Friday, May 02, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Friday, May 2, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri is the great unwanted, corpses on the streets of Baghdad, Marie Harf spins the elections, tomorrow is World Press Day, Barack's war on journalism is noted,  and much more.

Let's start in the United States with this from The Feminist Majority Foundation:

May 2, 2014
Stephanie Hallett - 310.556.2500,
Brooke Hofhenke -


Los Angeles, CA – The Feminist Majority, which has pulled its annual event from the Beverly Hills Hotel — owned by the Sultan of Brunei — will hold a rally at noon on May 5 across from the hotel, to urge the Sultan to rescind a Taliban-like Brunei penal code, that includes the stoning to death of gay men and lesbians and the public flogging of women who have abortions.
The Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, and the Brunei Investment Agency, owns the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Bel-Air Hotel and other Dorchester Collection Properties. FMF pulled its Global Women’s Rights Awards, co-chaired by Jay and Mavis Leno, from the Beverly Hills Hotel and has launched a massive petition drive and social media campaign calling on the government of Brunei to immediately rescind the new code and asking the United Nations to take action if these laws go into effect as planned.
WHAT: Coalition of Women’s Rights, LGBT and Human Rights Groups Rally
WHEN: Monday May 5, 2014 , 12:00PM – 1:00PM
WHERE: In the Park across from the Beverly Hills Hotel (Sunset Boulevard between North Canon and North Beverly Drive). Street Parking on North Canon, North Beverly Drive and Lomitas Avenue.
WHO: (List in Formation)
  • Jay Leno and Mavis Leno, Board Member, Feminist Majority Foundation
  • Eleanor Smeal, President, Feminist Majority Foundation
  • Andreas Meyer, President, Equality California EQCA
  • Lorri L. Jean, CEO Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Services Center
  • Dolores Huerta, President, Dolores Huerta Foundation/Co-Founder, United Farm Workers
  • Vince Wong, Vice Chair, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
  • Betsy Butler, California Women’s Law Center
  • Ada Briceno, Secretary-Treasurer, UNITE HERE Local 11
  • Katherine Spillar, Executive Editor, Ms. magazine


Let's stay in the US to move over to the topic of the VA and Eric Shinseki.  I'm no fan of the VA Secretary and have stated -- since it turned out he knew months before the fall of 2009 that college veterans would not be receiving their Post-9/11 GI Bill checks -- that Shinseki needs to resign.  Scott Bronstein, Drew Griffin and Neili Black (CNN) report today:

He's the leader of the Department of Veterans Affairs, which runs the VA hospitals where dozens of U.S. veterans died waiting for simple medical screenings.
Yet in the six months that CNN has been reporting on these delays, Eric Shinseki has been silent. And he hasn't spoken out on the matter to any other news organization, either.
Early Friday evening -- after this story appeared on -- the VA gave a response, via spokesman Drew Brookie. He explained that the VA's inspector general's office (referred to as OIG), which is probing the matter, "advised VA against providing information that could potentially compromise their ongoing investigation at the Phoenix VA Health Care system."

I don't disagree with Shinseki's position.  But what's alleged to have taken place at the Phoenix VA? Dropping back to the April 9th snapshot to note this from that day's House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing:

US House Rep Jeff Miller:  I had hoped that during this hearing, we would be discussing the concrete changes VA had made -- changes that would show beyond a doubt that VA had placed the care our veterans receive first and that VA's commitment to holding any employee who did not completely embody a commitment to excellence through actions appropriate to the employee's failure accountable. Instead, today we are faced with even with more questions and ever mounting evidence that despite the myriad of patient safety incidents that have occurred at VA medical facilities in recent memory, the status quo is still firmly entrenched at VA.  On Monday -- shortly before this public hearing --  VA provided evidence that a total of twenty-three veterans have died due to delays in care at VA medical facilities.  Even with this latest disclosure as to where the deaths occurred, our Committee still don't know when they may have happened beyond VA's stated "most likely between 2010 and 2012."  These particular deaths resulted primarily from delays in gastrointestinal care.  Information on other preventable deaths due to consult delays remains unavailable.   Outside of the VA's consult review, this committee has reviewed at least eighteen preventable deaths that occurred because of mismanagement, improper infection control practices and a whole host -- a whole host --  of other maladies plaguing the VA health care system nationwide.  Yet, the department's stonewall has only grown higher and non-responsive. There is no excuse for these incidents to have ever occurred.  Congress has met every resource request that VA has made and I guarantee that if the department would have approached this committee at any time to tell us that help was needed to ensure that veterans received the care they required, every possible action would have been taken to ensure that VA could adequately care for our veterans.  This is the third full committee hearing that I have held on patient safety  and I am going to save our VA witnesses a little bit of time this morning by telling them what I don't want to hear.  I don't want to hear the rote repetition of  -- and I quote --  "the department is committed to providing the highest quality care, which our veterans have earned and that they deserve.  When incidents occur, we identify, mitigate, and prevent additional risks.  Prompt reviews prevent similar events in the future and hold those persons accountable."  Another thing I don’t want to hear is -- and, again, I quote from numerous VA statements, including a recent press statement --  "while any adverse incident for a veteran within our care is one too many," preventable deaths represent a small fraction of the veterans who seek care from VA every year.  What our veterans have truly "earned and deserve" is not more platitudes and, yes, one adverse incident is indeed one too many.  Look, we all recognize that no medical system is infallible no matter how high the quality standards might be.  But I think we all also recognize that the VA health care system is unique because it has a unique, special obligation not only to its patients -- the men and women who honorably serve our nation in uniform -- but also to  the hard-working taxpayers of the United States of America.

Yesterday's snapshot covered Wednesday's Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing and included:

The big disgrace that is the VA's Dr. Robert Petzel told the Committee, "I need to say that to date, we found no evidence of a secret list.  And we have found no patients who have died because they were on a wait list."
Did you grasp what just happened because the press didn't?
I've heard Jen Psaki, Marie Harf, Victoria Nuland, Jay Carney, Robert Gibbs, Dana Perino and many more explain, when asked, that they couldn't what?
Pick any controversial and embarrassing topic and what do they say, "I'm sorry.  I can't comment on an ongoing investigation."
But Petzel didn't say that -- despite it being an ongoing investigation.
So, in fact, we now know that they can comment on an ongoing investigation, they just don't want to.

Petzel should have spoken about the issue. If the incriminated are going to be allowed to spin in the future, they're going to have to stop also claiming that an ongoing investigation means they can't comment.  As for Shinseki?  His position is consistent.  He is not supposed to comment on ongoing investigations and he hasn't.

I don't slam him for that.  However, there's another issue.  Yesterday, the office of House Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Jeff Miller issued the following:

Chairman Miller Writes Sec. Shinseki About Delayed Action to Preserve Phoenix VAHCS Evidence, Shredded Waiting List

May 1, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today, Chairman Miller wrote to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki regarding the department’s delayed actions to preserve possible evidence related to allegations that veterans seeking care at the Phoenix VA Health Care System may have died while awaiting treatment and may have been placed on a secret waiting list. Chairman Miller’s letter also addressed VA’s admitted shredding of a waiting list department officials have said may be the “secret” list cited by Phoenix VA Health Care System whistleblowers.
View the letter here.
Chairman Miller Preservation Request to Sec. Shinseki
VA Litigation Hold (Preservation Order)

Tomorrow is World Press Freedom Day.  The United Nations notes:

 World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in December 1993, following the recommendation of UNESCO's General Conference. Since then, 3 May, the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek is celebrated worldwide as World Press Freedom Day. It is an opportunity to:

  • celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom;
  • assess the state of press freedom throughout the world;
  • defend the media from attacks on their independence;
  • pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty. 

The focus this year is on three inter-related themes: the media’s importance in development; the safety of journalists and the rule of law; and the sustainability and integrity of journalism. An international conference will be held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on 5-6 May.

The annual UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize ceremony will take place on 2 May 2014 at UNESCO Headquarters.

Reporters Without Borders' 2014 World Press Freedom Index covers 180 countries.  The top five countries for press freedom?  Finland, then the Netherlands, Norway. Luxembourg and Adnorra. Out of 180 countries, Iraq comes in at 153, which is really bad.  Also very disappointing is alleged beacon of hope and freedom, the United States, comes in at number 46.   Of the US, the report notes:

Freedom of information is too often sacrificed to an overly broad and abusive interpretation of national security needs, marking a disturbing retreat from democratic practices.  Investigative journalism often suffers as a result. 
This has been the case in the United States (46th), which fell 13 places, one of the most significant declines, amid increased efforts to track down whistleblowers and the sources of leaks.  The trial and conviction of Private Bradley Manning and the pursuit of NSA analyst Edward Snowden were warnings to all those thinking of assisting in the disclosure of sensitive information that would clearly be in the public interest.
US journalists were stunned by the Department of Justice's seizure of Associated Press phone records without warning in order to identify the source of the CIA leak.  It served as a reminder of the urgent need for a "shield law" to protect the confidentiality of journalists' sources at the federal level.  The revival of the legislative process is little consolation for James Risen of The New York Times, who is subject to a court order to testify against a former CIA employee accused of leaking classified information.  And less still for Barrett Brown, a young freelance journalist facing 105 years in prison in connection with the posting of information that hackers obtained from Statfor, a private intelligence company with close ties to the federal government. 

Last week, Trevor Timm (Boing Boing) noted the hypocrisy of an administration that persecutes Risen while at the same time tries to present itself as a world wide advocate for a free press:

The US State Department announced the launch of its third annual "Free the Press" campaign today, which will purportedly highlight "journalists or media outlets that are censored, attacked, threatened, or otherwise oppressed because of their reporting." A noble mission for sure. But maybe they should kick off the campaign by criticizing their own Justice Department, which on the very same day, has asked the Supreme Court to help them force Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times reporter James Risen into jail.

Sunday, RT reported: on the State Dept's nonsensical "Free the Press" campaign:

But, apparently, the US' own crackdown on journalists, particularly those involved in whistleblowing, is a completely “separate category” to be highlighted by such an event, as Jen Psaki, the spokesperson for the US State Department made clear.
“We highlight, as we often do, where we see issues with media freedom around the world,” Psaki told Matthew Lee of the Associated Press, who asked if she believes there are some problems with press freedom in the US that should be discussed as well.
“Otherwise harassed?” Lee asked. “Does that include those who may have been targeted, harassed, imprisoned, or otherwise, whatever, by the United States Government?”

Press TV notes the hypocrisy here.  This week in Berkeley, the 2014 Logan Investigative Reporting Symposium was held.  James Risen was among those attending.  Sharyl Attkisson reports:

Risen, who faces the threat of jail time for refusing to turn ​over information about a confidential source, was one of ​the featured speakers. He is winner of the 2006 Pulitzer ​Prize for National Reporting and the Goldsmith Prize for ​Investigative Reporting.
"A Rip Van Winkle today would be shocked with what we accept in society and what we think of as normal," Risen told the audience of several hundred investigative journalists and Berkeley journalism graduate students. He said that there's been a "fundamental change in society" since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and that Americans have given up civil liberties and press freedoms "slowly and incrementally."
"We've been too accepting of rules and mores of, first, the Bush administration and, now, the Obama administration. We have to stand up and begin to fight back . . . we need to think about how to challenge the government in the way we’re supposed to challenge the government."
"[The Obama administration] want[s] to create an interstate highway for reporting in which there are police all along telling you to stay on that highway. As long as we accept this interstate highway of reporting, we are enabling and complicit in what’s happening to society and the press," said Risen.

For more on Risen, you can see this column by Dina Rasor (Truthout) and, to be clear, her unnamed source offering an excuse for Barack is  either delusional or a liar.  The lies and delusions never end.  Take Barack's Wikipedia article.  Specifically this section.

In late 1988, Obama entered Harvard Law School. He was selected as an editor of the Harvard Law Review at the end of his first year,[40] and president of the journal in his second year.[34][41] During his summers, he returned to Chicago, where he worked as an associate at the law firms of Sidley Austin in 1989 and Hopkins & Sutter in 1990.[42] After graduating with a J.D. magna cum laude[43] from Harvard in 1991, he returned to Chicago.[40]  

Why do they have to lie?

This is part of what infuriates so many people, Barack rises from a chair and someone runs out of the room exclaiming he just won a marathon.

No, he just got out of a chair, calm your ass down.

Did you spot the lie in the Wikipedia passage?

This is the lie, if you didn't catch it:

During his summers, he returned to Chicago, where he worked as an associate at the law firms of Sidley Austin in 1989 and Hopkins & Sutter in 1990.[42]

No, he didn't.

He didn't have a law degree until 1991 so he wasn't an associate in 1989 or 1990.

I don't know what's more insulting, the lie or the liar's belief that people were stupid enough for him/her to get away with it.

An associate is an attorney, a practicing attorney.  If people are confused they can think of Mike on the USA network show Suits.  Mike is an associate.  Mike didn't get a law degree, he got kicked out of law school.  He has concealed this fact to keep his job.  Why? Because he can't be an associate without a law degree. This is not a minor thread that's raised and then forgotten but a key detail in season one, in season two and in season three.  When season four kicks off June 11th, it will still be a key detail.

I have no idea why the whoring never ends in the Cult of St. Barack but I do know an associate needs a law degree.

Press freedom requires a functioning press, one able to stop licking Barack's frenulum.  Ron Fournier (National Journal) notes:

The typical White House reporter considers President Obama's team the most secretive in memory, stingier with information than the tight-lipped Bush White House and, according to a Politico survey, prone to lie. The press corps also is relatively inexperienced, with 39 percent on the beat five years or less, and nearly 60 percent in their first decade.
Most of these extraordinary reporters were never stonewalled by President Clinton's team, deceived by Bush's advisers or bullied by any of their predecessors. I was. Yes, I'm pretty old. With age comes the experience and arrogance required to advise the hard-working White House press corps. Here are five suggestions (confession: I didn't always abide by them while on the beat, but wish I had): 
Don't let the White House set the ground rules. Everything a White House official does, says or writes is on the record, meaning it can be reported at your discretion, unless you determine that it's in your audience's best interest to adjust the rules.

The Committee to Protect Journalists is using the day to call for the release of all imprisoned journalists and notes these "Ten journalists to free from prison:"

1) Avaz Zeynally in Azerbaijan
2) Ahmed Humaidan in Bahrain
3) Ilham Tohti in China
4) Mahmoud Abou Zeid in Egypt
5) Dawit Isaac in Eritrea 
6) Reeyot Aleum in Ethiopia 
7) Siamak Ghaderi in Iran 
8) Fusun Erdogan in Turkey 
9) Muhammad Bekjanov in Uzbekistan 
10) Nguyen Van Hai (also known by his pen name Dieu Cay) in Vietnam

CPJ's 2014 Global Impunity Index notes:

Fresh violence and a failure to prosecute old cases kept Iraq, Somalia, and the Philippines in the three worst slots on the Index. Iraq, with 100 percent impunity in 100 cases, is at number one, a spot it has held since the survey’s inception in 2008. Iraq’s journalists, targeted in record-breaking numbers since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, saw a respite in 2012, the first year no journalists were killed in relation to their work. However, a resurgence of militant groups across the country propelled a spike to 10 journalist killings last year—nine of them murders.

On the topic of Iraq and the press, Nina- Iraq launched--  it's a media site geared towards Iraqi women.  In one article, Raya Abu Gulal observes:

Iraqi women have enjoyed fundamental women’s rights since the late 1950s. This made Iraq one of the first nations to uphold modern standards of women’s rights in the Middle East.
In Iraq, women continue to face security threats across the country. These include random attacks by extremist groups and honour crimes. Moreover, various reports show that many Iraqi women who wish to participate in the political process are facing threats and kidnappings. Lack of security and initiatives from extremist groups have proved to be the main obstacles preventing the advancement of women’s rights in the country.

Iraqi women have had to repeatedly fight off attempts to destroy their rights in the time since the illegal war kicked off with the 2003 invasion.  Monday, former United Kingdom Prime Minister Gordon Brown wrote at the Guardian:

When Iraqi voters go to the polls tomorrow they are likely to endorse parties that plan to legalise child marriage at nine years old. Based on Shia Islamic jurisprudence, what is called the Ja'afari personal status law was approved by the current Iraqi cabinet eight weeks ago. It describes girls as reaching puberty at nine, and therefore ready for marriage. The current legal age is 18.

This barbaric and regressive law would grant fathers sole guardianship of their female children from the age of two, as well as legalising marital rape. It has horrified Iraqi women and they publicly declared last month's International Women's Day an Iraqi day of mourning in response to the worrying developments. Hassan al-Shimari, the Iraqi justice minister who proposed the draft law, is a member of the small Islamist Fadhila (Virtue) party, which is allied with the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who is seeking a third term in office.

Iraqis voted Wednesday.  On the vote, the White House issued the following:

Statement by the President on Elections in Iraq

On behalf of the American people, I congratulate the Iraqi people on the completion of yesterday’s parliamentary elections.  Millions of Iraqis embraced their democratic right to vote.  The people of Iraq know better than anyone else the enormous challenges that they face, and yesterday’s turnout demonstrated to the world that they seek to pursue a more stable and peaceful future through the political process.  Once results are finalized, a new parliament will convene and debate the makeup of a new government to serve the Iraqi people.  Whatever the outcome of this process, it should serve to unite the country through the formation of a new government that is supported by all Iraqi communities and that is prepared to advance tangible and implementable programs.  There will be more difficult days ahead, but the United States will continue to stand with the Iraqi people as partners in their pursuit of a peaceful, unified and prosperous future.

Continue to stand with the Iraqi people?

In the last parliamentary elections (March 2010), the Iraqi people made Ayad Allawi and Iraqiya the winner.  Nouri's State of Law lost to them.  But the White House demanded that Nouri get a second term.

Let's again note John Barry's "'The Engame' Is A Well Researched, Highly Critical Look at U.S. Policy in Iraq" (Daily Beast) from 2012:

Washington has little political and no military influence over these developments [in Iraq]. As Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor charge in their ambitious new history of the Iraq war, The Endgame, Obama's administration sacrificed political influence by failing in 2010 to insist that the results of Iraq’s first proper election be honored: "When the Obama administration acquiesced in the questionable judicial opinion that prevented Ayad Allawi's bloc, after it had won the most seats in 2010, from the first attempt at forming a new government, it undermined the prospects, however slim, for a compromise that might have led to a genuinely inclusive and cross-sectarian government."

"Continue to stand with the Iraqi people"?

When has the White House stood with the Iraqi people?

When Nouri's forces were terrorizing and killing gay Iraqis and Iraqis suspected of being gay, the White House never publicly condemned it.

Equally insincere is the US State Dept.  This exchanged took place in Thursday's State Dept press briefing:

QUESTION: Can I ask some questions about Iraq?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: First of all about the elections. Are you happy with the overall election process?

MS. HARF: Well, I think you probably saw the statement from the White House and the Secretary’s statement as well. We absolutely congratulate the people of Iraq. While there were reports of violence, indications are that the progress was organized – process, excuse me – election officials were well prepared, millions of Iraqis turned out to vote. We – their actual own electoral commission reported the turnout was about 60 percent. As you know, yesterday’s vote was just the start of a long government formation process that can – could play out over several months. Obviously, we’ll continue working with the Iraqis over that timeframe.

QUESTION: The Secretary of State in his statement said there will be serious challenges, and as well, President Obama in his statement repeated that.

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: What do you mean by that exactly?

MS. HARF: Iraqi leaders themselves have talked about some of the security challenges they face, particularly from the spillover effect from Syria.

QUESTION: Is it just a security challenge?

MS. HARF: That’s a huge part of it, certainly. Obviously, one thing we’ve been very focused on here. I think that’s probably what they were both referring to.


[. . .]

QUESTION: Can I just go back to the Iraq election?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: So that is not your final judgment of the election, just saying that the indications are that it went smoothly, or that --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- yeah – that it was organized?

MS. HARF: Was organized, well prepared. Yeah. I mean, we think --

QUESTION: But at this stage, do you still – do you think it’s free and fair, which was the judgment generally – because the Sunni – some Sunni parties have been complaining about voting problems.

MS. HARF: Well, we have seen those and initial indications have been very positive in terms of whether these elections were free and fair, including by the UN special rep for Iraq who had a press conference I think yesterday and talked about this. There will be additional assessments coming from independent observers and observers from international organizations, and I think there were thousands of election – Iraqi election monitors who were deployed through the country. The Iraqi high election commission reviews all grievances from people with complaints, but at this point it looks like there were some problems. But overall it went fairly smoothly.

I didn't realize medical marijuana was legal in the District of Columbia.

A pot induced high is the best explanation for Marie Harf's ridiculous claim of "some problems.  But overall it went fairly smoothly."   Xinhua reported, "The polls kicked off at 7:00 a.m. local time (0400 GMT) and closed at 6:00 p.m. (1500 GMT), during these hours insurgents attacked many polling centers across the country, leaving a total of 22 people dead and 62 others wounded, mostly security members and voters who defiantly headed to cast their votes with the hope of bringing better life for their families."  

 That's fairly smoothly?

On election day, Aswat al-Iraq reported 39 voting centers didn't even open due to violence.

On the election day,  NINA reported 1 person was arrested in Nineveh Province's al-Shura for being in possession of 511 of the new electronic voting cards.  511.  Last week, Duraid Salman (Alsumaria) reported on allegations that Nouri's SWAT forces are forcing voters in Diyala Province to hand over their election cards so that they can be used for voter fraud.

The electronic voting cards were a new development.  Previously, voters had used ration cards.  Mustafa Habib (Niqash) reports the cards were just an idea nine months ago and that they were poorly implemented:

The electronic voter ID cards contained an electronic chip that held the voter’s full name (all three of them), date of birth, family number in the electoral roll, the name of the polling station where the voter should cast his or her vote, the voter’s serial number once at that station and the voter’s province. 

There were just over 20 million electronic voter ID cards made – around the same number of Iraqis as are eligible to vote - but only 17.27 million were distributed for one reason or another. That means around 16 percent of the cards never made it to their rightful owners.

Iraqi voters had been told they were required to collect the cards and keep them as carefully as any other official document. They were also told that those who did not have a card would not be allowed to vote.

Early on, the cards which were not distributed indicated some of the problems with the new system. Some of them were issued to deceased persons and others were duplicates. Additionally many members of the security forces, army and police, got two voter ID cards – one as a member of the security forces, who voted two days earlier, and another as a civilian.

One police captain NIQASH spoke to confirmed this – but he said he returned the civilian one. It’s hard to know if everybody did this as there was apparently also a lucrative trade, selling voter ID cards.

Marie Harf should also refer to Niqash's "queues, cyber attacks, no singing, lots of walking: niqash editors report from iraqi election frontlines" before making her absurd claims.  While the State Dept spins, neoconservative Max Boot (Commentary via Gulf Today) offers:

Al Qaeda’s comeback has been enabled by the shortsighted policies of Iraq’s sectarian prime minister, Nouri Maliki, who is now unrestrained by a US military presence. He has targeted senior politicians, including former Vice President Tariq Hashimi, for prosecution. He has fired on groups of demonstrators. And, worst of all, he has welcomed the militia groups Asaib Ahl Haq and Kataib Hezbollah, both supplied by Iran, who are fighting alongside the overmatched Iraqi security forces against  militants.
These militias are held responsible for massacres in towns such as Buhriz, north of Baghdad.
Iraq is now in the midst of a cycle of sectarian violence  that leads to the seventh circle of hell into which nations such as Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Syria have previously plunged. There is no obvious escape in sight because, by manipulating Iraq’s sectarian politics, Maliki has managed to solidify support, which will probably ensure his continuation in office for a third term even as the country collapses. (Only the quasi-independent Kurdish region remains peaceful.)

Kitabat reports that the government out of Tehran has set up a headquarters in Iraq to argue for Nouri having a third term and to build alliances that would allow Nouri a third term as prime minister.
The editorial board of the Washington Post observes, "Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, in office eight years, appears confident that his Shiite party will win a plurality of votes, allowing him to continue what has been an increasingly authoritarian and sectarian rule."  Marie Harf may see success but others aren't so sure.  Borzou Daragahi (Financial Times of London) notes the sentiments of some Iraqis, "But many Iraqis say they feel neither joy at having voted nor optimism for their country's prospects.  Instead, they dread the potentially destabilising months-long process of forming a government amid a reignition of the country's sectarian conflict."  Iraqis are tired of Nouri and his tired ass.

Your face is pasty 'cause you've gone and got so wasted, what a surprise.
Don't want to look at your face 'cause it's makin' me sick.
You've gone and got sick on my trainers,
I only got these yesterday.
Oh, my gosh, I cannot be bothered with this.

Well, I'll leave you there 'till the mornin',
and I purposely wont turn the heating on
and, dear God, I hope I'm not stuck with this one.

My fingertips are holding onto the cracks in our foundation,
and I know that I should let go,
but I can't.
And every time we fight I know it's not right,
every time that you're upset and I smile.
I know I should forget, but I can't.

-- "Foundations," written by Kate Nash and Paul Epworth, first appears on Kate's Made of Bricks

Al Manar carries a story on Nouri and the elections which includes, "The premier insisted he was willing to give up the post if he was unable to form a government, saying: 'My mother did not give birth to me as a minister or a prime minister'."

He's never formed a government.  He went through his second term with the security ministries headless, never even nominated anyone to fill them.  That's in violation the Constitution.

Here's how the Constitution says it works.  The President names someone prime minister-designate and that person then has 30 days to form a Cabinet.

That means nominating people and get Parliament to vote them in.

Failure to do so indicates that the designate either isn't working hard enough or lacks support.  This is how a weak candidate is supposed to be weeded out.

But the 30 days was waived for Nouri -- as was the requirement that he form a Cabinet.

So that takes care of the current prime minister debate, let's move over to the issue of the president.

As we noted in Wednesday's snapshot:

A lot is at stake in these elections.  For one thing, Iraq will need to find a new president.
That's not open to debate.
December 2012,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17, 2012 (see the December 18, 2012 snapshot) and resulted in Jalal being admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20, 2012, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.
Obviously, health issues prevent him from continuing as prime minister.  So does the Iraqi Constitution -- Jalal has termed out of office.
So one thing the new Parliament will have to do is pick a president -- a new president.

Today, AFP notes, "Iraqi Kurds face uncertainty over whether they will retain the presidency, an important symbol after decades of central government oppression and a link between their autonomous region and Baghdad."

'Custom' may have made Jalal president twice but the Constitution didn't.

There's nothing in there which declares, "And the presidency shall go to a Kurd."

In his first term, Jalal announced he wouldn't seek a second term.  But, of course, he did.  At one point, in 2010, the US government was attempting to get Jalal to seek another post so that Ayad Allawi could be named president (Allawi's bloc won the 2010 elections, besting every other group).  Jalal did not politely decline.  He exploded over the phone as only Jalal can.

Turning to some of today's violence, National Iraqi News Agency notes a Rutbah sticky bombing claimed 2 lives, 2 Yazidis were shot dead in Sinjar, a Mosul roadside bombing left three members of the police injured, and a Samarra suicide bomber took his own life and the lives of Colonel Amer Najim Abdullah "and two of his colleagues."  Iraqi Spring MC adds that 20 corpses were discovered dumped throughout Baghdad. In addition, Nouri's continued shelling of Falluja's residential neighborhoods left 5 civilians dead and ten more injured.

In Marie Harf's State Dept press briefing today, Iraq was briefly noted. The issue was oil.  Isn't the issue always oil?

QUESTION: I asked you a couple of questions yesterday about Kurdistan --

MS. HARF: On Kurdistan.

QUESTION: -- export of oil and stuff like that.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: I actually got an email from Michael --

MS. HARF: He’s a very good press officer.


MS. HARF: Mike Lavallee, yes.

QUESTION: And he explains that basically – he said the United States supports the March decision by the 
Kurdistan Regional Government to begin oil exports of 100,000 --

MS. HARF: That is correct. Through the Iraqi-Turkey pipeline.

QUESTION: But I’m talking about the most recent decision by the KRG, by the Kurdistan Regional Government on April 27th. They started exporting oil – resuming – they resumed the export of oil, independent from Baghdad, to Turkey. It’s a unilateral decision. I know there’s a statement here says --

MS. HARF: Well, it’s pursuant to the existing export arrangements with the central Government of Iraq.

QUESTION: No, it’s not through the Iraq-Turkey pipeline. It’s through the independent Kurdistan pipeline, which Baghdad considers null and void, illegal.

MS. HARF: Okay. So --

QUESTION: What’s your response as the State Department --

MS. HARF: -- what I know --

QUESTION: -- to a unilateral decision which was made on April 27th by the KRG?

MS. HARF: I can check on that specifically. What we’ve talked about in terms of pipelines from Iraq to Turkey, including in Kurdistan, is under the existing agreement with the Government of Iraq. I’m not aware of something separate.

QUESTION: I have a – like a quote from prime minister of Kurdistan a few days ago. He said, we will sell oil in Turkey without getting Baghdad’s approval.

MS. HARF: Well, we don’t --

QUESTION: Does that constitute a unilateral decision that --

MS. HARF: I haven’t seen those comments. We don’t support oil exports from any part of Iraq without the appropriate approval of the federal Iraqi Government. So without knowing the details of that decision you’re speaking about, we obviously believe there’s a process that needs to be in place with the federal Government of Iraq.

QUESTION: So can you say if Kurdistan tomorrow sells oil without the approval of the central government --

MS. HARF: I’m not going to address a hypothetical. I just made our position clear. I’d have to look at the details.

QUESTION: But they do it today, actually. As of today.

MS. HARF: Okay, I’ll look at – again, I’ll look at the details. And you had a couple of other questions?

QUESTION: I think the other answers are really clear. Thanks a lot.

Yerevan Saeed (Rudaw) argues, "Kurdish leaders and their parliamentarians who are to head to Baghdad soon, should make the Kurdistan Region's right to produce, export and sell oil the main precondition in any future political deal or alliance."

Back to the US, David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. We'll close with this from Bacon's "IN COLOMBIA FREE TRADE BRINGS MORE POVERTY AND MORE KILLINGS" (Truthout):

The free trade agreement between the U.S. and Colombia, which took effect on May 15, 2012, hadn't yet reached its second birthday when the office of the public workers' union in Cali, SINTRAEMCALI, was firebombed.   On April 11 a Colombian court had ordered the country's government to apologize for attacking the union, along with that of the telephone workers,  SINTRATELEFONOS, and university workers, SINTRAUNICOL, during the past administration of President Alvaro Uribe, who signed the trade agreement.  The bombs were thrown five days later.

In 2004 a large number of SINTRAEMCALI workers were fired, and over the years since 15 were forced to flee Cali, eight were murdered and over a hundred more threatened.  Last year a leader of the city union's retirees' organization, Luis Fabio Campo Rodriguez, was murdered, and the union's past president Alexander Lopez Maya was revealed as the target of a government assassination program, "Operation Dragon."

On March 14, two months before the FTA's birthday, 17 leaders of the Association of Peasant Workers of Nariño were arrested in Nariño province.  The arrests were widely viewed in Colombia as government retaliation for a strike organized by farmers and students in this past August.