Thursday, November 20, 2014

Arrow



From Sunday, that'sIsaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Men of NBC."

"Arrow" airs on The CW and may be airing with one less viewer.

I'm sick of this season which is all tease and no movement.

I thought we were finally done with the flashbacks, nope.

And the present is so boring.

SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO boring.

We all know Laurel is going to be Black Canary.  Leap forwards a few months in the timeline and make it happen.

And don't give me any crap about, "Well in the comic books . . ."

In the comic books, Speedy (that would be Roy) was a drug addict.

In the comic books, Speedy didn't have super powers.

We can make Roy into a hero overnight but we can't do that with Laurel?

Especially when this show desperately needs strong female characters.

Next week is a cross-over.

We'll get Arrow and Flash bumping crotches.

It looks like they're angry lovers.

Like when Buffy would confront Angel on his show.

I'm so not interested in that.

I think I may just drop both "Arrow" and "Flash."

This is crap TV.

They're unable to make an adult show and "Arrow" is de-volving not evolving.

This is like a daily soap opera.

Remember how they'd dole out about one episode's action over an entire 5 episode week?

That's what "Arrow" has become.  Nothing happens.


Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

 
Wednesday, November 19, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, the US Democratic Party in the House yet again spits on a veteran, despite objections from veterans groups Nancy Pelosi moves to make Corrine Brown Ranking Member on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, this is how The Nancy Pelosi story begins its final chapter, as it does she's called out by Jon Stewart,  US senators explore the suicide rate among veterans, and much more.




Senator Bernie Sanders declared this morning, ". . . it's a very difficult hearing because what we are going to be touching on today is what happens to the men and women who come home from war, who have served us with great courage and what happens to them when they return to civilian life."

He is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and they were talking about issues like military suicide.

But let's use Sanders' words as a starting point -- and let's note that Senate Democrats actually do work to improve the lives of veterans.  The same cannot be said for the Democratic leadership in the House.

How bad are things there?

Last week, US House Rep Nancy Pelosi was in the news for denying US House Rep Tammy Duckworth the right to vote by proxy on party positions in the House:



Tammy Duckworth is not only a member of Congress, she's also a veteran of the Iraq War.  Nancy Pelosi chose to 'honor' veterans this week by announcing that a veteran who lost both legs in combat would not be allowed to vote by proxy on the issue of who would hold what office -- for example, who would be the next Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Duckworth is at home in Illinois.  Why doesn't she just fly to DC?
CBS News notes Duckworth "was told by doctor that it was unsafe for her to fly at this stage in her pregnancy."



Last night on Comedy Central Jon Stewart was rightly mocking the disgraceful US House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in a segment of The Daily Show entitled "Petty Woman" which ended with Jon observing, "And that's how the precedent was set that a woman leader can be every bit as craven as her political male counterparts.  Let me say this, You go, girl.  Seriously, you should go."






Erik Wemple (Washington Post) explains:

His takedown of Pelosi’s denial of a pregnant woman’s vote in House Democratic elections proceeds in merciless fashion. Availing himself of Pelosi’s trail of accomplishments over the years, he documented how she has established herself on key issues that bear on the Duckworth situation. For instance: The National Partnership for Women and Families, noted Stewart, celebrated Pelosi’s advocacy for “working women.” Also highlighted by Stewart: Pelosi said at an event for the Voting Rights Act, “The right to vote must be the cornerstone of our democracy.”
Stewart: “You’re a recognized champion of working women and voting rights.”
From there, the rip was easy: “You rejected, you’re suppressing the vote of a minority pregnant woman who is a wounded war veteran. She is everything you supposedly stand for stuffed into one individual. She is a Democratic demographic tur-Duckworth,” said the host.

Jaime Fuller (Washington Post) notes:

She denied Rep. Tammy Duckworth's request to cast a proxy vote in the Democratic leadership elections. Duckworth was advised by her doctor not to fly to Washington in her eighth month of pregnancy. Duckworth (D-Ill.) also is a double-amputee Iraq War veteran, or, as Stewart put it, a Democratic demographic Turduckworth. The reason for denying the proxy vote? Pelosi said it would set a precedent ... and Duckworth happened to be supporting someone other than Pelosi's chosen candidate for a committee position.


Poor Nancy, it's week two and it's not going away.

Even worse for Nance, it's now her.

This is her to America.

It's as though she tripped at a party and knocked a table over and now every time she waivers a little when she walks, people will giggle.

It's the New Nancy.  Somewhere lower on the evolution scale than Billy Carter or Dan Quayle.

Not a good position to be in when over a third of Democratic members of the House want you gone.

Not a good position to be in when Dems are gearing up for the 2016 elections and can't afford to have a leader be a laughingstock.

And now she has an image as a person who trashes veterans.

Senator Sanders today puzzled about "what happens to the men and women who come home from war, who have served us with great courage and what happens to them when they return to civilian life."

What does happen to them?

Last week, Nancy Pelosi made clear that they will not receive fair treatment, that the work environment will not change to meet their medical needs.

Today, she demonstrated something else:  Their experience means nothing.

Maybe you know of Senator Patty Murray's work on veterans employment?  The Hire A Hero campaign and other programs she's steered and implemented.

Murray and others have worked very hard to stress that veterans have important skills they can offer employers.  In the House, US House Rep Gerry Connolly has stressed the skills veterans have and the need for these skills to be translated into the civilian workforce.

Nancy Pelosi doesn't believe veterans have any skills or insight.

Which is why she used an arcane rule to force US House Rep Tim Walz out of seeking the Ranking Member post on the House Veterans Affairs Committee in favor of Pelosi pet Corrine Brown.

Native-born Corrine Brown struggles with the English language, attacks veterans in hearings (when she shows up for the Veterans Affairs Committee hearings), attacks witnesses, attacks the Office of the Inspector General and so much more.

This is not a new development.

Dona moderated a "Congress and Veterans" roundtable May 13, 2012 about a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing the previous week that we had covered in the community:

Kat, Wally, Ava and C.I. attended the hearing.   Kat reported on it with  "Congress Member Gone Wild" and C.I. reported on it with "Iraq snapshot," "Iraq snapshot," "Congress is supposed to provide oversight"  and "Iraq snapshot." 


From the roundtable:

Dona: Thank you, Kat.  That perfectly set up a point I wanted to get to with Ava.  Kat and C.I. reported on US House Rep. Corrine Brown.  Ava, what was your take?

Ava: Brown's an embarrassment.  I can't believe the crap she pulled.  She didn't give a damn about the veterans and made excuses for the VA and lied and misled.  She's an embarrassment, I hope to hell her sorry ass is voted out of Congress.

Dona: She attacked a witness, what was that about?

Ava: Another reason her sorry ass needs to be pulled out of Congress.  The second panel was people who worked outside of the government including Dr. Nicole Sawyer who is a psychologist.  Corrine Brown wanted to show that her bad wigs weren't the trashiest things about her.  She went off on Dr. Sawyer because Chair Miller asked about the comments Shinskeki made.  Corrine Brown cut off the doctor started screaming her head and acting like a crazy woman when usually she just sounds like an uneducated one.

Dona: What set her off?

Ava: The reality was that Shinseki was being critiqued and she wasn't going to have that.  She lied and stated it wasn't fair for the doctor to critique Shinseki.  But, in the first round, when Shinseki was asked about Dr. Sawyer's written remarks, Shinseki offered a critique and Corrine Browne didn't say one damn word.

Dona:  Wally, your take?

Wally: The same as Ava's.  I'll pick up where she left off.  So Corrine Brown cuts off the witness who is answering Miller's questions --

Dona: Brown doesn't even have the floor.  She just barged in while the witness was speaking?

Wally: Correct.  And then after she has her rant, Jeff Miller, the Chair, sort of gives this look like, "Now that the crazy lady is done . . ."  He goes back to asking Dr. Sawyer a question.  Dr. Sawyer is sort of stunned and she replies to Miller's question, starts to, and tries to explain she wasn't trying to offend anyone when Brown cuts her off again and starts screaming her head off about how Miller needs to tell the witness to address her remarks to the Chair.  And it was just embarrassing.  I'm from Florida, Corrine Brown is the Congressional joke of our state.

Dona: So, let's --

Ava: Sorry.  It's not over, Dona.  Miller is attempting to calm down Crazy Corrine.  The hearing's at a complete standstill.  And the crazy woman is insulting Dr. Sawyer, stating she won't listen to Dr. Sawyer because Dr. Sawyer isn't a "doctor."  She calls the woman an "educator."  As an insult.  Miller notes that remark's not going to please educators and Brown doesn't care.  She was just so rude.  If you'd been in that hearing, you would have been shocked that a member of Congress would act the way she did.

Dona: Okay, thanks for that.  C.I., is this typical Corrine Brown?

C.I.: Since January 2009, it has been.  She makes excuses for the VA and rushes to excuse Eric Shinseki's many problems.  I remember an October 15, 2009 hearing on the VA's inability to get checks to veterans -- the GI Bill checks -- for the fall semester and how Corrine Brown was offering excuses for the VA in that hearing too.  That's just one example.  She's disgraced herself.  I have no use for her.

Dona: Kat, closing thoughts?

Kat: The hearing's not going to accomplish anything, the Committe's not going to, until everyone can agree that the veterans are the most important thing.  Corrine Brown was not serving veterans, she's usually not.  When a Republican is in office, there's the pretense that she's tough and will ask questions to protect the veterans.  But when a Democrat's in office, she reveals she's just a partisan and doesn't give a damn about veterans.



And that was 2012.  It's only gotten worse.

The Concerned Veterans of America issued the following open letter today:



Open Letter to Leader Pelosi Regarding Representative Corrine Brown

Dear Leader Pelosi,
I am writing you on behalf of Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) to ask that you reconsider your decision to support Representative Corrine Brown (D-FL) for the position of Ranking Member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC). Representative Brown in her public statements has consistently minimized and dismissed the deep cultural and structural problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) despite the overwhelming evidence that the VA is failing in its core mission to deliver health care and benefits to our nation’s veterans in a timely manner. Representative Brown even claimed at one point that there were no problems with the VA in Florida, in spite of the fact that the Gainesville VA Hospital that serves veterans in her district had some of the worst wait times in the nation. Clearly, Representative Brown is detached from the reality of delayed and denied health care that veterans around the country face, including many of those in her own congressional district.
Despite the recent VA scandal and comprehensive VA reform bill, hundreds of thousands of veterans are still waiting more than a month for healthcare appointments and hundreds of thousands more are waiting over a year for disability benefits. Additionally, the VA has been slow to fire and discipline employees who are found to have engaged in misconduct and has left in place senior leaders who helped create the toxic culture within the VA. It is therefore essential that the House VA Committee has a Ranking Member who is committed to working to reform and fix the VA and not someone like Representative Brown who is an apologist for the status quo.
CVA highly recommends that the House Democrat leadership considers appointing a reform-minded Democrat to serve as Ranking Member of the House VA Committee. Democrats like Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), Rep. David Scott (D-GA), and Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN) have all shown a willingness to question the status quo at the VA and support reforms that begin to address the structural and cultural issues within the VA. While CVA does not agree with them on everything, we consider these individuals far better candidates for the position of Ranking Member than Representative Brown and they should be taken into consideration when determining who will serve in leadership positions for the minority on the House VA committee.
For the health and well-being of our nation’s veterans, it is absolutely essential that Congress continue to hold the VA accountable for its misconduct and failures. Placing strong, reform-minded leaders on the House VA Committee is essential to accomplishing that mission.
Sincerely,
Pete Hegseth
CEO, Concerned Veterans for America
Army Veteran of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay  

Concerned Veterans for America is a non-partisan, non-profit, 501(c)(4) organization that advocates for policies that will preserve the freedom and liberty we and our families so proudly fought and sacrificed to defend.




Corrine's lousy behavior is known by few (her ethical problems have been covered only slightly better).  She's been helped by the fact that very few reporters attend these hearings and those who do often 'report' using the written statements submitted for the record.  They generally miss Corrine Brown's antics.

Veterans groups don't have that luxury.

And they know they can't trust her.

Which is why a number of them publicly backed Walz.  Jacqueline Klimas (Washington Times) notes,  "Mr. Walz’s bid for the ranking member’s post had the backing of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the National Guard Association of the United States, and the current ranking member, Rep. Michael Michaud, Maine Democrat.


Corrine Brown isn't qualified to work the counter at Jack In The Box, let alone to be the Ranking Member on the House Veterans Affairs Committee.


Again, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Bernie Sanders declared this morning, ". . . it's a very difficult hearing because what we are going to be touching on today is what happens to the men and women who come home from war, who have served us with great courage and what happens to them when they return to civilian life."

What does happen to them?

Too often, they don't get the jobs they deserve, the jobs they're experts at.

I don't believe veterans are asking for special treatment, they just want their skills to be recognized.  That's valid.  If you have a degree in something -- veteran or not -- and that goes to a job opening, you expect that degree to count for something.  If you have a work history in a certain field, you expect that to count for something if you're applying for a job in the same or a related field.

These are basic beliefs that most Americans support.

So let's be really clear that it's not just that Corrine Brown is unqualified, it's also that Tim Walz is qualified.

24.

That's the number of years he served in the Army National Guard.

24 years.

And that doesn't count for anything with Nancy Pelosi.

She didn't want him to have the job so the fact that he was more than qualified, had the background and was a veteran, didn't matter at all to her.

When the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives acts that way, it makes all the harder for veterans throughout America to get hired.


24 years of service and Nancy doesn't think he's qualified to be the Democratic head of the Committee.

If Democrats in Congress aren't going to hire veterans, they need to stop giving lip service pretending others need to.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Paul Rieckhoff Tweeted today:





Pressure does work.

Pressure should be placed on Pelosi.

Pressure already is being placed on her from Dems in Congress.


Nancy's made the whole party look like a hypocrite.

The good news is Nancy realizes she went too far.

She thinks a few good words about Walz will end it.

It won't.

But she's sent out spokespeople to assure everyone that Walz will be on the Committee and she values his work.

No, she doesn't.

If she valued his work -- or his experience -- she wouldn't have prevented him from running for the post.

If she valued veterans, she wouldn't be pushing Corrine Brown for the post.

Nancy is now the member of Congress who hates veterans.

She was desperately hanging on to her leadership role and now she's just ensured that these will be her last two years.

She's now harming the Democratic Party.  And high ranking members in both houses are saying she's going to have to go.

Congratulations, Nancy, you've managed to do what your foes have been unable to do.  She's destroyed herself.  She is now toxic in a way she never was before.  "San Francisco Democrat" doesn't terrify most Americans.  But about 30% would oppose her because of that label.

Now that she's established herself as the biggest Congressional obstacle for veterans, life's about to get a lot lonelier.

She is a text book study in how power corrupts.  The Nancy first elected to Congress, even the Nancy of 2002, would never have made the decision to deny Tammy Duckworth a proxy vote or to prevent Tim Walz from running to be the Ranking Member on the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

But that Nancy still had ethics.

By 2006, they were gone.  She spent the first years as House Majority Leader threatening US House Rep John Conyers, bullying him, to prevent him from exploring impeachment against Bully Boy Bush.

From there, it was a long slide into hypocrisy.

And when she had no ethics left, when she had nothing left to stand for, the only thing that mattered to her was holding onto power.

That desire, that corruption, is how The Nancy Pelosi Story ends.


From disgraceful to courageous . . .

Chair Bernie Sanders:  We have two very, very brave women who are with us.  And I cannot express to you my respect enough for their courage because both of these women -- Susan Selke Valerie Pallotta -- have experienced tragedies that are nightmarish for what they've gone through. But what they have chosen to do is to come forward and give us their best ideas in terms of how we can prevent the tragedies that they have experienced from happening to other families.  And we so much appreciate their courage and their willingness to come forward.


He was speaking at this morning's Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.


Susan Selke's son Clay Hunt and Valerie Pallotta's son Joshua Pallotta were not given the help they needed after they returned to the United States and both men felt there was no hope left and took their own lives.

Clay was deployed in both the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War and he suffered from Post Traumatic Stress.  We say PTS, not the other more popular term.  This is a condition developed in combat zones and under intense pressure which is in fact a coping skill -- a heightened awareness -- that becomes a hindrance in civilian life if treatment or coping methods are not introduced to assist the veteran in recognizing and handling moments which trigger this learned condition.  You can see it as a super power that can be an aid and a benefit -- like Superman's X-ray vision.  But if Superman can't turn off the X-ray vision, then he needs assistance in learning how to.  The stigma needs to be removed from this condition to (a) let veterans know this is a condition, it's not a sickness, it's not a weakness and (b) to encourage them to explore treatments or methods to manage this condition or even skill.

Clay attempted to get assistance from the VA.  But even when he was finally rated 100% on PTS, his mother noted today, the VA just wanted to drug him, "He received counseling only as far as a brief discussion regarding whether the medication he was prescribed was working or not.  If it was not, he would be given a new medication. Clay used to say, 'I'm a guinea pig for drugs.  They'll put me on one thing, I'll have side effects, and then they put me on something else'."

And then Clay moved to a different state.  Which meant a new VA and suddenly a refusal to prescribe medication.  Though he moved in 2010, it would be March of 2011 when he "was finally able to see a psychiatrist."  That's the lengthy delay -- the one US House Rep Corrine Brown has denied and blamed on veterans -- in action.

"We cannot have someone call to get an appointment and be told that they can get one in five weeks when they have a problem," Senator Patty Murray stressed to the VA's Dr. Harold Kudler.

Senator John Boozman noted that 22 veterans a day commit suicide in the United States.  Clay Hunt  and Joshua Pallotta are examples of two veterans who did not receive the needed help and assistance they had been promised.

Valerie Pallotta explained two police officers came to her home at 3:37 a.m., September 23, 2014 and how she hoped they were there with the bad news that her son had been arrested but they were instead there to tell her that her son Joshua was dead.  The suicide has left her and her husband in a constant state of grief:

Our minds are at the funeral home, crying on our son's body as it lays cold.  We are kissing him and hugging him and trying to wake ourselves up from this awful, horrible nightmare.  Our minds are at the Veterans Cemetery in Randolph, Vermont -- the place our son was laid to rest, a place we haven't yet been able to visit.  Our minds are in Afghanistan wishing we could have been there to protect him, to shelter him from the pain he endured for years 
.
The two women made up the second panel.  The first panel was the VA's Dr. Harold Kudler (Chief Consultant for Mental Health Service), Dr. Caitlin Thompson (Deputy Director, Suicide Prevention) and Dr. Dean Krahn (Deputy Director in the Office of Mental Health Operations).  We'll note this exchange from the first panel.


Senator Patty Murray: I wanted to ask you, we are seeing the suicide rate of middle-aged veterans who use the VA decrease -- you mentioned that.  But [the suicide rate for] female veterans who use the VA has increased by 31%.  What is happening?

Caitlin Thompson: Yeah, thank you so much for asking that, Senator. We are as concerned as you are and trying to better understand that, why that is.  Why the rates of -- rates of suicide among women are increasing as well as that youngest male population.  One thing that I just also want to say is that we also know that veterans use firearms more than non-veterans during -- when they are feeling suicidal.  And we know that women veterans are using firearms at an increased rate than non -- than non-women veterans.  And we know that, uhm, firearms in fact -- If you use a firearm when you're suicidal, there's a 90% chance that you will die.  If you use prescriptions, medications, which is what most women non-veterans tend to use, there's a 3 to 4% chance that you will die because there's that opportunity to reach them before they die --

Senator Patty Murray:  I --

Caitlin Thompson (Con't): -- and so -- I'm sorry, go ahead.

Senator Patty Murray:  I appreciate that response but I think we also have to look at if the VA is meeting women's specific needs --

Caitlin Thompson: Absolutely.

Senator Patty Murray (Con't):  -- and why are they increasing dramatically?  Are the programs not effective? Are they not feeling that they should ask about it?  Is it something else?  This is really concerning to me and it's something I'll be following very closely as well. 


The suicide rate of women veterans has gotten a bit of attention from the press, not that much.  (Probably homeless women veterans are the only group of women veterans that the press has focused serious attention on.)


We're not done with this hearing.

We will cover it tomorrow (hopefully) and Friday (for sure).  But the whole point of covering these hearings is holding them accountable -- the VA officials, the Congress, etc.  And we have followed US House Rep Corrine Brown's repugnant behavior for years now so we do need to weigh in -- and do so at length -- when she is on the verge of being named Ranking Member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

Equally true, I think people should hold their own accountable.  We mock the (former) Australian blogger who blogged daily trashing Bully Boy Bush but never could blog about Australia's Prime Minister John Howard who also sent troops into Iraq.  Nancy Pelosi is my Congressional rep.  It's my duty to hold her accountable.

Back to today's hearing,  Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Finance Committee and the former Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Her office issued the following today:




FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                      CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Wednesday, November 19, 2014                                                        (202) 224-2834
VETERANS—MENTAL HEALTH: Murray Concerned That VA and Local Communities Unprepared to Help Veterans in Crisis
 
 
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, attended a hearing to examine mental health and suicide among veterans. According to recent data, suicide rates have continued to increase among female veterans who use VA care and among male veterans ages 18-24 who use VA, the rate has skyrocketed to 79 per 100,000.
“There is no issue as pressing as providing quality, timely mental health care and suicide prevention programs to our nation’s heroes. The problem is familiar to all of us, but the solutions still seem elusive,” Senator Murray said at the hearing. “Just one suicide, just one veteran in crisis, or just one family struggling to make it through is just one too much.”
 
Senator Murray’s full remarks as prepared:
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing today. There is no issue as pressing as providing quality, timely mental health care and suicide prevention programs to our nation’s heroes. The problem is familiar to all of us, but the solutions still seem elusive.
 
“Twenty-two veterans per day die by suicide. Rates have continued to increase among female veterans who use VA care. Among male veterans age 18 to 24 who use VA, the rate has skyrocketed to 79 per 100,000. And finally, according to VA’s access data, wait times for new mental health patients are virtually unchanged -- at 36 days -- over the five months that VA has provided this data.
 
“Mr. Chairman, I am very concerned about whether VA and local communities are prepared with the resources, policies, and training to help veterans in serious crisis. When our men and women in uniform have the courage to come forward and ask for help, VA must be there with not only high quality and timely care, but also the right type of care to best meet the veteran’s needs. We must demand progress on each of these areas.
 
“Mr. Chairman, a few months ago we passed a VA reform bill to help veterans get into care.  It included a temporary authority to improve access to community providers for veterans having trouble accessing VA care.  However, a recent report by the RAND Corporation raises serious concerns about whether private sector providers are ready to give high quality care to veterans. It suggests we need to do more to expand use of evidence-based treatments - and much more to help providers understand the unique needs and culture of servicemembers and veterans. The reform bill also included critically needed funds to build and strengthen the VA for the long-term. 
 
“But there will be more needs going forward. VA must start planning and requesting the necessary resources now, so it will be prepared to meet the growing demand for mental health care far into the future. There is clearly much, much more work to be done. 
 
“Just one suicide, just one veteran in crisis, or just one family struggling to make it through is just one too much. So I want to take a moment to thank Mrs. Selke, Mrs. Pallotta and Mr. and Mrs. Vanata for being here today. It’s incredibly difficult to talk about these issues. We admire your courage and your strength for being willing to share your stories with us.
 
“Thank you, and your family, for your service and sacrifice to our nation.
 
“Mr. Chairman, I hope as we head into a new Congress that stories like theirs will continue to be told as we work together to fulfill the promises we have made to those who have served. Thank you.”
###
---
Meghan Roh
Press Secretary
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Mobile: (202) 365-1235
Office: (202) 224-2834



In Iraq, the Kurds should have learned a hard lesson today.  I don't think their leadership did.  We'll cover it tomorrow.

Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) reports, "A rare bombing took place in the Kurdistan capital of Arbil today. Islamic State militants are suspected to be behind it. At least 114 people were killed there and elsewhere. Another 53 were wounded."















Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Flash -- on a fast course to snooze ville

I so wanted to love "The Flash."

But every episode seems to push me further towards hate.

Dr. Welles.

He may, clues were dropped -- or at least questions have been asked, have killed Barry The Flash's mother.

I think something like that happened.

Dr. Welles is not someone who you see as a vanilla character.

He clearly has a past and it includes dark details.

So that part at least was interesting even though you know, if he did kill Barry's mother, we're not going to learn that until right before the season finale.

Otherwise.

Yawn.

Even the new villian was boring.

Since the show is so campy, I keep waiting for them to do like the old "Batman" TV show and start casting name guest stars.

But I guess their budget won't allow it.

So why not go with former stars who've fallen in their careers and would do guest spots?

That might at least provide some spark or life to this so-dead-it-hurts TV show.




Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"


 
Tuesday, November 18, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Tony Blair gets cheat sheets from the Iraq Inquiry, the bombing of Falluja's residential neighborhood continues, the persecution of Iraqi Christians continue, and much more.



Shocking news out of England where the  Iraq Inquiry appears to have come to some conclusions (finally).  The Inquiry kicked off with Chair John Chilcot declaring:


This is an Inquiry by a committee of Privy Counsellors.  It will consider the period from the summer of 2001 to the end of July 2009, embracing the run-up to the conflict in Iraq, the military action and its aftermath.  We will therefore be considering the UK's involvement in Iraq, including the way decisions were made and actions taken, to establish, as accurately as possible, what happened and to identify the lessons that can be learned. Those lessons will help ensure that, if we face similar situations in future, the government of the day is best equipped to respond to those situations in the most effective manner in the best interests of the country.

The Inquiry held public hearings starting in November 2009 and concluding in February 2011.

That was nearly four years ago and still people wait for the Inquiry to issue its findings.


Well . . .

It turns out only some people wait.

Some people already know the findings.

RT reports:

Letters containing in-depth conclusions of a public inquiry into Britain’s 2003 Iraq War have been dispatched to the probe’s primary participants. Critics charge that the brutal eight-year war divided Britain and blackened Tony Blair’s legacy.
Under UK law, any individual that faces criticism in a public inquiry must be issued with an official letter warning them of allegations in its findings. They are subsequently then permitted to rebut and counter unsavory or unsatisfactory findings. 


The Daily Mail adds:

In May [UK Prime Minister] David Cameron said he expected the report to be published ‘before the end of the year’.
He added: ‘The public wants to see the answers of the inquiry and I think we shouldn’t have to wait too much longer.’
But just four weeks of the Parliamentary term remain – making it unlikely that it will be published before MPs recess for Christmas.

The big fear politically about the report has been Labour's fear that anchor around the neck Tony Blair will sink them all, that the report -- even if it's a whitewash -- has to hold the War Criminal accountable for his actions and words.

If the report doesn't come out by the end of the year, however, Labour could score points by painting Cameron (of the Conservative Party) as an obstructionist refusing to allow the British people to know the truth.

Space has already been created between the current Labour leadership and disgraced War Criminal Tony Blair.  Demanding the release of the report and painting the Conservative Party as a barrier to the report's release could actually help Labour improve their numbers in Parliament.

As for the discarded Tony Blair?


Dominic Grover (IBT) notes:

Blair continues to be a deeply divisive figure in Britain, due to his decision to back George W Bush campaign to topple Saddam and the controversial "sexed up" dossier, which critics claim mis-sold the need for war to the British people.
France's foreign minister recently said Blair was "not best placed" to issue advice on the Middle East, in light of his track record.
There have even been alleged threats to his life, with terror suspect Erol Incedal accused of plotting an attack on him.
To cap it all, Mayor of London Boris Johnson has chosen to compare the three-time New Labour leader to tyrant Adolf Hitler in a new book.



Despite that, War Criminal Tony feels the world needs to listen to him on Iraq.  The criminal doesn't want to confess, please understand, he just laughably believes he has expertise and wisdom to share.


He has nothing to share.

Blair fancies himself a Christian yet he's never taken accountability for how the Iraq War has destroyed the Christian communities in Iraq.









  • He may not want it but it may beyond his control.

    Some people have a hard time giving up control -- even those who consider themselves servants of a God or god.  John Bingham (Telegraph of London) presents the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby explaining that, "I think there is an answer that says we need to do more where there is really no choice but we also need to be deeply committed to enabling solutions to be found enabling communities that have been there for 2,000 years to remain there."

    If Welby's so worried that Christians may vanish, he can always pack a suitcase and go live there.

    The notion that Christian refugees should not be granted asylum outside the region?


    I'm sorry, would you also go back in time and argue that Jews in Germany and surrounding areas not be granted asylum to safety because Jews might vanish from the region?

    Because it sounds sort of like you would.

    Too much time by 'caring' people has already been wasted with faux concerns about how refugees are vanishing from the region when the reality is that refugees want to leave and find safety.  I don't know how this is confusing and I don't believe that this or that religious leader is honestly puzzled.

    I think people are actively looking to look the other way just as they did during the Holocaust.

    The Yazidis swooped in on the wave of outrage the targeting of Christians had created.  I am not accusing the Yazidis of anything.  I am saying that outrage was building and certain members of Congress were calling out the treatment of the Chaldeans which the US press was ignoring and then the religious minority (Yazidis) were trapped on Mount Sinjar and the press glommed on it.

    It was an important story.  (The fact that Yazidis remain trapped on Mount Sinjar is an important story -- even if the US press can't find it.)  But somewhere along the way, the press -- the US press -- completely missed what was happening to Iraq's Christian community in the last months.







    Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) reports, "At least 91 people were killed today, mostly militants, and another 24 people were wounded."  In addition, Iraqi Spring MC reports the bombing of Falluja's residential neighborhood by the Iraqi military continues -- despite Prime Minister Haider al-Baidi promising September 13th that these War Crimes would end.  Today, 3 civilians were injured in these bombings.


    Moving over to food, Justin Worland (Time magazine) reports, "Iraq’s agriculture minister on Tuesday accused the extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) of pilfering more than 1.1 million tons of grain from the country’s northern region and delivering it to militant-controlled cities in Syria."  That news comes as US House Rep Rick Crawford's office issues the following:


    Washington, Nov 18 | Mitchell Nail




    In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. Congressman Rick Crawford (AR-1) and U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) today urged protecting American rice producers against unfair business practices in Iraq.

    In early November, the Iraqi Grain Board (IGB) paid $1.4 million more to buy rice from Brazil and Uruguay rather than accept the competitive, lower bid by U.S. rice.

    “Given the considerable investment of resources by the American taxpayer in Iraq, it is critical that the United States be on ‘equal footing’ with its foreign competitors when it comes to the ability to win bids issued by the IGB. Simply deciding to pick winners and losers in bids for Iraqi rice tenders based on arbitrary reasons is not only unfair, it deprives rice farmers in Arkansas — a leader in rice production — and across America of a vital trading partnership with Iraq,” the members wrote.

    A tender to buy 30,000 metric tons of rice closed on Sunday, November 16th. Winning bids are expected to be announced later this week.

    To read the letter in its entirety, click here.     


    We'll close with this from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America:


    WHAT: Coming off Veterans Day 2014 and a week when politicians and lawmakers touted their support for the veterans community, IAVA urges members of Congress to now step up and take action to pass the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Bill of 2014. The bill, dropped Monday, was introduced by Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Ala.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).
    IAVA Legislative Director Alex Nicholson and Susan Selke, mother of Clay Hunt, a Marine veteran who died by suicide, will be available for press ahead of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (SVAC) hearing on Mental Health and Suicide Among Veterans at 10 a.m. outside the hearing room in the Russell Senate Office Building SR-418.
    Susan Selke will then testify before SVAC at 10:30 a.m.

    WHO: Alex Nicholson, IAVA Legislative Director and Susan Selke, mother of Clay Hunt, Marine veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and died by suicide in 2011

    WHEN: Wednesday, November 19, 2014 at 10 a.m.

    WHERE: Outside Hearing Room- Russell Senate Office Building SR-418

    Note to media: Email press@iava.org or call 212-982-9699 to speak with IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff or IAVA leadership.

    Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is the nation's first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has nearly 300,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. Celebrating its 10th year anniversary, IAVA recently received the highest rating - four-stars - from Charity Navigator, America's largest charity evaluator.
















    Monday, November 17, 2014

    Bye-bye Hot In Cleveland

    TV Land is axing "Hot In Cleveland."


    Don't know how you feel about that but I think it's hugely stupid.

    First off, it is the signature show for the network.

    And it's not like it's one of many hits.

    It's the network's only hit.

    Second, the series just went into syndication a month or so ago.

    Syndication usually means a bigger audience for new episodes.

    Third, the show had plenty of life in it.

    Fourth, the show runner had said earlier, a few weeks back, that she hoped it ran eight seasons.

    Instead, it will just be six.

    I really think this is a huge mistake.

    The cast is lovable and talented.

    The show was a surprise hit that people wrote off until it aired.

    There's no show they have that can replace it.

    (And stupidly, they tried to do a single camera show.)




    Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

     
    Monday, November 17, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, a WBUR employee decides to insult the Iraqi people as well as US service members as he badly rewrites history, there's still no move towards inclusion on the part of Iraq's new government, yet the State Dept's decided to fork over millions more US taxpayer dollars to Iraq, and much more.



    In Friday's snapshot we noted US House Rep Tammy Duckworth was being denied the right to vote by proxy on Democratic leadership posts in the House of Representatives:



    Tammy Duckworth is not only a member of Congress, she's also a veteran of the Iraq War.  Nancy Pelosi chose to 'honor' veterans this week by announcing that a veteran who lost both legs in combat would not be allowed to vote by proxy on the issue of who would hold what office -- for example, who would be the next Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
    Duckworth is at home in Illinois.  Why doesn't she just fly to DC?
    CBS News notes Duckworth "was told by doctor that it was unsafe for her to fly at this stage in her pregnancy."


    Amanda Marcotte (Slate) notes today:

    This is a sticky situation. Though the principle of fairness in doling out exceptions is compelling, as Nia-Malika Henderson of the Washington Post points out, Democrats "have framed themselves as the party of working women" and this "does put them in an awkward position," particularly as the Supreme Court will soon be hearing a case over whether or not UPS should have given one of its pregnant employees a temporary accommodation, moving her to light work duty during her pregnancy. Making matters worse, the denial of Duckworth's request might be political. Duckworth supports putting Rep. Frank Pallone on the Energy and Commerce Committee, but Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who objected to Duckworth's request, is campaigning for Rep. Anna Eshoo to get the job instead.

    Let's turn to the topic of Iraq.  Alex Kingsbury usually broadcasts his stupidity on WBUR but today brought it to the Boston Globe:


    The goals of the Iraq surge were spelled out explicitly by the White House in Jan. 2007: Stop the raging sectarian bloodletting and reconcile Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds in the government. “A successful strategy for Iraq goes beyond military operations,” then-President George W. Bush said.
    To believe in the myth of the surge is to absolve Iraqis of their responsibility to resolve their differences. It gives the US government an unrealistic sense of its own capabilities. And it ignores the roots of the conflict now stretching from Damascus to Baghdad.


    I've never like little bitches in my life and Alex Kingsbury is nothing but a little bitch.

    Jaw-dropping?

    That would be American asses who blame the Iraqi people.

    I'm sorry that Kingsbury thinks it's acceptable to rewrite history and blame the Iraqi people.

    First, the 'surge.'  He condescendingly says later in the piece that the lie of a success of the 'surge' lets veterans fool themselves but we need to be honest.

    Let's get honest.

    The 'surge' had two parts.  There was what the US military was tasked with.  There was what the Iraqi government was tasked with.

    People who served in Iraq as part of the US military surge are not fooling themselves or lying to themselves.  They did the job they were tasked to do.

    They did it very well.

    I was -- and remain -- opposed to the 'surge.'  That doesn't mean I have to lie about it.  I'm not an unethical whore -- would that Kingsbury could make the same claim.

    The US military did what it was supposed.

    This does matter.

    It's not academic.

    It matters right now with what's going on and if Kingsbury can't be honest about it, he's not just a dirty whore, he's a dirty whore doing tremendous damage.

    Currently US President Barack is doing a 'surge' in bombing campaigns from the air.  These bombings are killing people -- and not just terrorists -- and they're destroying the country.

    But Barack's justification is that these military efforts are supposed to take on and/or distract the Islamic State allowing the Iraqi government to work towards a political solution.  Barack spent the summer insisting a political solution was the only answer.

    Are you getting why it matters yet?

    I don't doubt for one moment that the US military is capable of carrying out every order they're given.

    They did it during Bully Boy Bush's 'surge' and they're doing it during Barack's 'surge.

    The Iraqi part of the 'surge' did not work under Bully Boy Bush and it doesn't appear to be working under Barack.  Under Barack, a ton of time and attention is being focused on the military aspect and meeting with 30 defense ministers here and there and sending the State Dept's Brett McGurk to meet with defense officials in Jordan and other countries.

    But Brett's State Dept and he -- and other State Dept officials -- should be working on the ground, as diplomats, to attempt to help Iraqi politicians come together and arrive at a political solution.

    There's a degree of blame that can be placed on Bully Boy Bush re the Iraqi part of the surge.

    In 2006, the White House opposed Ibrahim al-Jaffari getting a second term.  He was the choice of the Iraqi Parliament.  But the White House had a number of reasons for which to oppose al-Jaffari (were any of them good? that's another discussion but I'd say overall: No, none of them were good reasons).  The White House insisted upon Nouri al-Maliki.   US officials went to him, prepped him for it and then insisted he be named prime minister.

    2007 is when Nouri agrees to the benchmarks to continue funding -- US tax dollars -- pour into Iraq.

    These benchmarks should have been accomplished before the start of 2008.

    The White House was afraid the Congress might cut off funding and they proposed the benchmarks to measure success.  These were not complex benchmarks.

    But Nouri couldn't pull it off in 2007.

    So the White House (and a whorish press) sought to act as if a law not being passed didn't signify failure if a law had been proposed (but never voted on or voted down).  So there was 'partial' grading by sad little outlets like McClatchy Newspapers.

    In 2008, Nouri couldn't pull off the benchmarks.

    Barack becomes president in January 2009 (he's sworn in) and throughout 2009 Nouri's still unable to get the benchmarks passed -- back in 2007, he agreed he would get them passed. He failed.

    In 2010, still not passed.

    He failed.

    And, in 2010 -- pay attention, this is one main reason we don't blame the Iraqi people -- the country had parliamentary elections.

    Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya bested incumbent Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law.  This was amazing.  You could refer to Deborah Amos report and study of the 2010 elections -- we've noted that repeatedly, we've quoted from it repeatedly.  It documents, among other things, how Nouri manipulated the Iraqi military.

    The most important thing about those elections was what it said about the Iraqi people.

    In the 2009 provincial elections, you could see in the votes a move towards a national identity.

    With more voters rejecting Nouri's sectarian ways and embracing the inclusive Iraqiya, the 2010 vote was so important.

    And it wasn't a tiny victory, it was a huge victory for the Iraqi people.

    But Barack Obama decided to stick with Nouri.

    He had US officials broker The Erbil Agreement, a legal contract that went around the Iraqi Constitution and, most importantly, the will of the Iraqi people and gave Nouri a second term.

    Don't you dare blame the Iraqi people for what happened from 2010 to 2014 when they went to the polls and voted for change but Barack Obama decided they'd get a second term of Nouri instead.

    That's not minor.

    And that's not on them.

    So stop insulting the Iraqi people.

    And stop insulting the Iraqi politicians for that time period as well.

    The Erbil Agreement?  A legal contract that political leaders signed off on only after Nouri refused to step down for 8 months following the elction (he had the support of the US government).  They agreed because they wanted the government to move forward (it was at a standstill).  But that contract said, "We give Nouri a second term, we get . . ."  And each political bloc had wants and needs.

    But Nouri used it to get his second term and then refused to honor The Erbil Agreement.

    He took what he wanted, a second term, but refused to honor the promises he made.

    By the summer of 2011, he was being called out for refusing to implement the contract -- called out by the Kurds, by Iraqiya and by Shi'ite cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr.

    By April 2012, they were tired of waiting, they were tired of asking.  With Shi'ite leader (of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq) Ammar al-Hakim and many others, they met and discussed a vote in Parliament of no-confidence.  They gathered signatures on a petition -- per the Iraqi Constitution.  They were then to hand it over to the President of Iraq who would officially present it to the Parliament.

    Throughout the gathering of signatures, Moqtada repeatedly stated Nouri could end the process at any point by implementing The Erbil Agreement.

    During all of this the US government played dumb.  Pretended they didn't broker The Erbil Agreement, pretended they didn't swear this was a legal binding contract with the full backing of the White House, pretended Barack didn't personally call Ayad Allawi after Allawi walked out of Parliament in November 2010 when he (rightly) suspected Nouri was never going to implement The Erbil Agreement.

    Now things got even worse.

    US Vice President Joe Biden used all his persuasion and pressure on Jalal Talabani, President of Iraq, to get the vote killed.

    Jalal announced that some people who signed now said they wouldn't sign if the petition was circulated now.

    That's not how it works.  You don't get to retract your signature.  You're not forced to vote no-confidence because you signed the petition, but you're not able to remove your name.

    Nor was Jalal legally able to allow people to remove their names.  Nor was he supposed to 'vet' the signatures.

    He had a purely ceremonial role: Present it to Parliament.

    But Jalal did the White House's bidding.

    He immediately then left Iraq, lying that he had a health emergency and needed immediate surgery.

    Turned out, he went to Germany for knee surgery -- elective surgery.

    Jalal's was karmically punished for his lie a year later when he suffered a stroke that would keep him in Germany and out of the country for nearly 18 months.

    Few things enrage me more than hearing someone say "those people just want to kill each other" or "they don't want peace."

    When have "those people" (Iraqis) been able to determine the outcome of their lives?

    First, the US government (under Bully Boy Bush) imposed Nouri al-Maliki -- a tyrant -- on them in 2006 and then the US government (under Barack Obama) demanded Nouri get a second term in 2010 -- this long after Ned Parker (then with the Los Angeles Times, now with Reuters) had documented Nouri's use of torture chambers and secret prisons.

    Don't blame the Iraqi people.  Don't even blame the Iraqi politicians since more than enough were willing to sign on for a no-confidence vote.

    "Those people"?  "Those people" responsible are Bully Boy Bush and Barack Obama.

    Don't trash the Iraqi people.

    You don't look smart.

    You don't look enlightened.

    You look like a small-minded idiot.

    Bully Boy Bush installed a tyrant and did so largely because the CIA profile of Nouri noted his paranoia and it was thought he could be easily manipulated as a result.  Four years later, Barack kept him because people like Samantha Power insisted that Nouri was providing stability (whatever he provided, it was via terrorizing the Iraqi people) and that the US troop drawdown could take place if Nouri got a second term.

    Never once, did either Bush or Barack make the needs, wants or desires of the Iraqi people the primary focus.

    So don't start blaming people who were victimized by the US government.


    And stop lying.

    This is a lie.


    What follows from the surge mythology is the idea that a few thousand residual US troops could have prevented Maliki from indulging in his worst sectarian impulses, or held off the ISIS rout. 

    It's a known lie to people who bothered to pay attention.

    When did Nouri send the military to surround the homes of Sunni politicians in Iraq?

    After the US drawdown was complete.

    Liz Sly, among others, reported on it.

    Where were you?

    Oh, that's right, thumb up your ass and eyes closed.

    US troops would absolutely have made a difference.

    Nouri held off until they left.

    And I say that as someone who believes -- even now -- all US troops should be out of Iraq.

    But my belief in all US forces out now is not going to lead me to lie or whore or pretend.

    I have integrity.

    If John McCain, US Senator, had won the 2008 presidential election, he might have tried keeping US forces in Iraq throughout his first term (and his second if he'd had one).  Based on his remarks, that is a possibility -- a strong one.

    And, yes, things would be calmer.

    And McCain spoke of a presence similar to what the US has in South Korea -- all these decades after the Korean War.


    I don't pretend to be an expert on Korea.

    But on Iraq?

    All my classes come to bear here as well as personal experience.

    Yes, US troops remaining in Iraq after the end of 2011 (in the thousands) would have led to less violence in Iraq.

    But that wouldn't have solved anything.

    Unless US troops were (or now "are") going to remain in Iraq for multiple decades to come to prop up the government.

    The reason for the violence is the Iraqi people don't have a buy-in with the Iraqi government.

    Most leaders were imposed by the US -- most were exiles who only returned after the US-led invasion.

    A puppet government that worked old grudges didn't prompt a buy-in.

    Barack has said a political solution is the only answer.

    He's 100% right on that.

    But he's not focusing US efforts on that.

    Like Bully Boy Bush, he's more interested in responding to violence with force.

    And the window of opportunity for change in Iraq continues to close.

    There are lessons to learn from the 'surge' of Bully Boy Bush, lessons that apply today.

    It's a damn shame that Alex Kingsbury can't find any.

    Maybe he spent too much time working on his insults of Iraqis and veterans?

    And one more thing, counter-insurgency didn't fail because of US service members, it failed for the reason it always fails -- it's war on a native people. In addition to everything else, it's trickery and deceit and there's nothing 'honorable' about that.


    Before we move to violence, let's get a laugh in.

    Today, US Secretary of State John Kerry declared that the Islamic State was neither "a state nor truly Islamic" -- did he follow it with "discuss"?  John Kerry as Mike Meyers' Linda Richmond.

    Let's move to today's violence.  The United Nations News Centre reports:

    A United Nations convoy of three vehicles proceeding from the Baghdad International Airport to the International Zone was hit with at least one explosion this morning, the Organization’s assistance mission in the country reported today.
    According to a statement from the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), no UN personnel were killed or injured in the incident and all proceeded safely back to the UN Compound. One of the vehicles sustained serious damage.
    “The unfortunate incident this morning will not deter the UN from continuing its work in support of Iraq and its people, who have lived with violence for too long,” UNAMI chief Nickolay Mladenov said.  


    Other violence in today's news cycle?  Al Arabiya News reports:

    Five members of an Iraqi family who refused to marry off their daughter to a fighter in the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have been executed by the militant group in a “horrific crime,” Iraq’s Human Rights Ministry said over the weekend.

    In a statement posted on its website Sunday, the ministry said ISIS militants executed the five family members – mother, father and three children – and then kidnapped the 14-year-old girl, taking her to an undisclosed location.



    In some of today's other violence?  NINA reports that the Islamic State hanged a police officer in the center of Falluja.

    Hanging him in the center of Falluja was intended to send a message.

    And this message comes at a time when the current Iraqi government, presided over by new Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi isn't working towards a political solution at all.  Reuters notes there is no genuine effort to bring the Sunni tribe leaders in -- the group that made up Sahwa (Awakenings, Sons of Iraq, Daughters of Iraq).  Reuters notes:


    Iraq's robust official spin machine has certainly suggested the Shi'ite-led government and even its militia allies who have few friends among the Sunni tribesmen, are swinging into action.
    But there are few real signs of momentum needed to bury sectarian differences and create a united force to counter IS in Anbar, which it has engulfed steadily throughout 2014 to the point where senior U.S. military officials last month described the situation there as fraught.

    Sabah Karhoot, provincial council chief of Anbar, home to the Albu Nimr, told Reuters there were still enough fighters to take on Islamic State but they needed effective weapons and ammunition from Baghdad.


    Where is the White House?

    What are they doing?

    The Sunni tribe leaders were supposed to have been brought in back in August.

    It still hasn't happened.


    The World Tribune reports, "The State Department has endorsed two Iraqi military requests from the United States as it struggles to recover territory lost to ISIL. Officials said the requests, which amount to nearly $700 million, would include air weapons as well as spare parts for artillery and trucks."

    That's called leverage.

    You don't hand it over.

    You don't agree to it.

    You say, "You want this?  You believe you need it?  Well we need to see movements towards a political solution.  Step one is you bring Sunnis into the process.  Let's see some tribe leaders brought in.  And why don't we revisit some of those issues that led Sunnis to protest non-stop for over a year -- despite being killed by Nouri's thugs."

    That's what you do.

    You don't hand over things and then say, "Okay, now I need you to do something for me."

    They're the ones wanting.  Extract concessions every step of the way.

    Back to the violence, Alsumaria reports that a roadside bombing outside Samarra left 2 police officers dead and two more injured,  a Saidiya roadside bombing left at least two people injured, an Aden roadside bombing left three people injured, two Baghdad car bombings left 5 people dead and twenty more injured, and Baghdad Operations Command announced that they rescued an 80-year-old man who had been kidnapped.

    On the issue of kidnapping, Mohammed Shafiq (Alsumaria) reports Speaker of Parliament Salem al-Jubouri called today for the government to devise an emergency action plan to deal with the issue of kidnapping.  al-Jubouri noted the terror the kidnappings have caused the Iraqi people and the vast amounts of money the kidnappers have been able to make.



     Thursday, Gen Martin Dempsey told Congress that he may suggest US troops be sent into on the ground combat in Iraq -- as "participants" and not "advisors."  Yesterday, Barbara Starr (CNN) reported Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is now floating increased numbers of US troops in Iraq as well.

    Hagel's not the only one singing that tired song.


    Sunday in Australia, Barack joined the chorus.  Tom Allerd (Sydney Morning Herald) quotes Barack stating, "Yes, there are always circumstances in which the United States might need to deploy US ground troop."  Though Barack stated he would not go into hypotheticals,Allard notes that Barack went on to note a hypothetical.  National Iraqi News Agency reports it this way:

    Obama said in his speech in the top twenty conference in Australia: "The United States is working to train Iraqis and may send combat troops if the terrorist organization getting strategic weapons[.]"


    As for Dempsey, NINA reports:


    Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said that "military force will not eliminate / IS / without an Iraqi national unity and the Iraqi government did not succeed in ending the division between / Sunni and Shiaa / in the country.

    He said in a press statement that "the US military helped the Iraqi forces and the Peshmerga in pulling Iraq away from the abyss and the battle with / IS/ begun to bear fruit against a group of dwarves adopting extremist ideology."

    Dempsey said, " building confidence requires time as well as the US mission that may continue years."



    A US mission that may continue [for] years.

    Years.



















    Saturday, November 15, 2014

    Dumb and Dumber To

    Yesterday, I saw the sequel to the 90s classic "Dumb and Dumber To."  Should you?

    Maybe.

    I found the film laugh out loud funny so comedy fans will enjoy it.

    Jim Carey is tremendous in the movie.

    And it's so great to see him in a funny movie again.

    His last hilarious film was "Me, Myself and Irene."

    Too many of his films before and after wanted to 'say something.'

    Usually something warm and cuddly.

    "Liar Liar" was too cutesy and also too much of a rip-off of Lily Tomlin and Steve Martin's "All of Me."

    But it was better than some of the other films of that era.

    The problem with "Dumb and Dumber To" is the same problem with the original but only more pronounced: Jeff Daniels.

    He is the worst actor in the world.

    I cannot, for example, watch "The Purple Rose of Cairo" without thinking what a great job Michael Keaton could have done with the role (had Woody Allen not fired him after filming began).

    Jeff Daniels is a paper doll in that movie -- thin and tired.  And that's him in everything (including "The Newsroom").


    He is an awful actor.

    In the first film, he was often the goofy straight man to Carey.

    Carey was on a manic high from the Ace Ventura films, "The Mask" and "Mad TV" and Daniels thought he was a 'serious' actor because he'd acted (badly) in films like "Terms of Endearment."

    But this go round, Daniels wants to be much more to the film and, in doing so, he nearly drags it under.

    Solo or with Daniels, Carey makes the film work but when we're left with Daniels' solo the film goes limp and soggy.

    I love Jim Carey so I really love this film.  But if you couldn't take Daniels in "Speed," you'd be wise to avoid this film.



    Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"


     
    Friday, November 14, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, the only person outside the Iraqi government working towards a political solution is Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the US sends another military officer into Iraq (while yet again ignoring diplomacy),  General Martin Dempsey's remarks about US troops possibly fighting on the ground in Iraq continues to garner attention, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi makes clear she's neither a friend to veterans or to women, and much more.



    The war on women never ends.  The latest attacking women include US House Rep Nancy Pelosi.


    Tammy Duckworth is not only a member of Congress, she's also a veteran of the Iraq War.  Nancy Pelosi chose to 'honor' veterans this week by announcing that a veteran who lost both legs in combat would not be allowed to vote by proxy on the issue of who would hold what office -- for example, who would be the next Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

    Duckworth is at home in Illinois.  Why doesn't she just fly to DC?

    CBS News notes Duckworth "was told by doctor that it was unsafe for her to fly at this stage in her pregnancy."


    Joining Pelosi in the war against women?  US House Rep Rosa DeLauro who feels that if you grant an exception for Duckworth, you might have to grant exceptions for everyone.

    Doesn't Rosa sound like a homophobe against marriage equality?  Is she afraid that granting Duckworth the right to vote by proxy will lead to people marrying goats?

    Who knows.

    What is known is that US Senator Patty Murray busted her rear to ensure that the Senate explored the issues effecting wounded veterans who try to start a family.

    What is known is that Nancy Pelosi and Rosa DeLauro  had other things to do.

    On her website, Rosa proclaims she "believes that as a nation we have an obligation to ensure that these brave men and women who serve our country, as well as their families, have access to the medical care they need" -- wait.  If a doctor's orders prevent Duckworth from flying to DC -- and they do prevent her from doing so -- how is Rosa maintaining her belief?

    Oh, that's right, she's not.

    Again, it was Senator Patty Murray that led on the issue of the needs of wounded veterans when it came to starting families or adding to their families.

    It wasn't Rosa or Nancy.  Those two?  They always seemed to have something 'more important' to do.
    .
    The choice -- or so-called choice -- Tammy Duckworth is being given is, if you want to vote, you'll have to put your pregnancy and your own health at risk.

    That is a war on women and Nancy and Rosa are leading it.

    Nancy doesn't give a damn about rules.  Remember Denver in 2008?  She stopped the delegate vote, remember?

    The vote on the Democratic head for the Energy and Commerce Commission is yet another battle between Nancy and Steny Hoyer who are each backing different candidates.  Nancy's taken to referring to Hoyer -- snidely -- as Martin Frost.  (In 2002, Nancy took on Frost and won.  She also worked hard to ensure that he was redistricted out of office in Texas' redistricting plan.  Nancy worked overtime to save certain House members but not Frost who she tossed to the wolves.)

    For Nancy (and her supporters) this pissing match justifies denying a pregnant woman a vote.

    She should be ashamed of herself.

    AP notes Tammy Duckworth has stated she will abide by the decision and that she thinks her colleagues for considering her request.  That was a classy move -- and again, it didn't come from Nancy.

    Nancy's tasteless and tacky move comes as Disabled American Veterans' Garry J. Augustine (Turlock Jounral) pens a column noting the mistreatment of America's women veterans:

    Based on currently available data, it is clear that our country isn't fully meeting the unique physical, emotional and employment needs of women veterans. When they return home, they receive less support than their male counterparts from government programs primarily designed for men.
    Today, nearly one in five women veterans has delayed or gone without necessary health care in the past year. One in 11 is unemployed. Former servicewomen experience homelessness at between two to four times the rate of their civilian counterparts.
    It's unacceptable that the women who honorably served our country-our mothers, spouses, sisters and daughters-are at risk. A new report released by my organization, Disabled American Veterans, finds that the federal, state, and community programs to support women transitioning out of military service have serious gaps that put some women veterans in jeopardy.



    We might suggest Congress could help with that but as Nancy Pelosi's made very clear, the needs of women veterans don't matter to her at all.

    Yesterday, the House heard from Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Martin Dempsey.  The main takeaway was Dempsey's reminding that US troops taking part in combat on the ground was not, in fact, off the table and a possible recommendation he might be making shortly.


    Dempsey's reminder was an issue raised in the US State Dept press briefing moderated by spokesperson Jen Psaki today.





    QUESTION: Can I stay on ISIS?


    MS. PSAKI: Sure.


    QUESTION: I wanted to ask about Chairman Dempsey’s comments yesterday that he can envision – I’m paraphrasing – that he can envision contingencies in which U.S. troops would accompany Iraqi troops. Is there a disconnect at all between the DOD’s desire to preserve options for the battle and the Administration’s stance that no ground troops will be sent at all to Iraq?


    MS. PSAKI: Well, Chairman Dempsey also made clear in his testimony that he has not made that recommendation. And he also stated that he does not see a scenario when it would be in our interest to take this fight on ourselves with a large military contingent. So it was obviously a large hearing, but he was consistent with our view, which is that yes, there are challenges on the ground; yes, there’s a need to continue to train and support and build up the Iraqi Security Forces; but obviously, the President will make any decision, and the chairman hasn’t even made a recommendation to him.


    QUESTION: Sure. And he was talking about the future, but he didn’t explicitly rule it out. And he did say that for example, the fight to retake Mosul could be a situation where the Iraqi army would have difficulty on their own, which might require some close support from the U.S. But do you not agree that that is any – that there’s any kind of gap there between what you and Josh Earnest have said?


    MS. PSAKI: If you look at the full context of his entire remarks, he also made clear that he doesn’t see a scenario where we would get more engaged with a larger military contingent. So yes, he was having a dialogue with members of Congress, and certainly, that’s part of what happens in any testimony, but the fact is the President makes the decision anyway. 

    The fact is Barack told the American people "no boots on the ground" and yet "boots on the ground" remains a possibility -- one discussed as Dempsey attempts to 'inform' Congress.


    As Justin Raimondo (Antiwar.com) observed:


    Whatever the President’s real views, we are sliding down the Iraqi slope pretty rapidly. Hardly a week goes by when we don’t hear of another few hundred GIs being quietly shipped to Iraq – "non-combat" troops, to be sure. Yes, they’re going over there to engage in some pretty dangerous and potentially lethal "non-combat" – and when they start getting killed in numbers high enough to notice, will they come back in non-bodybags? 


    Bill Van Auken (WSWS) points out:

    The Pentagon is “certainly considering” sending US ground troops into Iraq for inevitably bloody battles to retake Mosul, the country’s second-largest city, from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and to secure the predominantly Sunni Anbar province and its border with Syria, the top uniformed US commander told a Congressional hearing Thursday.
    Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addressed the House Armed Services Committee barely one week after the Obama administration ordered the doubling of the number of US troops deployed in Iraq, with another 1,500 “advisers” being sent into the country, most of them to embattled Anbar province.
    With the new US war in the Middle East now in its fourth month, there is every indication that this was only the first in what will prove a series of military escalations as Washington pursues a strategy that extends well beyond the stated aim of “degrading and destroying” ISIS.


    As the latest wave in the never-ending Iraq War heats up, the White House wants Congress to provide them with legal cover for the actions Barack has already (illegally) taken.  Specifically, the White House wants an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed by the US Congress.


    Earlier this week, Laura Koran and Ashley Killough (CNN) reported US Senator Tim Kaine declared that "there's no legal authority for the current U.S. mission against ISIS in Iraq and Syria" and quoted him stating, "We have been engaged in a war -- that is not about imminent defense of the United States -- without legal authority."  The reporters notee the senator "has proposed a new, limited authorization specifically targeted to the current mission against ISIS."

    At yesterday's House Armed Services Committee, US House Rep Walter Jones stated:

    US House Rep Walter Jones:   Now we are going to possibly be asked by the President of the United States -- like we were by George W. Bush -- to authorize an AUMF.  This is nothing but an abdication of our Constitutional responsibility.  To give any president an AUMF.  We tried this past year in June when we had the NDAA bill, Adam Schiff tried to sunset out the AUMF that we gave to President Bush -- which is what was used by President Obama.  And I do not understand how we in Congress can continue to abdicate what the Constitution says is our responsibility.  Before I get to a brief question, James Madison once said this, "The power to declare war -- including the power to judging the cause of war  -- is fully and exclusively vested in the legislature."  And I do not believe sincerely because when -- this happens to be President Obama.  He wants to have another AUMF or an extension of what we have.  I hope that the Congress -- both parties -- will look seriously at what is our responsibility because it's not going to be but so long.   


    H.A. Goodman (The Hill) weighs in noting:


    Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is correct in claiming that President Obama’s decision to send 1,500 more soldiers back to Iraq is illegal. We now have over 3,000 American soldiers back in a country we left in 2011, when the president fulfilled a promise of ending the Iraq War. The illegality of the Obama’s decision lies in the fact that Congress has not been consulted on matters that could easily lead to another war. Sending military advisers to train Iraqis seems to be a last ditch effort at succumbing to media and political pressure on the part of our president. Nobody wants to be in the White House if Bagdad falls to ISIL, but Saigon fell in 1975 and Gerald Ford didn’t send Americans back to Vietnam. ISIL indeed poses a threat, but not enough of threat to jettison Constitutional principles in the name of national security. 
    Paul, in a recent Daily Beast op-ed, explains exactly why Obama is breaching certain laws by increasing troop levels without consulting the American people. The Kentucky senator cites both the Constitution and the War Powers Act to highlight Obama’s overreach in doubling the size of our military presence in Iraq: 
    "If the Constitution were not enough, the War Powers Act reiterates the legislature’s prerogative. The War Powers Act does not allow for any military action to take place that is not authorized by Congress or to repel imminent attack. Period. The only exception is military action to repel an imminent attack. In that case, the president has 60 days to report to Congress. Obviously, it’s an exception that doesn’t apply to any of our current wars."



    Former US House Rep Dennis Kucinich and his wife Elizabeth Kucinich (Huffington Post) point out of the White House's desired  AUMF,  "This new request rests not on fraud, but on hubris -- the vainglorious notion that we will, at last, 'stabilize' (remake) Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, that US military might trumps culture, religion, history. "


    Reuters notes Gen Dempsey has landed in Iraq on an "unannounced visit."  All these years later, US officials still have to sneak into Iraq.  The State Dept's Brett McGurk Tweeted:





    Back to the US State Dept press briefing:


    QUESTION: Yesterday Chairman Dempsey said – he was talking about the cost of the fight against ISIL and so on, but he said something very interesting about Iraq. He said that we expect them to have an inclusive government and inclusive participation of all parties, otherwise you are going to leave them – I’m paraphrasing – to their own volition, so to speak. Is there like a time limit to see how inclusive the Iraqi Government is and is functioning and so on before you say, “That’s it, we give up on you”?


    MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t – I don’t think that’s exactly what he said. I know you’re paraphrasing in your own way --


    QUESTION: I’m paraphrasing.


    MS. PSAKI: -- but I think, one, we do think, absolutely, that it’s very important that not only they govern in an inclusive way but that the Iraqi Security Forces are inclusive and the way that they fight back against ISIL is inclusive. Now, Prime Minister Abadi has done a great deal of outreach to the Sunni tribes. He’s visited a number of regions to do that outreach. There was even an event just a couple of days ago earlier this week at the Al Asad Air Base where the speaker made reference to weapons and supplies that tribal fighters will be provided.
    So certainly, just – the proof is in what happens, of course, as is true in any scenario. But we have seen them attempt to do a great deal of outreach. We’ve been doing a great deal of outreach through General Allen, through Ambassador McGurk, and we do feel that’s an important part of how things will be effective moving forward.


    QUESTION: Okay. Seeing how the Sunni tribes were – felt alienated or felt abandoned, as a matter of fact, after the Americans left Iraq and their pay was cut off and so on, and everybody’s talking about some sort of a national guard that will bring in the Sunni tribes, is there any movement in that direction? Has any – has there been any progress, let’s say, in that area?


    MS. PSAKI: Well, I just mentioned the fact that Prime Minister Abadi – he visited Sunni tribal leaders in Amman and Baghdad and stressed in public remarks that he will advocate for all Iraqis. We’re in the implementation stage – they are – of the national guard program, but obviously, beyond that it’s also about incorporating and including people from many different backgrounds into the ISF forces.


    QUESTION: Yes, please --


    QUESTION: So you are satisfied with his efforts so far on bringing the leaders of the --



    MS. PSAKI: We’ve seen him take a number of – make a number of steps – take a number of steps, I should say – as well as people within the Iraqi Government to be more inclusive. Obviously, this is something that they’ll have to continue to work hard at implementing. There’s a great deal of mistrust, as we all know, and it’s going to take some time to incorporate everyone back in together.


    The above would matter at any time but it especially matters when there's no real progress in Iraq.  Months into US President Barack Obama's so-called 'plan' to address the Islamic State, Cassandra Vinograd  (NBC News) reports:



    U.S.-led airstrikes have failed to slow the number of ISIS attacks and its defiant militants are now racking up a higher body count than ever before, according to data provided exclusively to NBC News.
    Analysis of IHS Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Center's (JTIC) database shows the current face — and pace — of the group's battle for Syria and Iraq.
    Data showed that ISIS massively stepped up attacks after conquering the Iraqi city of Mosul on June 10 — and has stepped them up further since airstrikes were launched in August. Deaths caused by ISIS also climbed since the key city was overrun and have continued to rise since the U.S.-led coalition started bombing the militants.         


    The plan is a failure thus far.

    That's even more clear in Richard Engel and Carlo Angerer (NBC News -- link is text and video) report:


    Active soldiers in the Iraqi army also told NBC News that they need more training. While they said they were willing to take on ISIS, they said they felt ill-prepared.
    A 32-year-old sergeant from Baghdad, who requested anonymity for security reasons, said that the army was simply not prepared for battle and that it would take a long time to get rid of ISIS.         


    Despite this fact, the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen Martin Dempsey, declared at yesterday's House Armed Services Committee,  "There is no change, and there is no different direction."

    He also ridiculously insisted, "I think progress purchases patience."


    There is no progress.

    And, no, the claims of liberating an oil refinery (in Baiji) from the Islamic State (all over the news this morning) would not constitute progress.

    I don't believe Barack sold this latest wave of war on "We must make the oil safe!"


    AP notes Baghdad was struck by a car bombing which killed 15 people and left thirty-four more injured.  But, don't worry, soon Iraq's oil may be safe and doesn't that matter more than the Iraqi people?

    Because if the Iraqi people mattered to the White House, they would be focusing on the government and working to help it on issues of inclusion.

    Near the start of last month, the White House's official liar Susan Rice took to NBC's Meet The Press to specifically cite Mount Sinjar as one of the "very important successes" in Barack Obama's 'plan' to confront the Islamic State.   Yet only dyas later, Alsumaria reported that Yazidi MP Haji Kndorjsmo is calling for the government to rescue 700 families who are still trapped on Mount Sinjar.


    Yazidis remain trapped on Mount Sinjar, months after Barack supposedly liberated them, but the 'rescue' of an inanimate object, an oil refinery, will be sold as 'progress.'

    Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) reports:

    At least 97 people were killed; about half of them were civilians. Another 122 people were wounded as Baghdad suffered a series of bombings today.

    Military forces declared the town of Baiji liberated. Joint Iraqi, Peshmerga and Shi’ite militiamen fought for months to liberate the city and are in the final stages of retaking the refinery just outside of town. That refinery was the largest in Iraq before the Islamic State took over the city. Other sources say the militants are still in control of the city. At the very least, the city is filled with bombs and booby-traps making access difficult. At least 17 militants were killed.



    Barack insisted to the American people that Iraq required a political solution.  But all he and the US government have focused on is a military solution.  In fact, the only figure outside the Iraqi government attempting to aid a political solution is Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.



    Last month, he called out the corruption in the Iraqi military.  All Iraq News notes al-Sistani made several calls on Friday.  His representative Abdul-Mahdi al-Karbalayi applauded Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's decision earlier this week to relieve military commanders who were not performing their jobs and who were engaging in corruption.  al-Sistani's representative called for the political blocs to do something similar, identity "the sources of corruption" and purge them of their ranks.


    Noting that al-Sistani met with al-Abadi October 20th and with Iraqi President Fouad Massoum November 11th, Mustafa al-Kadhimi (Al-Monitor) explains:


    Concerning Sistani’s previous position of boycotting politicians, there is a fine line between intervention of the religious authority in politics and isolation from it. This is why Sistani insisted on forgoing a political position or interfering in politics. It would not be in line with the democratic path. At the same time, he has been protecting the country's democratic and civil framework through his social authority. This policy sustains the independence of both the state authority and the religious authority within a cooperative and constructive context.
    The independence of the religious authority is a concept that Sistani strongly defends. Even when he opposed a third term for former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, he tried not to overstep this principle. Instead, he supported the independence of the state from the religious authority and expressed his discontent through indirect messages. For instance, he continued not to host politicians, and let his spokesmen, including Sheikh Karablai and Sayyid Ahmad al-Safi, deliver statements during Friday prayers in Karbala.
    Sistani welcomed Massoum and Abadi to reaffirm his previous positions, which also clarify what led him to previously boycott politics and reveals why he supported the political shift that brought Abadi to power rather than Maliki. Sistani’s stance toward the Abadi government, his open messages of support in achieving change, fixing past mistakes and implementing reform should not be viewed as unconditional. The religious authority’s support is bound by the government’s ability to keep its promises to the Iraqi people. Sistani has vowed to support the reformist trend of the new government as long as it makes progress. Any slackening or failure by Abadi to follow through with reforms, and Sistani will change his position, turning his support to criticism.
    Sistani’s conditions for backing Abadi’s government are not a secret. They are unrelated to the religious authority and the Shiites' role in it. Rather, they are about the ability of Abadi’s government to bring about social consensus, open itself to others in the country and abroad and fix the imbalance stemming from state corruption and past bad leadership.