Saturday, June 09, 2012

Meet an ass

I don't know, maybe I should call this post "Meet A Dick"?

As a general rule, if it is a small political party in the US and it is not preaching racial hatred, I am not going to say a word against it.  I feel that there are (a) better targets and (b) I support efforts to build other political parties.

So I read this garbage by Dan Turner at the Los Angeles Times:

California's Green Party was born in 1991, during a flurry of liberal outrage against Bush's war -- the first Bush, that is, and his shortlived liberation action for Kuwait. California activists, with memories of Vietnam still floating among their THC-dulled synapses, saw the Persian Gulf War as a conflict led by a hated Republican president who was sacrificing American blood for oil -- and a Green movement that had been sputtering before war was declared suddenly took root. More antiwar and pro-environment than the Democratic Party at the time, it was, for a while, a fashionable protest party for the crunchy-granola set.
But the sprout never really blossomed. On Tuesday, the California Green Party's top vote-getter -- notably, it wasn't comedian Roseanne Barr, whose candidacy seems to have been seen even by Greens as a joke, but Massachusetts physician Jill Stein -- received less votes than an American Independent Party candidate named Mad Max Riekse. It's safe to say the Green dream has died.
The national Green Party, which declared Stein its nominee Wednesday, will sputter on. Yet its handful of remaining voters in California might want to seriously think about voting Democrat if they want to have any impact on future elections. The problem is that, in California at least, there is very little separation between Democrats and Greens, which gives people little reason to join the tiny party.

Dan's "been an editorial editor or writer with the Times since 2004."  Doesn't that explain a great deal.

It's not easy being Dan.  What if we ridiculed his looks?  He's not attractive.  Not even remotely cute.

His attack on the Green Party isn't about politics.

There was no need for the column.  It had no humor and it had no real thought.  It was just a bitchy little man raging in his pathetic way.

Jill Stein may end up the only candidate in the race that actually deserves your vote.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, June 8, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Brett McGurk's e-mails finally makes the mainstream news, Brett McGurk's idiotic remarks to the Senate Committee still don't (today we explores his lies to the Committee on Sahwa), Nouri al-Maliki ensures that the political crisis continues in Iraq, the US military finds an increase in the number of suicides, and more.
The big news today?  E-mails Brett McGurk sent to Gina Chon.  If it seems familiar, in the US those covering it before 5:00 pm EST yesterday were Gawker, (John Cook),  Adam Kredo (Washington Free Beacon), DiploPundit kept the issue alive early on as did Peter Van Buren with "McGurk Senate Confirmation Hearing: Do the Emails Matter?," Cryptome published them, and we covered them in "Iraq snapshot" and "'Blue Balls' McGurk faces Senate Foreign Relations..." and "Iraq snapshot".  We covered them here the day before his confirmation hearing.  And though the State Dept admitted to a senator on the Committee that the e-mails were genuine (that is how I found out and why we included it in Tuesday's snapshot) no one wanted to ask questions about it in the hearing.  The e-mails are from 2008 when McGurk, two years into his first marriage, began pursuing an affair with Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal reporter).  McGurk discusses blue balls and masturbation and stresses that then-US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker should not know about the affair.  As Peter Van Buren has explained, the State Dept does discipline employees for extra-marital affairs.  Van Buren would leave his wife for Chon.  The two have since married.
Gina Chon's not the story here.  She may be at other sites and that's their business.  CJR should certainly be exploring the issue of sleeping with your source.  Here our focus is on McGurk except to point out that any woman who has an affair with a married man who then leaves his wife should be very wary of him being back in the same situation when he first cheated with her.  In other words, history tends to repeat.
Once you said you were in love with me
And maybe you still are
But the passion you once showed me
Now is lost among the stars
And you fancy some new fancy girl
Who'll come and change your life around
But she just turned the corner in her car
-- "Take Me As I Am," written by Carly Simon, first appears on her Come Upstairs
What changed?  Why the sudden interest from the press in covering the e-mails?  Because reporters on the State Dept beat pressed State Dept spokesperson Victoria Nuland about the e-mails. 
QUESTION: On another subject, this nomination of Brett McGurk, is it in trouble? And can you confirm that the State Department is investigating allegations of these emails between him and Ms. Chon of The Wall Street Journal?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, on the subject of the emails, they're out there for everybody to see. I'm not going to get into emails between Mr. McGurk and the woman who subsequently became his wife. With regard to Mr. McGurk's nomination, I think you know that he spent the better part of the last decade serving our country in and out of Iraq, working for a Republican administration, a Democratic administration. He is, in our view, uniquely qualified to serve as our ambassador, and we urge the Senate to act quickly on his nomination.
QUESTION: So obviously you're sticking with him. But can you confirm that -- because there are reports -- that the State Department actually has looked into these alleged emails, or the allegations that these might have compromised security or sensitive information?
MS. NULAND: I don't have anything to say on the emails.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that?
QUESTION: Because, I mean, there are rules for Foreign Service officers to not get into situations where you're blackmailed. There's sort of a sense that you have to act morally. There are these regulations in your guidebooks. And some people have lost security clearances over having extramarital affairs. So I wonder why it is that this doesn't seem to be -- factor at all into your decision in keeping this -- keeping his nomination out there.
MS. NULAND: Again, we consider him uniquely qualified. All of the necessary things were done before his nomination, and we urge the Senate to confirm him.  Jill.
QUESTION: Can you confirm that those emails actually came from the State Department system, in -- within the State Department system?
MS. NULAND: I'm not going to speak about the emails. They're out there for you to look at. They're obviously very much available for anybody to read.
QUESTION: Aren't you investigating how they were leaked? They're from your own system.
MS. NULAND: I'm not going to get into our internal issues here.
QUESTION: Well, why not? You talk about WikiLeaks all the time. Those were essentially emails.
MS. NULAND: Goes to your usual point, Matt, that we speak about --
QUESTION: What, the lack of consistency?
MS. NULAND: Yes. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Yeah. Oh, okay, great. When -- you said you did -- all the necessary things were done before his nomination. What are those necessary things? Was that like a security clearance and vetting and --
MS. NULAND: All that stuff.
QUESTION: Well, I mean -- no, I -- what are they? I don't know. What has to be done, not just in his case but in any nominee's case?
MS. NULAND: His nomination was managed in the exact -- with the exact same processes that we use for everyone.
QUESTION: Well, okay. What does that mean? I mean, does that mean that there's an FBI check or --
MS. NULAND: I'm going to refer you to the White House for how they do this.
QUESTION: All right. And then --
QUESTION: Just one more on that.
QUESTION: If you do -- if you did do that, are you sharing this with members of Congress who have severe problems with his nomination?
MS. NULAND: We always work with Congress on our nominees, and we're continuing to do that in this case.
QUESTION: Can you confirm that there has been at least one meeting with -- on the specific issues, not on the specific issues that were about the emails, with people on the Hill?
MS. NULAND: I'm not going to comment on the specifics of our conversation with Congress, but in all these nomination procedures, we work with the Hill on any --
MS. NULAND: -- issues that they have as our --
QUESTION: But are you --
MS. NULAND: -- nominees are being reviewed.
QUESTION: But are you aware that this -- that people from the State Department have gone to the Hill and/or have spoken to members of the committee who have raised concerns about these specific issues. And by these specific issues, I don't mean the more specific substantive issues that senator -- people like Senator McCain have raised. I'm talking specifically about the emails. Do you know if they have been -- if this issue has been discussed with people on the Hill?
MS. NULAND: Beyond saying that we continue to work with appropriate members and staff on his nomination in support of it, as we do with all nominees, I'm not going to get into details.
"Matt" above is Matthew Lee with the Associated Press.  He reports on it here and avoids mentioning Gina Chon by name.  While I have stated that she is not the issue, I am not going to render her invisible.  I have no desire to include the name of the wife cheated on but while I'm not going to examine Gina Chon's motives or explore ethical issues on her end or quote her in the e-mails, I'm not going to vanish her.  When you enter into a sexual relationship with a high ranking government employee, especially a married one, you're risking exposure.  As a member of the press, that's something Gina Chon understood before she ever went to Iraq.  I mention Lee vanishing her because that's another reason the story's not being covered.
During the Iran-Contra hearings -- a detail Robert Parry and others always ignore -- a journalist was outed (TV journalist) for knowing about what took place and covering it up.  It was in the news cycle for about 2 to 3 hours.  Then the press did what it does best: Protect its own.  I've mentioned the journalists' name before and will again.  But we'll not go there today because I'll hear, "Do you always have to beat up on ___?" from friends at ____'s network.
But a big reason that the e-mails weren't covered was due to the fact that Gina Chon is a member of the press.  As a result, I will be rethinking my policy here for next week.  We're already in a gray area because I'm not big on sex scandals.  (And my family has had their own aired out in the press.) But we didn't cover this as "Cheating husband!"  I wasn't even aware Brett McGurk was married when I learned what the Senate Committee was hearing.  We covered this as: You want to be a surpervisor but you used government time and government equipment to go in search of a bootie call, you then concealed the affair from your supervisor because it was a serious conflict and now you're going to supervise?
I'm glad that McGurk doesn't have a sexaul harassment lawsuit against him, but reading those e-mails -- which are only four years old -- I'm not real sure he's someone who understands work boundaries.
And with no supervisory experience, I do worry that the tone he will set will not be encouraging for women or for their safety.  "Oh come on, boss," you can hear a male staffer telling McGurk, "I just sent her an e-mail about my blue balls.  You know what that's like, e-mailing a woman about your blue balls.  I wrote her about masturbating too because I saw your e-mails and realized that's how someone 'so f**king smooth' does it."  Peter Van Buren notes today, "Readers of my book, We Meant Well, will remember an incident where an innocent romantic email from a male State Department contractor to a female soldier kicked off a major incident that ended up with the contractor being swiftly fired for misuse of the official email system for personal use. If McGurk is allowed to end up as ambassador, that would be only the latest in a long series of double standards of conduct at the State Department. "
This is not a minor issue and how sad, telling and pathetic that neither female senator on the Committee bothered to show for the hearing.
It's not a minor issue.  The State Dept was very lucky with the Iraq War.  How so?  All the Pentagon scandals more than kept the public occupied and the sexual harassment taking place in the State Dept was largely ignored by the public -- and damn well was by Colin Powell and Condi Rice.  This isn't a minor issue.  You don't win a lawsuit in arbitration and find yourself awarded $3 million on a minor issue.
And into this already complicated environment, the White House wants to put a man who can't keep it in his pants?  Married less than 2 years and he can't keep it in his pants?  In a war zone and he can't keep it in his pants?
It's not a minor issue.  Can an Iraqi woman meet with McGurk?  And if she does -- remember social taboos are on the rise in Iraq since the US declared war and put thugs in charge -- will this result in it being assumed she too 'got down' with the 'playa'?   You can not put a man with that reputation in Iraq without asking, "How will this effect Iraqi women?"  The most obvious way is they won't be able to interact with him for fear of how any interaction would be interpreted.  So no Iraqi woman can meet with him one-on-one to share concerns.  That doesn't bother the State Dept?
Well why the hell not.  Iraqi women were sold out under Bully Boy Bush and for all of his pretense otherwise, Barack Obama clearly doesn't give a damn about Iraqi women. 
I would think how this effects over half of the Iraqi population would be of grave concern; however, we've yet to see a White House concerned about Iraqi women since the start of the illegal war.
Huffington Post does a lousy job of covering the story.  We're focusing on issues here.  Can he be successful in management when he has no experience and a record of lying to his superiors and breaking rules and regulations?  We're not being Arianna Huffington in the 90s sniffing through Bill Clinton's briefs.  Maybe that's the only way Arianna and her website know to cover a story?  Sink into the filth?  Or maybe it's just more of her: 'Write a bad blog post so we can say we covered it and we aren't really in the tank for Barack.'  Chris McGreal (Guardian) covers the story seriously and raises real issues.  I don't believe that McGurk passed on classified information but -- as Mike noted last night -- that is a serious concern around Congress currently for other reasons.  My issue is that he's not qualified.  That was the opinion before the e-mails.  He doesn't have the exeprience needed, he doesn't speak Arabic, Iraqiya objects to him, Iraqi women will be left out of the discussions but now someone who just four years ago was breaking the State Dept guidelines is going to be put in charge of the largest US embassy project in the world? 
Chris McGreal explains, "A Republican senator, James Inhofe, cancelled a meeting with McGurk in a sign that unease about the emails could raise problems. Any senator is able to put a hold on the nomination."  Helene Cooper (New York Times) adds, "Mr. Inhofe has not yet put a hold on Mr. McGurk's nomination, an aide said" and quotes the aide, Jared Young, stating, "I don't think we'd say we've reached the decision point yet."  Jared Young tells  Aamer Madhani (USA Today), "Until those issues are cleared up, he will not meet with Mr. McGurk."  In addition to the hiding of an affair, Josh Rogin (Foreign Policy) notes that McGurk "may have been videotaped while engaged in a sex act on the roof of Saddam Hussein's Republican Palace with a different woman."  It's oral sex with him on the receiving end.  And since March when Peter Van Buren published a blind item, everyone has whispered that the blind item about the blow job on top of the Republican Palace was one of Brett McGurk's many sexual adventures in the Green Zone.  Paul Richter has a good report for the Los Angeles Times. Need a video report?  As usual, you can count on Jake Tapper who is able to confirm -- unlike all the other outlets today -- that the e-mails are genuine.  Click here for his video report.   Near the end, Jake Tapper explains, "And, George, even McGurk's allies say now that with these e-mails out there, he will have to answer more questions about this on Capitol Hill."
(If you covered this before 5:00 pm EST on Thursday and  I didn't mention you, it was not intentional.  E-mail and in Monday's snapshot we'll note you covered it before the American mainstream media covered it.  And that's true always for left sites and center sites, but that applies to any right-winger as well.  Drop an e-mail with a link so we can include you so you get your credit.  And if you want some gossip, as I work in this link,  Peter Van Buren is the author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the War for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People,  Let me note that some at the State Dept are stating that Peter is behind the leak.  No, he wasn't.  But there are many other stories that will be leaked out if the State Dept and the White House continue to target Peter.  Their little witch hunt and demonization of Peter has offended several career employees.)
[Personal note.  Since leaks are such a big deal, let me note I wasn't told by anyone about the e-mails.  I was present in the outer office when it was being discussed in hushed tones.  Anyone who knows me knows don't whisper around me.  If people talk at a normal volume, I'm busy, I'm returning calls on my cell phones and I'm going through my planner.  But you start whispering and I hear it.  You cannot get far enough away if you're whispering.  When you start whispering, you're right in my ear.]
In the snapshots, we've been covering the interesting parts of Brett McGurk's Wednesday testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee such as when he elected to school everyone on al Qaeda in Iraq -- and directly contradicted Congressional testimony provided by Leon Panetta (Secretary of Defense) and contradicted the public remarks of James Clapper (Director of National Intelligence).  The Committee just ignored all the conflicts in his claims.  Today we focus on Sahwa.  Here's what the nominee had to say.
Brett McGurk: The Sons of Iraq is also something that we need to watch very closely.  So far, about 70,000 have been incorporated into government positions.  About 30,000 Sons of Iraq are still manning checkpoints.  They are getting paid out of the current budget -- I've been told out of the current budget.  They get paid about $300 a month which is slightly below the per capita GDP.
Dropping back to the April 8, 2008 Senate Armed Services hearing when Gen David Petraeus, then the top US commander in Iraq, was explaining Sahwa.
In his opening remarks, Petraues explained of the "Awakening" Council (aka "Sons of Iraq," et al) that it was a good thing "there are now over 91,000 Sons of Iraq -- Shia as well as Sunni -- under contract to help Coalition and Iraqi Forces protect their neighborhoods and secure infrastructure and roads.  These volunteers have contributed significantly in various areas, and the savings in vehicles not lost because of reduced violence -- not to mention the priceless lives saved -- have far outweighed the cost of their monthly contracts."  Again, the US must fork over their lunch money, apparently, to avoid being beat up. 
How much lunch money is the US forking over?  Members of the "Awakening" Council are paid, by the US, a minimum of $300 a month (US dollars).  By Petraeus' figures that mean the US is paying $27,300,000 a month.  $27 million a month is going to the "Awakening" Councils who, Petraeus brags, have led to "savings in vehicles not lost".
Now this was the week that Petreaus and Crocker went from House Committee to Senate Committee to House Committee . . .  Offering their testimony.
And in one of the last smart things she may have done, Senator Barbara Boxer raised the issue of why is the US taxpayer footing the bill for Sahwa?  She asked why Nouri wasn't paying the cost?  This forced the administration to insist that they would explore that.  Had Boxer not raised the issue, it never would have been raised.  By the end of the week, it was stated that the US was going to ask that Nouri pick up the tab.  This was at the height of Sahwa.  Their number did not increase.  In fact their numbers decreased because they've been repeatedly targeted with violence.  In the year Petreaus testified, for example, 528 Sahwa died from attacks and another 828 were injured in attacks.  Attacks haven't been their only problems.  In January of this year, Dan Morse (Washington Post) reported:
The United States transferred full management of the force to the Iraqi government in 2009, with the understanding that 20 percent of the fighters would be given jobs in Iraq's police or military units and that the government would try to find the others civil service or private-sector jobs.
But the process has moved slowly. Sons of Iraq members say they are denied jobs because they are Sunni, even as the Iraqi government welcomes onetime Shiite insurgents into jobs. The government says that it is committed to hiring Sons of Iraq members but that education levels prevent some of them from getting security jobs.
After its inception in 2005 they received salaries of around 250 dollars monthly for manning checkpoints and patrolling their own areas. But those low revenues have vanished today with the withdrawal of the Americans.
"The original plan was to gradually integrate our men into the Iraqi security forces but now we're all starting to realise that those were just fake promises," Abdullatif Majid Latif, commander of the militia in Samarra, explains at the militia headquarters in the city.
"I have 2,000 men who have families to take care of in a desperate situation. All of them still remain loyal to Sheikh Khalid Fleieh but I wonder how long will this last," adds the military official.
Abdullatif's men belong to the approximately 100,000 today lining up in the Sahwa militia. The first stage of an initially ambitious plan was to incorporate a quarter of them into the security forces. Today, things are not working as expected. Everyone wonders what will happen to thousands of broken armed men.
Samarra Sahwa militiaman Abdulljabar Abdulrahim is categorical: "If I'm not paid in April I'll quit and look for something else, either in the construction or the cleaning sectors," he says, armed with an AK-47 rifle and dressed in sweatpants and slippers.
How do the above reports fit with the claims Brett McGurk made?  They don't.  As usual he spun pretty for his friend Nouri.  He didn't, however, tell the truth to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  On the Clapper and Panetta issue, you could just write him off as dumb.  But the problems of Sahwa finding employment and getting paid have been documented by the major newspapers since 2009.  As of March of this year, nothing changed.  But Brett McGurk wants to insist otherwise.
70,000 have not been given government jobs.  That's a bold face lie.  The best year on hiring was 2009. And about a tenth of that was hired in 2009.  In 2010 and 2011 you see the drop-off in hiring.  2009 was the best year.  McGurk's figures don't add up.
Maybe if the Senators hadn't been so quick to rush through the hearing -- those that bothered to show up -- we'd know for sure whether Brett McGurk was an idiot or a liar.  But you don't give the testimony he did -- as we've now documented in three snapshots -- unless you're uninformed or lying.
When his lack of experience in administration and supervision is brought up, the White House insists to Senators that McGurk makes up for that with his vast knowledge of Iraq.  He didn't display vast knowledge, he displayed highly limited knowledge.
He is not qualified and, if he was smart, he'd withdraw his nomination. 
If the administration were smart, they'd learn to give a damn about Iraqi women.  This is Barack third nomination for US Ambassador to Iraq.  All three have been men.  If we're supposedly modeling behavior for Iraq, we're not doing Iraqi women a bit of good.  Stop kidding that these all male appointments (and all male under Bush as well) help Iraqi women. 
The continued violence in Iraq helps no one but leaders who benefit from a terrorized population.  AFP's Prashant Rao Tweeted today:
Attacks in Baghdad, Diyala and Kirkuk killed four people today: @AFP #Iraq
AFP reports a Baghdad attack on Col Mohammed Yunis' car left him dead and his wife and their two children injured, Assad Mohammed was shot dead ("official in the office of deputy parliament speaker Qusay al-Sohail), 1 Iraqi soldier was shot dead in Kirkuk and a Baladruz roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left two people injured.  Alsumaria reports that the owner of a power generator center (electrical plant?) in Diwaniyah was approached last night by angry citizens with one throwing an unknown sharp object which killed him.  The citizens were upset by the continued lack of electricity.
In Iraq, the political crisis continues.  If you're having trouble keeping track of who's who, Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) offers a look at the various political blocs.

Al Rafidayn reports that Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq gave a speech yesterday at the Cultural Forum insisting that while he has defended the government he has also criticized it.   In his speech yesterday, Ammar declared that ISCI was not part of the problem but that they wanted to be part of the solution and to support everyone. That would be a change because all Ammar's supported so far this year was Nouri.

Nouri is facing a no-confidence vote in Iraq.  His refusal to honor a signed contract between him and the political blocs has ticked off many.  The Al Rafidayn article notes that Daw's Abdul Halim Zuhairi (Dawa is a political party -- Nouri's political party; State of Law is Nouri's political slate) is insisting that Moqtada al-Sadr is harming the nation and splitting the Shi'ite ranks.

Right there is your problem.

Moqtada al-Sadr is splitting Shi'ite ranks?

That's a sectarian way of looking at -- apparently the only way Dawa knows how.

You'd think the statements would be condemned.  They won't be.  But Alsumaria reports Nouri did make a speech today insisting that tolerance was needed.  He's not punished anyone with Ministry of Interior for targeting and demonizing Iraqi youth suspected of being Emo (the Ministry of Interoir went into the schools trashing those children -- and the Interior has no minister because Nouri won't nominate anyone -- he can only control it when there is no minister).

Regardless of whether or not there's a no-confidence vote, what has happened is that Iraqi leaders have demonstrated they can go beyond sects and work together -- Moqtada, KRG President Massoud Barzani, Iraqiya's Ayad Allawi and others.  They've presented a united front arguing that the Erbil Agreement needs to be followed as agreed to.
The Pentagon doesn't like to use the term "crisis," especially when discussing the suicide rate of service members.  But the situation reached crisis level long ago.  The latest news is even worse than before. Mark Thompson (Time magazine) explains:

New Pentagon data show U.S. troops are killing themselves at the rate of nearly one a day so far in 2012, 18% above 2011′s corresponding toll. "The continual rise in the suicide rate has frustrated all in the military," says Elspeth "Cam" Ritchie, a retired Army colonel and chief psychiatric adviser to the Army surgeon general. "The rise in the suicide rate continues despite numerous recommendations from the Army and DoD task forces."
Stephanie Pappas (Live Science) explains, "Even as the civilian suicide rate remains steady at about 11 deaths per 100,000 people, military suicide rates have been climbing over most of the past decade. In 2001, for example, the suicide rate per 100,000 people in the Army was nine; that number rose all the way to 19.3 by 2008. Over the same time span in the Marine Corps, the suicide rate per 100,000 rose from 16.7 to 19.9, according to a 2011 report by the research institute the Rand Corp."  Tonight on The NewsHour (PBS -- link is text, video and audio), Kwame Holman explained:
Suicides among U.S. forces are on the rise this year. According to the Pentagon, military suicides now are averaging nearly one per day; 154 active-duty service members took their lives in the first 155 days of the year. That's an 18 percent increase over the same period last year.
Suicide deaths also now are outpacing the number of U.S. combat troops killed in Afghanistan. Some research has pointed to multiple tours of duty and post-traumatic stress as contributing to the rise in suicides.

Yesterday on the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley, David Martin filed a report (link is text and video):

David Martin: Spc Carl McCoy survived two tours in Iraq only to take his own life and shatter the life of his wife Maggie.

Maggie McCoy:  He shot himself.  In the bathroom.

David Martin: Here in this house?

Maggie McCoy: Yes.

David Martin: That was 2008, when the Army did not have enough mental health counselors.  McCoy had scheduled an appointment with a counselor at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.  But that morning --

Maggie McCoy: They called and cancelled. 

David Martin: And they cancelled because?

Maggie McCoy: They didn't have anybody to see see him.  That was the day before he killed himself. 

Martin goes on to float the Pentagon's 'possible' reason for the increase:  The economy.
Mollie ( weighs in with, "Suicides don't just mean that chaplains must arrange and perform funeral services but also that they must deal with units that are devastated. He said that one of the things they work on is doing respectful funerals without glorifying the suicide victim since studies (and his personal experience) indicate that it can lead to copycat suicides or other problems. He mentioned another recent situation of overseeing a funeral for an atheist who had left explicit instructions about what could and could not be said at his service. Since what he wanted said and not said wasn't exactly something that many — or any, in this case — chaplains could get on board with, the chaplains at the base came up with a creative workaround that honored the dead soldier's wishes without compromising anyone else's religious views."  AP has a video report which includes Major General Dana Pittard writing on a blog: "Be an adult, act like an adult, and deal with your real-life problems like the rest of us."  No, that's not helpful or needed and it's actually damaging and keeps people from seeking the help that they neeed.

 Robert Burns (AP) notes,  "The numbers reflect a military burdened with wartime demands from Iraq and Afghanistan that have taken a greater toll than foreseen a decade ago. The military also is struggling with increased sexual assaults, alcohol abuse, domestic violence and other misbehaviour."  David Martin was oblivious to that apparently.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The world begins to catch onto Amy Goodman

It's time for Amy Goodman to start whoring again.  Doubt it?

AP reported this evening on a woman being assaulted in Egypt.

If you'll remember the CIA front Amy Goodman was more than happy to bring on the woman who claimed she'd been raped in Egypt and claimed it was no big deal.  If the woman was assaulted -- big if -- she was in denial.  More likely, she was lying.

Amy Goodman has a long history of undercutting women's rights.  That is, after all, why she choose to publish in Hustler magazine.

She's trash.  That's why she puts on her CIA buddy Juan Cole.

Her audience continues to dwindle and every time Michael Ratner vouches for her on air he makes himself look like an idiot and raises questions about himself.  (I know because Sunny reads the e-mails and she'll say, "He mentioned her again on the program.  You've got 15 e-mails asking why?")

If you missed how crazy and filled with lies Amy Goodman has become, you could read her latest column or, better yet, read the comments:

31 May 2012 10:01PM
Amy Goodman, I'm disappointed in you.
DemocracyNow is utterly brilliant, but you've fallen into the same trap that John Pilger has - that because someone has done a Good Thing (Wikileaks) that fits in with your politics, that makes him a Good Person.
The world is more complicated than that. Assange is guilty or innocent of what he's been accused of. But just because you approve of some of his actions in fronting Wikileaks (let's not forget he's not the only member of that organisation) doesn't mean that other actions he may or may not have committed are some sort of US government conspiracy simply because that fits in with your world view.
There are no Great Men (or women, for that matter). There are merely fallible and sometimes flawed individuals. If accusations have been made, they should be answered; if they're false, no problem, if they're true, then hopefully justice will be done. But to dismiss allegations out of hand simply because you can't believe your hero could have done such a thing is flawed logic. The world is not divided into Goodies and Baddies or black and white, no matter how much you may wish it to be so.
For myself, if someone had accused me of sexual assault, and I was innocent, I'd be at the nearest police station within half an hour helping them with their enquiries.

31 May 2012 9:09PM
Amy Goodman
As the contrast with the extradition case of Augusto Pinochet shows, it's one law for whistleblowers, another for war criminals
Well, for one thing Julian Assange is not a former head of state that once helped Britain win a war.
Amy Goodman
Assange and his supporters allege that the warrant is part of an attempt by the US government to imprison him, or even execute him, and to shut down WikiLeaks
What a weaselly thing to say. Does the author agree with this (ridiculous conspiracy) theory or not?
Amy Goodman
The main concern with an extradition to Sweden is that Assange will then be extradited to the United States.
How on hell could that happen? He could be subject to extradition from Sweden but not from the UK?!? How ridiculous could these people get? From (conspiracy) theories like that one might conclude that Sweden is a third-world right-wing dictatorship. Does the author concur? Please, this is just embarrassing!

31 May 2012 9:13PM
I can't seem to stop wondering why female Guardian columnists keep blindly defending a guy accused of sexual assault. To be questioned in the center left nirvana of Sweden. Happening to know that it is definitely easier to be shipped off to the US from th UK than from Sweden. Odd.
I'd hazard a guess that, in case countries were swapped and poor ole little Julian were under house arrest in Sweden, the UK trying to get him extradited, we'd see and read the same kind of nonsense.
Methinks, Mr. Assange doth protest too much

31 May 2012 9:36PM
The cases remind us that all too often whistleblowers suffer, while war criminals walk.
Assange is being extradited to face charges of rape. All this conspiracy guff about the real motive being an attempt to silence whistleblowers is delusional.
An the parallel with Pinochet is demented.

31 May 2012 9:45PM
What a strange article. It totally omits facts that do not conform to the 'Assange is an innocent victim' narrative.
Sweden (as others have said, a left-wing country normally held up in the Guardian as the country we should emulate) has requested Assange's extradition as he is suspected of Rape. Assange does not want to go to Sweden and is appealing against that extradition - hence the 2-year wait. HE has caused that delay, he could have gone without delay but, for his own reasons (and I make no suggestions either way) he has not.
If the US wanted Assange they could request his extradition from the UK rather than, as the author thinks, wait until he gets to Sweden - with the wonderful Treaty we have with them as regards extradition it would be a lot easier from the UK.
Comparisons with Pinochet are not valid. Pinochet was a Head of State and, as such, would normally have immunity for actions committed then. As others have pointed out Assange never has been a HoS.

Ava and C.I. exposed the truth about Amy Goodman in "Democracy Sometimes."  Goody and others in her front responded by . . . wallpapering the net with the phrase in an attempt to ensure "Democracy Sometimes" would stop being easily found.  Too bad for the Goody Whore, the word is out.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, June 6, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri claims "foreign interference" and a conspiracy, Bradley Manning's attorney states they are not getting the evidence needed (or required by law), Brett McGurk makes on outlandish statement to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Committee doesn't even bat an eye.

"Today the Senate Foreign Relations Committee meets to consider the President's nominees to serve as ambassadors to the following countries: Iraq, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Tajikistan," explained Senator Bob Casey this morning.  Casey was acting Committee Chair for the hearing.  Susan Marsh Elliott has been nominated for the Tajikistan post and Jeanne Sison's for the Srik Lanka and Maldives posts.  They are not our focus.  Brett McGurk is nominated to be the US Ambassador to Iraq and that is our focus.  For those late to the party who may have checked out on Iraq sometime ago, Casey offered a strong overview.

Chair Bob Casey:  In Iraq, of course, the picture is mixed.  Nearly six months after the redeployment of US troops from the country, we know that political and ethnic divisions remain sharp as Iraq recovers from years and years of war.  The current government took months to establish in 2010.  And a high degree of mistrust still exists among key political factions.  Iraqis and Americans have sacrificed greatly, mightily to support the Democratic process in Iraq.  At this point in time, we should continue to support the political reconciliation among key players in the country as they work to further deepen the Democratic process.  This unsettled political environment exists within a very precarious
security situation where extremist groups are still capable of an have launched significant attacks in the country.  Just last week, six bomb blasts across Baghdad killed at least 17 people -- mostly in Shia neighborhoods.  On Monday, a suicide bomber killed at least 26 people in Baghdad and wounded more than 190 in an attack on the government run -- the government run body that manages Shi'ite religious and cultural sites. 

Why did we have the hearing?  He's "eminently capable" of doing the job, Casey rushed to assure in his opening remarks.  Then why are you wasting tax payer money?  Why waste our money holding a hearing when you've already decreed the nominee "eminently capable"?  Not to mention wasting everyone's time?

It was a garbage hearing.  Trash.  That's all it was.  I could ridicule Casey but instead will just note that aside from refusing to question the witness seriously, he did an okay job filling in for Kerry.  Only okay?  When the opposite side has time left and wants just a minute more, no words should be required.  Just wavie them through.  This is the Senate.  Especially when it's the other side because it's so easy to look petty when interacting with the other side.  His strengths?  He's a very religious person and follows religious news so he brings a perspective to foreign relations that's often unique.  He will -- and did in this hearing -- know certain details of foreign violence that the mainstream press has ignored.  I wish he'd bothered to hold a hard hitting hearing.  I wish he'd asked how have we arrived at Barack Obama's third nominee for US Ambassador to Iraq in four years?

The refusal to ask that sort of question goes a long way towards explaining how the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has failed repeatedly in the last four years when it came to vetting nominees.

In his opening remarks, Brett McGurk began with his time in Iraq back in 2004 with John Negroponte.   Listening to him list his part in one Iraqi failure after another, it was difficult not to remember Peter Van Buren's observations last March:

McGurk is 38 years old and has never done any job other than help fuck up Iraq on behalf of the United States. Dude only graduated in 1999. Despite essentially doing nothing but Iraq stuff his entire adult life, McGurk has also avoided learning any Arabic. You'd kind of think that maybe that wouldn't be the resume for the next guy in charge of cleaning up some of his own mistakes, like maybe you'd want someone who had some… depth or experience or broad knowledge or understanding of something other than failure in that God-forsaken country. Normally when you are a hand maiden to failure you don't get promoted, but then again, this is the State Department. This is almost as good as Harriet Miers.

Peter Van Buren is the author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the War for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, about his work for the State Dept in Iraq.

We'll note McGurk's claims of what he will do if confirmed.

Brett McGurk:  In the defense and security area, if confirmed, I look forward to working with our Office of Security Cooperation and CENTCOM to ensure that we are doing everything possible to deepen our military-defense partnership in Iraq. In the diplomatic area, if confirmed, I look forward to working with our ambassadors in regional capitols --  most of whom I've worked with and admired for many years -- to ensure close coordination of US policies in Iraq and throughout the region.  In the political area, Iraq is scheduled to hold elections -- provincial elections in 2013 and national [he means parliamenatry] elections in 2014. If confirmed, it will be a central focus of our mission to work in coordination with the UN to ensure that these elections are held freely and on time.  Energy and economics are now among the foremost priorities.  If confirmed it will be among my highest priorities to connect US businesses with emerging opportunities in Iraq and to refocus Iraqi leaders on the urgent necessity of diversifying their economy and grappling with national hydrocarbons legislation.  As the US pursues its interest in Iraq, we must never lose sight of our values including promotion of human rights, women and protection of vulnerable minorities.  This is an ambitious agenda but it should nor require an unsustainable resource base.  If confirmed, I pledge to work with the Congress to establish a democratic presence in Iraq.  That is secure, strategic, effective and sustainable. 
Back to the questioning.

Chair Bob Casey: I wanted to ask you about leadership which is a central concern in any confirmation process but maybe especially so for the position that you've been nominated for.  There will be those who say -- and I want to have you respond to this -- you have based upon your record, broad experience in Iraq. several time periods in which you've served as you've been called back for services under, as I indicated, two administrations.  But they will also say that you haven't had the leadership position that would lend itself to to the kind of substantial experience that will prepare yourself for such a position.  And I want you to answer that question because I think it's an important one in terms of demonstrating in this confirmation process, your ability to lead not just an embassy but an embassy and a mission of this size and  consequence.

Brett McGurk:  Thank you, Senator and thank you for allowing me to address that.  I'd like to do that in three ways.  First, leadership of the embassy starts at home: At the embassy.  As you noted in your opening statements, I've served with all five of our prior ambassadors to Iraq and I've seen every permentation of the embassy from the very beginning to where it is today.  Throughout that, uh, process, I have learned and seen and been involved with what it takes to lead in Iraq. And to lead in Iraq, you need a really  fingertip understanding of the operational tempo in Iraq, of what it's like day-to-day, of knowing when something is a crisis and when it's not, managing morale and keeping people focused on the goals.  It also takes a team.  And if I'm fortunate enough to be confirmed, I'd be inheriting a team of extraordinary talent and depth at the embassy.  I've been fortunate to have worked with every member of the country team in Iraq.  Uh, one of whom happens to be sitting to my left, Ambassador Sissen.  That team encorporates  individuals from across the government, just a whole government approach from Commerce to Transportation to Treasury to State to the Defense Community to the Intelligence Community. I've been gratified to learn that key members of that team have volunteered to stay on for another year and, if I'm confirmed, would serve with me.  As Ambassador, the buck would stop with me.  And as I think I said in the opening statement, I have a very clear visison -- in coordination with the President and the Secretary -- of where we need to take this mission.  But I would be working with a very strong team. 

He then goes on to list various people he's worked with.  However, the question was about his ability to supervise and the answer was about everything but supervision.  Near the end of all that he says "finally" and begins talking about "my relationship with the Iraqi people."  He stated he was called back "over the years due to my unique relationship with the Iraqis.  I have worked with these indiviuals since I first got to Iraq in January 2004."

Iraq's changed a bit since then.  And is McGurk able to see them for who they are now?  More importantly, is an occupation agent -- which is what McGurk would have been seen as -- really the one to make the diplomatic face for the US in Iraq?

No one asked that important question.

Brett McGurk:  Leadership also in this context, you have to look at inter-agency experience because you're looking at a whole government approach.  As a senior director for President Bush in the NSC particularly at one of the most intense periods of the war  from the time of planning and implementing the surge and through the end of his administration.  I was at point for organizing a whole of government effort for implement the surge.
That's where he should have been asked about his failure.

Forget your take on the surge and just look at what happened. (Some are pro-surge, some are anti- -- set that aside.)  We know what Gen David Petraeus did.  He was the top US commander in Iraq.  He receives much praise for the surge.

Bush ordered the surge.  Petraeus executed it.  That's not me saying, "Don't give Petreaus any praise!"  That's noting what Petraeus' role was.  I don't believe the surge did anything lasting.  I don't believe it resulted in success.  That's not my criticism of Petraeus.  Petraeus was ordered to execute it and did.  His efforts are his efforts and though I'm anti-surge I see nothing to fault him on with regards to the execution of it.  He did what he was ordered to do with the surge and did it excellently. 

2007 wasn't that long ago for some people.  For others it was a lifetime ago or even, if you're young enough, pre-history.  So let's go back and explain what was going on.  In the November 2006 mid-terms, the Democrats campaign of "give us one house of Congress and we'll end the war" resulted in their winning control of the House of Representatives and the Senate.  This alarmed the White House (among the reasons Donald Rumsfeld was replaced as Secretary of Defense).  Not surprising, Republicans are usually alarmed by Democrats and vice versa.  So you had Bush occupying the White House and fearful that the Democrats were going to keep their campaign promise.  What a naive Bully Boy Bush.

But Democrats were saying that the same thing was being done over and over.  US House Rep Gary Ackerman (who truly was against the Iraq War) was among those making that statement.  And they wanted to know why more money needed to be spent.  There was no progress.  The White House came up with benchmarks in early 2007 (and Nouri al-Maliki signed off on them as Iraq's prime minister).  Iraq would meet these benchmarks and that would be progress!  They never did.  And Democrats in Congress stopped caring as soon as Barack Obama was sworn in.  Doubt it?  US House Rep Lloyd Doggett, when's the last time you expressed public concern over the amount of money going to Iraq with the benchmarks not being met?  2008 when Bush was in the White House.

In Iraq in 2007, the ethnic cleansing from the year before was continuing.  Shi'ites were purging Sunnis, Sunnis were purging Shi'ites.  It was more Shi'ites than Sunnis and that's true not only because there were more Shi'ites in the country but also because Sunnis made up a huge portion of the refugee population created in this time period.  Iraq was spinning out of control.  In addition to the benchmarks, in January 2007, Bush proposed the surge.  Here he is explaining it (January 10, 2007) to the American people:

The elections of 2005 were a stunning achievement. We thought that these elections would bring the Iraqis together - and that as we trained Iraqi security forces, we could accomplish our mission with fewer American troops.
But in 2006, the opposite happened. The violence in Iraq - particularly in Baghdad - overwhelmed the political gains the Iraqis had made. Al Qaeda terrorists and Sunni insurgents recognized the mortal danger that Iraq's elections posed for their cause. And they responded with outrageous acts of murder aimed at innocent Iraqis.
They blew up one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam - the Golden Mosque of Samarra - in a calculated effort to provoke Iraq's Shia population to retaliate. Their strategy worked. Radical Shia elements, some supported by Iran, formed death squads. And the result was a vicious cycle of sectarian violence that continues today.
The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people - and it is unacceptable to me. Our troops in Iraq have fought bravely. They have done everything we have asked them to do. Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me.
It is clear that we need to change our strategy in Iraq. So my national security team, military commanders, and diplomats conducted a comprehensive review. We consulted members of Congress from both parties, our allies abroad, and distinguished outside experts. We benefited from the thoughtful recommendations of the Iraq Study Group - a bipartisan panel led by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton. In our discussions, we all agreed that there is no magic formula for success in Iraq. And one message came through loud and clear: Failure in Iraq would be a disaster for the United States.
[. . .]
Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons: There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents, and there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have. Our military commanders reviewed the new Iraqi plan to ensure that it addressed these mistakes. They report that it does. They also report that this plan can work.
Now, let me explain the main elements of this effort. The Iraqi government will appoint a military commander and two deputy commanders for their capital. The Iraqi government will deploy Iraqi army and national police brigades across Baghdad's nine districts. When these forces are fully deployed, there will be 18 Iraqi army and national police brigades committed to this effort, along with local police. These Iraqi forces will operate from local police stations; conducting patrols and setting up checkpoints and going door-to-door to gain the trust of Baghdad residents.
This is a strong commitment. But for it to succeed, our commanders say the Iraqis will need our help. So America will change our strategy to help the Iraqis carry out their campaign to put down sectarian violence and bring security to the people of Baghdad. This will require increasing American force levels. So I've committed more than 20,000 additional American troops to Iraq.
[. . .]
This new strategy will not yield an immediate end to suicide bombings, assassinations, or IED attacks. Our enemies in Iraq will make every effort to ensure that our television screens are filled with images of death and suffering. Yet, over time, we can expect to see Iraqi troops chasing down murderers, fewer brazen acts of terror, and growing trust and cooperation from Baghdad's residents. When this happens, daily life will improve, Iraqis will gain confidence in their leaders, and the government will have the breathing space it needs to make progress in other critical areas. Most of Iraq's Sunni and Shia want to live together in peace. And reducing the violence in Baghdad will help make reconciliation possible.

An even shorter version of the speech can be summed up as:

Americans are weary of the war.  Iraq needs to show progress.  To give the politicians "the breathing space" to move forward, we are sending more US soldiers into Iraq to address the security situation.

Brett McGurk bragged about his role overseeing the surge to the Senate committee which was either too stupid or too cowed to point out the obvious: "Brett McGurk, you, sir, are no David Petraeus."

Petraeus' role is very clear.  And he executed the surge and did so in a manner that should have resulted in an excellent rating for him.  For Petraeus.

And that's the only part of the surge that can be rated as "successful."

The surge was a failure.  Not a military failure.  Petraeus and those following his orders did their job very well.  But the surge wasn't just about more military on the ground.  That was the military aspect.  The political aspect -- which McGurk was supposed to be working on -- was passing the hydrocarbons law, achieving reconciliation among Iraqis (end of the anti-Ba'athism implemented under Paul Bremer), etc.  That was a failure.

None of it happened.  And not only did it not happen under the surge, Nouri's just appointed new members to the Justice and Accountability Commission -- that's de-Ba'athification commission.  That was supposed to be done away with during the surge.  None of it happened.

That's basic and many people can say that straight forward. (An idiot couldn't say it straight forward to Katie Couric on the CBS Evening News.  Think I mean Sarah Palin?  No, the first stammering can't answer the question interview was with Barack.)  The US military did their part.  That's all that happened.  And it wasn't Petraeus job to get the political ball moving.  That was the job of people like Brett McGurk.

It's amazing that he wants to claim credit for basically being the point person on the surge when the only part that succeeded succeeded because of Gen Petraeus and those service members under him.  McGurk had nothing to do with that.  Talk about a glory hog.

And how shameful that the Committee let that pass.  The whoring for this administration out of Congress is becoming a national embarrassment.  You either start working for the country or start campaigning under a street lamp -- preferably a red street lamp.   If you're tired of whoring how about you start addressing the needs of the United States?  If the US needs an ambassador to Iraq, then they need a qualified one.  Your refusal to ask hard questions did not make it appear that you were the least bit interested in McGurk's qualifications or, more to the point, his lack of them.

And don't for a moment think that the Republicans did a better job.  Senator James Risch began his lecture praising McGurk's "expertise" and saying no one could question it.  Really?  There are a lot of people questioning just that?  His experience is non-stop failure.

To Ranking Member Richard Lugar, McGurk would assert, "Quite frankly, our presence is too large."  This moments after stating he was involved in every bit of planning and discussions for the drawndown. 

The American presence is too large in Baghdad post drawdown?

Well, I guess after two years, you can judge that . . .  What's that?  It hasn't been two years?  That's right.  It wasn't even six months before Tim Arango began reporting ("U.S. May Scrap Costly Efforts to Train Iraqi Police") the State Dept was exploring scaling back the presence -- and he was wrongly slammed for that reporting by the State Dept.  If I was involved in every bit of planning for the post-drawndown phase and, less than six months later, the Department was belatedly realizing the planning had all been wrong, I would expect people to question me on that.  I certainly wouldn't think I could get away with citing my involvement in poor planning as a plus and reason to consider me for a post as ambassador.

But the Senators didn't object, didn't question.  When Tim Arango was reporting on this consdieration, he was noting that over $50 million had already been spent on his program in Iraq since the start of the year.  It's a damn shame that the US Senators weren't at all concerned about that wasted money.  They had a witness before them bragging about all he'd done in the planning and the planning is a failure.  You'd think the gas bags would have had a question or two.

Brett McGurk:  In my last assignments in Iraq, I participated in almost every internal conversation -- both inter-agency and in Baghdad -- about how not only to plan the transition after our troops were withdrawing but also uhm, uh-uh, how to get the size down.  Uh, quite frankly, our presence in Iraq right now, uh, is too large.

Welcome to our Zombie Senate.  Here you will find glassy-eyed senators who stumble through a few words but mainly stare off into space as a witness self-incriminates.

We may cover this hearing again tomorrow, there is plenty more to grab to be sure, but we're going stop here.  Yesterday, we covered the e-mails McGurk allegedly sent Wall St. Journal report Gina Chon.  Today Peter Van Buren makes the following points:

I myself could care less what two adults agree to do, married or not, but State has disciplined its own Foreign Service Officers for extra marital affairs, and cautions against using official email for too-personal correspondence. Always want to keep an eye on double-standards so they don't negatively influence morale among the troops.

I do care what McGurk did.  He concealed the relationship from Ryan Crocker who was his superior and the US Ambassador to Iraq.  When I objected yesterday I didn't see how someone who did that could then be US Ambassador to Iraq.  I was unaware that McGurk was married (he got married in 2006).  As Peter Van Buren notes, that is considered a no-no.  So he didn't just waste time in a war zone pursuing a bootie call, he also did so while married. 

There are two comments currently at Van Buren's post.  I agree with both of them but I want to echo the second one.  The State Dept has gone after Peter.  They have targeted him for being a whistle blower.  But they think the best the US can offer for a post as ambassador is someone who violated their own policies in 2008 while in Iraq.  (That's not the only time in Iraq that McGurk violated the policies.  Had I known he was married yesterday I wouldn't have stated that he had many affairs while in Iraq.  But I've already stated that so we will note, pursuit of affairs was not limited to Gina Chon.)  And they know this.  And yet they want to go after Peter?

The State Dept should take their little comedy act on the road.

Maybe USA Today's Jim Michaels could be their opening act?  "Six months after the last U.S. combat troops left, an Iraq free of Saddam Hussein and overseen by a democratically elected government midwifed by the United States is standing on its own despite ever-present dangers from within and outside its borders."  Good for Michaels for not falling into the press trap of claiming all US troops left.  You still have some acting to guard the embassy and consulates, you still have special ops and you still have others.  And it does matter to those whose loved ones are the ones still stationed in Iraq (that's not even counting the ones stationed around it).  So good for him there.

But democratically elected government?

If you say the "government of Iraq" to most people in the US, their image is Nouri al-Maliki.  He wasn't democratically elected.  His political slate (State of Law) came in second to Iraqiya (headed by Ayad Allawi).  Nouri's only prime minister today because he pouted and threw a temper tantrum for eight months (Political Stalemate I) and had the White House and Iranian government in Tehran both backing him.  The US pushed through the Erbil Agreement.  That's what gave him a second term.  And when he got what he wanted from the agreement that he signed off on, he refused to follow the Erbil Agreement, he refused to honor the concessions he had promised and put into writing.  And that is the ongoing Political Stalemate II, generally refered to as "the political crisis."

The political crisis has led to a call for

Al Mada notes that 176 signatures have been collected to call for a vote of no-confidence.  The Media Line observes, "That leaves Maliki with a motley assortment of backers: his own State of Law coalition, which commands less than a third of the seats in parliament; Tehran; and Washington. Yet, followers of Iraq's murky and ever-shifting politics say, Maliki isn't a goner yet."   Of course not, it's never easy to get rid of cockroaches, Wile E. Coyote or  rodents.  Al Mada notes State of Law continues to insist that the White House won't allow Nouri to be removed from his post and that US Vice President Joe Biden will be visiting soon.

That a visit from Joe Biden is seen as the saving grace for Nouri goes to how estranged the White House is from the longterm US allies in the KRG.  Nouri al-Maliki used to hate Senator Joe.  Couldn't stand him.   Because Joe was among those telling the truth publicly that Nouri was nothing but a petty thug.

Now the KRG feels they can't trust the White House (they're right) and Thug Nouri feels he can.  You have to wonder what and who the administration won't sell out before Barack leaves the White House?

 Al Mada reports that the Sadr bloc states that they are under intense pressure from Iran's Shi'ite government to back down in the call for a no confidence vote against Nouri (Shi'ite). As AFP noted this afternoon, Nouri's response was to declare that "foreign influence" was behind Iraq's problems.  As usual, he tossed around terms like "conspiracy" and played the persecuted drama queen.

You don't have to ignore sectarian conflict and you shouldn't.  The truth is the truth.  But you also shouldn't mischaracterize to pimp the lie of sectarian conflict among government officisls.  There is unity in the government against Nouir.

Alsumaria notes that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani went ahead and forwarded the signatures forthe no-confidence vote and that Talabani is insisting that he didn't sign on himself. 

If Nouri wanted to stop a vote, all he would have to do -- Moqtada has stated this publicly -- is implement the Erbil Agreement he agreed to in November 2010.  He's refused to.  All this time.  And he's harmed Iraq in the process.  There are no heads of the security ministries because Nouri's refused to nominate any.  Grasp that.  Grasp there is no Minister of Defense.  Because of Nouri.  Violence is up in Iraq and this comes and that hasn't forced Nouri to nominate.  His 'antics' have hurt Iraq in the international business community as well.  Daniel J. Graeber ( observed last night:

On Monday, a suicide bomber in Iraq detonated his car bomb outside the Baghdad offices of a government-backed Shiite group, leaving at least 190 people wounded and 26 people dead. The attack was said to bear the hallmarks of al-Qaida, suggesting sectarian warfare is far from over in Iraq. The attack comes as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki faces enduring challenges to his administration. That's hardly the investment climate envisioned for a post-Saddam Iraq. As if to emphasize that point, international oil companies showed little interest in Iraq's latest oil and natural gas auction.

Turning to the US.  When Michael Ratner isn't in the courtroom for the Bradley Manning pre-court martial hearings, you can count on him to Retweet coverage from people who were.   
Defense can view teh redacted "draft" damage rassessment at DIA HQ, discussion of Defense due to logistical issues 1/2 #frebrad
Can you say ridiculous? At one point Prosecution says, "These are the laws and procedures that make America so great." #freebrad #wikileaks

 Bradley Manning's court-martial is scheduled to begin September 21st.  Monday April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." In March, 2011, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. The Article 32 hearing took place in December.  At the start of this year, there was an Article 32 hearing and, February 3rd, it was announced that the government would be moving forward with a court-martial.  Bradley has yet to enter a plea and has neither affirmed that he is the leaker nor denied it.

Dominating the first of what is expected to be a three-day pre-trial hearing was Manning's civilian attorney, David Coombs, arguing that the prosecution is withholding key materials needed to build a solid defense.
On the other side of the aisle, Army Maj. Ashden Fein, the lead prosecutor, called the defense's 'unreasonable' request for documents, many of which he said were irrelevant to the case, a ploy to slow down the proceedings.  He insisted, however, that the government is going "above and beyond" its legal obligations and is turning over the materials as quickly as possible.

CNN reports, "Among the charges requested to be dropped against Manning are eight specifications of unauthorized transmission under the Espionage Act and two charges of exceeding authorized access, according to a Military District of Washington legal spokesman who is not authorized to use his name."  David Usborne (Indpendent) notes "Bradley, Not seen since his last hearing in April, Pte Manning looked thin and fragile seated between members of his defence team inside the military courtroom at the base, which is about 30 minutes north of Washington DC. He has been in custody since his arrest in May 2010 on suspicion of passing diplomatic cables and military logs from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to the anti-secrecy website founded by Julian Assange."

US Senator Patty Murray Chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Her office notes:

VETERANS: Murray, Kohl, Tester, Wyden Call on Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to Investigate Companies Marketing Inappropriate Financial Products and Services to Veterans
CONTACT: Murray Press Office
(202) 224-2834
Wednesday, June 6
Senators: Companies are taking advantage of elderly veterans and their family members
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee joined with Senators Herb Kohl (D-WI), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) in calling on Director Richard Cordray of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to investigate and take enforcement action against companies that may be inappropriately marketing and selling financial services and products to elderly veterans. They also called upon Director Cordray to alert veterans to the practices of companies that are taking advantage of elderly veterans.
"We believe the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)
and specifically the Office for Older Americans and the Office of Servicemember Affairs are in a unique position to assist us in educating elderly veterans and family members and stopping improper practices that may be occurring," the Senators write in
the letter. "For this reason, we request that you investigate these practices to determine the feasibility of enforcement actions within CFPB's authority. We also request that you assist us in gathering information related to these companies and practices and the
impact they are having on our nation's veterans. Finally, we ask
that you work with us to better educate veterans, their families and veteran advocates about VA's pension program and the practices of certain companies."
The full text of the letter follows:
June 6, 2012
The Honorable Richard Cordray
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
1801 L Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
Dear Mr. Cordray:
For many elderly veterans and their families, understanding, planning,
and paying for long-term care has become a tremendous challenge.
The Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) pension program, which
provides monthly benefits to eligible low-income wartime veterans and
surviving spouses, can help in meeting basic financial needs. Pension recipients
may also be eligible for additional aid if they require assistance with
activities of daily living. For eligible veterans and survivors, these
benefits may allow them to receive necessary quality care in their own homes, assisted living facilities or nursing homes.
Over the past several months, our offices have received a number of complaints from veterans and their family members about companies
that may be inappropriately marketing and selling financial services and products to elderly veterans. We are deeply troubled because such practices may adversely impact eligibility for both VA and other Federal benefits, such as Medicaid. Often these financial services and products may involve substantial fees and may not be properly suited for elderly veterans. Further, some of these companies fail to offer accurate advice
on other available benefits, often to the detriment of the veteran
or survivor.
We have also encountered companies that grant veterans deferred payments on assisted living facility costs for either a certain time period or until receipt of VA pension benefits. However, because of the method by which VA computes pension eligibility, such practices may in fact
negatively impact a veteran's eligibility for pension benefits. The Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs has provided assistance to a number of veterans who found themselves facing eviction from assisted living facilities at the end of the deferral period because VA had not completed adjudication of their claim or they were ultimately found ineligible for pension benefits.
We believe the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)
and specifically the Office for Older Americans and the Office of Servicemember Affairs are in a unique position to assist us in educating elderly veterans and family members and stopping improper practices
that may be occurring. For this reason, we request that you investigate these practices to determine the feasibility of enforcement actions
within CFPB's authority. We also request that you assist us in gathering information related to these companies and practices and the impact
they are having on our nation's veterans. Finally, we ask that you work
 with us
to better educate veterans, their families and veteran advocates about
VA's pension program and the practices of certain companies.

The Committee on Veterans' Affairs and the Special Committee on Aging will continue to review these issues and work to ensure eligible veterans
and survivors receive the benefits they have earned. We appreciate your attention to this request and look forward to your participation in serving
our veterans and their families.