Saturday, October 31, 2015

Getting the feeling Hillary's avoiding the economy for a reason?

Hillary Clinton likes to talk.

And talk and talk and talk.

As you know if you caught her recently on Ellen or Stephen Colbert or Rachel Maddow or . . .

But she mainly talks about herself.

It's her favorite subject.

If pressed she presents non-solutions to student loans.


Saving future generations from loans does not help those living under crippling student loan debt right now -- many due to the attacks Hillary's husband launched on public universities -- a topic no one wants to talk about now.

One topic Hillary avoids in general?

The economy.

After seven or so years of Barack, the economy's still not recovered.

And, in fact, things are getting worse.  Tom Hall (WSWS) reports:

Chevron Corporation, the second-largest oil giant in the United States, announced plans yesterday to eliminate 6,000 to 7,000 jobs over the next few years, along with a “similar” number of contract workers. The downsizing is being carried out in response to falling revenues caused largely by the ongoing slump in oil and commodity prices internationally. Chevron had already announced plans to lay off 1,500 workers and 600 contractors in July, in response to its second quarter results.

The mass layoffs at Chevron, amounting to over 10 percent of the firm’s work force, are part of a rash of job cuts in the United States and internationally, showing that the world economy remains mired in slump seven years after the 2008 Wall Street crash.

Chevron plans to cut capital investment spending by around 25 percent in the next fiscal year, to between $25 and $28 billion. In 2017 and 2018, the company expects to further slash capital spending to between $20 billion and $24 billion. This is in addition to a 15 percent cut in capital spending over the previous quarter.

Things are bad and about to get worse.

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

Friday, October 30, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Canada's war planes have apparently bombed Iraqi civilians again, the Ashraf community is again attacked, the heavy rains have returned, and much more.

In Iraq, there's been another attack on Iranian dissidents.

UNHCR issued the following statement:

UNHCR statement on today's attack on vicinity of Baghdad International Airport, including Camp Liberty, in Iraq

News Stories, 29 October 2015
UNHCR strongly condemns today's rocket attacks in the vicinity of Baghdad International Airport, which have also hit adjacent Camp Hurriyet (Camp Liberty), reportedly causing injuries to dozens of people of concern and some 20 deaths.
Camp Liberty is home to around 2,200 people of concern to the Office. The authorities have evacuated the injured to Baghdad hospitals. The full extent of the casualties and damage to the camp is still being ascertained.
"This is a most deplorable act, and I am greatly concerned at the harm that has been inflicted on those living at Camp Liberty," said High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres. "Every effort must continue to be made for the injured and to identify and bring to account those responsible."
The residents of Camp Liberty previously lived at Camp Ashraf.
    For more information on this topic, please contact:
  • Adrian Edward in Geneva, on mobile +41 79 557 9120
  • Ariane Rummery in Geneva, on mobile +41 79 200 7617

This attack was on the Ashraf community.   Background:  As of September 2013, Camp Ashraf in Iraq is empty.  All remaining members of the community have been moved to Camp Hurriya (also known as Camp Liberty).  Camp Ashraf housed a group of Iranian dissidents who were  welcomed to Iraq by Saddam Hussein in 1986 and he gave them Camp Ashraf and six other parcels that they could utilize. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq.The US government had the US military lead negotiations with the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US government wanted the residents to disarm and the US promised protections to the point that US actions turned the residents of Camp Ashraf into protected person under the Geneva Conventions. This is key and demands the US defend the Ashraf community in Iraq from attacks.  The Bully Boy Bush administration grasped that -- they were ignorant of every other law on the books but they grasped that one.  As 2008 drew to a close, the Bush administration was given assurances from the Iraqi government that they would protect the residents. Yet Nouri al-Maliki ordered the camp repeatedly attacked after Barack Obama was sworn in as US President. July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out."  Those weren't the last attacks.  They were the last attacks while the residents were labeled as terrorists by the US State Dept.  (September 28, 2012, the designation was changed.)   In spite of this labeling, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."  So the US has an obligation to protect the residents.  3,300 are no longer at Camp Ashraf.  They have moved to Camp Hurriyah for the most part.  A tiny number has received asylum in other countries. Approximately 100 were still at Camp Ashraf when it was attacked.   That was the second attack of 2013.   February 9th of 2013, the Ashraf residents were again attacked, this time the ones who had been relocated to Camp Hurriyah.  Trend News Agency counted 10 dead and over one hundred injured.  Prensa Latina reported, " A rain of self-propelled Katyusha missiles hit a provisional camp of Iraqi opposition Mujahedin-e Khalk, an organization Tehran calls terrorists, causing seven fatalities plus 50 wounded, according to an Iraqi official release."  They were attacked again September 1, 2013 -- two years ago.   Adam Schreck (AP) reported back then that the United Nations was able to confirm the deaths of 52 Ashraf residents.

This is a travesty, the latest attack.

The State Dept did respond with something more than their usual 'we call on both sides' b.s.  They issued the following:

Press Statement
John Kerry
Washington, DC
October 29, 2015
The United States strongly condemns today’s brutal, senseless terrorist attack on Camp Hurriya that killed and injured camp residents. Our condolences go out to the families of the victims, and we hope for the swift recovery of those injured.
We have been in touch with senior Iraqi officials to ensure that the Government of Iraq renders all possible medical and emergency assistance to the victims. We also urge the Government of Iraq to provide additional security for the camp’s residents and to find the perpetrators and hold them accountable for the attack, consistent with its obligations under the December 25, 2011 agreement with the United Nations.
We are consulting with the Government of Iraq to ascertain the full extent of this unprovoked attack.
No matter the circumstances, on this point we remain absolute: the United States remains committed to assisting the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in the relocation of all Camp Hurriya residents to a permanent and safe location outside of Iraq. We call on more countries to assist in responding to this urgent humanitarian situation by welcoming camp residents for relocation and by contributing to the fund established by the United Nations to support their resettlement. The Department, through its Senior Advisor for MEK Resettlement, will remain actively engaged in the international effort to relocate the residents of Camp Hurriya to safe, permanent locations as soon as possible.

The US government needed to make that statement and they need to do a great deal more.  This was addressed in the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing of October 7th (covered in the October 10th snapshot).  We'll note this exchange:

Senator Angus King: Several times you gentlemen used the term "the US made assurances," the term "solemn promise,""guarantee," and Col Martin, you mentioned a card.  What did that card say?  I'd like to know specifically: what assurances were delivered, by whom and when?

Colonel Wesley Martin [Retired]: Yes, sir.  This was the protected persons status under the Geneva Convention.  And I have a copy of it.  If you give me a second, I can find it real quick.

Senator Angus King: Well I'd like to know what is says.

Colonel Wesley Martin:  Okay. 

Senator Angus King: What I'm searching for here is what are the assurances specifically and who delivered them and when.  I think that's a fair question given that seems to be the premise of this discussion.

Colonel Wesley Martin: "This card holder is protected person under the agreement of the Fourth Geneva Convention.  Should the assigned person" uh, it's a little blurry "should an incident occur, we request that the person contact the [US] military police brigade."  And then it goes on the agreement that they made: "You are being offered your release from control and protection in exchange for your promise to comply with certain regulations."  And it clearly states they are protected, they will not be -- they will not be arrested, they will not be harmed.

Senator Angus King: What did they have to do?

Colonel Wesley Martin: And what they had to do, sir, is go ahead and sign an agreement --

Senator Angus King: That's when they were moved from Ashraf to Liberty?

Colonel Wesley Martin: No, sir. That was a whole set of different promises.  If I may, sir, Senator McCain, [holding clipped stack of papers], if I could, I'd like to make this submitted for the record.

Senator Angus King: Well you can make it for the record but I want to know who made assurances -- 

Colonel Wesley Martin:  Yes, sir.

Senator Angus King (Con't): -- and what those assurances were.  And saying they were protected person under the Geneva Convention isn't a promise that the US will take you in.  I just want to understand what the promise is that we're being urged to honor.

Colonel Wesley Martin:  Yes, sir.  I understand.  The first one is they would be protected and they would remain at Camp Ashraf.  That was 2004. That was with the US State Dept in agreement with the United States Dept of Defense and [then-Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld was the person that finally approved it -- but working with the State Dept.  The person that issued those cards, working with the Embassy, was US Brigadier General David Phillips [. . .]

The US government made a promise and it has refused to honor it.

The Ashraf community could be resettled from Camp Liberty to outside Iraq in the blink of an eye.

At one point, John Kerry had tasked his friend with this assignment.

Despite holding the post for over a year, his friend didn't do anything but sit on his ass and collect a check.

Resettling less than 4,000 people does not require a year or even six months.

If the White House had the will, the desire, to resettle the Ashraf community, they would have been re-settled some time ago.

We'll note two Tweets on the topic:

  • US must airlift ALL the Camp Liberty refugees out of Iraq tonight. No more ifs and buts!

  • Struan Stevenson was a Member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014 and is an advocate for the Ashraf community.  Judy Chu is a member of the US House of Representatives and has repeatedly spoken out on behalf of the Ashraf community.

    If more would join their voices, the Iraqi government might keep their word to protect the Ashraf community until they can be resettled outside of Iraq.

    Staying with violence, Wednesday, the US Defense Dept announced the latest bombings in Operation Inherent Failure:

    Airstrikes in Iraq

    Attack, bomber and fighter aircraft conducted 13 airstrikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of the Iraqi government:

    -- Near Huwayjah, two strikes struck two separate ISIL weapons and staging areas.

    -- Near Mosul, one strike destroyed an ISIL artillery piece.

    -- Near Ramadi, two strikes struck a large ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL recoilless rifle, two ISIL rocket rails, eight ISIL boats, two ISIL fighting positions and an ISIL heavy machine gun, suppressed an ISIL heavy machine gun, and denied ISIL access to terrain.

    -- Near Sinjar, three strikes destroyed 33 ISIL fighting positions.

    -- Near Sultan Abdallah, two strikes destroyed an ISIL fighting position and suppressed an ISIL mortar position.

    -- Near Tal Afar, three strikes suppressed two ISIL mortar positions and an ISIL heavy machine gun position.

    On the topic of these 'precision' strikes, CBC reports:

    Canadian fighter planes have now been connected to a second airstrike in Iraq that has been reviewed by the Pentagon for possible civilian casualties, CBC's the fifth estate has learned.

    [. . .]

    The Pentagon review, conducted in December, looked at a joint Canadian-Australian bombing raid on a "suspected weapons factory" in Fallujah, Iraq, on Dec. 21 in which a woman and a child were seen on video emerging from the site after the airstrike.

    The child was picked up by someone on a motorcycle and transported to hospital. The woman lay down on the side of the road, according to an internal Pentagon report obtained by the fifth estate.

    This is the second case of alleged civilian casualties linked to Canadian bombers. The first, on Jan. 21 in Kisik in Northern Iraq, was dismissed by the Canadian military as non-credible.

    Bombs dropped on Iraq are not falling on empty acres.  And these bombs also are not 'smart' and able to distinguish civilians from the Islamic State.

    The bombs are killing people and, yes, people include civilians.

    The suffering never stops for the Iraqi people.

    Today, heavy flooding met with a lack of public services in Iraq to creating flood waters.

    AFP grasps the distinction between a misfortune due to an act of nature and the injustice when people are harmed as a result of a government doing nothing:

    Torrential rain caused chaos across several parts of Iraq on Thursday, with the water causing thigh-high flooding on some Baghdad streets and damaging camps for the displaced.
    The storm that hit Baghdad on Wednesday evening was unusually violent and the first after a long, dry summer.
    The poor condition of infrastructure in Baghdad, the second largest city in the region with an estimated population of more than eight million, resulted in spectacular flooding.

    Knee high flood waters in parts of Baghdad are not a result of nature, not a misfortune.
    They are an injustice.
    Even more so for the displaced living in tent cities.

  • Iraqi Spring MC Tweets these photos from an Anbar refugee camp:

    صور متداولة لمعاناة نازحي محافظة الأنبار التي تزداد مع اقتراب فصل الشتاء.

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    AFP reports, "A three-year-old girl died when she was swept away by the water at a camp for displaced people near Tuz Khurmatu, about 220 km north of Baghdad, officials said."

    Iraq's leaders have had years to address the crumbling infrastructure.  (Crumbling from age, yes, but also from targeted bombings by the west.)

    Ahmed Omar, a refugee at the al Amal camp, told the BBC, "This is not fair.  Parliament, officials, government, we are your people. We are your people, You sold us out."

    Some outlets are saying this is rare -- this flooding -- and something of a surprise.

    Have they ever paid attention?

    We could go over the rainy season and what happens every year if I felt like spoon feeding lazy 'reporters' who can't -- or won't -- do the job they're paid to do.

    But we'll provide one example.  This is from November 19, 2013's "Nouri's Iraq: Flooding and killing:"

    A child died today as a result of them -- a four-year-old boy in Hilla.

    Top photo on this Al Mada page of photos is of the flooding in Baghdad.

    al mada

    Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports there is a current rush to restore the damns in southern Iraq to prevent a repeat of last year's massive flooding.  If Iraq had a real leader -- and not Nouri al-Maliki -- these dams would have been restored in the dry season and there'd be no mad dash, a year later, to fix what should have already been addressed.

    Again, this is not rare, this is the rainy season.  

    This week's reports have forever thug and former prime minister (2006 to 2014) Nouri al-Maliki walking off with $500 billion in stolen funds -- including $250 billion that was aid from foreign countries and intended to be spent on, for example, reconstruction.

    For eight years, Nouri had the chance to improve Iraq's public infrastructure by providing adequate sanitation and sewage.  

    Instead, his son has high priced digs in London and a fleet of sports cars.  

    This despite the fact that the only job the son's held has been the government job Nouri gave him.

    But the al-Malikis live large as a result of all the funds stolen from the Iraqi people.

    Heavy rains are a misfortune.

    The standing water, the tent cities?  

    They're an injustice.

    And the latest cholera epidemic?

    Tie it into Nouri's refusal to do public works projects and deliver potable water to the people.

    Again, an injustice.

    The longer Haider al-Abadi is prime minister (he took the post in the fall of 2014), the more Nouri's failures become his own.

    The Economist offers a look at Haider's 'accomplishments' and it's not pretty.

    We'll note one section:

    He took to Facebook to announce the opening to traffic of the Green Zone, the chunk of central Baghdad the Americans turned into a government enclave in 2003 and which has bunged up the capital ever since. But he only opened a single one-way road, disrupted by so many checkpoints that the old routes are still faster.

    And, check the archives, we called that out -- and the press pretending something important was happening -- in real time.

    The supposed-to-be skeptical western press has instead turned out to be the most gullible of all.

    Click here to watch talk show host Rachel Maddow make an ass out of herself by completely misunderstanding what was actually happening and grasp that she's just one of many.

    Friday, October 30, 2015

    Joni Mitchell

    John Twell of Fact Magazine has a piece on Joni Mitchell which notes:

    Unpicking the work of Bob Dylan is practically an industry in itself, with whole university courses dedicated to it and untold old bores explaining how he exists in the canon of great poets. John Lennon, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen: chuck them into the GoodReads search engine and you’ll find tens of thousands of pages of published work. Joni Mitchell, however, while obviously not exactly written out of history, barely warrants a murmur in comparison. Leonard Cohen, for example, has had some five times as many books written about him.


    And that's why, at Third, we've done music pieces on Stevie Nicks, Tina Turner, Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell, Janet Jackson, Laura Nyro, Diana Ross, etc.

    We could do the usual over farmed terrain but instead we make it a point to highlight women artists.

    Which is the only way this ever changes.

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

    Thursday, October 28, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri al-Maliki moves to oust Haider al-Abadi, the Pentagon continues mulling tasking the US military with additional objectives in Iraq, and much more.

    Alsumaria reports the State of Law coalition is threatening to withdraw confidence in Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

    Former prime minister and forever thug Nouri al-Maliki started State of Law for the 2010 parliamentary elections when he decided he didn't want to run on the Dawa ticket.  Dawa is his political party but, again, his political party wasn't good enough for him in 2010.  He couldn't control Dawa so he created State of Law.

    And now State of Law has given al-Abadi an ultimatum.

    Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) explains:

    Under his [Abadi's] sweeping reforms, also intended to challenge a system blamed for undermining government forces in the battle against Islamic State insurgents, the three positions of vice president and three deputy prime ministers will be scrapped.
    Those offices had become vehicles for patronage for some of the most powerful people in Iraq.
    Some politicians say the measures are unconstitutional and overreach the powers of Abadi, who was emboldened by protesters who backed his reforms.

    "Recent unilateral reform decisions created disagreements with the way Abadi is tackling the reforms issue and pushed around 60 members of the State of Law to send a message to Abadi urging him to include State of law in the discussions," said another MP.

    State of Law states Abadni has 72 hours to respond to the issues they are raising.


    They withdraw their support.

    Which most likely means Abadi would fact a vote of no-confidence in the Parliament.

    Such a move has not been made yet in post-2003 invasion Iraq; however, an effort was launched in the spring of 2011.

    Nouri al-Maliki's failure to implement The Erbil Agreement led Shi'ite cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr, Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi, KRG President Massoud Barzani and others to team up and start the process.

    They started the petition and collected the necessary signatures.

    The next step was for Iraqi President Jalal Talabani to present the petition to Parliament.

    Pressured by the US government, Jalal announced he had to vet the signatures first.

    But he went further.

    MPs were not only asked if they signed it, they were also asked if they would sign it still if they were presented with it right now.

    Jalal claimed that some who had signed answered "no" to the second question so they could not be counted as signatures -- even though they signed.

    He refused to present the petition to Parliament.

    Then he fled the country to Germany with the lie that he needed to leave the country due to a life or death health emergency.

    In reality, he had elective knee surgery.

    Karma would bit Jalal in his fat ass over that lie.

    December 2012,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17th (see the December 18th snapshot) and resulted in Jalal being admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 202012, he was moved to Germany.  He remained there for a year and a half.  When he returned to Iraq finally, he was still in no condition to face the Iraqi people.  Nor has he recovered sufficiently in the time since.

    Again, karma bit him in his fat ass.

    Ali Mamouri (Al-Monitor) offers this recent history on Dawa, Abadi and Nouri:

    Prime Minister Abadi took office after a long political struggle. His predecessor, Nouri al-Maliki, insisted on a third term for himself, but part of the Dawa Party leadership, in addition to other political parties, opposed his candidacy. Maliki had become a burden in the eyes of some Dawa members because most of the other political movements refused to back him, and the party would not be able to form a government without entering into a coalition with other movements.
    Unable to get rid of Maliki on their own, his Dawa opponents resorted to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani to address the crisis surrounding the premiership, asking him to issue a decision to settle the dispute among the Shiite political class. On June 25, 2014, Sistani responded, stating, “I believe a new consensual prime minister acceptable to all parties must be elected immediately — a prime minister who can deal with all the political components of the country to save it from the dangers of terrorism, sectarian war and division.” 
    Sistani’s statement suggested that he opposed Maliki’s nomination as well and wanted the Dawa Party — the largest bloc in the National Alliance, winner of the 2014 parliamentary elections — to nominate a candidate acceptable to the other parties. Thus, Abadi became prime minister through Sistani's indirect support. After Abadi took office, Sistani received him in Najaf on Oct. 20. The ayatollah had refrained for three years from receiving Maliki in protest of his mismanagement of Iraqi governance.
    The Dawa Party is at the moment divided into two parts. Abadi’s bloc wants to preserve close relations with the United States, keep some distance between Baghdad and Tehran, avoid hostile relations with Saudi Arabia and bring about national reconciliation, including good relations with the Kurds and Sunnis. Maliki’s bloc, however, has explicitly aligned itself with Iran, is hostile toward Saudi Arabia and the United States to the extent of suggesting Abadi approach Russia and is unwaveringly pro-Shiite, including backing for Shiite militias. On Oct. 27, the Maliki bloc withdrew its support from Abadi following the prime minister's apointment of Imad al-Khersan as secretary-general of the Cabinet on Oct. 20. Khersan is an Iraqi American who worked with the US occupation administrator Paul Bremer as an American official after 2003.
    The animosity between Abadi and Maliki has become conspicuous. In March, Abadi accused Maliki of having been reckless with the blood of the Iraqi people, a reference to the heavy loss of life inflicted by the Islamic State and other extremists during Maliki’s tenure. More recently, on Oct. 3, Abadi supposedly referred to Maliki as the “leader of necessity” who during elections squandered billions of dollars of Iraqi funds, dispensing the nation's wealth in the hope of attracting votes. Iraqis had also used the same term to describe Hussein. After several warnings from Maliki, Abadi's office issued a clarification Oct. 7 stating that “commander of necessity” was a reference to Saddam, not Maliki. Maliki’s office preferred to interpret the statement as an apology rather than a clarification.

    The threat of a no confidence vote comes as Abadi moves forward with another unpopular move.  Zaid Sabah and Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) note,  "Iraq is planning unprecedented salary cuts for senior civil servants, as a more than year-long war against Islamic State and the plunge in oil prices deepen the nation's financial crisis."

    Meanwhile, Jim Michaels (USA Today) reports:

    The Pentagon is considering plans that would place U.S. advisers closer to ground combat in Iraq and Syria in a move that could amount to a major escalation in its war against the Islamic State, a senior defense official told USA TODAY.
    [. . .]
    The options under consideration include placing U.S. advisers alongside local combat units in Iraq and embedding a small number of U.S. advisers with Syrian forces fighting the Islamic State, the official said.

    This consideration was obvious in Tuesday's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing covered in Wednesday's Iraq snapshot where we noted:

    Certainly, the press reports on Tuesday's hearing haven't emphasized this reality.
    But they've told you that the war in Iraq will increase in scope and size.
    And while I don't doubt that will be the outcome, that's really not what was being said on Tuesday.
    It is fair to say that Dunford and Carter will be recommending increased US troop participation in Iraq and Syria to Barack.
    That's all that it's fair to say.
    Carter's not the best speaker under ideal circumstances.
    Badgered by Senator Lindsey Graham (and he was badgered -- more so than by Chair John McCain), Carter tends to struggle for words.
    He stated things in the present and as though they were happening (again, he's not the best speaker).  But he also stated, in calm moments, that the president had asked for recommendations and was open to hearing them.
    That Carter and Dunford want to increase participation of US troops in Iraq is not in doubt by the testimony.  But some reports are taking their statements and portraying this as the new policy.
    Barack has not made any decision yet.
    If he caught any of the hearings (or just a recap from a staffer), he knows where Carter and Dunford stand (as should the whole world).  But per the testimonies offered by both Carter and Dunsford, they have yet to make formal recommendations to Barack.

    Last Thursday saw the announcement that US Master Sgt Joshua Wheeler had died from combat injuries.

    This announcement was followed by multiple denials from the White House that US troops were in combat in Iraq.  In Tuesday's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joe Dunford spoke of the risks and, yes, combat US forces were already in in Iraq.

    Missy Ryan (Washington Post) reports another person has broken with the official talking points:

    But on Wednesday, Col. Steve Warren, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, described the mission in blunt terms. “We’re in combat,” he said, speaking via video feed to reporters at the Pentagon. “That’s why we all carry guns.  That’s why we all get combat patches when we leave here. That’s why we all receive imminent danger pay. So, of course it’s combat.”

    Finally, on the topic of violence, the US Defense Dept announced:

    Airstrikes in Iraq

    Attack, bomber and fighter aircraft conducted 14 airstrikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of the Iraqi government:

    -- Near Mosul, two strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed two ISIL fighting positions and an ISIL heavy machine gun.

    -- Near Ramadi, two strikes struck a large ISIL tactical unit and destroyed four ISIL fighting positions and two ISIL light machine guns.

    -- Near Samarra, one strike destroyed four ISIL fighting positions.

    -- Near Sinjar, four strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units, destroyed 11 ISIL fighting positions and suppressed an ISIL mortar position.

    -- Near Sultan Abdallah, one strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL fighting position.

    -- Near Tal Afar, four strikes destroyed eight ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL weapons storage area, an ISIL logistical facility and an ISIL staging area.

    caroline alexander
    bloomberg news

    Wednesday, October 28, 2015

    Diabetes in Trina's Kitchen (C.I.)

    C.I. filling in for Trina.

    I noted at The Common Ills recently that I had Type II Diabetes.

    That resulted in a lot of e-mails.

    I've been meaning to do an entry on what was being asked and commented on but haven't had time so when Trina asked me to fill in (right now, she's finishing up a Halloween costume for her daughter), this seemed like the perfect time.

    I don't know anything.  I'm not an expert.

    At the end of August, I was informed I had diabetes.

    Most common question is how much do I weigh?

    Which goes with Rich's e-mail where he noted that people think he must have been overweight to end up with diabetes.

    I'm not overweight.  I'm probably underweight.

    Why did I end up with it?

    Probably a stressful schedule that I've done way too long.

    Apparently, also what I ate.

    When I did eat.

    I really don't eat meat.

    Call it a hippie diet if you want.

    I've eaten brown rice for years. 

    And lots of it.

    The way some people love mac & cheese is how I am about brown rice.

    About one cup is about all I can have at a meal now and that's, I think, if I'm just eating brown rice (one cup is 46g of carbs).

    I was never an Atkins person and now it's as though that's what I have to eat.

    I have to watch the carbs, count the carbs, blah, blah, blah

    I was asked about the spiking.

    I am off the charts.

    Or was.

    I haven't checked it in a week and I'm sure I'd here a lecture on it.


    I'm taking the pills and I'm counting the carbs, it's going to take a bit.

    And I'm just not up to the depression over doing the blood (prick the finger with the needle on the machine) and finding out that I'm still too high to measure.

    (For the machine to register.)

    Some e-mailed about metformin -- or as I called it, "Matt's foreskin."

    I was on that in September.

    It made me vomit non-stop.

    After the first week, I was told to give it two more weeks and it would get better.

    It did not.

    Finally, in October I was switched to Januvia.  I have had no problems with that.

    Knock wood.

    Did I have any signs?

    I was dizzy a lot in the last months. 

    I also was thirsty constantly and drinking gallons of water a day. 

    The pcp knew long before I did.

    I'm on the road and go home on the weekends. 

    I don't have time for everything.

    When I learned my doctor was attempting to contact me, I asked if it was my oncologist?

    Due to the c-scare about a decade ago, the oncologist is someone I would call immediately.

    It was the PCP so I wasn't that concerned.

    So I didn't know for several months.

    And since August 30th, all I know is already shared above.

    LaKendra asked if it ran in the family?

    I believe I'm the first in my immediate family.

    A few asked what's the hardest thing right now?

    I'm a chocoholic.  So that's going to be rough.

    I don't know. 

    Maybe the eating itself?

    There are days when I just can't eat, food just turns me off.  And that's now out.

    I don't know.

    I really am in the midst of formulating what I'm doing, so I just don't know.

    I am not powerless and for me the notion that someone (a dietician) is going to dictate to me what I'm going to do is ridiculous.

    It's not happening.

    That's not me saying I'm ignoring the carbs.

    I'll watch them but I listened -- in fear -- at the first meeting and I got a lot of lies.

    Or a lot of stupidity -- and, yes, I've told the educator that since.

    Special K is something I can always eat.

    It doesn't turn my stomach.

    I was told by the 'educator' that cold cereal was bad but if I ate it, I should eat Kashi or whatever that junk that tasted like crap was. 

    You can actually eat more Special K than that Kashi nonsense.

    It's lower in carbs.

    I think a lot of 'educators' need to be educated.

    If that sounds harsh, the same woman was insisting I eat sea food four times a week.

    Uh, I live in the Bay Area.  We have mercury concerns.

    Yes, I still eat sea food but like most people I've cut back on it.

    I'm not a chicken person or a beef or pork person.

    That was the 'educator's big suggestion.

    Eat beef ("lean cuts") regularly because it's so low in carbs.

    I'm really offended that a trained person -- educated in her field -- offers 'answers' which include meat at every meal.

    I wasn't a vegetarian (I probably had sea food three times a month) but I really didn't eat meat.  I was grains and vegetable based and I can't believe that I'm the first person with that sort of diet to learn they have diabetes.

    I should probably drop the 'educator' but I hate liars. 

    Always have hated teachers or professors who lie.

    And my 'educator' flat out doesn't know what she's talking about more often than not.

    So after I'm done with that ranting and correcting, I'll probably ignore her (a friend's recommended three people).

    What I hate about 'educators' who lie is they rob you of your own sense of power.

    I felt helpless and depressed after the first meeting with the 'educator' (I've only done one follow up and that was via phone because I'm speaking all over the country).

    It was only when I started finding this lie or that lie that I'd been told that I started to rally.

    I don't know if any of that helps anyone but I think it covers all the questions raised in e-mails.  And thank you to everyone who shared their own stories because that was helpful -- especially learning I'm far from the only one who's had an 'educator' whose advice was repeatedly wrong.

    Or mayb

    Here's today's "Iraq snapshot:"

    Wednesday, October 28, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the Defense Dept wants to expand the war in Iraq, what did Haider al-Abadi tell Russia, and much more.

    Senator Jack Reed observed Tuesday morning, "However, taken as a whole the ISF [Iraqi Security Forces] have not shown a will to make necessary advances  in the operation to take Ramadi for example. And the political leaders in Baghdad have not made the progress needed in the broader agenda of improving the inclusiveness of the Iraqi government and addressing the long standing grievances of Kurds, Sunnis, moderate Shias and minorities."

    The political aspect?

    June 19, 2014, US President Barack Obama publicly insisted that the only answer to Iraq's various crises was a political solution.

    Despite that public proclamation, when he implemented his plan or 'plan' for Iraq in August 2014, there was no focus on a political solution.

    No focus then or since -- not in the fifteen months and counting of the plan or 'plan' being implemented.

    Where is the political solution?

    As Senator Reed noted, "the political leaders in Baghdad have not made the progress needed in the broader agenda of improving the inclusiveness of the Iraqi government and addressing the long standing grievances of Kurds, Sunnis, moderate Shias and minorities."

    Barack was correct when he declared the need for a political solution.

    He's wrong to have ignored it ever since.

    Journalist Jill Carroll weighs in at Foreign Policy:

    Until the political grievances of average Sunnis are addressed, we will simply be adjusting tactics to manage a conflict instead of developing a strategy to stop it.
    So what were Sunnis so aggrieved about from 2011-2013 that it could result in the horrific wars of today?
    Sunnis in Iraq fear their Shiite-majority government and, worse, the Shiite militias controlled by Iran and the Iraqi police. In Syria, average people, mainly Sunnis, wanted to throw off the yoke of an oppressive regime with a history of mass murder of Sunnis and favoring citizens that are adherents to an offshoot of Shia Islam. In short, Sunnis wanted a government and security forces that treated them fairly and humanely.
    But Syrian and Iraqi government crackdowns in 2011, 2012, and 2013 in response to Sunni protests in Iraq and mass protests in Syria gave radicals a toehold among average Sunnis who turned to them for protection and a means to forcefully air their grievances. That toehold, of course, has grown wildly out of control.

    The only real solution to the war and instability in Syria and Iraq will be a political one that resolves those Sunni grievances. 

    These issues are not being addressed by Barack's plan or 'plan.'

    "I think my question would be what is our end game?" Senator Joe Manchin asked before offering what may be the biggest understatement of Tuesday, "And the end game would be we've been there bogged down for some time."

    Manchin and Reed were speaking at Tuesday's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.  Reed is the Ranking Member, John McCain is the Committee Chair.  Appearing before the Committee were US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Joe Dunford.

    If Manchin offered the biggest understatement, the biggest overstatement?

    Secretary Ash Carter:  I-I-I-I'll take that, Senator.  For us, the paramount objective is the defeat of ISIL.  That will require --

    Senator Joe Manchin:  That's our number one priority right now in Syria?

    Secretary Ash Carter: -- because they're trying to attack American.

    Senator Joe Manchin:  I got you.

    Secretary Ash Carter:  So we've got to take that very seriously.

    American what?


    What are they trying to attack, Ash Carter?

    Apparently ISIL, ISIS, the Islamic State, whatever you call them are this huge threat to the United States.

    Or that's how Carter would like to portray it.

    Let's leave that fear fantasy alone and move back to reality.

    Senator Jim Inhofe: I appreciate the fact that both the Chairman and you, Secretary Carter, mentioned by name, Josh Wheeler.  Josh Wheeler is from Rowland, Oklahoma.  He is one who certainly -- He was a hero long before all of this happened and by his actions he saved 70 lives of hostages and fellow members in the Coalition Task Force. So I appreciate very much your talking about him. Since you were here before, Secretary Carter, in July, ISIL still controls much of the northern, western Iraq despite more than a year of US air strikes.  And the loss of Ramadi?  Significant setback.  [. . .] What is the current status of Falluja?

    Gen Joe Dunford:  Falluja right now is being held by insurgents and is one of the areas that's been identified for future operations by Iraqi Security Forces. 

    Senator Jim Inhofe:  Well that's -- 

    Chair John McCain laughs.

    Chair John McCain:  That's comforting to know it's been identified.

    As Iraqi Spring MC noted Tuesday, that US House Rep Jim McGovern was against the Iraq War from before it started.  Monday, his office released the following:

    Oct 26, 2015
    Press Release

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim McGovern (MA-02), a senior House Democrat and leading voice in the push for stronger Congressional oversight of U.S. military engagement abroad, released the following statement on news today that the Pentagon is considering greater U.S. military involvement in Iraq as part of the war against ISIS.
    “Today’s report that the Pentagon is considering embedding some U.S. troops with Iraqi forces as part of the war against ISIS – bringing American forces to the front lines – is extremely concerning. We have been repeatedly reassured that the U.S. would not have a combat role in the war against ISIS, but this suggests just the opposite.
    “This potential escalation is just the latest evidence that it is long past time for Congress to act. Our brave men and women in uniform are doing their duty. It’s time for members of Congress to do our duty by voting on an Authorization for the Use of Military Force that clearly defines the U.S. military campaign against ISIS before it becomes another endless war.”

    We noted those reports in Monday's snapshot.

    Tuesday's reports of the hearing are curious.

    Let's note this exchange.

    Senator Tim Kaine:  Is it fair to assume -- we pray that this is not the case -- that the death of Master Sgt Josh Wheeler may not be the last death of an American service member to defeat ISIL?

    Secretary Ash Carter: I think we need to be realistic.  We are -- Our people will be in positions -- they are right now, every day -- there are people flying right now, there are people training and advising forces there and they are in harms way, there's no doubt about it.

    Senator Tim Kaine:  And we've lost service personnel before Master Sgt Wheeler, not necessarily in direct combat or kinetic activities but, as you say, they were in positions of danger because of their support for this mission against ISIL?

    Secretary Ash Carter:  Yes. Make no mistake, they're in harms way in this fight against ISIL, no doubt about it.

    Senator In your professional judgment, your notion that the primary objective is the defeat of ISIL, how long will that take?

    Secretary Ash Carter:  It needs to be -- I can't tell you.

    No, he can't tell you.

    And that should outrage the American people.

    It should outrage the world.

    There's a mission -- allegedly -- and there's no end date.

    There's also no real end envisioned.

    You need to grasp that.

    Carter was asked in the hearing if he could see down the line the United States going into other countries -- beyond Iraq, Syria and Libya -- to fight the Islamic State and he hastily agreed that was absolutely within the realm of possibilities.

    Barack, like Bully Boy Bush before him, has begun a never ending campaign of war.

    And he's done so with very little comment.

    Certainly, the press reports on Tuesday's hearing haven't emphasized this reality.

    But they've told you that the war in Iraq will increase in scope and size.

    And while I don't doubt that will be the outcome, that's really not what was being said on Tuesday.

    It is fair to say that Dunford and Carter will be recommending increased US troop participation in Iraq and Syria to Barack.

    That's all that it's fair to say.

    Carter's not the best speaker under ideal circumstances.

    Badgered by Senator Lindsey Graham (and he was badgered -- more so than by Chair John McCain), Carter tends to struggle for words.

    He stated things in the present and as though they were happening (again, he's not the best speaker).  But he also stated, in calm moments, that the president had asked for recommendations and was open to hearing them.

    That Carter and Dunford want to increase participation of US troops in Iraq is not in doubt by the testimony.  But some reports are taking their statements and portraying this as the new policy.

    Barack has not made any decision yet.

    If he caught any of the hearings (or just a recap from a staffer), he knows where Carter and Dunford stand (as should the whole world).  But per the testimonies offered by both Carter and Dunsford, they have yet to make formal recommendations to Barack.

    Again, I have no doubt that this is where it's headed, no doubt that Barack will go along with the suggestions but, to be clear, these recommendations have not been formally made to him yet.

    Let's go back to the exchange noted above for one more aspect.

    Senator Tim Kaine:  Is it fair to assume -- we pray that this is not the case -- that the death of Master Sgt Josh Wheeler may not be the last death of an American service member to defeat ISIL?

    Secretary Ash Carter: I think we need to be realistic.  We are -- Our people will be in positions -- they are right now, every day -- there are people flying right now, there are people training and advising forces there and they are in harms way, there's no doubt about it.

    Senator Tim Kaine:  And we've lost service personnel before Master Sgt Wheeler, not necessarily in direct combat or kinetic activities but, as you say, they were in positions of danger because of their support for this mission against ISIL?

    Secretary Ash Carter:  Yes. Make no mistake, they're in harms way in this fight against ISIL, no doubt about it.

    August 2nd, Leo Shane III (Military Times) reported, "About 3,500 U.S. troops are stationed in Iraq, and seven have lost their lives in connection to the new military operations there."

    Recent days have seen reports that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has invited Russia to take part in air strikes.  James Poulos (The Week) wrote Monday:

    How bad is it in Iraq today? Here's one way to answer the question: The government in Baghdad just allowed Russia to start bombing targets on Iraq's home soil.
    The territory in question, of course, now belongs to the Islamic State. And the decision, reports by the International Business Times, "comes just days after a U.S. diplomatic envoy sought assurances from the Baghdad government that it would not allow Russian jets to conduct operations inside Iraq."

    That makes this a big embarrassment for America. And it's hardly the only one.

    This issue was raised by Senator Tom Cotton and the response is as follows.

    Secretary Ash Carter:  We have received -- and I believe Gen Dunford received just last week -- from Prime Minister Abadi in no uncertain terms the statement that he will not work with the Russians.  He will not allow them to uh-uh-uh be partners with Iraq in that regard that we are the preferred partners of Iraq.  We've been insistent on that point.  And-and Prime Minister Abadi has repeated those pledges to us.  I only say that because I-we feel emphatic about receiving those pledges and, uh, intend to have them implemented by Prime Minister Abadi.  But he has not been ambiguous about that.  And I believe the most recent conversation was held by Gen Dunford.  And perhaps you [Dunford] would like to say something about that?  It's a serious issue. 

    Gen Joe Dunford: No, Senator, I raised it both with the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister and, again, tried to explain to them that our continued support really would be problematic were they to invite the Russians in to conduct strikes.  I was assured that they had not extended that invitation and they did not intend to extend an invitation to do that.

    From the current prime minister (Abadi) to the former (Nouri al-Maliki), Daily Sabah reports:

    The Iraqi Commission of Integrity (CoI) spokesman Adil Nouri has claimed that half of the government's oil income and funds for reconstruction were 'stolen' and 'vanished' from Iraq during the 8-year period of office of former President Nouri Maliki.

    Speaking at the Iraqi Parliament, Nouri said that around 500 billion dollars from government coffers has "disappeared" and is perhaps the greatest corruption in history.

    Underlining that Iraq's oil income between 2006 and 2014 alone was only $ 822 billion, he said that the Maliki government had also received more than $250 billion in funds from many countries, namely the U.S., used to pay the salaries and pensions of Iraqi government workers and for reconstruction projects.

    The corruption of Nouri al-Maliki's reign was well known at the time -- and we noted it here repeatedly.  Now that he's out of power (for now), a little honesty can finally trickle out.
    The IMF [International Money Fund] is warning that Iraq can be 
    Last week, the Iraq Times reported Nouri was eager to return to Parliament.  Having been stripped of his post as one of Iraq's three vice presidents, the paper reported Nouri was frantic to avoid any criminal charges and was eager to return to Parliament to have immunity.
    Some may find that especially ironic in light of Nouri's actions at the end of 2011 and through the end of his second term as prime minister (August 2014).

    As the bulk of US forces left Iraq in December 2011, Nouri turned on the Sunni politicians.

    He went after Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi.

    al-Hashemi was in the KRG at the time.

    Nouri attempted to force the KRG to hand him over.

    Though Jalal Talabani (then president of Iraq) instantly crumbled, KRG President Massoud Barzani stood firm.

    Nouri would then try Tareq en absentia and in a kangaroo court.  Witnesses were tortured -- potential witnesses were tortured to the point that they died.

    Nouri's kangaroo court would hand down several death sentences for Tareq.

    This despite the fact that Parliament refused to strip Tareq al-Hashemi of his post as Vice President.

    This despite the immunity from prosecution the Iraqi Constitution guaranteed Tareq for the duration of his term as Vice President.

    And yet now Nouri, stripped of his title of Vice President, is in a panic about his own potential immunity (or lack of it).

    Nouri's legacy to Iraq is not a positive one.

    There's the corruption, the theft, yes.

    There's also the collapse and the brink of disaster.

    In Tuesday's hearing, Nouri al-Maliki's name came up frequently.  One example, Secretary Ash Carter,  "The legacy of Prime Minister Maliki was to make the armed forces of Iraq more sectarian to the detriment of the Sunnis -- that's one of the things that led to ISIL."

    Turning to some of Tuesday's violence, Alsumaria reports a Yusufiyah roadside bombing killed 1 employee of the Ministry of Education, a Hamamiyat roadside bombing killed 1 person and left seven more injured, 1 blood bank manager was discovered murdered in his Baghdad home, a Thar Thar tanker bombing claimed the life of 1 federal police member and left eleven more people injured, and a roadside bombing outside Baquba left 2 militia members dead and a third injured.  Reuters adds "two police officers at Camp Speicher, a former U.S. base outside the Sunni city of Tikrit, were wounded in a mortar attack while new recruits were doing training exercises, the military source said."

    In addition, the US Defense Dept announced:

    Airstrikes in Iraq
    Attack, bomber and fighter aircraft conducted 12 airstrikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of the government of Iraq:

    -- Near Kisik, three strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed three ISIL fighting positions and suppressed two ISIL machine gun positions.

    -- Near Ramadi, three strikes struck a large ISIL tactical unit and destroyed eight ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL vehicle bomb, four ISIL heavy machine guns and an ISIL artillery piece and also suppressed an ISIL cannon and denied ISIL access to terrain.

    -- Near Sinjar, six strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed nine ISIL fighting positions, three ISIL assembly areas and an ISIL checkpoint and suppressed an ISIL machine gun position.

    Tuesday, the United Nations noted:

    The World Health Organization (WHO) announced today that it would start vaccine treatments for cholera beginning this weekend to prevent further outbreaks in Iraq, where the disease has now been confirmed in 15 out of 18 governorates, while the agency also reported a suspected case was also found in northern Syria.
    WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier told the regular press briefing in Geneva, Switzerland, that the latest laboratory tests had confirmed 1,942 cases and two deaths in 15 out of 18 governorates in Iraq.
    “On 31 October, WHO will begin, in conjunction with the Ministry of Health, the oral cholera vaccine treatment, and will use 510,000 of the global stock pile to ensure that 255,000 internally displaced persons and refugees in the affected areas will receive two doses,” the spokesperson said.
    Mr. Lindmeier said “while this number of vaccines was not enough to vaccinate everyone, it should, however, be a strategic vaccination to block the path of the disease and prevent further outbreaks.”
    In addition to the vaccine campaign, diarrhoeal disease kits and 600,000 chlorine tablets had been distributed in the infected areas, 48 national health staff had been trained in cholera and laboratory procedures, and a team of international experts have been deployed to assist the Iraqi’s Ministry of Health, he said.