Friday, January 23, 2015

New album coming from Rickie Lee Jones





Long roundtable tonight.  So a number of us are just noting the above good news.



This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"



Friday, January 23, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Haider al-Abadi uncorks the crazy yet again, Chuck Hagel may be the only US official willing to rebuke Haider's claims, we note the minute difference between Nouri al-Maliki and Haider al-Abadi, and more.



AFP reports that Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared Thursday that Iraq was lacking in sufficient weapons -- that's right, that Iraq did not have enough weapons -- and stated, "We don't want to see a military defeat because of budget and fiscal problems."

Again, Haider believes Iraq is starved for weapons.  All the bullets and all the bombs have not been enough for Haider.

These were not off the cuff remarks but something's he's been harping on for some time.


Vivian Salama and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) quote him declaring in an on Wednesday interview that "we are in this almost on our own."  These are similar to the remarks he made last week.

Last week, AFP reported that Prime Minister of Iraq Haider al-Abadi was slamming the coalition the US government has put together and saying it was taking to long to provide "military support" to the Iraq military, "The international coalition is very slow in its support and training of the army."


At the Pentagon on Thursday, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was asked about the statements.


Q: Mr. Secretary, yesterday Prime Minister Abadi said that he was upset by what he considered the slow, stalled pace of U.S. weapons and training, both by the U.S. and the coalition in Iraq. Do you agree with his assessment? Has that been slow or delayed? And the 6,000 -- the reports of 6,000 insurgents killed, is that a measure of what the U.S. is doing, and is that number accurate?


SEC. HAGEL: Well, regarding Prime Minister Abadi's comments, first, I don't agree with those comments. I met with Prime Minister Abadi, as many of you know who accompanied me on that trip about a month ago. The fact is that we have put a particular emphasis on getting the kind of equipment and materiel, ammunition, the needs, the requirements for the Iraqi Security Forces and the -- and the Kurds.
To give you some examples, last year we were able to move more than 1,500 Hellfire missiles, expedited in every one of these cases, all of the requests that the Iraqi government has made.
We'll have provided over 250 MRAPs, some of those went to the Kurds. Tens of thousands of small arms and ammunition. The flow of ammunition and materiel and the requests continue at an accelerated rate.
So, I do -- I do disagree with the prime minister's comments. I would say even further, I don't think they're helpful. We have a coalition of over 60 countries that have come together to help Iraq. And I think the prime minister might want to be a little more mindful of that.
We are continuing to deploy more American troops for training. And we have three of four training sites now operational in Iraq. We have about a dozen coalition partners who have trainers there, along with our trainers. We'll have a fourth training camp up soon.
So, we are doing everything we can possibly do to help the Iraqis.
As to the second part of your question, first, I have not seen any verification of that number of 6,000 that you referred to. We do know that thousands of ISIL fighters have been killed, and we do know that some of ISIL's leadership have been killed.
But also, as you ask, is that the measurement or a significant measurement of progress? It is a measurement. But I don't think it is the measurement. I mean, I -- I was in a war where there was a lot of body counts every day. And we lost that war.
What you look at is you look at things like do you have ISIL on the defensive? And I think by most every measurement, not imperfect, not perfect, they have been on the defensive.
Are they having difficulty recruiting? Yes they are.
The Peshmerga and the Iraqi Security Forces cut into their supply lines? Yes, they have.
Has there been a distortion in command and control networks of ISIL? Yes, there has been. Significant, tangible, measurable.

  These are also the metrics you look at as to how much progress you're making in a war.


Poor Haider al-Abadi.  Is he nuts?

If he's not insane, he's just the biggest idiot in the world.

Any time he has a chance before the world media,  he makes a fool of himself.

That is his pattern.

As September drew to a close, he visited the United States and quickly made a fool of himself in the media.  As Ray Sanchez and Evan Perez (CNN) explained then:

From Washington to New York, a flurry of denials followed media reports that Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told reporters at the United Nations that his country's intelligence agency had uncovered an imminent ISIS plot against United States and Paris subways.
"We don't have anything to back it up at this point," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told CNN. "We'll keep looking at it."


What had been a mini-triumph -- Haider proved he could both stand erect and speak, traits puppets don't always possess -- was destroyed when Haider decided to 'reveal' plots against the NYC subway that Iraqi 'intelligence' had learned of.

He hurried back to Iraq a laughing stock.


Thursday, Hagel took on Haider's remarks which Hagel clearly sees as carping.


On the issue of the 6,000 number raised to Hagel, that number comes via Al Arabiya reporting:


The U.S.-led airstrikes have “taken more than half” of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group’s leadership, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Stuart Jones told Al Arabiya News Channel in an interview aired Thursday.
Jones described the airstrikes as having a “devastating” effect on ISIS after Baghdad criticized Washington for not doing “enough” to eliminate the Islamist group.

“We estimate that the airstrikes have now killed more than 6,000 ISIS fighters in Syria and Iraq,” Jones said.
The U.S. ambassador added that the airstrikes have “destroyed more than a thousand of ISIS vehicle inside Iraq.”



Back to Haider who had a chance to shine today that he spoiled with his own mouth yet again.

It's not a surprise that Haider wants more weapons.  He's done nothing since August -- in fairness to him, the US government hasn't encouraged or pressed him to -- when he became prime minister to heal the serious rifts in Iraq -- the rifts at the heart of the ongoing crises in the country.

So, like any puppet installed as opposed to a leader elected, he fears being toppled.

What keeps a puppet from being toppled, arms and more arms.

A leader would have faced the crises head on.  A real leader would have realized that there were six to eight weeks after being named prime minister where there was time to demonstrate to the people that a change was taking place.

But Haider didn't bother with that.

So now, as he stumbles non-stop and the problems in Iraq only grow worse, he takes to whining publicly about weapons.


Thursday, a meet-up took place in London.  The UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond explained after:




FOREIGN SECRETARY HAMMOND: Good afternoon. The recent terrible events in Paris have reminded us that the battle against ISIL is not confined within the borders of Iraq and Syria and that this poisonous ideology threatens our own citizens and the citizens of our allies.
Today, 21 key members of the global coalition met in London to review and discuss our efforts to degrade and defeat ISIL not just through military force, but by addressing the underlying narrative of the organization, its financing, its flow of foreign fighters, and by reasserting our commitment to Iraq. In total, over 60 countries have signed up to the global coalition, showing the international will and commitment to combat this threat.
On the military track, coalition airstrikes have helped to halt ISIL’s advance, and we’ve had an update today from General Allen on the work to rebuild, re-equip, and retrain the Iraqi Security Forces, allowing them in due course to push ISIL back and reassert Iraqi sovereignty over all the territory of Iraq. Beyond our military action, we reviewed how we’re doing in our efforts against ISIL’s finances and in countering their twisted narrative, how effectively we are delivering our efforts against the flow of foreign fighters arriving to fight in their ranks. And in each case, we talked about what more we can do together to achieve our objectives in these areas. We reviewed, too, how we can offer support to those who are most affected by the humanitarian crisis that the rise of ISIL in Iraq and Syria has brought about across the region.
Today’s meeting confirmed the determination of our broad and united coalition to defeat not only ISIL, but also the ideology that underlies it, and not just in Iraq and Syria, but wherever it rears its head. We recognize that political progress in both Iraq and Syria will be vital in ultimately defeating ISIL in those countries, and Prime Minister Abadi updated the meeting on progress to date and the significant challenges remaining. We congratulated him on the progress that has been made in Iraq in the hundred or so days since he formed his government and reaffirmed our support for what he is doing.

Most importantly, we all confirmed our commitment to the struggle, however long it takes and wherever it leads us, to defeating the scourge of violent Islamist extremism. Thank you. Prime Minister.



Those remarks were delivered alongside US Secretary of State John Kerry and Haider.  Haider used his time to state what?

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi:  Another issue, which is being discussed today, is the fiscal problem for Iraq. You know oil prices have dropped to about 40 percent of their level last year. Iraqi economy and budget relies 85 percent on oil, and this has been disastrous for us. I cannot stress this anymore, and we explained this to our partners in the coalition, and I think there is – there will be a program to stand with Iraq in their crisis. We don’t want to see a reverse of our military victory due to our budget and fiscal problems, and we have been assured that every member of this coalition will stand with Iraq in its fight against Daesh.
Daesh is a terrorist organization. It knows no race, no religion, no region. It spares nobody, so everybody must be facing Daesh. Thank you. Mr. Secretary.



Is the world really sympathetic to al-Abadi?  Iraq brings in billions annually from oil sales.  Many a non-oil rich country struggles with far, far less than Iraq.

And some, no doubt, wonder why al-Abadi's not noting that it's time to diversify Iraq's economy?

Two-term Iraq Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi spent years calling for just that.   Nick Cunningham (Oilprice.com) notes that oil makes up 90% of Iraq's revenues.

It's really time for Haider to stop whining.  He's supposed in charge.  Be in charge.  Provide leadership and stop your damn whining.

Might the drop in oil prices harm the fight against the Islamic State?

How?


I believe Haider and the US government have both insisted that part of the funding of the Islamic State was coming from blackmarket oil and the money that the Islamic State could make off it.  Well if dropping oil prices are hurting Iraq, they would also be hurting the Islamic State.

The Islamic State is deliberately misunderstood by the US government -- in public remarks -- and by most of the press.

We are told that the "Syrian conflict" spilled over into Iraq.

And this lie is used to churn up fear.

'It seeped into Iraq! It could seep further!'

It didn't 'seep' into Iraq because Syria and Iraq share a border.

It took root in Iraq because the Islamic State is Sunni and Sunnis were being persecuted in Iraq.

Iraq could have shared a border with Libya, not Syria, and the Islamic State still would have come in.

When you grasp that reality, you realize how the hoary subtext the White House has used to gin up the fear on the Islamic State is really not accurate at all.  US President Barack Obama's resorted to using 'the Domino theory' to scare people.

'The Domino theory' was used during Vietnam and argued that, if Vietnam fell to the Communists, it would spread throughout the region and up to the United States.

If the United States is at risk of attacks, it's not due to any dominos falling -- it's due to supporting Iraqi governments that target Sunnis.

When you grasp that, you realize all these billions are being wasted.

They're used to pay for weapons and to pay for bombs.

They're useless, they're wasted dollars.

Secure the 'homeland' in the US?

You do that by demanding change in Iraq.

Not by supporting the continuation of the hunting and killing of Sunnis.

Felicity Arbuthnot has an important report at Dissident Voice which opens:


On Saturday, January 10th, the BRussells Tribunal circulated a Press Release which stated, “Iraq: Mr Uday Al-Zaidi – Appeal of Extreme Urgency.”
It outlined “an appeal for the immediate and urgent mobilization of (the relevant UN Agencies, Amnesty International. Human Rights Watch and other international NGOs and appropriate legal bodies) in securing the release of the prominent human rights defender, Mr Uday Al-Zaidi.”
The Appeal was necessarily brief, but the wider context is vital to understanding as another life hangs in the balance in the living hell of the Bush and Blair led “New Iraq.”
Mr Al-Zaidi was arrested by Iraqi security forces at 6 pm, local time, on Friday January 9th, near Al-Nasriyah in southern Iraq. Al-Zaidi, a respected journalist, is internationally renowned for his courageous advocacy against the sectarian cleansing in Iraq which began with the onset of the “divide and rule” policy of the US-UK invasion, continued under the occupation, their puppet Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and now under his replacement of August 2014, Haider Al-Abadi.

Al-Abadi came in with the US-UK tanks in 2003, having lived in London since 1977, where he was on the Executive of the (Shia) Islamic Dawa Party – which is headed by Nouri al-Maliki. The Prime Ministerial change has all the hallmarks of “same car, new paint.”


Where's the change?


In 2010, the Iraqi people rejected Nouri in the parliamentary elections and instead voted for a change.  They went with a national identity as evidenced by their support for Iraqiya.  But instead of allowing Ayad Allawi, leader of Iraqiya, to become prime minister, Barack sided with Nouri who refused to step down as prime minister.  The Iraqi government came to a standstill for eight months after those elections.

The political stalemate was ended by the US-brokered Erbil Agreement -- a legal contract which gave Nouri a second term.  In exchange, he agreed (in writing) to certain concessions.  And the White House swore that not only was the contract legally binding (it clearly wasn't) but that it had the full backing of the US government (it clearly didn't).  When Ayad Allawi walked out of Parliament, Barack personally called Allawi and restated that this contract was binding and that the US government would ensure it was followed.

So Iraqiya rejoined the Parliament.

And then Nouri refused to honor the promises he'd made in writing.

And Barack didn't do a damn thing.

The State Dept acted as though the Erbil Agreement never existed.

And the White House continued to back Nouri as Nouri became more and more of a tyrant.

They said nothing publicly when he began ordering the military to circle the homes of his political rivals with tanks.

And it only got worse.

When protests began, the State Dept had no support for them.

When protesters were attacked by Nouri's thugs, the State Dept and the White House were silent.

The silence only became more appalling when protesters were killed.

And still the White House played footsie with Nouri.

All of the above came together to create the current crises in Iraq.

And finally, as spring ended last year, the White House broke with Nouri.

And they backed Haider al-Abadi.

He was supposed to be the new face that would signify change.

He's done nothing of the kind.

And just as with Nouri, the White House refuses to demand that Haider end the attacks on the Sunni population.

End those attacks and the Islamic State has no reason to be in Iraq.

If they don't have the sense to leave, you better believe the Iraqi people -- including Sunni Iraqis -- will kick them out.  It won't take billions of dollars for that to happen.

Remove the justification for the presence and they're gone -- either on their own or forced out.

On their own?

Syria remains a battle field.  Diverting their forces into Iraq does not help the Islamic State fight in Syria.  The 30,000 to 50,000 fighters currently in Iraq could be better used by the Islamic State with a Syrian deployment.

In January 2014, Nouri ordered the Iraqi military to bomb the residential neighborhoods of the Sunni city of Falluja.  These bombings are War Crimes -- collective punishment, look it up.  They have been daily bombings which have left thousands of civilians -- Sunnis -- dead or wounded.

September 13th, Haider al-Abadi declared these bombings had ended.

September 14th, they continued.

And they continue to this day.

These are War Crimes.  The US legally recognizes collective punishment as a War Crime.  In addition, the Leahy Amendment demands that a government which attacks its own people cannot receive aid from the US government.

But Haider continues to receive aid.

September 13th underscores the only difference between Nouri and Haider.

Both are liars and both are clearly War Criminals.

But Nouri's approach was to lie via the future.  The Erbil Agreement would be implemented, just not now.  The protesters demands would be met in 100 days if they'd just go home.  Over and over, Nouri played kick the can and would pretend at some near future date he would do what he was supposed to.

Haider's different.

Haider announces things have changed.

Not will change, that they've changed.

But they haven't.

The Iraqi military bombing of Falluja hasn't ceased.

The announced 'deal' with the Kurds over oil has still not been implemented -- though Haider did announce it and the State Dept did praise him for it -- all those weeks ago and still nothing.

The country still doesn't have a 2015 budget.

Go down the list.

Nouri would lie and promise that something would happen in the future.

Haider lies and claims it's already happened.

That's the only difference between the two.

And, as they did with Nouri, the White House refuses to demand the needed changes that would drive the Islamic State out of Iraq.

The needed changes that would dramatically improve the lives of all Iraqis.

The Islamic State is a limited threat to the United States and would not be a threat at all were the White House not repeatedly supporting thugs who persecute Iraq's Sunni community.

Tareq al-Hashemi?

The Vice President of Iraq was put on trial in absentia by Nouri.

He's been sentenced to death nearly five times.

This after Nouri had one of Tareq's bodyguards tortured to death -- after the man refused repeatedly to lie about Tareq.

And Tareq's crime -- his only known crime -- is being Sunni.

The White House refused to defend Tareq, they continue to refuse to.

And that's what happens to Iraq's most prominent Sunni politician.

For the average Sunni, with no political power at all, things are even worse.

And until that's dealt with, until that's addressed, nothing is going to get better in Iraq.

And if you're an American who Barack's scared to death with his fear propaganda about the Islamic State and how it will strike the 'homeland,' you need to be demanding that the Sunnis in Iraq are treated fairly and equally, that the rape and torture of Sunni women in Iraq's prisons and jails ends, that the Sunnis -- male and female -- stop disappearing into Iraq's prisons and jails, that no Sunnis are arrested anymore for the 'crime' of being married to someone or being the parent of someone or the child or sibling of someone.

You need to demand justice.

Because it is injustice towards the Sunni community which brought the Islamic State into Iraq and which has provided it with a home in Iraq.


AFP reports a suicide bomber or bombers detonated in Taji leaveing "at least seven people dead" and another seventeen injured.  Al Arabiya News adds, "A newly appointed ISIS commander in Iraq's Anbar province has been killed, a police chief from Haditha told  Al Arabiya News Channel on Thursday."  Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts 118 people dead from violence in Iraq today with sixty-four more injured.



Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Robot

Of all the pieces we worked on at Third, I enjoyed this one the most:


Kicking It Old School




Barack breaks out the robot and other dance moves to entertain White House visitors.




 



He really does look like he's doing the robot in that photo.


This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"


Wednesday, January 21, 2015.   Chaos and violence continue, Barack's speech gets some attention regarding Iraq, gets called out on the issue of the economy and the failure to address veterans issues, the Iraq Inquiry will not be publishing their report anytime soon, and much more.



Last night, US President Barack Obama blathered on about a couple who fell in love and it was one of the most embarrassing speeches ever given as a State of the Union Address.  We focused on Iraq last night.  Dan Murphy (Christian Science Monitor) had hours to reflect on the speech before he weighed in today and here are his 'deep' thoughts re: Iraq, "He also glossed the fact that he's sent troops back to Iraq, with Baghdad at risk of falling to Islamic State." Kaveh Waddell (National Journal) adds, "The president mentioned Iraq, where Islamic State extremists have taken over significant swaths of land, only twice, compared to an average of five over his last five State of the Union speeches."


Things only got worse.

Barack declared, "Six years ago, nearly 180,000 American troops served in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Today, fewer than 15,00 remain."  And the do-nothing Win Without War responded with this Tweet:




"Our combat mission in is over." President Obama. When will our remaining 15,000 troops there come home, Mr President?
8 retweets 4 favorites


Now I know they're whores.  But are they stupid?  15,000 was not given by Barack as the number of US troops in Aghanistan, it was Afghanistan and Iraq.


Win Without War is a  group who thinks they can take over the Democratic Party from within.  It's never worked out that way for them.  They just whore and whore until they stand for nothing while they continue to try to herd voters over to the Democratic Party.


In 2006, they couldn't stop pretending to care about Iraq.

Today?


Not so much.

And then there's Ruth Conniff.

The aged princess of The Progressive is bound and determined to run the magazine into the ground -- and knowing Ruth, she'll succeed at that.

Ruth couldn't stop Tweeting throughout the speech.

But not about Iraq.

Remember this is the stupid woman that went on KPFA and bragged about how none of her friends had children who enlisted and she didn't no anyone who served in the Iraq War.


Ruth thought that was something to share.

No surprise, her ascension at the magazine has only resulted in an already muddied approach getting worse.


Unlike Ruth, many Americans do not veterans of today's wars.


March Forward!'s Mike Prysner offers his take at Veterans for Peace and concludes, "A system set up like this can only replicate the same heart-wrenching tragedies for people like us. No need to watch the State of the Union--we need a revolution."  Following Barack's speech, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America issued the following:


WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 20, 2015) – Tonight, President Obama failed to address critical priorities for the veteran community, including restoring trust in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) after last summer’s scandals and reforming veteran mental health care services. Despite praising the Joining Forces initiative to improve veteran unemployment and mentioning the VA disability claims backlog, the President remained silent on critical veterans issues.


Particularly disappointing was the President’s failure to affirm his administration’s support for urgent passage of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act – historic bipartisan legislation that will increase access to quality mental health care and combat veteran suicide. With 22 veterans dying by suicide every day, IAVA has partnered with more than 20 veteran service organizations and partners and lawmakers from both parties to promote the bill, named after Marine veteran Clay Hunt who died by suicide in 2011.


“Tonight, the Commander-in-Chief once again thanked our veterans and servicemembers for their selfless service to our country. However, actions speak louder than words,” said IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff. “Yes, the President must speak to many constituencies in the State of the Union, but no other group fought and sacrificed for its country like veterans. After the VA scandal and marking more than 13 years of combat, veterans were hoping for a proactive policy agenda from our President. As the recent success of the film “American Sniper” attests, our country is beginning a sober discussion on the impact of the post-9/11 wars on our servicemembers, their families and our country, and we had hoped for the President to lead that conversation. He didn’t.”


Rieckhoff continued, “This next year will be crucial for the veteran community as more servicemembers return home and transition to civilian life. But in the address tonight, the President rarely mentioned veterans. Veterans exist, and many among us need assistance, particularly in the often overlooked area of mental health care. But we refuse to have our issues swept under the rug, and we will not rest until Congress passes and the President signs the Clay Hunt SAV Act, designed to combat the tragedy of 22 veterans dying by suicide every day.”


“Furthermore, in last year’s address the President committed to slashing the VA’s disability claims backlog. A year later, we are nowhere near “backlog zero.” Currently, more than 242,000 veterans are still waiting to get the benefits they earned. The state of the union is strong, but the state of the VA is still smoldering. Last summer, IAVA members and veterans across the country were shocked to learn about the alleged misconduct and wrongdoing at VA hospitals. For many veterans, the VA health care system is their only health care system. While we appreciate the efforts of Sec. McDonald and his team to enact reforms, we are frustrated the President did not mention how he will restore veterans’ faith in the VA after months of scandal. Our veterans don’t deserve to be ignored,” said Rieckhoff.


IAVA looks forward to Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) delivering the Republican response to the State of the Union Address. As the first female combat veteran elected to serve in the U.S. Senate, Sen. Ernst is in a unique position to fight for the nation’s veterans, particularly the female soldiers who bravely served the country. Sen. Ernst served in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and currently serves as a Lt. Colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard. IAVA urges her to publicly address the veteran suicide crisis and to endorse urgent passage of the SAV Act as well.


At IAVA offices in Washington, D.C. and New York City, veterans attended SOTU watch parties and live-tweeted the President’s address using the hashtag #SOTUVets.


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.



Still on veterans, IAVA's Paul Reickhoff notes:





  • . is the first female post-9/11 vet in history elected to the Senate. National Guard CO in Iraq. Bio:




  • Jon Ward (Yahoo News) reports on Senator Joni Ernst's delivery of the Republican Party's response. National Journal has the full text of her response. Megan McCardle (Bloomberg News) provides this call, "Joni Ernst, the Iowa pig farmer turned legislator, wasn't quite as wooden as most of her predecessors, and having grown up with very limited means, she was able to deliver the Republican talking points without being painted as just another rich Republican who doesn't understand the first thing about being poor. But it was light years from articulating a substantial, affirmative agenda for her party. Though to be fair, maybe that's too much to expect from a 10-minute speech."



    Back to Barack and other critiques of his speech?  Patrick Martin (WSWS) offers:


    Perhaps the most striking aspect of Obama’s hour-long address, riddled with tired clich├ęs and empty rhetoric, was the sheer unreality of the picture he presented of America, totally at odds with the actual experience of tens of millions of working people: mounting social and economic crisis, escalating attacks on democratic rights and the growing danger of world war.
    “The shadow of crisis has passed,” Obama claimed, declaring that the US has successfully emerged from the economic slump that followed the 2008-2009 financial crash. “At this moment, with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production—we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth.”
    No one not hypnotized by the ever-rising share prices on the New York Stock Exchange can accept that as a serious description of American social reality. A few figures released in the past month make this clear:
    * Nine million workers are officially unemployed, another six million have dropped out of the labor force, eight million work part-time when they want full-time jobs and 12 million work for temporary employment agencies.
    * Real wages have fallen steadily for American workers since 2007, dropping another five cents an hour in December 2014. The real income of the average working-class family is now back to the level of 2000—15 years of stagnation in living standards.
    * The US poverty rate has risen from 12.6 percent in 2007 to 14.5 percent in 2013. Nearly half of all Americans and more than half of all US school children are poor or near poor.
    * One fifth of American children do not get enough to eat, while the overall rate of food insecurity has jumped from 11 percent in 2007 to 16 percent in 2013. One million Americans will be cut off food stamp benefits this year.

    Obama evaded any discussion of such figures, substituting instead the proposal for “middle-class economics,” a term deliberately chosen to conceal the ongoing attack on jobs and living standards of American workers. It is the latest brand-name his speechwriters have concocted for the policy of both capitalist parties, Democratic and Republican alike, of promoting the interests of American corporations and banks against their foreign rivals and the working class at home.


    Glen Ford (Black Agenda Report) weighs in:


    The modern State of the Union address is designed to showcase the transparency of U.S. governance, with all three branches of the American State scrunched together in the space of a TV screen, applauding the leader. But late stage capitalism dare not reorder the world in the light of day. Since almost the beginning of the 21st century, lawyers and lobbyists for the global corporate class have been hammering out the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), sometimes called “NAFTA on steroids,” in total secrecy. Speaking to the American people, last night, President Obama feared to utter the treaty’s name. Instead, he asked “both parties to give me trade promotion authority” – ‘fast track’ passage of the legislation, unread by lawmakers – “to protect American workers, with strong new trade deals from Asia to Europe that aren’t just free, but fair.” If it were fair, of course, they wouldn’t keep it secret. By now, even the illiterate know that NAFTA and other “free trade” pacts smoothed the way for the export of U.S. jobs to the Global South and China, 20 years ago. But Obama inferred to the nation that the new deal will have the opposite effect. “More than half of manufacturing executives have said they’re actively looking at bringing jobs back from China. Let’s give them one more reason to get it done.”

    For the record, there is no reason to believe that TPP will cause jobs to flow back to the U.S. from China – quite the opposite. But then, Obama didn’t exactly say that the jobs flow would be reversed; like the worst kind of liar, he only inferred it.



    Moving over to Iraq, Madre and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission issued the following statement:





    Media Contact: Suzanne Trimel, strimel@iglhrc.org, +1-201-247-5057 (mobile)
    The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and MADRE, the global women’s rights group, condemn the recent killing of at least five individuals by the Islamic State, two of whom were allegedly murdered for homosexual conduct. While the story has been widely reported since January 17th as the execution of two gay men for homosexuality, no information available to date can independently verify the facts of their sexual orientation or shed light on the conduct for which they were executed. IGLHRC and MADRE emphasize the need for accuracy in understanding the executions and the urgent need to avoid inciting panic and risking further harm. In spite of the uncertainties surrounding the recent killings, however, the organizations point to the need for the international community to recognize the heightened risks facing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) Iraqis living under the Islamic State’s control.
    Summary of What is Known
    On January 17, the Islamic State’s local branch, the Neinava Province's Media Center, published on its website four labeled photos of its execution of two men who were thrown off a high building in Mosul, Iraq.
    The ISIS photos show crowds, including children, gathered to watch this horrific scene.
    The men’s names have not been made public.
    One of the photos in the series is captioned, “The execution is punishment for the person who committed the act of the people of Lot by throwing him off a tall building.” The term “people of Lot” is a euphemism for sodomy.
    According to the captions, the men were charged with sodomy, convicted by the Sharia court in the Neinava Province, and their punishment was in accordance with Sharia law.
    At the same time, the Islamic State posted captioned photos online of their execution of a woman they allegedly stoned to death for adultery and their crucifixion of two other men for "spreading corruption on earth" through "assaulting the Muslims with arms," "terrorizing the public," and "armed robbery."
    Summary of IGLHRC’s and MADRE’s Concerns
    IGLHRC and MADRE caution concerned members of the media, representatives of foreign governments and people of conscience generally in the strongest possible terms against assuming that the men identified as ‘gay’ and against assuming the men engaged in homosexual acts. Other than the photos themselves, very little is known about these executions. IGLHRC has tried to independently verify the events that occurred with little success to date. Without credible evidence, it is crucial to exercise extreme caution in how the event is reported and how the men are described.
    At this time, to publicly call Iraqi men “gay” can only do harm. If the men did not identify as gay, the allegation is inaccurate and obscures the Islamic State’s motivation for publicly labeling them as such. If the men indeed identified as gay, extreme caution should be exercised and consultation held with those they loved. If the men identified as gay, widespread publicity potentially exposes their families, loved ones and intimate partners to harm. Honor killings are pervasive in Iraq, so the safety of those most affected must be a paramount concern.
    Furthermore, to assume that the executions were for sodomy solely on the basis of information from the Islamic State is dangerous. Without evidentiary basis or independent confirmation, this sweeping allegation could be applied to anyone the Islamic State seeks to discredit—including human rights activists and anyone opposed to the Islamic State. Accusing opponents of homosexuality is a tried and true tool used to discredit political adversaries throughout the world.
    Accuracy is absolutely needed to moderate the level of fear of LGBTI Iraqis living in areas controlled by the Islamic State. During the anti-emo killings in 2012, rumors circulated alleging that upwards of a thousand people had been killed for perceived gender and sexual non-conformity, while the documented number was nearer ten. In response, IGLHRC interviewed LGBTI Iraqis and found that some fled the country, were shunned, isolated themselves at home too afraid to venture into the streets, and experienced high levels of suicidal ideation. The stakes today are high enough; allies in the media, foreign governments, and among concerned friends globally must understand accurately what occurred and avoid risky inflations of the threat level.
    ISIS Actions Underscore Fears Raised in 2014 by IGLHRC and MADRE
    Regardless of how any of the men or the woman executed identified or what they were executed for, the violence of the Islamic State and its tactics of intimidation are unacceptable in all instances. It is important to note that what the Islamic State describes as its “court system” is outside the bounds of international recognition, without adherence to due process and other established legal procedures.
    While the facts are unclear, the Islamic State’s very public execution of these men and very public assertion that they were executed for homosexuality underscores the fears IGLHRC, MADRE, and another co-author raised in a briefing paper issued in November, “When Coming Out is a Death Sentence.” In addition to documenting ongoing persecution of LGBTI Iraqis, the briefing paper raised concerns that LGBTI people (or anyone perceived as such) in Iraq were at imminent risk of death due to the stated intention of the Islamic State to kill anyone believed to be gay or engaged in same-sex activities. Its companion piece, “We’re Here: Iraqi LGBT People’s Accounts of Violence and Rights Abuses,” a collection of personal stories from LGBT Iraqis, describes the human costs to a community that has been largely rejected by family, community, militias and the state.
    Now that we have the Islamic State’s own boastful declaration of responsibility for these tragic deaths, it is clear that our fears of heightened risk for LGBTI Iraqis at the hands of the Islamic State continue to be well-founded. Despite cautions at this time, IGLHRC and MADRE urge the international community to focus on the specific dangers LGBTI Iraqis face within the context of the broader national crisis, including by expediting support for internal and external resettlement of people fleeing due to persecution.



    As we wind down, Felicity Arbuthnot has an important report at Dissident Voice which we'll excerpt some of tomorrow -- a promise I made yesterday but fail to keep today.  We don't have space or time and I don't have the energy.

    England?











  • Tony Blair is quoted in various outlets stating he doesn't care if the report is released.


    Which would indicate it's a whitewash.  Blair was the prime minister who sold the Iraq War in England.  And Blair's seen the report -- unlike the British citizens.  So if he says he's okay with it being released, it probably goes to the fact that the report doesn't really hold him accountable.












    Tuesday, January 20, 2015

    Arsalan Iftikhar and MSNBC need to apologize

    I don't follow Newsbusters.  It's a right-wing site that is a media watchdog.  I don't follow any media watchodgs -- mainly because I think the bulk of them are full of it.

    But a reader e-mailed this.

    On MSNBC's Now with Alex Wagner, guest Arsalan Iftikhar said of Louis. Governor Bobby Jindal, "He might be trying to -- you know, scrub some of the brown off of his skin as he runs to the right . . ."

    Arsalan Iftikhar 
    That's unacceptable.

    As a woman of color, I find that remark highly offensive.

    If that's the level of discourse MSNBC has to offer, they should close shop immediately.

    I'm really tired of this line of attack.

    Mia Love got elected to Congress.  Good for her.  We need more people of color in the Congress.

    But there have been so many attacks on her.

    And they're based on her being an African-American.

    She's supposed to be a Democrat, apparently, due to skin color.

    I'm African-American.  I'm not a Democrat.  I'm not a Republican.  I'm a Green.

    Guess what?

    African-Americans can be anything.

    People of color can be anything.

    It's only the small minded that feel the need to limit people of color.


    This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"



    Tuesday, January 20, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Barack Obama continues to spin, his Iraq remarks in tonight's speech don't hold water, NPR forgets it is tax payer funded because it's supposed to be objective, and much more.



    "I have no more campaigns to run," declared US President Barack Obama tonight in a possible attempt to provide comfort to a put-upon nation as he delivered yet another State of the Union Address.

    He first ran for the oval office, for example, promising to close the gulag at Guantanamo.

    In his campaign literature entitled "The War We Need To Win" in 2007,"  the promise was made, "As president, Barack Obama will close the detention facility at Guantanamo."  Eight years later, it remains open.


    President Barack Obama: As Americans, we have a profound commitment to justice -- so it makes no sense to spend three million dollars per prisoner to keep open a prison that the world condemns and terrorists use to recruit. Since I've been President, we've worked responsibly to cut the population of GTMO in half. Now it's time to finish the job. And I will not relent in my determination to shut it down. It's not who we are.



    Has he "worked to cut the population of GTMO in half"?  Well the promise was to close it.

    And not to close it in his second term.

    Pointing out realities makes one one of the "cynics" Barack referenced in his speech, a reference that left him sounding truly Nixonian.

    The editorial board of the San Diego Union-Tribune saw the speech as "self-flattery" and observed:

    The notion that a broadly resurgent United States can “turn the page” on a recent era of economic pain, wars and terrorism builds off a sunny assessment of the world that we don’t think many people share.
    After the turbulent past year, it is hard to conceive of how anyone could argue the world is safer because of U.S. leadership.

    Obama’s self-congratulation on the economy is also baffling. When unemployment was high and growth low, Democrats blamed an obstructionist House. Now that the jobless rate is coming down and growth is rebounding in much of the nation, suddenly the gridlock narrative is gone in favor of the idea that the good news is due to the president’s vigorous stewardship of something vaguely described as “middle-class economics.” But wait — wasn’t that stewardship utterly stymied? Isn’t it far more likely that the U.S. rebound is because of the private sector’s vitality — especially in energy and tech — not the actions of government?


    AP opens their fact check of the State of the Union Address with, "The U.S. may not have 'risen from recession' quite as rousingly as President Barack Obama suggested in his State of the Union speech Tuesday night. Seven years after that severe downturn began, household income hasn't recovered and healthy job growth is complicated by the poor quality, and pay, of many of those jobs."


    Perhaps to avoid charges of being a "cynic," AP avoids fact checking Barack on Iraq (one aside is not a fact check -- especially an aside that combines Iraq with Syria).

    Barack insisted, "Six years ago, nearly 180,000 American troops served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, fewer than 15,000 remain."

    Fewer than 15,000?

    But he promised they would be gone -- from Iraq.

    August 1, 2007, Barack promised, "When I am president, we will wage the war that has to be won, with a comprehensive strategy with five elements: getting out of Iraq and on the right battlefield in Afghanistan and Pakistan; developing the capabilities and partnerships we need to take out the terrorists and the world's most deadly weapons; engaging the world to dry up support for terror and extremism; restoring our values; and securing a more resilient homeland."

    The drawdown at the end of 2011 was a drawdown, not a withdrawal.

    It was a point made  December 12, 2011, when Ted Koppel filed an important report on Rock Center with Brian Williams (NBC) about what was really taking place in Iraq:


     
    MR. KOPPEL: I realize you can't go into it in any detail, but I would assume that there is a healthy CIA mission here. I would assume that JSOC may still be active in this country, the joint special operations. You've got FBI here. You've got DEA here. Can, can you give me sort of a, a menu of, of who all falls under your control?


     
    US AMB. JAMES JEFFREY: You're actually doing pretty well, were I authorized to talk about half of this stuff.

    Not only did Barack not get "out of Iraq," in June he began openly sending more US troops in.

    More and openly being the key words.


    In the fall of 2012,   Tim Arango (New York Times) reported, Barack sent a brigade of US Special-Ops into Iraq. In the US, the brief passage on Iraq buried in a report on Syria garnered very little attention.  To other outlets it was major news and a story they pursued.  One example of that would be  Press TV reported which reported in December 2012::
     

    Over 3,000 US troops have secretly returned to Iraq via Kuwait for missions pertaining to the recent developments in Syria and northern Iraq, Press TV reports.
    According to our correspondent, the US troops have secretly entered Iraq in multiple stages and are mostly stationed at Balad military garrison in Salahuddin province and al-Asad air base in al-Anbar province. 


    In June of 2014, he began sending US troops in openly and publicly.
    In June of 2014, he insisted that the only answer for Iraq was a "political solution."
    Tonight, Barack declared:
      

    I believe in a smarter kind of American leadership. We lead best when we combine military power with strong diplomacy; when we leverage our power with coalition building; when we don't let our fears blind us to the opportunities that this new century presents. That's exactly what we're doing right now – and around the globe, it is making a difference.


    But that isn't what's being done.

    Barack may say he believes "in a smarter kind of American leadership" which combines "military power with strong diplomacy."  He may say that.

    But as we've noted for months here, he's instead focused on bombing and getting foreign governments to send troops into Iraq while ignoring the diplomatic issues and the diplomatic power.

    Sunday brought not one but two major reports noting the lack of political progress in Iraq.  Martin Chulov (Guardian) reported:

    Iraq’s vice-president for reconciliation, Iyad Allawi, said a lack of a political process between the Shias who dominate the country’s power base, and disenfranchised Sunnis was a “grave mistake” that could mean the air attacks end up achieving little.
    “The whole strategy needs to be revisited and readdressed and the international allies should be part of this,” Allawi told the Guardian. “People are asking me what will come after Isis. What would be the destiny of [local] people? Are they going to be accused of supporting or defeating Isis? Would they be accused of being Ba’athists? It is going to be really difficult for them to engage without reconciliation.”


    And Tim Arango and Omar al-Jawoshy (New York Times) reported:



    On any given day, Sunni women gather here in search of answers about their men, some of whom have been jailed for years.
    “The Iraqi Army took my son in March of 2014,” said Tawfika Abbas. “Until now, I don’t know where he is. Zero information.”
    Another woman, Entisar Gannos, cried for her four sons: one jailed since 2006, another since 2010, and the other two since 2011, all without court hearings.
    Their grief, and the pain of not knowing what is happening to their loved ones, highlight a vital task for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi: reforming Iraq’s criminal justice system. Well-documented abuses of the system, including long detentions without trial and confessions obtained by torture, are the primary grievance of the country’s Sunni minority.



    But tonight he didn't own up to that reality.




    President Barack Obama:  In Iraq and Syria, American leadership – including our military power – is stopping ISIL's advance. Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group. We're also supporting a moderate opposition in Syria that can help us in this effort, and assisting people everywhere who stand up to the bankrupt ideology of violent extremism. This effort will take time. It will require focus. But we will succeed. And tonight, I call on this Congress to show the world that we are united in this mission by passing a resolution to authorize the use of force against ISIL.



    By passing what?  Oh, yeah, that authorization for force, the one he sent US Secretary of State John Kerry to argue, December 9th, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee -- sent Kerry to argue  that Congress must pass an authorization for Barack's actions in Iraq and Syria and that this legislation must include that Barack can send US combat troops into Iraq.


    Secretary of State John Kerry: However, while we certainly believe this is the soundest policy, and while the president has been clear he's open to clarifications on the use of U.S. combat troops to be outlined in an AUMF, that does not mean we should pre-emptively bind the hands of the commander in chief  or our commanders in the field -- in responding to scenarios and contingencies that are impossible to foresee. 


    Barack wants ground troops in Iraq to be in combat.

    Tonight was the perfect time for him to get honest with the American people.

    He elected not to do so.



    Portions of Barack's remarks were leaked ahead of the speech.  In response to the (brief and tiny) section on Iraq, these Tweets went up:







  • He's not the only one being dishonest about military action in Iraq.

    As noted in yesterday's snapshot, Monday saw the Canadian government acknowledge that Canadian forces in Iraq had been fired on and exchanged fire with the Islamic State.  The incident has left Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper looking like a liar.  Bruce Campion-Smith and Tonda MacCharles (Toronto Star) report:

    NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair on Tuesday point-blank accused Harper of misleading Canadians, saying the revelations that soldiers have been directing airstrikes and even exchanged gunfire with extremists calls into question the government’s promise of a “non-combat” mission.
    “He told Canadians they would not be involved in combat. He did not tell the truth,” Mulcair said.
    Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said the prime minister was not “forthright” about what the mission involved from the get-go.
    “The prime minister made some statements in the fall around this mission that turn out today to not to have been entirely truthful,” Trudeau said.



    This is serious and it's not going to be a surprise if it happens to US troops.

    But we can be serious in America, can we?


    Instead we get garbage like "Political Theater, Crazy-Glued GOP Seats And More Congressional Reaction."  If that appeared as a column in the New York Times, no problem.  A commentary on MSNBC or Fox News, no problem.

    But this was 'filed' by Amita Kelly at NPR.

    It's one-sided, it's garbage but worst of all Americans pay for that.  National Public Radio is not supposed to be Fox News or MSNBC.  It's supposed to be objective.

    And when it pulls this crap, it makes the charges of bias all the more legitimate.  (For the record, Democrat Steve Israel came up with "Crazy Glued GOP" in a Tweet.  You have to read to the end to even figure out why that's in the title.)


    And, for the record, if you wanted to tack on "crazy" to anyone of the members of Congress Kelly features, it would be Democrat Rosa DeLauor:



    Thrilled at President Obama's bold step to bring American workplace into 21st century. Time for Congress to follow suit & too!


    A 21st century workplace recognizes pregnancy as natural and doesn't penalize women for being pregnant.  For those who've forgotten, US House Rep Tammy Duckworth was ordered by her doctor not to get on a plane due to being in the last stages of her pregnancy yet when she requested to be allowed to vote in leadership races by proxy, Rosa DeLauro sided against Tammy.

    So don't pretend to be a friend of the workforce or to want to modernize it when you penalize a woman for being pregnant.  Rosa is full of crap and has no one to blame for that but her own crazy self.

    Though Barack portrayed Iraq as a success, the violence continues.

    Saif Hameed, Stephen Kalin, Ned Parker and Larry King (Reuters) report 26 corpses were discovered in Saadiya District.  Alsumaria reports a Tuz Khurmato grenade attack left two people injured, a Sadr City bombing left 1 person dead and five more injured, a suicide car bombing to the east of Ramadi left 3 people dead and eighteen more injured, a Hamammiyet roadside bombing left 1 person dead and two more injured, in Tarmiya a local council member was shot dead by assailants in Iraqi military uniforms, and a suicide car bombing in Nikhayb left two Iraqi soldiers injured.

    Lastly, Felicity Arbuthnot has an important report at Dissident Voice which we'll excerpt some of tomorrow.












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