The Common Ills

Thursday, July 05, 2012
Birds, blindness and questioning Nouri

Birds, blindness and questioning Nouri

Despite reports Tuesday that the Independent High Electoral Commission had postponed provincial elections, Alsumaria reported yesterday that the commission denied to them that the elections are postponed, that they need six months notice to prepare for the elections and that March 17th would be their own ideal figure.  They state that they have not postponed the elections but that the failure to name the new commissioners or renew the current ones is causing a delay.  So it appears that the provincial elections are postponed but not by the commission.

The electoral commission is also not responsible for the banning of birds and eggs.  Alsumaria reports that the Council of Ministers banned importing eggs and birds from 18 countries including Cambodia, India, China, Egypt, Vietnam, Japan, South Africa, Australia, Nepal and Sri Lanka.  The states reason is fear of Bird Flu (Avian Influenza).  Though Bird Flu is no longer in the headlines, June 7th, the World Health Organization announced "a new case of human infection with avian influenza A(H5N1) virus." WHO also passed on:

The Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health, Hong Kong, China, has reported a human case of avian influenza A(H5N1) virus infection.‪ The case is a 2 year-old male from Guangzhou City, Guangdong province. He developed symptoms on 23 May 2012 in Guangdong province and went to a private clinic in Hong Kong, China, on 26 May 2012. He developed febrile convulsion and was transferred to a hospital on 28 May 2012 and was laboratory confirmed as A(H5N1) on 2 June 2012. His condition remains serious and he remains hospitalized. 

In other medical news, Dar Addustour reports that six people in Nasiriyah, while undergoing eye exams, were exposed to some form of bacteria that is still unknown at this time but that resulted in their being blinded.

 The political crisis continues in Iraq.  Tuesday, we noted:

A lot of people seem to believe Moqtada al-Sadr has changed his position.  There's nothing he's said that's changed his position.  He appears to be taken the issue of questioning very seriously.  And would appear to be presenting himself as impartial and reluctant.  That's been his position all along.  Is Nouri going to appear before Parliament for questioning?  If he follows the Constitution, yes.  There's not X number needed for questioning.  He has been asked to appear.
Whether he does or not, per the Constitution, he has to.  If he does, per Moqtada's statements, an opinion will be formed based on Nouri's answers.  If the answers are not satisifactory, Moqtada -- with a heavy heart and great reluctantce -- would have his bloc vote for no-confidence if the others got their required votes.  As Al Mada reports today, the vote is currently postponed because, among other reasons, Jalal Talabani remains out of the country (that reason comes from the Sadr bloc).
I know Nouri's lackeys in the US -- non-governmental -- insist this is a change of position but this has been Moqtada's position since April 28th.  I guess not reading Arabic leaves them left out -- and makes them offer ridiculous comments like the first All Iraqi News article we linked to?  No lawyer for Nouri speaks or is quoted or is referenced in that article.  No matter what an idiot who worships Nouri and is 'buds' with Jane and Prashant Tweeted.  In fact, if Jane Arraf and Prashant Rao had any sense, they would have Tweeted back, "Uh, learn Arabic, that's not what the article says."  But that's not how a circle-jerk works, is it?  [And here's a helping hand for the idiot -- this is an All iraqi News article where Nouri's attorney speaks. This is.  The one you Tweeted yesterday wasn't.  And this article was published today.  Not published when you Tweeted so don't try to pretend you meant to Tweet something else, you dumb ass.]

Today Hevidear Ahmed (Rudaw) has a piece where he speaks to various participants to find out what's going on and what Moqtada's position is:

“If the issue is collecting signatures, we can now collect enough. But when it comes to voting, I don’t know who will vote in favor of the case or not. Therefore, until the actual voting takes place, we won’t have a clear view on the issue,” Hussein added.
Abdul Sattar Bayati, a senior official from Sadr’s faction in Iraqi Parliament, confirms their stance on the issue, saying they have not given up on the attempt to unseat Maliki.
“Maliki must be removed from office. Whenever 124 votes in favor of withdrawing confidence are collected, we will add the other 40 votes needed. His Excellency Muqtada Sadr has already said this.” Bayati said.

Wait! What!  The Twittering monkeys were all wrong?


Again and again and again.

I have no idea why so-called 'experts' get to remain billed as such when they're repeatedly wrong.  And it must be very frustrating for them that they are so wrong so often when me -- not the brightest person in the room -- has repeatedly avoided the hype.  But then, unlike gas bags, I know how to listen and store information.  I also know how to analyze information (and in that regard, I am ahead of the curve, only in that last regard).

So in other words, the 'experts' and the reporters and 'reporters' who passed on their 'wisdom' were wrong.  We have been correct what is taking place in Iraq and we've done mainly by ignoring the 'experts' and instead relying on friend in diplomatic circles and with the UN.

Alsumaria notes that Iraqiya is stating that the Parliament will beging to set the stage for the questioning of Nouri next week.

Kitabat offers an essay by Ibrahim al-Zubaidi that postulates Iraq is not a country.  What is it?  It's over a million armed forces controlled by Nouri al-Maliki.  It's a land ruled by force despite having a president and a parliament.  Jalal Talabani, the president, is someone who has been biased towards Nouri from the beginning, he is not neutral despite repeated attempts to portray himself as such, the essay argues.  He refuses to stand and lead as the president in any other country would, the essay continues, and Iraq is in a state of anarchy.

Alsumaria reports Nouri is still eyeing Diyala Province.  He's already had nearly 100 people arrested there this week.  All 'terrorists,' of course.  He's now threatening that security breaches must be addressed.

Kat's "Kat's Korner: Demos, live and what the fans want" and   Isaiah's"Little Dicky Loves Bad Boys" went up yesterday and the following community sites updated last night and this morning:

1 hour ago 

The e-mail address for this site is


Posted at 07:22 am by thecommonills

At least 7 dead and 19 injured in Iraq violence today

At least 7 dead and 19 injured in Iraq violence today

In Iraq, there is no let up in the violence.  Alsumaria reports a suicide bomber went into a Mosul shopping mall and blew himself up also killing 4 other people and leaving twelve more injured.  As ambulances rushed the injured to the hospital, security forces closed down the area. In addition, Trend News Agency reports a car bombing in Baghdad which left four people injured. Bushra Juhi (AP) reports that local government official Ali Abdul-Amir's Baghdad home has bombed resulting in the deaths of his wife and their two daughters while he and two sons were left injured.

Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 88 people killed from July 1st through the 4th.


Kay Johnson and Lara Jakes (AP) observe, "Part of the problem is the dysfunctional Iraqi government that, so far this year, has failed to protect its public or settle internal power squabbles." Which is much better than yesterday when the press floated that guns were coming into Iraq from Syria (a hypothesis that went against everything the press and US government had said for months now).

 Meanwhile in England there are developments in a 2003 Iraq attack.  The mother of Lance Copral Thomas Richard Keys has filed a lawuite.  In June 2003,  the 20-year-old Keys died in Amara along with five other British soldiers.  The UK Ministry of Defence issued the following statement and photo upon his passing:

It is with very deep regret that the Ministry of Defence has to confirm that Lance-Corporal Thomas Richard Keys was killed in action in southern Iraq on 24 June 2003 whilst serving with 156 Provost Company, Royal Military Police.
Aged 20, he came from Llanuwchllyn, near Bala in Wales, and was single.
He joined the Army in August 1998, initially serving with 1st Battalion, The Parachute Regiment. He transferred to the RMP and joined 156 Provost Company in January 2002. He had served on operations in Sierra Leone and Northern Ireland and deployed to Jamaica on exercise. A popular soldier, Thomas was a fully trained paratrooper and physical training instructor who played football for the Company.
His funeral service, with full military honours, was held at St John's Church in Barmouth on 14 July.

The Jarrow & Hebburn Gazette reports Pat Long, Keys' mother, is petitioning the court "for a fresh independent inquiry into her son's death "by a mob of Iraqis at a police station in Majar-al-Kabir."  The British troops had "little ammunition" and an out of date radio/walkie talkie that "was completely useless in a built-up area and could only be used in open fileds."  ITV explains the Secretary of Defence Philip Hammond has thus far refused to grant a fresh inquest and so Pat Long has taken the issue to the High Court.

Kat's "Kat's Korner: Demos, live and what the fans want" and   Isaiah's"Little Dicky Loves Bad Boys" went up yesterday and the following community sites updated last night and this morning:

1 hour ago 
We'll close with this from the national Green Party:
For Immediate Release:
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Scott McLarty, Media Coordinator, 202-904-7614,
Starlene Rankin, Media Coordinator, 916-995-3805,
2012 Green Presidential Nominating Convention, July 12-15 in Baltimore, Md.

Media Credentialing page

WASHINGTON, DC -- Green Party candidates and leaders said today that the Supreme Court's ruling upholding the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA) should not distract Americans from the demand for real health care reform -- Medicare For All.

Greens said that Medicare For All (single-payer national health care) will expand on the beneficial parts of the ACA and extend the guarantee of quality health care to every American, while solving its deficiencies, especially the unpopular individual mandate. Greens support expanded and improved Medicare For All, to include dental, vision, hearing, nutritional counseling, and proactive medicine, without co-pays, deductibles, and "doughnut holes."

Medicare For All would cover all Americans, provide full choice of physician and hospital, and cut costs dramatically: current Medicare administrative overhead is only 3%, while for-profit health insurance administrative overhead is as high as 30%. The Green Party also supports efforts to enact statewide single-payer legislation in many states.

The Green Party is preparing for its 2012 National Convention in Baltimore, Md., July 12-15. Baltimore has one of the premier hospitals in the country, Johns Hopkins, but too many Baltimore residents remain without access to health care.
Andrew Straw, Green candidate for the US House of Representatives in Indiana, 2nd District (

"While many people are celebrating the court's decision upholding the insurance mandate, we should remember that the mandate is a direct public subsidy to sustain and enrich the health insurance industry and maintain its bureaucratic control over our medical system. We urge Americans to support Medicare For All, which will remove for-profit insurance companies from the system, along with the excessive profits and CEO salaries that keep driving up medical costs. The ACA doesn't give us universal coverage -- at least 26 million people will remain uninsured. It doesn't control skyrocketing costs and won't stop people from going into financial ruin because of a medical emergency. The Court's decision furthermore overruled expansion of Medicaid coverage, which could push millions more Americans out of coverage. That's why we need Medicare For All."
Audrey Clement, Green candidate for Arlington County Board in Virginia ( and co-chair of the Green Party of the United States:

"We shouldn't forget that the individual mandate is a Republican idea that the Obama Administration coopted -- along with many other Republican ideas and goals since his election. The mandate was introduced by the rightwing Heritage Foundation and promoted nationally by Republicans during the 1990s. It was the basis of Gov. Romney's statewide health care reform plan in Massachusetts. President Obama embraced the mandate idea to win the support of the powerful insurance lobbies for the ACA and pay them back for contributing record-high contributions to his campaign. The health care debate has been rigged all along so that, whether the ACA passed and survived a court challenge or the GOP succeeded in blocking it, the biggest winners would be the health insurance bureaucracy and other corporate health care lobbies."
Darryl! Moch, co-chair of the Green Party of the United States:

"What we need is a health care system that promotes healthy living from a holistic approach that includes prevention. The best way to save money and health care costs is to prevent illnesses in the first place or at least with proper prevention methods to lessen the severity should an illness occur. Medicare For All gives government a stake in promoting prevention and healthy living for all Americans. The Green Party offers the kind of medicine that we need -- a system that does not depend on wealthy corporations to provide insurance. It's a system that guarantees that everyone in the US has the same quality care currently enjoyed by the President, Congress, and the Supreme Court justices (and their families) and funded by taxpayers and hardworking people in this country."
Ursula Rozum, Green candidate for the US House in Syracuse, in New York's 24th District (

"We must make health care a right for all Americans. Instead of making health care a right, President Obama and Congress confirmed the notion that expanded coverage is only worth pursuing if the profits of insurance companies, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and other health care corporations can be guaranteed. That's why health insurance industry representatives were invited to help write the legislation. The Affordable Care Act will help many Americans -- but millions will be left out in the cold. It is ultimately a victory for the idea that no reform is desirable without an assurance that corporate profits will be maintained or increased. The Green Party says that human needs must overrule corporate profits and that for-profit insurance companies must be removed from our health care system."
See also:

"'Health law upheld, but health needs still unmet': national doctors group; Although the Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act, the law will not remedy the U.S. health crisis, physicians group says"
Physicians for a National Health Program, press release, June 28, 2012

"Single Payer Advocates Says Medicare for All Remains the Solution in Light of US Supreme Court Ruling"
Single Payer New York, press release, June 28, 2012

"Two-thirds of Americans support Medicare for all"
By Kip Sullivan, J.D.,

"The Green Party urges the Supreme Court to strike down the Affordable Care Act's health insurance mandates, sees a chance for Medicare For All"
Green Party press release, March 5, 2012

"Should Obama's Health Care Be Opposed?: An Exchange"
Letter from Marcia Angell, The New York Review of Books, June 7, 2012


Single Payer Now (California)

Single-Payer Frequently Asked Questions
Physicians for a National Health Program


Green Party of the United States

2012 Green Party Presidential Nominating Convention, July 12-15 in Baltimore, Md.
Green candidate database and campaign information:

News Center
Speakers Bureau
Ballot Access Page
Video Page
Green Papers
Livestream Channel
GP-TV Twitter page
Facebook page
Green Pages: The official publication of record of the Green Party of the United States

The e-mail address for this site is


Posted at 05:57 am by thecommonills

Wednesday, July 04, 2012
Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Little Dicky Loves Bad Boys"

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Little Dicky Loves Bad Boys"

little dicky loves bad boys

Isaiah's latest The World Today Just Nuts "Little Dicky Loves Bad Boys."  Little Dicky returns to declare, "Hey everybody.  It's me your old friend Little Dicky.  And it's that time again.  Time to vote for the Lord and Master of my wet dreams.  Some of you complain that Barack's killing people -- even children -- with his Drone War.  I say that just gives him a bad boy edge.  Me loves the bad boys!"  Little Dicky hasn't appeared in awhile so let's note he previously appeared here, here, here, here, here, here, here. and here.  Isaiah archives his comics at The World Today Just Nuts.

Posted at 03:40 pm by thecommonills

Blood and money continue to pour in Iraq

Blood and money continue to pour in Iraq

Violence continued in Iraq today.  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) notes 3 "Iraqi officials" were shot dead today and a Taji roadside bombing left six people injured while a Zubaidiya car bombing claimed 8 lives and left twenty-five people injured.  AFP notes the 3 shot dead in Baghdad: "policewoman Ibtisam Ibrahim[, . . .] police First Lt Ahmed Swadi [and] employee at Iraq's parliament, Farhan Kadhim Mussa."  Alsumaria notes a Baquba roadside bombing injured three people.  Yesterday saw violence as well and Margaret Griffis ( counts 63 dead and 152 injured on Tuesday.

At Commentary, Max Boot wants to insist he has "no joy from being proven right."  Proven right?  About the need to go war with Iraq?  No.  Not right there and Boot doesn't want you to dwell on that.  He was right, he insists, about what follows the US leaving Iraq.  And to be fair to him, we'll note what he said. Here he is at the Council on Foreign Relations in December 2011:

My worry is that progress is tenuous and reversible. If we were keeping troops in Iraq past Dec. 31, the chances of Iraq achieving its full potential would be much greater. As things stand now, the prospects of a catastrophic failure have gone up. But there is still a chance of Iraq developing as a model for the "Arab Spring", thereby redeeming the great sacrifices made by so many to defeat the extremists who threatened its future.

Violence has increased and has been increasing.  But, check our archives, we said this would happen as well when US forces left.  We said that over and over.  As someone opposed to the illegal war and occupation, I didn't feel the need to lie.  I know that's uncommon because so many in the Cult of St. Barack think they can lie and then run from their lies.  (Such as: "I am against illegal spying! Using drones to kill innocent people is outrageous!" -- positions they held when Bully Boy Bush was in office but have set aside, cloaked and hidden now that Barack is in the White House.)  The US installed a puppet regime.  The minute US forces left in any large number, violence would increase.  That's a given. And I'm not psychic for knowing that.  It's the historical pattern.  I have no idea why Max Boot feels he's done something amazing by noting what historically happens over and over.  Next up: Max Boot proclaims, "I was right! The sun did rise this morning!"

Max Boot and I are on the opposite side of every issue but if his post on violence is about his never getting credit for being right, as his political enemy, I will say Max Boot has been right many times.  He's been more right since Barack became President of the United States and that's because he no longer feels the need to spin and fawn for an administration.  It's a shame he couldn't have lost that desire when a Republican occupied the White House.  But he has been right about Iraq many times since he gave up his post in the Court of Bully Boy Bush.

Joshua Altman (The Hill -- link has text and video) reports US House Rep Jason Chaffetz was on CNN's Situation Room with Wolf Blitzter Tuesday and declared, "The degree in which our assets are being treated in very troublesome.  There’s some 50 billion dollars worth of projects that the American taxpayers have footed ... yet when we try to go through checkpoints and try to travel through the country and do other types of things we’re having a very difficult time."

Last week, the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations held a hearing on Iraq.  Committee Chair Chaffetz heard many disturbing reports from the various governmental IG (inspector generals) about what was taking place in Iraq.

Chair Jason Chaffetz: The State Dept has greatly expanded its footprint in Iraq. 
 There are approximately 2,000 direct-hire personnel and 14,000 support contractors 
-- roughly a seven-to-one ratio.  This includes 7,000 private security contractors to 
guard our facilities and move personnel throughout Iraq.  Leading up to the withdrawal, 
the State Dept's mission seemed clear.  Ambassador Patrick Kennedy testified that the diplomatic mission was "designed to maximize influence in key locations."  And later 
said, "State will continue the police development programs moving beyond basic 
policing skills to provide police forces with the capabilities to uphold the rule of law.  
The Office of Security Cooperation will help close gaps in Iraq's security forces 
capabilities through security assistance and cooperation."  This is an unprecedented 
mission for the State Dept. Nonetheless, our diplomatic corps has functioned without
 the protections of  a typical host nation.  It's also carried on without troop support that
 many believed it would have. As a result, the Embassy spends roughly 93% of its budget
 on security alone.  Without a doubt, this is an enormously complex and difficult mission.  Six months into the transition, the Congress must assess whether the administration 
is accomplishing its mission?  While the State Dept has made progress, it appears to be 
facing difficult challenges in a number of areas. The Oversight Committee has offered 
some criticism based on their testimony today.  Including the Government Accountability Office noting that the State and Defense Dept's security capabilities are not finalized.  
The Special Inspector General for Iraqi Reconstruction states that, "Thousands of 
projects completed by the United States and transferred to the government of Iraq 
will not be sustained and thus will fail to meet their intended purposes."  The Defense 
Dept's Inspector General's Office explains that the lack of Status of Forces Agreement 
has impacted land use agreements, force protection, passport visa requirements, air 
and ground movement and our foreign military sales program.  And the US AID Inspector General's office testifies, "According to US AID mission, the security situation has 
hampered its ability to monitor programs. Mission personnel are only occassionaly 
able to travel to the field for site visits."  Embassy personnel have also told Committee 
staff that the United States government has difficulty registering its vehicles with the
 Iraqi government and Iraqis have stood up checkpoints along supply lines.  According 
to one embassy official, the team must dispatch a liason to "have tea and figure out 
how we're going to get our trucks through."  These are just some of the challenges 
the State Dept is facing in Iraq today.  Perhaps as a result of these conditions, Mission 
Iraq appears to be evolving.  In an effort to be more efficient, the State Dept is evaluating 
its footprint, reducing personnel and identifying possible reductions.  This rapid change
 in strategy, however, raises a number of questions. Are we on the right track?  Are we redefining the mission?  What should we expect in the coming months?  And, in hindsight,      was this a well managed withdrawal?

The Subcommittee heard about it being impossible for Americans to check on the various costly projects the US taxpayers continue paying for (so there is no direct US supervision) and that there was a failure to get lease agreements so that most of the facilities could be lost.  (Only 5 of 14 have land lease agreements, as the US Government Accountability Office's Michael Courts testified.)) This matters because?  It matters because of the money the US government is spending -- taxpayer money -- in Iraq. US House Rep Blake Farenthold conveyed his displeasure to the State Dept's Patrick Kennedy over the fact that the Police College Annex in Baghdad was a US facility that cost US taxpayers "more than $100 million in improvements to the site" only to "be turned over to Iraq for free" as a result of the US not securing a land lease.  And don't forget that last week, Walter Pincus (Washington Post via Stars and  Stripes) reported, "The State Department is planning to spend as much as $115 million to upgrade the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad, already its biggest and most expensive in the world, according to pre-solicitation notices published this month.  Remember, it has been 3 1/2 years since American diplomats moved into the 104-acre, $700 million facility and only four months after State Department officials in February talked about trying to cut back the U.S. presence there."

I'm actually going to do three entries.  I thought I could pull everything in here but that's not the case.  So there will be one more entry from me.

Kat's "Kat's Korner: Demos, live and what the fans want" went up earlier this morning.   Isaiah's latest comic goes up after this.  And, at their sites, Mike and Marcia will be posting tonight.

The e-mail address for this site is


Posted at 03:36 pm by thecommonills

Crackdown in Diyala and al-Jaafari tries comedy

Crackdown in Diyala and al-Jaafari tries comedy

Kitabat reports the central and south Iraq are plagued by dust storms today with predictions that they will continue tomorrow.

As obscured as the physical view is the political view with the crisis continuing.  Alsumaria reports that Nouri has ordered raids and arrests in Diyala Province.  Baquba is the capital and it borders Iran in the north.  It is predominately Sunni with a signficiant number of Shi'ites Kurds and Turkmen.  "Home to every major sect and ethnicity of Iraq," the Institute for the Study of War has noted.  The organization also noted:

Shia and Kurdish power blocs saw the organization of the Sunnis into legitimized security forces in Diyala as a threat to their strategic interests within a critical province. In response to the IIPs growing power, Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki created the Diyala Support Council (DSC) in mid-2007 in an attempt to influence Diyala from Baghdad. Further, Maliki employed the ISF to reduce the strength of Sunni power bloc in Diyala by arresting hundreds of Sunni fighters and ejecting Popular Committee leaders from their offices. Lastly, in February of 2008, Prime Minister Maliki won the approval of the Government of Iraq to form Tribal Support Councils (TSC) throughout Iraq. The Diyala TSCs allowed Maliki to check growing Sunni influence within the province and play one Sunni group off another, effectively preventing the Sunnis from creating a single, consolidated political bloc.
With at least 13 arrested in Diyala today and security sources telling Alsumaria that 20 more have been arrested in Diyala already this month, chances are the arrests will be seen as part of Nouri al-Maliki's continued attack on Iraq's Sunni population.

The arrests come as Diyala official (and Iraqiya member) Nahida Daini is calling for the Baghdad government to keep their promise regarding the Sahwa (Awakenings, Sons Of Iraq, Daughters Of Iraq) and integrating them into the central government's forces.  She states that Sahwa's role in allowing Iraq to function was pivotal and that they must be brought into the process.  This was supposed to happen.  It never has.  (Despite Brett McGurk's lies to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month.)  General David Petreaus credited the Sahwa with helping to turn things around.  At the April 8, 2008 Senate Armed Services hearing when Gen David Petraeus, then the top US commander in Iraq, was explaining Sahwa.

In his opening remarks, Petraues explained of the "Awakening" Council (aka "Sons of Iraq," et al) that it was a good thing "there are now over 91,000 Sons of Iraq -- Shia as well as Sunni -- under contract to help Coalition and Iraqi Forces protect their neighborhoods and secure infrastructure and roads.  These volunteers have contributed significantly in various areas, and the savings in vehicles not lost because of reduced violence -- not to mention the priceless lives saved -- have far outweighed the cost of their monthly contracts."  Again, the US must fork over their lunch money, apparently, to avoid being beat up. 
How much lunch money is the US forking over?  Members of the "Awakening" Council are paid, by the US, a minimum of $300 a month (US dollars).  By Petraeus' figures that mean the US is paying $27,300,000 a month.  $27 million a month is going to the "Awakening" Councils who, Petraeus brags, have led to "savings in vehicles not lost".

Alsumaria notes there are 7,800 Sahwa in Diyala including 50 leaders.

Hassan Zaidi remains impisoned.  He's a journalist.  Nouri, of course, denied that any journalists are held in Iraqi prisons.  A communiy member in Anbar asked that we note this and notes there is little press coverage of it.  She states that the government keeps promising that Zaidi will be released shortly.  Again, Nouri al-Maliki flat out lied last Thursday when he denied any journalists were in Iraqi prisons.  Hassan is imprisoned for 'passport falsification.'  Yeah, it sounds like trumped up charges.

 Ibrahim al-Jaafari, meanwhile, turns himself into a laughingstock.  Dar Addustour reports that he's declaring all these grand accomplishments that the Reform Commission will be responsible for including the appointment of a Minister of Defense and a Minister of Interior.  Maybe that will happen, maybe it won't.  Probably not a good idea to be promising it will or to declare that the Reform Commission is a replacement to the no-confidence vote on Nouri.  al-Jaafari was never part of that movement and can't speak for it with any degree of accuracy.

Dar Addustour notes that Nouri's also insisting that the tourism sector must be revitalized in Iraq.  The biggest obstacle to that remains Nouri.  No one wants to travel to the land of Stalin, Pol Pot and Saddam.  But that's Nouri's image.

That Maliki has an authoritarian streak has been amply demonstrated over the past 4 1/2 years, critics say. Maliki, originally selected in 2006 as a compromise candidate assumed to be weak and malleable, has proved to be a tough and ruthless political operator who cannily subverted parliament to cement his authority over many of the new democracy's fledgling institutions.
In his role as commander in chief of the armed forces, he replaced divisional army commanders with his appointees, brought provincial command centers under his control and moved to dominate the intelligence agencies.
The widely feared Baghdad Brigade, which answers directly to Maliki's office, has frequently been used to move against his political opponents. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have accused him of operating secret prisons in which Sunni suspects have been tortured.

 If you're nodding with that and thinking, "At last someone's captured Nouri's likeness!," wait a minute.  That's Liz Sly's  "Maliki's governing style raises questions about future of Iraq's fragile democracy" from December 2010. 

Nouri was and remains the biggest obstacle to tourism, peace, success, freedom in Iraq.  That was and remains the case.

Kat's "Kat's Korner: Demos, live and what the fans want" went up earlier this morning.  I have one more (I'm doing three and not two like I planned) entry to write and Isaiah's latest comic will follow that.  And, at their sites, Mike and Marcia will be posting tonight.
The e-mail address for this site is


Posted at 03:33 pm by thecommonills

Nearly 18,000 slots empty in veterans retraining program (C.I.)

Nearly 18,000 slots empty in veterans retraining program

Katherine Jacobsen (KUT News) reports  on the Austin parade and job fair this Saturday: "The parade starts on Saturday at 9 a.m. concluding with a ceremony at 11 a.m. on the Texas Capitol steps.  The Job and Resource Fair starts at 11:30 a.m. at the Capitol Extension."  Andrea Murad (Fox Business) offers tips for veterans looking for employment

If you are a veteran, do you meet the following criteria:

  • Are at least 35 but no more than 60 years old
  • Are unemployed on the date of application
  • Received an other than dishonorable discharge
  • Are not be eligible for any other VA education benefit program (e.g.: the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Montgomery GI Bill, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Assistance)
  • Are not in receipt of VA compensation due to unemployability
  • Are not enrolled in a federal or state job training program

If you meet that criteria, you can apply to the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP).  Senator Patty Murray, Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, proposed and championed the Vow to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 adn it is now the law.  As part of that legislation, twelve months of training assistance is available to those who meet the above qualifications.  The program has 45,000 slots and, currently, only 27,080 spots are filled.

May 31st the House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing on the legislation and how aspects of it were going including VRAP.  The VA's Allison Hickey noted:

VA and the Department of Labor collaboratively developed the VRAP application process and the requirements for the information technology system changes to support this process.  To efficiently leverage existing systems, VA modifided its application for VA education benefits for use by the VRAP applicatns.  The VRAP application is available online at, a web site developed specifically for portions of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act.  This site can be accessed through eBenefits, the GI Bill web site, DoL web sites and numerous other web sites.  Additionally, Veterans can visit their local DoL One-Stop Career Center locations for application assistance.  Applications can be submitted through VA's Veterans Online Application web site.  To be eliglbe for participation, DoL must determine that the applicant is unemployed, not enrolled in any federal or state job-training program and is between the ages of 35 aand 60.  VA verifies the applicant's veteran status and type of discharge, and confirms that the applicant has no other VA education benefits available for use, and is not in receipt of compensation for a service-connected disability rated totally disabling by reason of unemployability.  After eligibility has been established, the applicant identifies his or her intended high-demand occupation category and applicable training institution.  Information about the high-demand occupations, identified by DoL, is availabe on VA's VOW to Hire Heroes web site as well as DoL's web site.

What will VRAP do?  It will provide training for "high demand occupations" as explained in [PDF format warning] this VA report.  There are far too many jobs to list then all but, if accepted in the program, you can be trained to be a loan officer, to be a retail buyer, a claims adguster, a real estate appraiser,  a substance abuse counselor, a paralegal, a computer support specialist, a preschool teacher, a coach, an umpire, a referee, an engineering technician, a registered nurse, a choreographer, a photorgrapher, a police officer, a criminal investigator, a firefighter, a pest control worker, an actor, a pharmacy technician, a barber, a hair dresser or hair stylist, a manicurist, a carpenter, an electrician, a plumber, a bookeeper, an accountant, a sheet metal worker, a police/fire/ambulance dispatcher, a legal secretary, an airline pilot, an air traffic controller, a flight attendant, railroad conductor,  an ambulance driver and much more.  The program isn't about forcing you down a path but about training and certifying you in a "high demand occupation" that you have an interest in.   And that long list of possible training?  Again, that is not the full list.  It's not even a fourth of what's available.  Click on the link to review all that is offered.

Again, there are a little less than 18,000 spots open.  The program's actually already started (July 1st).  Those slots need to be filled.  If you qualify, you should consider applying:

We are accepting VRAP applications now. Please visit eBenefits to apply. Remember, to complete the application, you will need to know your direct deposit information (bank routing number and account number), the name and location of your school, the program you wish to pursue, and the applicable high demand occupation.
Watch for our VRAP public service announcement (PSA) courtesy of CBS on these programs and dates or watch the VRAP PSA now.

The slots need to be filled.  If you qualify, they're going on a first-come-first-serve basis.

The following community sites updated last night:

Kat's "Kat's Korner: Demos, live and what the fans want" went up earlier this morning.  I have another entry to write and Isaiah's latest comic will follow that.  And, at their sites, Mike and Marcia will be posting tonight.

Cindy Sheehan has a special Fourth of July Soapbox on Community Progressive Radio  that's just starting on as I type. If you miss it, besides being in her archives, it will air again this Sunday.  Her guest is Dennis Trainor, Jr. who has made American Autumn, an Occudoc.

The e-mail address for this site is

Posted at 02:04 pm by thecommonills

Jill Stein qualifies for matching funds

Jill Stein qualifies for matching funds

From the  Green Party of Michigan and I've added the photo of Jill Stein. 

For more information, contact:
John A. La Pietra, Elections Coordinator for the Green Party of Michigan (269)781-9478 or by email

For immediate release:
Green Party Presumptive Presidential Candidate Qualifies for Matching Funds

In a statement released this weekend, the committee to elect Dr. Jill Stein announced the campaign's
achievement. This marks the first time a Green Party Presidential candidate has met this standard.
In order to qualify to receive federal matching funds, a candidate must earn donations of at least $5,000
from at least 20 states with each donation limited to $250 from each donor. Because Green Party candidates
refuse corporate donations, this funding will prove crucial to the campaign.
jill stein
Now that the funding has been secured, all donations to the Jill Stein campaign will be matched dollar
for dollar up to the $250 individual donor limit. A rigorous push from Michigan Green Party members resulted in
the state’s inclusion as one of the 20 which helped Dr. Stein reach her goal.
Michigan Green Party Co-Chair Fred Vitale emphasizes the deeper meaning of obtaining matching
funds: “Reaching this landmark underlines that the political conversation in this country, and in Michigan, is
opening up to include Green solutions to the economic and environmental crisis”.
The achievement of this benchmark can be attributed to several factors, not the least of which is Dr.
Stein’s own enthusiasm and common sense strategies for overhauling our broken political system. In her Green
New Deal, Dr. Stein outlines a revolutionary approach to the office of President of the United States. This
summary of the Green New Deal comes directly from her website:
The Green New Deal is an emergency four part program of specific solutions for moving America quickly
out of crisis into the secure green future.
We call these solutions a Green “New Deal” because they are inspired by the New Deal programs that
helped us out of the Great Depression of the 1930s. And these solutions are “Green” because they
create an economy that makes our communities sustainable and healthy.
First, we will guarantee the economic rights of all Americans, beginning with the right to a job at a living
wage for every American willing and able to work.
Second, we will transition to a sustainable, green economy for the 21st century, by adopting green
technologies and sustainable production.
Third, we will reboot and reprogram the financial sector so that it serves everyday people and our
communities, and not the other way around.
Fourth, we will protect these gains by expanding and strengthening our democracy so that our
government and our economy finally serve We the People.
Take courage. Because of the urgency of these times, I am asking you personally to take courage and
to be willing to believe that these major changes to our economy and politics are within our reach.
It was with this strategy in hand that Dr. Stein travelled throughout the country giving interviews, meeting
Green Party members, sitting in solidarity with the Occupy movement and reinforcing her commitment to underserved,
underrepresented groups such as minorities and the poor. She has made several appearances in
Michigan over the past few months, in person and recently on Skype to the Green Party nominating convention
last month. Wherever she has met with Green Party members as well as the general public, Dr. Stein has
proven a dynamic, intelligent and inspiring voice.
The political climate of the United States, as well as that in countries throughout the world, cannot be
ignored. The voices of the previously voiceless 99% of the population has proven that only government truly of,
by and for the people can survive and prosper. It is the hunger of the people for this change and the
dissatisfaction with the two twin major parties which has also propelled Dr. Stein’s campaign.
As November draws closer, excitement continues to build for this, the election year in which the majority
of Americans have the greatest chance to make the most dynamic change.
“The Green Party is no longer the alternative,” one Stein advertisement explains, “it is the imperative.”
The Jill Stein website:

Posted at 01:09 pm by thecommonills

Happy 4th from the House Veterans Affairs Committee

Happy 4th from the House Veterans Affairs Committee

The House Veterans Affairs Committee has a video and press release celebrating the Fourth of July.


Much like the Constitution is not just a piece of paper or the flag a piece of a cloth—the Fourth of July is not just another day of the year.
What makes the Fourth of July so unique is what it symbolizes to Americans. At our Founding, America was but just thirteen colonies under the rule of an imperial power that did not respect the wishes of her people.
In what is now regarded as one of the most influential moments in history, a group of subjects who aspired to be free rose up and declared their independence. Every year, on the Fourth of July we celebrate that boldness which was required to sign the Declaration of Independence and the courage needed to fight the war that followed.
The original fireworks display took an Act of Congress—literally—the display being authorized by Congress and taking place on July 4, 1777, in Philadelphia, one year after the signing of the Declaration. Early celebrations also included small gatherings and parades honoring local veterans of the Revolution. The traditions continue to this day.
It was not until 1870, however, that the federal government declared Independence Day as a federal holiday. Six years later, America celebrated the centennial in grand fashion with a three-day celebration of our Independence.
In 2012, many Americans will undoubtedly spend much of their day with their families and friends. Many will enjoy fireworks displays and attend parties, all while feeling pride for our country. These are customs and traditions of the Fourth of July that have evolved over the past 200 years.
The way Americans choose to celebrate the Fourth of July is up to them, but the inspiration to celebrate is universal. It is just as important to recognize the veterans in your community and take the occasion to thank them for serving. It is because of them that we are still celebrating our freedom 236 years later and why America is so exceptional. – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

The Committee has launched a new Pinterest page to celebrate the Fourth! Get the latest tips to celebrate Independence Day in style, check out specials for veterans and servicemembers, learn who has served, and much, much more! We hope this page will become a special place to share stories of our veterans and their families. And of course, we welcome your feedback! Check us out at

Posted at 12:48 pm by thecommonills

Kat's Korner: Demos, live and what the fans want

Kat's Korner: Demos, live and what the fans want

Kat:  How much money does Carole King need?  That's what I wondered (and still do) when she decided to bore America with a holiday album last November.  11 songs of Christmas and "Chanukah Prayer" to acknowledge that, yes, she is still Jewish.  Why in the world would anyone need or want A Holiday Carole?

Carole's a great songwriter.  She's not the voice of our times.  She's not Sinatra or Streisand, for example.  Her cracked, Canarsie twang is perfect for plaintive laments but, when Christmas rolls around,  I'll stick with Diana Ross' A Very Special Season, thank you very much.

That album came out last year and I wouldn't even be mentioning it (though I did waste money downloading it last winter) were it not for The Legendary Demos which Amazon sent me an e-mail about.  One of those 'based on your interests in' e-mails.  I didn't realize Amazon and I were e-mail buddies.  The Legendary Demos came out  at the very end of April and currently you can download the album and the digital booklet for $5.00 at Amazon.


I'd argue it's worth $5.00 just for the first track, Carole performing "Pleasant Valley Sunday."  The vocals and the piano are crisp.  Some may be thinking, "Isn't that the Monkees' hit?"  Yes, Carole co-wrote the song with first husband Gerry Goffin for the Monkees.

All of these songs are her demo recordings from the days before she was a successful performer.  (Carole had early sixties hits with "It Might As Well Rain Until September" and other songs.)  So she and her songwriting partner -- usually Goffin -- would write the song (Carole grabbing the music, her partner the lyrics) and then it was time to demo it so that the song could be shopped around by Aldon Music (Al Nevins and Don Kirshner's publishing company) to various artists.  Bobby Vee grabbed up "Take Good Care of My Baby" and took it to number one back in 1961.  Listening to Carole's demo version, you'll see why.

Various producers and label execs over the years have made a remark about how they kept Carole's demos.  They've been making those remarks for years and years.  And that's because the demos were amazing.  This isn't just a guide vocal for the person who ends up signing.  These were recordings that basically laid out the whole arrangement.  For example, "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman"?  I've always assumed Aretha and company came up with the backing vocals.  Not really.  Most of that is on Carole's original 1967 demo.Another 1967 demo, "Like Little Children," should have been a hit and, with backing vocals and a driving rhythm, you wonder why Carole's not released it to radio.  It's probably the album's big surprise.

In 1971, her Tapestry album would put her front-and-center as a performer and a mega-millions selling artist.  The 13 demos are all recorded prior to that but the demos do include some songs that would first debut on Tapestry including the title track, the number one hit "It's Too Late," "Beautiful," "Way Over Yonder" and "You've Got A Friend."  It's interesting to listen to how she chose to demo them versus how they ended up on Tapestry.

What's more interesting is how much more vital and alive this format is for Carole than a holiday album.   Possibly the reason her four live albums since 1994 have sold so well is because music lovers know that, on stage, Carole's going to have to give them the piano.  She's resisted that for so long on studio albums.  And it's really all her fans want, to hear Carole doing an acoustic album of songs.

My idea that she needs to make an album geared around her vocals and the piano is not a new one.  Capitol, in fact, demanded that she do so.  Carole had to be pushed and nudged into doing Pearls: Songs of Goffin and King.   She thought it was old fashioned and out of date.  Maybe she was right but it also brought her up to number 44 on the album charts -- after two albums in a row that had failed to make it into the top 100.  It also provided her last top forty hit, the number 12 "One Fine Day."  And that despite the fact that Rita Coolidge had recorded it the year before (with Michael McDonald on backing vocals) and taken the sixties hit into the Hot 100 (number 66; also number 15 on the adult contemporary chart).

Maybe that's what we'll miss the most if the destruction of the brick and mortar stores is followed by the destruction of major labels?  Someone who can say, "Look, this is what you need to do."  Because a lot of artists are their own worst enemies.  And certainly someone like Carole who's structured her entire songwriting around what is commercial is someone who needs other input. 

Another who would benefit from that sort of input is Maria McKee.  She has an album due out shortly, a soundtrack to the film After The Triumph Of Your Birth.  I'm hearing raves about the soundtrack.  Which makes me very happy because I'm a huge Maria McKee fan.

What Carole is on the piano, Maria is on the voice.


She's  the best singer to emerge since 1980 and, back in 2004, I reviewed a live album she'd just put out. I raved over it and it's an amazing album, Live in Hamburg.  There have been two live albums since then -- Live Acoustic Tour 2006 and Live at the BBC (both links go to Amazon's download page for the albums).  The acoustic tour pleased many.  The album?  I'm betting less so.


Live at the BBC came out in 2008 and has a better set of songs. That's not just because there are 19 tracks.  It's because the album's made up of two BBC performances she gave while promoting two different solo albums.  So the concerts include some Lone Justice tracks (the band she hails from) and some tracks from her first two solo albums.  She was promoting tracks from the new album while including Lone Justice favorites because that's what she was known for.

The acoustic album finds her covering her entire career.  And while it's 14 tracks . . . "Belfry" has always been my least favorite Lone Justice song.  In real time, when it showed up on Shelter, I told myself, "That's what happens when you get too close to U2."  And I'm sure there is a segment that loves the song and that all three were thrilled to find it on Live Acoustic Tour 2006.  Richard Thompson's "Has He Got A Friend For Me" is a much stronger song (from her self-titled solo debut album) than "Belfry" but so is every song on Maria McKee and I think a lot of us -- most of us -- would have preferred an acoustic version of "Nobody's Child," the song she co-wrote with Robbie Robertson or any of the tracks she wrote herself on that album.

And that's how I relate this back to Carole.  When you sing like Maria, your base wants to hear you singing songs worthy of your immense talent.  When you play piano like Carole, your base isn't looking for arrangements heavy on guitar and drums.  If/when everyone becomes their own boss in the music business with their own final say, who becomes the advocate for the fans?  It's a question worth considering when you grasp how many artists turn on the talents that first drew listeners to them.

While Live at the BBC has the better set list, Live Acoustic Tour 2006 has the better vocals.  And that's really saying something.  Long before she'd gone solo, music critics across the country had agreed she had pipes and knew how to use them, that she could shade and convey.  And these two 90s concerts that the BBC has put together capture Maria at what was a peak.

Was a peak.

Though the set list disappoints me on Live Acoustic Tour 2006, the vocals don't.  Maria McKee on this album runs circles around the 80s and 90s McKee.  For example, on parts of "Breathe," she turns her voice into water.  I'm not referring simply to vibrato.  She's tossing notes in the air that circle and flow like nothing you've ever heard.  She is the most gifted American singer.  Which makes me very excited about her upcoming soundtrack (due out this August).

Posted at 12:44 pm by thecommonills

Tuesday, July 03, 2012
Iraq snapshot

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, July 3, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue,  the US White House still has no nominee for US Ambassador to Iraq, the State Dept is asked if Barack even plans to name a nominee, Iraq is slammed with bombings, Joe Biden's phone call to Nouri on behalf of ExxonMobil continues to get attention in Iraq (while the US press continues to ignore it), and more.
Conservative Thomas J. Basile (Washington Times) argues of Iraq, "The situation is a tragic reminder of just how fragile the country was when Mr. Obama opted to end any significant involvement in its future.  It also may give Mitt Romney and the Republicans an opportunity to open an effective foreign policy front against the administration for leaving Iraq in the lurch and providing an opportunity for Iran to extend its influence in the region."
Related, who is Peter W. Bodde?  Diplopundit noted in March that he is "a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, is currently the Assistant Chief of Mission for Assistance Transition in Iraq and Coordinator for Minority Issues at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad." He was in the news over the weekend.  Saturday, the Himalayn News Service reported Peter W. Bodde had been named the new US Ambassador to Nepal.  He's set to to go to Nepal "in late August"  and he'll replace Scott H. DeLisi

James Jeffrey is no longer the US Ambassador in Iraq.  He stepped down.  The laughable Brett McGurk had been the new nominee but he withdrew his nomination.  At a time when Iraq is seeing so much violence, the White House still has yet to name a new nominee to be US Ambassador to Iraq and they're also transferring out people like Bodde who have experience?  Bodde is not going from Iraq to Nepal.  Nor should he be expected to.  He has every right to downtime.  And the point isn't that Bodde shouldn't be Ambassador to Nepal.  The point is that the White House is dropping the ball repeatedly.
Dropping the ball includes the fact that they're now scrambling to name the third US Ambassador to Iraq since Barack has been sworn in.  Bully Boy Bush nominee Ryan Crocker agreed to stay on while Barack found a nominee.  That was Chris Hill who was confirmed and didn't make four years, did he?  So then Barack nominated James Jeffrey who, like Hill, didn't even make two years in the post.  Clearly, the White House has done an awful job vetting people to be US Ambassador to Iraq.  This is the most costly diplomatic or 'diplomatic' US mission in the world.  There should not be this kind of turnover rate in the post.  There should have been a steady hand.  Instead, this White House has turned US Ambassador to Iraq into a revolving door post with each nominee having about the same longevity of one Larry King's wives.
Where is the leadership?
And that the Republican leadership in the Senate has failed to point this out is rather surprising.  They objected to Chris Hill but confirmed him.  When Jeffrey came before them, I really expected to see the Ranking Member talk about how 'regretabble' it was that less than two years after Hill was confirmed, they're again having to weigh a nomination for US Ambassador to Iraq.  Maybe if the Ranking Member were John McCain and not Richard Lugar, something would have been said. 
Since there's no one running the mission currently, maybe the Senate Foreign Relations Committee -- regardless of political party -- will start asking the White House some tough questions?  Today at the US State Dept press briefing, spokesperson Victoria Nuland faced some:
MS. NULAND: On Iraq? Yeah.
QUESTION: Yeah. Iraq has seen a great deal of violence in the last few weeks. It always – the summer, it goes up. My question to you is: Are U.S. activities or the State Department or the Embassy's activities in Baghdad have been curtailed as a result of this spike of violence?
MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, not. But I'm going to refer you to Embassy Baghdad.
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: Could you also – could you update us on the status of the new ambassador to Baghdad?
MS. NULAND: You mean whether the White House will nominate a new candidate, is that what you're asking?
MS. NULAND: That is definitely a question for the White House, Said.
QUESTION: But surely you can say that they will.
MS. NULAND: Over to the White House for that one.
QUESTION: Well, are you suggesting the White House is not going to name – nominate someone to be the new ambassador to the White House – I mean, to Iraq?
MS. NULAND: I'm suggesting that consideration on all ambassadorial appointments are the White House prerogative.
QUESTION: Well, are you aware that the Administration is not going to nominate someone to take that position?
MS. NULAND: I'm not aware one way or the other.
QUESTION: Okay. Could you comment on some reports that the relationship between Maliki and the United States is really quite tense these days?
MS. NULAND: We continue to have the same kind of dialogue that we've had all along. We maintain an open channel not only with the prime minister but with all of the major political figures in Iraq. And we use those channels to encourage them, among other things, to work well together and to settle their political differences through constitutional processes.
QUESTION: And who is leading that channel in Baghdad from the U.S. side?
MS. NULAND: The mission, at the moment, is led by our charge d'affaires who was the previous deputy.
Victoria Nuland loves/lives to be evasive.  The name she wouldn't provide is Robert Stephen Beecroft.  And, Nuland tells us, he was formerly the deputy!  Oh so he must have experience with Iraq, right?  No.  He's not even been assigned to Iraq for a year yet.  He began his first Iraq assignment July 14, 2011.  He's been Charge d'affaires since June 1st. 
And what position does he hold currently?  The number two US official in Iraq.  Since James Jeffrey has abandoned his post -- and that is the term for it, when Barack  Obama was sworn in as US President, Ryan Crocker agreed to stay on until Barack could find a successor -- and since this is obviously a very delicate time for Iraq, is it really wise to take the number two US official out of Iraq at a time when not only is there no number one US official (that would be a US Ambassador to Iraq) but the White House hasn't even named a nominee for the post.
If the White House thinks they can get away without naming one in the lead up to the US elections, they are mistaken.  The GOP will jump all over that to remind voters of Barack's indeciveness that characterized his state legislature career and his Senate career and they will draw lines between that and his mis-steps and failures once becoming president.
While Barack dithers, Iraq is again slammed with bombings today. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) notes "a series of attacks" in Karbala, Baghdad and Taji.  BBC News focuses on a truck bombing in Diwaniya where the death toll has reached "at least 25" with another forty injured.  AP notes the truck used in the bombing was a vegetable truck. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) explains, "In that attack, some 99 miles (160 kilometers) south of Baghdad, a suicide bomber parked a truck packed with explosives concealed by watermelons and began calling shoppers to the truck."  Alsumaria reports that the center of city has been closed to all traffic.   Yang Lina (Xinhua) reports 75 injured in that bombing.  Before morning was over in the US today,  RT was reporting the death toll in the Diwaniya bombing has risen to 40.  
AFP observes, "The blast came just hours after near-simultaneous car bombs targeting Shiite pilgrims on the outskirts of the central shrine city of Karbala killed four people." Alsumaria notes of the Karbala bombing that it hit at the popular market where fruits and vegetables are sold, it left 11 dead and forty-five injured (according to police sources) and that millions of Shi'ites are expected to travel through Karbala this week to celebrate the birth of the 12th or Hidden Imam (9th century).  Jamal Hashim and Mustafa Sabah (Xinhua) report, "Karbala's twin bombings came as hundreds of thousands of Shiite pilgrims have started to march to the holy city to commemorate the birth of Imam Mahdi, the last of the twelve most revered Shiite's Imams. Authorities in Karbala expect that the number of pilgrims from Iraqi Shiite cities and outside the country, who started to arrive to observe the ritual ahead of its climax date on Thursday and Friday morning in Karbala will exceed five millions."
Those weren't the only bombings today.  Reuters adds, "Earlier in the day, two roadside bombs targeting Shi'ite pilgrims killed four people and wounded 21 near the central Iraqi city of Kerbala, hospital and police sources said" while AP notes, "In Baghdad, a roadside bomb exploded next to a police patrol in the Sunni-dominated Ghazaliya neighborhood, injuring three policemen and two civilians, a police officer and a health official said." In addition, the Telegraph of London reports, "Another bomb attack in the town of Tuz Khurmatu, north of Baghdad, killed a policeman and wounded another, an officer and a local doctor said."
RTT counts at least 50 dead in today's violence.  Deutsche Welle points out,  "The bombings were just the latest in a series of such attacks in Iraq in recent weeks, which have raised fears that the county could be slipping back into a wider pattern of violence between Sunni and Shiite Muslims."  Sky News notes, "Security forces appear unable to stop the conflict since US troops left Iraq last December, after nearly nine years of war." 
Tim Arango (New York Times) has a more than solid report on the violence and the survivors but we're going to note this observation he makes:
Antony J. Blinken, the national security adviser to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., wrote in Foreign Affairs recently that since President Obama took office, "violence in Iraq has declined and remains at historic lows -- a trend that has continued since the last U.S. troops departed late last year."
In fact, though, more Iraqis -- civilians and security force members alike -- have died from attacks in the first six months of 2012 [2,101] than in the comparable period of 2011 [1,832], according to United Nations statistics. 
2,101 deaths -- UN figures -- in just the first six months of the year.  Where is the security?
Dropping back to the December 21, 2010 snapshot:
Shashank Bengali and Mohammed al-Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) report point out the Cabinet is missing "the key ministries responsible for security and military affairs for now, because lawmakers haven't agreed on who should fill them. There's still no deal, either, on creating a yet-to-be named strategic council -- a U.S.-backed initiative aimed at curbing al-Maliki's powers -- which lawmarkers said could be weeks away." Liz Sly and Aaron Davis (Washington Post) explain, "Maliki appointed himself acting minister of interior, defense and national security and said the three powerful positions would be filled with permanent appointees once suitable candidates have been agreed on."
And that's still true today.  There are no heads to the security ministries.  Nouri's never nominated people for the posts.  He likes to say ___ is "acting" ____.  But there's no such thing as "acting" in the Constitution.  If they are vacant, he controls the ministries.  (By contrast, if he nominates someone and Parliament confirms them, only a vote in Parliament can remove them.  We saw this when Nouri spent months attempting to get Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq removed from office.  (He failed at that removal.)  A real minister doesn't have to do what Nouri says because Nouri can't fire them.  A real minister can run the ministry in a way that he or she feels best benefits the Iraqi people.  By controlling the security ministries, Nouri consoldiates his own power which is why Iraqiya (rightly) called this a power-grab back in 2010.
The 2010 elections were held in March of that year.  The process to form a government was supposed to last a few weeks.  Instead it lasted over eight months.  Why?  Nouri and his State of Law came in second in the elections which meant he wasn't supposed to get first crack at forming a Cabinet.  That should have gone to first place Iraqiya.  But the White House chose to back Nouri.  The Barack Obama White House chose to back a man already repeatedly caught running secret prisons where people were tortured, a man who attacked the press from his first days in office in 2006, a man who had a track record of no results (his entire first term, where he failed to meet the White House established benchmarks for progress that he had agreed to).  They backed this nightmare and that's why Bush starting the illegal war really doesn't matter at this point.
The Iraqi people bravely went to the polls and expressed their will.  It wasn't to give Nouri a second term.  When the White House chose to ignore democracy, the will of the people and the votes to back Nouri, Barack bought into the fate of Iraq.  Sherwood Ross (OpEdNews) notes:

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's "harassment and persecution of anyone deemed a threat to himself or his party has dramatically reduced freedom throughout Iraq," a noted journalist reports.
What's more, al-Maliki is presiding over a system "rife with corruption and brutality, in which political leaders use security forces and militias to repress enemies and intimidate the general population."
So writes former Los Angeles Times foreign correspondent Ned Parker in the March/April issue of "Foreign Affairs" magazine. His is a rather grim assessment of life in "The Iraq We Left Behind" or "Welcome to the World's Next Failed State."
Now Edward R. Murrow Press Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, Parker writes that al-Maliki, America's favorite, "will keep striving for absolute power, using fear, intimidation, and cronyism." And he adds that by turning a blind eye to Maliki's encroaching authoritarianism, "U.S. officials allowed Iraq's political culture to disintegrate."
Whereas some Iraqi officials wonder if the next elections will be free and fair, Parker writes, "several former U.S. military officers wonder if the elections will happen at all."
That's who Barack backed.  That's who he trashed the election, the votes and any hopes of democracy in Iraq for. 
Iraqis get to vote in two sets of elections -- or are supposed to get to vote in two sets of elections: Provincial elections and parliamentary elections.  The provincial elections determine the governance of the provinces.  The parliamentary elections determine who sits in Parliament and are supposed to determine who gets first crack at being prime minister-designate.  Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) reports that the Electoral Commission is stating provincial elections will be postponed until April 2013 and that this is due to both an amendment to a law being needed and also due to budget concerns.  Elections were supposed to be held January 31, 2013.  Budget concerns?  Iraq brought in over six billion in oil revenues last month alone -- and last month was the worst month for oil revenues in Iraq since February 2011. All Iraqi News reported yesterday on the lack of an election law and quoted the Independent High Electoral Commission's Chair Faraj al-Haidari stating that the elections would not be held on time. Today All Iraqi News reports that Arshad al-Salehi,  Chair of the Turkman Front, met with the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq Martin Kobler and stressed that all segments of the Iraqi people need to be represented in the elections.

This does not effect the Kurdistan Regional Government which holds their own provincial election.  They are currently working on a law regarding the Christian minority because, as the law reads currently, Christians must vote for other Christians.   Three provinces currently make up the KRG -- Duhok, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah.  If Article 140 of the Constitution is ever implemented (Nouri was supposed to implement it by the end of 2007, per the Constitution), Kirkuk might also become part of the KRG. 

Someone wants to visist the KRG.  Al Mada reports the National Alliance wants to send a delegation -- with Ibrahim al-Jaafari mentioned as the possible head -- to the KRG.  This would be an effort to smooth things over for Nouri.  Not a smart effort considering the long standing issues between the Kurds and al-Jaafari. Haitham Jubouri, attorney for State of Law, states that the withdrawal of confidence in Nouri is no longer possible. 

A lot of people seem to believe Moqtada al-Sadr has changed his position.  There's nothing he's said that's changed his position.  He appears to be taken the issue of questioning very seriously.  And would appear to be presenting himself as impartial and reluctant.  That's been his position all along.  Is Nouri going to appear before Parliament for questioning?  If he follows the Constitution, yes.  There's not X number needed for questioning.  He has been asked to appear. 

Whether he does or not, per the Constitution, he has to.  If he does, per Moqtada's statements, an opinion will be formed based on Nouri's answers.  If the answers are not satisifactory, Moqtada -- with a heavy heart and great reluctantce -- would have his bloc vote for no-confidence if the others got their required votes.  As Al Mada reports today, the vote is currently postponed because, among other reasons, Jalal Talabani remains out of the country (that reason comes from the Sadr bloc).

Nouri may not appear before Parliament.  Alsumaria has Moqtada al-Sadr already attempting to set guidelines for the Reform Commission.  Yesterday al-Jaafari announced that the Reform Commission had held two hearings so far. All Iraqi News reports the third meeting was held at al-Jaafari's home last night.  There will be a meeting Saturday in Baghdad.

What's the Reform Commission?  Nouri's attempt to avoid a national conference. 
The national conference.  To give Nouri his second term as prime minister and to end Political Stalemate I (the over eight month period of gridlock after the elections), the US said, "Hey, Iraqiya, Kurds, everybody, let's all be adults and end this gridlock.  Let's figure out what you want and we know Nouri wants a second term as prime minister, so let's draw up a contract outlining what your blocs get in exchange for that.  And don't worry, this is a binding contract and we are backing you and the contract."
That was the Erbil Agreement.  It allowed Nouri to be named prime minister-designate in November 2010 and prime minister in December of 2010.
But that wasn't a gift to Nouri.  That was in exchange for his concessions on certain items.  Instead, Nouri trashed the Erbil Agreement, the US government turned its back on the Kurds (to the point that relations with the Kurds right now are at an all time low) and on the new Iraqiya and everyone else.
Part of the reason that the US has been unable to fix anything, to mediate successfully, is due to the fact that Barack's White House has ensured that the US government is not to be trusted by Iraqi politicians.
The Kurds were told in January of 2011, told by US officials, "Be patient.  Nouri will return to the Erbil Agreement."  He didn't.  And by the summer of 2011, with no support coming from DC, the Kurds demanded Nouri return to the Erbil Agreement.  Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr quickly joined the Kurds in that demand.  This is Political Stalemate II.  December 21, 2011, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani began calling for a national conference.  Nouri said no.  Then he stone walled.  Then he finally went along with Jalal's call for an April 5th start date.  But then he called it off less than 24 hours before the conference.
April 28, 2012, efforts began for a no-confidence vote on Nouri.  We could go through all of that but suffice is to say, Jalal met with US officials after the petition got the needed number of signatures for a vote of no-confidence (that number was only needed for a floor vote -- there is no number requirement for Parliament to call for a vote of no-confidence).  US officials pressured the forever-buckle Jalal and he refused to pass on the petition.  Then he fled Iraq for an 'emergency procedure' in Germany (knee surgery).
Let's hope the US got something out of it because they may have leaned on Jalal for the last time.  Not because Jalal will suddenly find a spine but because Jalal's actions have seriously hurt his standing in the KRG.
 Now we're going back to today's US State Dept press breifing.
QUESTION: Okay. Could you comment on some reports that the relationship between Maliki and the United States is really quite tense these days?
MS. NULAND: We continue to have the same kind of dialogue that we've had all along. We maintain an open channel not only with the prime minister but with all of the major political figures in Iraq. And we use those channels to encourage them, among other things, to work well together and to settle their political differences through constitutional processes.
QUESTION: And who is leading that channel in Baghdad from the U.S. side?
MS. NULAND: The mission, at the moment, is led by our charge d'affaires who was the previous deputy.
What's so tense these days?  ExxonMobil and the KRG signed a contract last fall.  Nouri has repeatedly attempted to kill that contract.  As June drew to an end, he sent a formal letter to the White House demanding that Barack kill the ExxonMobil contract.  Forget that it's the immensely powerful oil industry and pretend for a moment it was Betty Crocker and they were planning to send millions of dry cake mixes to Baghdad.  Barack is the President of the United States.  There's a lot of power with that position.  But the president of the United States -- regardless of whom he or she is -- does not control US business, cannot give orders to US businesses.  The United States has no king or queen.
Now let's return to the fact that it is ExxonMobil, that it is the oil industry.  Many have accused the illegal war of being all about oil to begin with.  Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan briefly admitted to that before rushing to deny what he wrote when there was pushback.  (What he had written in his book The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World  was, "Whatever their publicized angst over Saddam Hussein's 'weapons of mass destruction,' American and British authorities were also concerned about violence in an area that harbors a resource indispensable for the functioning of the world economy. I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.")   From SourceWatch:
  • The public interest group Judicial Watch, in July 2003, "after a protracted court battle with the White House," obtained documents utilized by the controversial Cheney Energy Task Force. It was discovered that the task force "led by Vice President Dick Cheney was examining maps of Iraq's oil assets in March 2001, two years before the United States led an invasion to oust Saddam Hussein."
The task force had maps which showed "Iraq's oil fields, its major refineries and pipelines," a list of "companies from countries that were interested in doing business with Saddam's regime, ranging from Algeria to Vietnam," details of "oil and gas projects in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and [which included] information on the cost and status of projects in those countries." [4]
  • "Bush's Cabinet agreed in April 2001 that 'Iraq remains a destabilising influence to the flow of oil to international markets from the Middle East' and because this is an unacceptable risk to the US 'military intervention' is necessary." [5]
A US president will tell the oil industry what to do? 
That would be novel.
More often the oil industry tells the White House what it will do.  From yesterday's snapshot:
Meanwhile remember when Little Saddam (Nouri al-Maliki) forgot he was a puppet and thought he could demand that the White House get ExxonMobil to drop their deal with the Kurds?  Silly puppet.  Administrations dance for oil corporations.  Dar Addustour reports that US Vice Presidetn Joe Biden phoned Nouri on Thursday to express the US government's belief that Nouri needs to stop trying to halt that deal and that Nouri was informed that the F-16s Iraq 'needs' will not be supplied if Nouri doesn't stop trying to halt he ExxonMobil deal.  It's amazing.  Torture cells didn't bother the White House.  Killing gay men and men suspected of being gay didn't bother the White House.  Attacking Iraqi youths didn't bother the White House.  But when a billion dollar ExxonMobil deal was threatened, suddenly the White House is ready to pull the F-16s.
Today Dar Addustour columnist As Sheikh explores the issue and finds Nouri in an embarrassing situation having made a demand and been not only denied his request but informed that if he keeps attacking ExxonMobil's deal with the KRG, he won't get the F-16s he's been insisting he needs. The Thursday night call between Biden and Nouri is noted and As Sheikh says Joe also threatened to deny a number of visas to Iraqi officials.  As Sheikh feels that Iraqis can't grasp the power of ExxonMobil in the US and how it can sway an administration.  He may be right.
Turning to the US and political prisoner Lynne Stewart.  This week's Black Agenda Radio, hosted by Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey (first airs each Monday at 4:00 pm EST on the Progressive Radio Network) featured an update on Lynne from her husband.
Glen Ford:  Lynne Stewart, the New York-based human rights attorney sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges related to her defense of a terrorism sdefendant has lost an appeal in federal court.  She's confined at a medical prison near Fort Worth, Texas.  We spoke with Lynne Stewart's husband and fellow activist Ralphy Poynter.
Ralph Poynter: When I read the papers, and I read them again, one of the things that struck me is that they're referring to Lynne as having disrespect for the law.  My reaction to that is, anybody who studied the history of American law knows it's based in genocide, slavery and the double standard.  And so the only things that we can look to in America that are positive are those people who disobeyed the law and those people who fought to right the wrongs, who followed justice rather than law.  I like that better.  I am proud of her.  I am not saddended -- the things they said about her give me great pride.  We don't have to look far to see where she was afoul of the law [. . .] supporting immigrant rights, immigrant children, supporting the Black Movement,  And all of these things oppose the law.  So they and those who seek justice are coming at opposite ends.  So I applaud Lynne.  She has just had her operation that she should have had 36 months ago and she was scheduled to have her operation when the Second Circuit said she must go to jail immediately because 'she's traveling around the country to law schools and universities corruption our youth.'  So she's just had her operation. She went to a hospital. She said she had good treatment at the hospital.  But they said it was time to go back.  Not according to medical necessity but according to prison necessity. She was concerned about going back to a prison that is not hospital clean.  But Antoinette Martinez, an inmate from the Bronx, made sure that the section she went back to in the prison was as clean as a hospital.  And this really gives me -- Lynne says when she looked and saw it, she came to tears, that the inmates know who she is and are protecting her.  They cleaned. So here we are.  Lynne is fighting for the rights of the people int here and some of the people inside understand who she is and they're fighting for her rights the best way they can.
Last night, I filled in for Elaine and wrote about Lynne so you can refer to that for more but we'll note Peter Daniels (WSWS) article:

One of Stewart's lawyers, Herald Price Fahringer, said that an appeal to the full appeals court would be made, and that attorneys might eventually ask for a Supreme Court review. The opinion is a "terrible deterrent for people speaking out in public," Fahringer said.
Another attorney for Stewart, Jill R. Shellow, said, "Our intent is to pursue all of the legal remedies available to Lynne to redress her unreasonable sentence… Lynne was not and is not a terrorist. She was a fine and dedicated lawyer. She is almost 73, and under the best of circumstances will not be released from prison until 2018. That's a lifetime, her lifetime."
The vindictiveness of the appellate judges compares with the inability and unwillingness of any court up to the Supreme Court to put a halt to the genuinely criminal activities that continue to be carried out at the Guantanamo Bay prison, not to mention the drone attacks and other violations of international law by the Obama administration that provoked the condemnation of former US president Jimmy Carter this past week.

sherwood ross

Posted at 06:41 pm by thecommonills

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