Saturday, May 03, 2014


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

Tough times call for tough music.  The Supreme Court’s Michigan Decision on Affirmative Action, Cliven Bundy, and Donald Sterling are just the tip of the spear jabbing black people.  “Post-racial” America, yeah buddy.   They say the economy is getting better but having been stolen from 3 times in a 24-hour period to include a break-in, well, times are tough.
Bob Marley & The Wailers, “Burnin”  (Tuff Gong/Island Records 1973)
(Donald Sterling and all those “powerful” practicing white supremacists – this includes people of all hues – would do well to hear “Small Axe.”)
Peter Tosh, “Equal Rights,” CBS Records 1977.
Bob Marley & The Wailers, “Babylon By Bus,” Tuff Gong/Island Records 1978.
Peter Tosh, “Mama Africa,” CBS Records 1983.
Nina Simone,  “The Very Best of Nina Simone,” Song BMG Records 2006.
Because a week shouldn’t go by without listening to “The High Priestess.”
Kevin Gray’s latest book, Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence, (co-edited with JoAnn Wypijewski and Jeffrey St. Clair) will be published by CounterPunch this spring.

I was going to highlight someone else but I was a Marley freak.

I had to run into a drugstore today and stopped by the mags.  It was death central.  Marley was on the cover of Rolling Stone Classic, Marilyn Monroe was on the cover of Life, Einstein on the cover of some special edition of Time and Kurt Cobain on the cover of Guitar.

Maybe I noticed because there was a death in our circle -- college friends -- with somone's mother passing away.  I feel really bad because C.I.'s grabbed all the slack there.  If we hadn't moved to Hawaii, I'd be there on dawn patrol.  I don't know how she does it.  C.I. is giving herself fully to our friend and writing online and giving speeches -- she also had to do an interview Friday morning that she'd agreed to as a favor a month ago.

When I spoke to her last night, she hadn't been to sleep since she woke up Thursday morning.  C.I. is great in a crisis but she's not one of those people who is only great in a crisis.  She's pretty much great 24 hours a day seven days a week.

I've told this story before but I'll tell it again.  In college, C.I., Rebecca and I shared a place. Our first Thanksgiving, Rebecca a was so excited heading back home to be with her family and she was out the door after her last final.  C.I. was leaving on Wednesday and not in a big rush.

So she leaves and I'd said I had plans.  But then she comes back like 30 minutes later and she says, "You don't have plans."

I didn't.  My parents died when I was a little girl.  My brother was all I had and he wasn't going to be able to come back to the country.  (My brother's in banking.  He went into international banking as soon as I went into college.)

So C.I. got me out of my funk -- that I tried to pretend that I wasn't in.  We went to the grocery store and bought up whatever was still there.  We invited any who who weren't able to go home for Thanksgiving and we had this huge spread with all these friends (and a few strangers who became friends) and it was one of my best Thanksgivings ever.

That's why, in the time since, we always try to spend Thanksgiving together and you can count on one hand the times we haven't been able to.

Anyway . . .

"This edition's playlist" (Ava and C.I.):
Our Bright Future

1) Tracy Chapman's Our Bright Future.

2) Ben Harper's Both Sides of the Gun.

3) Tori Amos' Scarlet's Walk.

4) Laura Nyro's Christmas and the Beads of Sweat.

5) Ann Wilson's Hope & Glory.

6) Radiohead's The King of Limbs.

7) Marvin Gaye's Let's Get It On.

8) Various artists' Wall of Sound: The Very Best of Phil Spector 1961 - 1966.

9) Rolling Stone's Some Girls.

10) The Mamas and the Papas' If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears.

Another list I love.  "Sing For You" is such a wonderful song -- it's the opening track on Tracy Chapman's album.

I really like Tracy Chapman but I do think Our Bright Future set a new level for her albums.  I mean, I still and always will love that first, self-titled debut album.  But she's one of those artists who continues to grow.

It has now been six years since that album came out.  She's yet to make another.  I hope she goes back into the studio soon because, on her last album, she was a better singer and a better songwriter.  She was bending notes in an amazing manner, as though she were a jazz singer.

On music, these were the community posts last week:

"Music (PJ Harvey)," "Tori Amos." "The new Joni Mitchell album," "Joni Mitchell Dog Eat Dog," "Baez is dead to us," "Ben Taylor and Jodie Foster," "I am barely blogging (sing along)" and "Carly Simon and Janis Ian"

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, May 2, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri is the great unwanted, corpses on the streets of Baghdad, Marie Harf spins the elections, tomorrow is World Press Day, Barack's war on journalism is noted,  and much more.

Let's start in the United States with this from The Feminist Majority Foundation:

May 2, 2014
Stephanie Hallett - 310.556.2500,
Brooke Hofhenke -


Los Angeles, CA – The Feminist Majority, which has pulled its annual event from the Beverly Hills Hotel — owned by the Sultan of Brunei — will hold a rally at noon on May 5 across from the hotel, to urge the Sultan to rescind a Taliban-like Brunei penal code, that includes the stoning to death of gay men and lesbians and the public flogging of women who have abortions.
The Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, and the Brunei Investment Agency, owns the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Bel-Air Hotel and other Dorchester Collection Properties. FMF pulled its Global Women’s Rights Awards, co-chaired by Jay and Mavis Leno, from the Beverly Hills Hotel and has launched a massive petition drive and social media campaign calling on the government of Brunei to immediately rescind the new code and asking the United Nations to take action if these laws go into effect as planned.
WHAT: Coalition of Women’s Rights, LGBT and Human Rights Groups Rally
WHEN: Monday May 5, 2014 , 12:00PM – 1:00PM
WHERE: In the Park across from the Beverly Hills Hotel (Sunset Boulevard between North Canon and North Beverly Drive). Street Parking on North Canon, North Beverly Drive and Lomitas Avenue.
WHO: (List in Formation)
  • Jay Leno and Mavis Leno, Board Member, Feminist Majority Foundation
  • Eleanor Smeal, President, Feminist Majority Foundation
  • Andreas Meyer, President, Equality California EQCA
  • Lorri L. Jean, CEO Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Services Center
  • Dolores Huerta, President, Dolores Huerta Foundation/Co-Founder, United Farm Workers
  • Vince Wong, Vice Chair, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
  • Betsy Butler, California Women’s Law Center
  • Ada Briceno, Secretary-Treasurer, UNITE HERE Local 11
  • Katherine Spillar, Executive Editor, Ms. magazine


Let's stay in the US to move over to the topic of the VA and Eric Shinseki.  I'm no fan of the VA Secretary and have stated -- since it turned out he knew months before the fall of 2009 that college veterans would not be receiving their Post-9/11 GI Bill checks -- that Shinseki needs to resign.  Scott Bronstein, Drew Griffin and Neili Black (CNN) report today:

He's the leader of the Department of Veterans Affairs, which runs the VA hospitals where dozens of U.S. veterans died waiting for simple medical screenings.
Yet in the six months that CNN has been reporting on these delays, Eric Shinseki has been silent. And he hasn't spoken out on the matter to any other news organization, either.
Early Friday evening -- after this story appeared on -- the VA gave a response, via spokesman Drew Brookie. He explained that the VA's inspector general's office (referred to as OIG), which is probing the matter, "advised VA against providing information that could potentially compromise their ongoing investigation at the Phoenix VA Health Care system."

I don't disagree with Shinseki's position.  But what's alleged to have taken place at the Phoenix VA? Dropping back to the April 9th snapshot to note this from that day's House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing:

US House Rep Jeff Miller:  I had hoped that during this hearing, we would be discussing the concrete changes VA had made -- changes that would show beyond a doubt that VA had placed the care our veterans receive first and that VA's commitment to holding any employee who did not completely embody a commitment to excellence through actions appropriate to the employee's failure accountable. Instead, today we are faced with even with more questions and ever mounting evidence that despite the myriad of patient safety incidents that have occurred at VA medical facilities in recent memory, the status quo is still firmly entrenched at VA.  On Monday -- shortly before this public hearing --  VA provided evidence that a total of twenty-three veterans have died due to delays in care at VA medical facilities.  Even with this latest disclosure as to where the deaths occurred, our Committee still don't know when they may have happened beyond VA's stated "most likely between 2010 and 2012."  These particular deaths resulted primarily from delays in gastrointestinal care.  Information on other preventable deaths due to consult delays remains unavailable.   Outside of the VA's consult review, this committee has reviewed at least eighteen preventable deaths that occurred because of mismanagement, improper infection control practices and a whole host -- a whole host --  of other maladies plaguing the VA health care system nationwide.  Yet, the department's stonewall has only grown higher and non-responsive. There is no excuse for these incidents to have ever occurred.  Congress has met every resource request that VA has made and I guarantee that if the department would have approached this committee at any time to tell us that help was needed to ensure that veterans received the care they required, every possible action would have been taken to ensure that VA could adequately care for our veterans.  This is the third full committee hearing that I have held on patient safety  and I am going to save our VA witnesses a little bit of time this morning by telling them what I don't want to hear.  I don't want to hear the rote repetition of  -- and I quote --  "the department is committed to providing the highest quality care, which our veterans have earned and that they deserve.  When incidents occur, we identify, mitigate, and prevent additional risks.  Prompt reviews prevent similar events in the future and hold those persons accountable."  Another thing I don’t want to hear is -- and, again, I quote from numerous VA statements, including a recent press statement --  "while any adverse incident for a veteran within our care is one too many," preventable deaths represent a small fraction of the veterans who seek care from VA every year.  What our veterans have truly "earned and deserve" is not more platitudes and, yes, one adverse incident is indeed one too many.  Look, we all recognize that no medical system is infallible no matter how high the quality standards might be.  But I think we all also recognize that the VA health care system is unique because it has a unique, special obligation not only to its patients -- the men and women who honorably serve our nation in uniform -- but also to  the hard-working taxpayers of the United States of America.

Yesterday's snapshot covered Wednesday's Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing and included:

The big disgrace that is the VA's Dr. Robert Petzel told the Committee, "I need to say that to date, we found no evidence of a secret list.  And we have found no patients who have died because they were on a wait list."
Did you grasp what just happened because the press didn't?
I've heard Jen Psaki, Marie Harf, Victoria Nuland, Jay Carney, Robert Gibbs, Dana Perino and many more explain, when asked, that they couldn't what?
Pick any controversial and embarrassing topic and what do they say, "I'm sorry.  I can't comment on an ongoing investigation."
But Petzel didn't say that -- despite it being an ongoing investigation.
So, in fact, we now know that they can comment on an ongoing investigation, they just don't want to.

Petzel should have spoken about the issue. If the incriminated are going to be allowed to spin in the future, they're going to have to stop also claiming that an ongoing investigation means they can't comment.  As for Shinseki?  His position is consistent.  He is not supposed to comment on ongoing investigations and he hasn't.

I don't slam him for that.  However, there's another issue.  Yesterday, the office of House Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Jeff Miller issued the following:

Chairman Miller Writes Sec. Shinseki About Delayed Action to Preserve Phoenix VAHCS Evidence, Shredded Waiting List

May 1, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today, Chairman Miller wrote to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki regarding the department’s delayed actions to preserve possible evidence related to allegations that veterans seeking care at the Phoenix VA Health Care System may have died while awaiting treatment and may have been placed on a secret waiting list. Chairman Miller’s letter also addressed VA’s admitted shredding of a waiting list department officials have said may be the “secret” list cited by Phoenix VA Health Care System whistleblowers.
View the letter here.
Chairman Miller Preservation Request to Sec. Shinseki
VA Litigation Hold (Preservation Order)

Tomorrow is World Press Freedom Day.  The United Nations notes:

 World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in December 1993, following the recommendation of UNESCO's General Conference. Since then, 3 May, the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek is celebrated worldwide as World Press Freedom Day. It is an opportunity to:

  • celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom;
  • assess the state of press freedom throughout the world;
  • defend the media from attacks on their independence;
  • pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty. 

The focus this year is on three inter-related themes: the media’s importance in development; the safety of journalists and the rule of law; and the sustainability and integrity of journalism. An international conference will be held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on 5-6 May.

The annual UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize ceremony will take place on 2 May 2014 at UNESCO Headquarters.

Reporters Without Borders' 2014 World Press Freedom Index covers 180 countries.  The top five countries for press freedom?  Finland, then the Netherlands, Norway. Luxembourg and Adnorra. Out of 180 countries, Iraq comes in at 153, which is really bad.  Also very disappointing is alleged beacon of hope and freedom, the United States, comes in at number 46.   Of the US, the report notes:

Freedom of information is too often sacrificed to an overly broad and abusive interpretation of national security needs, marking a disturbing retreat from democratic practices.  Investigative journalism often suffers as a result. 
This has been the case in the United States (46th), which fell 13 places, one of the most significant declines, amid increased efforts to track down whistleblowers and the sources of leaks.  The trial and conviction of Private Bradley Manning and the pursuit of NSA analyst Edward Snowden were warnings to all those thinking of assisting in the disclosure of sensitive information that would clearly be in the public interest.
US journalists were stunned by the Department of Justice's seizure of Associated Press phone records without warning in order to identify the source of the CIA leak.  It served as a reminder of the urgent need for a "shield law" to protect the confidentiality of journalists' sources at the federal level.  The revival of the legislative process is little consolation for James Risen of The New York Times, who is subject to a court order to testify against a former CIA employee accused of leaking classified information.  And less still for Barrett Brown, a young freelance journalist facing 105 years in prison in connection with the posting of information that hackers obtained from Statfor, a private intelligence company with close ties to the federal government. 

Last week, Trevor Timm (Boing Boing) noted the hypocrisy of an administration that persecutes Risen while at the same time tries to present itself as a world wide advocate for a free press:

The US State Department announced the launch of its third annual "Free the Press" campaign today, which will purportedly highlight "journalists or media outlets that are censored, attacked, threatened, or otherwise oppressed because of their reporting." A noble mission for sure. But maybe they should kick off the campaign by criticizing their own Justice Department, which on the very same day, has asked the Supreme Court to help them force Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times reporter James Risen into jail.

Sunday, RT reported: on the State Dept's nonsensical "Free the Press" campaign:

But, apparently, the US' own crackdown on journalists, particularly those involved in whistleblowing, is a completely “separate category” to be highlighted by such an event, as Jen Psaki, the spokesperson for the US State Department made clear.
“We highlight, as we often do, where we see issues with media freedom around the world,” Psaki told Matthew Lee of the Associated Press, who asked if she believes there are some problems with press freedom in the US that should be discussed as well.
“Otherwise harassed?” Lee asked. “Does that include those who may have been targeted, harassed, imprisoned, or otherwise, whatever, by the United States Government?”

Press TV notes the hypocrisy here.  This week in Berkeley, the 2014 Logan Investigative Reporting Symposium was held.  James Risen was among those attending.  Sharyl Attkisson reports:

Risen, who faces the threat of jail time for refusing to turn ​over information about a confidential source, was one of ​the featured speakers. He is winner of the 2006 Pulitzer ​Prize for National Reporting and the Goldsmith Prize for ​Investigative Reporting.
"A Rip Van Winkle today would be shocked with what we accept in society and what we think of as normal," Risen told the audience of several hundred investigative journalists and Berkeley journalism graduate students. He said that there's been a "fundamental change in society" since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and that Americans have given up civil liberties and press freedoms "slowly and incrementally."
"We've been too accepting of rules and mores of, first, the Bush administration and, now, the Obama administration. We have to stand up and begin to fight back . . . we need to think about how to challenge the government in the way we’re supposed to challenge the government."
"[The Obama administration] want[s] to create an interstate highway for reporting in which there are police all along telling you to stay on that highway. As long as we accept this interstate highway of reporting, we are enabling and complicit in what’s happening to society and the press," said Risen.

For more on Risen, you can see this column by Dina Rasor (Truthout) and, to be clear, her unnamed source offering an excuse for Barack is  either delusional or a liar.  The lies and delusions never end.  Take Barack's Wikipedia article.  Specifically this section.

In late 1988, Obama entered Harvard Law School. He was selected as an editor of the Harvard Law Review at the end of his first year,[40] and president of the journal in his second year.[34][41] During his summers, he returned to Chicago, where he worked as an associate at the law firms of Sidley Austin in 1989 and Hopkins & Sutter in 1990.[42] After graduating with a J.D. magna cum laude[43] from Harvard in 1991, he returned to Chicago.[40]  

Why do they have to lie?

This is part of what infuriates so many people, Barack rises from a chair and someone runs out of the room exclaiming he just won a marathon.

No, he just got out of a chair, calm your ass down.

Did you spot the lie in the Wikipedia passage?

This is the lie, if you didn't catch it:

During his summers, he returned to Chicago, where he worked as an associate at the law firms of Sidley Austin in 1989 and Hopkins & Sutter in 1990.[42]

No, he didn't.

He didn't have a law degree until 1991 so he wasn't an associate in 1989 or 1990.

I don't know what's more insulting, the lie or the liar's belief that people were stupid enough for him/her to get away with it.

An associate is an attorney, a practicing attorney.  If people are confused they can think of Mike on the USA network show Suits.  Mike is an associate.  Mike didn't get a law degree, he got kicked out of law school.  He has concealed this fact to keep his job.  Why? Because he can't be an associate without a law degree. This is not a minor thread that's raised and then forgotten but a key detail in season one, in season two and in season three.  When season four kicks off June 11th, it will still be a key detail.

I have no idea why the whoring never ends in the Cult of St. Barack but I do know an associate needs a law degree.

Press freedom requires a functioning press, one able to stop licking Barack's frenulum.  Ron Fournier (National Journal) notes:

The typical White House reporter considers President Obama's team the most secretive in memory, stingier with information than the tight-lipped Bush White House and, according to a Politico survey, prone to lie. The press corps also is relatively inexperienced, with 39 percent on the beat five years or less, and nearly 60 percent in their first decade.
Most of these extraordinary reporters were never stonewalled by President Clinton's team, deceived by Bush's advisers or bullied by any of their predecessors. I was. Yes, I'm pretty old. With age comes the experience and arrogance required to advise the hard-working White House press corps. Here are five suggestions (confession: I didn't always abide by them while on the beat, but wish I had): 
Don't let the White House set the ground rules. Everything a White House official does, says or writes is on the record, meaning it can be reported at your discretion, unless you determine that it's in your audience's best interest to adjust the rules.

The Committee to Protect Journalists is using the day to call for the release of all imprisoned journalists and notes these "Ten journalists to free from prison:"

1) Avaz Zeynally in Azerbaijan
2) Ahmed Humaidan in Bahrain
3) Ilham Tohti in China
4) Mahmoud Abou Zeid in Egypt
5) Dawit Isaac in Eritrea 
6) Reeyot Aleum in Ethiopia 
7) Siamak Ghaderi in Iran 
8) Fusun Erdogan in Turkey 
9) Muhammad Bekjanov in Uzbekistan 
10) Nguyen Van Hai (also known by his pen name Dieu Cay) in Vietnam

CPJ's 2014 Global Impunity Index notes:

Fresh violence and a failure to prosecute old cases kept Iraq, Somalia, and the Philippines in the three worst slots on the Index. Iraq, with 100 percent impunity in 100 cases, is at number one, a spot it has held since the survey’s inception in 2008. Iraq’s journalists, targeted in record-breaking numbers since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, saw a respite in 2012, the first year no journalists were killed in relation to their work. However, a resurgence of militant groups across the country propelled a spike to 10 journalist killings last year—nine of them murders.

On the topic of Iraq and the press, Nina- Iraq launched--  it's a media site geared towards Iraqi women.  In one article, Raya Abu Gulal observes:

Iraqi women have enjoyed fundamental women’s rights since the late 1950s. This made Iraq one of the first nations to uphold modern standards of women’s rights in the Middle East.
In Iraq, women continue to face security threats across the country. These include random attacks by extremist groups and honour crimes. Moreover, various reports show that many Iraqi women who wish to participate in the political process are facing threats and kidnappings. Lack of security and initiatives from extremist groups have proved to be the main obstacles preventing the advancement of women’s rights in the country.

Iraqi women have had to repeatedly fight off attempts to destroy their rights in the time since the illegal war kicked off with the 2003 invasion.  Monday, former United Kingdom Prime Minister Gordon Brown wrote at the Guardian:

When Iraqi voters go to the polls tomorrow they are likely to endorse parties that plan to legalise child marriage at nine years old. Based on Shia Islamic jurisprudence, what is called the Ja'afari personal status law was approved by the current Iraqi cabinet eight weeks ago. It describes girls as reaching puberty at nine, and therefore ready for marriage. The current legal age is 18.

This barbaric and regressive law would grant fathers sole guardianship of their female children from the age of two, as well as legalising marital rape. It has horrified Iraqi women and they publicly declared last month's International Women's Day an Iraqi day of mourning in response to the worrying developments. Hassan al-Shimari, the Iraqi justice minister who proposed the draft law, is a member of the small Islamist Fadhila (Virtue) party, which is allied with the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who is seeking a third term in office.

Iraqis voted Wednesday.  On the vote, the White House issued the following:

Statement by the President on Elections in Iraq

On behalf of the American people, I congratulate the Iraqi people on the completion of yesterday’s parliamentary elections.  Millions of Iraqis embraced their democratic right to vote.  The people of Iraq know better than anyone else the enormous challenges that they face, and yesterday’s turnout demonstrated to the world that they seek to pursue a more stable and peaceful future through the political process.  Once results are finalized, a new parliament will convene and debate the makeup of a new government to serve the Iraqi people.  Whatever the outcome of this process, it should serve to unite the country through the formation of a new government that is supported by all Iraqi communities and that is prepared to advance tangible and implementable programs.  There will be more difficult days ahead, but the United States will continue to stand with the Iraqi people as partners in their pursuit of a peaceful, unified and prosperous future.

Continue to stand with the Iraqi people?

In the last parliamentary elections (March 2010), the Iraqi people made Ayad Allawi and Iraqiya the winner.  Nouri's State of Law lost to them.  But the White House demanded that Nouri get a second term.

Let's again note John Barry's "'The Engame' Is A Well Researched, Highly Critical Look at U.S. Policy in Iraq" (Daily Beast) from 2012:

Washington has little political and no military influence over these developments [in Iraq]. 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."

"Continue to stand with the Iraqi people"?

When has the White House stood with the Iraqi people?

When Nouri's forces were terrorizing and killing gay Iraqis and Iraqis suspected of being gay, the White House never publicly condemned it.

Equally insincere is the US State Dept.  This exchanged took place in Thursday's State Dept press briefing:

QUESTION: Can I ask some questions about Iraq?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: First of all about the elections. Are you happy with the overall election process?

MS. HARF: Well, I think you probably saw the statement from the White House and the Secretary’s statement as well. We absolutely congratulate the people of Iraq. While there were reports of violence, indications are that the progress was organized – process, excuse me – election officials were well prepared, millions of Iraqis turned out to vote. We – their actual own electoral commission reported the turnout was about 60 percent. As you know, yesterday’s vote was just the start of a long government formation process that can – could play out over several months. Obviously, we’ll continue working with the Iraqis over that timeframe.

QUESTION: The Secretary of State in his statement said there will be serious challenges, and as well, President Obama in his statement repeated that.

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: What do you mean by that exactly?

MS. HARF: Iraqi leaders themselves have talked about some of the security challenges they face, particularly from the spillover effect from Syria.

QUESTION: Is it just a security challenge?

MS. HARF: That’s a huge part of it, certainly. Obviously, one thing we’ve been very focused on here. I think that’s probably what they were both referring to.


[. . .]

QUESTION: Can I just go back to the Iraq election?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: So that is not your final judgment of the election, just saying that the indications are that it went smoothly, or that --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- yeah – that it was organized?

MS. HARF: Was organized, well prepared. Yeah. I mean, we think --

QUESTION: But at this stage, do you still – do you think it’s free and fair, which was the judgment generally – because the Sunni – some Sunni parties have been complaining about voting problems.

MS. HARF: Well, we have seen those and initial indications have been very positive in terms of whether these elections were free and fair, including by the UN special rep for Iraq who had a press conference I think yesterday and talked about this. There will be additional assessments coming from independent observers and observers from international organizations, and I think there were thousands of election – Iraqi election monitors who were deployed through the country. The Iraqi high election commission reviews all grievances from people with complaints, but at this point it looks like there were some problems. But overall it went fairly smoothly.

I didn't realize medical marijuana was legal in the District of Columbia.

A pot induced high is the best explanation for Marie Harf's ridiculous claim of "some problems.  But overall it went fairly smoothly."   Xinhua reported, "The polls kicked off at 7:00 a.m. local time (0400 GMT) and closed at 6:00 p.m. (1500 GMT), during these hours insurgents attacked many polling centers across the country, leaving a total of 22 people dead and 62 others wounded, mostly security members and voters who defiantly headed to cast their votes with the hope of bringing better life for their families."  

 That's fairly smoothly?

On election day, Aswat al-Iraq reported 39 voting centers didn't even open due to violence.

On the election day,  NINA reported 1 person was arrested in Nineveh Province's al-Shura for being in possession of 511 of the new electronic voting cards.  511.  Last week, Duraid Salman (Alsumaria) reported on allegations that Nouri's SWAT forces are forcing voters in Diyala Province to hand over their election cards so that they can be used for voter fraud.

The electronic voting cards were a new development.  Previously, voters had used ration cards.  Mustafa Habib (Niqash) reports the cards were just an idea nine months ago and that they were poorly implemented:

The electronic voter ID cards contained an electronic chip that held the voter’s full name (all three of them), date of birth, family number in the electoral roll, the name of the polling station where the voter should cast his or her vote, the voter’s serial number once at that station and the voter’s province. 

There were just over 20 million electronic voter ID cards made – around the same number of Iraqis as are eligible to vote - but only 17.27 million were distributed for one reason or another. That means around 16 percent of the cards never made it to their rightful owners.

Iraqi voters had been told they were required to collect the cards and keep them as carefully as any other official document. They were also told that those who did not have a card would not be allowed to vote.

Early on, the cards which were not distributed indicated some of the problems with the new system. Some of them were issued to deceased persons and others were duplicates. Additionally many members of the security forces, army and police, got two voter ID cards – one as a member of the security forces, who voted two days earlier, and another as a civilian.

One police captain NIQASH spoke to confirmed this – but he said he returned the civilian one. It’s hard to know if everybody did this as there was apparently also a lucrative trade, selling voter ID cards.

Marie Harf should also refer to Niqash's "queues, cyber attacks, no singing, lots of walking: niqash editors report from iraqi election frontlines" before making her absurd claims.  While the State Dept spins, neoconservative Max Boot (Commentary via Gulf Today) offers:

Al Qaeda’s comeback has been enabled by the shortsighted policies of Iraq’s sectarian prime minister, Nouri Maliki, who is now unrestrained by a US military presence. He has targeted senior politicians, including former Vice President Tariq Hashimi, for prosecution. He has fired on groups of demonstrators. And, worst of all, he has welcomed the militia groups Asaib Ahl Haq and Kataib Hezbollah, both supplied by Iran, who are fighting alongside the overmatched Iraqi security forces against  militants.
These militias are held responsible for massacres in towns such as Buhriz, north of Baghdad.
Iraq is now in the midst of a cycle of sectarian violence  that leads to the seventh circle of hell into which nations such as Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Syria have previously plunged. There is no obvious escape in sight because, by manipulating Iraq’s sectarian politics, Maliki has managed to solidify support, which will probably ensure his continuation in office for a third term even as the country collapses. (Only the quasi-independent Kurdish region remains peaceful.)

Kitabat reports that the government out of Tehran has set up a headquarters in Iraq to argue for Nouri having a third term and to build alliances that would allow Nouri a third term as prime minister.
The editorial board of the Washington Post observes, "Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, in office eight years, appears confident that his Shiite party will win a plurality of votes, allowing him to continue what has been an increasingly authoritarian and sectarian rule."  Marie Harf may see success but others aren't so sure.  Borzou Daragahi (Financial Times of London) notes the sentiments of some Iraqis, "But many Iraqis say they feel neither joy at having voted nor optimism for their country's prospects.  Instead, they dread the potentially destabilising months-long process of forming a government amid a reignition of the country's sectarian conflict."  Iraqis are tired of Nouri and his tired ass.

Your face is pasty 'cause you've gone and got so wasted, what a surprise.
Don't want to look at your face 'cause it's makin' me sick.
You've gone and got sick on my trainers,
I only got these yesterday.
Oh, my gosh, I cannot be bothered with this.

Well, I'll leave you there 'till the mornin',
and I purposely wont turn the heating on
and, dear God, I hope I'm not stuck with this one.

My fingertips are holding onto the cracks in our foundation,
and I know that I should let go,
but I can't.
And every time we fight I know it's not right,
every time that you're upset and I smile.
I know I should forget, but I can't.

-- "Foundations," written by Kate Nash and Paul Epworth, first appears on Kate's Made of Bricks

Al Manar carries a story on Nouri and the elections which includes, "The premier insisted he was willing to give up the post if he was unable to form a government, saying: 'My mother did not give birth to me as a minister or a prime minister'."

He's never formed a government.  He went through his second term with the security ministries headless, never even nominated anyone to fill them.  That's in violation the Constitution.

Here's how the Constitution says it works.  The President names someone prime minister-designate and that person then has 30 days to form a Cabinet.

That means nominating people and get Parliament to vote them in.

Failure to do so indicates that the designate either isn't working hard enough or lacks support.  This is how a weak candidate is supposed to be weeded out.

But the 30 days was waived for Nouri -- as was the requirement that he form a Cabinet.

So that takes care of the current prime minister debate, let's move over to the issue of the president.

As we noted in Wednesday's snapshot:

A lot is at stake in these elections.  For one thing, Iraq will need to find a new president.
That's not open to debate.
December 2012,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17, 2012 (see the December 18, 2012 snapshot) and resulted in Jalal being admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20, 2012, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.
Obviously, health issues prevent him from continuing as prime minister.  So does the Iraqi Constitution -- Jalal has termed out of office.
So one thing the new Parliament will have to do is pick a president -- a new president.

Today, AFP notes, "Iraqi Kurds face uncertainty over whether they will retain the presidency, an important symbol after decades of central government oppression and a link between their autonomous region and Baghdad."

'Custom' may have made Jalal president twice but the Constitution didn't.

There's nothing in there which declares, "And the presidency shall go to a Kurd."

In his first term, Jalal announced he wouldn't seek a second term.  But, of course, he did.  At one point, in 2010, the US government was attempting to get Jalal to seek another post so that Ayad Allawi could be named president (Allawi's bloc won the 2010 elections, besting every other group).  Jalal did not politely decline.  He exploded over the phone as only Jalal can.

Turning to some of today's violence, National Iraqi News Agency notes a Rutbah sticky bombing claimed 2 lives, 2 Yazidis were shot dead in Sinjar, a Mosul roadside bombing left three members of the police injured, and a Samarra suicide bomber took his own life and the lives of Colonel Amer Najim Abdullah "and two of his colleagues."  Iraqi Spring MC adds that 20 corpses were discovered dumped throughout Baghdad. In addition, Nouri's continued shelling of Falluja's residential neighborhoods left 5 civilians dead and ten more injured.

In Marie Harf's State Dept press briefing today, Iraq was briefly noted. The issue was oil.  Isn't the issue always oil?

QUESTION: I asked you a couple of questions yesterday about Kurdistan --

MS. HARF: On Kurdistan.

QUESTION: -- export of oil and stuff like that.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: I actually got an email from Michael --

MS. HARF: He’s a very good press officer.


MS. HARF: Mike Lavallee, yes.

QUESTION: And he explains that basically – he said the United States supports the March decision by the 
Kurdistan Regional Government to begin oil exports of 100,000 --

MS. HARF: That is correct. Through the Iraqi-Turkey pipeline.

QUESTION: But I’m talking about the most recent decision by the KRG, by the Kurdistan Regional Government on April 27th. They started exporting oil – resuming – they resumed the export of oil, independent from Baghdad, to Turkey. It’s a unilateral decision. I know there’s a statement here says --

MS. HARF: Well, it’s pursuant to the existing export arrangements with the central Government of Iraq.

QUESTION: No, it’s not through the Iraq-Turkey pipeline. It’s through the independent Kurdistan pipeline, which Baghdad considers null and void, illegal.

MS. HARF: Okay. So --

QUESTION: What’s your response as the State Department --

MS. HARF: -- what I know --

QUESTION: -- to a unilateral decision which was made on April 27th by the KRG?

MS. HARF: I can check on that specifically. What we’ve talked about in terms of pipelines from Iraq to Turkey, including in Kurdistan, is under the existing agreement with the Government of Iraq. I’m not aware of something separate.

QUESTION: I have a – like a quote from prime minister of Kurdistan a few days ago. He said, we will sell oil in Turkey without getting Baghdad’s approval.

MS. HARF: Well, we don’t --

QUESTION: Does that constitute a unilateral decision that --

MS. HARF: I haven’t seen those comments. We don’t support oil exports from any part of Iraq without the appropriate approval of the federal Iraqi Government. So without knowing the details of that decision you’re speaking about, we obviously believe there’s a process that needs to be in place with the federal Government of Iraq.

QUESTION: So can you say if Kurdistan tomorrow sells oil without the approval of the central government --

MS. HARF: I’m not going to address a hypothetical. I just made our position clear. I’d have to look at the details.

QUESTION: But they do it today, actually. As of today.

MS. HARF: Okay, I’ll look at – again, I’ll look at the details. And you had a couple of other questions?

QUESTION: I think the other answers are really clear. Thanks a lot.

Yerevan Saeed (Rudaw) argues, "Kurdish leaders and their parliamentarians who are to head to Baghdad soon, should make the Kurdistan Region's right to produce, export and sell oil the main precondition in any future political deal or alliance."

Back to the US, David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. We'll close with this from Bacon's "IN COLOMBIA FREE TRADE BRINGS MORE POVERTY AND MORE KILLINGS" (Truthout):

The free trade agreement between the U.S. and Colombia, which took effect on May 15, 2012, hadn't yet reached its second birthday when the office of the public workers' union in Cali, SINTRAEMCALI, was firebombed.   On April 11 a Colombian court had ordered the country's government to apologize for attacking the union, along with that of the telephone workers,  SINTRATELEFONOS, and university workers, SINTRAUNICOL, during the past administration of President Alvaro Uribe, who signed the trade agreement.  The bombs were thrown five days later.

In 2004 a large number of SINTRAEMCALI workers were fired, and over the years since 15 were forced to flee Cali, eight were murdered and over a hundred more threatened.  Last year a leader of the city union's retirees' organization, Luis Fabio Campo Rodriguez, was murdered, and the union's past president Alexander Lopez Maya was revealed as the target of a government assassination program, "Operation Dragon."

On March 14, two months before the FTA's birthday, 17 leaders of the Association of Peasant Workers of Nariño were arrested in Nariño province.  The arrests were widely viewed in Colombia as government retaliation for a strike organized by farmers and students in this past August.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Lies and The 100

David Cole has an important new column:

April 30, 2014 "ICH" - "LRB" - -  On Monday, The New York Times reported that “the Senate has quietly stripped a provision from an intelligence bill that would have required President Obama to make public each year the number of people killed or injured in targeted killing operations in Pakistan and other countries where the United States uses lethal force.” National security officials in the Obama administration objected strongly to having to notify the public of the results and scope of their dirty work, and the Senate acceded. So much for what President Obama has called “the most transparent administration in history.”
The Senate’s decision is particularly troubling in view of how reticent the administration itself continues to be about the drone program. To date, Obama has publicly admitted to the deaths of only four people in targeted killing operations. That came in May 2013, when, in conjunction with a speech at the National Defense University, and, in his words, “to facilitate transparency and debate on the issue,” President Obama acknowledged for the first time that the United States had killed four Americans in drone strikes. But according to credible accounts, Obama has overseen the killing of several thousand people in drone strikes since taking office. Why only admit to the four Americans’ deaths? Is the issue of targeted killings only appropriate for debate when we kill our own citizens? Don’t all human beings have a right to life?

Can you believe that?

Do we have transparency?

I don't think we're even pretending these days that we have it.

We are sold non-transparency.  Like in that awful TV show The 100 which exists to justify torture and government secrecy.

I'd love to know how that show even got on TV.  It's the worst piece of crap there is, existing solely to make the audience root for non-representative government.

The 100 airs on The CW.  I hope that they cancel it.

These are the theme posts:

"Once It Was Alright Now (Farmer Joe)." "Lonely Women," "the confession," "Poverty Train," "Lu," "Timer," "Eli's Coming," "Emmie," "Sweet Blindness" and "Yes, I'm ready."

Our topic was Laura Nyro's Eli & the Thirteenth Confessions.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, April 30, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Iraqis attempt to vote, brawls break out between voters, polling stations are attacked, one polling station is closed by a militant non-voter, Nouri al-Maliki lies and tries to proclaim himself the winner, votes are being counted now, the IHEC says it will be 20 to 30 days before they have a complete vote, and did we mention Nouri's lying and proclaiming himself the winner, how about many in the press are going along with him on this, all that and Laura Nyro.

Iraq held parliamentary elections today.  Despite rumors that Nouri al-Maliki had asked for a tramp stamp instead of dipping his own finger in purple ink, Ali Al-Saadi's photo for AFP and Getty Images demonstrates that the thug and current prime minister did dip his finger in ink.

Nouri wasn't the only one voting today. Iraq Pictures notes, "A woman with her newly born baby votes in the Iraqi Elections."

A woman with her newly born baby votes in the Iraqi Elections أمرأة تنتخب مع مولودها الجديد في الإنتخابات العراقية

  • Kurdistan holds peaceful federal and provincial elections amid high turnout: Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq (...

  • The US State Dept issued the following statement today:

    Press Statement

    John Kerry
    Washington, DC
    April 30, 2014

    Millions of Iraqis courageously voted today and reaffirmed not just their commitment to democracy, but their determination to achieve a more secure and peaceful future. Iraqis from every ethnic and religious group, and from all 18 provinces, voted in an election critical to advancing the vision of a democratic, united, federal, and pluralistic Iraq as defined in the Iraqi constitution.
    With ink-stained thumbs, Iraqi voters sent a powerful rebuke to the violent extremists who have tried to thwart democratic progress and sow discord in Iraq and throughout the region. Iraqi citizens stood up to extremist threats, and many acted particularly heroically, including a police officer who gave his own life to shield voters from a suicide bomber near a polling station.
    This election is one step in a democratic process to stand up a new parliament and form a new government.
    The United States has stepped up our support to Iraq, and over the coming weeks, we will continue to support Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) to fairly, accurately, and transparently carry out its responsibilities as votes are counted and results are certified. We urge Iraq's leaders to respect the constitutional framework for certifying the vote and forming a new government, and we hope this process moves expeditiously given the serious challenges the country faces.
    The United States has been proud over the past year to support the efforts of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the IHEC in preparing for these elections, and we have advocated with all Iraqi leaders the importance of the election being held on time. We will now continue to encourage all Iraqi leaders to focus on pulling their country together and forming a new government that can effectively deliver for all of Iraq’s 18 provinces.

    The United Nations Security Council issued the following:

          30 April 2014 – The United Nations Security Council today welcomed the timely holding of parliamentary elections in Iraq, and, looking forward to the certification of the results by national electoral officials, called on the country’s leaders “to engage, as quickly as possible, to form a Government that represents the will and sovereignty of the Iraqi people.”
    In a statement to the press read out by Ambassador U. Joy Ogwu of Nigeria, Council President for the month of April, the members of the 15-nation body welcomed today’s elections, and commended the people “for demonstrating their commitment to a peaceful, inclusive and democratic political process.”
    Looking forward to the announcement by Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) certifying the election results, the Council expressed appreciation to the Commission and the Government, including the Iraqi security forces, for their dedicated work in preparing and conducting these polls, supported by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).
    “The…Council calls on all political entities to work together in an inclusive and timely political process aimed at strengthening Iraq’s national unity, sovereignty and independence; and for Iraq’s leaders to engage, as quickly as possible, to form a Government that represents the will and sovereignty of the Iraqi people,” said Ms. Ogwu.
    Further, she said members of the Council believe that through its democratic institutions, in cooperation with society, Iraq can work to address the challenges facing the country for the benefit of all Iraqis and their hope for a strong, independent, unified and democratic Iraq.
    The Council reaffirmed its support for the Iraqi Government’s efforts to help meet the security needs of the entire population of Iraq, particularly in the current challenging security environment and during the elections.
    Finally, the Council reiterated that no act of violence or terrorism can reverse a path towards peace, democracy and reconstruction in Iraq, underpinned by the rule of law and respect for human rights, which is supported by the people and the Government of Iraq and the international community. 

    A lot is at stake in these elections.  For one thing, Iraq will need to find a new president.

    That's not open to debate.

    December 2012,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17, 2012 (see the December 18, 2012 snapshot) and resulted in Jalal being admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20, 2012, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.

    Obviously, health issues prevent him from continuing as prime minister.  So does the Iraqi Constitution -- Jalal has termed out of office.

    So one thing the new Parliament will have to do is pick a president -- a new president.

    They may or may not get to select a prime minister.  In 2006, the White House selected (imposed) Nouri al-Maliki for them.  In 2010, the White House demanded Nouri get a second term.

    Will this happen again?

    It very well could.  Whether it does or not, the White House would be smart not to support Nouri anymore. Tim Arango and Michael R. Gordon (New York Times) report:

    American intelligence assessments have found that Mr. Maliki’s re-election could increase sectarian tensions and even raise the odds of a civil war, citing his accumulation of power, his failure to compromise with other Iraqi factions -- Sunni or Kurd -- and his military failures against Islamic extremists. On his watch, Iraq’s American-trained military has been accused by rights groups of serious abuses as it cracks down on militants and opponents of Mr. Maliki’s government, including torture, indiscriminate roundups of Sunnis and demands of bribes to release detainees.

    And a new leader could lower tensions.  Not necessarily permanently.  But Nouri is the common bond that has created resistance in Iraq.  A new leader could mean a reset.  We covered this in April 12's "I Hate The War,"

    It's also true that a third term for Nouri could result in real recruitment for the armed resistance.  Not within Iraq.  Iraqis who would be part of the armed resistance are pretty much already there.  Four years of Nouri targeting Sunnis, persecuting them and terrorizing them have done the trick and the only new segment from Iraq will be young boys and girls who come to maturity and join the ranks.

    But a third term of Nouri in Iraq?  Sunni fighters from outside Iraq might decide Syria's less important and begin targeting Iraq -- in which case Nouri's paranoid rantings might come true.  There's already talk in Arabic social media about the huge number of Iraqi Shi'ites going into Syria to fight.  At some point, a third term of Nouri would mean Sunni fighters from outside Iraq take the battle into Iraq (a) to defend the persecuted Sunni Iraqis and (b) to force Iraqi Shi'ite fighters out of Syria and back into Iraq.  A third term for Nouri likely means the babble of expanding the fight in Syria -- that so many have warned about and quite a few have pretended has already happened -- becomes more than that.

    If you're not getting it, even the Tehran Times carries an article today which notes, "But the violence returned, stoked in part by al-Maliki's moves last year to crush protests by Sunnis complaining of discrimination under his government. Militants took over the city of Fallujah in the Sunni-dominated province of Anbar and parts of the provincial capital of Ramadi."  The persecuted Sunnis in Iraq are becoming well known in the region.

    Ranj Alaaldin (Guardian) observes, "Fearing that Bashar al-Assad's downfall would allow Syria's Islamist-dominated opposition to intensify its support for Iraq's militants, Iraq's Shia-dominated government has in turn allowed Syria-bound Iranian cargo flights to use Iraqi airspace. It has also turned a blind eye to Iraqi Shia militias entering Syria to support the Syrian regime. These militias have ensured the survival of the Assad regime alongside other Shia actors such as Hezbollah."

    If you're a non-Iraqi an armed Sunni group that wants to help Syria, Nouri's actions mean you're going to have to take the battle into Iraq at some point and confront the government which is backing Bashar al-Assad.

    Voting had barely ended before Nouri's State of Law began whispering to the press that Nouri had won.  Nouri himself wasn't whispering.  AFP quotes him stating he was "certain" of his own victory. NINA has him insisting that 'he is assured we will win."   These remarks were made and reported despite Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc cautioning against people running with their own non-official totals.  The IHEC itself denounced claims of leaked results and stated those making the claims of how many votes they'd received were wrong.  As for the official results, All Iraq News notes the IHEC has declared, "The results of the elections will be announced within 20 to 30 days from today."  Jason Ditz ( offers this prediction, "The post-vote coalition negotiations are going to be difficult, with no one likely to willingly deal with Maliki after the last time, and no group likely to successfully take power without his permission."  Martin Chulov (Guardian) reminds, "The 2010 election, in which Maliki's state of law list came second to the cross-sectarian grouping of the former prime minister, Iyad Allawi, involved a nine-month period of horse trading, during which decision making was paralysed across Iraq."  Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports:

    Already, one of Maliki’s main rivals, Ayad Allawi, is indicating he will leave politics before dealing with Maliki – even if the prime minister wins a majority of seats.
    Mr. Allawi, Iraq’s first interim prime minister after the war and head of the biggest Sunni bloc, says the prime minister needs to comply with a two-term limit for prime ministers that was approved in parliament but struck down in court. 
    “What is happening now is lots of atrocities, lots of violations. The constitution is swept under the carpet. Now he controls part of the judiciary, he controls everything, and not only that, he is embarking on a policy of divide and rule… We can’t accept this after eight years of bloodshed in Iraq and total loss of security,” says Allawi.

    On Baghdad's corrupt government, Nadezhda Kevorkova (RT) speaks with the "Head of the Prime Minister office" Muhavad Husam al Dine Al Bayati.  Excerpt.

    MB: As you know the corruption in this country is very huge. And there is a lot of money in the hands of some politicians not necessary only from the block of prime minister. There are so many other blocks that stole so much money from the country. They can buy votes and support from IHEC [the Independent High Electoral Commission which approved the voting system and the counting method for 2014 parliamentary elections]. The results will not be very clear.
    We do not have foreign observers or people who are watching the elections. 

    RT: People say that 65 American observers came to Iraq especially for the elections, is it so?

    MB: What can these 65 do? Can they work on the street? Can they go to the governorates? Can they go to the election boxes and see how people vote and how their votes are counted? No, they cannot. 

    In addition to US observers, IHEC notes that there were 26 observers from the Arab leagues who were monitoring Baghdad, Basra, Najaf, Erbil, Dohuk and Sulaymaniyah provinces.  NINA notes Nikolai Mladenov, the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq, praised the international observers for their work today.  The IHEC noted by mid-day that 34% of the electronic voting cards they distributed had been used.  Later, Xinhua reports, "the country's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) said that a preliminary estimate showed that Iraqi voters made about 60 percent turnout when more than 12 million eligible voters out of over 20 million fanned out to polling centers across the country on Wednesday."

    After the closing of polling stations, All Iraq News reports Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq's leader Ammar al-Hakim offered congratulatory phone calls (on the elections taking place) to cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr, thug and prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, KRG President Massoud Barzani, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and Wataniya head Ayad Allawi and National Alliance head Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

    Congratulations for success were based on rather questionable events.  For example, National Iraqi News Agency reports Shalal Abdoul, the Tuz Khurmatu Mayor, announced "11 stun bombings went off" in Tuz "in an attempt to prevent voters in the district of going to the polls" and "unidentified gunmen had cordoned off one of the polling centers in the Nahrawan area west of Mosul, and prevented the entry of the voters to vote and threatened residents of the area not to go to the polling stations to cast their ballots."  That was nothing, both of those events, however.  The big event?  All Iraq News reports a Ramadi polling station was shut down by force.  Who did it?  Mohammed Khamis Abu Risha who is Ahmed Abu Risha's nephew, Ahmed Abu Risha is the head of Anbar's Sahwa.

    Yes, election day finally arrived in Iraq.  Whether it will have any meaning or not remains to be seen.

    Passion spilled over into anger in at least two cities where opposing groups of voters got into brawls.  NINA notes six people required hospitalization at Al-Hussein Hospital in Samawah after they got into a physical altercation over whom they were supporting, and an argument near a Basra polling station between supporters of Moqtada al-Sadr and supporters of Nouri al-Maliki left three people injured,

    Some went beyond fighting with their fellow voters.  NINA notes the home of Khalid Abdullah al-Alwani was blown up in Falluja (candidate for re-election, with the Motahedoon Coalition) -- that's Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi's coalition.  But even more than attacking politicians, there was attacking of the voting centers.

    What did the voters want?  AFP states, "Iraqis complain of myriad grievances, from poor public services to rampant corruption and high unemployment[.]"  Here are some reported comments.  The Oman Observer quotes two voters insisting it's time for change.  19-year-old Noor Raad shares she was voting "to change the politicians because most of them have not worked to improve the situation."  67-year-old Abu Ashraf ____ (didn't give full name) states he voted, "I came to vote for change for my children and grandchildren to change the future and the situation of the country for the better. It is necessary to change most of the politicians because they have done nothing and they spend years on private conflicts." Kamal al-Din tells Al Manar, "I hope that Iraq has a safe future, and that unemployment is tackled, and industry, agriculture and trade return to their original stature, instead of just relying on oil."  Al-Manar explains, "The pensioner said he hoped to see an entirely new government elected to address the multiple problems that have scattered his grandsons cross Austria, Britain, Germany and Sweden."  Press TV adds, "Many Iraqis feel that the people in power live a luxurious life style and aren’t able to relate to the problems of ordinary people."  Judit Neurink (Rudaw) reports:

    The Iraqi Electoral Commission had set up special polling booths for the approximately 30,000 Arabs who have fled Ramadi and Fallujah and sought shelter in the safety of the Kurdistan Region.
    Their anger with the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and his Shiite government had driven many refugees to Andazyiaran School to fight him back with their ballots.
    “We want change, we need safety,” said a lawyer from Baghdad who arrived in Kurdistan ten days ago after his uncle was killed.
    “The situation in Baghdad is terrible,” he lamented. “Sunnis cannot stay there. It has got too dangerous. I really hope to see the change.”  

    The Tehran Times quotes voter Azhar Mohammed explaining she voted early in Baghdad today, "I decided to go and vote early while it's safe.  Crowds attract attacks."

    And there certainly were plenty of attacks today.  NINA notes a Muqdadiyah polling station was targeted with mortars leaving 1 person dead and seven more injured. a roadside bombing targeted a Mosul polling station leaving three people injured, another roadside bomb targeted another Mosul polling station leaving two people injured, a Qara Dora Village bombing targeting a polling station left 2 electoral commission employees dead (and two Iraqi soldiers injured),  a bombing targeting a Hader polling station left three security forces injured, a mortar attack on an Albu Farraj polling station left 2 people dead and three more injured, 3 suicide bombers were killed attempting to attack 2 Mosul polling stations,  1 suicide bomber at a Baiji polling station took his own life and the life of 1 police member (five people were left injured), a Kubaysa bombing targeting a polling station left two Iraqi soldiers injured, and voting at an Arbat polling station had to come to a halt when it was under "fire from unknown assailants."  All Iraq News notes bombings at a Ramadi polling station left 2 Iraqi soldiers dead.

    Noah Rayman (Time magazine) notes, "Hundreds of thousands of troops and police -- many of whom were allowed to vote Monday so they could provide security on Wednesday -- were safeguarding polling stations as Iraqis voted, according to the AP. Iraqi authorities closed the nation’s airspace and banned vehicles to limit the threat of car bombings."

    While those were serious dangers for voters, All Iraq News points out a more minor issue of inconvenience journalists attempting to vote in Baghdad at the Sheraton Hotel complained.

    Fraud charges were leveled ahead of the voting.  Possibly for good reason.  NINA notes 1 person was arrested in Nineveh Province's al-Shura for being in possession of 511 of the new electronic voting cards.  In addition, Australia's ABC Radio reports:

    Non-Shiite parties complained of obstacles to voting in the outer suburbs of Baghdad and saw in it a deliberate effort by Mr al-Maliki to keep their numbers down in the next parliament.
    "It was all to be expected," said Muhannad Hussam, a candidate who supports Sunni deputy prime minister Saleh Mutlaq.
    "They didn't want the Sunnis to move for the election."
    Mr Hussam said some voting machines broke down and that security forces prevented people trying to reach polling stations in Abu Ghraib, Yusifya and Latifya, all around Baghdad.
    "From our view it is not a fair election," he said.

    In still other violence, National Iraqi News Agency reports a Debis roadside bombing killed 2 women, another Debis bombing left five security forces injured,  a Mosul roadside bombing targeting an al-Baladiat checkpoint left two Iraqi soldiers injured, and an Albu-Awad Village roadside bombing killed 1 person and left two more injured,

    On the voting in northern Iraq, KUNA reports:

    Howevr, turnout in Kurdistan, which has a total of 2.71 million eligible voters, was described by the Independent High Electoral Commission as "incomparable".
    As for preliminary results, they will be later distributed on banners on the walls of each polling station, added the commission.
    Earlier at mid-day, the commission announced a 34 percent voting turnout out of the 20 million Iraqis eligible to vote for a new parliament.
    The voting process had been held under the assessment of the United Nations, with the Secretary General's Special Representative for Iraq Nikolay Mladenov telling reporters, at a polling center in central Baghdad, that only through high participation can the Iraqi people ensure that they have a say in the future of the country. 

    With the vote over, coalition buidling becomes the new goal.  Alsumaria reports that Ammar al-Hakim declared today that the forming of the National Alliance has begun. This may mean the reshaping of the government -- at least in terms of who will be prime minister. al-Hakim has ambitions of being prime minister some day.  Would some day be this year?  Maybe.  Or maybe Moqtada al-Sadr or maybe Adil Abdul-Mahdi or Ayad Allawi or a name less prominent internationally.

    It could be Nouri for the third time.  Despite all of his many failures.  The London School of Economics and Political Science's Fawaz A. Gerges examines Iraq at CNN:

    The ruling political class is as much responsible for Iraq's predicament as structural conditions. The structure is not destiny. Having taken ownership of the country after U.S. occupation and ouster of Saddam Hussein, the Shiite leadership has treated Sunni Arabs like second-class citizens and has equated its numerical majority with a license to monopolize power at the expense of others.
    In a similar vein, the Sunni leadership has not come to terms with the new realities of post-Saddam Iraq and still entertains illusions about ruling Iraq. Kurdish leaders would not mind if Iraq burns as long as they preserve a separate Kurdistan -- a quasi-independent entity.

    Of all actors, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki bears greater responsibility for the steep deterioration of the security situation and the quality of life of Iraqis, including corruption that infects all aspects of Iraqi society. After eight years in office and monopolizing power, al-Maliki has failed his countrymen and has delivered neither security nor prosperity. He was blind and deaf to the gathering storm among Sunnis Arabs who feel excluded by what they view as his sectarian-based policies.

    In 2010, the Iraqi people voted in parliamentary elections.  Alice Fordham (NPR) observes, "Since then, rights groups and many Iraqis say this Maliki government has failed key democratic tests: The country is corrupt and unsafe, with serious flaws in the freedom of the judiciary and media. Many Iraqis are deeply disillusioned with the democratic process."

    Today, Iraqis voted in parliamentary elections again.  IANS  points out, "Over 21 million people were eligible to vote in this election in which more than 9,000 candidates from nearly 280 political entities were vying for 328 seats. Over 8,000 voting centres across the country opened their doors at 7 am (local time/4 am GMT) and were scheduled to close at 6 pm."  Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission notes there were approximately 6,425 male candidates and 2,607 female candidates. The IHEC also hailed the vote as a "great success."

  • Despite all the election fever going around, I hope we will be one voice after the elections in Iraq.

  • It was theme post time for community sites last night:  "Once It Was Alright Now (Farmer Joe)." "Lonely Women," "the confession," "Poverty Train," "Lu," "Timer," "Eli's Coming," "Emmie," "Sweet Blindness" and "Yes, I'm ready."  The theme was singer-songwriter Laura Nyro's classic album Eli and the Thirteenth Confession.  Among the hit songs Laura composed were "And When I Die" (Blood, Sweat and Tears had the hit), "Stoney End," "Time and Love" and "Flim Flam Man"  (Barbra Streisand had the hits -- the last two were top ten hits on the AC chart), "Eli's Coming" (Three Dog Night had the hit), "Wedding Bell Blues," "Stoned Soul Picnic," "Save The Country, "Sweet Blindness" and "Blowing Away" (The 5th Dimension).  Tony Sclafani (Goldmine) noted in 2012:

    When a 19-year-old Laura Nyro emerged on the rock scene in 1967 with her debut album More Than a New Discovery, she changed the preconceptions of what any singer-songwriter -- much less a female one -- could do. In her wake, Todd Rundgren abruptly changed his style and left his band Nazz to release solo albums inspired by Nyro (one song, "Baby, Let's Swing" is even about her).
    Carole King was so impressed with Nyro's artistic boldness that King finally got up the gumption to pursue a solo career seriously -- one that featured her sitting Nyro-style, behind a piano.
    "I think Laura Nyro does not exist without Carole King the songwriter, but Carole King the singer-songwriter does not exist without Laura Nyro the performer," says Michele Kort, author of the 2002 Nyro biography Soul Picnic. "It was Laura, along with Joni Mitchell, who started the whole singer-songwriter movement Carole King was able to become part of."
    Other performers who have cited Nyro as an inspiration range from Suzanne Vega to Elton John to Stevie Wonder, whose "If You Really Love Me" is said to be inspired by Nyro's style. That style attracted a hard-core following of fans who made her a cult figure.

    Singer-songwriter Rickie Lee Jones was also an admirer of Laura's musical gifts and Rickie took part in the Beacon Theater's tribute to Laura which Rickie movingly writes about here.  Suzanne Vega shares her thoughts at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

    Laura received many accolades in her lifetime but the bigger honors came posthumously.  A month after her death, Time and Love: The Music of Laura Nyro, a tribute album, was released with Vega performing "Buy And Sell," Phoebe Snow performed "Time and Love," Roseanne Cash performed "Save The Country," Sweet Honey In The Rock performed "And When I Die," Jill Sobule performed "Stone Soul Picnic," Beth Nielsen Chapman performed "Stoney End," Patti Larkin performed "Poverty Train," Jonatha Brooke performed "He's A Runner," Holly Cole peformed "Sweet Blindness," Dana Bryant performed "Woman's Blues," Leni Stern performed "Upstairs By A Chinese Lamp," The Roches performed "Wedding Bell Blues," Lisa Germano performed "Eli's Coming" and Jane Siberry contributed the original composition "When I Think Of Laura Nyro."  Mimi Cohen wrote and performed To Carry On . . . A Celebration of Laura Nyro.  (Title from Laura's "And When I Die" -- "And when I die/ And when I'm dead and gone/ There'll be one child born/ With a world to carry on/ To carry on.") In 2007, Judy Kuhn released Serious Playground: The Songs of Laura Nyro containing cover versions of fourteen of Laura's songs including "To A Child" (one of her later era masterpieces and a song about her relationship with her son hip-hop artist Gil-T.).

    In 2001, she was inducted into the Connecticut Women's Hall of Fame, in 2010, she was inducted into the Songwriter Hall of Fame and, in 2012, she was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in a presentation by Bette Midler.