Thursday, July 23, 2015

Gone in 60 Seconds

It's easy to hate on Nicholas Cage these days and that's too bad.  He can be a really good actor.

"Gone in 60 Seconds" is a popcorn movie about stealing cars.

Nicholas has to make one big score.

He's got to bring the old gang back together.

That includes his ex-Angelina Jolie.

Things go sideways and then some.

It's a tense film filled with loud cars and lots of action.

And strong performances from everyone.

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

Wednesday, July 22, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, CFR releases a timeline of the Iraq War that struggles with basic facts and events, Haditha is announced as the next target for the Islamic State, some Republicans on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee play politics at the expense of veterans, and much more.

The Council on Foreign Relations has done a very poor timeline on the Iraq War with multiple errors.

For example, slide 16 declares, "December 2005 elections bring the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance into power, and in April 2006, the party names Nouri al-Maliki prime minister."


That tiny sentence has so many lies.

Forget that Nouri is only named after the White House rejects a second term for Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

Do we also forget that the Iraqi Constitution defines who names a 'prime minister'?

Do we also forget that Nouri was not named prime minister in April of 2006?

He was named "prime minister-designate."

Check the Constitution if this is too confusing to you.

 Article 73:
First: The President of the Republic shall name the nominee of the Council of Representatives bloc with the largest number to form the Cabinet within fifteen days from the date of the election of the president of the republic.
Second: The Prime Minister-designate shall undertake the naming of the members of his Cabinet within a period not to exceed thirty days from the date of his designation.
Third: In case the Prime Minister-designate fails to form the cabinet during the period specified in clause "Second," the President of the Republic shall name a new nominee for the post of Prime Minister within fifteen days.
Fourth: The Prime Minister-designate shall present the names of his Cabinet members and the ministerial program to the Council of Representatives. He is deemed to have gained its confidence upon the approval, by an absolute majority of the Council of Representatives, of the individual Ministers and the ministerial program.

Fifth: The President of the Republic shall name another nominee to form the cabinet within fifteen days in case the Cabinet did not gain the confidence. 

And then there's nonsense like slide 39:

Parliamentary elections are held on March 7 under stringent security by Iraqi forces. Dozens of explosions rock Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, but voter turnout is over 62 percent. Voter participation is down from 75 percent in the 2005 general elections, as some voters are deterred by fear of violence and doubts about democracy. U.S. officials call the elections a success and an important step toward withdrawing U.S. troops in the summer of 2010. 
More than 6,200 candidates from eighty-six lists participate in the elections, which showcase a power struggle between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite coalition and former interim prime minister Ayad Allawi's cross-sectarian secular list. Some opposition parties make allegations of fraud, but diplomats and UN officials helping to organize the elections maintain there weren't widespread violations.

If you're going to comment on the elections, shouldn't you note that Ayad Allawi's slate (Iraqiya) came in first?

It's not a minor point.

And in what world does any outlet or organization note an election but not note who won?

There are other problems with that but let's' move on to slide 41:

After more than nine months of political wrangling, the Iraqi parliament approves a coalition government forged by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law party and several other factions. The agreement keeps Maliki as prime minister and Jalal Talabani--a Kurd--as president. But a power-sharing arrangement with former prime minister Ayad Allawi--whose Iraqiya party won a majority of seats--never takes shape. Maliki names thirty-four ministers to his cabinet, including rival Sunni politicians, which U.S. officials say reduces the chances that "disaffected Sunnis will split off and resume sectarian warfare" (NYT). But Maliki refrains from naming heads of the defense and interior ministry, appointing himself the interim head and causing concern about a growing centralization of power. U.S. officials cite the acrimonious relationship between Allawi and Maliki as an obstacle to U.S. troop withdrawal and combating terrorism in the country (NYT).

I'm sorry, do we not know how to count?

Apparently, we don't.  So let's go real slow.

The elections were March 7, 2010.

April 7th was one month.

May 7th was two months.

June 7th was three months.

July 7th was four months.

August 7th was five months.

September 7th was six months.

October 7th was seven months.

November 7th was eight months.

November 10th is when the 'power-sharing agreement' (The Erbil Agreement) is signed.  November 11th is when the Parliament holds their first session and follows the Constitution.

If you count the above, it is eight months and four days after the elections.

Not "after more than nine months."

If you can't even get the dates right, the basic math correct, why the hell should anyone believe a thing in your idiotic slide show?

The Parliament names someone to that post and the person then has 30 days to form a Cabinet which is how they move from "prime minister-designate" to prime minister.

Today, Iraq was finally remembered at the US State Dept press briefing moderated by spokesperson John Kirby.

QUESTION: Yes, please, regarding Iraq.


QUESTION: I mean, I don’t know if you say anything about the F-16. They received a set, a new set of F-16 --

MR KIRBY: Four of them, yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah. I mean, do you have anything to say about that?

MR KIRBY: Well, I mean, I can acknowledge. I think they had arrival – they had an arrival ceremony for these four F-16s.

QUESTION: And the ambassador was there, I think.

MR KIRBY: Yeah. We talked about this before, that they were on the way to Iraq, that they’re – it’s Iraqi property. And I’ll leave it to the Iraqi Government to speak to when and if these aircraft might be flying combat sorties, but they’re there for the defense of sovereign Iraqi territory. Our role was, of course, meeting the procurement need but also doing some of the training in Arizona.

QUESTION: So the other question regarding the news report today in Washington Post front page that Haditha than any other city can be one of the having the highest dam, and hydroelectric project may fall to the ISIL. Do you have anything? Do you have any assessment of --

MR KIRBY: Well, I’m reticent to get into battlefield assessments here from this particular podium. I would refer you to DOD to speak to conditions on the ground and threats and challenges in that regard. That wouldn’t be appropriate for me to speak to here.
Okay. Well, this will be the shortest briefing in history. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Just one quick question following on his question in terms of the F-16s in Iraq. Is there any agreement that stipulates that – or limits their use in different parts of Iraq, i.e. the Kurdish region or other regions that are – people concerned about their use?

MR KIRBY: I mean, there’s restrictions that are placed on these kinds of sales in terms of how it could be used, but I’m not aware of any restrictions in terms of geographically where it can be used. They are – they belong to the Iraqi Government right now and they’re designed to help the Iraqi Government defend itself and its sovereignty. And what exactly mission parameters that are put on that would be up to the Iraqi Government to pursue. They’re not to be used for sectarian purposes. They’re to be used for the defense of Iraqi territory. And Prime Minister Abadi certainly knows that and will observe that. We’re not worried about that. As for geographic limitations, I’m not aware of any.

The Washington Post report mentioned above is Loveday Morris' "This town has resisted Islamic State for 18 months. But food is running low."  From the article:

The people of Haditha, though, are struggling to survive in a town largely cut off from the outside world. Meanwhile, the Islamic State has singled it out as its next target.
"It’s like we’re not living in Iraq," said one resident, Israa Mohammed, 38, as she waited to receive a rare delivery of food aid last week. "There’s no way in or out. It’s like we are an island in the desert."
The first group of reporters to gain access to Haditha in more than a year found the besieged city in desperate straits. With gasoline more than quadruple the national price, bicycles are a more common sight than cars on its winding streets.

Doctors have fled, and medicines are hard to come by. Electricity flickers on for just three hours a day.

The dire situation in Hadita was noted this month in a Congressional Committee hearing.  From the Wednesday, July 8th snapshot:

Senator Joe Donnelly: I just got back from Iraq with Senator [Tim] Kaine who led our trip and one of the meetings we had was with a number of the Sunni tribal leaders and some of them were from the Haditha area and in talking to them they have said, "We have stood with you. We have faith with you.  But we have people who are now eating grass in our town.  We have no food.  We have no supplies.  And we have been told that the only airlifts that can come in would be on military transport.  Is there anything you can do to help feed our people?"  And so, I wanted to put that before you to see if there's something we can do to be of aid to these individuals.

Donnelly was speaking Tuesday at the Senate Armed Services Committee.  The Committee Chair is Senator John McCain and the Ranking Member is Senator Jack Reed.  Appearing before the Committee were Gen Martin Dempsey (Chair of the Joint Chiefs) and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.

Donnelly states that he was told, in Haditha, food resources were so low that civilians were eating grass.

Though only in his second year in the US Senate, Donnelly has not racked up  a reputation for lying or misleading.

So it's fairly safe to assume this is what he was told.

Where's the outcry?

We drive our Bitch Moan and Whine vehicles all over the globe over this or that artifact destroyed in Iraq but you have civilians forced to eat grass and no one cares enough to make this a lead story?

Secretary Ash Carter: Well, uh, I'll say something about that and ask the Chairman if he wants to add.  First of all, I want to thank you, Senator Donnelly, also Senator Kaine for traveling there.  We appreciate it.  And on behalf of the 3,550 members of our armed forces that are in Iraq conducting this fight, thank you for taking the time to go visit them this Fourth of July weekend.  The humanitarian situation is yet another tragic consequence of what is going on with ISIL.  It remains one of the coalition's, uhm, uh, uh, efforts as I indicated in my opening statement.  To relieve the humanitarian, that's very difficult to do when there is not order and control on the ground.  And so, uh, this is why we need to get a security situation that's stable, ground forces that are capable of hol- seizing territory, holding territory and governing.  That's the only way to get the humanitarian situation turned around -- either in Iraq or in Syria.  It's very sad.  It's tragic.  And, uh, in the case of Iraq -- as has been noted --  uh, something brought about by the re-emergence of sectarianism in a really tragic way.  Chairman, you want to add anything?

Gen Martin Dempsey:  One of the reasons we went to [al-] Taqaddum Air Base [in Anbar Province] -- also locally called Habbaniyah -- is to advise and assist in the Anbar operations center which is where these kind of issues should actually migrate through.  And it's -- You should be interested to know the Iraqis have the capabilities to address that.  They have C-130J [Lockheed Martin transport aircraft], you know state of the art, uhm-uhm -- 

Senator Joe Donnelly:  I know they do, but they're not.

Gen Martin Dempsey:  Yeah, well we'll pass it to the guy who's embedded with -- 

Senator Joe Donnelly:  And you know, when you're hungry?  You're stomach doesn't tell you you want Iraqi food or US food, you just want help.  And one of the bonds created with these tribal leaders is they said, "We've always felt that we could count on you."  

Meanwhile, Margaret Griffis ( counts 81 violent deaths across Iraq.

In the US, today could have been a very important day for veterans.  Instead, some members of Congress -- on the Republican side -- elected to play games and mess with veterans.

Senator Patty Murray has worked years to highlight a very serious problem for many veterans.  You are injured while serving.  Your injury may mean you and your spouse are unable to become pregnant.

Now if you're still active duty, if you're DoD and not under the VA, the government will cover efforts at in vitro fertilization.

But if you're VA?  No.

This isn't fair.

And Murray has led the fight for equality and the fight to see that veterans have the same rights and opportunities as anyone else.

Today, she pulled her bill because some members of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (on the Republican side) attempted to turn a veterans issue into something else, a vote on Planned Parenthood, abortion and other issues that had nothing to do with helping wounded veterans start families.

Patricia Kim (Military Times) reports:

Murray called the amendments a "partisan attack on women's health," and said her bill, which passed the Senate in 2012 but failed in the House over funding concerns, would have ensured that the nation is doing "everything we can to support veterans who have sacrificed so much for our country."
"I am so disappointed — and truly angry that Republicans on the Veterans Affairs Committee decided yesterday to leap at the opportunity to pander to their base, to poison the well with the political cable news battle of the day, and turn their backs on wounded veterans," she said.
Tillis said the amendments were not intended "to kill in vitro fertilization." Rather, he said he has concerns about veterans who are waiting to receive medical care or are being denied care, including some of his constituents who have diseases related to exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
"At some point, it may make sense to add another half a billion dollars for this medical treatment that's been proposed by my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, but not until we're absolutely certain that the promises we've already made going to be fulfilled," said Tillis, a freshman congressman.

Oh, it's not worth money to help an injured veteran start a family?

The Camp Lejeune issue?

You want to block a nominee over that?

I'll support you, I'll defend you.  I don't care if you're a Democrat or a Republican, I will support you.

And I have.

I've supported Senator Richard Burr on this issue.  I've defended him here for blocking a nominee or a bill because of this issue.

But I can't support using Camp Lejeune as an excuse for denying other veterans and their families in need.

I can't support.

I can't defend it.

I think it's outrageous and I'm deeply, deeply disappointed in Tillis who I have had favorable impressions of as a result of recent Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearings.

He and others chose to play politics instead of standing up for veterans.

If he can't stand up for veterans, he really doesn't need to be on the Committee.

That's something only he can decide.

And I'm not calling for him to be ejected.

But this move wasn't about what was best for veterans.


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