Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The always pathetic Dennis Kucinich







Should the trend continue in the remaining 20% of the ballots and should it hold in the official count, each party end up with 87 votes, to reach the magic number of 163, one of them would need to grab 76 seats out of the 151 seats remaining. 151, point, is 76 plus 75. If the current vote holds and the official vote is similar, there could be some intense negotiations as each of the two parties rushed to form a power-sharing agreement with other parties. Potentially even the minority candidates could wheel and deal -- such as the 5 seats that will go to Iraqi Christians. That's not gas bagging, by law, the Iraqi Christians are guaranteed 5 seats in this Parliament. 3 other seats are guaranteed to religious minorities. The Yazidis in Nineveh Province are guaranteed one seat, the Shabakis in Nineveh are guaranteed one seat and, in Baghdad, the Saibis are guaranteed one seat. Kadhim Ajrash, Caroline Alexander and Henry Meyer (Bloomberg News) quote Control Risks Group's Julien Barnes-Dacey stating, "It is up to Maliki and Allawi to make the best offers. No one is showing their cards yet because the full results have not yet emerged and they are going to wait and see what they are offered." Leila Fadel (Washington Post) observed earlier today, "A narrow lead would make it harder for Maliki to garner allies he needs to form a coalition government." And substitute Allawi for al-Maliki in that sentence because it's true of both of them. And, should there be a major upset in the official count, true of a third party as well.
If the results are similar but not exact, say side A ends up with 6 extra seats, it could be the 'winner' but not the group to end up with the power-sharing coalition that puts it in charge. Andrew England (Financial Times of London) explains, "It is not even guaranteed that the victorious coalition, or 'list', will form the government as no side will have an overall majority, meaning there will be weeks or months of political bargaining." Jim Loney and Samia Nakhoul (Reuters) run down election possibilities here.
To claim that the war is a success because we established something that looks like democracy is an interesting one to make. First, it presupposes that an establishment of democratic principles in the region is an actual goal of American foreign policy. This is clearly not true, as seen by our relationship with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, and the Gulf States–we don't pressure those folks too much about their democratic principles. Secondly, it presupposes that the only(or certainly the most effective) way to bring democracy to the Middle East was to invade Iraq. This, I think, is a claim that should be subject to debate, and the winning argument should be pretty obvious. Perhaps we could have used our economic leverage with our above mentioned allies to push them towards democracy first, and maybe then that would have the "democratic domino" effect on Iraq, all while avoiding a war!
Meanwhile Marc Lynch (Foreign Policy) scoops everyone by discovering "A Strategic Plan to Improve the Political Position of the Islamic State of Iraq:"
The 55 page document, published under a pseudonym, is a remarkably frank "lessons learned" analysis which does not shy away from identifying where the ISI's strategy went wrong. It's not an "official" document, whatever that means, but it's fascinating nonetheless and demonstrates some deep thinking about the fortunes of the Islamic State in Iraq. It explains its setbacks, which it argues came at the height of its power and influence, on what it calls two smart and effective U.S. moves in 2006-07: an effective U.S. media and psychological campaign, which convinced many that the "mujahideen" had committed atrocities against Iraqis and killed thousands of Muslims; and the Awakenings, achieved through its manipulation of the tribes and the "nationalist resistance." The document doesn't mention the "Surge" much at all, at least not in terms of the troop escalation which most Americans have in mind.
Building upon a lengthy post-mortem on the Awakenings and the media campaigns, the Strategic Plan sets out a detailed agenda for the coming years during and after the U.S. withdrawal. It calls the coming war "a political and media war to the first degree", with the winner "the side that best prepares for the period following the withdrawal." It recognizes that the Islamic State can not control all of Iraq through military force alone, and that only a wise political strategy can succeed. It then offers a detailed five point plan, including a process to unify the ranks of the jihad, in part by reaching out to the old nationalist resistance and convincing them to return to the fold; detailed military preparations, including recommendations to conserve men and resources until the right time; and an enhanced media operation designed to rebut the most damaging charges against the Islamic State and carefully tied to a coherent political strategy. Perhaps its most striking concept is a detailed plan for creating "Jihadist Awakenings", mimicking the U.S. engagement of the tribes to create broader popular support.
[. . .]
Turning to England and legal news. Robert Thomson died serving in Iraq at the age of 22 on January 31, 2004 in what England's Ministry of Defence termed "a tragic accident." A court of law begs to differ. BBC News reports that a British military inquiry "blamed Mr Thomson" for the "tragic accident" (he was buried alive when the trench he was in collapsed) but the Court of Session overruled that and awarded Margaret Valentine forty-two thousand pounds (US equivalent: approximately $64,398). His mother is quoted stating, "It has taken six years and it was never about the money. Money would never bring him back, supposing they gave me forty-million pounds. My laddie died a horrific death. He struggled to get out [of the trench] but couldn't. It was about getting here, a judge ruling that there was negligence. It was totally unsafe work and there was no regard for his safety. I always knew he never entered the trench of his own volition." Still in England, Gordon Brown testified to the Iraq Inquiry March 5th. Miranda Richardson and Ruth Barnett (Sky News -- link has text and video) report that while taking questions on Wednesday Gordon Brown's claim to the Inquiry that when he was Chancellor (under Tony Blair) defense spending rose each year ("in real terms") and confronted, with it today, Brown admitted he had mispoken. [PDF format warning] Sky News has posted the letter from Brown here. Richardson and Barnett point out, "The four-page document does not acknowledge that the Prime Minister made an error in the way he described defence spending." Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) gets the last word on Brown's letter, "It is typical Brown -- no admission of error, no apology, a lot of spin. It may be Brown's way of limiting the political damage, but to puff such a letter out with so much spin must have seriously alienated the Inquiry." Polly Curtis and Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) explain, "The prime minister was forced to correct his official evidence to the Chilcot inquiry -- which he repeated just last week in the commons -- after Ministry of Defence figures revealed that once inflation was accounted for, the budget declined in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2007. The revelations are particularly damning because some of the real-term cuts spanned years when the armed forces were at war in Afghanistan and Iraq." James Kirkup (Telegraph of London) terms the incident "an embarrassing retreat". Quentin Letts (Daily Mail) observes, "The truth was extracted by Tony Baldry (Con, Banbury), who put his question in an unhysterical but assertive manner. Mr Baldry spoke along the lines of 'come on now, there's a good boy, say you're sorry, then we can all start afresh and nothing more will be said of the matter'. Mr Brown hated admitting it. Shades of a child drinking its spoonful of cod liver oil." Cathy Newman (Channel 4 News) quotes MP David Cameron offering his thanks to Brown, "In three years of asking the prime minister questions I don't think I've ever heard him make a correction or retraction." Nico Hines and Philippe Naughton (Times of London) note that Brown's correction still wasn't accurate since he claimed that it was only one or two years that his statements were incorrect: "In fact, it fell in three separate years, according to figures compiled by the House of Commons library -- four years if 1997/98 is included, although the financial year had already started when Labour came to power." Jon Craig (Sky News) wonders what other things Brown might "own up to between now and election day?"
Monday the US House Armed Services Committee's Military Personnel Subcommittee held a hearing which started a little after 5:30 p.m. There wasn't space for it in yesterday's snapshot so we'll pick it up now. US House Rep Susan Davis is the Chair of the Subcommittee, Joe Wilson is the Ranking Member. Appearing before them were the National Military Family Association's Kathleen Moakler, Dr. Barbara Cohoon, Kelly Hruska, Candace Wheeler and Katie Savant. Chair Davis explained at the opening that the "hearing is a review of the priority legislative initiatives needed to support military families. We have asked the National Miliatary Family Association, the association with the greatest expertise regarding family issues, to help us understand how the Congress can best assist our military families." Various issues were raised, including housing on Guam by US House Rep Madeleine Z. Bordallo. We'll emphasize the following exchange:
Ranking Member Joe Wilson: For any of you, I'd like to ask, it's been mentioned in the testimony that there are redundancies in military programs and some programs don't meet the needs of today's military families. Are there any programs existing today in your opinion, that should be terminated? If so what are they?
Kathleen Moakler: Well I think we need to look at the myriad of services that are provided by each of the services and especially in the area of information and referral. It seems like people are starting up new programs to collect information from community sources and get them out there for military families but there's so many areas to choose from that it gets confusing. So if there could be one list. The National Resource Directory is a good start. That'd be a purple list. We are all about having purple programs for families. Not that they would lose their individual individuality but sometimes too many resources can be confusing.
Ranking Member Joe Wilson: And the internet could be a real resource to help cut through, so you can find it for a particular community.
Kathleen Moakler: Yes, you could put in your zip code and find out where these resources are.
Ranking Member Joe Wilson: And to me, again, it's exciting that they're so available technologically for families. Another recommendation has been to establish a unified joint-medical command structure within DoD. Can you explain how that would be helpful?
Dr. Barbara Cohoon: That would be me. On this particular one. I handle health care for our organizations. What we're talking about right now we're dealing with the funding happens under 3 different srevices rather than it being joined and we're looking at what's happening with the national capital region and how that's rolling out. And as we're looking at programs that are rolling out sometimes the best practices aren't necessarily shared across. And as we've seen up at the national capitol region where you'll have Army and Navy working together and then down in the San Antonio region you have Air Force and Army working together -- the ability to be able to share resources so you're purchasing the same equipment, you're teaching your staff as far as utilizing the same policies would go a long way as far as keeping down cost but also improving the quality of care through efficiencies but also as far as patient safety .
Joe Wilson: And another example would be the Uniform Services University which is a joint-service university. And since one of my sons [Add Wilson] is a graduate, I know it's a great institution. So I hope we can possibly look into what you suggest.
Dr. Barbara Cohoon: We'd look forward to working with you on that.
Joe Wilson: That'd be great. And then for anyone who would like to answer, it's been suggested the system of multi-layered case managers for wounded service members and their families may be aggregivating the delivery of necessary services to the families. How would you streamline the process to make it more effective.
Dr. Barbara Cohoon: What we're seeing again is all the services are rolling out their own programs and their own level of case managers. The VA's doing the same thing, also we have DoD doing the same thing. And our families are getting confused as far as who do you go to for what when? So we've been asking for maybe a report to take a look and I knew the GAO was looking at the Federal Recovery Coordinators to see how effective they're being, but also we need to look at the Recovery Care Coordinators and everyone else. What we're finding is that the families sometimes aren't aware that certain case managers are available that they could utilize -- i.e. the Federal Recovery Coordinators -- or that they're in the VA and now they could be using the VA Case Managers and instead they're still utilizing the services on top of that. So there are a lot of great programs but we want to make sure that we take a look that we haven't added so many on that it's getting confusing for the families.
Joe Wilson: Well your organization serves such a vital function as a safety net and as a means of providing assistance to families and so I hope you'll continue that effort and I'm particularly concerned about persons going from DoD to VA care -- that that be as seamless as possible and without a hiccup so that people receive services with nobody to fall between the cracks so thank you very much for your time.
Yesterday's snapshot covered the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing and Kat covered it at her hearing last night in "Senate Armed Services Committee," while Wally covered it in "Saxby Chambliss wants clarification" at Rebecca's site and Ava covered it in "Guantanamo, Bagram" at Trina's site.
Individuals, organizations and groups are gearing up for the demonstrations Saturday against the wars Barack Obama now owns. DC, Los Angeles and San Francisco have scheduled demonstrations. One organization participating is A.N.S.W.E.R. and they note:

In just days, we will be taking to the streets! We are hearing from people all over the country who are coming to bring their message to D.C., and we want to share with you some of the plans and ways that you can make an important contribution to the impact of the March 20 National March on Washington to demand "U.S. Out of Afghanistan and Iraq Now!"

Visual Impact

As always, there will be thousands of printed and handmade signs. We will also be making hundreds of coffins with flags representing the multinational victims of U.S. wars of aggression, and many people are bringing coffins that they are making themselves. You can help make and carry coffins in the march by arriving at Lafayette Park between 10 a.m. and 12 noon.

In just days, we will be taking to the streets! We are hearing from people all over the country who are coming to bring their message to D.C., and we want to share with you some of the plans and ways that you can make an important contribution to the impact of the March 20 National March on Washington to demand "U.S. Out of Afghanistan and Iraq Now!"

Visual Impact

As always, there will be thousands of printed and handmade signs. We will also be making hundreds of coffins with flags representing the multinational victims of U.S. wars of aggression, and many people are bringing coffins that they are making themselves. You can help make and carry coffins in the march by arriving at Lafayette Park between 10 a.m. and 12 noon.

You can also bring visuals that are specific to the stops on the march. We will be marching from the White House to the offices of Halliburton, Washington Post, Mortgage Bankers Association of America, National Endowment for Democracy and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

For example, Cheney puppets would be great to have when we go to Halliburton. You might want to bring a copy of the Washington Post to return to their doorstep since it's functioning as pro-war propaganda rather than real news. Think about each stop and be creative!

Be Seen AND Be Heard

We'll have speakers on the rally and march, and of course we'll be chanting. We also want to have as many drums as possible, so we are encouraging everyone who can to bring a drum (or a bucket or other implement on which you can drum). The drums should have straps so you can hold them while at the rally and on the march.

If you are not able to bring anything, don't worry. You can pick up a sign when you arrive.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"And the ballot counting continues"
"Deaths and assaults"
"Guantanamo, Bagram"
"ObamaCare realities"
"No, Toobin, it's rude"
"Saxby Chambliss wants clarification "
"Senate Armed Services Committee"
"Prom Contest"
"The Good Wife"
"The Panderers"
"Tired Zeese and NBC's Chuck"
"Barry needs a pleasure trip"

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