Thursday, April 12, 2012

4 men, 3 women

I hope no one was waiting for my post.  C.I., Gina, Krista and I were working on something for tomorrow's round-robin and only just finished.

Okay, Talk of the Nation (NPR) today had Abe laser, Richard Hornsby, Geoffrey Corn, Will Doig, Kathleen Hughes, Dorian Mintzer and Mary Elizabeth Williams.  I thought Mary Elizabeth Williams was an important guest and the best one the program had all week.  I wish they'd do a follow up with her.  Although the segment's around 16 minutes long, it really seemed like it had just started and then BOOM it was over.  That's how it is with good radio.

Ann Romney.  C.I., Gina, Krista and I wrote a humorous piece for the round-robin.

Backing up.  Democrat strategist Hilary Rosen (not affiliated with Barack's re-election campaign) went on CNN Wednesday night to attack Mitt Romney and decided, what the hell, I'll go for Ann too.

So she very snidely declared that Ann Romney wasn't qualified to advise her husband on anything to do with economics because Ann's never worked "a day in her life."

Ann Romney is a stay-at-home mother.  She and Mitt have five sons.  That is so insulting to her and to all women, it really is.

And as C.I. notes in the roundtable we all did for the round-robin, 'Let's carry this out.  Hilary Rosen says this week that a woman can't talk about economics because she's 'just' a stay-at-home mom.  Next week, when Rush Limbaugh or Bill Mahr is saying that women who have children -- whether they work outside the home or not -- can't talk abotu economics because they're mothers, how do we fight back on that, how do we push back after we've already allowed Rosen to take us half-way down that road?'

It's a good point.

(And if you're saying, "Damn it, Ann! You've spoiled the roundtable for me."  That's the opening.  Gina does her brief set up as usual, then tosses straight to C.I. who says what I semi-quoted her saying above.  So I've not spoiled the roundtable for you, trust me.)


I feel sorry for Ann Romney.  She didn't deserve that.  I think she handled herself very well today when she responded (I streamed it online).  I also think Michelle Obama did a really important thing today and I applaud her.  And I'm not big on Michelle Obama.  But by Tweeting what she Tweeted, she really helped re-set the conversation.

If she never does anything else as First Lady, she should be noted for that in the history books.  Because she could have been silent or she could have offered, "I wish people would get along."  Instead, she chose to Tweet something that basically says, "I'm a woman too and I'm not going to be silent while another woman gets trashed for something she doesn't need to be slammed for."

My opinion of Michelle Obama really increased today.


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


Thursday, April 12, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, the political crisis continues, gential mutilation gets some attention, a mayor's killed in Iraq, Barack Obama gets praise (yes, praise from me), and more.
US President Barack Obama did a good thing today. We're going to start on something other than Iraq. The reason being US President Barack Obama did a good thing today and a White House friend I was speaking to on the phone a little earlier said, "You won't mention it, you never mention anything nice" about him here. Not only will we mention it, we'll open with it. The following appeared here this morning:
Hilary Rosen is a corporatist who has done very little for anyone except herself. She's also a lousy spokesperson for the Democratic Party due to her previous lobbying for the RIAA. But that's their problem. And I wouldn't be weighing in were it not for nonsense Dylan Byers (POLITICO) reports:


Democratic strategist and DNC adviser Hilary Rosen took a swipe at Mitt Romney's wife on CNN tonight, claiming that Ann had "never worked a day in her life" — a statement that led to criticism on Twitter from not just Ann but from the Obama campaign as well.
"I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work," Ann wrote in response to the comments Rosen made earlier in the evening on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360.

Hillary Rosen owes Ann Romney an apology. She owes all American woman an apology. A stay-at-home mom is not a woman on extended vacation. It is work, it is tremendous work. Those of us in the feminist movement -- apparently that does not include Hilary Rosen -- are aware of that and made a point to note that from day one. The media -- especially bad TV shows written largely by men like the awful 30-something and Everybody Loves Raymond -- like to invent this split where feminists sneer at home makers. That's not reality. "The Politics of Housework" by Pat Mainardi was not decrying the fact that women had extra hours of leisure. It was noting the very real work required to run a home.

Ann Romney made a choice on how to live her life and was fortunate enough to be in a position to make that choice (all women aren't so fortunate -- some are single-mothers, some have economic issues that prevent such a choice). There is nothing wrong with her choice or with her life as a mother. If she had decided to be a mother who works outside of the home, that would have been a valid choice as well.

Hilary Rosen's statements need to be condemned loudly. She needs to be rebuked. What she said is offensive to all women, regardless of what choice we make or we're forced into. Rosen's remarks are sexist and divisive and I'm not in the damn mood to see the sexism we endured in 2008 flourish again. Those of us who are feminists need to stand together and say, "It's not okay, Rosen." It's not okay, it's not acceptable.

My apologies to Ann Romney that someone who will (wrongly) be seen as a feminist made such insulting remarks. They do not represent feminism and they are not appropriate. I don't know Ann Romney, have never met her, but from the press it would appear she's been very happy with her choice. I'm happy for her.
--------------------------
That is from this morning. Mary Bruce (ABC News -- link is text and video) reports that President Barack Obama has rejected Rosen's comments and stated "there's no tougher job than being a mom. Anybody who would argue otherwise, I think, probably needs to rethink their statement." Good for Barack.
Good for Michelle Obama who had responded to the nonsense assertion (by Rosen) by 10:00 am this morning on her Twitter feed: "Every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected." That was a strong and graceful message. Good for Michelle Obama.
Good for David Axlerod and Jim Messina who publicly rejected it last night. Good for the Republican female senators that stood up for Ann Romeny -- and for all women -- in a press call today. I'm sorry, I haven't been following that story, I know (from a friend at CBS News) that Senator Kelly Ayotte was one. Good for her and the other women. (I'm also aware that they don't think Rosen was acting alone or independently. I'll leave that for someone else to decide.) Thank you to Michelle Obama, to David Axelrod, to Jim Messina, to Kelly Ayotte and everyone else who took it seriously including the president.
Those are the praises. Now the idiots. A friend at CBS News tells me that there is one article after another about how feminists were silent. I wasn't silent. I'm a feminist. I'm sure the many women with websites in our community will note it in some form tonight. Like me, they're not really following the race or, if they are, like Trina, they're blogging about Jill Stein's campaign. But as was pointed out to me -- by a non-feminist male with CBS News -- this silence is why the image of 'feminists don't care about home makers' can take root. I don't control the feminist movement or feminist bloggers. I am sure some others had to have weighed in. But who got attention? Zerlina's bad post at Feministing was mentioned.
According to Zerlina, "the real magic started when Ann Romney" went on to Twitter and saw "it as an opening to restart the 'mommy wars' of the 1990s." She did no such thing and posts like that don't help feminism. Ann Romney acknowledged today her good fortune to have been able to have made that choice, she noted that not every woman had that chance and she talked about how all choices were valid.
Zerlina wasn't funny or cute or -- most importantly -- helpful to feminism. Ann Romeny came off as more of a feminist than you today. (And Ann Romney may be a feminist. I don't know. I've never spoken to her.) Zerlina can take comfort in that Joan Walsh, as always, carries the torch for stupidity at Salon. Having distorted and outright lied with her coverage of the late Trayvon Martin (see Bob Somerby's archives), you'd think Walsh would learn when to close her mouth and take a seat, but that would be crediting her with far more intelligence than she has.
As usual, Joan's got a 'quote' but it's not really a quote. A quote is what someone said. Joan's edited it, as usual, so that it is different than what was said. Joan Walsh should have been kicked out of Salon a long, long time ago. You can watch Ann Romney here (link is video). I don't watch Fox News, I can't find a transcript so I'm providing one but I don't know the name of the woman she's speaking to.
Ann Romney: My career choice was to be a mother. And I think all of us need to know that we need to respect choices that women make. Other women make other choices -- to have a career and raise a family which I think Hilary Rosen has actually done herself. I respect that. That's wonderful. But you know, there are other people that have a choice. We have to respect women in all those choices that they make. And, by the way, let me give a shout out to all the Dads that are at home raising kids. This is obviously an awesome responsibility to raise children. It's, to me, the most important thing, we can do. I will tell you that Mitt said to me more times than you can imagine, "Ann, your job is more important than mine." He was making money and doing the things, raising funds and helping other companies and he would come home and say, "Ann, your job is more important than mine."
I'm holding up the roundtable for the gina & krista roundrobin (meaning everyone in the community will be late posting due to me). So I can't do a full transcript. But there was nothing insulting in Ann Romney's remarks. "Look I know what it's like to struggle. Maybe I haven't struggled as much financially as some people have. I can tell you and promise you that I have struggled in my life." Joan edits that quote down to "I know what it's like to struggle." And having lied like the piece of trash she is, Joan Walsh then wants an apology.
Joan, you deserve a public stoning. And you haven't walked in Ann's shoes and hopefully you never will, you will never have to raise children while dealing with your own illness or fear of being unable to do all you need to as a parent due to your illness. Joan Walsh is a disgusting person. She's allowed partisanship to turn her into the worst stereotype of a woman and all to attack another woman. We saw that in 2008. It needs to stop and it needs to stop now. And Joan Walsh needs to be called out loudly for her 'creative' 'reporting.'
This should have been about women. Barack got it. Again, praise to Barack for that, he earned it.
But instead we got Joan Walsh or Zerlina -- writing on one of the most prominent feminist websites -- who saw this as an opportunity to attack Ann Romney and other women. And then Zerlina wants to call it a "faux controversy" (apparently reading from the Hilary Rosen Handbook). How dare you?
What feminist would ever say that issues about choice were a "faux controversy"? James Downie (Washington Post) puts quotes around controversy. So, he's an ass and an idiot. Ruth Marcus makes an idiot out of herself as well though I don't think we'd mistake her a feminist either. Rosen did not say the right thing the wrong way, Ruth Marcus. (Marcus: "Hilary Rosen made a legitimate point the wrong way.") How dare you suggest that because a woman makes a choice -- one that as feminist we're supposed to support -- to be a stay-at-home mom that she's not smart enough to know about the economy.
I'm not in the damn mood, let's strip away the nonsense and get to what Hilary Rosen's remarks are about.
The subtext of Rosen's remarks is: A woman who stays home is not smart, is not able to navigate the world, is not a full person, is but an appendage of a man.
Now that description, I can remember hearing that sort of thing said about women when I was very young. And you know who said? Men. And that's what the feminist movement fought against. So I'm not in the mood at this late date to hear the sexist insults come from women.
Any woman who is a stay-at-home mother has just as much chance of being aware of 'the world around' as does any other person on the face of the planet. How dare you suggest that their experiences and their work isn't valid and doesn't matter in the grown up world, in the public sphere. That's what Rosen's remarks do. That's what those remarks did when they came out of a man's mouth. There is no excuse for it.
And, yes, Ann Romney's proud of raising five children, why shouldn't she be?
I'm just not in the mood. I'm sorry you're all so damn bitter and disappointed in your own lives. That has to be the reason that you're slamming Ann Romney. She defined her job -- her main job -- as raising her children. That's her job. Let her have pride in it. I worked outside of the home and I take pride in a number of projects I worked. I also raised kids. I take pride in the fact that they turned out well in spite of me. (Truly, they deserve all the credit for the way they turned out.)
Where is the bitterness coming from? I worked outside the home. I hear Ann Romney take pride in her choice to be a stay-at-home mom and I'm not threatened by that, I'm not offended by it, I don't see it as a judgment on my choices. I don't know her age, I'd guess we're close to the same age and so you've got two women and we made two different choices and we're both happy with our choices. What's to go negative on Ann Romney in her remarks today? I'm not hearing a judgment or stone cast at me. So why are so many being defensive and attacking her. She's happy with her life, I'm happy for her. I'm happy with my life, I'm sure she'd be happy for me.
In 2008, it was acceptable to call Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin the c-word. It was accepted and treated as okay. Hillary was called a "bitch" on air, on CNN and that was acceptable. Sandra Bernhardt worked Palin into her act saying that African-American men should gang-rape Palin. Which was not only anti-woman, it was rather racist that when casting for the part of "Rapist," Bernhardt's first thought was, "African-American men!" We could do a whole week of snapshots that were nothing but examples of all the sexism in 2008 aimed at women who dared to run for higher office (in Hillary's case, the highest office). As I said this morning, I'm not going to stand for it a replay of that this year and America shouldn't stand for it either.
Hilary Rosen did not choose her words poorly. (And, be honest, it's not that she forgot to say "work at home." She stated Ann Romney had never worked a day in her life. That was an insult and it was intended as such. This was much more than I 'forgot to include work without pay.') She offered a point of view that was sexist, a point of view that argues that women who do not work outside the home don't know how hard it is, don't know what the real world's like. That's the point she was making and how she was attempting to discredit Ann Romney. If Hilary Rosen had a brain, she'd have woken up this morning and said, "I am so sorry." And then everyone could have moved on to something else. Instead, she took to the Huffngton Post justifying her remarks. There is no justification.
She was wrong. She should have said that this morning and offered an apology.
There's been no real apology. I've been arguing with friends over that (reporters and producers and editors see Rosen's words late this afternoon as an apology). Lucy Madison (CBS News) reports that Rosen told Wolf Blitzer today, "I apologize Working moms, stay at home moms, they're both extremely hard jobs." Good. Glad you grapsed that basic. But that's not where it ended. You have not taken away the sexist implication that a stay-at-home mother isn't a full person, a grown up who can understand the economy and certainly has just as much right as any other woman or man to discuss it.
Rosen made it worse by telling Blitzer that "we are all sort of falling victim to this amazing crashing political machine in this campaign, to move awy from the real issues . . ."
The real issues?
The right of every woman to make their own choices aren't real issues?
Rosen could have argued, "I applaud Ann Romney for her decision to stay-at-home and raise her children. She seems to be very happy with that choice. My concern is that her husband's proposed policies might make it difficult for other women who want to be stay-at-home mothers to do the same because I believe his policies would adversly effect the earning power of most couples and force some women who would choose to be stay-at-home moms to work outside the home instead."
But to say that these aren't real issues? These are the issues of the feminist movement. Thank you, Hilary Rosen, for insulting all the work so many women have done to establish that a woman had a right to choose her path.
Her apology, Rachel Rose Hartman (The Ticket) explains, included, "Let's declare peace in this phony war and go back to focus on the substance."
Does she not get how insulting that is? How insulting to the feminist movement?
Some of us -- including me -- strongly believe that all employers should provide on-site day care. Sorry, Hilary Rosen, that's a real issue. And it's a real issue if you disagree with me. If you think I'm wrong on this, that's your opinion, and you're voicing it because whether or not there is on-site day care is a real issue to you as well. You're not in favor of it, I am, these are real issues we are debating.
Everything Hillary Rosen has said since last night's interview has been an insult. She should have simply stated, "I was wrong. I am sorry. Please accept my apology and I'm going to take a few days to reflect on this before saying anything else."
Instead, she's offered 'apologies' where she blames Ann Romney (if her husband didn't bring Ann up, Rosen insists, she never would have!), offers insulting remarks and thinks she's apologized?
How did Hilary Rosen teach her own kids to apologize?
I taught my children: You say you're sorry, you ask if you can do anything to make it better.
Apparently Hilary Rosen taught her kids: You say you're sorry and then spend 30 minutes explaining to them why it was their fault to begin with.
This is not a 'faux' controversy about made up issues. This is about the rights of women and if Rosen has a problem with Ann Romney's comments on the economy, she should address those, not play pat-the-stay-at-home-mommy-on-the-head-and-say-you're-so-pretty. Her remarks today have made it clear that she was stating not just that stay-at-home moms don't work but that they're not really full adults, they can't grasp the economy, those 'hair-brained' gals. Her remarks and her attitude are insulting.
Again, praise for Barack from me. He could have been silent. I'm glad he wasn't. And Michelle Obama handled it with strength and grace, so good for her too. Excuse me, Michelle handled it with strength, grace and wisdom. Strong applause for her from me today.
Now to Iraq, where the violence never ends. Alsumaria reports that 72 people were arrested by Iraqi forces yesterday, 1 guard was killed outside Baquba, a Baquba home bombing killed a husband and wife and their three children and 1 person was shot dead in Kirkuk. In another report they identify the man in the Baquba bombings as Mayor Younis Youssef Ibrahim. And they note that early this morning the home of the chair of the Diwaniyah security committee was targeted with dynamite. Though the house was damaged, no one was harmed. Meanwhile Al Rafidayn reports two bombings in Baquba this morning have left fifteen people injured. Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) notes an armed attack outside Kirkuk on a police patrol which left 2 police officers dead and three more injured. AFP adds that 3 civilians were killed in the attack and three more were left injured.
Staying on the topic of violence, we move over to the death penalty. Tuesday, the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq appeared before the United Nations Security Council to brief on the latest developments (see Tuesday and Wednesday's snapshots). He also submitted a written report entitled "Second report of the Secretary-General pursuant to resolution 2001 (2011)." Page 7-8, Section C ("Human rights activities") includes this:

From December 2011 to February 2012, there were 80 executions, compared to 68 for January to November 2011. Those executed, most of whom had been convicted under anti-terrorism laws, included one foreign national and at least one woman. UNAMI requested the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Human Rights and the Higher Judicial Council to provide details concerning individuals executed and the charges on which they had been convicted, but no information has been forthcoming. On 24 January, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement expressing concern over trial standards in Iraq and the use of the death penalty, urging the Government of Iraq to suspend its implementation.
Hala Kareem (NIQASH) reports on the death penalty including noting that it is popular in Iraq with officials and thought to be popular with the people. Kareem offers these numbers:
While United Nations figures suggest that more than 1,200 people have been senteced to death in Iraq since 2004. Figures obtained by NIQASH from the Ministry of Justice indicate that from 2004 up until the end of 2011, 1145 people were sentenced to death and around 250 have been executed, 84 of them in 2010. Those numbers would have increased due to executions in late 2011 and early 2012, totalling at least 63.
The Iraqi government justifies the executions by arguing that only the death penalty can deter terrorist acts. And somewhat unusually, this sentiment is iterated by the Iraqi Minstry of Human Rights. According to a Ministry spokesperson, Kamil Amin, death by hanging is suitable as long as there has been a fair trial.
Violence in Iraq also includes genital mutilation. Though there have been efforts to portray this as a problem exclusive to the Kurdistan Regional Government, the problem goes beyond that. MESOP sent the following press release to the public e-mail account:
For the first time, an empirical study proved that female genital mutilation is also prevalent in parts of Iraq beyond the borders of the Kurdish Region. WADI and the local women's rights organization PANA have conducted an in-depth research about the existence and background of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Kirkuk. They interviewed 1212 women above the age of 14 and asked each of them 61 questions.
Two years ago, WADI did a similar research in Kurdish Northern Iraq which revealed an alarmingly high prevalence rate of more than 72%. Around the same time, Human Rights Watch published a qualitative study which backs and complements WADI's results. Meanwhile, after extensive protests and lobby efforts from activists and women's rights groups (see notably the campaign STOP FGM in Kurdistan ), the Regional Government has adopted a legal ban of FGM and other forms of violence against women and children.
Not so in Southern and Central Iraq, which also comprises the multi-ethnic, oil-rich city of Kirkuk. The public authorities assume that FGM is non-existent outside the Kurdish Region.
The new Kirkuk study proves this assumption to be utterly false. According to its findings, 38.2% of Kirkuki women live with the consequences of FGM.
With 65.4%, Kurdish women are the most affected ethnic group. Arab women hold 25.7% and Turkmen women 12.3%.
Focusing on the religious affiliations, 40.9% of the Sunnis, 23.4% of the Shi'ites and 42.9% of the Kaka'is are genitally mutilated.
No Christians were found to be affected.
The FGM prevalence rate among girls under the age of 20 is a "mere" 15% which may indicate that the practice is about to decrease gradually. Among women aged 60-70, it is up to 80%.
When it comes to the reasons for the practice, the answers are evenly divided between "tradition" and "religion", i.e. Islam.
In most cases, FGM means the amputation of the clitoris. Some women however – in the Arab-dominated countryside it is 21% – experienced more severe types, including the cutting of the inner and/or outer labia.
The Kirkuk findings prove that FGM is a common practice also among non-Kurds – Sunnis and Shi'ites alike. This data constitutes strong evidence for the assumption that FGM is prevalent throughout Iraq. Millions of women and girls are likely to be affected by these grave human rights violations.
Therefore, we call on the Baghdad parliament to address the issue as soon as possible, support public awareness and discuss further ways to counter female genital mutilation in Iraq. The complete study will be published in June 2012.
Wadi e.V. – Association for Crisis Assistance and Development Co-Operation Phone: +49-69-57002440
Email: info@wadinet.dewww.wadi-online.de – 60439 Frankfurt am Main / Germany
Wadi Office Sulaimaniyah/Northern Iraq
Phone: +964-7701588173 7 Pana Kirkuk Phone: +964-7701512007
Some Iraqis manage to physically escape the violence. Amir Al Tamimi (GS Summit) reports on "Moon," an Iraqi woman whose husband worked for US troops and was kidnapped and killed for doing so. Her parents and sister had already moved to Egypt due to the violence. She was now a widow and alone with threatening phone calls declaring her late husband a traitor and spy. She went to Jordan but was not allowed to work (refugees who flee to Jordan or Syria are not allowed to work -- those who do get paid under the table) and returned to Iraq. Her family had been accepted in the US and her father "received assistance from Catholic Charities and Survivors of Torture International in persuading Rep. Duncan Hunter to sponsor a bill to permit her to reunite with her family, after four long years of separation." She states, "I am telling my story to show the people, wnever there is hope, there is a chance to have a new life."
Along with genital mutiliation, Iraqi women also face so-called 'honor' killings. We'll again note the Housan Mahmoud's Feburary report (Mahmoud is with the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq):
What the brutal 'honour killing' of a girl in Iraq's Kurdistan province shows about the country's headlong descent into sectarian violence
Houzan Mahmoud, an Iraqi Kurd who lives in Britain, is the overseas representative of the Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq and initiator of the Campaign against Killing and Stoning of Women in Kurdistan
When 17-year-old Doa appealed to the men to stop their attack, she was completely ignored. Surrounded by an excited, baying crowd of dozens of mature, burly men, she was beaten to death. Slowly. Having thrown her to the ground, they surrounded her and began a barrage of stones and chunks of concrete, mostly aimed at her head, deliberate blow after deliberate blow. Periodically she was disdainfully kicked by some of her assailants. Her suffering was dragged out for half an hour, long enough for many of the killers to film her death throes on their mobile phone videocams.
Doa's crumpled figure now adorns several websites. This horror-porn emanates from Iraq, in particular, from Iraqi Kurdistan, my own homeland and one that I believe is descending into the wider maelstrom of religious sectarianism that is tearing post-Saddam Iraq apart. And in Doa's death, I think we can see a terrifying portent of a future Iraq increasingly eviscerated by primeval sectarian hatreds. But let us go back to poor Doa.
She was a 17-year-old girl called Doa Khalil Aswad. This teenager came from the Yezidi community in northern Iraq, one of the country's religious minorities, an ancient Kurdish faith with strong links to Sufism and non-Islamic ancient Babylonian beliefs. Her misdemeanour, her 'crime', was to fall in love with a local Sunni Muslim boy. And her fate was sealed, it seems, when, one day last month she spent a night away from her family home. Rumours circulated that she had 'converted' to Islam and suddenly there was a witch-hunt for the couple, especially for the female now deemed guilty of a 'crime of honour'. A Yezidi tribal leader in the town of Bashika initially sheltered the girl, but his house was stormed and in broad daylight she was dragged outside and literally stoned to death. The boy escaped and is said to be in hiding.
Kurdish websites are now buzzing with postings on Doa's death and there are both photographs and gruesome videos of her last minutes. The videos show other spectator-participants holding their phones aloft, capturing their own trophy shots even as the girl writhes in pain in front of them.
Amnesty International (now celebrating 50 years) helped get the word out on the above. And yesterday, Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project released a video on being gay in Iraq which the Huffington Post has posted to their site. and which noted that gay men in Iraq are also targeted with the so-called 'honor' killings. Others may have grasped that before yesterday. I didn't. (And am never afraid to note my ignorance.) I was aware that LGBTs in Iraq were sometimes killed by family members. I was not aware that it was done as an 'honor' killing -- which is generally done a bit more publicly or less secretly because the intent is to restore 'honor' by killing.
Moving on to the continued political crisis. Michael Peel (Financial Times of London) sees the division as "between Iraq's religious and ethnic groups" and notes some fear that a civil war is about to resurface. The Economist recaps the crisis as follows:
Parliament barely functions. The Iraqiya bloc, comprising mostly Sunnis and secularists, won the most seats of any party in the 2010 election and subsequently joined a coalition government. But the animosity of its Shia partners, who jointly hold more seats, has in effect pushed Iraqiya into opposition. Its nominee as deputy prime minister, Saleh al-Mutlaq, fell out with Mr Maliki last year over the lack of Sunnis in the security forces. He claims that tanks then surrounded his house, forcing him to flee the country.
The prime minister also chased away Tareq al-Hashemi, the Sunni vice-president, by issuing an arrest warrant in connection with terrorism charges. Mr Hashemi took refuge in the Kurdish north and is now abroad. He says that three of his bodyguards, who stand accused by Mr Maliki of running a Sunni death squad, have been tortured to death in police custody.
Kurdish leaders are also angrier than usual with Mr Maliki. The president of the autonomous Kurdish area, Masoud Barzani, has accused the prime minister of building a million-man army loyal only to himself, and of violating a 2010 power-sharing deal. Mr Barzani has appealed to the White House, but appears to have secured only limited support. The American embassy in Baghdad released an unprompted statement stressing its backing for a unified Iraq.
Al Mada reports that Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi states that Prime Minister and thug Nouri al-Maliki took advantage of the White House's indifference to violate the Constitution and grab powers to intimidate and suppress political rivals. Iraqiya came in frist in the March 2010 elections, Nouri's State of Law came in second. Allawi criticizes the corruption in the current government -- a non-controversial position in Iraq. Last year, Iraqis took to the streets protesting the government corruption. To distract protesters, Nouri claimed he needed 100 days to address it and then the problem would be solved. At the end of 100 days (all Nouri does is stall), the corruption was not addressed and Nouri offered more excuses and more brutality. Mahmoud Othman leads the Kurdish Alliance in Parliament and he states that KRG President Massoud Barzani's call for a national conference is in keeping with the needs of Iraq and what Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has been calling for. Since December 21st, Talabani and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi have been calling for a national conference to address the political crisis. Aswat al-Iraq reports that Iraqiya is stating that there will be "a change in Iraqi political bloc if the National Conference" does not "rectify the process in the country."

Alsumaria notes
that Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, states that many mistakes have been made in Iraq since 3002 and that this is "natural" due to the fact that many now participating in the process were kept out of it under Saddam Hussein but that the political crisis must be addressed. Al Rafidayn notes that al-Hakim stated it will take courage to recognize mistkaes that have been made. The article also reminds that since April 6th, there has been speculation that the National Alliance and the Kurds have made a political agreement that would replace Nouri al-Maliki with Ahmed Chalibi -- an agreement everyone has public denied exists.

It's not a repeat, it just feels like one: Al Mada notes that KRGS is sending a delegation to Baghdad to discuss the crisis. Yes, they did that in the fall of last year. No, it didn't resolve anything then. Yes, as with that time, the people involved are stating that they believe the delegation's dialogue can resolve the crisis.

Al Rafidayn notes that KRG President Massoud Barzani has repeated his concern that Iraq is currently headed towards a dictatorship and that, if the political crisis cannot be addressed, the only option would be for the Kurdish region to go with full autonomy (three provinces currently make up the KRG and it is a self-autonomous region). Barzani, who has been visiting several countries including the US, states that when he turns there will have to be real efforts at partnership ("sincere") and democracy or else the Kurds will have to decide for themselves what their future holds.
In more distrubing power-grab news, Raheem Salman (ioL news) reports, "The head of Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) and one of its members were arrested by police on Thursday on corruption charges, IHED officials said, in the latest apparent move for more government control of independent bodies. Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki won a court ruling in January 2011 that put the IHED and other entities, including the central bank, under cabinet supervision, raising concern over attempts to consolidate power by the Shi'a premier."
Turning to the US, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. The Committee notes:
Committee on Veterans' Affairs
United States Senate
112th Congress, Second Session
Hearing Schedule
Update: April 12, 2012
Saturday, April 21, 2012
10:30 am MST
2465 Grant Road
Billings, Montana
Field Hearing: Improving Access to Quality Health Care for Rural Veterans
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
10 am EST
Senate Dirksen Office Building Room 138
VA Mental Health Care: Evaluating Access and Accessing Care
Matthew T. Lawrence
Chief Clerk/System Administrator
Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs
202-224-9126

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