Saturday, July 14, 2012

ObamaCare still unpopular

Patch, USA Today and others are noting the new Quinnipiac University survey which found 55% of Americans see ObamaCare as a tax hike.

I'm sure that's 'meaningless' to Bob Somerby and that he'll spend the next 4 years insisting it's not a tax but people aren't stupid -- it is a tax.

At The Daily Beat, Mark McKinnon writes:

I have to say after thirty years in politics and a good bit of punditry of my own, not much shocks me. But when I read the following this week from a fellow Daily Beast columnist, Michael Tomasky, I was left sputtering: After Romney’s speech to the NAACP, “I think of him as a spineless, disingenuous, supercilious, race-mongering pyromaniac who is very poorly intentioned indeed…”
Now, people can have a lot of legitimate criticisms of Mitt Romney, and I have some of my own, but a “race-mongering pyromaniac?” And the evidence for this incendiary charge? Romney said the word “Obamacare.” That’s it. That’s Tomasky’s whole case upon which he has rendered Romney a racist.
If the term “Obamacare” is a pejorative, racist epithet, then Tomasky needs to rebuke the president of the United States with the same unhinged energy he used in his ugly rant against Romney. The president’s senior advisers and his campaign staff, and even President Obama himself, have embraced “Obamacare” as the now-common name for his legacy legislation, the Affordable Care Act. His campaign site is even making money off of the name “Obamacare,” selling buttons, bumper stickers, and T-shirts emblazoned with the name.

I had no idea ObamaCare was supposed to be racist.  But living in the real world where I treat veterans, I'm surrounded by adults and we don't have time for the Any Criticism of Barack Is Racism game.  We have real issues to focus on.

I remember a few weeks ago, hearing Cokie Roberts on NPR's Morning Edition note that even Barack was calling it "ObamaCare."

How very sad that Michael Tomasky has nothing left to offer other than false cries of racism.  Sad, but not surprising.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, July 13, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, the US Government Accountability Office has bad news regarding Iraq, the political crisis continues, Bradley Manning gears up for another pre-court-martial hearing, Dr. Jill Stein appears to be on the eve of becoming the Green Party presidential nominee, and more.
Alsumaria reports today that United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed his concern over the continued political crisis in Iraq and how they hinder efforts at progress within the country.  The Secretary-General made these remarks in a report handed over to the United Nations' Security Council.  Also noting the impasse is Sheikh Abudl Mahdi al-Karbalai, a representative for Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and Al Mada reports  the Sheikh declared at Friday morning prayers that the Iraqi politicians are unaware of the way the people suffer.
As the gridlock continues, Catherine Cheney (Trend Lines via Wolrd Politics Review) offers an analysis of one of the main political players in Iraq, Moqtada al-Sadr:
Now that he is back in Iraq, Sadr is positioned to play a key role in the next elections. In the midst of a contest for power among Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites that has created political gridlock in Iraq, Sadr has joined with Kurdish and Sunni parties in opposing  Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a fellow Shiite. But he has to tread carefully to avoid alienating the devout Shiites who form his main base of support.
"The Sadr movement and its durability is something that surprised everybody at first," Duss continued. "Sadr has been written off and counted out countless times since the invasion. He has had his ups and downs. But the fact is that his movement is based upon poor urban Shiites, of whom there are many in Iraq, and as long as he is speaking to and serving that constituency, he is going to continue to have an important political role in Iraq."
This as Al Mada reports the Kurdistan Alliance MP Mahma Khalil  is stating that Nouri's State of Law doesn't want to solve the crisis which is why it has made one threat after another -- early elections, dissolve Parliament, dismiss Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi.  Meanwhile Iraqiya states State of Law uses intimdation in an attempt to get their way.  Dar Addustour notes that al-Nujaifi met with Nouri al-Maliki Thursday night.

Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports on how the Parliament's sessions are often televised but, even so, not everything is televised.  For example, one MP shares that they are often briefed on a bill -- whether it's legal, whether it's sound -- by specialists in the area and these briefings do not get televised.  Some bills are withdrawn and those actions are not televised.  One MP feels that everything should be before the public. Others feel there is too much information being televised while some argue that the experts and specialists appearing before the Parliament to brief them on the bills are unnecessary because the bills result form deals and agreements within Parliament and they don't need any advice with regards to that.  Kitabat notes that it was announced yesterday that 100 MPs will work on drafting a law to limit the three presidencies -- Prime Minister, Speaker of Parliament and Iraqi President -- to two terms only.  Gorran (Change) the struggling third party in the KRG tells Al Mada that they have no position on the issue of term limits.
Violence continues in Iraq today.  Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports a Baghdad home bombing targeting a Lt. Colonel with the Ministry of the Interior -- he wasn't home, his parents were and the 2 are dead. AFP says only the mother died, that the frather was left injured and they note a Tuz Khurmatu car jacking where the driver of the car was murdered and his car stolen.   All Iraqi News adds that bomb attacks targeting Shi'ite mosques in Kirkuk left four people injured.  Al Mada notes the number wounded from the mosque attacks rose to five (three were police officers) and that there were at least two bombs.  In addition, they report four wounded from one family and that two rockets were fired at their home.
Violence can take many forms especially when Nouri remains unable to provide security.  Today it's a bomb attack, tomorrow is tainted water.  Al Mada reports Iraqiya MP Nahida Daini is calling out the promoters of "food terrorism," vendors selling food and beverages that are not safe for human consumption.  The article notes that March 23, 2011 hundreds of tons of damaged food stuffs were discovered in Diyala Prvoince.  Alsumaria reported June 30th (2012) that workers of the Ministry of Health had confiscated over 33 tons of harmful food in Kirkuk Province.
In addition to potential problems, there are also current health problems that Iraqis face.  One of the latest is, thus far, unexplained.  A series of people are going blind.  Al Mada reports that the Medical College of the University of Dhi Qar has issued an apology over its failure to participate in the investigation of the recent cases of blindness.  The college states it's unable to participate at this time.  Last week, Dar Addustour reported that six people in Nasiriyah, while undergoing eye exams, were exposed to some form of bacteria that is still unknown at this time but that resulted in their being blinded. The number of people who have been blinded has now risen to 9.

Today the US Government Accountability Office released [PDF format warning] "IRAQ: U.S. Assistance to Iraq's Minority Groups in Response to Congressional Directives."  According to the report, through November 2011, the US taxpayer has footed the bill for $40 million which was supposed to go towards assisting Iraq's minority population.  [The report breaks down the $40 million as follows: "According to the agencies, USAID provided $14.8 million for the 2008 directive, USAID and State provided $10.4 million for the 2008 supplemental directive; and State provided $16.5 million for the 2010 directive."]  Since Iraq's population is estimated by the CIA to be 31 million, the US government could have skipped the minority issue and given a million dollars to every Iraqi.  So the GAO just completed a 12 month audit (June 2011 to July 2012) to see if USAID was living up to the outlines of Congress' 2008 directive?

Are they?

No one knows.  USAID didn't pass the audit.  The report notes:

Our analysis of USAID documents found that USAID could not demonstrate that it met the provisions of the 2008 directive because of three weaknesses. First, although USAID reported that it provided $14.8 million in assistance to minority groups through existing programs to meet the 2008 directive, its documents could link only $3.82 million (26 percent) of that amount to the Ninewa plain region. The documents linked $1.67 million (11 percent) of the assistance to areas outside of the Ninewa plain region. USAID documents did not provide sufficient detail to determine the location of the remaining $9.35 million (63 percent).
Second, USAID documents generally did not show whether the projects included minority groups among the beneficiaries of the assistance and whether $8 million was provided specifically for internally displaced families. According to USAID officials, the agency generally did not track its beneficiaries by religious affiliation. For $14.7 million of the $14.8 million in assistance, USAID documents did not provide sufficient detail for us to determine that Iraqi minority groups were among the beneficiaries of all of the projects. Only 1 of the 155 projects ($66,707 out of $14.8 million) provided sufficient detail in its documents for us to determine that the assistance was directed to internally displaced families; however, the location of that project was outside of the Ninewa plain region. While USAID documents listed $2 million in funding for a microfinance institution, USAID officials were unable to provide detail on whether all of these loans were disbursed in the Ninewa plain region. 
Third, USAID officials and documents did not demonstrate that the agency used unobligated prior year ESF funds to initiate projects in response to the 2008 directive. USAID could document that the agency used unobligated prior year funds for two of the six programs after the date of the 2008 directive. However, according to USAID officials, the agency did not use unobligated prior year funds for the remaining four programs.

When you can't produce documentation to back up your claims, you have failed the audit.

Which is bad news for Iraq's minorities and for US taxpayers. Robert Burns (AP) notes this cost issue from the report, "A contractor was allowed to charge $80 for a pipe fitting that a competitor was selling for $1.41." There was no oversight.  There will be no oversight.  The State Dept will go before the Congress and make statements about their Afghanistan mission that will be similar to the statements they made about the Iraq mission and, unless Congress gets serious about accountability, you will see the exact same waste and fraud.
The State Dept is supposed to provide ongoing oversight of their own personnel. They didn't do that very well and what they found, when they did find something, usually a great deal of time had passed between the crime or violation. Laura Litvan (Bloomberg News) reports, "The agency said work by its investigators and those of other agencies have resulted in 71 convictions and almost $177 million in fines and forfeitures. Kickbacks were the leading type of criminal activity, accounting for 71 percent of indictments, according to the report."

The report notes this background on Iraq:

Iraq is ethnically, religiously, and linguistically diverse. Ethnically, Arabs comprise about 75 percent of the population of Iraq, with Kurds comprising around 15 percent and other ethnic groups, such as Turkoman and Assyrians, comprising the remaining 10 percent. Religiously, Shi'a and Sunni Muslims make up 97 percent of the population of Iraq, with non-Muslim groups -- such as Baha'i, Christians, Sabean Mandaeans, and Yazidis -- comprising the remaining 3 percent of the population. Some communities may be an ethnic majority but a religious minority (such as Arab Christians), while other communities may be an ethnic minority but a religious majority (such as Shi'a Shabaks). For the purpose of this report, we refer to the following religious and ethnic communities as minority groups: Anglican, Armenian, Assyrian, Baptist, Chaldean, Coptic, Greek Orthodox, Latin Catholic, Presbyterians, Sabean Mandaean, Shabak, Syriac, Turkoman, and Yazidi. 
Since 2003, Iraq's minority groups have experienced religiously and ethnically motivated intimidation, arbitrary detention, killings, abductions, and forced displacements, as well as attacks on holy sites and religious leaders. In August 2007, coordinated truck bombings killed some 400 Yazidis and wounded more than 700. In August 2009, a series of attacks in Ninewa province killed almost 100 and injured more than 400 from the Yazidi, Shabak, and Turkoman communities. In February 2008, a Chaldean archbishop was kidnapped and killed -- the third senior Christian religious figure to be killed in the city of Mosul since 2006. A series of attacks against Christians occurred in 2010, including an attack in October on a Catholic church in Baghdad that left more than 50 dead and 60 wounded. 

You may notice a major minority group not listed above.

Iraq's LGBT community.  They were not excluded from the 2008 supplemental directive and the 2010 directive should have allowed for the LGBT community.

Is the Senate failing (Senate Appropriations Committee) or is USAID?

The 2010 directive specifically was about refugee assistance and that should have covered the LGBT community.  But the US government is not doing anything to help that community.  And they get away with that and with doing nothing to protect Iraqi LGBTs from being hunted and killed in Iraq -- "hunted" is the only term for what has repeatedly taken place -- so at what point does the government get their act together?

Obviously, not any time soon.  Because this failed audit should immediately result in Senate hearings but you won't get that.  The failed audit will be greeted with a yawn as Democrats in the Senate rush to protect the White House.

Thing is, the White House should be able to protect itself.  It's Iraq's LGBT population that needs protection.

While the US does nothing, Radio Netherlands Worldwide reports, "The Dutch government has decided to grant aslum to gay Iraqis. Immigration minister Geert Leers says Iraq is no longer safe for homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders. Mr Leers has already announced a temporary halt to the deportation of gay Iraqis last month following an alert from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  The ministry warned that it was impossible to be openly gay anywhere in Iraq without being at serious risk.  The Iraqi authorities also fail to take any measure to stop discrimination or attacks on homosexuals."
Around the globe water issues continue to emerge with many warning that the wars of the 21st century will be resource wars with particular emphasis on water. Alsumaria reports a conservation organization held a press conference today in Sulaymaniyah calling on Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi to stop the Austrian company that's constructing a damn for neighboring Turkey which will interfere with the flow of the Tirgris River into Iraq.  In other water news, Al Mada notes the Ministry of Water Resources' Muhannad al-Saadi has publicly expressed concerns about the Mosul dam's structural strength in the case of earthquakes.  Experts have stated that the dam could collapse and after Mosul was sunk, the waters would flow to Baghdad --  while the water would not sink Baghdad, they would displace thousands in Baghdad and surrounding areas.  This week, the Ministry of Water Resources noted, "H.E Minister of Water Resources Eng.Mohanad Al-Sady met the Deputy and Member of the Iraqi Parliament Falih Al-Sari to discuss means of providing water shares for arable lands and develop the irrigation and agricultural aspect in the Governorate. During the meeting, H.E affirmed that the Ministry of Water Resources is executing several irrigation projects in all governorates including Al-Muthana governorate and taking the necessary actions to provide water for arable lands in order to insure executing the agricultural plan during summer and winter seasons. The Ministry is about executing Raw Water Transfer Project through pipes for Al-Muthana Governorate to insure preventing encroachment over allocated water share to provid water for drinking, farming and other uses."
Earlier this week, Sylvia Westall (Reuters) reported on Iraq's art scene, specifically Baghdad where  some of the  musicians who fled the country earlier are returning. Westall notes the musical history.  Excerpt.
Several nights later Tunisian revolutionary singer Emel Mathlouthi performed at a social club in the capital to an audience of diplomats, Iraqi officials, students and teachers at a concert organised by the French Institute.
Tariq Safa al-Din, the Alwiyah club's president, said it was one of the largest concerts of this kind at the venue in the past decade. Small groups perform Iraqi folk music every week in the garden of the club, founded in 1924.
"This is for the past two years. Before that, you know what it was like in Iraq, nobody used to come to the club," he said.
Mathlouthi's performance was just the beginning of a new era for live music in Baghdad, he said.
Kim Kelly (The Atlantic) focuses more on the present and the emergence of what is thought to be a musical first in Iraq:
She says her name is Anahita, the 28-years-old voice and vitriol behind Janaza, which is believed to be Iraq's very first female-fronted, black-metal band. Allow that notion --Iraq's very first female-fronted, black-metal band -- to sink in for a moment. Her first recording, Burn the Pages of Quran, boasts five distorted, primitive tracks that altogether run just shy of an unlucky 13 minutes. She, along with a handful of other acts hailing from the Middle East, are repurposing black metal's historically anti-Christian ferocity to rail against Islam. In doing so, these bands are serving up another example of how art and dissent can intersect in a region where dissent can sometimes have deadly consequences.
In England, Tony Blair continues to struggle.  Al Mada carries Lindsey German's column for the Guardian. about War Criminal Tony Blair.  As we noted in yesterday's snapshot:
Ed West further argues that Stop the War Coalition's Lindsey German shouldn't be listened to about Tony Blair because Tony Blair got move votes than German.  Uh, that's not how it works but if Ed wants to play it that way let's note.  1) Ed West is nothing, a nobody outside of England.  2) In the US many of us make a point to give Lindsey our attention with any column, interview or speech and that's true around the world.  Where there are people who've made a point to oppose the Iraq War, you'll find people who know of Lindsey German.  Repeating, no one knows Ed West globally, no one cares.  Lindsey German?  A fine example of citizenship lived fully.
Again, Lindsey's column was run by an Iraqi paper -- not Ed West's column.  Andrew Johnson (Islingon Tribune) reports "a glitzy 500 [pound] a head fundraiser where former Prime Minister Tony Blair was making his political comeback."  Or trying to.   But life's never easy for a War Hawk responsible for over a million deaths.  Lindsey German and others turned out to make sure Tony know that he -- and his crimes -- were not forgotten.  Excert.
"The UN Charter, which this country signed up to, was to save the world from the scourge of war," he [Bruce Kent] said. "It says that no nation can go to war or take military action without the decision of the Security Council, and it can only take that decision after all other measures to avoid war have been exhausted. That didn't happen in Iraq. It was a disgrace."
Sabah Jawad, of the Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation Group, told protesters that there were still terrorist attacks in Iraq.
"In the last few months there have been attacks in Iraq and hundreds of people have been killed," he said. "This is a legacy of the war in Iraq. The tragedy of Iraq is still with us and it's going to be with us for years to come. Our message to Tony Blair is that wherever you go, we're going to be there to remind you of your murderous history. We're not going to forget."
Moving over to the US where 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.
Next week the soldier and his defense team will be back in military court in Fort Meade, Maryland, in the latest of a succession of pre-trial hearings to hammer out the terms of the eventual court martial. Previous engagements have led to sparky interactions between Coombs and the army prosecutors seeking to condemn Manning possibly to spending the rest of his life in military custody.
The most significant discussion at next week's proceedings will revolve around the precise legal definition of what "aiding the enemy" means – specifically its allegation that Manning "knowingly gave intelligence to the enemy". The judge presiding over Manning's trial, Colonel Denise Lind, has ruled that the soldier must have had "actual knowledge" that he was giving intelligence to enemy for the charge to be proven.
Coombs will next week attempt to gain further clarification that would raise the legal bar much higher. In his motion he argues that it is a truism in the age of the internet, any posted material is potentially accessible to anybody.
In Baltimore, the Green Party is holding their national political convention.  Tomorrow, Jill Stein is expected to become the Green Party's presidential nominee.  Today, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now! -- link is text, audio and video) spoke to Jill Stein about a number of issues.  Excerpt.
AMY GOODMAN: You are Dr. Jill Stein, so let's talk about healthcare. As Romney continues to vow to end so-called "Obamacare," the Republican-controlled House passed a repeal of the measure, but the Democrats in the Senate say they will not allow this to pass there. Speaking on the House floor, House Majority Leader—House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi traded barbs over the law.
REP. ERIC CANTOR: We are trying to end the era of Washington-controlled healthcare. We believe, as do most of the American people, that it's patient-centered care is our goal. That's where we need to start. We start along the path towards that goal by repealing Obamacare.
REP. NANCY PELOSI: American people want us to create jobs. That's what we should be using this time on the floor for, not on this useless bill to nowhere—bill to nowhere, that does serious damage to the health and economic well-being of America's families.
AMY GOODMAN: That's Nancy Pelosi and Eric Cantor trading barbs on the House floor. Dr. Jill Stein, interestingly, you are from Massachusetts, from Lexington, so even as Mitt Romney attacks President Obama over his healthcare plan, it was very much modeled on Romney's healthcare plan when he was governor of your state of Massachusetts.
DR. JILL STEIN: Exactly, yes, and we've had Romneycare, aka Obamacare, in effect in Massachusetts for five years. So, there's a track record here. And, you know, that track record is very problematic. Romneycare, Obamacare, helped some people, and it hurt other people. It basically pits the very poor against the near poor. And that's not a solution.
And this whole debate, I think, misses the point, which is that we can actually solve this problem. There is also a track record of success: it's called Medicare. Instead of spending 30 percent of our healthcare dollar on waste and wasteful insurance bureaucracy and paper pushing, we can take that 30 percent, squeeze it down to 3 percent—that's what the overhead is in Medicare—and then use that incredible windfall to actually expand healthcare and cover everyone. So, you know, Medicare works. People like it. It's been tampered with, and we need to fix it and create an improved Medicare, but it actually works, and we have the track record all over the world, really, of just about every developed nation.
AMY GOODMAN: So, just dropping the "over 65" from Medicare?
DR. JILL STEIN: Exactly, right. Let's make it from the point of conception on, you know, that we're basically covered cradle to grave. And --
AMY GOODMAN: How could the U.S. afford that?
DR. JILL STEIN: Well, it actually is a money saver. And we know that because of that 30 percent waste, that is part and parcel for our privatized healthcare system now, 30 percent of your healthcare dollar is paying for those elaborate forms that you have to fill out, you know, every time your insurance changes or every time you see a provider. There's a mountain of minutiae that goes into the tracking of payments. Instead of tracking who's using what and who pays for it, let's just pay for healthcare, and let's cover it as a human right.
Jill Stein's announced running mate, Cheri Honkala, also appeared.
AMY GOODMAN: Why did you choose Cheri Honkala?
DR. JILL STEIN: Well, Cheri stands out as the leading advocate for poor people, for justice, for the fight against predatory banks, for the fight against mortgage foreclosures, fighting on behalf of children most at risk, fighting for justice and for a fair economy. And Cheri is an incredibly inspired human being and mother, who was a homeless single mother and who began to take over empty buildings, saying, "There are buildings that are -- there are homes that are empty there, and there are people like me who are sleeping out on the street. What's wrong with this picture? I'm going to go sleep in that empty home." And, you know, Cheri's -- Cheri is unstoppable and, I think, exemplifies the fighting spirit that is alive and well across America that we hope to give voice to in this campaign, that is what this is about.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, the P word is certainly one that's not really very much talked about --
DR. JILL STEIN: Exactly.
AMY GOODMAN: -- by the presidential candidates: "poverty." Cheri Honkala, we're used to seeing you ahead of marching at the presidential conventions, marching for poor people's rights in this country, now being chosen as a vice-presidential candidate. Your feelings today?
CHERI HONKALA: It's very exciting. I think I'm prepared to take on this challenge. I was absolutely shocked when I was chosen, but I think it's a real statement of the Stein campaign. And it meant so much to people across the entire country. Once the announcement was made, I literally received hundreds of letters, not just from people in this country but from folks around the entire world.
AMY GOODMAN: Was it a hard decision to decide to do this?
CHERI HONKALA: It was definitely the hardest decision I've ever made in my life, because I have a family out there. And I -- you know, I have two sons, and they're used to their mother bringing attention to them in the various different choices that I make. And I asked my 10-year-old, Guillermo, and he immediately did the happy dance in the living room, so I knew it was a go.
Again, Stein is expected to be named the nominee tomorrow.  Here is the schedule for Saturday and Sunday:

Nomination Day
Location: Holiday Inn Inner Harbor, 301 West Lombard Street, 410-685-3500
Floor plan:

8 am: Media check-in. Location: Holiday Inn lobby.

9 am: Press briefing and news conference with Green presidential candidates Roseanne Barr and Jill Stein. Location: 12th Floor, Harbor II Room.

9 am: The on-stage Nomination Day program begins. Location for all nomination events: Chesapeake Room on the first floor.

10 am: Guest speakers

10:15 am: Platform Approval

11:30 am: Speeches by Presidential Candidates

11:40 Roseanne Barr

11:55 Jill Stein

12:05 pm: Lunch

1:00 pm: Doors open

1:45 pm: The afternoon plenary begins

1:55 pm: Keynote speaker Gar Alperovitz, historian and political activist (, on the Green New Deal; guest speakers

2:48 pm: State roll call and voting for the nomination. Times for events after this are tentative, depending on how long it takes to complete the nomination process.

3:40 pm: Presidential campaign speech

3:55 pm: Vice-Presidential nomination and speech

4:10 pm: Speech of the 2012 Presidential Nominee

4:30 pm: END

8-11 pm: Fundraiser for Jill Stein in the Chesapeake Room. Media invited.

No media events are scheduled.

Public Transportation:

The University of Baltimore is across the street from Penn Station (Amtrak, Maryland Transit trains) and a few blocks to the west on Mt. Royal Avenue from the University of Baltimore - Mt. Royal Light Rail station.

The Holiday Inn Inner Harbor is a short half block from the University Center-Baltimore Street Light Rail station.

Baltimore Light Rail:

Presidential candidates' web sites:

Jill Stein

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Big Day for the Green Party

Today Jill Stein announced her running mate: Cheri Honkala.  Leigh Ann Caldwell interviewed Dr. Stein for CBS News.  Excerpt:

As a physician, what is your response to the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the president's health care bill?

Stein: It's very problematic. I think the Supreme Court's decision destroys the most useful part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) - that is the Medicaid extension. We have a track record here. We don't have to just guess what he impact of the ACA will be. We already have it in Massachusetts, where I live. We've already had it for five years. It has not been a solution. The cost of health care continues to skyrocket.
On the other hand we have a real track record of what does work. It's called national health insurance, Medicare for all. We actually achieve health and we do it in a way that provides health care to everyone at less than half the cost per person. We know that under Medicare for all, we would be saving trillions of dollars over the next decade because it eliminates the wasteful health insurance bureaucracy and it stabilizes medical inflation. This is the way to go.

You have a "Green New Deal" to employ "every American willing and able to work." Is this your economic plan? And how do you plan to do it?

Stein: By using our tax dollars instead of to provide a stimulus package that's predominately tax breaks for corporations, instead we use a comparable amount of money and put it into the direct creation of jobs. And again, this is not a hypothetical idea. It's based on a plan that helped markedly to get us out of the Great Depression of the 1930s. This would not be a cookie cutter, top-down Washington-controlled program. Rather it would be nationally funded but locally controlled where by communities decide what kinds of jobs they need to become sustainable. It would create jobs in what we think of as the Green economy, but it would also create jobs meeting our social needs - hiring back teaches, nurses, after-school care [providers], violence prevention.

Jill Stein will be the Green Party's presidential candidate and this will be confirmed later this week in Baltimore at the party's national convention.

I'm not going to tell you who to vote for or even to vote.  But if you're following the race at all, I hope you'll make time to look at the Stein campaign because it's a small campaign that won't get all the press it deserves.  We can't change that but we can make a point to level the playing field in our own daily lives by being aware what she -- and other third party and independent candidates -- stand for and would do if elected. 

For more on the Stein campaign, read Ruth's "Roseanne Barr's sour grapes" and C.I.'s "Stein's choice is Honkala" (C.I. filled in for Kat tonight).  You should also make a point to check out Jill Stein's campaign site.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Wednesday, July 11, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, Iraqi women devise their own road map for the future, a Syrian official allegedly defects to Iraq, Ahmed Chalabi says billions of funds are missing, a court charges a man with fraud (if it was fraud, a lot of Iraqis died due to the man's intent to deceive), and more.
Today Alsumaria reports that Iraq's Football Association has just announced that they will be creating the first women's football league in Iraq. That's an advance for Iraqi women. June 22nd, Women's Campaign International released [PDF format warning] "Iraqi Future Search," a report on the state of Iraqi women. WCI notes:
Despite Iraqi women's increasing political, social, and economic participation, barriers to full gender equality still remain. Numerous reports have detailed the problems facing women's equality in Iraq, but their recommendations have often languished due to the enormity of the problem or lack of stakeholder buy in.
Women's Campaign International (WCI) has taken a different approach -- bringing seemingly disparate stakeholders from around the region to spend two days debating, brainstorming, and visioning a better future for Iraqi women. WCI's ALWANE Coalition two-day Future Search fostered a spirit of collabortion and understanding, empowering participants to work together to develop a common vision, identify objectives, and map out strategies and concrete action steps that will advance women's leadership and participation in every sector of Iraqi society.
From the report, we're noting the following:

On the second day, the Iraqi delegation outlined a more in-depth depiction of the trajectory of women's rights in the past 100 years of Iraq's history.
Participants listed noteworthy dates, highlighting a number of regional and national firsts for women, including: the first internationally recognized woman reporter, activist, poet, singer author, and film star, the graduation of the first women doctors, engineers, architects and lawyers, the appointment of the first woman Minister, officer, and Parliament Committee head, the first women to win internationally acclaimed prizes in journalism, architecture and writing, and the first woman Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Other historical moments captured included the beginning of the first women's movement, the publication of the first women's magazine, the drafting and passion of the personal status law, citizenship law and other constitutional amendments regarding women's rights and freedoms, the signing of CEDAW and other international conventions which advance and protect women's rights, and most recently the drafting of a comprehensive national strategy for eradicating gender based violence.
In this process, Iraq stood out as having some of the most laudable achievements in the advancement of women's rights in the region, but also having undergone some of the sharpest declines due to a turbulent past troubled with conflict, sectarianism, invasion and instability. In revisting the past, participants were better equipped to understand the present reality of women's rights in Iraq and more fully prepared to make informed decisions about the future.
We need to include that because, repeatedly, non-Iraqis feel the need to act as though they've discovered or given some great gift to Iraqi women in the last few years when the reality is the Iraq War destroyed so much for Iraqi women.
From the past that they can take so much pride in the Iraqi women who came before, they moved to the present.
* Decrease in women's presence and participation in media, journalism, and sports
* Decline in levels of health
* Decline in economic level of widows and orphans
* Decline in social rights
* Decline in scientific successes for women
* Decline in women's political participation
* Decline in leadership positions for women
* Increase in unemployment among young women
* Continued practice of customs and traditions harmful to women
* Lack of legislation advocating for women
* Low participation of women in executive and judicial branches
* Decline in women's freedom
* Decline in number of educated girls
* Decrease in the number of women Ministers from 27 to 1
Only one woman in the Cabinet. And let's not pretend Iraqi women were silent when this development took place. From the December 23, 2010 snapshot:
Tuesday, Nouri al-Maliki managed to put away the political stalemate thanks to a lot of Scotch -- tape to hold the deal together and booze to keep your eyes so crossed you don't question how someone can claim to have formed a Cabinet when they've left over ten positions to be filled at a later date. One group speaking out is women. Bushra Juhi and Qassmi Abdul-Zahra (AP) report, "Iraq's female lawmakers are furious that only one member of the country's new Cabinet is a woman and are demanding better representation in a government that otherwise has been praised by the international community for bringing together the country's religious sects and political parties." As noted Tuesday, though represenation in Parliament is addressed in Iraq's Constitution, there is nothing to address women serving in the Cabinet. Aseel Kami (Reuters) notes one of the most damning aspects of Nouri's chosen men -- a man is heaing the Ministry of Women's Affairs. Iraqiya's spokesperson Maysoon Damluji states, "There are really good women who could do well . . . they cannot be neglected and marginalized." Al-Amal's Hanaa Edwar states, "They call it a national (power) sharing government. So where is the sharing? Do they want to take us back to the era of the harem? Do they want to take us back to the dark ages, when women were used only for pleasure."
And of course the only woman is the one who's publicly declared war on women's rights and then, when the uproar kicked off, tried to backpedal it. That's not novel. That's not the unique part. Here's the unique part, she thought she could get away with it. That goes to how much damage the illegal war has done.
Iraqi women have not had the luxury to sit still during the illegal war. They've had to take to the streets to fight for their rights. They've done that repeatedly. They did while the Constitution was being drawn up. They show incredible strength repeatedly. They take to the streets in demostrations against corruption, against the 'disappearing' of so many Iraqis who just 'vanish' into the 'legal' system, against the lack of jobs, against attacks on journalists and activists and they are always ready to stand up for themselves. Dropping back to February 11th of this year:

Al Mada notes a group of women demonstrated in Iraq on Baghdad's Mutanabi Street -- a large number of women from the picture -- to salute Iraq women and the pioneering Iraqi women of the 20th century feminist movement. The women noted the widespread discrimination against women (illegal under the country's Constitution). Dr. Buthaina Sharif made remarks about how the rights of women are a cause for all men and women to share. Dr. Sharif saluted Paulina Hassoun who, in 1923, edited Iraq's first feminist magazine Layla ("On the way to the revival of the Iraqi woman"). She spoke to Iraq's long history of social progress in the 20th century and decried the violence aimed at so many women today. (The UN estimates that one out of five Iraqi women is a victim of domestic violence.) Those demonstrating had passed a list of recommendations.

1) The Constitution must be followed.
2) The government needs to establish a fund for women -- women who are widows and women whose husbands have left them.
3) Public assistance for the education of girls to prevent them from being forced to drop out.
4) Subsidies for young families which would encourage marriage and building families.
5) Better housing for women and priority on housing lists.
6) Training sessions should be opened to women and job creation should keep their qualifications in mind.
7) Double the amount guaranteed by the ration card.
8) Efforts to discredit women by sullying their names with false rumors should result in prosecution in court.
9) Freedom and unity is for all and that includes women.
10) Restore normal life by providing potable water (safe to drink) and electricity.
11) create a Higher National Committee of women and men from different backgrounds and ages

Nora Khaled Mahmoud and Mahmoud Raouf file a follow up piece for Al Mada
on the demonstration noting thatit included intellectuals and activists and could said to have been prompted by the Minster for Women's recent remarks that men and women were not equal and her insistance upon dictating how women dress. The note Iraqi women spoke of women's history being a continuum of two experiences: Injustice and triumph. Women face injustice and they triumph over it. They declared that democracy is traveling around the world and that Iraq must be a good model for it. They noted that, throughout the women's movement in Iraq, women and men have taken part in the struggle for equality and that, as early as the 20s and 30s, Iraqi clerics joined in the demands for equality for all. Women, they insisted, must not lose their freedom and that this is even more clear when they hear the Minister for Women publicly declaring she does not believe in equality. While that's her opinion, the women state, that's not the opinion of alll women and it's not the opinion of the Constitution. Journalist and feminist Nermin Mufti declared that civil liberties and personal freedoms are declining in Iraq and that the Minister for Women should represent the interests of Iraqi women and seek to claim the rights guaranteed to women, not rob them of their rights little by little.
For the future, they outlined goals in a variety of areas: political sector, economic sector, cultural sector, legal sector and social sector. From the last category, we'll note the following goals:
* Draft and promote legislation that eliminates and prohibits harmful customs and traditions.
* Promote society's understanding of the distinctions between religion and certain harmful customs and practices, such as nahwa.
* Draft and promote legislation that prohibits child marriage.
* Draft and promote legislation that prohibits the compulsory wearing of the hijab.
* Promote societal support of women in political leadership roles, so they can attain equal representation without the need of a quota.
* Address the challenges facing women in marginalized and rural communities.
* Eliminate gender stereotypes that prevent women from fully attaining personal and professional goals.
* Establish a society that respects individuals for their qualifications and value rather than their gender.
The report notes:
Though participants reflected diversity in backgrounds, positions and expertise, the Future Search concluded with a unified sense of commitment towards promoting and advancing women's rights and leadership in Iraqi society. All participants have returned to their repective responsibilities with concrete objectives and action steps towards achieving the commitments made here. Iraq's future is not fixed or predictable, but this Future Search, engaging Iraq's current and future generation of leaders, sparked a renewed spirit of collaboration and steadfastness to a cause that cuts across all levels and sectors of society.
To conclude the Future Search process, each participant in attendance signed an Agenda for Action, and included a personal message of inspiration and commitment reflecting their personal connection to the advancement of women's rights and leadership in Iraq.
And many great signed statements from various Iraqi women follow but one of the best is unsigned. Anonymous wrote, "A woman should be fair, and she does not forget the suffering of her sisters when she is in a decision-making position." Another statement worth noting is from the Baghdad Provincial Council's Dr. Sabah Abdul Rasool Abdulreeda who put her statement in the form of a prose poem:
I led the revolution
I was at the front lines
I am not a shame
I am a mother, a sister, a wife, a daughter of the generous people
If you are proud that you are males
Then I have pride in my gender a thousand times more.
Moving from poem to song . . .
Beat down in the market, stoned to death in the plaza
Raped on the hillside under the gun from LA to Gaza
A house made of cardboard living close to the rail
Somebody's mama, somebody's daughter
Somebody's jail
And I feel the witch in my veins
I feel the mother in my shoe
I feel the scream in my soul
The blood as I sing the ancient blue
They burned in the millions
I still smell the fire in my grandma's hair
The war against women rages on
Beware of the fairytale
Somebody's mama, somebody's daughter
Somebody's jail
-- "Somebody's Jail," written by Holly Near, first appears on her Show Up
I'm still marveling over the fact that a brand and corporation -- using a female to front it -- could pimp the lie that the Iraq War brought advances for Iraqi women and that Iraqi women were playing sports for the first time (click here for my gripe on that). I would hope that it's very clear that I do not think, "Oh, those poor Iraqi women. If only they could have it like us here in America where everything is perfect." It's not perfect for women in the US. If I felt that way, I wouldn't note that women can't afford Gina Chon's decision to sleep with her source who happens to be a government official. Ava and I wouldn't have spent the time noting that Bill Moyers return to public television just means another male host on PBS who can't provide an equal number of women (less than one-third of the guests on his first 20 shows were women). We wouldn't have teamed with Ann for the study of Fresh Air which found that in 2010 only 18.54% of Terry Gross' guests were women. Ava and I wouldn't write pieces like "TV: A week of hating women" if women in the US had achieved equality. Equality's far from achived -- or even legally recognized, the Equal Rights Amendment did not pass -- and the huge set back the Iraq War and the US government's decisions brought to women's rights in Iraq? I firmly believe that American woman, at any time, could suffer the same setback and have to start all over and fight the way the brave women of Iraq are doing now. And that's obviously not some rare thought on my part. That's the operating principal behind the review Ava and I wrote of the (bad) TV show Jericho and that piece has remained hugely popular -- according to Jim, it's still in the top ten most read of all the things Ava and I have written for Third. Obviously, it speaks to something (besides the need to call out bad TV). Any other week, I'd assume this was known but after this week starting with a corporation and brand thinking they could lie and claim that Iraqi women had not had sports until the Iraq War provided them with so much -- after that huge lie, I want to be really clear on that. Women struggle all over the world.
"From LA to Gaza," Holly Near is so right. And that's why Anonymous's point is so important, a woman "does not forget the suffering of her sisters when she is in a decision-making position." Still on Iraqi women, Farah Ali (IWPR) reports her organization [The Institute for War & Peace Reporting] staged a four-day seminar last month (as part of "an 18-month long initiative") offering "training in marketing and photography" for 14 Iraqi women. Al Mada notes women in Iraqi media here.
The violence of the ongoing Iraq War has turned the nation into what's called 'a country of widows and orphans.'  Margaret Griffis ( counts 13 dead and thirty-eight injured on Tuesday alone.  Sky News (link is video and text) reports that a Baghdad bus bombing has claimed 3 lives and left over 14 injured late yesterday. (And that bus bombing wasn't noted in yesterday's snapshot or in Griffis' Tuesday count -- the news of it came out today).   Alsumaria notes that 3 shops belonging to Sahwa members were bombed around Tikrit today. In other violence, All Iraqi News notes that the presidency of Iraq has ratified executions for 25 people.
On violence, few in the current administration have been so wrong so often about Iraq since the start of 2009 as Antony Blinken has been.  Dropping back to June 19th:
Tony Blinken gets hit hard today.  Tony's been with Joe Biden forever and a day and currently serves as the Vice President's advisor on national security.  So Tony's been around long enough to know that Operation Happy Talk never ends well.  Each time an administration tries to launch a wave, they quickly capsize as reality knocks them upside the head.

Ned Parker wrote "
The Iraq We Left Behind" for the Council on Foreign Relations' Foreign Affairs magazine.  Blinken's poorly named "Morning In Mesopotamia" went online this morning.  (Poorly named?  "Mourning in Mesopotamia" after all the attacks on pilgrims in the last seven days.)

In his piece, Blinken argues Ned Parker "glossed over, or ignored altogether, the clear, measurable progress Iraq has made in the few short years since it lurched to the brink of sectarian war."  In the snapshot today -- barring other breaking news dominating -- we may spend several paragraphs refuting that.

But this morning, we'll just laugh at the claim of "progess" from a staffer for Vice President Biden.  Because it's published the same morning that Iran's
Fars News Agency is reporting:

"Nuri al-Maliki did not allowed US Vice-President Joe Biden to visit Iraq," an informed source in the Iraqi prime minister's information bureau told FNA in Baghdad on Tuesday.
Noting that Biden was scheduled to visit Baghdad in coming days to meet with Iraqi officials to discuss the recent differences and the political standoff between different parties and factions in the country, he added that Maliki informed Biden via the US embassy in Baghdad that Iraq is not ready to host him.
The source said the Iraqi embassy in the US has also conveyed a similar message from Maliki to the White House and State Department's officials.
Earlier reports by a website affiliated to the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq said that the cancellation of Biden's visit by Maliki was ordered after it was revealed that the US vice-president is due to visit Erbil and meet President of Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Massoud Barzani.

When the US Vice President's visit is cancelled by Nouri, that kind of refutes Tony's article.  Again, reality will always crash into and overwhelm a wave of Operation Happy Talk.  It's happened over and over since 2003.
Today, Blinken's made known his displeasure with Tim Arango's "U.S. Antagonist in Iraq Takes a Political Gamble"  which appeared on page four of the New York Times' main section yesterday.  He writes the Times a letter.  His article, he writes, wasn't insisting that violence wasn't a problem in Iraq, it was just that Iraq has so much more to point to than just violence.  Blinken writes as if he's unaware of the ongoing political crisis which caused the ongoing political stalemate.  Worse, he wants to insist that deaths don't matter, it's how many "security incidents" take place.  Attacks matter, not how many die.  How many die? He's not concerned.  We're back to the Bush administration and the claim that the US doesn't do body counts, apparently.  Blinken writes, "The casualty numbers that the article cites likely reflect not a change in the terrorists' capability, or that of the security forces working to stop them, but rather the opportunistic targeting of innocent civilians [. . .]" And that's enough of his nonsense.  You can be sure that if the death tolls were lower than the "security incidents" toll, Blinken would be using that as the point of reference.  (For any wondering, we've always emphasized the number dead and wounded, we've not concerned ourselves with how many incidents it did or didn't take to produce those numbers.)
Still on violence, but bringing in the British.  There is nothing more ridiculous on film than footage of the Iraq police officers holding a wand and basically stomping their feet (looking like their running in place) with the belief -- because they were told this -- that this will allow that 'magic' wand to determine whether or not a bomb is on board a car or person.  This has long been called out and, in 2010, became an international issue.  Dropping back to the January 22, 2010 snapshot:
Whether they can trust Barack or not, it appears they can't trust 'bomb detectors.' Caroline Hawley (BBC Newsnight -- link has text and video) reports that England has placed an export ban on the ADE-651 'bomb detector' -- a device that's cleaned Iraq's coffers of $85 million so far. Steven Morris (Guardian) follows up noting that, "The managing director [Jim McCormick] of a British company that has been selling bomb-detecting equipment to security forces in Iraq was arrested on suspicion of fraud today."
Today Meirion Jones and Caroline Hawley (BBC Newsnight) report that McCormcik "who sold a bomb-detecting device to 20 countries, including Iraq, has been charged with fraud, Avaon and Somerset police said." ITV quotes from Avon and Somerset Police's official statement: "The decision to charge James McCormick follows consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service's Central Fraud Group.  This charging decision follows a complex-30 month international investigation led by Avon and Somerset Police."
We share deep concerns over the worsening plight of all Syrian people as the situation in Syria continues to deteriorate.  We are united in our condemnation of all violence in the country, including the increasing acts of terrorism.  We reiterate our call for the Syrian
regime to meet its commitments to the full implementation of the six-point plan drawn up by Kofi Annan and the League of Arab States.
Today BBC News reports, "Syria's ambassador to Iraq says he has now defected to the opposition.  Nawaf Fares is the first senior Syrian diplomat to abandon the government of President Bashar al-Assad."  Reuters notes, "There has been no comment from Damascus or Baghdad and the White House said it was unable to confirm the defection, news of which broke just before mediator Kofi Annan briefed the UN Security Council on his faltering diplomatic effort to craft a political solution to the crisis." Holly Yan, Amir Ahmed and Laura Smith-Spark (CNN) quote former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan who's the UN's envoy on the Syrian issue, "The [UN Security] council is now discussing what the next step should be and what action they should take.  We should hear something from then in the next few days."

It's doubtful Syria will be able to mask or distract from Iraq's ongoing political crisis in Iraq couldn't be more convoluted, Dar Addustour reports Ahmed Chalabi is charging billions are missing from the national budget. Al Rafidayn notes he has what he claims is a detailed, three page report documenting the disappearance. The document is said to be damning for Nouri al-Maliki -- whether that's because Nouri should have known what allegedly was taking place because he was prime minister or whether Nouri is allegedly personally implicated isn't clear at this point. It is said to demonstrate how Nouir's Council of Ministers weakend bills that would have provided needed oversight into the way ministries handled money.  Still on the issue of corruption, Alsumaria reports that Parliament's Integrity Committee has issued a three-year prsion sentence for Ahmed al-Barak who had been over property disputes. Dar Addustour adds that the Chair of the Committee, Bahaa al-Araji, also announced an arrest warrant had been issued for a former police chief of Karbala (Major General Raed Shakir).  In addition, All Iraqi News reports that Parliament's Services Committee has issued a recommendation that three Ministers be removed from their posts for failure to spend 75% of their allocated budgets.  As for personal finances?  Al Mada reports the Integrity Commission is bothered by the continued lack of self-disclosure on the part of many officials.  Only 82% of Cabinet Ministers are in compliance with the disclosure laws.  And if you're wondering what US taxdollars do in Iraq, they launch rumors -- as the article notes -- of personal wealth among the politicians.  Al Mada reports that people are talking about a report the US Embassy in Bagdhad supposedly has on the personal wealth of various Iraqi politicians.

Nouri al-Maliki was named prime minister-designate in November 2010.  Per the Constitution, he had 30 days to name a Cabinet.  This is confusing to some in the press.  The 30-day deadline? That's the full Cabinet. There's no point in a deadline if it's not the full Cabinet.  Nouri failed to do that but -- due to the Erbil Agreement and an ineffective Iraqi president -- Nouri was moved from prime minister-designate to prime minister as December 2010 was coming to a close.  Nouri has never nominated people to head the security ministries.  All this time later, they still remain vacant.  All Iraqi News reports that tribal leaders from Anbar, Maysan, Najaf and Nineveh provinces met in Baghdad today and they called on the government to fill those vacancies.  Specifically, they want Saadoun al-Dulaymi to be the Minister of Defense.  Nouri has tagged him "acting defense minister."  There is no such post and the tribal leaders are aware of that.  Unless Nouri nominates someone whom the Parliament votes to confirm, there is no Minister.  Once and if they are confirmed, the person is a Minister and they can be independent because Nouri can't fire them by himself.  Parliament has to vote the Minister out of office.  The creation of 'acting' ministers allows Nouri to control those posts because people in them have to do as he instructs or he removes them.  They have not been confirmed by Parliament so they have no protection and they are not ministers.

Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi met with the United Kingdom's new Ambassador to Iraq, Paul Simon Collins, and the two discussed a number of issues.  All Iraqi News reports that along with discussing ways to strengthen ties between their two countries, the two discussed the need for some stability in Iraq.

Kitabat reports that the National Alliance is rushing to prepare a paper -- 'by' the Reform Committee -- which will, they hope, circumvent a call to withdraw confidence in Nouri.  Supposedly the National Alliance is attempting to work in many points from the Erbil Agreement. Al Mada notes that the Commitee is planning to send a delegation to the KRG in the hopes of garnering support for their paper.  The Reform Committee has had little serious analysis in the press.  One noteable exception would be  Mustafa Habib (Niqash) who addresses some of the issues:

Firstly, there are problems that have to do with agreements between the feuding political blocs about which positions certain high ranking politicians would fill; this included discussion of the vacant seats in certain important ministries, that al-Maliki was occupying in the interim.
Another involved the powers of the federal court and yet another had to do with relations between the Iraqi Parliament and the Iraqi Cabinet, or executive branch; relations were strained with Parliament and ministers often coming to different conclusions. And finally there was the problem of how to balance the demands of the Iraqi Constitution with all of the above.
Despite what appear to be good intentions, there is no doubt that al-Maliki's opponents do not trust him any more than they did before. There has been plenty of press coverage and public relations work on al-Maliki's behalf but the parties who wanted to oust him don't think he is serious about the alleged reforms.
"This call for reform is nothing more than a political manoeuvre and an attempt to gain more time," Hani Ashour, an adviser to the opposition Iraqiya coalition, told NIQASH. The essence of the current political crisis is the fact that al-Maliki has not honoured the Erbil agreement, under which he formed this government."
The so-called Erbil agreement was formulated in Erbil to end a nine month dispute over who should run the government following disputed 2010 elections. It gave al-Maliki the right to form a government if he met certain conditions and gave his electoral opponents certain high powered jobs; basically it was a power sharing deal.
The fact that al-Maliki has done almost nothing to honour that deal doesn't give his opponents much faith that he will change now.

Al Rafidayn reports that National Dialogue Front head and Iraqiya member, Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq states that Iraqiya and the Kurdistan Alliance are moving forward with their plans to question Nouri before Parliament.  al-Mutlaq is quoted stating his amazement over the sensation in some quarters over this since Iraq is a constitutional democracy and questioning is detailed in the Constitution. He also again denied rumors that he has replaced Ayad Allawi as head of Iraqiya.  All Iraqi News noted yesterday that a deputy for Iraqiya also confirmed that they are putting together questions and moving towards questioning Nouri before the Parliament.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Speak up, Jess

Fran Spielman and Abdon M. Pallasch (Chicago Sun-Times) report on US House Rep. Jesse Jackson's mysterious illness that have caused him to flee.

US House Rep. Luis Gutierrez (a Democrat like Jackson) says Jackson owes the voters the truth.

I couldn't agree more and was glad to see that Senator Dick Durbin (also a Democrat) was saying Jackson owed it to the voters to keep them informed.

Kristen Mack and Rick Pearson (Chicago Tribune) report that Jackson has missed an entire month of house sessions.

I have no idea what's going on.

He had surgery on his stomach to lose over a hundred pounds.  Maybe this was more vanity surgery?

Maybe he has a serious condition?

Maybe the answer is to tell your constituents what you're sick with?

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Tuesday, July 10, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, rumors about affairs with a visiting pop star circle Baghdad, another US service member is dead from the Iraq War, Iraqis get ready for the Summer Olympics, and more.
Carl Hill III is the latest US service member to die from the Iraq War.  KFMB reports (video):

Marcella Lee: 26-year-old Army Specialist Carl Hall III was from Harbison Canyon near Alpine, where his parents still live.  Hall was injured back in November 2011 when his convoy was hit by an IED.  Hall sustained injuries to his head and more than 40 shrapnel wounds to his leg but doctors were able to save his leg with multiple surgeries.  Hall was brought back to recover in North Caroline.  His parents say he was doing well and was able to enjoy the birth of his son.  But ended up dying due from complications related to his injuries.

Elizabeth Hall:  It was the miracle of just him being able to come home.  I was there when his son was born so he seen his son born, so he was there for that.  His son was born February 23rd so he had the four months with spirit and that was pretty much what was keeping him going.

Services for Carl Hall IIII will be tomorrow, ten in the morning at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetary.  Because his death is apparently from injuries received during Operation New Dawn, the Pentagon will include him in the count for that period of the Iraq War.  Those who die of injuries received will be included in either Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation New Dawn based upon when they were injured.
BRIAN CASTNER: You become numb to it eventually, but I would never call it business as usual. And in fact, the post-blast mission is one that only really developed as the war went on. When I initially went through EOD school, there was no section of the training that was called post-blast investigation.  And in fact on my first trip to Iraq in 2005, the first time I did one, and I got tasked, and they said go out and do an investigation, I had to ask, well, what does that even mean? What do you want me to look for?  So as the war developed, and as the IEDs, the improvised explosive devices, became less just an obstacle to clear and were more a focus of the war, our career field developed those skills as we went.
GROSS: So what kind of evidence would you look for at the site of an IED explosion?
CASTNER: Anything that would tell you how it was made, what the target was, if there was a key identifying feature that would link it to one bomber or another, or one group or another. So that's anything from the color of the wire used to connect the battery to the blasting cap, to getting an explosive sample of the type of explosives used, to collecting the VIN number on the car, to getting DNA samples of the people who were there so maybe you could identify which one the bomber was.
GROSS: But this isn't like going to, like, a crime scene after the fact, where you're slowly getting evidence and putting it in plastic bags. You are going to the site of explosions, and there are screaming people all around you, and you're going through body parts, basically, like looking for evidence of what happened in the explosion.  And take one of those experiences, for us, and just describe what the experience was for you.
CASTNER: Right, so you get the call, and you're at your home base, at the FOB, and sometimes we wouldn't even need a call, you would see the towers of black smoke rising from downtown Kirkuk. And you know the call is coming, so you go and get ready. And you get out there as fast as you can, which is usually about 20 to 30 minutes after it went off.  And we actually didn't want the Iraqi police or U.S. forces to clean up. We needed everything there to be able to sift through. And in fact that would be the most frustrating part, is you would show up, and the loved ones would already be picking up bodies or pieces of bodies, and they're already loading on the destroyed car onto a flatbed.
And it's bad enough that you're out there doing this but they're getting in the way of you doing your job. And so extremely quickly, we could be there for 10 minutes because the longer you're there, the more chance you have to get shot at or have a mortar dropped on your head or something. So you get out, and as quickly as you can, starting at the burned-out car and then working your way out.  You just look for everything you can, and sometimes, in fact, you're looking for pieces of ordinance that haven't exploded. An artillery round will kick out, and it'll be in somebody's house a block away, and you need to grab that and make sure you dispose of it so nobody gets hurt.
Violence continues in Iraq.  Alsumaria notes that 1 person was shot dead in Kirkuk Province today. KUNA notes that death and reports that another Kirkuk shooting left a police officer wounded.  All Iraqi News notes an Anbar Province home bombing claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi soliders and left three more injured.  In addition, IANS reports a Baquba roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left two people injured, a Muqdadiyah truck bombing injured four people, two sticky bombings "outside Baquba" left five people injured, a Baghdad attack on a mmilitary officer left his driver dead and a Mosul roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left two people injured.
Meanwhile Kitabat notes that some form of poisonous gas at Lake Habbaniyah in Anbar Province is killing the fish and producing a foul smell.  A fisherman states that everything in the lake region dies: shrimp, fish and birds that eat the fish.  Currently, it's suspected that the gas is sulfur.  In August 2009, Duraid Adnan and Timothy Williams (New York Times) were claiming Lake Habbaniya was part of a "beach season"  though the lake's water was described as "muddy" and they noted people drive "their cars right onto the sand, pulling up next to the water."  The US base Al Taqqadum was located there.  And, at, you can find video posted of Lake Habbaniya: "The vehicle graveyard at Lake Habbaniya is one of seven established during 2005 when it was decided the costs of shipping wrecks back to the US was prohibitive.  The vehicles shown have suffered hull breach, internal fire, structural failure, or are classified as 'beyond economical repair'."  Whether it's sulfur or something else, there's a good chance it didn't occur naturally but resulted from pollution.  All Iraqi News reports a fire broke out in central Baghdad today, a landfill which further threatened surrounding structures because of the failure to clean surrounding areas and everyone using it as a dumping ground. 
Dumping ground?  Like the political crisis?  Monday we noted:
Al Rafidyan reports that Moqtada al-Sadr has criticized the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate for their June 29th festivities which included bringing in performers who, his opinion, promote debauchery and immorality.  More than likely his remarks are directed at Madeline Matar who a Lebanese recording artist (click here for Alsumaria's article on her in Arabic and note the photo).  She is said to have arrived at the Baghdad concert in a presidential motorcade.  You can click here for her Facebook page. 
Could there be more to it?  Could the "presidential motorcade" have hinted at a sex scandal for Nouri? 
All Iraqi News reports Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh insisted today he was being verbally attacked with rumors and stated he had spoken to both Moqtada and Nouri to assure them that the concert was just a concert and that he had no inappropriate relationship with Madeline Matter.  He insisted he has told all of his friends that this was just a malicious smear against him.
Why is Ali al-Dabbagh having a meltdown in public?  He's been a spokesperson for some time and, if Nouri believes him, there shouldn't be any problem.  His intense denial might indicate that there is something more here including that he might be covering for Nouri.
Were that to be the case, Nouri might end up taken out the way most politicians are today -- not with bullets but with sex scandals.
Currently, Nouri al-Maliki is trying to hold onto his post of prime minister by offering up a Reform Committee.  Mustafa Habib (Niqash) addresses some of the issues this raises:
Firstly, there are problems that have to do with agreements between the feuding political blocs about which positions certain high ranking politicians would fill; this included discussion of the vacant seats in certain important ministries, that al-Maliki was occupying in the interim.
Another involved the powers of the federal court and yet another had to do with relations between the Iraqi Parliament and the Iraqi Cabinet, or executive branch; relations were strained with Parliament and ministers often coming to different conclusions. And finally there was the problem of how to balance the demands of the Iraqi Constitution with all of the above.
Despite what appear to be good intentions, there is no doubt that al-Maliki's opponents do not trust him any more than they did before. There has been plenty of press coverage and public relations work on al-Maliki's behalf but the parties who wanted to oust him don't think he is serious about the alleged reforms.
"This call for reform is nothing more than a political manoeuvre and an attempt to gain more time," Hani Ashour, an adviser to the opposition Iraqiya coalition, told NIQASH. The essence of the current political crisis is the fact that al-Maliki has not honoured the Erbil agreement, under which he formed this government."
The so-called Erbil agreement was formulated in Erbil to end a nine month dispute over who should run the government following disputed 2010 elections. It gave al-Maliki the right to form a government if he met certain conditions and gave his electoral opponents certain high powered jobs; basically it was a power sharing deal.
The fact that al-Maliki has done almost nothing to honour that deal doesn't give his opponents much faith that he will change now.
Nouri and Moqtada are two of the main political players in Iraq.  Other main players include KRG President Massoud Barzani, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi, Iraqiya head Ayad Allawi and President Jalal Talabani. 
Jalal, of course, fled the country due to the political crisis.  He stated he had to have an emergency procedure.  That ended up being knee surgery.  All Iraqi News reports that Luis Ayala, Secretary-General of the Socialist International, phoned Jalal to congratulate him on his successful knee surgery.  Ayala conveyed his hope that Jalal would be able to join the Socialist International in September.
Let's move over to President Massoud Barzani.  Al Rafidayn notes Barzani's plan to establish a National Security Council.  Aiyob Mawloodi (Kurdish Globe) reports:
In a ceremony held in Erbil last Sunday, July 8th, the Kurdistan Region's National Security Board was established.
In the ceremony, attended by the Region's President and a number of top ranking KRG officials, the long awaited Kurdistan Region's National Security Board was announced.
Masrour Barzani, the head of the Kurdistan Region's Protection Agency was appointed as the Chancellor of the Board.
Dr. Khasraw Mohammed Gul was appointed his Deputy.
In his speech, President Barzani praised the National Security Board for what he described as "their genuine contribution to peace and prosperity" in Kurdistan Region, urging the security forces to do "their outmost to respect human rights" in dealing with security issues.
Goran (aka Change) is a third party in the KRG and CIA-backed. Alsumaria reports that Goran is insisting this National Security Council will lead to totalitarianism. Kitabat adds that Goran is stating these are the steps to a dictatorship.  AFP notes that some are taking exception to Masroor Barzani -- Massoud Barzani's son -- being named to head the council.
Power is confirmed in many ways.  For example, Tim Arrango (New York Times) writes a lengthy piece on Moqtada today that really says nothing -- power.  You give a speech on Friday and Nouri's grabbing from it and passing it off as his own at the start of the week -- power.   Dar Addustour notes that Nouri spoke today about the need to restore property to its owners and also about the need to distribute the wealth in a manner that would be fair to all Iraqis.
Nouri's State of Law starts an outrageous rumor about you -- power.  Alsumaria reports State of Law MP Samira al-Moussawi is insisting that the KRG supplying Turkey with crude oil is part of a scheme that ExxonMobil came up with.  State of Law's been whining about ExxonMobil since October and Nouri's been demanding the multi-national corporation cancel its deal with the KRG since November.  Hoshmando Othman (Rudaw) observes:
The deal further fueled the existing tension between the Kurdistan Region and Baghdad over the legality of Kurds' inviting foreign companies to search for oil in their region. The 2005 Iraqi constitution recognizes Kurdistan as a federal region run by its regional parliament and government.
KRG takes into consideration two Articles of the Iraqi constitution that allow the 
Kurds to conclude exploration deals with foreign companies for natural resources in their own region, but Baghdad still does not recognize the contracts signed between KRG and foreign oil companies, so far numbering over fifty, and considers the deals illegal.
ExxonMobil's move despite the risk of being blacklisted by Baghdad can be seen as an indication of growing Western and other international oil companies' interest in the Kurdistan Region, which estimates its oil reserves at 45 billion barrels, equal to more than 40 percent of that of the rest of Iraq. KRG offers production share agreements to the oil companies while Baghdad limits its offer to service contracts.
Furthermore, the discovery of significant reserves of natural gas - estimated over 100 trillion cubic feet, surpassing Libya's gas reserve - attracted those European companies, which form the Nabucco gas pipeline project that is due to link Caucasus' gas fields to Europe through Turkey. Nabucco is meant to reduce Europe's dependency on Russian gas.
Alsumaria notes Iraqiya MPs held a press conference today in front of Parliament to insist that Nouri stop the mass arrests he's ordered on the outskirts of Baghdad -- Yusufiya and Abu Ghraib and Ghazaliyah mainly -- and that he release the 70 to 80 people that have been arrested. 
Nouri has a record of carrying out mass arrests.  Sadam Hussein did as well.  Dar Addustour reports that Peter Arnett, internationally known journalist, is stating that, following an 18 month investigation, he has learned that Saddam Hussein's son Uday was plotting to overthrow his father and, among the supporting evidence for this claim, Arnett says he has a letter from March 2003 written by a military commander who pledges his support to Uday Hussein.
Uday Hussein was infamous for many things.  These days, especially this time of year, he's most infamous for having athletes tortured when their performance did not meet his 'standards.'
On sports, every four years the Summer Olympics are held.  Iraq will be competiting this year.  They first participated in 1948 and this will be their 13th time participating. Noor Aamer Jassim tells Amelie Herenstein (AFP), "Weapons and ammunitions are all outdated -- all of our equipment is old compared to other countries, Arab and Eureopean. Sports is my life.  I hope to win a medal, to see my country's flag raised."  She and two other Iraqi women will join with five Iraqi men to compete in the Olympics in London -- "two runners [one is Dana Hussein], a swimmer [Muhannad Ahmad], an archer, a shooter [Noor Aamer Jassim], a boxer, a weightlifer [Safa Rashid] and a wrestler."
7msports has a video report on wrestler Safaa Rashid Mahmud al-Jamaili and sprinter Dana Hussein and notes "Hussein was the only Iraqi to compete at the 2008 Beijing Games and she will represent the war-torn country in the 100m this summer." Abigail Hauslohner (Time magazine) noted Dana Hussein in 2008 and quoted her stating, "Sports can unify the Iraqi people -- no Sunnis, no Shiites, just sports for the country."  That year she met with AFP on a track at Baghdad University and explained, "I was shot at here by a sniper in this stadium and I wasn't killed because, thank God, I happened to be running." Li Ziheng (Xinhua) noted:
Dana Hussein, wearing a pair of second-hand track shoes she bought in Jordan by herself, made her debut in the women's 100m heat at the National Stadium as part of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games on August 16, 2008.  "I have realized my dream of competing at the Olympics, and I am extremely happy to come to Beijing," said the 21-year-old girl, "It does not matter what we will achieve at the Games, the important thing is we are here."
AP noted last March, "In addition to often not being able to even reach an outdoor university field, where Hussein trains during the winter months, she says she has no money to fund her ambition, gets no government support, no access to a gymn to do fitness training has no indoor track to use during Iraq's sizzling summers, and no sports psychologist to advise her how to keep it all together."
Muhannad Ahmad talent and looks should garner Iraq attention in the swimming competition (there's a photo with the AFP story). But it's not been easy for swimmers in Iraq.  Alsumaria reports today that police prevent Iraqis from swimming in the rivers and that the pools are a challenge in terms of cleanliness due to power shortages and the fact that the government does not provide fuel for generators used for pools. In Baghdad, Iraqis can pay $4.30 (in US dollars) to three hours of swimming. 
Let's note Iraqi women for a second.  On Sunday, we addressed the nonsense that the 'great' [illegal] Iraq War brought sports to Iraqi women.  Not the case at all.  Just because the lie came from a one-time US athlete who is now a brand a corporation flunky doesn't make the lie true.  We noted Christine Breenan's USA Today report from April 2004 on Iraq's sports legend Iman Sabeeh (she was a runner).  Iraqi community members were kind enough to pass on that the women's vollyball team won the Arab Tournament in 1983 and that Noor Basil and Maysa'a Hussein competed in the Summer Olympics of 2000 in Sydney.  They noted Iraqi women like Eman Nouri who holds the country's record in the long jump (5.67 meters, July 13, 1977)
Today in Iraq, women see:
* Decrease in women's presence and participation in media, journalism, and sports
* Decline in levels of health
* Decline in economic level of widows and orphans
* Decline in social rights
* Decline in scientific successes for women
* Decline in women's political participation
* Decline in leadership positions for women
* Increase in unemployment among young women
* Continued practice of customs and traditions harmful to women
* Lack of legislation advocating for women
* Low participation of women in executive and judicial branches
* Decline in women's freedom
* Decline in number of educated girls
* Decrease in the number of women Ministers from 27 to 1
That's the present for Iraqi women as noted in Women's Campaign International's new report [PDF format warning] "Iraqi Future Search." We'll note the report further in tomorrow's snapshot.