Saturday, December 21, 2013

Nikita -- 2nd to last episode

Yesterday the second to last episode of Nikita aired.

Next Friday, it will be the last episode.

I don't really know how to write about this episode.

First thing would be Nikita and Michael were living in a fake universe.

It was made clear by the filming which used light in a different way.

Now we know it's fake because we know Amanda's still alive while they think she's dead and they're safe now.

Only Ryan didn't believe.

And Nikita was asked by a senator to be the face of the hero.

Okay, she agreed, but only if they'd do this and that -- like clear all of Division from charges and Ryan wants to meet with the man arrested and . . .

The man arrested was Head Ass -- that's what I've called him.

Amanda's partner.

Remember he was running The Shop.  And he got arrested in episode three (of this season, four).  And he is taken into an interrogation room where dead Amanda is (a double died, not the real Amanda) and handed booze by Amanda.

So Ryan goes there and starts questioning the man while guards are looking through the glass window.  Ryan says he knows Amanda's alive.  And the man blows him off and Ryan says they both know that the man is only there for a little while and then he'll be pulled out and --

Ryan gets injected in the neck.

Okay, when did the man come in the room and did the guards stop watching or are they in on it?

Ryan wakes up strapped to a chair with Amanda explaining she's going to alter his mind.

Ryan gets a hand free (by breaking his hand) and slams Amanda down, frees his hand and runs with a gun but gets shot at.  All bullets gone, he jumps out of a window when Amanda's thrilled that they have him.

He hits a car several stories below and attracts a crowd.

We see his thumb twitch.

Nikita shows up at the hospital.  He whispers to her that Amanda is alive and then he dies.

Nikita tries to get the senator to help her but he says they can't tell anyone.

America needs a hero!!!!

Michael tells Nikita to go along with the senator because they have no way of knowing who's really working for Amanda.

So Nikita makes a call to the only person she can trust to help her.

End of the episode, we find out that it's Alex.  They're going to finish this.

Along the way.

Amanda's new partner or boss.  Is he Nikita's real father?  I have no idea.  But I'm tossing that out there.

Sam and Alex had scenes.  I'm not going through it all.  The gist is there is an attraction on both sides but Alex tells him he needs to find out who Sam is before he can do anything else.

Next Friday?  The last episode of Nikita.

Don't miss it.

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


Friday, December 20, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, today was one year of continuous protests in Iraq, we examine the meaning, we look at what fueled them, we look at 2011's protests and the difference between then and now, today is also one year that Iraq's been without a president, and much more.

Today, protests took place in Iraq.

As Iraqi Spring MC notes above, the people turned out in Falluja.

To appreciate what took place today with regards to the protests, we have to drop back to the wave of protests which took place in 2011.

Back then, the Arab Spring or 'Arab Spring' took hold in places in the Middle East promising populism and freedoms.  Even in areas where the protests weren't put down, little changed.  This week, a young Iraqi woman told BBC News, "I thought the uprising was a brighter future for our Middle East but it turned out to be a huge failure because of other countries meddling in our issues, it became a huge, huge failure for our Middle East I am against these uprisings and I wish it never would have happened in the first place."

Iraq's 2011 protests actually began before the 'Arab Spring.'  What were they protesting in Iraq?

Corruption, the 'disappeared' (Iraqis rounded up and then lost in the maze of what some optimistically call "justice" in Iraq), the lack of jobs and a government that looked pretty much like the one before the 2010 elections -- despite Iraqis turning out to vote and putting Iraqiya in first place.  An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy explained one day's protests as follows:

The main purpose of the demonstrations that took place in many Iraqi cities in Feb 25 was to give the Iraqi officials an idea about the bad reality that we live eight years after what was called liberation. After the collapse of the former regime in 2003, Iraqis were so optimistic about future. We thought that collapsing Saddam's regime was the end of suffering, deprivation but it looks that Iraq moved from the dictatorship of one party to the dictatorship of a group of parties. Both Baath Party and the current Iraqi parties care only about their interests neglecting Iraqis completely. During Saddam's regime, high positions were only for the regime's supporters and now the same thing happen. If you are not a member of the ruling parties or a friend of one of the officials, you can forget about having a decent job even if you have the highest level of education. Professionalism is not the basic criterion in Iraq. It had been ignored more than three decades ago. The basic criterion now days is (which party are you from? )or sometimes (how much money you can pay to get the position?)

The Pacifica Evening News carried a report on the various protests Friday, February 25, 2011:

Mark Mericle: Thousands marched on government buildings and clashed with security forces in cities across Iraq in an outpouring of anger that left 11 people dead -- the largest and most violent anti-government protests in the country since political unrest began spreading in the Arab world weeks ago. The protests, billed as a Day of Rage were fueled over anger by corruption, chronic unemployment and shoddy public services from the Sh'ite dominated government. Shi'ite religious leaders discouraged people from taking part, greatly diminishing the Shi'ite participation. Tarek Bazley reports.

Tarek Bazley: The spirit of protest is very much alive in Iraq despite the capitol and virtual security lockdown, thousands took to the streets. Their day of rage inspired by recent events in North Africa.

Iraqi man: Our demands are to prevent corruption by making laws to prevent it and apply it correctly for the of the Iraqi people.

Tarek Bazley: Soldiers searched protesters trying to enter Liberation Square. They barricaded a bridge leading to the city's so-called Green Zone government area. At one point, protesters threw stones at riot police and forced them back against the wall. In the southern city Basra, around 3,000 also took to the streets to protest against corruption and a lack of basic services. Concrete slabs surrounding the Basra government building were knocked over. Clashes too with riot police in Mosul where provincial government offices were set on fire. Eight years after the US invasion and the fall of Saddam Hussein, there's clear anger on the streets. Development has been slow to come to the country and after recent events in the region there are fears that anger could drive a broader call for change. Tarek Bazley, Aljazeera.

In the face of those protests and with unrest elsewhere in the region and the government of Egypt eventually toppled, Nouri got a little worried.  So what did he do?  He started making promises.

Nouri's words always worthless, that's been established repeatedly. But fearing for his own job, he promised that he would 'abdicate' his 'throne' at the end of his second term and that, if the protesters would just stop protesting, give him 100 days, he would end corruption.  His lies were all about ending the protests.

Let's review some of that.  Dropping back to February 5, 2011:

This week has seen a lot of words but not a lot of action. Words include the announcement that Nouri won't seek a third term. Why does it matter who he said it to?
Announced by who? The Los Angeles Times isn't clear. He said it to Sammy Ketz of AFP in an interview. Ketz reports him stating he won't seek a third term, that 8 years is enough and that he supports a measure to the Constitution limiting prime ministers to two terms.

Of course, he didn't support a measure limiting the office to two terms.  In fact, last August, he was ordering the Baghdad court to nullify a measure that the Parliament passed.  But let's drop back now to February 6, 2011 where we again noted Nouri's claim reported by Sammy Ketz:

That was written yesterday and Nouri couldn't even go 24 hours sticking to his 'promise.' Ben Lando and Munaf Ammar (Wall St. Journal) report that Nouri's spokesperson, Ali al-Mousawi, declared today, "We would like to correct this article. Maliki said, 'I think that the period of eight years is adequate for the application of a successful program to the prime minister, and if he is not successful, he must vacate his place'." Of course he's not announcing that. He's a thug. His previous four year term was an utter failure.

In March (2011), the New York Times' editorial board's "Mr. Maliki's Power Grab" showed more sense than many outlets like the BBC had:

Instead of taking responsibility, Mr. Maliki charged that the protests were organized by "terrorists." He ordered the closing of the offices of two political parties that helped lead the demonstrations.
His only concessions were vows not to seek a third term in 2014 and to cut his pay in half. That was not persuasive, especially given his many recent power grabs. 

Again, Nouri's word is worthless.  He established that repeatedly in his first term and repeatedly in his second.  He cannot be trusted, his word is meaningless.  Now he wants a third term despite his promises.  What about those 100 days?

Dropping back to the June 7, 2011 snapshot:

The 100 days is over.  Al Rafidayn reports Nouri's press conference yesterday in Baghdad found Nouri expressing his hope that "the citizens will treat us kindly in the measuring our accomplishments and that they will be objective." He announced that meetings would take place today on evaluations. New Sabah quotes State Of Law's Khaled al-Asadi stating that Nouri will make assessments through tonight and that the 100 Days was in order to evaluate the performances and that "no sane person would assume a government only four years old could accomplish improvement in one hundred days." Oh,how they try to lower the expectations now. The 100 Days?  Al Jazeera gets it right, "Maliki gave his cabinet a 100-day deadline to improve basic services after a string of anti-government protests across Iraq in February.  He promised to assess their progress at the end of that period, and warned that 'changes will be made' at failing ministries.  That deadline expired on Tuesday -- and Maliki largely retreated from his threat, instead asking for patience and more time to solve problems." Fakhri Karim (Al Mada) observes that the 100 Days has done little to instill strength in the belief that Nouri has the "ability to manage the Cabinet" and the duties of the office of prime minister. Karim notes that Nouri's inability to govern, his failure at it, led to the protests and that they were for the basic services which are "the most basic necessities" of our time. Alsumaria TV notes, "Starting today, meetings will be held in front of the people. Discussions will cover all fields one by one. We will go over three headlines or three ministers. We must realize the framework upon which we will carry on with the second 100 day deadline, Maliki said."

Please, Nouri lied to end the protests.  There was no end of corruption at the end of 100 days.  Just more lies from Nouir.  His assertion of "the second 100 day deadline"?  What a load of crap.  There was never another mention of ending corruption let alone the open hearings and meetings he claimed would take place.

He's just a cheap little thug who will say anything to maintain his hold on power.

During the 100 days most of the protesters stopped protesting.  Some because cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr urged them to stop.

The protests would try to regroup after June 7th.  Some would take part in the protests but it did not reach the level that it had been in February 2011.  There were reasons for that, such as the attacks on the protesters, the assassination  of journalist and activist Hadi al-Mahdi (assassinated on Nouri's orders, I will always believe) and more.  But regardless of the reasons, the protests had lost their momentum.

Today, Iraqi Spring MC reports protests also took place in Ramadi, Samarra, Jalawla, Tikrit, among other places.

And this matters because protests matter.

But it matters also because of what it demonstrates about the Iraqi people.

What I'm offering is my opinion, my analysis.  I can be wrong.  Anyone can be and I'm more often wrong than most people, I'm sure.  But I do know politics and that includes certain signs.

There what the press repeatedly missed.

To establish that, we'll just use one example.   December 30th, Sunni politician and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq tried to grand stand and use a Ramadi protest as a photo op.  That rocks and bottles were tossed at him was shocking to the western press.  Just shocking.  He's so popular!  He's so loved!  The calendar showed 2012 was winding down but the press was living in 2010.  As I noted on December 30th:

Why he was stupid enough to go to a protest is beyond me.  Yes, he is Sunni and, yes, he is in the Iraqiya slate.  But Saleh al-Mutlaq is not popular.  He and Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi (also Sunni and Iraqiya) were both targeted by Nouri in December of 2011.  While Tareq ended up having to leave the country and being convicted of 'terrorism,' Saleh sailed right through.  In May, Nouri dropped his efforts to strip Saleh of his office.
By that point, there had been months of speculation in the Iraqi press that Saleh al-Mutlaq had cut a deal to save his own ass, that he was now in partnership with Nouri al-Maliki.  This seemed to be even more true when Saleh was seen as undermining efforts to get a no-confidence vote against Nouri as spring was winding down.
Saleh al-Mutlaq is seen -- rightly or wrongly -- by Sunni Iraqis as someone who protects himself and does nothing for other Sunnis (whether they're politicians or average citizens).
He went to a Sunni area, Ramadi, where protests had long been taking place and was immediately greeted with a demand that he resign from the Cabinet.  (That would not have taken him out of his MP status.  He just would no longer be a Cabinet member.)  He was appalled by the idea and rejected it outright.
Nouri's first term was notorious for one Cabinet walk out after another.
But Saleh wouldn't even entertain the idea?
You've got provincial councils going on strike but Saleh can't even do a walk out?
Of course they threw rocks and bottles at him.  He was already seen as a sell-out.  And people want to believe that's not the case but then he appears before them and acts like that?  He destroys his own image.
He never should have gone and it's a sign of just how out of touch with Sunni public opinion he is that he did show up.

It wasn't just that they played dumb in their press reports in real time.  It was also that my take above resulted in four members of the press -- one wire service, three US newspaper 'men' (all contacting were men -- they're always so  eager to 'correct' a woman) .  If you ever wanted to be quoted, just note in your e-mail that you want to be named and quoted.

Of course, it's good that you didn't want to be noted.

Salah al-Mutlaq popped up at the protests again.  At the end of March.  Not physically.  It was his image.  People carried his image.  But before you think like the western press -- "Oh, that popular Saleh!" -- take a look at what they carried.

From Karkuk من كركوك

I don't think you need to speak Arabic to grasp what the big red X across his face means.

Three months before, we'd already talked about the realities -- realities the western press denied.

So I can be wrong, I often am wrong.  But I can also be right and I feel right about what I'm going to offer below.

People are fretting that the vote -- if parliamentary elections take place on April 30th -- will be lower than in 2010 and it will be especially lower for Sunnis.  Some western commentators are insisting that Sunnis will stay home.

They're basing on a see-saw that's been present so far.

In the 2005 parlimentary elections, Shi'ites turned out in large numbers while Sunnis -- in significant numbers -- didn't vote.  In 2010, the reverse was true.

Based on that pattern, it is probably safe to predict that the next election will see Sunnis disenchanted and staying home.

But what about the pattern of today?

December 21, 2012, this wave of protests kicked off.  Today, they reached the one year mark.

Iraqis -- largely Sunni, but not just -- carried on a wave of protests for one year -- and counting.  Today, was the one year mark but there's not any announcement that they stopped today.

For one year, they've protested.  Largely Sunnis, protesting in spite of everything.

Nothing has stopped them.

The flooding in Iraq didn't stop them.

The increased violence in Iraq didn't stop them.

Being targeted with threats and violence didn't stop them.

While many western outlets published stories about poor little back stabbing Saleh getting pelted and used that as 'violent protests!,' the same outlets ignored the ongoing violence aimed at the protesters.

Such as?   January 7th, Nouri's forces assaulted four protesters in Mosul,  January 24th,  Nouri's forces sent two protesters (and one reporter) to the hospital,  and March 8th, Nouri's force fired on protesters in Mosul killing three.

All of that and more appeared to be a trial run for what was coming, the April 23rd massacre of a peaceful sit-in in Hawija which resulted from  Nouri's federal forces storming in.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported the death toll rose to 53 dead.  UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

Not even that attack stopped the protests.

And away from the protests?

Protesters and leaders of the protests have been repeatedly targeted.

Ammar Jassam Theyabi

September 25th is just one day when one of them was assassinated and -- like with the assassination of Hadi al-Mahdi in 2011 -- no suspect was ever found -- mainly because Nouri's never had any real investigations because these attacks are carried out by his supporters.  If you want to be generous you can say 'probably not on his orders.'  Above is Ammar Theyabi.  National Iraqi News Agency reported a Ramadi sticky bombing claimed the life of "Ammar Theyabi, one of the organizers of the Anbar protests."  Alsumaria revealed that Ammar was crossing a bridge when the bomb went off.   Iraqi Spring MC states the attack bears the characteristics of one carried out by government intelligence agents.  Ammar is only one of the many killed for protesting.  Even though the Constitution of Iraq guarantees the right to protest, you can be killed for it.

And if you are?

Iraq media may cover it.  But the western press has demonstrated repeatedly in 2013 that they just don't give a damn.

So they probably shouldn't be trying to analyze the Sunni population having ignored them.

The way I see it, my analysis?  Sunnis will be voting if elections are held April 30th.

You don't take part in a year long protest and risk your own safety just to turn around and not vote.

Yes, Sunnis have every reason to be discouraged about the voting process (and that's on Barack Obama who overruled their votes in 2010).  But if you're completely writing off the process, you don't take part in protests.

What you do is you pick up a gun or make a bomb.

Nouri's smeared this wave of protesters as 'terrorists' the same as he did in 2011.

But terrorist don't do sit-ins and don't marches.

Terrorists do not believe that they will be heard.  They have exhausted all political options -- at least in their minds -- and the only thing they feel they can now do is bring down the system with violence.

The massive participation by Sunnis this year in 12 months of continuous protests does not say, "I'm opting out of the political process.  I'll either turn to apathy or violence."

The protesters are still part of the democratic process.

Those who've participated are probably more likely to vote because of their participation.  That's also true of family members of protesters who didn't join the protests.  They know how the government tried to destroy the protesters and, alone with their ballot in April, they can stand with their loved ones.

The year-long protests have been fueled by many things including the disappeared, the lack of public services (potable water, reliable electricity, etc.), corruption, unemployment, the targeting of Sunnis and especially the torture and rape of girls and women in Nouri's prisons and detention centers.

From the December 31st snapshot:

In October, allegations of torture and rape of women held in Iraqi prisons and detention centers began to make the rounds.  In November, the allegations became a bit more and a fistfight broke out in Parliament with an angry State of Law storming out.  By December, Members of Parliament on certain security committees were speaking publicly about the abuses.  Then Nouri declared that anyone talking about this topic was breaking the law. He continued on this tangent for weeks claiming this past week that he would strip MPs of their immunity.  (The Constitution doesn't allow for that.)  Also this past week, it was learned that at least four females were raped in a Baghdad prison.
The outrage here is part of what has fueled the protests.  Alsumaria notes the Ministry of Justice's latest spin Saturday: Only women guards are at these prisons!  Whether that's true or not (most likely it is not) world history demonstrates that when women are imprisoned it's very common for someone to get the 'bright idea' to sell access to these women.  Greed is a strong motivator.  Again, the very claim is doubtful but if there are no men on staff, that doesn't mean men have not been present in the prisons.  It wasn't enough to silence objections or stop the protests.  Sunday,  Al Arabiya noted, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered on Sunday the release of female prisoners, who were arrested for terrorism charges without judicial warrants or because of terror crimes committed by their relatives, to appease to protesters who want to see the scrapping of anti-terrorism measures in the country, a local website reported."

Yesterday Ahmed Muayed (Niqash) reported:

The practice of torture to exact confessions from prisoners remains widespread in Iraq’s justice system. And investigators have apparently been able to practice it with impunity. But now even MPs from the ruling coalition are saying something needs to be done about it.

The 34-year-old began to cry as he spoke about his time in a Baghdad prison. He and his three brothers were arrested in the eastern province of Diyala and brought to Baghdad.
“At times, I was convinced that I was dead and that those who were beating and torturing me were demons from hell,” the man, who wished to be known only as Hamid, told NIQASH. “I was screaming so loud I hallucinated that my voice was heard on the other side of the universe.”
Hamid says part of the torture involved being stripped, hung from a pole, sprayed with cold water from a hose every half hour and beaten.

“They beat us with sticks and without mercy. And they kept repeating that they would take their revenge on us until we confessed to our crimes,” Hamid says.
Various international watch dog organisations agree that torture is still widespread in Iraq’s prisons. Human Rights Watch has released dozens of reports on torture in Iraq. Erin Evers, a Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch, who was in Iraq, interviewing women in prison and officials, lawyers and others about the justice system, says torture in Iraqi prisons is “a systematic act”.

Evers says that the investigating officers rely on it to get confessions and that they get away with it because they are never held accountable for using torture, either by the Ministry of Justice or other authorities.
An Amnesty International report published in March this year, called Iraq: a Decade of Abuses, said that, “thousands of Iraqis are detained without trial or are serving prison sentences imposed after unfair trials, torture remains rife and continues to be committed with impunity.”

Today was the one year anniversary of the start of the ongoing protests.

It was also something else.

Let's play Where's Jalal!

Last December,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17th (see the December 18th snapshot) and resulted in Jalal being admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20th, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.

He has been out of the country for a full year.

He is incapacitated and unable to carry out the duties of his office.

Per the Constitution of Iraq, he should have been replaced as prime minister.

In October, it was reported that he can't speak.

And for those who would argue that 'the vice president is filling in for him!' -- per the Constitution, that's 30 days only.  So the country has no president and the Constitution's not being followed.  Those aren't good signs for Iraq.

Nor is the violence.  National Iraqi News Agency reports 1 person was shot dead outside his Baquba home, and a Falluja attack left 1 person dead and three injured (two were police officers),  All Iraq News adds that 2 Tuz Khurmatu bombings left 6 people dead and twenty-five injured.  Alsumaria explains one of the bombings -- the one that left 5 people dead -- targeted mourners in a cemetery.  Earlier this week, Alsumaria noted that placing bombs in cemeteries had become the "killing technique of the month" and  quoted Salim al-Hiyali ("security expert) stating, "Planting bombs in graves is a new phenomenon that surged in the security scene in Diyala during December after two such incidents took place: the first in a graveyard near Al Wajihiyah (25 km north-east of Baaqubah) leading to the death of about 60 civilians and the second took place near a cemetery in Abu Idris (3 km south of Baaqubah). 30 civilians were injured and died as a result."

Alsumaria reports other violence today includes a Mosul roadside bombing left Col Mohammed Ibrahim and his assistant injured, a Juachik vomving left 2 people dead, 2 people were shot dead in Tal Afar, a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left another injured, 1 taxi driver was shot dead in Mosul, 1 telecom company employee was shot dead in Mosul,  National Iraqi News Agency also reports that a Shirqat attack left 1 Sahwa dead and four police officers injured, a Qayara bombing targeting the home of Nineveh Antiquity Department Director Abdul Aziz Hassan al-Jobouri left 1 child dead and another injured, 1 police officer was shot dead in Shirqat, and a Qayara home invasion left 1 police officer and the officer's mother dead.

Yesterday's violence claimed the life of  Iraqi journalist Muhanad Mohammed and one of his sons. Ammar Karim (AFP) remembers him today in a post which includes:

Muhanad was a dedicated journalist whom I had known for many years, a man who was never afraid of death, who built an extensive network of sources, and who always fought to get the truth and convey it with integrity. He had worked for both foreign and Iraqi media, and was the seventh journalist to be killed in Iraq in less than three months.
On a personal level, he was a true and loyal friend during the difficult situations we passed through, and he would get mad if we didn't stay in touch.

Turning to the US,  Senator Patty Murray's office issued the following:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                               CONTACT: Murray Press Office (202) 224-2834
Thursday, December 19, 2013                                                    Ayotte Press Office (202) 224-3324
MILITARY SEXUAL ASSAULT: Final Defense Bill Includes Murray-Ayotte Reform to Better Protect Victims
Murray-Ayotte provision would provide trained military lawyers to victims of sexual assault in all service branches
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) released the following statements after the United States Senate approved the Fiscal Year 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, which includes their bipartisan legislation to provide victims of sexual assault in all military branches with a Special Victims’ Counsel (SVC) – a trained and certified military lawyer to assist victims throughout the legal process. The defense bill, which passed the Senate by a vote of 84-15, also includes dozens of major reforms to protect and support victims of sexual assault, boost prosecutions, and hold military commanders accountable. 
Today we have taken a major, unprecedented step toward finally eliminating the plague of sexual assault in our nation’s military,” said Senator Murray. “Thanks to the voices of countless victims, the work of thousands of advocates, and the bipartisan cooperation of my colleagues, we have shone a light on an issue that for too long has left so many of our nation’s heroes in the shadows. I’d especially like to thank Senator Ayotte for her partnership as we worked to enact this reform, which truly gets at the heart of effectively addressing the tragic epidemic facing our men and women in uniform. I look forward to President Obama’s signature on this legislation and in the coming months will work closely with Secretary Hagel and the incoming Director of the Department of Defense’s Sexual Assault and Prevention Office, Major General Jeffrey Snow, to ensure swift implementation of our legislation.”
“Providing sexual assault victims with their own military lawyer takes a major step toward empowering victims and making sure they get the guidance they need,” said Senator Ayotte. “The special victims’ counsel provision will help encourage victims to come forward to seek justice, and it will help ensure that perpetrators are held accountable for their crimes. I appreciated the opportunity to work with Senator Murray on this bipartisan measure, which is part of a broad package of reforms to address sexual assault in our military.”
In August, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel directed immediate implementation of several measures to “gain greater consistency of effort and enhance oversight, investigative quality, pretrial investigations and victim support” in cases of military sexual assault. Among other measures, the directive includes implementation of a special victims’ advocacy program to assist sexual assault victims in all branches through the legal process, similar to the legislation introduced by Senators Murray and Ayotte.
Senators Murray and Ayotte have worked for much of the year to advance legislation to prevent sexual assaults in the militaryLast month, Senators Murray and Ayotte  joined a bipartisan group of female Senators on the floor to speak out against sexual assault in the military and call on their colleagues to support some of the historic changes being made to prevent this scourge.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The spying

First up, Friday on The CW, Nikita airs episode 5.  This is the final season and there are only six episodes in the season.  So tomorrow is the next to last episode.  Don't miss it.

Second, Kat's "Kat's Korner: Beyonce -- the fake ass feminist who sells violence against women" is an amazing piece of writing.  Make sure you read it.

Now let's move over to Barack's illegal spying.  Joseph Kishore (WSWS) notes:
A report released Wednesday by the Obama administration’s hand-picked presidential advisory panel on the National Security Agency’s (NSA) spying programs consists of minor reforms intended to preserve and legitimize the government’s illegal operations, while strengthening safeguards against leaks like those from whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The administration’s decision to expedite the public release of the report, which was presented to the president over the weekend, comes in the wake of a US federal court decision earlier this week that referred to one of the principal domestic spying programs as “almost Orwellian.” Judge Richard Leon said that the bulk collection of telephone records of almost all US citizens is an “indiscriminate” and “arbitrary” invasion of privacy rights. The program was initiated under the Bush administration and has been strongly defended by Obama.
While the report is being presented in the media as a call for major constraints on the National Security Agency (NSA), a core recommendation of the advisory panel is that this program should continue, if in a somewhat altered form. It calls for Congress to enact legislation to “end such storage [of telephone records] and transition to a system in which such meta-data is held privately for the government to query when necessary for national security purposes.” This transition should be carried out “as soon as reasonably possible.”
It suggests a “general rule” that any programs involving the government collection and storage of “mass, undigested, non-public personal information about individuals” should be “narrowly tailored to serve an important government interest.”

Did you hear what Russian President Vladimir Putin said about Barack's illegal spying?  RT reports:

"I envy Obama because he can spy on his allies without any consequences," said Putin when asked about how his relations had changed with the US following Snowden’s espionage revelations.

Putin called it.

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

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

Let's start with nonsense.  A Tweet.

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

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

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

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

    He or she asked why Americans were in Iraq?

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

    I'm sorry, what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Peter Hamby (CNN) adds:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    AFP's Ammar Karim did Tweet about the passing:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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