Saturday, November 17, 2012

Fringe through the looking glass and . . .

Saturday.  And I'm having huge blogger problems, sorry. 


Usually I write about Nikita.  There was no new episode last night.  Nikita returns November 30th.  It'll be the first hour of prime time on the CW.   On Thursdays, I plan to include that image above or a similar one when Nikita has a new Friday episode as a reminder.

So I also cover Fringe.  But since Fox is a prick, I cover one week behind.  Fox makes you subscribe to Dish or cable or be HuluPlus or whatever.  (I fit two of those.  Many readers don't.  So I cover based on online streaming available to all date.)

"Through The Looking Glass And What We Found There" is the title of the episode (or something like that).

The big news is Peter with Watcher implant.  He's watching Emma in a recorded message (projected like a holigram) at the start of the episode when Olivia finds him.  They head to the lab where Astrid explains Walter's missing.

We've already seen Walter watching a tape telling him how to achieve another.  He goes to the apartment complex.  As he passes through the neighborhood someone or something scans him because on the screen we see type that says he's a fugitive and wanted.

So Walter goes to the complex and sees a mean old woman in the video only she's older and has a mechanical eye.  He heads up to the fourth floor which she tells him has been red-tagged for years. 

The staircase has been destroyed but Walter makes it up there.  He goes in the room and does a glorified Hokey Pokey with the last step leading him into a new dimension.

There's a man there and Walter thinks he might be or know Donald -- a man who was helping Walter.  Nope, it's Cecil.  He was robbing an apartment and was blown into the pocket dimension.   It's been 20 years but to Cecil only 5 days because time goes very slow in the portal.

So Astrid, Peter and Olivia arrive.  They get upstairs.  Peter and Olivia do the Hokey Pokey and end up on the other side with Astrid left as guard.

Looking out the window, Astrid sees the Watchers and the Loyalists swarming the neighborhood.  She's hoping the gang hurries up.

Olivia discovers the tape continues playing -- the one Walter watched before going in -- once you're in the portal.

She tells Walter.  Walter and Donald brought a boy, an empath, into the portal and locked him in a room.  Walter told him he would be in there briefly and they would come to get him.  It's the bald boy that was in the sewer season ago.  Remember?  His fears fed a demon that was terrorizing.  Olivia and Peter rescued him.  He's not in the room.  The empath is gone.  Walter has a freak out.  Peter goes after him.  Olivia figures out the room is different from the tape.  It has a transistor radio in it.  Walter later agrees that could be a clue.  This probably matters but was just a throwaway line and a glance but they put a machine in the building -- Walter and Donald did 20 years ago -- that converted the air.

A Watcher knocks Astrid out after he materializes behind her.

As Olivia, Peter and Walter watch the tape and move down hallways and floors (with Cecil following), two Watchers enter the portal.  

They go after the gang.  How to get back?  Peter knows how.  They follow him.

Is Peter just good or using powers?

He's using powers.  They get to the room.  Even though Olivia almost doesn't -- a Watcher is trying to choke her.  But she makes it through -- with Watcher -- and shoots and kills him (her gun wouldn't work in the portal)..

They're being pursued.  Peter tells them to go, he'll distract the Watchers and then meet them on the monorail.  They do and a Watcher appears.  He and Peter struggle and the Watcher is surprised Peter's able to move quickly and anticipate the Watcher's moves.  Then Peter goes into super speed.  The Watcher says he knows what Peter's done, how he got that way and it's a mistake.  Peter kills him.  Peter then transports out -- like the Watchers do where they vanish in one space and appear in another.  As he does that, we see that another Watcher has been watching the whole thing.

The train's about to leave when Peter suddenly appears.

He goes to sit with Walter after avoiding Olivia's question.  She's with Astrid and points out the dial on the transistor radio has been broken to stay on one station but nothing's playing.  (I wondered if the dial might be telling coordinates on a map.) She's also looking at Peter.  Earlier, she noticed a scar on the back of his neck and he told her he got nicked when they were working on the transporter last week.  Now she wonders.  (That's where he put the mechanical device into his neck -- the Watcher device.)  Peter's listening to Walter but looking around and notices he's seeing everything in blue and white.  Is he becoming a Watcher?  End of episode.

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

Friday, November 16, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, someone the US labeled a terrorist was released from Iraqi custody, the Operation Command Tigris clashes with Kurdish forces resulting in injuries and death, a hearing on Benghazi wastes a lot of time that apparently Democrats on the Committee had to waste, Thomas Friedman 'cares' about Iraq again, the Pentagon releases October Army suicide data, and more.
If you believe in prayer, pray for Iraqis.  They now really need all the prayers they can get.  Why?  This is the week that New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman decided he was interested in Iraq again.  Friedman's 'interest' in the Middle East is a bit like Nicholas Kristof's concern in so-called "developing countries" like Cambodia -- you know there's going to be a lot of bloviatin, women are sure to suffer and the New York Times columnists will make it all about themselves.  Here's War Hawk Friedman chewing the fat on the back of his ass:
For better and for worse, the United States in Iraq performed the geopolitical equivalent of falling on a grenade -- that we triggered ourselves. That is, we pulled the pin; we pulled out Saddam, and we set off a huge explosion in the form of a Shiite-Sunni contest for power.
Thousands of Iraqis were killed along with more than 4,700 American troops, but the presence of those U.S. troops in and along Iraq's borders prevented the violence from spreading.
The lunatic really believes what he writes.  After all the harm he's caused Iraq, grasp that the gas bag won't take the blame for what he did.  So he wants to rewrite it.  'Yeah, things are rough but thank goodness the US landed on that grenade.'
Except, of course, that didn't happen.  The US military is largely (though not completely) out of Iraq and the war continues.  The killing continues, the dying continues.  That's not a single explosion or "a grenade," idiot.  No, that's a US-created mine field.  Which the US military was largely pulled off of but ut of but which Iraqis have to try to live in.  Tip-toeing across a mine field daily.   John Catalinotto (Workers World) notes, "Cholera, a gastrointestinal disease, and typhoid, which had been virtually eradicated in Iraq by 1989, made a comeback under Western imperalist occupation.  Today, the electricity and water supply systems in Baghdad are in even worse conditions than in 2008."  Maybe what landed on a grenade was Thomas Friedman's brain?
If Thomas Friedman had any ethics, he'd be on his knees in public begging forgiveness from the entire world and especially from the Iraqi people for his role in beating the War Drums and cheerleading it and lying and being completely wrong over and over.
Yes, we are all wrong some of the time.  And I may be wrong more often than anyone.  However, it's a different level of wrong when your mistakes impact whether someone lives or dies. 
For Thomas Friedman, it's all a glib view from overhead with a few tired, worn out phrases casually tossed over the shoulder in passing.  It's not life and death.  Clearly, from his writing, it's not life and death.  But thing is, the Iraqi people don't have the luxury of turning everything into a glib World-Is-Flat cocktail chatter moment the way Thomas Friedman does.  Let us all learn to fear a New York Times columnist with an unshakable belief in himself and a desire to "help" as he understands the word.  There may truly be nothing more life endangering that such a columnist, than such a beast.  ("Himself," "he" and "beast" are intentional word choices on my part.)
Today, an Iraqi official made clear that Iraq had less than sunny thoughts about the United States.  Expressing displeasure over the intensified conflict in Gaza (Palestinians and Israelies), the official explained that oil could be used as coercion.  Reuters reported this morning, "Iraq's representative to the Arab League [Qais al-Azzawy] said on Friday that Arab states should use oil as a weapon to put pressure on the United States and Israel over the attacks on Gaza."  AFP notes that al-Azzawy likened it to a move during the October Yom Kippur war, "What happened in 1973, when the Arabs stopped oil exports to Western states, is proof that this weapon can succeed in the battle between the Arabs and Israel."   Later in the morning, Shaimaa Fayed (Reuters) reported that al-Azzawy "later appeared to withdraw the remark, saying Baghdad would make no particular proposal to a League meeting."  Devon Shire (Seeking Alpha) explores the International Energy Agency's recent report offering projections on oil prices and Shire is less alarmed by the price ($215 per barrell) IEA is predicting but how they get to such a low number:
The IEA in assuming that oil prices are $215 per barrel in 2035 is assuming that oil production in Iraq will double by 2020 and then increase another 2 million barrels per day by 2035.
Did I miss a memo? Is Iraq fixed?
Call me a pessimist, but I think there might be a real chance that Iraq can't deliver this kind of production growth.
Exxon Mobil (XOM) is currently in the process of pulling out of Iraq if it can get a decent price for its interest in the West Quarna project, which is a pretty telling commentary on the difficulty of doing business in Iraq. Exxon is not a company to run away from a challenge.
If Iraq is the central source of future production growth needed to meet future demand, then I think I'm still firmly in the bullish camp when it comes to the price of oil.

Iraq may very well double output by 2020.  BUt that's 8 years away and, currently, there's no reason to make such a prediction.  Maybe there's hope that a new prime minister (in 2014?) will be able to get things going?  Nouri al-Maliki is in his sixth year as prime minister and still can't pass the 2007 White House benchmarks. 
The big violence in Iraq today?   Alsumaria reports violence resulting from Nouri's Operation Command Tigris.  Alsumaria reports a clash between the Tigris forces and members of a Kurdish official's protection detail left many injured (over ten and possibly one dead).  All Iraq News reports 1 person is dead -- a civilian and the outlet says all the injured were Tigris forces. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports that 1 Iraqi soldier also died and states that clash took place in Khurmato "when Iraqi soldiers attempted to search a house belonging to Goran Najam, a member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, officials said.  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is the current leader of the PUK."  Sinan Salaheddin (AP) offers, "The clash occurred as police commandos were attempting to arrest a Kurdish smuggler in the city of Tuz Khormato, said Lt. Gen. Abdul-Amir al-Zaidi, of the newly formed Dijla Joint Military Command. When the smuggler took shelter in the offices of a Kurdish political party, police tried to break into the building, but gunmen guarding the office opened fire, he added."  Peshmerga spokesperson Jabbar Yawar tells Alsumaria that this was a personal problem between the two and is now contained. 
Differeing details depending on the outlet, obviously.  But what's going on?  What's at stake?  Kirkuk is disputed territory.  It's also oil-rich.  Iraq's Constitution, passed in 2005, explains how to resolve the issue, Article 140 calls for a census and referendum.  By the end of 2007.  Nouri continues to refuse to implement Article 140.   In October of   2008, Corey Flintoff (NPR's All Things Considered -- link is text and audio) explained,  "The potential wealth has made Kirkuk a tormented city ever since oil was discovered in 1927.  Today the city's three main ethnic groups, Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens, are vying for demographic and political control."

While refusing to implement Article 140, Nouri's Operation Command Tigris is seen as a way for Baghdad to take control of Kirkuk.  Jasim Alsabawi (Rudaw) observes, "The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) considers that formation of the DOC as a provocative move aimed at undermining the sovereignty of the Kurdistan Region, and reactions have heightened the tensions between Erbil and Baghdad."  Alsabawi reports:
[. . .] Imran Samad, a resident of Kirkuk, believes political goals, not terrorist threats, are behind the formation of the DOC. "We strongly condemn the formation of DOC," he says.
Samad adds that the government not only refuses to implement Article 140, but is violating the constitution and imposing its will with force.
"We fought against former dictatorships and gave the finest sons of the Kurdish people in order to gain freedom and independence, and the Shia were supporters of the Kurdish people through previous periods. But now that they have power, they have forgotten all that and want to govern Iraq as Saddam did," said Samad.
 Al Mada noted earlier this week that Kurdistan Regional President Massoud Barzani has been attempting to work out a unified opposition position with Jalal on this issue.  Barzani issued a statement declaring that public opinion is against it and that they have waited for Talabani to solve the issue but no solution has come forward and what is taking place is unconstitutional.  The statement is posted on the Kurdistan Regional Government's website.  In the statement, Barzani notes that there were concerns and fears about the formation of the so-called Operation Command Tigris and it does nothing to help with the application of Article 140.  Instead, Operation Command Tigris was formed with intentions and goals that go against the hopes of the Kurds, against the democratic process and does nothing to help the Baghdad-government and KRG get along.  Barzani notes that he waited so that Talabani would have an opportunity to put into play promises he had made about stopping the situation; however, that has not come to be.  All Iraq News pointed out that State of Law MP Jawad Albzona immediately declared Barzani's statement to be wrong and inaccurate. Not in the statement but also pertinent, Nouri's refused to fund the peshmerga in the latest federal budget which has caused additional problems. 

Today's clash, "personal problem" or not,  follows Kurdistan Alliance MP Khalid Shwani stating yesterday that the Tigris forces were going to provoke an uprising among the people of Kirkuk.  He stated they were not popular or liked and that they were seen as a provocation in Kirkuk.   In addition, Al Mada reports that KRG Prime Minster Nechirvan Barzani declared yesterday that the Trigris forces were a violation of the Constitution (he doesn't go into it but most likely he's referring to Article 140 and  may also be noting the powers the Constitution gives provinces over security forces).   He notes that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani went to Baghdad and spoke with Nouri al-Maliki.  He says Nouri made promises and has not kept them.

Meanwhile Alsumaria notes that the Peshmerga are said to have a plan to address the Tigris forces if it comes to that.  Dar Addustour reported earlier this week claims that a State of Law Mp was arrested in Erbil (Kurdistan Regional Government).  In news that will most likely only further create tensions, All Iraq News reports State of Law MP Abdul Salam al-Maliki is calling for Nouri to send Iraqi forces into Erbil.  He's calling for them to protect Erbil from Turkish forces.  Yes, the KRG has its own forces.  No, most people will not believe that's the reason he's calling for Nouri to send forces into Erbil.

In other violence, Alsumaria notes a machine gun attack on a Sahwa leader injured him and two of his bodyguards (in an update, they note the Sahwa leader died while receiving medical treatment on his wounds)  and they note a grenade attack in Nineveh that left one police officer injured while a Kirkuk roadside bombing left two police officers injured.
From violence to prisoners, Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reports that the rumors Ali Musa Daqduq had been released from Iraqi custody are true (see Wednesday's snapshot).  It's a huge embarrassment for the White House.  Victoria Nuland, State Dept spokesperson, was asked about it in today's press briefing.
QUESTION: On Iraq, is it correct that Iraq has released – I believe his last name is Daqduq? He's a --
QUESTION: (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: Uh-huh, Daqduq, a top Hezbollah operative. Senator McCain is saying it's an outrage; he apparently was responsible for the deaths of five Americans.
MS. NULAND: Well, I'm going to refer you to the Iraqis for the precise status, but as you know, we continue to believe that Daqduq should be held accountable for his crimes. We've made this point very clearly to the Government of Iraq. We – while we strongly object to his release, we've been informed by the Iraqis that they determined that they were no longer able to hold him under Iraqi law.
QUESTION: So I'm sorry, does that mean that --
MS. NULAND: So I guess – yeah, he's – they have said that he's been released, yeah. Never mind.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, so basically, you're saying he shouldn't be? I mean, is there (inaudible)?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. We were – we didn't want it to happen and we were concerned about it. We said that to the Iraqis. They have said back to us that they didn't have a legal basis to continue to hold him. Let me add to that that as with other terrorists who we believe have committed crimes against Americans, we are going to continue to pursue all legal means to see that Daqduq sees justice for the crimes of which he is accused.
QUESTION: How would you do that? What can you do?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, it all depends on the circumstances, but we're going to continue to do what we can in this circumstance.
QUESTION: Can you take any retaliatory action against Iraq?
MS. NULAND: I'm not going to get into hypothetical issues here beyond saying that we've expressed our deep dissatisfaction with this action with the Government of Iraq. We do have to respect the role of the Iraqi judiciary.
QUESTION: So does that – when you say you're going to pursue all legal means, does that mean that this Mr. Daqduq might be driving in a car someday and get blown out of the air or blown --
MS. NULAND: I'm obviously --
QUESTION: -- or blown off the road? Would --
MS. NULAND: I think I said all legal means and I'm not going to --
MS. NULAND: -- get into hypotheticals.
QUESTION: Well, the drone – the Administration says that drone strikes are legal, so all legal means could include that; correct?
MS. NULAND: I am not going to get into anything along those lines.
QUESTION: All right. Then the other thing about Daqduq is, is it all upsetting to you that after spending billions and billions of dollars to oust Saddam Hussein and create a democracy in Iraq, one the previous Administration was very, very high on, is it at all upsetting to you that you seem zero influence with this government now?
MS. NULAND: First of all, I'm going to reject the premise of that. There are many, many things that we work together with the Iraqis on, both in terms of the internal situation in Iraq as well as our regional work together, not least of being Syria and our efforts to ensure that Iraqi air and land space is not abused to arm the Syrians. There are many things that we work together on. But as I said, we objected very strongly to this particular decision, and we've made that clear to the Iraqis.
The shortest version on Daqduq?  He's said to be responsible for many deaths.  Including five Americans.  From the May 18th snapshot:
Dropping back to earlier violence,  Christine Show (Daily Mail) reports, "The wife of a U.S. Army captain who was killed while deployed in Iraq is stunned that the person named responsible for his death will be freed.  Charlotte Freeman of Temecula, California expressed her dismay when she learned on Wednesday night that Ali Mussa Daqduq was cleared of all charges in the 2007 attack that killed Brian Freeman, 31, and four other U.S. soldiers."
What happened?  Barack Obama made a deal with a terrorist group in Iraq.  Daqduq and others behind the killing of the five Americans were in US custody in Iraq, in US prisons in Iraq.  Barack began letting them go.  Dropping back to the June 9, 2009 snapshot:

This morning the New York Times' Alissa J. Rubin and Michael Gordon offered "U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.'s." Martin Chulov (Guardian) covered the same story, Kim Gamel (AP) reported on it, BBC offered "Kidnap hope after Shia's handover" and Deborah Haynes contributed "Hope for British hostages in Iraq after release of Shia militant" (Times of London). The basics of the story are this. 5 British citizens have been hostages since May 29, 2007. The US military had in their custody Laith al-Khazali. He is a member of Asa'ib al-Haq. He is also accused of murdering five US troops. The US military released him and allegedly did so because his organization was not going to release any of the five British hostages until he was released. This is a big story and the US military is attempting to state this is just diplomacy, has nothing to do with the British hostages and, besides, they just released him to Iraq. Sami al-askari told the New York Times, "This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners. So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned." In other words, a prisoner was traded for hostages and they attempted to not only make the trade but to lie to people about it. At the US State Dept, the tired and bored reporters were unable to even broach the subject. Poor declawed tabbies. Pentagon reporters did press the issue and got the standard line from the department's spokesperson, Bryan Whitman, that the US handed the prisoner to Iraq, the US didn't hand him over to any organization -- terrorist or otherwise. What Iraq did, Whitman wanted the press to know, was what Iraq did. A complete lie that really insults the intelligence of the American people. CNN reminds the five US soldiers killed "were: Capt. Brian S. Freeman, 31, of Temecula, California; 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Nebraska; Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Gonzales, Louisiana; Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Cortland, New York; and Pfc. Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Alabama." Those are the five from January 2007 that al-Khazali and his brother Qais al-Khazali are supposed to be responsible for the deaths of. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert H. Reid (AP) states that Jonathan B. Chism's father Danny Chism is outraged over the release and has declared, "They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it."
The League of Righteous would publicly rebuke Barack later noting that they did not feel he'd lived up to the deal they'd made.  They'd refuse to release the corpse of a British citizen as a result.  Then, months and months later, they would.  By that point, the terrorist group was very clear in public remarks that they'd made a deal with the White House.  Daqduq was not part of the deal.  He was an outsider.  As the US military began drawing down and getting rid of prisoners, it could have brought Daqduq to the US to try him.  Several senators suggested just that.  They were ignored.  And no one was to worry, the White House insisted, because they had assurances from Nouri's government.
When has Nouri's word ever been reliable?  After it was announced Iraq would be releasing him, that he'd been tried and found innocent, the White House began fuming.
But they still did nothing.
I believe Daqduq is guilty.  I also believe that sometimes the guilty walk.  In the best cases, we have a human justice system, not a perfect justice system.  In the best cases.  Iraq is not the best case.  And I've called out the 'justice' system there many times.  But if someone is found innocent, then that's the verdict.  And the White House was wrong to pressure Iraq to hold someone who had been found innocent.  Nouri was wrong to agree to do so for several months.  He was found innocent.  I think he's guilty.  Sometimes the guilty walk.  It's not fair but neither is life.
While I'm not going to rage at the Iraqi justice system over this, I will point out that the White House screwed this up from day one.  They never should have been releasing any of the killers.  It was not in the interest of the American people or the US military to let the killers of 5 US soldiers walk.  It certainly wasn't in the interest of the American people or the US military to let the killers walk to score brownie points with the government of England.  That was Barack's first mistake.  Everything that followed was one long mistake including but not limited to trusting Nouri. 
Barack needs to answer for his actions but, sadly, the White House press corps makes clear that they don't care about this story -- repeatedly makes clear.  By contrast, veterans, service members and military families make clear, when we speak to them, that this matters.
Yesterday, the Defense Dept released the US Army's suicide numbers for last month: "20 potential suicides: five have been confirmed as suicides, and 15 remain under investigation" which is an increase of five from September's numbers.   DoD notes that 2011 resulted in 165 deaths confirmed as suicides and that 2012 has seen 105 confirmed and 61 which are still being investigated.  So if all under investigation currently were to be ruled suicide, October will be the month that 2012 surpassed 2011 for number of army members taking their own lives (166 is the number of suicides if the 61 under investigation end up determined to be suicides).  With two months of data remaining for the calendar year, it is likely 2012 will see an increase in the number of suicides.  Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America's Tom Tarantino offers at Huffington Post:
The battle against IEDs required a $45 billion investment in armored vehicles, which have been credited with saving thousands of troops' lives. Protective undergarments to shield service members from blasts have also been fielded. In April, the Army issued a request for proposal for more gear. The fight to protect service members and prevent military suicide will necessitate a different but equally forceful response. We need a unified effort from Congress, the Administration, the Department of Defense, as well as public and private groups at the local, state, and national level.
Leadership is a must in this endeavor. As Congress heads back to Washington, they have the opportunity to seize the initiative and fight for veterans. Votes have been cast and elections have been won or lost, but before the new Congress takes over--which by the way will have 16 veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan--the 112th can leave their mark. With only about 15 working days, they'll need to avoid sequestration and prevent the nation from falling off the fiscal cliff, pass a defense authorization bill, and tie up loose ends in a veterans omnibus bill that hopefully will protect student vets, improve women's health care at the Veterans Administration, and help prevent suicide. This short session will be jam-packed, with much to accomplish in a short period of time, but now is not the time for rest. The 2.5 million veterans who served our nation in Iraq and Afghanistan have done their part, and now it's time for elected officials to do theirs. There is simply too much at stake for more jockeying that favors politics over solutions. It's time for the 112th to step up to the plate, lead, and show veterans that they've got their backs.
Critical mental health legislation is sitting on members of Congress' desks and needs to be acted upon. Senator Patty Murray's Mental Health Access Act of 2012 would improve access to support services and care for service members, veterans, and their families. The legislation will require DoD to create standardized a suicide prevention program and require the department to oversee mental health care to ensure that best practices are implemented. Understanding the toll that prolonged wars take on families, the legislation would expand eligibility for VA mental health services to family members, helping them to get the care and support needed. Lastly, the act would require VA to establish reliable measures for mental health and adopt an effective staffing plan in order to best serve veterans. Congress needs to act, or veterans will be left behind.
"And also, before beginning," declared US House Rep Illeana Ros-Lehtinen yesterday morning, "I want to assue the families and friends of four brave Americans killed in the attack on the Consulate in Benghazi and our diplomatic personnel serving in high risk posts worldwide, that we are committed to identifying what went wrong and what needs to be done to prevent any further American lives from being lost in such attacks.  Our thoughts and our prayers are also with those wounded during the attack as they face a long and difficult recovery." 
Ros-Lehtinen is the Committee Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.  Yesterday they held a hearing into the September 11, 2012 attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi that killed Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, Tyrone Woods and Chris Stevens.  Democrats at the hearing did themselves no favor by not knowing four names.  I'm being really kind due to space limitations and we will let those Democrats remain as nameless as they let Glen Doherty, Sean Smith and Tyrone Woods be yesterday.  They should be ashamed of themselves for repeatedly saying "Chris Stevens and three other Americans."  But we'll be kind and not humiliate them by naming them -- well not all of them.
If US House Rep Frederica Wilson truly believes the four killed are "heroes," she damn well needs to be able to name all four and not just Chris Stevens.  US House Rep Jean Schmidt (a Republican) was able to name each of the four and why they were present in Libya.  It's four names.  You don't look like you respect the four or consider the four people -- let alone heroes -- when you can't even remember or mention their names.  It's embarrassing and it's shameful and, as a Democrat, it's sad to sit through this crap over and over, this empty rhetoric from Democrats who can't even get their staff to write down the other three names for them before the hearing started.  US House Rep Eni F.H. Faleomavaega used the term "heroes" and he was the only Democrat who was able, during the hearing, to name all four.  Anything he said in that hearing carried weight because he came in knowing there were four and, in the hearing, he noted all four by name.  It's not that difficult, as he proved, but it does go to whether you look believable (as he did) or you just look like you're grandstanding as Frederica Wilson and so many others on the Democratic side did.
US House Rep Dan Rorabcher noted that at last month's House Oversight Commitee he specifically asked the State Dept's Charlene Lamb (who "was specifically responsible for what level of spending they would have for security at the Benghazi Consulate")  if "budget concerns were actually part of her decision not to increase the level of security, she stated emphatically, no, that was not part of it.  Democrats who spoke before Burton looked foolish to those of us at that October hearing. 
They looked even worse when, after Burton spoke, they tried to state that the attack was Republicans fault.  Well, the White House blamed a YouTube video, I guess their lackeys in Congress would be quick to blame Republicans.  There are a great many strong Democrats in Congress on this issue.  I'm not tarring and feathering all Democrats in Congress as "lackeys" but if you sat through yesterday's hearing you would realize that a number acted like lackeys. For an example of a non-lackey, you can see US House Rep Karen Bass.  She focused on the issues.  I didn't always agree with her conclusions but she was there for the issues the attack raised and made that clear in her words and the way she conducted herself.  Another one worthy of praise would be US House Rep Albio Sires.  He also made the focus the violence and the dead and wounded.  He wasn't in campaign mode or of the mistaken belief that the White House hired him as defense counsel.  By contrast, a little weasel named Eliot Engel wasted his time and mine.  Now his life is clearly unimportant as evidenced by "we will never forget them" to refer to four Americans he can't name (he can only name Chris Stevens) but my time is valuable and I'm not sitting through a hearing on Bengahzi to listen to an idiot yokel with an ugly mustache insist that determining blame is "political."  Not since Engel rubbed shoulders with raving lunatic who sees Hitler as a "good" has he come off so deranged.
This is about 4 people who are dead and it is important to understand how they died because things will happen, even tragic things, but mistakes can be corrected and fixed so that they do not duplicate.  There are people serving all over the world -- including in places where the "United States" is not said, it is spat.  These people are doing a job the government has tasked them with and they have a right to expect a level of safety.  They also need to know that if they are attacked and wounded or killed, the government body that provides oversight of the executive branch, the Congress, will stop at nothing to get the best and most full answer as to what led to their deaths. 
Chair Illeana Ros-Lehtinen:  The coordinate, pre-planned and brazen attacks against the US Consulate in Benghazi on September 11th was an outrage.  Also disgraceful is the sad parade of conflicting accounts of the attack that we have received from administration officials in the weeks and months since.  Successive revelations and public reports indicate that the administration failed to adequately protect the American Consulate and denied Consulate requests for additional security.  It has come to light that the administration was warned of the deteriorating security system in Benghazi one month before the attack on September 11th with the personnel stationed at the post asserting  that they could not withstand a coordinated assault.  We also know that our consulates sustained two previous attacks this year and that they were approximately ten Islamic militia and extremist training camps nearby yet the administration denied repeated requests for additional security measures.  We have also learned that the Consulate alerted both Libyan authorities and the administration about members of the Libyan security forces possibly compromised with ties to extremists --  as they were caught photographing the Consulate prior to the attack and still the Consulates requests for additional security for additional security were ignored.   The Consulate even warned that the situation was trending negatively and that the daily pattern of violence was the new normal given the minimal capabilities of the Libyan security forces. These revelations make clear that the security situation was deteriorating and that the administration was aware that the security was grossly inadequate.  Undersecretary [Patrick] Kennedy publicly testified that the assault on September 11th was an unprecedented terrorism attack by dozens of heavily armed men.  This explanation is unsatisfactory.  
Appearing before the Committee were the Government Accountability Office's Michael Courts, RAND Corporation's William Young, Heritage Foundation James Jay Carafano and the American Acdemy of Diplomacy's Ronald E. Neumann.   The hearing was over half-way over before the first of the four witnesses even read from their prepared remarks. 
This came about because nearly every member of the entire House Committee on Foreign Affairs had an opening statement to make.  Some were worthwhile.   US House Rep Dan Burton, for example, used his opening remarks to provide background on the previous public House hearing on this issue.  In doing so, he reminded about witness testimony -- witness testimony that didn't get reported but was offered to the House Oversight Committee.
US House Rep Dan Burton: Let me just start off by saying that we had a hearing on this issue on the Government Reform and Oversight Committee [for coverage of that hearing, refer to "Iraq snapshot," "Iraq snapshot,"  "Iraq snapshot," "2 disgrace in the Committee hearing," "The White House's Jimmy Carter moment" and "What we learned at today's hearing"] shortly after this tragedy occurred and that a lot of the information that we received from government officials -- publicly and privately -- does not comport with the testimony of the people who were at that hearing.  The people who were at that hearing consisted of Eric Nordstrom who was the Regional Security Officer for the US Mission in Libya, Lt Col Andrew Wood who was in charge of the military escort team there, special operations command support team.  It was also Charlene Lamb who was in charge of all of the embassies and consulates around the world as far as the security was concerned who incidentally said when the attack took place she was following it in real time immediately because she was in Washington in her office at the time.  Then we also had Patrick Kennedy who's testified numerous times about this issue.  And the thing that bothers me the most is that Lt Col Wood, in charge of the security forces -- the SST -- and Eric Nordstrom, the Regional Security Officer, said time and time again they needed more security -- particularly at Benghazi and they were denied.  In fact, even though Nordstrom tried to get more security at Benghazi, he was told, "You're asking for the moon and the stars."  Now they were supposed to have five people there but there was an unwritten law, I guess, that you could only have three there.  And yet when Mr. Nordstrom and Lt Col Wood went down and checked the area out, there were three.  There's supposed to be five.  The unwritten rule: there's supposed to be three.  But there was only one there. Only one.  The security was lax.  There were 230 different kinds of incidents -- some pretty strong attacks, some not so strong.  But nevertheless, the security officer in charge and the Lt Col in charge of the security people there contacted Washington time and time again and said, 'We need more security.  There'a s threat of an attack.'  There had been one attack in Benghazi where they blew a hole in the compound wall and yet time and again Ms. Lamb and Mr. Kennedy continually said, 'No, we don't need those.'  No, we don't need those. And they tried to cover their fannies a number of times in their testimony here in this body -- or in this house and it does not comport, it is not consistent with what Mr. Nordstrom who is in charge of that region and Lt Col Woods said.  This is not only a tragedy, it's a perfect example of malfeasance at the State Dept.
When questions did come, you wondered why they even bothered?  US House Rep Brad Sherman came with talking points prepared.  But why he thought the GAO would have information that's not part of what they are tasked with raises more questions about Brad Sherman than it does about the GAO.  That's a shame because Sherman did have something worth saying.  It wasn't a question for the witnesses but it was something people need to think about: What is the value of having a State Dept presence on the ground in ___?  This is worth exploring. 
US House Rep Gary Ackerman thought his time for questioning was a time to emote heavily -- that gawdy yellow flower on his lapel wasn't attracting enough attention?  He also thought it was time to define "malfeasance -- which is the malicious and knowing evil doing."  No, that's not what it means.  Instead of suggesting people grab a mirror, Ackerman should pick up a dictionary.  Websters says malfeasance is "wrongdoing or misconduct."   And if you're going to talk stench, or "ask not who the guilty party is," don't show up looking like you're attending a social in Mayberry with a flower pinned flat to your jacket -- with stem and with stem exposed.  For those feeling my critique offers no substance, I believe I was matching the same level of substance Gary Ackerman offered.  In fact, I easily surpassed him. 
US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher:  Let's start by going on the record again so that all may hear this, my last colleague's statement notwithstanding, the lady who made the -- the official, I should say, happens to be a lady, who made the decision at the State Dept what level of spending would be spent for security for the Benghazi Consulate testified under oath that there was no budget consideration whatsoever in her decision.  Under oath.  Anyone suggesting otherwise should not be pointing fingers at hypocrisy at this side of the aisle.  This is not "just a cover up of a third rate burglary."  We have four of our diplomatic personnel dead and it is not a McCarthy era tactic to demand accountability and to demand that the American people are not misinformed about it to the point that they don't know what the threat is.
And that's a real shame and why the hearing so frustrating.  At the end of last year, I sat through a hearing where Rohrabacher went out of his way to praise Ackerman, to say Ackerman was right and he (Rohrabacher) was wrong.  To praise his colleague across the aisle (the topic was Iraq, Rohrabacher admitted -- in a public hearing -- that Ackerman was correct about Iraq and that he should have listened to him).  And yet now it's descended into a stream of insults launched by Gary Ackerman who is more intent on play White House Consel than he is on serving in Congress and finding out why four Americans died.  Barack promised unity.  No surprise that the House Foreign Affairs Committee is as split as the country.  Rohrabacher launched no personal attack on Ackerman.  Ackerman was not defending himself. If he were, I wouldn't be objecting.  But as with so many other Democrats on that hearing, we couldn't get to reality because they wanted to talk (imply) McCarthyism and other crap that had nothing to do with the hearing.  They wanted to scream and holler -- and Ackerman screamed -- and it was so unprofessional, it was so immature that I'd hoped waiting a day would let me find something of great value in this hearing that I made time to attend.  There was nothing.  Well maybe there was one thing.
US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher: Alright, now in terms of money for diplomatic security, let's note that this year the State Dept has requested $1.4 billion for worldwide security for its facilities and its personnel and in addition, they have requested $215 million for the Bureau of Diplomatic Security.  That comes to $1.6 billion.  At the same time, this administration wants to give Iraq $850 million to train a police force and $900 million for military financing which comes to $1.7 billion.  How can the Obama administration and members of this Committee justify giving more money to Iraq for its security than we are giving to the protection of our diplomats?  I don't expect you [Michael Courts] to answer that.
And Courts couldn't.  But maybe someone can.  It's a question worth asking.
On Benghazi, Ruth noted last night in "A layer of the lie peels back" that the White House appears to have been playing lawyerly offering technically true statements about the attack if you split it -- as they appear to have done -- into two attacks and not one.  They call the first attack the one on the Consulate and the second attack the one on the safe house.  Congress needs to explore the White House statements with that in mind.  If that is what they are doing, it does not mean they have been truthful.  In fact, it argues they have been deliberately misleading.  Lastly, John Glaser ( reports, the former CIA Director (as of last Friday) David Petraeus testified to Congress today in a closed-door hearing and "Petraeus maintained that he consistently referred to the Consulate attack as the work of terrorists when talking to Congressional intelligence committees and other government agencies of the Executive Branch."  Glaser goes on to offer the uninformed opinion that Republicans have used the issue as "a political football."  He can make that claim because he hasn't sat through any of the public hearings on this matter.  I have.  And, as a Democrat, I would love it if Gary Ackerman and company weren't disgracing themselves, but they are.  And when John Glaser can explain what charges of McCarthyism and other crap served up by Democrats during these hearings has to do with four dead Americans, I might take his opinion seriously.  Until then, he's just doing rip and write and doesn't know what he's talking about.  He's made this mistake before with regard to Congressional hearings.  Maybe it would be smarter for him to stop offering his opinion on hearings he has not attended? 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

He really is a jerk

Thursday, almost the weekend.  I can't wait.  And I'm starving.  So this may be brief.

First up, Barry Grey (WSWS) has a really knock-the-air-out-of-your-chest report:

Obama's pretense of “fairness” and concern for working people, against the backdrop of the supposed looming disaster of the “fiscal cliff,” is a cynical sham. It is a cover for a calculated and ruthless assault on all that remains of the social reforms of the 20th century—most centrally, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security—combined with a restructuring of the tax system that will cut taxes for corporations and the rich and increase the tax burden on working people.

The far-reaching and reactionary substance of Obama's social policy emerges very clearly in secret documents that were leaked last weekend relating to negotiations in the summer of 2011 between the White House and Republican House Speaker John Boehner over raising the US debt limit. In response to Republican demands for massive spending cuts in return for an agreement on raising the debt limit, Obama proposed a “grand bargain” to slash the federal deficit by $4 trillion over ten years through a combination of cuts in social programs and increased revenues from “comprehensive tax reform.”

Obama proposed more than $2 in cuts for every $1 dollar in revenue increases ($2.8 trillion in cuts, $1.2 trillion in increased tax revenues). However, the talks broke down due to opposition to any tax increases among House Republicans.

This led to the deal to raise the debt limit that set the stage for the more than $700 billion in automatic across-the-board spending cuts and tax increases, beginning January 1, 2013, that are a major component of the so-called “fiscal cliff.” (See: “What is the fiscal cliff”?).

Speaking on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” program last Sunday, Washington Post investigative journalist and associate editor Bob Woodward announced that he had obtained a copy of the secret final offer from Obama to Boehner for a “grand bargain” on austerity and tax “reform.” NBC posted a portion of the document on the “Meet the Press” web site.

Regarding the document, Woodward said, “But what it shows is a willingness to cut all kinds of things, like TRICARE, which is the sacred health insurance program for the military, for military retirees; to cut Social Security; to cut Medicare. And there are some lines in there about, ‘We want to get tax rates down, not only for individuals, but for businesses.’ So Obama and the White House were willing to go quite far.”

What a bitch Barry is.  Social Security?  F**k him.  And TRICARE?  He's such a piece of s**t.  And so is the screwy Cult of St. Barack.

If he pulls this off, if he guts this stuff, then every member of the Cult of St. Barack better be prepared to spend the rest of their lives apologizing for voting for that piece of s**t to begin with.

He's a liar and a faux Democrat.  He whored for the corporations.  That was obvious in 2008 when AT&T paid for the convention.  Of course they paid.  They didn't want to be fined or punished for their illegal spying.  And Barack, who promised in the primaries that they would pay, immediately declared immunity was what they needed once the primary was over.

Barack is a piece of trash.  He doesn't care about anyone but himself and that should have been obvious with the soaring rate of unemployment in the African-American community.

He is a whore bought and sold by the corporations.

And, I repeat, shame on those who supported this asshole.  They should have known better in 2008.  But I can forgive them for that.  For 2012?  Hell no. 

The cypher had a paper trail.  He was a War Monger.  He cracked down on Occupy.  He attacked whistleblowers.  He gave corporations tons of our money -- our tax dollars -- and then turned around and said, "We're headed for a fiscal cliff!" 


He's a liar. 

Supposedly he believes in God.  If so, he better be making his peace because Jesus doesn't look kindly on those who piss on the poor.  I'm Catholic.  I see Barack spending an eternity in purgatory. 

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

Thursday, November 15, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri's State of Law continues spreading rumors, Nouri's State of Law continues not to grasp what a constitution is (let alone what it says),  Moqtada sums up what Nouri's attempts to end  the ration card system really meant, and more.
Let's start with Benghazi because, like Elaine, I'm getting real damn tired of Our Liar Of The Left.  Today OLOFL calls out CNN's Anderson Cooper and Erin Burnett, ABC's Jake Tapper, PBS' Kwame Holman and others.  Could they all be wrong?
Certainly.  Anyone can be wrong.  I'm wrong all the time.  That's part of life. 
I'm also not concerned with 'tone' -- with one exception -- because you should call people out in your own voice and not someone elses, we need more voices hitting more notes not a choir of tenors all hitting the same damn note.  My exception?  OLOFL's sexism is well known and  I did notice that Erin Burnett gets a special kind of attack different from the men. 
Today OLOTL accuses the journalists of many things including "cherry picking."  He's the one who's cherry picking.  Susan Rice went on television six days after the September 11, 2012 attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi.  She went on multiple programs.   Journalists have to condense.  That is not the same thing as "cherry picking."  They're dealing with the totality of Susan Rice's presentation.
Some try to argue she's the messenger.  Yes, I believe she was confirmed to be that.  I believe that's what an ambassador does.  But the American people don't give a damn if she was just the messenger or not.  She went on television and spoke about Benghazi.  She was flat out wrong.  Now if  anyone wants to argue that Susan Rice is incompetent, he might get some takers.  But to argue that she couldn't help it and blah blah blah?  No.  That ship sailed a long time ago.  She was going on every network Sunday morning.
CBS' Face The Nation, NBC's Meet The Press, ABC's This Week, CNN's State of the Union, Fox News Sunday -- am I missing one?  All links go to transcripts -- Fox News was smart enough to put their video and transcript together.   She presented the same bad talking points over and over.  Five live interviews that morning? She should have known her facts before she gave the first one, she should have known her facts and been up to date before the first interview (which dismisses the claim that Saturday evening a new view emerged and poor Susan Rice woke up Sunday morning, took out her curlers and stepped in front of the camera).  She used "spontaneous" in every interview (Somerby attacks Anderson for noting "spontaneous").  Susan Rice was the messenger because the State Dept wasn't going to lie.  Susan Rice shouldn't have been on TV.  It should have been Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or someone else at the State Dept,  Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, etc.  Susan Rice?  Please.  The US Ambassador to the United Nations?
That was above her head.  If she's stupid enough to think she can ace it, then she's stupid enough to earn the blame for her idiotic statements which -- even in the official White House timeline -- are now out of date and wrong.
I've done press junkets.  As I go from interview to interview, I have someone telling me if any information has changed and I'm revising my remarks to include that -- and that's the entertainment industry.  Susan Rice should have known the information that came in on Saturday before she spoke on Sunday.  If no one bothered to inform her, that's also on her because she should have demanded it when she agreed to do the programs, "I need to know every update that comes in between now and when I step on camera."
Is that hard? Well so is life.  And if you're going to go on TV to speak about an attack that claimed the lives of 4 Americans (Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, Glen Doherty and Chris Stevens) and speak on behalf of the US government, your job is to be prepared.
She wasn't or she lied.  She was incompetent or she lied. 
Actually, she may have been incompetent and a liar. 
I see this as a lie, ". . . what we understand to be the assessment at present" (Face The Nation, similar words used on other programs).  That's a lie.  That's, according to the White House, the assessment early Saturday afternoon as she got a briefing.  It wasn't Saturday evening's assessment.  It certainly wasn't Sunday morning's assessment.
Again, if you're going on TV to do live interviews and you are representing the US government, you need the most current information.  She didn't do the work required.  Maybe she wasn't smart enough to know what work was required?  Maybe her personal time Saturday and Sunday was more important to her?  I have no idea.  But she went on TV Sunday morning and gave out-of-date information according to the White House's version of events.
She should have cared a little less about protecting the White House and a little more about serving the American people.  Barack Obama is not paying her, the American people are.  She works for the American people and she takes an oath to the Constitution, not to a office, not to a person.
She wants to be Secretary of State and Barack wants her to as well.  If nominated, she'll be jumping over Senator John Kerry which should raise eyebrows considering her awful record in the last four years in terms of public diplomacy.  And that's the only record she has.  Yet she's going to be put in charge of the US State Dept which is in charge of Iraq?  This liar or incompetent or both is going to be put over the billions of dollars the US is still pouring into Iraq?  America needs someone trustworthy in that position.  Susan Rice is a joke to many American people.  She's not up to the job and she comes in as a joke.  This is how Barack Obama wants to waste his time post-election? 
I thought the second term was going to be about getting things done.  I thought this was the term Barack was going to get to work.  So choosing between a qualified nominee (John Kerry) who is an automatic approved by the Senate nominee and between the unqualified Susan Rice who already has senators opposed to her, Barack's going to waste America's time with Susan Rice?  (Because he's a senator, John Kerry's an automatic confirmation.  That's how it goes historically.  The Senate rushes to confirm its current and former colleagues.)  So America's going to have to suffer through weeks of drama because Barack can't stop fixating on Susan Rice?  And let's be clear that, if Rice had any integrity, she'd look at the situation herself, realize what a liability she is and announce she was not interested in the post. 
The phrase the White House and its employees need to learn is "for the good of the country." 
It's a phrase many leaders and officials should use.  Take Nouri al-Maliki's Baghdad-based government which, according to Alsumaria News, had to issue an announcement today that they are not holding any Saudi royals nor planning to execute them.  The message came via Minister of Justice Hassan Shammari who also stated that the Suadi prisoners don't necessarily give their real names when arrested in Iraq.  How they are then able to determine that no Saudi princes are in custody (the rumor circulating had been that Iraq was gearing up to execute a Saudi prince) is not addressed.  Of course, Nouri's screwed up the country so bad that it's not just rumors about foreigners but about Iraqis.  Dar Addustour reports that someone with the Supreme Judicial Council is stating this week that the judiciary has issued arrest warranges for two Iraqiya members of Parliament: Khalid al-Alwani and Adnan al-Janabi.  Both rumors speak to the distrust Nouri has sewn.  Iraq's relations with its Arab neighbors would seem terrible had Nouri not engaged in the lengthy verbal attack on Turkey for most of 2012.  Nouri's relations with political rivals is always shaky but more so with members of Iraqiya whom Nouri has repeatedly targeted. 
Iraq, after all, is the only country currently with a sitting vice president who's been convicted of terrorism.  Nouri swore an arrest warrant on Tareq al-Hashemi.  Nouri's kangaroo court convicted Tareq.  Not a surprise.  February 16th, a press conference was held and Baghdad judges explained Tareq was guilty of terrorism and one judge declared that Tareq had tried to kill him.  But, thing is,  the trial didn't even start until May.  Months before the trial started, the judiciary declared him guilty in a press conference.  That tells you the level of 'justice' in Iraq.  Even before you factor in the torture confessions, the abduction of Tareq's office staff, the refusal to allow him to call witnesses and so much more.
Though the verdict isn't taken seriously outside of Iraq (and Iran), al-Hashemi was convicted of terrorism and he remains Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi because he's never been removed from office.  Even now, Nouri doesn't have the votes required in the Parliament to remove him from office. The editorial board of the Saudi Gazette notes today:
Unfortunately Maliki robbed his government of much Sunni support when he decided to prosecute leading Sunni politician and vice-president Tariq Al-Hashemi for running death squads.
Hashemi fled, perhaps significantly first to Kurdish Iraq and then abroad.
The Sunni leader has since been tried in his absence and sentenced to death.
In Iraq, the political crisis has not ended.  The March 2010 elections were followed by Political Stalemate I as Nouri stomped his feet because Iraqiya beat his own State of Law meaning someone from Iraqiya should be prime minister-designate.  But Nouri had the White House on his side.  So after eigh months of nothing happening, the political blocs signed off on the US-negotiated contract entitled the Erbil Agreement.  Nouri used it to grab his second term and then refused to honor the contract.  Since the summer of 2011, Iraqiya, the Kurds and Moqtada al-Sadr have been calling for the Erbil Agreement to be implemented.  This is Political Stalemate II which Nouri turned into a political crisis when he began targeting Sunnis and/or members of Iraqiya. 
 All Iraq News reports Moqtada al-Sadr issued a statement yesterday where he explained that the effort to cancel the ration cards was an effort to control the markets, that it was not about addressing corruption and that it was the start of an attempt to rig the upcoming elections.  That's a very strong statement from Moqtada and part of the efforts to draw a line between him and Nouri and to set him up to be the next prime minister.  It's the sort of leadership Jalal Talabani fails to exhibit repeatedly.   Background on the food-rations card system, from Monday's snapshot:

Last Tuesday, Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh announced the cancellation of the program. There was a huge pushback that grew and grew -- from politicians, from clerics, from the people until Friday when it really couldn't be ignored. The program has been in place since 1991 meaning that it is all over half of Iraqis know (Iraq has a very young population, the median age has now risen to 21). It allowed Iraqis to get basic staples such as flour sugar, rice, etc. As the clerics, including Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, noted, this move would hurt the people who are already struggling economically. It was also an idiotic political move to make. In April, provinicial elections will be held. Nouri's already in campaign mode and this very unpopular move did not help him there. The smartest thing politically would have been to go into a full retreat on the proposal and announce that you had heard the people, to flatter them and make it appear you listened. 
Saturday, there was a moment when it looked like Nouri might grasp that. All Iraq News reportedAlsumaria reported Dawa announced that they had nothing to do with the decision and they're also tried to insist at the same time that it wasn't Nouri's decision. Kurdistan Alliance MP Sharif Soliman told All Iraq News that those responsible for the decision are trying to make up excuses and push the blame elsewhere. The Kurdistan Alliance's Mohsen Saadoun told Alsumaria that Nouri is responsible for this decision. the Cabinet of Ministers will hold an emergency meeting on the issue. Nouri's political slate is State of Law, his political party is Dawa. How unpopular is the move to cancel the food-ration program?
Today Alsumaria reports that the food program is not getting the axe. Instead, the people will be able to decide if they would like to remain on the existing system or receive cash. When you tell people they can remain on the ration card system or they can get cash, when you tell that to people in a bad economy with many bills, they will be tempted to go for the cash. The ration card is the better system. But there are bills owed that have to be paid and there is the hope in people that things have to get better. So they will tell themselves that they can make it right now with the cash and that, in a few months or a year, fate will provide and things will be better. In the meantime, they've been moved off the progam and the prices -- as Sistani, politicans and the people have noted -- will sky rocket. So the money will be of little use to them then.

Al Mada reports that a poll found 69.5% of Iraqis surveyed felt that cancellation of the ration cards would negatively effect their families' standard of living and 81% opposed doing away with the ration cards.  Hassan Latif al-Zubaidi (Niqash) reports:

Various reports from as far back as 2004 have concluded that scrapping the ration card system would lead to lower living standards in Iraq in general.  There are a large number of food-insecure individuals in Iraq -- early estimates range from between 11 and 16 percent of the population -- and analysts have suggested that that number could double or even triple should the ration card system be scrapped.
So for the time being, the Iraqi government, haveing rescinded its earlier decision to get rid of the system altogether, has decided that citizens may now have a choice -- choose the ration card which allegedly supplies around ICD12,000 worth of goods or a cash payout of IQD15,000 per month. 
Of course there are no guarantees that the cash will be used by the needy to buy the food they need and there's obviously still plenty of room for social welfare fraud and for corruption.  Only one thing seems certain when it comes to the ration card: with elections coming up in Iraq soon -- they're planned for early 2013 -- it also seems highly unlikely there will be any further major "improvements" made to the ration card system in the near future.
Shaeen Mufti (Rudaw) quotes MP SHorsh Haji who serves on Iraq's Economic Committee in Parliament, "Making decisions one day and revising them the next proves that the government is without a plan and doesn't know what is best for the people."
Following the idiotic decision to cancel the program, Nouri made other questionable decisions.  For example, taking an axe to a contract with another country.  October 9th, Nouri was strutting across the world stage as he inked a $4.2 billion weapons deal with Russia. Then something happened 30 days later and the status of the deal became in question. Was it all just buyer's remorse over a big-ticket item? Saturday, Mohammed Tawfeeq and Joe Sterling (CNN) reported:

Iraq's prime minister has canceled a recently signed arms deal with Russia after "suspicions over corruption" surfaced, his spokesman told CNN on Saturday.
Under the $4.2 billion deal forged last month, Russia would deliver attack helicopters and mobile air-defense systems to Iraq.

Amani Aziz (Al Mada) reported that there are senior Iraqi government officials who are involved with a brother of Russian President Vladimir Putin. All Iraq News noted there are calls for Nouri to step forward and clear his name. Al Rafidayn added Nouri spokesperson Ali al-Moussawi announced that the deal is off. New contracts may be needed, he said, because weapons are, but the deal is off. AP hedged the bets  going with language about the deal being "reconsidered" and in "turnaround." Reuters spent the day providing constant updates and in their third one they noted, "In a confusing exchange, the announcement by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's office was immediately contradicted by the acting defence minister who denied the corruption charges and said the Russian arms deals were still valid." RIA Novosti reminded, "At the time the deal was announced in October, the Russian press had hailed it as the country's largest since 2006. Under the contract, Moscow is to supply 30 Mil Mi-28NE night/all-weather capable attack helicopters, and 50 Pantsir-S1 gun-missile short-range air defense systems."
On Monday,  Al Mada reported today that Iraqiya is demanding Nouri provide a report to Parliament explaining the details of the weapons deal with Russia.  Alsumaria reports today that Nouri is insisting that these "defensive" weapons are needed to protect Iraq.  Also today, All Iraq News reports State of Law MP Abudl Salam al-Maliki has accused Abdul Aziz Narowi, Iraq's Ambassador to Russia, of working with the Russian Defense Minister in the interest of the KRG and not Baghdad.  There's a full-on push to salvage Nouri's image after the mess that the $4.2 billion deal between Russia and Iraq has become.  They might need to worry also about how the crumbling deal appears in Russia.  Kitabat reports that the Russian government is outraged over the accusations being made which include that Russian President Vladimir Putin took bribes and kickbacks.
Alsumaria also reports that Basra Province has purchased 10 trained dogs for the Basra Police Command.  The dogs have been trained to sniff out bombs.  This may remind many of all the money Nouri wasted on bomb detecting 'techonlogy' -- a wand that the US military ridiculed and that the British government ended up outlawing.  You hold the expensive stick and run in place behind a car and it's 'activated.'  But it doesn't do anything.  It was a con job.  Instead of demanding a refund, Nouri chose to eat the costs in an attempt to salvage his own reputation. 
The Baghdad Trade Fair just concluded and it wasn't a boost for Nouri's image either.  AFP reports:

Excessive red tape, rampant corruption, an unreliable judicial system and still-inadequate security, as well as a poorly trained workforce and a state-dominated economy all continue to plague Iraq, which completed its biggest trade fair in 20 years last week to much domestic acclaim.
The various difficulties of doing business in Iraq cast doubt on efforts to raise $1-trillion in investment income over the coming decade that officials say is needed to rebuild its battered economy.
Maybe Nouri thought he'd get a ribbon just for showing up?  The last week of March, Nouri oversaw the Arab League Summitt in Baghdad.  It was a bust, but damned if the press didn't try to play it as a success.  From the March 30th snapshot:
Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) wants you to know that, as Sly Stone once sang, everybody is a star, that we're all winners.   Probably Charlotte Caffey and Jane Wiedlin were closer to the truth with, "We're all dreamers, we're all whores" ("This Town," first appears on  the Go-Gos' Beauty and the Beat). Journalists are supposed to be critical thinkers not advance men for the company. The Arab League Summit was only a success if we're all toddlers and everyone gets a trophy for showing up.  Or if you're stupid enough to think something's true just because a two-bit thug like Nouri al-Maliki says it is.
There are 22 countries in the Arab League.  Hamza Hendawi and Lara Jakes (AP) put the number of Arab League leaders who attended at 10 and they pointed out that Qatar, Saudi Arabi, Morocco and Jordan were among those who sent lower-level officials to the summit. Patrick Martin (Globe & Mail) explains that Sheik Hamad Bin Jassem Bin Jabr Al Thani (Prime Minister of Qatar) declared on television that Qatar's "low level of representation" was meant to send "a 'message' to Iraq' majority Shiites to stop what he called the marginalization of its minority Sunnis." Yussef Hamza (The National) offers, "Iraq has looked to the summit, the first it has hosted in a generation, to signal its emergence from years of turmoil, American occupation and isolation. It wanted the summit to herald its return to the Arab fold. But the large number of absentees told a different story."  That's reality.
[. . .]
There are 22 countries in the Arab League.  Hamza Hendawi and Lara Jakes (AP) put the number of Arab League leaders who attended at 10 and they pointed out that Qatar, Saudi Arabi, Morocco and Jordan were among those who sent lower-level officials to the summit. Patrick Martin (Globe & Mail) explains that Sheik Hamad Bin Jassem Bin Jabr Al Thani (Prime Minister of Qatar) declared on television that Qatar's "low level of representation" was meant to send "a 'message' to Iraq' majority Shiites to stop what he called the marginalization of its minority Sunnis." Yussef Hamza (The National) offers, "Iraq has looked to the summit, the first it has hosted in a generation, to signal its emergence from years of turmoil, American occupation and isolation. It wanted the summit to herald its return to the Arab fold. But the large number of absentees told a different story."  That's reality.

That's reality and AFP reported reality on the Baghdad Trade Fair.
Nouri's a disaster and yet he wants a third term as prime minister.  The parliamentary elections planned for 2014 are supposed to determine that.   Members of Parliament are elected, the bloc with the most seats is supposed to get first crack at forming a govenrment so the president names someone from that bloc to be prime minister-designate and that person then has 30 days to form a complete Cabinet or someone else is named prime minister-designate.

The 2014 election is supposed to determine that.  Supposed to.  Iraq's had parliamentary elections twice now -- 2005 and 2010.  In both instances, the United States government determined the outcome.  First, the Bush administration installed Nouri in 2006 (Ibrahim al-Jafaari was the choice of Parliament).  Second, the Barack administration gave second place Nouri a second term in 2010 via an extra-Constitutional contract known as the Erbil Agreement.

If the White House plans to again pick the Iraqi prime minister in 2014, could they let Iraq know now before money's spent printing ballots and adding security to the various polling places?

Al Mada notes the efforts to pass a bill that would limit the prime minister post to two terms only.   Some reports have said there are 150 backers in Parliament, some say 130.  A simple majority is needed.  That's half-plus-one of the MPs (there are 325 members of Parliament).   So that's already very close to the target number.  Press TV adds: "Maliki's supporters also say that they will try to split support for the term limit campaign by adjusting the law to include other posts such as Kurdistan Regional Government president and parliament speaker."

I am sure that they did that say that.  I don't doubt Press TV's accuracy.  Mainly because the members of State of Law repeatedly demonstrate stupidity.

It might help State of Law to read the Iraqi Constitution at some point.  Familiarizing themselves with something they swear an oath to would be a good idea and it would also help them look a little less stupid in public.  The first clause of Article 117 would probably be most helpful to State of Law at this point along with the first and second clauses of Article 121.

There is nothing in the Constitution that gives the Baghdad-based government the right to declare anything about the KRG president or prime minister.  

State of Law MP Sami al-Askari has been talking trash about political rivals for the last  few days.  From Tuesday's snapshot:

Yesterday,  Alsumaria reported that State of Law MP Sami al-Askari is calling Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi a failure and he told Alsumaria that the Kurds are playing up the Sunni - Shi'ite divide.  Today Kurdistan Alliance MP and leader Muhsin al-Sadoun tells Alsumaria that al-Askari's remarks are not helpful and that the suffering that has taken place has been under Nouri al-Maliki's leadership as people have increasingly lost confidence in the government's ability to provide as a result of the vast corruption and the failure to provide security.   al-Askari hasn't stopped trashing politicians.  Al Rafidayn reports he went on Alsumaria television tonight and trashed Iraqiya's Osama al-Nujaifi who is the Speaker of Parliament.  He stated that al-Nujaifi is indebted to the Kurds who pushed for him to be Speaker of Parliament, implying that he does their bidding.  Iraqiya came in first in the 2010 parliamentary elections.  After Nouri refused to honor the Constitution and give up the post of prime minister and Jalal was bound and determined to remain prime minister, that only left one post for the political bloc that got the most votes.  Iraqiya was always going to get the spot and al-Askari knows that, he's just attempting to inflame tensions with his bitchy nature.

It's so bad that finally, today, President Jalal Talabani speaks.  Alsumaria reports Jalal said he could no longer remain silent in light of all the accusations al-Askari has been making.  Talabani states that whether al-Askari meant to or not, the statements drive a wedge and break the bonds between the political blocs.
Al Mada reports that Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc doesn't expect the crisis to end anytime soon and feels that even the meetings President Jalal Talabani has been holding are not going to be enough to resolve the crisis.  All Iraq News notes National Alliance MP Fawzi Akram Tarzi is stating that the only way to resolve the crisis is to create a supreme body tasked with that goal.  Al Mada informs that Jalal himself says that they need to respect the Constitution and to honor signed agreements (which most likely means the Erbil Agreement).  All Iraq News notes that the Kurdistan Democratic Party is saying the fact that Talabani has remained at his home in Sulaimaniya and not traveling around Iraq.  Sheikh Aziz Shair is predicting that the issue will not be resolved naturally and will instead continue until 2014 when parliamentary elections are again held.

Finally, Alsumaria reports that an armed attack in Sulaymaniyah Province left one person dead and another injured, a Diyala Province roadside bombing left two people injured and 18 people were arrested for 'terrorism' today as mass arrests continued.