Friday, February 06, 2009

Kellogs, FDA, etc.

Are you a Michael Phelps' fan? As Stan pointed out in "Phelps" last night, Kellogs is dropping him. Now I bring that up because if you are a fan, you'll want to get your Cornflakes box right now. Though it may be too late. We went to three grocery stores today before we found one. Not three in a row because we had to go between speaking engagements.

C.I. thought of it and said we might do something on it for Third and, if so, we'd need an illustration. The first two stores had Cornflakes, none with him on the box. Some woman -- blonde hair. The third store, same thing but, as before, C.I. looked behind every box. At that store, C.I. found one and only one Michael Phelps box.

Did they all suddenly sell? Did they get recalled? I have no idea. But if you want one, you better go get it already. He's on the front and back of the box, by the way.

Are you paying attention to the peanut butter recall? Am I more used to it or have they gotten better at their recalls (I'm remembering especially the way they handled spinach)? I'm not sure but I'm less worried than I was with spinach. This is the opening testimony of Stephen F. Sundlof before Congress yesterday:

Statement of
Stephen F. Sundlof, D.V.M., Ph.D.Director, Center For Food Safety and Applied NutritionFood and Drug Administration Department of Health and Human Services
before the
Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry United States Senate
February 5, 2005
Good morning Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee. I am Dr. Stephen Sundlof, Director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA or the Agency), which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. FDA appreciates the opportunity to provide you with information on our ongoing investigation of the foodborne illness outbreak associated with Salmonella Typhimurium, which has been found in peanut products produced by the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA). Because our investigation and the accompanying recall of suspect product continues as we speak, our final conclusions and recommendations are necessarily pending the outcome of our investigation.
Let me begin by providing a brief description of the typical traceback process employed by FDA and our sister agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Once CDC, through its epidemiological investigation which involves working with state and local health departments, identifies the possible food(s) associated with a foodborne illness outbreak, CDC notifies FDA. At that point, FDA considers the strength of the evidence implicating the suspect food or foods and determines the appropriate level of regulatory response. To start our traceback investigation to identify the source of the contamination, we work with the food industry and with state and local regulatory partners, and, when needed, with foreign governments. We do this by tracing the food suspected of being the vehicle for transmitting the pathogen back through the supply chain from the retailer, restaurant or institutional setting and inspecting or investigating points throughout the supply chain to determine where the contamination most likely occurred. Tracing food requires us to find and examine documentation (such as bills of lading and invoices) for the product throughout the supply chain. We also obtain information on the practices and conditions under which the product was stored and handled at each point to better determine shipments of interest and whether contamination may have occurred at each point. The records we need are not always in an electronic format, and records review often can be a time-consuming, resource intensive process.
In the current case, FDA began its investigation prior to having a strong epidemiological link to a particular food, both to inform the epidemiological study and to shorten the time required to get potentially contaminated foods off the market. Because institutionally-served peanut butter, in five-pound containers, was identified by the state of Minnesota as a potential vehicle, our investigation had a strong lead: the brand name of a company and the address to begin our trace. But allow me to explain a few components of the epidemiological work, the first step in our collaborative efforts.
Since early December 2008, FDA has collaborated with CDC, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and public health officials in various states to investigate the multi-state outbreak of human infections due to Salmonella Typhimurium. Early epidemiological efforts to identify a likely food vehicle were inconclusive. While initial efforts focused on the potential for chicken to be the illness vehicle, peanut butter was first identified as a possible source in mid-December. On January 7 and 8, after conversations with CDC, FSIS, and the Minnesota Department of Health about the strength of association between illness and exposure to chicken or peanut butter, FDA decided to begin to investigate institutional food service sources of peanut butter despite the inconclusive epidemiological data.
On January 7, based on preliminary information from CDC's multi-state case control study that explored other possible food sources in addition to peanut butter, and before Minnesota had identified the Salmonella strain, FDA made its initial contact with the King Nut Company in Ohio. King Nut distributes peanut butter manufactured by the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) at its Blakely, Georgia, plant to institutional facilities, food service industries, and private label food companies in several states. On January 9, FDA initiated an inspection of the PCA plant in Blakely, and Minnesota reported that they had isolated Salmonella from the open container, though the type of Salmonella was not yet known.
As part of its epidemiological investigation, the Minnesota Department of Health tested an open five-pound container of King Nut peanut butter obtained at a nursing home where three patients were sickened by the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium. By January 10, Minnesota health officials had determined that the peanut butter contained the same strain of Salmonella Typhimurium associated with the illnesses linked to the outbreak. However, because it is always possible that the open container was contaminated by someone or something else in the environment, these results did not definitively confirm PCA as the source. FDA and other state health departments expanded the testing of unopened containers of the same brand of peanut butter.
On January 19, testing by the Connecticut Department of Health of an unopened container of King Nut peanut butter showed that it contained the same strain of Salmonella Typhimurium associated with illnesses linked to the outbreak. The fact that the Salmonella Typhimurium was confirmed in an unopened container of peanut butter indicated that the peanut butter was contaminated when it left the Blakely processing plant.
Peanut butter is sold by PCA in bulk containers ranging in size from five to 1,700 pounds. The peanut paste is sold in sizes ranging from 35-pound containers to tanker trucks. However, through its investigation, FDA has determined that PCA distributed potentially contaminated products to more than 300 consignee firms, many of whom then further distributed products, for consumption as peanut butter or for use as ingredients in hundreds of different products, such as cookies, crackers, cereal, candy and ice cream.
As of February 1, CDC reported that 550 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium have been reported from 43 states, plus one person from Canada, and that the infection may have contributed to eight deaths.
After visiting King Nut on January 8 to determine where its peanut butter was manufactured and to collect samples, FDA initiated an inspection of PCA's Blakely plant on January 9, shortly after preliminary information indicated that this firm might be linked to the ongoing Salmonella outbreak. FDA completed its inspection on January 27.
A document listing observations by FDA investigators during their inspection, known as a List of Inspectional Observations, or Form 483, has been posted on FDA's website at This list is not a final Agency determination regarding compliance. The list of observations includes matters relating to cleaning programs and procedures as well as failure to implement steps to mitigate Salmonella contamination in the facility.
FDA's environmental sampling at the plant found two Salmonella strains, neither of which were Salmonella Typhimurium, the outbreak strain. As of now, CDC is not aware of any illnesses definitely connected to these other Salmonella strains. We are confident, however, based on the investigations by the states, CDC and FDA, including product testing, that the Blakely plant is the source of the contaminated foods related to the current Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak. State sampling and analysis of unopened finished products indicate that PCA-shipped product from the Blakely plant was contaminated with the outbreak strain.
Further, FDA's review of the firm's testing records -- which were not disclosed to FDA and state inspectors during earlier routine inspections -- revealed that there were instances in 2007 and 2008 where the firm distributed product in commerce which tested positive for Salmonella.
As you may be aware, FDA has recently confirmed that our Office of Criminal Investigations (OCI) is conducting an ongoing criminal investigation.
After discussions with FDA, the first product recall related to the outbreak was initiated on January 10, 2009, by the King Nut Company of peanut butter distributed under the King Nut and Parnell's Pride labels. On January 13, PCA initiated a voluntary recall of certain lots of peanut butter and peanut paste produced on or after July 1, 2008, due to the risk of Salmonella contamination. PCA expanded this recall on January 16 to include peanut butter produced on or after August 8, 2009, and peanut paste produced on or after September 26, 2008. This was followed by yet another expansion on January 18, 2008, when PCA announced it was recalling all peanut butter and peanut paste manufactured on or after July 1, 2008, at its Blakely processing plant.
On January 28, PCA issued another expanded voluntary recall of all peanuts and peanut products, including all peanuts (dry and oil roasted), granulated peanuts, peanut meal, peanut butter and peanut paste processed in its Blakely facility since January 1, 2007. All of these recalled peanuts and peanut products were made only at the company's Blakely facility.
Many companies that received peanuts and peanut products manufactured by PCA's Blakely facility have, in turn, conducted voluntary recalls. A user-friendly, searchable list of the products being recalled, with corresponding photographs, when available, can be found at The searchable list currently includes approximately 1,000 entries in 16 categories representing products that have been recalled by more than 75 companies. FDA is updating this list on a daily basis, as new information becomes available.
FDA has been working with purchasers of PCA's peanuts and peanut products to identify affected products and facilitate their removal from the market. FDA initiated inspections at the direct consignees of PCA and King Nut and continues to follow the distribution points for products. FDA and state officials have contacted hundreds of firms throughout the entire distribution chain that may have purchased or further distributed PCA products. This work is continuing and includes the additional products in the expanded recall.
Companies nationwide that received product made by PCA have issued voluntary recalls of their products. As FDA gathers additional information about these products, the list of recalled products has expanded, and will likely continue to do so. FDA urges all affected retailers to immediately stop selling recalled products. Directors of institutions and food service establishments are also strongly urged to ensure that they are not serving recalled products.
We would like to emphasize, as we have stated numerous times, that major national brands of jarred peanut butter found in grocery stores are not affected by the PCA recall. Further, FDA has no evidence to suggest that the Salmonella Typhimurium contamination originated with any manufacturing facility other than PCA's Blakely plant. The facility is not operating at this time.
FDA has established a web page to provide constantly updated information on the contamination and recall at This web page has already been viewed more than 19 million times. The web page includes a searchable database to assist consumers in quickly identifying recalled products, found at
Consumers are urged to check this web page to determine which products have been recalled and to become aware of new recalls as they are announced. Any product that is on the recall list should be disposed of in a safe manner. Consumers are also urged to wash their hands after handling potentially contaminated products. If consumers are unsure whether a peanut-containing product is potentially contaminated, they should avoid consuming it until they obtain more information about the product. Persons who think they may have become ill from eating peanut products are advised to consult their health care providers.
Product recalls include some pet food products that contain peanut products made by PCA. Although the risk of animals contracting salmonellosis is minimal, there is risk to humans from handling these products. It is important for people to wash their hands -- and make sure children wash their hands -- before and, especially, after feeding pets. Further information for consumers is located in the Frequently Asked Questions section located on this web site. The pet food products are also included in the searchable data base of recalled products.
For information on products containing peanut butter from companies not reporting recalls, consumers may wish to consult the company's website or call the toll-free number listed on most packaging. We note that information consumers may receive from the companies has not been verified by FDA.
FDA urges manufacturers and distributors of products containing peanut-based ingredients to inform consumers about whether their products could contain peanuts or peanut products from PCA Blakely. If a manufacturer knows its products do not contain peanuts or peanut products from PCA, it may wish to provide this information to consumers.
FDA is continuing to work with the firms on the details of their actions, conducting follow-up audits and inspections, monitoring the progress of the firms' actions, working with state and local regulatory authorities, and notifying our foreign regulatory counterparts of products that have now been confirmed as having been distributed internationally. FDA is continuing its work to identify products that may be affected, and to track the ingredient supply chain of those products to facilitate their removal from the marketplace.
FDA is working hard to ensure the safety of food, in collaboration with its Federal, state, local, and international food safety partners, and with industry, consumers, and academia. Although the Salmonella Typhimurium foodborne illness outbreak underscores the challenges we face, the American food supply continues to be among the safest in the world. Food safety is a priority for the new Administration.
Over the last year and a half, FDA has made significant progress in identifying food vulnerabilities and mitigation strategies. For example, we have strengthened our response to food safety threats by providing incident command system training to our FDA offices around the country, and to states, and by developing templates to enhance communication during a food recall. We are proud of the collaborative efforts among Federal and state agencies to investigate, analyze samples, monitor the effectiveness of the current recall, and communicate with the public to protect public health. We will continue to strive to reduce the incidence of foodborne illness to the lowest level possible.
Thank you for the opportunity to discuss FDA's response to the recent Salmonella outbreak. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Again, it seems to me that the FDA is more on top this recall than previous ones. I may be wrong on that. Another thought, if the Dept was adequately funding, investigations could be done throughout the year as opposed to these post-problem inspections where they try to reconstruct what happened. The FDA does not have the budget currently to do prevention but that would save a lot of post-problem heartache for the public. It's a real shame Barack doesn't care about food safety.

On Wednesday, the theme post was magazines and, on that theme, Mike's "International Socialist Review," Rebecca's "interview," Betty's "Movieline, Premiere," Marcia's "off our backs," Ruth's "Dynamite," Stan's "Clamor," Elaine's "The Progressive" and Kat's "Lionel Richie, Billy Corgan, and more." Cedric's "Dick issues a threat" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! DICK THREATENS!" also went up Wednesday night.

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, February 6, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Barack moves back his "immediately" pledge on Iraq, Military Families Speak Up launch their DC action, US war resister Cliff Cornell has returned to the US from Canada, the (partial) election results are sifted through, and more.

Jon Allen (People's Weekly World News) reports on a teach-in entitled "War's Real Impact: Our Voices" that a number of groups staged in Chicago:

Eugene Cherry joined the army at the age of 19 in the hopes of getting money for college. Despite being a good student, he found his options in his impoverished south side neighborhood limited. "I thought the military would be my ticket out, but I found an organization based on racism, sexism and misogyny" he testified before the assembled audience. Later he spoke of "[a] culture of violence and racism" that the military promotes within its ranks. These pressures proved to be too much for Sherry. He deserted for 16 months after being refused mental health support by the army. "I found myself fighting and oppressing a group of people in the name of the war on terror" concluded his remarks to the gathering. The plight of women in the armed forces proved to be a recurring theme. Patricia McCann, a National Guardsman deployed in 2003, noted during her testimony that instances of sexual assault and sexual harassment within the armed forces have risen but court-martials for these crimes have declined. Another veteran (and current Chicago police officer), Lisa Zepeda, added that victims of assault have no outside authority they can report assaults to; a victim must go through her immediate superior within her unit.

Allen notes that US House Rep "Jan Schakowasky and several Chicago aldermen also took the floor and addressed the audeince. Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. and Illinois Senator Roland Burris also sent staff members to reaffirm their support of bringing the troops home."

Military Families Speak Out was among the organizations participating in the Chicago event and today they started a DC action that will run through Monday:
Come to Washington February 6-9 to demand "The Change WE Need"
President Elect Obama opposed the war in Iraq before it started, calling it a "dumb war." But he and his advisors have also said that they plan to spread the return of combat troops from that "dumb war" out over sixteen months and to keep
tens of thousands of other troops on the ground in Iraq indefinitely.
So from February 6-9, MFSO will be traveling to Washington to bring the new President and new Congress the message that it is long past time to bring all our troops home from Iraq. The four days of events will include:
* A
teach-in featuring the voices of military families, veterans, and Iraqis, explaining the need for an immediate and complete end to the war in Iraq -- and the human impacts of continuing the occupation. Friday, February 6 from Noon - 3:00 p.m. at Mott House, 122 Maryland Avenue.
* A solemn procession from Arlington National Cemetary to the White House beginning at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, February 7. Meet at the front gate of the cemetery right outside the exit of the Arlington Metro stop. Please arrive early.
* A "Meet and Greet" and Legislative Briefing from 3:00 - 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, February 8 at the Mariott Metro Center.
* Lobbying members of Congress to end the war in Iraq. Meet in the cafeteria of the Rayburn House Office Building at 9:00 a.m. Monday, February 9.
The teach-in takes place this afternoon. Actions continue through Monday. Meanwhile US war resister Andre Shepherd is seeking asylumn in Germany (we last noted Andre in
Wednesday's snapshot). Wednesday, he was making his case for asylum to Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. Andy Eckardt (NBC News) offers a strong report on Andre who explains, "When I enlisted in 2004 and later was sent to Iraq, I believed I was doing the right thing. But then, like other comrades around me, I started questioning why we were there and what we were fighting for. . . . My job was harmless until I factored in the amount of death and destruction those helicopters caused to civilians every day. The government made us believe we would be welcomed as heroes in Iraq, but we saw nothing but hostility from the Iraqis that came to work for us, they wanted to kill us." Meanwhile James M. Brnaum's GI Rights explained yesterday:

U.S. war resister Cliff Cornell surrendered himself to U.S. border police on Wednesday after being ordered to leave Canada. He was promptly arrested for being AWOL from the U.S. Army, and is now being held at the Whatcom County Jail in Bellingham, Washington, twenty miles south of the U.S.-Canada border.
Cornell's attorney and supporters expressed outrage at the arrest.
"Clifford Cornell came back to the United States so that he could voluntarily return to his old unit at Fort Stewart," stated attorney James Branum. "He stated this intention to the Border Patrol, both verbally and in writing, by way of a letter I drafted on his behalf. I am disappointed that the Border Patrol chose to arrest my client and place him into a county jail with general population prisoners. This should not have happened."
Cornell, 28, fled to Canada four years ago after his Army artillery unit was ordered to Iraq. But despite a popular outcry to provide sanctuary to soldiers who refuse to fight in illegal wars, Canada's Conservative government is pressing ahead with deportations. Cornell, an Arkansas native, had come to call British Columbia home. But he now faces a possible court martial and imprisonment in the United States.
"Cliff Cornell should not be going to jail," said Gerry Condon, director of Project Safe Haven, a war resister advocacy group. "He had the guts to follow his conscience and obey international law," continued Condon. "President Obama should grant amnesty to Cliff Cornell and all war resisters."
Cornell is the second Iraq War resister to be held in the Whatcom County Jail. He follows Robin Long, who was deported from Canada in July. Long is now serving a 15-month prison sentence at Miramar Naval Consolidated Brig near San Diego.
"We want Bellingham to be a Sanctuary City for war resisters," said Gene Marx of Veterans For Peace, "not a way station for war resisters being sent to prison." Bellingham is known for being a progressive city, having passed two anti-war resolutions through its city council.
A public vigil in support of Cliff Cornell will be held outside of the County jail on Thursday from 10 am -- 1pm, organized by the Whatcom Peace and Justice Center.
A legal defense fund for Cliff Cornell is being established by Courage To Resist, a war resister support group, at
CONTACT: Marie Marchand, Executive Director, Whatcom Peace & Justice Center(360) 734-0217 (office); (434) 249-5957 (cell), WhatcomPJC(at)
Gene Marx, Bellingham Veterans For Peace, Chapter 111, 253-653-4423 (cell)
Gerry Condon, Project Safe Haven, 206-499-1220 (cell),projectsafehaven(at)

In an update,
AP reports that Cliff is being allowed to travel "by bus to Georgia" and will "turn himself in Tuesday at the Army base near Savannah." And, as Gerry Condon stated, Barack Obama should grant amnesty to all war resisters. But the reality is Barack's not even in a rush to end the illegal war.

Staying with the White House, US vice president Joe Biden is headed to Germany. Before he left the US today, he made some public remarks.
Edward Epstein (CQ) reports, "He listed the economic crisis and ongoing fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan as the most pressing issues. Biden used a football analogy to describe the situation in Iraq, saying the United States is 'on the 20-yard-line' and 'driving toward the goal'." Jared Allen (The Hill) states the Biden "admitted that any victory is far from certain, and he reiterated that a victory through military means alone is unattainable." AFP quotes him stating, "Our administration is going to have to be very deeply involved not only keeping the commitment that we've made drawing down our troops in an orderly fashion consistent with what we said."

McClatchy Newspapers' Nancy A. Youssef is convinced that Barack's decision to request a variety of options for 'withdrawal' from Iraq is "the first indication that the Obama administration may be willing to abandon a campaign promise of a 16-month withdrawal." Or it may be Barack wanting to see all options, wanting to check if opinions ever see withdrawal possible (would you listen to someone's opinion if they didn't think the US could pull out in 16, 19 or even 23 months?). Who knows. But withdrawal' is not withdrawl. It is "combat" troops only. The White House unofficially says the number left behind would be approximately 70,000. That's not withdrawal. Youssef reports, "Obama is likely to announce his strategy for Iraq by mid-March, a senior administration official told McClatchy." That would be an indication of a broken promise and Youssef misses that point. At Hopey Changey "Three Facts about Barack Obama and Iraq" which includes this 'fact:' "Immediately upon taking office, Obama will give his Secretary of Defense and military commanders a new mission in Iraq; successfully ending the war. The removal of our troops will be responsible and phased."

What did Barack promise? "Immediately upon taking office, Obama will give his Secretary of Defense and military commanders a new mission in Iraq: successfully ending the war. The removal of our troops will be responsible and phased." Mid-March? Mid-March is "immediately upon taking office"? Immediately upon taking office was when Barack was sworn in. That was last month. It's February. And a White House source is telling McClatchy it will be mid-March before anything's announced. Another case where "
Barack kicks the can" and here he's promised "immediately upon taking office". (I have no idea who Nancy Youssef spoke to and this morning I'm being told that is not correct and that Barack will be making an announcement "this month" on Iraq. He may or he may not. But Youssef didn't make up that source. Even if an announcement is made this month, as two insisted this morning, the fact that some White House insider would tell Youssef it wouldn't be until mid-March goes to how unimportant Iraq is in the Obama White House. And "this month" would not be "immediately upon taking office".)

"Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's strong performance in Iraq's provincial elections was also a victory for American goals." No. al-Maliki wasn't a candidate. That's the lede to
Sudarsan Raghavan and Ernesto Londono's Washington Post article and it's incorrect and they are not the only reporters/outlet to get it so wrong.Nouri al-Maliki was not a candidate in provincial elections. These, as Londono himself has explained, are the equivalent of state legislature elections in the US. Did anyone assert that victory for Republicans in (pick one of fifty states) in (pick 2001 through 2007) was a victory for George W. Bush? wanted to get some press and wanted to make the elections about him. He estimated a minimum of 70% of registered Iraqis would turn out. (51% did.) He thought this was going to be his big moment on the international scene.For a reporter, it is very tempting to make it about al-Maliki for a number of reasons. For example, making provincial elections about the prime minister frees you of having to . . . cover the actual candidates. And there were 440 winners -- none of whom were named "Nouri al-Maliki." It's so much easier to stamp "al-Maliki Victory" and be done with it. This afternoon Alissa J. Rubin (at the International Herald Tirbune) focuses on Yusef Majid al-Habboubi who "managed to defeat not only the religious parties who controlled the province of Karbala but also Maliki's preferred candidates by a 2-1 margin in one of the bigger surprises in the provincial elections last week." In the preliminatry vote, Rubin explains, it appears al-Habboubi has 17% of the vote over twice what "the next two closest parties" appeared to have received.This morning, Rubin's "Prime Ministers Party Wins in Iraqi Vote but Will Need to Form Coalitions" (New York Times) did a little better than the Post. The headline writer captures it and Rubin does as well for most of her article; however, sentences like the following trip her up: "In Baghdad, where Mr. Maliki ran a strongly nationalist campaign, he appeared to have had some success in winning votes from Sunnis, but in the Sunni-majority provinces to the north, his party's slate barely made a showing." He ran a strong nationalist campaign? And how many votes did he receive? What did he say in his victory speech? When will he be sworn in?Here's reality, if you're going to wrongly make the provincial elections about Nouri al-Maliki, you're going to have to judge the success or failure of al-Maliki and the reality is "his party's slate barely made a showing" in the north. The reality is that Iraq has 18 provinces -- three of which have scheduled votes for this spring -- and to claim al-Maliki has 'won' a national campaign is not only premature, it doesn't even jibe with the actual (preliminary) results.Raghavan and Londono tell you that the Dawa Party (al-Maliki's party) "won in nine provinces" -- with "an outright plurality" (NOT a majority) in Baghdad and Basra while it was a narrow win for Dawa "in the other seven provinces." Or, as Rubin puts it, "the party fell short of being able to operate without coalition-building."That's a win? 14 provinces held elections last Saturday and Dawa didn't squeak out a majority win in any province, it only got "an outright plurality" in two provinces and, to govern, they need to coalition-build with other parties. That's not a win. Not for al-Maliki -- who was not a candidate -- and certainly not for Dawa.What is troubling - - and what no one's pointed out -- is that we don't expect, for example, Barack Obama to head over to Oregon when they're electing their state legislature. We don't expect him to campaign for them or butt in. That al-Maliki was allowed to hit the road (attempting to buy votes) goes to how problematic the election actually was. Rubin writes, "Some politicians have voiced concerns in recent months that too much power was being concentrated in Mr. Maliki's hands, and the election results suggested that Iraqis were not ready to rally around a single leader." It's a shame the press never bothered to question why a prime minister was attempting to repeatedly inject himself into provincial elections?Rubin writes, "Except in areas where Sunnis were voting for the first time, the large, prominent parties with nationally known leaders won the most seats, showing the power of incumbency and the difficulties facing the newer secular parties." Well if you're going to make that observation, you might also question why the country's prime minister is interfering in provincial elections? These are not the equivalent of US Congressional elections (that would be Iraq's Parliament). That issue was never raised. But, no, it is not normal for the highest office holder in the country to try to inject her or himself into local elections. And it's not normal -- when the press is lauding 'democracy' -- for no one to question that injection. Another question to ask: Did al-Maliki's injection depress voter turnout?In the final paragraphs of Rubin's article she notes Anbar and quotes various complaints from Tamouz ("a nongovernment organization monitoring the elections"). She tells us that the Iraqi Islamic Party is Sunni. She tells us nothing about the make up of Tamouz. Tamouz is making accusations. Readers have a right to know who they are and the use of "nongovernment" will translate to some as 'from outside Iraq.' That's not reality. But we don't get a lot of reality in this morning's election coverage. Back to the Washington Post's article, the following should never happen:The Obama administration appeared as pleased at what did not happen on election day as it was about the results. "Any election where [there is] fairness and generally aboveboard practices, where the people get a chance to vote and they're not rioting in the streets and throwing bombs . . . is a good result," a senior administration official said in Washington. "We should celebrate that. So far, so good." There is no reason to grant anonymity for the above. If the 'celebrator' can't be named, his or her comment doesn't need to be included. When you start granting anonymity for prattle, you're degrading journalism standards. James Kirkup (Telegraph of London) attempts to write up Moqtada al-Sadr's political death stating, "British officials see the political setback as the latest sign of Mr Sadr's diminished importance in southern Iraq." Diminished importantce? Rubin says al-Sadr "did surprisingly well, given that his movement decided to support them only two weeks before the elections." BBC notes, "Finals results are not expected to be known for weeks." What is known is that the violence continues with Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "Abdulmajeed al Nuaimi, member of the incumbent provincial in Mosul" called the police about an unidentified object outside his home that turned out to be a roadside bomb.
In other reported violence today . . .


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing at a liquor store that left "material damages to the store," a Baghdad grenade tossed at a supermarket leaving "material damages to the store".


Reuters reports, "U.S. and Iraqi security forces killed a civilian and arrested six suspected militants in raids on towns southwest of Kirkuk".

Nawal Al Samarrai is making news in Iraq.
Alsumaria Iraqi Satellite Network reports she has resigned as the Minister of Women's Affairs due to the fact that her job is for-show and contains no real power to improve anything. Waleed Ibrahim, Michael Christie and Katie Nguyen report Reuters exclusive interview with al-Samarai: Iraq's minister of women's affairs resigned on Thursday in protest at a lack of resources to cope with "an army of widows, unemployed, oppressed and detained women" after years of sectarian warfare.Nawal al-Samarai said her status as a secretary of state and not a full minister reflected the low emphasis given by the government to the plight of women in Iraq, once one of the most progressive countries in the Middle East for women's rights. "This ministry with its current title cannot cope with the needs of Iraqi women," said Samarai, who was appointed in July.The Times of India adds, "Samarrai, who took office in July 2008 and had recently chaired two committees on improving the conditions of women and another on the breast cancer, said she would seek a position where she could actually help women." wowOwow covers the story and notes, "She has not, however, heard back from the Prime Minister's office on whether they accept her resignation or will heed her calls and provide more social services for Iraq's women."

Barbara Starr and Mike Mount (CNN) report, "The Army said 24 soldiers are believed to have committed suicide in January alone -- six times as many as killed themselves in January 2008, according to statistics released Thursday." Stephanie Gaskell (New York Daily News) observes, "In a rare move, the Army released monthly suicide data Thursday to highlight the growing problem. Last week, Army officials said its suicide rates were at their highest in nearly 30 years. Last year, 128 soldiers committed suicide and another 15 suspected cases are pending. Last month, Army officials believe that 24 soldiers killed themselves - compared with just four in January 2008." Lizette Alvarez (New York Times) quotes Gen Peter Chiarelli stating, "Each of these losses is a personal tragedy that is felt throughout the Army family. The trend and trajectory seen in January further heightens the seriousness and urgency that all of us must have in preventing suicides." If you mean your words, do something. If not, stop boring us. The military's had more than enough time to notice the suicides and to do something about it. It's done nothing other than a few pamphlets and a 1-800 number. The change has to come from the top in the military because it is a top-down command. Chiarelli wants to change the culture? Great. Otherwise, it's just him using a tragedy to look sympathetic. And if that's harsh, it's harsh that so many suicides have repeatedly taken place and the military has ignored the problem. Or lied about it. It wasn't all that long ago CBS News was catching the VA lying about the number of suicides. CBS Evening News' Kimberly Dozier most recently reported on the suicides in December noting that 1st Sgt Jeff McKinney's family (rightly, my opinion) called him "a casualty of war" because he served, ended up wtih PTSD and did not receive the treatment he needed and he took his own life while serving.. His father, Charles, McKinney, told Dozier, "I think he felt like he couldn't send one more broken body home, one more person home."

Kimberly Dozier recently wrote about Iraq and Afhganistan for wowOwow.
Throwing out a link for friends,
Washington Unplugged is a new CBS News show. It airs each Friday afternoon. Haven't seen it? It airs online only. Face The Nation's Bob Schieffer is the anchor and I use anchor because it is news reports and, at the closing, Schieffer offers a commentary as he does on Face The Nation. This week his comment is on Tom Daschle. Before that, Kent Conrad appears to make a fool out of himself. Tom Daschle didn't report it to the IRS because he thought the driver and car were a "gift"? Kent, learn the tax code. Such a gift would have to be reported to the IRS. Washington Unplugged streams live online Friday afternoons and archives are available seven days a week. This week (tonight on most PBS stations) NOW on PBS offers:Is there a solution to the foreclosure mess that's destroying communities?Across the country, cities are in crisis because of the fallout from the mortgage mess -- property taxes are way down, and abandoned homes are bringing down property values, inviting crime, and draining government coffers. Neighborhoods are being destroyed. Yet the federal bailout money is not going directly to desperate communities and homeowners, but to local and national banks.This week, NOW investigates the innovative way some cities are fighting back. The city of Memphis, Tennessee is suing major national lenders and banks for deceptive and discriminatory lending practices in an effort to recoup the cost of the financial mess. Other cities suing lenders for their role in the mortgage mess include Baltimore, Cleveland, Buffalo, and Birmingham.With desperation climbing alongside debt, can the strategy help these blighted parts of America?Washington Week also begins airing tonight on most PBS stations and joining Gwen this installment is Ceci Connolly (Washington Post), Charles Babington (AP), Michael Duffy (Time magazine) and Jackie Calmes (New York Times). And on broadcast TV (CBS) Sunday, no 60 Minutes:Saving Flight 1549Hero pilot Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and his flight crew together reveal for the first time the sights, sounds and physical sensations they experienced as they pulled off an incredible water landing last month, saving the lives of all 155 people aboard US Airways Flight 1549. Katie Couric reports. (This is an extra-length story. Watch Video
ColdplayThe British rock group that has taken its place among the most popular bands in the world gives 60 Minutes a rare look inside its world that includes a candid interview with frontman Chris Martin. Steve Kroft reports. Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
60 Minutes Update
Beckham Leaving The L.A. Galaxy?David Beckham wants to leave the Los Angeles Galaxy and stay with AC Milan after his loan to the Italian club is scheduled to end next month. The 33-year-old English midfielder announced his intentions Wednesday after playing in Milan's 2-2 exhibition tie at Glasgow Rangers. Beckham is about two years into a $32.5 million, five-year contract with Major League Soccer. In March 2008, CNN's Anderson Cooper profiled Beckham for 60 Minutes, discussing his widely publicized move to Los Angeles. Video

military families speak out
andre shepherdandy eckardt
jim branummcclatchy newspapersnancy a. youssefalsumariawaleed ibrahimmichael christiekatie nguyen
the washington posternesto londonothe new york timesalissa j. rubin

kimberly dozier
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Thursday, February 05, 2009

On the road

I don't take notes when we're speaking to groups about the illegal war. But I should. Seriously. I did end up scribbling a little down when C.I. was talking to the last group this evening. It was all college groups today and threre were three professors -- two of which had helped organize it. The third was a very old professor. I have no idea of his age but he was very old and he was very smart.

In the middle, he tossed out a question. I was thrown. I couldn't even follow what he was talking about. Ava had just spoken and his comment had nothing to do with what she'd said. Basically, it had to do with what happens with Barack and the Iraq War that "he's not planning on ending" (that's a direct quote because I thought at first I was lost because he was pro-war, he wasn't). So C.I. somehow got that the professor wanted a historical run down.

C.I. moved her hair around (which can mean "it's hot," or deep thought) and noted that was a pretty involved question. He was asking for historical backing. C.I. took a breath and walked everyone threw JFK and LBJ and spoke of how, by the start of 1967, LBJ had already lost the support and it was evident by the fact that he could really only count on southern Democrats at this point with the north predominately bailing on him and how that was led by people like Harold Hughes. Who?

That's what I was thinking and when C.I. brings up names, she generally offers a sketching in and did here noting that he was governor of Iowa at that time and would go on to be elected to the US Senate in the 1968 elections. LBJ was sinking by 1967 and it was obvious including to people like Hughes and Hughes had done some speechifying for LBJ at the 1964 DNC convention and so he did take the down trend of LBJ personally -- felt LBJ was dragging him down. His speech had put him in front of the country. Hughes, during this period, was becoming very good friends with RFK -- an LBJ critic -- and it was RFK who told Hughes he had to run for the Senate (which, again, he did and he won in the 1968 elections). So there were all these divisions going on and there was the impatience over the Great Society being implemented. In all of that, LBJ appeared out of touch and offered happy talk that had no connection to reality. The economy was a breeze by today's standards but it was 'troubled' and people were pinning it on Vietnam. And I'm unable to offer all the connections C.I. was making but the professor loved it and had a great deal to add. (And after we were done speaking, the professor made a beeline for C.I. and immediately launched into an intense discussion on 1967 and 1968 as it applies to today.)

I was reminded of what Elaine always says about C.I.'s brain being this giant cross-linked reference computer. (She and Rebecca have joked with C.I. since college that she's Katharine Hepburn's character in Desk Set -- if not Memorac itself -- Memorac's the computer in that film.) I thought it was just me being blown away (by the memory, all the professors were impressed with C.I.'s reply) but Wally asked me after, "Didn't that question come out of left field?" And it really did. It was nothing that could be prepared for. And it was just so amazing to watch C.I. pull that off. I've been on the road with C.I. since 2006. Ava joins up that year too, I think. And Wally joined us last year. So I've heard pretty much all the average and unaverage questions. And C.I.'s always pulling up things that surprise me but, in this case, we're talking about this hugely specific questions and it was just a shock to me that C.I. could do all of that just off the top of her head (and do it so well).

Harold Hughes wasn't the only example C.I. used but Hughes stood out to me for two main reasons, 1) the RFK link and 2) C.I. explained early in the reply that while LBJ's national profile sank, Hughes rose. And C.I. kind of used Hughes as the counter-melody thread in the answer.

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, February 5, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the election results are not final but the press acts as if they are (and many seem to believe al-Maliki was a candidate), a war critic passes away, actions begin in DC tomorrow and more.

Starting with an action that begins tomrrow and runs through Monday in the US.
Military Families Speak Out explains:

Come to Washington February 6-9 to demand "The Change WE Need"
President Elect Obama opposed the war in Iraq before it started, calling it a "dumb war." But he and his advisors have also said that they plan to spread the return of combat troops from that "dumb war" out over sixteen months and to keep
tens of thousands of other troops on the ground in Iraq indefinitely.
So from February 6-9, MFSO will be traveling to Washington to bring the new President and new Congress the message that it is long past time to bring all our troops home from Iraq. The four days of events will include:
* A
teach-in featuring the voices of military families, veterans, and Iraqis, explaining the need for an immediate and complete end to the war in Iraq -- and the human impacts of continuing the occupation. Friday, February 6 from Noon - 3:00 p.m. at Mott House, 122 Maryland Avenue.
* A solemn procession from Arlington National Cemetary to the White House beginning at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, February 7. Meet at the front gate of the cemetery right outside the exit of the Arlington Metro stop. Please arrive early.
* A "Meet and Greet" and Legislative Briefing from 3:00 - 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, February 8 at the Mariott Metro Center.
* Lobbying members of Congress to end the war in Iraq. Meet in the cafeteria of the Rayburn House Office Building at 9:00 a.m. Monday, February 9.

Friday from noon to three p.m. will offer the teach-in at the Mott House (122 Maryland Ave, NE Washington, DC). Among those scheduled to participate are Joyce and Kevin Lucey, Elaine Johnson, Tim Kahlor, Stacy Bannerman, American Friends Service Committee
Raed Jarrar, IPS' Phyllis Bennis, Iraq Veterans Against the War's Kris Goldsmith and Ryan Deckard and Veterans for Peace's Mike Marceau. (An aspect of the previous sentence will be noted in tonight's entry. If you have a question about it, wait until tonight's entry.)

Deborah Haynes and Wail al-Obaidi (Times of London) observe, "Preliminary results, issued today, indicate a drastic shift in the political map nationwide, with Sunni Arabs also securing a better representation after boycotting the last polls four years ago in protest at the US-led occupation. Final results are not due out for several weeks, but should show little change with 90 per cent of the ballots already counted." Marc Lynch (Foreign Policy) offers these impressions: "Preliminary results from the Baghdad provincial council election have begun to filter out into the Iraqi press. The lead story will probably be that Maliki's Rule of Law list won more than half the seats. But the more important story may be that all of the Sunni lists combined evidently only won four or five seats between them. That, combined with the fiasco in Anbar, could put Sunni frustration firmly back into the center of Iraqi politics – risking alienation from politics, intensified intra-Sunni competition, and perhaps even a return of the insurgency." UPI notes that 'secular' Nouri al-Maliki spent time in Najaf today . . . briefing Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani on the results. Mark Kukis (Time magazine) quotes Ayad Allawi (head of the Iraqi National Accord, CIA asset and one time prime minister of Iraq) whose party did well in the elections stating he wouldn't want to be prime minister again "in a sectarian regim. I respect religion. But religion needs to be de-politicized." Please note, these are not final results. Lebanon's Daily Star stresses, "The Iraqi regional elections held on Saturday are not expected to deliver a final result for a few weeks". UPI also points out, "Though Maliki won big in Basra and Baghdad, the post-election political landscape suggests several parties may need to form coalitions in the provincial councils." al-Maliki was NOT a candidate. RTT gets the wording right, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa party and its allies have dominated in the crucial provincial council elections, finishing first in nine out of the fourteen provinces in which elections were held, although reports suggested the bloc would still need to form coalitions in order to govern." Aamer Madhani (USA Today) also grasps the difference between candidates and someone not even running and notes, "But throughout the country, voting went along sectarian lines, with predominantly Shiite provinces backing Shiite parties and Sunni-majority provinces choosing Sunni parties vying for 440 local government seats in 14 of the country's 18 provinces." Jane Aarraf (Christian Science Monitor) states 90% of the vote was counted (she also hails al-Maliki for his 'win' -- so take that into account as well) and, "In Iraq's north the most dramatic results installed a new Sunni Arab party, al-Hadba, to take charge of the provincial council after winning almost 50 percent. The council had previously been overwhelmingly dominated by Kurds, who have voewed not to work with the leader of al-Hadba, who is seen as anti-Kurdish." Calling this al-Maliki's 'win' is a bit like congratulating George W. Bush on Kirsten Haglund's win last year. The Kurdish Regional Government's President Masoud Barzani issued a statement Tuesday evening, "We respect the will of the people of Iraq. We hope that this was an emphatic message from Kurds, Arabs, Turkomens, Chaldaens, Assyrians, Muslims, Christians and Yezidis of the Kurdish areas to voice what they really want. . . . I hope and I call on the Iraqi parliament, the federal Iraqi government, the United Nations, the United States, and all concerned parties to respect the will of the people of these areas and to stop avoiding the implementation of Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution." Mohammed A. Salih (IPS) explained Article 140 as follows, "Article 140 sketches a three-step plan to remove traces of the Arabisation policy of the regime of former president Saddam Hussein. The constitution now provides for a census followed by a referendum on the facte of the province, after normalising the situation." This is about whether or not oil-rich Kirkuk remains a part of the central government out of Baghdad or becomes part of the KRG. Before the vote -- which would be residents of Kirkuk voting -- takes place, Article 140 outlines a length of measures that would allow Kurds to return. Reality is that the KRG has done forced 'returns' to Kirkuk, expelling Kurds from the KRG and forcing them to live in Kirkuk. Has this achieved de-Arabization? Who knows? And that would also depend upon who judges it.

Turning to Anbar Province. As noted
yesterday, Sheik Ahmed Buzaigh abu Risha has been threatening violence over the possibility that the Iraqi Islamic Party might have done better in the polls than his own party. Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) observes, "In Anbar province, in western Iraq, tension between rival Sunni parties have been running high after leaders of the Awakening Council groups, or Sahwa militant groups who fought al-Qaida militants in their areas, accused the Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP), headed by Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, of committing fraud to win majority of the 29-seat provincial council. IIP vehemently denied the accusation." Sam Dagher (New York Times) reports "al-Maliki sent a deputy, Rafie al-Issawi, a Sunni who is an Anbar native" to speak with Shik Risha and that the meeting was also attended by the Iraqi military. He threatens violence -- he continues to threaten violence -- and he gets his way. All the people who peacefully demonstrated against not being permitted to vote? They're ignored. But it's rush down to make nice with Sheik Risha when, if it was anyone else, the US military would be rushing down to arrest him. And al-Maliki can't stand Risha. The fact that the sheik is being catered to indicates just how little control al-Maliki still has.Dahger speaks with another tribe leader from the area, Sheik Ali al-Hatem, who has (like many in Anbar) frequently been in conflict with Sheik Risha (al-Hatem has also had issues with the Iraqi Islamic Party)who notes that each tribe put up their own candidates so you had slates competing against each other as well as competing against IIP. He states that Risha is "sowing rifts among the tribes" and that the violence could become "intratribal": "Ahmed is playing with fire. We will confront him if he acts this way and divides the tribes." al-Hatem doesn't call on al-Maliki to reign in Risha, he calls on the US military to do so. (If that happens, it may take place during today's meet-up in Anbar.) Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) reports the US Marines are back in "Ramadi in observation roles, patrolling areas from which they had largely withdrawn." Again, Risha stamps his feet and threatens violence and gets his way. All the people turned away from the polls and refused the right to vote? All Faraj al-Haidari has to offer them is this 'pithy' little comment, "It's not our fault that some people couldn't vote because they are lazy, because they didn't bother to ask where they should vote." Again, they should have ditched the peaceful protest and run around threatening violence -- that's the only way al-Haidari would have listened. Sheik Risha works the commission the way he wants to.And you need to grasp how ludicrous the claims of Risha, et al are. Now ludicrous doesn't mean that they are false. I believe they are but I don't know that. But reporters do know and did report on the vast number of Iraqis in Baghdad, for example, being refused the right to vote. But that's not being investigated. Risha's drama leads to an investigation. Risha is unhappy that his slate of candidates appear (no vote counts are final yet) to have done poorly. He insists that his candidates should have done better and that voter fraud is responsible for them not doing better. Risha says the ballot boxes were stuffed. Don't worry about whether he's right about that or wrong for a second. Just grasp that is the basis of his assertions. Now note this from Monte Morin and Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times): "Tribal sheiks and their followers here in Ramadi, the provincial capital, and in Fallouja charge that their political rivals gained control of local election offices and stuffed ballot boxes the day after the elections. Election officials reported that 40% of eligible Anbar voters cast ballots, but tribal candidates say the turnout was half that and that the additional votes are false." Less than 40% voted -- according to the people asserting voter fraud, only 20% of registered voters in Anbar bothered to vote. Do you not see the conflict in the two positions? "We are popular and we should have won!" vs. "They cheated because really only 20% of the registered voters voted!" If you're argument is that 80% of registered voters stayed home, you can't make the claim that you're popular with voters at the same time. The two positions are in conflict.Today the commission that did nothing for the Iraqis who peacefully called for their rights appears to have fixed the Anbar results. Back to Marc Lynch (Foreign Policy):

he official results in Anbar are sharply different from the reports of the last few days. The IHEC tally gave the victory to Saleh al-Mutlak's bloc, followed by Abu Risha's Awakenings Bloc, followed by the Islamic Party in third place. This is a surprise. The behavior of the Islamic Party and the Awakenings bloc over the last few days strongly suggests that they had the same information about the preliminary results-- that the Islamic Party had won. This "adjustment" -- if that's what happened -- for now appears to have defused the crisis over the alleged electoral fraud by the Islamic Party and the threats of violence by the Awakenings leaders by denying victory to either of the two main rivals (Abu Risha says that he's happy with the result). This resolution is very, shall we say, convenient... and, perhaps, a clever solution to the escalating confrontation. I'm sure we'll be hearing more about this soon.. the Islamic Party's website is currently silent on this sudden change in their electoral fortunes. Where's Nate Silver to analyze the exit poll data when you need him?

What do the elections mean? The
Financial Times of London speaks with Ahmed Jihad of Salahaddin Province who explains what he's expecting, "Electricity, water and employment, these are the three main things. We need a leader who is strong but fair at the same time. . . . We tried talking to the council about getting electricity but we can't afford the 15m diner [$13,000 US] for a connection because there are no employment opportunities here." Whether that will happen or not no one knows.

Peter Graff, Waleed Ibrahim, Mohammed Abbas, Michael Christie and Charles Dick (Reuters) report "the bloodiest attck in Iraq in weeks," with at least 15 dead in Diyala Province from a suicide bomber. No word on the gender of the bomber, so it's most likely a male. Germany's Deutsche Welle explains, "The suicide bomber blew himself up in a popular restaurant in the Kurdish town of in Khanaqin on the border with the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region." BBC says the wounded numbers at least fifteen and quotes eye witness Yahya Ibrahim stating, "I was at the back of the restaurant when suddenly the explosion happened at the entrance. Everything around was destroyed." Xiong Tong (Xinhua) quotes an unidentified police member stating, "A suicide bomber blew up his explosive vest inside Dilshad Restaurant in the town of Khanaqin, klling 15 people and wounding 15 others."

And in the latest attack on the press in Iraq,
McClatchy Newspapers' Sahar Issa reports, "Reporter Salam Arab Doski, was killed by a policeman during a fight, on his doorstep in Wadi Sakhr neighbourhood, western Mosul at 4 p.m. Thursday. Police said it was a personal issue."

Let's stay with the press as the topic for another second to note that
Samad Ali is doing a "weekday roundup of news from around the Middle East" at Wall St. Journal's Baghdad Life blog. Now back to the day's violence . . .


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing target Nihad al Juburi (Dept Eductation Minister), another Baghdad roadside bombing that targeted the US military (no known injuries or deaths), a Gatoun home bombing on Liqaa Party provincial candidate Salim al Zaidi (no one harmed, house destroyed), and a Mosul roadside bombing that wounded two people.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Khadija Owaiyid's car was fired upon (a provincial election candidate with Party of the Constitution) and 1 police officer was shot dead in Mosul. Reuters notes Iraqi police shot dead Tariq Azab.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 8 corpses (headless) discovered in Baquba while 30 corpses were buried in Baquba today ("Unidentified bodies that are not claimed within two months are buried by the Morgue").

Dave Lindorff truly embarrassed himself in his support of Barack Obama. Never more so than when declaring, during the Democratic Party primary race that Barack was "
a black candidate who has risked jail by doing drugs". Now a glimmer of light finally makes it through Lindorff's Pig Pen-like haze surrounding him leading him to write (CounterPunch) the following:

The problem with the new Obama administration is that it is turning out to be not about change at all, as he claimed during the campaign, but rather about more of the same--and these are not times that call for more of the same. Nor is more of the same the reason Obama won the election.
The economic team President Obama has put in place is composed of the same Wall Street hacks and conservative economic theologians who helped produce the current crisis, many of them as part of the Clinton administration, and some, like Timothy Geithner, actually as appointees of the thoroughly discredited Bush administration.
Obama's military team is essentially composed of holdovers from the Bush administration, starting at the top with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and retreads from the Clinton administration.
Little wonder that the president's economic team is still talking about throwing more money at banks, with the only real tweak making this boondoggle different from the Bush administration's fall bailout that there will be some limits established on executive pay. Banks will still be able to use their taxpayer bailout cash to buy other banks. And there will still be no way to force them to lend money. Little wonder too that there is no real effort aimed at propping up the struggling public--no job sweeping job creation programs (except for expanding the military), no major income supplements for the poor, no expansion of welfare benefits, no mandatory mortgage renegotiations or mortgage payment holidays. And so far, no real effort to pass labor law reform to protect workers who try to form labor unions.
Little wonder too that Obama seems to be backing away from his key campaign promise to end the war in Iraq, and that the one area where he is moving rapidly is in expanding the war in Afghanistan and the tribal areas of western Pakistan.

Margaret Kimberley doesn't need to awaken because she never put her critical faculties on slumber. At
Black Agenda Report, she notes:

Easily fooled Americans were glued to the television watching the Obama inauguration while simultaneous ignoring their own worsening financial situation. Who can bother to look at the fine print on multi-billion dollar deals when HISTORY is being made? Now the same zombified population ignores presidential inaction on bankruptcy "cramdown" legislation that could save their homes, explicit threats to Social Security, and back-tracking on employee free choice for labor unions.
In their delusion and despair, the only reaction left to non class conscious Americans is to turn on themselves. Murders and suicides are too often the reaction to financial disaster instead of righteous indignation directed towards a failed political and economic system. Americans are losing their minds when they might alleviate their depression by taking to the streets or at the very least giving their elected leaders a piece of their minds.
Americans never had the tools to fully understand the system that is failing them so terribly. Now they are enthralled by a man who explicitly instructs them not to confront the people and institutions that have brought them to the brink. The economic meltdown will continue for a long time and so will the individual meltdowns and disasters for millions of people who will literally not know what hit them or where they ought to turn after the crash.

Like Kimberley,
John Pilger has no "awakening" to do. Like Kimberley, John Pilger called it like it was when all around the left, idiots rushed to have their second adolescence. Unlike some pathetic types (for example, Vincent Warren) trying to peddle hopium, Pilger (New Statesman) tells the truth regarding Barack and torture:

On 23 January, the Guardian's front page declared, "Obama shuts network of CIA 'ghost prisons'". The "wholesale deconstruction [sic] of George Bush's war on terror", said the report, had been ordered by the new president, who would be "shutting down the CIA's secret prison network, banning torture and rendition . . ."
The bollocks quotient on this was so high that it read like the press release it was, citing "officials briefing reporters at the White House yesterday". Obama's orders, according to a group of 16 retired generals and admirals who attended a presidential signing ceremony, "would restore America's moral standing in the world". What moral standing? It never ceases to astonish that experienced reporters can transmit PR stunts like this, bearing in mind the moving belt of lies from the same source under only nominally different management.
Far from "deconstructing the war on terror", Obama is clearly pursuing it with the same vigour, ideological backing and deception as the previous administration. George W Bush's first war, in Afghanistan, and last war, in Pakistan, are now Obama's wars - with thousands more US troops to be deployed, more bombing and more slaughter of civilians. Last month, on the day he described Afghanistan and Pakistan as "the central front in our enduring struggle against terrorism and extremism", 22 Afghan civilians died beneath Obama's bombs in a hamlet populated mainly by shepherds and which, by all accounts, had not laid eyes on the Taliban. Women and children were among the dead, which is normal.
Far from "shutting down the CIA's secret prison network", Obama's executive orders actually give the CIA authority to carry out renditions, abductions and transfers of prisoners in secret without threat of legal obstruction. As the Los Angeles Times disclosed, "current and former US intelligence officials said that the rendition programme might be poised to play an expanded role". A semantic sleight of hand is that "long-term prisons" are changed to "short-term prisons"; and while Americans are now banned from directly torturing people, foreigners working for the US are not. This means that America's numerous "covert actions" will operate as they did under previous presidents, with proxy regimes, such as Augusto Pinochet's in Chile, doing the dirtiest work.
Bush's open support for torture, and Donald Rumsfeld's extraordinary personal overseeing of certain torture techniques, upset many in America's "secret army" of subversive military and intelligence operators because it exposed how the system worked. Obama's newly confirmed director of national intelligence, Admiral Dennis Blair, has said the Army Field Manual may include new forms of "harsh interrogation" which will be kept secret.
Obama has chosen not to stop any of this. Neither do his ballyhooed executive orders put an end to Bush's assault on constitutional and international law. He has retained Bush's "right" to imprison anyone, without trial or charge. No "ghost prisoners" are being released or are due to be tried before a civilian court. His nominee for attorney general, Eric Holder, has endorsed an extension of Bush's totalitarian USA Patriot Act, which allows federal agents to demand Americans' library and bookshop records. The man of "change" is changing little. That ought to be front-page news from Washington.

And Chris Hedges is another who never lost his criticial thinking abilities (most recent example
here). Hedges spoke today on KPFK's Uprising and here's a portion of his remarks:

I think we have to walk out on the Democratic Party. I didn't vote for Obama, I voted for Nader. A lot of that had to do with the war. I think the left has thorwn its -- has essentially rendered itself impotent by throwing in its lot with the Democratic Party that over and over and over betrays the interests of the working and, increasingly, the middle class in this country. I mean, just look at the bailouts -- constitutent calls were running a hundred-to-one against the bailout and they passed it anyway. Why did they pass it? Because lobbyists and corporate powers wanted it passed. The FISA reform act, which Barack Obama voted for, giant step towards fascism. Why did it pass? Because the telecommunications companies spent 15 to 20 million dollars in lobbying fees to make sure it got passed. The government at its core -- forget the rhetoric, forget the propaganda, forget "Yes, We Can" -- serves the interests of corporations. We are watching it right now with the financial bailout. We are watching it with the absolute failure on the Democratic Party to challenge the rapacious canabalization of the country by the military-industrial-complex.

In other news
CNN reports that Jeremy Roebuck has died (car accident outside Fort Bragg) and Roebuck was one of seven members of the military who wrote the August 19, 2007 New York Times column "The War As We Saw It." CNN notes that he is the third soldier (of the seven) to die. From the 2007 column:

In short, we operate in a bewildering context of determined enemies and questionable allies, one where the balance of forces on the ground remains entirely unclear. (In the course of writing this article, this fact became all too clear: one of us, Staff Sergeant Murphy, an Army Ranger and reconnaissance team leader, was shot in the head during a "time-sensitive target acquisition mission" on Aug. 12; he is expected to survive and is being flown to a military hospital in the United States.) While we have the will and the resources to fight in this context, we are effectively hamstrung because realities on the ground require measures we will always refuse -- namely, the widespread use of lethal and brutal force.

military families speak out
jane arraf
the new york timessam dagherthe los angeles timescaeser ahmedthe washington postmcclatchy newspapersmonte morindave lindorff
margaret kimberley

chris hedges

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Lionel Richie, Billy Corgan, and more

Tonight's theme (for community nighttime bloggers) is magazines. I think everyone else will write something from the past but I saw Spin on an end table in the hotel lobby when we checked in and grabbed it before the theme post was even decided.

I used to do music mag posts here (one example right here) and just last month was doing one again and wondering if Spin was even around -- because I never see it.

So this is the Feb 2009 issue and we've got Lily Allen on the cover -- I have no idea who she is but if she's doing parodies of Amy Winehouse, she better have the pipes to back it up. First thing that stands out is on the ltter page where Addie White of Houston, Texas has a wonderfully cruel letter printed. Well done, Addie White. She's taking on a sacred cow (Elvis Costello). Many pages later, Fall out Boy's Patrick Stump says this of Odetta:

Her voice seems almost to have been born in the back on my mind. She had a power in her delivery and a restraint in interpretation that I'll always aspire to. Listening to her now, one is confronted by her simplicity. She wasn't a wailer. She crooned from deep within her soul. She held her melodies rigid and firm, as if to signify the need for immobility on the issue of civil rights. It feels as if no artist could have more conviction in their melodies than Odetta had.

Later still, John Sellers offers "Tough Questions for Lionel Richie." I'll give you two items from the article that you might not have known about Lionel.

1) A big fan of Journey.

2) In the hit song "Easy," he wrote "easy like Sunday morning." He says, "'Easy like Sunday morning' applies to anybody who lives in a small Southern town. Small Southern towns die at 11:30 P.M. Saturday night. They roll up the sidewalks. So I kind of got that from my own experiences -- that was Lionel Richie from Tuskegee, Alabama, where there is no such thing as four-in-the-morning partying."

Just Go is the name of Lionel's latest CD and he works with Ne-Yo (among others) on it.

They offer 15 "Songs You Must Hear Now!" and I'd say The Pains of Being Pure at Heart's "Everything With You" (click here for the video) was probably the best of the bunch.

The cover story's written by Michael Odell and Lily Allen's photos do not convince me she has a voice to make it on.

Then it's time for "Big In '09" and what were they thinking. Ellen Caprenter offers Ladyhawke. "Paris Is Burning" (one of Ladyhawke's songs) sounds like really bad Cars. Animal Collective makes the list and I've already noted I like them. Glas Vegas is next and I only know them because C.I.'s got a friend who either worked on the project or works on promoting it. "Daddy's Gone" (link goes to video) is probably my favorite song by them. (They are talented.) They're Scottish rockers. Cut Off Your Hands I've seen live and think they'd be a great band if they'd learn how to mike the singer. The band's tight and the singer can sing. But live the vocals do not go with the music. (And sadly, in recordings, the voice is generally badly mixed as well.) Bon Iver I don't know, sorry. Andrew Bird is immensely talented; however, he's sometimes too clever for his own good (lyrically). Don't know the others.

Kevin Roose files an interesting (readable and enjoyable) report on barbershop quartets. This is an article that could appear an anthology, it's very tight and (again) enjoyable.

David Marchese 'interviews' Brandon Flowers.

Dave, as someone who shot a ton of rock photos on the road when rock really mattered, where the hell were you in this interview?

Brandon (of the Killers) is saying he wants to be a rock star and wondering why his peers aren't trying to be that and blah, blah, blah.

Brandon's Mormon. Someone needs to ask Brandon, "What do you think a rock star is?" Are you talking drugs, sex and rock and roll. Instead, it's as though Brandon's make references to his cock and waiting for the other person to pick up on it and they never do. Brandon's the one pulling it out (that he wants to be a big rock star) so put your hands on it and explore, Dave. Four pages of text that don't even qualify as good foreplay or whatever comes right before foreplay? (In my world, a drink or two.) And Ture Lillegraven, your photos? Dead on arrival. He wants to be a rock star? Explain to him that Jimmy Page would've opened up the shirt, Jim Morrison would have tossed it. Does he think going barefoot is 'radical'? That's about the only difference between these tired photos and every other one Brandon's ever posed for.

The guy said he wanted to be a rock star, why is Spin afraid to let him test out the role?

David, I would throw a drink in your face; however, you make up for that awful interview with "Sweet Nothings," your expert take on Bruce Springsteen's latest piece of freeze-dried s**t he hopes his cult will buy. Try doing something new, Bruce, we might all applaud that. He's 59-years-old. And he wants us to believe it's 1978. Yawn.

So that's Spin . . . except for Mikael Wood's must-read concert review of Divo Billy Corgan who is just never happy. Not unlike the people who bought the band's last CD.

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

February 4, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, a DC peace event looms, results from the provincial elections have still not been sorted out but that hasn't stopped thugs from making threats, what happens to your finger after the purple dye, and more?

Starting with an action that begins this week in the US.
Military Families Speak Out explains:

Come to Washington February 6-9 to demand "The Change WE Need"
President Elect Obama opposed the war in Iraq before it started, calling it a "dumb war." But he and his advisors have also said that they plan to spread the return of combat troops from that "dumb war" out over sixteen months and to keep
tens of thousands of other troops on the ground in Iraq indefinitely.
So from February 6-9, MFSO will be traveling to Washington to bring the new President and new Congress the message that it is long past time to bring all our troops home from Iraq. The four days of events will include:
* A
teach-in featuring the voices of military families, veterans, and Iraqis, explaining the need for an immediate and complete end to the war in Iraq -- and the human impacts of continuing the occupation. Friday, February 6 from Noon - 3:00 p.m. at Mott House, 122 Maryland Avenue.
* A solemn procession from Arlington National Cemetary to the White House beginning at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, February 7. Meet at the front gate of the cemetery right outside the exit of the Arlington Metro stop. Please arrive early.
* A "Meet and Greet" and Legislative Briefing from 3:00 - 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, February 8 at the Mariott Metro Center.
* Lobbying members of Congress to end the war in Iraq. Meet in the cafeteria of the Rayburn House Office Building at 9:00 a.m. Monday, February 9.

November 27th snapshot noted Iraq War veteran Andre Shepherd who self-checked out of the US military while in Germany and held a press conference to explain: "When I read and heard about people being ripped to shreds from machine guns or being blown to bits by the Hellfire missiles I began to feel ashamed about what I was doing. I could not in good conscience continue to serve. . . . Here in Germany it was established that everyone, even a soldier, must take responsibility for his or her actions, no matter how many superiors are giving orders." The December 2nd snapshot quoted the following from James Ewinger's Cleveland Plain Dealer article:
Shepherd said he grew up on East 94th Street in Cleveland, attended Lakewood High School and studied computer science at Kent State University until he ran out of money.
He enlisted in 2004 with the hope of flying the Apaches, but was urged to become a mechanic first.
Scharf said he doubts that Shepherd's expected order to return to Iraq would, by itself, constitute an unlawful order.
"His best argument would be that Apaches are used to kill civilians," Scharf said, but he still viewed it as a weak case.

Andre is seeking aslyum in Germany and has been working with the
Military Counseling Network and attorneys on that effort. Today AP's Patrick McGroarty reports that Andre is one of 71 US soldiers who has self-checked out from "European bases in 2008" (actually, he shouldn't be, he self-checked out in 2007) and his case was scheduled to take place before the Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees today where Andre would be stressing "a 2004 European Union directive that established basic guidelines for refugee status within the 27-nation bloc. Soldiers who face punishment for refusing to commit a war crime or serve in an unlawful conflict are to be granted that status, the directive says."
The Military Counseling Network blog notes Samantha Haque's January 28th report for the UK's Channel 4 News on Andre (both links have videos):

Andre Shepherd: When I speak to the other asylum seekers in the asylum camp and I explain to them my story, they completely understand it however this doesn't make me any better or any worse than anyone else that's there. We're all there because we can't go home.

Samantha Haque: As an asylum seeker he is currently in a camp in Germany with people from places like Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq. All in a similar position to him. The difference is that Andre Shepherd is a US citizen. And an Iraq War deserter. For security reasons, we were not allowed to film in the camp. Shepherd has a friend, a peace activist, who lives within the restricted boundary he's allowed to move in. He took us there.

Andre Shepherd: I was working on the Apache helicopter. Those Apaches won't fly unless we take care of them. The Apache helicopter is a deadly weapon a lot of people call it a flying tank. What started my doubts was when I saw the Iraqi people, when they would come and help us, the looks that they gave us weren't the looks of heroes or people that you know were bringing freedom. We looked like conquerors and oppressors. That really bothered me a lot. So I started to look into the reasons why we were actually there in Iraq. I thought that what we were doing was a great thing and a positive thing. That we were actually bringing freedom to people and making them happy but what I found out instead was that we completely destroyed an entire country on a pack of lies. It started to weigh very heavily to the point where my actions when I was a soldier were starting to deteriorate so as this was going on I came to the conclusion that I wasn't going to back to Iraq.

Samantha Haque: None of the criteria that the US military offered for discharge were availble to Mr. Shepherd. To be a conscientious objector in the US means to be against all wars, something he was not. While in Germany, he was faced with a second mission to Iraq. On April 11, 2007 he went absent without leave. Unable to apply for German residency without official military discharge papers, he decided that applying for asylum was the only way forward.

MCN's Tim Huber: Andre contacted us about a year and a half ago and he asked about asylum He wasn't the first to ask about asylum but our answer was always the same, we don't know what would happen if you tried aslyum. We went over the pros and cons of trying it. We noted that we were quite pessimistic that it would actually work, but we said it's an option.

Samantha Haque: His lawyer on the other hand is confident that he will have his application accepted.

Reinhard Marx: It's a specific European law, the so-called directive on qualification of refugees and in this directive it is ruled that deserters of an army who refer to international reasons, refer that the war is conducted in a way which infringes the national law then he has a right to be accepted as a refugee.

Samantha Haque: His lawyer cites the case of Florian Pfaff, a German officer demoted after refusing to work on a computer program for the US Army in Iraq in 2005. A federal court overturned his demotion because the Iraq War contravened international law. But although Germany opposed the war in Iraq and said no to the US resolution backing it, it still allowed its territory to be used as a base for military operations in Iraq. Here in Heidelberg is the US Army's headquarters in Europe. There are currently around 51,000 US military service men in Germany If Mr. Shepherd's application for aslyum is accepted, there could be implications for US-German military relations.

Gas Bag: It would mean that any US soldier in Germany who disagrees with military operations being conducted can basically step out of the base and seek asylum in Germany and that would probably be a situation that would be unacceptable to the US military.

Samantha Haque: The US is already looking at shrinking its military presence in Germany and possibly moving bases to Europe.

Gas Bag: There is a 60-year tradition, there's many Germans who cherish having the Americans here. There's also an economic factor, the US bases, particularly in the German southwest provide a lot of jobs.

Samantha Haque: Shepherd is something of a darling for the anti-war movement. Here at the Miltary Counseling Network, an American center where conscientios objectors go for help, letters of support come in from all over the world.

Tim Huber: He joined for the American dream. He joined for life, liberty and the pursuit of justice. Suddenly he finds that his pursuit of life, liberty and, most importantly, justice causes him to take a 180 degree turn and walk away from the military.

Samantha Haque: Do you think that there's a danger that Andre's case trivializes the term asylum seeker?

Tim Huber: Not at all. I think, if anything, it's causing people to look at the term asylum and put it in a 21st century defenition

Samantha Haque: The US army said that it was aware of the case but that the matter was completely in German hands. As for Mr. Shepherd it will be some months before he finds out the results of next week's hearing and whether he faces jail in America or exile abroad.

Andre Shepherd: Not being able to go back? At this point, that's just something I have to live with if I can make my consc clear then fine that's just a sacrifice I have to make.

Russia Today notes the Pentagon claims 5,000 US Army soldiers "are missing from duty" presently and quotes Andre explaining, "When the CIA report came and they said that there were no weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq, that really made me angry. I wondered if there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the CIA obvioulsy the Bush administration knew about this, then why did we just destroy Fallujah, completely wiped out the entire city?"

Dahr Jamail (MidEast Dispatches) has returned to Iraq for the first time in four years and has heard the much hyped "security" hype:

I myself was lulled into a false sense of security upon my arrival a week ago. Indeed, security is "better," compared to my last trip here, when the number of attacks per month against the occupation forces and Iraqi collaborators used to be around 6,000. Today, we barely have one American soldier being killed every other day and only a score injured weekly. Casualties among Iraqi security forces are just ten times that number. But yes, one could say security is better if one is clear that it is better in comparison not to downtown Houston but to Fallujah 2004. Compared to days of multiple car bomb explosions, Baghdad today is better. Is it safer? Is it more secure? Difficult to say in a place when the capital city of the country is essentially in lock-down and prevailing conditions are indicative of a police state. We have a state in Iraq where the government is exercising rigid and repressive controls over social life (no unpermitted demonstrations, curfews, concrete walls around the capital city), economic (read - the 100 Bremer Orders that were passed under the Coalition Provisional Authority - all of the key laws over economic control still in place), and political life of the citizenry. By definition, a police state exhibits elements of totalitarianism and social control, and in today's Iraq, we have plenty examples of both.

Iraq held provincial elections in 14 of the 18 provinces last Saturday.
Thomas E. Ricks (Foreign Policy) announces he is waiting to weigh in: "The two key questions, he [an American official] said, were whether those who lost power would give it up and those who gained power would be able to execute it well. Why wait? Because, unlike my former colleagues in the newspaper racket, I can." While he waits, the battle of the spin continues with threats of violence mixed in. Alissa J. Rubin and Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) quote one-time "Awakening" Council leader Sheik Hammid al-Hayes who is unhappy with the early (and unofficial) results thus far in Anbar, "If the results aren't acceptable, then we'll bring back the old days. We will use rifles again, and we will eliminate the Islamic Party." When the US military keeps you and your underlings on the US tax payer dime ($300 a month per "Awakening" member), you'd think the monthly stipend might require a few civics lessons. Now "Awakening" free, al-Hayes demonstrates yet again exactly the type of person the US was paying off . They scream, they yell, they threaten violence and . . . they get their way. Ned Parker, Caesar Ahmed and Saif Hameed (Los Angeles Times) quote Sheik Ahmed Buzaigh abu Risha vowing, "If the percentage is true, then we will transfer our entity from a political to a military one, to fight the Islamic Party and the commission." If the Iraqi Islamic Party is declared the winner in Anbar, the "Awakenings" say they will begin a slaughter. And instead of being called out, they're getting catered to. Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reports, "A coalition of parties that competed against the Iraqi Islamic Party in Anbar submitted complaints that the commission considers grave, commission chief Faraj al-Haidari said, 'We will deal with it seriously because it might change the result of the election in this province,' he said."
Al Arabiya News Channel notes Anbar is "under curfew for a night". Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) observes how "quickly" the officials go into motion for the ones making threats in Anbar, "The Independent High Electoral Commission sent a committee from Baghdad Wednesday to recount ballot boxes from some polling stations in the province after tribal leaders accused the Iraqi Islamic Party, IIP, which currently controls the provincial council, of rigging the vote. The accusations of vote rigging came from an especially important source, Ahmed Abu Risha, the head of the province's Awakening Council, which is widely credited with bringing calm to Anbar." Oh, yes, that voice of peace Sheik Risha. And what did LAT quote him saying? "If the percentage is true, then we will transfer our entity from a political to a military one, to fight the Islamic Party and the commission." Andrew England and Ernesto Londono (Financial Times of London) note, "The IIP is one of the few Sunni Arab groups that took part in 2005 elections, which were boycotted by Sunni Arabs. It has been the community's main political force and had run the council in Anbar" and they quote the Iraqi Islamic Party's Omar Abdul Sattar stating that these threats of violence by people unhappy with the preliminary results are "unacceptable and totally rejected." UPI explains, "The Awakening Councils had looked to secure seats on the provincial councils as reparation for their role in routing al-Qaida militans from Anbar as part of the U.S.-led counterinsurgency strategy known as the surge." These are preliminary results -- unofficial ones. That needs to be remembered. And if al-Maliki wasn't attempting to spin the results and the press wasn't so eager to help him (we're ignoring the installment in today's news cycle on that), we'd follow Thomas E. Ricks' example (which, as noted Tuesday morning, was the plan). But since we can't, we'll note an obvious fact. "Awakening" Councils members were collaborators with the US in the occupation of Iraq. Anbar especially rejected the illegal war and occupation on and of Iraq. While "Awakenings" turned when a buck or two was popped in their g-strings, that doesn't mean the people did. If the results hold, you may see the people -- and we made this point when NYT did their ridiculous "Everything is beautiful in the province and the people are so happy" 2007 article -- really didn't want anything to do with US collaborators. If so, that's not surprising. When France was occupied, the French loudly rejected the collaborators. And continued to make known what they thought of them -- to this day. Those who go to work for the enemy -- and a foreign force occupying any country is that country's natural enemy -- are collaborators and, no, they are not popular with the home-grown population. And Monte Morin and Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times) quote the menacing Sheik Risha promsing, "There will be very harsh consequences if this false election stands. We won't let them form a government."

"There will be very harsh consequences if this false election stands. We won't let them form a government."

The same thugs the US paid off so they'd stop attacking US military personnel and equipment -- as US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and Gen David Petraeus told Congress repeatedly last April -- scream and whine and moan about the potential results and everyone rushes to make the big babies feel better. They whine and make threats and that gets a reaction from the elections commission chair? The same pompous ass who declared Sunday, "
It's not our fault that some people couldn't vote because they are lazy, because they didn't bother to ask where they should vote"? Well apparently "lazy" is mitigated when you threaten violence so possibly all those who were not allowed to vote, who were repeatedly turned away at polling stations should start threatening to 'set it off' and maybe the elections commission chair would suddenly take an interest in their issues? Of the commission, Deborah Haynes (Times of London) points out, "Iraq's electoral commission insisted that it was pleased with the turnout on Saturday, with about 7.5 million Iraqis, or 51 per cent of those eligible to vote, casting a ballot. Mr al-Maliki had forecast participation of up to 80 per cent after to an improvement in security and a decision by Sunni Arabs to participate, after boycotting past ballots in protest at the occupation." In the meantime Trenton Daniel and Mahdi al Dulaymi (McClatchy Newspapers) observe, "Thousands of Iraqis, however, couldn't vote because their names were missing from registration lists; in Hawsa, just west of Baghdad, thousands demonstrated over their exclusion." No, don't demonstrate, threaten. It works so very well in Anbar. The response to demonstrations and massive voter suppression? "Election officials said that they have no plans to address the grievances, saying that displaced voters missed their opportunity to register."

In New York at the United Nations yesterday, Staffan de Mistura, UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Iraq, spun like crazy trying to find the 'good' in an election process that, he admitted, saw five candidates assassinated "and the explosion of two mortar shells on Election Day" -- he side-stepped the other violence taking place Saturday. [Even US Army Lt Gen Lloyd J. Austin III admits to "11 attacks" on election day.] He offered a figure of 42% for Sunni participation (42% of registered voters) which, if it holds, will only further underscore how many people stayed home (Sunnis boycotted the vote in 2005's provincial elections).

Deborah Haynes (Times of London) notes an interesting bit of trivia regarding the election process:

Iraq commentators go misty-eyed when they talk of the symbolic purple finger brandished by Iraqis after casting a ballot. But no one ever mentions the smelly orange nail. Had such an abominable side-effect been better public knowledge, then I would never have enthusiastically jammed by right index finger into a pot of indelible ink at a polling station in Baghdad on election day.
[. . .]
"What the hell is happening to my nail?" I asked my interpreter. "Oh it turns orange," he said, casually. "It is because of all the chemicals in the ink."
Four days and hours of scrubbing later, the purple ink on my finger has almost gone but the Orange Nail from Hell is still there, as colourful as the moment it first appeared. The nail has also started to smell rather foul, as if something nasty is rotting on the end of my finger.

"The latest is that nothing much has changed," AP's
Kim Gamel explained yesterday on NPR's All Things Considered, "al-Zaidi has been in custody since Iraqi guards wrestled him to the ground." Muntadar al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who threw two shoes at George W. Bush December 14th and has been imprisoned since. Gamel said he remains in a jail cell in the Green Zone and his attorney has had only one visit with him (back in December). Asked about the alleged letter Nouri al-Maliki was touting linking the journalist to 'terrorists,' Gamel replied, "Maliki did say he received that letter and the family [of Muntadar] denied that" and she noted it's impossible to determine whether the claim is true or false at this point.

What a novel concept. A journalist noting what can and cannot be verified. That's certainly nothing
Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) worries himself over today as he rushes to turn a suspect into a convict. We addressed the topic in yesterday's snapshot. Yes, it was obvious yesterday. But Myers misses out as he rushes to tell you a criminal confessed! Let's go to Tina Susman ( Los Angeles Times):There was no way to independently verify the video's authenticity, but the use of female suicide bombers has soared in the last year. More than 30 women blew themselves up last year, compared with eight in 2007, according to U.S. military figures. U.S. and Iraqi officials say Sunni Arab insurgents have run short of male recruits and turned to women for the missions.Suspected suicide bombers were among those rounded up in the sweep conducted in the 72 hours leading up to Saturday's elections, said Army Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond, commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad and the surrounding region. Hammond said attacks in the his area of command had dropped 80% since June 2007, part of a nationwide decrease in violence that was highlighted by the peaceful voting for new governing councils in 14 provinces.And that is what's known as reporting. Suspected. Video could not be independently verified. All points Steven Lee Myers can't be bothered with. What a social hit he would have been in Salem back in 1692. No doubt he would be partying at Gallows Hill. Steven Lee Myers, the Cotton Mather of 2009.

Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that left two people wounded, a Baghdad sticking bombing aimed at an "Awakening" Council head that wounded the head and claimed the life of his son with three other people injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing that left four people wounded and a Mosul car bombing left four people wounded. Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing that left two people injured and a Mosul grenade attack with no reports of wounded but the US military fired at the thrower.


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports one person shot in Kirkuk (wounded).


Reuters notes a corpses discovered in Baquba.

military families speak out
andre shepherdjames ewinger
dahr jamail
thomas e. ricks
the new york timesalissa j. rubinsteven lee myersthe los angeles timesned parkercaeser ahmedsaif hameedthe washington posternesto londonomcclatchy newspaperstrenton danielmahdi al dulaymi

patrick mcgroarty
nprall things considered
kim gamel
the los angeles timestina susman