Monday, June 30, 2014

Begin Again

From last night, that's  Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Barack Explores A Subculture."

I've written before about how I love music and how my husband does as well.  So we do see the occasional movie musical. 

I knew I was going to hate Jersey Boys, for example.  Just from the commercials.  But my husband was, "It's the Four Seasons!  It's gotta be good."  As Stan noted in "Jersey Boys," no, it doesn't have to be and, no, it wasn't.

It was just so dull and plodding, that film.  All the joy of the music was drained from the film -- in fact, "anemic" really is the term for Jersey Boys.

We were so depressed, we were off movie musicals. 

And then I read Betty's "Begin Again" about the film of that name and told my husband I was seeing it.  He decided to risk it.

We loved it.

We loved it so much, we stayed for a second showing.  Which meant cola refills, yes (I'm a Coca Cola woman when I go to the movies -- I'm not big on soda but have to have it at the movies), and new candy (he loves Butterfinger, I love Junior Mints, we always share M&Ms).  And we loved the film even more the second time.

It's a really great movie.

The songs do stick in your head.  (I agree with Betty that it was stupid not to release the soundtrack last Tuesday -- instead it comes out tomorrow). 

The characters are memorable.

CeeLo Green is to this film what Rosie O'Donnell was to Sleepless in Seattle.  CeeLo adds so much to the film even though it's not a lead role. 

Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley are wonderful as the lead characters.

I don't think any actor today, other than Mark, could have pulled off the rumpled, sexy presence necessary for the role.  I mean, James Franco could but he's ten years too young for the role.

Keira is just magical.

And Betty's right about the look of the film.  It's crips and bright and vibrant.

If you are looking for a film to see on the upcoming long holiday weekend, please consider seeing Begin Again. 

Let me note that Ava and C.I.'s "TV: The useless huffing and puffing of flaccid men" went up yesterday.

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

Monday, June 30, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Parliament is supposed to meet Tuesday and determine the next government, a number of rivals for the post of prime minister appear to be arising, AFP serves up a parlor game, Rod Nordland does a report on Twitter that leads to some criticism, Katie Couric interviews War Criminal Tony Blair, Senator Patty Murray notes US President Barack Obama's nominee for VA Secretary, and much more.

The Feminist Majority Foundation released the following today:

JUNE 30, 2014
J.T. Johnson
(o): 703-522-2214
(c): 202-681-7251

SCOTUS Decides: Corporations Have Religious Liberty; Women Do Not In Choosing Birth Control

Court sides with closely-held corporations as boss of women’s health access
WASHINGTON -- In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court sided with Hobby Lobby, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. today in a major blow to reproductive rights for women across the nation.
“Today’s decision not only deprives women of comprehensive healthcare, but it sets a terrifying standard in affirming the “personhood” of corporations. In siding with Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court yet again affirms the personhood of corporations, giving closely-held (i.e. limited number of stockholders) corporations so-called religious liberty and taking religious freedom away from their employees at the expense of women’s health,” said Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal. “This sets a dangerous precedent for the future of religious liberty and women’s rights.”  
A majority of Americans agree that women should have access to affordable birth control and support full coverage of birth control as a preventive service. “The Supreme Court ignored, not only public opinion, but individual rights of women to religious freedom,” Smeal continued.
Hobby Lobby, a for-profit national craft store chain, and Conestoga Wood, a wood cabinet manufacturer, challenged the benefit and sought to give religious freedom to corporations rather than give women the right to truly affordable and comprehensive health care. The Supreme Court case is the first for-profit challenge to the law to make it to the highest court. 
●      At least 14% of all women using a contraceptive are doing so to treat painful conditions such as endometriosis, ovarian cysts, severe cramps.
●      Studies have shown that the pill reduces the incidence of ovarian and endometrial cancers.
●      As many as 88% of American women who have ever had sexual intercourse have used some form of contraception.  

The Feminist Majority Foundation has worked diligently for affordable contraceptive access for all women. This decision is a blow to women who work for corporations who claim to have religious views that trump the religious views of their employees. The Affordable Care Act still provides for the vast majority of women who have insurance coverage birth control access without co-pays or deductibles.  

Moving to Iraq, Kitabat observes Nouri al-Maliki's fate is to be determined tomorrow when Parliament holds their first session.  Thug Nouri is completing his second term as prime minister and wants a third term.  His second term has been characterized with bullying, targeting, arresting political rivals, killing their relatives, attacking protesters, killing protesters, refusing to honor promises -- including signed legal contracts, and much more.  So some might say it is Iraq's fate that could be determined tomorrow.

Iraq Times reports on rumors that State of Law has decided to abandon pushing Nouri for a third term and that they've come up with a new nominee for prime minister (supposedly Tareq Najm). National Iraqi News Agency, citing Ahrar bloc MP Hakim al-Zamili, noted the Iraqi National Alliance is supposed to select their nominee for prime minister at a bloc meeting tonight.  Iraq Times maintains the fight for the post of prime minister will be mainly between Adel Abdul-Mahdi and Tareq Najm with Ahmed Chalabi and Faleh al-Fayad dark horses in the race.  NINA quotes Kurdish MP Mahmud Othman declaring "the decision of changing the government and its approach and its faces begins from the National Alliance."  Tareq Najm would be a new name for the international community.  Adel Abdul-Mahdi is not a new face.  Following the December 2005 parliamentary elections, he was named one of Iraq's two vice presidents -- he was the Shi'ite Vice President, Tareq al-Hashemi was the Sunni.  Both served their term until 2010.  In 2010, both were named to a second term.  al-Hashemi left the country when Nouri began targeting him.  Adel Abdul-Mahdi left the government nearly six months before al-Hashemi left the country.  At the start of 2011, a worried Nouri lied to get protesters off the streets of Iraq.  He insisted, if given 100 days, he'd end corruption in Iraq.  At the end of 100 days, he failed to keep his promise (as always).  Adel Abdul-Mahdi resigned over the government's inability to address corruption.  He remains a powerful Iraqi politician (one with a world profile -- and Big Oil loves him).  He is a member of Ammar al-Hakim's Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq -- one the major Shi'ite political parties.

Hamish MacDonald (ABC News) reports, "Shaping up as the political king-maker in the new parliament is the leader of the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq, Ammar al-Hakim. In an interview with ABC News he said Maliki 'has two obstacles. He must be accepted by both the national Shia Alliance, and by the other minorities'."  Over the weekend, Arab Times noted this on the political situation:

In a stunning political intervention on Friday that could mean the demise of Maliki’s eight-year tenure, powerful Shi’ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani urged political blocs to agree on the next premier, parliament speaker and president before a newly elected legislature meets in Baghdad on Tuesday. Saudi King Abdullah pledged in talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry to use his influence to encourage Sunni Muslims to join a new, more inclusive Iraqi government to better combat Islamist insurgents, a senior US official said on Saturday. Abdullah’s assurance marked a significant shift from Riyadh’s unwillingness to support a new government unless Maliki, a Shi’ite, steps aside, and reflected growing disquiet about the regional repercussions of ISIL’s rise. “The next 72 hours are very important to come up with an agreement ... to push the political process forward,” said a lawmaker and former government official from the National Alliance, which groups all Shi’ite Muslim parties. The lawmaker, who asked for anonymity due to political sensitivities, said he anticipated internal meetings by various parties and a broader session of the National Alliance including Maliki’s State of Law list to be held through the weekend. Some Sunni Muslim parties were to convene later on Saturday. Iraqi Sunnis accuse Maliki of freezing them out of any power and repressing their community, goading armed tribes to support the insurgency led by the fundamentalist group ISIL. The president of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region has also said Maliki should bow out. Sistani’s entry into the fray will make it hard for Maliki to stay on as caretaker leader as he has since a parliamentary election in April. 

And on the political merry go round, Hamish MacDonald (ABC News) reports

Perhaps the single most significant public development in this process so far is the meeting of the Shia Alliance on Saturday night, after which the coalition of parties declared itself the biggest single voting bloc in the parliament. This issues a direct challenge to Maliki's State of Law party, which holds 92 seats and is the single largest party in parliament.
The combination of seats belonging to the Shia Alliance may give them a mandate to form the new government and have the power to determine key positions, including the prime minister.

Wow.  That's interesting, isn't it.  The group with the most seats in Parliament after the election.  Let's drop back to Saturday:

Are we forgetting the 'judicial' decision Nouri pulled out of his ass in 2010?
The one he put in his pocket and failed to inform anyone of ahead of the election.  It was his worst case scenario card.  If he didn't win the most seats, he had that decision.
And he used it because he lost in 2010.
The judicial decision said it wasn't about the biggest grouping before the election, it was about the biggest grouping after the election. 

I wrote that Saturday in response to Shashank Bengali (Los Angeles Times) making the ridiculous claim that seats won in the election by Nouri's State of Law gave Nouri first crack because he got the most.  The Constitution didn't say that.  And the Court verdict became the final word.  Once accepted, it's precedent.  It's custom.  That's why, if you didn't like it, you needed to object in real time (which we did here).  But four years later?  The verdict stands.

And, yes, it is damaging to print claims like Bengali did -- print them as fact.  You can call it lying or you can call it whoring.  I don't care.   But Bengali's 'reporting' was damaging.  And I think a strong case can be made that Western reporters in May aided the violence, encouraged.  Unwillingly?  Absolutely.  But when a desperate and hopeless people are repeatedly told by western outlets that they are stuck with Nouri for a third term, it's not a surprise that violence sky rockets.

It can also impact ethics as well.  Iraqi journalists have been very brave and taken extreme risks to report truths.  What message does it send when they see western reporters willfully engage in fabricating and distorting?

Rod Nordland writes for the New York Times.  He offended some Iraqis over the weekend.  This morning, I wrote, "Iraq Times and Kitabat both  note a story we'll touch on that in today's snapshot."  They're writing about Rod.  They're among the many Iraqi outlets that see Rod as news.

Where's the English language coverage?

Rod did a good report.  Sadly, it was on Twitter and not for his news outlet.

Prepping for Gen. Atta's presser, no ?s allowed. Is it the free lunch that brings so many?

75,000 Iraqi dinars, about $60, for the NYT, since there were three of us. 25,000 per journalist. No one seems to be refusing it.
The mystery of Gen Atta's heavily attended presser solved: entire press corps bribed.

Iraqi military bribe master in the press bus after Gen Atta's presser, and the payoff.

For the record we 're returning it. Not a single colleague rejected it, alas. 

Even whores don't sell themselves this cheap in Iraq. 

There's more, but you get the idea.

The first thing to do, my opinion, is applaud Rod Nordland.  I'm only sorry this wasn't a story in the New York Times.  It should have been.

And if someone whores, they whore.  Good for Nordland for calling it out.

But it also left an impression and maybe, grasping that a lot of readers wouldn't have English as their first langauge, Nordland could have expected that some would misunderstand?

Many Iraqi journalists are honest and brave professionals who would not take bribes; my remarks were aimed at those who do.

My apologies to Iraqi journalists who are blameless, which I'm sure is most of them. 

Precision should have been used and greater efforts at clarity because a few dinars here and there is nothing compared to the damage western reporters have done to Iraq.  That's not a slap at Rod Nordland who's done some good reporting -- and I would include the Tweets as good reporting -- but it is noting that it's a lot easier to call out some Iraqi reporters than it is some names with big western outlets.

AFP should be called out for this report.  So should McClatchy which recommended it.  Supposedly, it's a look at the people who possibly might be the next prime minister of Iraq.  Let's note three paragraphs and I bet you can figure out the problem.

Here is a brief overview of the candidates seen as possible replacements for Maliki:

The former Iraqi vice president is a leading figure in the Citizen's bloc, formerly known as the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, a political party seen as close to Iran. The French-speaking economist has long been touted as a potential prime minister. Maliki defeated his bid for the post by just one vote in an internal ballot within a pan-Shiite coalition that won December 2005 elections.

Maliki's predecessor as prime minister remains the head of the National Alliance, the loose pan-Shiite coalition that includes the premier's bloc and rival parties. He was ousted in favour of Maliki in 2006, when Iraq was embroiled in brutal communal bloodletting, because he was seen as too sectarian by minority Sunni Arabs and Kurds.

Maliki's chief of staff maintains a low profile in the news but wields considerable power behind the scenes and hails from the prime minister's Dawa party, the oldest Shiite political party formed in opposition to former dictator Saddam Hussein. 

I'm sorry, is that a report or is it a parlor game?

A report should name the three people described in the last three paragraphs.

The first one is Adel Abdul-Mahdi whom we discussed earlier (Shi'ite Vice President for one full term and a few months of a second term).  The next person is Ibrahim al-Jaafari.  I have no idea who Nouri's chief of staff is.

Nor should I need to.  The 'report' should identify these people by name.

Again, it is a report or is it a parlor game?

I do read French so I went to Prashant Rao's Twitter feed and looked for a Tweet about this article.  There is one

         Retweeted by Prashant Rao

Les possibles candidats à la succession de M.

But the link in the Tweet but it takes you to a page which reads "Page not found."  Now maybe in the original French version, they give names.  But I don't have time to hunt it down.  I called a friend at AFP who steered me to this English language version which does name the candidates. And Tareq Najim, whom we discussed earlier, is Nouri's chief of staff.

War Criminal Tony Blair sat down for an interview with Katie Couric (Yahoo News) in Aspen, Colorado (link is video).

Katie Couric:  Many people are looking at this situation and saying basically: You reap what you sow.  They are blaming you and President Bush for starting this whole mess by invading Iraq back in 2003 even though it was later revealed -- as you have said and noted -- the country didn't have WMDs [Weapons of Mass Destruction].  And, in fact, I was inundated, Mr. Blair, with comments on social media claiming you are a War Criminal.  What's your response to that?

Tony Blair:  These people pursue me everywhere and will carry on saying this. And that's their point of view.  They will say it here or they will say it in the UK.  I'll just point out two things that I think are important.  I don't say this to convince you that the decisions in 2003 were the right decisions but simply to convince you this is a deeper problem than me calling people "appeasers" or they calling me a War Criminal will allow. And let us be very clear about this.  The proximate cause of what just happened in Iraq -- these jihadist fighters coming over the border from Syria.  When we intervened in Iraq, we know how difficult it was. Where we didn't intervene in Syria?  We see how these people rebuild themselves and and come into Iraq.  When we went into Libya, by the way, Libya is a country today that unfortunately, I'm afraid, is exporting its instability and chaos right across the region.  So intervention is tough.  Partial-intervention is tough -- as in Libya.  Non-intervention is tough -- as in Syria.  So instead of going back over the decisions of eleven years ago let's work out what we do right now.

Tony Blair would especially like everyone to look away from 11 years ago -- and not notice the long-suppressed findings of the Iraq Inquiry in the UK.

Back to the interview with War Criminal Blair:

Katie Couric: You called the political situation in Iraq "urgent."  But even some top Shi'ite officials have called for Maliki's ouster. Is he no longer a viable leader?  Should he step down?

Tony Blair: Well he changes or he can't lead Iraq to a viable future, that's clear.  So I think he's prepared to make the change or he's got to let others make the change. But what you cannot have is the situation where this is seen as a Shi'ite Sunni fight

Katie Couric: But do you still have faith in Maliki?

Tony Blair:  Look, I've been very critical over the sectarian nature of the government over the last few years. I mean, I'm hesitant to call for his removal but I-I know from conversations with people inside Iraq that there is a huge desire to get a government that is genuinely united.  And if it had the endorsement of the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, it would be -- It would be a government that could govern.  And then the fight becomes -- It would be immediately transformative by the way because it would then become a fight against extremism and not a fight against Sunni or Shi'ite.

And from earlier in the interview:

Tony Blair:  I think that what is -- what would be transformative of the situation would be if the Iraqi government, the prime minister either changes his ways or the government -- then the prime minister is changed because part of the reason why ISIS has been able to move in this way is not because the local Sunni population really wants this vicious, jihadist group on their doorstep but because they're worried that the politics of Iraq have been too sectarian.

While selecting a prime minister is important, should the system work on Tuesday, the Parliament will also be selecting a Speaker of Parliament and a President of Iraq. As the Kurds feel the post of President belongs to them, the Sunnis feel the same with regards to Speaker of Parliament and it's on the Sunni side where all the discussions are taking place. Alsumaria quotes Kurdish MP Najeebeh Najib insisting that the President and Speaker have been determined and that it's only the post of prime minister which remains up for grabs.  However, other press reports indicate there remains a great deal of jockeying for the position of Speaker of Parliament.   All Iraq News notes the Wataniyah bloc is nominating Salem al-Juburi for the Speaker's post while Motahidoin is nomination Osama al-Nujaifi -- al-Nujaifi served as Speaker in the last term which kicked off in November 2010.   NINA notes the push for Salim al-Juburi for the post (and states a source declaring it is a done deal).  Alsumaria reports al-Nujaifi has met with Saleh al-Mutlaq to discuss various political issues ahead of the session to be held Tuesday.  Prashant Rao Tweeted:

Nouri's political coalition is State of Law.  Alsumaria reports State of Law MP Abdul Salam al-Maliki has declared that SoL will not support Osama al-Nujaifi receiving a second term as Speaker.

Let's move over to violence.  National Iraqi News Agency notes Nouri's aerial bombing of Mosul left "at least 40 people" injured and in need of medical treatment, 1 person was shot dead in Shurta Rabaa, the aerial bombing of Baquba lefft 8 people "believed to be of Daash" -- but no one knows -- dead, and 1 corpse was discovered bumped "in the Bayaa area southwest of Baghdad."  All Iraq News notes a mortar attack on a village "of northeastern Baquba" left 1 person dead and two more injured.

As the violence continues, IANS notes India is pulling 600 of their citizens from Iraq this week.  Spencer Ackerman (Guardian) reports:

The Obama administration said on Monday it has sent yet another complement of US troops to safeguard the embassy, a measure intended to ward off another Benghazi-style assault on American diplomats.
It brings the number of US military personnel flowing into Iraq to 750, up from 100 barely two weeks ago.

The two are related to safety.  On the US move, we noted some time ago that Barack needed to have a conversation with the American people about the Baghdad embassy.  He lacked the maturity to do so.  He had his shot and he blew it.

Let's say something awful happens to embassy staff in Baghdad in the next weeks or months.  Had Barack started the needed conversation, the most likely outcome would have been a plurality (if not majority) of American adults would have said that the embassy should remain.  By not having the conversation, he allowed others the space to do so.  Two prominent Republican senators have been among those leading the conversation.  They started last week.  Their warnings are now on record, they were public warnings and they were televised.  Should something go wrong -- and this is the White House only just now figured out -- Barack gets all the blame.

Again, as we said weeks ago, toss it out to the American public.  Then they own the decision with Barack and then there's no criticism -- since it was a collective decision -- of Barack if we have something go horribly wrong -- hostages, deaths, whatever.

Lastly, Senator Patty Murray is the former Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and the current Chair of the Senate Budget Committee.  Her office issued the following:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                         CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Monday, June 30, 2014                                                      (202) 224-2834
Murray Statement on Nomination of Robert “Bob” McDonald as Secretary of Veterans Affairs
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), senior member of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, released the following statement after President Obama nominated Robert “Bob” McDonald to serve as the next Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“I applaud President Obama for his selection of Bob McDonald to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs at this most critical time.
“His successful management and leadership track record, combined with his commitment and service to our nation’s men and women in uniform, are essential to address both the immediate and long-term challenges at the VA.
“These are challenges that will not be solved through legislation alone or by simply replacing the Secretary. However, I am hopeful today’s announcement will spark long-overdue change from the top-down in order to ensure our veterans are getting the care and support they expect and deserve.
“When it comes to caring for our nation’s heroes, we cannot accept anything less than excellence. As I work with my House and Senate colleagues on the conference committee to address some of the immediate accountability and transparency concerns plaguing the VA, I look forward to hearing from Mr. McDonald on how he plans to fix the Department’s deep-seated structural and cultural challenges.
“We made a promise to our nation’s heroes who answered the call of duty and I am hopeful Mr. McDonald shares that commitment.”
Meghan Roh
Press Secretary | New Media Director
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Mobile: (202) 365-1235
Office: (202) 224-2834

RSS Feed for Senator Murray's office



Saturday, June 28, 2014

Fried Rice in the Kitchen

Erik e-mailed that he's trying to eat healthy and has switched to brown rice in those microwave Minute Rice cups that I've mentioned being addicted to (especially the wild rice and brown rice mixture).  He was wondering if there was any brown rice recipes I knew of that wouldn't leave him wishing he was eating the same dish as white rice?


Here's a fried rice recipe that tastes great with white rice but even better with brown rice.  It's from King County's government website:

Fried Rice(makes 6 servings)
  • 3 cups cooked brown or white rice
  • 1 10oz. package frozen mixed vegetables or 2 cups fresh vegetables, chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup cooked poultry, fish, or meat (optional)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 3 teaspoons soy sauce
  1. In a large pan, heat oil on medium-high heat. Add onion and rice. Stir and cook until onion is soft, about 5 minutes.
  2. Reduce heat to medium and add vegetables and meat to rice mixture. Cook 2 minutes for frozen vegetables and 5-7 minutes for fresh vegetables.
  3. Spread the mixture out to the sides of the pan, leaving space in the middle for the eggs.
  4. Add the eggs, and scramble until cooked firm.
  5. Mix the eggs with the rice and vegetables, then sprinkle with soy sauce. 
A tip: Cook the rice a day ahead and place in a covered container you put in the fridge.  It will taste better.

I love the white rice version but the brown rice has additional textures.  When using brown rice, I usually skip the meat and don't miss having it with shrimp.

Lizzie O'Leary (MarketPlace) reported Friday that the number of Americans self-describing as middle class had dropped significantly.

The number of Americans thinking they were middle class has always included a huge number of people who were working class.  But such is the economy that it's draining even our ability to self-delude.

Jamie Fuller (Washington Post) noted:

According to a new Pew survey, 62 percent of Americans think that the economic system unfairly favors the powerful, and 78 percent think that too much power is concentrated in too few companies. The discontent isn't limited to those who share [Senator Elizabeth] Warren's liberal ideology; 69 percent of young conservative-leaning voters and 48 percent of the most conservative voters agree that the system favors the powerful, according to Pew.

Again, the sorry state of the economy is such that self-delusions are no longer an option.

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

Friday, June 27, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri whines about buying "US jets," militarized drones are reported over Iraq, Hillary can't stop lying about Iraq, we call out Michael Ratner's suggestion of forced deportation of those who got it wrong on Iraq, and much more.

Today's big news?  The Peshmerga, elite Kurdish forces, entered Kirkuk this month to provide protection.  Aslumaria reports KRG President Massoud Barzani declares that action is a form of Article 140 and the issue of who has the right to Kirkuk -- the KRG or the central government out of Baghdad -- has been decided with this action.  Of Article 140,  Chelsea J. Carter, Arwa Damon and Raja Razek (CNN) maintain, "However, the vote never took place because of instability in most of the disputed areas."

That's spin, that's not reality.

First, it wasn't just a vote.  It was a census and a referendum.

Second, in October of 2010, Nouri was backing holding a census in Kirkuk at the start of December 2010.  He only dropped that idea after The Erbil Agreement gave him a second term as prime minister.  Shortly after that happened, he announced the census was being put 'on hold.'  And, no, he did not give violence as a reason.

Dropping back to the July 26, 2011 snapshot for more on this issue:
Of greater interest to us (and something's no one's reported on) is the RAND Corporation's  report entitled "Managing Arab-Kurd Tensions in Northern Iraq After the Withdrawal of U.S. Troops."  The 22-page report, authored by Larry Hanauer, Jeffrey Martini and Omar al-Shahery, markets "CBMs" -- "confidence-building measures" -- while arguing this is the answer.  If it strikes you as dangerously simplistic and requiring the the Kurdish region exist in a vacuum where nothing else happens, you may have read the already read the report.  CBMs may strike some as what the US military was engaged in after the Iraqi forces from the central government and the Kurdish peshmerga were constantly at one another's throats and the US military entered into a patrol program with the two where they acted as buffer or marriage counselor.  (And the report admits CBMs are based on that.)  Sunday Prashant Rao (AFP) reported US Col Michael Bowers has announced that, on August 1st, the US military will no longer be patrolling in northern Iraq with the Kurdish forces and forces controlled by Baghdad. That took years.  And had outside actors.  The authors acknowledge:

Continuing to contain Arab-Kurd tensions will require a neutral third-party arbitrator that can facilitate local CMBs, push for national-level negotiations, and prevent armed conflict between Iraqi and Kurdish troops.  While U.S. civilian entities could help implement CMBs and mediate political talks, the continued presence of U.S. military forces within the disputed internal boundaries would be the most effective way to prevent violent conflict between Arabs and Kurds.

The issue should have been resolved long ago.  Equally true, Nouri took an oath to uphold the Constitution in 2006.  The Constitution said a census and referendum had to be held by the end of 2007.  Nouri blew it off. In 2010, when his State of Law lost the elections, he refused to step down as prime minister and the US-brokered Erbil Agreement gave him a second term.  The Kurds insisted that the contract include Nouri's promise that he would implement Article 140.  He never did.

As tensions increase between Nouri and the Kurds, the editorial board of the Times of India looks at what it would mean for other nations if Iraq split into three self-governing sections (Shi'ite, Kurd and Sunni) and they conclude, "With Iraq's blundering PM Nouri al-Maliki refusing to accede to a national unity government, the US and Iran should work together to stabilise the region and deal with new sovereign entities that may emerge."  AP reports Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has called on Iraq's political blocs to decide on a prime minister-designate before Tuesday's expected session of Parliament.

RT reports, "Jets from Russia and Belarus will hopefully make a key difference in the fight against ISIS in Iraq, the country’s Prime Minister Nouri Maliki said. He expressed regrets over Iraq's contract with the US, saying their jets are taking too long to arrive."

Yes, thug Nouri is complaining that he's been hampered in the tools he needs to attack the Iraqi people. The delay, for those who've forgotten, was to avoid allowing a despot to use them before the parliamentary elections.  All Iraq News notes Nouri declares it a mistake to have "just bought US jets."  A mistake by whom?

Alsumaria reports the UK has announced they will not participate militarily in Iraq.  Unlikey the US which clearly does not fear angry voters the way the UK does.  Today, UPI reports:

Pentagon spokesman Col. Steven Warren said, of the 500 American military personnel in Iraq, "Some of them are conducting an advise and assist mission, some are manning the joint operations center, some of them are part of the [Office of Security Cooperation] and yet others are Marines that are part of a [fleet anti-terrorism security team] platoon."
 All Iraq News notes only 180 of the 500 are 'advisors' so 120 are still en route to make up Barack's 300 'advisors.'

Meanwhile, is Nouri lying about drones or is US President Barack Obama?

Weaponized drone aren't being used in Iraq, we're told by Barack.  However, Duraid Salman (Alsumaria) reported this morning weaponized drones are being flown in Iraq.  And, no, it's not the Russians.  Salman reports they are US drones and sources it to Iraqi officials including MP Abbas al-Bayati who sat on the Defense and Security Committee.  Chelsea J. Carter, Arwa Damon and Raja Razek (CNN) report, "A U.S. official confirmed to CNN that armed American drones started flying over Baghdad in the previous 24 hours to provide additional protection for 180 U.S. military advisers in the area. Until now, U.S. officials had said all drone reconnaissance flights over Iraq were unarmed."

 On this week's Law and Disorder Radio,  an hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) topics addressed include Julian Assange and, it looked like, drones in Iraq. But that apparently would have required too much work so instead a host chose to make an argument that will make anyone's skin crawl if they remember the Palmer raids and the attacks on Socialists in the early part of the 20th century.

Heidi Boghosian: Michael Ratner, at the time that we're taping this show, it looks as though the US might be considering drone attacks on Iraq.

Michael Ratner:  It's hard to believe this country sometimes.  I mean, it's impossible.  Michael and I are the same age, you're a little younger, Heidi -- I don't know, a lot younger.  What are you, thirty now? 


Michael Ratner:  But in any case, not to make fun of this, but Michael and I have been basically fighting against war since we were kids.  I mean, WWII was one thing -- of course, they could have done something by not arming the Germans.  But then we had the Korean War.  Then we had Vietnam.  I mean a lot of other stuff.  Then we have Central American wars.  Then we had the Iraq War -- first number one then number two Iraq War.  And, of course, that's the one that you could argue brought us to where we are now.  Where we had a war that was utterly supported by the press, the [New York] Times, the media, by all these people -- from people like Anne Marie Slaughter who supported it and now regrets it, George Packer "New Yorker liberal" now regrets it, all these people who our friend Tony Judt, the writer from the UK called "Bush's useful idiots."  So you have all of these Bush's useful idiots who supported the overthrow of Saddam Hussein -- which is about all the stability Iraq has probably seen in a hundred years -- and now, they basically -- the Biblical expression is "sew the wind and reap the whirlwind."  So now we're reaping the whirlwind.  And one of the things that we talk about here is how do these people who gave us the illegal war in Iraq and supported it -- including Tom Friedman, our wonderful guy at the New York Times -- all of these people, Bush's useful idiots, how are they put in newspapers, how are they put on TV to tell us again that we have to go to war with Iraq?  Or with Syria?  Or with name your country in the Middle East. I mean these people should be drummed out of the country.  They should [. . .]

We stop there.

That's quite enough.

And those words he said?  That's how we lose. That's how we on the left lose.  Thomas Friedman is a bad writer -- more prone to cornball than Dan Rather.  Forever in search of a cab driver he can mold a column around -- preferably one who repeats what Friedman wants to hear. Anne Marie is a War Hawk and we've long called her out here -- even when she was in Barack's administration.

But I've never said Ann Marie or Friedman needed to be "drummed out of the country."

And it's disgusting that Michael Ratner, of the Center for Constitutional Rights -- Constitutional Rights -- thinks being wrong about a war means you "should be drummed out of the country."

I took a stand February 2003 on the impending war.  I was opposed to it, I spoke out against it.  I never waivered on that.

But, newsflash, I could have been wrong.  History backed me up.  Reality had my back.

But I could have been wrong.

If I had been wrong, did that mean I "should be drummed out of the country"?

What in the world are we coming to on the left.

Anne Marie and Friedman were not in the Bully Boy Bush administration.  As far as we know, the two of them were not plotting the war and choosing the spin.  They chose a side.

Those two, and others like them, always choose war.

And at some point, they'll be right, those are the odds.  (Or if not right -- I don't believe in war -- they'll have the majority of the US population agreeing with them.)

When that time rolls around, I really don't want hear people screaming that those of us against the war "should be drummed out of the country."

That is an outrageous statement to come from the left.

'You can't yell fire in a crowded theater!'

That Supreme Court decision had nothing to do with a fire or a movie theater or a Broadway theater.

It's from Oliver Wendell Holmes' outrageous opinion in Schenck v. United States.  That 1919 case was about free speech.  Specifically it was about brave people -- like Eugene V. Debs (who would spend two years in prison) -- speaking out against the WWI draft.  Holmes was notorious for distracting in his decisions.  A number of people love him to this day because we're really kind of stupid  and tend to praise things we know nothing of instead of just saying, "I've never read one of his legal opinions."   Holmes clearly has no lasting positive impact -- he found rights for property that didn't exist while suppressing the rights of the people.  But what's really going to harm him is that he repeatedly degraded his arguments by making them straw man arguments.

Again, fire and a theater had nothing to do with urging people to resist the draft.

But because he was such a mental midget, he couldn't craft an opinion on the issues.  He would have said he was using 'metaphors.'  No, he was not.  He was unable to argue the points of the case in his opinions so he created straw men arguments.

Michael Ratner is a smart person who made a very offensive statement.

That statement justifies the Palmer Raids and every bit of ugly that attacked Socialists in that time period.

Michael's a Socialist so that really wasn't his intent.

But if he's going to criticize people for opinions, he needs to think before he speaks.

Michael can be one of the strongest and one of the smartest people on the left.  He is 100 times more intelligent than I could ever hope to become.

But what was stupid and dangerous.

This urge to hate and demonize is something we need to be aware of.  We should never, ever on the left allow those impulses to run over the basic principles of speech and freedom we believe in.

Anne Marie Slaughter got it wrong.  I'm not surprised.

I've mocked her repeatedly here.  And, unlike Michael Ratner, that includes when Barack was attacking Libya.  To be clear, Michael called that action illegal as it was.  But there was no time to take on the cheerleaders for those actions.  I can remember being on a campus with an earbud in one ear and a cellphone in another and saying to a friend, "F**k, is there one NPR program that's not going to trout out Anne this week?"  Because she was on every damn one.

And that's the problem.

It's not, "Shut up, Anne!"

She's an American citizen living in what's supposed to still be a democracy.  She can speak as much as she wants and should.  She can write as much as she wants and should.

Where there's a problem is when the media doesn't play fair.  They shut out voices all the time.  The ridiculous and non-left Bill Maher is applauded by stupid idiots on the left who never seem to notice that Glen Ford, for example, isn't shy about opinions.  Why isn't Glen Ford, a genuine voice of the left, ever invited on Maher's programs.

I don't like whiners.

I define a whiner as someone who abdicates their own power while complaining about others.

Michael Ratner, you co-host an hour long weekly program heard across the country.  What voices who got it right on Iraq have you featured this month?

Last week, Michael gave  fiery and passionate remarks which I applaud.  This week he offered another commentary.

But it's whining, Michael.

You have the power to book whomever you want on the show.  There are hundreds of people who got it right in real time, book them.  (I've noted this before but to be clear, I do not do press as C.I.  I am very standoffish to the press these days in my real life though I will do favors for friends.  But I do not do press as C.I.)  You can book these people.  You can bring on Janeane Garofalo, Tim Robbins, Debra Sweet, Alice Walker and so many others.  Yes, the start was so long ago that we've lost too many of those voices -- Norman Mailer, Howard Zinn, etc. -- but there are millions still around.  February 2003 saw the largest global protest against a war ever.  Those people are not in hiding.

To Michael's credit, he, Heidi, Michael Smith and Dahlia Hashad booked them in real time when it mattered.  But obviously he thinks it still matters today.  I happen to support him on that.  So book these people.

Because if you don't use your own power, your just whining.  You're not protesting, you're not standing up, you're whining.

Ava and I called out Rachel Maddow for this nonsense in "TV: That awful Rachel BadFoul:"

Watching Rachel Maddow last week, between grimaces and shielding our eyes, we caught something else.
Rachel wants X voices shut out.
It's so unfair, she insists, that those who were right aren't on these shows, so unfair!!!!
But she's got an hour show on MSNBC Monday through Friday.
What guest did she have on last week who got it right?
She had on Condi Rice's former speech writer -- a fact she refused to inform her audience of.
That's rather strange, isn't it?
She's arguing Condi shouldn't be allowed on programs because she was wrong.  But she had the woman who wrote Condi's speeches on Monday's program -- the only guest on Monday's program -- and she never told the audience, "My guest here?  She used to write Condi's speeches."
Instead, she just identified Elise Jordan as Michael Hastings' widow.
Tuesday, she had Carne Ross on.
Here's how she misled her viewers, "He`s a former British diplomat who resigned over the war in Iraq."
He's a regular Ann Wright!
Remember Ann Wright?  State Department diplomat, retired army colonel, who resigned March 19, 2003 over the Iraq War.
Yeah, Ann did that.  Good for Carne for doing the same.
What day in 2003 did he resign now?
What's that?
He didn't resign in March of 2003?  Well the next month then.
Well when?
A year later.

You can add Peter Hart and FAIR to the list of whiners.  FAIR has a 30 minute weekly radio show (they also try TV but only Peter Hart can pull off TV -- you have to have magnetism to succeed on TV).  It's called CounterSpin.

While they have addressed Iraq this week and last week, they didn't have on anyone who got it right.  A young writer who really hasn't spent his career even focusing on Iraq -- check Common Dreams' archives.  And they had on a veteran of the Iraq War.

Hillary Clinton, in her new book, says people can change their minds.  She's right.  They can.  Ross Caputi did.  He can tell you all about his transformation on Iraq.  While Hillary can't which is why she looks insincere at best and, as Marcia noted, there is no excuse for her needing 2013 to 'wake up' to marriage equality.  Gay men and lesbians consistently supported her and it is a slap in the face for her to claim that some indescribable epiphany came to her last year.

But Ross did have a transformation and he can describe it and good for him.

That said, he's not someone who was right before the war started.  Tareq Ali was.  As Betty asked in a different context, "Where the hell is Norman Solomon?" Why didn't CounterSpin feature a whole show of voices who got it right before the war started?

They can whine, they just lack Ross' ability to transform and make something meaningful out of their lives.

They want a different media?  Then they need to show it is possible with their own resources.

But they don't and they won't.

They won't put on the people who were right but they will waste our time whining that the MSM doesn't put on the people who were right.

Diane Rehm can bring Phyllis Bennis onto her NPR program this month -- Phyllis is one of the ones who got it right -- but CounterSpin, The Rachel Maddow Show and Law & Disorder Radio can't. And they can't bring anyone -- not one person -- who got it right onto their shows.  But they want to slam others?

And I'm sorry to call Michael Ratner out.  I waited several days to get into my most calm place to do so because Michael does great work and is someone who is loved by everyone who knows him because he's a good guy.

But what he said was outrageous.  He doesn't need to be crucified for it.  He doesn't need to step away from the microphone.  But from someone on our side, the left, to say that people should be run out of the country for their opinions and/or advocacy?

Emma Goldman was run out of the country.  She was urging men not to register for the draft.  She was thrown in prison for that and then deported out of the country (to Russia).  That was so wrong and went completely the fabric of democracy.  We should never, ever say someone needs to leave the country because of their opinion or advocacy.

We mentioned Hillary, let's stay with Hillary Clinton because she appeared on The NewsHour (PBS -- link is video, text and audio) this week.

GWEN IFILL: I want to start by talking about Iraq. There’s much debate now about what the would-haves and the could-haves and the should-haves. If we had left a residual force on the ground as some critics are now saying, do you think we’d be seeing the collapse we’re seeing today?

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: I think it’s impossible to answer that question. Certainly when President Obama had to make the decision about what to do, he was deciding based on what the Bush administration had already determined, because they were the ones who said troops have to be out by the end of 2011. And I was part of the discussions where we were putting together proposals for the Iraqi government to consider about a residual force that would be there to help train, to provide intelligence and generally support services.
Unfortunately as we all know now, the Maliki government was not willing to do what was necessary for us to be able to do that. So the problems that we’re seeing in Iraq, I would argue are primarily political, but they are of course manifest in this very dangerous extremist group being able to gain ground and hold it. That is only possible in my opinion because the Sunnis, who had partnered with the United States and even with Maliki to drive out Al Qaeda in Iraq, feel as though they have been isolated and excluded. So I think it’s, it’s difficult to say if we had kept a residual force even for a year or two, or three, that we would have had the ability to control what Maliki did, and I think his behavior, his sectarianism, his purging of Sunni leaders, the way he stopped paying the Sunni awakening soldiers and so much else contributed to where we are today.

GWEN IFILL: So Maliki has to go for this to work itself out?

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: Well, I think it’s highly unlikely that he will embrace the kind of inclusivity that is required, but it’s up to the Iraqis to decide who they want to lead them, but of course their decision affects whether, and to what extent, we should be involved  to trying to help them.

Hillary's misleading:

I think it’s impossible to answer that question. Certainly when President Obama had to make the decision about what to do, he was deciding based on what the Bush administration had already determined, because they were the ones who said troops have to be out by the end of 2011. And I was part of the discussions where we were putting together proposals for the Iraqi government to consider about a residual force that would be there to help train, to provide intelligence and generally support services.

Barack was deciding based on what Bully Boy Bush had already determined?

I'm sick of that  lie.

But before we get to what no one ever talks about regarding the SOFA, Hillary's lying through her teeth.  She reveals in the next sentence.  There were negotiations for a new SOFA stop blaming it on Bush.

I hate Bully Boy Bush.  I dislike Barack but I will use the "p" word there -- President Barack Obama.  I will not do the same for Bully Boy Bush.

So I'm really the last person to defend him.

But I'm sick of all the damn lies.

Barack broke a campaign promise before he was ever sworn in.  He decided to break it within hours of the election.  That's why it was pulled from his campaign website.  The only time, briefly, that anyone ever noted it.  That was back in November 2008.

Bully Boy Bush got the SOFA pushed through.

And did so with Barack's blessing.

That's the detail no one wants to get honest and I'm just sick of all the damn lies.

Hillary Clinton, campaigning for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, declared any SOFA would have to be approved by the Senate -- citing thhe Constitution for why.  Which meant?  Barack immediately said, "Me too!"  Biden had already staked out that ground as the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The Bully Boy Bush administration met with Barack's transition team to discuss the SOFA.  Not only did Barack like it (and like that someone else would be on the hook for it and not him) but he gave his word that he would not call for the SOFA to be approved by the Senate.

He hadn't even been sworn in and already he was breaking campaign promises.

And, yes, the SOFA was a treaty and should have had US Senate approval.  It mattered to him when he was a senator but it didn't when he became president.

Let's repeat that: It mattered to Barack when he was a senator but it didn't when he became president.  That just about sums up his two terms thus far, doesn't it?

And while we're noting lies, this was a crafty little report by PBS which ignored an American imprisoned in Mexico by making the focus "overseas."

Image from Free USMC Sgt Andrew Tahmooressi Facebook pageThe VFW issued the following:


VFW calls for nationwide boycott of Mexican products and travel until Marine is release

WASHINGTON — The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is calling for a nationwide boycott of Mexican products and travel until Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi is released from a Mexican jail.
“This combat Marine has been languishing away since he was arrested March 31 for allegedly crossing the border accidentally with three personal firearms that were legally registered in the States but not in Mexico,” said VFW National Commander William A. Thien. “It was a mistake, but so is the Mexican government’s reluctance to release him unharmed back to the U.S.”
As America’s oldest and largest major combat veterans’ organization, the VFW wants to apply economic pressure to the Mexican government because Tahmooressi’s arrest and captivity is mirroring that of former Marine Jon Hammer, who was arrested for carrying an antique shotgun across the border in August 2012, despite having proper American paperwork. He wasn’t released until four months later.
Thien said the VFW tried the politically polite route by twice asking President Obama to contact Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, but a phone call specifically about the Marine sergeant never took place. Now that Tahmooressi is approaching his third full month in jail, the VFW national commander said it’s time to take the gloves off.
"This is about politics, and if my government won’t do anything, then I guess we need to let the power of the purse take over. No products, no travel, a total boycott … then maybe a dialogue will start.”

Turning to violence.  All Iraq News reports violence has forced 400 Christian families to flee Mosul.
 Alsumaria reports 3 young Shabak were kidnapped in Nineveh Province, a mortar attack on a village east of Baquba left 6 civilians dead and two more injured, a Diyala Province battle left 1 rebel dead and two security forces injured, a Samarra mortar attack left 2 security forces dead and seventeen more injured, security forces killed 15 suspects in Latifiya, the corpses of 2 young men were discovered dumped in Kirkuk, and, dropping back to late last night, a Samarra mortar attack left 1 Iraqi soldier dead and eight more injured.  Chelsea J. Carter, Arwa Damon and Raja Razek (CNN) report, "Human Rights Watch said two mass graves believed to contain the bodies of Iraqi soldiers, police and civilians killed by the Sunni ISIS fighters and their militant allies have been discovered in Hussein's hometown of Tikrit."  It's left to Reuters to report that Iraqi forces killed 69 prisoners they were transferring and blamed it on Sunni militants.  Reuters notes, "The deaths in Hilla came less than a week after the killing of 52 prisoners in Baquba, a regional capital north of Baghdad."

Iraq and violence came up in today's State Dept press briefing moderated by spokesperson Marie Harf:

QUESTION: At least two Indian nurses were beheaded by the ISIL and they were serving (inaudible) and the sick and needy in hospitals and around the country. And at least 40 Indians are still being held, and if Indian Government has asked any help from the U.S. or what’s --

MS. HARF: Let me check on that. I don’t know the answer to that. Obviously, both of the incidents you just mentioned really underscore the brutality of ISIL. This is a group that al-Qaida has even deemed to be too brutal for it, which I think is saying something.
So clearly we know there’s huge challenges here. I can check on that specifically.

QUESTION: Marie, on Iraq, this has – we haven’t asked this for a while – but are you aware, since Vienna, I mean – yeah, Vienna and Deputy Secretary Burns’s meeting with the Iranians on the Iraq issue. Are you aware if there have been any more contacts?

MS. HARF: I am not. But let me double-check. I am not, but --

QUESTION: The reason I ask is because the Pentagon now says that, yes, it is flying drones --

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: -- and the Iranians are also flying drones. And I’m just wondering what the mechanism is to prevent these drones from flying into each other.

MS. HARF: I am happy to check and see if there is anything we can share on that.

QUESTION: Okay. I would be --

QUESTION: Any coordination with the Iranians?

MS. HARF: No. None.

QUESTION: Right. But in terms of contacts in Baghdad and --

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check. Not to my knowledge, but I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Different topic?

MS. HARF: Yeah.


MS. HARF: Uh-huh. Okay.

QUESTION: Just follow-up on hostages. There are still eight hostages – Turkish hostages in Mosul as well. Do you have any update on that?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any update on those as well.

QUESTION: And on Kurdistan region, last couple of days both the Israel officials and today Turkish spokesman – administration spokesman – again talk about the independence of the Kurdistan region. And they would support or – it’s inevitable. Do you have any change of analysis on the Kurdistan?

MS. HARF: No change of policy here. We’ve said that a unified Iraq is the strongest Iraq, and have said that an inclusive government that includes Sunni, Shia, and Kurds needs to be formed as soon as possible to help deal with this crisis.

QUESTION: It looks like ISIL’s forces are gaining some more momentum around the borders. Do you have any assessment on the --

MS. HARF: We don’t have a detailed battleground assessment to share. Obviously, the threat from ISIL is very serious and we know that it’s very challenging on the ground. We know that units are trying to fight back, but that’s why we’re trying to provide more assistance to help them do that.

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michael s. smith
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