Saturday, December 06, 2014

The Mamas and the Papas' The Papas & The Mamas

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


1) Jackson and His Computerband's Glow.

2) The Mamas and the Papas' The Papas & The Mamas.

3) David Rovics' Into A Prism.

4) Jon Butcher Axis' Wishes 

5) Tori Amos' Scarlet's Walk

6) Cass Elliot's Cass Elliot/ The Road Is No Place For A Lady.

7) Radiohead's The King of Limbs.

8) Ben and Ellen Harper's Childhood Home.

9) Prince's Around The World In A Day.

10) Tori Amos' Unrepentant Geraldines.

The fourth studio album by the Mamas and the Papas was The Papas and the Mamas.

The group broke up both before and after this 1968 studio album.

The album was recorded at the home Michelle and John Phillips bought -- a Hollywood mansion that used to belong to Jeneatte McDonald.  They build a studio in the house -- without permits because the neighborhood was not zoned for a recording studio.

The Mamas and the Papas were a musical group, the first hippie group to hit the charts.  Their first big hit was "California Dreamin'" written by Michelle and John.  Also in the group, the incredible Cass Elliot and the to-this-day underrated Denny Doherty.

On the fourth album, Michelle soloed with two thirty or so second bits of Shirley Temple's "The Right Somebody To Love."


Because everyone was so sick of John.

Once the studio was in the Phillips' home, he was a tyrant forcing the group to re-record vocals over and over.

Cass publicly complained that they spent an entire month recording the vocals on "For The Love of Ivy" for the album.

As the rest of the group rebelled at John's tyrannical moves, that left Michelle who couldn't leave -- it was her house too -- plus she was pregnant and gave birth (to Chynna Phillips, born in February of 1968) during the recording of the album.

So John wanted a pure sound to contrast with the complexity of the new sounds on songs like "Gemini Child," so he recorded Michelle singing the Shirley Temple song with no accompaniment.  He then broke it up and opened the first side with it and used it on side two as well.  (It's on the CD or the vinyl album in two parts -- only the first one is noted in the track listing. Do not e-mail me, "Elaine, it's only on the album once."  The second appearance is there but not listed.  Listen to the album.)

It's a new sound for the group.

If they hadn't broken up, it would be interesting to see where it would go next.  (They recorded People Like Us in the 70s under threat of lawsuit.)

For me, "Safe In My Garden" is not just the best track on the album, it's also one of the group's five best recordings ever.

I also love "Too Late" (especially the last half of the song, "get on your pony and ride") and, of course, "Dream A Little Dream of Me."

It's really a strong album and with a real label behind them -- Dunhill had now been absorbed by ABC Records -- they would have probably continued the string of hits.  As it was, they had four charting singles -- two of which went top 40 -- from the album.

It's interesting how no one bothers to include the inept ABC in the story of the group's final days.

They really didn't know how to break artists or get airplay.

They could handle distribution but nothing else.

The Papas and the Mamas is one of the best albums released in 1968 -- it would make my top five for that year -- and a classic.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, December 5, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, the persecution of Sunnis continue, the US Senate explores the costs for the VA of treating hepatitis C, and much more.

"It is estimated that the VA will spend $1.3 billion over the next two years just on this hepatitis C treatment," Senator Mazie Hirono declared at Wednesday's Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

The issue was hepatitis C in the veterans community.  And it was one of two hearings the Senate committee held this week in the final month of the Committee.  Next January, new senators take office and the Senate will be under Republican control.  Longterm Ranking Member Richard Burr should transition over to Committee Chair with current Chair Bernie Sanders transferring to Ranking Member.

Democrats have controlled the Senate since the results of the November 2006 mid-terms.

During that time, Daniel Akaka and Patty Murray have been Committee Chair and now Vermont's Bernie Sanders.

A very wealthy corporation, Giliad, is getting extremely rich off the price of medications.  They refused to attend the hearing,

Committee Chair Bernie Sanders:  Prior to the developments of the new drugs from Giliad, the primary method for treating Hepatitis C was interferon -- an injectible medicine that has many side effects that are terribly painful for many patients.  Additionally, many patients required additional intervention including liver transplants.  These treatments were expensive.  According to research by Dr. John Gaetano of the University of Chicago who has special expertise in hepatitis, it is estimated the costs for a person with liver damage over a ten year period can exceed $270,000 and the average liver transplant in 2011 cost $577,100.  This brings us to the purpose of today's hearing -- the new treatments for Hepatitis C now on the market and the exorbitant price tag associated with them.  Gilead, the manufacturer of Sovaldi, is selling the drug at an astounding price of $84,000 for a twelve-week course of treatment, or about $1,000 per pill.  I had invited Gilead to testify today.  I had hoped they could share their perspective on the cost of their new hepatitis C drugs.  Maybe they could have explained to this Committee why they believe their pricing is fair and reasonable.  But unfortunately they declined our invitation because all of their executives who could have spoken on this issue are traveling internationally.  Just like any for-profit company, drug companies charge what they think the market will bear.  Gilead clearly made the calculation that they could charge excessive prices for this groundbreaking drug and that the federal government would pay.  And I get it -- companies are motivated to make a profit.  But Gilead is making profits in spades.  They purchased Pharmasset -- the original developers of Sovaldi -- for $11 billion and, according to some estimates, are expected to make more than $200 billion on the sales of the drug.  With numbers like these, we're not talking about a company looking to make ends meet -- or even fund their next great medical breakthrough.  So we must ask, how much is too much?

The issue of cost was at the heart of the hearing which consisted of two panels. The first panel was composed of the VA's Chief Consultant on Pharmacy Benefits Michael Valentino and the Director of HIV, Hepatitis C and Public Health Pathogens Programs Dr. David Ross.  The second panel was the president of Public Citizen Robert Weissman and the National Coalition on Health Care president John Rother.

Senator Hirono insisted the current spending on hepatitis C was "not sustainable.  It will strain VA resources at a time when veterans are increasing in number and complexity of conditions."

Her concerns included that hepatitis C was "three times higher" in the veteran population than in "the general population" and that "many people infected are unaware that they have it."  She also noted that 35 patients at Hawai's VA -- Hirono's home state -- have benefited from the new treatments.

But the new treatments, from Giliad, are very expensive.

Chair Bernie Sanders: Very interestingly, and maybe we can explore this in the second panel, Giliad is making this drug available to countries like Egypt which have a very serious problem with hepatitis C, my understanding and please correct me if I'm wrong, that they are selling -- in this country, they are selling the product for $1000 a pill, in Egypt it is a few dollars a pill. Is that correct?  Do you know anything about that?

Dr Michael Valentino: I personally don't.  Dr. Ross might.

Chair Bernie Sanders: Dr. Ross, are you aware of that?

Dr. David Ross: I-I --

Chair Bernie Sanders: My understanding is it's ten dollars a pill.

Dr. David Ross:  I-I couldn't speak to the specifics of that.

Chair Bernie Sanders: Okay, we'll get more into that in the second panel.  Why do you think it's the case that they're selling it to a general American consumer who walks in for a thousand, they're selling it to a huge federal agency -- the VA, which treats more hepatitis patients than anyone else in the country -- at $540 but they're selling it in Egypt for $10?  How come they negotiated a better price than you did?

Dr. Michael Valentino:  I can't answer that question. I don't know what Giliad's business model is.  I don't know how that was able to -- able to be achieved.  Uhm, you know those -- A lot of other countries have different regulatory processes.

Chair Bernie Sanders:  They sure do. Which results in the United States paying the highest prices of all in the world for prescription drugs.  And this may be outside your portfolio in a sense but if the VA is going to spend -- I mean, we have a deficit and some of my colleagues don't like spending a whole lot of money on things -- if the VA is spending billions of dollars -- 1.3 now and maybe more later -- to treat one illness, is it fair to suggest that that will mean that we have less money available to take care of veterans needs in other areas?  Is that a fair supposition?

Dr. Michael Valentino: Well, we did -- we did ask for more money and-and-and so, uhm, VA is undergoing a lot of changes right now with, uh, --

Chair Bernie Sanders:  All that I'm asking, which I think is pretty common sense.  I mean there's a limit to how much -- I'm a strong supporter of the VA, would like to put more money into the VA, but there's a limit to what can be done.  All that I'm saying is that if you're spending billions of dollars in one area, common sense suggests that we may not be able to spend in others.  That may be a fair supposition?

Dr. Michael Valentino:  I would not disagree with that.

Nor on the second panel did John Rother.

This is not just a matter of a thousand dollars a pill.  This is a matter primarily of a drug that is potentially beneficial to three to five million people so it's not an orphan drug at all.  It's a drug that would be appropriate for a large number of Americans.  And, uh, the problem is the total cost of treatment, not so much the individual pill price. Inevitably as you suggest -- as your question earlier suggested, this kind of costs is going to force trade offs with other necessary treatment within the VA, within Medicaid, within prisons, within private health insurance.  We are seeing this every day today.  And, uh, it's-it's a deep concern because in many cases the services not delivered are the very preventative services that have the greatest return on investment and if we neglect those than we are just making the problem more difficult down the road. 

Let's stay with the first panel to note an exchange covering a few basics on hepatitis C.

Senator Mazie Hirono:  I think my series of questions deals with whether the marketplace really can -- is operating in a way where there really is more competition for different kinds of treatments that are effective and much less costly though is there a way to prevent hepatitis C?  Because once one is infected, there is a progression to the disease.  So what are we doing on the prevention side?

Dr. David Ross: Briefly, there is no vaccine for hepatitis C.  Transmission for most people occurred decades ago. There are about 20,000 or so new infections a year.  The number is actually going up -- almost entirely because of the sharing of needles from injection drug users.  So thinks that we are doing within VA is to -- and this is done within hepatitis C care -- help people with substance abuse disorders.  We also are doing things -- and again this is integrated with their medical care to try and reduce exposures that could also damage the liver -- particularly thinking of alcohol abuse.  And an integrated care approach is much more effective at getting people ready for treatment.  One brief anecdote, I have a patient who I saw yesterday who I started on methadone maintenance about six months ago and he is now ready for treatment. In other words he'll be able to reliably take the pills 

Senator Mazie Hirono:  So these prevention  methods that you are utilizing do they -- are they working?  I realize it's not that easy to determine whether something that you're doing is actually preventing --

Dr. David Ross:  I-I-I think yes.  I think the-the-the-the -- It's a matter of keeping people from getting it in the first place but it's also a question of getting people ready for treatment.  We're -- What we've done in VA has shown that if you take people who have these barriers to treatment because of other diseases -- frequently substance abuse or alcohol abuse -- and you give them integrated psycho-social care in the same clinic -- this is what has worked at Minneapolis VA and I should mention this is what was done at the Matsunaga VA in Honolulu -- they are more likely to complete therapy and be cured than people who don't have those problems in the first place would be who don't get that kind of supportive care.

But for most Americans with hepatitis C, the costs for the needed treatment are too high.

It doesn't have to be that way, as Robert Weismann explained:

Now some have held out hope that new treatments will lead to price competition or that hard bargaining by payers -- of which the VA is the best -- will be able to yield sufficient price reductions and I think that's misguided.  Based on prior experience, new drugs don't necessarily come in at a lower price.  In fact, they often come in at a higher price.  In general, brand name competitors try not to compete on price.  And when you have a starting point price of $84000 even if we have substantial reductions in price due to negotiations we're still going to be stuck with a super high price just because the starting point was so high.  However, we do have solutions available to us and really fundamental solutions. Now we should say -- I think it's correct, everything you say, Senator Burr about both the importance of innovation and looking at government policy.  The reason for this price level -- as both of you asked -- is a single thing which is Giliad has a monopoly.  Giliad doesn't have a market created monopoly, they've got a government granted monopoly, a patent monopoly, a monopoly that comes from other exclusivities. If we choose to address that monopoly through government policy -- since We The People gave the monopoly in the first place -- we can bring the price down.  And we know we can bring it down to less than 1% -- at least at the manufacturing level -- leaving aside whatever fair compensation we need to pay to Giliad because of the price reductions that already exist in developing countries as you referenced, Senator Sanders. Two methodologies we might pursue to reduce price.  One. we might have just government use of the product -- government use of the patent and other technologies -- in that case we could source the product to generic competitors and pay Giliad a royalty.  If we pay Giliad a royalty of five thousand dollars per patient, we'd actually still have cut the price overall by 90%.  We've got existing staturoty atuhority to do that under 28 USC Section 1498.  A different approach might be to look to buy out Giliad's patent all together.  We could do that in one way which would be to say we're just going to give Giliad as much money as we anticipate the company will make by virtue of it's patent monopoly.  Why would we do that?  Well we'd do that because we're already going to pay them that much money but we could then provide treatment to everyone whereas under the current system we're going to pay all that money and have rationing.  Now I wouldn't advocate doing that.  I think we can adjust down significantly what we would pay for a patent buyout but it is another method we might consider to provide treatment for all.

Staying with the US Senate, Michael McAuliff (Huffington Post) reports:

Many members of Congress have been seeking a debate and vote on the president's military actions in Iraq and Syria, but a new letter being sent Friday by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) marks the strongest demand yet from the left that Obama request explicit authority for the fight.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has called repeatedly on Obama to make such a request, but has rebuffed members of his own caucus, as well as Democrats who think Congress should take matters into its own hands rather than let the White House proceed as it wishes.
Baldwin and Schatz agree with most members of Congress and the administration that the Islamic State threatens U.S. interests, but argue that Obama should stop dithering.

Wow.  Tammy Baldwin.

Remember when she was the great 'progressive' hope.  Now she's demanding a vote on the never-ending war's latest phase -- not to stop it -- but to make it legal.

What a proud moment for her.

And for Matthew Rothschild who promoted her non-stop.

When she was in the House, Baldwin was against the Iraq War, voted against it in 2002.

So she's against war -- when a Republican's in the White House.

I guess it could be worse.  She could be only a lesbian when Republicans were in the White House.  At least she sticks with something regardless of who's in the White House.

While Tammy Baldwin goes coo-coo for war, Theo Sitther (The Hill) explains what could really help Iraq:

Instead of continuing to prioritize a military-first approach to addressing a crisis that is inherently rooted in political and economic grievances, Congress and the administration should get beyond platitudes and invest in Iraq’s people by helping to build an inclusive, non-sectarian government.   
It is important to take a long view. The building of open and free democratic states that truly serve the needs of their citizens is a long-term process. It is a process of working to understand the cultural, religious, and political contexts and basing any intervention on that knowledge.
But unfortunately, the President’s FY 2015 request for U.S. civilian programs in Iraq goes in the opposite direction. It cuts USAID commitments by 69 percent from 2013 levels with a meager $22.5 million for long-term economic development, support for Iraqi civil society, and governance programs. While the Senate Appropriations Committee’s markup of the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs bill increased this number to $50 million, it remains vastly inadequate compared to the needs on the ground.

Barack repeatedly stated that the only answer for Iraq was a "political solution." But those were apparently just more empty words, pretty lies from someone who's offered so many.

The last time I saw Richard was Detroit in '68
And he told me all romantics meet the same fate someday
Cynical and drunk and boring someone in some dark café
You laugh he said you think you're immune
Go look at your eyes they're full of moon
You like roses and kisses and pretty men to tell you
All those pretty lies pretty lies
When you gonna realize they're only pretty lies
Only pretty lies just pretty lies

-- "The Last Time I Saw Richard," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on Blue

Pretty lies let Shi'ite militias terrorize Sunnis in Iraq all while everyone pretends a new day has dawned with a new prime minister (Haider al-Abadi).  Matt Bradley and Ghassan Adnan (Wall Street Journal) report:

Shiite militia leaders say their recent successes reflect their holy warrior zeal, superior training compared with Iraqi government troops, less corruption in the ranks and freedom from the legal, bureaucratic and human-rights restrictions on regular Iraqi forces. But some Sunni politicians, tribal leaders and human-rights advocates are worried that the take-no-prisoners tactics of many militia groups are turning them into a mirror image of the Sunni jihadists fighting on behalf of Islamic State.
Militia groups have been accused of a plethora of human-rights violations, including mass shootings of prisoners and Sunni civilians and the forced displacement of Sunni families on a scale approaching ethnic cleansing.

Shiite fighters boast about executing enemy soldiers after they surrender. In Jurf al-Sakher, some Al Qara’a members hurried out of a meeting with a reporter for The Wall Street Journal to deliver the severed head of an Islamic State fighter to relatives of a slain militia member before his funeral ended.

Shi'ite militia groups terrorize Iraq and everyone looks the other way.

Sunnis are terrorized still in Iraq.  And the 'new' government?

It's made clear that Sunnis are still targets.

Let's drop back to the December 30, 2013 snapshot:

Sunday, December 22nd, Nouri yet again called peaceful protesters 'terrorists' and announced he would stop the protests.

He wanted to attack last Tuesday but a last minute flurry of meetings by various officials and political blocs caused Nouri to withdraw the forces he had encircling the Ramadi protest square.  Then came Friday.  From that day's snapshot:

Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports Nouri al-Maliki again threatened the protesters today.  He declared this will be their last Friday protest and that he will burn the tents in the protest squares down.  He declared that the protesters were guilty of sedition.  Sedition?  Nouri as William Bligh?  I can see it.  Kitabat notes that he made these remarks in a televised interview.  Kitabat also notes Nouri's been insisting 30 terrorist leaders are hiding in protest tents.  

We still can't get to today yet.

That's Falluja on Saturday as tons poured into the street to protest Nouri's latest stunt.

They were protesting the Saturday dawn raid that Nouri's forces carried out on an MP.  MP Ahmed al-Alwani was illegally arrested.  But there's more.  Alsumaria reported that his home was stormed by Nouri's SWAT forces at dawn and that 5 people (bodyguards and family) were killed (this included his brother) while ten family members (including children) were left injured.

By now, we all know the drill.

What is al-Alwani?

Yes, he's Sunni.

And he's also, we all know this, a member of Iraqiya.

If you're targeted by Nouri, then you are both things.

Or, as conservative Max Boot (Commentary) put it today, "If it’s the end of December or the beginning of January, it must be time for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to arrest another prominent Sunni politician."

The people of Anbar did not respond well to Nouri breaking the law and arresting an MP.

That was 'old' Iraq.  Let's go to the November 24th snapshot:

Today,  All Iraq News reports it's been decided to put former MP Ahmed al-Alwani to death.  He was arrested December 29, 2013 the outlet notes.  His brother was killed in the arrest ordered by thug Nouri al-Maliki, an arrest that was actually a raid in the early, pre-dawn hours of the morning.
This will have huge implications.
For example, the tribe he belongs to is one of the key tribes in the fight against the Islamic State. Equally true, his arrest (and the murder of his brother) outraged the Sunni community.
This is the wrong time to be  executing a Sunni politician -- with the new prime minister Haider al-Abaidi having done nothing of significance to improve Sunni relations or to include them in the government.

It's not a good time for that stunt.

Thursay, Mustafa Habib (Niqash) observed:

The fact that some Sunni Muslim tribes had joined with the mostly Shiite Muslim Iraqi army seemed to be good news for the country. It’s well acknowledged that in order for Iraq to resolve the current security crisis, sectarian and ethnic rifts must be healed and in areas held by the IS group, which are home to a mainly Sunni Muslim population, it is the locals – Sunni Muslims - who must push the extremists out.

But almost immediately there was bad news from Baghdad that seemed to negate the good. It also the dispirited Sunni Muslim tribal leaders who had been fighting the IS group. The news: the Iraqi judiciary had issued a death sentence against a prominent Sunni Muslim MP, Ahmed al-Alwani.

As the BBC reported at the time of his arrest in December 2013, al-Alwani had backed Sunni Muslim protests against the government led by former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Al-Alwani was arrested on charges of terrorism and his capture in Ramadi, after a deadly gunfight, was part of the reason that protests in the area became more heated and violent.

“This verdict is like a knife in our backs from the Iraqi government,” one of the leaders of the al-Bu Ulwan tribe, Hazem al-Alwani, told NIQASH. “The sons of my tribe have been fighting against the IS group for days, helping the Iraqi security forces to prevent Ramadi from falling.”

The case against al-Alwani has been widely criticised. Amnesty International released a statement declaring that the trial had had many irregularities, with al-Alwani denied access to his lawyer and his family, among other things.

The verdict had been postponed previously and now, Hazem al-Alwani thought, the timing of the announcement of a death penalty was strange. “I don’t believe it is a coincidence,” he said. “It seems that there are certain political actors that do not want the Sunni Muslim tribes in Anbar to play any role in the fight against the IS group.”

Haider al-Abadi has still done nothing to demonstrate to Sunnis that there's a 'new' Iraq or that they'll be included and welcomed.  He did promise, September 13, 2014, that the bombing of Falluja's residential neighborhoods would stop.

Those bombings never stopped.

Those bombings continue and continue to wound and kill Sunni civilians.

Where's that political solution, Barack?

Let's note this from Paul D. Shinkman (US News and World Reports):

“Aside from setting broad priorities, there’s no plan, no indication of progress, no measures of effectiveness,” says Anthony Cordesman, a former State Department and Pentagon official who regularly advises leaders in both departments. The Obama administration tends to take too long to adopt serious military advice, he says.
“Events and reality certainly have to shape strategy,” says Cordesman, now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “But if you don’t have a strategy and clear plans, you lack the ability to shape events.” 

Barack has no plan.  Despite this, Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) quotes Barry O insisting  "slow but steady progress"  was taking place.

Al Arabiya notes, "The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has executed three Iraqi tribal leaders outside a government building in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, Iraq’s Ministry of Human Rights reported on Friday."  Margaret Griffis ( counts 65 dead in Iraq today from violence.

In the United States IAVA's Paul Reickhoff Tweets a movie review:

  • . is for Iraq what Platoon & Full Metal Jacket were for Vietnam. It's soaringly heroic & terribly tragic. Just like the war.
  • Just saw an advanced screening of . It's an instant classic war movie. And the defining film of the Iraq war so far.

  • American Sniper is the new film directed by Clint Eastwood starring Bradley Cooper.  We'll close with this from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America:

    Washington D.C. (December 5, 2014) – Today, President Obama announced Ashton Carter as his nominee for Secretary of the Department of Defense (DoD). Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization representing post-9/11 veterans and families, welcomed the nomination. Paul Rieckhoff, IAVA CEO and Founder, was at the White House today for the announcement at the invitation of the President.
    “IAVA congratulates Ashton Carter on his nomination as Defense Secretary,” said Rieckhoff. “Carter has proven to be an advocate for both active-duty servicemembers and veterans. With his breadth of experience at the Pentagon, we trust that Carter is prepared to meet the unique demands of today’s national security challenges.
    “Carter returns to the Pentagon at a critical time. As conflict continues in the Middle East and more troops are sent into combat, our country must remember to care for the veterans we are still welcoming home. IAVA looks forward to our continued partnership with the Pentagon on critical issues such as combating suicide and improving access to quality mental health care. We hope Carter will continue to engage the veteran community with the same drive and passion as Secretary Chuck Hagel.”

    Since the beginning of 2014 IAVA has been calling on DoD, Congress, the White House and the Department of Veterans Affairs to address the veteran suicide crisis. IAVA veteran members delivered a petition to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) yesterday calling on him to bring the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Bill to the Senate floor before Congress adjourns next week. The bill, named after Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran Clay Hunt, a Marine who died by suicide in 2011, will help combat veteran suicide and improve access to quality mental health care. Hunt’s mother, Susan Selke, recently met with DoD officials to press for veteran mental health care reforms and to garner their support of the Clay Hunt bill.

    IAVA's Founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff and Political Director Bill Rausch visit the White House for the President's announcement of new Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.

    IAVA’s Founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff (right) and Political Director 
    Bill Rausch (left) visit the White House for the President’s announcement of 
     new Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.

    Note to media: Email or call 212-982-9699 to speak 
    with IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff or IAVA leadership.
    Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America ( is the 
     nation's first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing 
    veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has nearly 300,000 Member 
    Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. Celebrating its 
    10th year anniversary, IAVA recently received the 
    highest rating - four-stars - from Charity Navigator, 
    America's largest charity evaluator.

    Thursday, December 04, 2014

    Lendman tells the truth

    "Obama: War Criminal, Tyrant, Torturer, Racist, Corporate Tool, World-Class Thug" (Stephen Lendman, Information Clearing House):
    December 03, 2014 "ICH" - His record speaks for itself. Ideologically over-the-top. Lawless. Reckless. Ruthless by any standard. Reflecting the worst of rogue leadership.
    Mocking democratic values. Breaching rule of law principles. Riding roughshod over responsible governance. Serving monied interests exclusively. They never had it so good.
    Responsible for protracted Main Street Depression conditions. Letting popular needs go begging when most needed.
    A reliable corporate tool and then some. Pro-war. Pro-business. Pro-privilege. Pro-super wealth. Anti-populist.
    Anti-government of, by and for everyone equitably. Presiding over a gangster state. The most ruthless in world history. Most reckless. Most dangerous.
    Exceeding the worst of his predecessors. After promising hope and change, he delivered betrayal. Straightaway.
    Breaking every major promise made. Selling out to Wall Street. War-profiteers. Other corporate favorites.
    Handing them trillions of dollars illegally. More on request. Letting them make money the old-fashioned way.
    Waging class war. Targeting middle America for elimination altogether. Stiff-arming America's most disadvantaged. Blacks. Latinos. Muslims. Immigrants of color.

    See there, it is possible to tell the truth about Barack.

    That's just the opening of the column.

    For years now, left 'leaders' like Medea Benjamin have struggled and failed to tell the truth about Barack.

    But as Lendman proves, it's not impossible.

    It's a shame so few, even now, are willing to tell the truth about War Hawk Barack.

    I have to wonder what the families of his victims -- all around the world -- think of the groupies who pose as leftists but are really little more than Barackists.

    They make Stalnists look indifferent by comparison.

    "Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
    Wednesday, December 3, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, John Kerry lets down the administration, Barack won't pay compensation for civilian deaths, and much more.

    Today, CENTCOM announced, "In Iraq, four airstrikes near Mosul destroyed five ISIL bunkers, two ISIL-occupied buildings, an ISIL vehicle, an ISIL fighting position and two heavy weapons. In addition, those airstrikes also struck a large ISIL unit and a tactical ISIL unit. Near Ramadi, two airstrikes destroyed four ISIL vehicles. Near Tal Afar, an airstrike destroyed an excavator and struck a tactical ISIL unit."

    The US-led bombing campaign against the Islamic State has killed many and, though the US government would like to pretend otherwise, that includes many civilians.  Chris Woods (Foreign Policy) reports:

     The United States is not planning to grant compensation for civilians killed in airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, Foreign Policy has learned, despite claims by credible groups that at least 100 noncombatants may already have died in the 16 weeks of U.S.-led bombings.
    The decision, confirmed by a senior spokesman for U.S. Central Command (Centcom), the military command organization in charge of the air war, marks a significant departure from recent conflicts, in which payments have regularly been made to civilians negatively impacted by U.S. military actions.  

    What a proud moment for Barack Obama.  Even Bully Boy Bush's administration compensated some for Iraqi civilians killed by US military actions.

    Let's stay with the US government for a bit.  At the State Dept press briefing today, spokesperson Marie Harf noted, "The Secretary [of State John Kerry]  is on travel in Europe today. This morning in Brussels he participated in the Counter-ISIL Coalition Meeting at NATO, had meetings with EU High Representative Mogherini and Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi, participated in a meeting on Libya with European foreign ministers and the EU, a meeting on the U.S.-EU Energy Ministerial, and he held a press availability which I’m sure many of you saw. Tonight he arrives in Basel, Switzerland for meetings at the OSCE, the first of which will be with Swiss Foreign Minister Burkhalter."

    That Counter-ISIL Coalition meeting?  John Kerry wandered around the topic in public remarks to the press today in Brussels:

    Secretary John Kerry:  [T]oday was an opportunity for representatives from about 60 members of the anti-ISIL coalition to come together, share their views, receive updates on coalition efforts, make suggestions about the roadmap ahead, and discuss as carefully as possible the pluses and minuses of the strategy engaged and what needs to be done to accomplish our goals going forward.
    It was absolutely clear in the comments of everybody, particularly the prime minister of Iraq and his team, that we have made already significant progress in two and a half months. But we also acknowledge there is a lot more work yet to be done. Daesh is still perpetrating terrible crimes, but there was a consensus that the momentum which it had exhibited two and a half months ago has been halted, that it has been forced to modify its tactics – and some of those modifications severely hampering their ability to operate in the way that they were, certainly – that their hold on territory has been challenged already, and their finances have been strained, and in almost every media market that exists, and certainly within the region, their message is being denounced. Their message of hate is being challenged in public meeting places, in mosques across the globe. This clearly represents a multifaceted effort, which is precisely what we defined in the earliest days of suggesting that we would build a coalition and the coalition would take on Daesh.
    Now, while airstrikes may capture the headlines – and there have been more than 1,000 of them thus far – this is far more than simply a military coalition. And it will not be successful, we all agree, if it were to rely on military alone, which it does not. Destroying Daesh is going to require defeating the ideology – the funding, the recruitment, and the devastation that they’ve been able to inflict on people in the region. And these are the areas that were really the primary focus of today’s discussion.
    During this morning’s meeting, we reviewed the progress in each of our five lines of effort and came together in issuing a joint statement, all countries signing on, that underscores our unity and our firm support for our partners and our absolute determination to succeed. Participants noted the gains that we have made across all of the lines of effort – defeating ISIL on the battlefield, restricting its finances, enacting laws to restrict the flow of foreign fighters, and countering its toxic ideology.
    The long-term success of the effort in Iraq is key to the success of the coalition. And today we heard directly from Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi, whose government yesterday revealed and reached a long-sought agreement, a landmark oil deal with the Kurdistan Regional Government. The prime minister also provided an update on the fight against Daesh in Iraq and on his broader reform agenda, including an executive order that he just issued to begin important changes in the criminal justice system of Iraq. Nothing will do more to defeat Daesh than an Iraq that is united and has more representative and effective security forces.
    Now, obviously there’s a lot more work ahead. But the prime minister has taken steps to unite the country, including outreach to Sunni tribes. He has taken steps to root out corruption and to reform the Iraqi Security Forces and to take on the threat that Daesh represents. I think it’s fair to say that all of the foreign ministers, ambassadors, representatives who were there today came away impressed by Prime Minister Abadi and by what he has accomplished today, which is the down payment on the roadmap that he laid out for the future.

    I like John Kerry -- supported his presidential run in 2004 -- but sometimes he's just too pathetic for words.

    Should of been his crowning moment of the year today.  It's been a bad year for John.  Not like when he was in California and shot off his mouth thereby destroying any hopes of a 2008 run for president.  That was weeks of bad.  Weeks of embarrassment.  2014 has just been him forgetting he's Secretary of State and not of Defense.

    He's gone crazy trying to play administration tough guy.

    Today, he finally did something that was actually a job for the Secretary of State.

    Despite the press traveling with him, the foreign ministries meet-up today received very little attention from the press.

    And that's his fault.

    When he had the microphone today addressing the press, he couldn't stay on topic.

    I don't give a damn what he thinks about Libya or China.  We didn't include it.

    I used to think, "Some day John will find the self-confidence to stop trying to show off and just focus on the task at hand."  The closer he gets to death, the less likely he'll ever arrive at a moment of self-confidence or self-awareness.

    He has the world's attention for one brief moment and can speak for the administration and finally note something on the diplomatic front with regards to Iraq but that's for people who want to do their job.

    It's not good enough for a John Kerry who wants to overwhelm you.

    He killed his own moment.

    That's on him.

    He let down the administration because he couldn't stop strutting.

    His task today was simple, to stay on topic (Iraq) and assure the world that the US had a diplomatic plan -- something in the works that would help bring Iraq to the "political solution" that Barack Obama has repeatedly said was the only answer for Iraq.

    That was what was needed from the Secretary of State.

    Kerry couldn't pull it off because he couldn't stay focused.

    His failure to sell it made those covering it -- the few -- even less likely to pretend a 'plan' exists.  The editorial board of the Daily Star, for example, offered:

    The coalition has bombed the jihadis in Iraq since August and in Syria since September, yet the militant group – which most of the world had not even heard of a year ago – still holds swaths of land in both countries, maintains large financial reserves and continues to terrorize vast civilian populations.
    Meeting Wednesday, the allied foreign ministers admitted that the battle against the group would likely take years, and, conceding they were in it for the long haul, agreed to continue holding such conferences every six months.

    Lara Jakes and John-Thor Dahlburg (AP) report:

     Under an agreement issued by the coalition Wednesday, foreign ministers representing coalition nations will meet at least every six months in what all agree will be a years-long campaign against the Islamic State. In addition to supporting the Iraqi government and urging access to humanitarian aid in Syria, it also called for greater help to countries in the region that have been saddled with millions of refugees from the battle zone.
    As he headed into the meeting Wednesday, Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard said the global coalition has made significant headway against the Islamic State, including stemming its financial support. Most importantly, he said, the militants’ deadly march across the region has been halted.

    The following countries took part in the meet-up:

    Republic of Albania
    Sultanate of Oman
    Republic of Iceland
    Republic of Poland
    Republic of Austria
    Republic of Iraq
    Portuguese Republic
    Kingdom of Bahrain
    State of Qatar
    Italian Republic
    Republic of Korea
    Bosnia and Herzegovina
    Republic of Bulgaria
    Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
    Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
    Republic of Kosovo
    Republic of Serbia
    Republic of Croatia
    State of Kuwait
    Republic of Singapore
    Republic of Cyprus
    Republic of Latvia
    Slovak Republic
    Czech Republic
    Republic of Lebanon
    Republic of Slovenia
    Republic of Lithuania
    Federal Government of Somalia
    Arab Republic of Egypt
    Republic of Estonia
    European Union
    Republic of Finland
    Republic of Turkey
    French Republic
    United Arab Emirates
    Kingdom of the Netherlands
    Federal Republic of Germany
    New Zealand
    United Kingdom of Great Britain and
    Northern Ireland
    Hellenic Republic
    United States of America
    * Greece does not recognize The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia under a name other than its provisional as stated in UNSCR 817(1993).

    At Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's website, the prime minister's speech was posted in full:

    Ladies and Gentlemen thank you very much
    Thank you, Secretary Kerry, for convening this meeting to discuss how the international community can respond to the threat posed by the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Because it is not Islamic, not a state, and not worthy of a formal name, I will call it simply by its Arabic acronym – DAESH.
    I thank you all for attending this meeting and for everything that your countries are doing to support Iraq and its people. And I thank NATO for hosting this event here at your headquarters.
    As the attendance at this meeting underscores – some 60 foreign ministers from countries around the globe – the world has woken up to the fact that DAESH threatens not only the nations and peoples of the Middle East and North Africa but everyone, everywhere who refuses to accept its extremist views and barbaric practices.
    On behalf of the people of Iraq who have suffered so much for so long, I can tell you that DAESH perpetrates indiscriminate inhumanity.  DAESH’s beheadings, mass executions, and enslavement of women and children have been directed against people from every ethnic background and religious confession, regardless of national borders.
    For those of you who represent nations in North America and Western Europe, it is well-known that DAESH recruits and trains, among others, battle-hardened western fighters. It is only a matter of time before these highly-trained terrorists will be sent back to the societies from which they came to commit murder and mayhem.
    As you are demonstrating by your presence today, defeating DAESH is our common cause. It requires our collective efforts, regionally and globally. I am here today to reaffirm to you that the government and the people of Iraq are committed to doing our part.
    We are grateful for the support of the United States and every other member of the coalition. But we know that, on the ground, this is first and foremost our fight. And we understand that, in Iraq, while military action is necessary to defeat DAESH, we also need governmental reform, national reconciliation, and economic and social reconstruction.
    Our newly-elected government is undertaking all these tasks – all at once. And our efforts are already beginning to show results.
    Following free and fair national elections last April, and with the support of every ethnic, regional, and religious group, I have formed a new government that includes representatives of all Iraqi political and social blocs.
    Our government is successfully meeting its pledges for the first three months, and we are also making progress on the programs that we proposed for the first six monthsto fulfill all our commitments to the Iraqi people.
    Ahead of the pace from previous years, the Council of Ministers has reviewed the budget and should forward it to parliament for approval very soon.
    We are working for national reconciliation on several fronts. We are forging cooperative relationships with the tribes of Salahudeen, Al-Anbar and Ninawa that are based in areas under the control of DAESH. These tribes are being armed and are currently fighting alongside Iraqi security forces.
    We are also working on amending the Accountability and Justice Law, which provides for de-baathification, to ease the reintegration of a large number of former government employees who have not committed crimes against the Iraqi people. Our goal is to address the concerns of every segment of society.
    This week I have signed a decree requiring our security forces and the Ministry of Justice to safegaurd the constitutional and human rights of detainees inIraqi jails. This includesthe establishment of a central record of all detainees and the legal reason for their arrest including a timescale for their detention and presentation to the courts.  
    We have reached an interim agreement with the Kurdistan Regional Government that will pave the way for a long-lasting agreement on Iraq’s natural resources. This is an important first step in the right direction, and both we and our Iraqi Kurdish brothers are committed to doing more to put the disagreements of the past behind us.
    We have begun to rebuild our security forces in a professional manner, having removed about two dozen generals as part of our efforts to root out corruption and re-energize the military leadership. In order to involve more Iraqis in our common defense, we have made progress on the establishment of a National Guard force. And we are working with the United Nations in order to benefit from the experiences of other countries that utilize similar structures so we can ensure the right solution for Iraq.
    In order to guarantee respect for the rule of law, we are working to ensure that all armed groups are brought under state control. Where possible, some individuals from these groups willbe integrated into the Iraqi Security Forces or the National Guard. We affirm our constitutional commitment not to allow any armed group or militia to work outside or in parallelto the Iraqi Security Forces. No arms would be permitted outside the control of the Iraqi Govenment.
    As DAESH threatens us all, we see the government of the Kurdistan Region as an essential partner in our struggle, and fully support efforts to train and equip the Kurdish forces to ensure that they can work seamlessly with the Iraqi Security Forces. We will continue to ensure that there are no delays or hold ups in this process and there has never been intentional or procedural delays on our part in this matter.
    In addition, we are working with the United States and our international partners to train and equip tribal fighters, while incorporating the Popular Mobilization Units into the Iraqi Security Forces.
    Now let me be clear: Our security forces are in need of comprehensive training and armament. We will need significant support from our friends and partners in these endeavors, and you may rest assured that your assistance will be put to good use, becausewhen we fight back against DAESH, we are fighting not only for the people of Iraq but for all the peoples of the world.
    With support from the Coalition and with closer coordination with the Kurdish Peshmerga and every segment of our society, the Iraqi Security Forces and their partners are pushing forward. Together, we have recaptured strategic roads and other locations and liberated entire towns.
    We have made this solemn promise to all our people: We will move ahead in our fight to free every inch of our territory and every segment of our citizenry. We will expel the DAESH gangs from our precious land. And we will bring life back to the liberated cities.
    On the diplomatic front, we are strengthening our relations with all our neighbors, so that, together, we can more effectively combat our common enemy – DAESH.
    In recent weeks, we have established very warm and functioning high level contacts with all our neighbors:Prime Minister and Emir of Kuwait, President Rouhani of Iran, King Abdullah and the Prime Minister of Jordan in Amman, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh, Prime Minister of Turkey Ahmet Davutoğlu and the Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in Baghdad.
    We reachedagreements on strengthening our security and intelligence cooperation to defeat DAESH, as well as deepening our relations in economics, oil, investment, trade, and border control.
    Working with these countries and other neighbors, we are developing a common defense against DAESH and a new strategy to address the regional problems that give rise to transnational terrorism.
    From reforming our government to reconciling our society, resisting DAESH, and restoring our relationships with our neighbors, Iraq is making every effort to protect its democratic gains.
    But the challenges that we face are greater than any nation can address alone. We are combating one of the best-funded, best-organized, and best-equipped transnational terrorist organizations on the face of the Earth. So my message to all of you is: We are doing our part – and we need your help.
    On the military front, we need air support, training, armament and capacity-building for Iraq’s security forces. We also need our neighbors and allies to support our struggle to stop the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq. For your sake as well as ours, Iraq must not become the training-ground for terrorists who come from, and will return to, every trouble-spot on Earth.
    DAESH receives not only its fighters but also its funding from all across the world. We need the international community, including its financial institutions, to freeze the funding of DAESH and call a halt to the free movement of money and munitions to these transnational terrorists.
    Violent extremism is inspired by vicious ideologies. We need our neighbors in the Middle East and North Africa to counter the ideological underpinnings of DAESH.
    And we need the world community to help us address the humanitarian crisis that DAESH has caused, so that the refugees from terrorism do not themselves become recruits for yet another round of violent extremism.
    The terrorism of DAESH and the civil war in Syria have displaced nearly two million people who are now within our borders. We are in need of humanitarian aid to meet their needs, particularly with winter approaching.
    Meanwhile, the areas that we have liberated and those that we will liberate from DAESH need to be rebuilt quickly. In order to encourage the residents to return to their homes, to create jobs, and to tackle some of the causes of the rise of DAESH, we need to establish a reconstruction fund.
    Unfortunately, Iraq is in short supply of funds because our oil revenues have declined, due to the fall in oil prices and the end of exports from the North since DAESH took over Mosul. We have dedicated sizeable funds from our budget to these refugees and The United Nations has also carried some of the burden of the humanitarian work. But we need the entire international community’s help to house and heal the wounds of the victims of this violence.
    Only by rebuilding a secure and stable Iraq in a secure and stable Middle East can we defeat the transnational terrorists who draw upon discontent and feed on failure. Just as DAESH is our common enemy, defeating DAESH must be our common endeavor.
    In this great struggle, the government and people of Iraq are doing everything that we can. And, from your presence and participation here today, I am encouraged that you will, too.
    Today, we will exchange ideas. Tomorrow and for as long as it takes, we must translate our words into actions.


    The decisions included a call for an international commitment to support Iraq and the efforts of the new Iraqi government.

    At least someone took the meet-up seriously.

    The State Dept's Brett McGurk did Tweet a photo.

    The State Dept release he links to is the one we noted early this morning and it's just more embarrassment.  Specifically this section:

     Participants noted with great alarm the systematic and widespread human rights abuses committed by ISIL/Daesh including, inter alia, crimes against religious and ethnic minority groups and other vulnerable populations. In this regard, participants noted ISIL/Daesh’s systematic use of sexual and gender-based violence in its campaign of terror, and encouraged international efforts addressing these crimes.

    I'm sorry, I can't understand the US government when it talks out of its own ass.

    What are they saying, human rights abuses?  Gender-based violence?  Campaign of terror?

    But the United States government had a chance to stand for human rights and rule of law yesterday but yet again failed that test.  We're referring to the government of Lebanon kidnapping Saja Al Dulaimi and her child.

    The woman is/was said to be one of the wives of Islmaic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi whom the US government has placed a $10 million wanted-dead-or-alive bounty on.  Was/is?

    Her identity was already in doubt less than 24 hours after she's made the news cycle (and today would be the 11th day of her and her son being held hostage by the military of Lebanon).

    The woman is still said to be an Iraqi citizen.  But the government of Iraq is saying she's the sister of Omar Abdul Hamid al-Dulaimi whom they already have in custody.  Al Arabiya quotes Saad Maan, spokesperson for Iraq's Ministry of the Interior , stating that al-Baghdadi has two wives and "there is no wife in the name of Saja al-Dulaimi."

    The rule of law was broken and the US government said nothing.
    Now details are starting to emerge that the US government wasn't just silent, it was complicit.  The woman was seized with the help of the CIA.
    You can't lead anyone to ethical ground by breaking the the basic conventions of human rights.
    The Daily Star is reporting that it is not one child being held but three children.

    AP was gloating today:

    But if she is indeed al-Baghdadi's wife, she could serve as a bargaining chip with Syria-based militants holding some 20 Lebanese security forces captured in a cross-border raid in August. Beirut has been under intense pressure from the families of the captured men to negotiate their release.

    Could she be a bargaining chip?
    And the child or children as well?
    What a proud moment for the rule of law.
    Jehtro Mullen (CNN) contributes this:

    Not everyone was convinced she would provide a treasure trove of insight into ISIS, though.
    Expressing skepticism, a former senior U.S. military official told The New York Times that in the Iraq war, the Americans captured a wife of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader or al Qaeda in Iraq, ISIS' forerunner.
    "We got little out of her, and when we sent her back, Zarqawi killed her," the unidentified official told the newspaper.
    And since al-Dulaimi was reportedly seized more than a week ago, what intelligence she carried may already have passed its sell-by date.
    It's a disgrace as is the silence around it.
    As the silence continues grasp that it's easy today to decry what was done to, for example, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.  It's always easy to decry something 10, 20, 30 years in the past or more.
    But to speak out when an outrage and an injustice is ongoing?
    Too many are scared.
    She's married to a terrorist!
    I don't care if she is or not.  
    Show what's she has done or let her go.
    That's how the rule of law works.
    And real governments do not hold people as "chips" to trade.
    Not only have they failed to prove who she is, they've failed to follow the rule of law.

    And how dare they take DNA tests on her children or anyone's children without permission from the parent.

    It's easy to stay silent.  It's easy to be a coward.

    Look around you, there a ton of them around you right now.

    Margaret Griffis ( counts 110 people killed in violence in Iraq today with another sixty-seven injured.

    Lastly, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America issued the following:

    IAVA to deliver 57,000+ petition signatures to Senator Reid calling for immediate Senate vote  

    Gretchen Andersen
    Press Secretary
    Tel: 212-982-9699

    WHAT: Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization representing post-9/11 veterans and their families, will hold a day of action on Capitol Hill, calling for Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to immediately bring the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Bill to the Senate floor. IAVA veteran members will deliver a petition of more than 57,000 signatures urging Congress to help reverse the trend of 22 veterans dying by suicide every day.

    Media is encouraged to attend the press event, which will begin at noon at the Upper Senate Park Fountain before delivering the petition to Senator Reid’s office in the Hart Senate Office Building.

    Since early 2014, IAVA has led the fight for lawmakers to address veteran suicide and improve access to mental health care. According to IAVA’s 2014 Member Survey, 47 percent of respondents know at least one Iraq or Afghanistan veteran who has attempted suicide, while 40 percent of respondents know someone who has died by suicide, up three points from 2013.

    WHO: IAVA Legislative Director Alex Nicholson
    Post-9/11 veterans

    WHEN: Thursday, December 4, 2014 at noon

    WHERE: Upper Senate Park Fountain, between Delaware Ave., NE, and Constitution Ave.

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

    Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America ( is the nation's first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has nearly 300,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. Celebrating its 10th year anniversary, IAVA recently received the highest rating - four-stars - from Charity Navigator, America's largest charity evaluator.