12/02/2011

community

'community. '

2 great episodes in a row. not good, great.

this week (last night) i actually like shirley.

for the 1st time ever.

she always gets on my nerves most episodes.

but here she was a fooze ball terror and teamed up with jeff to try to defeat some german foozeball players on campus.

as shirley helped him improve his game, she revealed parts of herself, noting that the game brought out the worst in her.

jeff explained how he was ridiculed for fooze ball and walked away from it. shirley also played as a child. and, again, it brought out the worst in her.

after they were set to defeat the germans, they went out to dinner. and it was there that jeff asked her to tell him about that.

we see a child (11 y.o.) shirley at a fooze ball table. she plays this kid and taunts him. he ends up wetting himself after she beats him and shoves 1 of the sticks into his balls.

she didn't just defeat him, she says, she took him to tinkle town.

'big cheddar!' exclaims jeff.

we see the same scene but from 11 y.o. jeff's p.o.v. he's the boy who wet his pants.

big cheddar was what they called shirley. jeff yells at her that she ruined his life. then he storms out while people look over at their table.

but they make their amends and team up to beat the germans.

meanwhile avid's spent nearly $300 on an exclusive 'dark knight' dvd with special commentary from christian bale.

annie accidentally steps on it and breaks it.

to cover, she pretends they were robbed. (troy knows the truth and can't believe how far she's gone.) avid puts 2 and 2 together and gets 5 - the only 1 who could have done it was ... the landlord!

avid dresses up as batman, climbs out the window and confronts the landlord.

who admits ... he is stealing women's shoes. annie sees a pair of her shoes.

so the police are called.

annie tried to tell avid the truth but he refused to listen. he listens as batman and tells her he forgives her but she shouldn't tell avid.

troy was the highlight of the scenes. saying things like annie was supposed to make them (avid and him) less crazy.

it really was a funny episode and even had animation in it which was handled very, very well.

let's close with c.i.'s 'Iraq snapshot:'


Friday, December 2, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri appears to want a third term as prime minister, a rumor's presented that Nouri was the target of an assassination attempt, NATO negotiations with Iraq continue, Senator Patty Murray expresses serious concerns about the way the VA is handling mental health care, and more.
Starting with veterans issues.
Chair Patty Murray: Dr. Zeiss, I wanted to ask you, when you testified before a hearing for this Committee May 25th, I asked you whether VA had enough resources to meet OEF OIF veterans needs for health care and you said the resources weren't the problem. In light of what you've learned from last May, especially from your own providers do you stand by that statement from me?
Antonette Zeiss: I believe that we have unprecedented resources and that we have gotten them out to the field and that we have hired an enormous amount of staff. And at the time, I believed that they were adequate if used in the most effective ways possible. We continue to have an increasing number of mental health patients. We have looked at the FY'11 data and the numbers have again jumped from FY'10 and we are proactively predicting what kinds of increases there will be in FY 12 and we're working with the Office of Policy and Planning to ensure that those projection are embedded into the actuary model that drives the budget predictions so that I can say that we will be aggressively following all the data that we have available to ensure that we can make effective predictions at the policy level about what level of funding and level of staffing will be essential and we will be partnering very closely with Dr. Schohn's office who are responsible for ensuring that those resources are are used most effectively are used in the field to deliver the kinds of care that we have.
Chair Patty Murray: So you still today do not believe that it's resources that's the issue?
Antonette Zeiss: I believe that we're at a juncture where we need to be looking absolutely at resources because of the greatly increased number of mental health patients that we are serving. And some of that is because of very aggressive efforts we've made to outreach and ensure that people are aware of the care that VA can provide. The more we succeed in getting that word across and serving increasing number of veterans, the more you're absolutely right, we have to look at what's the level of resources to keep -- to be able to sustain the level of care that we believe is essential.
Chair Patty Murray: You're looking at it, we're asking. We need to have this information upfront now if you need more resources. You just look at the stories out there, the thousands of people coming home, the people that aren't getting served, the people are reaching out to. It just feels to me that this is something we should know now. We've been ten years into this.
Anonette Zeiss: We . . . Uhm. We believe that people are receiving an enormous amount of service from VA and we agree -- as Dr. Schohn has said -- that we need to focus on some specific aspects of care, particularly the evidence based therapies. And we are working with Dr.Schohn who will be developing a very specific staffing model so that we can identify what are the levels of staffing that are available at specific sites and how does that --
Chair Patty Murray: Well let me ask a specific question then. Dr. Schohn according to the mental health wait data provided to the Committee by the VA, Veterans at Spokane VA, my own home state, wait an average of 12 days with a psychiatrist, with a maximum wait for a psychiatrist being 87 days. Now I've been told that all of the psychiatrists in VA in Spokane are booked solid for several months and that there are other places in the country that are far worse than that. You mentioned that the VA is working to fill those vacancies but the hiring process is very slow. What can the Dept do now to make sure that we are shortening these wait times?
Mary Schohn: In fact there is efforts already underway in Spokane to improve the hiring. The waiting time has decreased. There is a shortage and there is variability in our system in terms of ability to, for example, hire a psychiatrist in Spokane. One of the efforts that's being made is to use tele-psychiatry. Essentially to use -- to provide service from a site where there's a greater ability to recruit psychiatrists and to use their services at the site where they are at and to then be able to provide resources to Spokane, for example. The chief medical officer in Spokane has worked to ensure that coverage can come from other facilities within VSN 20, to where the needs of the veterans in Spokane are met. Those are the kinds of things that we're working on as we come across evidence that we're short in some areas. We know that in some other areas, there are not shortages and there may be some surpluses that can be used in those sites.
Chair Patty Murray: Well let me ask you another question. There was a provision on using community providers for mental health services in the Caregivers Omnibus that was passed by Congress earlier this year. It included peer-to-peer services and we heard from our first panel how important peer-to-peer services are. I am told that the Department is making very little progress on implementing that. Can you tell me what's holding up that?
Mary Schohn: We have made some progress. I'm going to ask Dr. Kemp to talk specifically on that.
Janet Kemp: As you're aware most of our peer-to-peer services -- Or a lot of our peer-to-peer services are provided by the vet centers which is an exceptional program that you are all very familiar with which we endorse and support. We've grown the number of vet centers. By the end of the year, we will have three hundred vet centers across the country open and running in addition to the 70 mobile vet centers that will be up and traveling across the country. So I think that we have made huge strides in providing those services to combat veterans and their families across the country. We also have a contract which has been let out and is in the process of being filled to provide training to train more peer type support counselors. We're looking forward to that being completed and we will get those people up and going as soon as we're able to get them on board.
Chair Patty Murray: Okay --
Janet Kemp: We agree with the intent of that legislation for lots of good reasons and we will continue to implement those services.
Chair Patty Murray: Okay, well this Committee will be following that very closely. And before I turn it over to Senator Burr, I just want to say that I'm really disturbed by the disconnect between the provider data and your testimony on the wait time issue. And I am going to be asking the Inspector General for a review of that issue. I assume, Senator Burr, you will join me in that. [Senator Burr nods] And I would like all of your [VA witnesses on the panel] commitment to work with them on that.
The three Witnesses replied "Absolutely" in unison, no doubt hoping they came off like the charites when in fact they more closely resembled the beastly cerberus. We'll come back to the beast.
It was Wednesday morning and Committee Chair Senator Patty Murray was calling to order the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee for a hearing, "Today's hearing builds upon our July hearing on the same subject. At that hearing, the Committee heard about two service members who, even after attempting to take their own lives, had their appointments postponed and difficulties getting through red tape in order to access the care that they needed. I know that, like me, many on this Committee were angered and frustrated by their stories and I'm glad that today we are going to have the opportunity to get more information and answers on why these delays persist. [. . .] At our hearing in July, I requested that the VA survey their frontline professionals about whether they have sufficient resources in order to get veterans into treatment. The results that came back to me shortly after that were not good. Of the VA providers surveyed, nearly 40% said they cannot schedule an appointment in their own clinic within the VA mandated 14 day window, 70% said they did not have adequate staff or space to meet the mental health care needs of the veterans they serve, and 46% said the lack of off-hour appointments prevented veterans from accessing care. The survey not only showed that our veterans are being forced to wait for care -- it also captured the tremendous frustration of those who are tasked with healing veterans. It showed wide discrepancies between facilities in different parts of the country -- including the difference between access in urban and rural areas. And it provided a glimpse at a VA system that, 10 years into war, is still not fully equipped for the influx of veterans seeking mental health care."
10 years into war, the VA is still not fully equipped to deal with the influx of veterans seeking mental health care. That's what the hearing was about.
The Committee heard from two panels of witnesses. The first panel was composed of retired Col Charles W. Hoge (who is a medical doctor), Barbara Van Dahlen, Michelle Washington and John Roberts. They shared important experiences within the VA system. We'll skip the panel to focus on the VA's incompentence and we're able to do that because we'll include questioning from Ranking Member Richard Burr which includes him asking about the testimony from the first panel.
The second panel? We're back to the ceberus -- a multi-headed beast in Greeky mythology that guards the entrance to the Underworld: the VA's Mary Schohn, Janet Kemp and, especially, Antonette Zeiss.
Zeiss is a lousy witness. She's such a lousy witness that you doubt she can do her job properly. There's an issue of being professional. This is the fourth or fifth time, I've registered her outfits. When you appear before Congress as a witness, you need to look professional. Now were I to wear my hair a color of gray with garish off-yellow waxy streaks in it and it was down inches below my shoulder, I'd put some color on it or have the yellow waxy streaks removed. [Looking at her hair, one is forever reminded of Mary Hartman (Louise Lasser) discussing yellow waxy build up on kitchen floors.] Were I not to cut it (and I would cut it), I would at the very least pin it up to try to look professional instead of showing up with a rat's nest spilling down my shoulders thereby revealing to the world that I can't afford either a comb or a brush. But,okay, maybe I'm a little too focused on hair. (I don't think so. And, again, she could and should pin it up if she's not going to cut it. She's supposed to be appearing before Congress not chatting with Hugh Hefner on Playboy After Dark.) There is the issue of your professional uniform. And the first time I noticed this with her, I thought, "Well, sure, we can all forget an appointment and then have no time to change. And just have to pull together something to show up in." Either she's always forgetting or no one ever taught her what constitutes professional dress. Here's your first hint, an ugly blazer that needs to be dry cleaned (that sorely needs to be dry cleaned) and pressed to get all the wrinkles out doesn't qualify as professional. Not even when quickly put it on top of a dress that doesn't qualify as professional but might qualify as a house dress. (Did she buy it on her way into DC, from a vendor on the side of the road?) That's before you get to her putting that ratty blazer with every dress regardless of whether they match or not. (Thus far, I haven't seen her match it with anything when testifying before Congress. If she' suffers from color blindness, she should ask for help.)
Then there's her condescending way of answering questions. She speaks slowler and in the tone of a voice that you'd use when speaking to a very young child. It's patronizing and off-putting.
Now let's get to her profession's issues. She's working for the VA. Has been promoted throughout the VA. There are problems in the VA and as Chair Murray noted, things are going to get more hectic with the huge influx of veterans about to be added to the system. So Zeiss might either need to agree to earn that salary or turn in her resignation to continue her on-the-side work on geropsychology.
She's paid a salary by the tax payer and her little sidelines could be justified in the past with the claim (illusion or reality) that the VA was doing just great. It's doing a lousy job and, specifically, her own areas need improvement. So she can earn her salary by devoting her full attention to this issue or she can leave and do her geropscyhology work. Or how about her more recent work on marriage? So let's not pretend she's giving her all to the administrative role she's paid to perform. And, after 29 years with the VA, she really shouldn't need anyone else pointing out that obvious fact. Of that, when you're salary, and not hourly, and things go wrong, you have to put in more than 40 hours.
Meanwhile the VA should be explaining why she and others oversee a psychiatry program. Meaning? That's a medical program. Do you see me calling her "Dr. Zeiss"? No. Nor do I call anyone in these snapshots "doctor" unless they're a medical doctor. (Or unless they're a veterinarian.) Zeiss appears before the Congress and wants to be called "Doctor" and wants to talk about medical issues including psychiatry which is a medical license. I have nothing against psychology (I have many friends who are psychologists including one of my best friends) but why is a psychologist over the VA's pyschiatry program?
Would we put a gastroenterologist over a cardiac ward?
Well, we wouldn't. But the US government might.
And they have. Outside of Lousiana, I don't believe a psychologist can prescribe medicine in the US. (Correct me if I'm wrong on that.) Now when I hear the testimony of Schohn and Zeiss -- neither of whom is a psychiatrist -- that psychiatrist from one VA will be providing medical care to VA patients at another VA via the telephone, my first question is about meds. That's what psyhaiatrists do that draws the line between them and psychologists. So let's pretend I'm a veteran. You're telling me I'm going to get the same level of care from a VA psychiatrist whether I'm on the phone with her or face to face?
Is she able to prescribe for me over the phone?
These are questions that should be asked.
Ranking Member Burr had questions about flexibility and Schohn insisted they had flexible off hours and then tossed to Zeiss who needed a definition from Burr of "flexible." Again, this is someone in charge of oversight? We'll pick up right after that in the exchange.
Antonette Zeiss: Well I believe, as Dr. Schohn has been saying, we do have flexibility in hours of service. What we've discovered, in looking at the data, is that the initial requirement was for evening clinic -- one evening clinic at least once a week and others as needed. And what we're finding is that the data suggests is what works much better for veterans is early morning hours and weekend hours. And so the policy group is looking very carefully at that in terms of changing and creating even more flexibility than the original after hours policy. The Uniform Mental Health Services Handbook that Dr. Schohn referenced also has an incredible array of flexible programs and defines a very broad range and flexible range of mental health services.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: Let me stop you there if I can. Let me just say, I have a tremendous amount of respect for all of you. I mirror what you've heard from other colleagues. I thank all the VA employees for what they do. But the fact that you've got something written in a book or you've put out a guideline and believe that you can still come in front of this Committee and say, "We've got it written! It's right there!" What we hear time and time again, and I heard from Mr. Roberts, in his testimony. There is no evening options in areas. It doesn't exist. Whether your data shows that it's preferred to be in the morning or the afternoon. In his particular case, your guideline shows the evening and he said, testified, it doesn't exist. So I hope you understand our frustration and, Dr. Schohn, I'm going to ask you if you would provide, for the Committee, a detailed audit of how the $5.7 billion has been spent. And I'm not talking about breaking it down in 403 million dollar categories. I'm talking about, for the Committee, a detailed description of how we spent that $5.7 billion in additional mental health money. Now let me just ask you, is Dr. Washington correct when she said a majority of the patients seen in the 14 day window are there for the purpose of information gathering, not necessarily treatment and many are not seen by a health care professional, they are seen by a staffer there to collect data.
Mary Schohn: That was -- That is not how the policy was written. And if that is happening --
Ranking Member RIchard Burr: Well let me ask it again: Is she right or is she wrong?
Mary Schohn: I -- I don't know about Wilmington. I will admit. That is something I would certainly want to follow up on because that is not the expectation of how services are to be measured.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: Let me, let me read you some comments that have been made today, Dr. Schohn, and you just tell me whether these are acceptable. "Veterans have little access to follow up care."
Mary Schohn: That is not acceptable.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: "VA-- VA focuses on medication management."
Mary Schohn: That is not acceptable and we have a huge policy and training program to ensure, in fact, that veterans have access to evidenced-based psycho-therapy.
Ranking Member RIchard Burr: "Can't fill appointments for the proscribed amount of time."
Mary Schohn: That -- I'm not totally clear what that means.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: I would take for granted that an attending has said somebody with PTSD needs to have X amount -- a frequency of consults, a frequency of treatments and it should extend for X amount of time. Would you find it unacceptable if, in fact, the system was not providing what the health care professional prescribed them to have.
Mary Schohn: Absolutely. We do have a system set up in place to actually monitor if in fact this is not happening, we are concerned by reports that it's not happening in places, we have many evidences of places where it is happening, but as we hear these reports, we are as concerned as you are and have developed a plan to go out and visit sites to ensure that these things are happening and to make corrections when they're not.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: The inability to get appointments.
Mary Schohn: Same thing. We -- The VA is available to veterans. We want to assure that any veteran needing medical health care has access to health care in the timeliness standards that we think are important.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: "Mental health treatment is trumped by new entries into the system."
Mary Schohn: Again, not acceptable.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: These are all issues that exist with the current mental health plan at VA.
Again, Burr covers many of the issues raised by the first panel. Now we're going back to the issue I was raising. All three heads of the beastly cerbeus lack a medical degree. And yet they're evaluating mental health care treatment being carried out by doctors with medical degrees. Okay. Well an administrator with a degree in administration can be very effective. But yet again not one of them has that either.
Part of the problem -- a very big part of the problem -- is that they're not qualifed. A large number at the VA shares that quality. They were basically grandfathered in -- often during the eighties -- some were psychologists, some were social workers. It's past time that when this class that's graduated to management repeatedly fails that their qualifications for the position they hold are examined. And when their qualifications are found lacking, they need to be reassigned to an area they are qualified for. And those who would argue experience is a qualification, I don't doubt that it is and can be. Except when there are the same repeat problems. At which point, clearly the experience or alleged experience is not making up for the lack of formal education in the required field.
Further evience of failure can be found in, as Senator Burr noted, the fact that there has been a 136% increase in the VA's mental health services budget since 2006 and yet when the VA's Inspector General surveyed the VA centers, it was discovered "only 16% of the sites they visited met the staffing requirements for mental health care." That's something good adminstrators are aware of and on top of before an IG researches the issue.
In the excerpt of the exchange with Ranking Member Burr, Zeiss brags about flexible hours -- but they clearly aren't flexible or VA centers would have changed them on their own. Mary Schohn talks about how when she hears of a problem it makes her think they should check out a VA center. I'm sorry, I thought their job did require supervision. In fact, it does. They're really not paid the big salaries they are to write manuals every other year. They're paid to be administrators who supervise and ensure a quality of care. This is the Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal only because the wounds are mental and/or emotional and not solely physical, the press appears little skittish to really sink their teeth into this story.
If a veteran lost a limb would it be acceptable for them to wait 14 days for care? Then why is it acceptable for that time limit to be considered a good time limit for someone with mental or emotional wounds?
It is unacceptable.
And it is unacceptable that Mary Schohn appears to think she never needs to check out the facilities unless there's a complaint to Congress. It would never get to that level if Mary and the other two heads of the cerberus were doing their job.
It was a strong hearing. Senator Jon Tester had a very strong exchange. The first panel had witnesses who were really honest. Senator Daniel Akaka, who used to Chair the Committee, showed up and underscored with Chair Murray and Ranking Member Burr just how important these issues were and how unacceptable the VA's problems are.
From VA spin, let's go to Iraqi spin. Want to try to build sympathy for Nouri? Take an assassination attempt and declare he was the target -- even though it makes no sense. Fortunately, the press will play along with you and your flunky -- a flunky only AP doesn't feel the need to use a military title -- "Major General" insists AFP and Reuters. AP's correct, spokespeople -- no matter how masterful of word craft and covert propaganda -- really don't need military titles. Yes, those titles give weight to their claims but that is why they're given the titles in the first place. So military spokesperson Qassim Atta insists that Monday's attack on Parliament was, in fact, an assassination attempt on Nouri. This is how, Atta claims, it was supposed to go down: The car filled with bombs would (and did) enter the Green Zone, it would then park near the Parliament. On Thursday, it would go off taking out Nouri who was in the Parliament.
What a bunch of lies. First, the bombs weren't enough to blow up Parliament -- as evidenced by the minimal physical damage done on Monday. So to target Nouri, they would need to park as close as possible to where he would be. How would they know where he would be?
And where did they get the idea that he would be in Parliament on Thursday? It wasn't announced Monday or prior that he'd be in Parliament Thursday. Dropping back to Wednesday's snapshot:
In major news on violence today, Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers via the San Francisco Chronicle) reports that the Monday attack on Parliament was a suicide car bomber and Issa observes, "The admission that a suicide car bomber had penetrated the fortified Green Zone, the first suicide attack there since April 2007, sent a wave of concern across the capital about the abilities, and loyalties, of Iraq's security agencies." As Sheikah (Dar Addustour) notes the questions about the attack in terms of how heavily protected the Green Zone is and how a "strange car with unknown identities" was able to penetrate the Green Zone. Al Rafidayn notes the need for permits to carry explosives in the Green Zone and indicates that some aspect of the attack was caught on cameras "deployed" in the area. This is major news and has been treated as such in the Iraqi press for two news cycles. As part of Monday's violence, it was noted as an aside in the small number of US outlets that cover Iraq. And a large number of that small number treated the notion that it could be a suicide bomber as some sort of Iraqi delusion. But it was a suicide bomber (not a mortar or a rocket) and the US press is strangely silent.
That may or may not be who was targeted. But it is believable. And it would go to how the car entered the Green Zone in the first place. (Osama al-Nujaifi was already a target of Nouri's ire before he began speaking out in favor of the Constitution -- specifically Article 119.) Some press accounts are insisting that the story changed on Monday with claims that al-Nujaifi was targeted and then claims that he wasn't. Nouri's people (employees and supporters) are the ones who were saying on Monday that it was a mortar or a rocket. Parliament sources and the spokesperson for Parliament were saying on Monday that it was a car bombing and that Osama al-Nujaifi was the target. From Tuesday's snapshot, here's a small sample of the way the bombing was being covered:
However, Iraqi papers are more focused this morning on yesterday's Parliament attack. Al Sabaah notes that Osama Nujaifi's office has stated that bombing was an attempted assassination (Nujaifi is the Speaker of Parliament) and that he was the target. They also maintain it was a suicide bomber and not mortars. The article notes a National Alliance insists it was a mortar while a police source states it was a suicide bomber. Sources tell Dar Addustour it was a suicide bomber in a car (black GMC) and that al-Nujaifi was the target. In addition, Dar Addustour reminds that following the April 16, 2007 attack on Parliament, security measures were beefed up. Dar Addustour's report indicates that had the man not raised suspicion by his actions, he would have gotten closer to the Parliament. Alsumaria TV picks up that thread as well, quoting al-Nujaifi's spokesperson Aidan Helmi stating, "The suicide bomber tried to join Parliament Speaker's convoy but Green Zone's guards suspected him and stopped his car. The driver changed his direction and slammed into a high sidewalk before the explosion." Aswat al-Iraq adds, "Northern Iraq's Kurdistan Alliance has expressed surprise towards a booby-trapped car being snuck into west Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, calling for an investigation to uncover 'those responsible' among the security bodies inside the Green Zone, according to a statement made by the Alliance and received by Aswat al-Iraq news agency on Tuesday."
Why would Nouri need the sympathy "aaaahhhh" of "He was almost assassinated!"? Because of a development that AFP, Reuters and AP don't seem at all interested in.
Al Mada reports Nouri al-Maliki's legal advisor Fadhil Mohammad Jawad is informing the press that there is no law barring Nouri from a third term as prime minister. Remember in January, as protests began in Iraq, there were complaints about the do-nothing government, about how elections had taken place (March 7, 2010) and nothing had changed -- the prime minister was the same, the president was the same, even the two vice presidents were them same (at that point, there were two vice presidents, shortly afterwards, there would be three until one resigned in July)? This happened despite the fact that Nouri's political slate, State of Law, came in second in the elections, Iraqiya, headed by Ayad Allawi, came in first. By the end of February, Iraq no longer saw scattered protests around the country but major protests throughout Iraq and the people were demanding a functioning and a responsive government (and jobs and that justice system be reformed and other things).

In this climate, as regimes in the MidEast were either falling, thought to be about to fall or trembling, Nouri attempted to garner support and made a string of announcements, ones that the press ran with as gospel. He claimed salaries would be cut, for example. And then he made his really big claim. For those who've forgotten, we're dropping back to the February 7th snapshot:

Of course no one does easy, meaningless words like Nouri. Saturday, his words included the announcement that he wouldn't seek a third term. His spokesperson discussed the 'decision' and Nouri himself announced the decision to Sammy Ketz of AFP in an interview. Ketz reported him stating he won't seek a third term, that 8 years is enough and that he supports a measure to the Constitution limiting prime ministers to two terms.
Well Jalal Talabani declared he wouldn't seek a second term as President of Iraq in an interview and then . . . took a second term. Point, if you're speaking to a single journalist, it really doesn't seem to matter what you say. Did Nouri announce his decision to the people? No,
Iraqhurr.org is quite clear that an advisor made an announcement and that Malliki made no "public statement" today.
In other words, a statement in an interview is the US political equivalent of "I have no plans to run for the presidency" uttered more than two years before a presidential election. That's Iraqi politicians in general. Nouri? This is the man who's never kept a promise and who is still denying the existence of secret prisons in Iraq.
Deyaar Bamami (Iraqhurr.org) notes the Human Rights Watch report on the secret prisons and that they are run by forces Nouri commands.
And Nouri couldn't even make it 24 hours with his latest 'big promise.' Sunday, Ben Lando and Munaf Ammar (Wall St. Journal) reported that Nouri's spokesperson, Ali al-Mousawi, declared today, "We would like to correct this article. Maliki said, 'I think that the period of eight years is adequate for the application of a successful program to the prime minister, and if he is not successful, he must vacate his place'." Of course he's not announcing that. He's a thug. His previous four year term was an utter failure.
That's not speculation, that's not opinion. He agreed to the benchmarks that the White House set. He was supposed to achieve those in 2007. Those benchmarks, supposedly, were what would determine whether or not the US tax payer continued to foot the bill for the illegal war. But he didn't meet those benchmarks and apologists rushed forward to pretend like they weren't a year long thing and that, in fact, he had 2008 as well. Well 2008 came and went and the benchmarks were still not met. Nor were they in 2009. Nor were they in his last year in 2010.
That's failure. When you agree you will meet certain things -- such as resolving the Kirkuk issue -- and you do not, you are a failure. Not only did he fail at the benchmarks, he failed in providing Iraqis with basic services. He failed in providing them with security.
There is no grading system by which Nouri can be seen as a success.
But just as he will not admit to or own his failures from his first term as prime minister, do not expect to own or admit to his failures in his second term. In other words, Little Saddam wants to be around, and heading the Iraqi government, for a long, long time.
Credit to the Wall St. Journal and Lando and Ammar; however, even when they reported Nouri was going back on his word, the US press continued to breathlessly repeat 'Nouri al-Maliki, for the good of Iraq, will not seek a third term! He's putting the needs of the country first!'
In today's reported violence, Reuters notes 2 Tuz Khurmato roadside bombings claimed the life of 1 police officer and left four more injured and an attack last night on a Shirqat Sahwa checkpoint resulted in 3 Sahwa being killed and two more injured. Aswat al-Iraq reports a Sharta bombing left three people injured.
Earlier this week, Al Sabaah reported that the Iraqi Parliament's Security and Defense Committee has declared it was close to making an agreement which will put NATO forces on the ground in Iraq, according to a statement read by the Security and Defense Committee Chair Hassan Sinead. Sinead states it will be a one-year agreement and that it can be renewed. Yesterday AP reported that the issue of immunity was causing problems in the negotiations. Today Josh Rogin (Foreign Policy) reports:
Here we go again. Only months after the United States and Iraq failed to come to an agreement on a post-2011 troop presence, NATO is now scrambling to negotiate an extension of its own training mission in Iraq, and the prospects don't look good.
"Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has repeatedly asked NATO to stay," Ivo Daalder, the U.S. Ambassador to NATO, said at a Friday morning breakfast meeting of the Defense Writers Group, an organization that brings reporters together with senior officials to discuss world affairs over greasy eggs and bacon.
"We are trying to make that desire for the NATO training mission to stay a reality," said Daalder, explaining that intense negotiations are underway but that, without an agreement by Dec. 31, all NATO trainers will have to leave Iraq.
Meanwhile Al Rafidayn reports that KRG President Massoud Barzani stated Wednesday that the US reposturing in Iraq may mean that the unresolved issue of Kirkuk remains undecided for a longer length of time. He vowed that the KRG will continue to call for a vote on the issue of Kirkuk. Per the Constitution (Article 140), the issue was supposed to have already been resolved. The 2005 Constitution explained that a census would be taken and then a referendum would be held. It was expected that the next prime minister (selected after the December 2005 elections) would oversee this since Article 140 mandated that these steps be taken no later than the end oof 2007. Nouri al-Maliki was installed in the spring of 2006 after the US rejected the Iraqi poltiical blocs' choice. Throughout his first term, Nouri ignored the Constitution. In 2010, during the long political stalemate, a desperate to hold onto the position of prime minister Nouri, swore the census would take place in December. In November he was named prime minister-designate. Weeks later, he called off the census. And we'll close with this from the Great Iraqi Revolution:

  • Iraqi community in America have organized a demonstration on the day of the visit of the Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Maliki to the U.S. .
    The demonstration will be held in December 12th 2011 at 10 am in front of the White House..
    Please support us in this demonstration against the crimes of Al-Maliki regime in Iraq..

12/01/2011

it is the 1st of the month

for wsws, patrick o'connor reports on the the u.n. climate change conference in durban, south africa and notes that it's apparently another for-show meet-up:

Durban is set to join the list of UN summits that fail to take significant action to resolve the climate change crisis—Bali, Poznan, CancĂșn and, most prominently, Copenhagen. Two years ago, US President Barack Obama and many other heads of state and government met in the Danish capital amid great fanfare promising a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol. In the end, however, the summit disbanded in a debacle, with not a single agreed binding commitment. The deliberately lowered expectations for the Durban summit are reflected in the minimal international media coverage of the event.

The Obama administration now insists that there is no pressing need for a post-Kyoto treaty restricting carbon emissions. Jonathan Pershing, US deputy envoy for climate change, declared earlier this week in South Africa: “I’m not sure that the issue of legal form will be resolved here, or needs to be resolved here.” He hailed the voluntary pledges to reduce emissions that were announced at last year’s UN climate change summit in CancĂșn, Mexico. “To my way of thinking, that’s an enormous way forward in solving the problem,” he said.

so more fakery in the age of obama. big surprise, right?

now did you know that this week, back in 1936, 75 years ago, author thomas mann was stripped of citizenship and all of his property was seized by the government? the government was hitler's nazi regime in germany. there were other victims as well and you can read about it and other history at wsws' 'this week in history: november 28 - december 5.'

and if you have rent due, you better go pay it.

i completely forgot i promised to remind my friend t.

fortunately her landlord lives on premises.

she and her girlfriend had a baby a few weeks back and things are so crazy. it was only when i was reading wsws' week in history that i remembered, 'it's the 1st! t asked me 2 weeks ago to call and remind her!' so i immediately called and said i was sorry for not calling in the morning and offered to cover any late fee she might have but she said they could slide it under their landlord's door through midnight and it's not a problem. fortunately, she was able to write a check while we were on the phone and walk it to the landlord downstairs.


let's close with c.i.'s 'Iraq snapshot:'


Thursday, December 1, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, the US military calls what's taking place in Iraq "reposturing," Biden tries to put a happy face on the war (despite today's violence), Jalal Talabani leads a cry that politics should take place out of the sight of the Iraqi people, a US Congress member admits publicly they were wrong about the Iraq War and thanks a colleague for being right, the Bradley Manning Support Network and Michael Moore work overtime to get Bradley convicted, and more.
Liz Sly (Washington Post) has covered the Iraq War for many, many years now. She's a strong reporter so I'll leave it to FAIR or someone else to jump on her word choice (who's in charge of the message of the Iraq War?) in her latest report and instead just note my disagreement with her over the military's choice of terms. The US military press office in Iraq sent out a farewell message, she reports, and in it they explain that the military calls what's taking place in Iraq a "reposturing" and not a "withdrawal." She quotes US Col Barry Johsnon explaining, "The reposture is how we refer to moving our troops to other locations outside the country. The decision was made last year to talk about this as reposturing." Sly has had many dealings with the office and she interprets this as a mistake or a 'head-scratcher.' I actually believe the term is far more precise than "withdrawal" and side with the US military press office on this one. The Post's Emily Hell -- apparently trying to be amusing -- bungles her summary of what took place in Sly's report and demonstrates no understanding that other countries are going to be used as a staging platform. We're dropping back to the the November 15th Senate Armed Services Committee hearing [see the November 15th "Iraq snapshot," the November 16th "Iraq snapshot" -- excerpt below from the November 16th snapshot -- and the November 17th "Iraq snapshot" and Ava's "Scott Brown questions Panetta and Dempsey (Ava)," Wally's "The costs (Wally)" and Kat's "Who wanted what?" ].
Senator Joe Lieberman: My question, Mr. Secretary, is if you could just develop the statement that you made a little earlier, that we will have 40,000 troops in the region, does that include the 24,000 now in Iraq? Or have we made a decision to increase the number based on the failure to have more troops in Iraq after January of next year, have we made a decision to increase the number of the troops in the region outside of Iraq for some of those what-ifs I just talked about?
Secretary Leon Panetta: No, Senator, that did not include Iraq. What we have now is in Kuwait we have almost 29,000; Saudi Arabi we've got 258; Bahrain over 6,000 -- close to 7,000 --
Senator Joe Lieberman: Right.
Secretary Leon Panetta: UAE about 3,000, Qatar 7,000 if you go through the region and add up all those numbers, that's the 40,000.
Senator Joe Lieberman: So has there been a decision made to increase that number at all because we were unable to reach an agreement about continuing presence of American troops in Iraq? In other words, keeping them in the region?
General Martin Dempsey: Yeah, I wouldn't describe it as cause-and-effect relationship based on what happened in Iraq but rather our continuing concern with a more assertive Iran and, uh --
Senator Joe Lieberman: Right.
General Martin Dempsey: -- we are looking at our central command footprint. You know, Senator, that prior to 2001, we had -- we routinely rotated brigades in and out of Kuwait for training --
Senator Joe Lieberman: Right.
General Martin Dempsey: But also as part of deterrance. And I think, we haven't negotiated this with Kuwait yet, but it would be my view that we should have some sort of rotational presence -- ground, air, and naval.
Senator Joe Lieberman: Some of those would be combat troops?
General Martin Dempsey: Absolutely.
Reading the above, you should grasp why the US military is calling it "reposturing" and not "withdrawal."
Luis Martinez (ABC News) reports on a "commemoration event" today at Camp Victory in which Iraqi officials -- Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani among them -- joined with US Vice President Joe Biden "to pay tribute to the sacrifices of American and Iraqi soldiers in the eight-year-long war." Biden is on a multi-day visit
which Al Mada reports has been controversial, evoking deep reactions from the Sadr bloc and others. Sadrists are denouncing the visit as illegal, insisting the political blocs have spoken (in the October meeting at Jalal Talabani's home) and that negotiations were long ago ended on the issue of 'trainers.' That's an interesting case for the Sadr bloc to be making when (a) they've been one of the biggest leaks in the Iraqi press that negotiations continue and (b) it's Moqtada al-Sadr who has tried to force the issue in Parliament, demanding a hearing on Iraq and that Nouri answer questions. Though the hearing was promised, it was quickly dropped. An excuse was given that Nouri was in Japan so it couldn't be held. Nouri was back in Iraq and they didn't hold it. He'll now be out of the country for a series of visits (including the US) so apparently the hearing Moqtada demanded and Parliament agreed to will never be held. State of Law notes they were aware of the visit before hand. Al Rafidayn focuses on the remarks Biden and Nouri al-Maliki made following the meeting (for an English language report on that, see Mark Landler's report for the New York Times). Biden's quoted stating that the partnership is strong, that there's a strong securirty relationship and that this will depend upon what the Iraqis want. He is quoted stating that talks [negotiations] will continue about the security arrangements "including training, intelligence and counter-terrorism." These negotiations will take place amongst whom? Biden's quoted stating the Iraq Higher Coordinating Committee is going to be "the center of all these efforts." The High Commission has two chairs: Joe Biden and Nouri al-Maliki. Dar Addustour notes that Biden's visit has been planned for over a month and postponed at least once. Biden is meeting with others on his visit. Dar Addustour notes he and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi discussed "political issues." Al Mada reports on his meeting with President Jalal Talabani The article falls back to the joint-statements Nouri and Joe made after their meeting and quotes Biden stating that talks continue between the US and Iraq about training, intelligence and counter-terrorism. And, yes, for any wondering, Iraqi reports do back up Mark Landler's reporting yesterday. We noted his report in yesterday's snapshot. I addressed it this morning here. Landler's reporting stands up and he deserves applause.
Landler also has a strong report on the Camp Victory ceremony today and his best moment is capturing it as "a day of hopeful statements that tried to cast the war in its most positive light."
US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher: This whole episode in American history is a very disturbing thing to look at. And I think when people look back, they're going to wonder why the hell did we ever go into Iraq? And there will be no question, even in our minds today, whether or not the money that was expended and the lives and the blood that was expended there was worth it? It was not. And whatever we are spending now should be terminated and as soon as we can get those troops out, the better. When you find yourself in a bad situation, you don't try to mess around to make it a little bit less bad, you just step over and try to get in a good situation somewhere else where you can accomplish things.

Yeah, some can speak the truth and not shy from it. Rohrabacher was speaking at a hearing yesterday, one about the State Dept's plan to spend or waste billions training the Iraqi police or supposedly training since DoD contracts set the pattern for a lack of accountability that it has now handed off to State.
"Number one, does the government of Iraq -- whose personnel we intend to train -- support the program?" asked US House Rep Gary Ackerman yesterday. "Interviews with senior Iraqi officials by the Special Inspector General show utter disdain for the program. When the Iraqis suggest that we take our money and do things instead that are good for the United States, I think that might be a clue."
That was Ackerman's important question yesterday afternoon at the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia hearing on Iraq. US House Rep Steve Chabot is the Chair of the Subcommittee, US House Rep Gary Ackerman is the Ranking Member. The first panel was the State Dept's Brooke Darby. The second panel was the Inspector General for the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart W. Bowen and SIGIR's Assistant Inspector General for Iraq Glenn D. Furbish. Chabot had a few comments to make at the start of the hearing. They often echoed comments made in the November 15th Senate Armed Services Committee hearing [see the November 15th "Iraq snapshot," the November 16th "Iraq snapshot" and the November 17th "Iraq snapshot" and other community reporting on the hearing included Ava's "Scott Brown questions Panetta and Dempsey (Ava)," Wally's "The costs (Wally)" and Kat's "Who wanted what?" ]. But while Senators Joe Lieberman, John McCain and Lindsey Graham made their comments during rounds of questions, Chabot made his as the start of the hearing in his opening remarks.
Chair Steve Chabot: Unfortunately, these negotiations failed due to, in my opinion, mismanagement by this White House. Amazingly, the White House is now trying to tout the breakdown and lack of agreement as a success in as much as it has met a promise President Obama made as a candidate. This blatant politicization calls into question the White House's effort to secure an extension. Fulfilling a campaign promise at the expense of American national security is at best strategic neglect and at worse downright irresponsible. And the White House tacitly admits this in negotiating an extension in the first place. I fear, however, that our objective is no longer to ensure that Iraq is stable but merely to withdraw our forces by the end of this year in order to meet a political time line. Saying that Iraq is secure, stable and self-reliant -- as Deputy National Security Advisor Dennis McDonough recently did -- does not make it so. And to borrow a quote from then-Senator Hillary Clinton , It requires "the willing suspension of disbelief" to believe that withdrawing our forces from Iraq at a time when Iranian agents seek to harm at every turn our country and its allies advances our strategic interests. Although I understand that Iraq is a sovereign country, I believe there is much more we could have done to secure a reasonable troop presence beyond the end of this year.
McCain was wrongly criticized for not grasping Iraq was a sovereign nation in some press accounts. Wrongly. McCain grasped that fact and acknowledged it repeatedly in the hearing. Chabot may have wanted all of that at the start of the hearing to ensure that he was not misunderstood. In addition, Chabot noted the "reports of obstruction and noncooperation on the part of the Department of State during SIGIR's audit. This is extremely distressing and, to echo the sentiments of several of my colleagues in the other body which they recently expressed in a letter to Secretary of State Clinton, the Department of State is legally obliged to cooperate fully with SIGIR in the execution of its mission; jurisdictional games are unacceptable." In his opening remarks, the Ranking Member weighed in on that topic as well.
Ranking Member Gary Ackerman: He [Bowen] has testified before other bodies of Congress, he has released written quarterly reports, as well as specific audits and the message is the same: The program for which the Department of State officially took responsibility on October 1st is nearly a text book case of government procurement -- in this case, foreign assistance -- doesn't buy what we think we're paying for, what we want and why more money will only make the problem worse. Failed procurement is not a problem unique to the State Department. And when it comes to frittering away millions, Foggy Bottom is a rank amateur compared to the Department of Defense. As our colleagues on the Armed Services committees have learned, the best of projects with the most desirable of purposes can go horribly, horribly off-track; and the hardest thing it seems that any bureaucracy can do is pull the plug on a failed initiative. How do we know the Police Development Program is going off-track? Very simple things demonstrate a strong likelihood of waste and mismanagement. Number one, does the government of Iraq -- whose personnel we intend to train -- support the program? Interviews with senior Iraqi officials by the Special Inspector General show utter disdain for the program. When the Iraqis suggest that we take our money and do things instead that are good for the United States, I think that might be a clue.
Ackerman went on to note how "the program's objectives remain a mushy bowl of vague platitudes" and how it had "no comprehensive and detailed plan for execution, there is no current assessment of Iraqi police force capability and, perhaps most tellingly, there are no outcome-based metrics. This is a flashing-red warning light."
Before we go further, let's jump back to Rohrabacher's statements quoted earlier. Some may rush to condemn him for them -- some on the right, some on the left, some on the center, some from the apathetic aisles -- by noting that he supported the Iraq War. True. And he didn't deny that. Later in the hearing, he noted Ranking Member Ackerman's questioning of Brooke Darby with praise and then added, "Mr. Ackerman and I weren't always on good terms. I argued the case for supporting President Bush with his efforts in Iraq with Mr. Ackerman numerous times and I was wrong. Thank you, Mr. Ackerman. This [the Iraq War] has been a waste of our lives and our money." He also stated during another section of the hearing, "I hope that someone's listening because I wasn't listening years ago when I berated Mr. Ackerman." As US House Rep Brian Higgins would point out, that was a significant moment in Congress where few ever admit they got anything wrong.
Brooke Darby was sent before the Committee to spin. I'm not going to waste much time or space on her testimony and I do feel sorry for her that she was farmed out on this assignment. "I can't answer that question," she said when asked anything that hadn't been covered in at least three other hearings or "I'm not prepared to put a time limit on it." (The last one to Gary Ackerman's question of if will take the State Dept 8 years to train the Iraqi police?) I think she did a strong effort trying to sell the plan but I've heard it all the talking points before over and over -- and so had the Subcommittee, as was evident by their reactions -- and there's no point in including too much of it here.
She referenced her conversation recently with Adnan al-Asadi, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Interior. It was apparently a good conversation and he believes trainers and training are both needed. Chair Chalbot asked if he denied the comments? (He is among those dismissive of training in the SIGIR reports that Ranking Member Ackerman referred to.) Darby testified that he didn't.
Another good question would have been, who is al-Asadi's boss?
He's the Deputy Minister at the Ministry of the Interior. Who is his boss? He has none. That is one of the three ministries Nouri al-Maliki was supposed to have named a head of back in November 2010 -- November 2010 -- to move from prime minister-designate to prime minister. Those opposed -- as many members of the Subcommittee were -- funding police training should have probably raised that issue. Grasp that the headless Ministry of the Interior is who State is coordinating the training with, that there is no Minister of the Interior and they want to throw away a billion US tax payer dollars.
From that first panel, we'll note this exchange.
Ranking Member Gary Ackerman: When will they be willing to stand up without us?
Brooke Darby: I wish I could answer that question.
Ranking Member Gary Ackerman: Then why are we spending money if we don't have the answer?
[long pause]
Ranking Member Gary Ackerman: You know, this is turning into what happens after a bar mitzvah or a Jewish wedding. It's called "a Jewish goodbye." Everybody keeps saying goodbye but nobody leaves.
Another exchange that also captured the inability of State to answer any questions took place shortly afterwards.
US House Rep Gerald Connolly: Madame Deputy Assistant Secretary, welcome. Is it your testimony here today that the State Dept is fully committed to transparency and accountability with respect to any and all programs it has oversight and responsibility for in Iraq?
Brooke Darby: We take our responsibility for accountability and cooperation with all of the audit entities, with Congress very, very seriously.
US House Rep Gerald Connolly: No, ma'am, that was not my question. Is it your testimony that you're fully committed to transparency and accountability with respect to those responsibilities?
Brooke Darby: We are absolutely committed to accountability.
US House Rep Gerald Connolly: Full accountability? Full transparency and accountability?
Brooke Darby: I'm not sure -- I'm not sure how you define that so . . .
US House Rep Gerald Connolly: Well I guess I'm not sure why you avoid the word. That was my question and you've ducked it three times. Are we or are we not, is the State Dept committed to full transparency and accountability to the tax payers in the United States and the people who served in Iraq or not?
Brooke Darby: We absolutely are accountable to the tax payers, to our Congress and to all of the oversight bodies who are looking into how we are spending our dollars, whether our programs are achieving success. We are absolutely --
US House Rep Gerald Connolly: Alright. I'll sort of take that as a commitment.
Those two exchanges capture State's responses during the first panel (which took up the bulk of the hearing). During the second panel, Bowen would reference the exchange between Connolly and Darby that took place. Excerpt.
US House Rep Brian Higgins: Mr. Bowen, you have indicated you've been in Iraq 33 times?
Stuart Bowen: 31.
US House Rep Brian Higgins: 31. Dating back to?
Stuart Bowen: February 2004.
US House Rep Brian Higgins: February 2004 and your last trip was?
Stuart Bowen: Two weeks ago.
US House Rep Brian Higgins: Okay. The effort starting in 2003 was to commit 8 billion dollars.to train the Iraqi police force, some 450,000 something Iraqis. Since there are no baseline assessments, again, I would ask you as I asked the previous witness, anecdotally what is your sense of the security system, the internal security system with respect to Iraq? Where the holes are? Are there any places, like in Baghdad, for example, Ramadi, that provide a good example of a successful result from this financial effort?
Stuart Bowen: I think there have been examples of success across the country. Anbar Province is much safer than it was six years ago. Uh, Kurdistan, the three northern provinces are largely very well in order.
US House Rep Brian Higgins: But they were pretty calm to begin with?
Stuart Bowen: You're right, there are two Iraqs. There are Kurdistan and the southern 15 [provinces]. But really what you are addressing is the current state of the Iraqi rule of law system as a whole. And that embraces corrections, the judiciary and the police. And I think that there continue to be serious problems on all fronts not just police training. The judiciary -- over 45 judges have been killed in the last 7 years. And I met with Judge Mehat [al-Mahmood] during my trip and another judge had just been killed and he was bemoaning again the lack of weapons guards for his judges' security members. And on the prison front -- we've-we've -- Frankly, we invested a lot of money building prisons and we wasted a lot of money.
US House Rep Brian Higgins: Sadr City. About a five million population center of Baghdad. How does the Iraqi government deal with Sadr City? Just stay out of there altogether?
Stuart Bowen: I think it's a truce of sorts between the Sadrists who control that area and the rest of Baghdad. And I think that is why, frankly, Prime Minister Maliki's senior deputy minister al-Asadi and others are concerned that the primary location for the police development program in Iraq is right on the edge of Sadr City. It's directly next to the Baghdad police college -- another place where we wasted a lot of money -- right across the street from the Ministry of the Interior and adjacent to Sadr City and thus a magnet for indirect fire.
US House Rep Brian Higgins: Clearly there's a lack of oversight and transparency. And that problem is seemingly pervasive and growing or least since we've initiated this back in 2003. Why is it that the State Dept would deliberately make efforts to obstruct, efforts to blame greater oversight and transparency? Why is there that adversarial relationship? It would seem to me that your efforts would be to benefit the effective use, efficient use, of American resources in that region because we all have a strategic interest in seeing that region evolve. Why is it that you suspect that the State Dept is seemingly obstructing those efforts?
Stuart Bowen: Well it was obstructing. I think we heard today that they are supportive -- almost "fully" supportive -- of our oversight at this stage. And it took an obstruction letter though, Mr. Higgins, as you were pointing to, to break that log-jam. Why? You know I can't read into the exact motives but I think to a certain extent it was a -- it was a legalistic argument about jurisdiction.
US House Rep Brian Higgins: Yeah. Okay. I just, a final thought on this, someone once said, I think it was [New York Times columnist Thomas] Tom Friedman, he posed the question: Is Iraq the way it is because Saddam was the way he is or is Saddam is the way he is because Iraq is the way it is? And I just think when you look at this long, expensive effort -- and I don't just mean financial expense, expense in human capitol -- and the surge experience -- again, which was to tamp down the violence, provide a breathing space within which all the political factions in Iraq could reconcile their difference and evolve; it seems that the surge succeeded militarily but politically the situation doesn't seem to evolve. And obviously the policing issue, as I mentioned previously, in Northern Ireland, is fundamental to the success of any power sharing agreement and without meaningful progress over the past 8 years and this renewed effort given this horrible past of wasted money and great expectations and lofty goals but very, very little to show for it , it seems as though a billion dollar expenditure over the next five years moving forward is not a good use of American resources in a region that I think we've done everything that we can do in order to help them achieve their objectives, whatever they are, be they consistent with our objectives or not.
Yesterday we attended a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing took place as well. There's just not going to be room for that this snapshot. It will be covered tomorrow. I thought we'd do far less on the Subcommittee hearing above; however, when talking to people about coverage today, I kept asking if Rohrabacher's statements were covered and was repeatedly told no. I agree with US House Rep Brian Higgins that it took character to do what so often never happens, admit that you got something wrong and give credit to someone who got it right as Rohrabacher did in the hearing to Ranking Member Gary Ackerman.
I think the American people are right to be frustrated with the Congress (and the White House) as polls demonstrate they are and I'm not one to believe in the need for 'happy talk' news meaning I don't think the press "owes" Congress sunny reporting. But I do think Rohrabacher's statements on the Iraq War were significant in themselves. I think they became more significant when he didn't attempt to pretend like that had been his opinion all along but instead stated he was wrong. And I agree with Higgins that you rarely get that in Congress let alone someone saying they were wrong and noting that an opponent on the issue was actually right. That moment demonstrated a maturity that the low results in polling indicate Congress could use a great deal more of.
I've not had time to read any reports on the hearing -- I barely had time to read over my notes from the hearing today -- but a friend at ABC News swears Charley Keys (CNN) had the strongest report on the hearing, click here to see what won praise from someone at a competing network.
Back to Iraq where, as Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) points out, "A car bomb and a separate attack by gunmen in Iraq killed at least 20 people". Reuters notes 2 corpses ("handcuffed, burned and shot") were discovered in Hashimiya, a HIlla roadside bombing claimed 1 life, the corpse of Sheikh Thalaj Zaalan was discovered in Hilla (beheaded) who was kidnapped yesterday, three Taji roadside bombings left seven police officers injured, another Taji roadside bombing targeted the Minster of Environment and left four people injured, 3 home invasions in Buhriz left 8 Sahwa family members dead and five more injured and a Khalis car bombing claimed 10 lives and left twenty-five injured.
That's a lot while Joe's insisting progress. He gets lucky today not because I like him (although I do know and like Joe) but because we don't have the room to go into that. And lack of space in this snapshot is also why we're not doing a rundown of November's violence today. The plan is to do it tomorrow. But please note, I'm saying why. As opposed to all the outlets that run with the low-balled numbers on the last day of the month and the morning of the first day of the month. Did you see those stories? No, you didn't. The press is being very sweet to Joe and staying "on message." Reporting November's violence would dispute his claims that Iraq is so much more peaceful now.
And on that, maybe it's time, since the White House wants to pretend the war is over, to stop comparing violence to the ethnic cleansing of 2006 and 2007?
If things, as Joe Biden insists, are better now then wouldn't the true measure be to compare the violence in Iraq today to the violence in 2002 before the war started? Funny, how they never want to make that argument -- that argument that they know they'd lose.
In Iraqi politics, Al Rafidayn reports Jalal's having a fit elsewhere over what he's calling "politicking" among political parties. He thinks they're taking cases to the media and that this needs to stop.He and his two vice presidents (Shi'ite Khudair Khuzai and Sunni Tareq al-Hashemi) issued a statement decrying political parties using the media for campaigns and insisting that all must get along in a "contructive, brotherly" fashion.

Jalal needs to use better terms. Unless he's trying to drag the KRG down. His own niece helped lead the charge last January against Nouri's refusal to appoint women as Cabinet ministers. So he needs to stop using sexist language. Or does he think women can behave "brotherly"? If it came from Nouri, I wouldn't bat an eye but Nouri's not part of the 'other' Iraq or the 'peaceful' Iraq or 'modern' Iraq or however the media (and the KRG) is attempting to sell the KRG. (Talabani is the president of Iraq. He is also a Kurd and from the KRG.)

Second, yes, Iraqi politicians should air their issues in the media. It's not for the politicians to operate out of the eyes of the public. They need to air these issues and the public needs to decide what best represents Iraq.

Third, Jalal needs to get off his fat ass and figure out if they're going to have a third vice president or not. If you've forgotten, back in July, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, the third vice president, resigned due to the ongoing political stalemate, there were three.

This issue hasn't been resolved. It's just been ignored. At one point (end of 2010), there was an uproar over the notion that there would be three vice presidents. Then it went away. And there was no uproar when Khudair Khuzai was named. So apparently, the uproar was not over a third person (as was insisted at the time) but either over the fact that the nominee then was a Turkman woman -- objecting due to her ethnicity or her gender or both.

Al Rafidayn notes that the White List is led by a woman, Zuhair Araji. The White List is a bloc of 13 deputies from Iraqiya that have split off. On Iraqiya, Jalal's website notes he met with Ayad Allawi, head of Iraqiya.
Turning to the US and the topic of Bradley Manning who is finally headed for a military courtroom and an Article 32 hearing on December 16th at Fort Meade, Maryland.
Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements. Manning has been at Quantico in Virginia, under military lock and key, for months. In March, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. David E. Coombs is Bradley's attorney and he provided a walk through on Article 104.
The so-called Bradley Manning Support Network is at it again -- "it" being trying to convict Bradley. How stupid are these people? You know Bradley's father is enraged every time this crap happens. The latest post is unsigned. Here's the link because otherwise no one will believe 'helpers' could be so damn stupid. They link to a "Nation magazine" roundtable that Michael Moore (most infamous for saying Mumia was guilty, remember?) participated in and they quote Moore declaring Bradley's responsible for the Occupy Wall Street movement or 'movement':
"If you really want to pin it down to somebody, I would thank Bradley Manning. And here's why. A young man with a fruit stand in Tunis became very upset because he couldn't figure out why he was just getting screwed and why he couldn't make it. And he read a story, put out by WikiLeaks that exposed how corrupt his government was. And he just couldn't take it anymore, and he set himself on fire. That event, by giving his life to this, created the Arab Spring movement that went across the Middle East and then boomeranged back here to what has been going on in the fall here in North America."
You know what? Back in the day, I gave money to and helped with the campaign for Angela Davis. And, pay attention here, we never once went around saying she was guilty. We didn't fight the charges by saying she was guilty.
It's a concept that the Bradley Manning Support Group -- so busy whoring for Occupy Wall Street -- can't grasp. The stupid f**king idiots just quoted today a comment that says Bradley is guilty.
I don't know if the dumb asses are aware of it or not but the prosecution -- that would be the government -- can use these testimonials, can refer to them at trial.
Do they not give a damn about the damage they're doing?
Bradley has not entered a plea at this point. He is innocent until proven guilty. We went over all of this a year ago when we repeatedly had to slap down these idiots over and over because it's not their place to proclaim his guilt.
He may be guilty. At present, like anyone else in the American judicial system, he is presumed guilty and it is up to the government to make a case against him. But how lucky the prosecution is to have the Bradley Manning Support Network make their case for them.
Michael Moore is a stupid, stupid man. His remarks about Mumia should have resulted in no one taking him seriously on the left. (He tried to defend it later as a 'joke.' It's not a joke to be on death row.) He never should have been quoted at the site to begin with. But to quote him convicting Bradley?
The always disappointing Kevin Zeese is with the Bradley Manning Support Network. And all over the net in April he was screaming (click here for Firedoglake) that Barack was wrong to say Bradley was guilty. Barack was wrong. But how the hell do you call Barack wrong for doing the same thing that you were doing and for doing the same thing that you are still doing. Barack made a huge mistake (we've called it out here repeatedly) but at least he only made it once so far.
What is the message to America -- including people serving in the military who may end up jurors in Bradley's trial -- when the Bradley Manning Support Network can't stop convicting the man they claim to support?
Get your act together or close shop. You're not helping him and you need to quit trying to piggy back you pet causes on his back. He's facing serious charges and he needs support. If you can't focus on him, find something else to do and stop lying that you're supporting him.