Thursday, April 26, 2012

America's Sour-Heart

Tina Fey: America's Sour-Heart

From November, 23, 2008, that's "America's Sour-heart." and that almost concludes my Tina Fey comics.  I've got one more coming but it's a few months down the line.

I was really glad to have something else to draw and fortunately The Princess Brat Chronicles were starting in real life and that gave me tons of material to work with. 

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, April 26, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue,  Moqtada meets up with Massoud Barzani in the KRG, State of Law whispers to the press, the White House points a finger but fails to realize four point back to them, and more.
Starting with violence, Al Rafidayn notes 3 car bombs were discovered in Anbar Province (before they went off) and the Ramadi home of a police officer was blown up and 1 corpse (Iraq soldier -- shot dead and tossed in the river) was discovered in Diyala  Province.  On Diyala, RIA Novosti notes a suicice car bombing there today.  BBC News adds that it was a suicide car bombing followed by a cafe bombing.  Reuters counts 10 dead and eighteen injured.  Mohammed Lazim (CNN) reports Baghdad also saw twin bombings -- a car bombing in the al-Hurriya district and another bombing in Sadr City. Raheem Salman (Reuters) counts 5 dead and twenty-seven injured in the Baghdad bombings.  Violence in Iraq has risen sharply since the 2003 invasion.  (Yeah, that's the way AFP and the others should report it instead of their embarrassing clowning where they use 2006 as a 'base year' for everything in Iraq.) And  Margaret Griffis ( counts 10 dead yesterday and seventeen injured.
We noted an important column by Joel Wing about nine days ago and were going to note it as the month drew to a close with the hopes that some outlets would actually pay attention to the topic.  I hadn't planned for us to do that today but we'll jump the gun on it due to another article.  First, the coverage -- the lack of coverage -- of violence in Iraq is ridiculous.  Reuters, of course, dropped their "Factbox" which was one of the few things that covered daily violence -- McClatchy long ago dropped their daily roundup of violence.  With most western outlets no longer covering violence unless at least 20 die in one day, the false impression that violence disappeared in Iraq takes hold.  Reality is further threatened by a lazy press which has never kept their own numbers for Iraqi dead but now just pander to Nouri al-Maliki and cite his and only his figures.  It's in Nouri's interest to lie and pretend violence is dropping, dropping, almost gone.  As we've noted repeatedly in the last months, the 'official figures' don't even meet the totals of Iraq Body Count.  And for the bulk of the Iraq War, the press went with Iraq Body Count's numbers.  Now they won't even acknowledge those numbers because it might make Nouri look bad.  You've got a press corps that has bowed and scraped to Nouri in a way that makes CNN's overtures to Saddam Hussein under Eason Jordan look like nothing more than professional courtesy.  Credit to Joel Wing for his column on the issue of the dead and the way their being counted.  Excerpt.

In February 2012, the Iraqi government released its official figures for casualties from April 2004 to the end of 2011. It had over 69,000 deaths for that time period. That count was 30,000 less than other organizations that keep track of violence in Iraq. During the height of the civil war, the country's ministries' numbers were comparable to other groups, but since 2011 they have consistently been the lowest. While some Iraqi politicians have claimed that the official counts miss many deaths, it could also be argued that the statistics are being politicized by the prime minister who controls all of the security ministries.
On February 29, 2012, Iraqi government spokesman Ali Dabbagh announced the government's numbers for deaths in the country. He said that from April 5, 2004 to December 31, 2011 69,263 Iraqis were killed. 239,133 were also wounded. The deadliest year was 2006 when there were 21,539 dead, and 39,329 wounded. 2011 was the least violent with only 2,777 casualties. Of the nation's eighteen provinces, Baghdad was the deadliest with 23,898 dead for the reported time period, followed by Diyala, Anbar, and Ninewa. Muthanna in the south was the safest with only 94 killed over the seven years covered. A member of parliament's human rights committee immediately criticized the report. The deputy claimed that there were thousands of people who disappeared during the civil war that were never counted. He also said that out in the countryside, reporting to the ministries was poor. No numbers on violence in Iraq can be anywhere near complete. During the civil war from 2005-2008 there were sections of the country that were too dangerous to enter and do any serious reporting. Some insurgent groups also buried their victims. The problem with the ministries numbers however are that they are so far below other organizations that keep track of violence in Iraq, which was not always true.
Read the column in full.  But with that in mind, see if you can spot the problem in the following passage by Robert Tollast from an interview with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (again, the passage below is writtne by Tollast):
In March 2006 for example, an estimated 1500 people died a violent death in Baghdad according to Iraq Body Count, and that was not the capital's worst month. In sharp contrast, official figures show a civilian death toll of 112 across all of Iraq for March 2012.
Did you catch the problem?  In 2006, X is the figure and Iraq Body Count is the source.  Last March, Z is the number of deaths but they're using "official figures," not IBC.  That's what they call comparing apples and oranges.  112 people died in Iraq last month?
No.  That's not what Iraq Body Count found.  They found 295 deaths in the month of March.  We used a screen snap of their monthly total in this earlier editorial for Third Estate Sunday Review. Right now -- with no addition of today's deaths, they're counting 250 dead so far this month in Iraq.  Will the press note this when they cover deaths in their monthly look back?  If the new pattern holds, they'll ignore Iraq Body Count.  And continue to pretend that reporting the tallies released by an interested party as if (a) they're objective and (b) the only tallies that exist.
On the topic of violence, Robert Tollast did explore the targeting of Iraqi youth -- Emos and LGBTs and those suspected of being either with Michael Knights:
RT: This month we have seen a disturbing spike in violence against young Iraqis who are guilty of nothing more than sporting western style fashions, which the Iraqis have dubbed "emo" (after the American music genre.) They are only the latest group to be targeted by religious extremists, alongside barbers deemed un-Islamic and homosexuals. Iraqi religious leaders have been united in condemning attacks against "emos" notably al-Sadr and Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali al-Sistani.
The violence is also specific to Iraq, since these fashions are banned in Iran, but were briefly popular and not punishable by death. There is clearly a new generation in Iraq who are desperate to move on from war and oppression, and they are being targeted by men who are simply after the next person to kill, now that their local Sunnis have fled and the US has departed. Perhaps this is what the reconciliation of groups like Asaib ahl-Haq will look like: they will always find something to violently resist. Can the Iraqi government reasonably expect to rehabilitate groups like AAH, who could well be behind a lot of these killings?
MK: Anyone familiar with the "loss" of Basrah to the militias in 2006-2007 will shudder to see the same trends writ large across Baghdad and southern Iraq. In Basrah, the first targets for the Shiite vigilantes were the alcohol vendors, the music shops and eventually the university campuses. Some horrific things happened back then and this most recent set of attacks on youth is a reminder that religious vigilantes remain a major threat to personal security and liberty in Iraq. Back in 2006-2007 in Basrah, the British effectively surrendered the city to the vigilantes; now groups like AAH have greater license to operate because they are starting to side with the government in national politics.
The lesson from Basrah is that the militias do not stop after they target the minorities and niche groups: they keep pushing until they begin to rival the government and threaten the public perception of the government's "monopoly of force." When that day comes, the government is forced to smash the militants back down to their roots again, as occurred in Basrah and Baghdad in 2008. Getting back to your question, it is clear that reconciliation efforts should, as a prerequisite, only involve movements that have frozen their involvement in violence. AAH has never fully recanted violence: even when the United States was seeking to de-militarize AAH, the movement would not agree to any of the preconditions that other insurgent groups accepted (providing an oath to renounce violence, surrendering biometric data, etc.). Building up AAH -- which is the real Iraqi counterpart to Lebanese Hezbollah, unlike Moqtada's scattered followers -- is a dangerous game for any government to play.
By the way, if you're in Boston tomorrow (we will be but not in the afternoon), Boston University is hosting a panel on Iraq and Afganistan moderated by BU professor John Carroll with the following panelists: professor Andrew J. Bacevich, the Boston Globe's David Greenway, former US Ambassador Peter Galbraith and retired General David McKiernan.  Details are here and the 1:00 pm event is free and open to the public.  Early on the Boston Globe covered Iraq itself (instead of reprinting articles by their corporate owners the New York Times).  Back when they were covering Iraq, Elizabeth Neuffer was their correspondent.  She died May 9, 2003 in a car accident outside Samarra. Since her death, the International Women's Media Foundations has annually awarded the Elizabeth Neuffer fellowship. The most recent journalist honored with the fellowship is Ugrandan reporter Jackee Budesta Batanda who has covered acid attacks on women in Uganda among other topics.  IWMF notes of the fellowship:
One woman journalist will be selected to spend seven months in a tailored program with access to MIT's Center for International Studies as well as media outlets including The Boston Globe and The New York Times.  The flexible structure of the program will provide the fellow with opportunities to pursue academic research and hone her reporting skills covering topics related to human rights.
The Elizabeth Neuffer Fellowship is open to women journalists whose focus is human rights and social justice.  Applicants must be dedicated to a career in journalism in print, broadcast or online media and show a strong commitment to sharing knowledge and skills with colleagues upon completion of the fellowship.  Excellent written and spoken English skills are required.  A stipend will be provided, and expenses, including airfare and housing, will be covered.
For the next honoree, applications are currently being accepted and will be through April 30th -- May 1st will be too late.  If you're interested in applying, you can click here for more information.  In addition, next week, May 3rd, IWMF will announce their winners of the 2012 Courage in Journalism Award and Lifetime Achievement Award.  We will be including that whether it involves Iraq journalism or Iraqi journalism or not.  A friend with IWMF feels that last year's winners did not get coverage from the bulk of the press.  (We didn't cover it here at all, I'll freely admit.  But she's talking about the press, not about this site.)  I told her last night I'd do what I could offline as well as mention it here.
Back to Iraq, the political crisis continues.  Al Rafidayn reported this morning that Moqtada al-Sadr would be visiting KRG President Massoud Barzani today to discuss the crisis   Earlier, Aswat al-Iraq reported Barzani had invited Moqtada to a May 7th meet-up in Erbil to address the political crisis.  Today AFP quotes the Sadr bloc's Salah al-Obeidi stating, "The crisis needs such a move to resolve the situation.  The Sayyed is trying to put Al-Ahrar [his parlimenatry bloc] and himself personally in the middle." Lara Jakes (AP) reports on a "45 minute interview" with Barzani in which he calls out the ongoing crisis and states, "What threatens the unity of Iraq is dictatorship and authoritarian rule. If Iraq heads toward a democratic state, then there will be no trouble.  But if Iraq heads toward a dictatorial state, then we will not be able to live with dictatorship."  A longer version of Lara Jakes' report can be found at Lebanon's Daily Star.  In the interview, Barzanai says that September needs to be agreed to as the time by which the political crisis must be solved and, if not, breaking with Baghdad may be put on the KRG ballot.

The KRG is supposed to hold provincial elections September 12th.  They do their provincial elections differently than the rest of Iraq.  Not just because they're semi-autonomous but also because when the KRG says they're holding elections, they do so.  The 2010 parliamentary elections across Iraq were supposed to have been held in 2009.  But Nouri and company couldn't get it together to pass an election law.  The 2010 elections led to eight months of political stalemate as Nouri refused to relinquish the post of prime minister even those his State of Law came in second.  In November 2010, Political Stalemate I was ended when the US-brokered Erbil Agreement was signed off on by all the parties.  This was a series of concessions.  Nouri, for example, conceeded to allow Ayad Allawi (of Iraqiya which came in first in the elections) to head an independent security council and to hold the census and referndum in Kirkuk that the Iraqi Constitution demands he hold.  He had to make other concessions (on paper) but those were among the biggies.  In exchange, the other parties agreed to allow Nouri a second term as prime minister.  Nouri used the Erbil Agreement to get that second term and then (Decemeber 2010, one month later) trashed the agreement, refusing to honor his promises to the other political blocs.  That's what started Political Stalemate II, the ongoing crisis.  Since last summer, Iraqiya, the Kurds, ISCI and the Sadr bloc have called for a return to the Erbil Agreement and for it to be fully implemented.  Yesterday, Margret Griffis ( reported, "Separately, the Iraqi Accord Front, which is a member of the Iraqiya bloc, complained that Maliki has ignored the Arbil Agreement that he accepted in order to retain the premiership for a second term. Barzani was instrumental in the creation of the agreement after 2010 elections failed to produce an uncontested winner. A spokesman for the front said if they agreement is not fulfilled, they would withdraw confidence from Maliki."  Alsumaria reports that Barzani has called a meeting "next Saturday" and invited members of the Kurdistan Alliance serving in Parliament as well as all members of the KRG's Parliament -- all regardless of political party. Barzani has not announced what the topic of the meeting will be leading to speculation that this meet-up may explore Iraq politics (such as replacing Nouri) or KRG politics (such as breaking further with Baghdad). 
Massoud Barzani, the president of Iraq's Kurdistan region, warned on Wednesday that Kurdish voters may consider secession if Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki and his Shiite bloc do not agree to share power by September. He said that Iraq's unity is threatened by Maliki's "dictatorship and authoritarian rule." Barzani's comments followed earlier remarks on Sunday in which he expressed his concerns that Maliki might use F-16 warplanes against Iraqi Kurdistan, saying "We must either prevent him from having these weapons, or if he has them, he should not stay in his position." Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr arrived in Kurdistan on Thursday in an attempt to help resolve the situation.
C Luan (Xinhua) notes that al-Sadr and Barzani were scheduled to meet today.  AFP has a photo of Barzani greeting Moqtada al-Sadr as he leaves arrives in Erbil.  And they quote him declaring at the Erbil Airport, "I met Nouri al-Maliki in Tehran, and I came to listen to the opinions of the Kurdish leaders and their views. Everyone should look out for the public interest and the unity of the Iraqi people, and I hope that everyone will be responsible."
Al Rafidayn meanwhile notes that Nouri's State of Law is insisting Barzani is leading Iraq down "a path of darkness."  Of Barzani, AFP notes, "He is the highest-ranking Iraqi official to disavow Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government for sidelining its political opponents and, in some cases, persecuting them in what critics call an unabashed power grab.  Critics are seeing Barazani's statements as an attempt by the Kurds to place pressure on Baghdad and force the central government to follow the Kurdish way instead of a real pursuance of secession. " 
It's being called a "historic moment" by some news outlets.  Aswat al-Iraq noted yesterday, "Sadrist Trend MP Hakim al-Zamili disclosed that some of the political blocs desire to have a candidate from the Sadrist Trend to assume the premiership, which matter shall be decided by Sadrist leader Muqtada al-Sadr."  As we've noted since the summer of 2010, French and British diplomats believe that when Tehran pressured Moqtada to back Nouri al-Maliki (whom Moqtada loathes), they finally got his agreement by promising they would back him to be the next prime minister.  Earlier this week, we noted the publicly expressed strategy of Sadr which is that if there is agreement on who would be the next prime minister -- agreement among the political blocs in Iraq -- he would take part in a no-confidence vote.  Interestingly, while AFP quotes Moqtada stating that the issue of the security ministries needs to be addressed (Nouri was supposed to have nominated people to head the ministries back in December 2010 but he never did that for the security ministries which has allowed him to control those ministries), Kitabat reports that one of "the most important discussion topics" between Barzani and Moqtada is that Nouri must not have a third term as prime minister.  Kitabat notes that Moqtada was expected to go to Najaf after leaving Erbil.

Al Rafidayn meanwhile reports that Nouri's State of Law is insisting Barzani is leading Iraq down "a path of darkness."   When you put all the current pieces together, it appears Moqtada may be even closer to becoming Iraq's prime minister.  Dar Addustour is among those reporting today that Nouri met with Moqtada while Nouri was in Tehran over the weekend and that Moqtada promised his support. Also citing an unnamed source, Alsumaria reports on the alleged meeting.  Is it in Moqtada's interest to leak the story?  No.  But it is in Nouri's interest.  Nouri and his State of Law is the most likely source of the rumor.  It may or may not be true.  And Nouri has a habit of hearing what he wants to hear.  Also true, Moqtada has become quite the political figure and may be playing every angle.  (That's not a slam against him but it is noting that Moqtada al-Sadr of 2012 is not the struggling and tone-deaf politician of the early stages of the Iraq War.)  Finally, Alsumaria reports the League of Righteous -- armed militants/terrorists, etc. -- held a press conference in Baghdad today to announce that they plan to participate in the elections for provincial councils and that they represents the resistance which was able to defeat the most powerful country in the world (the United States). The League split with Moqtada al-Sadr over a number of issues.   Nouri had hoped to use them as a way to block Moqtada but that hasn't happened thus far.
In the US, Iraq's becoming a campaign issue. Ben Smith and Zeke Miller (Buzz Feed) report Mitt Romney's being slammed for choosing the husband of journalist Campbell Brown (formerly of NBC and CNN) for a foreign policy advisor because the man, Dan Senor, was a White House advisor in Iraq from April 2003 through July 2005 where he helped with press briefings and was an adivsor to Paul Bremer and many more tasks. The re-election campaign for President Barack Obama sent out a release that Smith and Miller quote from which includes: "DAN SENOR WAS THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION'S SPIN MASTER FOR THE WAR IN IRAQ AND WORKED TO ADVOCATE LONGER U.S. INVOLVEMENT IN IRAQ."  Ali Gharib (Think Progress) has a rap sheet of Senor's supposed crimes. Smith and Miller note that "Democrats see in Senor's emergence an extension of the unpopular Bush Administration and its unpopular war." And so everyone's mouthing off when, quite frankly, they all need to pipe down.
I'd love it if we were holding people accountable.  But that's not the case.  As so many work overtime to let you know that Dan Senor is close to Robert Kagan (I know Kagan), we're all supposed to look the other way on the fact that Barack's administration has chosen to make Victoria Nuland a State Dept spokesperson.  For those who don't know, Victoria Nuland is married to Robert Kagan.  NPR wants you to believe that when they let Kagan critique then-presidential candidate John Kerry on air that they had no idea Kagan was the husband of Victoria Nuland who was, at that time, Dick Cheney's national security advisor.  (If you need a refresher or this is new to you, drop back to November 2004 and read "When NPR Fails You, Who You Gonna' Call? Not the Ombudsman.")  Dick Cheney's national security advisor?  Who's married to Robert Kagan?  I'd say Joe Biden (who's the designated attack dog on this point) needs to find a new topic damn quick.  Victoria Nuland is not the only neocon that Barack Obama has brought into his administration, nor is she the only supporter of the Iraq War that he has brought into his administration.  I'd love it if they had maintained some sort of a standard, if the current White House had, but they maintained no such standard.  Most people aren't even aware of this but the only US Ambassador to Iraq that we have so far had who was against the war?  That was Ryan Crocker, the Bush appointee.  Chris Hill, Barack's first appointee, was for it.  Frothing at the mouth for it.  The current Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey was for it.  Barack's new nominee?  Brett McGurk?  Not only was he for the Iraq War, he was tasked with that war in the lead up to it and after it.  That's what his focus was when he was on Bush's National Security Council. Let's go to McGurk's Harvard bio:
During the Bush administration, McGurk served as Director for Iraq and then as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Iraq and Afghanistan.  In this position, McGurk oversaw all aspects of U.S. policy relating to wars in both theaters.  In 2005 and 2006, he was an early proponent of the strategy now known as the "surge" and was a lead participant in the 2006 strategic review of Iraq policy, which led to the surge of U.S. forces into Iraq and significant changes to U.S. strategy there.
In 2007 and 2008, McGurk served as lead negotiator and envoy for negotiations with the Government of Iraq on both a long-term Strategic Framework Agreement and a Security Agreement (also known as a "SOFA") to govern the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq and the normalization of bilateral relations between Iraq and the United States.  The Iraqi parliament ratified both agreements on November 26, 2008, and they went into effect on January 1, 2009.  In recognition for
this achievement, McGurk received the State Department's Distinguished Honor Award from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice -- the highest award the Secretary of State can bestow on a civilian not serving in the Department.
Prior to serving on President Bush's National Security Council staff, McGurk served as a legal advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and then the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad under Ambassador John Negroponte.  In this capacity, he helped structure the legal framework for Iraq's first nationwide election and was a key participant in the negotiation of Iraq's interim constitution.  He was identified in 2004 as "one of the heroes" of the CPA period by Atlantic Monthly magazine, and has since been recognized by leading commentators as one of the few policymakers who advocated the critical changes to U.S. policy that led to the surge and an improving situation in Iraq.

Again, drawing attention to Dan Senor's Iraq connections?  They blew that chance years ago when they brought so many War Hakws into the administration.  In addition, nominating McGurk pretty much ensured that all the Iraq War Hawks were immunized.  Ben Smith will always carry Barack's water -- probably his urine as well -- but not everyone in the press will choose to be so compliant.  The White House will fnd out quickly that if they try to make Senor an issue, the press will be happy to note his counterpart's in Barack's administration.  It's not a winning strategy.
On top of that, there's the hypocrisy.  Justin Raimondo ( calls the administration out:
The world is in chaos, war is breaking out all over, there's blood flowing in the streets of cities from the Middle East to Africa, but not to worry – we've got an "Atrocity Prevention Board"! Now doesn't that make you feel much better?
The board is chaired by the infamous Samantha Power – whose advocacy of the "responsibility to protect" doctrine is credited with the Obama administration's support for Islamist rebels in Libya, and is currently energizing calls for a similar intervention in Syria. The announcement of this new bureaucratic instrument of war was made by Obama at a recent speech delivered at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, where professional warmonger and Israel Firster Elie Wiesel took the opportunity to call for war with Iran and the President, for his part, announced the imposition of new sanctions on both Iran and Syria.
The atrocities this board is supposed to prevent are those that are not committed by the US: our atrocities, you understand, are really "humanitarian" acts, as opposed to their atrocities, which are … well, just plain old atrocities. One can safely assume the cold-blooded murder of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, killed by US sanctions prior to the invasion, is not one of those atrocities to be considered by the Board. Nor will those many thousands of Iraqi civilians who lost their lives in the war be so recognized.
No, designation will be reserved for the actions of governments that defy our will, like Iran and Syria. Obama singled out South Sudan and Libya as monuments to this policy of "atrocity prevention" – Libya, whose Islamist government is jailing, murdering, and otherwise repressing its own people, and South Sudan, a completely made-up "nation" that owes its very existence to Western intervention, routinely arrests opposition figures and journalists, and is currently involved in putting down local and tribal insurgencies in the majority of its provinces (with our help, you can be sure).
The piddling atrocities carried out by such tinhorn despots as Bashar al-Assad and the Iranian mullahs are nothing compared to the large-scale war crimes routinely committed by US forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Our drones roam the world, wreaking random havoc on innocents and "terrorists" alike – oh, but that isn't an "atrocity." It's "fighting terrorism." That is how the world's biggest perpetrator of atrocities gets to set up an "Atrocity Prevention Board" and not be laughed off the world stage.
Read on ...

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Ghosts of Network Bombs Past and Present

Ghost of Network Bombs Past and Present

From November 16, 2008, that's "Ghosts of Network Bombs Past and Present."  It's another Tina Fey comic.  There's no excuse for her bad show's ratings.  And she should have gotten the axe a long, long time ago.

Jerry Van Dyke -- before I was even born -- starred in a sitcom called My Mother The Car.  It's considered one of the worst sitcoms of all time.  

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, April 19, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Iraq is slammed with violence, former US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill mocked the assassination of JFK (while being paid by US taxpayers), Tareq al-Hashemi talks to the BBC about future steps in Iraq, Nouri continues his war with ExxonMobil, and more.
As dust storms swept many areas today, AGI notes "a wave of attacks" slammed Iraq. 
Al Arabiya reports, "More than 20 bombs hit cities and towns across Iraq on Thursday, killing at least 36 and wounding more than 100, police and hospital sources said, raising fears of sectarian strife in a country keen to show it can now maintain security." Adnkronos International quotes Baghdad security chief Diya al-Wakil saying of the attacks, "It's an attempt to cause our efforts to return security to the country to collapse.  It's a way to make the Iraqi people have a bad opinion about our work."

Jane Arraf (Al Jazeera) explains "The blasts were a series of co-ordinated attacks in Baghdad and northern cities but mostly within Shia neighbourhoods." Prensa Latina notes, "An Interior Ministry's spokesman said the first explosion occurred at rush hour this morning, when a car bomb exploded in the Shiite neighborhood of Kazimiyah, in northern Baghdad, killing three and injuring 11."  The Belfast Telegraph adds, "Extremists launched 12 attacks in the Iraqi capital and in the cities of Kirkuk, Samarra, Baqouba, Dibis and Taji. Mortars were fired into the northern cities of Beiji and Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, but no injuries were reported there." UPI counts 35 dead and over seventy-three injured while the Voice of Russia counts 36 dead and over one hundred dead. ITV also goes with 36 killed.  Salam Faraj (AFP) counts it out this way, "Twenty-two civilians, eight police, three members of an anti-Qaeda militia and two soldiers were killed in dozens of attacks, including 14 separate car bombings."  Alsumaria puts the number injured at over 146.  As the day ended, AFP noted the death toll -- per security officials -- had risen to 38 with over one-hundred and sixty people wounded.
The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General (SRSG) for Iraq, Mr. Martin Kobler, condemned in the strongest terms the series of bomb attacks that took place today across Iraq and that have reportedly resulted in dozens of deaths and injuries.
SRSG Kobler expressed concern at the continuation of violence in the country and the targeting of security officials and personnel as well as the indiscriminate attacks on civilians. "These horrendous crimes being committed against the Iraqi people need to stop for Iraq to achieve the prosperous and secure future its people duly deserve," SRSG Kobler said.
SRSG Kobler reiterated the need for all Iraqis to work together to end the hideous crimes being committed against the Iraqi people to hamper its success as a democratic, stable and prosperous nation.
SRSG Kobler extends his condolences to the families of those who were killed and his wishes for the speedy recovery of those who were injured, and called on the Iraqi people to remain steadfast in the face of the attempts to derail Iraq's quest for a better future.
This would be a good place to note the lousy performance of the US State Dept, but we'll pick that up after the day's violence.
The Los Angeles Times explains, "The attacks drew sharp criticism of the country's security apparatus, with Maysoon Damalooji, spokeswoman for the Iraqiya political bloc, saying they reflected planning weakness. Parliament Speaker Usama Nujaifi demanded that leaders of the security forces bear responsibility."  Peter Cave (Radio Australia News)quotes Maysoon al-Damaluji stating, "The continuation of bloody explosions, although it has been already announced that tight security measures have been taken, reflects the weak security plans and the necessity to reconsider them.  The commander of the armed forces [Nouri al-Maliki] is responsible for providing security and complete safety for citizens."  Alsumaria reports that the Kirkuk Provincial Council is calling for all security plans to be reviewed stating that the plans clearly are not preventing attacks or providing security.  John Glaser ( offers, "Many criticize Maliki with being preoccupied with his own authority instead of ensuring security in the country."  Al Bawaba also stresses that perception, "These attacks occur amid a highly tense political climate. Several political parties have accused Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is in office since 2006, of seeking to impose a new dictatorship in Iraq."
Last month, Iraq Body Count reported at least 295 people died from violence in Iraq. And that March total came about only after Baghdad was under lockdown for a full week in the days leading up to the Arab League Summit. Already this week, Xinhua has reported 13 dead in Monday's violence alone (nine injured).

BBC News (link is text and video) breaks down today's violence as follows:

In Baghdad, a series of at least five blasts struck in various Shia neighbourhoods
Police say two car bombs went off in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290km) north of Baghdad
A suicide bomber killed a police officer in Baquba, an army officer said
Two car bombs targeted security forces in Samarra
A parked car exploded killing passers-by in Dibis
A roadside device exploded in Taji

Rami Ruhayem declares, "The targets have been varied. Some of them are civilian targets such as shops, Iranian pilgrims in Baghdad and also army and police forces." Richard Spencer (Telegraph of London) observes, "Five members of the Sahwa, or Awakening Council, a Sunni militia formed by the American forces before they left the country to combat Al-Qaeda in their own areas, were killed in a bomb attack on a checkpoint in Samarra."  Deutsche Welle adds, "The blasts unfolded closely, over an hour and a quarter." Xinhua notes there were car bombs, roadside bombs, suicide bombs and shootings. Press TV states, "Police officials in the provincial capital city of Mosul in Nineveh said three people sustained injuries in a bomb attack carried out in a restaurant."

ITN quotes a wounded police officer in Kirkuk stating, "I was trying to stop traffic to let a police patrol pass. When it passed, a car bomb exploded and I fell on the ground and police took me to the hospital."
In addition to the above, Alsumaria notes a Baiji refinery came under a mortar attack causing minor damage to the refinery and fence but leaving one worker injured.
While the UN spoke clearly, the US State Dept continued its role as eternal disappointment. Spokesperson Mark C. Toner handled the breifing today and wouldn't have even raised the issue of Iraq if, in the last five, the issue of Iraq and a meeting with Iran May 23rd to discuss nuclear issues, hadn't been raised. Once the issue was raised, the spokesperson suddenly remembered Iraq.
Mark C. Toner: Oh, absolutely. We are -- first of all, I want to strongly condemn today's attacks. Targeting of innocent civilians is unacceptable; it's cowardly. And we obviously offer our condolences to the victims. But we are -- they just hosted a very successful Arab League Summit and we have every confidence that they can host this meeting.
The State Dept spends more on Iraq than any other country. They claim they need 6 billion dollars yearly and aren't prepared to say when that 'need' might end but admit to Congress that it will be "years." Yet as violence sweeps Iraq today, they can't even think to weigh in on the subject? They have to be asked to remember? And that's in the last three minutes of a lengthy press conference?
Someone needs to explain it to the State Dept. First, if you ask the American people if the State Dept needs $6 billion annually just for Iraq, the answer back is going to be NO. Not by a plurality but by a strong majority. Second, if you're spending taxpayer money, taxpayers have a right to expect updates. Under Barack Obama (US President) and Hillary Clinton (Secretary of State), the State Department has become as secretive as the Department of Justice under Bully Boy Bush -- and that's nothing to be proud of. The secrecy is evident in the continued attacks on Foreign Service Officer Peter Van Buren. At his blog today, Van Buren's notes the violence in this post and the US Embassy in Baghdad's silence as well as including a photo that was also up in a post yesterday while everyone was focused on the US official who received a blow job on a Baghdad roof. The photo is of former US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill. It's Halloween and some woman has dressed as then-Jackie Kennedy which is in poor taste since she and Chris Hill are a 'couple' (at least for Halloween). Hill's dressed as? A Secret Service bodyguard of JFK's.
That's not funny. I hate Bill Maher, but if he did it, I wouldn't care. I wouldn't care about any private citizen. But Hill was the US Ambassador to Baghdad and he thought it was hilarious to mock the day JFK was assassinated? What kind of leadership did this asshole provide?
All the manic depressive kook did was rip apart the diplomtic ground work Ryan Crocker had established. Hill was afraid of Nouri al-Maliki. Gen Ray Odierno had to repeatedly calm the fretful Chris Hill down. So not only was he not up to the job (as we said in real time after he appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee), he was a total creep. What he did was disgusting and that he did it an Embassy Halloween function? Chris Hill needs to be loudly condemned. I knew he was an ass and I knew he was an idiot but I was passed his personnel file before he was confirmed. Based on that record alone, he shouldn't have been confirmed.
But to now find out that the ass thought it was appropriate to mock one of the worst days in American history? To dress up as a Secret Service agent who wasn't able to protect Kennedy and some State Dept Woman (referred to as SDW from this point on) who thought she could dress up as Jackie Kennedy from the same day?  Cause what's funnier than seeing your husband shot dead before your eyes?  What's funnier than have bullets flying all around you? 
Did Jacqueline Kenney Onassis really deserve that 'joke'?  She conducted herself on the day and the immediate days after in a manner that still sets a standard for First Ladies.  And some employee of the State Dept thinks they can go to a department party mocking her?  Mocking her on what was one of the scariest and saddest days of her life?
(FYI, SDW is an idiot for many reasons including her pink ensemble isn't what Jackie was wearing that day -- Jackie had on a pink skirt, a black top, a pink jacket and a pink hat, the idiot doesn't even the outfit right.)
And Chris Hill didn't just give it a thumbs up which would have been bad enough, he actively participated in the sick 'joke' by dressing as a Secret Service agent.  (In fairness to the Secret Service which is under fire right now, it should be noted that the 'joke' was in poor taste to their efforts that November day as well.)
That is disgusting. That is offensive and grasp, please grasp, that Hill was supposed to be a diplomat. He's an idiot and he owes the American people an apology. That little stunt wasn't funny and it wasn't cute. Apparently, if he'd remained in government service, he'd be dressed as a 9-11 victim this year and his date as the Twin Towers. This was beyond tasteless. Chris Hill needs to answer for this.  And I think Hillary does as well.  What did the White House think when they learned Chris Hill, at a party in Baghdad, thought it would be funny to lampoon the assassination of JFK? 
That is beyond tacky, it's beyond offensive, there's no excuse for it. Chris Hill is trash, 100% trash.
Tacky?  Offensive?  Nouri al-Maliki.
As he's pushed his power-grab, he's targeted nearly every classification in Iraq.  In December, he was targeting Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq (demanding he be stripped of his post) and Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi (demanding he be arrested for 'terrorism.'  Until recently, al-Hashemi was in the KRG which provided him with asylum.  He is currently on a diplomatic mission and has visited Qatar, Saudi Arabia and now Turkey. 
From Turkey, he spoke with the BBC (link is text and audio) today and explained, "The difference is now between me and Maliki.   It's the difference between somebody who is interested in democratic model in the Middle East and somebody else who's still very much interested in divert the political process into some sort of autocractic regime.  This is the basic difference, in fact."  He also stated that he intends to return to the KRG and that, whent he political crisis is over, he intends to return to Baghdad.
Al Sabaah notes the National Alliance's call for a return to the Erbil Agreement. The Erbil Agreement ended Political Stalemate I, eight months of gridlock following the March 2010 elections. The US-brokered agreement managed that feat by getting all sides to make concessions. The White House wanted Nouri al-Maliki to have a second term as prime minister so that was the biggest concessions after Nouri's State of Law came in second place in the elections. But Nouri agreed to minor concessions to hold onto the post. This was November 2010. By the end of December, after he was named prime minister for a second term, he trashed the agreement. This is Political Stalemate II and the current crisis. National Alliance MP Hassan Sinead notes they remain committed to the Erbil Agreement, they have not rejected it and the agreement is an example of solidarity for Iraq so it is the responsibility of the political blocs, the Parliament, the executive branch and the judicial branch to implement the agreement. Kitabat notes Moqtada al-Sadr's call for his followers to direct their questions about the political impasse towards Nouri. As noted yesterday, these events may indicate some motion in the impasse. Dar Addustour notes that the National Alliance has postponed a scheduled meeting; however, one component of the National Alliance, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, has announced that they aren't opposed to someone from the Sadrist bloc being nominated for prime minister (that refers to Moqtada). An MP from State of Law and one from Sadr's bloc are both quoted insisting that there's no move to hold a vote to withdraw confidence in the current government.  With BBC today, Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi declared of his meeting in Istanbul with KRG President Massoud Barzan:
I'm scheduled to meet Mr. Barzani this afternoon.  We had an agreement on various steps and this step is going to be escalated depending on the reaction of Maliki.  If Maliki responded positively we will be very much happy to sit down and negotiate in a courageous way.  If he declined to attend then definitely we have to go into other options.  And the other option could be a vote for confidence. This has already been agreed principally to.  This  could be a political opportunity to sort out our political differences.
Elsewhere,  Salah Nasrawi (Al-Ahram) concludes of the current crisis,  "What happens next is largely al-Maliki's choice.  He could respond to the pressure for change by sharing power with others, or he could go his own way.  His record in government and rhetoric suggest that he will lean towards the second course."  Rebwar Karim Wali (Rudaw) offers this reflection on the political crisis:
Iraq is in deep crisis and it is nothing new. It is not that Iraq has started moving toward dictatorship and totalitarianism just now. No! And in fact the Americans and Kurds have contributed to the creation of the dictator. The constitution of the "New Iraq" does not stipulate a just power sharing among the country's various components. That is the main reason as to why the situation has ended up where it is now.
The Kurds thought they were able to devolve the powers through the Erbil agreement of 2010, but that agreement only gave legitimacy to the current system. Iraq's constitution was violated the day Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya bloc won the elections and was not allowed to form the government. Instead, it was Maliki's bloc that formed the government. Both then and now, the Kurds were part of creating a new dictator in Iraq.

Daniel Fineren (Reuters) reports that, at this point, ExxonMobil is not on Iraq's "list of 47 pre-qualified bidders for the next round of Iraq energy exploration rights." For any wondering, Total is among the 47. In the press release, the Ministry of Oil notes:

The Petroleum Contracts and Licensing Directorate (PCLD) at the Ministry of Oil announced Thursday (20/4/2012) that Iraq's Fourth Petroleum Licensing Round will take place as scheduled on May 30-31, 2012. The Final Tender Protocol and the final model Exploration, Development and Production Service Contract (EDPSC) were sent Thursday to all prequalified companies. The final list of prequalified companies includes a total of 47 entities, split between operators and non-operators.

"We are happy to announce that the next bid round is on schedule. The Final Tender Protocol and the definitive model Contract have been issued to all prequalified companies" said Abdul Mahdy Al-Ameedi, director general of the PCLD.

Iraq is offering 12 large exploration blocks of an average size of 6,500 square kilometers for bidding. Winning companies, or consortia of companies, will carry out exploration, appraisal, development and production activities within the 12 Contract Areas.

The aim of the fourth round is primarily to expand Iraq's natural gas production capacity to satisfy the power generation sector and create gas-based industries, as well as increase the country's oil reserves.

"We are looking forward to welcoming all participating companies in Baghdad. The fourth licensing round will be conducted in a transparent and public manner and according to the same procedures as the first three rounds," Al-Ameedi said.

Since launching the first licensing round in 2008, Iraq has awarded 14 service contracts for the development of discovered oil and gas fields in three licensing rounds in addition to the Ahdeb contract. It also signed a major joint venture with a consortium of Royal Dutch Shell and Mitsubishi to capture and monetize associated natural gas produced in southern Iraq.

The press release continues with a list of the 47 companies.

AP speaks with Sabah al-Saidi ("Deputy head of the Oil Ministry's Licensing and Petroleum Contracts Department") who states, "Exxon has been removed from the list of qualified companies because it refused to abandon the deals with the Kurdish region as requested by the Ministry of Oil." Dropping back to yesterday's snapshot:

Reuters reports, "Exxon Mobil has told Baghdad it will not break ground on its oil blocs in the semi-autonomous Kurdish north until the centeral government approves the contracts, Iraq's top energy official said on Wednesday." The official is Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Hussain al-Shahristani. That alone makes the claim questionable -- remember, April 3rd, he was in the news for insisting the Kurds were secretly selling oil to Iran. He's not seen as someone impartial or particularly honest.

And apparently for good reason, he's not seen as someone impartial or particularly honest. So we're pleased with ExxonMobil one day for allegedly promising it won't "break ground" with regards to that contract and the next day we're punishing it?

Iraq better figure out where they stand on ExxonMobil real quick because this isn't about ExxonMobil, this is about how Iraq looks on the world stage. Contracts were signed months ago. Are they valid or not? If they're not valid, then they don't exist. If they don't exist, then why is ExxonMobil being punished?

The punishment phase would indicate that the contracts are valid (the KRG certainly considers them valid). It's petty and indicates the Baghdad-based government has no eral power so they just lash out.

Iraq needs to diversify its economy and it needs to do so quickly. It also keeps insisting it needs international investment. If that's true, they need to stop alienating businesses and looking so ridiculous. A contract's legal or it's not. Clearly for all the bluster, Baghdad can't cancel the contract ExxonMobil signed with the KRG. So they think they'll pick a fight. ExxonMobil's not going to be hurt by any of this. They're a multi-national corporation that managed to survive the Exxon Valdez disaster.  Whether Nouri will survive is a political question.  But everything he's currently doing on the world stage -- from the power grab to the nonsense on the ExxonMobil contracts, is bad for Iraq and creates the wrong image for the country.
In the US, Senator Patty Murray chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Her office notes:
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Contact:  Murray Press Office
(202) 224-2834
Senator Murray's Statement on VA Hiring Announcement

(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, made the following statement after the VA announced that it would be moving to hire 1,600 mental health care professionals.  The announcement comes just days before the findings of a major VA Inspector General report that Senator Murray requested on long wait times for VA mental health care are expected to be announced.  VA's action is welcome news to Senator Murray who has held multiple hearings over the past year on overcoming barriers to VA mental health care.  Murray will hold a third hearing on this subject in order to hear the Inspector General's findings on Wednesday, April 25th.
"I am pleased that the VA has taken this desperately needed step toward providing timely access to mental health care.  Too often we have seen staff vacancies, scheduling delays, and red tape leave those veterans who have been brave enough to seek help in the first place left with nowhere to turn. With suicide rates that continue to be high and an influx of new veterans into the system these barriers to mental health care are completely unacceptable.  I look forward to fighting for the resources needed to meet this staffing request as it is clearly a cost of the decade of war that has taken such a toll on our veterans and their families."
Matt McAlvanah
Communications Director
U.S. Senator Patty Murray
202-224-2834 - press office
202--224-0228 - direct

Read on ...

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bitchy Tina Fey

Bitchy Tina Fey

From November 9, 2008, that's "Bitchy Tina Fey." I'd have to go back to figure out what she'd done at that point -- it may have been the Vanity Fair interview. It was more than her impersonations on SNL. But she made herself a joke and ensured her show would not be a hit. Whenever NBC finally cancels it (the low ratings should have had it axed in 2007), she'll look for a job and find none unless Lorne hires her. She had her moment and that's all she'll ever have. She's a media created star that America never got behind.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, April 12, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, the political crisis continues, gential mutilation gets some attention, a mayor's killed in Iraq, Barack Obama gets praise (yes, praise from me), and more.
US President Barack Obama did a good thing today. We're going to start on something other than Iraq. The reason being US President Barack Obama did a good thing today and a White House friend I was speaking to on the phone a little earlier said, "You won't mention it, you never mention anything nice" about him here. Not only will we mention it, we'll open with it. The following appeared here this morning:
Hilary Rosen is a corporatist who has done very little for anyone except herself. She's also a lousy spokesperson for the Democratic Party due to her previous lobbying for the RIAA. But that's their problem. And I wouldn't be weighing in were it not for nonsense Dylan Byers (POLITICO) reports:

Democratic strategist and DNC adviser Hilary Rosen took a swipe at Mitt Romney's wife on CNN tonight, claiming that Ann had "never worked a day in her life" — a statement that led to criticism on Twitter from not just Ann but from the Obama campaign as well.
"I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work," Ann wrote in response to the comments Rosen made earlier in the evening on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360.

Hillary Rosen owes Ann Romney an apology. She owes all American woman an apology. A stay-at-home mom is not a woman on extended vacation. It is work, it is tremendous work. Those of us in the feminist movement -- apparently that does not include Hilary Rosen -- are aware of that and made a point to note that from day one. The media -- especially bad TV shows written largely by men like the awful 30-something and Everybody Loves Raymond -- like to invent this split where feminists sneer at home makers. That's not reality. "The Politics of Housework" by Pat Mainardi was not decrying the fact that women had extra hours of leisure. It was noting the very real work required to run a home.

Ann Romney made a choice on how to live her life and was fortunate enough to be in a position to make that choice (all women aren't so fortunate -- some are single-mothers, some have economic issues that prevent such a choice). There is nothing wrong with her choice or with her life as a mother. If she had decided to be a mother who works outside of the home, that would have been a valid choice as well.

Hilary Rosen's statements need to be condemned loudly. She needs to be rebuked. What she said is offensive to all women, regardless of what choice we make or we're forced into. Rosen's remarks are sexist and divisive and I'm not in the damn mood to see the sexism we endured in 2008 flourish again. Those of us who are feminists need to stand together and say, "It's not okay, Rosen." It's not okay, it's not acceptable.

My apologies to Ann Romney that someone who will (wrongly) be seen as a feminist made such insulting remarks. They do not represent feminism and they are not appropriate. I don't know Ann Romney, have never met her, but from the press it would appear she's been very happy with her choice. I'm happy for her.
That is from this morning. Mary Bruce (ABC News -- link is text and video) reports that President Barack Obama has rejected Rosen's comments and stated "there's no tougher job than being a mom. Anybody who would argue otherwise, I think, probably needs to rethink their statement." Good for Barack.
Good for Michelle Obama who had responded to the nonsense assertion (by Rosen) by 10:00 am this morning on her Twitter feed: "Every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected." That was a strong and graceful message. Good for Michelle Obama.
Good for David Axlerod and Jim Messina who publicly rejected it last night. Good for the Republican female senators that stood up for Ann Romeny -- and for all women -- in a press call today. I'm sorry, I haven't been following that story, I know (from a friend at CBS News) that Senator Kelly Ayotte was one. Good for her and the other women. (I'm also aware that they don't think Rosen was acting alone or independently. I'll leave that for someone else to decide.) Thank you to Michelle Obama, to David Axelrod, to Jim Messina, to Kelly Ayotte and everyone else who took it seriously including the president.
Those are the praises. Now the idiots. A friend at CBS News tells me that there is one article after another about how feminists were silent. I wasn't silent. I'm a feminist. I'm sure the many women with websites in our community will note it in some form tonight. Like me, they're not really following the race or, if they are, like Trina, they're blogging about Jill Stein's campaign. But as was pointed out to me -- by a non-feminist male with CBS News -- this silence is why the image of 'feminists don't care about home makers' can take root. I don't control the feminist movement or feminist bloggers. I am sure some others had to have weighed in. But who got attention? Zerlina's bad post at Feministing was mentioned.
According to Zerlina, "the real magic started when Ann Romney" went on to Twitter and saw "it as an opening to restart the 'mommy wars' of the 1990s." She did no such thing and posts like that don't help feminism. Ann Romney acknowledged today her good fortune to have been able to have made that choice, she noted that not every woman had that chance and she talked about how all choices were valid.
Zerlina wasn't funny or cute or -- most importantly -- helpful to feminism. Ann Romeny came off as more of a feminist than you today. (And Ann Romney may be a feminist. I don't know. I've never spoken to her.) Zerlina can take comfort in that Joan Walsh, as always, carries the torch for stupidity at Salon. Having distorted and outright lied with her coverage of the late Trayvon Martin (see Bob Somerby's archives), you'd think Walsh would learn when to close her mouth and take a seat, but that would be crediting her with far more intelligence than she has.
As usual, Joan's got a 'quote' but it's not really a quote. A quote is what someone said. Joan's edited it, as usual, so that it is different than what was said. Joan Walsh should have been kicked out of Salon a long, long time ago. You can watch Ann Romney here (link is video). I don't watch Fox News, I can't find a transcript so I'm providing one but I don't know the name of the woman she's speaking to.
Ann Romney: My career choice was to be a mother. And I think all of us need to know that we need to respect choices that women make. Other women make other choices -- to have a career and raise a family which I think Hilary Rosen has actually done herself. I respect that. That's wonderful. But you know, there are other people that have a choice. We have to respect women in all those choices that they make. And, by the way, let me give a shout out to all the Dads that are at home raising kids. This is obviously an awesome responsibility to raise children. It's, to me, the most important thing, we can do. I will tell you that Mitt said to me more times than you can imagine, "Ann, your job is more important than mine." He was making money and doing the things, raising funds and helping other companies and he would come home and say, "Ann, your job is more important than mine."
I'm holding up the roundtable for the gina & krista roundrobin (meaning everyone in the community will be late posting due to me). So I can't do a full transcript. But there was nothing insulting in Ann Romney's remarks. "Look I know what it's like to struggle. Maybe I haven't struggled as much financially as some people have. I can tell you and promise you that I have struggled in my life." Joan edits that quote down to "I know what it's like to struggle." And having lied like the piece of trash she is, Joan Walsh then wants an apology.
Joan, you deserve a public stoning. And you haven't walked in Ann's shoes and hopefully you never will, you will never have to raise children while dealing with your own illness or fear of being unable to do all you need to as a parent due to your illness. Joan Walsh is a disgusting person. She's allowed partisanship to turn her into the worst stereotype of a woman and all to attack another woman. We saw that in 2008. It needs to stop and it needs to stop now. And Joan Walsh needs to be called out loudly for her 'creative' 'reporting.'
This should have been about women. Barack got it. Again, praise to Barack for that, he earned it.
But instead we got Joan Walsh or Zerlina -- writing on one of the most prominent feminist websites -- who saw this as an opportunity to attack Ann Romney and other women. And then Zerlina wants to call it a "faux controversy" (apparently reading from the Hilary Rosen Handbook). How dare you?
What feminist would ever say that issues about choice were a "faux controversy"? James Downie (Washington Post) puts quotes around controversy. So, he's an ass and an idiot. Ruth Marcus makes an idiot out of herself as well though I don't think we'd mistake her a feminist either. Rosen did not say the right thing the wrong way, Ruth Marcus. (Marcus: "Hilary Rosen made a legitimate point the wrong way.") How dare you suggest that because a woman makes a choice -- one that as feminist we're supposed to support -- to be a stay-at-home mom that she's not smart enough to know about the economy.
I'm not in the damn mood, let's strip away the nonsense and get to what Hilary Rosen's remarks are about.
The subtext of Rosen's remarks is: A woman who stays home is not smart, is not able to navigate the world, is not a full person, is but an appendage of a man.
Now that description, I can remember hearing that sort of thing said about women when I was very young. And you know who said? Men. And that's what the feminist movement fought against. So I'm not in the mood at this late date to hear the sexist insults come from women.
Any woman who is a stay-at-home mother has just as much chance of being aware of 'the world around' as does any other person on the face of the planet. How dare you suggest that their experiences and their work isn't valid and doesn't matter in the grown up world, in the public sphere. That's what Rosen's remarks do. That's what those remarks did when they came out of a man's mouth. There is no excuse for it.
And, yes, Ann Romney's proud of raising five children, why shouldn't she be?
I'm just not in the mood. I'm sorry you're all so damn bitter and disappointed in your own lives. That has to be the reason that you're slamming Ann Romney. She defined her job -- her main job -- as raising her children. That's her job. Let her have pride in it. I worked outside of the home and I take pride in a number of projects I worked. I also raised kids. I take pride in the fact that they turned out well in spite of me. (Truly, they deserve all the credit for the way they turned out.)
Where is the bitterness coming from? I worked outside the home. I hear Ann Romney take pride in her choice to be a stay-at-home mom and I'm not threatened by that, I'm not offended by it, I don't see it as a judgment on my choices. I don't know her age, I'd guess we're close to the same age and so you've got two women and we made two different choices and we're both happy with our choices. What's to go negative on Ann Romney in her remarks today? I'm not hearing a judgment or stone cast at me. So why are so many being defensive and attacking her. She's happy with her life, I'm happy for her. I'm happy with my life, I'm sure she'd be happy for me.
In 2008, it was acceptable to call Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin the c-word. It was accepted and treated as okay. Hillary was called a "bitch" on air, on CNN and that was acceptable. Sandra Bernhardt worked Palin into her act saying that African-American men should gang-rape Palin. Which was not only anti-woman, it was rather racist that when casting for the part of "Rapist," Bernhardt's first thought was, "African-American men!" We could do a whole week of snapshots that were nothing but examples of all the sexism in 2008 aimed at women who dared to run for higher office (in Hillary's case, the highest office). As I said this morning, I'm not going to stand for it a replay of that this year and America shouldn't stand for it either.
Hilary Rosen did not choose her words poorly. (And, be honest, it's not that she forgot to say "work at home." She stated Ann Romney had never worked a day in her life. That was an insult and it was intended as such. This was much more than I 'forgot to include work without pay.') She offered a point of view that was sexist, a point of view that argues that women who do not work outside the home don't know how hard it is, don't know what the real world's like. That's the point she was making and how she was attempting to discredit Ann Romney. If Hilary Rosen had a brain, she'd have woken up this morning and said, "I am so sorry." And then everyone could have moved on to something else. Instead, she took to the Huffngton Post justifying her remarks. There is no justification.
She was wrong. She should have said that this morning and offered an apology.
There's been no real apology. I've been arguing with friends over that (reporters and producers and editors see Rosen's words late this afternoon as an apology). Lucy Madison (CBS News) reports that Rosen told Wolf Blitzer today, "I apologize Working moms, stay at home moms, they're both extremely hard jobs." Good. Glad you grapsed that basic. But that's not where it ended. You have not taken away the sexist implication that a stay-at-home mother isn't a full person, a grown up who can understand the economy and certainly has just as much right as any other woman or man to discuss it.
Rosen made it worse by telling Blitzer that "we are all sort of falling victim to this amazing crashing political machine in this campaign, to move awy from the real issues . . ."
The real issues?
The right of every woman to make their own choices aren't real issues?
Rosen could have argued, "I applaud Ann Romney for her decision to stay-at-home and raise her children. She seems to be very happy with that choice. My concern is that her husband's proposed policies might make it difficult for other women who want to be stay-at-home mothers to do the same because I believe his policies would adversly effect the earning power of most couples and force some women who would choose to be stay-at-home moms to work outside the home instead."
But to say that these aren't real issues? These are the issues of the feminist movement. Thank you, Hilary Rosen, for insulting all the work so many women have done to establish that a woman had a right to choose her path.
Her apology, Rachel Rose Hartman (The Ticket) explains, included, "Let's declare peace in this phony war and go back to focus on the substance."
Does she not get how insulting that is? How insulting to the feminist movement?
Some of us -- including me -- strongly believe that all employers should provide on-site day care. Sorry, Hilary Rosen, that's a real issue. And it's a real issue if you disagree with me. If you think I'm wrong on this, that's your opinion, and you're voicing it because whether or not there is on-site day care is a real issue to you as well. You're not in favor of it, I am, these are real issues we are debating.
Everything Hillary Rosen has said since last night's interview has been an insult. She should have simply stated, "I was wrong. I am sorry. Please accept my apology and I'm going to take a few days to reflect on this before saying anything else."
Instead, she's offered 'apologies' where she blames Ann Romney (if her husband didn't bring Ann up, Rosen insists, she never would have!), offers insulting remarks and thinks she's apologized?
How did Hilary Rosen teach her own kids to apologize?
I taught my children: You say you're sorry, you ask if you can do anything to make it better.
Apparently Hilary Rosen taught her kids: You say you're sorry and then spend 30 minutes explaining to them why it was their fault to begin with.
This is not a 'faux' controversy about made up issues. This is about the rights of women and if Rosen has a problem with Ann Romney's comments on the economy, she should address those, not play pat-the-stay-at-home-mommy-on-the-head-and-say-you're-so-pretty. Her remarks today have made it clear that she was stating not just that stay-at-home moms don't work but that they're not really full adults, they can't grasp the economy, those 'hair-brained' gals. Her remarks and her attitude are insulting.
Again, praise for Barack from me. He could have been silent. I'm glad he wasn't. And Michelle Obama handled it with strength and grace, so good for her too. Excuse me, Michelle handled it with strength, grace and wisdom. Strong applause for her from me today.
Now to Iraq, where the violence never ends. Alsumaria reports that 72 people were arrested by Iraqi forces yesterday, 1 guard was killed outside Baquba, a Baquba home bombing killed a husband and wife and their three children and 1 person was shot dead in Kirkuk. In another report they identify the man in the Baquba bombings as Mayor Younis Youssef Ibrahim. And they note that early this morning the home of the chair of the Diwaniyah security committee was targeted with dynamite. Though the house was damaged, no one was harmed. Meanwhile Al Rafidayn reports two bombings in Baquba this morning have left fifteen people injured. Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) notes an armed attack outside Kirkuk on a police patrol which left 2 police officers dead and three more injured. AFP adds that 3 civilians were killed in the attack and three more were left injured.
Staying on the topic of violence, we move over to the death penalty. Tuesday, the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq appeared before the United Nations Security Council to brief on the latest developments (see Tuesday and Wednesday's snapshots). He also submitted a written report entitled "Second report of the Secretary-General pursuant to resolution 2001 (2011)." Page 7-8, Section C ("Human rights activities") includes this:

From December 2011 to February 2012, there were 80 executions, compared to 68 for January to November 2011. Those executed, most of whom had been convicted under anti-terrorism laws, included one foreign national and at least one woman. UNAMI requested the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Human Rights and the Higher Judicial Council to provide details concerning individuals executed and the charges on which they had been convicted, but no information has been forthcoming. On 24 January, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement expressing concern over trial standards in Iraq and the use of the death penalty, urging the Government of Iraq to suspend its implementation.
Hala Kareem (NIQASH) reports on the death penalty including noting that it is popular in Iraq with officials and thought to be popular with the people. Kareem offers these numbers:
While United Nations figures suggest that more than 1,200 people have been senteced to death in Iraq since 2004. Figures obtained by NIQASH from the Ministry of Justice indicate that from 2004 up until the end of 2011, 1145 people were sentenced to death and around 250 have been executed, 84 of them in 2010. Those numbers would have increased due to executions in late 2011 and early 2012, totalling at least 63.
The Iraqi government justifies the executions by arguing that only the death penalty can deter terrorist acts. And somewhat unusually, this sentiment is iterated by the Iraqi Minstry of Human Rights. According to a Ministry spokesperson, Kamil Amin, death by hanging is suitable as long as there has been a fair trial.
Violence in Iraq also includes genital mutilation. Though there have been efforts to portray this as a problem exclusive to the Kurdistan Regional Government, the problem goes beyond that. MESOP sent the following press release to the public e-mail account:
For the first time, an empirical study proved that female genital mutilation is also prevalent in parts of Iraq beyond the borders of the Kurdish Region. WADI and the local women's rights organization PANA have conducted an in-depth research about the existence and background of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Kirkuk. They interviewed 1212 women above the age of 14 and asked each of them 61 questions.
Two years ago, WADI did a similar research in Kurdish Northern Iraq which revealed an alarmingly high prevalence rate of more than 72%. Around the same time, Human Rights Watch published a qualitative study which backs and complements WADI's results. Meanwhile, after extensive protests and lobby efforts from activists and women's rights groups (see notably the campaign STOP FGM in Kurdistan ), the Regional Government has adopted a legal ban of FGM and other forms of violence against women and children.
Not so in Southern and Central Iraq, which also comprises the multi-ethnic, oil-rich city of Kirkuk. The public authorities assume that FGM is non-existent outside the Kurdish Region.
The new Kirkuk study proves this assumption to be utterly false. According to its findings, 38.2% of Kirkuki women live with the consequences of FGM.
With 65.4%, Kurdish women are the most affected ethnic group. Arab women hold 25.7% and Turkmen women 12.3%.
Focusing on the religious affiliations, 40.9% of the Sunnis, 23.4% of the Shi'ites and 42.9% of the Kaka'is are genitally mutilated.
No Christians were found to be affected.
The FGM prevalence rate among girls under the age of 20 is a "mere" 15% which may indicate that the practice is about to decrease gradually. Among women aged 60-70, it is up to 80%.
When it comes to the reasons for the practice, the answers are evenly divided between "tradition" and "religion", i.e. Islam.
In most cases, FGM means the amputation of the clitoris. Some women however – in the Arab-dominated countryside it is 21% – experienced more severe types, including the cutting of the inner and/or outer labia.
The Kirkuk findings prove that FGM is a common practice also among non-Kurds – Sunnis and Shi'ites alike. This data constitutes strong evidence for the assumption that FGM is prevalent throughout Iraq. Millions of women and girls are likely to be affected by these grave human rights violations.
Therefore, we call on the Baghdad parliament to address the issue as soon as possible, support public awareness and discuss further ways to counter female genital mutilation in Iraq. The complete study will be published in June 2012.
Wadi e.V. – Association for Crisis Assistance and Development Co-Operation Phone: +49-69-57002440
Email: – 60439 Frankfurt am Main / Germany
Wadi Office Sulaimaniyah/Northern Iraq
Phone: +964-7701588173 7 Pana Kirkuk Phone: +964-7701512007
Some Iraqis manage to physically escape the violence. Amir Al Tamimi (GS Summit) reports on "Moon," an Iraqi woman whose husband worked for US troops and was kidnapped and killed for doing so. Her parents and sister had already moved to Egypt due to the violence. She was now a widow and alone with threatening phone calls declaring her late husband a traitor and spy. She went to Jordan but was not allowed to work (refugees who flee to Jordan or Syria are not allowed to work -- those who do get paid under the table) and returned to Iraq. Her family had been accepted in the US and her father "received assistance from Catholic Charities and Survivors of Torture International in persuading Rep. Duncan Hunter to sponsor a bill to permit her to reunite with her family, after four long years of separation." She states, "I am telling my story to show the people, wnever there is hope, there is a chance to have a new life."
Along with genital mutiliation, Iraqi women also face so-called 'honor' killings. We'll again note the Housan Mahmoud's Feburary report (Mahmoud is with the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq):
What the brutal 'honour killing' of a girl in Iraq's Kurdistan province shows about the country's headlong descent into sectarian violence
Houzan Mahmoud, an Iraqi Kurd who lives in Britain, is the overseas representative of the Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq and initiator of the Campaign against Killing and Stoning of Women in Kurdistan
When 17-year-old Doa appealed to the men to stop their attack, she was completely ignored. Surrounded by an excited, baying crowd of dozens of mature, burly men, she was beaten to death. Slowly. Having thrown her to the ground, they surrounded her and began a barrage of stones and chunks of concrete, mostly aimed at her head, deliberate blow after deliberate blow. Periodically she was disdainfully kicked by some of her assailants. Her suffering was dragged out for half an hour, long enough for many of the killers to film her death throes on their mobile phone videocams.
Doa's crumpled figure now adorns several websites. This horror-porn emanates from Iraq, in particular, from Iraqi Kurdistan, my own homeland and one that I believe is descending into the wider maelstrom of religious sectarianism that is tearing post-Saddam Iraq apart. And in Doa's death, I think we can see a terrifying portent of a future Iraq increasingly eviscerated by primeval sectarian hatreds. But let us go back to poor Doa.
She was a 17-year-old girl called Doa Khalil Aswad. This teenager came from the Yezidi community in northern Iraq, one of the country's religious minorities, an ancient Kurdish faith with strong links to Sufism and non-Islamic ancient Babylonian beliefs. Her misdemeanour, her 'crime', was to fall in love with a local Sunni Muslim boy. And her fate was sealed, it seems, when, one day last month she spent a night away from her family home. Rumours circulated that she had 'converted' to Islam and suddenly there was a witch-hunt for the couple, especially for the female now deemed guilty of a 'crime of honour'. A Yezidi tribal leader in the town of Bashika initially sheltered the girl, but his house was stormed and in broad daylight she was dragged outside and literally stoned to death. The boy escaped and is said to be in hiding.
Kurdish websites are now buzzing with postings on Doa's death and there are both photographs and gruesome videos of her last minutes. The videos show other spectator-participants holding their phones aloft, capturing their own trophy shots even as the girl writhes in pain in front of them.
Amnesty International (now celebrating 50 years) helped get the word out on the above. And yesterday, Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project released a video on being gay in Iraq which the Huffington Post has posted to their site. and which noted that gay men in Iraq are also targeted with the so-called 'honor' killings. Others may have grasped that before yesterday. I didn't. (And am never afraid to note my ignorance.) I was aware that LGBTs in Iraq were sometimes killed by family members. I was not aware that it was done as an 'honor' killing -- which is generally done a bit more publicly or less secretly because the intent is to restore 'honor' by killing.
Moving on to the continued political crisis. Michael Peel (Financial Times of London) sees the division as "between Iraq's religious and ethnic groups" and notes some fear that a civil war is about to resurface. The Economist recaps the crisis as follows:
Parliament barely functions. The Iraqiya bloc, comprising mostly Sunnis and secularists, won the most seats of any party in the 2010 election and subsequently joined a coalition government. But the animosity of its Shia partners, who jointly hold more seats, has in effect pushed Iraqiya into opposition. Its nominee as deputy prime minister, Saleh al-Mutlaq, fell out with Mr Maliki last year over the lack of Sunnis in the security forces. He claims that tanks then surrounded his house, forcing him to flee the country.
The prime minister also chased away Tareq al-Hashemi, the Sunni vice-president, by issuing an arrest warrant in connection with terrorism charges. Mr Hashemi took refuge in the Kurdish north and is now abroad. He says that three of his bodyguards, who stand accused by Mr Maliki of running a Sunni death squad, have been tortured to death in police custody.
Kurdish leaders are also angrier than usual with Mr Maliki. The president of the autonomous Kurdish area, Masoud Barzani, has accused the prime minister of building a million-man army loyal only to himself, and of violating a 2010 power-sharing deal. Mr Barzani has appealed to the White House, but appears to have secured only limited support. The American embassy in Baghdad released an unprompted statement stressing its backing for a unified Iraq.
Al Mada reports that Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi states that Prime Minister and thug Nouri al-Maliki took advantage of the White House's indifference to violate the Constitution and grab powers to intimidate and suppress political rivals. Iraqiya came in frist in the March 2010 elections, Nouri's State of Law came in second. Allawi criticizes the corruption in the current government -- a non-controversial position in Iraq. Last year, Iraqis took to the streets protesting the government corruption. To distract protesters, Nouri claimed he needed 100 days to address it and then the problem would be solved. At the end of 100 days (all Nouri does is stall), the corruption was not addressed and Nouri offered more excuses and more brutality. Mahmoud Othman leads the Kurdish Alliance in Parliament and he states that KRG President Massoud Barzani's call for a national conference is in keeping with the needs of Iraq and what Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has been calling for. Since December 21st, Talabani and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi have been calling for a national conference to address the political crisis. Aswat al-Iraq reports that Iraqiya is stating that there will be "a change in Iraqi political bloc if the National Conference" does not "rectify the process in the country."

Alsumaria notes
that Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, states that many mistakes have been made in Iraq since 3002 and that this is "natural" due to the fact that many now participating in the process were kept out of it under Saddam Hussein but that the political crisis must be addressed. Al Rafidayn notes that al-Hakim stated it will take courage to recognize mistkaes that have been made. The article also reminds that since April 6th, there has been speculation that the National Alliance and the Kurds have made a political agreement that would replace Nouri al-Maliki with Ahmed Chalibi -- an agreement everyone has public denied exists.

It's not a repeat, it just feels like one: Al Mada notes that KRGS is sending a delegation to Baghdad to discuss the crisis. Yes, they did that in the fall of last year. No, it didn't resolve anything then. Yes, as with that time, the people involved are stating that they believe the delegation's dialogue can resolve the crisis.

Al Rafidayn notes that KRG President Massoud Barzani has repeated his concern that Iraq is currently headed towards a dictatorship and that, if the political crisis cannot be addressed, the only option would be for the Kurdish region to go with full autonomy (three provinces currently make up the KRG and it is a self-autonomous region). Barzani, who has been visiting several countries including the US, states that when he turns there will have to be real efforts at partnership ("sincere") and democracy or else the Kurds will have to decide for themselves what their future holds.
In more distrubing power-grab news, Raheem Salman (ioL news) reports, "The head of Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) and one of its members were arrested by police on Thursday on corruption charges, IHED officials said, in the latest apparent move for more government control of independent bodies. Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki won a court ruling in January 2011 that put the IHED and other entities, including the central bank, under cabinet supervision, raising concern over attempts to consolidate power by the Shi'a premier."
Turning to the US, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. The Committee notes:
Committee on Veterans' Affairs
United States Senate
112th Congress, Second Session
Hearing Schedule
Update: April 12, 2012
Saturday, April 21, 2012
10:30 am MST
2465 Grant Road
Billings, Montana
Field Hearing: Improving Access to Quality Health Care for Rural Veterans
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
10 am EST
Senate Dirksen Office Building Room 138
VA Mental Health Care: Evaluating Access and Accessing Care
Matthew T. Lawrence
Chief Clerk/System Administrator
Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs
Read on ...
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