Inquiry has still not released their report from their now years ago hearings.  The big delay of recent months has been correspondence between former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and Bully Boy Bush.   Rowena Mason (Guardian) reports today:

Tony Blair should ask the Chilcot inquiry to publish his correspondence with George Bush about the Iraq war, as releasing only the "gist and quotes" will allow suspicions to fester, Sir John Major has said.
The former Conservative prime minister, who lost power to Blair in 1997, said it was a pity the full papers were going to be withheld by the Cabinet Office.
The Chilcot inquiry has been accused of allowing a whitewash after it struck a deal with ministers to publish the gist of letters between Blair and Bush, but not the full correspondence.
The publication of the Chilcot report has been overdue for several years, with discussions in recent months focusing on 25 notes from Blair to Bush and 130 records of conversations.

Robert Fox (The Week) argues the report should be released as is:

According to The Independent, the report is likely to be emasculated because of America's refusal to allow publication of crucial notes and conversations between George W Bush and Tony Blair (and Gordon Brown when he succeeded Blair).
This is because Washington claims all records concerning the President of the United States are privileged and not for disclosure in any Tom, Dick and Harry inquiry.
The upshot is that the passages relating to Bush and Blair's decision to go to war in Iraq will be 'redacted' - inked out on the page. The same is likely to happen to mentions of some 200 meetings with the Blair cabinet and its committees.
There is now a real likelihood, according to sources close to the Chilcot committee itself, that the report will not be published at all. It is already woefully over deadline, and hugely over budget, costing just shy of £9 million.

The editorial board of the Guardian offers, "Sir John Chilcot has fought tenaciously for the right to publish the evidence he believes he needs to substantiate his report's conclusions. But there is one other person who could change the game. As the former prime minister Sir John Major has pointed out, it is in Tony Blair's gift to overrule the Cabinet Office and give permission for his correspondence to be released. He has said repeatedly that he wants the report published as much as everyone else. He should make it happen."

We'll close with this from Anita Little's "NEWSFLASH: One More Reason Why Military Women Need More Protection from Sexual Assault" (Ms. magazine blog):

Though lawmakers such as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) have done much in the past year to bring the issue of military rape to the forefront of the U.S. Congress, a recent case of sexual assault in the Army shows that there is still a lot of work to be done.
Staff Sgt. Angel M. Sanchez, who did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been accused of sexually assaulting and harassing a dozen women soldiers during his tenure with the military. A litany of charges against him, starting as early as 2011, were read in a pretrial hearing this week on a military base in Missouri. The charges ranged from forcing a woman soldier to perform oral sex in the barracks to spying on woman soldiers as they showered. Sanchez allegedly used his position to silence his victims, threatening them with dismissal from the Army if they didn’t meet his sexual demands.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Where is the left? Or I should have just written about music.

I didn't blog last night.  C.I.'s snapshot is incredible.

I wanted to find something to write about that worked with it.

Clearly, Shinseki needs to go.  But C.I.'s made that case (and was the first to call for Shinseki to go when he lied about the GI Bill and veterans suffered).

So my problem became what to highlight?

The news?

I wasn't finding anything that grabbed me.

If this were 2006, I would then move to multiple websites?

But BuzzFlash, Consortium 'News,' The Nation, Democracy Now!, The Progressive, etc are places I don't go anymore.

They stopped being about the people and became about protecting elected Democrats, especially Barack.

There's Information Clearing House and WSWS which are left.  I'll also go to which isn't.

But those are really the three non-community sites that I'll go to the most.

After three hours of looking and finding nothing, I just went to bed.

There was stuff, to be clear, at WSWS, ICH and  I just either wasn't interested or didn't feel I knew enough to write on the topic.  Feminist Wire Daily is off until July.

I really went all over the net -- except to the places which disgraced themselves and proved themselves to be untrustworthy.

When I was brushing my teeth, I thought, "Damn, I should have just written about music."

I should have.

But I'm writing right now because I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels sites that pretended to care about We The People of the left can't be trusted or visited anymore because they've redefined their goal as: Protect Barack.

They're as ridiculous as Peggy Noonan was at the height of her print frenzy lust for Bully Boy Bush.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, May 28, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Barack lies about Iraq in a speech, Barack gives up another carrot to Nouri, Nouri's War Crimes continue, a call goes out to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to step in and offer a political ruling, the US Shinseki is taking on water at an alarming rate as Democratic senators begin calling for him to step down, Rachel Maddow (and others) lie about Senator Richard Burr who did not insult veterans, Maya Angelous passes away, and much more.

Let's start with lies in the US, lies from a leader and lies from a pack.

The leader?  US President Barack Obama.  He spoke at West Point today.  Can you spot the lie?

Good morning. Thank you, General Caslen, for that introduction. To General Trainor, General Clarke, and the faculty and staff at West Point -- you have been outstanding stewards of this proud institution, and excellent mentors for the newest officers in the United States Army. I'd like to acknowledge the Army's leadership -- Secretary McHugh and General Odierno, as well as Senator Jack Reed -- a proud graduate of West Point himself.
To the class of 2014, I congratulate you on taking your place on the Long Gray Line. Among you is the first all-female command team: Erin Mauldin and Austen Boroff. In Calla Glavin, you have a Rhodes Scholar, and Josh Herbeck proves that West Point accuracy extends beyond the three point line. To the entire class, let me reassure you in these final hours at West Point: as commander-in-chief, I hereby absolve all cadets who are on restriction for minor conduct offenses. Let me just say that nobody ever did that for me when I was in school.
I know you join me in extending a word of thanks to your families. Joe DeMoss, whose son James is graduating, spoke for many parents when he wrote me a letter about the sacrifices you have made. "Deep inside," he wrote, "we want to explode with pride at what they are committing to do in the service of our country." Like several graduates, James is a combat veteran. And I would like to ask all of us here today to stand and pay tribute - not only to the veterans among us, but to the more than 2.5 million Americans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and their families.
It is a particularly useful time for America to reflect on those who have sacrificed so much for our freedom -- for you are the first class to graduate since 9/11 who may not be sent into combat in Iraq or Afghanistan. When I first spoke at West Point in 2009, we still had more than 100,000 troops in Iraq. We were preparing to surge in Afghanistan. Our counter-terrorism efforts were focused on al Qaida's core leadership. And our nation was just beginning a long climb out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Four and a half years later, the landscape has changed. We have removed our troops from Iraq. We are winding down our war in Afghanistan.

Read more here:

We have removed our troops from Iraq.  But they didn't all leave at the end of 2011.  And beginning in 2012, Barack sent a troop back in.

At the end of September 2012, Tim Arango (New York Times) reported:

Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions. 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.        
Some e-mail and say, "That's a story about Syria!"  Yes, it is.  Do I need to spoon feed you, burp and wipe you?  In the middle of the article on Syria, Arango worked in that detail -- an earth shattering one.  But the Times either ignores reality or buries it deep in a story.

We included Barack's intro because it makes the lie even more appalling. "Thank you, General Caslen"?  It's the same General Caslen who spoke to Arango.-- Robert Caslen.  When he was put over West Point, the press had yet another chance to cover the reality of US troops going back into Iraq but they decided to take a pass.  Again.

It's always interesting to see what the press will cover.  They'll ignore realities about Iraq but they will busy themselves with nonsense and lies.  Right now the TV idiots have spoken on one topic but, as usual, they don't know a damn thing they're talking about.  Rachel Maddow is a liar.  Bob Somerby has documented that repeatedly.  I believe Rebecca nailed the liar long before Bob Somerby ever even knew her name.  (Rachel's or Rebecca's.)  And, of course, it is our own Elaine, committed to peace, who prompted Rachel's on air meltdown.  Simply for asking why -- on the Unfiltered blog -- Rachel kept bringing on this vet and that vet but never, ever a veteran for peace, a veteran against the war?  Elaine was actually being kind.  She honestly thought it was an oversight.  It wasn't an oversight.  Rachel supported the Iraq War.

Point is, a lot of useless trash has a stink that wafts off them.  It's no surprise the stink is back.

Rachel's b.o. spread on her show last night as she attacked Senator Richard Burr for this and that including his blocking Tammy Duckworth's nomination in 2009.  She doesn't know why, Rachel says, but she wants you to know he didn't serve in the military.

Rachel didn't serve either.

She forgets to note that.

I don't think you have to have served in the military to advocate for veterans.  I didn't serve.  That doesn't mean I can't advocate for veterans.

But Rachel has always tried to play manliest man in the room.  No one scratched their crotch and spat harder than Sgt Rachel.  Hoo-ah!

Mike Michaud is the Ranking Member on the House Veterans Affairs Committee.  He didn't serve in the military so by Rachel's phantom penis logic he shouldn't be on the House Committee.

I believe Bernie Sanders never served in the military.  (I don't believe he did and his official bio makes no mention of serving in the military.)   He is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee so, by Rachel's phantom penis logic, Bernie shouldn't be Chairing the Senate Committee.  The best Chair the Committee has had in the last ten years was Senator Patty Murray and she didn't serve in the military.

And, let's remember, Barack didn't serve in the US military nor did Bill Clinton.

Military service isn't a pre-requisite for serving in Congress or serving on a Committee or the only measure of service.

Having dealt with that nonsense, let's move over to Rachel's claim that Senator Richard Burr attacked veterans.  In fairness to Rachel (who never is fair to anyone else), many other outlets have also used that 'frame.'  It's inaccurate.  Burr issued a statement on Saturday:

To the Nation’s Veterans,

Over the course of the last few weeks, there has been a great deal of media coverage—rightly so—of the still-unfolding story coming out of the Department of Veterans Affairs regarding secret wait lists and other problems related to appointment scheduling at VA facilities. Last week, the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs heard from Secretary Shinseki, representatives of some of the Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs), and others.
While a great deal of the media coverage of the hearing has focused on what Secretary Shinseki said, and didn't say, much less has been seen of the testimony of the VSOs that testified. I wanted to take a brief moment to comment on that testimony.
First and foremost, I must recognize and commend the American Legion, National Commander Dan Dellinger, and the American Legion team for taking a principled stand, before the hearing and during it, and calling for leadership change at the VA. It is clear that the Legion has been listening to its membership about the challenges they face in gaining access to care, and has reached the conclusion that "enough is enough" and the status quo is indefensible. The Legion's membership has much to be proud of with the organization they support.

Regrettably, the Legion was alone among the VSOs that testified in taking such a stand. It became clear at the hearing that most of the other VSOs attending appear to be more interested in defending the status quo within VA, protecting their relationships within the agency, and securing their access to the Secretary and his inner circle. But to what end? What use is their access to senior VA staff, up to and including the Secretary, if they do not use their unprecedented access to a Cabinet Secretary to secure timely access to care for their membership? What hope is there for change within the VA if those closest to the agency don't use that proximity for the good of veterans across our country?

I believe the national and local commanders of every VSO have the interests of their members at heart, and take seriously their commitment to their members and their organization. Unfortunately, I no longer believe that to be the case within the Washington executive staff of the VSOs that testified. Last week’s hearing made it clear to me that the staff has ignored the constant VA problems expressed by their members and is more interested in their own livelihoods and Washington connections than they are to the needs of their own members.

I fear that change within the VA will not be possible unless and until these organizations also reconsider their role as well as the nature of their relationship with VA.


Richard Burr 

United States Senator

That is not an attack on veterans.

It is a critique of VSO leaders.

He can do that.

He felt the VSOs failed and he said so.

He's allowed to do that.

I criticize VSOs re: Congress all the time here.

It's not a slam on veterans.

Forget any specifics of the argument.  Are VSOs too polite to Congress?


That's only controversial if you want to make it controversial.

IAVA has the best standing right now but is that because it's still a new group?  When new leaders emerge in the group will they tone down some of their speaking?


(I don't toss my personal life out there but I'm currently sleeping with a board member of a VSO.  That's all the disclosure prying eyes will get.  But factor that into what follows if you need to.)

When I cover a Veterans Affairs Committee hearing -- House or Senate -- I don't usually note the VSOs unless it's a legislative hearing.  I cover the first panel.  The second panel?  If it pops up in the second day of coverage, it's because a veteran friend calls and says, "Hey, the point ____ was making was important and you should think about including it."

Burr's correct, the VSOs are too respectful.

(Equally true, though I don't consider myself to be the media, it is true we report on the VA hearings in Congress as many Committee members know.  Burr's comment about what got covered in reporting could be a critique of my own work.  He could be finding fault with it.  If it was and he is, he's correct.)

In the past few years, they've had good relations with Committee members (House and Senate).  But it's also true that they're pretty much addressing the same problems over and over, year after year, the VA stalls and blocks or says it will address and doesn't.

If the Senate had a functioning Chair right now -- no, Bernie is not doing a good job -- the Committee would have issued a list of actions they have passed and the VA has still not acted on.  That's actually a rather long list.

Rachel wouldn't know about that or anything else that her staff didn't clip for her to read.

Richard Burr?

He can be a real ass.

That's why Kat loves him.  He doesn't float along with the crap the way so many do.  He is loud, he is critical.  He uses those attributes to try to help veterans and their families.

The statement he released was perfectly in keeping with Burr.

I have heard no outcry over the statement from veterans.  Yes, VSO leadership is offended.  Oh well.

They issued statements denying Burr's assertion.  They would have served the membership better by issuing statements which read, "While we strongly disagree with Burr's conclusions we will consider them."

Instead, what you saw was tantrums by VSO leadership at various organizations.  And maybe that's a good thing as they threaten they will stop being so nice?

Burr congratulates The American Legion.  Let's use them as an example then.  When they gave their annual presentation to both veterans committees, I called them and their new leader out.  And I have done with others and will always do so.  And, no, my pointing out that issues related to women veterans are being ignored in presentations by VSOs  is not me attacking veterans.

Burr offered a critique.  He takes the issue very seriously.

If you're bothered by it, you should call him out.  You should mock him, ridicule him, do whatever.  But why do you have to lie?

Are your reasoning skills so insufficient that you can't make a case without lying?  Or is lying just second nature for you at this point?

Do you think the VSOs did a great job in the May 15th hearing?  Since none of the yackers attended it, they can't say for sure unless they want to find it online and stream it.  But I guess, like attending the actual hearing, streaming it would be too much work for the Rachel Maddows of this country.  [We covered the hearing in the Thursday, May 15th snapshot and Friday, May 16th 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)."]

If you think that they did, then that's your argument and you should make it.  But you're lying when you say that Burr attacked veterans.  He did no such thing.  He spoke out because he believed the veterans were not being served properly or well by VSO leaders before Congress on May 15th (with the exception of the American Legion).

You could even go to the media critique he offered.  But then you'd have to acknowledge whether or not you actually covered that hearing and Rachel Maddow and her ilk did not cover it.  We covered it here.  Speaking for me, again, Burr's correct.  I did not cover the VSOs.  I didn't find them to be important in that hearing or worth covering.  My first day of coverage was of the first panel (Shinseki) and my second day was acknowledging my judgment call on the Committee itself had been wrong.  That resulted from lengthy conversations with five veterans who were at the hearing.  And not one of those veterans said to me, "You know there's a point from the second panel that you should note."  (The second panel was the VSOs.)

Why lie about Burr?

They're attacking Burr -- Rachel and her pack of liars -- because they want to make it about Burr and not about Eric Shinseki.  Eric's the Secretary of the VA.  They've done a lot of rescuing of him.  The playbook says don't call it a "scandal" and attack Bully Boy Bush.

It doesn't make a lot of sense.  Shinseki's been VA secretary since early 2009.  And it is a scandal.  Chelsea J. Carter (CNN) reports today:

At least 1,700 military veterans waiting to see a doctor were never scheduled for an appointment and never placed on a wait list at the Veterans Affairs medical center in Phoenix, raising the question of just how many may have been "forgotten or lost" in the system, according to a preliminary report made public Wednesday.
Describing a "systemic" practice of manipulating appointments and wait lists at the Phoenix Health Care System, the VA's Office of Inspector General called for a nationwide review to determine whether veterans at other locations were falling through the cracks. 

In response to that news, US House Rep Jeff Miller, Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, issued the following:

May 28, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Following the release of the VA Inspector General’s interim report on VHA patient wait times, Chairman Jeff Miller released the following statement:

“Today the inspector general confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt what was becoming more obvious by the day: wait time schemes and data manipulation are systemic throughout VA and are putting veterans at risk in Phoenix and across the country. Right now, there are two things that need to happen. Attorney General Eric Holder should launch a criminal investigation into VA’s widespread scheduling corruption and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki should resign immediately. Shinseki is a good man who has served his country honorably, but he has failed to get VA’s health care system in order despite repeated and frequent warnings from Congress, the Government Accountability Office and the IG. What’s worse, to this day, Shinseki – in both word and deed – appears completely oblivious to the severity of the health care challenges facing the department. VA needs a leader who will take swift and decisive action to discipline employees responsible for mismanagement, negligence and corruption that harms veterans while taking bold steps to replace the department’s culture of complacency with a climate of accountability. Sec. Shinseki has proven time and again he is not that leader. That’s why it’s time for him to go.” Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

We should remember that the 14 days issue (VA medical centers pretending they were meeting 14 days for appointment scheduling), which they try to avoid in their 'coverage,' is not a Bully Boy Bush creation.  It's Eric Shinseki.

But it's probably over for Shinseki.  On Don Lemon's CNN program Newsroom, the last segment was a discussion about an unnamed White House official saying Shinseki was on "thin ice."

Looks like fate decided to take a bar of soap to Rachel Maddow's trashy mouth.  Today, US Senator Mark Udall became the first Democratic senator to call for Shinseki to step down.  His office issued the following:

Mark Udall, who serves on the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, said the preliminary report issued today by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' inspector general shows that Secretary Eric Shinseki needs to step down to make way for new leadership to better serve Colorado's veterans.
"The inspector general's preliminary report makes it clear that the systemic problems at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs are so entrenched that they require new leadership to be fixed. Secretary Shinseki must step down," Udall said. "We need new leadership who will demand accountability to fix these problems and ensure the VA is providing Coloradans the services they've earned."
Udall has fought to protect Colorado's veterans and recently pressed Shinseki to aggressively address the recently discovered problems at VA facilities in Colorado and across the nation and to swiftly address the agency's lack of strong, public leadership.

Senator John Walsh became the second.  Senator Al Franken made the call.  Senator Jeanne Shaheen made the call.

Where's Bernie?

Where's Socialist Bernie Sanders who thinks his ass stands a chance in a Democratic Party presidential primary?

 We're not noting his ridiculous statement.

He issued one.

[Deleted before this posted because I'm trying to be kind.  But piss me off much more on this and I'll out the little cabal pimping Bernie.]

. . .

And he's going to be a joke to the country as he tries to pretend he has the character to run for president when he doesn't even have the spine to stand up on any issue. He's failed veterans.  It's time Democrats replaced him with a real Democrat.

When Al Franken and the others are leading the charge for Shinseki to step down, Bernie Sanders should be as well.

Shineski is now a sinking ship.

From Shinseki's failures to Nouri's never ending failures.  The list is long.  Grant Smith and Nayla Razzouk (Bloomberg News) note one example:

The revival in Iraqi oil output has stalled. Again.
Production forecasts for 2014 are getting less optimistic. The Oil Ministry’s official target is 4 million barrels a day by the end of the year. More likely it will be 3.75 million, Thamir Ghadhban, an adviser to the prime minister, said in an interview May 14. Or perhaps 3.4 million, about the same as last month, according to the average of six analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg News. 
Nouri can't even keep the oil flowing. 
Aswat al-Iraq notes KRG President Massoud Barzani met Monday "with Ahemd al-Jerba, anti-Syrian Chairman of the Syrian National Alliance, in Paris" and stated the Kurds would not support a third term as prime minister for Nouri al-Maliki and that the Kurds "will not remain in a government headed by Premier Maliki and will exert efforts with other parties to find a real partner to head the coming federal government." Iraq concluded parliamentary elections April 30th.  Nouri failed at his effort to win enough seats to form a majority government.  Now he is among those scrambling to be named prime minister-designate.  NINA reports that Mohammed Karbouli (Mottahidoon Coalition MP) stated his coalition will be in talks with the National Alliance to agree on who to nominate for prime minister.  The Mottahidoon Coalition is headed by the current Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi.  All Iraq News reports the coalition has formed a committee "to negotiate with the other blocs over the formation of the next government."  Alsumaria reports that al-Nujaifi is calling on the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to weigh in on the issue, stating is of huge importance to the country and that the principle of a third term for anyone should be rejected.  Alsumaria notes he's put the request into writing. Alsumaria also reports that Ayad Allawi is calling for a coalition that will put together a partnership government.

Jason Ditz ( reports on rumors that the Kurds in the PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) and Goran are on board with Nouri. The big winner in provincial elections and parliamentary elections combined was the KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party).  Goran had a strong showing in the provincial elections upsetting and the PUK is on shaky ground since their leader (Jalal Talabani) has been AWOL from Iraq for over a year and a half.  Despite the rumors, Rudaw reports the PUK's Adnan Mufti states the PUK and KDP (two of the main Kurdish parties) agreed to present a united front on the issue of the "formation of the next Iraqi government."  He also states they are a united front on the issue of oil.
Despite generating tremendous oil revenues and despite it being the fifth month of 2014, the KRG has received no federal funds from Baghdad for the year -- has still received no funds.  Nouri's attempted to use these funds to blackmail the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government. Possibly, as a result of this, last week, the KRG supplied Turkey with oil.  There is no oil and gas law in Iraq.

Yes, another Nouri failure.

The US government installed the puppet in 2006 and made clear that he was being named prime minister in part to get the oil and gas law passed.

Nouri failed.  Throughout his first term, he failed.  The US government secured him a second term.  He failed again.

Eight years of failure.

Business can't wait for Nouri to figure out how to pass a law, workers can't wait for Nouri to figure out how to pass a law.  The Kurds decided they wouldn't wait.

World Bulletin notes that Barzani told the Parliament that, "We are open to dialog and negotiations with Baghdad but we want 17 percent from the Iraqi budget.  Baghdad acted unconstitutionally by cutting our share of the governmental budget.  Oil sales are transparent and appropriate according to the constitution."  He also declared the KRG's intent "to export half a million barrels of oil every day to the global markets by the end of the year."  All Iraq News adds:

"The decision to cut the salaries and entitlements of staff of the region was issued by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as well as delay sending the territorial budget before we export crude oil to Turkey," noting that there is no guarantee of sent the region's budget again and the salaries of the staff of the region amounting to 850 billion dinars a month did not reach them, and Baghdad has sent 10% of the budget of the region not 17%," he concluded. 

Nouri's failures as prime minister are at every turn.

While all eyes focus on who might end up prime minister, the first spot to fill is president of Iraq.  Rudaw notes the PUK is said to want Barham Salih, Najmaldin Karim or Fuad Masum for the post.  It is considered a given that the president must be a Kurd.  It is not a given, though.  In 2010, US Vice President Joe Biden tried to talk Jalal Talabani into stepping down so that Ayad Allawi could be president.  Allawi is a Shi'ite.  His Iraqiya had won the most votes but the US government wanted Nouri to be prime minister.  This was one of their efforts to ensure that happened.  Jalal refused Biden's request and made it very clear that he found the suggestion to be insulting.

Jalal can't seek a third term as president.  In December 2012, he suffered a stroke.  The incident took place late on December 17, 2012 following Jalal's argument with Iraq's prime minister and chief thug Nouri al-Maliki (see the December 18, 2012 snapshot).  Jalal was admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20, 2012, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.  Even were his health not in question, the presidency is limited to two terms (and a close reading of the Iraqi Constitution could make a case that this same ban applies to the post of prime minister).  The PUK wants it to go to someone in their political party.  Other names floated, outside the PUK, include KRG President Massoud Barzani.

Turning to violence, AFP reports, "Shelling in the militant-held city of Fallujah, a short drive west of Baghdad, killed three more people, a day after New York-based Human Rights Watch criticised the Iraqi government for possibly violating the laws of war by shelling the city's main hospital."  We noted Human Rights Watch's "Iraq: Government Attacking Fallujah Hospital" yesterday and will note it again this week but right now, with Nouri's War Crimes in mind, note another event.

This is why many of us on the left slam Barack Obama as ineffective.  Yesterday, the White House issued the following:

Executive Order: Ending Immunities Granted to the Development Fund for Iraq and Certain Other Iraqi Property and Interests in Property Pursuant to Executive Order 13303, as Amended

- - - - - - -
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, as amended (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.) (IEEPA), the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.), section 5 of the United Nations Participation Act, as amended (22 U.S.C. 287c) (UNPA), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code,
I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, have determined that the situation that gave rise to the actions taken in Executive Order 13303 of May 22, 2003, to protect the Development Fund for Iraq and certain other property in which the Government of Iraq has an interest has been significantly altered. Recognizing the changed circumstances in Iraq, including the Government of Iraq's progress in resolving and managing the risk associated with outstanding debts and claims arising from actions of the previous regime, I hereby terminate the prohibitions contained in section 1 of Executive Order 13303 of May 22, 2003, as amended by Executive Order 13364 of November 29, 2004, on any attachment, judgment, decree, lien, execution, garnishment, or other judicial process with respect to the Development Fund for Iraq and Iraqi petroleum, petroleum products, and interests therein, and the accounts, assets, investments, and other property owned by, belonging to, or held by, in the name of, on behalf of, or otherwise for, the Central Bank of Iraq. This action is not intended otherwise to affect the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13303 of May 22, 2003, as expanded in scope by Executive Order 13315 of August 28, 2003, which shall remain in place. This action is also not intended to affect immunities enjoyed by the Government of Iraq and its property under otherwise applicable law.
I hereby order:
Section 1. The prohibitions set forth in section 1 of Executive Order 13303 of May 22, 2003, as amended by Executive Order 13364 of November 29, 2004, are hereby terminated.
Sec. 2. The Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, is hereby authorized to take such actions, including the promulgation of rules and regulations, and to employ all powers granted to the President by IEEPA and the UNPA as may be necessary to carry out the purposes of this order. The Secretary of the Treasury may redelegate any of these functions to other officers and agencies of the United States Government. All agencies of the United States Government are hereby directed to take all appropriate measures within their statutory authority to carry out the provisions of this order.
Sec. 3. This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
Sec. 4. This order shall be transmitted to the Congress and published in the Federal Register.


Why would you do that?

Nouri wants that.

He wants that very badly.  Just like he wanted the United Nations to move Iraq out of Chapter VII.

That's what's known as a carrot or an incentive.

Why would you just give it away?

Nouri wants it?  Make him earn it.  Tie it into the bombing of civilians in Falluja, for example.  'Nouri, we'd love to do this but we can't if you're killing civilians.'

The reason 'the stick' is so often used by this administration isn't just because it's filled with War Hawks, it's also because they're too stupid to understand the carrot approach.

They've already tossed out the diplomatic toolbox, now they're throwing away the carrots.

Pretty soon, 'the stick' is all that will be left.

Staying with the topic of  violence, AFP notes over 4,000 people have died from violence in Iraq so far this year.  National Iraqi News Agency reports Badr Organization official Abdul Salam Ali was left injured when he was shot in front of his Kirkuk home, 1 Iraqi soldier was shot dead in Hawija, 12 people were kidnapped from a Kia bus "on the road between Baiji and Haditha," a Husseiniya sticky bombing killed 1 police member, security forces killed 11 suspects in Qayyarah, a Qayyarah roadside bombing killed 1 student and left three more injured, a Latifiya roadside bombing left five people injured, and 2 corpses were dumped in Baghdad.  All Iraq News adds that a Shurqat bombing ("attached to reaping machine") left one farmer injured, and 1 person was shot dead in southern Basra.  Alsumaria notes a mortar attack in Babylon's Hujayr left 1 twelve-year-old boy dead and another injured.  AFP adds that "a series of 11 bombings in the ethnically-mixed town of Tuz Khurmatu killed five people, four of them members of the same family, and wounded 11, officials said. The blasts targeted homes belonging to ethnic Turkmen in the town, which is also populated by Arabs and Kurds and lies in a stretch of territory that Kurdish leaders want to incorporate in their autonomous region in the north over the objections of the central government."  Sinan Salaheddin (AP) reports a Baghdad suicide car bomber took his own life and the lives of 14 other people.

Moving to the topic of writers, in Iraq Ghaith Abdul-Ahad has been awarded an honor.  UNAMI issued the following statement:

Baghdad, 27 May 2014- The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG), Mr. Nickolay Mladenov presents his congratulations to Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, this year’s winner of the George Orwell Prize for Journalism. “Gaith Abdul-Ahad was distinguished by the Orwell Prize Jury for his coverage of the conflict in Syria, more particularly his compassionate writing about those whose lives were destroyed by the conflict”, Mr. Mladenov said.

“I hope this well-deserved prize to a highly regarded Iraqi journalist will be an inspiration for all his colleagues, especially here in Iraq, who continue, despite the numerous difficulties they face, to display the highest standards of professionalism in performing their daily work”.
In the US, poet Maya Angelou has passed away.  Reuters notes the eighty-six-year-old first found widespread acclaim with   I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.  Richard Long (Smithsonian) explains:

Maya Angelou's signature book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, burst upon the American literary landscape in 1969, becoming an immediate bestseller. It has retained its position as a treasured work in the past 36 years, capturing the loyalty of successive generations of readers, remaining a constant recourse for those who early on were enraptured by its story of a girl growing up in rural Arkansas amid the tensions of America’s black-white divide. Her memoir is a narrative of the ability of the human spirit to surmount adversity.
The title of the book comes from the poem “Sympathy” by the late 19th-century poet known as the poet laureate of African-Americans, Paul Laurence Dunbar. The poem is a meditation on the struggles of a bird to escape its cage, an analogy frequently invoked to describe an oppressed people. It also speaks to the supposed contradiction of the bird singing in the midst of its struggle.
Angelou became a member of the Harlem Writers Guild a decade before Caged Bird was written, but her focus had been poetry and drama. The book grew less out of the literary ambitions of its author than out of her marvelous skills as a raconteur. So profoundly did these impress her friend James Baldwin that he urged her to write an account of her childhood in Stamps, Arkansas. At first she resisted, not wishing to interrupt her poetry or playwriting, but challenged by the hint that perhaps she lacked the skill to transpose her scintillating oral narration to print, she produced Caged Bird.

Susie Madrak notes the passing at Crooks and Liars. Susan notes the passing at On the Edge.  Dana Liebelson (Mother Jones) notes some insight Maya shared with the magazine in a 1995 interview.  On Tavis Smiley's PBS program (Tavis Smiley) he will be noting Maya's passing and the rich and meaningful life she lived.  Anita Little remembers her life and career at Ms. magazine's blog.  As Jessica Letkemann (Billboard) notes she wore many hats including dancing, co-writing a song with Roberta Flack ("And So It Goes") and recording an album with Ashford & Simpson (Been Found):

But her biggest splash back into music came alongside R&B legends Ashford and Simpson soon thereafter. The poet invited the duo to her home in Winston-Salem, N.C. for Thanksgiving 1994 after dancer/choreographer George Faison introduced them. During the meal, Nick Ashford decided to "mess around" with a piano in the basement. "I told Val to play piano and Maya to add something" Ashford told Billboard in 1996. "We started singing and something stared to happen - and they didn't know I had a tape recorder going underneath the piano." Angelou got "so excited," at the resulting snippet (which turned into the song "I Remember All"), that the collab quickly developed into an entire album.
1996's "Been Found" includes Angelou appearing with Ashford & Simpson on seven of the 11 songs. The album, which also heralded the launch of the duo's Hopsack and Silk label, was responsible for Angelou's first and only three Billboard chart appearances.  It reached No. 49 on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. Single "Been Found" hit No. 80 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, while "What If" notched a No. 94 placement on the same tally.

"And So It Goes," Maya's collaboration with Roberta Flack, first appears on Roberta's Oasis album:

Love is a rush of wild wind;
The scent of a summer rose
A whistle blowing on a distant track
and when it goes, it goes

Take your heart where it longs to be
I won't bind you to a memory
I know if I wait,
it will happen to me oh ho