Saturday, November 17, 2018

Col Bernie Sanders


That's "Col Bernie Sanders" from September 28, 2015.  C.I. noted:

Isaiah's latest The World Today Just Nuts "Col Bernie Sanders."  Bernie Sanders explains, "African-American voters have really not embraced me yet.  This confuses me.  My fried Chicken has always been so popular.  Yes, it's me, Col. Bernie Sanders."  Valerie Jarrett waves a chicken leg and exclaims, "He's a creep!"  Isaiah archives his comics at The World Today Just Nuts.

I think the comic speaks for itself.  :D  I loved Valerie Jarrett for my comics during Barack's two terms in the White House.  I've been asked about finding someone in the Trump one.  I'm not meaning this as insult to anyone in the administration currently, but I'm just not finding anyone that I think, "I bet they'd be good in the comics."  But I will keep looking.

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

Friday, November 16, 2018.  Someone suffers, so we are told in a new book.  [Citations are being added and I will be adding more later this evening.]

For some reason, Michelle Obama's put her name to one.  I was surprised when I read BECOMING that she'd put her name to it -- surprised anyone would.  It's one plodding sentence after another.  I asked a friend at Crown why they couldn't hire her a ghost writer with a gift for prose and was informed that what was supposed to be an inspiring and light read morphed quickly into something else because Michelle had "issues."  Most of the ghost writer's work involved asking her for happy moments and spending forever trying to unearth a few.  Michelle is not happy with her life now or in looking back.

The book that they spent forever watering down might have made for an interesting read -- whether she named names and dished or not -- but I do understand their fear because, even watered down, this is not a book for a former First Lady of the United States to put her name to.

Let's talk about First Lady, as a role, first.  The current one is more or less doing a fine job.  It's a ceremonial role, it's pure decoration.  There are women who have held the role who've striven for more.  Certainly, Eleanor Roosevelt expanded the role and the notion of what it could be.  Rosalynn Carter deserves high praise for her term as First Lady in terms of expanding public notions of the role and pulling it into the 20th century.  Hillary Diane Clinton showed up on the stage (Hillary Rodham Clinton was buried mid 1992 by the campaign) and was determined to reject the outdated notions for new ones and deserves praise for shattering so many expectations and stereotypes.

But if someone wants to carry out the ceremonial role today, that's fine.  Melanie Trump is carrying out that role in the same manner that Nancy Reagan did before her.  If that's what they want, fine.

I do think we need to expect equality, though.  Meaning for all of Hillary's self-made claims of feminism, it was appalling (and we called her out in real time) that in her 2016 campaign (not in her 2008 campaign, which was a better campaign) she felt the need to repeatedly tell the public that, if elected, she would be president but her spouse (Bill) would not be First Lady under any name (First Dude, whatever).  No, he would not be planning social dinners or . . .  Who was going to do that?  President Hillary Clinton.  She can bomb Libya and select the food and the china it will be served on at a formal dinner all at the same time!

First Lady is a ceremonial role.  It's all opticals, visuals.  Unless, according to Hillary, a man occupies the role, at which point, we have to rethink everything because, heaven forbid, a man is expected to do the work that a woman has had to do over and over for centuries in this country.

That's sexist and it was sexist when Hillary was pimping it.  It's appalling that the role that so many women have had to hold -- whether they wanted it or not -- would be changed, according to Hillary -- the minute a man held the role.


And the other issue there is the reality that, no, she cannot plan formal dinners and social engagements while carrying out the duties of president.  And it's vile of her to suggest she can.  Most women in the US already work endlessly -- many work a paid job outside the home and then turn around and do a shift in the home (caring for children or relatives, cleaning their homes, making meals, etc).  For her to try to normalize those extra hours is appalling.  She can go 'super woman' it if she wants but that's not helping any woman -- including herself.

What was Michelle like as a First Lady.

This might be why she is so hostile and touchy.  She's a smart woman.  She is someone with real skills and, yes, intelligence.

But the 2008 campaign remade her.  She writes of a meeting with David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett where they explain to her that she's not winning voters. She easily accepts their suggestion that she comes off too smart and works to publicly cut down her own smarts and independence.  (To see what that led to, refer to Ava and my "TV: The endless non-news.")

In 2008, until New Hampshire, I stayed out of it.  Then I did come out for Hillary.  (In New Hampshire, at one college appearance, a friend explained she had a debate by various proxies but the one representing Hillary had dropped out due to a scheduling conflict.  This is all noted in real time.  I tried to beg off but a friend was asking so I stood in as the Hillary voice in the debate.  That's when I started moving towards Hillary and then came the sexist attacks and that really did it.)  Michelle's "for the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country . . ."  was tone deaf considering that her husband was running for president.  But otherwise the Michelle Obama presented to the public was inspiring and hugely popular.

That she listened to Valerie and David and gutted herself is sad.  That she's still furious about that is evident in the book -- despite herculean efforts on the part of the ghost writer.

I understand the fury.  What she was actually inspired.  What she became embarrassed.

Unless you were an empty headed, closeted lesbian, you didn't care for the makeover.  It did attract that group of closeted lesbians that also go orgasmic over Beyonce's every move.  Straight adult women don't behave that way -- not even over Denzel or Brad -- nor do most lesbians.  But this sub group -- as creepy as Herbert on FAMILY GUY -- does.  They are very vocal but they are a very tiny part of the lesbian community and even smaller subgroup of the general American population.

As Michelle was reduced to an ornament, they found orgasmic nirvana.

Others were sheepish and embarrassed to see a grown woman, with a law degree and two children, reduced to the status of fashion plate.  We also grasped the reality that Michelle was not a fashion plate or a great beauty.  On the latter, Crown grasps that which is why the cover photo for her book shows her with hand over her chin (the hand minimizes the chin which is one of her visual flaws).  On the former, even when models were 'curvy' (what passed for it) with Cheryl Tiegs and Christie Brinkley, Michelle wouldn't have qualified as a model.  That shouldn't be a shocker.  She was in her forties.  No one should have expected her to be a model.  But that's what happens when you're reduced to ornament status.  Equally true, modeling isn't just about a sleek, slim body.  It's also about having a gift to wear clothes.  Cher can wear a sophisticated outfit or a shocking one and carry it off because she can 'wear' clothes.  It's a gift that a woman has or doesn't.  (Men can have the gift as well but we're talking about women here.)

Had Michelle been allowed to be Michelle, she could have been a ground breaking First Lady.  She had the intelligence to be one, she had the skills and the experience to be one.

Instead, they shoved her into a hole that very few women would ever fit in and it's clear that the fit did not work for Michelle.  Reading the book, it's very, very clear.

Does she deserve credit for anything that made it into her book?  I'll praise her for not buying into the Russia conspiracy.


I'd love to know what she really thinks of the "Whitey" rumor.  It's briefly in the book.  She's never said it and it's a rumor and?  That's about it.  Former CIA officer Larry Johnson spread that online in 2008.  She doesn't mention ..him.  Johnson did not claim to have seen the alleged tape.  Johnson was told it existed and would be surfacing.  When it didn't and Johnson grasped that he had been played, he outed the source feeding him the information: David Brock.

Yes, of MEDIA MATTERS.  Pure David and why no one should ever embrace him.  He did that as a Republican -- not just with Anita Hill -- and, when we were stupid enough to let him come over to our side, he did it repeatedly.  David Brock should be kicked to the curb.  He puts lies into circulation intentionally.  It's a shame Michelle didn't get to share that.

In one of the most ridiculous passages, she allows that she was treated (in the 2008 campaign) in a sexist way (she was) and that she was seeing the sexist attacks on Hillary and really understood them.  That last part is where it gets ridiculous.

How awful that Hillary was being attacked in a sexist manner in 2008!

But, know what, as someone who defended Hillary from sexist attacks in 2008, I remember them and I remember that a lot of people participated in them.

A lot.

Here's a photo we've noted here and at THIRD repeatedly,   This is from Ava and my "Left in the Dust" in 2008:

jon favreau

That's the photo and, as many have already noted, photos of people 'funnin' with cardboard Baracks led to punishments. But, as we pointed out last week, ". . . women are the canary in the coalmines. Hate and prejudice aimed at all women could never be aimed at any group of straight men without being called out. It is in navigating how much abuse it can get away with towards women that society sets down its markers for others. And week after week, that remains one of the biggest lessons of 2008."

Michelle does recognize those men, right?  It includes Barack's speech writer Jon Favreau.   From THIRD, here's Dee Dee Myers writing about the grabbing:

Truest statement of the week

What's bugging me is his intention. He isn't putting his hand on her "chest," as most of the articles and conversations about the picture have euphemistically referred to it. Rather, his hand--cupped just so--is clearly intended to signal that he’s groping her breast. And why? Surely, not to signal he finds her attractive. Au contraire. It’s an act of deliberate humiliation. Of disempowerment. Of denigration.
And it disgusts me.

-- Dee Dee Myers, "Favreau's Sexist Photo Is No Laughing Matter" (Vanity Fair).

That sexism that Michelle is so appalled by in 2008?  It came from Barack's campaign regularly.  And, guess what, it also came from Barack himself.

Periodically, the claw come out?  Do you remember that statement?

Maybe like Michelle, you don't.

Funny though, Google doesn't want you to remember it.

Search THIRD produces this:

 No posts matching the query: "marie cocco". Show all posts

No posts at THIRD mention Marie.  That's a lie.  Good way to censor Google.  A Google search of THIRD and Marie Cocco or her quoting Barack also turns up nothing.

Why is Google burying that history?  [Added: See below for Barack's sexism.]

Marie Cocco was the one who called him out in the MSM most loudly (Bonnie Erbe also deserves credit).  Sometimes, Barack explained, periodically, when she's feeling blue,  claws come out.

If Michelle's wanting to suddenly talk about the sexism that Hillary experience in 2008, she needs to talk about the sexism her husband promoted.

Or how about her own little bitchy remarks?

That one of the most important things that we need to know about the next president of the United States is, is he somebody that shares our values? Is he somebody that respects family? Is a good and decent person? So our view was that, if you can't run your own house, you certainly can't run the White House. So, so we've adjusted our schedules to make sure that our girls are first, so while he's traveling around, I do day trips.

"If you can't run your own house, you certainly can't . . ."  Michelle knew what she was saying (see Ava and my "What If Feminists Were Swing Voters?") and she said it.  It was sexist.  Hillary can't control Bill's sexual urges how can she control the White House!  It's sexism and those are Michelle Obama's own words.

Why are we writing about Michelle?

Because the anger's there and, here's the news value, Crown says it's really going to surface in interviews -- what they can no longer censor.  They point to the upcoming Oprah Winfrey interview where Oprah asks Michelle about Donald Trump and Michelle goes on about how he put her family at risk.

Her family at risk?  We don't have time to go into the history of the birther rumors.

But her family at risk?

They had -- and still have -- the Secret Service to protect them.  What do the people in Iraq have?

"Barack wanted to get US troops out of Iraq."

She writes that.  It's her entire Iraq output.

He didn't get troops out of Iraq.  He left with them still on the ground in Iraq (where they remain).

Maybe a little less self-focus would help Michelle with her frustration?  Maybe grasping that her family is protected but the Iraqi people are not would open her eyes to real horrors?

Replying to 

Does Michelle grasp that the children of Iraq do not have Secret Service protection?  That the medical professionals left in Iraq do not have Secret Service protection?

: A nationwide public awareness campaign to stop violence against medical personnel has been launched at the Ministry of Health in Baghdad, and will last for 10 days until 21 November

Does she grasp that her husband did nothing to protect Iraqi women?

Small protest on this morning in , calling for an end to violence against women. Protesters were specifically asking for stronger laws to help eradicate so-called “honour killings”. 16yo Doaa’s sign says: “There’s no honour in honour crimes”

When he was elected, before he became president, Ava and I were among the people advocating for Barack to send a woman to Iraq as an Ambassador.  It would be a powerful statement.  He refused.  Throughout his two terms, he refused.  He nominated man after man for the post.  Never a woman.

Does Michelle grasp that?

I understand her disappointment about being forced to deny her own gifts and skills while First Lady but she'd be a lot happier if she'd grasp that her 'tragedies' really are nothing compared to what the people of Iraq -- to name only one country her husband harmed and failed -- go through on a daily basis.

The following community sites -- plus Cindy Sheehan -- updated:

  • -------------

  • Added at 12:53 PST 11/16/18 -- Examples of Barack's sexism.

  • First here is the Marie Cocco statement I referred to, we made it a "truest" of the week July 13, 2008:

  • Truest statement of the week II

    Obama says that these women should not be able to obtain a late-term abortion, because just "feeling blue" isn't the same as suffering "serious clinical mental health diseases." True enough. And totally infuriating.
    During the recent Obama pander tour -- the one in which he spent about a week trying to win over conservative religious voters -- the presumptive Democratic nominee unnecessarily endorsed President Bush's faith-based initiative, a sort of patronage program that rewards religious activists for their political support with public grants. Then in a St. Louis speech, Obama declared that "I let Jesus Christ into my life." That's fine, but we already have a president who believes this was a qualification for the Oval Office, and look where that's gotten us.Obama's verbal meanderings on the issue of late-term abortion go further. He has muddied his position. Whether this is a mistake or deliberate triangulation, only Obama knows for sure.
    One thing is certain: Obama has backhandedly given credibility to the right-wing narrative that women who have abortions -- even those who go through the physically and mentally wrenching experience of a late-term abortion -- are frivolous and selfish creatures who might perhaps undergo this ordeal because they are "feeling blue."

    -- Marie Cocco's "Obama's Abortion Stance When 'Feeling Blue'" (Washington Post Writers Group).

  • Marie also got a truest on August 31, 2008.  And she's noted in "The race card, what's not feminism, and more" from August 17th. She's noted in "Yes, let's stop kidding ourselves (Ava and C.I.)."
  • Here's another truest Maria got at THIRD:

  • Truest statement of the week

    This has a lot to do with a graphic image of Palin I just saw in which she is dressed in a black bustier, adorned with long, black gloves and wielding a whip. The image appeared in the Internet magazine Salon to illustrate a column titled: "The dominatrix," by Gary Kamiya. Kamiya calls Palin a "pinup queen," and says she not only tantalized the Republican National Convention with political red meat, but that her "babalicious" presence hypercharged the place with sexual energy, and naughty energy at that. "You could practically feel the crowd getting a collective woody as Palin bent Obama and the Democrats over, shoved a leather gag in their mouths and flogged them as un-American wimps, appeasers and losers."
    That's some sexual mother lode. Dare I point out that I have never -- ever -- in three decades of covering politics seen a male politician's style, even one with an earthy demeanor, described this way?
    Salon editor Joan Walsh says she agrees the "dominatrix" piece had a "provocative cover,'' and that her columnists enjoy great freedom. "One day Gary (Kamiya) called Palin a dominatrix, the next day Camille Paglia called her a feminist." The magazine exists, Walsh says, to "push the envelope."
    No sooner did Walsh give me this explanation than another Salon contributor, Cintra Wilson, pushed that envelope again. Wilson described Palin as follows: an "f---able ... Christian Stepford wife in a 'sexy librarian' costume" who is, for ideological Republicans, a "hardcore pornographic centerfold spread." That is, when Palin is not coming across as one of those "cutthroat Texas cheerleader stage moms."
    What is it about a woman candidate that sends the media into weird Freudian frenzies?
    -- Marie Cocco, "Sexism Again" (Washington Post Writers Group)

  • And from November 23, 2008:

  • Truest statement of the week

    It is time to stop kidding ourselves. This wasn't a breakthrough year for American women in politics. It was a brutal one.

    -- Marie Cocco, "No Breakthrough for Women Politicians" (Washington Post Writers Group).

  • And for the climate that existed at that time, please "CBS 'cares' enough to promote sexism."  Especially see it if you're repeating the lie that 2016 was so bad for Hillary.  2008 was brutal for her in terms of sexism.

  • From Ava and my "TV: Gossip Girls and Barack's Bitches" (July 20, 2008):

  • The campaign played it up (as one bragged to us) to kill off what they feared would be the big story on Monday. Two Fridays ago, Barack had a fundraiser. Bernie Mac 'joked' about how women are 'hos' and offended a number in the audience. Barack came out and spoke (after booing) and pretended he was offended. He declared, "We can't afford to be divided by race. We can't afford to be divided by religion, or by region or class. Or by gender. That means, by the way, Bernie, you got to clean up your act. This is a family affair."
    Had he stopped there, it would have been cause for applause. The man who used sexism throughout the primary, who brused off a question from a female reporter by calling her "sweetie," who makes alarming right-wing talking points about abortion, who refused to give a speech, or even a remark, on the sexism that Hillary was targeted with was finally saying something.
    Then he undercut everything he'd said by adding, "I'm just messing with you."

  • You can also read Ava and my "TV: The Fringes."

  • Read on ...

    Saturday, November 10, 2018

    She's sorry

    shes sorry

    From September 8, 2015, that's "She's sorry."  C.I. noted:

    Isaiah's latest The World Today Just Nuts "She's Sorry."  Cranky Clinton explains, "Am I sorry?  I'm sorry you're asking me about my e-mails.  I'm sorry there may be a federal investigation.  I'm sorry my poll numbers have dropped."  Valerie Jarrett exclaims, "She's sorry!"  Isaiah archives his comics at The World Today Just Nuts.

    Hillary's fatal flaw was always her inability to just say she was wrong.  Or that she was sorry.  She can't let it alone she has to quickly add "because of" or some other thing.  Make a false equivalency or whatever.  She just can't take the blame.  Even when it's all her fault.

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

    Friday, November 9, 2018.

    Dog Eat Dog
    It's dog eat dog
    I'm just waking up
    The dove is in the dungeon
    And the white washed hawks
    pedal hate and call it love
    Dog Eat Dog
    Holy hope in the hands of
    Snakebite evangelists and racketeers
    And big wig financiers

    Dog Eat Dog
    On prime time crime the victim begs
    Money is the road to justice
    and power walks it on crooked legs
    Prime Time Crime
    Holy hope in the hands of
    Snakebite evangelists and racketeers
    and big wig financiers

    Where the wealth's displayed
    Thieves and sycophants parade
    And where it's made
    the slaves will be taken
    Some are treated well
    In these games of buy and sell
    And some like poor beasts
    Are burdened down to breaking

    Dog Eat Dog
    It's dog eat dog ain't it Flim Flam man
    Dog eat dog you can lie cheat skim scam
    Beat' em any way you can
    Dog eat Dog
    You'll do well in this land of
    Snakebite evangelists and racketeers
    You could get to be
    a big wig financier

    Land of snap decisions
    Land of short attention spans
    Nothing is savored
    Long enough to really understand
    In every culture in decline
    The watchful ones among the slaves
    Know all that is genuine will be
    Scorned and conned and cast away

    -- "Dog Eat Dog," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her classic 1985 album DOG EAT DOG

    Thieves and sycophants parade?  Hey, Joe, where you going with that award in your hand?  Off to War Hawk Land?  To give it to Bully Boy Bush?

    A war criminal will get the Liberty Medal and Joe Biden will hand it to him. ⁦⁩ is not your friend.

    As the far-right is emboldened across the country, the "compassionate conservative" George W. Bush is being awarded for his service to veterans. Sign and Share this petition.

    Thank you, FL veterans for letter...a medal for Bush, the one who lied us into war with Iraq, causing deaths of thousands, horrific physical, and mental devastation to thousands...beyond the pale, disgraceful. Shame on you, Joe Biden.

    Damn It, Joe Biden and Michelle Obama, Stop Rehabilitating George W. Bush! | The Nation

    , why is war criminal, Geoge W. Bush, being presented with the Liberty Medal? , why are you participating in this travesty?

    Will Bunch:

    It's a pretty safe bet that no one on the Constitution Center's panel that selected the Bushes for the now-tarnished Liberty Medal consulted with the Iraq-born novelist Sinan Antoon, who wrote in the New York Times in March that "Fifteen Years Ago, America Destroyed My Country" and noted that estimates of as many as one million dead mean the war "is often spoken of in the United States as a 'blunder,' or even a 'colossal mistake,' " but, he writes, "It was a crime."
    Nor did the panel likely investigate the "blessings" that America under Bush's leadership bestowed upon Lakhdar Boumediene, a Bosnian national scooped up in 2001 by U.S. intelligence on baseless allegations and flown to the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, where during nine years of imprisonment he said he was kept awake for days at a time, forced into uncomfortably painful positions, and brutally force-fed during a hunger strike. "These are things I do not want to write about," he wrote. "I want only to forget."
    Apparently America only wants to forget the Bush years as well. (The Iraqi Antoon complained of our "mostly amnesiac citizenry" after watching Bush do a happy dance with liberal TV host Ellen DeGeneres.) 


    Where the wealth's displayed
    Thieves and sycophants parade
    And where it's made
    the slaves will be taken
    Some are treated well
    In these games of buy and sell
    And some like poor beasts
    Are burdened down to breaking

    War Criminals are celebrated.  Everything comes with a price tag, eh, Ellen?

    US Senate Affirms Support for Child Soldiers and Child Sex Slaves.

    BREAKING: Calif. bar mass shooting suspect identified as Ian Long, 29, several law enforcement officials tell -

    : Neighbors are saying David Ian Long was a veteran who suffered from PTSD, "I have no idea what he was doing with a gun"

    He suffered with Post-Traumatic Syndrome?  But, by all means, let's give Bully Boy Bush an award for his 'work' with veterans -- you know, for killing them and wounding them.  For using them to try to distract from his War Crimes?

    And let's pretend, while we're at it, that the wars themselves don't destroy the Ian Longs.  No, every veteran is not going to end up hurting people.  (Veterans with violence issues traditionally turn the violence on themselves.  Which does explain the high rates of  suicide.)  And there's no need to give rise to a stereotype.  But there's also no reason to deny that these ongoing wars effect a large number of people -- including those who serve in them.

    Now it doesn't effect Bully Boy Bush.  He's still dumber than dirt.  His wallet's a lot thicker but he's still Satan incarnate and, if there's a hell, he'll get to know it quite well.

    But Bully Boy Bush didn't serve in Iraq.  He sent others to serve.  He didn't serve himself.  He was too busy doing other things.  Hence the incomplete National Guard records.

    Bully Boy Bush was happy enough to send men and women into war and he was happy enough to not "do body counts" (a lie, as we found out during the last week of KNIGHT RIDDER", in a Nancy Youssef report).  Now he thinks he can emerge from beneath his rock and accept an award.  The delusions of the entitled.

    Shame on Joe Biden.  I love Joe but I'm appalled and this isn't something I'll forget.  If he gives out that award, I will not support him in a 2020 run.  His presenting that award shows he learned nothing from the Iraq War -- that he voted for.  He's learned nothing.  That makes him worse than Hillary.  Yes, she gave a weak ass apology but it's a hell of a lot better than what Joe Biden's about to do.

    The Iraq War continues and bully Boy Bush is getting an award -- and Joe Biden's handing it to him.

    XINHUA reports of 'liberated' Mosul, "At least three people were killed and 11 others wounded in a car bomb explosion near a restaurant in the west of the city of Mosul, the capital of Iraq's northern province of Nineveh, a local police source said Thursday."

    That's Bully Boy Bush's legacy.  "The war on terror."  He was the terror.  Iraq, Afghanistan, these wars continue and their death toll increases.  AFP notes:

    A report of the study conducted by Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs put the toll between 4,80,000 and 5,07,000 people, but said the actual number is likely to be higher since there are “limits in reporting”.

    Now those deaths do not rest solely with Bully Boy Bush.  Barack Obama continued those wars.  Donald Trump continues them now.  And there were a lot of people in Congress -- Joe Biden, that includes you -- who signed off on them.

    For Iraq alone, Brown's study counts 295,00.  And, as the study notes, this is an undercount.

    How many people have to die before Joe Biden's bothered enough not to hand an award to Bully Boy Bush?

    Jason Ditz (ANTIWAR.COM) observes:

    This is admittedly a dramatic under-report of people killed in the wars, as it only attempts to calculate those killed directly in war violence, and not the massive number of others civilians who died from infrastructure damage or other indirect results of the wars. The list also excludes the US war in Syria, which itself stakes claims to another 500,000 killed since 2011.
    The report also notes that over 60,000 US troops were either killed or wounded in the course of the wars. This includes 6,951 US military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11.

    The Brown study also faults the US for having done very little in the last 17 years to provide transparency to the country about the scope of the conflicts, concluding that they are “inhibited by governments determined to paint a rosy picture of perfect execution and progress.”

    Iraq remains destroyed.  The war continues.  The occupation continues.

    Kirk Sowell (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace) examines the latest government:

    Adel Abdul-Mahdi—a former minister of finance, minister of oil, and vice president of Iraq—barely managed to secure a confidence vote for two-thirds of his cabinet on October 25. The former member of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), a Shia Islamist party, was nominated prime minister on October 2. But he has since nearly failed to launch his government, which will face pressure from a population frustrated by years of failures on security and public services.
    The roots of Abdul-Mahdi’s weak government lie in the manner in which the prime minister himself was elected. After he resigned as minister of oil in 2016, Abdul-Mahdi left ISCI to become an independent and did not run in the May 2018 parliamentary elections. However, on May 23 he published a Facebook post explaining why he could not be prime minister because all the reforms he would want to implement would be opposed by many. These included such broad changes as moving away from the rentier state, strengthening state institutions and ensuring their independence from political influence, reining in illegal militia activity, and reducing the influence of tribalism.
    This pitch aligned well with the rhetorical vision of populist Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who has long associated himself with such themes. The political class was focused for much of the summer on the struggle over Haider al-Abadi’s effort to secure a second term. Yet once the fallout over Basra’s massive water pollution crisis ended Abadi’s hopes in early September, Sadr quickly backed Abdul-Mahdias a replacement, and Barham Salih designated him to head the next government immediately after his own election as president on October 2. Sadr conditioned his support two days later by declaringthat he was giving Abdul-Mahdi “a period of one year to prove his success.” This gives Sadr the option to take credit for the government’s success if it does well or turn against it next year if protests over poor public services swell again.
    Moreover, the coalition nominating him was unclear and fractured. Although Sadr was the driver behind his nomination, the only figure who actually ran in the election whose approval was essential for Abdul-Mahdi’s candidacy was Hadi al-Ameri—leader of the Badr Organization and head of the Fatah Alliance, which with 48 seats is the second largest in parliament after the 54 for Sadr’s Sairun. The process was so opaque that Iraqi journalists were uncertain which of these blocs had nominated him.
    Sadr and Amiri, being political rivals with very different worldviews, also never agreed on a specific policy program or even a method of choosing ministers, with Sairun giving Abdul-Mahdi full discretion to nominate their share of the ministries while Amiri’s Fatah insisted on naming specific ministers. Furthermore, Abdul-Mahdi conducted separate bilateral negotiations for ministerial positions with Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition (SLC) and the Sunni Arab National Axis Alliance, even though they were technically both part of Amiri’s Construction Bloc (Bina). Without agreements with both parties, they likely would have blocked passage of his cabinet, but this situation also underlines Abdul-Mahdi’s lack of a unified coalition. His bilateral agreements with parties do nothing to bind them to each other into a working majority capable of passing legislation or approving executive appointments.
    The lack of a real coalition behind the new government became evident when parliament met to approve the proposed cabinet on October 24. Abdul-Mahdi got off on the wrong foot during his speech presenting his government program by failing to make more than passing reference to the demands of Sunni Arab MPs—such as reconstruction and the return of Sunni provinces’ displaced citizens. This led Speaker Mohamed al-Halbousi of Anbar to push through a motion to incorporate a list of Sunni demands into Abdul-Mahdi’s prepared text regarding the government’s program, holding a vote to approve his statement before the body could proceed to consider ministers.

    15 years and counting, still the Iraq War continues and no one responsible for starting the war or continuing it deserves any award.

    The following community sites updated:

    Read on ...
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