Saturday, July 19, 2014

Carly Simon's Hello Big Man

"What We’re Listening to This Week" (CounterPunch Sexists).

No one worth noting, it's just the usual dicks and a wanna be dick living up to the worst image CounterPunch ever had.  Johnny Winter died this week so, like scavengers, they're suddenly all over Johnny Winter.  If he hadn't died, they'd never have listened.  You picture them, late night, flipping

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

behold a pale horse

1) Ebony Bones'  Behold, A Pale Horse.

2) John Lennon's Mind Games.

3) Prince's Dirty Mind.

4) Prince's Controversy.

5) Laura Nyro's First Songs

6) Carly Simon's Hello Big Man

7) The Mamas & The Papas' The Papas & The Mamas.

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

9) Tori Amos' Unrepentant Geraldines.

10) Cloud NothingsHere and Nowhere Else.

I love every album on the ten and I could write about any.  

I feel Tori has released the album of the year and have already written about that.  Controversy is one of my favorite Prince albums of all time and I've written about Prince four or five times already.

So I'll go with Carly.

Hello Big Man.

This was an album released at the worst time possible.

For Carly, it's her first album after her divorce from noted drug addict James Taylor.  So it was probably a difficult album to record.  It was released when the record industry was in a slump that Michael Jackson's Thriller had just begun to pull it out of.

Warner Brothers Records would get rid of a ton of artists.  Bonnie Raitt would be dropped.  Carly would be allowed to leave (as opposed to be dropped) and I believe Van Morrison was the only other artist offered that option.

The album did not sell.  It was poorly promoted.

"You Know What To Do" was an MTV staple but could not get airplay.  Generally  speaking, you would have MTV make a song a hit.

But this was the Reagen era and there was a very big puritan streak in the country.

(Madonna had yet to emerge as a huge star.)

So you had Carly singing:

We made love like a house on fire
We made love like dogs gone mad

Yes, boys and girls, that could be considered shocking in 1983 for radio.

The bad of the album?  I love the song "It Happens Everyday" and consider it to be among the finest songs Carly's written.

I also feel her vocal on track serves the song.

But it doesn't really work for me.

I prefer her version on Greatest Hits Live which is in a different key and gives the song a different shine.

That said, I do sing along with it as I do with all the songs.

I love "Menemsha" and I love "Such A Good Boy" (that one's a sarcastic song), but I especially love the title track (where she gives her parents a happy ending).

"Damn You Get Me" and "You Don't Feel The Same" are classic Carly contributions.  I love the "nah, nah, nah"s of "Damn You Get To Me."

It's a musical mix and I think Carly does that a lot and that it hurts her with critics.

While the audience loves the mix, the critics love albums that have similar sounds from one track to the other.  If Carly had done the album acoustically based, the whole album, it would have gotten better reviews.

As it was, the album got major reviews including one from Us magazine that was the kind of praise an artist must live for.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, July 18, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Americans weigh in on possible continued involvement in Iraq, Nouri's forces have mastered their leader's habit of the empty boast, Iraq's minorities continue to suffer, and much more.

Pew Research notes the findings of their latest polls:

As violence and chaos spreads in Iraq, the public is wary of U.S. involvement in the country. A 55% majority says the United States does not have a responsibility to do something about the violence in Iraq; 39% do see a responsibility to act.
Overall public awareness of the situation in Iraq is high: 45% say they have heard a lot about the violence in Iraq and takeover of large parts of the country by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Covering the poll, Aaron Blake (Washington Post) offers, "The poll reinforces that Americans have very little appetite for any significant involvement in Iraq, with just 39 percent saying the United States has a responsibility to do 'something' about the violence there."

Iraqi thug and prime minister Nouri al-Maliki repeatedly refused to provide Iraqi Christians in Baghdad with the security needed.  This was most obvious in the October 31, 2010 attack on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad.  Many Iraqi Christians fled the country.  Many of those who stayed moved to northern Iraq which was considered to be more tolerant of and welcoming to Christians.

BBC News reports Christians are now fleeing the northern city of Mosul because the Islamic State has declared that Christians have one of two choices -- "convert to Islam or pa[y] a 'protection tax'."  There is the third choice: Do neither and be slaughtered.  They have until Saturday afternoon to leave, convert or face "the sword."

In response to the threats, Nickolay Mladenov Tweeted the following:

Mladenov is United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Representative in Iraq.

Hamdi Alkhshali and Shelby Lin Erdman (CNN) explain the warnings/threats were put into writing which was then "distributed in recent days to the leaders of the dwindling Christian minority in Iraq's second largest city." Reuters adds, "A resident of Mosul said the statement, issued in the name of the Islamic State in Iraq's northern province of Nineveh, had been distributed on Thursday and read out in mosques."  Al Jazeera notes that before the last few weeks,  "Mosul's Christian community was estimated at 3,000. Many are believed to have already fled the city as part of an exodus of up to one-third of the population. Churches and Christian-owned shops in the city were reported smashed by those who fled."  Press TV offers, "The United Nations said in a new report on Friday that at least 5,576 civilians have been killed and 11,665 others wounded in Iraq since January."

And the US State Dept issued the following statement:

Press Statement
Jen Psaki
Washington, DC
July 18, 2014
The United States condemns in the strongest terms the systematic persecution of ethnic and religious minorities by the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). We are outraged by ISIL’s recent announcement that Christians in Mosul must either convert, pay a tax, leave, or face execution in the coming days. We have also seen photos of reportedly Christian houses in Mosul marked with pejorative terms for Christians, as well as reports that Shia and Shabak houses have been similarly marked. ISIL also continues to target Sunni clerics and tribal sheikhs who disagree with its dark vision for Iraq.
These abominable actions only further demonstrate ISIL’s mission to divide and destroy Iraq and contradict Islam’s spirit of tolerance and peaceful co-existence. It should be clear that ISIL is not only a threat to the stability of Iraq, but a threat to the entire region. This growing threat exemplifies the need for Iraqis from all communities to work together to confront this common enemy and to take all possible steps to isolate these militant groups from the broader population.
We encourage government officials in Baghdad and Erbil to take every possible effort to assist Iraq’s vulnerable populations and hold perpetrators accountable for their actions in a manner consistent with the rule of law. The United States stands with all the Iraqi people against the threat from ISIL.

John Kerry is the head of the US State Dept.   Their equivalent in Iraq?  Hoshyar Zebari heads the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  He has been the Minister of Foreign Affairs since July 13, 2003.  July 11th, Nouri began making noises and, as usual, a stupid and craven western press dropped to all fours for Nouri and began treating Nouri's edicts as laws and facts.  From that day's snapshot:

There are reports that Nouri's replaced Zebari.
No, he really hasn't and can't.  Were he to nominate someone -- questionable with Iraq's caretaker state currently -- that person couldn't be confirmed because that requires the Parliament.
Now he did something similar in a previous time when a government hadn't yet formed.  When he did that before, he took someone already confirmed by Parliament to the Cabinet and just taxed that person with additional duties and an additional office.
Deputy Prime Minister Hussain Shahristani has never been confirmed to head a Ministry so it's a stretch to call him "acting" or "interim" anything.  You can call him "illegal" or "unconstitutional."  But that's about it.

Rudaw speaks with Zebari today and the first issue they raise in the interview?

On whether he is still foreign minister of Iraq:

I am still the foreign minister of Iraq.  He (Hussein Shahristani) has been appointed as acting (foreign minister). Based on the Iraqi constitution, removing ministers requires parliamentary approval. The prime minister or the council of ministers have no such authority.

So maybe in the future, the foreign press (including many Americans) could either tell the truth or just sit their tired asses down?  The foreign press has lied about Iraq more than enough at this point in time?
For those who failed to grasp why their is a boycott in the Cabinet, we'll note this:

Whether the Kurds are boycotting Baghdad:

The decision of the (Kurdish) leadership is to take part in the political process. We have not boycotted the political process. Otherwise, the Kurdish members of parliament would not attend the parliament. Our withdrawal from the cabinet meetings resulted from Prime Minister Maliki's accusations against the Kurdistan Region of harboring IS (Islamic State) and al-Qaeda, and that Erbil has become a haven for terrorists. I personally told Maliki, ‘it’s a shame for you and us that we sit together and still make such accusations against us. For this reason we will not take part (in the government), so that the whole world knows about this.’ It is unacceptable to accuse your partner of terrorism and conspiracies. But we all (Kurdish) ministers united in our stance. We have not boycotted the government; we have only suspended our presence there. In the next step, we might leave the government and submit a mass resignation. Now, there are lots of pressures by the US and others. We have told everyone that we are Peshmergas in Baghdad, and with one phone call from our leadership we pack up and return to Kurdistan.

Nouri's verbal attack on the Kurds took place Wednesday, July 9th and we noted it in that day's Iraq snapshot and how outrageous it was.  We returned to the topic July 10th when Gwen Ifill and The NewsHour (PBS) picked up the story to blame the Kurds for walking out of the Cabinet -- the 'news' program failed to cover Nouri declaring the Kurds terrorist.

Grasp please that Nouri's accusations did just that.  It was not just an offensive statement to make, it was one that could kick in certain legal aspects.

Nouri's remarks were inflammatory and never should have been made.

Thanks to Gwen, we saw how a whorish western press repeatedly acts.

Nouri smears the Kurds as terrorists in his televised weekly address and The NewsHour ignores it.  The next day they're 'interested' and treat the Kurdish response (the walkout) as the starting point and fail to note how offensive and outrageous Nouri's remarks were.

This is what they have done over and over and why there is blood on the hands of the US press.

They have whored for power, they have been stenographers jotting down Nouri's every word and presenting it as fact.

Willy is my child, he is my father
I would be his lady all my life
He says he'd love to live with me
But for an ancient injury
That has not healed
He said I feel once again
Like I gave my heart too soon 

-- "Willy," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her Ladies of the Canyon.

As always, Joni can nail down the human condition better than anyone.  But while we might have those feelings about a lover, it's really sad to grasp how the US press has had them about a tyrant and how easily those lyrics can be reworked:

Nouri is my child, he is my father
I would be his lady all my life . . . 

Over and over the western press -- especially the American press -- has distorted and disguised reality in Iraq to benefit Nouri.  When he went on his killing spree targeting Iraqi youth who were or were thought to be gay, the big press in the US ignored it.

Who made that story in the US?

The music press did.

And once they grabbed -- and thank goodness they did -- it forced other US news outlets who had ignored it for weeks and weeks to suddenly (and briefly) report on it.

If Barack Obama, US President, sent one of his Secretaries into schools to advocate to children and teenagers that gay people be killed?  It would be huge news.  If Barack then denied sending people in to do that?  It would also be news.  If, during Barack's denials, a copy of the information sheet -- on official government letterhead -- was printed by the press, it would be huge news.

Nouri is very lucky to have western groupies posing as reporters -- hey, Jane Arraf, we especially mean you -- who have repeatedly ignored real news stories because they would paint Nouri in a bad light.

Nouri is equally lucky that -- whether he's attacking the Kurds or Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi -- that the press never starts the story where it begins -- with Nouri's actions -- but drops in midstream so they can present Nouri as the injured and wronged party.

How did Iraq get to the point it is currently?

One reason is that the western press has coddled a tyrant and covered for him.

And it's not just the professional press.  Scott Horton has spent most of 2009 to the present on his Antiwar Radio show endorsing Nouri.  Joel Wing will never own his actions but the reality is he's been thrilled to attack and call out KRG President Massoud Barzani while writing fan fic about Nouri.

Apparently, it's okay with those and other Americans if Nouri tries to incite hate crimes against Iraqi gays and lesbians (and those wrongly thought to be gay or lesbian).

Apparently, a country's leader ordering his staff to go into the school system and repeat lies about gays and lesbians (they were called Satanists and vampires -- and this was on the official Iraqi government document that the Ministry of Interior handed out in the schools) isn't enough to rile up a Scott Horton or a Joel Wing.

They just don't care.  They'll keep covering for their personal tyrant.

Last week, we saw it yet again as Nouri smeared the Kurds as terrorists.

And the western press wasn't interested but the next day when the Kurds walk out of the Cabinet, suddenly it's 'oh those bad Kurds!'

Nouri's actions have brought Iraq to the brink.

A whorish western press that has refused to hold Nouri accountable has allowed this to happen.

And they need to take responsibility for their actions.

In the summer of 2006, the whoring was obvious.

Nouri had already proven to be inept and a man of words and vanity and, yes, paranoia.

But the press was whoring for him.  Even though he was attacking the press.  His big solution for Iraq at that time was stealing an idea that others came up with and were already implementing (local control of protection) and silencing the press.

But when 'reporting' on this plan, one western outlet after another ignored Nouri's attempt to criminalize reporting.  Only the BBC had the guts and integrity to include Nouri's assault on the press.

Over and over, Nouri's actions have been filtered by the press to remove his most extreme statements and actions so that US readers and audio and video news consumers will never grasp how out of control Nouri is, how criminal he is.

Unlike Nouri's temple whores, we've never played that game here.

Which has made the US government's exhaustion with Nouri so interesting in the last weeks.  Even the White House is realizing that Nouri likely has to go -- no third term as prime minister for Nouri -- if Iraq is going to move forward.

This realization leaves the US press in a pickle because they've got to find a way to call out Nouri to be on the same 'team' as the White House but they've spent so long covering for him.  (The editorial board of the New York Times has spent the last years calling Nouri out.  They have been an exception among editorial boards and US columnists.  On columnists, the only one with a real record of calling Nouri out has been the Philadelphia Inquirer's Trudy Rubin.)

The western press needs to be held accountable.

That includes those who hate Sunnis and think it's alright to act on their own prejudices.  Amy Goodman does a two part segment on Iraq this week and never calls out Nouri?  Never even notes the attack on the Kurds, Zebari or anything.  But she does have time to let Patrick Cockburn foam at the mouth with his Saudi Arabia conspiracy talk.  Patrick's Sunni hatred is widely known and documented in the Arab world.  Amy Goodman wants to talk what's wrong in Iraq but, cheap whore that she is, that talk never gets to Nouri.  Two segments on how awful Sunnis -- in Iraq and in neighboring countries -- are but no accountability for Nouri?

The problem is not just that Nouri is a despot and tyrant in the grand tradition of Augusto Pinochet,  it's that the western press has refused to be honest about who and what he is.

Some in the US media lied because they're lazy and they're stupid.  The inept are always with us.  Others though?   Some in the US lied about Nouri because they always lie to reflect the position of whomever occupies the White House.  Others lied because they thought Nouri was their guy (a number of fringe radicals in the US fall under that category -- don't worry they know who they are).  Others lied because in their S&M masturbation fantasies they need someone who dominates the US government and they've wrongly portrayed puppet Nouri as someone who stood up to the US government.  Others lied because they're part of The Mighty Wurlitzer.

If you're late to the party on The Mighty Wurlitzer, you can refer to Carl Bernstein's 1977 expose "The CIA And The Media:"

In 1953, Joseph Alsop, then one of America’s leading syndicated columnists, went to the Philippines to cover an election. He did not go because he was asked to do so by his syndicate. He did not go because he was asked to do so by the newspapers that printed his column. He went at the request of the CIA.
Alsop is one of more than 400 American journalists who in the past twenty‑five years have secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency, according to documents on file at CIA headquarters. Some of these journalists’ relationships with the Agency were tacit; some were explicit. There was cooperation, accommodation and overlap. Journalists provided a full range of clandestine services—from simple intelligence gathering to serving as go‑betweens with spies in Communist countries. Reporters shared their notebooks with the CIA. Editors shared their staffs. Some of the journalists were Pulitzer Prize winners, distinguished reporters who considered themselves ambassadors without‑portfolio for their country. Most were less exalted: foreign correspondents who found that their association with the Agency helped their work; stringers and freelancers who were as interested in the derring‑do of the spy business as in filing articles; and, the smallest category, full‑time CIA employees masquerading as journalists abroad. In many instances, CIA documents show, journalists were engaged to perform tasks for the CIA with the consent of the managements of America’s leading news organizations.

The CIA's connections to Nouri run deep and their argument for him, in 2006, included their assessment that Nouri was deeply paranoid (he is, we first noted it here the same year) and his paranoia would make him easy to control.

Again, he is this decade's Augusto Pinochet.

In other tales of the press treating the outrageous as normal . . .

December 2012,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17, 2012 following Jalal's argument with Iraq's prime minister and chief thug Nouri al-Maliki (see the December 18, 2012 snapshot).  Jalal was admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20, 2012, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.

The latest spin is that he will return to Iraq on Saturday.  If he does, it will be one year and seven months later.  If he does, it will not be for the good of Iraq and Iraqis but because the Talabani family wants to maintain their hold on the PUK political party.   Rudaw reports:

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) has officially submitted its candidate for Iraq’s presidency, as politicians desperately struggle to put together a government in the middle of a Sunni rebellion and militant control of a third of Iraq.
Sources told Rudaw that the PUK has chosen Fuad Massoum, who is from Halabja, as a compromise candidate. But that was not immediately confirmed. Massoum is a long-time associate of Jalal Talabani, the PUK leader and Iraqi president who has been in Germany since a stroke in December 2012.

Jalal's been fine hiding out in Germany.

And the western press has been fine with treating this as normal.

Despite the fact that January 2013 should have seen Jalal return to Iraq or be stripped of his post.

The presidency can not be vacant.  The Constitution makes it clear that if a president is to ill to carry out the duties of the office, the person is replaced.

His wife and the rest of his family publicly lied, repeatedly claiming Jalal would return in a few weeks.  They began pimping that lie in January of 2013 in order to ward off cries for Talabani to be replaced.

As Iraq has faced one crises after another, it's done so without the help or aid of Jalal Talabani.  He should have been stripped of his post.

If he does return Saturday, he returns under a cloud.  He has brought shame to the nation and allowed his only desires to trump what was good for Iraq.

Iraq needed a president and Jalal deprived the country of that for 19 months.

Turning to the topic of violence, Mitchell Prothero (McClatchy Newspapers) reports:

Islamic State gunmen overran a former U.S. military base early Friday and killed or captured hundreds of Iraqi government troops who’d been trying to retake Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit, the worst military reversal Iraqi troops have suffered since the Islamist forces captured nearly half the country last month.
The defeat brought to an end a three-week campaign by the government in Baghdad to recapture Tikrit, which fell to the Islamic State on June 11. Military spokesmen earlier this week had confidently announced a final push to recapture the city.

Read more here:

In addition, National Iraqi News Agency notes today's violence also includes a Kirkuk roadside bombing which left two people injured, a battle in al-Dhuluiya left 8 rebels dead, a Sinjar battle left 6 rebels dead, an Albu Gleb attack left 6 rebels dead, Jurf al-Sakhar battles left 23 rebels dead, and Nouri's continued bombing of civilian targets in Falluja left al-Furqan mosque cleric Sheikh Mohammed Kadhim injured and his home and the homes of others damaged.

We'll close with this from BRussells Tribunal:

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The EU has moral and legal obligations towards Iraq after several of its member states ignored the warnings of the anti-war voices not to attack the country in 2003.

On the occasion of the meeting on Iraq in the European Parliament on July 16th 2014

Open letter to Members of the European Parliament

On the occasion of the meeting on Iraq in the European Parliament on July 16th 2014

The EU has moral and legal obligations towards Iraq after several of its member states ignored the warnings of the anti-war voices not to attack the country in 2003.

The failure to protect the ordinary citizens of Iraq, the deliberate harm inflicted on certain communities as well as the gross human rights violations being committed by the Iraqi government’s forces on a daily basis with total impunity have been met with silence. According to Human Rights Watch 255 Sunni prisoners were murdered mainly by militia supporting prison guards in the last four weeks. All detainees must be protected immediately!

The reality of the situation is bleak: Prime Minister Maliki has built an authoritarian state where ruthless paramilitary groups such as Assaib Ahel Al Haq have more military weight than the regular army. These sectarian militias are given a free hand to terrorise communities, to commit kidnapping, to torture and to carry out extra judicial killings with impunity. The militias have been carrying out sectarian cleansing in Baghdad against the Sunnis, as reported by the media and NGOs. It is Maliki´s policies of discrimination, repression and exclusion that also bears responsibility for the increase of acts of terrorism by sectarian groups like ISIS. Neither Maliki nor his allies are really fighting terrorism but rather are using them as a pretext for their policies. These attempts are doomed to failure and have only alienated and terrorised even more communities.. Only the Iraqi people, united in defence of their nation, can defeat terrorism.
There are tens of other armed groups and militias - some of them linked to the Prime Minister's Office - that are involved in indiscriminate killings and are responsible for creating a sectarian bloodbath in Iraq. The national, non-sectarian forces leading the uprising against Maliki have strongly condemned, as we do, all terrorist actions.

The use of air strikes allegedly in order to fight terrorism is also a failed strategy. This policy has led to the indiscriminate killing of thousands of innocent civilians and the destruction of their homes .The US occupation tried it and the subsequent Green Zone governments of Iraq also tried it. Even as all observers agree that the solution in Iraq is not a military one, the US, Iran and others rush to aid Maliki with weapons and personnel. This strategy acts as a hatching machine for hatred and resentment as a result of the wholesale criminalisation of communities. We urge you therefore to speak up against the bombing of Iraqi villages, towns and cities.

One of the main reasons for the peaceful protests that began in Fallujah, Anbar, Tikrit, Mosul and other places in December 2012 was the news that women, arrested arbitrarily in lieu of their men folk, were being tortured and raped in detention. The peaceful protesters had well documented, clear demands starting with the release of all female detainees, the cancelling of article 4 of the Terrorism Law which is often used as a pretext for arbitrary arrests/torture and rape (see HRW report No One is Safe), the repeal the de-baathification decree introduced by Paul Bremer, and an end to all sectarian/ethnic discrimination and the rejection of partition of the country. The government met the peaceful protests with bombs and even massacres,) including the assassination of unarmed and injured protesters.

We call for :

1) the immediate ban on the flow of arms to Maliki's government.

2) a halt all airstrikes and military operations in Iraqi towns and cities.

3) the creation of safe corridors to deliver aid and humanitarian supplies to the civilians in areas of conflict.

4) an end to all measures of collective punishments such as the cutting off of water/electricity/withholding food stuffs and payment of salaries.

5) the protection of prisoners, the release all detainees not charged or tried and the end to all forms of arbitrary arrests, maltreatment and torture.

6) the undertaking of immediate measures to protect civilians (especially the displaced) and the safeguarding of their human rights.

7) the establishment of a new, non-sectarian government that rejects the imposed political process and constitution imposed by the occupation. Only such a government can guarantee Iraq´s borders and security.

8) the encouragement and active support from the EU, respecting the UN Security Council resolution to defend the unity and territorial integrity of Iraq, for immediate negotiations to establish such a government.

Through these measures the EU can assume its moral and legal responsibility to the people of Iraq.

International Anti-Occupation Network and the BRussells Tribunal - July 14, 2014

(1)“The jihadi surge is the tragic, violent outcome of steadily deteriorating political dynamics. Instead of a rash military intervention and unconditional support for the Iraqi government, pressure is needed to reverse sectarian polarisation and a disastrous record of governance.” International Crisis Group
(2)”.. the Obama administration has announced several waves of troop movement into the region and into Iraq specifically. As of last week, the announced number heading for Iraq now totals 770” How Nearly 800 U.S. Troops Spent Their Fourth Of July In Iraq
(3)”Two battalions of the Quds Forces, which is the overseas branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, moved to Iraq on Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported. There they worked jointly with Iraqi troops to retake control of 85 percent of Tikrit, security forces from both countries told the Journal. “ RT: US airstrikes to support Iranian Revolutionary Guard's offensive in Iraq? Foreign combat aircraft pour into Iraq
(4) Toby Dodge Iraq from war to New Authoritarianism “Years of ethnic cleansing have changed the sectarian balance of Baghdad strongly in favour of Shia” FT:City on edge as Baghdad residents await Isis attack #collectivepunishment article in English #Maliki army burn orchards and kill sheep
(5) Torture session in Mousel Iraq: Government Blocking Residents Fleeing Fighting collective punishment: Iraqi government decided NOT to pay Salaries in ‘hot areas’ not under its control
50 sunni detainees in Baquba/at least 7 in Mousel/46 in Tel Afar (Amnesty report) have been killed by the Maliki forces before withdrawing.
(6)Though it received little global attention, unrest in Fallujah, a primarily Sunni city, began in late 2012 with protests against the hardline policies of Nouri al-Maliki, the Shiite prime minister. Like many residents, Wardi sees the military campaign, which began in January, as retribution. “This started under the banner of fighting terrorists but changed to attacking the city,” she said. “It’s punishment for the people.” “They describe government artillery fire raining down on the city, targeting even the hospital, as Human Rights Watch documented in May. Army helicopters have also used barrel bombs — crude and inexact explosives that level surrounding homes along with intended targets when they fall from the sky. “They’re completely indiscriminate — if not actively targeting Sunni civilians,” Erin Evers, the Human Rights Watch researcher in Iraq, said of the government’s military campaign in Fallujah and elsewhere in Anbar, such as the city of Ramadi, which has seen a similar cycle of protests and violence.” Shades Of Syria: Fears Maliki Will Follow The Assad Model In Iraq. Call on UN Security Council, U.S. and EU to prevent the bombardment of civilians in Iraq Struan Stevenson President, European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA)
(7) “Maliki never appointed a permanent, parliament-confirmed interior minister, nor a defense minister, nor an intelligence chief. Instead, he took the positions for himself.” “In short, Maliki’s one-man, one-Dawa-party Iraq looks a lot like [Saddam]Hussein’s one-man, one-Baath Party Iraq. But at least Hussein helped contain a strategic American enemy: Iran. And Washington didn’t spend $1 trillion propping him up. There is not much “democracy” left if one man and one party with close links to Iran control the judiciary, police, army, intelligence services, oil revenue, treasury and the central bank. Under these circumstances, renewed ethno-sectarian civil war in Iraq was not a possibility. It was a certainty” - Why we stuck with Maliki — and lost Iraq
(8)The United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials state that security forces in policing situations shall “apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms. Iraq: Investigate Violence at Protest Camp Fighting Erupts in Anbar Province After Security Forces, Protesters Clash.

Frustrated with living in fear and in constant violation of their rights, the people of Iraq took to the streets to demand that their basic human rights be respected. Their action took the form of peaceful demonstrations, which began on 25 December 2012 in Al-Anbar province. Since then, the demonstrations have grown in geography, expanding to cities throughout the country, and in number with hundreds of thousands of participants. The protests first called for the release of female detainees who are subjected to inhumane treatment, but now encompass a range of demands including the immediate release of fellow protestors; the abolition of anti-terrorist laws; the cessation of house raids without legal warrant and the end of financial, administrative and legal corruption. GICJ requests that an independent international investigation mission be dispatched to Iraq
“The main reason for the fall of the city of Mosul – the second largest city in Iraq – is that the Maliki government did not respond to the demands of the citizen protestors who demonstrated in Mosul, Anbar, Salahuddin, Diyala and Hawija over a year ago and so the citizens did not support the Iraqi army.The policy of the Iraqi government headed by Nouri al-Maliki has been totally sectarian in the way it has operated in the Iraqi provinces. The government has almost totally excluded representatives of the Sunni population from the sovereign ministries, or left them with no real authority. Even the new Iraqi army was formed on this basis. The Iraqi army unfortunately does not support a doctrine of loyalty to the homeland (or an Iraq that is inclusive of all people); instead it is loyal to the Madhhab or Shia doctrine. It deals with citizens according to their religious sect. The armed forces have attacked people in the cities of Mosul, Anbar, Salahuddin, Diyala and Hawija. They have carried out arrests, torture and extortion. There have also been many cases of rape by members of the army, both outside and inside prisons.”

Friday, July 18, 2014

Elaine Stritch

Elaine Stritch passed away.

That really wasn't a surprise.

She was 89 and she was miserable.

I wouldn't be surprised if she hadn't had a few more years to go if she'd stayed in NYC.

That was her town.

She owned it with her work on Broadway and in cabaret.

She was a woman who lived on the stage.

She moved to Michigan to be closer to her family.

She loathed it.

She died in Michigan.

It's a wonderful state.  But if you're a live performer, if NYC is your town, you're not going to find happiness in Michigan.

For those unfamiliar with Broadway or cabaret, Elaine also did many films and TV.

Her best film role was in Small Time Crooks.  She worked with Woody Allen and Elaine May in that film.  Woody's a petty crook, May's his sister-in-law that he's now dating, they go to Elaine Stritch's home for a party and he attempts to steal a priceless necklace but his fake copy gets mixed up with the real thing and he ends up leaving with the fake necklace.

In terms of TV, her best known role was on 30 Rock where she played Jack's mother (Jack was Alec Baldwin's character).

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Thursday, July 17, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri makes a mess of everything, 'reporter' Hannah Allem piles the blames on others, fact checking her outlandish lies let's us drop back to the realities others ignored in real time, how did Nouri get a weaponized drone in Mosul, did Iraq just get their first suicide bomber from Australia, and much more.

Nouri al-Maliki is a thug.  The 'liberal' media -- Scott Horton's Antiwar Radio, Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! and so many others -- have whored for Nouri and they continue to whore for him.

Yesterday on Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman continued her war against Iraqi Sunnis by booking noted Sunni hater Patrick Cockburn as well as the always ridiculous Hannah Allem (McClatchy Newspapers) who somehow, someway, just happens, repeatedly, to slant things so that Sunnis come off so badly.  Now that Patrick's documented hatred of Sunnis has moved from Arabic social media into the mainstream media, we can ignore him and just zoom in on Hannah.

Hannah Allem:  Down in Najaf, even more important than the prime minister’s call to arms was the fatwa issued by the Shia highest authority in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. He issued a call to arms that asked all Iraqis to come and help in the defense of the nation. And he and his office and officials around him have stressed several times that that was not a sectarian call to arms, that it was a patriotic national duty. But that’s not how it’s been interpreted on the ground, and it’s not how it’s playing out on the ground. It has given religious cover to the remobilization of militias that the government spent—and the U.S. military, when it was here, spent—the past several years trying to disband. 

We have to stop Hannah there, the lies are just too intense.

Hannah lies in July of 2014 that Shi'ite militias are reforming.


In the summer of 2014?

We're going back to October 4, 2013 and the start and the end of the excerpt will be signified by "**********."  Excerpt:



As the photo above (Baghdad) by Iraqi Spring MC demonstrates, protests continued in Iraq.  Protests also took place in TikritNajafRamadi, FallujaSamarra, Baquba, Balad RuzJalawla, among other sites.   Protests have been taking place non-stop since December 21st.   Of today's protests, NINA notes:

Preachers of Friday-prayers called on the sit-inner in their sermons to continue the sit-ins as are the only way to get rid of injustice and abuse policy.
They said in the common prayer which held in six regions of Diyala province : " Iraqi government must not deal with the demands of the protestors in a double standard . Urging worshipers to unify their stand until getting the demands, release innocent prisoners and detainees from prisons.

Kitabat reports that Sheikh Mohammed al-Dulaimi spoke at the Falluja protest and accused the government of supporting militias who target and kill Sunnis.  The Sheikh said that instead of implementing the demands of the protesters, the government would rather target or ignore the protesters.  National Iraqi News offers the Sheikh said, ""The Iraqi government rather than implement the demands of the protesters and adopt genuine reconciliation with people, it tracking and embarrassing the protest leaders,since 9 Months ago claimants the usurped legal rights."

Sheikh Mohammed al-Dulaimi is correct in his accusation:  Nouri al-Maliki (prime minister and chief thug of Iraq) is supporting Shi'ite militias.  Tim Arango (New York Times) broke that story last week -- but somehow the US Congress and the rest of the media missed it.  (The media may be playing dumb.  Members of Congress actually missed it, I spoke with several yesterday about Tim Arango's report.)   Arango noted:

In supporting Asaib al-Haq, Mr. Maliki has apparently made the risky calculation that by backing some Shiite militias, even in secret, he can maintain control over the country’s restive Shiite population and, ultimately, retain power after the next national elections, which are scheduled for next year. Militiamen and residents of Shiite areas say members of Asaib al-Haq are given government badges and weapons and allowed freedom of movement by the security forces.


So the October 4th protests were noting that the Shi'ite militias were regrouping and attacking them and the New York Times' Tim Arango was even reporting that Nouri al-Maliki was arming and garbing Shi'ite militias?

Kind of an important detail.

And one of the reasons the Sunnis felt so targeted.

But leave to Whore Hannah to show up in July 2014 and claim that Shi'ite militias were reforming -- Shi'ite militias who reformed long ago.

Hannah Allem: So we’re talking about groups like Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, which was a splinter group of the Mahdi Army trained by Iran, close ties to Iran, and several other Iranian-backed Shia Muslim militias. And then, on top of that, you’ve got tribes that are offering up tens of thousands of their members, and you’ve got these just ordinary teenagers, you know, and young men who are answering the call on religious grounds. So, it’s this hodgepodge of forces. They really sort of lack a central command. So far they’ve said that they would all play fair and answer to the government and work within the government structure. But that’s just simply not the case. There are just too many people with arms roaming around with disparate leaders.

Okay, Moqtada's Mahdi Army?  I have no idea whether it reformed or not but those rumors of it reforming started in early 2013.

To take the heat off Hannah, let's note the load of the crap that came up next:

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, last month Democracy Now! interviewed former U.N. special envoy for Syria, Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi. He was previously the U.N. special representative for Iraq. He suggested that sectarianism in Iraq was fostered in the early years of the U.S. invasion and occupation.
LAKHDAR BRAHIMI: The impression one had was that the people that were preferred by the occupying powers were the most sectarian Shia and the most pro-Iranian Shia, so, you know, that Iran—that Iraq is now very, very close to Iran. Again, from the point of view of somebody who looks at things from outside, I have absolutely no knowledge of what went on in the high spheres of power in Washington. The impression we had is that these people were put in charge either out of total ignorance—and that is extremely difficult to accept—or intentionally. But the fact is, you know, that the system that was established was very sectarian.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Hannah Allam, that was Lakhdar Brahimi, the former U.N. special envoy for Syria. He was previously the special representative, the U.N. special representative for Iraq. Could you comment on what he said and also on reports of the Islamic State’s violence and atrocities, really, against Sunni Muslims, in addition to Shia and Kurds?
Don't bother trying to remember the question, Hannah really won't try to answer it.
But Nermeen is beyond stupid.  Brahimi's a tool, no one expects honesty from tools.
No, the US government -- under Bully Boy Bush -- did not choose to back Iraqis (Iraqi exiles) because these were Iraqis close to Iran.
That's beyond stupid, it's a lie.
We have to do a back story here.
I don't care for Naomi Klein.  The woman's a piece of trash. She became that before she whored (and lied) for Barack. She became a piece of trash as she did the bare minimum a Canadian activist could do for war resisters.  She'd sign a petition but that's about little Naomi could manage.
She certainly wouldn't stand with them.  She wrongly feared she'd loose access to the United States.
No, she wouldn't have.  She was an American citizen.  Bully Boy Bush couldn't have kept her out of the country.
What's that?
She's Canadian?
Yeah, she has dual citizenship.  Because her parents are Americans.  Her mother and her father.
Her parents went to Canada during Vietnam.  Her father was a war resister.
So for that trashy mall rat Naomi Klein to refuse to share her story, her family's narrative to make the case for the need for Canada to offer asylum to war resisters as they did during Vietnam?
I have no use for Naomi Klein.
As the late, great Cass Elliot used to say, "I wouldn't piss on her if she were on fire." That's how I feel about Naomi.
But when she briefly cared about Iraq, she was able to make the point that realities in Iraq weren't accidents.
And we would note her Harper's essay and expand on it to point out that you have to make the people docile and fearful if you want to take them down "Year Zero."
The US government backed the exiles they did because those exiles would terrorize the Iraqi people -- keep the people fearful of safety while the US government and the installed Iraqis worked to fleece the country.
Let's go back to Hannah.  We're picking right back up but don't worry about the question she was asked because Hannah talks about what Hannah wants to.

HANNAH ALLAM: Sure. I think it’s important to note that the Islamic State is not doing this land grab, this insurgency alone. It has a lot of support, really crucial support, especially for holding territories that it seized, from, again, this mixture of former Baathists, ex-military and intelligence from the old regime, some tribes. And the reason they’ve been able to cultivate some support among those community—well, some are just, you know, against the whole political system that was established under the U.S. occupation. 
Still with Hannah but I really want you to pay attention to what she says next:
Some haven’t come to terms with the loss of their former power and prestige. But then there are a wide swath of Sunni communities who are simply fed up with the sectarian policies they’ve seen under this administration of Nouri al-Maliki. 
Some Sunnis haven't come to terms with a loss of power and prestige?
Am I the only one who can see Hannah taking two skips to the right in order to next justify slavery?
Hannah is such a damn xenophobe.
Power and prestige weren't the issues for the Sunni people.
It's cute how Nouri never gets called out by the Hannahs.
This has been addressed at length in the UK's Iraq Inquiry.
Paul Bremer kicked off de-Ba'athification -- sending many Sunnis (and Shi'ites) out of the government.  This was a huge mistake -- British intelligence saw it as such, check the testimonies to the Iraq Inquiry.  And a huge mistake was made worse by Nouri 
He was supposed to end de-Ba'athifaction.  This was supposed to allow the country to unify and Nouri promised to do this in 2007.  This was part of the benchmarks the White House came up with.
McClatchy reported on those benchmarks repeatedly -- they did so badly, but they did so repeatedly.
Hannah Allem:  And I think we should point out he [Nouri]  first ran on a platform that was considered nationalist. He went after Shia militias in the south, and people thought, OK, maybe this isn’t going to be as sectarian as we feared. 
Shi'ite militias in the south?

Oh, the Mahdi.  Yeah, with the US, he went after one Shi'ite militia, the militia of his political rival Moqtada al-Sadr.
One militia.  Hannah's always got to lie. She's the proud mommy with the unaccomplished son so she just makes s**t up and hopes no one catches on.
Nezir Akyesilmen (Daily Sabah) offers this take on events in Iraq:

A coalition of oppositions composed of resentful Sunni groups, former Ba'athists and the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) - or from its Arabic acronym as Da'ish - has been able to control most of the Sunni populated Iraq territory (except for the Kurdistan region), including Mosul, the second biggest city of Iraq, within a short time. Such a sudden contagion, shows on one hand, the weakness and ineffectiveness of the Iraqi central army and on the other hand depicts the coalition of opposition as an important and powerful actor that cannot be ignored in Iraq anymore. There are also signals showing that this de facto situation will remain for a long time and may even be permanent.
When the PM of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Nechirvan Barzani said that "it is difficult to be able to return to the order before Mosul in Iraq" in an interview on the BBC, he was most probably referring to this reality. The conflict which has become particularly violent is escalating in Iraq and transforming into an inhuman situation with casualties increasing day by day. Hate speech by Nouri al-Maliki and violent acts against Shia by the coalition under ISIS patronage have deepened the separation and conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims not only in Iraq but also on the whole planet. Some regional powers have made great contributions both in design and ideology to this sectarian conflict. If this conflict is not resolved in a short time, all the regional countries will be negatively affected in terms of economic, social and political stability, particularly the actors that are trading with Iraq (essentially with the Kurdistan region), including Turkey. In such a case, regional escalation of a lasting, comprehensive and sectarian conflict is unavoidable.

See, if you're not Hannah, you can speak honestly about Iraq.

NINA reports 1 person was killed today in Mosul and five more were left injured.

What's curious is the weapon used.  A drone.

US President Barack Obama has insisted that no US drones were being used as weapons as yet in Iraq and those present were in Baghdad.

So what's happened?

Iran's suddenly got drones? Weaponized ones?

Russia's delivered them?

Or Barack's lied to the American people?

Julian E. Barnes (Wall St. Journal) reports on how Barack's rush to arm Nouri suffered a little setback:

U.S. defense officials are tamping down any talk of a quick decision on what to do next in Iraq.
And on Wednesday, Mr. Obama addressed a range of foreign policy challenges, including the Afghanistan elections, negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, the fighting between Israel and Hamas, and Russian provocations in Ukraine, but there was no mention of imminent action in Iraq. In fact, Mr. Obama didn’t mention Iraq at all.
What’s going on?

A fresh assessment of Iraq’s security forces prepared by U.S. military teams working in Iraq was delivered to the Pentagon this week. It wasn’t exactly a sunny outlook, but Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said that while defense leaders felt a sense of urgency, they were not going to rush their work.

Dahr Jamail observes (in a repost at The Nation), " What is left of Iraq, this mess that is no longer a country, should be considered the legacy of decades of US policy there, dating back to the moment when Saddam Hussein was in power and enjoyed Washington’s support. With Maliki, it has simply been a different dictator, enjoying even more such support (until these last weeks), and using similarly barbaric tactics against Iraqis."

Vietnam veteran Roland Van Deusen writes the Watertown Daily Times to share his thoughts on Iraq which include:

Since we left Iraq, the government we set up there has replaced almost every senior officer in the Iraqi army with Shi’ite yes-men, regardless of their military ability. Three hundred U.S. advisers won’t undo this damage before ISIS threatens to topple Iraq’s government.
That government refused John Kerry’s condition that our defending them depends upon their sharing power with Sunnis and Kurds. Yet now our adviser/grunts are on the ground, with another 200 on the way, in spite of our president’s saying the answer to this crisis is political, not military. Why are we there?

James Cullum (Talk Radio News) speaks with US House Rep Ted Poe:

“I think he has to go,” Poe told TRNS after a subcommittee meeting on Tuesday. “He needed to go a long time ago. He’s incompetent and has the inability to lead, and he can’t lead all the people in Iraq. He’s trying to preserve his fiefdom, and rulers in that situation have many times dealt in an unreal world, and do not know they have lost their credibility and authority, and he is one of those.” 

Since begging the US government to provide 'traineers' and 'advisors' on the ground in Iraq, Nouri has demonstrated that he will not change one bit.  His latest tantrum has only further inflamed tensions in Iraq. Press TV notes:

Iraq’s Kurds have just recently announced plans for a referendum on the independence of the semi-autonomous Kurdish province.The Arab League however has downplayed the significance of these plans as “media talk”.Meanwhile, the Kurds, including ministers in the Iraqi cabinet, continue to disengage from Baghdad completely, following accusations by Prime Minister Maliki that Erbil was harboring ISIL terrorists.

PNA notes, "Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari has urged PM Nouri Maliki to apologise for saying the Kurdish region authorities are sheltering extremists."  But when has Nouri ever worked to clean up one of his own messes?

Robin Wright (New Yorker) notes Nouri's problems with the Kurds:

The Kurds have many reasons to split off. They’re furious with Baghdad, which since January has refused to fork over the Kurds’ share of the national kitty. They’re terrified of the sweeping territorial conquests by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), an Al Qaeda offshoot, which is now poised along a six-hundred-mile border with Kurdistan that the Iraqi Army abruptly abandoned last month. And they’re engaged in a war of words with Iraq’s Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, about stepping aside to let a new government salvage the nation. Last week, Maliki accused the Kurds of aiding ISIS militants. He fired all the Kurds in his cabinet, including the stalwart Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.

“He has become hysterical and has lost his balance,” Barzani, who is now Kurdistan’s President, said in an unusually peppery statement on July 10th. “He is doing everything he can to justify his failures and put the blame on others.” Barzani noted that Maliki himself had once taken refuge from Saddam’s dictatorship in Kurdistan—and that others were now taking refuge from Maliki. Barzani also told the BBC, “Iraq is effectively partitioned now. Are we supposed to stay in this tragic situation?”

Those factors would make many tread lightly -- but not Nouri al-Maliki.   He just stomps his feet, creates more problems and then begs others to clean up his mess.

Let's turn to violence.  Warwick Daily News notes, "The first Australian suicide bomber in Iraq reportedly killed three people in the heart of Baghdad on Thursday, raising the involvement of local jihadists in the spiraling violence to a chilling new level."  IS used a Tweet to note the bombing and dub the bomber Abu Bark al-Australi.  3 News adds, "If the man is confirmed to be Australian, he will be the first from his country to have been involved in carrying out a suicide bombing in Iraq.

In other violence, National Iraqi News Agency reports a battle in Alsger left 3 Iraqi soldiers dead, a Muqdadiyah battle left 6 rebels dead, the military killed 2 suspects in Hit, a central Baghdad bombing left 5 people dead and thirty-seven more injured, an al-Khalid bombing left seven Peshmerga injured, and Baghdad Operations Command announced they killed 19 suspects.  Margaret Griffis ( notes, "At least 109 people were killed today, and another 148 were wounded."

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The press and Extant

"TV: How Extant won (and so did you)" (Ava and C.I., The Third Estate Sunday Review):
What is going on, what's really taking place, is a mystery?

On the show.

In real life, it was no mystery.

Halle's amazingly strong debut was downgraded the next morning by the Water Cooler Set.

Don't you know, they sniffed, Halle's audience was older?  Don't you know that she failed to deliver the debut numbers Under The Dome did and didn't that prove how lacking she was?

No, it didn't prove any such thing.

About the only thing it proved is how hateful the Water Cooler Set it.

Under The Dome, for those who don't know, was a project that found Steven Spielberg teaming up with Stephen King.  On his own, Spielberg is a name and a draw on TV.  On his own, Stephen King is a draw on TV -- a bigger one than Spielberg.  Stephen King, the writer whose classic horror stories remain touchstones for each new generation, is a huge TV draw -- more so on TV than on the big screen.  The Stand and the TV version of The Shining, for example, were -- and remain -- hugely popular.

A false equation was constructed, after the fact, to argue that the strong ratings debut of Extant was minor and nothing to see, certainly nothing worth remarking on.

Over 9 million watched on Wednesday.  CBS' Reckless debuted June 19th and didn't manage to crack 4 million.  But the Water Cooler Set looked the other way.  Halle comes along with a debut that more than doubles that and the men and male-wanna-be women of the Water Cooler Set start insisting the debut was a bust.

Talk about changing the conversation.  Ava and C.I. have yet again take on sexism and yet again silenced The Water Cooler.  as you can see from the following links of the last 24 hours, the attempts to call the show a ratings so-so or flop have vanished:

Viewers flock to Halle Berry's new show 'Extant'

OCRegister-15 hours ago
CBS' multi-faceted drama “Extant” drew the largest audience for a series premiere this summer and was last week's most-watched prime-time ...

Nielsen winners: 'Extant,' 'The Strain,' World Cup

USA TODAY-Jul 16, 2014
Cable openers: The Strain, FX's first Sunday series, opened with a solid 3 million viewers, opposite the second-season opener of Showtime's ...

The show was a huge hit.

Yet The Water Cooler Set attacked it and tried to destroy it.

Once upon a time, they could get away with that nonsense.

No more.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, July 16, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee holds a hearing, we note the House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing again, new calls for Nouri al-Maliki to step aside, and much more.

Ranking Member Richard Burr:  Since our last hearing there have been several developments related to the scheduling irregularities across the VA and its negative impact on patient care.  VA's begun to take the necessary steps to address the systemic problem and the corrosive culture that have been identified and substantiated by several independent sources.  However, these changes will not happen overnight.  And this Committee must provide the critical oversight to ensure those changes occur and are effective. [. . .] At the time of the May 15th hearing, there were several stakeholders who did not want to rush to judgment until the allegations surrounding Phoenix had been substantiated. Since that hearing, the IG released an interim report regarding the allegations of scheduling irregularities and a secret wait list at the Phoenix VA Healthcare System. Not only did the IG substantiate scheduling irregularities and a secret wait list at Phoenix, but the IG identified roughly 1,700 veterans that were waiting for appointments and were not included on appropriate electronic wait lists. The IG found that scheduling irregularities are a systemic issue across VA's healthcare system and this was not an isolated event. Additionally, the IG has received numerous allegations regarding   "mismanagement, inappropriate hiring decisions, sexual harassment, and bullying behavior by mid- and senior- level managers at this facility." These allegations speak to the corrosive culture that has taken deep roots throughout the entire Department. Within a 3 week period, the Office of Special Counsel released a statement on VA whistle-blower reprisals and sent a letter to the President regarding VA's lack of responsiveness to OSC requests. In this letter, the OSC describes the Office of Medical Inspector's consistent use of  "a 'harmless error' defense, where the Department acknowledges problems but claims patient care is unaffected."

Senator Jon Tester prattled on about how more doctors were needed,  that the answer wasn't "scheduling more patients for the doctors." Prattled on really described the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee period.  Ranking Member Richard Burr, Senator Patty Murray and a few others had things of value to say.  But most offered platitudes.

I'm being kind, but "stay the course"?  That hoary, old trope?  And from a Democrat?

I'm being kind and not calling that senator out -- or even offering a name.

But that's what we got instead of anything of value.

Tester wants you to know the answer is not scheduling more appointments for doctors.

That may be what his words said in terms of text but the subtext was:  I don't do my homework.

There is a House Veterans Affairs Committee and a Senate one.  The Senate version has become a joke.

Senators being unaware of what the House has already addressed in their hearings does not make the Senate look any smarter.  Senator Mike Johanns made a passing reference to the House's Monday night VA hearing so at least he's semi-aware of the work the other Committee is doing.  One member of the Senate Committee did pay attention and we'll note that later in the snapshot.

On the House Committee, they have members who are doctors.

Jon Tester isn't a doctor.

Why is it that, for example, US House Rep Phil Roe is so much wiser on issues of medicine than Senator Tester?

Maybe because Phil Roe is also Doctor Roe -- a medical doctor who's had his own practice.

And that's why Tester always whines about the lack of doctors -- and he's whine about it for years -- but Roe's the one pointing out how much time VA doctors are forced to waste because the VA refuses to hire assistants who can work the charts and paper work and free up time that doctors can use -- can use, Tester -- to see more patients.

I'm all for more doctors.  But the VA's gotten everything it's asked for -- regardless of who was in the White House -- for over a decade now.  And Congress has given it to them.

Uninformed members of Congress like Jon Tester.

I'm not a medical expert by any means -- and Tester probably knows more about medicine than I do -- but I am smart enough to listen when a doctor speaks and go back and ask friends -- in practice at the VA and in the civilian world -- "These things Dr. Roe is talking about, does this make sense?"

And when I'm told repeatedly that, yes, they do, I start to get really irritated at people who just want to toss money at a problem as opposed to actually fixing it.

Let's note Senator Patty Murray, Chair of the Senate Budget Committee.  She serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and her office issued the following today:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                 CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Wednesday, July 16th, 2014                                                            (202) 224-2834
VETERANS: Murray Continues Call For Transparency, Accountability at VA
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, delivered remarks at a committee hearing on the State of VA Health Care with Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson. In her opening remarks, Murray continued her call to address the systemic problems at the VA in order to ensure veterans are getting the care and support they deserve.
Full Text of Senator Murray’s Remarks:
“Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing. 
“As we all know, this is a critical time for the Department.
“VA is still struggling with major systemic problems, there are many vacancies in key leadership positions, and most importantly, veterans are still waiting too long for care.
“Secretary Gibson, as we discussed yesterday, I appreciate you stepping up during this crisis. 
“The Department needs strong leadership right now - because VA is facing serious challenges.
“Rob Nabors’ review identified several of these issues – which we have also been discussing here for some time.
“A corrosive culture has developed in the Department – one that is unworthy of VA’s many dedicated and talented medical providers who only want to help veterans.
“Management failures and a lack of communication is a problem at all levels of VHA. And VA needs more providers, more space, and  modern IT systems.
“As we continue to work in the conference committee to craft a final bill, I hope an agreement will be reached so we can send it to the President…
“And start making the changes needed at VA to get veterans into care, create transparency, and hold people accountable.
“The compromise bill will be an important first step.  As more reviews are done and more problems are found, we will need to take additional steps. 
“And while we continue working on these problems, we cannot lose sight of many other pressing issues. 
“Too many veterans still die by suicide each day, and sexual assault survivors still need help. 
“VA must continue to make progress toward the commendable -- and even more challenging -- goals of eliminating veterans homelessness and reducing the claims backlog.
“On a more positive note, Secretary Gibson, I appreciate your help in finally getting the money to build the Walla Walla State Veterans Home.   We have been working on this for a very long time. 
“Now, hundreds of veterans in the area will be able to access the long-term care they need.
“As I have said repeatedly here in this room -- when the nation goes to war, it also commits to taking care of the veterans when they return home. 
“Their needs are a cost of war, and we will provide for them – no matter what. 
“We know many veterans will need VA care for several decades to come. 
“Others will come to the VA for the first time many years after their service has ended. 
“So today I want to hear about solutions to these systemic problems, and smart ways to strengthen the VA for the long-term. 
“Because VA needs to be there for our veterans,  ready to help, right away, and every time.”
Meghan Roh
Press Secretary | New Media Director
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Mobile: (202) 365-1235
Office: (202) 224-2834


Murray and Burr don't yammer away.  They're making real contributions.

So many on the Committee can't say that.  (And we'll be coming back to Burr later in the snapshot.)

In fairness to Tester, he brings tremendous knowledge of what rural veterans' needs are.  He has other areas of strength as well.  But when a doctor who serves in the Congress outlines how the VA is wasting doctors' time that could be spent seeing veterans, I think the Senate needs to be aware of that.

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee is suffering right now from grandstanding -- from people who rush in with their prepared soundbyte on veterans then quickly rush out of the hearing (a tactic US House Rep Barbara Lee resorted to repeatedly during the Bully Boy Bush years when she wanted to pretend she was anti-war).  It's cheap and it's tacky.  It might fool the media (or the media might just want to be fooled); however, veterans are noting it and this nonsense of showing up with your grand standing opening statements -- that are vague and full of meaningless applause lines -- and then ducking out is not playing well.

Let's close on the hearing with this from Senator Jon Tester insisted that some members of the Conference Committee "are balking at the cost. We just shipped 800 folks off to Iraq. I didn't hear one person talk about cost."  Well we did talk about the need for the cost to be addressed.  We talked about it here.  I noted it was outrageous that the Congress wasn't asking for dollar numbers.  But I don't serve in the House or Senate.

I didn't hear Jon Tester raise the issue of cost, let alone 'balk' at it.  But he is a member of the Senate.  So maybe he should have?

(And while he was bringing up the silence on that, the issue was being raised in a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee.)

Equally true, Tester's been silent on thug Nouri al-Maliki.  Others spoke out against him -- and did so even if it cost them.  Iraq's Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi continues to live outside of Iraq.  As he has since the end of 2011.  Nouri issued an arrest warrant for Tareq, tried him in absentia and got Tareq sentenced to the death penalty at least five time.
The Sunni politician also stressed that the wider international community shared the blame for Iraq’s descent into chaos. Human rights organisations have documented the deterioration of human rights during Mr Al Maliki’s time in power, he said, “but all those countries that invaded my country in 2003 and talked about respecting human rights, transparency and democratic values, which Iraqis accepted, they did not follow up”.
Mr Al Hashemi, who raised eyebrows last month when he called the Islamic State’s capture of Mosul, Iraq’s second city, “a revolution”, reiterated that the extremists, known to execute their opponents and punish those who fall foul of their rules with flogging, amputation and crucifixion, was only the most visible of the Sunni militant groups fighting Mr Al Maliki.
“They are only one part of the spectrum in this revolution”, though “also the most influential”, he said.
Once Mr Al Maliki is out of the way and Sunnis regain a voice in national politics, they will shake off extremist groups such as Islamic State, Mr Al Hashemi said.

AFP reports on calls for thug Nouri to step aside and not seek a third term as prime minister of Iraq:

“That’s part of the solution. An important part,” said Sheikh Ali al-Najafi, spokesman for his father Grand Ayatollah Bashir al-Najafi, referring to Maliki’s ouster.
“This is the point of view of the marja al-Najafi,” he told AFP on Monday, a “marja” being one of majority Shia Iraq’s four most senior Shia religious leaders, known as the marjaiya.

The most senior of the marjaiya, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, through a spokesman has already called for the “formation an effective government that is acceptable on a ... national level (and) avoids past mistakes”.

Mehmet Celik (Daily Sabah) observes, "Maliki had the chance to reconcile with Iraqis after the elections, where he promised to establish law and order, however, he chose to use state terror, violence, and exclusionary politics against the Sunnis and the Kurds. Thus, Maliki did not have the support of his people to defend Iraq. ISIS's forces are capturing cities one at a time and marching toward Baghdad, Iranian drones are flying over Iraq, the U.S. army is now part of the conflict, there is no legitimate law or order to govern Iraq, yet, Maliki has not resigned. "

We argued weeks before the April 30th parliamentary elections that a new prime minister -- someone other than thug Nouri al-Maliki (and someone not seen as Nouri's stooge) -- could provide a reset.

Violence would not vanish but the level of violence might decrease.

A new prime minister could restore -- even briefly -- hope that things might change.

That possibility is not open-ended.

And that's been demonstrated.  As the press kept calling Nouri the next prime minister after the elections -- despite his not winning enough seats to justify that call, violence in Iraq increased.

As hard as that was for some to picture happening in March when things were already bad in terms of violence, things have gotten even worse.

There's not a lot of time for a reset to work.

Equally true, the more weeks it takes, the more 'anyone' doesn't fill the blank.

The more weeks it takes, the more it will insist that someone like Ammar al-Hakim, Moqtada al-Sadr, Ayad Allawi, Ibrahim al-Jaafari or someone of that stature whose seen as seeing Iraq as a cohesive country made up of Iraqis -- not a loose confederation of sects -- will be needed as prime minister.

Time is running out.

The US government needs to strongly convey that and maybe they need to stop helping Nouri with his targeting of this group for a bombing and that group.  (I think they should for War Crimes reasons but I'm saying it's also helping to prop him up.)

All Iraq News notes KRG President Massoud Barazni informed Ibrahim al-Jaafari that the Kurds continue to reject Nouri as prime minister for a third term.

People, including the US government, better be listening.  While every other Iraqi leader (I'm not including Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani) has suffered some form of setback in the last 12 months, Barzani hasn't.  He's actually increased his popularity -- and not just among Sunnis (and the USAID poll that the State Dept's silent on right now bears that out).

Nouri gets named prime minister, Iraq -- already on fire -- blazes even brighter.

And this can't keep up, you can't expect people to keep hoping and hoping and hoping.

It's time for the Iraqi Parliament to get a president and name a prime minister-designate.

Refusal to do is just going to increase the violence.

It's obvious that Nouri's refusing to go quietly.  The tension is mounting along with the fear over a third term of Nouri.

Margaret Griffis ( counts 51 dead from violence in Iraq today.  On violence, Iraq's religious minorities are being targeted. And the US has offered no one to champion the religious minorities.  Morgan Lee (Christian Post) reports:

The Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore has called on President Barack Obama to fill the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, which has been vacant since Suzanne Johnson Cook resigned in October.
Moore specifically recommended that the President nominate outgoing Rep Frank Wolf, R.-Va., who has already announced that he will not run for reelection this year. 

The office remains empty as Mark von Riedemann and John Newton (Independent Catholic News) report:

The head of the Catholic Church in Iraq has warned EU leaders that Christians – present in the country for almost 2,000 years – could all but disappear unless the violence is halted. Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, head of the Chaldean Catholic Church – Iraq's largest Christian community – told EU representatives that unless a peaceful resolution is found, "Christians will be left with just a symbolic presence in Iraq. If they leave, their history is finished."
Amid worsening political turmoil in Iraq,  Aid to the Church in Need invited a delegation to Brussels headed by Patriarch Sako last Wednesday.

Accompanied by Syrian Catholic Archbishop Yohanna Petros Mouche of Mosul and Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Youssif Mirkis of Kirkuk, the patriarch met EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy as well as members of the European Commission and Parliament.

Cassandra?  We've been that on many things here.  But an e-mail noted I was right about Patrick Cockburn and offered this column by Faisal J. Abbas.  I was 'right' about Cockburn -- he hates Sunnis -- mainly because Arabic social media has been on this story for years.  I started calling Cockburn out when a Sunni community member e-mailed.

To be clear, I did not 'discover' Cockburn's bias.  I did not lead the way on it.  We have noted it.  We have frequently been the only English language site to do so and that might be why someone's attempting to give me credit for it.


It's neither deserved nor earned.

Arabic social media caught on to Cockburn long ago.  They're the ones who raised the issue. So the credit goes to Arabic social media users and bloggers because they blazed the trail on that.  All I did was amplify their criticisms.  That's so minor it deserves no credit but applause for the Arabic social media community who refused to be silent in the face of Patrick Cockburn's bias against Sunnis.

Let's go back to today's Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.  Here, Ranking Member Richard Burr is speaking to Acting VA Secretary Sloan.

Ranking Member Richard Burr:  Mr. Sloan, I want to focus a few moments on data integrity and specifically at the VBA.  I want to give you a few examples of some testimony at the VA provided by the Office of the Inspector General and the General Accounting Office in a House hearing Monday night.  The Inspector General made this statement -- and I quote all of these, "We have concerns that VBA's goals are not realistic and [are] comprised by data integrity issues."  Quote: "We're receiving a number of complaints regarding mail mismanagement, manipulation of dates of claims and other data integrity issues in the Baltimore, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, Oakland and Houston VA regional offices.  And today we received an additional allegation regarding the Little Rock VA regional office.  We are concerned about how quickly the list of regional offices with allegations is growing."   Quote: "VBA removed all provisional rated claims from its pending inventory.  VBA's process misrepresented the actual work load of pending claims and its progress towards eliminating the overall claims backlog."  Quote: "An Office of Inspector General team sent to Philadelphia  regional office on June 19, 2014 determined that there were significant opportunities for regional offices to manipulate and input incorrect dates of claims in the electronic record, incorrect application of data claims compromises data integrity related to timeliness of claims processing."  Then there's this exchange that took place between Congressman [Gus] Bilirakis and the Assistant I[nspector] G[eneral] Linda Halliday.  Mr. Bilirakis said, "You remarked in your opening statement that VBA self-reported a decrease in the national backlog of more than 50% since March 2013.  Do you trust those numbers?" Ms. Halliday: "At this point, I would say 'no.'  I can't trust those numbers.  I think we have a lot of work ahead of us to address the allegations we've just received. They all seem to focus on data integrity and they need to be looked at very carefully so I don't want to say I trust them."  Near the end of the hearing, Congressman [Beto] O'Rourke asked Ms. Halliday, and I quote, "One of the things that you said in your opening comment that struck me was that some of the success may be compromised by data integrity issues.  Anything that Secretary [Allison] Hickey has said tonight that alleviates those concerns that you raised in your opening statement?"  Ms. Halliday simply responded, "No."

Monday night, the House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing.  We noted some of it in Tuesday's snapshot.  We're noting some of it today.  Grasp that what Ranking Member Burr noted of the hearing is important but that it's not even all of the important from that hearing.

Where is the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee?  Why aren't they doing a damn thing.  Not only was there the issues Burr pointed to, it was also true that the VA attempted to record agents of Congress as they questioned VA workers.  US House Rep Jeff Miller is the Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.  Monday's hearing included a panel of whistle-blowers.  It also included a panel of VA officials including the infamous and notorious liar Allison Hickey.

House Committee Chair Jeff Miller: [. . .] I instructed the Committee staff to make a visit to the Philadelphia regional office on the second of July, 2014.  As of the 20th of June, specific concerns that we've heard some tonight had been raised on the management or more accurately mismanagement of that office.  And I did want our staff to spend a day on the ground to perform a technical review of some of the various files, view the office and meet with some of the individuals who work there.  This is a customary thing for our staff to do.  So let me run through what occurred on this unannounced visit. My staff alerted the office of Congressional Legislative Affairs of their imminent arrival at approximately nine o'clock in the morning and about 20 minutes later they arrive and are greeted by an employee of the regional office and they were accompanied to a conference room on the fourth floor.  Within moments of arrival, while waiting for the acting director of the regional office, one of my staff went to the restroom on the fourth floor and there was another individual who was in the restroom who had set a yellow notepad not far from the sink and when my staff member and when my staff member went by the sink, they noticed there was writing at the top of the page that was circled.  In fact, we've got a copy of it, I'd like to go ahead and post it if we can so everyone can see it.  Members you have a copy of this, it's the yellow legal pad.  And two names were circled at the top of the page.  Now these two employees were from the regional office and they both had acted as whistle-blowers to improper acts in the past.  Alright, my staff then looked at the remainder of the page and on it were written my staff members' names for information as their status for the Committee of Veterans Affairs.  And if you will notice about mid-way down, you'll see where the word "ignore" was followed by one of my staff member's names -- so you see the word "ignore" just, it looks like,  to the left of the pen.  But before I finish the timeline for the members' benefit, the person who exited the bathroom with the yellow notepad in hand was the acting director Lucy Filipov of the Philadelphia Regional Office and now the acting director had met with my staff later in the conference room and when requested who had provided notice of the visit, she stated she had not spoken with OCLA but instead had only spoken with Diana Rubins regarding the Congressional staff's arrival.  She then began the conference with two comments.  First, she said the Philadelphia regional office endeavors to do all  things with integrity and give proper benefits to veterans.  Second, she made a curious statement when taken in the context of Ms. Filipov's possession of the notepad with the name of two of our whistle-blowers at the top -- that were circled.  She said it's difficult to have employees or ex-employees who say we are not doing a good job.

Filipov then insisted that the Congressional staff would conduct any and all interviews in a third floor office.  Upon discovering the third floor office had microphones and recording devices, Miller's staff refused to use the office.

Chair Jeff Miller:  . . . You will not ignore this Committee anymore.  And  be on notice, you will not ignore our staff that is acting as this Committee's agents as well. The Committee has Constitutional oversight and I intend that it shall be carried out unhindered on behalf of the American public and on behalf of the nation's veterans.  If you look very carefully, if you put this note back up, there are some pretty derogatory comments that are on this.  [C.I. note: One Congressional staffer is called an "ass."]  Would anybody at the table like to comment about the comments that are written on this piece of paper?  Ms. Hickey, you're welcome to comment.

Allison Hickey:  Chairman, without question, without question, we respect the oversight of this Committee and your staff. What occurred on that day was not acceptable and not indicative of the normal ways in which Ms. Rubin might behave.  And I know that she has been on visits with your staff and even with members of this Committee before.  And I think if we reflect on those visits in the last year, you would say she did not repeat similar behaviors.  But I will not excuse it.  I have not excused it with her. And we -- And I will just tell you without question it is unacceptable and I offer on behalf of the Dept my sincere apologies to your staff who experienced it that day and my commitment that it will not happen again and that you will receive absolutely with open arms and full-leaning-in support anything that you need on any visit that you go on.

Allison Hickey is such a damn liar.

There's no nice way to put it.  And if you've endured her previous lying you not only understand why the American Legion called for her resignation in May, but you know she never stops lying.  She lies to Congress about numbers -- numbers they have before them and she lies about them.

She's said to be the 'brain' behind the con game (slap a  partial rating on a disability claim -- any rating at all, call the claim done even though it's going to be appealed because the appeals don't count towards the backlog).  She certainly was in charge of selling it to Congress.

She's just a liar.

Chair Miller noted Diane Rubin came to the Committee and lied that she wasn't involved in any of it.  Miller asks Hickey what she thinks of that and Hickey -- with a trembling voice -- insists that Rubin was there to make an honest apology.  No, there's nothing honest about it was someone else's fault.  Or someone else called the staff member an "ass."  Hickey admits, in the exchange, that Rubin did do that, called the staff member and an "ass" and much more.  But Hickey refuses to call Rubin a liar when asked about Rubin trying to pass that off, to the Committee, as someone else having said it, not her.

Chair Jeff Miller:  Ms. Rubens came to our Committee offices and when she did, she did not apologize for that.  What she said was, she had told the acting director to ignore what other people might be saying about my staff.  And you're telling me this person is still employed?  Even though she gave a directive to not tell an agent of this Committee what was happening at the regional office?

Allison Hickey:  Chairman Miller, I will say again without question, without question, we respect the oversight of every single one of you on this Committee and in these hallowed halls

I'm not interested in her damn lies.  She lies over and over.

She should have been fired long ago but she's part of the corruption and the lies of the VA and that she thought she would get away with lying yet again?

Chair Jeff Miller responded, "So I'll take that as a 'no' that Ms. Rubens did not lie, even though she did.  Again, your commitment is appreciated but it is not believed."  Nothing Hickey says is to be believed.

Ranking Member Richard Burr:  Under Secretary Hickey was the one that testified for the VA and despite her testimony -- which was refuted by the Inspector General  and the GAO -- the VA put out a press release the very next day entitled "VA Takes Action to Ensure Data Integrity of Disability Claims" in which the VA touts that it's reduced the backlog claims by 55%, has reduced the number of days it takes to process claims and has improved its accuracy rate to over 90%.  Now listen, you've said that you've got to gain the trust of the Committee, of the veterans, of the country and I think we agree with you.  Let me ask you, how smart was that press release? Did you sign off on that press release?  And how can numbers that are refuted by the people that are actually doing the investigation of VA facilities -- how can they refute the numbers and the next day VA come out with the same [false] numbers and tout them?

Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson: Senator, I think, as you've noted, trust is the foundation of everything we do and where there are questions about what -- about data integrity, I think we've got to bore into those very deeply.  There are a number of issues that have been raised there.  I could sit and go through and pick at an item or two but the fundamental issue remains that there is -- there are questions about whether or not we've got good  data integrity there.  And just as we are undertaking independent reviews in the VHA side, we'll undertake those in the VBA side.

Ranking Member Richard Burr:  Mr. Secretary, they've been under way.  Much of it initiated by members of this Committee with the Inspector General, with the General Accounting Office.  And you've acknowledged the shortcomings on the VHA side.  This is fresh, this is this week.  And still the press releases stresses that the VA will continue to post these performance data on their website.  How does publicizing suspect data increase the integrity and the trust -- 

Gibson interrupted and began sharing his personal backstory.  The name of this website is The Common Ills -- not The James Boswell.  So we'll leave it to someone else to tell the tale of Sloan Gibson.