Sunday, February 28, 2016

Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook

So from time to time, I get e-mails about cookbooks -- usually asking me to recommend one.

I'll recommend Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook.

It's in a binder which makes for easy turning and easy display when you need to leave it open while cooking so you can easily refer to it.

It's divided up into different sections (including desserts).

I'm going to note a salad recipe.  I'll be using this a lot in the spring and summer.  (And spring will soon be here, thank goodness.)

Watermelon-Peach Salad with Ricotta Salata
serves 4

1 (2-pound) piece seedless watermelon, rind removed and cut into 3/4-inch dice
2 large peaches, pitted and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
2 mint (Persian) cucumbers, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coarsely crumbled ricotta salata or feta chees
1 scallion (white and light green parts only), cut into very thin strips

Toss together all ingredients except ricotta salata and scallion in serving bowl; let stand 10 minutes.  Sprinkle with cheese and scallion.

If you get the book, you'll see the recipes have calories figured out and carbs and other calculations.

I think the recipes are simple and straightforward.

You're not going to struggle with this cookbook or start cooking only to discover you need some piece of kitchen equipment you don't already have.

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

Saturday, February 27, 2016.  Chaos and violence continue, Moqtada backs Haider, Ammar al-Hakim warns of a poison in the Iraqi government, Moqtada wants a former prime minister prosecuted, Hillary's corruption runs deep, and much more.

Starting in the US where Cranky Clinton wants to be president.  However, the former First Lady, former US senator, former Secretary of State and forever War Hawk, doesn't want to disclose her private speeches to Wall Street.

She and her husband Bill Clinton have taken millions from Wall Street.  They are happy to sing and dance before them and say whatever.  They just don't want the American people to know what was said.

Why does it matter?

John Podesta is the Chair of the 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.

Huge thanks to all the staff, volunteers, and friends who brought it home.

On to Super Tuesday!

He is also -- with his brother -- the founder of The Podesta Group.

A lobbying group.

And his closeness to Hillary benefits him -- if not the people of the United States.

The Podesta Group has [PDF format warning] disclosed their new contact to represent the government of Iraq:

Iraq shall pay the Provider an amount of nine hundred sixty thousand US dollars (US $960,000) for services rendered, plus expenses.  Quarterly installments of two hundred forty thousand US dollars (US $240,000) shall bee paid by check in advance of each three-month period, including the beginning of the term of this Agreement.  Should the Provider be required to travel, Iraq will reimburse Provider at cost for travel expenses, including but not limited to airline tickets, airport transfers, accommodations, and meals.  Public relations expenses such as subscription services, events, digital and media monitoring, or advertising will also be passed through at cost.
Expenses for each three-month period shall be invoiced and paid by check with the fees due for the following period.  Total expenses billed during the period of this contract shall not exceed forty thousand US dollars (US $40,000).

What's that money buying?

The contract innocently puts it:

The objectives of this contract are to promote better understanding within the United States of the priorities and concerns of the Government of Iraq and to further the purposes of the Strategic Framework Agreement between the United States and Iraq, facilitate dialogue between Iraq and the U.S. Congress and executive branch, and make available to the Government of Iraq the services identified below. 

So Podesta's family gets richer and he gets Hillary's ear and what do the Iraqi people get?

A non-responsive government which tolerates and participates in abuses well documented by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

A functioning media would be raising this issue, asking Hillary at debates, "How will you be protecting the people of Iraq when the Podestas rake in close to a million for representing the government of Iraq?"

They'd be asking about her own vision of a free Iraq.  They'd be asking about this Tweet:

  • But we don't have a functioning media.

    For example, Moqtada al-Sadr.

    The cleric and movement leader in Iraq is in the news.

    And the usual liars of the western press are out in full force.

    Moqtada filled Tahrir Square.

    This is an accomplishment?

    There was no police harassment.

    Under police harassment, young Sunnis filled Tahrir Square every Friday for over a year.

    They were beaten, they were arrested and they still filled the square in downtown Baghdad.

    Friday, Moqtada couldn't even turn out a crowd like he had in March of 2014.

    Anyone remember that?

    That's Alsumaria.

    That's Al Mada.

    By contrast, filling Tahrir Square on Friday looks rather tiny.

    Friday, Moqtada held a rally, not a protest.

    It was a rally for the calls of the current prime minister Haider al-Abadi.

    Yes, it was announced that no one spoke for the Sadr movement in the current government.

    A minor note of discordance.

    Otherwise, Moqtada was singing from Haider al-Abadi's hymnal.


    Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi stressed that the government needs to a reformist and harmonious team at the level of application and implementation of reforms and public trends and vision of the government," stressing "the importance of cooperation in order to reduce the number of MPs and members of the provincial councils."

    The office said in a statement that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi held a meeting with the Chairman and members of the economic and investment committee in Parliament, where he stressed that "economic reform needs to action, and we started working out to move the country to the right path."

    He noted that "the government needs to harmonious reformist team at the level of application and implementation of the reforms and the general trends and vision of the government."

    What are they talking about?

    His appearance before Parliament -- the one the Saturday, February 20th snapshot noted Haider addressed Parliament and we mainly focused on the big news that he told Parliament the Shi'ite militias would be taking part in the liberation of Mosul.  You can also see this February 22nd entry which includes Haider's Tweet about that:

  • PM Al-Abadi addressed Parliament to make the case for a ministerial reshuffle and outline his economic reform plan

  • We offered an analysis Friday morning of what was actually going on.

    A few e-mails objected to this section specifically:

    Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is no fool.
    He's stopped making calls for change in this government because it's just not happening.
    And he actually made real demands -- as opposed to being a cheerleader for Haider, the way Moqtada is.
    al-Sistani walked away from it because (a) he knows it's not happening and (b) he knows he's going to lose followers over it because he'll look like a tool of an abusive government.
    It's a decision Moqtada should have made.
    Why didn't he?
    Nouri al-Maliki.
    The two were never close.
    Moqtada played a key role in rallying support to oust Nouri.
    Nouri wants back in.
    And may get back in.
    Because Haider's doing such a lousy job.
    Many Shi'ite politicians who did not care for Nouri are beginning to say Nouri's needed.
    (Nouri is a thug who took the country to the brink.  I am not saying he needs to return.  I'm talking about what the perceptions are in Iraq.)
    Moqtada knows he and Nouri have crossed a line and that if, Nouri returned to power right now, eliminating Moqtada would be one of Nouri's strongest goals.
    Or Moqtada thinks that.
    (I think if Nouri returned to power, he'd be willing to form an alliance with Moqtada.  At great cost to Moqtada, but he'd be willing to form one.)
    So to protect himself, he's making desperate measures to prop up Haider.

    One e-mailer especially felt the need to insist, "Sadr doesn't even think about Maliki anymore.  You don't know what you're talking about."

    Moqtada doesn't sweat Nouri?

    In what world?

    Friday evening, NINA reported:

    On the possibility of Sadr's call to prosecute al-Maliki and his former government, [Sheikh Salah] al-Obeidi said "it is not necessarily to prosecute a person as much as al-Maliki rather than prosecute the corrupt in the previous government, whether close to al-Maliki or other even if they are from the Ahrar bloc." 

    Moqtada's "call to prosecute al-Maliki"?

    Yes, boys and girls, Moqtada's sweating him.

    Moqtada's rally was to back Haider.  Wael Grace (AL MADA) reports that there are elements in the National Alliance (largest Shi'ite bloc) that are questioning the reforms Haider's called for an Moqtada's backing.

    Murad Makhmudov, Takeshi Hasegawa and Lee Jay Walker (MODERN TOKYO TIMES) report:

    Therefore, al-Sadr spoke openly to the alienated Shia underclass in Baghdad and other people from the same faith from various walks of life. He attacked the reality of enormous political corruption and how people feel abandoned and alienated. However, al-Sadr is backing the reform minded Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi who is promising to alter the current inept status quo of political corruption and social alienation. In saying this, it could well be that al-Abadi is the final straw for al-Sadr because if his promise of genuine reforms fail, then maybe it is time for another option. Until then, al-Sadr is open to providing much needed support to al-Abadi given the fractious nature of politics in Iraq.

    Here's THE NEW YORK TIMES' Tim Arango:

    In seizing a chance on Friday to return to the political spotlight, he positioned himself as an Iraqi nationalist in the face of Iran’s growing role and as an ally to a weak Prime Minister. “Today I am among you to say to you, frankly and bravely, that the government has left its people struggling against death, fear, hunger, unemployment, occupation, a struggling economy, a security crisis, bad services and a big political crisis,” al-Sadr told the crowd. Above all, it was a reminder of al-Sadr’s complexity, and the confused state of internal Shia politics, that even as he was seeking to harness public rage against the political elites, he had actually called the street rally to support the reform policies of the country’s struggling Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi. Al-Abadi’s proposal to tackle corruption and install technocrats in the country’s ministries has stalled over the opposition of powerful militia leaders and some pro-Iran politicians. For his part, al-Sadr has offered to have his ministers resign in protest to lend al-Abadi’s agenda some steam. Despite that, and the support of the most senior Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, it remains unclear whether al-Abadi’s agenda will be able to win the help of any other political blocs. 

    Need more proof of how tight Haider and Moqtada are?

    This week Haider Tweeted about meeting with Moqtada and offered a link to a photo of the two of them.

  • رئيس مجلس الوزراء الدكتور حيدر العبادي اثناء لقائه زعيم التيار الصدري السيد مقتدى الصدر في العتبة الكاظمية المقدسة.

  • Click the Facebook link and be taken to the below:

    رئيس مجلس الوزراء الدكتور حيدر العبادي اثناء لقائه زعيم التيار الصدري السيد مقتدى الصدر في العتبة الكاظمية المقدسة.

    Hou Qiang (XINHUA) reports a new wrinkle in the Iraqi government's relations with neighbors:

    On Friday, UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah Bin Zaid said in a press conference in Moscow that there must be no differentiation between the IS group and those Iranian-backed Shiite militias, including Hashd Shaabi paramilitary groups.
    The Iraqi Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it summoned UAE Ambassador Abdulla Ibrahim al-Shihi to hand him over an official letter of protest at the ill intended remarks of the UAE foreign minister over the Hashd Shaabi (Shiite militias)."

    NINA notes Haider's office expressed outrage over the statements by the UAE.  Meanwhile ALL IRAQ NEWS notes that the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, Ammar al-Hakin, has declared that there's a state within the government of Iraq committed to sabotaging the work of the government.

    With all this ongoing suffering, the US government continued bombing Iraq.  Today, the US Defense Dept boasted/claimed/insisted:

    Strikes in Iraq
    Attack, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 14 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:

    -- Near Baghdadi, two strikes destroyed an ISIL front end loader and an ISIL vehicle bomb.

    -- Near Fallujah, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL fighting position.

    -- Near Kirkuk, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit.

    -- Near Kisik, a strike suppressed an ISIL mortar position.

    -- Near Mosul, seven strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed two ISIL assembly areas, five ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL vehicle bomb facility, an ISIL weapons storage facility and suppressed an ISIL mortar position and two ISIL rocket fire positions.

    -- Near Qayyarah, a strike produced inconclusive results.

    -- Near Ramadi, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit.

    Task force officials define a strike as one or more kinetic events that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single, sometimes cumulative, effect. Therefore, officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIL vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against buildings, vehicles and weapon systems in a compound, for example, having the cumulative effect of making those targets harder or impossible for ISIL to use. Accordingly, officials said, they do not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target.

    Saturday, February 27, 2016

    On diabetes (C.I.)

    C.I. filling in for Trina.

    Friday morning, I wrote:

    FYI,  a friend went to the doctor yesterday thinking she was going to get something to take for what she assumed was a very nasty cold. Instead, she learned she had Stage II kidney failure.  I had planned to do a snapshot yesterday but that was before that.  Instead, I flew out to her and tried to be a good friend.  My apologies for no content last night.  That's also why I didn't take part in the gina & krista round-robin roundtable or have any content for this weeks edition.  Again, my apologies.  (And sorry for everyone who picked up the slack on the round-robin, I've heard that was a near all night thing.)

    Trina and others got stuck helping out on the round-robin and I said I'd fill in for anyone to say thank you.

    Trina said the diabetes posts had prompted e-mails so I told her I'd write about that.

    I was diagnosed with type II diabetes last fall.


    What wonderful news, right?

    My blood sugar level was 760 (may have been higher).

    There was talk of insulin and other fun things.

    Stress was one of my biggest contributing issues.

    Which is why I do less at The Common Ills and feel less guilt over that.

    There's at least one entry by me a day.  If there's not time for more than that?

    Oh well.

    Not going to guilt over it.

    Enough stress already.

    Trina wrote about a myth that you have to be overweight to get type II.

    She noted I wasn't.

    There are different factors that contribute.

    For me, it was stress.

    It was also diet.

    I ate brown rice constantly.

    Because it's healthy.

    Unless you have an issue with blood sugar.

    My problem currently is diabetic nerve pain.

    And it was so bad, I more than understood why people kill themselves from physical pain.

    I got very lucky.

    Mine likely isn't going to be ever present.

    My endocrinologist explained that last week.

    There are times when I can't keep food down or times when I just can't eat.

    "It was also diet."

    On those days or nights, instead of a meal, I'd have a Three Musketeers or a half pint of chocolate ice cream.  If I was able to get an artichoke, great but on the road speaking that's not usually an option.

    So the pain currently?

    My body gets none of that easy sugar anymore and my nerves are responding.

    That's the pain I've got.

    Believe it or not, knowing that made the pain easier to take.

    Dropping so quickly -- blood sugar -- from over 750 to 150 in months -- means my body is readjusting.

    I do have a pain pill (3 times a day but I only take in the afternoon) but it's easier to deal with knowing it's (hopefully) not permanent.

    The pain was huge.

    On my big toes, it was as though an elephant was stepping on each one.  And it was as though the skin was being pulled off on the bottom.  And as though nails were being hammered in the sides.

    The big toes were the worst.

    On my feet, I also had 'vibrations' like when your cell phone is on vibrate and goes off.

    And I had shooting pains.

    The heels of my feet also hurt and it was as though the soles were burning with pain.

    I still have some pain but what I learned from the endocrinologist helps me tolerate it better.

    What did I have to change?

    No more chocolate.

    No more brown rice.

    No more wheat bread (or any bread).

    No more of most of the vegetarian meals I used to eat.

    It also means listening to my body and getting rest when I'm stressed.

    That's probably harder than giving up chocolate.

    I'm not an expert and I'm not a spokesperson.

    I know almost enough to write one sorry post (like this one).  But I don't mind sharing if it helps anyone (and is recognized as a personal story and not medical advice).

    Here's the "Iraq snapshot" for Wednesday:

    Wednesday, February 25, 2016. Chaos and violence continue, John Kerry wants billions from Congress but doesn't feel he owes them even basic respect in a hearing, Moqtada al-Sadr floats the threat/promise of Friday protests, and more.

    Today, the US Defense Dept announced/bragged/insisted/claimed:

    Strikes in Iraq
    Fighter aircraft conducted four strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:

    -- Near Qayyarah, a strike destroyed an ISIL excavator.

    -- Near Ramadi, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit.

    -- Near Sinjar, a strike destroyed two ISIL weapons caches and five ISIL assembly areas.

    -- Near Sultan Abdallah, a strike destroyed seven ISIL fighting positions.

    Task force officials define a strike as one or more kinetic events that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single, sometimes cumulative, effect. Therefore, officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIL vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against buildings, vehicles and weapon systems in a compound, for example, having the cumulative effect of making those targets harder or impossible for ISIL to use. Accordingly, officials said, they do not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target.

    These bombings have been carried out every day for 18 months and the Islamic State is still in Iraq.

    What's been accomplished?

    Not real much except to spend a lot of US taxpayer monies.

    On that topic -- taxpayer money -- let's note this.

    "Let me just say that $50 billion is the total request when you add the OCO and the core elements and the AID. It’s equal to about one percent of the federal budget, and it is, frankly, the minimum price of leadership at a time when America is diplomatically engaged more deeply than at any time I think in history in more places as the same time."

    That's US Secretary John Kerry appearing this morning before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs.  US House Rep Kay Granger is the Chair of the Committee and US House Rep Hal Rogers is the Ranking Member.

    In spite of all the US dollars which continue to be spent in Iraq, Kerry didn't even note the country in his opening remarks and Iraq was only an issue when Committee members raised it.

    Ukraine was a popular topic in the hearing.  And US House Rep Nita Lowey used the hearing to trash the French government and, yet again, note her fealty to the government of Israel.

    Let's note a rare moment when Iraq came up, when the Chair was noting the Kurds.

    Chair Kay Granger: What can we do to help them stabilize their economy and get them the equipment that they need to fight ISIL?  And I still here continually the fact that the aid for the Kurds has to go through Iraq, that 17% just doesn't get there.  And it doesn't get there in time to be helpful.  So what else can we do?

    Secretary John Kerry:  I have heard that, uh, Madam Chair -- about the question of  some siphoning off.  Uh, I don't know.  I don't have specific evidence of it.  But I've heard these-these allegations and we have a team working -- the Embassy in Baghdad is working very, very closely.  It is a fact, indeed, that US military assistance has to go through the central government.  And that's required both by Iraqi law and by international law.  Uh, and-and-and the reason for that is that we have -- part of our policy has been to try to strengthen the central government of Iraq and not to encourage a break off or the belief that independent entities in the country can deal directly with the -- with the United States and other countries.  So in order to strengthen the government of Iraq, that has been the rule.  But I will tell you that massive amount of effort is getting to the Kurds and the Kurds, frankly, have been quite extraordinary in their efforts to help fight ISIL

    Chair Kay Granger:  They have.

    Secretary John Kerry:  We need to say thank you to them.  And we're training and working with them right now with respect to the preparations for Mosul and, uh, that will continue.

    Kerry continued to be an embarrassment to the administration in today's hearing -- part of the reason he's been pushed to the shun and Brett McGurk has become Barack's go-to.

    In the hearing, he was combative and flat out rude repeatedly.

    Why did he want this job?

    Who knows but it went to his head.

    He would never have accepted such rudeness from a committee witness when he was Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee but today rudeness is all he offers.

    US House Rep Mario Diaz-Balart did not agree with the White House's normalizing of relations with Cuba.

    Kerry was shocked that Diaz-Balart wouldn't fawn over him the way US House Rep Barbara Lee did (and she did everything but fall to her knees before Kerry).

    Whether you agree with what the administration is doing with Cuba or not, the fact that Kerry was surprised anyone would voice disagreement was shocking.

    Even more shocking was his failure to apparently know Diaz-Balart's history.

    By marriage, Diaz-Balart has a connection to Fidel Castro. His aunt was married to Fidel prior to Fidel ruling Cuba (they divorced, they share a son).  Diaz-Balart's father was a member of Cuba's House of Representatives (before Fidel's rise to power) and opposed any amnesty being offered to the rebel Fidel Castro.

    These are not abstract ideas or beliefs for Diaz-Balart, they're part of his family history.

    And for Kerry to go into that hearing with apparently no knowledge that Diaz-Balart might not be thrilled with attempts to normalize relations with Cuba is rather shocking until you realize that Kerry no longer does any research or preparing at all.  He just thinks he can thunder and intimidate people into silence.

    That's diplomacy?

    That's America's key diplomat?

    Diaz-Balart tossed out numbers.

    They may or may not have been wrong.

    But Kerry was not prepared, had no numbers of his own and was unable to take part in a discussion so he just got rude.

    US House Rep Mario Diaz-Balart:  Do you have any of those numbers, because the numbers that we have --

    Secretary John Kerry:  Well I'll get those numbers for you.

    US House Rep Mario Diaz-Balart:  Reassure us because --

    Secretary John Kerry:  I am trying to reassure you but you don't want to be reassured.

    US House Rep Mario Diaz-Balart:  Mr. Secretary, you have not given me any numbers.

    Kerry has become rude and corrupted by power in his position.

    As a member of the Senate, he would have pursued a witness for numbers and if a witness had attempted to mind read him, he would have corrected the witness immediately.

    Corrupt, rude, and, yes, stupid.

    Again, no one should have been surprised that the objections to White House moves regarding Cuba would come up -- let alone that Diaz-Balart would raise them.

    Kerry has failed Iraq.

    He's failed to defend the people under attack in Iraq, for example.

    Today, those people include the Sunnis.

    And they are attacked by their own government.

  • *Warning Graphic* NO these are not horrid acts perpetrated by the likes of These were done by the Iraqi army

  • Iraqi Shiite militias im Aleppo kill and drag body of a man bcz he is a "son of an Omayyad" (Sunni)

  • The US government looks the other way.

    They fail to call these actions out.

    And then they're surprised that the Islamic State -- which attempts to present itself as a defender of the Sunni people -- got a foothold in Iraq?

    The Islamic State is only a defender of the Sunnis when it comes to protecting them from the Shi'ites who attack them.  The Islamic State itself attacks the Sunni people.

    But that reality is sometimes obscured.

    Changing topics, what happens if the Islamic State is defeated?

    It's not over, it's not finished, argues an expert.

    Ariel Ben Solomon (JERUSALEM POST) speaks with an expert and is told:

    “The Islamic State insurgency will not end if or when all territory is recaptured in Iraq and Syria. The group will return to its pre-January 2015 operational model of destabilizing mass-casualty attacks in urban centers alongside low-level insurgent operations, ensuring that if it cannot fully control these cities, then neither will Baghdad or Damascus,” said Matthew Henman, head of the IHS JTIC.

    If the Islamic State will most likely remain in Iraq even if Barack's vision of 'defeat' for the Islamic State takes place, then it's time to really get honest about how you defeat the Islamic State.

    You don't do so militarily.

    You defeat it by robbing it of its purpose.

    You defeat the Islamic State by removing the only justification it ever had for being in Iraq.

    Nouri al-Maliki was persecuting the Sunnis.  This meant he was using the army to circle the homes of Sunni politicians, he was doing kangaroo courts to sentence Sunni politicians to the death penalty, he was using his forces to invade their homes at three in the morning and kill their family members in the process.

    And this was the Sunni politicians.

    The average Sunni had it even worse.

    There were arrests with no arrest warrants.

    They came looking for Laif al-Naffari and Laif wasn't there but his wife was?

    They arrested his wife.

    And these people arrested were tossed into prisons and jails and disappeared.

    Sunni girls and women in prison were beaten and raped.

    We could go on and on.

    But with the world -- including Barack Obama -- looking the other way, that's when the Islamic State -- a terrorist organization -- took hold in Iraq as a defender of the Sunnis under attack.

    Now they would go on to launch their own attacks against Sunnis.

    But that's not the point.

    The point is that it was the persecution of the Sunnis -- and the world' non-response to it -- that created the climate where some saw the Islamic State as needed in Iraq.

    Let's remember that they only went visibly public when Nouri was threatening and attacking Sunni protesters.

    "But with the world -- including Barack Obama -- looking the other way"?

    Yes, Barack looked the other way.
    Not only did Barack give Nouri a second term as prime minister, but Barack also ignored the protesters. Even when they carried signs proclaiming "Obama, if you Cannot Hear Us Can you Not See Us?Sunday, April 21, 2013, a State Dept friend called me and said the US was monitoring Hawija closely and considered it a hot spot.  So how did the massacre happen two days later?

    And since they were monitoring it, they clearly knew, at least after it happened, that what took place were War Crimes.

    And yet Barack stood with Nouri, continued to stand with him.

    From Samarra من سامراء

    Iraqis in Samarra with a message for the world (photo via Iraqi Spring MC).

    That's March 15, 2013.  One month later, the Hawija massacre would take place.

     The April 23, 2013 massacre of a sit-in in Hawija which resulted from  Nouri's federal forces storming in.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported the death toll eventually (as some wounded died) rose to 53 dead.   UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

    Want to destroy the Islamic State?

    Stop the persecution of the Sunni people in Iraq.

    Rob the Islamic State of what they insist is their reason for existing.

    On protests, let's turn to a Tweet.

    Shiaa cleric Muqtada Al sadar surveying tahrir square in preparing for Fridays protest for reform

    The return of Friday protests?

    If it happens, that would be major news.

    Especially if it were true protests.

    As opposed to the staging and theatrics the Baghdad government sometimes puts on.

    Real protests took place in Dhi Qar today.  IRAQI SPRING MC reports that street cleaners took to the streets of Nasiriyah today to demand the payment of salaries -- salaries that are over two months overdue.

    Wael Grace (AL MADA) reports that Moqtada declared today his continued support for Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi while insisting that, if protests begin, his followers would stay in the streets until al-Abadi implemented reforms.  Moqtada stated he supports the Parliament and feels that any finger pointing for failures need to be pointed to the executive branch (which could mean Haider himself but most likely means the Cabinet of Ministers).  Moqtada insists this protest would be for the people and not about backing any political group.  He further stated that demonstrators will not be carrying any weapons.

    On the Cabinet of Ministers, ALL IRAQ NEWS reports that the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, Ammar al-Hakim, declared today that there was a need for government reform, a political representation of all segments of Iraqi society and that he backs Haider's call for some Cabinet ministers to resign from their posts.

    ADDED: Lastly, Stan's "The Rock, Zac Ephron and Goldie Hawn" earlier this week inspired the following theme posts: Ruth's "Kojack: The Movie," Rebecca's "trapper john m.d.." Mike's "BJ and the Bear," Betty's "Holmes & Yo-Yo," Kat's "Supertrain," Ann's "The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo," Stan's "Blansky's Beauties," Elaine's "The Man From Atlantis," Marcia's "Love Sidney" and Trina's "American Girls."

    Wednesday, February 24, 2016

    American Girls

    The 70s series American Girls was a short-lived and largely meaningless program.

    Due to the rush to turn bad TV into films (The Equalizer, Baywatch), it's my nominee for next at bat.

    Cameron Diaz and Viola Davis go around the country in an RV as journalists doing human interest stories when not being kidnapped and sold as sexual slaves.

    On CBS in the seventies, that 'plot' was enough for Saturday nights.

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

    Tuesday, February 23, 2016.  Chaos and violence continue, Iraq continues to be an issue in the 2016 US presidential race, corruption continues in Iraq, and much more

    In the 2016 US presidential race, Iraq remains an issue -- much to frustration of Hillary Clinton who, as  a US Senator, voted for the war and supported it throughout most of her years in the Senate.

  • she defend mass murderer Kissinger instead of Iraqi women & girls who now being tortured by isil thx 2 her vote 4 Iraq war.
  • Hillary should beg for forgiveness from the families who lost loved ones in the Iraq war she voted for.

  • “I am happy to admit that voting for Iraq War and the Patriot Act was a mistake when everybody else does the same"

  • Of course, when forced to comment, Hillary calls her vote for the Iraq War a "mistake."  To that,
    Ben Tanosborn (RUSSIA INSIDER) offers:

    Time and time again we, Americans, keep referring to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 as a mistake; almost in unanimity: Democrats and Republicans.  But it was not a mistake, not by a long shot!  It was a calculated, belligerent act by a government clique of elitist war-hawks, Bush-Junior and Dick Cheney at the top of the criminal heap.  Fortunately for these American leaders, and unfortunately for the rest of us, only leaders from nations vanquished are indicted and go to trial.  If the Axis had prevailed in World War II, and we were living in Hitler’s Millennium, there would not have been those Nuremberg Trials (1945-9), or the subsequent enactment of important, critical international law, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), or the Geneva Convention (1949).  No, no gallows for Bush and Cheney… only admiration from fools!
    [. . .]
    Yes; Hillary Rodham Clinton, former First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State constantly invokes her extensive experience in affairs of state as strongly qualifying her for the White House; yet her vast experience follows for the most part decisions with bad judgment… bad experience which in my book is counterproductive to that required from a prospective good and effective leader. 

    Meanwhile, Paul Rosenberg (SALON) takes Cranky Clinton to task for the sliming she and her supporters are giving her rival US Senator Bernie Sanders who stood against the war:

    But we’ve also seen a predictable Clinton emphasis on foreign policy, taking aim at Sanders’ comparatively meager record—as we saw in the PBS debate in Milwaukee [transcript]—and trying to portray it as utterly disqualifying, rather than as yet another reflection of a profound elite/mass divide, symbolized by their starkly different views of elite elder statesman Henry Kissinger.
    However, such a move also requires a massive case of amnesia—above and beyond her palling around with Henry Kissinger, that is—for Clinton’s hawkish differences with Obama as well as Sanders.  It’s not just her Iraq War vote we’re talking about. Sanders is also far more in tune with Obama’s willingness to negotiate with enemies—a formerly bipartisan posture that traces back to John F. Kennedy (“Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate”) as well as Teddy Roosevelt (“Speak softly and carry a big stick—you will go far”). 
    The fact that this is now seen as a soft, risky or fringe position by many in the establishment simply goes to show how badly the establishment has lost its way, on foreign policy, every bit as much as on domestic issues.

    Sanctions had already harmed Iraq before the start of the current war (March 2003).  The illegal war resulted in the deaths of over one million Iraqis.

    As appalling as that figure is, the dead aren't coming back.

    And the living?

    They not only mourn, they have to live with and in the system the US created.

    That's a government largely ruled by Shi'ites who fled Iraq like cowards before the US-led invasion of 2003.  In exile, they nursed their hatred and suckled on their fear.  When they re-merged in Iraq and were placed in positions of power, they misused their positions to fuel hatred.

    And did we note how corrupt they are?

    Last week, MEM reported, "Iraq’s Commission of Public Integrity referred on Thursday four former senior officials to court on charges of corruption.  The Commission said in a statement released on Thursday that it had referred to court two former deputies of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, the former director of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s military office and Baghdad’s former mayor."

    Nouri al-Maliki became a very rich man while prime minister (2006 - 2014) and was able to secure a fleet of sports cars and pricey digs (such as the one in London) for his idiot son.

    The bulk of the Iraqi people live in or near poverty.

    This despite the fact that the country has approximately 30 million citizens and brings in billions each year via oil.

    Last Friday, Martin Chulov (GUARDIAN) explained:

    Now, with plunging oil prices leaving Iraq’s revenues in more jeopardy than at any time since the US invasion, attention is shifting to what the custodians of public funds have done over more than a decade with tens of billions of dollars that could otherwise be a buffer from such a budget shock.
    If, as projected, global oil prices remain at historic lows, Iraq will be unable to pay some of its civil servants, or honour pledges to build roads and power stations in the next financial year. The gravity of the crisis has created uncomfortable reckonings for Iraq’s political class, military leaders and some senior religious figures, who have led a staggering 13-year pillage that has left Iraq consistently rated as one of the top five least transparent and most corrupt countries in the world.
    “Believe me, most of the senior names in the country have been responsible for stealing nearly all its wealth,” said Jabouri. “There are names at the top of the tree who would kill me if I went after them. When people here steal, they steal openly. They brag about it. There is a virus here, like Ebola. It is called corruption. There is no hope, I am sorry to say.”

    In its most recent survey, Transparency International ranked Iraq 161 out of 168 countries on the issue of transparency.  Why so low?  Because it's so corrupt.

    Barham Othman (NRTTV) offers, "Conflict of interest is popular in Iraq in public institutions including the ministries of natural resources and that has caused corruption. Conflict of interest has caused corruption in Iraq, but since there is no rule of law for the action, authorities have taken advantage of the situation, especially politicians. Iraq after 2003 became a free market in almost every business sector; that opened lots of paths for foreign companies to invest in Iraq. People in power took advantage of that, using their positions for private gains instead of for the public’s benefit."

    The failed state that is Iraq.

    And corruption is only one of the problems that plague.

    Christine Van Den Toorn (FOREIGN POLICY) examined the state of Iraq this week and noted:

    The liberation of towns from the Islamic State has had the surprising effect on my Iraqi friends of making them more despondent than they were before. When they are asked when things will turn around, they shrug and say Allah karim, akin to the English expression “when pigs fly.” Just after Sinjar was “liberated,” one of my former students from the area sent me pictures of his family’s Friday lunch spread before and after they devoured it, labeling them Sinjar “before liberation” and “after liberation.”
    Iraq is now face to face with the classic “day after” dilemma. Many of its towns are demolished, and there is no money to rebuild. There is no agreement on which groups should secure and govern the areas and who gets to go back. The most visceral and volatile barrier is the newfound distrust among the local populations of liberated areas, who see one another as collaborators, bystanders, or victims of the Islamic State. Left unattended, these “day after” dynamics will — and have already — lead to internecine conflict and political gridlock that will undermine battlefield victories, similar to what happened in 2010 when the military successes of the Sunni Sahwa militias, Arabic for “awakening,” against Al Qaeda in Iraq were squandered due to a lack of lasting national and local political deals.
    This is evident in Iraq’s disputed post-Islamic State territories, where both the Kurdistan Regional Government in Erbil and the Iraqi federal government in Baghdad feel they have greater claims than ever before. That leaves them even further from local and national political deals that would produce lasting peace. Meanwhile, local forces with varying degrees of loyalty to Baghdad and Erbil have multiplied and militarized.

    The political solution?

    The one US President Barack Obama insisted was needed to solve the country's crises?

    He began publicly insisting that was needed on June 19, 2014.

    But the US State Dept was too busy trying to be the US Defense Dept to focus on diplomacy, to aid the government of Iraq in coming together, to reconcile.

    February 11th, Haider al-Abadi gave an address via the Iraqi media and declared:

    Since I was honoured with the responsibility of being Prime Minister, despite the serious security challenges and [Islamic State] occupation of one-third of the area of Iraq, we have set within our key objectives, the economic, financial and administrative reform in the forefront, in addition to the fight against corruption.

    Those are the goals as he sees them.

    National reconciliation?

    Doesn't even make Haider's list.

    Yet the Islamic State would never have gotten a foothold in Iraq were it not for Nouri al-Maliki's persecution of the Sunni population.

    That persecution continues.

    Just last week, in liberated Ramadi, Shi'ite militias were blowing up the homes of Sunnis.

    And they did that with the Iraqi army watching.

    The persecution continues.

    And until it's addressed, the Islamic State will continue to remain in Iraq.

    That's true no matter how many bombs get dropped on the country.

    You want to destroy the Islamic State?

    Then you have to address what void it filled.

    When the Sunnis were being persecuted, the world turned a blind eye.

    That's when the Islamic State stepped forward.

    Stop the persecution of the Sunni population in Iraq and there's no reason for anyone in Iraq to support the Islamic State or any reason for it to be in the country.

    In the US, Senator Johnny Isakson is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  His office notes the following:

    Monday, February 23, 2016
    Contact: Amanda Maddox, 202-224-7777
    Lauren Gaydos, 202-224-9126

    Isakson to Hold Hearing with American Legion
    WASHINGTON The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, chaired by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., along with the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, are holding series of hearings with Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) to consider their respective legislative priorities for this year.
    The second in the series of VSO hearings will take place tomorrow, Wednesday, February 24, 2016, with The American Legion. 
    The hearing will be streamed online at Media who plan to attend should RSVP to
    WHO:         Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
                       House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
    WHERE:   216 Hart Senate Office Building
    WHEN:      10:00 AM
                       Wednesday, February 24, 2016
    See below for the witness list.
    Dale Barnett, National Commander
    Accompanied by:
    Brett Reistad, Chairman, National Legislative Commission
    Ralph Bozella, Chairman, National Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Commission
    Ian dePlanque, Director, National Legislative Division
    Louis Celli, Jr., Director, National Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Division
    James W. Oxford, Chairman, Veterans Employment & Education Commission
    Joseph Sharpe, Jr., Director, Veterans Employment & Education Division
    The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is chaired by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in the 114th Congress.
    Isakson is a veteran himself – having served in the Georgia Air National Guard from 1966-1972 – and has been a member of the Senate VA Committee since he joined the Senate in 2005. Isakson’s home state of Georgia is home to more than a dozen military installations representing each branch of the military as well as more than 750,000 veterans.