Friday, January 20, 2012

Ani's awful album

Lynda e-mailed that I should check out the reviews for Ani DiFranco's awful new album at Amazon.  I did and say, "Well done!"

Chris Challans writes:

Merely stating things your fanbase is likely to applaud does not good songwriting make. "If Yr Not" is the perfect example of this. The first line of the song is, "if you're not getting happier as you get older... you're f***in' up." Okay, I get it; yes, I agree with you... but when you just say it flat out like that, it's not interesting songwriting. The "old" Ani would have taken that as the root idea, then found novel and clever ways to express it. A successful song that expresses the same idea as "If Yr Not" is "Back Back Back" from To the Teeth.

Ruby Palma's review includes:


The songs are, on the overall, simply not a particular pleasure to listen to. They are at their best average and at their worst forgotten upon impact. Some of them, such as the noble "Amendment," simply should have remained poetry.

"I just feel drained," she says in "Zoo." The problem is that her well of inspiration seems similarly tapped out.

The truth is that "Which Side Are You On?" is a relatively unengaging and done-by-rote album from an otherwise exciting and trailblazing artist. It is welcome to hear DiFranco again after such a long absence, but it doubtful many of her followers will be continuing to play this CD after several months' time.


Wesley J. Daniel observes:


This album, Which Side are You On? lacks style, it lacks passion. The last 2 albums have felt like Ani feels obligated to release something to her fans. As much as I miss the passionate, angry Ani from Dilate, I understand that she has grown up and become a wife and mother. I understand that her priorities have changed as well. But, honestly, if this is what we Ani fans have to look forward to...unimaginative, mediocre writing...I will just stop buying her music, give Red Letter Year and Which Side are You On to a local record store and just cherish her past gems like Dilate and Little Plastic Castles. 

Yep, the new album really does suck

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



Friday, January 20, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, Grand Ayatollah Sistani is worried about an outbreak of civil war in Iraq, Nouri orders more Iraqiya members arrested, the political crisis continues, and more.
Iraq is a young nation. The years of war and sanctions have ensured that. If you never grasped how young it was, understand that it has a CIA estimate of roughly 26 million people currently and Aswat al-Iraq reports, "The Iraqi Education Ministry announced today that about 8 million students of primary, intermediate and secondary schools will have their mid year examinations tomorrow." A little less than a third of the population will be taking exams in Iraq tomorrow. The CIA figure for the country's median age is 20.9 years -- for Iraqi males it's 20.8 years and for Iraq females it's 21 years.

Which is why the hatred Nouri al-Maliki fosters is all the sadder. Unlike the exile the Americans put in charge, most Iraqis aren't carrying decades old grudges. They simply aren't old enough to have done so.

You've got to be taught
To hate and fear
You've got to be taught
From year to year
It's got to be drummed
In your deaf little ear
You've got to be carefully taught
-- "You've Got to be Carefully Taught," written by Rodgers & Hammerstein, first appears in their musical South Pacific

And though he's a failure as a prime minister, Nouri excells at teaching hate.

And teaching fear by constantly screaming about "Ba'athists" all around just waiting to overthrow the government. Referring to his rivals as "ants" that he must apparently crush.

Always with the melodrama, like last October when Nouri repeatedly commented on the "terrorists" and "Ba'athists" that he was 'forced' to arrest because they were plotting an overthrow of the government. His spokesperson insisted the information was solid and had come from the newly installed Libyan government. Dropping back to the October 27th snapshot:


But back to those eyes and ears al-Asadi was claiming,
Al Mada reveals that the government is stating their source for the 'tips' about the alleged Ba'athist plot to take over Iraq came from the Transitional Government of Libya. The so-called rebels. A number of whom were in Iraq killing both Iraqis and US troops and British troops, several years ago. And supposedly prepping to rule Libya currently so you'd assume they had their hands full.


Tim Arango (New York Times) maintains that "secret intelligence documents" were discovered by the so-called 'rebels' that provided a link between Libya's late president Muammar Gaddafi and Ba'ath Party members and that Mahmoud Jibril made a trip to Baghdad to turn over the info. Jibril was acting prime minister who stepped down October 23rd. (We're back to when puppet regimes meet!) One would have assumed he had other things to focus on. It's also curious that this 'rebel' would have 'learned' after the fall of Tripoli of a plot. Curious because, unlike a number of 'rebel' leaders in Libya, Langley didn't ship Jibril in from Virginia, he was Gaddafi's hand picked head of the National Economic Development Board (2007 to 2011). One would assume he would have been aware of any big plot long before the so-called rebels began the US war on Libya.



Yet January 5th, Al Mada reported that hundreds of those arrested were now being released. And that officials say the government is expected to release every one arrested. When the arrests started taking place weeks ago, the press estimate was over 500, with some noting over 700 but most going with the lower figure. Dar Addustour informed 820 Iraqis were arrested in that crackdown..


Critics of the arrests noted that it appeared Nouri was targeting Sunnis. Of those recent mass arrests, McClatchy Newspapers states "Western diplomats scoff at the idea that the arrests were aimed at thwarting a coup" and quotes one unnamed diplomat stating, "This is just paranoia." AP notes that a spokesperson for Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani declared that the country "cannot bear further tensions among politicians."

The Bush administration was wrong to install him as prime minister in 2006 (the Iraqi Parliament wanted Ibrahim al-Jaafari) and Barack Obama's administration was deadly wrong when they chose to insist that he be given a second term in 2010.
He fled Iraq and Saddam Hussein and lived in exiles for years, decades. Nursing his hatred, telling himself that some day he had his vengeance. And when he got what he wanted, the death of Saddam Hussein, he still couldn't move forward. Fahad Abdullah tells Jasim Alsabawi (Rudaw), "Maliki should have used the opportunity after the withdrawal of the US forces to begin a new era for the rise of Iraq and embrace everyone under one Iraq." There is nothing left in him but the hatred as he chases ghosts.

It's just the ghost of what you really want
And it's the ghost of the past that you live in
And it's the ghost of the furture you're so frightented of
-- "Ghosts," written by Stevie Nicks and Mike Campbell, first appears on Stevie's The Other Side of the Mirror
All he has are the ghosts of the past. He goes after political rivals and threatens Iraq's internal safety. Already he's declared Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi a terrorist and demanded Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq be stripped of his title. al-Hashemi and al-Mutlaq are both Sunni and members of Iraqiya. The Iraqiya aspect goes to the political rivalry (Iraqiya bested State of Law in the March 2010 elections -- Ayad Allawi heads Iraqiya, Nouri heads State of Law). The Sunni aspect could further the divisions between the sects and, some fear, return Iraq to the days of 2006 and 2007 when the sects were in an open war against one another.

Ali al-Tuwaijri (AFP) reports that Nouri's forces arrested Ghabdan al-Khazraji, the Deputy Governor of Investments Diyala Province, and attempted to arrest the Deputy Governor of Administrative Affairs Talal al-Juburi.but he's now in the Kurdsitan Regional Government. The two are Sunni and they are also members of Iraqiya. The arrest follows Wednesday's arrest. Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) explained, "Baghdad Provincial Council Vice President Riyadh al-Adhadh was arrested on terrorism charges and stands accused of financing a terrorist group in Abu Ghraib. Adhadh is a Sunni doctor who founded a free clinic in Adhamiya and is the focus of an English-language documentary on Iraq. The Iraqi Islamic Party condemned the action and called it an "unprecedented escalation" in the political arena."
As the political crisis continues, Roy Gutman, Sahar Issa and Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) report:


Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki's security services have locked up more than 1,000 members of other political parties over the past several months, detaining many of them in secret locations with no access to legal counsel and using "brutal torture" to extract confessions, his chief political rival has charged.
Ayad Allawi, the secular Shiite Muslim leader of the mainly Sunni Muslim Iraqiya bloc in parliament, who served as prime minister of the first Iraqi government after the Americans toppled Saddam Hussein, has laid out his allegations in written submissions to Iraq's supreme judicial council.


The reporters call the above "the second major broadside this week" and note: "London's Guardian newspaper reported Monday on an extortion racket involving Iraqi state security officials who systematically arrest people on trumped-up charges, torture them and then extort bribes from their families for their release." From the Guardian article by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad:


"Look," he added, "the system now is just like under Saddam: walk by the wall, don't go near politics and you can walk with your head high and not fear anything. But if you come close to the throne then the wrath of Allah will fall on you and we have eyes everywhere."
He described the arrest of the Sunni vice-president Tariq al-Hashimi's bodyguards who, it was claimed by the Shia-dominated government, had been paid by Hashimi to assassinate Shia officials. (Hashimi was on a plane heading to Kurdistan when government forces took over the airport, preventing him from leaving. After a standoff, he was allowed to fly but his men where detained.)
"Look what happened to the poor bodyguards of Hashimi, they were tortured for a week. They took them directly to our unit and they were interrogated severely. Even an old general was hanging from the ceiling. Do you know what I mean by hanging?"
In the constricted space of the car he pulled his arms up behind his back.
"They hang him like this. Sometimes they beat them with cables and sticks and sometimes they just leave them hanging from a metal fence for three days. They are torturing them trying to get them to confess to the bombing of the parliament."



Al Mada reported, yes, another secret prison run by Nouri. The Human Rights Committee in Parliament declared Wednesday that another secret prison ("Briagde 56") exists and it is run by Nouri (as were the others). They do not yet know the location of the prison.

Al Sabaah reports that the National Alliance is studying a list of requirements President Jalal Talabani has made for the national conference with the apparent intent of discussing them in Sunday's pre-national conference meet-up. Al Mada reports that the Sadr bloc is stating Moqtada al-Sadr might -- only might -- attend the national conference. Whether he does or not, the Sadr bloc stated Moqtada is following all the developments. Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq leader Ammar al-Hakim is calling for a return to political parternership and a return to Constitutional rule. Aswat al-Iraq quotes Kurdish Alliance MP Shwan Mohammed Taha stating, "If Iraqi politicians differ on the venue of the conference, how they will be able [to] find the solutions to the present crisis.[. . .] We, as the Kurdish Alliance, have no problem withwhere it shall be convened, but we welcomefor it to be held in Kurdistan." They also quote Kurdish Alliance MP Ashwaq al-Jaff stating there is a need to "finalize the agenda before entering the conference to avoid any surprises, which may lead certain bloc to withdraw."

al-Hakim and al-Sadr's groups are part of the National Alliance and Al Mada notes rumors that the National Alliance is calling for Mahmoud al-Mashhadani to become the new Deputy Prime Minister. He would replace Saleh al-Mutlaq whom Nouri has insisted since December must be stripped of his post. Ibrahim al-Jaafari heads the National Alliance and he states that they would be happy for Nouri and al-Mutlaq to resolve the matter themselves. If not, al-Jaafari expresses the opinion that al-Mutlaq should announce his resignation.

Mahmoud al-Mashhadani was Speaker of Parliament from 2006 until the end of 2008. After initially praising him, the Bush administration decided they did not care for the Sunni politician and launched a public relations war against him (which the New York Times enlisted in portraying him as depressed and hiding in his father's home when he was, in fact, in Jordan on a diplomatic trip). The US backed off somewhat after 2007 came to a close and they'd been unable to force him out as Speaker of Parliament. Considering the charges against some Sunni politicians, it's strange that he'd be accetable. Damien Cave and Richard A. Oppel Jr. (New York Times) wrote in June of 2007, "Iraq's leading political blocs agreed yesterday to remove the Sunni speaker of Parliament, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, from his position. The move came after accusations arose that his bodyguards assaulated a Shiite lawmaker yesterday as al-Mashhadani cursed him and then dragged him to the speaker's office." Despite that assertion, al-Mashhadani remained as Speaker of Parliament for the rest of 2007, through 2008 and only left in December 2008 by his own choice.

Elliott Woods (Businessweek) surveys the business prospects and, in doing so, notes recent violence, "The wave of violence that has rocked the country since the last U.S. troops rolled back across the border into Kuwait on Dec. 18 began with a dozen coordinated attacks in Baghdad on Dec. 22 that killed upwards of 60 people; then there were the Jan. 5 bombings in Kadhimiya and Sadr City and another attack on a bus full of Shiite pilgrims the same day, near the holy city of Karbala. All 30 passengers died. Fifty-three more pilgrims were killed near Basra on Jan. 14, and 10 died in attacks on a police station in Ramadi the next day. Add the victims of drive-by shootings and bombings at military and police checkpoints from Fallujah to Mosul, and the total number of dead in the month since the withdrawal tops 250." Today's violence? Reuters notes 1 police officer shot dead in Mosul, 1 person shot in front of his Mosul home and a Hawija roadside bombing which claimed 2 lives and left five people injured. Aswatl al-Iraq adds that 1 man was kidnapped in Kirkuk on Thursday and another today (the one today by assailants wearing Iraqi military uniforms), that the Kirkuk home of two brothers (who were members of Sahwa) was bombed (no one was hurt), and a Kirkuk bombing claimed 2 lives.

This week's violence included an attack on the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad Wednesday. Hasan Kanbolat (Today's Zaman) observes:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki keeps creating tension in the bilateral relations between Turkey and Iraq in a systematic way. By pointing to Turkey as a target, the Iraqi government ensured the issuance of an arrest warrant for Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi.
Maliki has been making offensive statements against Turkey. Most recently, the tension was escalated by a new attack on the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad on Jan. 18, 2012. In this way, we see there are attempts to ensure the artificial tension is replaced by a new crisis.
Turkey is the only country that did not close its embassy in Iraq after 2003. Even though there have been three attacks against the embassy in Baghdad. Turkey still remained committed to its work in the country. The Turkish Embassy in Baghdad is one of only a few diplomatic missions outside the Green Zone which is known for its heightened security and surrounded by tall walls in downtwon Baghdad. The protection of the Turkish Embassy, located in the al-Wazireya neighborhood, where high-level executives used to live in the city, is the responsibility of Iraqi security forces. The Turkish Embassy is visibly
connected to the neighborhood in which it is located; the embassy's relationship with nearby residents is such that the embassy supplies electricity to them. And the neighborhood also serves as the natural protector of the embassy. This is why it won't be too difficult to determine where and how the attack was staged.
McClatchy's Sahar Issa filed a very throrough report on the attack. KUNA notes today that Iraqi Foreign Minister "Hoshyar Zebari contacted his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu and strongly condemned the criminal act."

On the topic of the continued occupation of Iraq, Dar Addustour reports that Sadr bloc MP Ali al-Tamimi told Alsumaria that the position of Moqtada al-Sadr and the bloc is that the presence of the US Embassy on Iraqi soil as well as all the contractors staffing the US mission are as threatening and dangerous as the military and that these are "occupation forces." Drexel University's professor Robert Zaller explains (at The Triangle), "There will be residual forces in Iraq as trainers and advisers, but these will be private contractors and black-ops types. We are not leaving behind any potential hostages we cannot disavow if necessary. There will also be security for the mega-sized embassy -- the world's largest -- we leave behind in Baghdad's Green Zone. In addition, the U.S. retains a consulate of 1,320 people, which will remain in the port of Basra; a staging base should we ever return; and a tripwire for future hostilities with Iran. In short, the American occupation of Iraq is not over. As long as that is the case, we cannot say the war is over, either."

In the US new data on military suicides has been released. Elisabeth Bumiller (New York Times) reports, "Suicides among active-duty soldiers hit another record high in 2011, Army officials said on Thursday, although there was a slight decrease if nonmobilized Reserve and National Guard troops were included in the calculation." Bumiller notes, "Asked if he was frustrated by the jump last year in suicide by active-duty soldiers, General [Peter] Chiarelli said no." That resonse should tag Chiarelli and follow him around for the duration of his service. Anna Mulrine (Christian Science Monitor) covers the data and emphasizes what it found on self-medicating and the military's assertion that now they can deal with the problems (as opposed to looking the other way at other times). It'll be interesting to see in a year or so if, indeed, the military is helping service members get help or if, as has often been the case, they're just using self-medication as an excuse to drum them out of the service.

Also in the US, Feminist Majority Foundation issued the following today:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, January 20, 2010
Contact:
Francesca Tarant, 703.522.2214 media@feminist.org
Annie Shields, 310.556.2500, ashields@msmagazine.com
Statment of Eleanor Smeal On The Decision of Kathleen Sebelius and the Obama Administration Not to Broaden the Religious Exemption for Contraceptive Coverage
The Feminist Majority Foundation applauds the decision of Kathleen Sebelius, Health and Human Services Secretary, and the Obama Administration not to broaden the religious exemption for contraceptive coverage under the Preventive Care package of the Affordable Care Act. This request, primarily by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, would have denied millions of American women contraceptive coverage, including students, teachers, nurses, social workers, and other staff (and their families) at religiously-connected or associated schools, universities, and hospitals, as well as institutions, such as Catholic Charities.
At last -- concern for women's health trumps pressure from the Catholic Bishops. Millions of women who may have been denied access to birth control with no co-pays or deductibles will now have full access. I am especially pleased that college students at religiously affiliated institutions will now have coverage for birth control without co-pays or deductibles under their school health plans beginning in Auust 2012.
Birth control is the number one prescription drug for women ages 18 to 44 years. Right now, the average woman has to pay $50 per month for 30 years for birth control. No wonder many low-income women have had to forgo regular use of birth control and half of US pregnancies are unplanned. This decision will help millions of women and their families.
Insurance plans that cover employers and employees must cover contraception with no co-pays or deductibles starting August 2012, and non-profit religious institutions under this new rule that do not currently cover contraception must do so with no co-pays or deductibles beginning August 2013. Moreover, student insurance plans at religiously affiliated universites must cover contraception with no co-pays or deductibles beginning August 212. Only women who work directly for a house of worship, such as for a church, synagogue, or mosque itself, are exempted from this required coverage.
Women's rights and pro-choice groups, including Feminist Majority Foundation, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the National Women's Law Center, the National Council of Jewish Women, the National Organization for Women (NOW), and NARAL Pro-Choice America, urged the Obama Administration not to consider the broader religious exemption.
In August, the US Departmentof Health and Human Services (HHS) announced new guidelines, developed by the Institute of Medicine, that will require private insurance plans under the Preventive Care packageofthe Affordable Care Act beginningon or after August 1, 2012 to cover without co-pays or deductibles as a variety of services, such as an annual well-woman visit and cancer screenings, counseling, such as for domestic and interpersonal violence, and testing for HIV and STIs, as well as all FDA-approved contraceptives, breastfeeding support, lactation service, and supplies.
###

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ani DiFranco is petty and jealous of other women

Ani DiFranco is a sexist pig.  That link goes to Spinner and Ani didn't write the lousy copy (a woman's "natural state" -- are we animals?) but she chose the lousy songs.

She was supposed to pick 10 songs that were about grrl power.

But ugly and petty bitch that she is, she wasn't about to give credit to, for example, Hole for songs like "Pretty On The Inside."  No, petty and ugly bitch that she is (and what the hell has happened to her face, it's more than that it's gotten fat), she can't applaud her peers.

So she offers crap like Aretha's "Respect."

For those not in the know, "I'm about to give you all my money and all I'm asking in return honey" does not sound like liberation.  It sounds like a plea to your pimp.  "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" is a sex song.  A man has made a woman feel something.  These days, most women would know how to feel that all on their own before they hit 14.

Salt 'n Peppa's sex song "None of Your Business."

The Raincoats (minor 70s group) covering the Kinks "Loyla."  Of the songs I've mentioned so far, please note only "A Natural Woman" has a female writer (and Carole co-wrote the song with her then-husband Gerry Goffin) (Jerry Wexler gets a song credit for yelling out across the street to Carole and Gerry, 'Write me a song about a natural woman for Aretha!')

Destiny's Child.

Seriously?

Anyone with any real cred cites TLC not the weak-ass copycat version of Desinty's Child.  On top of that, she's citing the theme to the Charlie's Angels movie.

(TLC's "Waterfall" if Ani has to try to be sexual -- she's such an ugly little thing and that's probably why she's so heavy on the sex thing in public, trying to make herself seem better -- but the anthem is "Unpretty.")

She was asked to come up with grrl power anthems.  Ten of them.

She failed to do so because she is one bitter, jealous, backstabbing bitch.

If you're going to prattle on with bad sex songs, then you go to grrl power sex singer Liz Phair.  Unless, of course, Liz sold more albums than petty Ani can ever imagine.

In addtion, there is Hole, there is Tori Amos, there is Julianna Hatfield, there is Michelle Nguyen, there is Melissa Etheridge.  Those are some of the women from the grrl power era.

Of course, all of them, even the ones I'm less than fond of today (Liz and Melissa), are talented and wrote songs that will be remembered.  Ani?  She'll be lucky if people remember a good version of "Both Hands" (as opposed to the sh**ty remake she did of it a few years back).

The question was feminist anthems.  First clue, a woman who's truly singing a feminist anthem?  She most likely wrote it herself.  Covering "Lola"?  Not really a feminist statement.  Ray Davies is a great songwriter, no question.  But he's not a feminist and he didn't write a feminist song.



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


Thursday, January 19, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Ayad Allawi talks to Jane Arraf about the political crisis, another pre-national conference meeting gets scheduled, US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta accomplishes a first (to his great credit), the network TV media ignore the first and send a message, US citizens work on starting a citizens burn pit registry, and more.
Yesterday at the Pentagon, something major happened (here for video, here for transcript), a sitting Secretary of Defense called a press conference to talk about sexual assault in the military.  That was Leon Panetta who noted, "Let me close bys peaking directly to the victims of sexual assault in this department.  I deeply regret that such crimes occur in the US military.  And I will do all I can to prevent these sexual assaults from occurring in the Department of Defense. I'm committed to providing you the support and resources you need and to taking whatever steps are necessary to keep what happened to you from happening to others.  The United States military has a zero-tolerance policy for sexual assault. And we will hold the perpetrators appropriately accountable. I expect everybody in this department to live up to the high standards that we have set and to treat each other with dignity and respect.  In a military force, where the promise is to help each other in battle and to leave nobody behind, that promise must begin by honoring the dignity of every person on or off the battlefield."
Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates preceded Panetta in the office.  The rate of sexual assault has been on the rise since the 90s.  Yet Rumsfeld and Gates never addressed it publicly.  If questioned by Congress in a hearing, they would offer some empty words.  The same at a press conference.  But they did not call press conferences to address the issue.  Prior to Panetta, the pattern has been ignore it and know damn well that the press will assist you in ignoring it.  Robert Gates spent several months in 2011 on a farewell tour with the press allegedly examining his performance but they never noted the military suicide rate and they never noted sexual assault.
So what the hell were they grading him on?  (The answer was, they graded him on if they really, really loved him or just loved him.  I was present for the "off the record" farewell photo ops between Gates and the press.)
Secretary Leon Panetta: When I was sworn into the office of Secretary of Defense, I said that I had no higher responsibility than to protect those who are protecting America.  Our men and women in uniform put their lives on the line every day to try to keep America safe.  We have a moral duty to keep them safe from those who would attack their dignity and their honor.  That's why I've been so concerned by the problem of sexual assault in the military.  Sexual assault has no place in this department.  It is an affront to the basic American values we defend and it is a stain on the good honor of the great majority of our troops and their -- and our -- families.  As leaders of this department, we're committed to doing everything we can to ensure the safety, dignity and well-being of our people.  These men and these women who are willing to fight and to die, if necessary, to protect and serve our country, they're entitled to much better protection.  Their families and their dependents also sacrifice and serve and so, for that reason, we have to spare no effort in order to protect them against this heinous crime.  The number of sexual assaults in the military is unacceptable.  Last year, 3,191 reports of sexual assault came in.  But I have to tell you that because we assume that this is a very underreported crime, the estimate is that the number actually is closer to 19,000.  One sexual assault is too many.  Since taking this office, I've made it a top priority to do everything we can to reduce and prevent sexual assault, to make victims of sexual assault feel secure enough to report this crime without fear of retribution or harm to their career and to hold the perpretrators appropriately accountable.
There's more but we'll stop there.  There was no Tailhook exposed this week.  There was no rush to defuse a just breaking scandal.  Panetta did what the last two serving as Secretary of Defense should have done, he showed that the Department took it seriously by making it a focus, not an aside.
Had Gates or Rumsfeld done the same at any point in their lengthy time in office (Panetta became Defense Secretary last July), they might not be the plantiffs in a law suit right now.  As Burke PLLC notes:
On Feb. 15, 2011, we filed a lawsuit in Virginia federal court on behalf of 16
active duty military and veteran victims of sexual trauma, including persons
who allege they were raped by their military colleagues.  The case is Cioca
et al v. Rumsfield and Gates, C.A. 11 cv 151 in the U.S. District Court of Eastern District of Virginia.  Our investigation in this case continues.
Additionally, [Susan] Burke has been invited to speak on institutional failings
that have led to extensive rape and sexual assault in the military at the 2011 National Conference on Civil Actions for Criminal Acts hosted by The
National Crime Victims Bar Association and The National Center for Victims
of Crime. The conference will be held from June 20 to June 22, 2011 at the
Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Her presentation will discuss potential solutions for these issues.
If you are interested in potentially participating in this lawsuit, please contact Susan Sajadi.  Read more about military rape litigation.
As disclosed before, I know Susan Burke and I know Leon Panetta.  Knowing Leon is why I took a pass on this yesterday.  I figured we'd string together various reports and I wouldn't have to say anything personally.  But that required news actually being covered.  And, of course, that so rarely happens. 
At the increasingly embarrassing CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley, they gave thanks for the wrecked ocean liner over the weekend.  There was no news there but they had footage and opened the broadcast with it.  Three days of coverage out of this, it's been a gift for Scott Pelley and for CBS Evening News . . . if not for viewers.  The story was no different at ABC or NBC or PBS.  (And ABC and Chris Cuomo will turn the wreck into a 'special' Friday night.  Pick the bones, pick them dry.  But don't pretend you've supplied news.)
Women and men in the military are at risk of sexual assault; however, victims are more often women.  And, as we've seen over and over, when a story's focus can be seen as female, over and over, it gets ignored.  (When Katie Couric anchored the CBS Evening News, sexual assault, breast cancer and other issues that might be seen as effecting primarily women did get covered.)   The networks had plenty of time for the snow in Seattle -- a story that really only effected Seattle.  They just didn't have time for major news in terms of sexual assault in the military which also included policy changes.
Secretary Leon Panetta:  Over the holidays, we announced two new policies that provide greater support for the victims of sexual assault.  The first policy gives victims who report a sexual assault an option to quickly transfer from their unit or installation to protect them from possible harassment and remove them from proximity to the alleged perpetrator.  Second, we will also require the retention of written reports of sexual assault to law enforcement to be retained for a period of 50 years.  The reason for that is to have these records available so that it will make it easier for veterans to file a claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs at a later date.  These two policies are the first of a broader package of proposals that we will be presenting in the coming months, many of which will require legislative action by the Congress.  Today, I want to announce some additional steps that we are taking.  First, I've directed the establishment of a DoD sexual assault advocate certification program which will require our sexual assault response coordinators and victim advocates to obtain a credential aligned with national standards.  This will help ensure that the victims of sexual assault receive the best care from properly trained and credentialed professionals who provide crucial assistance from the moment an assault is committed.  Second, I have directed the department to expand our support to assault victims to include military spouses and adult military dependents, who will now be able -- this was not the case before -- they will now be able to file confidential reports and receive the services of a victim advocate and a sexual assault response coordinator.  In addition, we're going to ensure that DoD civilians stationed abroad and DoD US citizen contractors in combat areas receive emergency care and the help of a response coordinator and a victim advocate.  Third, because sexual assault cases are some of the toughest cases to investigate and to prosecute, I've increased funding for investigators and for judge advocates to receive specialized training.  We're also putting in place one integrated data system.  The data systems, frankly, were spread among the various services.  We're going to put them together into one data system in order to track sexual assault reports and monitor case management so that we'll have a comprehensive data base for information available later this year. And, finally, in addition to our focus on taking care of victims and holding perpetrators appropriately accountable, we've been focusing on what more can we do to try to prevent sexual assault.  Our leaders in uniform, officers and enlisted are on the front lines of this effort -- they have to be.  We must all be leaders here.  For this reason, I'm directing an assessment -- due in 120 days -- on how we train our commanding officers and senior enlisted leaders on sexual assault prevention and response and what we can do to strengthen that training.  It's important that everyone in uniform be alert to this problem and have the leadership training to help prevent these crimes from occuring.
They missed all the above.  But don't worry, that because, for example, ABC World
News with Diane Sawyer couldn't cover the sexual assault story, they missed the big news stories.  No, they had time, they made time, to show the very important YouTube video of a bird playing in the snow.
My opinion?  A great deal more is needed by the Defense Dept and I would include the firing of one woman we've regularly advocated for the firing of (if you refuse to testify to Congress, you should be fired, end of story). I think the words will be measured months from now in terms of whether, in practice, much changed.
But I give Leon Panetta applause for addressing the topic.  Until a sitting Secretary of Defense is willing to use time to address the topic, nothing's going to change.  Until a Secretary of Defense makes clear that this issue matters at the top, it's not going to matter.  Leon Panetta sent a strong signal yesterday, a needed one, and became the first sitting Secretary of Defense to do so.  Much more needs to be done and I hope it is but I give Leon Panetta credit for doing more than any of his predecessors have.  (And I've said here and face-to-face that I will measure his performance based on this issue and the issue of suicides in the military.  Those are the issues that the press should have been grading Robert Gates on.)
Another issue veterans face is exposure to Burn Pits -- veterans, service members and contractors.  Stony Brook University holds the first ever Burn Pit Scientific Symposium February 13th and, in addition, there is a move towards a citizen registry:
BurnPits360 is serving as a pathway of advocacy to assist veterans, their families, and civilian contractors who have been negatively affected by toxic burn pits.  Contractors were assigned the task of properly disposing of any and all trash on military installations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other locations in the Middle East. Unfortunately, instead of using incinerators, the contractors disposed of the waste through toxic burn pits and now thousands of veterans have been put at serious risk.
BurnPits360 is inviting anyone that has been affected from exposure to toxic burn pits and environmental hazards to sign up on the registry.  We are conducting a voluntary cohort anonymous study with Dr. Szema at Stony Brook University.  The study simply requires self-reporting your information on the online registry, providing a proof of military service (DD-214), a signed legal consent form, and additional questionnaires.  This study will help to provide vital information to doctors and researchers that will help properly diagnose and treat the vast array of medical complications arising from these exposures. It will provide the Department Of Defense and the Department Of Veteran Affairs with data that will allow them to develop a healthcare model for specialized healthcare specific to toxic exposures and environmental hazards.
The importance of this registry is to serve as a model for all military personnel, civilian contractors, and their families to self-report injuries and deaths from toxic exposure from burn pits and other environmental hazards. It will also assist in proving causation and the correlation between the exposure and the illness, as well as determine all areas of possible exposure.  It will provide the VA with the data needed to develop legislative language for the development of a compensation and pension category specific to toxic exposures.
Most importantly, this study is completely anonymous.  None of your personal information will be shared at any time. (In such cases where information would ever need to be made public, it would not be done so without the members written consent, whereas the veteran, contractor, and/or their family have the option to decline to participate at that time.)
Should you be interested in participating in the study, please contact Burn Pits 360 via email [burnpitadvocates@burnpits360.org] or by telephone [361-816-4015]. 
Still on veterans issues,
Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Her office notes:

For Immediate Release
January 19, 2012
Contact:
Murray: 202-224-2834
Filner: 202-225-9756


Murray, Filner Request GAO Review of VA's Sterilization of Reusable Medical Equipment Policies and Procedures

(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, and Congressman Bob Filner (D-CA) sent a letter to Government Accountability Office (GAO) Comptroller Gene Dodaro expressing concern over reports of shortcomings in the sterilization of reusable medical equipment. In the letter, they urge the GAO to investigate whether VA's leadership is taking appropriate actions to address these problems across the system.

"On numerous occasions, VA has reported to Congress about the various investigations it has conducted and the problems these investigations have identified, which they claim have led to the development of new processes and procedures to reduce the risk of these problems reoccurring," Senator Murray and Congressman Filner said in the letter. "However, we continue to hear about the same types of quality of care incidents at VA medical facilities and we are concerned that this is an indication that VA is not effectively learning from these incidents and subsequently translating those lessons into system-wide improvements."
The full text of the letter follows:

January 19, 2012



The Honorable Gene L. Dodaro

Comptroller General of the United States

Government Accountability Office
441 G Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20548

Dear Mr. Dodaro:

We know of repeated quality of care problems throughout the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system. Some of these problems, such as shortcomings in the sterilization of reusable medical equipment, reoccur with unacceptable frequency. This raises concerns as to whether VA's leadership is taking appropriate actions, including the appropriate disciplinary actions, to effectively address the problems across the system. On numerous occasions, VA has reported to Congress about the various investigations it has conducted and the problems these investigations have identified, which they claim have led to the development of new processes and procedures to reduce the risk of these problems from reoccurring. However, we continue to hear about the same types of quality of care incidents at VA medical facilities and we are concerned that this is an indication that VA is not effectively learning from these incidents and subsequently translating those lessons into system-wide improvements.

Therefore, we request that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) conduct a review of VA's processes and procedures for responding to quality of care incidents that occur within its health care system. Specifically, we request that GAO review the following:

1. What processes and procedures does VA use to respond to quality of care incidents that occur at its medical facilities, including quality assurance reviews and disciplinary actions? To what extent do these processes and procedures compliment and inform each other? What, if any, gaps or inconsistencies exist?

2. How does VA determine which processes and procedures to use to respond to quality of care incidents? What factors contribute to why certain processes and procedures are chosen by VA over others?

3. What challenges, if any, do VA staff face when using these processes and procedures?

4. To what extent are the processes and procedures carried out consistently across VA's health care system?

5. What data, if any, does VA systematically collect with regard to its employees' involvement in quality of care incidents, including clinicians and others? How, if at all, are these data trended and analyzed? To what extent are these data used to determine what actions to take in response to these incidents?

6. To what extent does VA use the data to identify opportunities for system-wide quality improvement?


As a follow-on to the above work, we also request that GAO perform an in-depth assessment of the extent to which VA medical facilities follow the processes and procedures used to respond to quality of care incidents.

Thank you for your work to improve the care and services our veterans receive. We look forward to reviewing your findings.

Sincerely,


PATTY MURRAY
Chairman Ranking Democratic Member
Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs


BOB FILNER
Ranking Democratic Member
House Committee on Veterans Affairs
###
Turning to Iraq, yesterday the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad was attacked. Turkey's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued the following statement:
Today at 13:50 local time (12.50 Turkish local time) a rocket attack (RPG) was launched against our Embassy in Baghdad. One of the rockets hit the concrete blocks placed in front of our Embassy's protective outer walls without causing any death or injury. It has been learned that the other rocket exploded in the car from where it was fired.
We strongly condemn this heinous attack perpetrated against our Embassy. Furthermore, we expect the Iraqi authorities to capture the perpetrators of the attack as soon as possible, bring them promptly to justice and take all the necessary security measures in order to decidedly prevent the recurrence of such attacks.
Necessary demarches have been made in this regard with the Iraqi authorities and it has been reminded with emphasis that ensuring the security of diplomatic missions is the host country's obligation. The Iraqi authorities confirmed that they would take the necessary steps regarding the security of our Embassy in compliance with their responsibilities stemming from international law and adopt every measure to prevent the recurrence of such incidents.
Turkey will closely follow up on the measures to be taken by the host country to ensure the security of our diplomatic missions in Iraq.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers' Miami Herald) reports, "No one has claimed responsibility for the Wednesday attack, in which assailants fired three rockets at the embassy.  But the timing of the assault, just days after an acrimonious exchange between al-Maliki and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, raised suspicions that al-Maliki sympathizers were responsible."
On Morning Edition (NPR -- link is audio and transcript), Sean Carberry reported on the visit back to Iraq that Aseel Albanna made after 20 years of living in the US. It starts with the high of her exclaiming, "I can't believe I'm here, I just have sheer joy inside me." It descends rather quickly as she expresses dismay at what has happened to Baghdad, how her neighborhood "used to be a beautiful neighborhood [. . .] this is really shocking. This neighborhood used to be like all brand new houses, beautiful yards, beautiful streets, beautiful greenery and now I don't know how to describe it. It's just a mess."

Just a mess also describes the political climate in Baghdad where the political crisis continues. Deutsche Welle notes, "After the 2010 elections, the ethnic and religious groups signed a power-sharing agreement in Erbil. But Maliki appeared to have other plans from the outset. Formally, a joint government does exist. [. . .] Maliki did not name a defense minister, for example. The post was actually earmarked for a Sunni. At the same time, he filled central positions with his own party supporters or just took them over himself."  Economist Kadhim Habeb is quoted stating, "Maliki's goal is to push through his sole reign. He is a little despot."  Sam Dagher (Wall St. Journal) reports that Iraqiya met in Baghdad yesterday to explore Nouri al-Maliki's ouster while Kurdish officials did the same in Erbil. Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) notes the political crisis continues to thrive and al-Salhy runs through some possibilities:

The political blocs are working out details of a conference to help sort out the political turmoil but it may not happen this month. The conference, some politicians say, could ease tensions and allow Sunni lawmakers to save face and go back to their jobs, ending the boycott.
In Sunni-majority Salahuddin province a bid to win more autonomy from Baghdad is gaining steam, although a quick resolution is unlikely. Petitions have been distributed, a constitutionally necessary step toward a referendum on greater self-rule.
Maliki's Shi'ite allies are trying to take advantage of the turmoil to win government jobs, power within ministries and provincial councils and the release of prisoners.
Kurdistan may use the presence of Hashemi and support for Maliki as bargaining chips to win concessions in its ongoing disputes with Baghdad over oil and land rights and the region's share of the national budget.
Aswat al-Iraq reports that Sunday will be another meeting to prepare for a national conference where the various blocs could attempt to talk through a resolution.  Since last month President Jalal Talabani and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi have been calling for a national conference.  Jane Arraf (Al Jazeera) interviews Ayad Allawi today (link is text and video). Excerpt:
Ayad Allawi:  Once we see positive steps taken by the government to reduce the tension to embark on dialogue and to revert back to the agreement power sharing then, of course, we'll reciprocate. Indeed our history is very clear, we won the elections but because of the veto against us from foreign powers, after nine months we decided for the sake of the Iraqi people to compromise and to accept that Prime Minister from the other bloc, the losing bloc, the second bloc -- not losing but the second bloc, to take the premiership position. And this is all done for the sake of the Iraqi people and for the -- for the sake of Iraq. Then -- but based on partnership -- and when we agreed on partnership then when we saw nothing was implemented, the Iraqiya constituents have been targeted, arrests -- widespread arrests, torture, intimidation.  And then this moved into targeting the leaders of Iraqiya, accusing them in the media of doing wrong things. And this is unheard of in judiciary channels, that people are exposed on TV and media and so on. And we saw no movements along the lines of implementing the power sharing and then these intimidations started.  And now we agreed to attend this national conference to find a way out of the mess that Iraq is in.  For all this we have done for the sake of Iraq and for the sake of Iraq all these compromises to make sure that this government will function, that the country will recover and that the country will be able to face its own destiny without Americans, without foreign powers inside Iraq.  But unfortunately this is where we're at now.

Yesterday, another arrest took place. Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) explains, "Baghdad Provincial Council Vice President Riyadh al-Adhadh was arrested on terrorism charges and stands accused of financing a terrorist group in Abu Ghraib. Adhadh is a Sunni doctor who founded a free clinic in Adhamiya and is the focus of an English-language documentary on Iraq. The Iraqi Islamic Party condemned the action and called it an "unprecedented escalation" in the political arena." The arrest doesn't help the political climate. The message of late has been that Nouri is targeting Iraqiya and not Sunnis -- placing the emphasis on Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi's and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq's political affiliation and not tying in the arrests that began in October (over 800 Iraqis were arrested -- largely Sunni -- charged with plotting a coup -- less widely reported was the announcement a few weeks ago that they would all be released -- there was no plot). al-Adhadh is Sunni and part of the Iraqi Accord -- a Sunni political party which had significant problems and battles with Nouri during Nouri's first term as prime minister. For more on the Iraqi Accord, you can refer to this Carnegie Endowment for International Peace page. And, if these arrests continue, it's going to take more than the current planned PSAs to stop an increased hardening between the two major sects in Iraq.

As Nouri gears up for the reported televising of another set of 'confessions' against Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, Al Mada notes that Iraqiya spokesperson Maysoun Damluji has pointed out that the airing of these 'confessions' runs contrary to the Constitution an to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which Iraq is a signature to. She observes that it risks the impartiality and independence of the court and thrwarts the ability of a defendant to present their case fairly. I am stating that Nouri (the State) cannot release these 'confessions' to the media and still claim that they are honoring the Constitution's presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
Violence continues in Iraq. Reuters notes 1 person shot dead in Mosul, a Baquba roadside bombing which left two police officers injured, a Baquba homebombing targeting a Sahwa which injured him, "his wife and one of his children" (Sahwa are also known as "Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq" -- they are largely Sunni and were put on the US payroll in the last years of the Bush administration to get them to stop attacking the US military and US military property -- as then Gen David Petraeus testified to Congress in April 2008; Nouri al-Maliki was supposed to take over paying Sahwa, he was supposed to find security jobs for some and, for others, find non-security government jobs, this was to bring them into the political process, he refused to do so); a Baquba home bombing targeted the Baquba mayor (no one was injured), four Baquba bombs targeted a Shi'ite family (no one was injured), three Baquba grocery stores were bombed, 1 police officer was shot dead in Baghdad last night, 1 person was shot dead in Jalawla last night and 1 Sahwa was shot dead in Samara last night (three other people were also shot).
Back in the US, Brent Frazier (Nashville's News Channel 5, link has text and video) reports on Iraq War veteran Sal Gonzalez. Excerpt.

Brent Frazier: 26-year-old Sal Gonzalez will tell you he came to the CMA Music Fest back in 2006 and never left. Tonight the Los Angeles native played to a packed Exit/In and he hopes somebody in the crowd liked what they heard.

Sal Gonzalez: I'm an American. That's -- that's the only thing I am, that's the only thing I ever will be.

Brent Frazier: Retired US Marine Sal Gonzalez can tell you his story --

Sal Gonzalez: -- was a bomb, an IED. It was just placed on the side of the road, buried.

Brent Frazier: How he joined the military at 18 --

Sal Gonzalez: I'm not going to deny that I was a Marine and that I went to serve my country. I'm very proud of that fact.

Brent Frazier: How he dodged death overseas.

Sal Gonzalez: Going through combat, losing somebody

Brent Frazier: But he'd rather sing to you.


For more on Sal Gonzalez, you can watch this video which is another interview with him and features some of his music. He is on Facebook and he is on MySpace where you can stream some of his songs.  Sal Gonzalez is attempting to get the word out on Not Alone which is a resource for service members and veterans (and their families) dealing with PTSD and combat stress.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Strayed


One of the contractors responsible for building Bank of America stadium in Charlotte, N.C. is 'praising' President Obama and the Democratic Party for holding a convention event there, calling the stadium an 'outstanding example' of the free enterprise system.
Brett McMahon, president of the concrete construction firm Miller & Long DC and the spokesman for the anti-labor, pro-business group Halt the Assault, notes that the stadium where President Obama will formally accept the nomination was built by non-unionized workers.

That's from Byron Tau's report for POLITICO.  What the crap?

How did this happen?  How far the Democratic Party leadership has strayed from the party's roots.  It's disgusting.




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


Wednesday, January 18, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, is Nouri going after the Camp Ashraf residents, the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad comes under attack, Reider Visser has no legal background and should learn to stop trying to offer legal analysis unless he just enjoys looking like an idiot, and more.
 
Nouri al-Maliki is a liar.  He cannot be trusted.  He proves that with each passing day.  The Tehran Times reports:
 
Arrest warrants have been issued for 120 members of the Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO), Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced in a televised interview late on Tuesday. 
During his remarks, Maliki described the MKO as a "terrorist" group and said the it has committed terrorist acts in Iraq and Iran for many years. 
He also reiterated the Iraqi government's decision to expel the members of the group and to bring an end to the issue.
 
That refers to the Camp Ashraf residents.  If true, Nouri has now violated his promise to the United Nations and to the United States.  If true, Senator Carl Levin, Chair of the Armed Services Committee, and Senator John McCain, Ranking Member, need to follow up on what they were discussing in an open session at the end of last year.
 
 
Adnkronos International English reports Turkey's embassy in Baghdad was attacked today. Reuters quotes an unnamed Iraqi security official who states, "There were two Katyusha rockets.  The first one hit the embassy blast wall, and the second one hit the second floor of an adjacent bank." An unnamed Turkish embassy employee states there were three rockets. Today's Zaman provides this context, "The attack comes amidst a deepening political crisis between Turkey and Iraq. On Monday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned Iraq's ambassador to Turkey, Abdulemir Kamil Abi-Tabikh, to its headquarters in Ankara to inform him of Turkey's unease over recent Iraqi criticism, just a day after Iraq made a similar move regarding Turkey through Turkey's ambassador to Baghdad. Abi-Tabikh was summoned to the Foreign Ministry by the ministry's undersecretary, Feridun Sinirlio─člu, regarding Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's verbal assault on Turkey for what he characterized as interference in Iraqi affairs."   Euronews offers a video repot here which includes, "In Turkey the AK party's vice president blamed Iraq's Prime Minister Maliki for caring more about making aggressive speeches about his country than in protecting Turkey's embassy in his capitol."  Nouri unleashed the crazy on Turkey last Friday and his thuggettes in State of Law joined in the following day.  And Al Mada reported earlier today that the National Alliance (Shi'ite coalition -- Moqtada al-Sadr's in this group but if he has something to say, he generally sends out his own spokesperson to say it) accused Turkey of 'being on the side of the Sunni.'  A common trait in the English language press and the Arabic press out of Iraq: No condemnation of the attack from Nouri.
 
No condemnation of the attack from Nouri.  The Turkish Embassy just joined other targeted groups in Iraq that Nouri's gotten away with looking the other way on in all the years he's been prime minister.  It took non-stop outcries from the Vatican for Nouri to finally start offering his meager words when Iraqi Christians were attacked -- and even then, it has to be a major attack (more then 20 dead and/or injured) to prompt a remark from Nouri.  Journalists, Iraq's LGBT community, Iraqi women, so many groups targeted under his 'leadership' -- under his orders? -- and he says nothing.  Making clear to his thuggettes what's allowed and what's not.  And so it's been for six years in April.
 
Now the world sees how it works.  Nouri's lashing out is the early roll out, days later his surrogates attack. And how 'comforting' Nouri's silence must be to countries with their own embassies in Baghdad.  Reuters notes that the Turkish Foreign Ministry issued the following statement:
 
We strongly condemn the atrocious attack on our embassy and we expect the Iraqi authorities to arrest the attackers and take them before the court, as well as to take every necessary measure to ensure such an attack does not take place again.
 
And the attack on the embassy does nothing to improve Iraq's political crisis.   AFP reports Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi has declared the Erbil Agreement must be respected. The leader of the political slate that came in first in the March 2010 elections stated today that if Nouri can't honor the agreement, he must go: "If Maliki was not prepared to abide by the deal, then either his National Alliance should name a replacement premier who was prepared to or a caretaker administration should be installed to organize fresh elections, Allawi said."  Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports, "In a press conference in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, Allawi, also the head of Sunni-backed parliamentary bloc of Iraqia, stressed that his bloc supports holding a national conference for the Iraqi political blocs if there is goodwill to solve the problems."  AP quotes him declaring at today's news conference, "Iraq is at a crossroads and I say that Iraq needs forgiving leaders, who will raise above their personal hatred."  Mohammad Akef Jamal (Gulf News) offers:
 
The country is experiencing its first crisis after the US withdrawal. The paralysis that has inflicted the political process is due to the deep disagreements between the State of Law coalition and the Al Iraqiya List and, to a lesser degree, between the Kurdish coalition and State of Law.
Signs of collapse of the political process and moves towards an overt confrontation between different political blocs could have been seen even on April 9, 2003. They have taken different forms ever since.
After the blow received by Al Iraqiya, in the form of the arrest warrant against Vice-President Tarek Al Hashemi, it is expected that Al Maliki will target other leaders in the same political bloc in order to remove them from the political arena.
 
 
Al Mada reports that Iraqiya has been meeting with the National Alliance and the Sadr bloc (the Sadr bloc is part of the National Alliance) and that they are supposedly close to ending their boycott of Parliament. They are reportedly asking that the issue of Saleh al-Mutlaq be addressed. He is the Deputy Prime Minister that Nouri wants stripped of his post.  Parliament has refused Nouri's request so far.  He can not strip anyone of their office without the approval of Parliament.  Yesterday at the US State Dept, spokesperson Mark C. Toner was asked about Iraq's ongoing political crisis:
 

 
QUESTION: But these arrests notwithstanding, Mark, there has been a more belligerent policy by Maliki toward the United States. We have seen it almost in every aspect of the application of policy -- by not filling the cabinet seats, by -- Allawi came the other day on a program and basically said that Maliki's driving the country down the abyss of a civil war. And so what is your position on that? What kind of negotiations are you involved in?
 
MR. TONER: You mean us directly with --
 
QUESTION: Yes. The United States of America.
 
MR. TONER: -- the Iraqis?
 
QUESTION: It was there for nine years. It invested $800 billion and so on.
 
MR. TONER: Look, we are -- as of December 31st, we've embarked on a new relationship with the Iraqi Government. There are bureaucratic elements of this relationship that need to be refined and worked out and obviously coupled with a very changeable security environment, that these individuals, that -- rather the Iraqi officials are trying to maintain security but also make sure that they're following the letter of the law. So I wouldn't read too much into these detentions, if you will. In terms of the broader political situation in Iraq, we've continued to press on senior Iraqi politicians the importance of dialogue to work out their differences, and that continues to be our message to them.
 
QUESTION: But you --
 
MR. TONER: And we obviously are talking to them on a daily basis. But this is --
 
QUESTION: Okay. Are you --
 
MR. TONER: Sorry.
 
QUESTION: Sorry.
 
MR. TONER: This is -- no, that's okay. This is an internal political situation. Our concern is that as it -- as they work through this process that it be done in a clear and transparent way that makes sense to the Iraqi people.
 
QUESTION: Yeah. But are you more in contact with the president of the country, Jalal Talabani, or with the prime minister of the country, Nuri Maliki? Because Talabani has been in Iraq trying to organize some sort of reconciliation conference, but apparently his sort of suggestions have been sort of dismissed by Maliki.
 
MR. TONER: Well, again, I think that we've --  it's incumbent on us to remain in close contact with all elements of the political spectrum.
 
QUESTION: Mark, Iraqi prime minister has decided today suspend the Sunni ministers from the government after boycotting its sessions. And a government spokesman, Ali Dabbagh, has said that the ministers are no longer allowed to manage ministries and all decisions that will be signed by them are invalid. How do you view this step?
 
MR. TONER: Again, putting it in the broader context here, there's some very clear tensions underway in Iraq on the political scene. They're working through these tensions. It's important that they continue, all sides of the political spectrum talk to each other and work constructively together.
 
QUESTION: But does this step help?
 
MR. TONER: Again, I don't want to -- I'm trying to put it in a broader context. This is an internal Iraqi political process, so it's important that --  it's less important our comment or opining on what's going on there and more important that they roll up their sleeves, talk to each other, and work through it.
 
That's very interesting and we will return to it later this week but in terms of what Nouri did yesterday -- barring Cabinet members, that was Nouri 'creating' a new power for himself. KUNA reports, "The Iraqi government has decided to prevent Iraqiya List's cabinet ministers, who boycotted cabinet meetings, from doing their job at their ministries."  Mohammed Tawfeeq and CNN note, "Iraqiya spokeswoman Maysoun Damluji said the Iraqiya bloc is not surprised by the prime minister's move, calling it unconstitutional and illegal.  She said it has become obvious that al-Maliki is not interested in sharing power."
 
She is correct, the move is unconstitutional and illegal.
 
Each branch has powers.  The Constitution recognizes three branches and it invests each with unique powers -- unique powers, not absolute ones.
 
So the Prime Minister-Designate (or Prime Minister if it happens after the transition) has the power to nominate people to be in his or her Cabinet.  This is not a power to be taken lightly.  The use of that power will demonstarte a great deal about the prime minister-designate in the 30 days period before he or she is replaced with another prime minister-designate or before he or she is transitioned to prime minister.
 
What does that time period say about Nouri?
 
Despite the fact that this was his second time naming a Cabinet (the US installed him in April 2006 after Iraqis wanted Ibrahiam al-Jaafari to be prime minister and the US government said no), so he should have had experience at it and known what to do, despite the fact that for eight months, he refused to step down and let Allawi have first crack at organizing a ruling coalition (as the Constitution specified; but screw the Iraqi Constitution when Barack Obama decides Nouri is his man), he was named prime minister-designate in November 2010 and couldn't come up with a full Cabinet.  In part, this was due to the fact that he'd created so many more Minister and Deputy Minister posts- he had to in order to come close to keeping all the promises he made in horse trading over the eight month political stalemate.
 
Nouri only had the power to nominate.  The Parliament has to vote and approve each nominee.  In this case, Parliament approved everyone nominated. 
 
The only obstacle was Nouri himself.
 
And he still couldn't nominate enough people.  He never should have been moved from prime minister-designate to prime minister.  Hopefully, a lesson will be learned from this.  Follow the Constitution.  If he can't name a Cabinet in 30 days, you don't make him prime minister, you name someone else to be prime minister.
 
Is it any surprise that someone who couldn't name a full Cabinet -- as required to by the Constitution -- would turn out to be such a hapless leader?  One who can't even stick to the budget? (In the US, law makers regularly go over budget -- that's not allowed in countries like Iraq or Kenya, you are supposed to meet the budget, it's not a goal, it is how much you will spend and no more than that.)  Is it a surprise that everything's falling apart under Nouri when he couldn't get it together as prime minister-designate?
 
Selecting nominees and creating your Cabinet is a very serious role of the prime minister.  It requires input and approval of Parliament.  If you're not up to the task, you could very easily end up with a number of ministers that do not work out.
 
Guess who that falls on?  The prime minister.
 
He or she nominated them and, if they're a problem later on, that goes to the judgment of the prime minister.  He or she is not allowed to fire them.  The prime minister can recommend they be removed from their post -- but Parliament has to agree.
 
Nouri's created the power to suspend lately.  There is no such power.  If you, as prime minister, made a mistake in selecting your Cabinet, you are required to convince the Parliament of that or else you're stuck with the decisions you made -- however poor and misguided they may or may not have been.
 
There is no power for the prime minister to bar or suspend a minister.  Doing so is preventing the minister from doing his or her job.  The only way a prime minister can prevent a minister from doing his or her job is to ask Parliament to strip them of their post and for Parliament to agree.
 
Nouri made his choices.  He cannot strip, suspend, bar, remove, any Minister.  He can ask Parliament to remove the minister from the post and, if Parliament agrees, then it takes place.  Otherwise, that person is a minister unless they die or decide to resign.  Nouri, per the Constiution right now, could suffer a no confidence vote in the Parliament and be stripped of his post.  And the Cabinet members could remain.  The Parliament could choose to leave them alone.
 
Reidar Visser has an analysis at Gulf Anlaysis.  He's wrong that it's "exactly one month" since Iraqiya announced their boycott.  They did not announce on the18th of December it was the 16th.  More troubling, he insists that a caretaker government cannot take place.  Really? 
 
That's cute.  Before he attempts to offer legal analysis in the future, somebody tell him it takes more than watching a few episode Judge Judy to know the law.  In other words, he needs to stick to what he thinks he's good at and I'll explain to him right now, the law is not what he's good at.  And I'll add that I'll be nice once and only once on this issue.
 
It is nothing for me to say "I am wrong."  It doesn't bother me too.  I walk into a room and expect everyone to know way more than me (most of my harshest press critiques are rooted in the fact that they know so much less than what their job requires).  But that's not true when it comes to the law.  I never had any modesty there. 
 
In terms of Iraq's Constitution, for some reason, in 2007, I felt the need to study it.  And have continued to -- that includes four hours with legal experts in London last week where we poured over the Iraqi Constitution, that includes lengthy conversations on a regular basis with friends in the French and British government, that includes conversations with friends in the State Dept.
 
I'm going to say it nicely once, "Find something you're good at and focus on that.  You're not good at the law.  Your lack of training and questionable logic skils are on full display when you try to handle the law."
 
Visser's argument is that a caretaker government can not be put in place in Iraq because it's not in the Constitution.  The Constitution was written while Iraq was obviously occupied.  Iraq's still not sovereign.  It won't be unless and until it's out of Chapter VII with the United Nations.  The IMF can impose practices and policies on countries and an argument can be made that nation-states under the IMF's control have lost their sovereignty.  That can be argued in court and it can go either way (in the court of public opinion, that opinion will always win). But we're not talking about the IMF, we're talking about the United Nations.  This isn't an austerity program that's been put in place because the country's government is thought to have spent too freely, this is a sanction that's been brought against the country and until it's resolved (either with Kuwait repaid in full or -- as Iraq wants -- with the UN letting them off the hook), Iraq doesn't have full sovereignty.  Any country with sanctions against them -- enforced sanctions -- is not really fully sovereign.   May 27, 1993, the UN Security Council passed resolution 833.  It remains in effect.  It has never been lifted.  For what the United Nations can do with regards to that, you're going to need to do a little more than watch Judge Joe Brown.
 
In addition, the Constitution does not exist to allow anyone person to assume the post of prime minster for life.  By Visser's illogical and wrong-headed reading of the law, that's what the Iraqi Constitution states.  He doesn't make that claim because he's not smart enough to walk it through.  Again, if you don't have a legal mind, you should not be making legal arguments.
 
By Visser's 'analysis,' Noui is currently governed by nothing.  Nouri can remain prime minister for all time if he's willing to dissolve the Parliament -- by Visser's argument that Visser didn't have the brains or tools to carry it out to the end point.  Visser makes that argument by reducing the two posts Nouri holds to one post.  Were Nouri stripped of his prime minister post tomorrow, Nouri would still retain a post -- he was elected to the Parliament.  He is an MP.  That does carry with it perks and obligations.   When you ignore those and when you have the post exist in isolation (which it does not), then you end up with a new Saddam.  A new Saddam can dissolve the Parliament.  A new Saddam can declare that elections will take place at some time in the future, when new Saddam decides it's safe but, in the meantime, new Saddam will appoint MPs to serve. And that's how Iraq never again has elections or needs elections.  The 'MPs' picked by the new Saddam name a president, etc. and nothing ever changes for the prime minister for life.
 
That's where Visser's 'legal' 'argument' leads.  He couldn't follow it through because he lacks the tools.  But that's where the argument he makes pulls to a stop. 
 
And that's another reason why his legal argument is not just 'interesting' but wrong.  Again, if you don't have the background, don't offer legal analysis.  I don't have a legal background in tax law which is why we rarely note tax resistance (Cindy Sheehan's discussing her tax resistance here).  It isn't one of my strengths by any means so I would never attempt to offer a legal opinion on it.  I wouldn't even talk about it from a legal perspective because I am so ignorant on tax law. 
 
It would be great if those untrained in Constitutional Law learned to stop presenting as "fact" their ill-thought out and ill-conceived fantasies.  This is me being nice with regards to the law. 
 
 
Law For Dummies, Visser, your first point is wrong.  And you might mean "extra-Constitutional" but a caretaker government is not unconstitutional.  For it to be unconstitutional it would either have to be forbidden by the Constitution -- in writing -- or it would have to go against a written law within the Constitution that would oppose it.  There is no such law opposing a caretaker government and there is nothing in writing outlawing a caretaker government.  Your second point is is idiotic as well as wrong.  (Did you miss the powers of the president -- who would name a replacement per the Constitution -- or the issue of not to exceed 30 days?) Your third point reminds me that you're tight with Nir Rosen.  Filth begat filth.  For those who've forgotten, Nir not only verbally attacked Lara Logan, he shared at Foreign Policy that Nouri should remain prime minister because Iraq needed an authoritarian hand.  And now I'm really wondering why I wasted my time on this idiotic 'legal' 'analysis' by the untrained and uninformed.
 
The Erbil Agreement is not unconstitutional.  That's a flat out lie and the kind of "logic" that someone untrained in the law would make.  Someone trained might argue that portions were this or that, they would not declare the entire thing unconstitutional.   One of its primary parts (and the most important to the KRG)  is that Article 140 of the Constitution be implemented -- the thing Nouri was supposed to have done in his first term but refused to.  Visser's refusal to recognize that or and his habit of only tossing out "unconstitutional!" when it benefits Nouri is especially telling.  
 
Visser reveals himself to be a fake further when he 'advises' Iraqiya should focus on the three empty security ministries because Nouri "would be infor severe international criticism if he should opt to continue with acting ministers indefinitely."  If he should?  How long does the Idiot Visser think a prime minister term is?  Nouri's already gone over year without filling those posts. 
 
We're done with Reidar Visser.  I'm no longer interested in his opinions.  He was a fool to try to offer legal but as I go back over these half-baked and idiotic 'conclusions' Visser presents, I'm left with either he's the most stupid person in the world or he's less than honest.  I'll go with the latter. 
 
He's friend Nir Rosen and that says it all.   I'm not interested in his hidden agenda or any more of his crap.  Sadly some idiots will link to him even idiots who don't realize that what's he's saying in this post goes completely against what they Tweeted about the Constitution and the process the day before.  I can't believe I wasted all that time reading through his garbage repeatedly.  Again, we're done with him.  And shame on anyone who links to the lunatic's 'legal analysis' in the future.  He's trained in history, somewhat in philosophy.  He doesn't know a damn thing about the law and, oh, does it show. 
 
 
Nouri al-Maliki has a second term as prime minister despite his State of Law coming in second in the March 2010 elections. He only has a second term because the US government strong-armed the KRG and others to back Nouri. The US promised that, in exchange for Nouri remaining prime minister, the other parties would receive certain things. These were outlined in the November 2010 Erbil Agreement (an agreement some parties have threatened to publish).  When this agreement was agreed to by all parties, it became a legal agreement and a binding one.  That's why there are signatures on it.
 
The Erbil Agreement ended 8 months-plus of Political Stalemate I which followed the elections. Though Nouri gladly abided by the prime minister aspect, once he got his post, he trashed the agreement. 
 
AyadAllawi Ayad Allawi
This is not the Iraq we were dreaming of when we fought dictatorship with tears, blood and sacrificies http://www.wifaq.com/more.asp?NewsID=3001&CatID=17&lang=arb
 
 
Since last month, President Jalal Talabani and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi have been calling for a national conference to resolve the political issues. Iraqia TV reports Kurish Alliance MP Mahmoud Othman is stating that there will be a meet-up Sunday to make final arrangements for the national conference.
 
Tomorrow, Dar Addustour notes, Parliament is set to vote on seven bills. Those may not be final votes. (The Parliament engages in a series of readings and votes on bills.) This morning, Al Rafidayn quoted an unnamed source with Parliament's Integrity Commission saying that the Under Secretariat of Baghdad and the Contracts Manager will be arrested and charged with financial and administrative corruption based upon investigations the commission has carried out.  Alsumaria TV reports Riyad al-Adad, Vice President of Baghdad Provincial Council, was arrested today.
 
 
Returning to violence, Reuters notes 2 Kurds shot dead in Mandili, a Haswa sticky bombing last night which left a police officer and his wife injured, and, also last night, a Latifiya home invasion of a Sahwa member in which he and 3 of his sons were killed (three more were left injured).  BBC News identifies the Sahwa ("Awakeing," "Sons Of Iraq") as Mohammed Dwaiyeh.  Both BBC and Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) report that the man's wife was also injured.