Saturday, October 07, 2017

Designated Borer

Last year, DESIGNATED SURVIVOR was worth watching.

Two episodes into this season, the only reason I'm still watching is Maggie Q.

Not her character, mind you, Hannah's spinning her wheels and doing nothing.

In fact, she appears to have been downgraded.

In fact, all the women appear to have been downgraded.

We lost the senator, just written out.

The First Lady has become a stupid ninny.

Her mother shows up this episode -- her first episode ever -- looking like a "whore" -- the mother's word.

That's all they are, window dressing.

Season two is all about sexism.

And the chief of staff?

She's now undermined by a 'vision' employee -- of course, he's a man.

And he's basically now the chief of staff -- though he doesn't have the title.

There's no real story these days, just basically 45 minutes of how pensive Keifer Sutherland can look.  He's really getting on my nerves and I like the actor.

The show is sexist and really needs to be retooled immediately.

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

Friday, October 6, 2017.  The Iraq War is not ending and that was clear in a Congressional hearing this week.

"I remain concerned that without significant post-conflict planning and resourcing we will find ourselves and Iraqi condemned to fighting the same battles so many have already given their lives for in the past," declared US House Rep Seth Moulton earlier this week.

He was speaking Tuesday afternoon at a House Armed Services Subommittee hearing.  The Subcommittee is the Oversight and Investigations and Moulton is the Ranking Member and an Iraq War veteran.

The hearing was regarding a post-ISIS world.

Or that's what it was supposed to be.

It was actually a hearing about forever war.

US House Rep Seth Moulton: At its core, what troubles Iraq are fundamentally political questions.  Just as I disagreed with the Obama administration I am again concerned that this new administration is not significantly prioritizing such underlying political dynamics.

The first panel featured two-time Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, Marc Lynch (of George Washington University -- and also famous for his blogging and his analysis -- the latter frequently at FOREIGN POLICY) and Kenneth Pollack who's finally left Brookings and stopped pretending he was a centrist.  In fact, Pollack's move to the right-wing American Enterprise Institute may qualify as the only significant movement taking place during the 14 years of the ongoing Iraq War.

14 years.

And still no end in sight.

And yet people seem willing to accept this as normal.

14 years and where do things stand today?

US House Rep Seth Moulton: First and foremost, I'm concerned that Iraqi security forces may be woefully unprepared to provide security to Iraqi civilians and ensure displaced persons can return to their homes without attack or fear of retribution.  Experts I have heard from here in Washington and in Iraq have expressed worries of insufficient hold forces and police compounded by the beleaguered state of Iraqi military units reeling from the toil of the brutal counter-ISIS campaign. Without sufficient local security arrangements, we cannot expect for Iraq to be stabilized, for civilians to return to normalcy and for communities to be defended against the emergence of a "ISIS 2.0" or other militant groups. Moreover, without capable and professional security forces, we risk seeing a repeat of the same sectarian tensions leading to Sunni embitterment that provided fertile ground for the growth of ISIS in the first place. Beyond the provisioning of civilian security, key gaps and problems remain to be addressed -- such as acute food insecurity, insufficient access to healthcare, destroyed infrastructure, degraded public services and utility, newly inflamed grievances among local communities and insufficient plans for government arrangements in many areas.

14 years, millions of lives lost and billions of dollars spent and that counts as progress?

That is what the world has to show for the Iraq War?

Let's note this exchange.

US House Rep Seth Moulton:  Why is it worth the United States effort to put in 10,000 troops even if their effort is mainly political?  Why is it worth the effort of the State Dept resources and aid and development resources to build up the Iraqi state?  We've been there a long time and many Americans are asking why don't we just pull out and go home? And Ambassador Crocker, you referred to this a little bit in your introduction, but just explain to the American people why this investment is worthwhile and why now is the right time to make it?  Ambassador Crocker, you're welcome to start. Thank you.

Ambassador Ryan Crocker:  Uh, thank you, Congressman Moulton.  What-what we are seeing in the region, potentially in Iraq, is not just the overthrow of regimes but the collapse of states. And, sadly, when states collapse, other forces will fill the void. Uhm, as we have seen.  I would, uh, call it a failure of governance throughout the region.  Modern Middle East is about 100 years old and that time, that chronic failure of governance, has led to crisis after crisis  and I would argue has brought the region to the point it's at today -- which is deeply dangerous not only for the region but for the world  including ourselves.  So there is a fundamental choice here -- either we continue as we've been doing -- in which case I think you are going to see Islamic State 2.0 -- as the Islamic State was al Qaeda in Iraq 2.0.  That is not in our interest -- anymore than watching Afghanistan spiral down in the 90s -- again, the rise of the Taliban and 9-11.   Congressman, I have heard much in my career about a failure of intelligence leading to this or that -- there's some truth in it. But it's not the whole truth.  I call it a failure of imagination -- that we cannot imagine how bad things can get -- we couldn't imagine that -- 

That's enough from him.

Does Ryan Crocker ever admit reality?

Tuesday, I sat through a hearing of Ryan Crocker insisting the US must remain in Iraq.

Excuse me, Tuesday, I again sat through a hearing of Ryan Crocker insisting the US must remain in Iraq.

Why are we listening to recommendations from Ryan Crocker?

After all this time, why are we still listening?

It was a flashback to a week in April of 2008 when The Crocker and Petraeus Variety Hour took place and we had to attend hearing after hearing in the House and Senate as Crocker and David Petraeus sold failure as 'success' and insisted the US had to remain in Iraq.  It was a week when 20 US service members were announced dead in Iraq -- not that the media ever made that connection.  They were too busy falling at the feet of Croker and Petraeus (especially the latter).

Fake news?

Oh, please, they've been peddling it for years, decades.

And they peddled it that week and repeatedly distorted and denied reality.

For example, Crocker was repeatedly setting "forth a vision, to use his words, of our relationship with Iraq" (his words, as Joe Biden would point out).

Yet on April 10, 2008, this man supposedly arguing a vision (continued war was all he was arguing for), was asked by US House Rep Ellen Tauscher about withdrawal from Iraq because, as she noted, "we will have a new president on January 20" 2009 and Crocker responded, the man there to present the vision of Iraq's future, "That's looking fairly far into the future, uh ,and I've, uh, learned to keep my timelines short when it uh comes to do with things in Iraq."

No, he hadn't.

He was arguing for endless war.

And he's still doing that.

And, no offense, but Lynch, Pollack and Crocker have all been wrong -- infamously wrong -- on Iraq.  Why the hell are they still being invited as alleged experts?

They may have skills when it comes to analysis -- Lynch and Crocker have both shown skill there -- but that doesn't translate into forecasting.  They've made recommendations that have repeatedly been faulty.

And yet there they were again.

The most important hearing during the week of The Crocker and Petraeus Variety Hour was the one that neither 'celebrity' attended.  It took place April 10, 2008 and was chaired by then-Senator Joe Biden:

Biden spoke of how US Ambassador Ryan Crocker told the committee on Tuesday that this was about setting "forth a vision, to use his words, of our relationship with Iraq" but "one of the problems . . . is the vision this administrations shares for Iraq is not shared by two of the thee" current candidates for president in the Democratic and Republican Parties -- referring to Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.  Biden noted that those appearing before Congress keep stating that the agreements "aren't binding to us but, in Iraq, they think we mean it . . . because otherwise we wouldn't be having this kind of discussion."  Biden noted the "internal threat" aspect being proposed and how these requires the US "to support the Iraqi government in its battle with all 'outlaw groups' -- that's a pretty expansive commitment."  He noted that it requires the US "to take sides in Iraq's civil war" and that "there is no Iraqi government that we know of that will be in place a year from now -- half the government has walked out." 

"Just understand my frustration," Biden explained.  "We want to normalize a government that really doesn't exist."  

And Crocker's still advocating to normalize a government that really doesn't exist.

Crocker claimed Tuesday:

Modern Middle East is about 100 years old and that time, that chronic failure of governance, has led to crisis after crisis  and I would argue has brought the region to the point it's at today -- which is deeply dangerous not only for the region but for the world  including ourselves.

If the crises have been deeply dangerous for the region and the world, maybe the UK and the US should have butted out long ago because it is the wars they have started in the Middle East for the last 100 years that has led to chronic failure.

Crocker can't admit that.  He can't even admit that a 14 year war -- an ongoing war -- that has nothing to brag about is the very definition of a failure.

KURDISTAN 24 reports:

Former Prime Minister of Iraq Nouri al-Maliki is thus far the sole nominee to the chairmanship of the Shia National Alliance bloc in the Iraqi Parliament, according to an Iraqi lawmaker.
Huda Sajjad, a lawmaker from Maliki's faction within the State of Law coalition, told local Iraqi news outlets on Tuesday that the current Vice-President of Iraq is the only candidate nominated as next chairman of the Shia National Alliance. 
[. . .]
Maliki was the Iraqi Premier from 2006 until Sep. 2014. He is known as a close ally of Iran.
He has repeatedly been criticized for being involved in widespread corruption, his failed policies, and contributing to the rise of the Islamic State (IS) in mid-2014.

Nouri wants a third term as prime minister.

Even though a reading of the Iraqi Constitution argues that's not legal.

He wants that even though he once swore he'd never seek it (but then went on to seek it in 2014 but was overruled by Barack Obama).

And now thug Nouri plots his return.

And he may return.

Hayder al-Abadi, the current prime minister, is just Nouri-lite.  (Though Lynch painted him as ineffectual but a good person in the hearing, the reality is that al-Abadi persecutes the Sunnis in the same way Nouri did.)

Hayder sews divisions daily.

One example for today, Jalal Talabani, a two-term president of Iraq, passed away.  Today was his funeral.

How shameful! Iraq’s Prime Minister fails to show up to the funeral of the former Iraqi President and much-loved Mam Jalal.

The funeral of the former Iraqi president Jalal Talabani is held at the Grand Mosque of Sulaymaniyah FOLLOW LIVE:

Even something as basic as attending a funeral becomes a schism because of Hayder.

Going back to Tuesday's hearing one more time.

US House Rep Seth Moulton:  I cannot tell you how painful it is as an Iraq War veteran to see us fighting and re-fighting the same battles we fought and for which so many of our friends gave their lives.  At this rate, my children will be fighting these very same battles. We must hear from this administration how this time will be different, how this time you will ensure a political resolution so that the US military doesn't have to keep coming back and cleaning up the mess every time Iraqi politics falls apart. 

Saturday, there's a protest in NYC:

NYC: Join the Rally to Resist War & Racism at Home & Abroad | October 7, 1pm | Herald Square More info:
Margaret Kimberley Retweeted UNAC
U.S. out of everywhere!
Margaret Kimberley added,
Join us in NYC, Saturday, 10/7. Protest U.S. state aggressions at home and abroad. . . .
Here's what BAP's been up to this week. Please RT!

The following community sites -- plus Jody Watley, PACIFICA EVENING NEWS and BLACK AGENDA REPORT -- updated:

  • iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq Iraq

    Thursday, October 05, 2017

    Molester Brian Stelter

    Brian Stelter was a print writer -- opinion pretty much.

    Then he took his ugly mug over to CNN.

    And it is ugly.

    And, yes, he does look like a child molester (as C.I. noted yesterday).

    He still hasn't noted Alex Missildine. 

    That 20-year-old died in Iraq Sunday.

    Today has been tragic RIP Alex Missildine. I had the honor of working with this American Hero before he deployed. Tyler, TX lost a great son

    Navy midshipman from Tyler remembers the honor, courage of Spc. Alex Missildine.

    SPC Alexander Missildine was killed in Iraq, serving with Our thoughts are with his family, friends and fellow Soldiers.

    Brian Stelter is a molester -- he molests reality.

    He refuses to acknowledge reality.

    The Iraq War continues.

    People are still dying.

    Brian Stelter can't tell you about that.

    He's just a fat f**k and his profession is: molester.

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

    Thursday, October 5, 2017.  Whatever happened to the VA backlog?  Did it go away?  Or did the press on it just vanish?

    Senator Johnny Isakson: Do you believe you have the tools with that legislation to expedite and clean up the legacy of appeals that exist before it today?

    Cheryl Mason: Yes, thank you for that question.  Yes, I do. 
     She does?
    Year after year, for over a decade now, in hearing after hearing, members of Congress have asked VA officials if they have enough tools, enough money, enough everything to address the veterans backlog.
    Year after year, for over a decade now, in hearing after hearing, they tell Congress that they do.
    And yet the backlog remains.
    Senator Iskakson is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Senator Jon Tester is the Ranking Member.  Yesterday, the Committee held a hearing.  We'll note this press release that the office of Committee Chair Johnny Isakson issued:
    WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, today held a hearing to consider the qualifications of three nominees to serve in various U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) roles.
    At a hearing on the nominations of Melissa Sue Glynn to serve as VA assistant secretary for Enterprise Integration, Cheryl L. Mason to be chairman of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, and Randy Reeves to be  VA undersecretary for Memorial Affairs, Isakson noted that each possessed the experience and qualifications needed to excel in their respective roles. He cautioned, however, that the VA must continue to be accountable and responsive to veterans.
    “One of our greatest obligations as elected officials is to ensure the seamless transition into civilian life for our veterans,” said Isakson. “I have full confidence that each nominee will use their vast experience to do great work on behalf of our nation’s heroes. If confirmed, I look forward to working with each of them in their future roles at the VA.”
    About the nominees:
    Glynn previously led Alvarez and Marsal’s public-sector practice focused on improving the delivery of government programs, and K-12 and higher education. Prior to that, she was a principal with PricewaterhouseCoopers and was responsible for the firm’s work with the Department of Veterans Affairs. A New Jersey native, Glynn holds a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University and a master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Arizona.
    Mason is nominated to serve as chairman of the Board of Veterans Appeals for a term of six years. She is the currently the interim principal deputy vice chairman at the Board of Veterans Appeals. She previously served as deputy vice chairman, chief veterans law judge, veterans law judge, and counsel at the Board of Veterans Appeals. Mason’s government experience also includes serving as an attorney at the Federal Labor Relations Authority and as an Air Force civilian employee in Europe. She received her bachelor’s with distinction in political science and psychology from Ohio Northern University and her law degree from Creighton University School of Law.
    Reeves currently serves as executive director of the Mississippi Veterans Affairs Board and serves as president of the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs. He is a retired commander and surface warfare officer in the U.S. Navy. Prior to being commissioned in the Navy, Reeves served as an enlisted airman in the U.S. Air Force. He received his bachelor’s degree in management from Peru State College in Nebraska and a master’s degree in health sciences. He also completed the senior executive program at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is chaired by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in the 115th Congress. Isakson is a veteran himself – having served in the Georgia Air National Guard from 1966-1972 – and has been a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs since he joined the Senate in 2005. Isakson’s home state of Georgia is home to more than a dozen military installations representing each branch of the armed services as well as more than 750,000 veterans.

    Contact: Amanda Maddox, 202-224-7777
    Camlin Moore, 202-224-9126

    It was a brief hearing with the Committee leadership dispensing with the reading of opening statements to move the hearing along more quickly.

    We're going to focus on the issue of the backlog because we remember, in 2009, then-Secretary Eric Shinseki insisting he would break the backlog.

    Shinseki is gone.

    The backlog remains.

    From yesterday's hearing, we'll note this exchange.

    Senator Mazie Hirono: This is from Ms. Mason.  How many attorneys are there at the veterans appeals board?

    Cheryl Mason: Currently, we have approximately 700 attorneys.

    Senator Mazie Hirono: And you have a backlog of about 150,000 cases. I know that you are aware that there is a move to increase the number of cases that each attorney is supposed to complete from 125 cases annually to 169 cases annually.  And if my math is correct, you have 700 lawyers, that gets you to 118,000 cases once this new standard is implemented.  So is that how you'll came up with the number of cases that each lawyer should complete?

    Cheryl Mason:  The-the-the evaluation for determining, uh, how the attorney, uhm, productivity has been in progress for the past, uh, for all of the FY '17 and we started off FY '18, correct, with a-a response a-a request to our attorneys to do a extra case a week.  The-the-the, uh, the productive standards, we currently have in place that asks our attorneys for 169 a year also allows for deduction of leave and holiday time factored in.

    Senator Mazie Hirono: Mm-hmm.

    Cheryl Mason: So based on the data, uhm, that we have from previous years, we expect that actually the attorneys will be producing approximately 144 decisions per person this year.

    Senator Mazie Hirono: Do you use paralegals?

    Cheryl Mason: We do not at this time.

    Senator Mazie Hirono: Since all the appeals are not as complex -- they're not all equal -- would you consider using paralegals to address some of the backlog to get rid of some of the so-called 'easier' cases?

    Cheryl Mason: Thank you for that question.  That's actually one of the areas that I'm looking at as re-engineering the board's processes and figuring out where we can get some im-impact to those, uhm, less complex cases.

    Senator Mazie Hirono: Mm-hmm.

    Cheryl Mason: Yes, that is something that I, if confirmed, would look at.

    Senator Mazie Hirono: I think it makes a lot of sense -- with 150,000 backlog -- to basically triage the kind of cases that you have and move things along.  And is the workload for your lawyers -- because they are unionized -- is that a subject of negotiations with the union?

    Cheryl Mason: It is.  This past year, we have, uh, sat down at the table with our, uh, union partners, uh, several times at the beginning of FY '17.  We sat down and agreed to a non-productivity standard at their request.  We tried that for one quarter and we lost approximately 4,000 cases.  And so we implemented a lesser standard than we had had before.  But we, uh -- And we routinely, uh, sit down and speak with them and assess how that's doing, get feedback from our -- from-from our union partners on how that's going.  And, if confirmed, I would continue to do that going forward.  I think it's very important to have a strong, open, communicated relationship with our union partners. 

    Senator Mazie Hirono: So as far as the performance standard, the number of cases that each attorney is supposed to handle every year, that is something that you would work out with your union?

    Cheryl Mason: Absolutely.  That-that is an area -- Thank you for the question.  That is an area that we always must assess continually to-to gain the appropriate workload balance while ensuring that we're serving veterans to the best of our ability.

    And let's stay with the topic to note this exchange.

    Senator Mike Rounds: I'd like to follow up a little bit more with the direction that Senator Hirono was going with regards to the claims backlog.  With 150,000 claims in the backlog, 700 attorneys working on it, I'm just curious, do you know right now what the average number of new claims coming through is that-that we're processing?  

    Cheryl Mason: I-I would have to ch- uhm -- Thank you for that, uh, question, sir.  I, uh, I would have to check with, uh, my partners at Veterans-Veterans Benefits Administration.  But I, uh, believe that we receive approximately 1.4 million claims a year.  Of that amount, approximately 13% are appealed to the Board of Veterans Appeals.

    Senator Mike Rounds: So, right now, if-if -- that means that if you were looking at it on a chronologic -- and I recognize that some of these are much older -- you've got basically a year's backlog work in terms of it would constantly be one year behind based on the current work.  Fair?  And I being -- I know that some of these are considerably older than that, some of them are newer than that.  But, uhm, basically one way to analyze that is you've got a year's work in the backlog?

    Cheryl Mason: Yes, that, uh [. . .]

    Let's stop there.

    Grasp that the backlog is still huge.  Grasp that no one's even raising the issue of how old some of these cases are.

    The VA has gotten everything they have asked for.

    Not only have they received everything they've asked for, they've been offered far more and refused it.

    Their standard excuse, for example, for over a decade has been that more money for new hires means they slow down production because they have to pull people to train new hires.

    So they've been offered the moon and the stars, turned down the stars saying it would slow them down, and yet they still don't have their act together.

    Let that sink in.

    That is the message of yesterday's hearing.

    What's the message in Iraq?

    ALJAZEERA reports that Hawija has been liberated or 'liberated' from the Islamic State.  Which prompts this Tweet:

    US excuse to be against referendum was the war against . Now is virtually free of . What is the excuse?

    Good question.

    What is the excuse now?

    NEW: U.S.-backed Iraqi forces have liberated Hawija, the last ISIS stronghold in northern Iraq

    Again, what is the excuse now?

    Two Islamist enemy regimes come together in their common aim to oppress Kurdish minority at home and crush Kurdish aspirations in Iraq.

    Let's note this from WSWS:

    The WSWS published Monday an article reporting on the New York Times' interview with WSWS International Editorial Board Chairperson David North, which was sent out in the last newsletter. 

    In response to the Times article, North issued the following statement:

    “The WSWS’ exposure of Google’s attack on democratic rights is being widely followed and is having a substantial impact. The article that appeared in the Times was in preparation for a month. Its own research confirmed that traffic to the WSWS has fallen dramatically. When asked by the Times to answer our allegations, Google chose to stonewall its reporter. If Google had been able to refute the WSWS, it would have provided the evidence to Mr. Wakabayashi. It failed to do so because our charges are true. Google is engaged in a conspiracy to censor the Internet.

    “Google’s effort will fail. Awareness is growing rapidly that core democratic rights are under attack. Google is discrediting itself as its name becomes synonymous with manipulating searches and suppressing freedom of speech and critical thought.

    “The World Socialist Web Site will not retreat or back down from this fight. We are confident that our fight against government and corporate-sponsored censorship will continue to gain support.”

    The WSWS’s petition protesting Internet censorship is gaining support, and has received nearly 4,500 signatures.

    Over the past several weeks, Indian supporters of the International Committee of the Fourth International took the campaign against Google’s censorship of the World Socialist Web Site to workers in Chennai, and to students at the city’s Madras and Anna universities.

    Ganesh, a 28-year-old government worker, said: “Blocking information is a dictatorial measure. Governments and big companies are trying to prevent us from finding critical information.”

    Read the full report here

    We need your help to fight Google’s censorship!
    1. Donate so that we can continue to expose the blacklisting of left-wing media. Give $500, $250, or $100 today.
    2. Share the Google petition on relevant websites, forums, Facebook groups and event pages, and engage with others to explain the importance of this campaign. The ruling class fears the Internet and social media because they can be powerful tools to spread the truth.
    The World Socialist Web Site will continue to publish additional exposures of Google censorship and the role of corporations like Facebook and Amazon. If you agree with this fight, take action today.

    The World Socialist Web Site

    The following community sites -- plus PACIFICA EVENING NEWS, DISSIDENT VOICE and BLACK AGENDA REPORT -- updated:

  • iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq Iraq