Friday, January 31, 2014

The attack on food stamps

Let's pick back up on food stamps.  Andre Damon (WSWS) reports the latest:

The US House of Representatives voted Wednesday to slash the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps) by $8.7 billion over ten years, cutting food benefits by an average of $90 per month for 850,000 of the country’s most vulnerable people.
The vote, 251-166, came only two days after bipartisan negotiators released the bill Monday, and the vote passed after only one hour of debate on the House floor.
The Senate is expected to take up the bill Thursday, and to approve it by Friday. White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday that when the bill reaches Obama’s desk, “he would sign it.” The assault on nutritional assistance comes one day after Obama’s State of the Union speech, which was billed as a major address on social inequality but in fact sets the framework for a deeper attack on the working class.
The cuts are part of the so-called farm bill, a five-year omnibus measure that deals with programs administered by the United States Department of Agriculture.
The measure had the full support of the House Democratic leadership, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer. Democrat Collin Peterson told The Hill that Pelosi was key in the bill’s passage, saying, “She really worked the bill."
"I think we got it about right," said, Peterson, the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee. “Of course it’s not perfect, if you want perfect, you’ll get that in heaven,” fellow Democrat Tim Walz, who voted for the bill, told Politico .

This is disgusting.  The White House and Congress refuse to create jobs.  So many people are out of work because there are no jobs and the economy remains in the toilet and yet Democrats and Republicans are working together to cut food stamps.

They are no longer the people's representatives and we need a major transformation in this country.

I'm to the point that I'll even get behind term limits.  I am so sick of the members of Congress enriching their own pockets while screwing the American people over.

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

Thursday, January 30, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, over 1000 violent deaths since the start of Nouri's assault on Anbar, two government ministries are attacked in Baghdad, Americans agree the Iraq War produced no measurable success, and much more.

Pew's Richard Wilke Tweets on one of Pew's latest poll:

  • The Pew-USA Today poll is covered by Susan Page (USA Today).  Her breakdown includes, "On Iraq, Americans by 52%-37% say the United States mostly failed to achieve its goals. That is a decidedly more negative view than in November 2011, when U.S. combat troops withdrew. Then, by 56%-33%, those surveyed said the U.S. had mostly succeeded."  It was an illegal war and it was an unpopular war.  Public opinion turned on it firmly in the summer of 2005.  That is also when Cindy Sheehan staged her first Camp Casey outside Bully Boy Bush's Crawford, Texas ranchette.  Camp Casey was named after Cindy's son Casey who died serving in Iraq.

    Cindy's currently running for governor of California:

    Peace and Freedom Party of Los Angeles presents:
    Cindy Sheehan
    Candidate for California Governor 2014
    Also featuring:
    Poet Matt Sedillo   & Hip Hop artist Wil B

    Friday, January 31, 2014   6:00pm-9:00pm
    Peace Center West,  3916 Sepulveda Blvd
    Culver City, CA, 90230

    $10 Suggested Donation – no one turned away for lack of funds
    Reception, Meet and Greet the Candidate, Light Refreshments

    The illegal war accomplished little -- if anything -- worth praising.  AFP notes, "Violence has killed at least 917 people in Iraq this month, more than three times the toll for January 2013, according to an AFP tally based on reports from security and medical officials."  AFP's Prashant Rao Tweets:

  • Good for AFP for keeping their count but the gold-standard of non-governmental figures isn't AFP.
    Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 1037 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month.  That leaves today's numbers and Friday's number before a final count for the month.

    Nouri al-Maliki's assault on Anbar Province didn't stop the violence.

    UPI insists, "Iraqi forces regained control of parts of two cities overrun by militants aligned with al-Qaida after intense fighting that's killed 850, officials said."  But to support that claim, all UPI offers is control of al-Nasaf ("on the western outskirts of Fallujah").  I'm sorry, is that considered good?

    Because when the assault started at the end of December, militias controlled no parts of Iraq.

    Since he started his assault, Nouri's lost territory.  Even if he regains it, he lost it to begin with.

    And that includes Baghdad, as Ann pointed out last night:

    Press TV reports, "Officials say Iraqi forces have retaken control of key areas in west Baghdad from militants amid a deadly standoff between militants and security forces."
    And note that the Baghdad areas were not "taken" until after Nouri started his assault on Anbar Province.
    Nouri al-Maliki is a crook and tyrant but, even worse, he's a jinx.
    Everything he does backfires.

    Baghdad -- where not one but two ministries were attacked today.  Jason Ditz ( points out, "But despite those modest gains, the city of Fallujah remains more or less entirely under AQI control, as well as much of Ramadi. The rest of the Anbar Province is largely in open revolt, with Sunni tribal leaders opposed to the Maliki government’s heavy-handed treatment of them."

    Today's violence?   National Iraqi News Agency reports  a bomb in the garage of Baghdad's Transport Ministry left 1 police member dead and "others injured," 2 assailants blew themselves up in the garage and then others tried to enter the Ministry and six were killed, 2 police members were killed and seven more were injured.  Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) reports on the attack on the Ministry of Transportation.   al-Salhy reports 24 deaths -- four were bombers who took their own lives, 2  were bombers who were shot dead, the other 18 were presumably security forces (though the report doesn't state that).  al-Salhy also notes 50 were injured.
    Tang Danlu (Xinhua) reports, "Gunmen stormed an office of Iraq's Human Rights Ministry in the capital of Baghdad on Thursday and seized a number of officials, a police source said.  The attack occurred before noon when eight gunmen broke into the office in al-Qanat area after a clash with the guards and took unknown number of officials as hostages, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity."  The garage is the Transport Ministry.  The other aspect of the attack is thought to be all the Human Rights Ministry.  The two are next door to one another.  Both were attacked today.

    That's what prime minister of Iraq and chief thug Nouri has brought with his assault on Anbar, violence everywhere.

    And he's also brought this:

    احد الجرحى الذين اصيبوا اليوم بسبب القصف المتعمد من قبل مليشيات المالكي التي تستهدف الاحياء السكنية في ،

    That's one of Nouri's victims today --  injured by his forces shelling Falluja.  NINA reports that hospitals have received 141 civilians have been killed in Ramadi and Falluja alone this month with another 509 injured and:  "He added that this can not be considered as final number because there are dead and wounded in areas which could not be moved to the hospital."  Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 1037 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month.  It's doubtful many counts will include the 141 civilians killed by the bombings and shellings from Nouri's forces.  NINA also notes military shelling left 3 civilians dead in Ramadi with eight more injured.

    Nouri al-Maliki is a War Criminal and collective punishment is a War Crime.  Daoud Kuttab (Crimes Of War) explains:

    Under the 1949 Geneva Conventions, collective punishments are a war crime. Article 33 of the Fourth Convention states: “No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed,” and “collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.” Israel, however, does not accept that the Fourth Geneva Convention or the Additional Protocols apply to the West Bank de jure, but says it abides by the humanitarian provisions without specifying what the humanitarian provisions are.
    By collective punishment, the drafters of the Geneva Conventions had in mind the reprisal killings of World Wars I and II. In the First World War, Germans executed Belgian villagers in mass retribution for resistance activity. In World War II, Nazis carried out a form of collective punishment to suppress resistance. Entire villages or towns or districts were held responsible for any resistance activity that took place there. The conventions, to counter this, reiterated the principle of individual responsibility. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Commentary to the conventions states that parties to a conflict often would resxort to “intimidatory measures to terrorize the population” in hopes of preventing hostile acts, but such practices “strike at guilty and innocent alike. They are opposed to all principles based on humanity and justice.”
    The law of armed conflict applies similar protections to an internal conflict. Common Article 3 of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 requires fair trials for all individuals before punishments; and Additional Protocol II of 1977 explicitly forbids collective punishment.

    Nouri's assault of Anbar was supposed to (a) deal with 'terrorists,' (b) be a swift operation and (c) demonstrate Nouri's skill.

    In fact, (a) it's left many civilians dead, injured and homeless (over 150,000 people have fled their homes -- they better not try to flee to Baghdad since the military is preventing anyone entering Baghdad from Anbar), (b) it started the last week of December and it's ongoing with no clear end in sight and (c) he lost control of Falluja, Ramadi, other parts of Anbar and also of Baghdad.


    The assault on Anbar has actually demonstrated that Nouri has no problem targeting civilians, that he utilizes collective punishment (an international recognized War Crime), that he's inept as well as criminal.

    Today's violence?

    National Iraqi News Agency reports a Sooq Shallal of Alshaab area car bombing killed 1 Iraqi soldier and left nine people injured, an armed attack in Kirkuk left 2 Asayish (Kurdish security force) dead, an armed attack in Buhriz left 2 police members injured, an eastern Baghdad (al-Talbiyah area) roadside bombing left five people injuredBabylon's Chief of Police, Hamza Atiya, survived a Hilla assassination attempt which left two of his bodyguards injured, a Kasra car bombing (Morocco Street) left 2 people dead and nine more injured, the Ministry of the Interior announces the Iraqi Air Force bombings in Anbar today killed 27 people,  and security forces boast they killed 24 suspects today on a highway in Anbar Province.

    Nouri's making promises in order to get a peaceful conclusion to the violence he initiated.  The answer, Nouri feels, is largely getting Sahwa to control Anbar.   Sahwa in Anbar are Sunni fighters.  Loveday Morris (Washington Post via Arizona Star) reports:

    To bring them on board, al-Maliki has recently said there is no limit on arming and equipping tribal fighters. Government spokesman Ali al-Moussawi said the Iraqi Cabinet has approved $3.4 million for tribesmen and more than $17 million for infrastructure projects in Anbar. “We are supplying them with more weapons and whatever they need,” he said. 
    But promises to incorporate fighters from the Awakening into the state security forces failed to materialize after the U.S. withdrawal. Facing cuts in salaries and threats from the al-Qaida militants they had fought, numbers dwindled to fewer than half the more than 100,000 men who made up the movement at its peak.

    The Sahwa are Iraqis (largely Sunni -- but not just Sunni according to then-Gen David Petraeus' testimony to Congress in April 2008) who were paid to stop attacking the US military and their equipment.  April 8, 2008, Senator Barbara Boxer noted they were being paid $182 million a year by US tax payers.  Nouri was supposed to pay them, he was supposed to integrate them -- mainly into the security forces but to find government jobs for those not integrated into the security forces.  The US government continued to pay a large number of Sahwas through 2010 as a result of Nouri's repeated refusals to pay the Sahwa.  In addition to failing to find them jobs and failing to pay them, Nouri also began issuing arrest warrants for various Sahwa members and leaders.

    And now he wants to be their friend and they just may be stupid to fall for that.  But the reality is Nouri needs them right now so he will promise them anything.  The thing about Nouri's promises though, they never seem to stick.  His word is worthless.  If pattern holds, he'll use the Sahwa to get some form of resolution to the crisis he kicked off and then he'll kick them to the curb.

    Mustafa Habib (Middle East Online) offers:

    The Iraqi government is facing not just one serious crisis but several. In less than a month the way that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has reacted to various disputes in the country has unleashed a series of crises. He has passed a national budget that is unacceptable to many including the Iraqi Kurdish and Iraqi oil producers, he has angered the heads of a number of provinces and sparked violent clashes in Sunni Muslim provinces by dispersing demonstrations in Anbar.
    To many, it seems that al-Maliki believes that the best way to respond to these crises is just to create another.
    “The 'creation of crises' really is the best description of the political situation in Iraq over the past four years,” Ninawa's governor, Sunni Muslim politician Atheel al-Nujaifi, told NIQASH. “It's brought the country to the brink of civil war more than once. I believe that the Iraqi people cannot cope with any more crises – especially because there really is no clear strategy for the future that might give them even a little hope.”

    Yes, that does describe Nouri, lurching from one crisis to another.  He lacks leadership skills as well as intelligence.  Remember the attack on Anbar is really an attack on protesters.   Al Arabiya News observes:

    Protests broke out in Sunni Arab-majority areas of Iraq in late 2012 after the arrest of guards of then-finance minister Rafa al-Essawi, an influential Sunni Arab politician, on terrorism charges.
    The arrests were seen by Iraqi Sunnis as yet another example of the Shiite-led government targeting one of their leaders.

    But the demonstrations have tapped into deeper grievances, with Sunnis saying they are both marginalized by the Shiite-led government and unfairly targeted with heavy-handed tactics by security forces.

    AFP notes, "It is likely to raise fresh concerns about the capabilities of Iraq’s security forces amid fears the April 30 general elections could be partially delayed, as was the case for provincial elections in April 2013."  Yes, AFP, we have repeatedly noted that here for weeks now.  Thanks for finally picking up on it.  Prashant Rao re-Tweets his boy-pal today letting the whole world laugh at him and AFP.  Those late to the party can refer to "A crackpot runs AFP, Al Jazeera and the Christian Science Monitor" -- about how 'analyst' Reider Visser's half-baked analysis influenced Prashant Rao and Jane Arraf thereby making their calls as wrong as Visser's calls -- and while we'd long noted Visser didn't know what he was talking back, it wasn't until that moment that we realized Vissar had sanity issues -- he posted about how he was being followed around the world, and disrupted in libraries, and the FBI was posing as the State Dept and so much more.

    Today, Prashant re-Tweets Reidar Visser's latest 'analysis.'  Let's see how Visser does.

    First thing to note, the slots are being discussed, not candidates.

    The list of candidates will once again be vetted by the Justice and Accountability Commission -- a body that was supposed to have done work in 2005 and then vanished.  But Nouri used them in 2010 to kick out opponents.

    Reider offers the following on slots.

    Nouri's State of Law: 277
    cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr's Sadr bloc: 214
    Ibraiahm al-Jaafari's Islah: 205
    Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq's Ammar al-Hakim's Muwatin: 273
    Ayad Allawi's Wataniyya (formerly Iraqiya): 239
    Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq's Arab Iraqiya: 255
    Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi's Mutahhidun: 259

    Main thing to note, Ayad Allawi's far from the political death so many have insisted.

    Let's move over to stolen artifacts.  Yair Rosenberg Tweets:
  • Annals of chutzpah: Iraq seeks return of Jewish archive that it stole from the Jews. My latest in :

  • The Jewish archive is a trove of Jewish artifacts which were stolen by the Iraqi government under Saddam Hussein.  Since the 2003 invasion all but a handful of Iraqi Jews have either left the country or been killed. This didn't happen overnight.  The current government did nothing to protect the Jewish population but thinks they have a right to the Jewish possessions. The White House insists that the archive must be returned due to a contract with the Iraqi government.  Stolen property can never be contractually negotiated.  You can only enter a legal contract over property with someone who is the rightful owner.  Yesterday, Ruth noted the Orthodox Union's press release on the issue:

    For Immediate Release                                                           Contact:
    January 29, 2014                                                                    Roslyn Singer, 212-613-8227

    The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations (OU), the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, commends Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) for introducing Senate Resolution 333, strongly recommending the United States renegotiate the return of the Iraqi Jewish Archive to Iraq. The OU also recognizes Senators Schumer, Kirk, Cardin, Rubio, Roberts, Kaine, Boxer and Menendez for their co-sponsorship and support for this important Senate Resolution.
    The Iraqi Jewish Archive is a trove of Jewish holy books and communal documents rescued from the flooded basement of Iraq’s intelligence building during the United States’ led ousting of Saddam Hussein in 2003.  The Archive, documenting 2,600 years of a Jewish Iraqi history, contains more than 2,700 books and other Jewish artifacts seized from oppressed Iraqi Jews and their institutions by the Hussein regime during the 1970s and 1980s. Sent to Washington, D.C., for restoration and now on display at the Smithsonian Institute, the Archive is scheduled to be returned to Iraq in June 2014 if no immediate action is taken to change the terms of the initial agreement with the Iraqi government.
    Nathan Diament, Executive Director for Public Policy for the Orthodox Union voiced his personal concern: “Due to the oppressive nature of Saddam Hussein’s regime, a once thriving Iraqi Jewish community of more than 150,000 people was reduced to no more than 60 persons by the time United States and coalition forces arrived in Bagdad in 2003. While the Hussein regime is no longer in power, these restored works documenting the Iraqi Jewish community, rightfully belong to that community now living in diaspora around the world, not the oppressive country from which they fled.
    The Orthodox Union thanks Senators Toomey and Blumenthal for their leadership and urges the Senate to pass this resolution in a timely manner.”

    Yair Rosenberg (Tablet magazine) ends his article on the issue as follows:

    Today, there is almost no one left in Iraq to appreciate the Torah scrolls fragments, kabbalistic works, and other rare gems found in the collection. But outside Iraq, there is a thriving Iraqi Jewish community in Israel and abroad. These descendants deserve to have their possessions returned to them, or at least made readily accessible, not put on display in a Baghdad museum where no Israeli can safely visit.
    What happened to the members of Iraq’s venerable Jewish community was a tragedy of profound proportions. Let’s not compound it by abandoning the best historical witness to the lives they led, the treasures they kept, and the world they lost.

    Wednesday, January 29, 2014

    There's always money for killing

    Andre Damon has an important article at WSWS on the efforts by both major parties to attack the people:

    US House and Senate negotiators announced a deal Monday to slash $8.7 billion from food stamps, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides food assistance to 48 million people in the United States.
    The cuts are part of the so-called farm bill, a five-year omnibus measure that deals with programs administered by the US Department of Agriculture. A vote on the bill is scheduled in the House on Wednesday, and the lead negotiators for both parties said it is likely to sail through both houses of congress and be quickly signed by President Obama.
    For the second time in two weeks, Congress will vote on a sweeping and draconian austerity bill that most of its members will not have had time to read, and of which the public will have even less understanding. Earlier this month, Congress voted on a budget deal that within days of its official release made permanent most of last year’s sequester cuts.
    The bill’s $8.7 billion in food stamp cuts will slash these benefits by $90 a month for 850,000 of the nation’s poorest families over the course of 10 years. Most of these cuts will be implemented by eliminating what the deal’s supporters call, in Orwellian language, a “loophole,” through which families eligible for home heating aid received extra food assistance.
    “They’re calling it a loophole, but it’s taking away real money from real families,” Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, told CNN. He added, “They are gutting a program to provide food for hungry people.”
    Congressional Democrats could barely contain their enthusiasm in praising a bill that will throw almost a million poor families into destitution. “This bill proves that by working across party lines we can reform programs to save taxpayer money while strengthening efforts to grow our economy,” said Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee.

    Is that not disgusting?

    We're giving weapons to Nouri al-Maliki (thug of Iraq) that he will use on his own people.  To do that, Barack's using our tax dollars.  And this will be billed as "aid."

    It's not aid, it's for killing.

    And if the US government would stop spending so much money on illegal activities like killing people, they could redistribute tax money in a fair and equitable manner which would actually promote growth and income.  They could do food stamps, they could do housing allowances, we could have free college education and so much more.

    Instead, the Democrats and Republicans will spend billions and trillions supporting the deaths of people around the world while failing to provide the needed basics for the American people.

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

    Wednesday, January 29, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, at least 99 reported dead or wounded from Iraqi violence, the weapons sales Barack wants to make to tyrant Nouri al-Maliki mean US boots on the ground in Iraq, Barack's State of the Union lies get called out, Nouri rebukes Barack, NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden is nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, KBR's in trouble again, and more.

    Starting with good news, Norwegian politicians Bard Vegar Solhjell and Snorre Valen (Socialist Left Party) have nominated NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden for the Nobel Peace Prize.

    Ed Snowden is an American citizen and whistle-blower who had been employed by the CIA and by the NSA before leaving government employment for the more lucrative world of contracting.  At the time he blew the whistle, he was working for Booz Allen Hamilton doing NSA work.  Glenn Greenwald (Guardian) had the first scoop (and many that followed) on Snowden's revelations that the US government was spying on American citizens, keeping the data on every phone call made in the United States (and in Europe as well) while also spying on internet use via PRISM and Tempora.  US Senator Bernie Sanders decried the fact that a "secret court order" had been used to collect information on American citizens "whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing."  Sanders went on to say, "That is not what democracy is about.  That is not what freedom is about. [. . .] While we must aggressively pursue international terrorists and all of those who would do us harm, we must do it in a way that protects the Constitution and civil liberties which make us proud to be Americans."  The immediate response of the White House, as Dan Roberts and Spencer Ackerman (Guardian) reported,  was to insist that there was nothing unusual and to get creaky and compromised Senator Dianne Feinstein to insist, in her best Third Reich voice, "People want to keep the homeland safe."  The spin included statements from Barack himself.   Anita Kumar (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "Obama described the uproar this week over the programs as “hype” and sought to ensure Americans that Big Brother is not watching their every move."  Josh Richman (San Jose Mercury News) quoted Barack insisting that "we have established a process and a procedure that the American people should feel comfortable about."  Apparently not feeling the gratitude, the New York Times editorial board weighed in on the White House efforts at spin, noting that "the Obama administration issued the same platitude it has offered every time President Obama has been caught overreaching in the use of his powers: Terrorists are a real menace and you should just trust us to deal with them because we have internal mechanisms (that we are not going to tell you about) to make sure we do not violate your rights."  Former US President Jimmy Carter told CNN, "I think that the secrecy that has been surrounding this invasion of privacy has been excessive, so I think that the bringing of it to the public notice has probably been, in the long term, beneficial."  Since August, he has temporary asylum status in Russia.  Sunday, January 26th Ed gave a rare interview to German TV.  Bill Van Auken (WSWS) notes Ed declared there were "significant threats" against him and that American "officials want to kill me."  Ed declared, "These people, and they are government officials, have said they would love to put a bullet in my head or poison me when I come out of the supermarket, and then watch as I die in the shower."  Yet, Van Auken also noted that the revelations and the interview itself were "largely blacked out by the US media."

    Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009.  For approximately one month and one week as US president.  In the time since, he has become commander of The Drone War.  The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that The Drone War has killed as many as 3,646 people in Pakistan (200 of those children) and 423 people in Yemen (6 of those children).

    The interview, broadcast by the German television network ARD, was largely blacked out by the US media. The New York Times carried not a word of what Snowden said, while the cable and broadcast news programs treated the interview with near total silence.

    The Nobel Peace Prize Committee gave an award to a War Hawk who is over illegal spying on the entire world.  They can right that wrong this year by giving the award to Ed.  On the illegal spying, Senator Ron Wyden's office noted these remarks Wyden made today during the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing:

    The men and women of America’s intelligence agencies are overwhelmingly dedicated professionals and they deserve to have leadership that is trusted by the American people. Unfortunately, that trust has been seriously undermined by senior officials’ reckless reliance on secret interpretations of the law and battered by years of misleading and deceptive statements that senior officials made to the American people. These statements did not protect sources and methods that were useful in fighting terror. Instead they hid bad policy choices and violations of the liberties of the American people.
    For example, the director of the NSA said publicly that the NSA doesn’t hold data on U.S. citizens. That was obviously untrue.  Justice Department officials testified that section 215 of the Patriot Act is analogous to grand jury subpoena authority. And that deceptive statement was made on multiple occasions. Officials also suggested that the NSA doesn’t have the authority to read Americans’ emails without a warrant but the FISA court opinions declassified last August showed that wasn’t true either. 

    Barack made his own remarks, of course, and did so last night in his State of the Union Address.  In yesterday's snapshot we noted his Iraq lies.  Tonight, we'll note four other voices on his speech.  First up,  Glen Ford (Black Agenda Report) observes:

    Barack Obama, who has presided over the sharpest increases in economic inequality in U.S. history, adopts the persona of public advocate, reciting wrongs inflicted by unseen and unknown forces that have “deepened” the gap between the rich and the rest of us and “stalled” upward mobility. Having spent half a decade stuffing tens of trillions of dollars into the accounts of an ever shrinking gaggle of financial capitalists, Obama declares this to be “a year of action” in the opposite direction. “Believe it.” And if you do believe it, then crown him the Most Effective Liar of the young century.
    Lies of omission are even more despicable than the overt variety, because they hide. The potentially most devastating Obama contribution to economic inequality is being crafted in secret by hundreds of corporate lobbyists and lawyers and their revolving-door counterparts in government. The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, described as “NAFTA on steroids,” would accelerate the global Race to the Bottom that has made a wasteland of American manufacturing, plunging the working class into levels of poverty and insecurity without parallel in most people’s lifetimes, and totally eviscerating the meager gains of three generations of African Americans.

    Also providing realities about Barack's economy, Joseph Kishore (WSWS) offered:

    Obama made as brief a reference as possible to the fact that at the end of last year, due to the actions of Democrats and Republicans, 1.6 million people were cut off of extended unemployment benefits. At the same time, he called for “reforming unemployment insurance so that it’s more effective in today’s economy,” which could only mean introducing greater restrictions on eligibility.
    The president was also silent on the Democrats and Republicans having just agreed to slash $8.7 billion from food stamps, only the second cut in the program since it was founded (the first coming just a few months ago). He touted a right-wing immigration reform and his health care overhaul, an opening shot against all the social programs introduced in the 1930s and 1960s.
    The headline proposal from Obama, intended as a sop to the trade unions and the administration’s liberal and pseudo-left supporters, was an executive order to require federal contractors to pay a minimum wage of $10.10. This requirement will only apply to new or renewed contracts, not existing ones.
    In the run-up to the speech, there was a concerted effort in the media to paint a picture of partisan gridlock, which Obama was proposing to overcome through executive actions. Given that Obama’s actual proposals amount to nothing, and that the parties are agreed on fundamentals, Obama’s repeated insistence that “I’m going to do” what is required has the distinct and ominous odor of a presidential dictatorship.
    It is notable that even though it is an election year, Obama made no call for voters to elect individuals pledged to implement his proposals. Rather the speech was an assertion, from an individual who more than any other has presided over the shredding of large sections of the Constitution, that the president has the power to act regardless of opposition. The target of these actions is the working class.
    There was almost no mention of the vast police-state spying apparatus that has been revealed over the past year. The president sits on top of a military-intelligence complex that monitors the communications of virtually the entire planet. The day before Obama’s remarks, the latest information from Edward Snowden revealed that the US and its UK partners collect data from cell phone applications in order to determine the “political alignments” of millions of users worldwide.

    Barack spoke for 80 minutes, so you'd think he'd be able to offer some basic facts; however, basic facts repeatedly escaped Barack.  Margaret Kimberley (Black Agenda Report) offers these facts that didn't make Barack's speech:

    Overall health care outcomes are no better, with the United States ranking at only 37 out of 191 countries. Cuba, which few Americans regard in any positive way, ranks just two steps behind at 39. Costa Ricans, Moroccans, Colombians, and Saudis all have access to better medical care. Most of the members of Congress sitting through the State of the Union address often brag that their constituents have the best health care in the world when those words are obvious lies.
    If America doesn’t take care of its children and can’t provide the best health care for anyone, does it lead in anything? It does in fact but none of these benchmarks are good for human beings. The United States still has the shameful distinction of incarcerating both a greater percentage of its population and the largest number of people than any other country on earth. The dictators we are taught to disdain and the leaders who are seen as enemies all keep fewer people in jail.
    Consider that the Obama administration boasted when the president commuted the sentences of eight people who languished in prison under the old draconian crack cocaine laws. That is good news for those eight persons, but the Obama Justice Department also went to court to oppose efforts to remedy the sentences of 5,000 other people, formally making the case against giving them the chance to be re-sentenced.

    The only other trend by which the United States bests every other nation is the amount spent on the military. The combined defense expenditures of the rest of the world total less than our military budget. Violence is the only arena in which America leads the way.

    Bruce A. Dixon (Black Agenda Report) also provides some facts Barack left out:

    Barack Obama campaigned in 2007 and 2008 saying he would pass legislation raising the minimum wage and making it easier to organize unions so people could stand up for their own rights in the workplace. The president apparently lied. Once in office with a thumping majority in both houses of Congress the president promptly froze the wages of federal workers, and made no move to protect union organizing or to raise the minimum wage. Four and five years later, with the House of Representatives safely under Republican control, the president has begun to make noises about how “America deserves a raise” and has finally declared that federal contract workers will soon have to be paid a minimum of $10.10 per hour.
    Although Barack Obama's career, and those of the entire black political class are founded on the notion that they and the Democratic party somehow “represent” the aspirations and political power of African Americans, the policy concerns of black America were nowhere to be found in last night's state of the union. The speech contained no mention of the persistent gap between black and white unemployment, or the widening gaps between black and white wealth, and reaffirmed his commitment to “Race To The Top” an initiative to privatize public education in poorer communities across the country.
    And of course, no cluster of issues impact black America more savagely and disproportionately than police practices, the drug war and the prison state. African Americans are one eighth the US population, but more than 40% of its prisons and jails. Together with Latinos, who are another eighth and make up nearly 30% of US prisoners, people of color are a quarter of the US population and more than 70% of the locked down. No cluster of issues would benefit more from a few presidential initiatives and well placed strokes of the pen than police practices, the drug war and the prison state.

    But possibly the strongest rebuke to Barack today came from outside the US.  Xinhua reports that the chief thug in and prime minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, declared today, "The international community must take the responsibility of supporting us and helping all those who stand against terrorism. Allowing weapons to reach terrorist organizations and extremists in Syria means supporting terrorism in Iraq."  For those who need a translation, he's saying Barack's arming of the Syrian 'rebels' is providing weapons to rebels in Iraq.  He's calling out Barack's support of the Syrian 'rebels.'  And yet Barack would do anything -- and does do anything -- for Nouri.

    Staying in the US, more bad news for war profiteer KBR, Douglas Ernst (Washington Times) reports:

    U.S. soldiers deployed to Iraq between 2003 and 2004 were fed ice that was shipped in unsanitized containers used as temporary morgues, if allegations by the Justice Department turn out to be true.
    The Justice Department is going after military contractor Kellogg, Brown and Root, as well as Kuwaiti companies La Nouvelle General Trading & Contracting Co. (La Nouvelle) and First Kuwaiti Trading Co., for defrauding the U.S. Army, the Military Times reported. The stomach-churning details of food containers is included in the suit.
     No doubt Stephanie Mencimer is working on an 'expose' to again prove KBR's innocence which, of course,  cheap Amanda Marcotte will rush to prop up.  (The two pieces of trash attacked rape victim Jamie Leigh Jones.  She was gang-raped -- like many women, she couldn't convince a court.  That's not uncommon in rape cases.  Nor is it uncommon for attacks on female victims to come from women who wish they were men and court the patriarchy like John Edwards 'booster' Marcotte and like trash Stephie Mencimer.) 

    From the vile to the simply stupid American.  John W. Thomas had a column at the Coloradoan which includes this passage many will agree with:

    Not having learned from Vietnam, along came Sept. 11 and Iraq. The Bush-Cheney administration either knew or should have known there were no weapons of mass destruction -- that was the false premise for sending troops to Iraq. We were told that we had to eliminate al-Qaida in Iraq. We then found out that until we invaded Iraq, al-Qaida was not in Iraq, at which point they came to Iraq in droves and are now there. Al-Qaida -- the ones who perpetrated 9/11 -- were definitely based in Afghanistan, and if we had not taken our eye off the ball there (e.g., killing bin Laden) by invading Iraq, we might have gotten out of Afghanistan a whole lot sooner.

    And most Americans would probably also agree with him that US forces should not be in Iraq (even those which currently are).  But if that's your opinion -- and it is mine -- it's very stupid of you not to object to the US government -- to Barack -- arming Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister and chief thug of Iraq, with more weapons to use against the Iraqi people.  In fact, if you can't object to that army then I guess you are what is ridiculed as a non-interventionist -- an extreme non-interventionist -- because you'll even support the arming of a despot, a tyrant, in order to avoid more US troops going into Iraq.

    It doesn't have to be either or.  But those calling for no (more) US troops being sent to Iraq (that would include me) should also be calling for no arms for Nouri.  Otherwise, they express no real concerns about the Iraq people.

    The Apache helicopter deal went through, despite the Leahy Amendment, why?  Your-Story argues, "One important aspect to consider is the intricate oil infrastructure that should definitely be protected, due to massive energy potential it carries."  Yet again, it's all about oil.

    And so we move back to the topic of vile Americans: Michael O'Hanlon.  The Brookings Institution guy is very sensitive and doesn't like being called names.  But what do call someone -- at a worksafe site -- who feels civilian deaths are okay?  I think calling O'Hanlon merely "vile" is showing remarkable restraint on my part.  The Voice of Russia speaks with O'Hanlon about the 24 Apache helicopters Barack is supplying Iraq with:

    [Voice of Russia:] How high is the risk of American weapons and technology causing civilian deaths among Iraqis? Especially considering the fact that it would be inexperienced newly trained Iraqi pilots flying the helicopters.

    [Michael O'Hanlon:]  Well, I certainly think that risk is valid, but I also don’t want to overstate my concern. I mean Iraq is pretty violent even without Apache helicopters being part of the problem and I am not sure they would make it any worse. There is a chance they could make it better. A combination of the Apache helicopters and maybe a better strategy by Prime Minister Malaki could perhaps turn things around. I am not predicting a big success, but it could have partial improvement. And even if an Apache or two made an arial shot and tragically killed civilians, it still might have an overall net effect that was positive for the conflict. So I am not really against the Apache sale, I am just lowering the expectation on how much a difference it will make.

    He's lowering his expectations.

    Because he couldn't lower his ethics -- he's already gone as low as he can there.

    He has no ethical standing and should be rejected by all rational players.  He has just stated that the "risk is valid" for civilian deaths by supplying Nouri with Apache helicopters but he's okay with "tragically killed civilians" because it "might have an overall net effect."  Might.

    Civilian deaths will be War Crimes.

    He disgraces himself and everyone else at Brookings with those comments.

    Mad Maddie Albright, asked by CBS News' Lesley Stahl in 1996 on 60 Minutes about how the sanctions against Iraq had killed a half million Iraqi children, replied,  "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price -- we think the price is worth it."

    She cannot live that down.  Seventeen years later and she can't live it down.  Confronted on it in July 2004 at the Democratic Party's convention in Boston, she declared:

    I have said 5,000 times that I regret it. It was a stupid statement. I never should have made it and if everybody else that has ever made a statement they regret, would stand up, there would be a lot of people standing. I have many, many times said it and I wish that people would report that I have said it. I wrote it in my book that it was a stupid statement.

    She cannot live it down.

    If that's just due to her gender will quickly see.  If Michael O'Hanlon's remarks are not strung around his ankle like a ball and chain for the next seventeen years, then the attacks on Mad Maddie were based on gender.  Mad Maddie voiced support for sanctions that led to deaths, Mad Mikey voiced support for civilians being killed instantly by attack helicopters.

    UK's The Platform notes:

    In the past few weeks, the U.S. administration has stepped up its delivery of surveillance drones and missiles to Iraq in response to the Fallujah stand-off, and is one rebellious senator short of selling Iraq dozens of Apache helicopters.
    U.S. foreign policy is at risk of propping up a bad leader and irresponsible government because of an irrational fear that al-Qaeda could take over Iraq.

    Al-Maliki’s administration is continuously emboldened by U.S. funding as Saddam Hussein once was.

    That "rebellious senator" was Senator Robert Menendez who joined with the rest to supply tyrant Nouri with weapons to use against the Iraqi people.  World Tribune reports, "Congress has until Feb. 10 to try to block the proposed sale, which included intensive lobbying by Boeing. Officials said the program would return hundreds of U.S. military personnel for a training program in Iraq."  The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency posted two notices this week.  First:

    Media/Public Contact: 
    Lorna Jons (703) 604-6618
    Transmittal No: 
    WASHINGTON, Jan 27, 2014-The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress today of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq for support for APACHE lease and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $1.37 billion.
    The Government of Iraq has requested a possible sale of 8 AN/AAR-57 Common Missile Warning System, 3 T-700-GE-701D engines, 3 AN/ASQ-170 Modernized Target Acquisition and Designation Sight (MTADS), 3 AN/AAQ-11 Modernized Pilot Night Vision Sensors (PNVS), 152 AGM-114 K-A HELLFIRE Missiles, 14 HELLFIRE M299 Launchers, 6 AN/APR-39A(V)4 Radar Warning Systems with training Universal Data Modems (UDM), 2 Embedded Global Positioning System Inertial Navigation System (EGI), 6 AN/AVR-2A/B Laser Warning Detectors, 12 M261 2.75 inch Rocket Launchers, M206 Infrared Countermeasure flares, M211 and M212 Advanced Infrared Countermeasure Munitions (AIRCM) flares, Internal Auxiliary Fuel Systems (IAFS), Aviator’s Night Vision Goggles, Aviation Mission Planning System, training ammunition, helmets, transportation, spare and repair parts, support equipment, publications and technical data, personnel training and training equipment, site surveys, U.S. Government and contractor technical assistance, and other related elements of program and logistics support.  The estimated cost is $1.37 billion.
    The proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a strategic partner.  This proposed sale directly supports the Iraq government and serves the interests of the Iraqi people and the United States.
    The proposed sale supports the strategic interests of the United States by providing Iraq with a critical capability to protect itself from terrorist and conventional threats. This will allow Iraqi Security Forces to begin training on the operation and maintenance of six leased U.S. APACHE helicopters in preparation of their receipt of new-build aircraft.           
    This proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.
    The principal contractors will be The Boeing Company in Mesa, Arizona, Lockheed Martin Corporation in Orlando, Florida, General Electric Company in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Robertson Fuel Systems, LLC, Tempe, Arizona.  There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.
    Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of 1 U.S. Government and 67 contractor representatives to travel to Iraq on an as-needed basis provide support and technical reviews.
    There will be no adverse impact on U.S. defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale.

    This notice of a potential sale is required by law and does not mean the sale has been concluded.


    Media/Public Contact: 
    Lorna Jons (703) 604-6618
    Transmittal No: 
    WASHINGTON, Jan 27, 2014-The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress today of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq for AH-64E APACHE LONGBOW Attack Helicopters  and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $4.8 billion.
    The Government of Iraq has requested a possible sale of 24 AH-64E APACHE LONGBOW Attack Helicopters, 56 T700-GE-701D Engines, 27 AN/ASQ-170 Modernized Target Acquisition and Designation Sight, 27 AN/AAR-11 Modernized Pilot Night Vision Sensors, 12 AN/APG-78 Fire Control Radars with Radar Electronics Unit (LONGBOW component),  28 AN/AAR-57(V)7 Common Missile Warning Systems, 28 AN/AVR-2B Laser Detecting Sets, 28 AN/APR-39A(V)4 or APR-39C(V)2 Radar Signal Detecting Sets, 28 AN/ALQ-136A(V)5 Radar Jammers, 52 AN/AVS-6, 90 Apache Aviator Integrated Helmets, 60 HELLFIRE Missile Launchers, and 480 AGM-114R HELLFIRE Missiles. Also included are AN/APR-48 Modernized Radar Frequency Interferometers,  AN/APX-117 Identification Friend-or-Foe Transponders, Embedded Global Positioning Systems with Inertial Navigation with Multi Mode Receiver, MXF-4027 UHF/VHF Radios, 30mm Automatic Chain Guns, Aircraft Ground Power Units, 2.75 in Hydra Rockets, 30mm rounds, M211 and M212 Advanced Infrared Countermeasure Munitions flares, spare and repair parts, support equipment, publications and technical data, personnel training and training equipment, site surveys, U.S. government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics support services, design and construction, and other related elements of logistics support.  The estimated cost is $4.8 billion.
    This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a strategic partner.  This proposed sale directly supports the Iraq government and serves the interests of the Iraqi people and the United States.  
    This proposed sale supports the strategic interests of the United States by providing Iraq with a critical capability to protect itself from terrorist and conventional threats, to enhance the protection of key oil infrastructure and platforms, and to reinforce Iraqi sovereignty.  This proposed sale of AH-64E APACHE helicopters will support Iraq’s efforts to establish a fleet of multi-mission attack helicopters capable of meeting its requirements for close air support, armed reconnaissance and anti-tank warfare missions.
    The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.
    The prime contractors will be The Boeing Company in Mesa, Arizona; Lockheed Martin Corporation in Orlando, Florida; General Electric Company in Cincinnati, Ohio; Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors in Owego, New York; Longbow Limited Liability Corporation in Orlando, Florida; and Raytheon Corporation in Tucson, Arizona.  There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.
    Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of three U.S. Government and two hundred contractor representatives to Iraq to support delivery of the Apache helicopters and provide support and equipment familiarization.  In addition, Iraq has expressed an interest in a Technical Assistance Fielding Team for in-country pilot and maintenance training.  To support the requirement a team of 12 personnel (one military team leader and 11 contractors) would be deployed to Iraq for approximately three years. Also, this program will require multiple trips involving U.S. Government and contractor personnel to participate in program and technical reviews, training and installation.
    There will be no adverse impact on U.S. defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale.
    This notice of a potential sale is required by law and does not mean the sale has been concluded.

    Did you catch it?  From the first statement:  "Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of 1 U.S. Government and 67 contractor representatives to travel to Iraq on an as-needed basis provide support and technical reviews."  From the second statement:  "Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of three U.S. Government and two hundred contractor representatives to Iraq to support delivery of the Apache helicopters and provide support and equipment familiarization.  In addition, Iraq has expressed an interest in a Technical Assistance Fielding Team for in-country pilot and maintenance training.  To support the requirement a team of 12 personnel (one military team leader and 11 contractors) would be deployed to Iraq for approximately three years. Also, this program will require multiple trips involving U.S. Government and contractor personnel to participate in program and technical reviews, training and installation."

    Again -- as we said earlier when talking about John W. Thomas' column -- you can't draw a line between the two.  If you don't want more US troops sent into Iraq then you don't favor sending attack helicopters to Nouri al-Maliki.

    Violence continues in Iraq.  Continues?  It thrives.  Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 998 violent deaths in the month of January so far.  That's 2008 levels of violence, early 2008.  Nouri al-Maliki's managed to increase violence in the last years.   US Navy Captain Bradley Russell (Oregonian) offers this take:

    Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ultimately bears responsibility for the situation at hand, namely because of his failure to ensure that his government was inclusive for all Iraqi citizens.
    The day after the last U.S. soldier left Iraq, al-Maliki, a Shia, sent his security forces to arrest one of his vice presidents, Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni, accusing him of running a death squad and assassinating police officers and public officials. Al-Hashemi escaped but was convicted in absentia and sentenced to death. Al-Maliki then used the very institutions that the U.S. spent millions of dollars to develop, the courts, police, and Iraqi army, to persecute his political rivals and oppress the Sunnis in Anbar.  The government of Iraq’s heavy-handed persecution of their political rivals and two year oppression of Sunnis have given al-Qaeda in Iraq an opportunity to gain a foothold, make a comeback, and provided potent propaganda in their quest to set up a new Islamic state in the territory of Anbar and eastern Syria.

    It is truly a travesty that al-Maliki gave away the opportunity presented him by the U.S.  At the aforementioned cost to the U.S., by 2011 violence had fallen to a point where it was possible for the government of Iraq to expand on hard-fought gains and build another rule-of-law based democracy in the Middle East.  But al-Maliki squandered that option by governing using the criteria of “what’s best for me“ rather than “what’s best for Iraq.”

    How did he squander it?  In part by ignoring the Constitution which required a full Cabinet to be formed in by December 2010 after he was named prime minister-designate in November 2010.  Per the Constitution, the prime minister-designate does not become prime minister until he names a Cabinet.  Because Nouri's State of Law lost the 2010 parliamentary elections to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya, the White House brokered a legal contract (The Erbil Agreement) to give Nouri a second term and that contract that circumvented the Iraqi Constitution apparently circumvented the Constitutional issue of forming the Cabinet.  Back in July, 2012,  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support."

    That was true then and it's still true.

    You think maybe those three security posts being left vacant for years might also explain the increase in violence?

    More to the point, Nouri wants a third term.  Can you think of any leader who is more of a failure than one who goes their entire term without having people to head the security ministries?  And this as violence increases?

    Today, there were at least 41 reported deaths and 58 reported injured.

    National Iraqi News Agency reports a Mosul attack left 1 police member and 1 civilian dead,  an attack on a Mosul checkpoint left 1 Iraqi soldier dead and another injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing (Nairiyah area) left 1 person dead and five injured, a Tikrit car bombing left 4 police members dead and five civilians injured, an Arab Jabour Village roadside bombing left 1 Sahwa dead and two of his companions injured,  1 "civil servant working Muqdadiyah General Hospital" was shot dead in Muqdadiyah, 2 people were shot dead and four left injured in a Baghdad shooting (area of Camp Sara), and attack on the home of the "Imman and Preacher of Ali Ibn Abi Taleb mosque" left the Imman injured, a Baghdad car bombing (al-Talibiya area) left 2 people dead and eight more injured, another Baghdad car bombing (al-Jawadain area) left 1 person dead and six more injured, another Baghdad car bombing (al-Jadeeda area) claimed 1 life and left four other people injured, a battle north of Ramadi between security forces and rebels left 10 rebels dead, the military shot dead 3 suspects in Abu Ghraib, and 2 al-Shi'la car bombings left 4 people dead and fifteen injured.  Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) updates the death toll of the al-Talbea bombing by 1 to three dead and the injured by two to ten injured and updates the al-Shi'la car bombings: 4 more deaths (total of eight) and five more injured (total of fifteen).   All Iraq News adds, "An employee of the General Vehicles Company was assassinated to the north of Babel province."  And they note 1 Christian was shot dead in Mosul, and 1 "employee of the General Vehicles Company was assassinate to the north ov Babel province."

    AFP offers, "Security forces have been locked in deadly battles in Ramadi, where militants hold several neighborhoods, and have carried out operations in rural areas of Anbar province.  Anti-government fighters also hold all of Fallujah, right on Baghdad’s doorstep."  Reuters quotes Iraq's Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi stating, "I'm not optimistic about the future . . .. I think this spark in Anbar will spread to other provinces.  Al-Maliki is targeting Arab Sunnis (in Iraq) in different provinces, with the use of army forces, or handing them death sentences in a way that has never been seen before in Iraq's modern history, and therefore it’s the right of these individuals to defend themselves in every way possible."  Al Mada adds that Iraq's Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi spoke with US CENTCOM commander General Lloyd Austin today and that Austin agreed there was no military solution to the Anbar Crisis.  So when will Barack, rebuked by Nouri on the world stage today, take the time to tell Nouri his assault on Anbar Province needs to stop?

    the voice of russia

    mohammed tawfeeq