Sunday, November 23, 2014

Ty Herndon

November 20th, country star Ty Herndon came out and I guess it's a sign of the times that it's all been so low key.

That might be due to him in part.

He might have sought to keep it low key on his part.

But that really doesn't explain the media commentary -- specifically, the lack of it.

Even five years ago, this would have resulted in a media circus and feeding frenzy.  I guess it's a sign of the times.  And that's a good thing.

But it does need to be said that it was still a brave thing for him to do.

He was married twice as part of pretend-to-be-straight game.

He could have done it a third time.  (He says both women knew he was gay ahead of the marriage.)

But he decided to come out and good for him.

If he's a new name to you -- despite two decades of recording -- here's his website.




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


Saturday, November 22, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Haider al-Abadi's 'leadership' continues to be questionable, the Veterans Affairs Dept continues to do an awful job -- in public -- as they demonstrated before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and much more.

Iraq has a new prime minister, Haider al-Abadi -- or rather their prime minister has a new name.  Otherwise, things are pretty much the same in Iraq.




  • Human Rights Watch issued an alert Friday which includes:


    An attack on November 19, 2014, targeting Erbil’s governorate building killed at least 10 civilians and wounded dozens more. Attacks the same day in Baghdad killed or wounded 18 civilians. In early October, at the beginning of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar and especially holy for Shia worshippers, five car bomb attacks in Karbala killed at least 15 people and injured another 48. Since then, other bombings have killed dozens more in Baghdad, Kirkuk, and elsewhere.
    “Bombings across Iraq are killing and maiming civilians in attacks so frequent they barely make the local news,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director. “But a government response that too often includes arbitrary arrests and summary executions will only fuel the cycle of abuses.”
    Iraq’s central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government should redouble efforts to protect all civilians – Sunni and Shia, Arab and Kurd, and other minorities – in their fight against the militant group Islamic State (also known as ISIS), which has claimed responsibility for many of the attacks. Iraqi authorities have frequently responded to ISIS attacks with human rights abuses against Sunni civilians, including arbitrary arrests and detentions. In July, Human Rights Watch documented government-backed militias’ summary execution of dozens of Sunni civilians in areas where they are battling ISIS.


    Does that sound like a new Iraq?

    No.  And Robert A. Manning (National Interest) observes:


    The strategy, as announced, had a coherent logic to it. But it required some large leaps of faith. As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey told the House Armed Services Committee last week, “One of our assumptions is that the government of Iraq will be inclusive. One of the assumptions is that the Iraqi security forces will be will to take back al-Anbar province…If those assumptions are rendered invalid, I will have to adjust my recommendations.”
    The strategy assumed that once Maliki was removed as Iraqi prime minister, a new leader would form a more inclusive government, one that Sunnis would not reject. Bombing would buy time until Iraqis could be trained to fight ISIS—boots on the ground that would complement our air war.

    But so far, Iraq’s new prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, has done little to change Sunnis’ perceptions of Baghdad. Appointing the head of the Badr Shia militia to the powerful post of minister of the interior hasn’t helped. Will Baghdad fully allow the fostering of Sunni national guard forces? A recent shake-up in Iraq’s defense ministry and senior military leadership may be a step in that direction. But it will be at least six to eight months before it is possible to judge whether Sunnis have any confidence in the new government.





    In fairness, Haider al-Abadi can point to one bit of success.  AFP reports, "The Iraqi government transferred $500 million to the autonomous Kurdish region on Wednesday as part of a deal aimed at ending long-running oil and budget disputes, the finance minister said."  Press TV explains:

    Hoshyar Zebari said in Baghdad on Wednesday that his ministry transferred the sum to the account of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) earlier in the day under the deal which requires Iraq to resume funding Kurdish civil servant salaries in return for a share of Kurdish oil exports.
    He said the KRG began supplying 150,000 barrels of crude oil per day to State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO) storage tanks in the Turkish port city of Ceyhan on Tuesday.

    "This mutual implementation means that the two sides are ready to resolve all the other issues and all the issues are up for discussion," Zebari stated.


    That isn't minor.  For over a year now, the Kurds have been denied their part of the federal budget.  Nouri al-Maliki, the former prime minister and forever thug, attempted to use the federal budget to blackmail the Kurds.

    So resolving this isn't minor.

    But it's also true that the only resolution Haider al-Abadi can claim thus far also involves oil.  Stick a pin in that, we'll come back to it.

    I would argue you could even give him credit for a meet-up/photo-op this week.  Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports that  Haider met in Baghdad with Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and the two held a joint-press conference at which Haider declared, "There is an agreement on information exchange and security cooperation (with Turkey), and moreover, the Turkish prime minister has offered military cooperation in fighting against the terror of Daash (IS' Arabic acronym), which is not only a threat against Iraq but also against Turkey and the whole region,,"


    That's news.

    And not because Xuequan reports, "Turkey will train Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces to fight Islamic State militants in Iraq, local Hurriyet Daily News reported on Friday.  Turkey and the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government have been in cooperation for a training program in northern Iraq for a month, according to the daily report."  That's an arrangement between the Turkish government and the Kurdish government and the two have been getting along amazingly well for several years now.

    The same cannot be said of the Turkish government and the central government out of Baghdad.

    And the only person to blame for that is Nouri al-Maliki.

    He repeatedly called the government of Turkey (which shares a border with Iraq) terrorists.  He insulted them non-stop and did so in a public fashion.  Nouri also attacked the governments of Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia -- pretty much every government in the region except for the government of Iran.

    So Haider can get some credit for that as well.

    But what else can he get credit for?

    The UN News Centre reports:



    In an interview with UN Radio, Nickolay Mladenov, head of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), said that there is “general agreement,” not just in the UN but in Iraq as well, that the security element of dealing with ISIL is one part of the solution, but is not the comprehensive solution to the problems facing the country.
    “What also needs to happen is a political process, and a political process that allows for the various communities of Iraq to come back together,” Mr. Mladenov stressed.
    “The last decade has seen a lot of violence that has been driven by divisive politics, that [in turn] has been driven by the communities looking more inwardly rather than working together, and it is time now to address that,” he added.


    The political solution.

    Remember when Barack used to note that.

    Before he got sucked into military fantasies?

    It was only months ago that Barack was insisting a political solution was the only answer.

    But he and his administration pour all their time into military issues -- building a bombing coalition, finding a country or countries stupid enough to put 'boots on the ground,' etc.

    Whatever happened to the political solution?


    Back in August, Mike Whitney (CounterPunch) felt Barack was lying when he spoke of a political solution:


    So how does Obama’s bombing of ISIS jihadis outside of Ebril (N Iraq) fit with his earlier comments that he wouldn’t help defend Iraq unless their was movement on the political front? (In other words, until Maliki was removed from office.)
    He sure changed his tune fast, didn’t he? But, why?
    Oil, that’s why.   Let’s put it this way: There are 10 reasons why Obama bombed ISIS positions outside of Ebril. They are:
    1–Exxon Mobil
    2–Chevron
    3–Aspect Energy
    4–Marathon Oil Corporation
    5–Hillwood International Energy
    6–Hunt Oil
    7–Prime Oil
    8–Murphy Oil
    9–Hess Corporation
    10–HKN Energy
    So what’s the message here? What is Obama telegraphing to ISIS about US policy?

    It’s simple. “You can kill as many Arabs and Christians as you want, but if you lay a finger on even one oil well, we’ll nuke you into oblivion.”


    More and more, it appears Mike Whitney made the correct call.

    And remember that the Kurdish oil issue -- noted earlier -- is an oil issue.

    Earlier this week, David Ignatius (Washington Post) observed, "U.S. officials believe that Sunni support has been galvanized by the removal of polarizing Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite. That’s true, but fighting the jihadists will be a long uphill road."


    Regardless of whether or not that would work -- at this point or months ago, the fact remains that this 'plan' has been on the table for months and nothing's happening on it.

    Al-Monitor and other outlets can -- and have -- reported on that failure.

    It's only in the US that news consumers are 'sheltered' from the truth.

    Well alright
    You gave it all up for a dream
    Fate proved unkind
    To lock the door and leave no key
    -- "Shelter," written by Maria McKee and Steven Van Zandt, first appears on Lone Justice's Shelter



    The US government won't help on a political solution but they'll gladly keep bombing.  US CENTCOM bragged yesterday:

    U.S. and partner nation military forces conducted 23 airstrikes in Iraq using fighter, attack, bomber and remotely-piloted aircraft against ISIL terrorists.
    Six airstrikes near Bayji destroyed three ISIL buildings, a bunker, two ISIL transport vehicles, five ISIL tactical units, an ISIL checkpoint and damaged another ISIL building. Near Sinjar, four airstrikes destroyed two ISIL barracks, an ISIL bunker and storage facility, an ISIL guard post, at least eight ISIL armored vehicles and a truck in a vehicle storage yard, as well as two tactical ISIL units. West of Kirkuk, three airstrikes destroyed five bunkers, two ISIL vehicles and an ISIL tactical unit. Near al Asad, four airstrikes destroyed four ISIL vehicles, an ISIL building, and struck three ISIL tactical units. Near Mosul, three airstrikes destroyed an ISIL guard post, an ISIL vehicle and two ISIL tactical units. Near Ramadi, two airstrikes destroyed an ISIL vehicle and an ISIL tactical unit, while also damaging an ISIL armored vehicle and an ISIL-occupied building. Finally, in Tal Afar, an airstrike damaged an ISIL-occupied airfield.
    All aircraft returned to base safely. Airstrike assessments are based on initial reports.

     The strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the terrorist group ISIL and the threat they pose to Iraq, the region and the wider international community. The destruction of ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq further limits the terrorist group's ability to project power and conduct operations.


    Bombings?

    The last thing Iraq needs more of is bombings.

    Since the start of this year, the Iraqi government has illegally bombed the residential areas of Falluja.  Bombing civilians as a form of retribution is known as "collective punishment" and is legally recognized -- both by the US government and the international community -- as a War Crime.

    On September 13th, Iraq's new prime minister Haider al-Abadi called out these actions and promised the bombing would now cease.

    It didn't even cease for twenty-four hours.  The Iraqi military continues to bomb the residential neighborhoods of Falluja.

    Iraqi Spring MC issued the following early Friday:




    :
    اطفال تتراوح اعمارهم بين 6 الى 12 سنة هم ضحايا قصف الجيش الحكومي للفلوجة.
    6 retweets2 favorites



    The video features the dead children of Falluja and a soundtrack of wailing family members mourning the deaths.



    And the news never ends on how the children of Iraq are repeatedly attacked.



     "



    And this was

                               Retweeted 414 times

    Shia Gangs support by goverment burend yeastrday innocent civilians from sunnis
    414 retweets 1 favorite



    Yes, gangs supported by Haider al-Bahdi's government terrorize the children of Iraq.

    And kidnap and kill them.  We'll note this Tweet.







  • That's the side Barack Obama's chosen and his refusal to have his administration work towards a political solution ensures that's the only side that gets heard.

    The Veterans Affairs Department keeps getting heard.

    Maybe it shouldn't?

    If you don't know what you're doing, maybe you should just say, "I'm sorry, I'm wasting taxpayer dollars because I'm too stupid to do the job I was hired to do."

    Wednesday, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing on veterans suicide and VA officials appeared.  Let's stress this was not a pop quiz, the senators did not invite the VA and then spring a different topic on them.  But has the VA ever been more unprepared for a hearing?

    Senator Bernie Sanders is  the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and Senator Richard Burr is the Ranking Member.   The first panel was the VA's Dr. Harold Kudler (Chief Consultant for Mental Health Service), Dr. Caitlin Thompson (Deputy Director, Suicide Prevention) and Dr. Dean Krahn (Deputy Director in the Office of Mental Health Operations).


    Wednesday we noted an exchange that's we're including again.


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

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

    Senator Patty Murray:  I --

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

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

    Dr. Caitlin Thompson: Absolutely.

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


    When did the VA official answer Senator Murray's question?

    Never.

    And I want to focus on Thompson for a moment.

    You're on the taxpayer dollar, in public, act accordingly.  Thompson needed chewing gum to complete her performance, chewing gum she could smack as she declared "Yeah" and "Yep" throughout the hearing.  You're an official with the VA testifying before Congress, you learn to say "Yes, ma'am" and "Yes, sir."

    I never cease to be appalled by government officials who show such disrespect to the people's representatives.

    But a basic question about the increased rate of suicide among women veterans led to a lot of babbles from Thompson but no answer and not even a babble that could provide a statistic.


    Thursday's snapshot noted the lengthy exchange Senator Richard Blumenthal had with the officials.  Did he get an answer?

    No.

    We don't have space for the full exchange (see Thursday's snapshot for that) but notice how the VA can't provide any answers at all but can and will try to steer the conversation away from the real issues.


    Dr. Caitlin Thompson:  I don't have the actual -- I believe it's up to 70 -- uh -- and this is, uh, over time.  The rates -- uh . . . I'd have to find the exact number.

    Senator Richard Blumenthal:  I think that is a -- I think that is the elephant in the room.


    Dr. Caitlin Thompson:   Is . . what's . . .

    Senator Richard Blumenthal:  The elephant in this room.   That younger group.  You're giving us middle aged veterans 

    Dr. Caitlin Thompson:  No --

    Senator Richard Blumenthal:  -- who use your services .

    Dr. Caitlin Thompson:  We do -- I mean, we certainly do acknowledge that that rate is increasing and so what-what are we doing about this?  We need to provide and we are providing very, very specific outreach to those youngest veterans that --

    Senator Richard Blumenthal:  Well we're talking about more than just outreach with all due respect.  We're talking about -- and this is the really critical point here -- we're talking about a group here that uses your services.

    Dr. Caitlin Thompson:  Absolutely.

    Senator Richard Blumenthal:  We've reached out to them.

    Dr. Caitlin Thompson:  Yep.

    Senator Richard Blumenthal:  They're in your doors, they're using your services -- 

    Dr. Caitlin Thompson: Yep.

    Senator Richard Blumenthal:  And they're committing suicide at a higher rate.

    Dr. Caitlin Thompson:  Yes.  So we're -- Yes.  We're trying to understand why is this?  We are -- We are at a loss as much -- as much as a lot of people are.  We --



    Senator Richard Blumenthal: This is -- with all of the publicity surrounding wait time, people dying -- are they dying because of the wait time, are they not?  People are dying at a higher rate --

    Dr. Caitlin Thompson:  Yes.

    Senator Richard Blumenthal:  -- who use your services.



    Yep. Yeah. Yep.

    Again, you're being paid to do a job by the taxpayers.  When you're public, you conduct yourself with some dignity.  "Yep" and "Yeah" aren't appropriate responses to members of Congress when you're a government official.  (Non-government officials, We The People, can speak however they want.  They're individual citizens, not people paid by the taxpayers.  The Congress is supposed to be working for We The People.)

    With the above in mind, let's now go to Senator Boozman from the hearing.


    Senator John Boozman:  Thank you and following up on Senator Blumenthal, what is the average age of the veteran that decides to take their life?

    Long pause. VA officials shuffle through paper.

    Senator John Boozman:  In the VA?  What's the average age of veterans who are taking their lives?

    Dr.  Caitlin Thompson: Who die by suicide?  Uh, well we -- I don't know the average age.  But we do know that 70% of veterans who die by suicide are 50-years-old and older.

    VA officials all begin shaking their heads in the affirmative.


    Senator John Boozman:  Older?  Good.

    Dr. Caitlin Thompson:  Yeah.


    Senator John Boozman:  So --

    Dr Dean Krahn:  And that's by far the largest group of veterans.  That's why we focused on it.


    No, it's not.

    No one is as stupid as Krahn wants them to be.

    The VA officials focus on that figure because the more damning figure -- the elephant in the room, Senator Blumenthal called it -- is that young veterans using the VA services are committing suicides at higher numbers.

    The message, which the VA would rather bury, is that things are so bad at the VA that young veterans -- trying to readjust to civilian life -- reaching out to the VA for a lifeline are more at risk of suicide than young veterans who avoid the VA.

    Nothing says failure more than that.

    This is a national disgrace and it needs to be addressed immediately, not swept under the rug.

    It won't be addressed in the House if Corrine Brown becomes Ranking Member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.  She'll find a way to blame veterans, no doubt, as she always does.


    Let's finish out by dropping back into the hearing and we'll focus gain on Senator Boozman.

    Senator John Boozman:  I'm a little concerned or a little confused about the wait times.  You know, you said that it's mandated that it's a day.  If a family practitioner sees a patient and in the course of that examination he's concerned that perhaps this individual is having problems and he writes down on the chart, you know, "Needs a consult," how long does that take?

    Dr. Harold Kudler: Actually, at over 90% of facilities and at over 90% of CBOCs, there will be a co-located collaborative mental health person in the -- in the building and they should be able to walk that person over to the office and see him and --

    Senator John Boozman:  Well they should be able to.  Where does the 30 days come in?  What's that?

    Dr. Harold Kudler:  That is a prospective, that's like if you make an appointment by phone -- say calling by phone, say, "When's the next appointment?" It's that' far out.  But if you come in --

    Senator John Boozman:  They walk the person over, they see you and they say, "Well you need to come back," then it's 30 days?


    Dr. Dean Krahn:  And-and that's a very important point, Senator, because what often happens is --

    Senator John Boozman:  That's, you know, it's checking a box.  But it's really not seeing a patient.

    Dr. Dean Krahn:  We -- Our-our standard is that they will beseen that day but that doesn't get shown, that's not reflected in that longer wait time, that's to get the next official appointment.  Quite frankly, they'll often be seen in other ways or in other clinics earlier.  They will be seen that day by a mental health professional.  If they need that help.  And anyone can refer them.  And they can self-refer there.

    Senator John Boozman:  But if they need follow up appointments, it's probably 33 days?

    Dr. Dean Krahn:  Yes.  I think that's right.

    Senator John Boozman:  So it's -- they're actually not starting treatment for an extended period of time.

    Dr. Dean Krahn:  They don't get an official mental health appointment but they may be seen in other ways.  And unfortunately our system doesn't yet capture all the ways we do it.  For instance, we might have them come back to the emergency room and that will not be recorded as a mental health appointment, none the less, they may have that mental health appointment -- or a phone call which may not be registered as a mental health appointment, but yet.


    Did you see the song and dance?

    Did you catch the repeated attempts to distract and defocus?

    Boozman didn't let them slide off the hook.

    That's what veterans need right now from the Congress.  They need the Patty Murrays, the Richard Blumenthals, the John Boozmans, etc.  They need members of Congress willing to hold the VA accountable.

    Corrine Brown proved she could . . . when Bully Boy Bush occupied the White House.  Since Barack moved in, Brown's refused to hold the VA accountable, felt the need to praise them -- even when the topic of a hearing was the latest VA scandal, gone out of her way to blame veterans for VA problems and much worse.

    She's not fit to serve as Ranking Member.  Veterans groups have rejected her for a reason.

    The current Congress is failing veterans.  You wouldn't think they could fail them even more but you wouldn't think an incompetent like Corrine Brown would be on the verge of becoming Ranking Member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee either.












    the washington post
    david ignatius











    Friday, November 21, 2014

    Barack goes right wing on immigration

    Did you have the misfortune of catching Barack's tired song and dance tonight?

    I haven't been fooled by him for most of his presidency.

    But immigration is an issue I care a great deal about.  And I was really hopeful that on this issue Barack would finally speak to the left.

    Instead, he offered the sort of nonsense that probably doesn't go as far as a President John McCain would have.

    Patrick Martin (WSWS) explains:

    US President Barack Obama delivered a nationally-televised address on Thursday night, delivering a preview of an executive order to be signed and made public on Friday.
    As with most speeches by Obama, Thursday’s remarks exuded hypocrisy and cynicism. The proposal that Obama is implementing is thoroughly right-wing. His comments combined empty homilies describing the United States as a “nation of immigrants” with proclamations that the estimated 11-12 million undocumented immigrant workers must “play by the rules” and be held “accountable.”
    The program outlined by Obama would cover less than half of the 11-12 million undocumented immigrant workers and children now in the US, with the remainder subject to immediate detention and deportation as “illegals.” In its six years in office, the Obama administration has already deported more immigrants than any government in US history.

    I was the idiot.

    I thought with his legacy at stake and with this being such a serious issue, Barack might finally rise to the challenge and show some strength.

    Again, I was the idiot.


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


    Thursday, November 20, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, the Kurdish government is too eager to please the US government, VA officials attended a Senate hearing on veteran suicides without even bothering to brush up on basic figures (figures they should already know to perform their jobs), and much more.


    AFP notes, "A suicide bomber driving a car packed with explosives blew himself up in the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan region on Wednesday, killing at least five people in the first big attack there in more than a year."

    While Baghdad, the capital of central Iraq, and surrounding areas have been plagued with violence, the same has not been true of northern Iraq and the provinces making up the semi-autonomous Kurdish Regional Governments and especially not true of the city of Erbil.

    The attack in the KRG capital on Wednesday should have caused some soul searching on the part of the government.


    The Peshmerga are an elite Kurdish fighting force that's done a strong job protecting the KRG.

    The attack yesterday should make the KRG re-evaluate the decision to send the KRG here, there, everywhere outside the KRG.

    The attack should have the KRG questioning the decision to send the Peshmerga to Kobani.

    Not only is that not a city bordering the KRG, it's not even in Iraq.

    Why is the Peshmerga being deployed to Syria, to an area bordering Turkey?

    This started at the beginning of the month.

    The Peshmerga should be used to protect the KRG and any areas that immediately border the KRG.

    Kobani is a Syrian border town -- it borders Turkey.  It's not even remotely near a Kurdish border.

    Seems the Kurdish government's a little too eager to assist the US -- so much so that it's leaving their own region in danger.

    Maybe it's the hope that, yet again, if they just try a little harder, the US will be a loyal partner?

    That pathetic need has never accomplished anything for the Kurds.

    And this week, they've been slamming the US government for not supplying them with weapons.

    Press TV reports:

    Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has blamed the West for failing to meet its promises about arming Kurdish fighters with sophisticated weaponry, Press TV reports.
    KRG Masoud Barzani President criticized the West and the US-led coalition fighting the Takfiri ISIL group for not providing Kurdish Peshmerga forces with heavy weapons to help them counter the ISIL.


    There has been an effort from some member of the US Congress to send arms to the Kurds.  Julian Pecquet (Al-Monitor) reports:


    Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., and ranking member Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., introduced temporary legislation to arm the Peshmerga forces in their fight against the Islamic State (IS). Doing so would mark a reversal of current US policy, which has sought to reinforce the central government in a bid to stop the country from splintering along ethnic and sectarian lines.
    "We thought a long time ago that our appeals to Baghdad to do the right thing would be heard and [former Prime Minister Nouri al-] Maliki's government turned a deaf ear month after month. We've reached the point where we have allies to our cause of defeating [IS] fighting in the field, without adequate equipment, and we are determined to see that they obtain it," Royce told Al-Monitor. "We want the weapons in the hands of the Peshmerga that are on the front line, now."
    The bill comes in the wake of an international public relations push by the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). Top Kurdish officials — including Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir, Head of the Department of Foreign Relations, and presidential Chief of Staff Fuad Hussein — were in Washington this week handing out a list of demands to lawmakers and administration officials, while President Massoud Barzani berated western powers for not providing his forces enough weapons during an interview on French television Nov. 19.

     

    They've gotten no weapons from the US.  All Iraq News notes the US government did issue a statement condemning the bombing, as did the United Nations and the United Kingdom.

    None of those statements will provide protection to the KRG.

    And there was one more important statement issued.

    India TV reports the Islamic State issued a statement claiming credit for the bombing in Erbil -- claiming credit for the bombing All Iraq News notes is the worst Erbil's seen "since September 29, 2013." Mitchell Prothero (McClatchy Newspapers) adds, "The city has remained largely untouched by Iraq’s violence, even after the Islamic State seized nearby Mosul in June and pushed the front lines to within about 30 miles. Kurdish security officials, however, have feared a campaign of terror, noting that hundreds of thousands of refugees have pressed into Kurdish areas from regions now dominated by the Islamic State."


    The issue of arming the Kurds was raised in today's State Dept press briefing moderated by spokesperson Jeff Rathke:


    QUESTION: Okay. Last night, I ran into the chief of staff of the Kurdistan president’s – Barzani, he’s the chief of staff of Barzani. And he talks about perhaps 100,000 – upward of 100,000 ISIL members in Iraq and Syria. Do you have any comment on that?


    MR. RATHKE: I don’t have any update on numbers that --


    QUESTION: Okay.


    MR. RATHKE: We’ve spoken to numbers in the past --


    QUESTION: Right.


    MR. RATHKE: -- and the general estimates, but I don’t have an updated number to share.


    QUESTION: Do you think these kind of figures that are staggering, I mean, would they, let’s say, influence U.S. policy in terms of having boots on the ground or having forces on the ground, at least in Iraq or in the near future?


    MR. RATHKE: Well, again, I’m not going to comment on that particular number. I’m just not familiar with it. And I think also, the President and the entire Administration have been quite clear about our policy with respect to troops in combat roles.


    QUESTION: Okay. I mean – okay. In view of the additions that took place last week – we’re talking about maybe an additional 1,500 whatever, advisors, military advisors and so on, and perhaps a discussion, as was done with General Dempsey last week, there is an indication that these forces might be involved in combat. Is there a likelihood that these forces might be involved in combat, if not directly, in an advisory kind of capacity?


    MR. RATHKE: Again, I think the President has spoken to this quite clearly in just recent days. I don’t have anything to add to his words. There’s – we do not envision U.S. forces in combat roles.


    QUESTION: Now, also, there are reports that the Iraqi forces, with American advisors, are getting ready to recapture Heet. It’s a town, a township called Heet or a city that’s called Heet. Do you have any comment on that?


    MR. RATHKE: I don’t have a specific comment on that particular location. I did comment at the start about the success of Iraqi forces in breaking the siege at Baiji refinery, but I don’t have operational comments on every particular location.
    Anything staying – wait, staying with Iraq?


    QUESTION: Yeah.


    MR. RATHKE: Okay. Go ahead.


    QUESTION: Chairman Royce today introduced legislation that would provide the President with authority to give arms directly to the Kurds. Do you have any comment or reaction on that?


    MR. RATHKE: I’m not familiar with the legislation that you have referred to, so I don’t want to comment on that. But we have spoken on several occasions about the matter of arms for Kurdish security forces and overall to the Iraqi Security Forces. Our position on that hasn’t changed. We continue to be supporters of Iraq’s Security Forces, of the Kurdish security forces as well.
    And it’s our understanding that there was some discussion yesterday, which you may recall, about whether there were delays in shipments. I’d just like to point out, to kind of close that loop from yesterday, that the Government of Iraq has cleared and inspected incoming aircraft carrying weapons deliveries, but we are not aware that it has constrained or delayed the emergency supply of weapons to the Kurdistan Regional Government. That was a point made or a question raised yesterday.
    And as well, the Government of Iraq itself has delivered over 300 tons of supplies in Iraqi air force aircraft to the KRG. We are committed to helping the Iraqi Security Forces and the Kurdish security forces. Also, many of our coalition partners have been very supportive of Iraqi Kurdish forces. So we plan to continue that kind of support going forward.

    QUESTION: Okay. So I guess the question is: Are you happy with the way things are currently going, with the current state of affairs, and thus do you not see any need for a change, any need for what’s contained in this legislation as a general proposition?


    MR. RATHKE: Well, it remains the U.S. Government policy that all arms transfers should be coordinated through the sovereign, central Government of Iraq. We have no plans that I’m aware of to change that.


    QUESTION: Yeah, but the legislation calls for direct supplies to the Kurds without the --


    MR. RATHKE: I understand that question, but again, I’m not familiar with that legislation, so I don’t want to comment on it. But I simply want to indicate that our policy remains the same. Now, are we happy with the overall situation in Iraq? Of course not. That’s why we are leading a global coalition to disrupt and defeat ISIL. But that’s – we are very supportive of Iraqi and Kurdish security forces in that effort.
    So  that was -- Uh, wait.  What was that about Heet?
    QUESTION: Now, also, there are reports that the Iraqi forces, with American advisors, are getting ready to recapture Heet. It’s a town, a township called Heet or a city that’s called Heet. Do you have any comment on that?


    MR. RATHKE: I don’t have a specific comment on that particular location. I did comment at the start about the success of Iraqi forces in breaking the siege at Baiji refinery, but I don’t have operational comments on every particular location.
    Anything staying – wait, staying with Iraq?
    Earlier today Iraqi Spring MC shared this on Tweet:








    :
    اغتنام نحو (15) عجلة نوع همر تركتها القوات الحكومية بعد هروبها من معارك منطقة الدولاب في قضاء هيت
    .
    32 retweets20 favorites





    That's the Islamic State taking over the vehicles of Iraqi forces -- after Iraqi forces fled Heet to avoid combat with the Islamic State.  They fled, leaving behind 15 Hummers.



    So much for the US government's propaganda effort -- amplified by the US press -- insisting the Islamic State is on the run.

    As that propaganda effort falls apart, Johnlee Varghese (IBT) reports:

    The US-led coalition against the ISIS seems to be crumbling as there have been reports on social media that several "Saudi pilots" have allegedly refused to fly missions to bomb ISIS targets.
    The report, which was confirmed by an Iraqi journalist and political analyst, is bound to have severe repercussions not only on the coalition, but it may also spread the seeds of rebellion among other branches of the Saudi armed forces.


    Violence continued throughout Iraq today.  Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) reports, "At least 142 people were killed across Iraq, and another six were wounded. Almost all the casualties belonged to militants; however, there is a report that several children died from exposure after being forced to flee their homes in Anbar province."


    Let's move over to the US Congress.  David Swanson Tweets:











  • In other news, Katherine Skiba (Chicago Tribune) reports US House Rep Tammy Duckworth gave birth this week to a baby girl Abigail O'kalani Bowlsbey.  Duckworth was in the news last week and this week because House Democrats voted on various leadership positions this week and Tammy had requested to vote by proxy because she was unable to fly to DC per doctor's orders.

    That didn't matter for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi who led the "no" against Tammy's request.  Tammy Duckworth is also an Iraq War veteran who lost both legs while serving in Iraq.  That didn't matter to Nancy either.

    Craven liar and plastic surgery victim Nancy Pelosi went on to Tweet this crap:





    No, the picture doesn't reflect the nation's diversity.


    Our nation has many returning veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars -- where are they in the photo?

    They're not there.

    And this week, the liar Nancy used weasel nonsense to weasel out of supporting veterans.


    US House Rep Tim Walz was running to be Ranking Member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

    He had the support of veterans groups and he himself had over 20 years in the Army National Guard.

    He was clearly qualified.

    Nancy Pelosi's pet US House Rep Corrine Brown is clearly not qualified.

    To ensure that the deeply ignorant Brown get the post, Nancy and her cronies insisted Tim Walz did not serve on the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

    Huh?

    Well, he had a waiver.  You can only serve on two Committees.  Tim served on the House Veterans Affairs Committee under a waiver.


    Because he served under a waiver, Nance and her goons argued, Tim didn't serve.

    No, that's not how it's supposed to work.

    But that is how whorish and crooked and unethical Nancy Pelosi is.

    She Tweeted the following earlier this month:




    As she proved by spitting on Tammy Duckwork and Tim Walz and on the publicly expressed wishes of veterans groups, her so-called claims to "salute" those who served are nothing but more lies from Nancy's mouth.

    She's an embarrassment to the country and she's lethal to the Democratic Party.

    Her disrespect of veterans will not be forgotten but will be her legacy, what the elderly woman will be remembered for.


    The House Veterans Affairs Committee needs real leadership.

    The VA has had one scandal after another in the last six years.

    When Corrine Brown managed to haul herself to a HVAC hearing, she didn't serve veterans.  She made excuses for the VA, she offered non-stop praise for the VA, she went out of her way to blame the VA's problems and scandals on veterans.

    And now this idiot -- thanks to Nancy Pelosi -- is a vote away from being the Democratic leader on the House Veterans Affairs Committee.


    If you don't get what liars the VA officials are, let's drop back to yesterday's Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.

    The first panel was the VA's Dr. Harold Kudler (Chief Consultant for Mental Health Service), Dr. Caitlin Thompson (Deputy Director, Suicide Prevention) and Dr. Dean Krahn (Deputy Director in the Office of Mental Health Operations).

    The topic was veterans suicides.

    This topic wasn't a surprise.

    This wasn't the Senate's attempt to spring a pop quiz on the VA.

    The topic was announced.

    The witnesses knew what it was.

    They offered written statements ahead of the hearing.

    Remember that as we go through this exchange.



    Senator Richard Blumenthal:  I want to pursue the line of questioning that Senator Johans began because I think it is absolutely critical. I've held meetings around my state with veterans. Some of them have occurred at what are called oasis which are basically college and school based centers. They're not medical, they're just meeting rooms.  They are literally a room where veterans can come together and call that place their own.  And they put up their posters, they have a coffee machine, they have doughnuts and they just come together "without medication" -- in quotes.  I met with a group just a week or so ago and they talked to me about -- in very graphic, moving terms -- about what it meant just to be with each other.  So I know that peer support specialists are part of this program.  With all due respect to the peer support specialist, I would respectfully suggest that this kind of resource may not always require a trained specialist but may just require a veteran -- and I have in mind the kind of veteran who got involved in part because I reached out to him at the suggestion of another veteran -- just made a call to him out of the blue.  And he came to one of these meetings.  So I don't think it involves necessarily a doctor, a nurse, a medical person but just a veteran who is empowered and enabled to perform this function.  So I don't want to use too much of my time with a statement about the importance of this topic but I would like to know -- and maybe you could provide this in writing -- specifically what the current peer support program embodies and how it could be expanded to fund meeting rooms on state campuses -- state schools which already which already should be a part of this program, private colleges and universities.  But then beyond the college or school setting, in communities, how that outreach function could be expanded and I -- I know this is a topic you are thinking about so I would appreciate your expanding on the testimony that you've given already.  I do want to ask you about your testimony because I do think that there are some very important questions about the age group that you don't cover.  We're talking about middle aged veterans which, as I understand it, are the 35 to 64-year-old group?  And in that group, rates of suicide have come down by 16% for those adults who use VHS services.  In the population as a whole, the rates have remained stable.  Correct?

    Dr. Dean Krahn:  [witness off mike]

    Senator Richard Blumenthal:  Well they've gone up for the -- Exactly, they've gone up from 35.5 to 37.5 percent. Right?  So the rates are coming down for middle aged adults who use VA services.  Rates have gone up a little bit for the overall group.  But they seem fairly stable -- 35 to 37%

    Dr. Dean Krahn:  Uh -- authenticate the time with numbers -- uh, yeah, go ahead.

    Senator Richard Blumenthal:   Well here's where I'm going, what that says to me is that among other age groups, suicide rates have risen dramatically for veterans who use your services. 

    Dr. Dean Krahn:  Yes.

    Senator Richard Blumenthal:  Not just women but men.

    Dr. Dean Krahn:  Yes.

    Senator Richard Blumenthal:  Can you tell me how much they've risen, for example, for -- and this is, so far as I can see, no where in your testimony for the age group 18 to 25 for 20 to 29, for the younger population of veterans because after all most of the veterans who are leaving the service right now are in that younger age group, right?  So what's the rate there 

    Dr. Caitlin Thompson:  Yeah, we are -- we are extremely concerned about this population --

    Senator Richard Blumenthal:  Yes, I know you're concerned but --
    Dr. Caitlin Thompson:  I don't have the actual -- I believe it's up to 70 -- uh -- and this is, uh, over time.  The rates -- uh . . . I'd have to find the exact number.

    Senator Richard Blumenthal:  I think that is a -- I think that is the elephant in the room.


    Dr. Caitlin Thompson:   Is . . what's . . .

    Senator Richard Blumenthal:  The elephant in this room.   That younger group.  You're giving us middle aged veterans 

    Dr. Caitlin Thompson:  No --

    Senator Richard Blumenthal:  -- who use your services .

    Dr. Caitlin Thompson:  We do -- I mean, we certainly do acknowledge that that rate is increasing and so what-what are we doing about this?  We need to provide and we are providing very, very specific outreach to those youngest veterans that --

    Senator Richard Blumenthal:  Well we're talking about more than just outreach with all due respect.  We're talking about -- and this is the really critical point here -- we're talking about a group here that uses your services.

    Dr. Caitlin Thompson:  Absolutely.

    Senator Richard Blumenthal:  We've reached out to them.

    Dr. Caitlin Thompson:  Yep.

    Senator Richard Blumenthal:  They're in your doors, they're using your services -- 

    Dr. Caitlin Thompson: Yep.

    Senator Richard Blumenthal:  And they're committing suicide at a higher rate.

    Dr. Caitlin Thompson:  Yes.  So we're -- Yes.  We're trying to understand why is this?  We are -- We are at a loss as much -- as much as a lot of people are.  We --



    Senator Richard Blumenthal: This is -- with all of the publicity surrounding wait time, people dying -- are they dying because of the wait time, are they not?  People are dying at a higher rate --

    Dr. Caitlin Thompson:  Yes.

    Senator Richard Blumenthal:  -- who use your services.


    Dr. Caitlin Thompson:  Yes.  Yes, in this youngest age group.  Aboslutely.  We are very, very focused on this.

    Senator Richard Blumenthal:  I don't know what more to say because my time has expired.  I apologize Mr. Chairman --

    Dr. Caitlin Thompson:  We hear you.

    Senator Richard Blumenthal:  -- but,--  okay, thank you. 



    They came to talk about suicides but they didn't have the basic figures?

    I don't believe "we hear you" from the VA.

    Not when the officials can't -- or more likely won't -- provide answers to basic questions like the suicide rate for young veterans.

    This was such a basic detail that if the VA officials really didn't have that figure handy at the hearing, that may be an even more damning example of how unprepared the VA is and how little thought and effort they put into addressing issues.

    Her job, Caitlin Thompson's job, is to know that figure.

    Forget that she should have prepared for the hearing by having that and other figures handy.

    Doing her day-to-day job requires her to know that figure.  Her failure to do so goes to her failure at the job.

    Senator Blumenthal questioned the VA.

    Corrine Brown only compliments and sees her role as to excuse its actions and blame VA problems on veterans.