Friday, July 18, 2014

Robert Parry just got a little more crazy

Robert Parry becomes a bigger moron every week.

At this point, he's basically in a padded cell, playing with his own dung, hurling it in the air, smearing it on the walls and his face and tasting it.

In his latest slash fiction about how Barack Obama's penis changed Parry's entire life, Bobby Boy writes:

Still, the neocons achieved one of their chief goals, alienating Obama from Putin and making the two leaders’ collaboration on Syria, Iran and other trouble spots more unlikely. In other words, the neocons have kept alive hope that those problems won’t be resolved through compromise, but rather might still lead to more warfare.

 It's an ahistorical look at events.

Do you remember when Putin and Barack were first at major loggerheads?

I do.

And I remember how C.I. objected to Barack's strategy repeatedly.

How C.I. pointed out that Barack's trashing Putin was elevating Putin.

Do you remember that?

When Ed Snowden ended up in Russia and the White House freaked out, bullied and threatened?

Most of do remember that.

Robert Parry leaves it out because he's too busy smearing dung on his face.

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

Thursday, July 17, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri makes a mess of everything, 'reporter' Hannah Allem piles the blames on others, fact checking her outlandish lies let's us drop back to the realities others ignored in real time, how did Nouri get a weaponized drone in Mosul, did Iraq just get their first suicide bomber from Australia, and much more.

Nouri al-Maliki is a thug.  The 'liberal' media -- Scott Horton's Antiwar Radio, Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! and so many others -- have whored for Nouri and they continue to whore for him.

Yesterday on Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman continued her war against Iraqi Sunnis by booking noted Sunni hater Patrick Cockburn as well as the always ridiculous Hannah Allem (McClatchy Newspapers) who somehow, someway, just happens, repeatedly, to slant things so that Sunnis come off so badly.  Now that Patrick's documented hatred of Sunnis has moved from Arabic social media into the mainstream media, we can ignore him and just zoom in on Hannah.

Hannah Allem:  Down in Najaf, even more important than the prime minister’s call to arms was the fatwa issued by the Shia highest authority in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. He issued a call to arms that asked all Iraqis to come and help in the defense of the nation. And he and his office and officials around him have stressed several times that that was not a sectarian call to arms, that it was a patriotic national duty. But that’s not how it’s been interpreted on the ground, and it’s not how it’s playing out on the ground. It has given religious cover to the remobilization of militias that the government spent—and the U.S. military, when it was here, spent—the past several years trying to disband. 

We have to stop Hannah there, the lies are just too intense.

Hannah lies in July of 2014 that Shi'ite militias are reforming.


In the summer of 2014?

We're going back to October 4, 2013 and the start and the end of the excerpt will be signified by "**********."  Excerpt:



As the photo above (Baghdad) by Iraqi Spring MC demonstrates, protests continued in Iraq.  Protests also took place in TikritNajafRamadi, FallujaSamarra, Baquba, Balad RuzJalawla, among other sites.   Protests have been taking place non-stop since December 21st.   Of today's protests, NINA notes:

Preachers of Friday-prayers called on the sit-inner in their sermons to continue the sit-ins as are the only way to get rid of injustice and abuse policy.
They said in the common prayer which held in six regions of Diyala province : " Iraqi government must not deal with the demands of the protestors in a double standard . Urging worshipers to unify their stand until getting the demands, release innocent prisoners and detainees from prisons.

Kitabat reports that Sheikh Mohammed al-Dulaimi spoke at the Falluja protest and accused the government of supporting militias who target and kill Sunnis.  The Sheikh said that instead of implementing the demands of the protesters, the government would rather target or ignore the protesters.  National Iraqi News offers the Sheikh said, ""The Iraqi government rather than implement the demands of the protesters and adopt genuine reconciliation with people, it tracking and embarrassing the protest leaders,since 9 Months ago claimants the usurped legal rights."

Sheikh Mohammed al-Dulaimi is correct in his accusation:  Nouri al-Maliki (prime minister and chief thug of Iraq) is supporting Shi'ite militias.  Tim Arango (New York Times) broke that story last week -- but somehow the US Congress and the rest of the media missed it.  (The media may be playing dumb.  Members of Congress actually missed it, I spoke with several yesterday about Tim Arango's report.)   Arango noted:

In supporting Asaib al-Haq, Mr. Maliki has apparently made the risky calculation that by backing some Shiite militias, even in secret, he can maintain control over the country’s restive Shiite population and, ultimately, retain power after the next national elections, which are scheduled for next year. Militiamen and residents of Shiite areas say members of Asaib al-Haq are given government badges and weapons and allowed freedom of movement by the security forces.


So the October 4th protests were noting that the Shi'ite militias were regrouping and attacking them and the New York Times' Tim Arango was even reporting that Nouri al-Maliki was arming and garbing Shi'ite militias?

Kind of an important detail.

And one of the reasons the Sunnis felt so targeted.

But leave to Whore Hannah to show up in July 2014 and claim that Shi'ite militias were reforming -- Shi'ite militias who reformed long ago.

Hannah Allem: So we’re talking about groups like Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, which was a splinter group of the Mahdi Army trained by Iran, close ties to Iran, and several other Iranian-backed Shia Muslim militias. And then, on top of that, you’ve got tribes that are offering up tens of thousands of their members, and you’ve got these just ordinary teenagers, you know, and young men who are answering the call on religious grounds. So, it’s this hodgepodge of forces. They really sort of lack a central command. So far they’ve said that they would all play fair and answer to the government and work within the government structure. But that’s just simply not the case. There are just too many people with arms roaming around with disparate leaders.

Okay, Moqtada's Mahdi Army?  I have no idea whether it reformed or not but those rumors of it reforming started in early 2013.

To take the heat off Hannah, let's note the load of the crap that came up next:

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, last month Democracy Now! interviewed former U.N. special envoy for Syria, Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi. He was previously the U.N. special representative for Iraq. He suggested that sectarianism in Iraq was fostered in the early years of the U.S. invasion and occupation.
LAKHDAR BRAHIMI: The impression one had was that the people that were preferred by the occupying powers were the most sectarian Shia and the most pro-Iranian Shia, so, you know, that Iran—that Iraq is now very, very close to Iran. Again, from the point of view of somebody who looks at things from outside, I have absolutely no knowledge of what went on in the high spheres of power in Washington. The impression we had is that these people were put in charge either out of total ignorance—and that is extremely difficult to accept—or intentionally. But the fact is, you know, that the system that was established was very sectarian.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Hannah Allam, that was Lakhdar Brahimi, the former U.N. special envoy for Syria. He was previously the special representative, the U.N. special representative for Iraq. Could you comment on what he said and also on reports of the Islamic State’s violence and atrocities, really, against Sunni Muslims, in addition to Shia and Kurds?
Don't bother trying to remember the question, Hannah really won't try to answer it.
But Nermeen is beyond stupid.  Brahimi's a tool, no one expects honesty from tools.
No, the US government -- under Bully Boy Bush -- did not choose to back Iraqis (Iraqi exiles) because these were Iraqis close to Iran.
That's beyond stupid, it's a lie.
We have to do a back story here.
I don't care for Naomi Klein.  The woman's a piece of trash. She became that before she whored (and lied) for Barack. She became a piece of trash as she did the bare minimum a Canadian activist could do for war resisters.  She'd sign a petition but that's about little Naomi could manage.
She certainly wouldn't stand with them.  She wrongly feared she'd loose access to the United States.
No, she wouldn't have.  She was an American citizen.  Bully Boy Bush couldn't have kept her out of the country.
What's that?
She's Canadian?
Yeah, she has dual citizenship.  Because her parents are Americans.  Her mother and her father.
Her parents went to Canada during Vietnam.  Her father was a war resister.
So for that trashy mall rat Naomi Klein to refuse to share her story, her family's narrative to make the case for the need for Canada to offer asylum to war resisters as they did during Vietnam?
I have no use for Naomi Klein.
As the late, great Cass Elliot used to say, "I wouldn't piss on her if she were on fire." That's how I feel about Naomi.
But when she briefly cared about Iraq, she was able to make the point that realities in Iraq weren't accidents.
And we would note her Harper's essay and expand on it to point out that you have to make the people docile and fearful if you want to take them down "Year Zero."
The US government backed the exiles they did because those exiles would terrorize the Iraqi people -- keep the people fearful of safety while the US government and the installed Iraqis worked to fleece the country.
Let's go back to Hannah.  We're picking right back up but don't worry about the question she was asked because Hannah talks about what Hannah wants to.

HANNAH ALLAM: Sure. I think it’s important to note that the Islamic State is not doing this land grab, this insurgency alone. It has a lot of support, really crucial support, especially for holding territories that it seized, from, again, this mixture of former Baathists, ex-military and intelligence from the old regime, some tribes. And the reason they’ve been able to cultivate some support among those community—well, some are just, you know, against the whole political system that was established under the U.S. occupation. 
Still with Hannah but I really want you to pay attention to what she says next:
Some haven’t come to terms with the loss of their former power and prestige. But then there are a wide swath of Sunni communities who are simply fed up with the sectarian policies they’ve seen under this administration of Nouri al-Maliki. 
Some Sunnis haven't come to terms with a loss of power and prestige?
Am I the only one who can see Hannah taking two skips to the right in order to next justify slavery?
Hannah is such a damn xenophobe.
Power and prestige weren't the issues for the Sunni people.
It's cute how Nouri never gets called out by the Hannahs.
This has been addressed at length in the UK's Iraq Inquiry.
Paul Bremer kicked off de-Ba'athification -- sending many Sunnis (and Shi'ites) out of the government.  This was a huge mistake -- British intelligence saw it as such, check the testimonies to the Iraq Inquiry.  And a huge mistake was made worse by Nouri 
He was supposed to end de-Ba'athifaction.  This was supposed to allow the country to unify and Nouri promised to do this in 2007.  This was part of the benchmarks the White House came up with.
McClatchy reported on those benchmarks repeatedly -- they did so badly, but they did so repeatedly.
Hannah Allem:  And I think we should point out he [Nouri]  first ran on a platform that was considered nationalist. He went after Shia militias in the south, and people thought, OK, maybe this isn’t going to be as sectarian as we feared. 
Shi'ite militias in the south?

Oh, the Mahdi.  Yeah, with the US, he went after one Shi'ite militia, the militia of his political rival Moqtada al-Sadr.
One militia.  Hannah's always got to lie. She's the proud mommy with the unaccomplished son so she just makes s**t up and hopes no one catches on.
Nezir Akyesilmen (Daily Sabah) offers this take on events in Iraq:

A coalition of oppositions composed of resentful Sunni groups, former Ba'athists and the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) - or from its Arabic acronym as Da'ish - has been able to control most of the Sunni populated Iraq territory (except for the Kurdistan region), including Mosul, the second biggest city of Iraq, within a short time. Such a sudden contagion, shows on one hand, the weakness and ineffectiveness of the Iraqi central army and on the other hand depicts the coalition of opposition as an important and powerful actor that cannot be ignored in Iraq anymore. There are also signals showing that this de facto situation will remain for a long time and may even be permanent.
When the PM of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Nechirvan Barzani said that "it is difficult to be able to return to the order before Mosul in Iraq" in an interview on the BBC, he was most probably referring to this reality. The conflict which has become particularly violent is escalating in Iraq and transforming into an inhuman situation with casualties increasing day by day. Hate speech by Nouri al-Maliki and violent acts against Shia by the coalition under ISIS patronage have deepened the separation and conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims not only in Iraq but also on the whole planet. Some regional powers have made great contributions both in design and ideology to this sectarian conflict. If this conflict is not resolved in a short time, all the regional countries will be negatively affected in terms of economic, social and political stability, particularly the actors that are trading with Iraq (essentially with the Kurdistan region), including Turkey. In such a case, regional escalation of a lasting, comprehensive and sectarian conflict is unavoidable.

See, if you're not Hannah, you can speak honestly about Iraq.

NINA reports 1 person was killed today in Mosul and five more were left injured.

What's curious is the weapon used.  A drone.

US President Barack Obama has insisted that no US drones were being used as weapons as yet in Iraq and those present were in Baghdad.

So what's happened?

Iran's suddenly got drones? Weaponized ones?

Russia's delivered them?

Or Barack's lied to the American people?

Julian E. Barnes (Wall St. Journal) reports on how Barack's rush to arm Nouri suffered a little setback:

U.S. defense officials are tamping down any talk of a quick decision on what to do next in Iraq.
And on Wednesday, Mr. Obama addressed a range of foreign policy challenges, including the Afghanistan elections, negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, the fighting between Israel and Hamas, and Russian provocations in Ukraine, but there was no mention of imminent action in Iraq. In fact, Mr. Obama didn’t mention Iraq at all.
What’s going on?

A fresh assessment of Iraq’s security forces prepared by U.S. military teams working in Iraq was delivered to the Pentagon this week. It wasn’t exactly a sunny outlook, but Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said that while defense leaders felt a sense of urgency, they were not going to rush their work.

Dahr Jamail observes (in a repost at The Nation), " What is left of Iraq, this mess that is no longer a country, should be considered the legacy of decades of US policy there, dating back to the moment when Saddam Hussein was in power and enjoyed Washington’s support. With Maliki, it has simply been a different dictator, enjoying even more such support (until these last weeks), and using similarly barbaric tactics against Iraqis."

Vietnam veteran Roland Van Deusen writes the Watertown Daily Times to share his thoughts on Iraq which include:

Since we left Iraq, the government we set up there has replaced almost every senior officer in the Iraqi army with Shi’ite yes-men, regardless of their military ability. Three hundred U.S. advisers won’t undo this damage before ISIS threatens to topple Iraq’s government.
That government refused John Kerry’s condition that our defending them depends upon their sharing power with Sunnis and Kurds. Yet now our adviser/grunts are on the ground, with another 200 on the way, in spite of our president’s saying the answer to this crisis is political, not military. Why are we there?

James Cullum (Talk Radio News) speaks with US House Rep Ted Poe:

“I think he has to go,” Poe told TRNS after a subcommittee meeting on Tuesday. “He needed to go a long time ago. He’s incompetent and has the inability to lead, and he can’t lead all the people in Iraq. He’s trying to preserve his fiefdom, and rulers in that situation have many times dealt in an unreal world, and do not know they have lost their credibility and authority, and he is one of those.” 

Since begging the US government to provide 'traineers' and 'advisors' on the ground in Iraq, Nouri has demonstrated that he will not change one bit.  His latest tantrum has only further inflamed tensions in Iraq. Press TV notes:

Iraq’s Kurds have just recently announced plans for a referendum on the independence of the semi-autonomous Kurdish province.The Arab League however has downplayed the significance of these plans as “media talk”.Meanwhile, the Kurds, including ministers in the Iraqi cabinet, continue to disengage from Baghdad completely, following accusations by Prime Minister Maliki that Erbil was harboring ISIL terrorists.

PNA notes, "Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari has urged PM Nouri Maliki to apologise for saying the Kurdish region authorities are sheltering extremists."  But when has Nouri ever worked to clean up one of his own messes?

Robin Wright (New Yorker) notes Nouri's problems with the Kurds:

The Kurds have many reasons to split off. They’re furious with Baghdad, which since January has refused to fork over the Kurds’ share of the national kitty. They’re terrified of the sweeping territorial conquests by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), an Al Qaeda offshoot, which is now poised along a six-hundred-mile border with Kurdistan that the Iraqi Army abruptly abandoned last month. And they’re engaged in a war of words with Iraq’s Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, about stepping aside to let a new government salvage the nation. Last week, Maliki accused the Kurds of aiding ISIS militants. He fired all the Kurds in his cabinet, including the stalwart Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.

“He has become hysterical and has lost his balance,” Barzani, who is now Kurdistan’s President, said in an unusually peppery statement on July 10th. “He is doing everything he can to justify his failures and put the blame on others.” Barzani noted that Maliki himself had once taken refuge from Saddam’s dictatorship in Kurdistan—and that others were now taking refuge from Maliki. Barzani also told the BBC, “Iraq is effectively partitioned now. Are we supposed to stay in this tragic situation?”

Those factors would make many tread lightly -- but not Nouri al-Maliki.   He just stomps his feet, creates more problems and then begs others to clean up his mess.

Let's turn to violence.  Warwick Daily News notes, "The first Australian suicide bomber in Iraq reportedly killed three people in the heart of Baghdad on Thursday, raising the involvement of local jihadists in the spiraling violence to a chilling new level."  IS used a Tweet to note the bombing and dub the bomber Abu Bark al-Australi.  3 News adds, "If the man is confirmed to be Australian, he will be the first from his country to have been involved in carrying out a suicide bombing in Iraq.

In other violence, National Iraqi News Agency reports a battle in Alsger left 3 Iraqi soldiers dead, a Muqdadiyah battle left 6 rebels dead, the military killed 2 suspects in Hit, a central Baghdad bombing left 5 people dead and thirty-seven more injured, an al-Khalid bombing left seven Peshmerga injured, and Baghdad Operations Command announced they killed 19 suspects.  Margaret Griffis ( notes, "At least 109 people were killed today, and another 148 were wounded."

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Barack realities

Eroc Zuesse (Information Clearing House) notes:

July 16, 2014 "ICH" -  I write both as a Democrat (which Barack Obama merely claims to be, but shows by his actions that he is not) and as an American (which he, unfortunately, actually is, but which Republicans often deny), in the hope of preserving the honor not just of my Country, but of my Party, both of which he violates routinely.
When President Obama refused to allow the prosecution of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney for their manifest crimes, after they had been in office (their having lied this country into invading a country that was no imminent threat to the United States, tortured people, violated the 4th Amendment by unleashing the NSA against the American public, unleashed Wall Street crooks against the American people via MBS frauds, etc.), Obama thereby took upon himself Bush’s and Cheney’s crimes, as being his own. Those crimes still need to be prosecuted — now by America prosecuting Obama himself, for his covering them up: he still does it, after all of these years. Those crimes are no less heinous and, indeed, no less treasonous, now that a so-called “Democrat” is hiding them, than they were when his self-acknowledged Republican predecessors, and now in some cases even the fake “Democrat” Obama himself, were and have been and still are perpetrating them. They still need to be prosecuted, in order for the U.S. to possess any honor going forward, and any realistic hope of a better future for our nation. Without accountability, there is nothing but dictatorship. That’s the reality of our situation. The people who possess power without accountability are our dictators: they stand above the law; we stand below the law, as their subjects, no longer as authentically American citizens, for they have stolen our democracy from us, and made it into their own kingdom, instead. This is not America; and for us to accept it as if it were, would be for us to defile our great Founders, who waged their Revolution in order to defeat such tyrants — tyrants who now have come back from the dead, only with different faces and names.

That's the opening of a great piece.

Reading it, I thought about crazy ass Naomi Wolf who used to go around the talk show circuit, in the Bully Boy Bush years saying that society was closing in America due to spying and other things, that democracy was dying.  Things are worse now than they were then.

But where[s Naomi?

Hiding in the shadows.

She claimed she endorsed Barack in 2008 and campaigned for him because he believed in the Constitution and would protect civil liberties.

So where's crazy ass Naomi now?

Is she popping more pills, zonked out in a drugged haze?

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

Wednesday, July 16, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee holds a hearing, we note the House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing again, new calls for Nouri al-Maliki to step aside, and much more.

Ranking Member Richard Burr:  Since our last hearing there have been several developments related to the scheduling irregularities across the VA and its negative impact on patient care.  VA's begun to take the necessary steps to address the systemic problem and the corrosive culture that have been identified and substantiated by several independent sources.  However, these changes will not happen overnight.  And this Committee must provide the critical oversight to ensure those changes occur and are effective. [. . .] At the time of the May 15th hearing, there were several stakeholders who did not want to rush to judgment until the allegations surrounding Phoenix had been substantiated. Since that hearing, the IG released an interim report regarding the allegations of scheduling irregularities and a secret wait list at the Phoenix VA Healthcare System. Not only did the IG substantiate scheduling irregularities and a secret wait list at Phoenix, but the IG identified roughly 1,700 veterans that were waiting for appointments and were not included on appropriate electronic wait lists. The IG found that scheduling irregularities are a systemic issue across VA's healthcare system and this was not an isolated event. Additionally, the IG has received numerous allegations regarding   "mismanagement, inappropriate hiring decisions, sexual harassment, and bullying behavior by mid- and senior- level managers at this facility." These allegations speak to the corrosive culture that has taken deep roots throughout the entire Department. Within a 3 week period, the Office of Special Counsel released a statement on VA whistle-blower reprisals and sent a letter to the President regarding VA's lack of responsiveness to OSC requests. In this letter, the OSC describes the Office of Medical Inspector's consistent use of  "a 'harmless error' defense, where the Department acknowledges problems but claims patient care is unaffected."

Senator Jon Tester prattled on about how more doctors were needed,  that the answer wasn't "scheduling more patients for the doctors." Prattled on really described the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee period.  Ranking Member Richard Burr, Senator Patty Murray and a few others had things of value to say.  But most offered platitudes.

I'm being kind, but "stay the course"?  That hoary, old trope?  And from a Democrat?

I'm being kind and not calling that senator out -- or even offering a name.

But that's what we got instead of anything of value.

Tester wants you to know the answer is not scheduling more appointments for doctors.

That may be what his words said in terms of text but the subtext was:  I don't do my homework.

There is a House Veterans Affairs Committee and a Senate one.  The Senate version has become a joke.

Senators being unaware of what the House has already addressed in their hearings does not make the Senate look any smarter.  Senator Mike Johanns made a passing reference to the House's Monday night VA hearing so at least he's semi-aware of the work the other Committee is doing.  One member of the Senate Committee did pay attention and we'll note that later in the snapshot.

On the House Committee, they have members who are doctors.

Jon Tester isn't a doctor.

Why is it that, for example, US House Rep Phil Roe is so much wiser on issues of medicine than Senator Tester?

Maybe because Phil Roe is also Doctor Roe -- a medical doctor who's had his own practice.

And that's why Tester always whines about the lack of doctors -- and he's whine about it for years -- but Roe's the one pointing out how much time VA doctors are forced to waste because the VA refuses to hire assistants who can work the charts and paper work and free up time that doctors can use -- can use, Tester -- to see more patients.

I'm all for more doctors.  But the VA's gotten everything it's asked for -- regardless of who was in the White House -- for over a decade now.  And Congress has given it to them.

Uninformed members of Congress like Jon Tester.

I'm not a medical expert by any means -- and Tester probably knows more about medicine than I do -- but I am smart enough to listen when a doctor speaks and go back and ask friends -- in practice at the VA and in the civilian world -- "These things Dr. Roe is talking about, does this make sense?"

And when I'm told repeatedly that, yes, they do, I start to get really irritated at people who just want to toss money at a problem as opposed to actually fixing it.

Let's note Senator Patty Murray, Chair of the Senate Budget Committee.  She serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and her office issued the following today:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                 CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Wednesday, July 16th, 2014                                                            (202) 224-2834
VETERANS: Murray Continues Call For Transparency, Accountability at VA
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, delivered remarks at a committee hearing on the State of VA Health Care with Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson. In her opening remarks, Murray continued her call to address the systemic problems at the VA in order to ensure veterans are getting the care and support they deserve.
Full Text of Senator Murray’s Remarks:
“Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing. 
“As we all know, this is a critical time for the Department.
“VA is still struggling with major systemic problems, there are many vacancies in key leadership positions, and most importantly, veterans are still waiting too long for care.
“Secretary Gibson, as we discussed yesterday, I appreciate you stepping up during this crisis. 
“The Department needs strong leadership right now - because VA is facing serious challenges.
“Rob Nabors’ review identified several of these issues – which we have also been discussing here for some time.
“A corrosive culture has developed in the Department – one that is unworthy of VA’s many dedicated and talented medical providers who only want to help veterans.
“Management failures and a lack of communication is a problem at all levels of VHA. And VA needs more providers, more space, and  modern IT systems.
“As we continue to work in the conference committee to craft a final bill, I hope an agreement will be reached so we can send it to the President…
“And start making the changes needed at VA to get veterans into care, create transparency, and hold people accountable.
“The compromise bill will be an important first step.  As more reviews are done and more problems are found, we will need to take additional steps. 
“And while we continue working on these problems, we cannot lose sight of many other pressing issues. 
“Too many veterans still die by suicide each day, and sexual assault survivors still need help. 
“VA must continue to make progress toward the commendable -- and even more challenging -- goals of eliminating veterans homelessness and reducing the claims backlog.
“On a more positive note, Secretary Gibson, I appreciate your help in finally getting the money to build the Walla Walla State Veterans Home.   We have been working on this for a very long time. 
“Now, hundreds of veterans in the area will be able to access the long-term care they need.
“As I have said repeatedly here in this room -- when the nation goes to war, it also commits to taking care of the veterans when they return home. 
“Their needs are a cost of war, and we will provide for them – no matter what. 
“We know many veterans will need VA care for several decades to come. 
“Others will come to the VA for the first time many years after their service has ended. 
“So today I want to hear about solutions to these systemic problems, and smart ways to strengthen the VA for the long-term. 
“Because VA needs to be there for our veterans,  ready to help, right away, and every time.”
Meghan Roh
Press Secretary | New Media Director
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Mobile: (202) 365-1235
Office: (202) 224-2834


Murray and Burr don't yammer away.  They're making real contributions.

So many on the Committee can't say that.  (And we'll be coming back to Burr later in the snapshot.)

In fairness to Tester, he brings tremendous knowledge of what rural veterans' needs are.  He has other areas of strength as well.  But when a doctor who serves in the Congress outlines how the VA is wasting doctors' time that could be spent seeing veterans, I think the Senate needs to be aware of that.

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee is suffering right now from grandstanding -- from people who rush in with their prepared soundbyte on veterans then quickly rush out of the hearing (a tactic US House Rep Barbara Lee resorted to repeatedly during the Bully Boy Bush years when she wanted to pretend she was anti-war).  It's cheap and it's tacky.  It might fool the media (or the media might just want to be fooled); however, veterans are noting it and this nonsense of showing up with your grand standing opening statements -- that are vague and full of meaningless applause lines -- and then ducking out is not playing well.

Let's close on the hearing with this from Senator Jon Tester insisted that some members of the Conference Committee "are balking at the cost. We just shipped 800 folks off to Iraq. I didn't hear one person talk about cost."  Well we did talk about the need for the cost to be addressed.  We talked about it here.  I noted it was outrageous that the Congress wasn't asking for dollar numbers.  But I don't serve in the House or Senate.

I didn't hear Jon Tester raise the issue of cost, let alone 'balk' at it.  But he is a member of the Senate.  So maybe he should have?

(And while he was bringing up the silence on that, the issue was being raised in a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee.)

Equally true, Tester's been silent on thug Nouri al-Maliki.  Others spoke out against him -- and did so even if it cost them.  Iraq's Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi continues to live outside of Iraq.  As he has since the end of 2011.  Nouri issued an arrest warrant for Tareq, tried him in absentia and got Tareq sentenced to the death penalty at least five time.
The Sunni politician also stressed that the wider international community shared the blame for Iraq’s descent into chaos. Human rights organisations have documented the deterioration of human rights during Mr Al Maliki’s time in power, he said, “but all those countries that invaded my country in 2003 and talked about respecting human rights, transparency and democratic values, which Iraqis accepted, they did not follow up”.
Mr Al Hashemi, who raised eyebrows last month when he called the Islamic State’s capture of Mosul, Iraq’s second city, “a revolution”, reiterated that the extremists, known to execute their opponents and punish those who fall foul of their rules with flogging, amputation and crucifixion, was only the most visible of the Sunni militant groups fighting Mr Al Maliki.
“They are only one part of the spectrum in this revolution”, though “also the most influential”, he said.
Once Mr Al Maliki is out of the way and Sunnis regain a voice in national politics, they will shake off extremist groups such as Islamic State, Mr Al Hashemi said.

AFP reports on calls for thug Nouri to step aside and not seek a third term as prime minister of Iraq:

“That’s part of the solution. An important part,” said Sheikh Ali al-Najafi, spokesman for his father Grand Ayatollah Bashir al-Najafi, referring to Maliki’s ouster.
“This is the point of view of the marja al-Najafi,” he told AFP on Monday, a “marja” being one of majority Shia Iraq’s four most senior Shia religious leaders, known as the marjaiya.

The most senior of the marjaiya, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, through a spokesman has already called for the “formation an effective government that is acceptable on a ... national level (and) avoids past mistakes”.

Mehmet Celik (Daily Sabah) observes, "Maliki had the chance to reconcile with Iraqis after the elections, where he promised to establish law and order, however, he chose to use state terror, violence, and exclusionary politics against the Sunnis and the Kurds. Thus, Maliki did not have the support of his people to defend Iraq. ISIS's forces are capturing cities one at a time and marching toward Baghdad, Iranian drones are flying over Iraq, the U.S. army is now part of the conflict, there is no legitimate law or order to govern Iraq, yet, Maliki has not resigned. "

We argued weeks before the April 30th parliamentary elections that a new prime minister -- someone other than thug Nouri al-Maliki (and someone not seen as Nouri's stooge) -- could provide a reset.

Violence would not vanish but the level of violence might decrease.

A new prime minister could restore -- even briefly -- hope that things might change.

That possibility is not open-ended.

And that's been demonstrated.  As the press kept calling Nouri the next prime minister after the elections -- despite his not winning enough seats to justify that call, violence in Iraq increased.

As hard as that was for some to picture happening in March when things were already bad in terms of violence, things have gotten even worse.

There's not a lot of time for a reset to work.

Equally true, the more weeks it takes, the more 'anyone' doesn't fill the blank.

The more weeks it takes, the more it will insist that someone like Ammar al-Hakim, Moqtada al-Sadr, Ayad Allawi, Ibrahim al-Jaafari or someone of that stature whose seen as seeing Iraq as a cohesive country made up of Iraqis -- not a loose confederation of sects -- will be needed as prime minister.

Time is running out.

The US government needs to strongly convey that and maybe they need to stop helping Nouri with his targeting of this group for a bombing and that group.  (I think they should for War Crimes reasons but I'm saying it's also helping to prop him up.)

All Iraq News notes KRG President Massoud Barazni informed Ibrahim al-Jaafari that the Kurds continue to reject Nouri as prime minister for a third term.

People, including the US government, better be listening.  While every other Iraqi leader (I'm not including Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani) has suffered some form of setback in the last 12 months, Barzani hasn't.  He's actually increased his popularity -- and not just among Sunnis (and the USAID poll that the State Dept's silent on right now bears that out).

Nouri gets named prime minister, Iraq -- already on fire -- blazes even brighter.

And this can't keep up, you can't expect people to keep hoping and hoping and hoping.

It's time for the Iraqi Parliament to get a president and name a prime minister-designate.

Refusal to do is just going to increase the violence.

It's obvious that Nouri's refusing to go quietly.  The tension is mounting along with the fear over a third term of Nouri.

Margaret Griffis ( counts 51 dead from violence in Iraq today.  On violence, Iraq's religious minorities are being targeted. And the US has offered no one to champion the religious minorities.  Morgan Lee (Christian Post) reports:

The Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore has called on President Barack Obama to fill the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, which has been vacant since Suzanne Johnson Cook resigned in October.
Moore specifically recommended that the President nominate outgoing Rep Frank Wolf, R.-Va., who has already announced that he will not run for reelection this year. 

The office remains empty as Mark von Riedemann and John Newton (Independent Catholic News) report:

The head of the Catholic Church in Iraq has warned EU leaders that Christians – present in the country for almost 2,000 years – could all but disappear unless the violence is halted. Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, head of the Chaldean Catholic Church – Iraq's largest Christian community – told EU representatives that unless a peaceful resolution is found, "Christians will be left with just a symbolic presence in Iraq. If they leave, their history is finished."
Amid worsening political turmoil in Iraq,  Aid to the Church in Need invited a delegation to Brussels headed by Patriarch Sako last Wednesday.

Accompanied by Syrian Catholic Archbishop Yohanna Petros Mouche of Mosul and Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Youssif Mirkis of Kirkuk, the patriarch met EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy as well as members of the European Commission and Parliament.

Cassandra?  We've been that on many things here.  But an e-mail noted I was right about Patrick Cockburn and offered this column by Faisal J. Abbas.  I was 'right' about Cockburn -- he hates Sunnis -- mainly because Arabic social media has been on this story for years.  I started calling Cockburn out when a Sunni community member e-mailed.

To be clear, I did not 'discover' Cockburn's bias.  I did not lead the way on it.  We have noted it.  We have frequently been the only English language site to do so and that might be why someone's attempting to give me credit for it.


It's neither deserved nor earned.

Arabic social media caught on to Cockburn long ago.  They're the ones who raised the issue. So the credit goes to Arabic social media users and bloggers because they blazed the trail on that.  All I did was amplify their criticisms.  That's so minor it deserves no credit but applause for the Arabic social media community who refused to be silent in the face of Patrick Cockburn's bias against Sunnis.

Let's go back to today's Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.  Here, Ranking Member Richard Burr is speaking to Acting VA Secretary Sloan.

Ranking Member Richard Burr:  Mr. Sloan, I want to focus a few moments on data integrity and specifically at the VBA.  I want to give you a few examples of some testimony at the VA provided by the Office of the Inspector General and the General Accounting Office in a House hearing Monday night.  The Inspector General made this statement -- and I quote all of these, "We have concerns that VBA's goals are not realistic and [are] comprised by data integrity issues."  Quote: "We're receiving a number of complaints regarding mail mismanagement, manipulation of dates of claims and other data integrity issues in the Baltimore, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, Oakland and Houston VA regional offices.  And today we received an additional allegation regarding the Little Rock VA regional office.  We are concerned about how quickly the list of regional offices with allegations is growing."   Quote: "VBA removed all provisional rated claims from its pending inventory.  VBA's process misrepresented the actual work load of pending claims and its progress towards eliminating the overall claims backlog."  Quote: "An Office of Inspector General team sent to Philadelphia  regional office on June 19, 2014 determined that there were significant opportunities for regional offices to manipulate and input incorrect dates of claims in the electronic record, incorrect application of data claims compromises data integrity related to timeliness of claims processing."  Then there's this exchange that took place between Congressman [Gus] Bilirakis and the Assistant I[nspector] G[eneral] Linda Halliday.  Mr. Bilirakis said, "You remarked in your opening statement that VBA self-reported a decrease in the national backlog of more than 50% since March 2013.  Do you trust those numbers?" Ms. Halliday: "At this point, I would say 'no.'  I can't trust those numbers.  I think we have a lot of work ahead of us to address the allegations we've just received. They all seem to focus on data integrity and they need to be looked at very carefully so I don't want to say I trust them."  Near the end of the hearing, Congressman [Beto] O'Rourke asked Ms. Halliday, and I quote, "One of the things that you said in your opening comment that struck me was that some of the success may be compromised by data integrity issues.  Anything that Secretary [Allison] Hickey has said tonight that alleviates those concerns that you raised in your opening statement?"  Ms. Halliday simply responded, "No."

Monday night, the House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing.  We noted some of it in Tuesday's snapshot.  We're noting some of it today.  Grasp that what Ranking Member Burr noted of the hearing is important but that it's not even all of the important from that hearing.

Where is the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee?  Why aren't they doing a damn thing.  Not only was there the issues Burr pointed to, it was also true that the VA attempted to record agents of Congress as they questioned VA workers.  US House Rep Jeff Miller is the Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.  Monday's hearing included a panel of whistle-blowers.  It also included a panel of VA officials including the infamous and notorious liar Allison Hickey.

House Committee Chair Jeff Miller: [. . .] I instructed the Committee staff to make a visit to the Philadelphia regional office on the second of July, 2014.  As of the 20th of June, specific concerns that we've heard some tonight had been raised on the management or more accurately mismanagement of that office.  And I did want our staff to spend a day on the ground to perform a technical review of some of the various files, view the office and meet with some of the individuals who work there.  This is a customary thing for our staff to do.  So let me run through what occurred on this unannounced visit. My staff alerted the office of Congressional Legislative Affairs of their imminent arrival at approximately nine o'clock in the morning and about 20 minutes later they arrive and are greeted by an employee of the regional office and they were accompanied to a conference room on the fourth floor.  Within moments of arrival, while waiting for the acting director of the regional office, one of my staff went to the restroom on the fourth floor and there was another individual who was in the restroom who had set a yellow notepad not far from the sink and when my staff member and when my staff member went by the sink, they noticed there was writing at the top of the page that was circled.  In fact, we've got a copy of it, I'd like to go ahead and post it if we can so everyone can see it.  Members you have a copy of this, it's the yellow legal pad.  And two names were circled at the top of the page.  Now these two employees were from the regional office and they both had acted as whistle-blowers to improper acts in the past.  Alright, my staff then looked at the remainder of the page and on it were written my staff members' names for information as their status for the Committee of Veterans Affairs.  And if you will notice about mid-way down, you'll see where the word "ignore" was followed by one of my staff member's names -- so you see the word "ignore" just, it looks like,  to the left of the pen.  But before I finish the timeline for the members' benefit, the person who exited the bathroom with the yellow notepad in hand was the acting director Lucy Filipov of the Philadelphia Regional Office and now the acting director had met with my staff later in the conference room and when requested who had provided notice of the visit, she stated she had not spoken with OCLA but instead had only spoken with Diana Rubins regarding the Congressional staff's arrival.  She then began the conference with two comments.  First, she said the Philadelphia regional office endeavors to do all  things with integrity and give proper benefits to veterans.  Second, she made a curious statement when taken in the context of Ms. Filipov's possession of the notepad with the name of two of our whistle-blowers at the top -- that were circled.  She said it's difficult to have employees or ex-employees who say we are not doing a good job.

Filipov then insisted that the Congressional staff would conduct any and all interviews in a third floor office.  Upon discovering the third floor office had microphones and recording devices, Miller's staff refused to use the office.

Chair Jeff Miller:  . . . You will not ignore this Committee anymore.  And  be on notice, you will not ignore our staff that is acting as this Committee's agents as well. The Committee has Constitutional oversight and I intend that it shall be carried out unhindered on behalf of the American public and on behalf of the nation's veterans.  If you look very carefully, if you put this note back up, there are some pretty derogatory comments that are on this.  [C.I. note: One Congressional staffer is called an "ass."]  Would anybody at the table like to comment about the comments that are written on this piece of paper?  Ms. Hickey, you're welcome to comment.

Allison Hickey:  Chairman, without question, without question, we respect the oversight of this Committee and your staff. What occurred on that day was not acceptable and not indicative of the normal ways in which Ms. Rubin might behave.  And I know that she has been on visits with your staff and even with members of this Committee before.  And I think if we reflect on those visits in the last year, you would say she did not repeat similar behaviors.  But I will not excuse it.  I have not excused it with her. And we -- And I will just tell you without question it is unacceptable and I offer on behalf of the Dept my sincere apologies to your staff who experienced it that day and my commitment that it will not happen again and that you will receive absolutely with open arms and full-leaning-in support anything that you need on any visit that you go on.

Allison Hickey is such a damn liar.

There's no nice way to put it.  And if you've endured her previous lying you not only understand why the American Legion called for her resignation in May, but you know she never stops lying.  She lies to Congress about numbers -- numbers they have before them and she lies about them.

She's said to be the 'brain' behind the con game (slap a  partial rating on a disability claim -- any rating at all, call the claim done even though it's going to be appealed because the appeals don't count towards the backlog).  She certainly was in charge of selling it to Congress.

She's just a liar.

Chair Miller noted Diane Rubin came to the Committee and lied that she wasn't involved in any of it.  Miller asks Hickey what she thinks of that and Hickey -- with a trembling voice -- insists that Rubin was there to make an honest apology.  No, there's nothing honest about it was someone else's fault.  Or someone else called the staff member an "ass."  Hickey admits, in the exchange, that Rubin did do that, called the staff member and an "ass" and much more.  But Hickey refuses to call Rubin a liar when asked about Rubin trying to pass that off, to the Committee, as someone else having said it, not her.

Chair Jeff Miller:  Ms. Rubens came to our Committee offices and when she did, she did not apologize for that.  What she said was, she had told the acting director to ignore what other people might be saying about my staff.  And you're telling me this person is still employed?  Even though she gave a directive to not tell an agent of this Committee what was happening at the regional office?

Allison Hickey:  Chairman Miller, I will say again without question, without question, we respect the oversight of every single one of you on this Committee and in these hallowed halls

I'm not interested in her damn lies.  She lies over and over.

She should have been fired long ago but she's part of the corruption and the lies of the VA and that she thought she would get away with lying yet again?

Chair Jeff Miller responded, "So I'll take that as a 'no' that Ms. Rubens did not lie, even though she did.  Again, your commitment is appreciated but it is not believed."  Nothing Hickey says is to be believed.

Ranking Member Richard Burr:  Under Secretary Hickey was the one that testified for the VA and despite her testimony -- which was refuted by the Inspector General  and the GAO -- the VA put out a press release the very next day entitled "VA Takes Action to Ensure Data Integrity of Disability Claims" in which the VA touts that it's reduced the backlog claims by 55%, has reduced the number of days it takes to process claims and has improved its accuracy rate to over 90%.  Now listen, you've said that you've got to gain the trust of the Committee, of the veterans, of the country and I think we agree with you.  Let me ask you, how smart was that press release? Did you sign off on that press release?  And how can numbers that are refuted by the people that are actually doing the investigation of VA facilities -- how can they refute the numbers and the next day VA come out with the same [false] numbers and tout them?

Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson: Senator, I think, as you've noted, trust is the foundation of everything we do and where there are questions about what -- about data integrity, I think we've got to bore into those very deeply.  There are a number of issues that have been raised there.  I could sit and go through and pick at an item or two but the fundamental issue remains that there is -- there are questions about whether or not we've got good  data integrity there.  And just as we are undertaking independent reviews in the VHA side, we'll undertake those in the VBA side.

Ranking Member Richard Burr:  Mr. Secretary, they've been under way.  Much of it initiated by members of this Committee with the Inspector General, with the General Accounting Office.  And you've acknowledged the shortcomings on the VHA side.  This is fresh, this is this week.  And still the press releases stresses that the VA will continue to post these performance data on their website.  How does publicizing suspect data increase the integrity and the trust -- 

Gibson interrupted and began sharing his personal backstory.  The name of this website is The Common Ills -- not The James Boswell.  So we'll leave it to someone else to tell the tale of Sloan Gibson.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Israel isn't my pressing issue.

I don't see much worthy writing of these days.

A number of sites (ICH for one) have gone into wall-to-wall on Israel.

I just don't give a f**k.


They overplay their hand every time -- the left media.

I don't feel like, "I need to defend Israel!"

I do feel like, "I'm so damn tired of this stupid and never-ending story."

Maybe if the media didn't try to cram it down my throat.

Maybe if these 60 plus years of conflict didn't overtake every other story when the left chooses to focus on Israel?

But right now, I just don't give a damn.

Iraqis are dying.

That I care about.

My country is responsible for that.


When the hell does the fighting end there and when do certain elements of the left stop trying to clobber me over the head with this topic?

A lot of people my age are just sick of the way that topic always derails anything else.

And we're bothered by how unhinged some people are on the topic.

Third posted new content on Sunday:

And Dallas and the following worked on it:

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

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

Tuesday, July 15, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Iraq gets a new Speaker of Parliament, Nouri pouts, when will the press seriously cover the VA scandals (no time soon), and much more.

The Iraqi Parliament met today and focused on their third attempt to meet and begin forming a government.

All Iraq News notes they met and began the process of electing a Speaker of Parliament.  NINA reports:

MP , Salim al-Jubori win candidate for Itihad al-Qowa al-Iraqiya headed by former Speaker Osama Nujaifi win the new post of Parliament the post of new Speaker after announcing the results of voting in the house of representatives after noon today.

APA adds, "Live television footage broadcast from inside the parliamentary chamber showed the 43-year-old being congratulated by other deputies."  The White House issued the following today:

Biden’s Call with Next Iraqi Council of Representatives Speaker

15 July 2014
Office of the Vice President
July 15, 2014

Readout of Vice President Biden's Call with Iraqi Council of Representatives Speaker Salim al-Jabouri
This afternoon, Vice President Biden called Salim al-Jabouri to congratulate him on his selection as the next Speaker of the Iraqi Council of Representatives. The Vice President and Speaker agreed on the importance of acting quickly, consistent with constitutional timelines, to form a new government capable of uniting Iraqi communities in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. They discussed the efforts required to address the legitimate grievances of all communities through the political process. They both reaffirmed the importance of the strategic relationship between the United States and Iraq. The Vice President made clear that the United States looks forward to working closely with Speaker al-Jabouri.


The US State Dept issued this statement from Secretary of State John Kerry:

We congratulate the Iraqi people on the election of a new parliamentary Speaker and two Deputy Speakers. The election of a Speaker is the first step in the critical process of forming a new government that can take into account the rights, aspirations, and legitimate concerns of all Iraq’s communities.
We urge Iraq’s leaders to follow this achievement with rapid formation of a new government pursuant to Iraq's constitutional timelines. We further urge the international community to support Iraq's democratic political process, which reflects the aspirations of the nearly 14 million Iraqis who voted for new representatives from all parts of the country. These representatives are now charged, through the Iraqi parliament, to form a new government with leaders who reflect a broad national consensus.
As I said in Baghdad, this is a moment when the stakes for Iraq’s future could not be clearer as much depends on the ability of Iraq’s leaders to come together and take a united stand against ISIL. Iraq faces an existential threat and Iraq’s leaders need to confront that threat with the urgency that it demands. As they do, the United States will remain a steadfast partner in support of their fight for the democratic process and against ISIL.

As Alsumaria notes, State of Law tried to upset the process yet again.  That is Nouri al-Maliki's coalition. He wants a third term as prime minister.  Isra' al-Rubei'i and Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) attempt to figure out what the vote means -- specifically does it mean a third term for Nouri:

Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Maliki's predecessor and now head of his Shi'ite National Alliance, hinted that a wider deal had been reached, saying the Shi'ite alliance was voting for Jabouri and expected support from Sunni politicians in return.
"It is the nature of any deal that any commitment should be mutual. It doesn't make sense that we support them and they don't support us," Jaafari said. However, he did not specify whether the National Alliance would now nominate Maliki for prime minister or choose another candidate.

Anything could happen.

But Reuters establishes no reason for their pondering re: Nouri.  The vote today?

Isn't it what the Shi'ite groups -- including Ibrahim's National Alliance -- agreed to in a flurry of meetings on Friday and Saturday?  Yes, it is.  Only Nouri's State of Law refused to go along with it.

So why would the vote on the Speaker possibly mean that Nouri would get a third term?

He might get that.

But no public events -- covered in the report or ignored by it -- suggest anything to do with Nouri.

Since Nouri's bloc walked out, you could argue the events suggest the opposite.

And elected by 194 votes?  Did Nouri's bloc even support the candidate?

Others don't feel he deserves it, to put it mildly.  All Iraq News notes the Kurds noted their objection to a third term for Nouri again today.  Nouri and other members of State of Law walked out on the proceedings.

The Parliament has to pick three posts.  That's the first step in forming a government.

The three presidencies are Speaker of Parliament, the President and the Prime Minister-designate -- everyone's forgetting "designate" these days.  That's step one.  Picking a Speaker today doesn't finish step one.

Step two is after a prime minister-designate is named, that person then has 30 days to put together a full cabinet.  If the Constitution is followed this time, failure to put together a full cabinet in 30 days would mean a new person was named prime minister-designate and given the chance.  Success would mean the prime minister-designate moved from designate to prime minister.

Now we can talk the Constitution or we can just blow smoke out our ass.  Hello, AP, thanks for stinking up the room.

If you missed it, AP is like the drunk in the conversation insisting, "It's science!" -- when, in fact, there comments are not science.  And AP doesn't know the Constitution:  "According to the constitution, parliament now has 30 days to elect a president, who will then have 15 days to ask the leader of the largest bloc in the legislature to form a government. Then a prime minister will be picked."

First off, the "largest bloc in the legislature"?  That's not the Constitution, it's the 2010 court verdict Nouri sought ahead of the 2010 elections and then kept the verdict to himself in case he didn't need it.  The Constitution is the largest bloc from the elections -- not the post-election bloc forming.

Second, the prime minister is not then picked.

A prime minister-designate is named.  Per the Constitution, the designate has 30 days to form a Cabinet or see someone else nominated prime minister-designate.

The Voice of Russia notes that the new Speaker was named on a busy day for Iraq, "Earlier on Tuesday, security forces launched an attack on Tikrit, hometown of Saddam Hussein, aiming to revitalize a counter-offensive that began more than two weeks ago. They initially gained control of the southern part of the city, but later pulled back south of Tikrit after heavy fighting, officers and witnesses said. "Iraqi forces withdrew at the beginning of the night so that they would not be exposed to losses," but would return later, a senior army officer said. However, any gains made in the city are likely to be offset by militants moving back in."

Today, the US State Dept 'discovered' Iraq again in it's press briefing by spokesperson Jen Psaki.

QUESTION: What’s your reaction – the new parliament elected a new speaker today.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: I’m getting an assist from Said here. The Secretary --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: We put out a statement from the Secretary. It came out right before I came out here, so I’m not sure if you saw it.

QUESTION: I didn’t see it.

MS. PSAKI: Let me just reiterate some of the points that he made. We certainly, of course, congratulate the Iraqi people on the election of a new parliamentary speaker as well as two deputies. This election of a speaker is the first step in the critical process of forming a new government that can take into account the rights, aspirations, and legitimate concerns of all of Iraq’s communities. We urge the – Iraq’s leaders to follow this step today with rapid formation of a new government. That means, as you all know, selection of a president and a prime minister. We expect as they – as the meeting breaks, and maybe that’s already happened, we’ll know more soon about the next time they plan to meet. And obviously those are the next appropriate steps in the process.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Stay in Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Without getting into the classified information, a report that’s on Secretary Hagel’s desk – has Secretary Kerry, as a member of the National Security Council, expressed concern over U.S. personnel who are in Iraq and are working with different forces and officials?

MS. PSAKI: Are you speaking to military personnel, or which personnel are you referring to?

QUESTION: Any officials in Iraq. Is the United States or people in this building concerned about insider attacks for U.S. personnel working with their Iraqi counterparts?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a couple of different things I think you’re referring to here, so let me just break those apart, if that’s okay with you. I think the Pentagon confirmed yesterday that Secretary Hagel and Chairman Dempsey received the draft of the assessment from Central Command. Obviously, they’re the front individuals to review that draft and they also have oversight over military personnel who are on the ground in Iraq.
Broadly speaking, certainly as the State Department and the Secretary are always evaluating the safety and security of our personnel, the men and women serving in a variety of capacities in Iraq, and any other high-threat post around the world, and we take steps accordingly and as needed. And you’re familiar with the steps we recently took. I don’t have any of those to be – to predict at this point, but that certainly is something we evaluate broadly speaking on nearly a daily basis about places like Iraq.

QUESTION: And specific to Iraq, are you concerned about Shia forces aligned with Iran and about Sunni forces aligned with extremist elements? Are those specific --

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to speak to reports in a draft that obviously the proper officials have not yet reviewed.

QUESTION: I know that you want the choice of a prime minister to the Iraqi people.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You’ve said – stated --

MS. PSAKI: You’re familiar with our point on that.


MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: I’m fully familiar with it, but --


QUESTION: But as Maliki becomes more and more polarizing, a polarizing figure – and those were the words of someone like Barzani in Turkey, those are the words of even allies within the Shia coalition, even his own coalition – are you willing to support as an alternative someone that the Iranians might support, who is Ahmed Chalabi, someone who has been tarnished in the United States as someone who collaborated with the enemies of the United States?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re not going to pick or support candidates. Obviously, as you noted, but it’s worth me repeating from the U.S. Government, we – it’s up to the Iraqi people to determine their leadership. We’ve expressed concern in the past about the lack of inclusivity in Prime Minister Maliki’s leadership. That hasn’t changed. And obviously, we want to see a future government and future leaders who govern in a more inclusive manner. But that’s one of the next steps in the process, and we leave that to the Iraqis to determine.

QUESTION: Do you believe that Mr. Maliki, the message he gets from this podium and other podiums and so on, that the United States sticks to him no matter what?

MS. PSAKI: I can’t evaluate for you what I believe Prime Minister Maliki hears or listens to or reads, but --

QUESTION: If he gets that message, do you think that he’s getting the wrong message?

MS. PSAKI: I think our message has consistently been that it’s up to the Iraqis to determine their future leadership. So I think that would be what anybody would hear.

QUESTION: Well, if they haven’t elected him, then it means that they don’t want him. So I mean, they have chosen, don’t you think?

MS. PSAKI: We’ll let the process play itself out, Elise.

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Iraq?

QUESTION: Yes, please. I mean, you mentioned that the Iraqis have to choose their prime minister and the president, assuming that they have this parliament now, proper parliament president.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have in your mind a timeframe? Because a while ago – I mean, it’s like last week you were talking about Sunday or 10 days or something like this. Do you have a timeframe for this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, so they did meet on Sunday, and obviously, this – the selection of the speaker just happened today.


MS. PSAKI: So I think we’ll leave it to them to make any announcements about their next planned meeting where we – and expect and hope that they will move forward with the remaining steps in government formation.

QUESTION: And like few days ago, Prime Minister Maliki replaced the foreign minister or asked him to leave his job or replace him with another person. Do you have any concern and especially Zebari has had a good relation or at least long relation with Secretary Kerry and the State Department – is this representing any concern to you in your relations with – foreign relations with Iraq, or it doesn’t matter?

MS. PSAKI: In the selection of a new foreign minister?


MS. PSAKI: That’s, again, an Iraqi political decision. Obviously, you’re right that the Secretary has worked with the former foreign minister quite a bit in the past, but we’ll work with the leaders and the representatives who are selected by the government and the people of Iraq.

QUESTION: Was there any contact with the new foreign minister or not yet?

MS. PSAKI: Not at the Secretary’s level. I don’t have anything to read out from our team on the ground, though they remain engaged with a range of officials on the ground.

QUESTION: And who – still the same team on the ground doing contact with all this leadership?

MS. PSAKI: That’s right. Ambassador Beecroft, Deputy Assistant Secretary McGurk. They remain on the ground and closely engaged.

Should a prime minister be declared any time soon, what happens in terms of the military -- specifically the hundreds of US troops Barack has sent into Iraq in the last weeks?  Jill Reilly (Daily Mail) reminds, "The teams [of US military 'advisors'] will determine how the U.S. can best help the Iraqi forces, then the additional teams will deploy. They are expected to help the Iraqis improve their military systems and commands, but not embed with the fighting units or engage in direct combat."  Eric Schmitt and Michael R. Gordon (New York Times) report, "A classified military assessment of Iraq’s security forces concludes that many units are so deeply infiltrated by either Sunni extremist informants or Shiite personnel backed by Iran that any Americans assigned to advise Baghdad’s forces could face risks to their safety, according to United States officials."

Turning to violence, NINA reports a handcuffed, blindfolded and bullet riddled corpse was discovered dumped in the street in al-Obeidi and alleged IS leader Abu Osama al-Qahtani was killed in Baiji by security forces.  There's other violence but it won't dominate today's news cycle -- even the small section on Iraq.

In addition, BasNews reports Iraqi rebels have killed 24 Iranian soldiers on the ground in Iraq so far this month.

Vatican Radio reports some good news:

Two nuns and three orphans under their care have been released in Iraq by kidnappers linked to ISIS, the Al Qaeda-inspired Sunni militant group also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Speaking to AsiaNews, Chaldean Patriarch Mar Louis Raphael I Sako expressed relief that there was “finally good news” in the country where ISIS, under the banner of a new Islamic “caliphate,” has captured large swathes of territory from the Shia led government in Baghdad.
Sister Atur and Sister Miskinta and the three young people went missing 28 June. The two Chaldean nuns belonged to the Congregation of the Daughters of the Immaculate Mary. Together with their consoeurs, the sisters help run a family home for orphans and abandoned children in Mosul, near the Chaldean Archbishopric.
Patriarch Sako told AsiaNews that people in the city “contributed to their liberation.”

Turning to the topic of veterans . . .

US House Rep Mike Fitzpatrick: Ms. Ruell, you testified in your opening statement that you came to the VA around 2007 and within a short period of time in your tenure at VA, you began to notice things things were not working as they should, that claims were not being processed timely, claims were being lost.  Fellow employees were reporting that mail was being set aside and that in some cases mail was being shredded.  You know, that we have constituents, perhaps a widow of a WWII veteran who sits down and writes a traditional letter, hand writes a letter, puts a stamp on it, and sent it to the Philadelphia VA office believing that claim would be processed, that that simple request might be heard. That letter might have been shredded.  You went on to find and report to your managers that duplicate payments were being made and as a dedicated employee of the VA you tried to fix it.  You asked that those duplicate claims be recaptured, be brought back in, to be ignored. Around the same time, I was sent by the people of the Philadelphia region to come back to Congress to serve them.  And I had served a previous term back in the 109th Congress, 2005, 2006.  So I had the chance to go back and hire dedicated case workers, who served veterans, who worked with me in the past.  They are veterans themselves.  And within a short period of time, 2011, they were reporting to me that something was wrong at the Veterans Administration -- not as they remembered it.  Claims were being delayed, they couldn't get answers, they were sending letters, the letters were never received.  And we were hearing the same from our constituents.  I did not know you at the time, but you were saying the same thing to your leadership at the Philadelphia regional office.  For that, you were criticized, you were castigated, you were abused, you were disciplined.  I think you ought to be applauded for trying to change the system from within.  I think you're owed an apology from the Veterans Administration.  I think you're fellow comrades who are here with you today, work with you in other offices, they should be applauded.  There are thousands of dedicated Veterans Affairs employees who try to do the right thing from within. Our nation's veterans deserve an apology -- some of them pass away while waiting for their claims to be processed. Ms. Ruel, you provided information when the administration at the Philadelphia office was not listening to my office, flood data, duplicate payments, which we wrote to Gen Shinseki when you brought that information to us in September of 2012.  And a response was received in February of 2013 from the undersecretary essentially that if there are any problems, they're so minor that we don't need to change any systems in order to address them.  Knowing what you know, Ms. Ruell, how can the administration of the VA provide that kind of answer?

Kristen Ruell: I think it's the easiest answer to just ignore the problem.  From working with the OIG the last four weeks, they're baffled as to data mine the issue and find the problem.  But I don't think an answer of 'it's inconclusive' or 'we're not sure how to figure this problem out' is a fair answer to veterans who have been waiting for their benefits and they're sitting in a box because they have two claim numbers and we're not sure what we're going to do with that claim.

US House Rep Mike Fitzpatrick:  Ms. Ruell, just last week, the Philadelphia VA acknowledged an entitlement and benefit backlog of 49.6% of 42,141 veterans served by the Philadelphia office  waiting 125 days for an answer to their claims.  Based on your experience, is this an accurate number for the Philadelphia office?

Kristen Ruell:  No.  If we didn't have that memo, I think the number would be much higher. 

US House Rep Mike Fitzpatrick:  The Obama administration has promised to end the veterans backlog by 2015.  With 247,000 claims still stuck in the backlog, do you think this process is feasible?

Kristen Ruell:  Absolutely not. It breeds corruption in the regional offices and we might say that claim has been processed but it's probably not processed correctly. And we probably didn't help the veteran the way we were supposed to. 

US House Rep Mike Fitzpatrick:  Are veterans of our nation passing away while waiting for their claims to be processed?

Kristen Ruell: Many.

US House Rep Mike Fitzpatrick:  Can you estimate how many? 

Kristen Ruell:  No, but I know that that's the easiest kind of claim to do.  If a veteran passes away, you hit one button and you get the same amount of credit as if you worked the claim and granted the benefit.

Kristen Ruell is with the VA as is Ronald Robinson and as was Javier Soto -- the three witnesses on the first panel.

That's from last night's House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.  Yes, last night.  The Committee continues to hold hearings and, if it means a night hearing, they do that.  A veteran who's a friend and who I spoke to after last night's hearing asked that I point that out and that I point out the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee is doing nothing.

The VA is in crisis status right now.  And Senate Committee Chair Bernie Sanders chose to instead focus on acupuncture.  Then a hearing in mid-May where the Chair wanted to keep saying no one had proven any misdeeds by the VA.  This hearing was after Chris Cuomo pointed out -- on CNN while interviewing Bernie -- that Senator Sanders sounded like an apologist for the VA.

And that's Bernie Sanders started losing veterans.  When all of June went by, after the allegations had proven to be accurate, without a hearing, Sanders lost more veterans support.

This week, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee -- which has spent far too much of the month of May whining about 'poor' Eric Shinseki -- will meet again.  Many veterans are wondering why?

They're noticing that Socialist Bernie Sanders is more focused on scoring points for Democrats than he is on serving veterans.

We're not done with the hearing.  Tomorrow we'll note some points House Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Jeff Miller made.  I was hoping we could have a news release on that but it's not to be.

Why did I want that?

The VA's done a shell game and that's now fact.

It's not me, a few years back saying, "This change is a mistake, this will be a shell game . . ."

No, everything I warned about came to be.

And I'm not happy about that.  I'm not happy that a number of Congressional members serving on the VA Committees in the House and Senate just knew that everything would be fine.

Just knew.

No, it wasn't.

And I'm tired of screaming.

We were right.  The 'fix' for the backlog?  It was a fix -- it was a scam.

Next year, the backlog will not be gone.

And maybe, along with some members of the Committees, some members of the press could admit that they were wrong?

Best moment of the hearing other than that?

I loved when Chair Jeff Miller quoted from former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' book Duty to slam Eric Shinseki.

(I noted this outside the snapshot last week but we are moving towards a smaller snapshot.  We did it Monday night, not so much here.)

As Javier Soto noted, "Provisional ratings rules simply hid wait times.  Once a claim is given a provisional rating, it's not counted toward the backlog. However, the claim has no final rating.  It's still unresolved."  And that's a surprise to many but we said this is exactly what would happen and we said it before the system started, we stated it the first time the VA informed Congress of this 'fix.'