Friday, October 05, 2012

My pick of best piece of online writing this week

America recoiled from Barack last night (Ava and C.I.)

Was he snoozing?


All Iraq News reports, last night President Barack Obama faced Governor Mitt Romney for a closed debate (closed to third parties).  This was so beyond "The Christ-child fumbles."

Immediately after the debate,
Ron Suskind probably called it best, Mitt Romney seemed to want to win while Barack was just stumbling on stage.

The impression that he wanted to be anywhere else was cemented with Barack's first response.

For those who've forgotten, the question was
, "Let's start the economy, segment one, and let's begin with jobs. What are the major differences between the two of you about how you would go about creating new jobs?"

And the response began?  "There are a lot of points I want to make tonight, but the most important one is that 20 years ago I became the luckiest man on Earth because Michelle Obama agreed to marry me," Barack babbled.  "And so I just want to wish, Sweetie, you happy anniversary and let you know that a year from now we will not be celebrating it in front of 40 million people."

Oh, gee, is the presidential election intruding on your personal life?

The whine had opponents thinking, "Well maybe next year you'll be back home at your mansion in Chicago."  Worse, it reminded people that while the country has struggled through the Great Recession, Barack started his term thinking America wanted 'date nights' for Barry and Mitchie when what they wanted was to see a president working at improving the economy and creating jobs.

Funny how the date nights disappeared as the anger and outrage over the lack of job creation increased among the voters.

The tone deaf nature of the administration from day one was disgusting.  Bully Boy Bush was rightly called out in 2005 for various galas while the Iraq War and Afghanistan War continued.  In January 2009, backed with a ton of corporation money, DC looked like a whore's paradise and had one longterm DC doyenne observing she hadn't seen anything like this -- corruption and corporations mingling on the dance floors at glitzy galas -- since Nixon.

Two wars were going on but it was party-party central.  And maturity and perspective, which were no where in sight, never arrived.  Which is how you got date nights.  And fashionista covers while millions of Americans moved into poverty.  It was tone deaf.

And the endless rounds of golf and basketball games, the personal sessions with the trainer flown in several times a week from Chicago, the 'body man' Reggie Love, all of it was topped when Michelle decided she and her pals needed a little vaction.

Tone deaf.

And that's how Barack kicked off the debates.  Instead of focusing on America, he yet again -- as he always does -- tried to make it about him.

I know most of you saw that Thursday morning, as did I.  But I don't blog on Thursdays.  I love Ava and C.I.'s piece.  Even now, it's considered the piece to read.  I have friends who are sending it to me in case I haven't seen it.

It says everything that needs to be said and uses the Wednesday night performance to comment on the entire four years.

It's just perfection.

If you are someone who hasn't read it, please make a point to do so tonight.

There's nothing anyone can do to improve on it -- that includes me so I'll just let it speak for itself.

[Added 10-6, my friend Sylvia called to say, "Elaine, there's no link to Ava and C.I.'s piece and I went to Third Estate Sunday Review and can't find it there."  They wrote it for The Common Ills and I copied and pasted assuming the link came with it.  It did not.  My bad.  I've added it.]
"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, October 5, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, the Islamic State of Iraq claims credit for recent violence, a call is made for provincial elections to be held in April, France calls out the executions in Iraq (102 so far this year), Senators Patty Murray and Carl Levin call on the VA and DoD to work together to address disability evaluations, Ms. magazine gears up for its 40th anniversary, and more.
Starting in the US with veterans news. Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Her office notes:
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, joined with Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), Chairman of the Committee on Armed Services, in sending a letter to the VA and DoD Deputy Secretaries requesting that the Departments work more closely together, as true partners and with greater involvement from senior leaders, to improve the IDES process. The letter also calls on the Departments to set a definitive timeline for completing the review in order to implement meaningful changes. The requests stem from issues identified during GAO's recently completed investigation into IDES.
"I am not convinced the Departments have implemented a disability evaluation process that is truly transparent, consistent, or expeditious. Getting this right is a big challenge – but it's one that we must overcome," said Senator Murray. "I've seen the impacts of a broken system – whether it's from a wrong diagnosis, an improper decision, or never-ending wait times. When the system doesn't work accurately and quickly, or when servicemembers can't get a proper mental health evaluation or diagnosis, it means they are not getting the care they need and they are not moving on to civilian life. While DoD and VA are at a critical juncture, I am confident that by working as true partners and committing to real, meaningful changes, the Departments can improve the system for the thousands of men and women who will be transitioning in the next couple of years."
"I am convinced that the DoD/VA Integrated Disability Evaluation System can be improved to better address the needs of our wounded, ill, and injured service members," said Senator Levin. "This system is too complex, takes far too long, and still has an adversarial aspect that our service members should not have to endure. It will take a concerted effort by the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs, working together, to bring about needed improvements."
The full text of the letters follows:
October 4, 2012
The Honorable Ashton B. Carter
Deputy Secretary of Defense
1010 Defense Pentagon, 3E944
Washington, DC 20301
The Honorable W. Scott Gould
Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420
Dear Secretary Carter and Secretary Gould:
Essential to the effort of improving the transition process for separating servicemembers is overcoming the challenges confronting the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES). Earlier this year, as part of our Committees' ongoing oversight of IDES, the Veterans' Affairs Committee held a hearing examining the multiple challenges servicemembers still face while navigating this joint program. As was made very clear at that hearing, real improvements could only happen with the "total engagement, cooperation and support of all senior leaders at both Departments …"
Indeed, the ongoing dialogue and Secretary Carter's July 2, 2012, letter to Chairman Murray underscored this very point, affirming the Department of Defense's commitment "to work closely with the Department of Veterans Affairs to examine ways to improve timeliness and effectiveness of the system …" Yet despite the importance of this work, and the Departments' repeated assurances of promising results and progress made, reality has yet to match rhetoric.
It is because of this clear and urgent need for total engagement, cooperation, and true partnership between the Departments that we write to you regarding the recently released GAO report, Military Disability System, Improved Monitoring Needed to Better Track and Manage Performance. Discussing how to overcome the challenges facing the system, GAO recommended that VA and DoD "work together to develop timeframes for completing the IDES business process review and implementing any resulting recommendations."
A timely business process review has the potential to help the Departments analyze each phase of the disability evaluation review process and identify areas where greater coordination and integration between the Departments is appropriate. Such a review can only be successful if the Departments undertake it in a truly collaborative way, evaluating their respective business processes in the context of what is necessary for an integrated system. Further, any such effort must have clear goals and timelines. So while both Departments concurred with the GAO recommendation, the response from the Department of Veterans Affairs was particularly troubling:
Although the Department of Defense (DoD) has been leading the business process review efforts described in this report, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has provided input and support to promote these efforts and will continue to do so to the extent possible. At this time, the full scope or current status of these efforts has not been disclosed to VA. As such, VA recommends that developing timeframes for completion of these efforts should be deferred to DoD.
This response makes clear that true collaboration between the Departments on the business process review has yet to occur. Surely, then, the answer cannot be to drive the Departments further apart by deferring all planning to the Department of Defense. Therefore, we are writing to request from you not only a timeline for completion of the review and implementation of any recommendations, but also that you make this review a truly joint, collaborative effort to improve a broken system. We also ask that you detail the steps you will take to personally ensure the Departments work together as partners in reforming this system and in addressing other joint challenges. As the Deputy Secretaries of your Departments, your leadership is critical in order to create meaningful change for our servicemembers and veterans.
We remain committed to working with you to address the challenges confronting this system, but further delay and a lack of meaningful cooperation is unacceptable and risks jeopardizing the Departments' ability to achieve a truly integrated disability evaluation system that works. Thank you for your attention to this letter and for all that you do on behalf of our servicemembers and veterans.
Kathryn Robertson
Specialty Media Coordinator
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
448 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington D.C. 20510
In Iraq the bombs and bullets never stop igniting and flying. For the month thus far through Thursday, Iraq Body Count counts 40 dead from violence. That's just over four days. And violence continued today. Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports 2 Baghdad bombings which claimed 5 lives and left 25 people injured. This was apparently targeting the worshippers of al-Sadrein mosque. Prior to that bombing, violence was already taking place across Iraq. All Iraq News reports 1 person was shot dead in Nineveh Province, to the west of Mosul while a Mosul roadside bombing has left five police officers injured and 2 Zaafaraniya .bombings left four police officers and one bystander injured. In addition, Alsumaria notes an assassination attempt (via rockets) on the Governor of Salahuddin Province Ahmed Abdul Wahid in which two of his bodyguards were injured, and an armed clash in Tikrit left 1 woman dead and four more people injured,
Still on violence, AP notes that the Islamic State of Iraq has posted a message claiming credit for the attack on the Tikrit prison last week that left many dead and injured and resulted in a large number of prison escapees who still remain at large. From the September 27th snapshot:
The latest day's violence includes a prison attack BBC News reports assailants using bombs and guns attacked a Tikrit prison. AFP quotes a police Lieutenant Colonel stating, "A suicide bomber targeted the gate of the prison with a car bomb and gunment then assaulted the prison, after which they killed guards" and a police Colonel stating, "The prisoners killed one policeman and wounded (prison director) Brigadier General Laith al-Sagmani, the gunmen took control of the prison, and clashes are continuing." Kitabat states two car bombs were used to blow up the entrance to the prison and gain access and they also state 12 guards have been killed. Reports note the riot is continuing. Alsumaria reports four guards have died, 1 police officer and the injured include two soldiers and the prison director al-Sagmani. There's confusion as to whether a number of prisoners were able to escape in the early stages after the bombing and during gunfire. Reuters goes with "dozens" escaping which is probably smarter than the hard number some are repeating. Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports 5 police officers killed and another two injured -- the numbers are going to vary until tomorrow, this is ongoing -- and state over 200 prisoners escaped with 33 of them already having been recaptured. If you skip the English language media, what's not confusing is why it happened and why it was able to happen. Alsumaria reports that there are approximately 900 inmates in the prison and that many have death sentences. Alsumaria does even more than that. It notes the recent prison violence throughout the country and ties it into the death sentences.
Today All Iraq News notes another escapee has been arrested and estimates 102 escaped. July 22nd, the Islamic State of Iraq released an audio recording announcing a new campaign of violence entitled Breaking The Walls which would include prison breaks and killing "judges and investigators and their guards." (They also threatened to attack America on US soil.) AP notes they also claimed responsiblity for Sunday's violence:

As the month of September winds down, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) notes Iraq witnesses its second deadliest day of the month (September 9th was the deadliest day). BBC (link is text and video) offers, "Civilians were among those killed and injured in the attacks around the capital, but the aim of the attackers seems to have been to kill as many security personnel as possible, wherever they could reach them, says the BBC's Rami Ruhayem in Baghdad." Jamal Hashim (Xinhua) counts 34 dead and 85 injured while explaining, "In and near the Iraqi capital, eight car bomb explosions and gunfire attacks killed up to 25 people and wounded 59 others, according to the police reports." Kareem Raheem, Suadad al-Salhy and Sophie Hares (Reuters) adds, "Two more policemen were killed when a car bomb went off in the town of Balad Ruz, 90 km (55 miles) northeast of Baghdad, and bomb planted in a parked car in al Qaeda stronghold Mosul killed a civilian."Most reports float al Qaeda in Iraq as the culprit. The Irish Examiner quotes MP Hakim al-Zamili who sits on the Security and Defense Committee stating, "Al-Qaida leaders have no intention of leaving this country or letting Iraqis live in peace. Thus, we should expect more attacks in the near future. The situation in Iraq is still unstable ... and repetition of such attacks shows that our security forces are still unqualified to deal with the terrorists." If the series of assaults were part of the Islamic State of Iraq's Breaking The Walls campaign, they will no doubt claim credit in the next few days. July 22nd, the Islamic State of Iraq released an audio recording announcing a new campaign of violence entitled Breaking The Walls which would include prison breaks and killing "judges and investigators and their guards." (They also threatened to attack America on US soil.) They are only one group in Iraq resorting to violence. On the continued violence, Mohammed Tawfeeq offers this framework, "The violence comes just days after dozens of prisoners broke out of a jail in the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit. Among those who got out Thursday were several al Qaeda members on death row, according to authorities. The jailbreak occurred when armed men detonated two car bombs at the gates of Tasfirat jail. The explosions triggered clashes with security forces."
A large number of the escapees were death row inmates. Last month saw protests, sit-ins and eating strikes in Iraqi prisons as prisoners demanded the passage of an amnesty law. Such a law would mean many behind bars would be allowed to leave and return to their families. Nouri al-Maliki's been promising it since 2008 but it's still not been passed. His State of Law has remained the biggest opponent to the bill.
On executions, KUNA reports "France on Friday condemned Iraq for carrying out six executions on Thursday and reiterated concern over the growing use of capital punishment in that country." Foreign Ministry spokesperson Philippe Lalliot is quoted stating, "This brings to 102 the number of prisoners executed in Iraq since the beginning of the year." As we noted in yesterday's snapshot, "In 2011, there were 670 known executions. Of those, the Iraqi government was responsible for 68 of them. The country with the most known executions in 2011 was Iran which had 360."
Driven by then Justice Minister Robert Badinter's commitment and his speech to the National Assembly the law dated October 9th, 1981 abolished the death penalty in France. This law reinforced France's longstanding efforts to promote human dignity. French law prohibits the removal of any person to a country where they risk the death penalty.
France has signed all international commitments on abolishing the death penalty. Since 2007, abolishing the death penalty has been enshrined in the French Constitution.
Al Mada reports today on the Ministry of Human Rights declaring this week that the time isn't right to heed the pleas of various organizations and governments and place a moratorium on the death penalty. Of course it's not the right time yet, they've already announced they plan to execute 200 more people this year.
Meanwhile Alsumaria reports Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is calling for the newly appointed Electoral Commission to get to work on preparing for the upcoming provincial elections. (He actually stated yesterday that the Commission should hold elections on time; however, provincial elections were supposed to be held in March and that can't happen now so the target date has become April.) Reuters adds that this request comes "despite legal challenges that could end in the dissolution of the commission." They note that the Turkman (the 9th Commissioner added) is a woman which is a correction to what I've stated in the September 25th snapshot. My error, my apologies, "my face is red, I stand corrected" as Prince would say ("U Got The Look"). Reuters notes, "But the body still faces a number of legal challenges from political groups, civil society organizations and minorities who have lodged appeals with the Federal Court. It is not clear when the Federal Court will rule on the appeals." The Federal Court has already stated that one-third of the commissioners must be women. One member out of 9 is not 1/3. From the September 19th snapshot:

About the only thing that could be passed off as 'progress' this week just imploded. Yesterday, 8 of 9 Independent High Electoral Commission commissioners elected. Alsumaria reported this morning that the Federal Court says the number of commissioners must be increased because women must make up a third of the members. (Not one of the eight was a woman -- an oversight Iraqiya called out -- the only political bloc to publicly call that out.) Al Mada notes that Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc was insisting yesterday that if they just make the ninth member a Christian, they'll have all their bases covered. The judiciary begs to differ. They're calling on members -- not a single seat, multiple seats. That means that the Parliament either gets very focused on this or it is highly likely that an election cannot take place in March of 2013. It's starting to look a lot like fall 2009 in Iraq.
And that should have been that. The law states women must make up a third of the members. That's not something you can 'massage.' Yet Alsumaria reports the issue is still 'can we get a Turkman on the IHEC?' as opposed to dealing with what the law requires. Is math difficult for the Iraqi government? Is the concept of 1/3 of the members of the IHEC being women a word problem that's difficult to solve?
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani gets cozier with Iran. Iran's Press TV reports that he met with Iran's Minister of Defense Ahmad Vahidi and the two gabbed over shared hatred of Israel with Jalal declaring "terrorism in the region would serve the interests of the Israeli regime." Iran's Minister of Defense also met with Saadoun al-Dulaimi from Iraq's Ministry of Defense. Prensa Latina reports, "Iran and Iraq formalized the establishment of the military cooperation in an agreement signed by the defense ministers of the two neighboring countries, it was released here today by a source close to the negotiations." Aswat al-Iraq notes that Nouri met "on Wednesday with Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Wahidi [discussing] cooperation between the two countries to strengthen security and stability to combat terrorism, according to a statement released from al-Maliki's office." If you're thinking, "That's a lot of people meeting over one deal," you do realize why that is, don't you?
Some outlets wrongly identify Saadoun al-Dulaimi as the Minister of Defense. He is not the Minister of Defense. Iraq has no person in that post. Nouri al-Maliki was required, by the Constitution, to name a Cabinet in 30 days to become prime minister (a prime minister-designate is named and then given 30 days to form a cabinet -- that means 30 days to nominate and get the nominees confirmed by Parilament). That's not a partial Cabinet. If it were a partial Cabinet, it wouldn't be in the Constitution. If you could name half or even just 1 minister and say, "I'll fill in the rest later," it wouldn't be in the Constitution. If this is confusing to you -- and Nouri's online lover, the blond European, has never grasped this -- you can refer to Article 76 of the Iraqi Constitution and pay special attention to the second clause which reads: "The Prime Minister-designate shall undertake the naming of the members of his Council of Ministers within a period not to exceed thirty days from the date of his designation." That's the Cabinet.
Not a portion of it, not two, not three, the full Cabinet. Nouri was supposed to have formed a Cabinet -- a full Cabinet -- before the end of December 2010. He failed to do that. He refused to nominate anyone for the post of Minister of Defense or Minister of the Interior or Minister of National Security. Just this summer, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support." Back in December 2010 and Janaury 2011, the press assured us that the thug would nominate people to fill those posts in a matter of weeks. That did not happen. Back then, Iraqiya labled it a power grab and said Nouri had no intention of nominating people to the posts. They argued it was a power grab. Clearly, Iraqiya was correct.
In Iraq, the Cabinet is different than in the United States. In the US, let's use the current administration, Barack Obama was sworn in as President of the United States in January 2009. He was under no Constitutional obligation to name his Secretaries within 30 days. Once he nominated them, the nominations went to the Congress. This is true in Iraq, the prime minister nominates someone and the Parliament votes on whether or not the person will become a Minister.
Here's the difference that matters. If Barack tomorrow was bothered by Hillary Clinton's performance as Secretary of State, he would convey that to her and ask for her resignation. Hillary would tender her resignation. She's not obligated to but that's what she'd do and what is done. In Iraq, these Ministers have tremendous power -- more than Secretaries in the US -- and if Nouri's unhappy with one, oh well. He can ask them to resign but that's all he can do. And they don't have to resign. Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq is a member of Iraqiya and a Sunni. An ongoing political stalemate turned into a political crisis in December 2011 when Nouri wanted al-Mutlaq gone. al-Mutlaq, who had told CNN that Nouri was becoming a dictator (the incident that outraged Nouri), didn't want to step down. And Nouri couldn't force him. To remove al-Mutlaq, Nouri would need Parliament to be in agreement with him. Nouri could not get the votes needed to strip al-Mutlaq of his post so, after several months, he finally dropped the issue.
This difference means that, for example, the Minister of the Interior can deploy the federal police as he or she sees fit. If Nouri doesn't like the way the Minister does that, he can argue, he can whine but he can't remove the Minister unless Parliament is in agreement with him. This allows the ministers to have not just power but also security. This means, ideally, that they serve the Iraqi people and not which ever person occupies the post of prime minister.
If you don't have a real minister (one confirmed by Parliament), they have no protection. Nouri can call them 'acting' all he wants, but he retains control of the ministry -- in violation of the Constitution. He can name Mohammed Tawfeeq as Acting Minister of the Interior but Mohammed would have no power or independence. As 'acting' minister, he has no real power and does what Nouri tells him or Nouri strips him of the 'acting' post ('acting' posts do not exist in the Constitution). That's why it matters.
Again, Barack Obama is the current president of the United States and was sworn in January 2009. Nouri was named prime minister-designate in November 2010, the following year. During all that time, the three securities ministries have had no ministers. Imagine if Barack had refused to name a Secretary of Defense by the end of 2009? He would be a laughingstock. In fact, the ridicule and scorn over this would not have been pushed back a year. With various wars during his four years, he would be expected to have a Secretary of Defense. Yet Nouri has been allowed a pass. Violence has increased in 2012, up from 2011. And the security ministries remain without leaders.
Nouri is an incompetent. That was obvious during his first term as prime minister (2006 through 2010). He wasn't the choice of the Iraqi Parliament (the Parliament is supposed to elect the prime minister-designate). He was the choice of the White House. Bully Boy Bush occupied the White House back then. Nouri was so ineffective, please remember, that the Bush White House was forced to draw up a set of "benchmarks" that both Bush and Nouri signed off on. These would be measures by which the US Congress could determine whether or not progress was taking place in Iraq (which would effect Congressional funding of the Iraq operation). This was in 2007. Nouri failed repeatedly.
The White House spin became, "Oh, he didn't do this benchmark, but he got started on it." No, these were benchmarks that, in a year's time were supposed to be accomplished.
Not only did they spin in 2008, but those benchmarks still haven't been achieved. The oil dispute between the KRG and Nouri's Baghdad-based central government? KRG President Massoud Barzani did not sign an agreement with the White House to come up with a national oil and gas law. Nouri did. If Nouri's not happy with the contracts that the KRG is signing, that's on Nouri. If he'd passed an oil and gas law in 2007 or 2008 or 2009 or . . . then there would be no problem today.
The elections -- provincial planned for next year, parliamentary for the year after -- are going to expose another failed benchmark/promise. American L. Paul Bremer implemented de-Ba'athification in Iraq. The Iraq Inquiry in London, chaired by John Chilcot, heard public testimony from one British official after another -- executive branch official, military official and MI6 -- that de-Ba'athification was a huge mistake. Under former president Saddam Hussein, the Ba'ath Party was the defacto party in Iraq. Governement jobs and promotions could result from party i.d., from being in the same political party that Saddam Hussein headed. The US-invasion toppled Saddam Hussein's government and would then oversee the execution of Hussein. That apparently wasn't enough. It was important to drive people out of government office, out of civil service, out of the military, out of the police, etc. You are talking a large number of people. Among other things, they lost jobs.
Bremer oversaw the White House's de-Ba'athification plan. Bremer maintains that, Colin Powell has whispered to his friends in the press that Bremer was acting on his own -- the public record, including the testimony by British officials in Iraq when de-Ba'athification began, does not support Powell's whispers. But that's how much of a disaster de-Ba'athification is seen as -- Colin Powell's worked the press for over six years now to make sure he didn't get blamed for the policy and to try to argue that there was a winnable war in Iraq but it got screwed up by Bremer and others. This pro-war denial is also seen in Charles Ferguson's ridiculous and reactionary 'documentary.'
The White House benchmarks of 2007 included what is best explained as de-de-Ba'athification. This would mean bringing Iraqis back into the process -- especially but not just Sunnis. This benchmark was also not achieved. But a bill was proposed!!! Once upon a time! So that's partial victory!!! Right? Wrong.
By not completing that in 2007 or 2008, you ended up with the Justice and Accountability Commission of 2010. They had no mandate. Parliament believed they had termed out of office (because they had). But Ahmed Chalabi and others suddenly show up and start declaring who can run for office and who cannot. Saleh al-Mutlaq, the current Deputy Prime Minister, was among those who was not allowed to run for office. He was labeled a Ba'athist.
This commission was used before to influence results (and to target Iraqiya) and it will most likely resurface in the planned 2014 parliamentary elections.
The last parliamentary elections were in March 2010. Nouri didn't win those elections. His political slate, State of Law, came in second. The winner in those elections was the newly created Iraqiya headed by Ayad Allawi.
Deborah Amos is a journalist for NPR and the author of one of the finest books on the Iraq War, Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East. In addition to that book, she also wrote a paper entitled [PDF format warning] "Confusion, Contradiction and Irony: The Iraqi Media in 2010." From that paper:
In the 2010, campaign, Maliki's party was primarily a sectarian political list of Shiite candidates with a few Sunni political figureheads. In contrast, Allawi's political coalition was a cross-sectarian list. While Allawi is a Shiite, he headed a party consisting of Sunni political leaders from western and northern Iraq and some Shiite politicians who believed it was time to move beyond sectarian politics if Iraq is to achieve national unity.
In Iraq's short history of free elections, Shiite candidates have a demographic advantage. Shiites are approximately 60% of the population, and Iraqis voted almost exclusively along sectarian lines in the 2005 national elections and the 2009 provincial vote. Maliki also had a media advantage. The state-run national news network did not accept paid campaign advertisements, but freely broadcast extensive reports of Maliki's election appearances and campaign speeches in evening news bulletins. On the eve of the vote, state TV broadcast a documentary highlighting the Prime Minister's visit to security checkpoints around the capital. Maliki is widely credited with an improvement in the day-to-day security in the capital and in the south, but his pre-election inspection of the security checkpoints was seen as a long campaign ad. According to domestic media monitorying reports of state-runtelevision, Al-Iraqiya, Maliki's political coalition received by far the "highest positive coverage" when compared with all other political parties in the campaign.
When it came to the vote, Allawi demonstrated that sectarian voting patterns could be broken. A small percentage of Shiites voted for a party that included Sunnis on the ticket which helped deliver the two-seat lead. Prime Minister Maliki charged widespread fraud and demanded a recount to prevent "a return to violence." He pointedly noted that he remained the commander in chief of the armed forces.
Was Maliki threatening violence? Was he using the platform of state-run media to suggest that his Shiite-dominated government would not relinquish power to a Sunni coaltion despite the election results?
What the thug was doing didn't matter because he had the backing of the White House. Nouri dug his heels in for 8 months refusing to allow the process to go forward. This would have been avoided if a United Nations caretaker government had been put in place as many governments (including the French government) favored but Barack Obama and his administration killed that idea. They wanted Nouri.
When the voters didn't name your party the winner and the Constitution's clear on what happens and it doesn't benefit you, what do you do?
The White House trashed the will of the voters and any lessons on the power of the vote or actual democracy. From John Barry's "'The Engame' Is A Well Researched, Highly Critical Look at U.S. Policy in Iraq" (The Daily Beast):

As Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor charge in their ambitious new history of the Iraq war, The Endgame, Obama's administration sacrificed political influence by failing in 2010 to insist that the results of Iraq's first proper election be honored: "When the Obama administration acquiesced in the questionable judicial opinion that prevented Ayad Allawi's bloc, after it had won the most seats in 2010, from the first attempt at forming a new government, it undermined the prospects, however slim, for a compromise that might have led to a genuinely inclusive and cross-sectarian government."
They didn't just back Nouri in the stalemate (which included the White House and State Dept spinning the press), they also staked the US government's reputation on a contract.
Here's why you should never be afraid of the power of "no." Whether you're on a date and just don't find the other person that interesting, whether some suit is trying to get you to sign a contract that doesn't include the details you have asked for, whether it's a rival swearing to later meet you half-way, you say "no" to protect yourself.
If Democrats had a spine during the Bush years, the US would be better off today and the Iraq War might not have even happened. If they had used the power of no, they could have accomplished so much even when they were the minority party in both houses. Instead, they were scared little rabbits, too meek to stand up.
The Republicans have stood up to Barack. And you get men like Tom Hayden (who has never liked it when a woman has said no to him ) whining and screeching that Republicans are "obstructionists!" No, they're sticking to their beliefs (something Democrats should be trying not insulting).
When Iraq managed to set the record for longest time after elections with no government formed (eight months but that record's now been broken), various Iraqis were falling prey to the cry of 'be mature' and 'do what's right for Iraq' and countless other nonsense.
If Ayad Allawi, for example, truly believed that the best thing for Iraq was for him to be prime minister or someone else from Iraqiya to be prime minister, he should have stuck to that and damn the public scoldings.
But the White House and the State Dept were working the press to soften up resistance on the part of politicians while at the same time they were brokering a contract. The contract became known as the Erbil Agreement (because that's where it was signed). The Erbil Agreement was a contract that would allow Iraqiya to have, for example, the leadership role on a newly created National Security Commission -- an independent one at that. The Kurds? They would get Article 140 finally implemented. (Article 140 of the Constitution determines the fate of oil-rich Kirkuk -- will it be part of the Kurdistan Regional Government or part of the Baghdad-based central government -- and was supposed to be
implemented no later than the end of 2007. That deadline is written into the Constitution. But Nouri, in his first term, refused to implement Article 140.) There were various things that Nouri agreed to do provided he had a second term as prime minister. He signed off on the Erbil Agreement. The leader of all the political blocs did.
Nouri used the contract to get his second term and then trashed the contract.
The US government's word is mud in Iraq because of the Erbil Agreement. As Iraq gets closer and closer with Iran, understand that. The US government, this is the White House, this is at the very top, assured various political leaders that the Erbil Agreement (a) was a binding, legal contract and (b) that the US would ensure it was honored. It was obvious to most that it wasn't being honored as soon as Jalal Talabani named Nouri prime minister-designate. That's when Nouri announced that the independent security commission would have to wait. This is what prompted, in the first real meeting of Parliament after the 2010 elections (eight months after) most Iraqiya members to walk out.
Nouri trashed the Erbil Agreement. Month after month went by in 2011 without it being implemented. Finally, in the summer of 2011 Political Stalemate II begins as Moqtada al-Sadr ('rebel cleric' -- a Shi'ite with large support that only grows greater when he is attacked or when he draws a wall between himself and Nouri), the Kurds and Iraqiya begin calling for Nouri to return to and implement the Erbil Agreement.
He refuses. Fall 2011 sees Sunnis rounded up in mass arrests. There's (false) talk that all US troops will be out by the end of December 2011. The country is very nervous about what might happen next. As most (not all) US troops leave, Nouri announces he wants al-Mutlaq stripped of his post. He also swears out an arrest warrant for Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi. Tareq is Sunni and Iraqiya. This is when the stalemate becomes a crisis.
By April, major names are in Erbil for a big meet up. They include Jala Talabani (President of Iraq), Allawi, KRG President Massoud Barzani, Moqtada and others. They announce they will move towards a no-confidence vote in Nouri.
But Moqtada repeatedly stresses that Nouri can stop that vote at any point by returning to the Erbil Agreement. Nouri refuses to honor the contract. Then, in May, as they have the votes necessary to vote Nouri out, Jalal stabs everyone in the back and invents new rules. Jalal then high tails it to Germany for 'a life threatening medical procedure' (in reality, knee surgery). He hides out in Germany for months and finally returns to Iraq at the mid-way point last month.
Since his return, Jalal has been on a 'listening' tour to try to determine the problem. The problem is and has been clear: the Erbil Agreement is not being honored. Alsumaria notes he met with Ayad Allawi, head of Iraqiya. Al Mada reports State of Law is calling for the National Conference to be held on the 15th.
Iraq's first feminist magazine was Layla, from the February 11th:
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.)
Around the world, feminist magazines pop up because feminism is a global movement. No matter how brief or how long the magazines publish, they do make an impact. In the United States, the feminist publication Ms. magazine is about to celebrate its 40th anniversary. As part of that celebration, the cover subject is yet again the comic book and TV hero Wonder Woman. And, if you're a Wonder Woman fan or know someone who is, Ms. magazine is offering an 18 x 24 poster of Wonder Woman with every $35.00 subscription -- this is both new subscriptions and renewals and I did ask, if you're subscription is not up for a few months, you can still renew right now if you'd like the poster as a gift for yourself or someone else. It's a lovely poster and destined to become a collector's item just as the first Ms. issue Wonder Woman graced the cover of.
October 5, 2012
Contact: Danielle Smith, 703-522-2214,
Media Advisory
Ms. Magazine 40th Anniversary Luncheon Celebrating 40 years of Reporting, Rebelling, and Truth Telling
Luncheon is celebrating 40 years and looking forward to a feminist century.
When: Thursday, October 11, 2012
Reception, 11:00 A.M. - 12:30 P.M.
Luncheon, 12:30 P.M. - 2:00 P.M.
Program, 1:00 P.M. - 2:00 P.M.
Where: National Press Club, 529 14th Street NW, Washington, DC
Reception: Holeman Lounge
Luncheon and Program: Ballroom
Who: Gloria Steinem, Ms. Magazine Co-Founder & Consulting Editor
Eleanor Smeal, Ms. Magazine Publisher & President, FMF
Katherine Spillar, Ms. Magazine Executive Editor & Executive Vice President, FMF
Bonnie Thornton Dill Ph.D, Chair, Ms. Committee of Scholars
Media Credentialing:
Media interested in covering the event please contact Ms. Magazine, Danielle Smith, 703-522-2214,

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The cowards

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The So-Called Presidential Debate"

the so-called debates3

That's Isaiah's wonderful take on the debates.

Does that sound familiar?

It does to me because I typed a ton and lost it all.

Mitt and Barack are scared of Jill and Gary and any other third party candidate.

They don't want a level playing field.  They can't compete on a level playing field so they shut out any third party run.  This isn't mean putting them on the couch.  This is obvious by the fact that they signed a contract to guarantee a number of things including that third parties wouldn't be participating in these debates.

The debates are a joke and have been since the League of Women Voters was forced out by the duopoly.

So, yes, Mitt and Barack are cowards.

I had quotes that are gone.

I was typing this when Ava called.

She said, "Listen to this . . ."  She held the phone up and it was C.I. speaking to a large group of people and talking about just how corrupt these debates were.

I wish I had that post.

It was amazing.

I don't know if C.I.'s planning on touching on this topic at The Common Ills or if she's going to save it for Third but she was on fire.

Again, I wish I had that post.  I don't know what happened.  I was typing.  As I am now.  Then all the sudden, everything on the screen that I had typed was blue -- as though I had highlighted it -- and when my finger struck a key, everything vanished.

But the point is the debates are a fraud and only cowards who are scared of competition would participate in them.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesdy, October 3, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri's got his eyes on more weapons, the US gets ready for a debate with some of the presidential candidates, the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees hold a joint-hearing, and more.
USA Today's Susan Page (link is text and video) has a column today on the presidential debates which kick off tonight for some candidates.  (Some?  As Isaiah notes his comic this morning, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson  will not be on stage, the duopoly does not want them invited.)   In her piece, Pages notes a number of topics she feels should be covered including, "President Obama can rightly claim to be an early opponent to the war in Iraq. But once troops were there, he was an opponent of the surge that ultimately proved successful. What has he learned from those two decisions that will make him a more effective commander in chief in the future?"  Before anyone points out that tonight's debate is domestic topics, Susan Page knows that, her column is about the three debates President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney will take part in.
There are many good questions Barack could be asked about Iraq including why he backed Nouri al-Maliki for a second term as prime minister after Nouri's State of Law came in second?  The country's Constitution was very clear on the process and how do you help a fledging democracy take root when you overturn the results of an election?  As John Barry's "'The Engame' Is A Well Researched, Highly Critical Look at U.S. Policy in Iraq" (The Daily Beast) notes:

As Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor charge in their ambitious new history of the Iraq war, The Endgame, Obama's administration sacrificed political influence by failing in 2010 to insist that the results of Iraq's first proper election be honored: "When the Obama administration acquiesced in the questionable judicial opinion that prevented Ayad Allawi's bloc, after it had won the most seats in 2010, from the first attempt at forming a new government, it undermined the prospects, however slim, for a compromise that might have led to a genuinely inclusive and cross-sectarian government."
Another question Barack should be asked is why he keeps talking about bringing the troops home from Iraq when (a) 15,000 troops were moved to Kuwait, (b) a small number of US troops were left in Iraq, (c) Barack just sent a small number of Special-Ops back into Iraq and (d) he's negotiating to send more US troops back into Iraq?
Last week,  Tim Arango (New York Times) reported, "Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions. At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence."  As  John Glaser ( observes, "Most Americans have been led to believe that all US forces besides those guarding the massive American Embassy in Iraq have been withdrawn since the end of last year. But small units have remained in Baghdad to support elite Iraqi forces that report directly to the increasingly authoritarian Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki."  RTT News reports today, "U.S. military training for Iraqi security forces will continue uninterrupted despite failure of the Congress to approve money for it in a temporary spending bill now funding government operations, the Pentagon has said."  northsunm32 (All Voices) points out, "Pentagon officials had warned legislators that the failure to extend the authorization for the program could force the withdrawal of 220 of 296 personnel it currently had in Iraq working with the Iraqis. Obviously, this did not sway Congress. However, just as obviously, there is no plan to withdraw those personnel."
We'll come back to the topic of the US presidential elections at the end of the snapshot.  Right now, we'll stay with the US but move to veterans issues.  Last week, James Dao (New York Times) reported, "Numbers tell the story.  Last year, veterans filed more than 1.3 million claims, double the number in 2001. Despite having added nearly 4,000 new workers since 2008, the agnecy did not keep pace, completing less than 80 percent of its inventory.  This year, the agency has already completed more than 1 million claims for the third consecutive year.  Yet it is still taking about eight months to process the average claim, two months longer than a decade ago.  As of Monday, 890 pensions and compensation claims were pending."  That was last week.  Today?
James Koutz: We've seen many pilot programs and promises from VA. It's time to roll up our sleeves and really fix what's wrong with this system. As the Social Security Administration and other benefit programs can handle their claims in a timely manner, veterans cannot understand why the VA cannot. In the American Legion, we've made training our Service Officers a top priority. It's part of the job -- not something that gets in the way of the job. We bring our Service Officers together for training twice a year. They make recommendations based on a complex system they must navigate on a daily basis. They're the ones who can see the flaws in the VA's work-credit system that rewards quantity over quality. There simply has to be a better way to get this done. For instance, VA could start counting claims done right as a positive and claims done wrong as a negative so everyone could have a more accurate picture of what's reallly getting done in these regional offices. Veterans waiting past the realistic target date might be compensated with interest on their claims creating an incentive for VA also to get these claims decided on time. There are ways to work with the mechanics of this system and to make it serve the veteran and not the bureaucrats. We're willing to roll up our sleeves and work with you to find those ways.  The American Legion has people in the trenches who not only understand the problems but contribute to the solutions.  Veterans are tired of hearing how the government is working on ending a backlog that continues to grow.  Veterans and the American Legion want results and are willing to do whatever it takes to obtain them.  Remember, we're all partners in this.  Everyone knows the claims process is confusing for veterans and the American Legion is there with free services to help navigate the system and make things easier for both the veteran and the VA personnel who have decided their claims.  Nobody gets charged a penny for this service -- not the veteran, not the government.
[. . .]
Chair Jeff Miller:  I want to hone in, just for a bit, on the claims backlog because obviously that is a huge issue that's out there, that everybody in this room is concerned about. Congress is concerned about it. The Dept of Veterans Affairs is concerned about it. But it doesn't seem to be getting any better. [VA] Secretary [Eric] Shinseki has already said several times, you quoted it in your opening statement, that by 2015, they would, within 125 days, the idea was that everybody would have their claims ajudicated at 100%. Well it isn't happening. And unfortunately, we had a hearing just a couple of weeks ago where we kind of took a status check with VA: Where are you? Their focus was more on what they were turning out which is exactly what you talked about. And that's important. A million claims being adjudicated. But the backlog is growing. And if you're not keeping up with that backlog, it's certainly not going to assist and fix the problem. So, again, I would like to hear from you if you would, your perspective on what are the things that can be done? What can Congress do legislatively, if you will, to assist the problem? We all talk about the electronic medical record. But that is years away from being able to truly have that seamless transition. We're moving in that direction. But we've got folks, you know, today that are waiting one, two years waiting to have their claims ajudicated and we've put dollars forward, we've put bodies forward. It does not seem to fix the issue. So I'd like to hear what you think.
James Koutz: Well, Mr. Chairman, I think one of the things that we could do is do more hiring of ajudicators, do more hiring of the processers.  As you probably know, a lot of these claims that are coming back, they're not completed.  They need to be fully developed claims.  I believe like any other business, if you're in the backlog, then the only way to get the backlog taken care of is to hire more people.  And I understand the VA -- being a former, or still a commissioner of the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs -- that it takes time to train an ajudicator or claims processer.  That'll take time.  But maybe we can -- and I don't know how much overtime they're working, if they're working overtime -- But I think they've got to do these claims more accurately because, when they come back, the first thing that we see is mistakes and that claim goes right back to the regional office and we're starting all over again from step one.  So I think that's the biggest thing, maybe get the accuracy where the Secretary said he would like to have it, 98% accuracy.  If we get to that number, then I think you'll see the backlogs claim be reduced.
Chair Jeff Miller: Do you know the percentage of the claims that your Service Officers put together or ajudicated complete?  I mean, they may not necessarily get the rating that they're asking for, but the percentage of packages that are completed?
James Koutz: I don't.  But Peter Gaytan, our executive director of our Washington office, probably can answer that for you.
Peter Gaytan:  Thank you, Commander.  Mr. Chairman, the American Legion takes very seriously, the quality of our work and our training of our Service Officres.  Twice a year, we put our Service Officers rigorous training to make sure that they have the qualifications, knowledge and skills to not only produce quality, fully developed claims that we submit to the VA but also to help reduce the backlog because it's got to be a team effort to do that.  We're going to have qualified, well trained officers to do this work.  Now your specific question on the number that the American Legion ajudicates or
Chair Jeff Miller: Or percentage.
Peter Gaytan:  I would like to defer to our National Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Commission VA Director Verna Jones who handles that area.
Verna Jones:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We actually received a report from the VA just last week.  And I can tell you the number of claims.  The American Legion handles  244,000 claims annually.  That's our number this year: 244,000.  Now I'm not sure of the exact percentage but the number is 244,000 claimsfor the American Legion nationally.
Chair Jeff Miller: Okay.  If you would, just for the record, if you could let us know, just trying to get a handle, you know, on how many claims are being done by the veteran themselves obviously using the veterans Service Officer.  The assumption, from my standpoint, would be that it would be better to go through a Service Officer in order to file your claim.  But I'm interested in knowing for no other reason then I think folks up here on the dais would like to hear it.
Today the US House Veterans Affairs Committee and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a joint-hearing which was a presentation by the American Legion.  The American Legion's National Commander James Koutz handled the presentation and he was accomanied by Verna Jones, Michael Helm, Peter Gaytan and Kenneth Governor.  The Chair of the House Committee is Jeff Miller who was present.  As he noted,  "the Congressional schedule changed a few weeks ago so a lot of members are not in Washington today."  Ranking Member Bob Filner is not seeking re-election to the Congress but is instead running for Mayor of San Diego. The scheduling change meant that he was not present.  US House Rep Mike Michaud was Acting Ranking Member.
Acting Ranking Member Mike Michaud:  I was troubled by the July report from CBS News that found suicide rates for our soldiers is up 80%.  Our veterans are returning from war with invisible wounds that need treatment but are discouraged from seeking treatment for various reasons.  As a nation, we can do better.  We must get this right.
He was referring to David Martin's report for CBS Evening News (link is text and video) report on the suicide rate in July: "July was the worst month ever for Army suicides.  Thirty-eight active duty and reserve soldiers took their own lives.  Among active duty troops, 2012 could turn out to be the worst year ever.  Behind the numbers are heartbroken widows who say their husbands sought help but couldn't get it."  And as disturbing is the number of veterans suicides. 
Over the weekend and through Monday, the Austin American-Stateman began publishing the results of their investigative series on veterans deaths.  This was a six-month investigation focusing on the the deaths of Texas veterans and, in their overview article, they noted:

■ More than one in three died from a drug overdose, a fatal combination of drugs, or suicide. Their median age at death was 28.
■ Nearly one in five died in a motor vehicle crash.
■ Among those with a primary diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder, the numbers are even more disturbing: 80 percent died of overdose, suicide or a single vehicle crash. Only two of the 46 Texas veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts with a PTSD diagnosis died of natural causes, according to the analysis.
■ The 345 Texas veterans identified by the VA as having died since coming home is equal to nearly two-thirds of the state's casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. But that only includes veterans who have sought VA benefits, meaning the total number of deaths is likely much larger.

That is from the overview article.   The paper also offered "Suicide among veterans receiving less attention than active-duty deaths" which tells the story of Iraq War veteran Ray Rivas who took his own life on a day when his wife, Colleen Rivas, described him being in "good spirits" and notes:

An American-Statesman investigation into the deaths of 266  Texans who served during the Iraq or Afghanistan wars show that 45  committed suicide, making it the fourth-leading  cause of death behind illness, accidents and drug-related deaths. That percentage is more than four times higher than the general population: Suicide accounted for 3.6 percent  of all Texas deaths over the same period, compared with 16.9  percent of the veterans the newspaper studied.

Rivas o.d.ed "on sleeping pills in a parking lot."  Iraq War veteran Eric Sessions died on his motorcycle and is part of  the report entitled "After returning home, many veterans get into motor vehicle accidents" which finds, "Next to illness and disease,  motor vehicle accidents such as Sessions' were the leading cause of death among the 266  Texas veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan whose histories were tracked by the American-Statesman. The motorcycle and car wrecks were responsible for 50  deaths, or 18.8 percent  of the total ― more than suicides or prescription drug overdoses."  The paper also offers "Which veterans are at highest risk for suicide?"  The Military Suicide Research Consortium's Peter Gutierrez agrees that "relationship problems, legal problems, mental illness, depression" are the same in the civilian world and among service members and veterans but feels the civilian population is less likely to suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury.   Afghanistan War veteran KC Dobson's took her own life last year, "Her Army photos show a beaming, freckle-faced young woman in fatigues, her dark hair pulled back in a bun. But her smile masked what family members said was emotional and physical pain that dogged her throughout her deployment to Iraq and after her 2010 discharge."

Other reports by the paper are "Researches look into possible causes of current 'epidemic' of suicide and PTSD" and "Scores of recent Texas war veterans have died of overdoses, suicides and vehicle crashes, investigation finds" -- all articles share the byline "by American-Statesman Investigative Team."
For today's hearing, Senator Mark Begich was Acting Senate Committe Chair for the hearing and Senator John Boozman was Acting Ranking Member.  One of the issues various groups -- and the American Legion is no different here -- is paying attention to is possible sequestration.  What?  What NPR has been calling the "fiscal cliff."  Marilyn Geewax (NPR's The Two Way) observed this week, "Unless Congress passes legislation in a lame-duck session, taxes will be higher by a half-trillion dollars next year, costing the average household nearly $3,500 a year, according to a just-released report by the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center."   The VA is not supposed to be effected in terms of services to veterans.  The White House has stated there may be some administrative shuffling or losses but it won't effect care -- if sequestration takes place.  If it does, let's hope the veterans have been told the truth.
James Koutz:  The American Legion understands our nation is in a budget crisis, the likes of which has not been seen in over a generation.  First and foremost, our nation's veterans are deeply concerned about the national security in the face of drastic defense spending cuts. Equally important to the American Legion is protection of veterans and veterans programs administered in other federal agencies.  Thank to the timeless work of this Committee -- and especially you, Chairman Miller --  Congress and the White House have reassured us that VA will be exempt from sequestration.  Unfortunately, many programs that are important to veterans are funded by agencies outside the VA: Arlington National Cemetery, the American Battle Monuments Commission, the Joint Prisoners of War - Missing in Action Accounting Command and the Dept of Labor's Veterans Program, HUD and others.  Veterans are seriously concerned  these important government functions will be compromised or cut in order to make ends meet. [. . .]  The American Legion has been promised that the budget would not be balanced on the backs of veterans. If cuts ot the Department of Defense erode TRICARE, diminish quality of life for our troops, or put more pressure on our National Guard and reserve components, it is clear that an unfair portion of responsibility is falling upon the shoulders of America's current and future veterans.
Based on what others cover (Ava plans to cover the hearing at Trina's site tonight, Wally at Rebecca's site and Kat at her own), tomorrow's snapshot may include other aspects of the hearing. 
Meanwhile Columbia University professor David L. Phillips (at Huffington Post) advocates for the US increasing their ties to Iraqi Kurds:
Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has shunned U.S. interests. He also pursues polarizing policies, which fuel sectarian and ethnic conflict between Iraqis. Baghdad scorns Iraq's constitution, preferring confrontation to power-sharing. It systematically encroaches on Kurdish territory, inflaming tensions along "disputed internal boundaries." The Iraqi government uses its security apparatus to trample the rights of Iraq's Sunnis and target political opponents. It acts as a proxy for Iran, facilitating the transfer of weapons from Tehran to Syria.
In contrast, Iraqi Kurds are unabashedly pro-American. Not a single American has died in Iraqi Kurdistan since Saddam's overthrow in 2003. Iraqi Kurdistan has functioning democratic institutions, a vibrant civil society, and an independent media. While corruption is still a problem, Iraqi Kurdistan is less corrupt than most neighbors. The U.S. shares values with Iraqi Kurds, who are America's best and only friends in Iraq.
The United States should deepen security cooperation with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). While Baghdad rejected a status of forces agreement with the United States, the KRG welcomes it. The Pentagon's sale of Abrams-A1 tanks and F-16 fighter jets to Baghdad should be cancelled. Such weapons will most likely be used against Iraqis, rather than to protect Iraq from Iran and other rogue regimes with which Baghdad has cozy relations.
I understand the point he's making but, to be clear, Jeremiah Small died in the KRG March 1, 2012.  The 33-year-old American was there teaching history and English lit. 

In Iraq today the violence continued.  All Iraq News reports that Iraqi police shot dead 3 people ('suspects') outside Baghdad, near Ghazaliya,  1 'suspect' was shot dead outside of Mosul, and an armed clash in Baghdad left 1 person deadAFP adds a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier with two more injured, a Suwayrah roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left three people injured, a Kirkuk car bombing left seven people injured and 1 "high-ranking official in the transport ministry was assassinated by unknown gunmen". 

In non-violence deaths, Al Rafidayn notes 2 people in Sulaymaniyah died of cholera.  Yes, it is time for the annual cholera outbreak in Iraq.  It happens every year.  The US press used to cover it, used to pretend to care.  The World Health Organization explains, "Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae.  It has a short incubation period, from les than one day to five days, and produces an enterotoxin that causes a copious, painless, watery diarrhoea that can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death if treatment is not promptly given.  Vomiting also occurs in most patients." In the science section of Monday's New York Times, there was an article on cholera.  The best way to end cholera is potable water.
While Iraq's not seen vast sums used to rebuild basic infrastructure, Rudaw notes one segment Nouri's been happy to throw money at:
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is expected to visit Russia to sign a $5 billion deal to procure weapons for the Iraqi military. 
A member of Iraqi parliament's committee of defense and security told Rudaw that Maliki is planning to ask the Russians to deliver 20 to 40 helicopters and a number of missiles to penetrate into mountainous areas.
Maliki's first visit to Russia as Iraq's prime minister has sparked different reactions across the country. Many Iraqis, especially Kurds, have voiced concern about Maliki's plans and are alarmed by what they describe as his "unilateral" and "autocratic" style.
Shwan Taha, a Kurdish member of Iraqi Parliament, said, "The arming policy is random and affected by corruption." 
Taha said that, despite billions of dollars spent on arming the Iraqi military, "Iraq's weapon needs have not been met yet."

The weapons purchases are alarming some Iraqis.  The possibility that Iraq might make significant purchases from Russia is also not going over well with the US government.  But file it under one of Nouri's many problems currently.

Dar Addustour reports that last week's assault on the prison in Tikirt has resulted in  searches of other Iraq prisons and the confiscation of smuggled cell phones.  All Iraq News notes that 1 of the Tikrit prison escapees was arrested today.  The news outlet notes that there are conflicting reports but as many as 250 prisoners may still be at large after last week's attack.   Al Mada adds that Nouri's council of ministers decided that the protection of the prisons -- which is done by federal police -- should fall under the Ministry of Justice.  The federal police fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Interior.  Why the shift?

Who knows but what it looks like is Nouri's trying to hand off to someone to be the fall guy.  The Ministry of Justice has a Minister heading it (Hassan al-Shimari).  Nouri is the one heading the Ministry of Interior (and Ministry of Defense and Ministry of National Security)  because he never nominated anyone to head those ministires.  He was supposed to.  The Constitution required not only that he present nominees to Parliament but that they be confirmed.  But when you're the pet of the White House, laws don't really matter. 

Further indicating that distraction is the goal, All Iraq News reports that State of Law MP Abdul Salam al-Maliki is claiming that they have evidence that politicians were involved in the Tikrit prison break.  If they had evidence, they would have already presented it.  This is more spin from Nouri's State of Law.  As Iraqis are supposed to ponder which politicians could be involved, the hope is they'll be too distracted to notice what a complete and utter failure Nouri's government has been.

More problems for State of Law and Nouri, Wael Grace and Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) report that there are splits in the National Alliance over the infrastructure bill.  Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc has already made their opposition public.  Grace and Sabah report that Irbrahim al-Jaafari, leader of the National Alliance, is also opposed to it currently and that there is talk of forming a new bloc.
I'm an old guy now, past sixty but not yet senior enough for Medicare, and I've been in the movement a long time. Younger people sometimes ask me what to do. After telling them not to respect their elders all that much --- we didn't respect them that much 45 years ago either --- the main thing I tell them is that movement leaders and participants back in the day had visions and horizons longer than the next election cycle or the one after that. They were prepared to fight whether they had allies in city hall, the legislature or the courts or not. Unlike today's NAACP and NAN, they developed agendas without the guidance of corporate funders and their recommended professionals.
We've proved we can elect as many Democrats as we want, all the way up the food chain without changing much here at the bottom. I know this well. I gave more than 20 years of my own life to electing better Democrats, helping Democrats run better campaigns, and registering more Democrat voters. I met Barack Obama 20 years ago on one of those gigs in Project VOTE Illinois, where he was state director and I was one of three field organizers who signed up 130,000 new voters and flogged them out to the polls that year. We elected Harold Washington, and a lot of state legislators and a few Congressional reps. The Democratic party will still let you work for it, but once in office, big money calls the shots. It's time to leave that house and build a new one.
It's an uncomfortable truth: the present US political system is largely people-proof and democracy-proof. The time and treasure we've sunk into supporting Democrats the last seventy years is gone. It's a horse we raised and watered and fed that somebody else has ridden off and it won't be back.
I still believe my voice and my vote mean something. Kwame Toure used to say the thing to do is find an organization you're in substantial agreement with and join it, or if it does not exist, start one and recruit your neighbors.
So I've joined the Georgia Green Party, and I'm recruiting those of my neighbors who still believes that unemployment and mass incarceration have to be addressed, that illegal wars and deportations must be stopped, that Wall Street must be reined in, and that gentrification and privatization have to be stopped. Most voters who call themselves Democrats, in fact millions of those voting for President Obama believe exactly these things already, but are substantially disinformed about what their elected officials actually DO.
I was at a demonstration in support of Chicago teachers Saturday, and some participants seemed to assume that the president was on their side, that maybe they could enlist figures like Rev. Al Sharpton to aid their struggle to mobilize people against the inroads of school privatizaters. It fell to me to tell them the bad news --- that Sharpton took a half million dollar bribe years ago to jump on the charter school bandwagon, that he toured the country with Newt Gingrich and Arne Duncan beating the bushes for high stakes testing and charters, and the administration is actually the enemy on this one.
Eventually they and many like them, if they want a party that stands up for what they believe, will have to become Greens. It's my job to make sure that happens.
So I'll watch the debates, sure. The crooks who run them won't let Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate on the same stage with the corporate candidates. So I'll watch Democracy Now's coverage, in which Jill Stein and another candidate in real time answer the same questions as they do. My colleague Glen Ford will be a guest at Occupy The Debates in Baltimore as well.
Democracy Now!'s live coverage tonight begins at 8:30 PM EST (7:30 Central, 5:00 Pacific). You can stream it online. (Or check Pacifica, Free Speech Television and other places you regularly find the show).   And on this week's  Black Agenda Radio (here for this week's broadcast) which airs on Progressive Radio Network each Monday from 11:00 am to noon EST, Bruce Dixon noted the Occupy the Debates:. 
 One answer to the lack of real discussions presented us by the rigged "commission" on presidential debates will be Occupy The Debates, a project undertaken by Occupy activists in multiple cities, in which a live meeting will entertain live questions from a live audience.  Occupy the Debate's first scheduled public meeting will be in Denver CO, the same night as the first so-called "debate" between the two corporate candidates.  Occupy the Debates will be streamed live on the internet that evening, and will include the participation of Black Agenda Report co-founder Glen Ford.  Several occupy movements around the country are expected to follow suit and organize their own local events over the next few weeks. For more information on real debates on real issues, visit Occupy the Debates either on Facebook or at -- that's