Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Out of Touch President

Out of Touch President

From August 22, 2010, that's "The Out Of Touch President." C.I. wrote:

Barack declares, "Some people say, 'Barack, Americans are suffering, the economy's in the tank, there are multiple wars, you really shouldn't be vacationing again.' I point out that I've held this job for 20 months. So 10 weeks of vacationing is more than fair. 10 weeks of vacation? I bet you get like 30 for working at McDonald's." Isaiah archives his comics at The World Today Just Nuts.

We were outraged by Bully Boy Bush's constant golfing.  We were -- we includes me.  But everyone pretends like all of Barack's golfing and basketball games and his refusal to seriously address the economy is a-okay. 

It's not. 

By the way, Kat's "Kat's Korner: Beyonce -- the fake ass feminist who sells violence against women."  As a Black man, let me say, "Thank you!"  

I don't think we throw Tina Turner under the bus because Beyonce's stuck her ass in our faces yet again.  And really, isn't their something sick about her glorifying the abuse of women, preaching violence against women is sexy, when she's the mother of Blue Ivy?  If she didn't have any self-respect -- and clearly she doesn't, she thinks it's more important to act like she's having an orgasm than it is to be a good parent -- couldn't she at least have thought of the damage she was doing in the world her daughter would grow up in?

When Jada Pinkett Smith went to the beach recently in a bikini (I think it was Thanksgiving weekend) there was a lot of talk on Black radio about how a mother shouldn't behave like that.  I don't think a mother should behave any one way -- or a father for that matter.  But I do find it interesting that Beyonce's still making a living off of shaking her tits and ass and no one's bothered by that but let Jada go to the beach in a bikini and Black radio treated it like an international crisis.

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

Thursday, December 19, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Muhanad Mohammed is the latest journalist to die in Iraq, Iraq becomes a topic in the early stages of the 2016 presidential election, the Christian Science Monitor makes clear that this doesn't mean the press will actually have to acknowledge Iraq, and more.

Let's start with nonsense.  A Tweet.

  • I like Mike.  I don't like that Tweet.  I don't like the pompous attitude.  I don't like the misuse of a child's attempt at conveying support.

    You are so big and brave, Mike, going after a 1st grader.  Wow, you really showed that kid.  Next, why don't you show off how you don't wear velcro strappy shoes because you're so big you can tie your own shoelaces! 

    It's been years since Mike served in Iraq and that kid's old enough to see their drawing online now.  Whether they still feel the sentiment or not, how nice of Mike to expose them to public ridicule.

    A first grader was encouraged to write to Americans serving in Iraq.

    He or she asked why Americans were in Iraq?

    Exactly what kind of answer does Mike expect a first grader will be given?

    'Well, it's a geopolitical issue largely about oil . . .'


    A first grader is going to be told a story she or he can process.

    Good and bad in the most simplistic terms is what they can process.

    A first grader sent Mike an expression of the war as they best understood it and their thank you is to be ridiculed on Twitter?

    That first grader has grown up.  I'm not really feeling that Mike has.

    Again, I like Mike.  But I love all children.  Children are innocent, there's no reason to hold them up to ridicule but that's what I feel the point of Mike's Tweet is.  On the subject, the Iraq War hasn't ended and Mike should probably stop Tweeting that it has.  It may have ended for him but with Iraq Body Count saying 9,000 violent deaths in Iraq so far this year, the war drags on.

    Iraq is becoming a political issue in the US.  That's good for a number of reasons.  In terms of the Democratic Party, we covered it this morning in "Iraq and the American electorate" and I really didn't plan to return to the topic but David Weigel's such an idiot that when a friend called me about Weigel's piece at Slate, I knew we'd have to cover it.  For the first -- and probably only -- time, we'll link to Weigel who writes, "The highlight, for internal Democratic Party warfare purposes, was a none-too-subtle rip of Hillary Clinton, the one 2012 contender who voted for the Iraq War."

    I'm sorry, what?

    2008, not 2012.  Hillary did not try for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in 2012.

    I make a ton of mistakes so I'd be willing to allow that Weigel meant to type "2008" -- but . . .

    Hillary wasn't "the one 2008 contender who voted for the Iraq War."  Cheater John Edwards, for example, voted for the Iraq War.  He left it to his wife Elizabeth Edwards to defend his vote.  But he voted for it.  He was one of the last three standing so you can't overlook him.  (Had America known he'd fathered a child by his mistress and forced an employee to pose as the child's father, he would have been laughed off every stage.)  I think we have to consider Joe Biden to have been a serious contender -- he did end up Vice President.  He was in that race as well and he also voted for the 2002 Iraq War resolution.  Then there's Chris Dodd who voted for the resolution as well.  So that's Hillary, Edwards, Joe and Chris.  In fact, the only one running for the Democratic Party's  nomination who was in Congress in 2002 and didn't vote for the resolution was Dennis Kucinich.

    And there were  people who supported the Iraq War who weren't in Congress at the time.  For example . . .

  • But most Americans were opposed.  Former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer is in Iowa testing the waters for a run for the Democratic Party's 2016 presidential nomination.  Jennifer Jacobs (Des Moines Register) reports:

    The Iraq war, which killed 5,000 U.S. soldiers and as many as 100,000 people, was about oil, he told an audience of about 80 people at an event for the liberal grass-roots group Progress Iowa.
    “When we were attacked at 9/11 by 17 Saudis and two Egyptians who called themselves al-Qaida, who weren’t welcome in Iraq, and George Bush got a bunch of Democrats to go to that war, I was just shaking my head in Montana,” he said.
    “I didn’t vote for that war, and I didn’t think it was a good idea,” he said. “The reason I’m in Iowa, in part, is because I’m asking you to pick the leaders that are going to say, 'We’re not going to make those mistakes.'"
    Schweitzer didn’t mention that the presumptive front-runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton, voted in 2002 as a U.S. senator representing New York to authorize the war.

    In a second article, Jacobs notes the remarks he delivered to the crowd (above) but also this passage after he left the microphone:

    After his speech, asked about Clinton’s vote, Schweitzer answered with a grin, “Did she vote for it? I didn’t keep track. I think there were 21 Democrats who didnt vote for it, she might’ve been one of those.”

    Peter Hamby (CNN) adds:

    In a speech to Iowa Democrats in the Des Moines suburb of Altoona, and in remarks to reporters, Schweitzer repeatedly chided Senate Democrats who voted in 2002 to green light military action in Iraq.
    Clinton, then a senator from New York, voted to authorize the use of military force in Iraq, a decision that badly damaged her credibility
    with the Democratic base and allowed Barack Obama to win over anti-war liberals in their 2008 nomination fight.
    “Anybody who runs in this cycle, whether they are Democrats or Republicans, if they were the United States Senate and they voted with
    George Bush to go to Iraq when I would say about 98 percent of America knows that it was a folly, that it was a waste of treasure and blood,
    and if they voted to go to Iraq there will be questions for them on the left and from the right,” he told CNN.
    Later, in his remarks to a holiday party organized by the liberal group Progress Iowa, Schweitzer asked the roughly 70 audience members
    to keep the Iraq war vote in mind as they begin to think about potential candidates passing through the state.
    “When George Bush got a bunch of Dems to vote for that war, I was just shaking my head in Montana,” he said, noting that he opposed the war
    (though he didn’t have to vote on it). “I’m asking you to pick the leaders who aren’t going to make those mistakes.”

    Applause for those two reporters.  Something much less than applause for Peter Grier (Christian Science Monitor) who types:

    Just look at the polls. Last week the Register put out its Iowa poll rating possible 2016 contenders, and Hillary just killed. Eighty-nine percent of Iowa Democrats said they had a somewhat or very favorable opinion of her.
    Schweitzer, in contrast, was a blip. Sixteen percent of Iowa Democrats said they had a favorable opinion of him. Fully 70 percent said they weren’t sure, meaning they probably didn’t know who he is.

    How do you get paid to be that stupid?  He makes Weigel look like a genuis by comparison.

    Iowa is a media creation and not reflective of the country -- it's one of the most Anglo White states, for example, only 3.2% of the state's population is African-American or Black.  In most elections, Iowa winners go down in flames.  Equally true, no one's announced.

    Not even 'tired' Hillary.  And that's what she'll come off to many if history holds.  In the Democratic Party, you really just get the one shot.  They're not building up a farm team (does that work? I don't know sports).  They give you one shot.  You can run after that but no one takes you seriously.  John Kerry got one and only one shot.  Bill Bradly took one and only one shot.  Mike Dukakis made only one attempt.

    Some don't take the hint.  Like the serial cheater John Edwards.  But the party doesn't reward them.  Their attitude is "once a loser, always a loser."

    Now the Republicans are different.  So McCain could run and lose in 2000 and turn around and come back in 2008.  But historically, the Democratic Party does not suffer losers gladly.

    You have to go back to the fifties to find Democrats rewarding a non-incumbent with a nomination on anything other than their first run.  (Johnson ran and lost in 1960.  But when he got the nomination, he was the incumbent.  Al Gore ran and lost in 1988 and only got the 2000 nomination because he was the Vice President.)

    In 2016, she'll be 68. Ronald Reagan was 69 when he was sworn in for his first term.  And everyone wanted to know if he died his hair or not.  As they would want to know if Hillary honestly thought she could pretend the blond color was natural?

    People will emerge to run for the nomination.  That may or may not include Hillary.  But when there's no campaigning taking place and no one declared, it takes a whole lot of stupid to declare Hillary a front runner in an election three years away.

    Take comfort, Weigel, Peter Grier's ahisotrical and uninformed 'analysis' made him the biggest idiot in journalism today.

    It's amazing that Grier can babble on about a topic whose focus is Iraq and never mention Iraq.

    Hmm.  How typical of the Christian Science Monitor and Peter Grier.

    And a big thank you to the shallow sewer that is Peter Grier.  This morning, I wrongly thought that if Brian continued talking about Iraq, it would force journalists to at least note Iraq when covering him.

    As Peter Grier demonstrates, on a day when a huge number of Iraqi died from violence, a journalist mentioning a politician's remarks about Iraq doesn't even feel the need to note that violence continues in Iraq.

    Iraq was slammed with violence again today.  Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) counts, "At least 46 people were killed and 100 others wounded in violent attacks in Iraq on Thursday, including a wave of bombings against Shiite pilgrims, police said."  Let's note Iraq Pictures December 17th Tweet.

    Pilgrims from across Iraq & around the world gathering in the holy city of to mark the 40th of Imam Hussain

    Pilgrims from across Iraq & around the world gathering in the holy city of to mark the 40th of Imam Hussain

    National Iraqi News Agency reports a Samarra roadside bombing left three federal police wounded, a Balad roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left a second person injured, an armed exchange in Ramadi left two people dead, 1 person was shot dead "in the Baladiat area east of the capital Baghdad," a Mousl attack left 1 police officer shot dead and three more injured, a Baaj roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left three more people injured, 1 police officer (working as a bodyguard for a judge) was shot dead in Shura, a Ysifiyah ("south of Baghdad") suicide bomber took his own life and the lives of 6 pilgrims with thirty-five more injured, a Latifiya roadside bombing left 4 pilgrims dead and twenty more injured. and a Dora suicide bomber took his own life and the lives of 17 people with thirty-five more injured.

    Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) notes the Dora suicide bombers' death toll has risen to 18 and that a Bahgdad home invasion late last night left two parents and their two children dead (the father had been a Sawha).  Also on the Dora bombing, Reuters notes, "A former Reuters reporter, Muhanad Mohammed, and his son were among those killed in the blast, a family member said."  Ammar Karim and WG Dunlop (AFP) add, "Among those killed in the blast was Muhanad Mohammed, a journalist who had worked for both foreign and Iraqi media, one of his sons told AFP. He was the seventh journalist to be killed in the country in less than three months."

    Since they spoke to his son, it would have been nice if they could have quoted the son.

    But, hey, yesterday we were calling AFP out for not speaking to the families of journalists.  Today, they did.  They just forgot to quote the family member.  Baby steps, baby steps.

    April 13, 2011, Muhanad Mohammed was one of the reporters questioning NATO's General Richard Shirreff.

    Q: Muhanad Mohammed, Reuters: Do you think the mission of NATO has success in Iraq? In spite of, as I hear, they have only trained 1,000 from the Oil Police? Do you think this number compares with the dangers outside Baghdad, that they will be able to protect all?

    A: My answer very firmly is yes. The NATO mission has had success and is continuing to be successful, and I would like to particularly pay tribute here in Camp Dublin to the efforts made by the Carabinieri. Now you mention the Oil Police training, that has only been going on for six months or so, and in that relatively short time, as you say, 1,000 have been trained with many more to come.

    Muhanad Mohammed covered many topics for Reuters. When parliamentary elections were going to take place in January 2010, he broke the story that the head of the Independent High Electoral Commission, Faraj al-Haideri, was calling for a delay.  The elections would be shoved back to March 2010.   He often, for example, reported on Parliament. He reported on the ridiculous 'magic' wands that could (not) determine whether a bomb was present.  January 23, 2010, he reported that members of Parliament are calling for an end to use of the 'magic' wands. Much of what the world understood of Iraq in 2010 can be directly traced to his reporting for Reuters.  His work had a real impact whether people knew his byline or not, his work registered.  We noted his work for Reuters many times and his work certainly shaped our understanding of Iraq.  I would hope that Tim Cocks or Reuters itself would issue a statement or Tweet on Muhanad Mohammed's passing.  If they do so tomorrow, we'll include it in the snapshot.  He worked for Reuters in 2009 (and possibly earlier) on through at least 2012.

    AFP's Ammar Karim did Tweet about the passing:

    Muhanad Mohammed frequently covered the eight-month political stalemate that followed the 2010 parliamentary elections such as on June 12, 2010 when he reported that the Council of Ministers' office was the location of a meeting between Ayad Allawi and Nouri al-Maliki whose political slates came in first and second respectively in the March 2010 elections.

    Today, Curtis Ohlers (Majalla) reminds people of that time period and its effects on Iraq today.

    Iraq’s political decline and sectarianism resurfaced most visibly after the 2010 Iraqi elections. The results rendered a narrow defeat of Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition (SLC) by the Iraqiya coalition. Iraqiya was a Shi’a and Sunni coalition headed by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and joined by then Deputy Prime Minister Rafie Al-Issawi’s National Future Gathering. The Iraqiya victory required Maliki to establish a government with Sadrist elements under the Iraqi National Alliance to remain in power. Given Maliki’s decision to use military force against Sadrist militias in 2008, there was resistance to such a coalition.
    The political conflict led to a nine-month negotiation in which the Maliki government maintained power, until the signing of the Erbil agreement. The Erbil agreement left Maliki as the prime minister, but established limitations of the prime minister’s power, incorporated power-sharing arrangements including the allocation of top security posts, and called for the creation of the National Council on Strategic Policies (NCSP) to be headed by Allawi.
    Neither the power-sharing agreement nor the NCSP ever came to fruition under the Maliki government. Additionally, there are accusations that Maliki not only failed to reduce the powers of the prime minister, rather further centralizing it under his government. Examples include current attempts to control independent government bodies, such as the Independent Higher Electoral Commission, the Integrity Commission, and the central bank, by placing them under the Maliki-led Council of Ministers. He is also accused of appointing high-level army and police commanders without the required constitutional approvals.

    A State Dept friend asked why I didn't notice this press release from the US Embassy in Baghdad?  Hadn't seen it:
    December 16, 2013
    During her three–day visit, Ms. Richard met with Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and other senior KRG officials, the governors of Erbil and Sulaimaniyah provinces, as well as representatives of international and local humanitarian organizations working on the ground. Ms. Richard also visited the Kawergowsk and Dara Shakran refugee camps and met with local officials. She spoke directly to Syrian refugee families to learn first-hand of their experiences.
    In her meetings, Ms. Richard thanked the government and people of Iraq, including the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, for their generosity and hospitality in caring for the Syrian refugees, and for coordinating with international humanitarian agencies. Assistant Secretary Richard said, “We understand that an influx of refugees may place a strain on host communities. We applaud the spirit of tolerance and generosity from the Iraqi Kurdistan Region's residents and officials who are assisting these refugees.” She reiterated the commitment of the United States to helping Iraq as it shoulders this responsibility.

    The United States is the single largest donor to the international humanitarian response to the Syria crisis, providing more than 1.3 billion dollars for food, shelter, medical care, education, clean water, and sanitation to people in Syria and the more than 2.2 million Syrian refugees in the region.

    It would be nice if the release had noted the official's name.  It's Anne C. Richard whose title is U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration.

    FYI, Kat's "Kat's Korner: Beyonce -- the fake ass feminist who sells violence against women" went up this evening.  And another strong piece of writing, this one on Barack Obama's illegal spying scandal, is Libby Liberal's  Corrente piece whic opens:

    I caught some of Lawrence O’Donnell’s show yesterday in which O’Donnell glibly shilled for the Obama administration against the findings of federal Judge Leon. O’Donnell also handily soft-balled questions to one of Obama’s NSA reform panelists in which the two found common cause in lauding the Obama administration for its “lesser evil” spy program. Do they not recall it took Edward Snowden to expose it????
    I also caught part of a Barbara Walter’s special in which she gave short shrift to one on her list of most fascinating people of 2013, Edward Snowden. Let’s see. I remember two things from that tiny segment before she rushed along. Snowden was a high school dropout and Walters’ suggestion that most Americans don’t begin to care about being massively spied upon.
    Did anybody else witnessing this not feel a chill climb the spine?

    The mainstream corporate media propaganda machine is continuing its mighty work at legitimizing and defending the -- as Judge Leon typified it -- “almost Orwellian” Obama shadow police state.  

    Read on ...

    Friday, December 13, 2013

    Lying Photo Ops

    Lying Photo Ops

    From August 15, 2010, that's "Lying Photo Ops." 

    C.I. wrote: 

    Barack and Baby Sykes pose for the photographer while Barack says, "My youngest prop and I are swimming in the Gulf off Iraq to prove Iraq is safe. Actually, we're in the Atlantic Ocean off Martha's Vineyard but the photo of me and my youngest prop in the Gulf of Mexico wasn't really taken in the Gulf of Mexico. Isaiah archives his comics at The World Today Just Nuts.

    What I remember most about that comic of Barack and his daughter Baby Wanda Sykes is finishing it and realizing I wasn't done.

    The water.

    I just had a flat, one blue color thing going on.

    So I went to work trying to make it look more like the ocean.

    And today that's what I liked best about it -- the colors in the water.

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

    Thursday, December 12, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Moqtada notes the League of Righteous is working for Nouri, Nouri secures more weapons to terrorize the Iraqi people, the US Veterans Affairs Dept has been running a shell game tricking the press (no real skill required for that) among others, and more.

    Let's start with nonsense.  The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee which held a hearing yesterday.  Veterans are grumbling about the footsie the Committee is playing with the VA and at some point the press will have to deal with that because the anger's only mounting.  Every veteran I spoke with yesterday that attended the hearing noted the nonsense from the Committee and specifically singled out Senator Sherrod Brown's ridiculous statements about how VA didn't need a lecture, they know how important it is to solve this problem.

    Oh, no, they need many lectures.  Committee Chair Bernie Sanders can take comfort in the fact that Brown's sucking up distracted from Sanders' own problems with regards to confronting VA.  In the future, if Brown's going to have a future in the Congress (that's in doubt, he's close to losing veterans' votes and as we saw with Jim Webb, when you lose that support, you need to announce that you're not running for re-election), he's going to need to stop sucking up to the VA in public hearings.  Brown's lucky in that he's not facing re-election until 2018.  He's unlucky in that he's now on the radar and every move he makes regarding veterans will be closely tracked.  And Ohio is one of the worst states on the number of days to get a claim adjudicated.

    Let's listen to Chair Sanders at yesterday's Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.

    Chair Bernie Sanders:  Nonetheless this Committee, at our hearing in mid-March, heard about the unacceptably large number of claims that were pending and the numerous challenges confronting the Department. It is my view, and the view I believe, of every member of this committee that no veteran should have to wait years to have his or her claim adjudicated. Today, as I understand it, the VA is going to give us some good news about significant progress made in this area. When we last met to discuss this issue, there were over 896,000 claims in the inventory. Of that number more than 632,000 or 70 percent were backlogged – or pending longer than VA’s goal of 125 days. That is a staggering number. Today, as I understand, those numbers look much different and are much improved. The number of claims pending longer than 125 days – or officially part of the backlog – has dropped to just over 395,000 claims or 57 percent of the total inventory. That is a large number but it is significant. The total number of pending claims has dropped to its lowest level since July of 2012 at slightly less than 694,000 claims. Let me be clear – many challenges remain and I will touch on some of them later in my statement. We must, however, begin today by . . .

    Blah blah blah.  And he kept talking about a March hearing.

    If you're talking backlog, March doesn't mean a damn thing and your citing it makes you look silly.

    Granted, the April hearing wasn't a Senate VA hearing.  That's probably why it was an important hearing. April 23rd, Senator Patty Murray, as Chair of the Senate Budget Committee, chaired a hearing.  It is the most important hearing for veterans in 2013.  It was, it remains, the most important hearing.  Committee Chair Murray, of course, is the former Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and she continues to serve on the Senate VA Committee.

    In real time, we covered the pertinent exchange at length.  I'm both (a) not in the mood and (b) not going to waste space on it.  So we'll do a small excerpt.

    For those who don't know, just to set this up, the VA claims system had a huge backlog and, at this hearing, Shinseki and the always laughable Alison Hickey explained a new way of doing things.  And the press just ignored it and continues to.  It's a shell game.  Let's go to the excerpt.

    Chair Patty Murray:  As I mentioned, you have a new announcement of a new initiative to expedite claims that have been waiting for over a year.  And that's encouraging and I'm glad to see that the Department's taking action but I do have some questions about how it is going to be implemented.  And I wanted to ask you, if the VA determines the veteran's final rating is lower than the provisional rating, will the Department seek to recover money that's already been paid to that veteran?

    Secretary Eric Shinseki:  Madam Chairman, uh, you know, that's a question.  I, uh, I-I, what I would say is, I -- our -- historically, when we've established a standard for a veteran, we've usually stayed with that and, uh, let me call on Secretary Hickey here but my-my intent is that the provisional rating that's provided will be on those issues for which we have clarity and documentation and we can render a, uh, a decision.  For issues that, uh, where documentation isn't provided, those are the issues that remain open up to a year, for veterans to locate, with our help even, documentation that would, uh, allow us to,uh, make a decision there.  Uh, Secretary Hickey.

    Allison Hickey: Chairman Murray, thank you for the question, for your, uh, interest in the initiative which we think is, uh, really important to, uh, ensure that we're, uh, taking care of those veterans who have waited the longest while we completed the more than 260,000 Agent Orange claims to take care of our Vietnam veterans over the last two and a half years.  We-we, uh - We are using the provisions that allow us to make good decisions so we will continue, uhm, under this provisional criteria to have -- to use service treatment, to use private medical records, to use the information available to our, uhm, on our veterans in terms of the nature and character of their service.  So all the similar evidence we have used in previous decisions we will use again to ensure that we, uh, don't make any of those kinds of decisions.  I don't expect to see any of those decisions, uh, where we overcompensate for, uh, for a claim.  Uhm, the other thing that that we will do is we will, uh, keep the reason for the provisional decision, we put a really huge safety net under every one of our veterans, we're, uh, going to keep the record for a whole year there -- the ability for our veterans to come back with additional evidence.  Uh, uhm, uh, and we will keep asking if --

    Chair Patty Murray:  So the additional year will only be to provide information to have an additional claim, not to lower the claim?

    Allison Hickey:  Uh, th-the, uh, the reason for the year is to allow to increase the rating, uh, if necessary so I think in -- The advantage is our veterans for the additional year.  Uh, and then they still have after that, the same appeal, uh, processes that they've had in the past.  So we don't anticipate, uh, having, uhm, uh, conditions where we overpay veterans under this initiative.

    In real time, reporting on that hearing the day it took place, I wrote:

    What the VA is proposing is that a temporary rating be created.  This temporary rating may become permanent.  Or it might increase or it might decrease.  If you're a veteran qualifying for some small-business program based on your rating, how does this impact that?  Hickey gave no response about that or how the temporary claim would effect anything.
    Now I think she's an idiot who should be fired.  But can you be that stupid that when asked a direct question, you completely miss it?  Maybe so.  Maybe Allison Hickey is The Dumbest Person In The World.  However, I just see her as deeply dishonest.
    As deeply dishonest is the new program that's being discussed.
    Murray is correct.  This is going mean "increasing the workload by requiring two" or more "ratings decisions instead of one." And this is only more clear when Hickey asserts that after a veteran receives a rating he or she finds less than satisfactory and they return with more information, Hickey's words, "we will expedite that claim to the front of the line."
    What's really going on here?
    The VA has bad press because they've not eliminated the claims backlog, they have not reduced the backlog.  They have been given everything they've asked for.  Congress has actually spent the last years asking them, "Is that all you need?  What else can we do to help you with this?"  VA has insisted they had all they needed.
    So this is VA's problem.  At the hearing, Senator Tammy Baldwin observed, "Veterans don't want to hear about new claims or new processes, they want results and so do I."  She's correct.  However, this program's not about veterans, it's about the press.  This is a distraction that will create the illusion of something new which, the VA hopes, will garner good press.
    In what world, when you're failing at the claims system, are you allowed to create a new system that will pull more employees away?

    There were members of the press at that hearing.

    They ignored this significant development/change.

    They have since falsely reported on the 'success' of the VA with the backlog.

    And Chair Sanders was praising them yesterday.  'Oh, goodness, you're reducing the backlog.'

    No, they're not.

    They're slapping on 'provisional decisions' to rush these through so they can move them into the 'decided' column.  Even though they're not.

    I have no problem with a hasty VA decision -- which comes with a real appeal process.  I have no fear that veterans are trying to game the system.  Unlike Senator Jon Tester, I don't have visions of them smoking and drinking and see that as abuse of the system.  I think -- whether they smoke, drink, dip, what have you -- they're trying to get the health care they were promised.  Promises were made, promises need to be kept.

    But the provisional 'ratings'?  The VA can change them themselves -- even if the veteran doesn't appeal.  Why are these temporary calls being issued?

    It's a shell game to move the numbers without really doing so.

    "Reducing the backlog at the expense of accuracy is not acceptable," Chair Sanders declared Wednesday morning.

    Two days after the April 23rd hearing, Mark Flatten (Washington Examiner) did something none of his peers could do, he reported on veterans fears (justifiable) about the VA's new rating:

    Under the new plan, VA will issue a "provisional" rating within 60 days on cases two years old or more. Veterans would then have a year to submit new evidence to increase their rating, or ask that the rating be made final so they can file an appeal.
    The apparent catch is that issuing the provisional rating may lead to creation of a new case, thus letting VA "close" the old one when in fact the veteran's claim remains outstanding.
    Ronald Robinson, president of the AFGE union local that represents VA claims workers in Columbia, S.C., said the new rules are nothing more than an effort to make the agency's sinking statistics look better.

    Chair Sanders declared at yesterday's hearing, "Veterans are still waiting too long for a decision.  And the Inspector General to find issues with the quality, with the quality of the work.  I am concerned by the most recent IG findings which found significant problems with the provisional decisions reviewed at the Los Angeles regional office."

    Imagine that.

    Problems with the provisional ratings?

    Who could have seen that happening?

    I said we'd cover a December House Veterans Affairs Subcomittee and I never did.  Sorry.  I don't like writing about this topic.  I can go on over and over about Tim Arango's September 2012 report for the New York Times where US President Barack Obama sent another "unit of Army Special Operations soldiers" into Iraq in the fall of 2012 -- so much for the 'withdrawal.'

    But this nonsense?  Senators were present when this new 'system' was announced.  The press was as well.  And yet they've both failed on this issue.  Veterans groups have raised concerns and yet both groups continue to fail and every other month some mouth breathing press loser is trumpeting 'the numbers' and 'the reductions' and never noting provisional ratings or what's really going on.

    At the December 4th hearing, the VA's Deputy Assistant Inspector General for Audits and Evaluations, Sondra F. McCauley was one of the witnesses.

    Deputy Assistant IG Sondra McCauley:  On April 19, 2013, VBA implemented a special initiative to address the oldest pending disability claims in the current backlog. VBA stated the intent of the initiative was to work all claims pending for more than 2 years within 60 days, beginning April 19, 2013. VAROs were directed to devote all RVSRs and as many Veterans Service Representatives as needed to ensure all claims pending over 2-year old were processed and completed. According to VBA, RVSRs were to immediately process the 2-year old claims based on the available evidence in the veterans' claims folders. Further, rating decisions produced were to be considered provisional ratings unless all evidence in support of the claims had already been received (and the claim was considered ready-to-rate) or the ratings assigned provided the highest evaluation for the particular diagnostic code for each claimed issue. However, if medical examination reports or other Federal records were needed, these older claims could not be processed as provisional rating decisions.  During one review errors were identified at the Los Angeles VARO when leadership provided conflicting guidance on the proper procedures for processing provisional rating decisions. We determined 10 -- 91 percent --  of 11 provisional rating decisions we reviewed were not compliant with VBA's guidance related to the 2-year claims processing initiative. Eight of the 10 provisional decisions were determined to be non- compliant because the rating decisions were made without supporting VA medical examinations as required. One claim was decided without Service Treatment Records, which are considered Federal records and must be obtained by VARO staff prior to rendering a provisional rating decision. In the remaining case, the provisional rating was controlled by a future diary that scheduled the claim for review in 2 years instead of 1 year as required.  Requiring a rating decision to be rendered before a medical examination is obtained as a basis for a decision is in conflict with VBA policy. On May 14, 2013, conflicting guidance was sent to the Los Angeles VARO staff via an e-mail from the VARO Director’s office. The guidance incorrectly stated all 2-year old cases requiring a medical examination must have the medical examinations ordered by May 15, 2013. This conflicts with VBA guidance because if a medical examination was required to decide a claim, the claim could not be completed as a provisional decision until staff obtained the necessary medical examinations. The guidance also incorrectly indicated that any claims with medical examinations not completed by June 3, 2013, were to be decided by a provisional rating.
    We are concerned similar errors may exist among other provisional rating decisions completed by the Los Angeles VARO after the conflicting guidance was issued. VBA provided data that revealed the Los Angeles VARO completed 532 provisional rating decisions between April 19 – June 19, 2013. VARO staff completed 470 of those 532 provisional decisions claims after the conflicting guidance was disseminated on May 14, 2013. All 10 provisional rating decisions that we identified as non-compliant were completed after this date. We recommended that VBA review all of the provisional rating decisions completed by the Los Angeles VARO after the conflicting guidance was issued to ensure they are accurate.

    So in the only examination thus far, 90% of the provisional ratings in the LA area did not follow the (limited) procedures and are most likely incorrect.  The new rating is prompting the IG to call for all of the LA area's provisional ratings to be reviewed.

    "In fact, it appears the employees were encouraged to violate VA policies," Senator Johnny Isakson noted yesterday of the IG findings on the LA area.  He noted that the IG recommendation of a review of all provisional rating decisions had been completed and the VA founds  "100s that contained errors."

    Hundreds.  Plural.  And we're only talking 532 decisions.

    Senator Patty Murray noted what she's hearing from veterans in Washington state, "[. . .] I have heard  repeatedly from veterans that they were confused and frustrated with the provisional rating process. Some believe their claims have been flat out rejected and others didn't understand that they have a year to submit additional evidence. Secretary Hickey, we need to hear more from you today about how the VA's going to improve outreach and communication with veterans [. . .]"  [Note, at the end of yesterday's snapshot, the press release issued by Senator Murrary's office can be read.]

    "During Committee oversight," Chair Sanders declared yesterday morning, "my staff has identified clear and unmistakable errors in provisional rating decisions."

    Appearing before the Committee was the VA's Under Secretary for Benefits Allison Hickey.  In her opening remarks, Hickey declared, "In June, VA completed the first phase of the initiative, which focused on all claims that had been pending over 2 years. While some claims from that category were still outstanding due to the unavailability of a claimant and other unique circumstances, approximately 99 percent of these 2-year claims (over 67,000) had been processed for Veterans, eliminating those claims from the backlog. Since that milestone, VBA claims processors have focused on completing the claims of Veterans who have been waiting over 1 year for a decision. VA has processed approximately 96 percent of all 513,000 claims pending over 1 year."

    Chair Bernie Sanders noted Shinseki's proposed goal for 2015, 125 claims processed within 125 days processed with 98% accuracy.  Sanders wanted to know if VA was "on track to achieve the Secretary's goal" by 2015.  Hickey responded that "we are on track barring any implications to our full" budget request for 2014 Fiscal Year, she stated they would meet the goal.  We'll note this exchange.

    Chair Bernie Sanders:  In April of this year, VA rolled out an initiative to provide decisions on the claims that have been pending the longest.  While I appreciate VA's efforts to provide the veterans that have been waiting the longest with decisions, I continue to have concerns about this initiative.  The IG, the Inspector General's, recent findings regarding provisional ratings decisions at the Los Angeles regional office which found a number of errors was very, very concerning.  I understand the office corrected the inappropriate guidance that was issued to staff in June and is now in the process of correcting any errors in claims which may have been improperly adjudicated.  So this IG report is very, very concerning to many of us.  Can you explain to this Committee the actions that have been taken to remedy the problems in Los Angeles. 

    Allison Hickey: Uh, Chairman, I absolute can do that but let me first --

    I'm not Bernie Sanders.  I don't give a damn about Allison Hickey whose ass should have been fired long ago.  She was asked a question.  I'm not going to waste my time including her distractions and her efforts to avoid answering by eating up time.She said "the regional office knew in one week."  In one week of implementation, the regional office knew. May 14th

    The obvious question there is, if they knew one week after it was implemented, (that would be May 21st) why did the IG find errors June 19th?

    If, as Hickey stammer, "they themselves identified within a week," why weren't they fixed.  How incompetent is management at the VA?

    I guess the answer to that question was staring at the Committee members (Allison Hickey).

    3 veterans at the hearing that I spoke with yesterday self-identified as Democrats but stated that maybe the answer for veterans is to have one party in charge of the Senate and another in charge of the White House?  It was felt that the Committee is largely toothless, offers supposed indignation ("weakly stated," one veteran said) and then smooths over everything with ridiculous comments like Brown's that a lecture is not needed. It was noted that Ranking Member Richard Burr would be better right now as Chair Burr because he's not "playing footsie" with the VA.  Let's move to some of his exchange.

    Ranking Member Richard Burr corrected Hickey's claims (lies) that the leadership knew in one week of the LA problems and immediately addressed them.  Under strong questioning from Burr, Hickey did admit that the same mistakes continued to happen for weeks

    Ranking Member Richard Burr:  Were provisional decisions included in determining the number of claims VA has completed during the calendar year 2013?

    Allison Hickey:  I'm going to ask -- Well -- She's just told me "yes" so I will answer "yes" on behalf of Deputy Under Secretary.  There were 14,000 of those claims which were 3% of all of the claims we had done in the oldest claim initiative which was 67,000 two-years-and-older 512,000 one-year-and-older.

    Ranking Member Richard Burr:  You - you highlighted 90% quality or accuracy, you used both words.  Last week, the American Legion testified and I quote, "VA's accuracy statistics from the Monday accuracy reports are not consitent with the review of recently adjudicated claims as conducted by the American Legion.  According to the Legion, they reviewed 260 decisions and found errors in 55%.  Also National Veterans Legal Service Program testified that current error rate was somewhere between 30 and 40% -- in some RO's it's higher.  Are they wrong?

    Allison Hickey: Uhm, uh, so Senator Burr, they -- It's an apple and orange discussion, if I may have a moment to clarify that. First of all, let me just state for the record and for every time I talk on this subject anywhere: We will not trade production for quality. It is an and equation.  Both must rise which is why it's 125 and 98.  But there is a very different way the IG and others are looking at issues then we do.  I will tell you that our process has been validated by an external agency --

    Ranking Member Richard Burr: Ma'am, let me ask my question again: Are they wrong?

    Allison Hickey: Uhm.  Uh-uh-uh.  [Laughing] Senator Burr, they are right for the way they look at it, we are right for the way we measure it which is statistically --

    Ranking Member Richard Burr: General, General.  They're the customer, aren't they?

    Allison Hickey:  Actually, the veteran, the family member and the survivor are my customers, Senator.

    Ranking Member Richard Burr: Yeah and these are the organizations that represent them --

    Allison Hickey:  They are, Senator 

    Ranking Member Richard Burr:  -- and -- Should this Committee believe that there's any VSO in America that believes that the accuracy or the quality is at 97% right now?

    Allison Hickey:  Uhhhh, Senator Burr, I would ask you to ask them for their opinions, I can't speak for them.

    Ranking Member Richard Burr: They testified on it. But that's not necessarily something that computes. 

    Allison Hickey:  Senator Burr, I have a statistically valid validated process that goes further --

    Ranking Member Richard Burr: I asked -- I asked a very simple question: Are they wrong?  And I guess the answer is "yes" because you're saying your statistics are different than what their review has been. 

    Allison Hickey: They have a different process, Senator.

    Ranking Member Richard Burr:  Okay.  According to VA's Monday Morning Workload Reports, there are at least 266,000 appeals that have not been resolved. That's about 100,000 more than were pending five years ago although appeals are not counted in VA's backlog statistics, they represent individuals who have yet to know what benefits they will receive. Do the performance standards for regional office directors and service center managers include how quickly and accurately they're handling appeals

    Allison Hickey:  So Senator Burr the answer is -- the simple answer to your question is yes, they do.  However, I would also tell you that a veteran does know our opinion to an answer on their claim.  Uhm, uh, they get and, uh, many cases, they are deriving resources uh-uh associated with that claim already even though they might be appealing only a part in piece of-of our decision.

    Ranking Member Richard Burr:  So you have a metrics that you use to determine this?

    Allison Hickey: We absolutely have metrics on --

    Ranking Member Richard Burr:  Would you provide that metrics for the Committee?

    Allison Hickey:  We will do that, sir.

    Ranking Member Richard Burr:  On average, how long have those 266,000 appeals been pending?

    Allison Hickey:  Uh, Senator, the Chairman cites some, uh, 800 days so I will, uh, accept th--

    Ranking Member Richard Burr:  Do you track, does the VA track that?

    Allison Hickey:  We do, Senator Burr. 

    Ranking Member Richard Burr:  Okay.  At what point is an appeal -- is an appeal considered to be backlogged?

    Allison Hickey:  We do not have a backlog number for appeals.

    We need to stop it there.  But hopefully you're getting what the press didn't.  The VA does not include "appeals" in the backog.  In April, they came up with the 'clever' (dishonest) policy to just slap decisions on claims -- provisional ratings.  And that moved them out of the backlog.  Every one of those 'provisional ratings' may be appealed.  The VA doesn't care, it doesn't count appeals as part of the 'backlog.'

    You'd care if you went from an unacceptable 200 day wait to an 800 day wait.

    But the press whores for the VA.  They're too stupid to do their damn job.  This was all apparent at the April 23rd hearing.  I'm not a genius and it was obvious to me then.  This is a con game and veterans are getting very outraged while it continues and people like Senator Sherrod Brown look the other way and insist that the VA doesn't need a lecture.

    On veterans, Leo Shane III (Stars and Stripes) reports Iraq War veteran Patrick Murphy will be hosting Taking The Hill on MSNBC starting this Sunday.  Currently, this is an as-needed program meaning it will appear as a series of specials.  (One aired last month.)  Murphy served in the House of Representatives after returning from Iraq.  He heroically led the overturning of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.  Hopefully, he will show similar strength and leadership on the airwaves.

    Let's move to Iraq.  Zhu Ningzhu (Xinhua) reports Iraq has signed a contract to purchase "24 multi-role light fighters from South Korea" to help fight 'terrorism.'  'Terrorism,' in Nouri's Iraq, means the Iraqi people.  Nouri is quoted stating, "Today we have signed a contract to purchase the Korean 24 T- 50IQ aircraft for training and military operations. The deal signals a start of enhancing the performance of the Ministries of Defense and Interior in the aspects of defending the country and fighting terrorism."  Nouri, due to his illegal power grab, currently is the Minister of the Interior (police) and the Minister of Defense (military).

    The big news out of Iraq today?  All Iraq News reports:

    The leader of the Sadr Trend, Muqtada al-Sadr, described the Asaeb Ahlulhaq as “Governmental Militias.”
    During his response on a question from his followers over an operation done by a group of Asaeb wearing military uniform to kidnap citizens in Diyala province  , al-Sadr said “Yes. They are governmental militia and you should boycott them and sue them if they harm you or complain to their tribes.”

    This is the League of Righteous.  Let's drop back to July 9, 2011:

    Earlier we were mentioning the little scamp Ali al-Lami who was killed a few weeks back. A terrorist, in fact. The US military held him for awhile. They held others with the Shi'ite thug group the League of Righteous. They're responsible for the deaths of 5 American service members. Maybe more. But 5 they are known to have killed. And Barack let their leader and some of his followers go in a deal in the summer of 2009 -- a deal that the families of the 5 fallen soldiers were not consulted on or even given a heads up to -- because Barack didn't want to be president of the United States. That was too small for Barry. He needed -- his ego needed -- a world stage. So when the British needed something to get their 5 citizens kidnapped by the League freed, Barry said, "Screw dead Americans who were killed doing a job their government ordered them to do, I'm going to free the League -- this rag-tag group of killers -- because I don't give a damn about the safety of Iraqis and because I want to get in good with England." 
    So Barry released them and, as usual from Princess Tiny Meat, his 'grand gesture' fell quickly. Because the addiction to the Kool-Aid was still so high in 2009, let's drop back we'll drop back to the June 9, 2009 snapshot with the realization that some who looked the other way in real time will now be outraged:

    This morning the New York Times' Alissa J. Rubin and Michael Gordon offered "U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.'s." Martin Chulov (Guardian) covered the same story, Kim Gamel (AP) reported on it, BBC offered "Kidnap hope after Shia's handover" and Deborah Haynes contributed "Hope for British hostages in Iraq after release of Shia militant" (Times of London). The basics of the story are this. 5 British citizens have been hostages since May 29, 2007. The US military had in their custody Laith al-Khazali. He is a member of Asa'ib al-Haq. He is also accused of murdering five US troops. The US military released him and allegedly did so because his organization was not going to release any of the five British hostages until he was released. This is a big story and the US military is attempting to state this is just diplomacy, has nothing to do with the British hostages and, besides, they just released him to Iraq. Sami al-askari told the New York Times, "This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners. So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned." In other words, a prisoner was traded for hostages and they attempted to not only make the trade but to lie to people about it. At the US State Dept, the tired and bored reporters were unable to even broach the subject. Poor declawed tabbies. Pentagon reporters did press the issue and got the standard line from the department's spokesperson, Bryan Whitman, that the US handed the prisoner to Iraq, the US didn't hand him over to any organization -- terrorist or otherwise. What Iraq did, Whitman wanted the press to know, was what Iraq did. A complete lie that really insults the intelligence of the American people. CNN reminds the five US soldiers killed "were: Capt. Brian S. Freeman, 31, of Temecula, California; 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Nebraska; Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Gonzales, Louisiana; Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Cortland, New York; and Pfc. Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Alabama." Those are the five from January 2007 that al-Khazali and his brother Qais al-Khazali are supposed to be responsible for the deaths of. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert H. Reid (AP) states that Jonathan B. Chism's father Danny Chism is outraged over the release and has declared, "They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it."

    Agreed. Not only did Barry betray the fallen, he demonstrated yet again no one should trust him at the adult table by himself. His 'big' deal resulted in only one living British citizen released. Three corpses were released.
    The fifth kidnapped victim?
    Though Barry's 'big' deal was supposed to free all five, the League, years later, is now insisting they want a new deal (and figure Barry's just the pushover to give it to them?). Al Mada reports they have issued a statement where they savage the US government for not honoring -- and quickly honoring -- the agreement made with them. As a result, they say Alan McMenemy will not be released.
    Peter Moore, the only one released alive, was a computer tech working in Iraq. Four British bodyguards were protecting him. The bodyguards were McMenemy, Jason Swindlehurst, Alec MacLachlan and Jason Cresswell. The families of the four have continued to publicly request that Alan McMenemy be released. 
    They condemn the "procrastionation" of the US government after the deal was made and state that a promise was also broken when "US forces did not stop attacks" -- apparently Barack made very grand promises -- so now Alan McMenemy will not be released. The statement is credited to Akram al-Ka'bi.
    What the statement really does is demonstrate what many condemned in 2009: The US government, the administration, entered into an agreement that did not benefit the US or Iraq. They freed known killers from prison. Killers of Iraqis, killers of American citizens. There was nothing to be gained by that act for Iraq or the US. At some point, history will ask how Barack Obama thought he was fulfilling his duties of commander in chief by making such an ignorant move?

    The most important recent report by the New York Times on Asaib al-Haq was about Nouri al-Maliki (prime minister and chief thug of Iraq)  supporting them.  Tim Arango (New York Times) broke that story:

    In supporting Asaib al-Haq, Mr. Maliki has apparently made the risky calculation that by backing some Shiite militias, even in secret, he can maintain control over the country’s restive Shiite population and, ultimately, retain power after the next national elections, which are scheduled for next year. Militiamen and residents of Shiite areas say members of Asaib al-Haq are given government badges and weapons and allowed freedom of movement by the security forces.

    As cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr notes, the League of Righteous is working for Nouri's government.

    The violence continues today in Iraq. NINA notes that a fahter and sun were kidnapped in Salaheddin Province by men "wearing military uniforms."

    In addition, National Iraqi News Agency reports that Mohammed Qoja (assistant to the Governor of Salaheddin Province) survived an assassination attempt which left 3 bodyguards dead (two more are missing),  a Baghdad suicide bomber claimed the lives of 5 Iraqi soldiers and left twelve more injured,  Sahwa leader Sheikh Saleh al-Dulaimi was shot dead leaving his Ramadi home, a Baquba roadside bombing left three people injured, 1 person was shot dead outside his Baquba home,a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed 1 life, a bombing near a Baghdad grocery store claimed 1 life and left four more injured, another Bahgdad bombing near a grocery store left eight people injured, a Tikrit armed attack left 1 police officer dead and his son injured, a Ramadi armed attack left 3 people dead and one police officer injured, and a police shot dead 2 suspects in Ramadi,

    Supposedly, Parliamentary elections will take place April 30th.  Yesterday All Iraq News quoted MP Jawad al-Hasnawi stating, "I do not think that Maliki will get the third term as the PM of Iraq due to the current situations and the security deterioration in addition to the floods."  Mustafa Habib (Niqash) examined the political situation in Iraq last Thursday:

    As political parties prepare for upcoming general elections, some very important alliances are falling apart. Shiite Muslim parties allied in the current governing coalition led by PM Nouri-al-Maliki say they will campaign alone - and they won’t promise al-Maliki another term. Amid a surge in sectarian violence, could the country finally be entering a post-sectarian political era?  

    Prominent Shiite Muslim politicians in Baghdad have confessed that there is one major reason why the previously strong alliance of Shiite Muslim parties is breaking up. This alliance was what allowed current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to form his ruling coalition, the State of Law bloc. But now, as political parties start negotiating partnerships and jockeying for position ahead of the upcoming general elections, scheduled for April 2014, the formerly strong Shiite Muslim alliances have fallen apart.

    A special meeting was held in Baghdad on Nov. 18 at which all member parties of al-Maliki’s alliance were present. A statement was issued afterwards declaring, “Shiite Muslim parties are enthusiastic about competing in the coming elections together”. But this seems to have been spin: The reality on the ground is very different.

    “The State of Law bloc has asked that all other parties that want to enter into an alliance with it agree ahead of elections that if they win, the future Prime Minister will come from the Dawa party and that that party will not nominate anyone other than Nouri al-Maliki,” a senior politician, who did not want to be named, told NIQASH. “This is why the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and the Sadrist bloc are avoiding any such alliance.”

    The strongest Shiite Muslim parties in Iraq are al-Maliki’s Dawa party, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, or ISCI, headed by cleric Ammar al-Hakim and the Sadrist bloc, headed by another cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. There are also other minor Shiite Muslim parties such as the National Reform Trend headed by former Prime Minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, and the Islamic Virtue Party, or Fadhila, headed by controversial Najaf-based cleric, Mohammed Musa al-Yaqoubi.

    Both the Sadrist bloc and the ISCI seem firm about their intentions not to enter into an alliance with al-Maliki’s party again. Both al-Hakim and al-Sadr have been critical of al-Maliki’s government, with al-Sadr being very harsh, very publicly and al-Hakim tending to be quietly critical. 

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