Saturday, April 05, 2014

Raising Hope goes out sucking

After four seasons, Fox's sitcom Raising Hope wrapped up last night with an hour long slot.

It wasn't one episode or even a two part episode, it was two last episodes which goes to the lack of care the ending was given.

The first half-hour revolved around Jimmy and Sabrina having a maid (Sabrina's grandmother's maid who'd been away -- when the grandmother died -- having surgery) and Burt quitting his job since Virginia was making big bucks.  This allowed Burt to figure out his passion which he decided was being a bounty hunter.

This was a funny episode.  Not the best of the season, but it was funny and the big laugh out loud was probably (a) when Hope griped that the maid left crust on her sandwich and turned over the table all her toy dishes were on and (b) Sabrina agreed with Jimmy they were going to have to get rid of her and Jimmy wanted to be sure she meant the maid and not Hope.

Actually, when Virginia, Burt and a bounty hunter ran through the grocery store, it was laugh out loud funny that Maw Maw and Frank were watching Downton Abby and the two were sipping tea and dressed up for the broadcast.

If the show had ended there, it would have been okay.  It was a funny show and all the characters we know and love (except Shelley) got a turn.

But they didn't leave it there.

They did another half hour.

Of something.

Don't know what it was because it wasn't Raising Hope.

Jimmy, the star of the show, was barely in it.  Sabrina even less so.

"That's okay," you're thinking, "it's good to focus on Virginia and Burt."

Yeah, it is, but they weren't the focus either.

Jeffrey Tambor was the focus.

You know the piece of crap actor that should retire or die?

The one who gave a performance in 1979's Three's Company spin-off of The Ropers -- a bad performance that he's given ever since.  The same damn bad performance.

He is so awful and comes off like a pedophile in every part he plays.

What part does he play on Raising Hope?

No one in season one.  No one is season two.  No one in season three.

In one episode of this season, he showed up as Virginia's dead father Arnold.  He wasn't dead.  He was gay.  He explained he left because the whole town of Natesville was so small minded.  Only that's not true.  Barney, approximately the same age as Virginia, points out his two moms raised him at the same time.  The real story?  Arnold's a pompous ass and that's why people hate him.  He's also a world class liar and puts himself first which is why -- in his one episode -- Virginia sends him packing.

The last episode of the show could have brought back Jimmy's cousin (regular in the first season who ran off and joined a cult).  Or maybe brought on Barney's forever mentioned but never seen two moms.  Or addressed Shelley.  Or brought back on Burt's parents (Lee Majors and Shirley Jones).

Instead, the last episode was Arnold.

Pedophile-like Jeffrey Tambor returned to the show even though no one missed him, no one liked him and if he died tomorrow no one would give a damn.

If that's harsh, so is turning the show over to Tambor.

Was it supposed to be a back door pilot.

He's back to have Virginia plan his wedding to Oliver -- and he gets all these jokes (that he bombs at) such as when someone's surprised he's getting married and he denounces the Supreme Court for their decision.

He gets Virginia to agree by promising to pay for Hope's college.

There's all the scenes with Arnold, look, there he is at Howdy's reading Father's Day cards aloud.

Look, there he is explaining his groom is a hip hop harpist.

And guess what?

He lied.

There is no Oliver.

Years and years ago, never seen because it was before the show started, he watched Virginia watch Princess Diana's wedding.  This is all a surprise for Virginia.

And after the vows and after Kenny Loggins shows up to sing the "and even though, we ain't got money" (the only thing that worked in the whole episode), he says he wishes he could give them a honeymoon and Virginia says it'd be nice to stay at his Arizona condo (she doesn't know it's in Arizona), he reveals he sold it for the wedding and, oh, by the way, no money for Hope's college.

And it ends with Arnold moving in to Jimmy's old bedroom at Burt and Virginia's and they all have dinner.

Who gives a f**k about Arnold?

I may actually hate Arnold more than I do Tambor.

I certainly hated this crap ass ending that reduced everyone to extras for Jeffrey Tambor.

Shelley was seen dancing and doing a Kenny Loggins impersonation but she never got one line.

When you have Never Shut Up Tambor in an episode, you have little else, apparently.

This was the worst episode ever of Raising Hope and it sucked because Tambor is someone that makes you sick to your stomach -- that's why TV shows with him always get the axe -- and he was made the star of the final episode of Raising Hope while the entire cast was pushed to the side.

Kenny Loggins?  Briefly, Jimmy flashed back to the first episode of the show when he brought Hope and she wouldn't stop crying and so Burt grabbed the guitar and Virginia sang "Danny's Song" to lull Hope to sleep.  ("Danny's Song" is the Kenny Loggins song that goes, "And even though we ain't got money, I'm so in love with you honey . . . ")

I would have preferred a longer clip of that moment -- I don't know that we even got 20 seconds.

But the last episode sucked.

And it sucked because it wasn't about the characters we knew and loved.

Instead, the last episode was Tambor's Arnold -- a character we'd seen in only one episode before, a character we hated, a character the town hated (they ran him out of town at the end of that episode).

I could have handled the last episode of the show just being funny and not wrapping up anything.

I could not and do not accept that the last episode reduced the cast we loved to extras and became The Jeffrey Tambor Show.

And don't give me any crap about how they wanted 'meaning.'  They could have done that by giving Jimmy's room to Frank.  In fact, they should have done something like Frank learning Shelley is pregnant and Frank's awful home burns down and Burt and Virginia bring Frank and Shelley into the home.  That would have said more about Burt and Virginia who were one of the coolest couples on TV because they clearly loved each other. 

And we didn't get that.  We got it in the bounty hunter episode right before.  But except for a dance, Burt and Virginia spent the bulk of the episode apart.

I really hate the last episode and that was a lousy way to go out.

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

Friday, April 4, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri continues killing civilians in Falluja, the Guardian calls him a 'front runner' because they're so useless, the State Dept -- primarily under Hillary Clinton -- lost billions, the press seems to be unaware that the Hillary-led State Dept stonewalled Congress, Stuart Bowen and others in their bid to be non-transparent about Iraq, and much more.

Will today be remembered as the day Iraq War supporter Hillary Clinton's presidential dreams vanished?


A letter from [PDF format warning] the Office of Inspector General letter might just do the trick.

Fox News noted:

The Office of Inspector General, in a March 20 "management alert" to department leaders, said the department has failed to provide all or some of the files for $6 billion worth of contracts in the last six years.
"The failure to maintain contract files adequately creates significant financial risk and demonstrates a lack of internal control over the Department's contract actions," the memo said.

Adam Kredo (Free Beacon) noted, "The State Department misplaced and lost some $6 billion due to the improper filing of contracts during the past six years, mainly during the tenure of former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, according to a newly released Inspector General report."

But nobody appeared to know what they had.

Let's first note how this plays out in a campaign.  The obvious question is one of competency as in, "Can she handle the presidency when she couldn't even handle the State Dept budget?"

It needs to be noted that Hillary has spent her year-plus since resigning as Secretary of State with only one public goal: To present herself baddest bitch in the whole damn town.

She's screamed for war, compared people to Hitler -- Let's just stop for a moment on that.  How do you become president when you're screaming "Hitler!" at someone?

At any rate, she's attempted to prove just how tough she is -- as if anyone ever doubted she could be cold blooded or ruthless.

And now this comes up.

How is John Kerry better Secretary of State than Hillary Clinton?

There are a lot of variables which go to opinion.  And there are some people who would argue that neither are good in their positions.

But these are appointments, these people are not elected, they are appointed.  Since the American people had no say in the process -- despite paying their salaries -- it is especially important that they do their jobs and do the jobs professionally.  In a democracy, you're supposed to have an open government.

Does Hillary grasp that?

John Kerry did.

Let's drop back to the April 17, 2013 snapshot, where we reported on that day's House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing:

Chair Ed Royce:  I'd also like to call your attention to the State Department's Inspector General's Office.  This is the key independent office looking at waste and fraud.  Mr. Secretary, as of today, there has been no permanent State Department Inspector General for over five years.  This includes President Obama's entire first term.   The Committee raised this issue in a bi-partisan letter sent to you in February and we would like to see an immediate appointment to this position.

Secretary John Kerry:  On the IG, you're absolutely correct.  We're -- we're trying to fill a number of positions right now, the IG among them.  The greatest difficulty that I'm finding now that I'm on the other side of the fence is frankly the vetting process.  And I've got some folks that I selected way back in February when I first came in and it's now April and I'm still waiting for the vetting to move.  I've talked to the White House.  They're totally on board.  They're trying to get it moved.  So I hope that within a very short span of time, you're going to see these slots filled.  They need to be.  And that's just the bottom line.  It's important and I commit to you, we will.

Chair Ed Royce:  I think this is the longest gap that we've had in the history of this position.  So if you could talk to the President about this in short order, we would very much appreciate it. 

Secretary John Kerry:  I don't need to talk to the President, we're going to get this done.  We know it and we're trying to get the right people.  Matching person to task and also clearing all the other hurdles, as I am finding, is not as easy as one always thinks.  But we'll get it done.  

Kerry kept his word.  As Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) reported yesterday, "The warning was the second 'management alert' in State Department history, both issued by new Inspector General Steve Linick. Linick took over the job in late September, after it had been vacant for nearly six years."

For Hillary's entire four years as Secretary of State, she didn't feel she need to be accountable.  She wasn't about to 'subject' herself to oversight.

She proved to be hostile to it.

It's this sort of thing that made many hate her -- yes, hate -- as First Lady.  She thought she could do whatever she wanted with, for example, health care and do it away from the public eye and from any oversight.  She had the chance, as Secretary of State, to embrace democracy and she chose not to.

$6 billion is unaccounted for and that's largely from her four years.

John Kerry only had to be asked once publicly by Congress about the IG.  And he didn't have to puzzle it.  He didn't have to take the question for the record.  He immediately agreed that an IG was necessary and that there would be someone appointed to that position and that they were already working on it.

But for her entire four year term as Secretary of State, Hillary avoided oversight, she subverted democracy and, in the process, she appears to be unable to account for billions of US taxpayer dollars.

That doesn't say "presidential."  And it means "Travelgate" and all the other scandals or 'scandals' (I didn't think there was anything there beneath the smoke) come back to haunt her.  Secretary of State was supposed to be the prestige position that propelled Hillary to a new level but that didn't happen.

A comment on DeYoung's article is confusing:

7:11 AM CST
Once again paying the price for the corrupted GOP refusing to approve needed vital personnel to protect us from the vast network of fraud establish under W went he rented out our government functions to his highest campaign contributors. W belongs in a cage at The Hague.

Is Sleeve stating that the money that's missing/unaccounted for from 2008 to present is Republicans' fault?

If so, is Sleeve saying ("refusing to approve needed vital personnel") that the Republicans in the Senate must have blocked a nomination for the State Dept IG?

If that's what's Sleeve's saying, Sleeve is wrong.

There was no nominee.

And Republicans in Congress joined with Democrats in raising the issue in public letters to the White House and Republicans in the House tended to raise this issue repeatedly.

December 7, 2011 we reported on the House Oversight and Government Reform's National Security Subcommittee hearing.

Subcommittee Chair Jason Chaffetz:  Before recognizing Ranking Member [John] Tierney, I'd like to note that the Defense Dept, State Dept, USAID and SIGAR will not have IGs in January.  In May of this year, I wrote the President asking him to move without delay to appoint replacements.  That letter was signed by Senators [Joe] Lieberman, [Susan] Collins, [Claire] McCaskill and [Rob] Portman, as well as [House Oversight Committee] Chairman [Darrell] Issa and Ranking Member [Elijah] Cummings and Ranking Member Tierney.  I'd like to place a copy of htis record into the record.  Without objection, so ordered.  To my knowledge, the President has yet to nominate any of these replacements, nor has he responded to this letter.  I find that totally unacceptable.  This is a massive, massive effort.  It's going to take some leadership from the White House.  These jobs cannot and will not be done if the president fails to make these appointments.  Upon taking office, President Obama promised that his administration would be "the most open and transparent in history." You cannot achieve transparency without inspectors general.  Again, I urge President Obama and the Senate to nominate and confirm inspectors general to fill these vacancies  and without delay.

So don't blame Republicans or Democrats in Congress for what Hillary did as Secretary of State.  Let's note
Speical Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen from that same hearing:

SIGIR Stuart Bowen:  First, I am concerned about maintaining SIGIR's ability to get the information we need to complete ongoing audits and investigations and to continue to provide the kind of comprehensive Quarterly Report coverage that the Congress has come to expect from us. The State Department recently instituted a new bureaucratic process, requiring the channeling of information that we request from the Embassy through Foggy Bottom offices.  This process inevitably will cause delays, impede our capacity to deal directly with the individuals in Iraq responsible for providing the necessary data, and thus reduce our  responsiveness. Symptomatic of this bureaucratic development, one of my investigators, working jointly with the FBI on a criminal case, recently was refused information by the State Department regarding a potential subject (who is a State employee). State directed my investigator to use the "audit process" to obtain this investigative information. Worse, he was challenged as to whether the information, which he had requested in good faith, was even related to "reconstruction funding." This development is just the latest quandary in a predicament-filled year, during which the State Department has repeatedly raised fallacious objections to varying SIGIR requests. I thank the Chairman and Ranking Member -- and the full Committee's leadership -- for their steadfast support of our oversight mission; but these recent issues underscore  the reality of the continuing oversight challenges that confront us. 

Attending hearings on Iraq and what the State Dept was doing there was very frustrating and not just for me watching the interaction but for members of Congress.  As we have noted repeatedly since the State Dept took over the US mission in Iraq in October of 2011,  they did so with no transparency.  They attempted to circumvent Stuart Bowen and his office (which is no more today even though the State Dept continues to have a budget of approximately a billion each year just on Iraq) and they refused to inform his office or the Congress what they were doing.

How bad was it?

For one example, let's drop back to the December 1, 2011 snapshot which covered the November 30th hearing of the  House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East ans South Asia.  The State Dept was represented by Brooke Darby.

US House Rep Gerald Connolly: Madame Deputy Assistant Secretary, welcome. Is it your testimony here today that the State Dept is fully committed to transparency and accountability with respect to any and all programs it has oversight and responsibility for in Iraq?

Brooke Darby: We take our responsibility for accountability and cooperation with all of the  audit entities, with Congress very, very seriously.

US House Rep Gerald Connolly: No, ma'am, that was not my question.  Is it your testimony that you're fully committed to transparency and accountability with respect to those responsibilities?

Brooke Darby: We are absolutely committed to accountability.

US House Rep Gerald Connolly: Full accountability?  Full transparency and accountability?
Brooke Darby:  I'm not sure -- I'm not sure how you define that so . . .

US House Rep Gerald Connolly:  Well I guess I'm not sure why you avoid the word.  That was my question and you've ducked it three times.  Are we or are we not, is the State Dept committed to full transparency and accountability to the tax payers in the United States and the people who served in Iraq or not?

Brooke Darby:  We absolutely are accountable to the tax payers, to our Congress and to all of the oversight bodies who are looking into how we are spending our dollars, whether our programs are achieving success.  We are absolutely --

US House Rep Gerald Connolly:  Alright. I'll sort of take that as a commitment. 

This was characteristic of Hillary's tenure as Secretary of State.  The Congress was unable to get answers -- especially ahead of the transfer of Iraq from a DoD-led mission to a State Dept-led one and in all the time that followed that transfer.

Six billion is unaccounted for.  And the bulk of it is from Hillary's term as Secretary of State.  She came in with no IG and she demanded no IG.  She served four years without any check or oversight.  And she and her people stonewalled Congress and any body or official attempting to provide oversight.

The missing money is a mark against her and against what she tries to pass off as "leadership."  No oversight, no accountability, that's not leadership in a democracy.

The issue was raised at today's State Dept press briefing:

QUESTION: Marie, do you have any comment on the OIG report that was made public today on the $6 billion?

MS. HARF: I do. Just give me one second. Well, reports that there is a $6 billion that can’t be accounted for are grossly inaccurate. The OIG’s report noted that there were a number of incomplete files for our contracts and that these contracts’ cumulative value was about 6 billion. As highlighted in our response to the OIG, this is an issue of which the Department is aware and is taking steps to remedy. It’s not an accounting issue. I think it’s more like a bureaucratic issue. But it’s not that we’ve lost $6 billion, basically.
On March 20th, our new Inspector General did issue a management alert on contract file management deficiencies. The Bureau of Administration responded with a plan to address their three recommendation. Those are all posted on the IG’s web page now.

QUESTION: So how much money can you not account for if it’s not 6 billion?

MS. HARF: I have no idea.

QUESTION: But whatever amount it is, it’s --

MS. HARF: I think we try to account for all of our money.

QUESTION: But it’s way less than 6 billion? I mean, you said it was grossly inflated.

MS. HARF: Grossly inaccurate. Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Okay. So do – you must have --

QUESTION: What’s a rounded-up figure --

MS. HARF: I’m not – no --

QUESTION: You must have an estimate of what it is if you have an understanding --

MS. HARF: It’s my understanding that it’s not an accounting issue. It’s not that we can’t account for money. So I don’t – I’m not sure that there’s any money that we can’t account for.

QUESTION: So how is it grossly inaccurate, then?

MS. HARF: Because it’s not that there’s $6 billion we can’t account for. They said there were incomplete files --


MS. HARF: -- and that the files were – their cumulative value for those contracts was about $6 billion. So it’s a filing issue. It’s not a “we lost money” issue.

QUESTION: So you’re sure that you know where all that money is even though you acknowledge that the files are not complete?

MS. HARF: I – that’s my understanding, yes. But again, all of this is posted on the IG’s website in much more detail.


MS. HARF: I don’t have the $6 billion.

QUESTION: Yeah. I mean, I just – (laughter) – it sounds like it may be more of a distinction without a difference, saying it’s an accounting error, like maybe --

MS. HARF: No, because the notion that we can’t find $6 billion, right, would mean that it’s an accounting issue, that somehow we lost money that – you can understand why when people hear that they think that it means we’ve lost $6 billion. That’s my understanding that that’s not the case.

QUESTION: Yes, please. I mean, regarding this IG issue, it’s like every other day something is coming out of --

MS. HARF: IG’s been very busy, apparently.

QUESTION: Yeah. I mean, because there was no IG before, no five years.

MS. HARF: We have a new IG, yep.

QUESTION: Yeah, it came on September. Yeah. I mean, I’m trying to figure out – I mean, when he’s like – when you say grossly and inaccurate, does he presenting these things with information or just like a number?

MS. HARF: Yeah. So the way the IG works in general – and I don’t have the details about their methodology here – is they are independent and they undertake independent reviews, some I understand that are done just routinely, some I think are in response to people submitting things to them. And in general, after the IG does a draft report they submit it to either the post overseas or the office here or the bureau that deals with it so they can have a chance to review it and comment on it and to begin implementing recommendations, if there are any that they think are helpful. So there’s a process here. Then they eventually release the final report that sometimes takes into account comments, sometimes they disagree. We have a variety of ways to respond.

QUESTION: The reason I am asking because these things are related more about overseas activities and contracts. Does the State Department officially – when you say grossly inaccurate, are you going to say what is accurate?

MS. HARF: Yes. And as I said, our response and the entire report is up on the IG’s website. I’m happy to dig into it a little bit more. But yes, we do. I mean, that’s why we give responses and they’re published.

I don't know that State Dept spokesperson Marie Harf should have treated the issue so lightly.

It's really not a good public visual for the State Dept to be seen by the public as yucking it up over missing money.

That said, it's Hillary's problem.  The money can be accounted for tomorrow, it doesn't matter now.  It's underscored the failures of her leadership and the damage done by her refusing the oversight that is supposed to come with the job in a democracy.

Again, it's Hillary's problem and Marie Harf's not part of Hillary's crew so she doesn't have to worry but it still doesn't create a good visual for the public when the State Dept spokesperson appears to have 'fun' with the topic of billions of missing taxpayer dollars.

Turning to the state of Illinois where the lower house of the state legislature has House Joint-Resolution 68 supported by the following:

Rep. David Harris - Jack D. Franks - Lou Lang - Mike Bost - Scott Drury, Jerry F. Costello, II, Barbara Wheeler and Elaine Nekritz

Rep David Harris proposed the bill:

Synopsis As Introduced
Urges the United States Department of State to rescind its decision to transfer artifacts seized from Iraq's Jewish community by Saddam Hussein's regime back to the Iraqi government.

House Committee Amendment No. 1
Replaces everything after the heading with similar language. States the proper name of the collection of artifacts held by the Iraqi government. Adds language concerning resolutions passed by the United States House of Representatives and Senate regarding the artifacts and their return to Iraq. Urges the United States Department of State to renegotiate with the Government of Iraq the provisions of the original agreement in order to ensure that the Iraqi Jewish Archive collection be kept in a location accessible to scholars, Iraqi Jews, and their descendants where its long-term preservation and care can be guaranteed.

November 13th, the State Dept's Brett McGurk appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa.  We'll note Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen explaining the archives from that hearing.

Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen:  And finally, a letter to Secretary Kerry regarding the return of Iraqi-Jewish community artifacts that are now on display at The National Archives.  In 2003, US and coalition forces found a  trove of Iraqi-Jewish cultural artifacts being warehoused in the basement of Saddam Hussein's secret police headquarters.  And the US subsequently brought them here, to The National Archives, for restoration, preservation and display; however, these artifacts are scheduled to be returned to Iraq where the government will claim possession of these artifacts which were unjustly taken from the Iraqi-Jewish community.  The US government must not return those stolen treasures to the Iraqi government but instead should facilitate their return to their rightful owners or descendants.  Therefore, on behalf of me, Congressman Steve Israel and over 40 of our House colleagues, we ask you, Deputy Secretary McGurk, to personally deliver this letter to Secretary Kerry and the Dept of State ensures that the Iraqi-Jewish community does not get robbed again of its collective memory and treasures. 

The White House intends to hand the archives over to the Iraqi government in June.  As that moment looms ever closer, others, such as Illinois state Rep David Harris, step forward to make a case for the artifacts to be returned to their rightful owners.   Mara Ruff (Jewish United Fund) reports:

Rep. Harris feels strongly on this issue, both on a personal and professional level.
"Having served in Iraq for 14 months, I was concerned about what would happen to the artifacts if they were returned to the Iraqi government," he said. "The decision to return them should be renegotiated so that the artifacts are returned to the original Jewish owners, if possible, and if that is not possible, then returned to the Jewish community where they would be respected and preserved."
With this resolution, Harris hopes the Illinois General Assembly's support will help influence the appropriate government authorities to reconsider and keep the Iraqi Jewish Archives in a location that is accessible to scholars and Iraqi Jews around the world.

Handing the collection over to Nouri's government is nonsense.  This is the property of Iraqi Jews.  Rebecca Shimoni Stoil (Times of Israel) explains, "The archive is a collection of Jewish religious items and documents which were seized from Iraq’s persecuted Jewish community in the 1970s and 1980s, under Saddam Hussein’s regime. It contains more than 2,700 books, dating back as early as the 16th century."  Stolen property is not returned to the thieves, it's returned to the rightful owners.  Add in that Nouri's Iraq has run off all but a handful of Jews and there's no reason in the world -- certainly no legal or ethical reason -- for the artifacts to be handed over to the Iraqi government.

There's also the issue of Nouri's hatred of Israel.  Nouri was first installed by the US government in May of 2006.  Two months later, July 25, 2006, US Senators Dick Curbin, Harry Reid and Charles Schumer were calling Nouri out in a letter for the anti-Israel remarks he was making.  Six years later, in July of 2012, Al Arabiya reported, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Saturday that Baghdad does not discriminate against countries but said he rejected forming any ties with Israel."

Nouri refused to protect the Jewish community in Iraq.  He's also refused to protect the Christian community in Iraq which is why so many have become external and internal refugees.  Alex Newman (The New American) observed last December, " Before the U.S. government imposed so-called “democracy” on Iraq, estimates suggested there were as many as 1.5 million Christians throughout the diverse country. They had survived centuries of invasions, persecution, and more — but in many respects, the community was still thriving. Today, experts and Christian leaders suggest the number of Christians still in Iraq is somewhere closer to 200,000. Many of those would leave if they could."

The internal Christian refugees have largely migrated north.  The October 31, 2010 attack on Baghdad's Our Lady of Salvation Church led many Baghdad Christians to flee.  That wasn't the only or even the last attack on Baghdad's Christian community but it was an attack that shocked many.  When Iraqis flee for safety, they don't sell the home first.  So homes are left abandoned.

AFP reports today that "gangs claiming ties to powerful militias" are grabbing the empty homes in Baghdad and that the owners are left with little recourse:

The US State Department said in its 2013 human rights report that "delays and corruption prevented the (Iraqi) government from effectively adjudicating property restitution claims".
It added, citing local human rights NGOs, that "the government's inability to resolve claims disproportionately affected Christian communities".

KRG President Massoud Barzani has increased his international profile, for over a year now we've noted there's a good chance he will become the next president of Iraq.  Shafaq News reports an expected -- not surprising -- development, "President of the Iraqi National Congress , Ahmed al-Chalabi announced his support for the candidacy of Kurdistan Region's President , Massoud Barzani as the president of Iraq , considering him as a 'good' president."

On the topic of the next President of Iraq, Alsumaria reports State of Law is having a hissy fit.  MP Haider al-Abadi was sent out to denounce the suggesting that Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi should be president.  al-Abadi fumes this is a conspiracy.  Tareq remains Vice President and remains outside of Iraq due to Nouri's efforts to have Tareq sentenced to death.

That's the next president.  Where's the current one?  December 2012,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17, 2012 following Jalal's argument with Iraq's prime minister and chief thug Nouri al-Maliki (see the December 18, 2012 snapshot).  Jalal was admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20, 2012, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany all this time later.

Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) reports that the Sadr bloc has expressed fear that Nouri may attempt to declare a state of emergency and dissolve the Parliament with Jalal out of the country still to avoid losing the election.  Should that happen, not only will Jalal and his family be the subject of scorn and hostility but the PUK will suffer as well -- this after they already went from leading party in the Kurdistan Regional Government to coming in third -- behind Barzani's KDP and the newly emergent Goran.

Moving over to the wimpy Guardian newspaper out of England.  They wanted everyone to stand up for them against the British government but the cowards don't stand up for themselves.  Nouri al-Maliki sued them over reporting and won.  The verdict was reversed on appeal.  Since then, the newspaper's Iraq reporting has been a joke and reporters for the paper, like Martin Chulov, have done better work in radio interviews than they've been allowed to do at the paper.

And that's why the paper offers crap like this:

Date: 30 April
No of voters: 18 million
Frontrunner: Nuri al-Maliki
Free and fair factor: 2
Biggest anxiety: full-scale insurgency, spilling over from Syria, makes security parlous across much of the west of the country
What it means for the world: country that cost so many lives appears to be backsliding towards autocracy and instability, rendering democracy almost irrelevant. Would further carnage trigger an American re-engagement?

How's Nouri the front runner?  Based on 2013 parliamentary elections?  I thought the press told us that was bad news for Nouri?

Based on his popularity now?

Nope, he's more unpopular than ever.

Because Shi'ites want to coalesce around him?  Motada al-Sadr, just this week, again declared Nouri shouldn't seek a third term.  Wednesday,  Al Arabiya News reported:

Iraq’s Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr urged Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Wednesday not to run for a third term, accusing him of terrorizing Sunnis so that they don’t go to the polls in the upcoming April 30 general election.
“I advise brother Maliki… brother Maliki thinks he served Iraq, let him rest for four years, and see if whoever comes next would serve better… if not let him come back after four years, it is not a problem,” Sadr told reporters in Najaf, 60 kilometres south of Baghdad.

The Shiite leader, who had announced his withdrawal from active politics, accused Maliki’s government of “building a dictatorship” by excluding candidates from the parliamentary elections.

And today Al Arabia News reports:

Editor-in-chief of Al-Mada newspaper, Adnan Hussain, told Al Arabiya News that Ahrar “is entering the upcoming elections with strength.” He expects the Sadrists to keep their 40 parliament seats, particularly since Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, whom Sadr has described as a “dictator,” is in a shaky position.
“Maliki didn’t achieve anything in the past four years. On the contrary, the situation in Iraq has deteriorated,” said Hussain.
Baghdad-based TV commentator Ahmad Al-Abyadh said he expects Ahrar to at least consolidate its position or win about 45 seats in the upcoming elections.

The Guardian's nonsense has been highlighted by Alsumaria as 'news' that Nouri is expected to win.

There's no reason to declare a Nouri a front runner.  There's no factual basis for the claim.

Nouri is responsible for more deaths today.  NINA notes the military's continued shelling of residential neighborhoods in Falluja -- this happens every day, this bombing -- has left 6 civilians dead and nine more injured.  But the Guardian won't report that, they're too damn busy cowering in fear.

Margaret Griffis ( counts 102 people dead from yesterday's violence with another sixty-two injured.  Today?  National Iraqi News Agency reports a Rashad roadside bombing left 1 Iraqi soldier dead and two more injured, a security source tells NINA 6 suspects were killed today in Subaihat, Joint Operations Command announced they killed 15 suspects in Anbar, a Husseiniya roadside bombing left 1 person dead and six more injured, a Ramadi battle left 3 police members and 3 rebels dead (with three more police members left injured), and, late last night, a bombing in Sindej left 1 police member dead and nine more injured.

Moving to the US, Unforgettable returns to CBS tonight for its third season. Marilu Henner is a consultant on the show.  Actress Marilu is also an author and activist and Sunday she's a guest on Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox where she and Cindy will discuss health and genetically modified foods.

Turning to the Fort Hood shooting. Eleanor Goldberg (Huffington Post) sums it up,  "On Wednesday afternoon, Ivan Lopez, 34, opened fire at Fort Hood in Texas, killing three and injuring 16 before turning the gun on himself. The violence was particularly disheartening because Fort Hood was the site of the worst mass killing at an American military installation, which left 13 people dead and more than 30 injured in 2009."  Will Weissert and Danica Coto (AP) report, "On Friday, authorities formally identified the dead as 39-year-old Daniel Ferguson, of Mulberry, Fla.; 38-year-old Carlos Lazaney-Rodriguez, of Puerto Rico; and 37-year-old Timothy Owens, of Effingham, Ill."  Al Jazeera's The Stream speaks with Iraq War veteran Michael Prysner.  Excerpt.

Are the problems at Fort Hood unique or is it just a difference in scale?

Prysner: The scale is different because the base is so large. The crisis in mental health treatment is endemic to the entire military. Other bases, such as Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Fort Carson, Fort Bliss, have come in the media spotlight after soldiers have helped expose treatment on base. 
It’s important to note that this suicide epidemic and crisis in mental health care is no secret. For many years, the shocking rate of suicides, mass PTSD diagnoses and scandals around mistreatment have been made blatantly obvious to the Pentagon and Washington. They respond to media pressure by just giving speeches about “supporting troops” and “caring for veterans.” 
The fact is that this has been a real emergency situation for so, so long. Our “leaders” have made very clear that they are either unwilling or incapable of taking any meaningful action to address this horrific crisis facing our community.

the washington post
karen deyoung

al arabiya news