Monday, April 25, 2011

New cell phone

Monday, Monday. I'll do Fringe tomorrow, alright? Sorry. I got a new cell phone today. It's my first touch screen one. And I got it late today and have just been playing with all the options and trying to figure out what does what. I'm with AT&T and my phone busted last week. On Thursday. I got through the weekend without one but I just couldn't see doing without one any longer. I know that's probably spoiled. I know a lot of people couldn't afford one. And to get a touch screen was just beyond silly, I know. However, one of my excuses was that I was getting so tired of carrying my digital camera around. So I grabbed this one. And the camera? Only feature I didn't play around with probably.

I wasted about two hours with that thing. I know Elaine was thinking, "It's just a phone." She gets Sunny or me to show her stuff on her phone. She really only calls on it. That's really all she wants. She will text. But if that option wasn't there, she wouldn't lose any sleep or feel the need to get a new phone. She didn't even know her phone had live video on it. (She's got a really fancy phone -- it was a gift.) And she can see the people she's talking to if they've got cameras. I don't mean the still photo but the live video.

And she's got the internet on it but never uses that. The one thing she wanted me to show her on her latest phone when she got it was where the radio was. Not the internet, the regular FM radio. She programmed her music stations and NPR with my help and then she had more than she needed, she said (and I believe her).

Over at WSWS, Joseph Kishore reports:

Democrats and Republicans are escalating their attack on government programs that benefit the working class, centering their focus on Medicare and Medicaid, the principal health care programs for the poor, disabled and elderly.

The Republican Party proposal, presented by Congressman Paul Ryan and approved by the House of Representatives earlier this month, would effectively demolish the two programs. For his part, Obama has just returned from a tour of the West Coast in which he trumpeted his own plan to cut $2 trillion, primarily from the health care programs, over the next decade. The proposal, still vaguely elaborated, would expand measures already passed as part of the administration’s cost-cutting health care overhaul last year.

The unanimity of the ruling class in the demand for cuts in health care was underscored by the New York Times editorial Sunday, “A Real Choice on Medicare.” Speaking for the liberal establishment, the Times claimed that there were “stark differences” between the proposals advanced by the Republicans and the Democrats. In fact, the editorial demonstrated the opposite.

And we can't trust either of them. Remember that in 2012. I don't know who I'm voting for. I keep getting e-mails on that. I don't know who all is running. I won't be voting for Barack. No one in this community will. We didn't last time and we won't this time. And you better believe our numbers will be larger this go round. A lot of people didn't know a thing about Barack and could believe the hype. But now he's got a record and it will be difficult for him to trick so many Americans. He's lost independents. They're not coming back. He's lost some Republicans who voted for him to turn the page on Bush. He's lost some Democrats because he's been a corporatist War Hawk.

So that means it will be very difficult for him. He should have won by a much larger margin in 2008. He didn't. And he's going to really have to fight for votes this go round.

Okay, Third. Along with Dallas, here's who worked on Sunday's edition:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz),
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Trina of Trina's Kitchen,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts,
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub

And this is what we came up with:

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

Monday, April 25, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces two deaths, protests continue in Iraq, Kurdish forces and the Iraqi military clash, a governor shuts down all government office today, and more.
In Iraq, protests continued over the weekend. They continue today including in Basra and Um Qasr. Hardi Farukh died Saturday. AFP reports that Hardi was 28-years-old, worked at a publishing hosue and was engaged to be married but instead, on Saturday, became the tenth protestor to die in northern Iraq in the last weeks (Hardi died from wounds received when 'security' forces shot at protesters April 18th in Sulaimaniya). CPT's Michele Naar-Obed (Ekklesia) reports from the KRG:

A new song was playing on Iraqi Kurdistan radio just before Easter, which included the lines, "Don't kill this generation" and "don't kill the future." While the song played, guns were blasting and tear gas filled the streets in both Suleimaniya and the KRG capital city, Hawler (Erbil).
Day sixty-one of Suleimaniya's daily demonstrations against corruption in Iraqi Kurdistan started earlyon 18 April 2011. The Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) group arrived at 11:00. Music was playing from the stage and small groups of people were gathering. Two CPTers decided to use the quiet time to grab a cup of coffee and juice in a cafe next to the square. A few of the demonstration organizers were doing the same.
Meanwhile armed soldiers, the anti-terrorism unit, and police were positioning themselves around the square., with guns, tear gas, water cannons, and riot gear.
When the two CPTers and organizers left the cafe, a group of about twenty young men were talking about confronting the soldiers and police. Some were talking about throwing rocks. Others told us them that soldiers would throw the first round of rocks to provoke a fight. Still others told them that the government pays some of these young men to throw the first stones in order to provoke an escalation of violence. The organizers and CPTers gave an impromptu workshop on nonviolence. Some of the young men decided to stay in the square. Others were ready to confront the soldiers. One young man said he needed the money.

Today, Jim Muir (BBC News -- link is video) provides an overview of the protests in Iraq.
Jim Muir: It shouldn't be happening here but it is. This is Basra in the south [footage of protesters]. Iraq had its second free general election only last year. But that hasn't stopped trouble breaking out in almost all parts of the country. They've been particularly strong in Kurdistan in the north They've had free elections for nearly 20 years. But there's growing anger there against the two big Kurdish parties accused of corruption and repression. The capital of Baghdad has had its share of protests too against what some see as the emergence of a corrupt political elite which has failed to provide jobs and services to a growing number of young people.
Yanaar Mohammed (Women's Freedom in Iraq): This is the democracy that we see in Iraq: arbitrary arrests, torture, beating, joblessness and they are drowning in a sea of money. $40 billion are totally lost. Nobody knows where it went from the financial budget while the widows are in this square -- the widows and the orphans of the war are startving.
Jim Muir: Despite the fact that they went to the polls only last year to elect a new Parliament and government, people still feel the need to come here in their hundreds every week to voice their demands and press their greivances. There are small signs that the government may be at least going through the motions of paying attention to some of those demands. Prime Minister Maliki has said he won't stand for a third term in office in three year's time. He's also given government ministries a hundred days to shape up and meet government targets. He says he doesn't feel threatened by the protests.
Nouri al-Maliki: The demonstrations here are different from the protests in other Arab countries. Here, they are about demands and services which we respect and try to meet if we can. We're not afraid of demands and demonstrations. In fact, we encourage them.
Jim Muir: Ala Nabil would not agree. He's been detained by security men after demonstrations twice. Held for days and beaten for criticizing the prime minister. He says he's under constant surveilance.
Ala Nabil: We have detentions, abductions from the street. We're thrown into secret prisons and some people just disappear and nobody knows where they are for months or years. People are afraid to talk. Just like under Saddam [Hussein].
Jim Muir: And so the protests continue. Not to get rid of the government, but to get it to live up to its promises and slogans. The message from Iraq is that even if someone else comes in and gets rid of your dictators, real democracy does not come easy. Jim Muir, BBC News, Baghdad.
Nouri's comments about 'respect' are in direct contrast to his repeated characterization of the protesters as linked to "terrorism" and "Ba'athists." In the text version of the report, Muir notes that Firas Ali campaigned for Ala Nabil's release while he was imprisoned for eight days and that the response was for "armed security operatives" to seize Firas Ali from an NGO office and that Ala Nabil is attempting to get Firas released.
The people of Mosul continue to demand a functioning government. Aswat al-Iraq reports, "An Iraqi Army force has surrounded al-Ahrar (Liberals) Square in central Mosul on Monday to prevent demonstrators from reaching the square the witnessed a sit-in demonstration over the past few days, a Ninewa security source said." They have attempted this throughout the month. Last Thursday, Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi had to break through the military barricade to join protesters -- and to clear a path for many others to follow him to the protests. Atheel al-Nujaifi is the brother of Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi. Protests continued in Mosul over the weekend. Saturday AFP reported, it was "the 15th day in a row" for Mosul protests and that "Tribal leaders and members of the provincial council joined more than 1,000 protesters who vowed to continue their rallies until US forces leave the country." DPA reminded that Friday security forces fired on protesters in Mosul killing at least 1 and leaving forty-four more wounded. Jamal al-Badrani (Reuters) reports, "Sunday, around 5,000 people, including provincial council members and tribal leaders, rallied in the main square against extending the U.S. troops presence beyond the year-end deadline." Aswat al-Iraq quoted a security source stating, "About 6,000 demonstrators have gathered in al-Ahrar Square on Sunday, calling on non-extension of the U.S. troops presences in Iraq, release of prisoners and carrying out reforms by the Iraqi government."
And today? The Great Iraqi Revolution notes, "The large Kuridsh Herki Tribe joined the SIT-IN in Mosul this morning." And they reported, "It has just been confirmed that there are 2 martyrs not 3 [. . .] and there are 35 injured. Mosul has shut down completely and they are stating that they can wait it out. They are holding Maliki and his gang responsible for all of this and they are calling on all honourable Iraqis to start SIT-INS everywhere," "We have just heard that the number of martyrs has risen to 7 now. God Rest Their Souls," "In addition to our brothers Arkan Al Onaidi and Ghanem Al Abid, the following of our colleagues, friends and brothers have been injured: Khalid Juma Al Khaffaji, Haithem Al Jibourie, and Mohammed Al Qadhi amongst others," and "Ghannam's forces have shot a woman demonstrator." Ghannam is Nasser Al Ghannam who is the Iraqi Army's Second Division Chief. Nouri al-Maliki sent him to Mosul to oversee the assault on Iraqi civilians.
Atheel al-Nujaifi is the governor of Nineveh. The Great Iraqi Revolution reports, ""Atheel Al Nujaifi has just stopped all work in all government offices as a statement against the tyrannical and unconstitutional acts that Maliki and Ghannam are carrying out." When the governor of a province takes such an action, it is news. Where's the western press? The Iraqi military are basically terrorizing the people of Mosul. The governor of the province has protested their actions and today called an end to work at all the government offices. Nick Turse (TomDispatch reposted by Al Jazeera) observes of the ongoing protests:

The first months of this year have been grim for free speech in Iraq.
As revolts swept across the Middle East and North Africa, they spread to Iraqi cities and towns, but took on a very different cast.
In February, in places like Baghdad, Fallujah, Mosul and Tikrit, protesters took to the streets, intent on reform - focused on ending corruption and the chronic shortages of food, water, electricity and jobs - but not toppling the government of prime minister Nuri al-Maliki.
The response by government security forces, who have arrested, beaten, and shot protesters, leaving hundreds dead or wounded, however, was similar to that of other autocratic rulers around the region.
Attacks by Iraqi forces on freedom of the press, in the form of harassment, detention, and assaults on individual journalists, raids of radio stations, the offices of newspapers and press freedom groups have also shown the dark side of Maliki's regime.
Many journalists have been prevented from covering protests or have curtailed their reporting in response to brutality, raising the spectre of a return to the days of Saddam Hussein's regime when press freedom was a fiction.
Maliki's US allies, however, have turned a blind eye to the violence and repression, with the top spokesman for the US military in Iraq praising the same Iraqi units which eyewitnesses have identified as key players in the crackdown while ignoring the outrages attributed to them.

A blind eye also appears to have been turned to corruption for many years now. New Sabah reports that the Iraqi Office of Financial Supervision has informed the US that they retain the right to file for compensation over "mismanagement" of Iraqi money by the Coalition Provisional Authority which ran things immediately after the start of the Iraq War. Questions remain on the Iraqi side about at least seven billion dollars.

In other corruption news, Al Rafidayn reports that the Integrity Commission has announced that the ex-governor of Nineveh Province has received a sentence of two years in prison for embezzlement and corruption explaining that in January 0f 2007, he created a number of ficitional people who received monthly work payments for six months. Meanwhile Dar Addustour adds that the Integrity Commission also announced that they were investigating alleged corruption in muncipalities with some focus on the ration system cards and how they are administered locally. The Iraqi Parliament, Aswat al-Iraq reports, held a session today on human rights within a civil society. No word on whether Nouri attended though, goodness knows, he needed to.
Insisting that the Parliament will have the last word, Aswat al-Iraq reports Speaker Osama al-Nujeify also confirmed that talks for a continued US military presence beyond 2011 is still being discussed within the government. Jonathan Steele (Guardian) observes, "As with so many elements of the geopolitical strategy he inherited from George Bush, Barack Obama has gone along with it. So it should be no surprise that Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chief of staffs, was in Baghdad on Friday urging the government to amend the agreement under which all US forces have to leave Iraq by the end of this year. Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, was in the Iraqi capital on a similar mission a few weeks earlier." (Note, Steele writes of the oil motives exposed by the Independent last week -- via a columnist, the news finally makes it into the Guardian.) Also noting Mullen's trip to Iraq is the editorial board of the Delaware County Times which applauds Mullen for talking publicly about the possibility US troops might remain in Iraq past 2011: "And if American forces remain in Iraq beyond the Dec. 31 deadline for withdrawal, it will be damaging for President Barack Obama, whose main campaign platform was ending America's involvement in the war." The Tehran Times reports that the Iranian "Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Kazim Husseini al-Haeri has issued a religious ruling forbidding the extension of the U.S. military presence in Iraq beyond December 2011." And as talks continue between the Iraqi and US governments over extending the SOFA, the Iranian government insists it is not involved. ISNA quotes Iran's Ambassdor to Iraq Hassan Danaei-Far stating, "No Iraqi delegation was dispatched to Iran by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for dialogues on extending the timetable of the US forces in Iraq. Iran has taken an entirely clear stance on the issue, we belive that foreign forces should leave Iraq and we believe that no foreign threat has been posed against Iraq. Iraqi policemen and army are able to run their own country." Iranian puppets like Moqtada al-Sadr have made their own noises. The Khaleej Times editorial board notes, "Already certain firebrand political leaders have warned against possible extension of American soldiers in the country." That refers to Moqtada al-Sadr. Moqtada appears prominently in the latest report for the US Congress. From Kenneth Katzman's [PDF format warning] "Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights:"
As noted above, Sadr was part of the anti-Maliki Shiite coaltion (Iraqi National Alliance) for the March 2010 national elections. Sadr sees himself and his faction as the main spokesman for Iraq's Shiites, causing an inherent rivalry with Maliki and other more mainstream Shiite leaders in Iraq.
[. . .]
After the election, the Sadr faction was extensively involved in bargaining over composition of the government and, for the first six months after the election, took the stance that Maliki should be replaced by another shiite. However, the shift by the faction in late September 2010 was decisive in Maliki's success in achieving another term as prime minister. In return, as discussed above, Sadrists now hold several seats in the cabinet Maliki presented on December 21, 2010, and a Sadrist governor was later installed in Maysan Province, which includes the Sadrist stronghold of Amarah.
The faction was energized when its leader, Moqtada Al Sadr himself, returned to Iraq on January 5, 2011. Upon his return, he gave a speech calling for a full implementation of a planned U.S. withdrawal by the end of 2011, and issued statements opposing the awarding of Iraqi energy contracts to American firms. He reportedly returned to Iran on January 22, 2011, but then re-entered Iraq in mid-February 2011, possibly in connection with the popular unrest [. . .]. While Sadr has long sought to higlight Maliki's failures to bolster his own influence, the Sadr faction's extensive participation in the post-2010 government complicates the Sadrist efforts to paint governmental failures as purely the fault of Maliki and other elites. Some U.S. officials say they believe the faction may have instigated some of the unrest to discredt Maliki.
Meanwhile CNN noted Saturday that the US military has announced today that 2 US soldiers died in southern Iraq yesterday. Sunday, DoD released the following: "The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of two soldiers who were supporting Operation New Dawn. They died of wounds suffered April 22, in Numaniyah, Iraq when insurgents attacked their unit with an improvised explosive device. They were assigned to the 2nd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Hood, Texas. Killed were: 1st Lt. Omar J. Vazquez, 25, of Hamilton, N.J.; and Pfc. Antonio G. Stiggins, 25, of Rio Rancho, N.M. For more information media may contact Fort Hood public affairs at 254-287-0106."
In some of today's reported violence . . .
Reuters notes a Hawija roadside bombing left one police officer injured and a Baghdad sticky bombing wounded two people.
Reuters notes armed clashes in Kirkuk between Kurdish security guards and Iraqi soldiers resulted in 1 Kurdish guard being killed and five more left injured. Quoting a source at Kirkuk Hospital, Aswat al-Iraq reports 2 Kurds were killed, not one.
Aswat al-Iraq reports 1 corpse was discovered in Baquba (shot in the head).
Dropping back to yesterday, Prashant Rao (AFP) reports, "A roadside bomb explosion wounded four people, including two policemen, near a small church in the Iraqi capital on Easter Sunday, medical and security officials said. The bomb went off near the entrance of the Sacred Heart church, which is surrounded by concrete blast walls, near Tahriart Square in central Baghdad." BBC News reminds, "There were once about 1.5 million Christians in Iraq, but more than two-thirds are believed to have fled since the US-led invasion in 2003. Hundreds of families have also moved to the northern Kurdish region." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) adds that two police officers and two bystanders were injured in the bombing. A number of Iraqi Christians remain in Baghdad though waves of targeting has caused many to leave. The most recent wave was kicked off October 31st with the assault on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad. Jane Arraf (McClatchy Newspapers, Christian Science Monitor) reported Saturday, "At Our Lady of Salvation, where gunmen and suicide bombers killed 52 worshippers and guards last October, the church was tightly locked, guarded by Iraqi police who said the doors would be opened only moments before the Saturday evening mass."

Sally Jawdat (Al Mada) reports from Erbil on Easter in Kurdistan noting KRG President Masoud Barzani, KRG Parliament President Kamal Kirkuki and KRG Prime Minister Barham Salih offered their "congratulations and blessings." Al Mada also reports on Basra and speaks with Saher Ezzat who states that things are better in the KRG but are not what they were and that Christians ("especially women") cannot dress as they normally would. Another offers that Christians suffer the same problems in terms of security and freedom as other Iraqis. Linda Jalil states that Iraqi Christians have left the country in large number due to the lack of safety but that Basra is one of the safest provinces for Christians.
Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan notes War Hawks get on TV while others are cast aside:
I guess I must be a glutton for punishment because I just snapped off CiaNN in frustration and anger for about the 5000th time.
Yesterday, I was treated to Candy ("I never met a warmonger I didn't love") Crowley fairly gushing with bloodlust over her three warmonger, kill Qaddafi, bomb the s**t out of the Libyan people, guests -- Republican Senators: Lindsey Graham (R-Closet); John McCain (R-Mordor) and Joseph Lieberman (R-Tel Aviv {okay, I know that Lieberman is technically an "I," but he out Republicans Ronald Reagan in every instance}). (Wow, even I got lost in that last round of parenthetical statements.)
Anyway -- if one has an insatiable thirst for institutional violence on a massive and very extravagant scale -- like Miss Crowley -- then whom else would you have on your program to talk about the US/British/NATO war crimes in Libya? Certainly not Cindy Sheehan, Cynthia McKinney or Dennis Kucinich? Heck no, if one of us were interviewed on CiaNN, we may actually tell the truth about what's really happening in Libya and the tiny cat's paw of doubt may begin to creep into the minds of the average consumer of CiaNN's "All war, All the time," news-o-tainment.
Lastly Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan and Peace of the Action are among those noting this upcoming event:

For Immediate Release

Cindy Sheehan,
Gregory Vickrey,, 202.487.1201

March, Strike, Occupation Set for Sacramento

Vacaville, Calif. - Citizens and activists of all stripes plan to descend on Sacramento, Calif., May 9, 2011, for a prolonged strike and occupation of State Capitol grounds in response to budget proposals promoted by Governor Jerry Brown and California legislators.

The strike and occupation will follow a march from numerous parts of the state to Sacramento beginning May 1, highlighted by a thematic mass march from San Francisco to the capital led by prominent peace activist Cindy Sheehan, national organization Peace of the Action, Bay Area Code Pink, California Alliance for Retired Americans, Peace & Freedom Party, Veterans for Peace chapters, and several other entities.

To date, the action has been endorsed by more than 20 organizations around the globe representing a variety of fronts, including United Progressives, Canadians for Action on Climate Change, Women's International League for Peace & Freedom, and the Arab American Union Members Council.

Cindy Sheehan states, "The savage austerity measures proposed by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown are an attack on the vulnerable people of this state, and no amount of partisan politicking can hide that fact. Taxes should instead target California's 650,000 millionaire households. Cuts should include moneys the state hands over to the feds for shipping our California National Guard Units to foreign wars of aggression. Since 2001, the illegal wars of occupation have cost Californians almost 150 billion dollars and US military recruiters are still allowed to prey upon our most vulnerable youth on high school and college campuses--save our economy and lives by no longer supporting war!"

The coalition of forces descending on Sacramento May 9 believes there is a better way to approach productive change for California and beyond. Those measures include steps to:

  • Close Corporate Tax Loopholes & Incentives
  • Fully Fund Education & Other Social Programs
  • End State Funding for National Guard Units Leaving California
  • Raise Taxes (Employ Austerity) on California's 650,000 Millionaire Households
  • Employ Massive Prison Reform & Drastically Alter Criminalization Codes
  • Bring Single-Payer Health Care for All to California
  • Mandate and Create a Zero Carbon Economy to Mitigate Climate Change

Bay Area Code Pink activist and march organizer Xan Joi adds, "We will not allow the budget to be 'balanced' by continuing tax breaks for the rich while depriving poor and vulnerable people our basic rights and needs."

Peace of the Action's Gregory Vickrey concludes, "There are meaningful fixes for California's budget crisis. Governor Brown's budget proposal doesn't include a single one."