Friday, September 16, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri still can't play nice with others, a boom in housing construction doesn't lead to lower prices (hmm), peace efforts gear up for next month, and more.
Scott Horton: I think that Come Home America is the most important thing in the whole world, why don't you tell everyone about it.
Kevin Zeese: Well Come Home America is an effort to bring people across the political spectrum together if they oppose war, militarism and empire. We don't care what your political views are on other issues, whether you're a Libertarian or a progressive, a liberal or a conservative, a Republican or a Democrat, or an independent or a third party member. We just want to bring people together who oppose war and militarism. We look at the power of the military industrial complex, the control of the Congress and we see that in order for us to be successful in challenging that military machine, we need to unite and put aside our other differences and unite to really work to reduce the political power of the military industrial complex and their minions in Congress.
Scott Horton: It occurs to me that you could probably use millions and millions of dollars, am I right?
Kevin Zeese: I think that's very true. You know the military industrial complex certainly spends hundreds of millions of dollars to control the political process. And we can't compete with them dollar for dollar but I think we can compete with them person for person. I think the more we get out the message about US empire and its negative impact on our national security, on people's lives around the world and on our economy, the more people who will support our views and the stronger we'll -- the quicker we'll end this militarism of our foreign policy.
Let's stay with peace for a bit more. DC Blogger (at Corrente) has justified one hundred one useless politicians over the years, had a real struggle coming to grips with the realities of Barack Obam (Corporatist War Hawk) and is most infamous for useless, "Call this 1-800 number and tell them . . ." I've never said a word about DC Blogger here (or elsewhere). I consider DC Blogger highly inept but that's my opinion and it wasn't necessary to share it. Unless and until DC Blogger becomes the problem. Such as Tuesday when DC Blogger did an offensive post at Corrente where he or she whined and stomped their feet over the actions of real activists. And what appears to have bothered DC Blogger the most was skin color. White was offensive, to DC Blogger who hated the activists because of their skin color. In 2011, if you have to bring in skin color to explain why you don't like someone, I'd argue you have some issues. DC Blogger's attack was joined by trashing from Twig and Lex in the comments. What the hell's going on at Corrente?
The video is street theater. And it has a point and purpose which is to make people think about the Iraq War. They were never rude, the activists, to anyone. They were polite and they smiled. (They could have been rude and it still would have been street theater. I'm sorry but Miss Manners doesn't rule in a movement. A movement is a group of people from all walks of life who will rarely agree 100% on anything other than core statements.) Watch the video here.
Activist: Remember when Barack Obama was a candidate and he inspired so much hope for change by saying things like this?
Barack Obama October, 2007: If we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am president, it is the first thing I will do. I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank.
Screen shot of a check 'from' Barack Obama for payment of "Priceless" to be made to "Citizens of the World."
INT. BANK OF AMERICA - DAY
Activist: Congratulations Bank of America, Cambridge branch. We come in peace to let you know that you are the winners of a promotion -- a promotion being held by the president of these United States of America who said on the campaign trail --
Barack Obama: We will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank.
Activist: Today we are at the Bank of America taking this to the bank. Is there any manager available who's like to pose for a photo op? We just want to know who we should give this to --
Bank employee: Come upstairs, I'm the banking center manager. I'd be happy to take it for you. So take all the pictures you'd like.
Activist: Is the Bank of America not the place to redeem this check? Bring the troops and the money home. Who should I --
Bank employee: Sir, could you please stop disturbing our customers?
Activist: So you're not willing -- you're not willing to bring -- the customer here all have the same check in their hands.
EXT. CITIZENS BANK - DAY
Activist: We went to Bank of America and they could not cash this check. We'd could establish an account here at Citizens Bank, the poetry of that for this priceless amount paid to Citizens of the World, bring the troops hom and redirect money towards human and environmental needs and could I have some popcorn?
Woman's voice: Yes, you can.
INT. CITIZENS BANK - DAY
Bank employee2: We cannot have this.
Camera Operator: Yeah, yeah, we'll just be a minute.
Activist: So who should I give this check to? Who wants to bring the troops home and redirect that money towards human and environmental needs? Is there a local community bank we could go to?
Bank employee2: No, we cannot suggest anything. But you cannot stay in here.
Bank employee 1: Can you please? [He covers camera with his hand.]
INT. CITIBANK - DAY
Bank employee: We could not allow that in the branch.
Activist: We've been to several banks. We've been trying to make a deposit but now we realize that we need to make a withdrawal.
He signs the check on the back.
Activist: Listen the only reason I'm doing this today is because I know there are people out there who know, who feel in their bones that the representative democracy is not working the way it's supposed to. A majority of people want to tax the rich. A majority of the people want the wars to end bring those troops and those dollars home, spend them on environmental and human needs. That's not happening by who you vote for. So that's why I'm trying to redeem Barack Obama's promise and take it to the bank. Now imagine, just think, if one person a day did that, they would just think that that person was crazy and they would ignore him. Imagine if two people a day did that, they might think that they were lovers on a lark and they would have a little laugh. Imagine three -- no, imagine 50 people a day walking to a bank with that check and trying to withdraw all those troops based on Barack Obama, they might think it's a movement. That's what it is. The homecoming October 2011 movement Bring The Troops Home, bring the dollar home, spend it on human needs. Take care of the poor, tax the rich. All you have to do to join me is send me your e-mail [at TheHomecoming 2011@Gmail.com], join me in Freedom Plaza starting October 6th for the protests that will not go home, for the protests that will not go away
It's not any different from what CODEPINK does with regards to the war, the FCC or any number of issues. So I'm not grasping the offense. But I am grasping that the Iraq War doesn't exist at Corrente. They've got someone doing recipes, they've got someone doing plants, they've got someone doing books from time to time, they've got someone singing the praises of the state-owned (and subdued -- see WikiLeaks as well as criticism of the Libyan War coverage) Al Jazeera, they've got lots of stuff. They just don't cover the wars and they specifically refuse to acknowledge the Iraq War. When 15 lives were lost in the Iraq War in the month of June, Corrente didn't lead on the coverage or even do a single post on that topic. And I notice that DC Blogger refuses to tell people what the video is about -- ending the wars. There are a lot of people, please pay attention, who have hearing issues. They will never be able to enjoy a video that is not closed captioned. So all you blogger who think you're so wonderful by posting a link to a video or posting a video, please grasp that we all get that you live in a world where you are supreme and no one you know is challenged or disabled. We get it. How very lucky for you that realities never touched your circle. But that's not how it is for everyone.
So when you post a video, how about grasping that you NEED TO SAY WHAT HAPPENS IN THE VIDEO. Or you need to put a message that says: "If you're deaf or hearing challenged, this site doesn't welcome you and will not include you."
In addition to the deaf and hearing challenged (which does include a huge number of veterans of today's wars) there are people in rural areas who do not have DSL, there are people all over the country who cannot afford DSL, there are people who are still using computers with Windows 98 -- and some of those people are glad to have those computers. I realize that in the world of DC Blogger, no one's ever sick or ill or has any condition and they buy any laptop as soon as it rolls off the assembly line. But considering how often Corrente looks down on the "creative class" and tries to self-present as "of the people," I can't believe I'm having to offer this remedial in human abilities and disabilities, in computers and economics, in rural disadvantages, etc.
Repeating: If you post a video you presumably want people to know what's going on in it. Failure to explain what goes on it cuts you off from a significant part of the audience and that's an audience that does not come back to you once the message is clear that only the well to do and non-disabled are welcome.
It's not a minor point with me. I learned to sign years ago and, as I've noted before, if someone's at a Congressional hearing I attend and I know they can't hear and there's no one there signing, I will sign throughout the entire hearing (while I take notes, yes). [The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee will provide services for challenged and disabled attendees if they are informed the services are needed 3 business days prior to the hearing -- this includes making space for wheel chairs, as well as providing translators/signers, etc. And for those e-mailing, we haven't covered the hearings in the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees because there haven't been any. They resume later this month.]
And when we speak to groups about the wars, that includes groups where I sign and speak and groups where I just sign. And while the bulk of the country didn't watch, refused to watch, the strongest campus protest of the last decade was at Gallaudet. How dare anyone not grasp that, regardless of physical abilities, everyone in this country can make a difference and that, around the country, so many are making a difference but because they don't you fit your filter of 'normal' or 'accepted' or 'just like me!,' you ignore them. I do not believe in forced community service but I do believe a lot of people, particularly those online, would do well to do some community service that put them into contact with people who don't have all the breaks they do.
Were that to happen, they might realize how stupid they looked slamming people because of their skin color. [And before someone e-mails that Betty, Stan or Marcia did it -- Ann or Cedric are more likely to use that technique in roundtables at Third than at their own sites due to what they cover at their sites -- when they call out a White person and make a note of the skin color, it is because that White person has decided they know more about African-Americans than, in fact, African-Americans do. That's the point of Betty, Stan and Marcia calling those people out. It's not "They're white!" It's "that fool is saying this is what it's like to be Black and that fool is White and we don't anyone to speak for us, we can speak for ourselves thank you very much."]
The video was street theater.
It is supposed to attract attention as a video to get the word out on the October protests. Did it succeed? I really wasn't planning to note them. I'm at a distance from a number of people who I feel have not taken accountability for their past misdirections. But I noted the actions today and that's entirely due to that video. Which was funny and to the point. And which brought the issue of the Iraq War into three different banks, forcing it on the employees and the customers in those banks.
Good. The United States government continues the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. If you are a US citizen I don't know where the hell you get off thinking you've earned a pass from having to care or think about the wars your elected government continues.
Now I'm no diplomat, but from my foxhole it appears that the U.S. is negotiating with the government of Iraq from a position of weakness. We are deferring to every Iraqi government whim at the expense of our own safety. We literally are permitted only to sit on our enclosed bases and hope that the IRAMs -- improvised rocket-assisted mortars -- don't hit their mark. In other words, we are sitting ducks.
[. . ]
I urge President Obama to take charge of this upside-down situation. He should simply tell the Iraqi government that we are going to operate the way we know how and that they are welcome to participate, or that we are leaving tomorrow. Continuing to serve up Americans as targets while the Iraqis play favorites between us and Iran is not an acceptable course of action.
Let's stay on Iran for a moment. Iranian dissendents welcomed into Iraq during Saddam Hussein's reign are currently residents of Camp Ashraf. They are protected persons under the Geneva Conventions. The Tehran Times reports that Ammar Hakim, Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq leader, has declared "that the members of the terrorist Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) based in Iraq must leave the country by the end of 2011. Hakim, who travelled to Iran to attend the fifth meeting of the Ahl al-Bayt World Assembly, made the remarks during a meeting with Grand Ayatollah Abdul Karim Mousavi Ardebill in the holy city of Qom on Friday." Is he serious? One would assume so except Press TV reports that he also declared he would "not allow any of them [US troops] to stay in the country" beyond 2011 and "The occupiers must leave before the deadline under the security pact." The US Embassy will have troops in as do all US embassies. (The Marines guard the embassies.) In addition, the militarization of diplomacy means that some troops (maybe 300, maybe more) will remain in Iraq under State Dept control. There will of course be "security contractors" (mercenaries) as well. And the US may keep troops in Iraq under the Defense Dept as well if Nouri and the White House can reach an agreement. In other words, it's very hard to see Hakim's second state as remotely true or even across the street from true. So that calls into question his statement about the Camp Ashraf residents.
Yet the embassy is turning out to be too small for the swelling retinue of gunmen, gardeners and other workers the State Department considers necessary to provide security and "life support" for the sizable group of diplomats, military advisers and other executive branch officials who will be taking shelter there once the troops withdraw from the country.
The number of personnel under the authority of the U.S. ambassador to Iraq will swell from 8,000 to about 16,000 as the troop presence is drawn down, a State Department official told The Huffington Post. "About 10 percent would be core programmatic staff, 10 percent management and aviation, 30 percent life support contractors -- and 50 percent security," he said.
As part of that increase, the State Department will double its complement of security contractors -- fielding a private army of over 5,000 to guard the embassy and other diplomatic outposts and protect personnel as they travel beyond the fortifications, the official said. Another 3,000 armed guards will protect Office of Security Cooperation personnel, who are responsible for sales and training related to an estimated $13 billion in pending U.S. arms sales, including tanks, squadrons of attack helicopters and 36 F-16s.
In Iraq today, diplomats, military officials, and Washington busybodies are involved in a complex game of maneuvering into place American troops meant to remain in Iraq long past the previously 12/31/2011 negotiated deadline for full withdrawal. Iraq will eventually agree, probably in some semi-passive way, such as calling them trainers, or visiting students, or temps. There will be endless argument over numbers -- should it be 3000 soldiers or 10,000? The debate over whether troops should stay on, or how many should stay, begs the real question: What will all those soldiers do in Iraq?
Iraq has its own governmental issues, to put it mildly. New Sabbah reviews the Kurdish issues with Nouri's government (the failure of Nouri to implement the Erbil Agreement, the proposed oil and gas law, etc.) and notes Nouri's raging that Ayad Allawi (leader of Iraqiya) and Nouri's insistence that Allawi has no place in the current government. Iraqiya's spokesperson tells Al Mada that Allawi is speaking not for himself but for Iraqiya and has the political slate's support. She also notes that the tensions between the blocs have always been present and that current tensions have resulted from the failure to implement the Erbil Agreement. (Iraqiya is a political slate made up of various groups -- primarily Sunni and Shia.)
MeanwhileAswat al-Iraq speaks with State of Law MP Ali Al-Shalah who deems Allawi "a trouble maker" and insists Allawi is plotting with Saudi Arabia. Aswat al-Iraq notes, "Vice-Premier Saleh al-Mutlaq called on the Iraqi to adopt a national spirit and not follow the rumors that destabilize the country among different Iraqi provinces." This as Aswat al-Iraq also reports, "Ex- Basra Governor Mohammed Musabih al-Wa'ili announced today that the signatures of 20% of Basra population shall be gathered, following Premier Nouri al-Maliki's rejection to establish a region there, pointing out that such rejection is 'constitutional violation'."
Reuters reports "hundreds" protested throughout "Iraq's Sunni Muslim province of Anbar" today as aresult of the arrests of 8 men accused of the Monday killings of 22 Shia pilgrims. Nouri expressed his dismay over the protestors and apparently was most offended by their chant of "We will cut the hand of whoever reaches (across) our borders." Moqtada al-Sadr's protests took place as well. His admirers called it "a huge demonstration." Of course, Prashant Rao (AFP) reports it was "thousands" and that alone would be disappointing since we're talking about Sadr City in Baghdad. Where allegedly 2 million Moqtada supporters live. That's where the protest took place. A couple of thousand out of 2 million-plus isn't significant at all. The Reuters photo with the AFP article demonstrates it was Moqtada's armed militia marching through the streets. Did the people watching the march get (again) counted as protestors? In downtown Baghdad, Tahir Square saw NGOs demonstrating and calling out the attacks and perceived attacks on Iraq from Iran and Kuwait, Aswat al-Iraq reports.
Turning to violence, Reuters notes a Haditha military raid resulted in the death of two suspects and 1 Iraiq military officer (three Iraqi soldiers and one police officer were wounded), a Garma drive by resulted in the death of a police officer "in front of his home," a Jbela car bombing left three people injured and a bomb that immediately followed (after help arrived) left seven peopl injured and, dropping back to last night for the rest, 2 corpses were discovered in Baghdad, a Baghdad attack on police resulted in 2 being killed and two more police officers left injured, two Mosul roadside bombings left nine police officers injured, a Mosul roadside bombing left one Iraqi soldier wounded and 1 corpse was discovered in Mosul.
In July, I wrote about the plight of Iraqis who worked with U.S. soldiers and civilians but face death as "collaborators" when we leave. Their situation remains unresolved.
Congress set up a special program in 2008 to grant these Iraqis 25,000 special immigrant visas (SIVs) over five years. Only 3,629 have been issued thus far; at least 1,500 are pending.
Yet, some Iraqis who have virtually completed the process have been told they must wait an additional eight months while more security checks are conducted.
Iraq's in its second consecutive month of inflation and Mayada Al Askari (Gulf News) interviews Iraq's Undersecretary of the Iraqi Ministry of Housing and Construction to talk about the construction boom in Iraq. (When you bomb a country repeatedly, you do create the need for a construction boom.) Excerpt: GULF NEWS: How can you be so ambitious about building housing when the infrastructure's main element, electricity, is not available? Buildings -- as an example -- require lifts, electric water pumps, etc. How can communities live without electricity?
Faleh Al Ammiri: Certainly, the implementation of these projects requires time during which infrastructure and providing the community with electricity will be completed. As for major investment projects, electric power stations will be built to provide such projects with electricity as well as water and sewage systems.
What about paving roads in Iraq, why are there so many projects in this area?
Road networks in Iraq were previously neglected and the whole system is out-of-date as it was overused by the army, but we now have plans to refurbish the system. A renovation of the roads network is currently underway. Weigh stations across the country's provinces were officially announced lately, as overloads are the main reasons behind the recent road damages. There is also the intent to carry out a highway connecting Umm Qasr with the Turkish border, along with other roads connecting the Iraqi cities. Construction of bridges is also part of the plan, however maintaining roads and bridges require users to abide by load limits, and the provinces need to carry out their commitments in this regard.
The minister's not interested in housing people. It's a corruption scam waiting to be turned over as he confesses that "the ministry-run corporation has dozens of factorizes specialising in the production of concrete products including pipes, bridge pillars as well as asphalt, stone breakers and ready-mix factories". That quote right there also answers the question about why the ministry has placed so much emphasis on building roads at a time when Iraqis continue to lack not just reliable electricity but also potable water.
It's a lot easier to keep approving projects that enrich your own budget.
If you doubt it, why is South Korea winning a construction bid in Iraq? Why is any foreigner? Iraq's never suffered from lack of construction workers.
Iraq also suffers not from a lack of concrete. In fact it's a big mob industry in Iraq. But the Ministry's in it too. Hmm. Al Sabaah reports on how Iraq's got all these new houses and housing areas being built and yet the glut hasn't depressed market prices and the homes are so expensive why? Due to the high cost of the construction materials. Seems like that cost could be somewhat controlled if Iraq's Ministry of Housing and Construction were doing it's job -- and that's before you factor in the fact that the Ministry owns many of those construction material producing businesses.
And all of this comes as the Integrity Commission's finding on Iraqi real estate has embarrassed Nouri and forced him to make a move. Al Rafidayn reminds that he's stopped the sale of Iraqi property as a result of the Commission finding fraud and price manipulation by government employees in the real estate market. Nouri's quoted calling out the "corruption and abuse" in his government on this issue. The Commission has also located over a hundred million smuggled out prior to the start of the Iraq War, this would be under Saddam Hussein.
In related news, the Great Iraqi Revolution has released "a document leaked from the Prime Minister's office which orders the recruitment of 1000 nurses and 150 doctors from India and Bengaladesh . . . while there are tens of thousands of unemployed Iraqis who are well qualified for these jobs!!!"
Turning to the US, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. We'll close with this from her office:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Murray Press Office - (202) 224-2834 Thursday, September 15, 2011 Burr Press Office – (202) 224-3154
Chairman Murray and Ranking Member Burr Call on VA to Provide Answers about Department's Budget Projections
(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Patty Murray and Ranking Member Richard Burr sent a joint letter to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki expressing their concern that VA may not have sufficient resources to adequately address increasing demand for veterans' health care in FY 2012. Chairman Murray and Ranking Member Burr's letter asks VA for specific assurances that VA remains ready and able to provide the health care upon which more and more veterans depend. The full text of the Senators' letter is below:
The Honorable Eric K. Shinseki Secretary of Veterans Affairs 810 Vermont Avenue NW Washington, DC 20420
Dear Secretary Shinseki:
In this time of economic uncertainty, with an increasing number of our servicemembers returning home, the demand for medical care at VA medical centers is certain to grow. This demand, coupled with the lower than expected Medical Care Collections Fund (MCCF) collection rate, and recent reports regarding staffing reductions and emergency budget cuts at certain medical centers, underscores the critical need to ensure resources are being maximized and Department appropriations requests are accurately projected. We are therefore writing today to confirm that VHA appropriations and carry-over for FY 2012 are on-track to meet the needs of our nation's veterans, so that the care provided to our veterans remains the highest quality.
We understand from your July 21, 2011, sufficiency review of advance appropriations for FY 2012 medical care that the Department's appropriations request was based, in part, upon projected carryover funds and revenues from the MCCF. MCCF collections, along with operational improvements, and cost savings in acquisitions, fee care, and other programs, are key components of budget and operations planning and must be accurately projected.
We also understand that for the first quarter of FY 2011, VHA reported a 12.3 percent variance between its planned and actual collections, in the amount of nearly $100 million. As of second quarter FY 2011, MCCF collections were 8.5 percent below plan and 5.2 percent below the same period last year. Similarly, for third quarter FY 2011, collections remain 5.7 percent below plan. In your July report, you stated that "there remains an element of risk to the sufficiency of the FY 2012 budget" and quoted a June 14, 2011, GAO report:
If the estimated savings for fiscal years 2012 and 2013 do not materialize and VA receives appropriations in the amount requested by the President, VA may have to make difficult trade-offs to manage within the resources provided.
Such difficult trade-offs are evident throughout the VA health care system. We understand, for example, that the Indianapolis VAMC faced an $18 million budget shortfall at the start of FY 2011. Against this backdrop, and challenged by an unprecedented demand for services from veterans, the medical center reduced expenditures and slowed the hiring of additional and replacement staff. Similarly, the Tampa VAMC continues to take steps to address a budget deficit that is currently near $17 million and has been as high as $47.5 million this fiscal year. Such steps have included a reduction in staffing through attrition by 111 positions, and cuts from lab services, mental health programs and education funds. Each of these actions, while fiscally sound, could have an adverse impact on patient care quality.
As we enter into FY 2012, it is imperative that VHA remains ready and able to provide the quality medical care upon which our veterans depend. Accordingly, we ask that you detail for us your plan to increase MCCF collections, so that collections goals in FY 2012 are met. Additionally, please address whether there are budgetary shortfall risks at VISNs or medical centers for FY 2012. Are VHA appropriations and carryover on-track to meet VHA needs? Finally, do you anticipate that VISNs and medical centers will be able to meet budgetary obligations without having to significantly draw upon reserve funds?
Thank you for providing this information to us. Ours is a shared mission to safeguard the health and well-being of our nation's veterans and we look forward to working with you to this end.