Thursday, January 10, 2013

Chase Manhattan rumored to be quietly firing

First off, CBS and AP report American Express is about to fire 5,400 people.  Remember in the lead up to the election how the press lied about the 'strong' economy?  Anything for the blessed one, right?

Well, I've got two e-mails.  One from a Texas community member so I have no problem believing her.  She was among 100 people just fired by Chase Manhattan this week.  I have an e-mail from someone I don't know and have not heard of who tells me he was one of 200 fired this week by Chase Manhattan.  I have an e-mail from a reader who writes every now and then and is in Florida.  She says they were told that a firing is probably about to take place.

So what's going on there?  Is Chase Manhattan quietly firing to avoid news of a mass layoff?

I don't know.  I'm otssing out what I've got.

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

Thursday, January 10, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, State of Law starts another fist-fight in Parliament, the Minister of Youth and Sports refuses to testify before Parliament, a new poll on Iraq contains very disturbing numbers, a tone-deaf or anti-Semitic group doesn't help Hagel's chances to become Secretary of Defense, more people on the left get vocal about the nomination, and more.
Emily Swanson (Huffington Post) reports on a Huffington Post - YouGov poll which found 52% of those surveyed think the Iraq War was a mistake (31% say it wasn't) and 55% say it wasn't worth fighting (27% say it was) -- the poll has a plus or minus 3.7% margin of error.  Those aren't good numbers.  If you doubt that, visit the Podesta Brothel that is Think Progress and you'll see them covering the poll -- sort of.  The best figure (still disappointing) is the 55%.  So they work that in but ignore the 52%. It's very dishonest of them to grab the 55% and not note the 52%.  Neither figure is a good one but the 52% is more important.
It's more important not just because it's the lower number but also because of the questions asked.  52% of those surveyed say the Iraq War was a mistake.  That number should be much higher.  I'm not speaking of my personal opinion yet.  I'm speaking of attitudes in surveys.  Respondents, in the history of modern polling, are more apt to say a war or conflict was a mistake than they are to say it wasn't worth fighting.  Why?
Mistake goes to government.  Fighting goes to the service members.  People are more comfortable calling out decisions by the government than calling out rank-in-file members of the military and when you get to the issue of "fighting" and it's value or worth, for many Americans, you are evaluating what the military on the ground did or did not do.
Maybe the public has changed or maybe the wording was different or maybe they just got a non-representative sample. I would love for that to be true because the numbers themselves are disturbing.
The Iraq War is not over.  Analyzing the deaths, the number injured and the incidents of violence for 2012, Iraq Body Count concluded, "In sum the latest evidence suggests that the country remains in a state of low-level war little changed since early 2009, with a 'background' level of everyday armed violence punctuated by occasional larger-scale attacks designed to kill many people at once."  So let's bust that little myth first.  Second, US troops did not all leave.  Some 15,000 moved over into Kuwait (and at least 13,000 of them remain).  They were stationed there because of Kuwait's proximity to Iraq -- so that they could be quickly ordered back in.  'Trainers,' Marines guarding the US Embassy staff, Special-Ops, etc. did not leave and remain in Iraq.  In fact, the number of US Special-Ops in Iraq increased in the second half of 2012.  September 26th, Tim Arango (New York Times) reported:
Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions. At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence.
Or as William Rivers Pitt (Truthout) put it last month, "if you think we're not still at war in Iraq, I can introduce you to some military families who are still posting love-you-be-safe letters to that particular delivery code."  So that should explode myth two.
The Huffington Post - YouGov poll?  I'd love for it to be wrong but it's backed up by another poll, one on Bully Boy Bush who has increased his approval rating by 12% just by leaving office.  We covered that on January 2nd and noted:
There are a ton of reasons to continue focusing on Iraq here in the US.  But if people only care about themselves then maybe now some on the left who've argued it doesn't matter (including two friends with The Nation magazine) will wake up?  We've gone over what could happen repeatedly in the last years.  We did so at length August 20, 2010 in "The war continues (and watch for the revisionary tactics."
If you're old enough, you saw it with Vietnam.  That illegal war ended with the government called out for its actions.  And some people -- a lot in fact -- just moved on.  The weakest of the left moved on because it wasn't 'polite' to talk about it or it wasn't 'nice' or 'can't we all just get along' and other nonsense.  Others talked about things because they didn't care about Vietnam, the Vietnamese or the US service members.  And, after all, they had a peanut farmer from Georgia to elect, right?  And bit by bit, year by year, all these lies about Vietnam took root.  The press turned the people against it!  The US could have won if the military's hands hadn't been tied!  All this nonsense that, back when the public was paying attention in the early to mid-seventies, would have been rejected outright by the majority of Americans.
Jane Fonda explains in the amazing documentary Sir! No Sir!, "You know, people say, 'Well you keep going back, why are you going back to Vietnam?' We keep going back to Vietnam because, I'll tell you what, the other side does. They're always going back. And they have to go back -- the Hawks, you know, the patriarchs. They have to go back because, and they have to revise the going back, because they can't allow us to know what the back there really was."
And if you silence yourself while your opponent digs in on the topic, a large number of Americans -- including people too young to remember what actually happened -- here nothing but the revisionary arguments.  Jane's correct, the right-wing always went back to Vietnam. They're at fork in the road probably because, do they continue to emphasize Vietnam as much as they have, or do they move on to Iraq.  Victor Davis Hanson's ready to move on to Iraq.  He's not the only one on the right.
And on the left we have silence. 
And that is why revisionary tactics work.  It's not because revisions are stronger than facts.  It's because one side gives up.  And the left -- check The ProgressiveThe Nation, etc.* -- has long ago given up on even pretending to care about Iraq -- about the Iraq War, about the Iraqis, about the US service members.  [*But not In These Times -- they've continued to feature Iraq about every six months.  Give them credit for that.]
We're seeing again what happens in silence.  When we're silent on the left, when we silence ourselves, we lose and we lose big.
I'm going to toss out some poll numbers to illustrate how bad the results of The Huffington Post - YouGov poll is.  The easiest way to find these numbers is to refer to Polling Report and scroll down. 
In December, 2011, as most US troops were being taken out of Iraq (what the Pentagon rightly called a drawdown, not a "withdrawal"), there was a CNN - ORC Poll which asked, "Do you favor or oppose the U.S. war in Iraq?"
The results?  66% opposed.  31% favored.  From 66% opposed in December 2011, the against-the-war opinion has dropped to 52%?
That's not good news.  That's why the Podesta Bordello ran from that figure.  We can't run from it.  Running from the topic of Iraq has led us to this point where at least 10% opposition to the Iraq War has vanished.  (At least 10%?  I'm factoring in the potential margin of error.)
On the left, we're silent.  Very few of us acknowledge Iraq today.  If we do, it's a sentence or two.  Or we're using the Iraq War to praise some politician.  We're not talking about the realities, we're not covering the birth defects, we're not interested in the continued struggle, the abuse of LGBTs, the rape and torture of women in Iraqi prisons, go down the list. 
On the left, we convince ourselves that we have something better and more important to do.   That's not happening on the right.  On the right, they're covering the continued tragedy that is the Iraq War.  They're covering the results of it.  They're talking about.  They're addressing it.
This is what happens one side is silent.  This is not new.  This is not novel.  Here, we have discussed this concept since at least 2005.  We warned about it while the US military was involved in 'combat operations.'  We warned about it when Barack, echoing Bush's 'major combat has ended' b.s., declared that combat operations were over.  We've warned about it.  That's not because I'm a genius.
That's because this is what happens and it happens over and over.  Know the patterns.  They do repeat unless you break them.  That's not just therapy, that's history. 
I was standing here shaking my head in silence until the friend I'm dictating this too just asked, "Are you still there?"
Which is a question with a number of answers.  Yes, we are still here (the community, visitors and me).  And this is exactly why we are still here.  You cannot talk away from this topic without repercussions.  And we're seeing that right now.
While I was being silent, however, I was thinking of how many years it took to rewrite Vietnam, how many movies (The Deer Hunter, Sylvester Stallone's awful films, and so many, many more), how many books, how many columns, on and on.  It is a cottage industry, the revisionary history of Vietnam.  People have made big money there.
By contrast, they haven't had to work that hard on Iraq.  They certainly haven't put in the same amount of time that their cohorts did on Vietnam.
According to The Huffington Post - YouGov poll, only 52% think the Iraq War was a mistake.  In ten years, that's going to be nothing.  In ten years, if the silence from those of us on the left continues, those numbers will be reversed with 52% (or more) arguing the Iraq War wasn't a mistake and basing that on the fact that the left doesn't care enough to object to and refute the lies, doesn't care enough to cover the damage.
Every day the sun rises.  If every day, a large group of people make it their life's work to insist that the sun doesn't rise every day and no one bothers to refute it, despite the fact that sun rises every day, you will find public opinion registering the belief that it doesn't.  It may be a very small number, but you will find it in the polling.  If the one group continues to insist for years that the sun doesn't rise every day, and the other side continues to greet that claim with silence, you will see that small number rise in consecutive polls.
That's not because people are stupid or because people are dumb.  Most people are very busy with their lives, children, job, school, just surviving, whatever.  And if they try to follow what's going on in the limited amount time that they can devote to 'current events' and political 'discussions' but all they hear is one side, it doesn't matter what that one side says, a number of people will accept it as truth.
That will happen because it is repeated over and over.   Joseph Goebbels was a Nazi which means he was an idiot.  People praise him or cite him for his assertion: "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.  The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State."  Let's just deal with the first sentence.  (And I'm talking about what an idiot Goebbels is here.  I'm not comparing War Hawks on Iraq to Goebbels.  I don't generally make Nazi comparisons as a rule.)  "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it."  Goebbels didn't do the work required. 
It's not telling a lie or spin that helps it succeed.  It's this taking place in a vaccuum with other opinions absent.  Not because of fear.  There is no fear today in the United States that if you call the Iraq War a mistake you will end up harmed or punished or shunned or whatever.  There's no liability, there's no loss or potential loss at present.
The lie succeeds not just because it's being repeated and not because the government suppressing truth but because those of us who know the Iraq War was wrong are silencing ourselves. 
That example of the rising sun?  People have limited time.  It's not just that they hear, via the media, the claim that the sun doesn't rise every day.  It's also that they're media trained.  Meaning, in the US we expect that truth is presented as fact.  Truth requires nothing but to be said.  Media training in the US tells us that 'controversial' or 'disputed' issues require balance.  So when the only one speaking is from one side, to the average American media consumer, that person must be speaking the truth because no one's there objecting.  Surely, if this person claiming that the sun didn't rise every day was wrong or even just potentially wrong, there would be another voice and it would point out that the person was wrong.
Media training in the US, and we're all trained in it regardless of rejection, embrace or indifference, allows revisionary history to take root when one side falls into silence.
"Mistake." Some may argue that the term isn't concrete and even point out that a few opposed to the Iraq War have insisted it not be called a mistake, that's it's a crime, that the actions of the United States government were criminal.  I believe Bush committed War Crimes, so I can certainly understand that point of view.
Was that point of view at play in the poll? Could be.  Maybe that explains the low 52% figure?
But then there's the 'worth it' issue with 55% saying it wasn't worth it.  CBS News did a poll in November of 2011.  They used charged questions.  They asked about worth and used worth measured against the loss of US lives.  To me, that's perfectly fine, wars cost lives, let's be honest about it.  But to others, that's a charged question.  They asked about worth twice.  In the other question, it was basically the same, but the invoked Saddam Hussein's name.  By invoking Hussein (again, charged question), they were able to signifcantly alter the responses.  Saddam Hussein, former leader of Iraq until the US invasion, was seen as a madman (probably true) and much worse. 
Respondents told CBS the war was not worth it, by 67%, when asked about the loss of American lives.  However, when Saddam Hussein's name was invoked, this same group of respondents, changed their answer. It went from only 24% saying it was "worth it" to 41%.  The 67% saying it was not worth it dropped to 50% when Saddam Hussein's name was invoked.  Same group of people, same survey.  Not a follow up, not a month later.  Same people, same survey, same phone call.
If you go to the raw date for the Huffington Post - YouGov poll, you find the question without charged language:
All in all, considering the costs to the United States versus the benefits to the United States, do you think the war with Iraq was worth fighting, or not?
Worth fighting . . . . . . . . 27%
Not worth fighting . . . . . .55%
Not sure . . . . . . . . . . . . 18%
Invoking Saddam Hussein's name in 2011, CBS News was able to knock 17% points away from the group saying the Iraq War was not with it.  Without invoking Saddam Hussein's name in 2013, Huffington Post - YouGov is able to knock 12% points off the group saying "not worth it."
That should be disturbing to all who opposed the Iraq War.  The shift in the second question ("worth it") appear to back up the numbers -- or the veracity of the numbers -- for the poll's other big question (Iraq War, mistake or not).  And the poll about Bush that found he was basically soaring in approval ratings also go to a trend that may be emerging.
Iraq isn't a topic that ever should have been dropped in the US.  Set aside the US military (service members died and were wounded there, service members spent time there, it's part of their lives).  On a cost basis, there should have been continued interest.  A ton of US tax payer money went into that illegal war.  The US government is in a supposed crisis right now because it needs a ton of money.  Hmm.  Let's keep pretending the two aren't connected.
There's also the very real impotant detail that Iraqis are people.  They're not an image on the TV screen.  When you stop watching, they don't cease to exist.  When you stop watching, violence still continues. 
There was never a good reason to walk away from Iraq.  But the bulk of the left did it and did it to enshrine Barack Obama.  We're seeing the effects now.  Here's some cold, hard truth: Barack Obama no longer matters.  He won't matter again until he dies.  Then he'll get a state funeral and people will cry and mourn and endlessly gasbag.  But he doesn't matter right now.  He's in his second term.  What matters right now, and DC watchers know it, is who sets themselves up for a future?  Not just a future run for president.  But who's going to be the Judas (or the George Steph, if you prefer)?  Who's going to be the one who goes from low level assistant we never heard of to the press favorite who gets credited with everything?  That's what people are watching for now. 
Barack's story is over.  He was the 44th US President.  He was elected to two terms.  Think about your grade school history.  The story is over.  (Barring a sex scandal or a reality TV show.)  Congress and White House staffers are now the ones who will achieve or fail. 
So maybe grasping that, The Nation or The Progressive or Pacifica Radio or some left outlet can suddenly start to rediscover Iraq?  Iraq matters not only in terms of history and what was.  It also matters in terms of the next big US war.  And when opposition to the Iraq War is so small today -- as demonstrated by the poll -- then the US government can have any war it wants.  And I'm not saying anything the White House or a future White House isn't already aware of.
Iraq was slammed with violence today.  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) counts 12 dead.  All Iraq News reports that the President of the University of Diyala, Abbas al-Dulaimi, survived an assassination attempt when his motorcade was targeted with bombings resulting in the deaths of 2 bodyguards with three more left injured.  They also note a roadside bombing in central Baghdad left one employee of Parliament injured.  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports  a Baquba home invasion left 1 Iraqi military officer dead while the homes of two Sahwa members were bombed killing both men.  AFP notes a Baghdad car bombing which claimed 3 lives and left eleven people injured.  Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports the death toll from the Baghdad car bombing has risen to 5 and the number injured is fifteen.
Through Tuesday, Iraq Body Count counts 84 dead from violence in Iraq so far this month.  In their analysis of 2012, they explained the meaning of violence in 2009:
We first noted in our 2009 analysis that our six-monthly data for the year 'may indicate that the situation is no longer improving', as it had done dramatically in comparison to the height of sustained violence in 2006 - 2008.  This was borne out by data for 2010 and then 2011, during which the years the levels of violence, as measured in the number of civilians killed annually, were almost identical."
We're not done with the violence yet.  There was a fist-fight in Parliament.  How does the Iraqi government expect violence to decrease in Iraq when MPs think threats and violence are the tools to resort to? 
In addition, you'd think Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law would advise all of its members on conduct and how their actions can reflect poorly not only on themselves but also on the political slate State of Law all the way up to the prime minister (Nouri).  But over and over, year after year, State of Law MPs keep throwing punches in Parliament.   Already this week, there's been one fight.  Today, State of Law takes to the Parliament to defend their title: Nouri's Neandrathals.  All Iraq News explains Parliament was supposed to be questioning Jassim Mohammed Jaafar (Minister of Youth and Sports) when State of Law MP Abbas al-Bayati decided to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee by starting a fight with Bahaa al-Arajil of Moqtada al-Sard's parliamentary bloc.   Tuesday, it was State of Law's Ali Alfalh starting a physical fight in Parliament. 
Maybe it's time to stop referring to "sessions" of Parliament and instead use the term "rounds."  That'll be helpful at the end of the year, for example, when they can proclaim that Parliament had 152 rounds in 2013 and that, in those rounds, State of Law picked 112 fights.
Because of the fight, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi had to call a one hour recess.  They never did get to question the Minister of Youth because, like so many of of Nouri's people, he failed to show up despite being summoned before the Parliament.

Why question the Minister to begin with?  Charges of corruption and the fact that a sports center in Basra has access to and receives three times the amount of electrical power the rest of the entir province receives.    Jassim Mohammed Jaafar is a Turkman and he's also with Nouri's State of Law. He owes Nouri because he ran, in 2010, for a seat in Parliament but didn't win.  State of Law named him to the Parliament using one of the two compensation seats they received.  Kitabat notes that Parliament is considering bringing corruption charges against him.

Al Mada reports the Kurdistan Alliance is in preparation for questioning Nouri before the Parliament but they expect him to attempt to use the federal court in an attempt to get out of appearing before Parliament.  In case that doesn't work, State of Law is gathering signatures in an attempt to remove Osama al-Nujaifi as Speaker of Parliament.  They have 130 currently.  All Iraq News notes MP High Nassif  has issued a statement declaring that Nouri is in violation of the Constitution and she disputes his claim to a mandate noting that a mandate would come from the people and the prime minister is elected by the Parliament.  The article also notes that the bill on the three presidencies was read yesterday in Parliament.  The bill seeks to limit all three to two terms.  Currently, the Constitution limits the President of Iraq to two terms.  The three presidencies are the Presidency, Prime Minister and Speaker of Parliament.  The proposed amnesty law was supposed to have been read today as well.  Alsumaria notes the reading has now been kicked back until Monday.  All Iraq News reminds that an amnesty law is one of the demands by those engaged in the ongoing protests.

Dar Addustour writes about Nouri's speech yesterday attacking the protesters.  He said that Iraq's too young for protests.  He called on the police to arrest protesters, declared they were being paid by foreigners and floated that they should have to pay $100 to protest.  You'll note the silence from the White House on the protests.  If the State Dept mentions them today, no doubt, it will just be to provide Victoria Nuland with another chance to smear them.  Kitabat reports Nouri sent at least two military brigades to Anbar Province yesterday to target the protesters.

While Nouri pushes violence (isn't that always his answer), All Iraq News notes that Iraqiya is holding a meeting today to discuss the protesters demands and the refusal of the government to recognize these demands.  Iraqiya is headed by Ayad Allawi.  Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi is also with the Iraqiya political slate.  They came in first in the March 2010 elections and would have gotten the post of prime minister were it not for the White House's refusal to let anyone but Nouri be prime minister. 
Despite all that went on in Iraq today, it wasn't at an issue to be raised or addressed at today's US State Dept press briefing.  Nor was it an issue yesterday.  The press in the US is happy to continue to ignore Iraq.  The Bush administration's Meghan L. O'Sullivan was interviewed by Bernard Gwertzman for the Council of Foreign Relations.  It's a wide ranging discussion.  We're going to note her comments on the protests:
Prime Minister Maliki's challenges right now are not so much with parliament, but more with Iraq's political elite. The prime minister has managed to alienate most of the elite, even while remaining popular with many ordinary Iraqis. Early elections are, in fact, one of the demands of the political groups opposing Maliki who want nothing more than to replace the prime minister. This could be achieved either through early elections or a vote of no confidence in the prime minister. Some would settle for a pledge from Maliki that he will not seek a third term in office.
The vote of no confidence route was tried last summer and failed, largely because the Sadrist bloc backed away from their pledges to support the ouster. Maliki, in provoking the Kurds, the Sunnis, and the Sadrists (who are Shiites) all simultaneously, may have pushed his luck too far this time. [However,] the chances of these groups staying united in parliament long enough to conduct a vote of no-confidence is still unlikely, not least due to the inevitability of Iranian counter-pressure.
In theory, the street, more than parliament, could be the source of political pressure on Maliki, but this would require the Sunni movement merging with a robust Sadrist street movement. Although there have been efforts over the past days to broker this marriage, much history and suspicion lie between the two groups, making an effective merger a challenge. Moreover, most Iraqis, after decades of trauma, are not disposed to take to the streets to change their government, when (unlike the other "Arab Spring" countries) elections provide an option.
On the above?  Those are her opinions and her opinion is also highly anti-Moqtada al-Sadr.  I raise that specifically because she claims Moqtada killed the no-confidence vote.  I'm sure she has some source she can cite to back that up.  But that source really doesn't carry weight with me.  We followed that story in real time, Sadr's bloc was appalled that the no-confidence vote was called off.  In adddition, there was no rupture between Iraqiya's Ayad Allawi and Sadr or between KRG President Massoud Barzani and Sadr.  If Moqtada had been the cause, Allawi and Barzani would have distanced themselves to a noticeable degree.  They did not.
Jalal Talabani was visited by the US government and the Iranian government before suddenly declaring the no-confidence vote was dead.  Jalal's spoken very little about the vote pubilcly since announcing it was off.  However, he did give one interview where he was clearly angry and on the defensive regarding the no-confidence vote.  In that interview, he noted a Shi'ite figure who had pushed for the no-confidence vote only to turn on it.  Jalal spoke about that and said this person was the first one to raise the issue of a no-confidence vote on Nouri with him.
He identified that person and it wasn't Moqtada al-Sadr.  Jalal called out Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq.  So based on Jalal's only public comments on the matter, based on the reaction of the Sadr bloc, based on the reactions of Allawi and Barzani, I don't see where you get that Moqtada called it off.  (Equally true, she's asked a question which states Moqtada is calling for an Arab Spring.  That's incorrect.  Moqtada has warned of an Arab Spring.  He has not called for it.)
I don't know Moqtada.  Friends at the State Dept scoff at the 'new' Moqtada.  I can only judge by what's reported of his remarks and his actions.  I think it's really silly to proclaim Moqtada unchanged.  In 2010, as we noted then, he wanted to be prime minister.  He's presented himself in a leadership position ever since.
That's not "I am the leader of Shi'ites."  Yes, he is.  He's also a cleric.  But he's building a movement whether people want to recognize that or not.  I would hope that it would be movement which would results in positives for the Iraqi people.  I don't know that it will or that it will go further.  But to ignore the changes he's brought about?
That's ignorant because you're miss exactly what does happen in Iraq.  We refer to him as "cleric and movement leader."  That's in part because of his change in tone.  (I'm still surprised he didn't get more coverage for his visit to Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad last Friday.)  But it's mainly because the reality is that he is a leader and not just in Sadr City and parts of Basra. 
Are his appeals to Christians and Sunnis and Kurds just attempts to curry favor.  Maybe, maybe not.  But what matters is what he does with them.  And what's he's done so far has been beneficial to Iraq.  2012 saw Moqtada as the voice of the people.  He fought for them with regards to the food-ration card system (which Nouri tried to do away with) and he fought for them with regards to the oil surplus and how the Iraqi people would benefit from that money.  A friend at the State Dept asked -- good question -- whether I would judge Moqtada the same if Nouri hadn't gone so crazy in 2012?  I think so.  I don't think I'm doing a by-comparison judgment. 
And again, I can't vouch for Moqtada's soul and I'm not trying to.  I'm also not trying to get him elected or appointed to any post.  I'm just trying to convey in each day's snapshot what the big themes and events were that day.  You can think the 'new' Moqtada is insincere or playing a game or whatever.  But if you're not at least admitting that it is a different Moqtada al-Sadr than a few years back, you're missing the point.  (The State Dept friend pointed out that I have increased coverage of Moqtada in the snapshots at the same time that the too-quick-to-embrace-Moqtada press has suddenly tossed him to the side.)  (Also, disclosure and reminder, for several years now, an MP with the Sadr bloc has e-mailed this site.  The MP makes an impassioned case for Moqtada all the time.  Check the archives, it didn't effect me in the past.  Maybe the MP has worn me down?  I don't think so.)
In the US, the burnpit registry is now law.  We'll cover that in tomorrow's snapshot.
There are many different groups that support Chuck Hagel's nomination to be Secretary of Defense.  It's a shame that the anti-Jewish section is so quick to grab the spotlight.   As James Besser (Jewish Week) noted at the start of 2011 when US House Rep Gary Ackerman publicly rebuked them, "J Street has become such a lightning rod in Jewish politics."  The controversial J Street has no launched a campaign that is, at best, tone deaf and, at worst, anti-Semitic.  "SMEAR A BAGEL, NOT CHUCK HAGEL" is a petition with a questionable headline.  J Street is seen as anti-Jewish by many in the Jewish community (and, yes, the fact that Jews are a part of J Street doesn't change that perception).  Chuck Hagel is seen by some as anti-Semitic.  And to promote Chuck, J Street decides the way to go is to argue, "SMEAR A BAGEL, NOT CHUCK HAGEL."
What's the most famous film scene that a bagel has to do with? 
It's the scene that resulted in film's first Jewish superstar.  Barbra Streisand won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her film debut as Fanny Bryce in William Wyler's Funny Girl.  Fanny Bryce was a Jewish comedian, a singer and actress.  "My Man" was her signature song and she was famous for voicing Baby Snooks on the radio.  Though Carol Burnett and Anne Bancroft were considered for the lead in the Broadway play, it was pretty much a given that Bryce needed to be played by a Jewish woman.  After her success on Broadway (and in London), Barbra would perform the role on film, one of the most famous Jewish womein in the world during the first half of the 20th century would be played by the most famous Jewish woman of the second half of the 20th century.  The bagel scene (script by Isobel Lennart) involves Barbra as Fanny Brice, Frank Faylen as Keeney and Lee Allen as Eddie.
Keeney:   You've got to face facts.You don't look like the other girls --
Fanny Brice:  I know but --
Keeney:  You've got skinny legs.  You stick out.  And you are out!  Eddie.
Fanny Brice:  I'm just trying to tell you something.  Why don't you give me a chance?
Eddie:  I'm sorry, kiddo.
Fanny Brice: I do a terrific time step.  Look.
Keeney:  Out.  Out.
Fanny Brice:  Look, Mr. Keeny, suppose all you ever had for breakfast was onion rolls. Now all of the sudden, one morning, in walks a bagel.  You take a look at it and you say,  "What is that?" Until you tried it.  But that's my trouble. 
Keeney:  What's your trouble?
Fanny Brice:  I'm a bagel on a plate full of onion rolls!
She then launches into "I'm The Greatest Star" (written by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill).  Long before that scene, bagels had a Jewish connotation. In New York City in 1956, Dorothy Parker was asked about her time on the West Coast by Maroin Capron (Paris Review) and Parker responded:
Hollywood money isn't money.  It's congealed snow, melts in your hand, and there you are.  I can't talk about Hollywood.  It was a horror to me when I was there and it's a horror to look back on.  I can't imagine how I did it.  When I got away from it I couldn't even refer to the place by name.  "Out there" I called it.  You know what "out there" means to me?  Once I was coming down a street in Beverly Hills and I saw a Cadillac about a block long and out of the side window was a wonderfully slinky mink, and an arm, and at the end of the arm a hand in a white suede glove wrinkled around the wrist, and in the hand was a bagel with a bite out of it.
Parker's narrative above is mean to insult a gaudy person representative of a gaudy business.  Take away the bagel and there is no story, it's a key image in the story she's painting (whether you agree with the image or not).
So when you say "Smear a bagel" some may see your slogan as  "Smear a Jew, not Hagel."  Again, when you're a group some see as anti-Semitic and you're promoting a nominee some see see as anti-Semitic, your campaign has a problem, a built-in hostility. And when you promise to send (unrequested) bagels to a Jewish man (William Kristol)?  Even more so. J Street would be wise to think up a new slogan.
Allen Ruff (The Progressive) discovers Hagel's environmnetal problems -- including his being a member of Chevron's board of directors:
Currently a member of the board of directors of Chevron, Hagel led the charge in 1997 to block ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, the international agreement that would have committed the US and other industrial nations to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Hagel-Byrd Resolution, co-authored by the coal-friendly Democrat, West Virginia's Robert Byrd, argued that the Kyoto failed to include developing countries and posed barriers to US economic expansion.
On his way through the revolving door to higher fame and fortune, Hagel announced in September 2007 that he would not seek a third term in the Senate. While his current mainstream biographies note that he happens to teach at Georgetown, they somehow consistently miss mentioning that he might have to give up his current position on Chevron's board.
Urvashi Vaid (The Progressive) is championing Michele Flournoy. For reasons that we've gone over before (what the job actually entails), Flournoy would be a better choice than Hagel and might even be a solid choice on her own.  (She does have the youth -- she's 14 years younger than Hagel -- and passion the job needs.)  Vaid points out:
Chuck Hagel?
An anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-women's rights, anti-environmental, pro-defense contractor Senator with a 0% rating from Human Rights Campaign and an 11% rating from the NAACP.(3)
A guy whose election to the Senate from Nebraska involved the electronic ballot counting company he started tallying up the votes.
Hagel made his fortune by owning and selling electronic voting systems, and the company he founded has seen its optical scanning systems be dogged by claims of faulty tabulation.(4)
Hagel's a guy who has operated with no public oversight or scrutiny as co-chair of the powerful and ultra-secret President's Intelligence Advisory Board for these past three years.
His Senate votes on issues important to service members are contradictory: He opposed repealing the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, but now says that he supports lifting the ban; he voted against allowing women service members access to abortion; he voted for the Iraq invasion but then came around to opposing the war; he opposed the nomination of long-time gay Democratic leader Jim Hormel as ambassador, but he apologized to Hormel a few weeks ago.
On Hagel's anti-LGBT record, Matthew Rothschild has an audio commentaryEli Lake (Daily Beast) has an article on Hagel where he basically calls Hagel a flip-flopper and the push back on that is great.  'People change their minds!' insist the Hagel groupies.  About things like this:
It was August 1998 and Washington was embroiled in President Clinton's adultery scandals. Chuck Hagel, though, had his eye on the next president. So he asked George W. Bush if Hagel could meet with him at the governor's mansion in Austin, Texas. Karl Rove, then a top adviser to the governor, says he remembers Hagel flying to Austin after Rove politely tried to dissuade him from the trip because the governor's schedule was crowded.
Hagel flew to Austin anyway. In a meeting with Bush, Rove says, the freshman Nebraska senator gave the governor his personal endorsement for the 2000 election cycle. Bush said he appreciated the senator's endorsement, but asked him to keep it quiet for the time being, according to Rove, because the governor had not yet announced he was running. After the meeting, Hagel flew to Omaha, Nebraska, and told a group of agricultural executives that he was urging Bush to run. The story was covered in the August 10 edition of the Omaha World Herald, and Hagel briefly became one of the first major politicians to endorse George W. Bush for the presidency.
But the Hagel endorsement didn't last long. A few months later, when fellow Vietnam War veteran Sen. John McCain announced his own run for the presidency, Hagel gave his endorsement to McCain. "He wanted to be a big guy and talk to the paper," Rove said. "Then when McCain became a credible candidate he just flipped. That's Hagel: mercurial, focused on doing it his way."
That's Chuck Hagel.  That's the Hagel who wasn't trusted by his peers -- Democrats or Republicans -- in the Senate because he was inconsistent.  That's Hagel.  'I want to endorse you.'  Can you wait? 'No.'  Then, months later, he's announcing he's endorsing someone else.