Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Nouri miffed and pouty

Senior politicians from Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's ruling coalition warned Tuesday that Shiite Muslim-dominated southern Iraq could severely loosen its ties with Baghdad if the nation's electoral commission failed to meet its demand for a manual recount of ballots in parliamentary elections.

The above is from Ned Parker and Raheem Salman's "Bid for Iraq vote recount intensifies" (Los Angeles Times) and with Nouri's desire to circumvent rulings, it's a good idea to examine past history and, most recently, that includes his reaction when Sunni candidates were 'unbanned' which was to threaten that violence would result and then unleash his thugs in select cities in order to frighten the commission into changing their judgment. Something similar wouldn't be surprising especially as Friday approaches when 100% of the vote is supposed to be released. Meanwhile Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reports that (if initial results hold), the 'kingmakers' may likely be the Sadr bloc and the Kurds. 'Kingmakers' was tossed around over and over in the lead up to Parliamentary elections and in the gas baggery that followed the first week of the vote (like Kat, I wonder Where have you gone Quil Lawerence, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you?). It was an easy call and it may turn out to have been a wrong call. Fadel reports:

"The Sadrists had political and military power that surpassed that of the government, but they misused it and ended up in jails and in exile," said political analyst Ibrahim al-Sumaidaie. "Now, they have mastered their political power. They will find that the political game will give them more power and a wider role than their guns."
In 2006, the Sadrists played a part in choosing Maliki, a Shiite, as prime minister. Two years later, Maliki relented to U.S. pressure and deployed the Iraqi military to target the Sadrist militia, the Mahdi Army, in a successful offensive. But instead of disappearing, the Sadrists regrouped, shifting their focus from armed struggle to political strategizing.
In advance of this year's elections, the Sadrists were among the only blocs in Iraq to educate voters about the nation's complex electoral system. Although they nominated only 52 candidates out of the more than 6,000 who ran nationwide, they were shrewd in deciding which seats to target. As a result, they are expected to win as many as 40 seats in the next parliament, with their Shiite allies probably taking just over 20. There are 325 seats in the new parliament.

Jawad al-Bolani is Iraq's Minister of the Interior. He is also the author of a column in the Wall St. Journal which includes this passage:

First, the elections proved that the terrorists' days are numbered. Politically bankrupt and dwindling in numbers, they could neither suppress the vote nor influence it. Although insurgents attempted to interrupt the process with bombs, ballots won the day as 62% of eligible Iraqis are estimated to have voted.

Setting aside that numerous Iraqis consider al-Bolani himself to be a terrorist, Reuters reports this morning that the Islamic State of Iraq has issued a recording in which they not only boast of the violence they unleashed March 7th but insist "We will continue to pursue the occupation, its helpers, and its agents, until we purify the land of their filth."

In other Iraq news, Margaret Hassan was a care worker in Iraq. She made her life with Iraqi people and did so prior to the start of the illegal war. She was kidnapped and brutally murdered. The Iraq Inquiry featured some offensive remarks by officials about Hassan including one who wanted to whine about how painful for him her death was, for him, to him. As if he is the story. As though he knew the grief her family still suffers. David Brown (Times of London) reports on the family's continued efforts to find Margaret's body:

Her family's last hope of discovering her body now rests with an Iraqi who is the only person convicted of her murder. However, that man, Ali Lutfi Jassar al-Rawi, faces a retrial in two weeks' time on charges of murder, kidnap and blackmailing the British Embassy, and the family fear that they may now never get an answer.
The family are appealing for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to give the court details of secret negotiations with Mrs Hassan's kidnappers which they believe proves al-Rawi’s guilt.
"At the end of her life Margaret was treated with such indignity, she was treated like she was worthless," said Deirdre Manchanda, the eldest of her three sisters. They also have a brother.
During conversations with two Scotland Yard negotiators based at the British Embassy in Baghdad, al-Rawi, 37, admitted being part of the kidnap gang. He demanded $1 million for revealing the location of Mrs Hassan's grave.

Meanwhile Joe Higgins (China Worker) reflects on the state of Iraq today:

Seven years on, the occupation has been an unheralded disaster for the Iraqi people, with society becoming increasingly fractured along religious, sectarian and national lines to a level far removed from that which existed even under the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein. Tensions continue to simmer amongst the various national groupings with the Kurds in the North demanding increased autonomy with opposition from the Turkmen and Shias in the area. Turkey, just across the border, is concerned that any move towards full autonomy or independence by Iraq's Kurds could intensify demands for self-determination amongst the sizeable Kurdish minority within its own borders which it is repressing. In the rest of the country, the formerly dominant Sunni minority is becoming increasingly alienated to what it sees as Shia domination and causing a further fanning of the flames of sectarian attacks.
In fact, bombings have become so commonplace that they are rarely reported in the media anymore with estimates of between 10 - 15 attacks aimed at government officials or occupation forces occurring on a daily basis and a slew of car bombs and attacks occurring in the run up to the elections.
Despite having the world's fourth largest oil reserves, only 18% of Iraqis are happy with their supply of electricity, a reduction from 25% in 2005 according to the US Department of Defence. UNICEF estimates that 40% of children have no access to clean drinking water and access to sanitation is even lower.

Paul Danahar (BBC News) also offers reflection:

The barbarity inflicted by Iraqis on Iraqis is what this country is now famous for and it will take another generation to shrug that image off.
The wide roads I used to drive around are now choked with corridors of concrete blast-proofing.
Back then it was rude to ask somebody's religion. But in today's Iraq, according to my friends, it is the first thing people want to know.
Men are afraid to let their children and wives walk around alone.
"Nobody would abuse a woman in the street back then," a friend told me. "Now nobody thinks their women are safe."
And like Rena, whose name I have changed at her request, few people want journalists to publish their real details or photographs any more.

Yesterday's snapshot and Kat's "Military Personnel Subcommittee hearing" covered a hearing of the House Armed Service's Military Personnel Subcommittee. Kat noted, "You've got a woman over 80-years-old but for her to receive the monies she's owed, she needs to drop her widow status and remarry." A visitor e-mails the public account to ask if that's hyperbole? No. Suzanne Stack testified, "Ms. Kozak of Jacksonville, Florida, needs to receive her SBP in full but does not want to start dating and remarry at age 85." I'm not sure that "Kozak" is the spellling, it may be "Kozack." But it was part of Stack's testimony. The woman does not receive her Survivor Benefit Pay and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation monies in full. Because she is eligible for both, her SBP is reduced. That's not fair but there is a way around that. She can, after the age of 57 (and she's 85), remarry and she'll get both payments in full. An 85-year-old widow being told to remarry to get the money she's owed and the money her husband assumed she would receive. SBP today, this was one part of the testimony, is not being explained accurately to service members who are signing up and thinking that the payments will be full. They take this out, it's a policy. Then they die and their wife or husband may or may not receive the full payments. If that's not clear, e-mail and we'll go into it in more depth and I'll include this paragraph in the snapshot because this is an important issue and it will give it another day of attention from the community.

In the US, Single Payer Action notes:

If you listen to the Democrats, you would think that they were fighting on the side of the American people.

And against the health insurance companies.

Or as Howard Dean put it last week:

"This is a vote about one thing: Are you for the insurance companies or are you for the American people?"

President Obama said that he and the Democrats had pushed back against the "special interests."

In fact, the bill that was passed by the House Sunday night was a result of a deal President Obama and the Democrats cut last year with the pharmaceutical industry.

And it was written with the help of former insurance industry lobbyists.

Or as the Washington Post's E.J. Dionne put it - the Democrats are fighting for a Republican health plan.

Last year, former CIGNA executive turned whistleblower Wendell Potter called the bill "a joke" and "an absolute gift to the insurance industry."

Dr. Margaret Flowers of Physicians for a National Health Program called the bill "a step backwards."

"This bill further enriches the industries that are the problem," Dr. Flowers said.

Chris Hedges put it this way:

"This bill is not about fiscal responsibility or the common good."

"The bill is about increasing corporate profit at taxpayer expense," Hedges wrote.

"It lavishes hundreds of billions in government subsidies on insurance and drug companies."

"The some 3,000 (corporate) lobbyists in Washington, whose dirty little hands are all over the bill, have once more betrayed the American people for money."

"The bill is another example of why change will never come from within the Democratic Party. The party is owned and managed by corporations."

"What is the point in supporting any of the Democrats?" Hedges asked. "How much more craven can they get?"

For the past year, all around the country, Single Payer Action has been confronting and exposing the craven corporate Democrats.

Just last week, Single Payer Action directly confronted Howard Dean on Capitol Hill about Dean's lobbying for his biotech industry clients - lobbying that resulted in a multi-billion dollar patent windfall tucked neatly into the health care bill that Congress just passed.

And Single Payer Action will continue to expose, confront, agitate and organize for single payer Medicare for all.


Because as Dr. Marcia Angell - former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine - puts it - single payer is the only health care reform that covers everyone and controls costs.

Because most of the health insurance coverage mandated by the Democratic bill does not come into effect until 2014 - by which time 180,000 Americans will have died because they were unable to afford health insurance to cover treatment and diagnosis, according to Harvard Medical School researchers.

Because the main saving grace of the Democratic bill is that it is so inadequate and so delayed in implementation that the position supported by the majority of people, physicians and nurses - single payer full Medicare for all - will have abundant opportunities to build around the country.

And because the ever spiraling price hikes by the insurance industry are sure to spur the single payer movement to new popularity.

So, please, help us keep building this movement.51E5Lmf9j7L._SS500_

Donate now whatever you can to Single Payer Action.

And if you donate $100 or more now, I’ll sign a copy of Venezuelan photographer Kike Arnal’s just published hard cover photo book - In the Shadow of Power – with an introduction by yours truly.

(In the Shadow of Power is a stunning, poignant and haunting photo book that documents the other Washington – with high rates of infant mortality, teenage pregnancy and AIDS infection – and where 16 percent of the children live in extreme poverty.)

I’ll also sign a copy of my own book of collected writings – In Pursuit of Justice.

And we’ll send both books to you.

For a donation of $100 or more to Single Payer Action.

Thank you for your ongoing support.

Together and persistently – we will get it done.

Onward to the more efficient, humane full Medicare for all.

Ralph Nader

Remember, this is only Round 1.

We’re building for Round 2.

Keep your heads up. Step by step.

And full Medicare for all will become a reality.

So, donate now whatever you can afford.

If you donate $100 or more, we’ll send you signed copies of In the Shadow of Power and In Pursuit of Justice.

This two book offer ends midnight March 31, 2010.

And we'll close with this from World Can't Wait's "Anti-War Offensive Update:"

Thanks to numerous donors contributing in amounts from $5 - $5,000 (in matching funds), our goal of $10,000 to get the We Are Not Your Soldiers tour back on the road was exceeded!

This will not be the last time you are asked to contribute to this project - we raised $7,130.15 before matching funds this weekend, but are up against a military with a recruiting budget of $7 billion. This is going to be an uphill battle, but what we have going for us is reality, morality, and a vision of a truly better world.

The We Are Not Your Soldiers tour is getting ready to hit schools in Ohio this weekend, with more requests coming in from Seattle, Massachusetts and Connecticut. This tour brings Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to the schools to talk to students about the on-the-ground reality of the wars and the need for students to stop military recruiters.

We want military recruiters out now and we want to turn schools into hot spots of resistance, creating a situation where military recruiters are met with daily protest by the students themselves in all areas where they recruit. There is great need and a demand for this from teachers, parents and students. Watch some of the previous presentations.

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