Friday, February 26, 2010

When is he going to get to work on the economy?

Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen; red, black, odds, evens – what will it be? Is that how you’re looking at investing these days? You’re not alone, and you’re not crazy. Consider the massive unknowns facing markets: Is the economy headed for a double dip? Will health-care legislation cause relentless tax increases? Will China’s real-estate bubble pop? Will the Volcker rule cause massive restructuring of banks? Will taxes rise on capital gains? Will the muni market suffer its first big default? Will foreigners finally say "enough!" to our deluge of Treasuries? Is the Greek virus likely to spread? Will inflation roar out of nowhere and smother our monstrous fiscal debts?
These are just a few of the anxieties muddying markets today – Iran didn’t even make the list. It is a tough time to place a bet, which is why the stock market is seesawing up and down, and generating puny volume on the upside. It is also a reason that small businesses are not hiring. There’s no conviction, and reasonably so. The Obama team continues to promote unpopular far-reaching programs – most especially the dreaded health-care bill – all the while ignoring dramatically clear signals from voters. Though supposedly concerned about unemployment, they continue to foster regulations and policies that the business community abhors. It is an anxious time.

That's from Liz Peek's "President Obama: We Need a Clear Path Forward" (wowOwow). I will do an e-mail question re: cooking/food but I want to concentrate on the economy for reasons that are about to become clear.

On Thursday, Barack Obama spent seven hours with Republicans and Democrats talking about . . . health care. Now the plan he's pimping wouldn't go into effect until after 2012. So why the hell did he spend seven hours on this?

The American people already shot down his corporate give-away.

And after Scott Brown was elected to the Senate in my state, he said he'd learned his lesson and he was going to get to work on the economy.

People need jobs right now. People are going under right now.

He doesn't have seven hours in one day to spend on health care.

He needs to get to work.

The economy -- due to his incompetence -- has become the biggest issue.

He refused to work on it, he refused to address it. He had 80 other things he wanted to do at any given moment and he's about to head Idonesia.

When he's going to get to work on getting to work on the economy?

We had a lovely televised stunt this week . . . of him working . . . on health care.

When does he plan to work on the economy?

Here are some important headlines on the economy:

Fannie to US: We need another $15.3 billion -
Tami Luhby - ‎3 hours ago‎
NEW YORK ( -- Battered by the housing crisis, mortgage finance company Fannie Mae said Friday that it needs another $15.3 billion in bailout money from the federal government.
Fannie Posts $72 Billion Loss for '09 Wall Street Journal
Fannie Mae posts loss, seeks more government funds Reuters
ABC News - MarketWatch - RTT News
all 288 news articles »

And here are some more:

Nevada bank closes, total hits 21 for 2010
Reuters -
Andrea Shalal-Esa, Karey Wutkowski - ‎1 hour ago‎
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Regulators seized a small bank in Nevada on Friday, bringing the year total to 21 as small institutions continue to struggle with bad loans.
FDIC shuts down banks in Nevada and Washington Atlanta Journal Constitution
State takes over Carson River Community Bank The Record-Courier
ABC News - Pensacola News Journal - Las Vegas Sun - Reno Gazette Journal
all 184 news articles »

Barack is not proposing universal, single-payer health care. He's proposing a bamboozle much like we have in my state already. It has not lowered prices.

But even if Barack's magical plan lowered prices, it doesn't go into effect until after the 2012 elections (the better to trick the voters with).

So what's he doing right now for the economy?

Jessica e-mails to say that she doesn't know what to do. She was eating lunch on $3 a day plus "a small tip". She did that by drinking water and eating the cheapest things on the menu. She's a grown woman working 40 hours a week and she's struggling to make her house payments which is killing her as is the fact that her father got laid off and he's lost his home and moved in with her. (If she can hold on for five years, he'll be retirement age.) She's having huge, huge problems.

My advice to her? I asked her if her work had a microwave? It does. She works in an office. I suggested soup. Campbell's or plain label soup. She's been doing that this week and it's worked. It's lowered her daily lunch cost to one dollar a day.

After that?

Here's the most important thing about budgets. We hate them. We all hate them. We will go off them and cause ourselves pain just because we hate them so much.

So what we worked out for week two is grilled cheese. She'll take cheese slices and a loaf of bread to work and just use the toaster to toast the bread, pop the thing in the microwave for 20 seconds to melt the cheese between both slices and she has a sandwich.

Yes, we could pretend she can take four weeks of soup. But she can't. Two weeks in a row may make her want to trash her budget. So she's going to go with soup this week and grilled cheese next. For week three? Do you have any suggestions?

The economy is tanking still. The joblelss recovery is not helping Americans. I read the e-mails, I see the stress.

Barack Obama needs to hear America: Fix the economy. Now.

Thank you to Ava for her two wonderful posts (last night and the night before) here. The first night, I had a splitting headache and her phone call was a godsend. The second night? Having read her first report on Congress, I was eager to read the second. I've told her she's welcome to do that anytime she wants, just go ahead and blog about hearing here.

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

Friday, February 26, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, election frenzy continues in Iraq, KBR gets a set back as well as a win (on a technicality), did Gordon Brown scream "You ruined my life" at a well known figure and why, Iraqi Christians flee Mosul, and more.

Iraq elections start in less than seven days (voting lasts from March 5th through March 7th) and there's been very little coverage of the campaigns. In part that's due to the restrictive press environment in Iraq which has only gotten more restrictive.
Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) speaks with Iraqi journalist Nadjha Khadum who made her name with repeated investigative reporting during Saddam Hussein's era. She says that back then, you only had to prove that it was true. Today, it's much worse and journalists are targeted for assassinations for exposes. (This is true throughout Iraq -- in the KRG as well as central and southern Iraq.) Since the start of the Iraq War, things have only gotten worse for the press. Londono notes, "The guidelines that Iraq's Communications and Media Commission issued last month bar journalists from withholding the names of sources and threaten action against those who publish information that incites violence -- a criterion that is ill-defined. The rules also say news organizations must apply for licenses, register equipment with the commission and provide a list of employees." Supposedly this elections (voting starts March 5th and ends the 7th) are monumental. The press and the US administration has invested all this meaning in them which, alone, would mean the campaigning would be covered. When you add in that the increase in violence as well as the bannings give it an increased 'timely' quality and news value (conflict is always news), you should expect to read tons of coverage on the campaigning. That's not happening. And it's in part because Nouri's insisting that those covering the elections register with the government. Most outlets rely on Iraqi journalists to be stringers and eyes and ears as well as to be the co- or sole reporter on news reports but many of the Iraqis cannot register as journalists due to threats that might follow as a result of their occupation being known. This has seriously curtailed a great deal of coverage news consumers would otherwise be receiving. And Reporters Without Borders releases an overview today of the problems in the north where the Kurdistan Regional Government rules. Awene newspaper's founder Asos Hardi states, "The authorities do not stop talking about freedom of expression, constantly boasting of media's independence. But these words are meaningless. In practice, the authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan do not believe in freedom of expression." AFP reports on the overview and also notes, "Iraq's election commission has imposed a 9:00 pm curfew on campaigning in Sulaimaniyah province after a number of violent incidents were reported. The province has been the focus of considerable tension between rival Kurdish parties, vying for maximum leverage in the event that the Kurds are kingmakers in the next Iraqi government." Sarwar Salar Chuchani (The Comment Factory) interviews Joost Hiltermann -- he's with the Crisis Group which makes him US government adjacent:

Chuchani: Do you believe the Kurdish participation in multi-list Iraqi elections will weaken their position in Baghdad?

Hiltermann: It will not affect the Kurds' position with regard to key questions concerning Kirkuk and other disputed territories, oil and gas, or the powers of the Kurdistan region. But it may have an impact on a host of other questions, such as most importantly the Iraqi presidency, unless -- I suppose -- the Kurdistani list make certain concessions to Goran that Goran is asking for. I don't know whether they will be able to reach an agreement.

Chuchani: What is the debate over Kirkuk leading to?

Hiltermann: Hopefully to a peaceful, negotiated, compromise solution that can be sustainable.

Chuchani: Do you believe Kurdish parties are committed to the establish of the rule of law, democracy and human rights?

Hiltermann: I don't know. But since they have said they are committed to this, they should be held to their word. In this respect, the opposition parties and the KRG's international sponsors could play a constructive role. International pressure has certainly contributed to a certain progress on this front since 1991.

Kirkuk is the disputed region claimed by both the KRG and the central government or 'government' in Baghdad. Each side argues historical rights to the area. The Kurds have repeatedly called for a census and a vote on the issue. In that call, they are on strong ground because the Iraq Constitution mandates that both take place -- both were supposed to have taken place by 2007 and still haven't.
Missy Ryan, Mustafa Mahmoud, Khalid al-Ansary and Samia Nakhoul (Reuters) note today that, "The dispute over Kirkuk, which Kurds want to make part of their semi-autonomous northern region, is now seen as a chief threat to security as Iraq emerges from a bloody sectarian war and tests its fragile democracy in national polls on March 7."Voting will take place in 16 other countries besides Iraq due to Iraq's large refugee population. Bassel Oudat (Al-Ahram Weekly) reports from Damascus that no campaigning is going on there yet within the Iraqi refugee community and Oudat notes, "Many had expected changes in the electoral process, but their hopes have been dashed. Now, the refugees believe that the forthcoming Iraqi elections may well turn out to be a farce." In Iraq, Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports, "A little over a week before the Iraq eleciton, the country is a cauldron of political attacks, sectarian divisions, and conspiracy theories that could limit the turnout in the country's most important national elections to date." Sami Moubayed (Asia Times) offers, "In Karbala, a massive turnout of poor people showed up at a rally for Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, breaking through security to present him with petitions, knowing that no time is better for ordinary Iraqis to reach out directly to top officials -- and have all their requests answered immediately."

Candidates are running to become one of the 325 members of Parliament. The Parliament elects the Prime Minister. Technically, the current Parliament and Prime Minister (Nouri) aren't 'in office' -- their terms have expired. Elections were supposed to take place in December and then moved back to January and now March. In Iraq, the process is such that the votes will not be counted for several days or weeks. After the vote tallies are released, the Parliament will be known. However, it could be (could be) weeks before a prime minister is named. The naming could take place quickly. If, for example, State of Law holds a large number of seats and enters into political alliance with other major blocs, Nouri could be re-named prime minister in a matter of days. How likely is that? Well, when you run off all your competition, you make it a lot easier. But naming any prime minister may take much longer. There are new factions and parties and the creation of those may have led to grudges that could be hard to put aside. December 15, 2005, the last Parliamentary elections were held (for only 275 seats back then). The election results were not 'official' until January 20, 2006. (They still weren't certified at that point.) And Nouri, who was not the first choice, was not named as prime minister until April 22, 2006.Something similar may take place this time around. If it took as long as last time (which most observers -- including at the UN -- do not expect), it would be July before a prime minister was selected. On the second hour of today's
The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), Diane's panel was composed of Thom Shanker (New York Times), Farah Stockman (Boston Globe) and David Wood ( and, discussing the arrest in Pakistan of Abdolmalek Rigi, Iraq came up.

Thom Shanker: [. . .] and this arrest came literally one week after Gen Ray Odierno, the senior American commander in Iraq, was in Washington spoke very forcefully and for the first time about Iranian influence in the upcoming elections in Iraq and the fact that two leading Shi'ite politicians had been in Iran recently meeting with Quods forces commanders who are on the terror watch list. So this is a lot of sort of, you know, tic-tac-toe and tit-for-tat going on here.

Diane Rehm: Now what about these elections scheduled for March 7th? We're told that the anti-American bloc is gaining power, Thom?

Thom Shanker: Well it's a very complicated situation. The Shi'ite majority have been trying to block some of the Sunni candidates on the grounds that some of their leaders were former members of the Saddam Hussein political party, the Ba'ath Party. Uh -- the Sunni were going -- many parties were going to stay out of the election. They just announced this morning [C.I. note, he means they announced yesterday] they got wisdom and they will participate after all. Although, you know, if it's a fair majority rule vote, they're going to lose. But the Shi'ite majority government did something else very interesting. It reinstated several thousands maybe 10 - 20,000 former Saddam era military officers not at the highest levels but at the mid-levels so there's lots of politicking going on which, overall, is healthy and it's probably going to be thirty, sixty or ninety days after the vote whether we see it will be a stable movement forward or whether things fall apart.

Diane Rehm: And how strong is Nouri al-Maliki right now -- the prime minister?

Thom Shanker: Well, he's in the driver's seat so he has all the advantages of incumbancy but the problem is again that we see in these very tense, kind of confrontations, it's the more radical people who always get the upper hand. In this case, it's Moqtar [Moqtada] al-Sadr who has -- I think the name "fire brand" is permanently attached to his name. He's an extremest, uh, Islamic cleric and led a militia which fought bitterly against US forces for years and was sort of based in Sadr City and so on. It's likely that he will have a major hand in the next government and so the interesting thing is: So what? He can have a lot of anti-American rhetoric and so forth which would be politically helpful but what will it actually mean? US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill said the other day that he'd gotten assurances from major Iraqi political features that whatever agreements Iraq had reached under the current government would still be held by who ever takes power next. Uh, he also said that they'd agreed during his campaign to be nice to each other, not to call each other names and abide by the outcome of the elections, so who knows?

Diane Rehm: Farah?

Farah Stockman: Well it's just fascinating to watch Iraqi politics unfold and if you go back to the days when we were orchestrating everything and the people we put in power and now it's just going to be a surprise to see what happens.

Programming note:
Al Jazeera's Inside Iraq begins airing this evening and repeats throughout (and streams online) the weekend. The guest will be Ahmed Chalabi who will respond to comments by Odierno and others. One of the political parties competing in the elections is the Ahrar Party and they issued the following today:

Ayad Jamal Aldin unveils Ahrar plan for security, public services and employment within Iraq
Last night Ayad Jamal Aldin, leader of the Ahrar Party, cemented the Ahrar Party's electoral credentials in a live TV interview, with questioning from a three-man panel and the public, for Al Baghdadiya.
Revealing Ahrar's plan for security, public services and employment within Iraq, Ayad Jamal Aldin received an unprecedented reaction from the viewers.
Following the interview, Al Baghdadiya reported that they received over 1,000 callers and emails supporting Ayad Jamal Aldin and predicting that he could well be the future prime minister of Iraq.
During the interview, the outspoken leader once again challenged current Prime Minister, Nouri Al-Maliki, to a live TV debate where he promised to "demonstrate to the Iraqi people how corrupt the current government has become." So far, Maliki has yet to respond to any of Jamal Aldin's previous invitations.
Jamal Aldin, a descendent of the prophet Mohammed, was asked by viewers how his party's secular policies conformed with his clerical garments. "You make a big issue about my clothes. There are many men wearing clerical dress and they used to wear the military uniform during Saddam's time. It doesn't matter what you wear, what matters is how wear it."
Jamal Aldin's secular views and strong anti-Iranian stance have not made him popular amongst certain factions within the country. He's been the victim of six assassination attempts since 2003. However, he reassured viewers over Ahrar's stance on Israel. "Iraq is an Arabic nation and we are part of the Arab League. We take the same position on Israel as the rest of the Arab world."
The Ahrar Plan for reconstruction within Iraq includes inviting the leading construction companies in the world to pitch for business in the future development projects within the country.
One caller stated that other parties were offering free housing; which Jamal Aldin dismissed as frivolous lies. "If any politician says he will build you a housing compound and give it to the people for free, he is lying. Ahrar knows what needs to be done. We will create a new bank, specifically for these projects, and inject an initial $5 billion dollars. We will then ask rich companies from around the world to be part of the bank. This bank's role will be to provide low-interest loans to the Iraqi people to enable them to build their own houses."
Another viewer asked him about the financing of his campaign and the reported $10 million - of his own money - he was using to fund the party. "Would this money not be better off being spent on reconciliation projects for the poor?"
"$10 million is incomparable to the billions of dollars that the people of Iraq have been deprived of through the corruption and wastage of the current government. If my $10 million enables me to win a position where I am able to force changes within Iraq then it has been an extremely worthwhile investment."
When asked about the likelihood of this occurring, Jamal Aldin accepted it was probable that some cheating would occur however urged people to "come out and vote in order to ensure that corruption within the polls is less likely."
For further information, contact:

Ahrar Media Bureau Tel: +964 (0)790 157 4478 / +964 (0)790 157 4479 / +964 (0)771 275 2942

About Ayad Jamal Aldin:
Ayad Jamal Aldin is a cleric, best known for his consistent campaigning for a new, secular Iraq. He first rose to prominence at the Nasiriyah conference in March 2003, shortly before the fall of Saddam, where he called for a state free of religion, the turban and other theological symbols. In 2005, he was elected as one of the 25 MPs on the Iraqi National List, but withdrew in 2009 after becoming disenchanted with Iyad Allawi's overtures to Iran. He wants complete independence from Iranian interference in Iraq. He now leads the Ahrar party for the 2010 election to the Council of Representatives, to clean up corruption and create a strong, secure and liberated Iraq for the future.
Reuters notes a Mosul dumpster bombing which claimed 2 lives and left ten people injured and a Mosul car bombing which wounded nine people (three were Iraqi soliders). Staying with violence, earlier this week Ruth offered "The assault on Iraq's Christians." She's not 'mass media,' but she's covered the topic. Edward Pentin (Catholic News Agency) notes the "mass media" silence on the attcks and on the fact that "Christian families are leaving the northern Iraqi city of Mosul in their droves to excape a concerted campaign of violence and intimidation." He writes:

Chaldean Bishop Emil Shimoun Nona has said that Mosul is experiencing a "humanitarian emergency" and that "hundreds of Christian families" left the city Feb. 24 in search of shelter, leaving behind their homes, property, commercial activities, according to
Asia News. The situation "is dramatic", he said, and warned that Mosul could be "emptied completely of Christians".
The families have chosen to flee after a spate of violent attacks which left five Christians dead last week, and members of a whole family murdered on Tuesday. "In one house all the family members were killed -- five people," said an Iraqi member of Open Doors, a non-denominational charity helping persecuted Christians.
Adel Kamal (Niqash) explains how this may be tied into the elections:

Following the Archbishops' memorandum, the Naynawa governor, Osama al-Nujaifi, ordered the Naynawa Operations Command to restore security in Mosul. He called on the army command to "shoulder their responsibilities for protecting the Christian community and disclosing the results of the criminal investigations regarding the crimes committed against them." Al-Nujaifii told Niqash that after the earlier attacks on Christians he asked the Operations Command to set-up a joint security. They responded curtly: "Security is our responsibility." "In that case," al-Nujaifi said, "They must take that responsibility and restore security." The Kurds in the area have boycotted the Governorate Council since al-Nujaifi took office and the governor sees the violence as politically motivated. "There are sides wanting to draw the Christians into a conflict that they are not part of." The conflict he is referring to is between the Arab al-Hadba list, which al-Nujaifi heads, and the Kurdish List. Like al-Nujaifi, the Deputy Chairman of Naynawa Governorate Council, Dildar Zaybari, refused to accuse the Kurds.

Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reports on the extra-legal Justice and Accountability Commission's decision to remove 580 Iraqis from the country's security forces for being alleged 'Ba'athists.' Mohammed Tawfeeq and CNN report on the simultaneous announcement yesterday that 20,000 military officers under Saddam Hussein would be reinstated, "Kurdish lawmaker Mahmoud Othman said al-Maliki was simply trying to secure more votes. 'This contradicts his anti-Baathist election campaign and it is very obvious that he wants to appeal to voters'." Leila Fadel and K.I. Ibrahim (Washington Post) quote the extra-legal commission's Ali Falial al-Lami stating they have proof that banned candidate Saleh al-Mutlaq is a 'Ba'athist.' Apparently, they've forced some more confessions in Iraq yet again. Al Jazeera adds, "Mohammed al-Askari, the defence ministry spokesman, said on Friday the resinstatement would begin immediately."

Monday the top US commander in Iraq, Gen Ray Odierno, gave a briefing in DC where he noted that the draw down could be slowed. This was a testing the water move (by the administration -- though some want to pretend Odierno was a 'loose canon' acting alone). Wednesday morning's New York Times featured a column by former journalist Thomas E. Ricks (speaking for Michele Flournoy to be sure) advocating for a longer US presence in Iraq. Thursday, it was learned that slowing the draw down was actually a request currently submitted to the administration. That's the background. Today Jason Ditz ( observes that Barry O's "soft pullout" just got softer while Michael Hastings (The Hastings Report, True/Slant) takes on Rick's suck up to Australian -- who really needs to take his ass home -- David Kilcullen's assertion that entering stupidly doesn't mean you have to depart stupidly. Hastings observes, "So, if you never leave, there's no worry of acting stupid. Except that you never leave. Which seems kind of stupid, too."

Turning to the issue of one-time Haliburton subsidiary KBR, the
Democratic Policy Committee earlier in this entry and we'll close with this news release:DORGAN: ARMY DECISION TO DENY MILLIONS IN BONUSES TO CONTRACTOR KBR IS "RIGHT CALL," BUT ONLY A "FIRST STEP" ( WASHINGTON , D.C. ) --- U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), who chaired Senate hearings on electrocutions of soldiers in Iraq resulting from shoddy contracting work by KBR, said Thursday the Army's decision to deny million of dollars in bonuses to the firm for its 2008 work in Iraq "is the right call, but it is only a first step." Dorgan chaired two Senate Democratic Policy Committee (DPC) hearings in 2008 and 2009 on KBR's shoddy electrical work in Iraq . The hearings revealed widespread problems with KBR's electrical work there including countless electrical shocks including one that killed Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, and perhaps others, and injured dozens more on their own bases as they showered and engaged in other routine activities. Following the hearings, Dorgan and Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) wrote the Army asking that it review KBR's work and the electrocution death of Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth. They also asked the Army to re-evaluate the millions of dollars in bonuses it has routinely awarded KBR for supposedly excellent work, even when the Army's own evidence made clear it was highly questionable. The Army's investigation of Maseth's January 2008 death found that KBR's work exposed soldiers to "unacceptable risk." A theatre-wide safety review that resulted from the Dorgan-Casey request -- Task Force SAFE -- also found widespread problems with KBR's electrical work that exposed soldiers to life threatening risks. "The decision to deny KBR millions in bonuses for its work in 2008 is welcome news, and is a significant change from the Army's past practice, but the Army clearly needs go much further," Dorgan said. "Specifically, it needs to review the $34 million bonus and other bonuses it awarded KBR for shoddy work that may have contributed to other electrocution deaths and other serious electrical shocks." Dorgan said the Army's decision "will send a long overdue message to military contractors that they will be held accountable for their performance. But the Army needs to send that message much more powerfully. Not awarding a bonus for widespread sloppy contracting work that killed soldiers is just the beginning, not the end point, of accountability." Dorgan has chaired 21 Senate DPC hearings on waste, fraud and corruption in military contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003. Evidence at those hearings he said, "has been overwhelming that KBR's work was shoddy and put the lives of U.S. soldiers at risk. KBR's electrical workers were often unqualified, poorly trained and poorly supervised. When questions were raised, they simply denied there was a problem and proceeded with the same shoddy business as usual."Senator Byorn Dorgan addresses the issue in a video at DPC as well. A large number of veterans and contractors have filed suit against Halliburton and/or its subsidiary KBR. Jon Murray (Indianapolis Star) reports that Judge Richard Young of the US District Court for the Southern District of Indiaina dismissed the case filed on behalf of 47 members of the Indiana National Guard with the finding that that he lacked jurisdiction due to KBR being based in another state (Texas) and the exposure (he would say "alleged exposure") took place in Iraq. He only ruled on jurisidiction and did not address the merits of the case. There are at least 22 cases against KBR/Halliburton filed in 22 different district courts across the country. Whether or not the judges in 21 of those will find as Judge Young did isn't known. 21? One of the cases is filed in Texas.

We're moving to England but, before we do, shouts of joy echo all over DC with
this White House announcement. And have fun under the bus, dear. Monday the the Iraq Inquiry announced that the current Prime Minister of England, Gordon Brown, will offer testimony to the Inquiry on March 5th. When former prime minister Tony Blair's date was announced, BBC noted that "3,000 people have applied for seats at Tony Blair's appearance" and yesterday the BBC attempted to make it seem that Gordon Brown was 'in demand' as well by insisting, "More than 300 people have applied . . ." Alice Tarleton (Channel 4 News) points out that there are 120 seats available because Brown testifies in the morning and afternoon -- while there were only 60 available for Tony Blair's and that this is "a fraction of the 3,041" applying for Tony tickets. Is that why Gordon Brown screamed "You ruined my life!" at Tony Blair? No. Patrick Wintour and Andrew Sparrow (Guardian) report that "Gordon Brown repeatedly shouted at Tony Blayr: "You ruined my life" in the final confrontation that forced Blair to agree to announce a date by which he would stand down as prime minister, according to Andrew Rawnsley's new book" The End of the Party. The Telegraph of London adds that he also plotted to undermine Alastair Campbell and that Brown's response to the assertions is, "Given that they are both completely wrong, and that you can almost laugh them off, they are so ridiculous." The Iraq Inquiry is chaired by John Chilcot and Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) reports today:

On Tuesday Labour MP Graham Allen met Sir John Chilcot. Allen was one of the organisers of the rebellion of Labour MPs against the war and wanted to highlight "the three fundamental institutional flaws which were revealed by the lead-up to the Iraq War so that they are not repeated."
Allen told me: "I wanted to give Sir John Chilcot a perspective he has not been exposed to before. I'm hopeful that the story of those who tried to stop the war will form part of the report. The three things I put forward, had they happened the first time round, would have significantly diminished, if not eliminated, the prospect of Parliament authorising the war." Although he declined to reveal what Chilcot's response was, Allen told me that he was "extremely generous with his time" and "open and frank and well-informed".

TV notes.
NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):
In 1995 and 1996, 66 gray wolves were relocated from Canada toYellowstone National Park and central Idaho to help recover a wolfpopulation that had been exterminated in the northern Rockies. The graywolf relocation is considered one of the most successful wildliferecovery projects ever attempted under the Endangered Species Act; todaythere are more than 1,600 wolves in the region. But a debate has eruptedbetween conservationists and ranchers over the question: how many wolvesare too many?Last year, the Obama Administration entered the fray by removing federalprotection for some of these wolves, paving the way for controversialstate-regulated wolf hunts. The move has wolf advocates fuming, withmore than a dozen conservation groups suing the Interior Department torestore federal protections. On February 26 at 8:30 pm (check locallistings), NOW reports on this war over wolves and implications for thearea.
Staying with TV notes,
Washington Week begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and we'll note who joins Gwen around the table this are Naftali Bendavid (Wall St. Journal), John Dickerson (CBS News and Slate), David Shepardson (Detroit News) and Karen Tumulty (Time magazine). Meanwhile, has a president, in the 'modern era,' ever refused to deliver a State of the Union speech? Washington Week, as part of its site redesign and increased web presence provides an answer to that by dipping into the archives and making available a February 2, 1973 installment of Washington Week. You can also view the Webcast Extra for last week's show (or any other show this year or last year) which is an additional segment where Gwen and her guests discuss topics submitted by viewers of the show. Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Karen Czarnecki, Avis Jones-DeWeever, Melinda Henneberger and Tara Setmayer to discuss the week's events on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes:
Stealing American Secrets"60 Minutes" has obtained an FBI videotape showing a Defense Department employee selling secrets to a Chinese spy that offers a rare glimpse into the secretive world of espionage and illustrates how China's spying may pose the biggest espionage threat to the U.S. Scott Pelley reports.
Watch Video
Battle Over HistoryBob Simon reports on what the Armenians call their holocaust - the 1915 forced deportation and massacre of more than a million ethnic Armenians by the Turks - an event that the Turks and our own government have refused to call genocide. Watch Video
Kathryn BigelowLesley Stahl talks to Academy Award best-director nominee Kathryn Bigelow about her award-winning film, "The Hurt Locker." If she's chosen, she would be the first woman ever to win in that category. Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, Feb. 28, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

the Salem-News has a feature on the questions regarding 9-11 (link has text and video) by Tim King and here's the opening, "The mainstream press is showing interest in a taboo, however glaring subject; the inconsistencies in the Bush White House 9/11 account. As The Washington Post reports today, 'A lingering technical question about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks still haunts some, and it has political implications: How did 200,000 tons of steel disintegrate and drop in 11 seconds? A thousand architects and engineers want to know, and are calling on Congress to order a new investigation into the destruction of the Twin Towers and Building 7 at the World Trade Center'." Thank you for community member Mia for catching the above. I'd written it would be noted in Thursday's snapshot, I forgot. Others wondered if I was 'scared off' by the subject? Tim King covers Iraq and does a fine job. If he goes into another area, we can make a little space to note that from time to time. If he goes into this area? He's raising questions and, in a democracy, we should all welcome that. 9-11 is not our issue at this site (or my issue offline) but we do not attack people who question here (or people who offer theories -- for example, we've never attacked the 911 Commission and, yes, there 'findings' are a theory). If we were a religious site, we'd say, "Go with God." We're not so we'll just note that Tim King's a fine reporter and anytime we have the space to note him, we will. In my offline life, I have friends on all sides of this topic (there's more than just two sides) and I respect everyone's opinion (even those friends whose opinion is the same as the 911 Commission's). I know this is a controversial topic and I know people look for signs and indications. My forgetting on Thursday was just my forgetting. There was too much for that snapshot and I was trying to squeeze in the House Veterans Affairs hearing. That hearing was covered by Kat covered it last night in "Subcommittee on Oversight hears about Iraq," Wally filled in for Rebecca and covered it in "Filner asks the money question" and Ava filled in for Trina and covered it in "Stats aren't science." Back to the topic of King's articles about questions. This has been addressed here many times before but my forgetting led to e-mails (and I understand that but I did just forget, I wasn't trying to be 'respectable' -- no one who knows me would ever accuse me of that, trust me). Those who search for answers -- on any issue or question -- are not attacked here. Our fire is aimed at the gas bags and the politicians. There is enough frivilous in the country -- especially among so-called adults -- and anyone dedicating themselves to a 9-11 search has a worthy and admirable topic and, as with the researchers into the assassination of JFK, their work may never turn up a single answer but it will turn up many things of value, that's what research does. And in a democracy, we don't attack those who ask questions (we welcome a free exchange), and in terms of discourse and information, independent research has produced so much information throughout the history of this country. I hope that clarifies it (and if you wrote an angry e-mail, don't worry about it, this is a heated topic, I understand that but, no, we're not part of any clampdown here, nor do we think we're any better than any other citizens of the US, we'll leave the sneering at We The People to the gas bags of cable TV). If not, please e-mail again and I'll try to make it more clear. (And if you're late to the party and wondering what "my issue" is -- it's the word in the title before "snapshot.")

the washington posternesto londono
the christian science monitorjane arraf
nprthe diane rehm show
antiwar.comjason ditztrue/slantmichael hastings
the guardianandrew sparrow
patrick wintouriraq inquiry digest
chris ames
bbc news
cnnmohammed tawfeeqthe los angeles timesliz slyk.i. ibrahimleila fadel60 minutescbs newspbsnow on pbsto the contrarybonnie erbe
washington week

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Stats aren't science

Ava here again, taking over Trina's blog tonight -- again with her permission. We attended the bulk of the House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing yesterday on links between drugs and suicides (prescribed drugs).

I had two things I wanted to emphasize. (And I thank Trina for allowing me to and I promise I won't do this again.)

First, Rodriguez. Ciro D. Rodriguez is a member of the House from Texas. He's a Democrat. Some may feel his too left, some may feel he's not left enough. I get that. I can see the points. But here's my problem: He's a nice man.

He's never attacked anyone at a hearing I've attended. He's never treated a witness with disrespect. Nor has he ever treated any colleague with disrespect. He's the nice guy you wish lived next door because you know, if your car doesn't start, he'll give you a jump and you know, if your out of town, he'll keep an eye on your place while still respecting your privacy. That's how he presents as a member of Congress.

So I am just really appalled by the way he was treated by a 'doctor' (he's not a doctor -- he's not a medical doctor, he has a PhD) at Wednesday's hearing. He got jumped all over by "Dr" Andrew Leon of Big Pharma. He jumped on another witness (a medical doctor) but he was rude to Rodriguez. And Rodrigues kindly attempted to redirect the way you might try to reason with small children.

But a number of us were writing about the hearing and C.I. had mentioned the treatment of Rodriguez and it made me angry (I was angry over it yesterday but had moved on past it).

If it helps, you can write it off to me being Latina and thinking, "Oh, that's why she's offended." But I really don't think it has anything to do with him being Latino. I think it has to do with someone who always strive so hard to show others the dignity he thinks they deserve getting treated with disrespect by a tool for Big Pharma. I found it offensive.

The first panel was tense and a nightmare. At one point, Filner tried to make a joke and had to explain it was a joke.

Bob Filner: If I was a patient of yours -- and I'm looking at your thing in a Socratic way -- you said, here, you wrote, "Depression increases risk of suicide and anti-depressants decrease suffering from depression." But, I mean, that's a the therefore thing -- therefore we have to at least make sure -- I'm all for anti-depressants but it seems to me, you haven't included the problems. And the probability of the problems. That is like, I read all the baldness stuff because [pats back of head] you know, and it says, "We'll treat the baldness but you're going to be uh --" And that's good. That's the suffering of depression "but you're going to be sexually impotent." [Raises hands] Hey! And vice versa, by the way, the other things that are on the dysfunction stuff, it increases baldness, so you've got to choose one or the other if you're my age, I guess. That's a joke, guys. But I don't see the following of "Depression reduces risk of suicide and drugs decrease suffering therefore" you argue "you've got to take the drugs." I would argue therefore you have to be -- if you haven't explained the risks and you haven't judged those so I'll have less depression but I'll go out and commit suicide. Sounds to me like that's what you're saying.

And that is what Andrew "not a doctor" Leon was saying though he denied it.

Leon was such a jerk. At one point, Filner told him, "I'd be afraid to go to you if I was depressed because you're telling me -- it's most important to get ride of the symptoms of depression and you'll tell me maybe suicidality will occur."

Leon accused the medical doctor of not knowing science and not being a scientist and Filner said to him, "You're not a doctor, you're saying he's not a scientist, you're not a doctor, why should I listen to you?"

And that's how I felt every time Leon opened his mouth.

Now this is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, February 25, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, an inquiry is told that England's JFIT participated in torture and abuse, a Congressional committee is told Eli Lilly disguised suicide attempts in anti-depressant clinical trials, the draw down appears to be moving towards "slow down" at present, a political leader announces he wants to end a boycott, 3 Iraqi women are informed they will be hanged before elections take place and more.
Yesterday, the House Committee on Veterans Affairs held a full committee hearing whose purpose, Chair Bob Filner explained at the start, was "to look at the potential relationship between psychiatric medicines and suicides. Not a lovely topic but one that I think we have to address." Filner noted that the suicide rate within the military "continues to increase at an alarming rate, far exceeding the comparable suicide rates among the general population." The committee had four panels. The first panel was composed of Dr. Peter Breggin (Ithaca, NY) and Andrew Leon (Weill Cornell Medical College), the second of Drs. M. David Rudd (University of Utah) and Annelle Primm (John Hopkins School of Medicine) and retired Commander Donald J. Farber, panel three was composed of the VA's Iraq Katz with other VAs as background singers and panel four was Dr. Bart Billings.
Dr. Breggin detailed Eli Lilly's efforts to disguise suicide as related to anti-depressants. He first came across paperwork of the German government's equivalent of the US FDA "in the late 80s" where they expressed their concern to Eli Lilly over suicide rates and asked the drug maker to check their clinical trials.
Dr. Peter Breggin: Lilly found, depending on how you count it, a 6 to 12 to 1 ratio of suicide attempts -- not just thinking, attempts -- in the control group compared to placebo. Lilly never made it public. They never gave this report that I found to the Germans, they never made it available to the FDA. I also found memos inside Lily explaining guilt and shame on the part of some German investigators for Lilly that the company was classifying suicides and suicide attempts reported by doctors to them as "no drug effect." or other harmless kinds of entities; thereby disgusing the suicide attempts and the completed suicides. In one of these memos, the gentleman declared, uhm, 'How am I going to explain this to my family?' It was a genuine shame.
Dr. Breggin testified about various reactions and various ways of monitoring in clinical trials where a great deal more monitoring will take place than in real life use. As he was detailing some of these, the chair asked a question.
Chair Bob Filner: Dr. Breggin, I don't want to interrupt but if an active duty soldier is given these medications, they may not even see that warning, right? I mean --
Dr. Breggin: Well, my experience, last year I spoke at the oldest military stress conference given -- Bart Billings, whom you know, retired army officer and psychologist, runs that -- and I talked to generals and I talked to mental health professionals and they all agreed that these warnings were hardly ever presented to the soldiers and that the army was, in a sense, acting as if it was unaware. And some of these people gave me estimates, not of the 15% on pyschiatric drugs that we often hear but up to 30% of soldiers in some sections -- marines in particular, was one that was mentioned to me.
Chair Bob Filner: So they're not even informed of the risks?
Dr. Breggin: No, no. And as we go on further, we'll see that the FDA tells doctors you should -- and the word "should" is in the label -- you should share this information with the patient and the family and make sure they understand it. It's not just you repeat it to them. You sort of, "Hey, this is, I want you to understand, this is what may happen to you." It's what I do in my clinical practice. I don't say, "By the way, the drug may cause this or that," you know, I just make sure over a period of many sessions that the person understands the risks.
We're not interested in Leon's testimony which was inaccurte in many parts. He was urged to come to a point by the Chair but couldn't or wouldn't, he and Breggin were asked questions by House Rep Ciro D. Rodriguez and Leon jumped all over Breggin for answering and implied that the question was only for him when Rep Rodriguez was not only asking them both, Rodriguez has made clear he was asking them both the same question by using "you both" in his question.
At one point, Leon insulted Breggin in what may end up the rudest moment in Congress for the year. "You don't know what you're talking about," Leon snapped at Breggin. Rodriguez redirected with another question. He also snapped at Rodriguez. Not concerned about tone here but including his rudeness to convey just how unprofessional Andrew C. Leon was. And to be clear, he attempted to give 'expert' testimony on psychiatry when he is not a psychiatrist. Myself, I prefer psychologists to psychiatrists (for historical reasons including the ingrained sexism to be found in psychiatry). So I don't say that as a sneer or to suggest the Leon, being a psychologist, is not a real doctor. But he is not a psychologist either. Translation, he's not a doctor. But he is not qualified to speak of what psychiatry does or does not do. (Breggin, for any wondering is a psychiatrist.) He was so offensive in his remarks that Chair Filner felt compelled to note, "Just your last sentence, Dr. Leon, I don't think anybody was ever suggesting not to treat people. I mean, you're setting up a false straw man there."
I'll leave our focus on the first panel or we'll get lost in this hearng. Yesterday's snapshot covered a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing on Iraq chaired by Russ Carnahan. Kat covered it last night in "Subcommittee on Oversight hears about Iraq," Wally filled in for Rebecca and covered it in "Congress advances technology today via Carnahan" and Ava filled in for Trina and covered it in "The 'powerless' Stuart Bowen." Kat will be emphasizing some aspect of the Veterans Affairs Committee hearing at her site tonight. And Rebecca's just invited Wally to blog at her site tonight on the hearing so he's grabbing a rare moment that took place -- one that should take place in every hearing.
Well over a million Iraqis have died since the start of the illegal war. One is Baha Mosua whose 'crime' was going to work. The 26-year-old was arrested in a dragnet at the hotel -- arrested by British forces and he went on to die in their custody. As Adrian Shaw (Daily Mirror) reminds, Baha died of 93 injuries -- all while in British custody -- in September 2003. The ongoing inquiry into Baha Mosua's death is taking place in England. Today is day 66, we last noted it in the November 16th snapshot when Donald Payne testified that he and others repeatedly kicked and hit -- for over 48 hours -- a hooded and restrained Baha and Payne pinned some of his previous lying down to "self-preservation."
Today the inquiry heard from a retired British military colonel (retired in April 2006) who is identified as witness "S009." Gerald Elias began the questioning by noting a statement S009 signed August 17, 2009 and reviewing some basics from it such as S009 was "commission in 1981," immediately "attached to the Queen's Dragoon Guards," "served in Northern Ireland and in Bosnia . . . Kosovo," etc. Among 2009's duties in Iraq were building and running a Theatre of war Internment Facility (TIF).
He was asked about the "shock of capture."
S009: My understanding of "shock of capture" is that feeling of dislocation, of -- I think it is a spiritual thing more than anything else. You have just been captured by the enemy, you feel profoundly uncomfortable, you feel dislocated from your normal systems and hierarchies and processes and, as a result, my understanding is that produces a vulnerability in you. I mean a bit like me sitting here today, I wish you to like me to remove some of my stress. I would put it in those terms.
Gerald Elias: Were you given any training prior to your deployment to Iraq in relation to the maintenance of the shock of capture, for example?
S009: No. My understanding of the maintenance of shock of capture is really all about speed. You know, there is a window when the human psyche wishes to be loved and wanted and cosseted and, after a while, most people get used to new circumstances reasonably quickly. So the point of maintenance of shock of capture is to get the person that you have detained to the person who is going to question them as fast as possible -- no more than that.
Gerald Elias: So speed of delivery. But you didn't understand that there were any other techniques that might be used to maintain the shock of capture?
S009: No, and indeed if you are referring to things like sleep deprivation and all that, I would say that those would be inappropriate.
S009 testified that interrogations took place at the camp he was in charge of (April 2003) but he was prevented from observing them when they were carried out by Joint Forward Intelligence Teams (JFIT). JFIT is a mixture of military and civilians and is considered part of military intelligence.
Gerald Elias: Mr S009, may I move on, please, to your concerns about what was going on in the JFIT. First of all, in general terms, can you tell us briefly what it was that you saw or experienced which concerned you?
S009: Yes. I witnessed a number of prisoners of war, kneeling in the sun with what I believed to be plastic hoods over their heads and with their hands handcuffed behind their backs, in two rows, facing each other.
Gerald Elias: You considered that treatment to be wrong?
S009: Yes.
Gerald Elias: Unlawful?
S009: Yes.
Gerald Elias: Just before going into the detail of that and what you did about it and the conversations you may have had about it, was that the extent -- the full extent -- of what you saw that concerned you in the JFIT?
S009: Yes, pretty much. I mean I felt that the organisation was not running well, so I had concerns about the general efficiency of that unit and its effectiveness as well.
Staying with violence, Layla Anwar (An Arab Woman Blues) notes that Muslim Woman Org has announced that three Iraqi women -- Wassan Talib, Zainab Fadhil and Liqa Muhammad -- are now scheduled to be hanged on March 3rd. On the latest installment of Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera) Shatha al-Obosi -- deputy chair of the Iraqi Parliament's Human Rights Committee -- declared to host Jasim al-Azzawi, "We want to delay the execution orders after the elections because I receive many claims from people that they take their speech, their -- and they sign them under the torture. So many of them are innocent. We are afraid if there is a few number of them are innocent so we must protect all of them and make another investigation with them to guarantee if they are innocent or not." Apparently, the three women won't be protected. In some of today's reported violence . . .
Reuters notes, dropping back to Wednesday, a Mosul grenade attack which injured two people. An Iraqi corresondent for McClatchy Newspapers reports that "1.5 ton of TNT" was seized before it could enter Falluja today and that Falluja police also detonated a car bomb and a roadside bomb. The police are claiming the seized bomb material was to be used March 7th (during the elections).

Shootings and other?
Reuters notes 2 people killed in a Mosul "car workshop," 1 woman killed in a Mosul home invasion (killed apparently by blows to the head), 1 man killed in a Mosul drive-by.
Alsumaria TV reports a young woman's corpse was discovered in a Khales orchard.
Iraqis are gearing up for another election -- March 5th to March 7th. Yesterday's snapshot included:

Marc Lynch (Foreign Policy) explains today, "So you thought that Ahmed Chalabi and Ali al-Lami's Accountability and Justice (De-Ba'athification) Committee had done all they could to wreck Iraq's elections and advance their political agendas? Not even. Yesterday, in what al-Hayat calls a surprise move, Lami announced that the AJC had named 376 military, police and intelligence officers for de-Ba'athification. The list includes a number of important people in senior positions."

Xinhua (link has text and audio) reports
the newly banned "included 58 officers from the Defense Ministry, 10 of whom held senior posts, including Aboud Qanber, former commander of the Baghdad operations. [. . .] The list also featured 125 officers from the national intelligence agency, including 10 high-ranking officers who were in charge of political assassinations and tracking down the opposition". This week's banning comes as Nouri al-Maliki announces he's bringing some people back into the government. Marc Santora (New York Times) reports that Nouri's mouth piece announced 20,000 officers who served in Iraq's army during the Saddam Hussein era will be brought back into the military. The National Dialogue front's spokesperson Mayson al-Damalogi states, "This is purely a means of trying to gain more votes" on the part of al-Maliki. In other election news, Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) reports that Saleh al-Mutlaq and Ayad Allawi held a press conference today in which al-Mutlaq retracted his announced boycott. al-Mutlaq is not running. He remains banned and he is part of the National Dialogue Front. Rebecca Santana and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) express the belief that this "effectively lifts the lingering threat that minority Sunnis would boycott the vote". No, it doesn't. That's a belief but it's not based in any reality. It's a hope, maybe. It's not factual. A leader of a political party can call a boycott or not. It's the people who boycott though. al-Mutlaq can call a boycott and no one may go along with it. The people decide if there's a boycott or not. An individual doesn't make the decision -- not even with a call for a boycott or a call not to boycott. You can say al-Mutlaq withdrew his call for a boycott and be factual. You can even say this may erase the threat of a boycott. You cannot, however, be factual and also declare that the threat of a boycott is now gone. You can't do that unless you're a pyschic and I was under the impression that the "P" in "AP" stood for "Press," not "Psychics." Middle East Online explains of the announcement that the the bloc "urged its followers to turn out in numbers." The urging is needed because people will decide what they want to do and what they don't want to do. If that weren't the case, the bloc would have only announced, "We're back in." Charles Levinson (Wall St. Journal) gets it correct: "The announcement by National Dialogue Front leader Saleh al-Mutlaq could ease fears voiced by U.S. officials that a Sunni boycott would sap the vote of legitimacy and possibly lead to violence after the poll, as happened after the previous national elections in December 2005."
Watch Ahrar Party Leader Ayad Jamal Aldin on al-Baghdadiya tonight
On the back of polls showing a surge in support, Ahrar Leader Ayad Jamal Aldin will take to the airwaves tonight to make the case for radical, popular change in Iraq.
He will use a prime time interview on Baghdadiya at 10:00pm AST to take questions on Ahrar's comprehensive plans on delivering water, jobs, electricity and security under the next Iraqi parliament.
Speaking from Baghdad tonight, Jamal Aldin said, "The people want change - real change. The corrupters and outside agents can use all the tricks they like, we are strong enough to prevail. One group has the power in Iraq right now, and that is the Iraqi people."
Watch the interview here.
For further information, contact:
Ahrar Media Bureau
Tel: +964 (0)790 157 4478 / +964 (0)790 157 4479 / +964 (0)771 275 2942
About Ayad Jamal Aldin:
Ayad Jamal Aldin is a cleric, best known for his consistent campaigning for a new, secular Iraq. He first rose to prominence at the Nasiriyah conference in March 2003, shortly before the fall of Saddam, where he called for a state free of religion, the turban and other theological symbols. In 2005, he was elected as one of the 25 MPs on the Iraqi National List, but withdrew in 2009 after becoming disenchanted with Iyad Allawi's overtures to Iran. He wants complete independence from Iranian interference in Iraq. He now leads the Ahrar party for the 2010 election to the Council of Representatives, to clean up corruption and create a strong, secure and liberated Iraq for the future.
On the elections and the targeting, Rhonda Shafei (Columbia Spectator) offers:

America cannot afford the fallout that is bound to result from the injustices being committed by the Iraqi government.
The most notable injustice is the disqualification of 511 candidates by the Iraqi Accountability and Justice Commission, a subset of the Iraqi Elections Committee. The board is run by two dubious politicians, Ahmad Chalabi and Ali al-Lami, both prominent Shiites who have been accused by top U.S. commander Raymond Odierno of having intimate ties with Iran. But their suspect backgrounds don't end there: Al-Lami was arrested in 2008 for alleged ties to a Baghdad bombing that killed four Americans and six Iraqis, and Chalabi is the man accused of providing the Bush administration with faulty information on Iraq's weapons program.
It's no surprise, then, that the commission would bar the 500-odd candidates, the vast majority of whom are Sunni politicians with former ties to the Baath party of Saddam Hussein. Both Chalabi and al-Lami acted as key figures on the 2003-2004 Supreme National De-Baathification Commission created by Paul Bremer. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that the current justice commision is a continuation of the McCarthyite de-Baathification procedure -- McCarthyite for its arbitrary firing of 30,000 ex-Baath politicians, thousands of intelligence officials, and all military officers above the rank of colonel. There exists no constitutional basis for the disqualification of candidates by the election board. If the elections are to move forward with a substantial number of Sunnis missing from the ballots, how could results possibly be representative of Iraqi society?

Monday Gen Ray Odierno, the top US commander in Iraq, declared at a DC press briefing that the rate of draw down could be slowed. Patrick Martin (WSWS) words it this way, "In an apparent effort to prepare US and Iraqi public opinion for a change in policy, the top US commander in Baghdad announced Monday that he had briefed the Pentagon on plans to keep combat troops in Iraq after an upcoming August 31 deadline for their withdrawal." Martin goes on to note "Stratfor [Global Intelligence] noted that Odierno's appearance at the Pentagon was carefully choreographed by the Obama administration. Odierno 'came to Washington publicize the plan: He did not do this without direction, authorization and coordination with the White House'." David Riedel (CBS News) reported that former journalist (current counter-insurgency cheerleader) Thomas E. Ricks announced today -- in a scoop worthy of Hedda Hopper which is apparently Ricks' new online role -- that the possibility of slowing down a draw down was in fact an official request submitted to the administration by Odierno. Dahr Jamail (via CounterCurrents) notes that the US government appears to be using the election unrest as an excuse to prolong the war and he provides this background on the players who now concern the US government:

The US government and corporate media prefer to focus on Iran's "meddling" in Iraq; yet, the key players responsible for most of the political discord in Iraq are US-installed and -backed men who have always had clear links to Tehran.

Maliki is a case in point.

Maliki was an Iraqi in exile in Tehran from 1982-1990, and then remained in Syria before returning to Iraq after the US invasion of 2003. Maliki worked as a political officer for the Dawa Party while in Syria, developing close ties with Hezbollah and Iran.

The Dawa party backed the Iranian Revolution, as well as backing Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini during the Iran-Iraq War. The group continues to receive financial support from Tehran. Maliki is the secretary general of the Dawa Party.

In April 2006, then US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and her UK counterpart, Jack Straw, flew to Baghdad in order to replace then Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafaari with Nouri al-Maliki. There was no democratic process involved in the decision.

Another US-backed Iraqi ex-patriot with ties to Iran is Ahmed Chalabi.

Recently the US Ambassador to Iraq, Christopher Hill, along with General Odierno, referred to Chalabi as Tehran's leading agent in Iraq. Chalabi, who leads Iraq's Justice and Accountability Committee that has been banning certain candidates from the upcoming vote, was said to be "clearly influenced by Iran" last week by General Odierno.

Chalabi played a major role in providing the Bush administration with information it wanted in order to justify invading Iraq. He is responsible for having Mutlaq, along with hundreds of other candidates, eliminated from the election on the mostly fraudulent grounds that they are or were loyalists of Saddam Hussein's Baath party.

Along with Sunni leaders, his targets also include secular nationalists, and the two most important candidates who have been banned are leading members of cross-sectarian alliances, which raises fears that Iraq could be drifting toward a Shiite autocracy.

Tunring to the US . . .
Now it all begins
Or continues to
Spiral down
Spiral down
Look upon the self
Look upon the other
We need a better understanding
Or we'll spiral down
Spiral down
Continue to spiral down
I'm no where near my peace
As you spiral down
Now it all begins
Or continues to
Spiral down
Spiral down

Look upon the self
Look upon the other
We need a better understanding
Or we'll spiral down

Spiral down
Continue to spiral down
I'm no where near my peace
As you spiral down
-- "Spiral Down" written by Michael Timmins, recorded by the Cowboy Junkies on their album at the end of paths taken
Peace takes action and A.N.S.W.E.R. and other organizations are sponsoring March 20th marches in DC, San Francisco and Los Angeles. The march is to demand the withdrawal of all US and NATO troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. Students for a Democratic Society are another organization that will be participating and they note:
While the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan is growing ever larger, the occupation of Iraq is still raging, nearing its seventh anniversary. With over 4,300 US soldiers and over 1.3 million Iraqi civilians estimated dead, something has to be done to stop this senseless slaughter.
This year Students for a Democratic Society will hold a national week of action March 15th to 20th where students will organize protests and direct actions at campuses across the country in opposition to the ongoing, brutal occupations.
The need for a vibrant anti-war movement has rarely been felt more than this very moment, while the United States drops trillions of dollars into unjust wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, during the worst economic crisis in 80 years. Students are struggling to pay for school while tuition skyrockets, and states lose billions of dollars to two continuing occupations.
On Saturday, March 20th, SDS will participate in a massive National March & Rally in D.C. hosted by A.N.S.W.E.R. to finish the week of action with tens of thousands of people in the street!
We're calling on students and youth from across the country to join us the week of March 15-20th in demanding: Fund Education, Not Occupation!
For more information visit:
Radio, radio, as Elvis Costello once sang. Lila Giggles? Elaine covered her in "Lila Giggles and her worthless Connect the Dots." Chris Hedges is a guest on this week's Law & Disorder and Mike covered that in "'Health' 'care' 'reform' and Law & Disorder." Cindy Sheehan Soapbox is the radio program Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan does and her guest this week is John Pilger. They discuss many topics including Brand Obama and his war machine. In addition, Pilger offers that there was more than one gunman at the RFK assassination. Next week, Cindy interviews FBI whistle blower Colleen Rowley, FYI. (Hugo Chavez is her guest March 14th.) Remember that Ann is covering NPR's Fresh Air and her posts this week so far are "Miss Terry (Gross) 'forgets,' "Realities about Barack's Big Pharma Give Away" and "Fresh what?". Lastly, TV notes. NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):
In 1995 and 1996, 66 gray wolves were relocated from Canada to
Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho to help recover a wolf
population that had been exterminated in the northern Rockies. The
wolf relocation
is considered one of the most successful wildlife
recovery projects ever attempted under the Endangered Species Act; today
there are more than 1,600 wolves in the region. But a debate has erupted
between conservationists and ranchers over the question: how many wolves
are too many?

Last year, the Obama Administration entered the fray by removing
for some of these wolves, paving the way for controversial
state-regulated wolf hunts. The move has wolf advocates fuming, with
more than a dozen conservation groups suing the Interior Department to
restore federal protections. On February 26 at 8:30 pm (check local
listings), NOW reports on this war over wolves and implications for the