Saturday, February 01, 2014

Unemployment and Justin Bieber's raunchy photo

 I'm going to weigh in on Justin Beiber.  But before we get to the candy, let's have our vegetables.  Patrick Martin (WSWS) reports:

The heavily publicized meeting between President Obama and several hundred corporate CEOs and other business leaders will do little or nothing to alleviate long-term unemployment. Those out of work for six months or more, the nominal beneficiaries of the effort, are only slightly more likely to get a job thanks to the Obama administration than they are to be struck by lightning.
The token character of the effort promoted by Obama in his State of the Union address and then at the White House meeting Friday is demonstrated by the disparity between the vast social need and the miniscule resources pledged by Obama and Corporate America.
There are some 4 million workers who have been out of work for six months or longer, according to official statistics, which do not count millions more who have dropped out of the workforce entirely for lack of any real prospect of getting a decent-paying job.
According to the Fact Sheet distributed by the White House in conjunction with Friday’s summit meeting with CEOs, the initiatives backed by Obama include the following:
* The National Fund for Workforce Solutions, to award $2.5 million in grants, to be matched dollar-for-dollar by local communities, for a total of $5 million, or $1.25 for each long-term unemployed worker.
* Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, a local venture devised by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and JPMorgan Chase, with a $600,000 grant from the megabank (approximately 15 minutes worth of profits), aiming to provide job placement services for an additional 120 workers in 2014.
* Per Scholas, a job training program in the Washington DC area to serve 80 workers this year, and 1,000 total by 2020.
* Platform 2 Employment, a program backed by the Walmart Foundation, which has “already placed 203 long-term unemployed into work experience opportunities” (including unpaid internships and other highly exploitative arrangements).
* PowerPathway, a workforce development program run by the California-based utility giant PG&E, which “will provide 48 individuals with resumé building and interview skills, technical training, education and other transferrable skills that can be used to help obtain a job”—in other words, this handful of workers will get job training, but not an actual job.
These efforts will provide at most a few hundred jobs for the millions of long-term unemployed. To call such efforts a drop in the bucket would be to exaggerate their significance.

Barack's so full of it, isn't he?

So is a certain pop star.  

January 24th, in response to a few e-mails, Kat wrote about why she's not interested in the current crises of teeny bopper Justin Bieber.  She noted:

His 'posse'? I'm sure I'm not the only one who assumes they're pumping Justin. He seems like your typical closet case having a panic that others will guess he's gay. If he comes out of the closet, I might have something of interest to write about but he has nothing to offer me now but boredom.

I thought about that today with the new picture.

Waring, DO NOT CLICK HERE IF YOU ARE AT WORK, THERE IS NUDITY, the picture is of Justin and one of his posse -- I think it's Dancer, but it could be Prancer -- are sucking/biting the nipples of a stripper.

The stripper holds her left breast up to Justin's mouth, Dancer holds the right breast with both of his hands.  Justin and Dancer are facing each other.

And licking/sucking/biting the stripper's nipples.

So why do they have their eyes closed.  Both of the guys -- Justin and Dancer.


If I'm going to suck a woman's nipple in public, I think I'm going to be looking at this incredible breast that has so captured me.

It's like, the photo, the two are closeted gay men who think/hope this photo op will dispel rumors.

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

Friday, January 31, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri's assault on Anbar continues, the White House tries to charm the KRG into giving Nouri his way, Nouri's forces appear to have a Sunni man on fire today, Secretary of State John Kerry's friend -- now being paid by taxpayers -- really wasn't suited for the job Kerry gave him, and much more.

Tweet of the Day:

There’s a lot of killing in Darfur. On the other hand, it isn't a fraction of the dead in Iraq, let's say, and it isn't even a tiny fraction

On a day when even Iraq's ministries have to admit over 1,000 violent deaths this month of January, let's start with thoughts and opinions.  Dave Johnson (Seeing The Forrest) notes there's still no publicly provided answer from the US government to the question: "So why DID we invade iraq, anyway"?

No answer given, just silence, and the hope that, at some point, everyone will just forget.

Thursday on All Things Considered (NPR -- link is audio and text). host Robert Siegel spoke with professor Imad Shaheen and NPR's  Michele Kelemen and Deborah Amos about the Middle East.  Siegel used the segment to work in comments from an interview he did with Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq.  And presumably, we're supposed to overlook the fact that an interview was conducted and a segment not provided to showcase the interview -- and overlook that this week, the 'news' program, made time for segments on how to fix "beefy butternut squash chili," luge stories, Superbowl stories, Superbowl related stories, "funny video" stories, "a new look at George Eliot," movie reviews, book reviews, music reviews and a woman who spays animals.  Due to all of that and so much more, All Things Considered didn't have time to air an interview with Saleh al-Mutlaq who met with US President Barack Obama this month.  Below we'll excerpt the opinions of al-Mutlaq that made the broadcast segment.

SIEGEL: And some players in the region see something else receding: American power and American influence. For example, in Iraq, the deputy prime minister, Saleh al-Mutlaq, a Sunni Muslim, says the U.S. should've done more to create a government that Sunnis could trust. He told me Washington should have and could have.

SALEH AL-MUTLAQ: America is America. America is the biggest and most important country in the world. If they are really serious in trying to enforce reconstruction(ph) of the country, they will be able to do that.

[. . .]

SIEGEL: Now, you mentioned the Iraqis. I want to play something that Saleh al-Mutlaq, the Iraqi deputy prime minister, told me. He is a Sunni Muslim from Anbar Province and I put it to him that President Obama's harshest critics say that the U.S. is not just leaving behind a void that Iran might be filling, but that the U.S. is about to tilt to Tehran, become friendly with Iran.
And here's what the Iraqi deputy prime minister said.

AL-MUTLAQ: Well, I mean this is the question of everybody in the region, that something is happening which is strange, that from all that conflict between Iran and America and after America has given the region, especially Iraq, to the Iranian, now they are getting on in dialogue in order to improve their relation. And this is not only my concern. It's the concern of everybody in the region. And it's the worry of everybody in the region, because if you strengthen Iran to that extent, then Iran is going to be the policeman of the region.

SIEGEL: You feel that Iraq has been handed over to Iran.

SALEH EL-MUTLAQ: Definitely.

Tuesday, January14th,  Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq spoke in DC at the US Institute of Peace.  We noted it in that day's snapshot. MP Nada al-Juburi was part of the delegation from Iraq and we noted some of her remarks at the Institute of Peace in the January 16th snapshot.  Joel Wing (Musings On Iraq) has posted the video of her discussion with MP Ezzat al-Shebander that the Institute of Peace's  Sarhanq Hamasaeed moderated.

Senator Joe Biden, in the years before becoming US Vice President, advocated that Iraq be a federation.  James Kitfeld (National Journal) argues today

Biden, then a senator, championed a more federal system explicitly allowed by the Iraqi constitution (at the insistence of the Kurds), devolving power from the central government in Baghdad to the provinces. Although Biden denied it at the time, his proposal would almost certainly have led to the de facto soft partition of Iraq into three autonomous regions dominated by Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds. A similar approach in the 1990s patched together Bosnia out of the detritus of the Balkans civil war between Serbs, Croats, and Muslims. In a 2007 op-ed, Biden warned, "If the United States can't put this federalism idea on track, we will have no chance for a political settlement in Iraq and, without that, no chance for leaving Iraq without leaving chaos behind."

He was ahead of his time. "Biden got it dead right, and I still think transitioning to a federal power-sharing arrangement is the only way to stop the killing and hold Iraq together," says Leslie Gelb, former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, who wrote the op-ed with Biden.

No, Joe Biden didn't get it right -- dead right or otherwise -- because Joe Biden is an American citizen.  It is not for him, or any other American, to determine what sort of nation-state or country Iraq should be.   Self-determination is not a passing fancy, it's a cornerstone of democracy.

He was more than welcome to float the idea to the Iraqi people but he had no right to impose it.  The Senate agreed with that which is why his proposal never found traction there but was instead repeatedly rejected.  Had the US split Iraq into three regions, the issue would have been "The US destroyed our country further by breaking us apart in a Balkanization scheme."  Though Biden did popularize the idea, he can't claim credit for it nor even just credit for applying it to Iraq.  War Hawk Edward P. Joseph teamed with Brookings' Michael O'Hanlon to promote the idea in 2007.  But they were basing it on the proposal of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Which would bring us back to Leslie Gelb, wouldn't it?  Gelb backed the Iraq War -- and did so, he said, "to retain political and professional credibility."  I don't know how much "professional credibility" there is in applauding someone for promoting your idea when you refuse to acknowledge that it was your idea.  But I do know it's unethical.  

I also know that if the Iraqi people had decided to split their country into a federation, it might have worked and it might not have.  In other words, I know that Geld lacks the gift of premonition.

He supports the split so he thinks it would work.  That doesn't mean it would work.

Since he's not an Iraqi, his continued obsession with a concept that Iraq refused to entertain is a bit of waste of time.
There's been a lot of deceit, stupidity and silence since media attention in the west returned to Iraq.  Not a lot of bravery, however.  Few have stepped up to the plate to offer anything of real value -- especially as Nouri al-Maliki's assault on Anbar is one War Crime after another.  What happened to all the voices that spoke out when Bully Boy Bush was in offie?  One of them speaks loudly today.   Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark shares (at Pravda):

However, the US and UK are seemingly remarkably selective when it comes to tyrants who "kill their own people", and not only have failed to censure their tyrannical Iraqi puppet, Nuri al-Maliki, but are arming him to the teeth with the same weapons which are linked to the horrific birth defects, and cancers throughout Iraq, which he is now using on "his own people." Moreover, if allegations from very well informed sources that he holds an Iranian passport are correct, to say that US-UK's despot of choice appears in a whole new political light would be to massively understate.To facilitate Al-Maliki's assault on Iraq's citizens, the US "rushed" seventy five Hellfire missiles to Baghdad in mid-December. On 23rd January Iraq requested a further five hundred Hellfires, costing $82 million - small change compared to the $14 Billion in weapons provided by America since 2005.The AGM-114R Hellfire II, nauseatingly named "Romeo", clocked in at: $94,000 each - in 2012. Such spending on weaponry in a country where electricity, clean water, education and health services have all but collapsed since the fall of Saddam Hussein.
Last week an "American cargo jet loaded with weapons" including 2,400 rockets to arm Iraqi attack helicopters also arrived in Baghdad.(iii)
This week a contract was agreed to sell a further twenty four AH-64E attack helicopters to Iraq "along with spare parts and maintenance, in a massive $6.2 Billion deal." With them comes the reinvasion of Iraq, with: "hundreds of Americans" to be shipped out "to oversee the training and fielding of equipment", some are "US government employees", read military, plus a plethora of "contractors", read mercenaries. (iv)
According to Jane's Defence Weekly, on November 15th 2013 Iraq also took delivery of: " its first shipment of highly advanced Mi-35 attack helicopters as part of a $4.3 Billion arms purchase from Russia", of an order of: "about 40 Mi-35 and 40 Mi-28 Havoc attack helicopters." 
The all to "attack his own people" in the guise of defeating "Al Qaida" in Anbar province and elsewhere where the people have been peacefully protesting a near one man regime of torture, sectarianism, kangaroo courts which sentence victims who have also had confessions extracted under torture.

Along with being a former US Attorney General (and the son of a Supreme Court justice), Clark founded the International Action Center.  Ramsey Clark used his voice to call out the Iraq War, even before it started.  It's a shame so many others can't find their voices. CORRECTION: My apologies to Felicity Aruthnot.  She wrote the article I wrongly credited to Ramsey Clark.  Pravada's byline isn't clear (use the link), I was reading her piece at Dissident Voice this morning -- 2-1-2014 -- and the byline is very clear.  My apologies to her and we'll note this in Monday's Iraq snapshot. 

The State Dept has continued to ignore Iraq.  Which really just makes people wonder where Jonathan Winer is?  Remember last September when State Dept spokesperson Marie Harf declared, "The State Department has appointed a Senior Advisor for MEK Resettlement, Jonathan Winer, to oversee our efforts to help resettle the residents of Camp Hurriya to safe, permanent, and secure locations outside of Iraq, in addition to those countries, such as Albania, that have admirably assisted the United Nations in this important humanitarian mission."

The US taxpayers are paying Winer's salary.  At what point does he start giving reports on his progress or lack of it?

Maybe at the same time that the press starts why a lobbyist got this post to begin with?

Does he have special language skills?


Does Winer have a history of working on problems like these?

In recent years, he's been a lobbyist for APCO Worldwide and Alston & Bird.

During the Clinton administration, he was in the State Dept.  From 1994 to 2000, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Law Enforcement.  While that is State Dept experience, it's really not experience that's going to help resettle the Ashraf community.  

And it's not just me who notices that he lacks the skills for this posting, he apparently does at well.

Expert field of competence:
AML/CFT policy, legal regimes, regulation, design, assessment, compliance, remediation.

(AML/CFT is Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism.)

Anyone see anything there about refugees or resettling?


Because he has no experience.  

So why was he picked?

Oh, that's right -- because of who he knows.  From 1985 to 1994, he was Senator John Kerry's chief legal counsel.  Well it's good that John's able to find employment for his friends but at what point does the American people see results for the salary they're paying Jonathan Winer?

But what's Winer's salary -- even if he's unable to produce results -- when you compare it to all the other US tax dollars the US government can't account for?

  • $6.6 billion of U.S. taxpayers' money earmarked for Iraq reconstruction has been lost, stolen or 'misplaced'.

  • Dropping back to  Tuesday's snapshot:

    Turning to the topic of the Ashraf community,  Iraq's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued the following today:

     The Cabinet approved today January 28, 2014 on Iraq's contribution with the amount of half a million dollars to a trust fund proposed by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on October 23, 2014 to cover costs related to transporting the residents of Camp Liberty (formerly known as Ashraf) to a third country.
    Iraq fulfilled its international and humanitarian obligations to transport Ashraf residents to Camp Liberty, waiting for the implementation of international commitments to resettle the Camp Liberty residents outside Iraq.
    The government's decision reaffirms its position on the need to resettle the residents of Camp Liberty in third countries outside Iraq according to the commitments and understandings between Iraq and the United Nations.

    Why has the State Dept had nothing to say about this?  Since the western press hasn't reported on it, it's possible the State Dept doesn't know about it.  But when you've appointed someone to be over this issue for the State Dept and they're taking taxpayer dollars for this job, there's need to be a little more visibility.

    Especially when nasty rumors are swirling that Jonathan Winer's not doing any work but is using the post to enrich his pockets outside the government.

    While the State Dept is silent on all things Iraq, the US Embassy in Baghdad issued the following yesterday:

    U.S. Embassy Baghdad
    Office of the Spokesman
    For Immediate Release
    The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad strongly condemns the January 30 terrorist attack in Baghdad on Iraq’s Ministry of Transportation.  We extend our sincere condolences to the families of the victims and hope for a rapid recovery for those who were injured.
    The United States stands with the Iraqi people and will continue its robust support of the Government of Iraq in its fight against terrorism.

    AFP reports that the Iraqi ministries released their figure for January death tolls today (apparently before the day was over) and they found 1,013 people had died in violence.  The move resulted in this Tweet from Jon Williams.

  • endures bloodiest month since April 2008. Ministries of health, interior & defence say 1013 dead in January, including 795 civilians.

  • Press TV offers this breakdown, "According to the figures, compiled by the ministries of health, interior and defense and released on Friday, 1,013 people were killed in January, including 795 civilians, 122 soldiers and 96 policemen."

    Historically, the ministries -- two of which remain headless and controlled by Nouri (Ministry of Defnese and Ministry of Interior) -- have provided an undercount.  Iraq Body Count hasn't yet posted their toll for January.  Jason Ditz notes's count is 1,840.  Ditz also notes that Iraq's toll is 1,202.

    B-b-but, it says 1,013 above!!!!!  AFP says so!!!!  Press TV says so!!!!

    They lie, they whore.  What are we supposed to say here but the obvious?

    Jason Ditz reveals that 1,013 is one number but the Iraqi government also noted 189 "militants" were killed for a total of 1,202.

    Prashant Rao is really acting like Piss Ant Rao -- Mike's name for him.

    How many violent deaths?


    When Nouri's forces announce they've killed "terrorists" -- usually in the midst of mass arrests -- we don't call them "terrorists."  We call them "suspects" because that's what they are.  There was no judicial finding.  How dare AFP leave out the group the Iraqi government calls "militants."

    I hope we all get that Nelson Mandela was a "militant" and a "terrorist" in the eyes of the now disgraced South African government.

    AFP acts like a tool of the Iraqi government and not like a news outlet.

    1,202 deaths from violence is what the Iraqi government announced -- but AFP couldn't report that, could they.

    Good for Jason Ditz for catching that.  We'll return to the death toll for January in Monday's snapshot when we'll have two other outlets to note.

    Despite the huge death toll and the increased violence,  Iraqi Spring MC notes protests took place today in Samarra, Tikrit, RawaAnbar and, below, in Baiji.

    الجمعة الموحدة في قضاء بيجي بمحافظة صلاح الدين .

    Since December 21, 2012, protests have been ongoing in Iraq. Nouri's earlier efforts to stop the protests haven't stopped them.  His threats, his attacks, none of it has worked.  Now if he'd actually listened to the grievances and addressed those?  Things might be a lot different right now.

    This week, the Center for Strategic & International Studies published a report by Anthony H. Cordesman and Sam Khazi entitled [PDF format warning] "Iraq in Crisis."

    It's a lenghthy report with a lot of important passages.  But let's focus on the protests.  The report notes:

    Maliki's increasing repression and centralization of power over the course of 2010 - 2013 fueled the growth of Al Qaeda and other Sunni extremist movements in spite of what appeared to be Al Qaida's defeat in fighting from 2005 to 2008. The US military reported in July 2010 there were only approximately 200 "hard core" fighters left. 


    At the same time, AQI/ISIS increased its presence in Anbar in Western Iraq, and made use o f its new facilities in Syria. It evidently did reach out to Sunni tribal leaders in the West, and fighters in the Sons of Iraq. It also formed cadres of trained fighters that had trucks with heavy machine guns and mortars, gaining a level of armed mobility it not demonstrated in combat even during the peak fighting in 2005 -- 2008. 
    It was these shifts that allowed it to invade Fallujah and Ramadi in late December 2013, and exploit the power vacuum Maliki left when he removed the army as a result of popular anger against is use against Sunni protest camps. Maliki effectively empowered AQI/ISIS by arresting Ahmed al-Alwani and killing his brother on December 28, 2013, and by using a large-scale military operation to shut down the large anti- government protest camp near Ramadi two days later. Many of the Sunni tribes then mobilized their fighters, and the resulting fighting that persuaded Maliki to withdraw the army from Anbar’s cities and to try to rely on a weak and corrupt Iraqi police force. As a result, Al Qaeda was able to occupy key parts of Fallujah and Ramadi a force of some 75 to 100 armed trucks and less than 1000 fighters

    At some point, the White House is going to have to start seriously confronting Nouri al-Maliki.

    For the record, acting as Nouri tough-guy to get Nouri's way on the oil?  That's not standing up to Nouri.  That's cowering before the tyrant.

    And the White House did that again today.

    The White House
    Office of the Vice President

    Readout of Vice President Biden's Call with President of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani

    Vice President Biden spoke today with President of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani. The Vice President emphasized the importance of the relationship between the United States and the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, and stressed the United States’ commitment to strengthening its partnership with Iraq. The Vice President and President Barzani both confirmed the need for close cooperation between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Iraqi government to reach agreement on a way forward on the matter of energy exports and revenue sharing. The Vice President and President Barzani are committed to supporting efforts to confront the ongoing challenge of terrorism in Iraq.

    It's a shame that they have more concern over pleasing Nouri than they do over the safety of the Iraqi citizens.  Sunnis took to the streets to protest over a year ago for serious reasons.  The issues are numerous.  Layla Anwar (An Arab Woman Blues) has summed up the primary issues motivating the protesters as follows:

    - End of Sectarian Shia rule
    - the re-writing of the Iraqi constitution (drafted by the Americans and Iranians)
    - the end to arbitrary killings and detention, rape and torture of all detainees on basis of sect alone and their release
    - the end of discriminatory policies in employment, education, etc based on sect
    - the provision of government services to all
    - the end of corruption
    - no division between Shias and Sunnis, a one Islam for all Iraqi Muslims and a one Iraq for all Iraqis.

    Iraqi prime minister and chief thug Nouri al-Maliki's assault on Anbar Province continues and is, in part, his effort to stop the ongoing protests -- the Constitutionally protected ongoing protests.

    His assault has been a 'success' -- he's lost parts of Baghdad, he's lost Falluja and Ramadi, he's seen two government ministries attacked in Baghdad, over 1062 people killed this month, Nouri's forces arrested police elements in Ramadi who refused to take arms against the rebels,  Euronews notes "reports from rebel media sources in Fallujah claim that an army barracks south of the city was captured and razed to the ground earlier this week." and now an attack on Baghdad International.

    National Iraqi News Agency reports three rockets attacked the airport today.   Arab News points out, "Air traffic was not disrupted, but the ability of militants to strike such a site is likely to heighten concerns about the vulnerability of Iraq’s vital infrastructure as security deteriorates across the country."

    Nouri's assault on Anbar has only demonstrated (a) how weak security actually is and (b) how inept Nouri is.

     Al Arabiya News reports the Iraqi military announced they'd killed 40 suspects in Falluja this week.  In some of the other violence, National Iraqi News Agency reports 3 corpses were discovered "dumped in a river near Alsabtiya bridge northeast of Baquba today," a Mosul armed attack left 1 Iraqi soldier dead, and a home invasion in Badush left 1 woman dead.

    Nouri's assault is a long string of War Crimes.  From Geneva International Centre for Justice's "Stop al-Maliki brutality against civilians" (BRussells Tribunal):

    On behalf of a coalition of NGOs Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) has sent an urgent appeal to the International community and UN bodies following its appeal from 13 January 2014 in view of the horribly deteriorating human rights situation and the continuous brutal attacks against civilians in the province of al-Anbar/ Iraq.
    Since 22 December 2013, an operation led by Iraqi government forces is under way in the al-Anbar province, which, although initially under the pretext to combat terrorists hiding in the desert, quickly turned into a full scale military attack against residential areas with  heavy artillery, tanks and air force. Residential neighbourhoods came under shelling; hospitals and schools were damaged, over hundred civilians killed so far and even injured fired upon.

    Symbolic for the atrocities committed by the army was a video published on several Iraqi satellite TVs on 22 January 2014, showing how al-Maliki forces drag the dead body of a young Tribesman by tying his leg to a military vehicle. 
    Until this day government forces are surrounding the cities in the province of al-Anbar, the biggest of them Ramadi, Fallujah, Karma and Khalidiya, cutting of all vital supplies. This happens under the pretext that these cities have been infiltrated by Al-Qaeda, although the citizens themselves have repeatedly and clearly refuted such claims. Countless people have already fled in fear of the government forces, who are known for their indiscriminate brutality against civilians. The international community must immediately call for a halt of this highly disproportionate use of force.

    On YouTube video has surfaced of Nouri's forces today . . . next to a man being burned alive.  Did they set the Sunni male on fire?  It appears they're not concerned with putting out the fire so it's fair to conclude they started it.   It's the sort of government cruelty that's led Iraqis to protest in the first place.

    jason ditz


    Friday, January 31, 2014

    Elementary and illegal spying

    I'll get to Elementary in a second but since I've been blogging about NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden all week, let me start with that.  Bill Boyarsky (Truth Dig) notes the following of Barack's State of the Union address:

    Edward Snowden was not one of the honored guests at the State of the Union speech Tuesday night. But the whistle-blower’s presence was felt, at least to a small degree.
    The National Security Agency’s spying, revealed by Snowden, occupied just a small part of President Barack Obama’s speech. Most of it was feel-good stuff. Except for his defense of Obamacare and support of a higher minimum wage, only the most coldhearted Republican could object to what he said. Who could find fault with persuading businesses to hire the long-term unemployed? Or who could not want to “work together to close those loopholes, end those incentives to ship jobs overseas, and lower tax rates for businesses that create jobs right here at home”?
    So it was noteworthy, if not remarkable, that Snowden, facing federal charges for giving journalists classified defense and intelligence information about NSA spying, managed to corner the president into considering the spying issue.
    If Snowden had not acted, it’s improbable that Obama would have said, “Working with this Congress, I will reform our surveillance programs—because the vital work of our intelligence community depends on public confidence, here and abroad, that the privacy of ordinary people is not being violated.”

    Barack never would have said a word about the illegal spying.

    He's stayed silent all the time he could.  Only Ed Snowden's revelations forced Barack to finally fess up.

    And he did so still lying.

    He's never been honest.

    Ed Snowden has and Ed deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.

    Elementary stars Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu and airs Thursdays on CBS.  This was a new episode.  A rock turns out to be valuable. False DNA is at the crime scene.  Holmes and Watson sort it out.

    Before that happens, we spend time with Randy, a man Sherlock sponsors in AA.  Randy's got a new girlfriend.  She's a drug user.  Sherlock finally loses it on the matter and explains to Randy he has to dump the woman or he's going to lose his sobriety. 

    Randy blows off Sherlock.  He sleeps with the woman and they do drugs.  He regrets it, dumps her and goes to an AA meeting with Sherlock.

    At the end of the episode, Sherlock also manages to admit that they couldn't have solved the case without Watson's help -- admit it to Watson.

    Other thing we learned?

    Sherlock's into erotica.  One of the people they get to help them on the case is a woman he exchanges erotic letters with.

    I wish I had more but I was tired tonight and sort of out of it.  Sorry. 

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

    Thursday, January 30, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, over 1000 violent deaths since the start of Nouri's assault on Anbar, two government ministries are attacked in Baghdad, Americans agree the Iraq War produced no measurable success, and much more.

    Pew's Richard Wilke Tweets on one of Pew's latest poll:

  • The Pew-USA Today poll is covered by Susan Page (USA Today).  Her breakdown includes, "On Iraq, Americans by 52%-37% say the United States mostly failed to achieve its goals. That is a decidedly more negative view than in November 2011, when U.S. combat troops withdrew. Then, by 56%-33%, those surveyed said the U.S. had mostly succeeded."  It was an illegal war and it was an unpopular war.  Public opinion turned on it firmly in the summer of 2005.  That is also when Cindy Sheehan staged her first Camp Casey outside Bully Boy Bush's Crawford, Texas ranchette.  Camp Casey was named after Cindy's son Casey who died serving in Iraq.

    Cindy's currently running for governor of California:

    Peace and Freedom Party of Los Angeles presents:
    Cindy Sheehan
    Candidate for California Governor 2014
    Also featuring:
    Poet Matt Sedillo   & Hip Hop artist Wil B

    Friday, January 31, 2014   6:00pm-9:00pm
    Peace Center West,  3916 Sepulveda Blvd
    Culver City, CA, 90230

    $10 Suggested Donation – no one turned away for lack of funds
    Reception, Meet and Greet the Candidate, Light Refreshments

    The illegal war accomplished little -- if anything -- worth praising.  AFP notes, "Violence has killed at least 917 people in Iraq this month, more than three times the toll for January 2013, according to an AFP tally based on reports from security and medical officials."  AFP's Prashant Rao Tweets:

  • Good for AFP for keeping their count but the gold-standard of non-governmental figures isn't AFP.
    Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 1037 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month.  That leaves today's numbers and Friday's number before a final count for the month.

    Nouri al-Maliki's assault on Anbar Province didn't stop the violence.

    UPI insists, "Iraqi forces regained control of parts of two cities overrun by militants aligned with al-Qaida after intense fighting that's killed 850, officials said."  But to support that claim, all UPI offers is control of al-Nasaf ("on the western outskirts of Fallujah").  I'm sorry, is that considered good?

    Because when the assault started at the end of December, militias controlled no parts of Iraq.

    Since he started his assault, Nouri's lost territory.  Even if he regains it, he lost it to begin with.

    And that includes Baghdad, as Ann pointed out last night:

    Press TV reports, "Officials say Iraqi forces have retaken control of key areas in west Baghdad from militants amid a deadly standoff between militants and security forces."
    And note that the Baghdad areas were not "taken" until after Nouri started his assault on Anbar Province.
    Nouri al-Maliki is a crook and tyrant but, even worse, he's a jinx.
    Everything he does backfires.

    Baghdad -- where not one but two ministries were attacked today.  Jason Ditz ( points out, "But despite those modest gains, the city of Fallujah remains more or less entirely under AQI control, as well as much of Ramadi. The rest of the Anbar Province is largely in open revolt, with Sunni tribal leaders opposed to the Maliki government’s heavy-handed treatment of them."

    Today's violence?   National Iraqi News Agency reports  a bomb in the garage of Baghdad's Transport Ministry left 1 police member dead and "others injured," 2 assailants blew themselves up in the garage and then others tried to enter the Ministry and six were killed, 2 police members were killed and seven more were injured.  Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) reports on the attack on the Ministry of Transportation.   al-Salhy reports 24 deaths -- four were bombers who took their own lives, 2  were bombers who were shot dead, the other 18 were presumably security forces (though the report doesn't state that).  al-Salhy also notes 50 were injured.
    Tang Danlu (Xinhua) reports, "Gunmen stormed an office of Iraq's Human Rights Ministry in the capital of Baghdad on Thursday and seized a number of officials, a police source said.  The attack occurred before noon when eight gunmen broke into the office in al-Qanat area after a clash with the guards and took unknown number of officials as hostages, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity."  The garage is the Transport Ministry.  The other aspect of the attack is thought to be all the Human Rights Ministry.  The two are next door to one another.  Both were attacked today.

    That's what prime minister of Iraq and chief thug Nouri has brought with his assault on Anbar, violence everywhere.

    And he's also brought this:

    احد الجرحى الذين اصيبوا اليوم بسبب القصف المتعمد من قبل مليشيات المالكي التي تستهدف الاحياء السكنية في ،

    That's one of Nouri's victims today --  injured by his forces shelling Falluja.  NINA reports that hospitals have received 141 civilians have been killed in Ramadi and Falluja alone this month with another 509 injured and:  "He added that this can not be considered as final number because there are dead and wounded in areas which could not be moved to the hospital."  Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 1037 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month.  It's doubtful many counts will include the 141 civilians killed by the bombings and shellings from Nouri's forces.  NINA also notes military shelling left 3 civilians dead in Ramadi with eight more injured.

    Nouri al-Maliki is a War Criminal and collective punishment is a War Crime.  Daoud Kuttab (Crimes Of War) explains:

    Under the 1949 Geneva Conventions, collective punishments are a war crime. Article 33 of the Fourth Convention states: “No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed,” and “collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.” Israel, however, does not accept that the Fourth Geneva Convention or the Additional Protocols apply to the West Bank de jure, but says it abides by the humanitarian provisions without specifying what the humanitarian provisions are.
    By collective punishment, the drafters of the Geneva Conventions had in mind the reprisal killings of World Wars I and II. In the First World War, Germans executed Belgian villagers in mass retribution for resistance activity. In World War II, Nazis carried out a form of collective punishment to suppress resistance. Entire villages or towns or districts were held responsible for any resistance activity that took place there. The conventions, to counter this, reiterated the principle of individual responsibility. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Commentary to the conventions states that parties to a conflict often would resxort to “intimidatory measures to terrorize the population” in hopes of preventing hostile acts, but such practices “strike at guilty and innocent alike. They are opposed to all principles based on humanity and justice.”
    The law of armed conflict applies similar protections to an internal conflict. Common Article 3 of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 requires fair trials for all individuals before punishments; and Additional Protocol II of 1977 explicitly forbids collective punishment.

    Nouri's assault of Anbar was supposed to (a) deal with 'terrorists,' (b) be a swift operation and (c) demonstrate Nouri's skill.

    In fact, (a) it's left many civilians dead, injured and homeless (over 150,000 people have fled their homes -- they better not try to flee to Baghdad since the military is preventing anyone entering Baghdad from Anbar), (b) it started the last week of December and it's ongoing with no clear end in sight and (c) he lost control of Falluja, Ramadi, other parts of Anbar and also of Baghdad.


    The assault on Anbar has actually demonstrated that Nouri has no problem targeting civilians, that he utilizes collective punishment (an international recognized War Crime), that he's inept as well as criminal.

    Today's violence?

    National Iraqi News Agency reports a Sooq Shallal of Alshaab area car bombing killed 1 Iraqi soldier and left nine people injured, an armed attack in Kirkuk left 2 Asayish (Kurdish security force) dead, an armed attack in Buhriz left 2 police members injured, an eastern Baghdad (al-Talbiyah area) roadside bombing left five people injuredBabylon's Chief of Police, Hamza Atiya, survived a Hilla assassination attempt which left two of his bodyguards injured, a Kasra car bombing (Morocco Street) left 2 people dead and nine more injured, the Ministry of the Interior announces the Iraqi Air Force bombings in Anbar today killed 27 people,  and security forces boast they killed 24 suspects today on a highway in Anbar Province.

    Nouri's making promises in order to get a peaceful conclusion to the violence he initiated.  The answer, Nouri feels, is largely getting Sahwa to control Anbar.   Sahwa in Anbar are Sunni fighters.  Loveday Morris (Washington Post via Arizona Star) reports:

    To bring them on board, al-Maliki has recently said there is no limit on arming and equipping tribal fighters. Government spokesman Ali al-Moussawi said the Iraqi Cabinet has approved $3.4 million for tribesmen and more than $17 million for infrastructure projects in Anbar. “We are supplying them with more weapons and whatever they need,” he said. 
    But promises to incorporate fighters from the Awakening into the state security forces failed to materialize after the U.S. withdrawal. Facing cuts in salaries and threats from the al-Qaida militants they had fought, numbers dwindled to fewer than half the more than 100,000 men who made up the movement at its peak.

    The Sahwa are Iraqis (largely Sunni -- but not just Sunni according to then-Gen David Petraeus' testimony to Congress in April 2008) who were paid to stop attacking the US military and their equipment.  April 8, 2008, Senator Barbara Boxer noted they were being paid $182 million a year by US tax payers.  Nouri was supposed to pay them, he was supposed to integrate them -- mainly into the security forces but to find government jobs for those not integrated into the security forces.  The US government continued to pay a large number of Sahwas through 2010 as a result of Nouri's repeated refusals to pay the Sahwa.  In addition to failing to find them jobs and failing to pay them, Nouri also began issuing arrest warrants for various Sahwa members and leaders.

    And now he wants to be their friend and they just may be stupid to fall for that.  But the reality is Nouri needs them right now so he will promise them anything.  The thing about Nouri's promises though, they never seem to stick.  His word is worthless.  If pattern holds, he'll use the Sahwa to get some form of resolution to the crisis he kicked off and then he'll kick them to the curb.

    Mustafa Habib (Middle East Online) offers:

    The Iraqi government is facing not just one serious crisis but several. In less than a month the way that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has reacted to various disputes in the country has unleashed a series of crises. He has passed a national budget that is unacceptable to many including the Iraqi Kurdish and Iraqi oil producers, he has angered the heads of a number of provinces and sparked violent clashes in Sunni Muslim provinces by dispersing demonstrations in Anbar.
    To many, it seems that al-Maliki believes that the best way to respond to these crises is just to create another.
    “The 'creation of crises' really is the best description of the political situation in Iraq over the past four years,” Ninawa's governor, Sunni Muslim politician Atheel al-Nujaifi, told NIQASH. “It's brought the country to the brink of civil war more than once. I believe that the Iraqi people cannot cope with any more crises – especially because there really is no clear strategy for the future that might give them even a little hope.”

    Yes, that does describe Nouri, lurching from one crisis to another.  He lacks leadership skills as well as intelligence.  Remember the attack on Anbar is really an attack on protesters.   Al Arabiya News observes:

    Protests broke out in Sunni Arab-majority areas of Iraq in late 2012 after the arrest of guards of then-finance minister Rafa al-Essawi, an influential Sunni Arab politician, on terrorism charges.
    The arrests were seen by Iraqi Sunnis as yet another example of the Shiite-led government targeting one of their leaders.

    But the demonstrations have tapped into deeper grievances, with Sunnis saying they are both marginalized by the Shiite-led government and unfairly targeted with heavy-handed tactics by security forces.

    AFP notes, "It is likely to raise fresh concerns about the capabilities of Iraq’s security forces amid fears the April 30 general elections could be partially delayed, as was the case for provincial elections in April 2013."  Yes, AFP, we have repeatedly noted that here for weeks now.  Thanks for finally picking up on it.  Prashant Rao re-Tweets his boy-pal today letting the whole world laugh at him and AFP.  Those late to the party can refer to "A crackpot runs AFP, Al Jazeera and the Christian Science Monitor" -- about how 'analyst' Reider Visser's half-baked analysis influenced Prashant Rao and Jane Arraf thereby making their calls as wrong as Visser's calls -- and while we'd long noted Visser didn't know what he was talking back, it wasn't until that moment that we realized Vissar had sanity issues -- he posted about how he was being followed around the world, and disrupted in libraries, and the FBI was posing as the State Dept and so much more.

    Today, Prashant re-Tweets Reidar Visser's latest 'analysis.'  Let's see how Visser does.

    First thing to note, the slots are being discussed, not candidates.

    The list of candidates will once again be vetted by the Justice and Accountability Commission -- a body that was supposed to have done work in 2005 and then vanished.  But Nouri used them in 2010 to kick out opponents.

    Reider offers the following on slots.

    Nouri's State of Law: 277
    cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr's Sadr bloc: 214
    Ibraiahm al-Jaafari's Islah: 205
    Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq's Ammar al-Hakim's Muwatin: 273
    Ayad Allawi's Wataniyya (formerly Iraqiya): 239
    Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq's Arab Iraqiya: 255
    Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi's Mutahhidun: 259

    Main thing to note, Ayad Allawi's far from the political death so many have insisted.

    Let's move over to stolen artifacts.  Yair Rosenberg Tweets:
  • Annals of chutzpah: Iraq seeks return of Jewish archive that it stole from the Jews. My latest in :

  • The Jewish archive is a trove of Jewish artifacts which were stolen by the Iraqi government under Saddam Hussein.  Since the 2003 invasion all but a handful of Iraqi Jews have either left the country or been killed. This didn't happen overnight.  The current government did nothing to protect the Jewish population but thinks they have a right to the Jewish possessions. The White House insists that the archive must be returned due to a contract with the Iraqi government.  Stolen property can never be contractually negotiated.  You can only enter a legal contract over property with someone who is the rightful owner.  Yesterday, Ruth noted the Orthodox Union's press release on the issue:

    For Immediate Release                                                           Contact:
    January 29, 2014                                                                    Roslyn Singer, 212-613-8227

    The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations (OU), the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, commends Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) for introducing Senate Resolution 333, strongly recommending the United States renegotiate the return of the Iraqi Jewish Archive to Iraq. The OU also recognizes Senators Schumer, Kirk, Cardin, Rubio, Roberts, Kaine, Boxer and Menendez for their co-sponsorship and support for this important Senate Resolution.
    The Iraqi Jewish Archive is a trove of Jewish holy books and communal documents rescued from the flooded basement of Iraq’s intelligence building during the United States’ led ousting of Saddam Hussein in 2003.  The Archive, documenting 2,600 years of a Jewish Iraqi history, contains more than 2,700 books and other Jewish artifacts seized from oppressed Iraqi Jews and their institutions by the Hussein regime during the 1970s and 1980s. Sent to Washington, D.C., for restoration and now on display at the Smithsonian Institute, the Archive is scheduled to be returned to Iraq in June 2014 if no immediate action is taken to change the terms of the initial agreement with the Iraqi government.
    Nathan Diament, Executive Director for Public Policy for the Orthodox Union voiced his personal concern: “Due to the oppressive nature of Saddam Hussein’s regime, a once thriving Iraqi Jewish community of more than 150,000 people was reduced to no more than 60 persons by the time United States and coalition forces arrived in Bagdad in 2003. While the Hussein regime is no longer in power, these restored works documenting the Iraqi Jewish community, rightfully belong to that community now living in diaspora around the world, not the oppressive country from which they fled.
    The Orthodox Union thanks Senators Toomey and Blumenthal for their leadership and urges the Senate to pass this resolution in a timely manner.”

    Yair Rosenberg (Tablet magazine) ends his article on the issue as follows:

    Today, there is almost no one left in Iraq to appreciate the Torah scrolls fragments, kabbalistic works, and other rare gems found in the collection. But outside Iraq, there is a thriving Iraqi Jewish community in Israel and abroad. These descendants deserve to have their possessions returned to them, or at least made readily accessible, not put on display in a Baghdad museum where no Israeli can safely visit.
    What happened to the members of Iraq’s venerable Jewish community was a tragedy of profound proportions. Let’s not compound it by abandoning the best historical witness to the lives they led, the treasures they kept, and the world they lost.