Thursday, May 31, 2012

And the night time soaps . . .

I'm glad so many of you e-mailed to say you enjoyed "Cecile" last night.

I especially liked hearing from those of you who were fans of Cecile.  She really was funny and she moved you because she could lose.

It's like on Melrose Place (90s) how Sydney was the best character.

Before they killed her off, she was the best bad character on the show. 

Amanda?  I enjoyed Heather Locklear's performance but Amanda didn't lose.  Sydney could and did lose everything, over and over.  Like when she had the store and the woman had the accident and Syd lost everything.  Or when she ended up in the sex cult with Traci Lords.  Cecile could and did lose.

When you don't lose, you're J.R. Ewing and all of America is bored. When you can lose, you're Abby on Knots Landing and we care what happens.

Like when that cartel wanted Abby on their side and Valene was giving pregnant to Gary's twins.  Abby was still married to him and didn't want to lose him to Val.  But Val lost the babies.

And Karen and everyone comforted her.  But at the end of that episode, Abby gets a call that says the twins are alive.  And then she has to try to find them so that she doesn't get blamed for kidnapping them.

And Val goes nuts and everyone feels sorry for her and Abby knows she's got a limited amount of time especially since Karen's figured out there's something wrong. 

Abby was my favorite character on Knots Landing.  Donna Mills played her so wonderfully.  After Abby, my favorite was Anne (Michelle Phillips) and she's another who could lose it all which made her good.  Then my favorite was Karen followed closely by Mac.

I could not stand Laura.  Not when she was married to Richard, not when she was friends with CJ (Lisa Hartman Black) and Richard was accusing the two women of being lovers and asking things like, "Who wears the pants?"  Not when she ended up married to Greg Sumner.  Never.  Ever.  She was just an awful character to me.  Dull more often than not.

I like Lillie Mae (Val's mother played by Julie Harris).  I especially loved Lillie Mae when she had no real scene and Julie Harris created one.  There was one time when Val was giving her mother a perm and Lily Mae started riffing on how the box had "no lye." She said something like, 'I would certainly hope not.  Ask me no questions, I'll tell you no lye.'  She did that a lot and made her scenes seem real and so much more than they would have been otherwise.  When they gave her a real story like with her crazy son Joshua (Alec Baldwin) and how he abused his wife Cathy (Lisa Hartman Black again -- don't ask, she played lookalike characters), she was the show.  I remember when she finally confronted Joshua on everything and just let him have it.  They were on the roof of a hotel or maybe Abby's TV station.  And Joshua tries to escape his mother's criticism -- blistering criticism --- by backing up and falls to his death.

Anyway, be sure to check out the "Barbie Roundtable" that we did Sunday at Third.

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

Thursday, May 31, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Moqtada says he can bring 40 votes to a no-confidence vote on Nouri, Baghdad is slammed with bombings, Iraq's energy auction is a bust, the US House Veterans Affairs Committee reviews the progress on the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, and more.
"We just spent last weekend, and in particular Monday, honoring our nation's defenders that are no longer with us.  Now it's time for us to renew our focus on those who still need our help in securing a good job," declared US House Rep Jeff Miller drawing this morning's House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing to order.    The hearing explored the VOW To Hire Heroes Act which Chair Miller hailed as  "an excellent example of what we can do when we all work together."
The Committee heard from VA's Under Secretary for Benefits Allison Hickey who was accomanied by VA's Curtis Coy and they heard from the Labor Dept's Acting Assistant Secretary of Veterans Employment and Training Ishmael Ortiz who was accompanied by Kathy Tran.  Why the hearing?
Chair Jeff Miller:  While I am impressed by the level of effort being made by program level staff at both departments, I am concerned that not enough is being done by either cabinet secretaries [VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis] or the President [Barack Obama] himself to promote this benefit.  Getting the message out about this opportunity is critically important to putting unemployed veterans on a path to a job in a high-demand field.  Clearly, aggressive promotion by the nearly three thousand One Stop Employment Centers are the key to filling the 99,000 training slots that have been authorized by the VOW Act.  I want to give you just one example -- one example of why I am concerned that despite VA's significant outreach efforts -- for which I commend them -- problems are still arising.  Staff was contacted by a community-based organization in Georgia about what appears to be a lack of effort to get the program started.  Shortly after the passage of the VOW Act, the organization contacted the Augusta One Stop Employment Center about how to enroll unemployed vets in the program.  They asked again in mid-March and the DVOPS and LVERs were still not aware of the program.  Two weeks later, Augusta told them the Georgia Department of Labor was not aware of VRAP.  In early April, both the Georgia and South Carolina Departments of Labor stated they were waiting for policy from DC.  In late April, there still appeared to be little understanding of how the program would work.  It appears that finally, on May 11th, 2012, a mass e-mail from VA was released detailing how the program would be implemented, only 4 days later on May 15th.  Obviously, if that is typical of the level of awareness at the One Stop Centers, I think we all agree we've got big problems with the potential launch coming up shortly.
On the subject of veterans hiring, the Dept of Labor is holding a Veterans Hiring Fair next week on Wednesday, June 6th.  It will be at the Great Hall of the Frances Perkins US Dept of Labor Building on 200 Constitution Ave. starting at ten in the morning and ending at one in the afternoon.  So that's just three hours and they're hoping for a large turnout.  After this morning's hearing, I went to talk to a friend at the Labor Dept to make sure I understood some of the issues from the hearing.  When I brought up Miller's solid issue of getting the word out, I was told that even in DC it can be a struggle to get the word out and that job fair was used as an example.  So I'm including it here at the top.  You will need veteran i.d. to enter the job fair.  And it is open to all adult veterans.   Repeating, that's next week on Wednesday. 
Also for FYI purposes, we'll note Allison Hickey's opening remarks regarding Veterans Retraining Assistance Program applications:
VA and the Department of Labor collaboratively developed the VRAP application process and the requirements for the information technology system changes to support this process.  To efficiently leverage existing systems, VA modifided its application for VA education benefits for use by the VRAP applicatns.  The VRAP application is available online at, a web site developed specifically for portions of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act.  This site can be accessed through eBenefits, the GI Bill web site, DoL web sites and numerous other web sites.  Additionally, Veterans can visit their local DoL One-Stop Career Center locations for application assistance.  Applications can be submitted through VA's Veterans Online Application web site.  To be eliglbe for participation, DoL must determine that the applicant is unemployed, not enrolled in any federal or state job-training program and is between the ages of 35 aand 60.  VA verifies the applicant's veteran status and type of discharge, and confirms that the applicant has no other VA education benefits available for use, and is not in receipt of compensation for a service-connected disability rated totally disabling by reason of unemployability.  After eligibility has been established, the applicant identifies his or her intended high-demand occupation category and applicable training institution.  Information about the high-demand occupations, identified by DoL, is availabe on VA's VOW to Hire Heroes web site as well as DoL's web site.
In his opening remarks, Ortiz noted that the Labor Dept had "repurposed approximately $5.4 million of our 2012 Project Year Budget in order to implement the provisions of the VOW Act."  This statement in passing led to the first question.
Chair Jeff Miller:  I was just asking staff a question.  You talk about repurposing five-plus million dollars to assist.  Was it not funded properly in the legislation?  Where's the money that the legislation appropriated?  Just trying to figure out why would you need additional -- to repurpose additional money?
Kathy Tran:  There were several provisions that did not have -- that appropriated funds were not included in.  So for example, the section 222 study on equivalency is one example.
Ortiz had indicated Kathy Tran should speak to the question.  She did.  But it wasn't really clear.  The Chair would say he was still trying to figure out this money issue and that this was paid for in the legislation but then he would note that people behind Tran were shaking their heads "no" on that last part.
So let's delve into that.  Tran's referring to the fact that the legislation required the Dept of Labor to identify skill equivlance between military and civilian employment.  Was this fully funded?  That's one of the questions I asked when I went to the Dept of Labor today.  No, it wasn't funded at all, I was told, and the Labor Dept had to take from their budget for it.    In addition to the five million budgeted, more money will likely be spent on this because the study is not yet completed -- and, again, the legislation requires this study take place.  The Labor Dept is hoping to piggybag on a DoD study.  If they're able to, that would reduce the cost.
In addition to wanting to know if the study was funded, Chair Miller also wanted to know what happened in this program -- limited to 99,000 -- if someone signed up, was accepted and ended up having to drop out due to some reason.
Chair Jeff Miller: What happens if a veteran enters the program and he drops out?  Is that counted a "used slot"?  Or, if there's still funding left, can that be reallocated to another veteran?
Allison Hickey:  Chairman Miller, we have been -- We have been instructed that, uh, that it works similar to the other Mongtogmery GI Bill and other GI bills and when that veteran drops then that authority drops in the 99,000 that are available. 
Chair Jeff Miller: Drops in or?
Allison Hickey:  So if the veteran -- I apologize, Mr. Chairman, let me be a little more clear about that. If the veteran applies and then doesn't fulfill the whole year's worth of training and let's say they stop mid-pointm  then that is one of the 99,000 and we cannot recycle the rest of that benefit on to a different veteran.
Chair Jeff Miller:  Is that right?
Allison Hickey:  Sir, I think that's the provision of the law that has been laid out for us so that's the way we're working it.
Chair Jeff Miller: Sounds like the provision needs to be corrected, doesn't it?  Would you recommend that that slot be re-allocated?
Allison Hickey:  Chairman Miller, from my perspective, from the advocacy that we have in VA for all veterans, we would certainly like to see every dollar that you all have put towards this be used to train veterans so if you are inclined to do something different in the legislation, we would be happy to consider that.
Chair Jeff Miller: That's a great political answer. [Laughter.]  I appreciate that.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill is one of the pieces of legislation that was passed during the current wars.  The first fall semester checks for that legislation, in fact, didn't go out until the fall of 2009 (and many waited much longer than that to receive their checks, but that's another story).  The retraining opportunities offered by the VOW to Hire Heroes Act was an issue Representative Mike Michaud wanted to explore and he wanted to delve into job training, not just academic training. 
US House Rep Mike Michaud:  I have a couple of questions.  The first is I've heard from a couple of small towns and cities  and county government, the fact that they're looking for fire fighters as well as police officers and when you look at the unemployed in the military -- particularly for the military police --  they'd like to hire veterans.  Under the VOW Act, what are you doing to help encourage municipal towns for police officers and what's available to them?  And that's my first question.  My second question is, having done several manufacturing tours throughout my district over the past year, one of the things I hear a lot from businesses is that they would like to hire more employees but they found that they're not trained.  When you look at the extension patnership program, the MOST Program, I don't know if you're familiar with it?  It stands for Mobile Outreach Skill Training, it made it's MEP, they go into these businesses and actually are willing to train and they guarantee a job after training or else they do not get paid for the training.  Are you working with extension partnership programs throughout the country in that regard since they do guarantee jobs?  And do you have the resources needed?  So i guess both of you or who wants to answer both of those questions?
Ismael Ortiz: Congressman, first of all -- Let's -- I want to hit your first question first, sir.  Fire fighters and police officers are on a high demand list so as far as VRAP is concerned, this is an opportunity for them to be able to go in there if they meet the elegiblity requirements, sir.  On the second part of that, sir, if they don't, we also have local veterans employment representatives in each one of the One-Stop Centers our LVERs [Local Veterans Employment Representatives] who go outreach and make sure  and talk to different employers and places to help them find the skilled person that they're looking for.  So our One-Stops are a very important piece of getting that outreach part and also local communities, that is the biggest piece of what we are talking about, working with the communities as much as possible to get that information to us so that way we can find the proper individuals to help them fill their needs.
US House Rep Mike Michaud:  And what type of a benefit will a local community receive since they are tax exempt?  Is there any specific training piece or is there any other benefit under the VOW Act that will be beneficial for the communities?
Ismael Ortiz:  Actually sir -- You know what, I'm not really sure on the specifics on that, sir.  But I'll be more than happy to find out.
US House Rep Mike Michaud:  Okay.
Allison Hickey:  Congress Michaud, let me just tell you how we have generally worked with the education programs in relation to this -- especially the non-degree programs which we started thanks to this Committee and the Senate Veterans Committee's support from the first of October of last year when we were allowed to use GI Bill benefits towards non-degree efforts.  We still require your state approving agency to certify the training.  And if you have on in everyone of the states, I would highly recommend that the counties contact the state approving agencies and submit their training program to them and let them go through their normal process, certify it and then I can -- I can cover them under GI Bill or VRAP for either one.
Ismael Ortiz:   As far as the MOST, sir, the MOST Program, I'm going to turn it over to Ms. Kathy Tran.  She works specifically on those issues.
Kathy Tran:  Sir, regarding our partnership.  We have a federal partnership with the US Dept of Commerce and the MEP Program and we have been encouraging local partnerships in communities and regions across the country to partner between the workforce system and MEPs in order to support employment in the manufacturing arena.  And we actually issued a training guidance letter  or notice -- I can't remember which one, we can get back to you on that -- recently to encourage those partnerships and that letter included examples of existing successful partnerships at various different levels whether it be working with MEPs  on layoff aversion strategies or working with MEPs to help fulfill, you know, job openings and training.  But also just to add to the question earlier, One Stop Career Centers are available to help local muncipalities in their hiring so they can work to help do recruitment, to do job screening, to do post job openings and so that is a good relationship between the One Stop Career Centers and those muncipalities.  Many local webs have good representation from their city and county councils and such.
These are highlights from the hearing that I'm choosing because they go to issues that may require further attention.  US House Rep Jerry McNerney raised a very important issue in his questioning.  It needed to be explored further but was instead dismissed.
US House Rep Jerry McNerney:  I don't think the VA is doing enough to outreach, I don't think just for this program, there seems to be a reluctance to go to the media, to advertise on TV, to put up billboards.  I'd like to see the VA do more of that, in general.  Especially in this case.
Allison Hickey:  Congressman, I appreciate your comments and your questions.  I will say that we have been to the media quite extensively, in the print media and have gotten it out that way, quite extensively. The -- I don't know about billboards except to say that we have a lot of veterans in many, many communities and it would be difficult to figure out the expense associated with a billboard in a single community.  We would start to, I think,
create some discussion around funding that would be a little bit untenable.  We have been online.  I have literally done, as has the Secretary done on camera interviews about veteran employment issues and about the opportunity for education to help those employment opportunities. And I know that Secretary Ortiz' Secretary [Hilda Solis] has done that as well so I will let him comment further on that but we have reached out quite extensively through lots of media different environments including 75 newspapers nationwide for those communities where veterans -- the unemployment rate for veterans is the most -- is the highest.  We're not stopping.
US House Rep Jerry McNerney:   So what kind of budget does the VA have for media outreach.
Allison Hickey:  Well Congressman McNerney, we are -- We are actually trying to be good stewards here.  So we are leveraging our current network operation, we are leveraging the good will of communities and newspapers and others to get this word out as well including all the military alumni groups, all the -- the Military Times are carrying this for free, many of the local newspapers are carrying this for free --
US House Rep Jerry McNerney:  So in other words, you don't have a budget specifically for outreach?
Allison Hickey:  Congresmman McNerney, I've not found the need at this point in time especially when, in very short order, we have over 12,000 applicants and they're growing every single day.  Yesterday, it was 11,000 as the Chairman well noted, today it's twelve.  If in fact we do require, I will be happy to come and share that need with you.
First, "Military Times" -- that's a publication.  Elsewhere, she noted them as well as Air Force Times, Federal Times, Marine Corps Times, Army Times and Navy Times.  I want to be sure they get their credit.  The Philadelphia Inquirer was mentioned elsewhere in the hearing as was USA Today, the Fayetteville Observer, the San Antonio Express News and the  Wall St. Journal.  Those newspapers had all run the VA's notice and run it for free.  They deserve credit and praise for their public service. 
But McNerney is correct, there should be a budget.  If he had more time, it would have been interesting if Hickey could have answered how many turned them down?  Or how many people they had to speak to at the Wall St. Journal?  And how much time was used on this?
My point here is that just because the VA did not spend money paying for advertisement, money was still spent in that staff had to call around.  And I'm sure they got rejections.  I'm also sure they got, "This is great but you need to speak to ___."  So how much time was used?
There should be a budget and I don't think the VA has staff that can afford additional duties.  The backlog at the VA is so huge -- backlog on claims processing (but really backlog on anything) -- that I don't understand how they're able to work on this and claim money was saved.
I also don't think this is what the authors of the legislation intended.  (I could be wrong.)  You're already limiting the program to 99 slots.  Now you're saying that it's not even an equal playing field.  That whether someone hears about it in a publication depends a great deal on if they live in San Antonio or Philadelphia?
The Labor Dept estimates that the number of unemployed veterans between the ages of 35 and 60 is 400,000.  Repeating, there are only 99,000 slots.  And thanks to Chair Miller's questions, we now know that if someone has to drop out due to illness or maybe they get a great job offer, that slot doesn't get refilled.  It seems like the VA needs to be targeting all veterans. 
This is not supposed to be a secret program.  All 400,000 should know it's out there and be able to compete equally for the 99,000 spots.  This is probably the strongest veterans legislation passed since 2009.  Refusing to spend money to get the word out on the program is ridiculous and goes against the whole point of it.
Good for the newspapers who did run it for free, good for the VA staff that worked on that.  But there should be an advertising budget.  The government's more than happy to foot the bill for lots of TV and print advertising to recruit into the military.  They should have the same --if not more -- willingness to spend the money to get the word out on programs.
Winding down before we move on to Iraq, US House Rep Jerry McNerney raised the issue of billboards.  In political campaigns, billboards are largely a vanity issue.  Studies have found repeatedly that they have less impact on voting than other forms of advertising.  Those studies are on voting for a particular candidate.  There are no studies on what impact they have on raising awareness of new programs.  My guess is that they would be rather effective since they are stationary and many people pass them.  That's just my guess.  But the VA should be using a wide range of techniques to reach veterans. And the very last thing on the hearing.  No one asked Allison Hickey a question that she should have been asked (two veterans asked me if I heard the same thing in the hearing -- I did).  She noted a mass mailing sent out to veterans, 460,000 e-mails.  That's fine.  But what bothered the two veterans (and bothered me as well) was that Hickey stated that they "were viewed or opened by 23 percent of recipients" -- how does she know that?  What is the VA attaching to e-mails that allows them to know if they were opened or not?  Veterans get e-mails from the VA all the time and if there's something additional that they aren't seeing but is in those e-mails, they need to be informed of that.  She didn't explain how she knew the number (or how she knew it was 12% above a standard opening rate) and no one asked her.  We'll note another veterans issue as we wind down the snapshot, right now on to Iraq.
Today, Baghdad was yet again slammed with bombings.  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports the bombings took place over "a three-hour period" today in Shi'ite and Sunni neighborhoods.  Laith Hammoudi (AFP) observes the bombings are "underlining persistent security concerns even as international energy companies met in the centre of the capital to bid on oil and gas exploration blocks."  Deutsche Welle adds, "The last major bomb blast to hit the Iraqi capital was in mid-May when a suicide bomber targeted a police checkpoint in the city."  Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) quotes survivorNaseer Ali stating, "I was in my shope when I heard a powerful explosion and everybody rushed to the explosion site. Part of the restaurant was damaged and the windows of the nearby shopws were shattered. We saw several wounded people screaming for help."
The number of dead and wounded climbed throughout the day.  Early on, Patrick Markey and Alison Williams (Reuters) count 9 dead and twenty-seven injured. Then the  BBC News counted 12 dead and twenty-seven injured.  Citing security sources, KUNA stated 18 were dead and sixty-four were injured and did so before 10:00 a.m. EST and while other outlets had a much lower figure for the death toll and the number wounded.  As the day faded, AP reported the death toll had reached 18 and the number injured was at fifty-three.
For anyone wondering, neither the White House nor the State Dept issued any statement regarding the bombings or the dead.
Of today's Baghdad bombings, Al Rafidayn points out that they take place during a shapr increase in the political crisis.  The Irish Times observes, "Some argue that the ongoing political impasse has opened the door to violence. The unity government headed by Mr al-Maliki, a Shia muslim, has been largely paralysed since the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq late last year.  There is mounting criticism of Mr al-Maliki within the ruling coalition, amid complaints that he is shutting out Iraq's two main minorities -- Kurds and Sunni Muslims -- in decision-making."

A group participated in decion making yesterday in Sulaymaniyah Province (KRG).  Al Rafidayn reports that KRG President Massoud Barzani met with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Speaker of Iraq's Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi, Moqtada al-Sadr, Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq (who represents the National Dialogue which is a part of the Iraqiya political slate), Iraqiya head Ayad Allawi  and others and it was decided that a no-confidence vote would be taken on Nouri if 164 MPs would sign on.  Kitabat notes Moqtada is stating he can get the signatures.  Middle East Online quotes him stating online, "I promised my partners that if they got 124 votes, I will complete the 164 votes." 

Deeply alarmed is Ammar al-Hakim who insists to Alsumaria that he was not part of the meet-up.

Dar Addustour reports that al-Nujaifi is said to be ready to call an emergency session of Parliament to vote on the issue of Nouri.  They also note US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffries continues to try to shore up support for Nouri among the National Alliance and that he met with Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Karim Abdzaair (Al-Monitor) notes, "The National Iraqi Alliance responded to anti-Maliki political activities by sending their president, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, to meet with US ambassador in Iraq James Jeffrey to discuss the political crisis in Iraq. Khadr Khuzai, a member of the National Iraqi Alliance's presidential council and another pole within the Alliance, met with UN representative in Iraq Martin Cooper to discuss the crisis. These were the first two meetings that the Iraqi National Alliance held with US and UN representatives after the Alliance explicitly rejected internationalizing the crisis, one which it considers to be purely internal."
Ethyl al-Nujaifi, brother of Osama al-Nujaifi, tells Alsumaria that they already have enough signatures for a quorum, in fact they've exceeded that required number. 

As Al Sabaah notes, Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi's trial is supposed to start today.  Alsumaria reports the judges has refused the defense's request for testimony from President Jalal Talabani.    AFP explains:
The three-judge panel hearing the case denied the request, however, and [. . .] adjourned the trial until June 19. "They have asked for Jalal Talabani, (former Vice President) Adel Abdel Mahdi, (Talabani's chief-of-staff) Nasser al-Ani," and four MPs belonging to Hashemi's mostly Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc to testify, one of the judges said.
In related news, the targeting of Iraqiya's Laith al-Dulaimi continues and Kitabat reports Iraqi human rights activists joining Talabani's call for al-Dulaimi to be released.  al-Dulaimi was arrested days ago on Nouri's order.  He is a member of the Baghdad provincial council.  Nouri began airing al-Dulaimi's 'confession.'  al-Dulaimi -- still in prison -- has declared he was tortured, that the 'confession' was forced and false.  Realizing he had another p.r. disaster on his hands, Nouri recently began calling for an investigation into these torture allegations.  Abdul-Jabbbar al-Jubouri (Kitabat) reports that the 'confession' has now aired on Iraqi TV.  That's in violation of the law.  al-Jubouri terms it not only a political scandal but an ethical one as well.  Kitabat also doesn't take seriously Nouri's 'investigation,' noting it was his forces acting on his orders that tortured Laith al-Dulaimi and now he's going to investigate himself?

While Nouri flounders, Alsumaria reports the Russian government has extended an invitation to KRG President Massoud Barzani to visit Moscow so that Russia and the KRG can strengthen their ties with one another.  In other bad news for Nouri, he's signed a multi-million dollar contract -- valued at a quarter of a million dollars.  Al Rafidayn reports that this is to build 100,000 housing units.  The bad news?  While Iraq suffers record unemployment, Nouri's farming this job out to South Korea.
Iraq's two day energy auction ended today.  Yesterday brought one successful bidW.G. Dunlop and Salam Faraj (AFP) explain, "Iraq on Thursday closed a landmark auction of energy exploration blocks with just three contracts awarded out of a potential 12, dampening hopes the sale would cement its role as a key global supplier."  The offerings weren't seen as desirable and the deals offered even less so.  But big business began sending signals this auction would not go well over two months ago.  (And we've noted that at least three times in previous months.)  That's due to the instability in Iraq caused by Nouri -- and it is seen as caused by Nouri in the oil sector because he is the prime minister, he did pick a fight with Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, he did order Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi arrested.  All the instability in recent months have not helped.  His attacks on ExxonMobil and their deal with the KRG has not helped.  Nouri al-Maliki is bad for business.  If Iraq had the arrangement they did under Saddam Hussein, Nouri could get away with that.  But he's going to have to grasp real soon that state oil isn't what it was under Hussein.  The economic model (imposed by the US) is mixed.  And if Iraqis hadn't fought back, it would be strictly privatized.  Nouri's not yet learned that his actions impact Iraq's business.  (And, in fairness to Nouri, this is a new thing for Iraq.  Saddam Hussein could do anything and it wasn't an issue unless the super powers decided it was.  But, again, it's a mixed model now.  Nouri might need to bring in some economic advisors from out of the country.)  W.G. Dunlop and Salam Faraj (AFP) report Iraq's response to the poor showing at the auction is to declare that they will hold another one.
Finally, US Senator Patty Murray chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and her office noted yesterday an important concern she and two other senators have:

Wednesday, May 30, 2012 
CONTACT: Murray Press Office
(202) 224-2834

VETERANS: Murray, Blumenthal, Nelson Call on Departments of Justice, Treasury to Investigate Charitable Organizations Exploiting Veterans for Own Financial Gain
Recent findings raise serious questions as to whether organizations are violating federal law and abusing their tax exempt status by misrepresenting work on behalf of veterans
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee joined with Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) in sending two letters regarding the Veterans Support Organization (VSO), addressing potential violations of federal law and abuse of tax exempt status by the 501(c)(3) organization. The first letter was sent to Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, requesting an audit and, where appropriate, an investigation of the VSO for potential violations of federal law.
In a second letter, sent to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, Senator Murray, again joined by Senators Blumenthal and Nelson, expressed concern about the membership criteria used by the Department of Veterans Affairs' Voluntary Service National Advisory Committee (NAC) to evaluate prospective member organizations and the NAC's failure to require any standards of conduct for its members. The Senators point out the lack of internal controls for membership on the advisory committee and call for the removal of any organization that fails to conduct itself in a manner befitting the Department's mission or that exploits its relationship with the Department for its own financial gain.
"Without a meaningful review process or standards of conduct, the Department risks legitimizing organizations engaged in questionable business practices by permitting their membership on the NAC," the Senators write in the letter to Secretary Shinseki. "For example, the Veterans Support Organization (VSO) has repeatedly touted its membership on the NAC as a way to represent itself as a reputable organization. But throughout the seventeen states in which it operates, VSO has drawn scrutiny from state authorities, veterans service organizations, local news organizations and veterans themselves. VSO's business practices have been characterized as dishonest, misleading and fraudulent, and in at least one instance, VSO has acknowledged breaking state law."
The full text of both letters follow:
May 30, 2012
The Honorable Eric H. Holder
Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530

The Honorable Timothy F. Geithner
Secretary of the Treasury
U.S. Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Dear General Holder and Secretary Geithner:
We write to request that the Departments of Justice and Treasury audit and investigate, as appropriate, the Veterans Support Organization (VSO), a registered 501(c)(3) tax exempt corporation, for potential violations of federal law.
Throughout the seventeen states in which it operates, including Connecticut and Florida, VSO has attracted scrutiny from state authorities, reputable veterans service organizations, local news organizations and individual veterans. VSO's business practices have been characterized as dishonest, misleading, and fraudulent and in at least one instance, VSO has acknowledged breaking state law. Taken together, these actions and allegations raise serious questions as to whether VSO has repeatedly and intentionally misappropriated public donations and abused its tax exempt status in violation of federal law.
At the heart of VSO's suspect practices is its use of paid solicitors, violation of state solicitation laws and financial irregularities. VSO presents its paid solicitors to the public as veterans, providing them with camouflage-style uniforms and instructing them to keep thirty percent of their collected donations as commission. Through its use of these paid solicitors, VSO has been found in violation of state charitable contribution laws and has faced civil penalties as a result. VSO's paid solicitors program is its single largest expenditure, with executive and employee compensation following close behind. In 2009 alone, VSO paid its chief executive officer $255,000, or over four percent of its total revenue. That same year, VSO's spending on its paid solicitor program and executive and employee compensation was over eight times greater than its direct grant awards to other veterans service organizations, government entities, and individual veterans. Clearly, VSO's disproportionate spending on paid solicitors and its own executives, coupled with its admitted violation of state solicitation laws and general lack of transparency and accountability is cause for serious concern. For your reference, we have enclosed a background paper that details VSO's questionable conduct in greater detail.
As an increasing number of our servicemembers return home and transition to civilian life, it is especially critical that charity organizations act as good stewards of the American people's goodwill and generosity towards our veterans. On behalf of our nation's veterans and those who serve them, we thank you for your attention to this matter and look forward to your timely response detailing the steps you have taken auditing or investigating, as appropriate, VSO.
May 30, 2012
The Honorable Eric K. Shinseki
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420

Dear Secretary Shinseki:
We write to express our concern about the membership criteria used by the Department's Voluntary Service National Advisory Committee (NAC) to evaluate prospective member organizations and the NAC's failure to require any standards of conduct for its members.
It is critical that organizations permitted to affiliate themselves with, or invoke the name of, the Department of Veterans Affairs conduct themselves in a manner befitting the Department's mission, its reputation and the integrity of its work. Yet today, any organization that meets a minimum level of monetary and material support to VA facilities is eligible for membership on the NAC. No other review is undertaken by the Department to evaluate a potential member organization, nor does the NAC have in place any standards of conduct to which its member organizations must adhere.
This is both troubling and unacceptable. Without a meaningful review process or standards of conduct, the Department risks legitimizing organizations engaged in questionable business practices by permitting their membership on the NAC. For example, the Veterans Support Organization (VSO) has repeatedly touted its membership on the NAC as a way to represent itself as a reputable organization. But throughout the seventeen states in which it operates, VSO has drawn scrutiny from state authorities, veterans service organizations, local news organizations and veterans themselves. VSO's business practices have been characterized as dishonest, misleading and fraudulent, and in at least one instance, VSO has acknowledged breaking state law.

In response to VSO's suspect practices, we have written to the Attorney General and to Secretary Geithner, requesting that their departments investigate whether VSO has misappropriated public donations or abused its tax exempt status in violation of federal law. We expressed our concern that charity organizations must act as good stewards of the American people's generosity towards our veterans. Surely an organization, such as VSO, which has admitted breaking state law, should be ineligible to serve on the NAC or use the Department's name in furtherance of its own financial interest.
To protect the integrity of the NAC's work, we ask that you review this situation and take such action as you consider appropriate. It is our hope that you will rescind the membership of VSO and any other organization that fails to reflect the caliber and character of the Department's mission and work, and institute safeguards to regulate the NAC's membership accordingly. We look forward to hearing from you regarding your review of this issue. Thank you for all that you do on behalf of our nation's veterans.
Eli Zupnick
Press Secretary
U.S. Senator Patty Murray


Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Nancy Frangione played Cecile DePoulignac on Another World.  That's an NBC soap opera that started airing in the 60s and continued through 1999.

Nancy wasn't the first person to play Cecile.  I know that because my grandmother told me it.  But my grandmother (who I even called) doesn't know the name of the other actress and Wikipedia just knows that Nancy Frangione played the part.

The other actress was blonde also.  She wore her hair straight.

Never mind.  Susan Keith was the actress.  I texted everyone and got told to go here.

I never saw Keith play the part.  I knew of her because Another World was my grandmother's favorite soap opera and she had a scrapbook for the show where she, among other things, kept every Soap Opera Digest summary of the show.  That was a biweekly (I think biweekly) magazine.  And they'd spend five or six pages explaining what happened on the soap.  (They'd do that with every soap.  Hour long soaps got that kind of attention.  They did less pages, say three, for a 30 minute soap.)

So I used to look at the scrapbook when I was little and the show was on.  The five to six pages would contain two photos.  I'd look at each one and, on the commercials, ask my grandmother about anyone I found interesting.

I was a teenager and not interested in soaps but then it was Cecile.  And she was so damn funny.  And Faith Ford was Liz's niece on the show and part of this group of teens including Gwen's daughter Thomasina (they were Black -- the show had black characters).

No one was funnier than Cecile.  She was nothing but trouble.  Peter almost dies and her big concern is that it stopped her wedding to him.  She's being blackmailed and she's being hypnotized and she's going to the Pig and Whistle and doing Greta Garbo lines and still attracted to ex-lover and bad-boy Cass.  And then she's off the show because she's kidnapped but, wait, with Catlin and Sally, Cass finds her on an island.  He rescues her!

But the prince is in love with her and she always wanted to be a princess!

So to the tune of Tina Tuner's "What's Love Got To Do With It," she sails off.

She was just so wonderful.

And when I say she was the funniest, please note that with Cecile gone, Felicia needs a new best friend so they create Lily played by Jackee.  Jackee is funny.  Damn funny.

But Cecile was out of this world.

And then she comes back.  She's still royalty.  Her husband, the king, died.  She married his brother.  Who's not yet an adult.

Cecile was just so funny.

And Nancy Frangione was just this amazing actress.  She could make you want to cry when Cecile was down on her luck (no home and sleeping in her car) but have you laughing the next moment.  I don't think there was a better actress on daytime when Nancy Frangione was playing Cecile.

Oh, YouTube has a Cecile video!

This is after she's sailed off and left Cass.  He ends up with Kathleen McKinnon.  They get married eventually.  But here they are dating, I think.  Cecile returns to Bay City and lies to Kathleen that he loves her.  Cecile in a wig and costume.  Kathleen is the red head.

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

Wednesday, May 30, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, empire gets discussed, Marcy Winograd has an announcement, Talabani doesn't want Nouri to face a vote of no confidence, Tareq al-Hashemi feels the continued drama surrounding him is about to wrap up, I offer my thoughs of (and support for) Chris Hayes, and more.
The Honorable Jonathan Sumption is not only a judge (Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom), he's also a historian.  Earlier this month, he delivered a [PDF format warning] speech to the London School of Economics' Department of Government
The extreme case is of course the choice between peace and war.  In reviewing the military interventions of the English government, the courts have arrived at a position practically indistinguisable from the old non-justiciability rule, although justified on a different basis.  The legality of the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003 was, to put it mildly, a matter of some controversy everywhere outside the United States.  The great majority of international lawyers of repute considered it to be contrary to international law, in the absence of the United Nations authority and did not accept that any of the relevant resolutions conferred that authority.  The United States was inclined to respond to this difficulty in the way that the British had done at the time of the Suez crisis of 1956, by simply ignoring it.  In 1956, the Attorney-General, Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller and the Solicitor-General Sir Harry Hilton-Foster, both supported the invasion politically although both believed and told the Prime Minister that it was illegal.  The Chief of Imperial General Staff, Sir Gerald Templer, issued the deployment orders without troubling himself with the legal issue.  These are attitudes characteristic of an imperial power, and we should not be particularly surprised to find them adopted by the United States.  It is a sign of how far the climate of British opinion had changed by 2003 that the Chiefs of Staff  required an assurance from the Attorney-General that operations in Iraq were lawful.  They famously received one that had been prepared on a basis not wholly consistent with his previously expressed views and supported by reasoning which provoked the resignation of one of the Foreign Office legal advisers and was rejected by every serious authority on international law. 
David Swanson: You have left the fold of the Democratic Party and gone to the Green Party and after having been a candidate for Congress in Democratic primaries and done remarkably well against a well funded incumbent as a peace candidate.  Why the -- Why the decision to go to the Green Party?
Marcy Winograd: David, it wasn't an easy decision and it was one I wrestled with for probably quite some time.  But at the end of the day, the short answer is that I really didn't want to be aligned with a War Party any longer.  Even if you're an insurgent in that war party, you're still in it.  And as an insurgent,  I challenged Jane Harman she was a big Hawk, supporter of the military industrial complex,  I was on the floor of the Democratic Party convention in California introducing resolutions to end the war, the assault on Iraq.  I was shut down, quoroms were called, quorom called, I introduced resolutions to censure senators like Dianne Feinstein when she waffled on whether water boarding was torture. There are many struggles to engage in as an insurgent within a party and I'm not saying that they're not worthy and that they're not of great value but at this point in my life, I really want to live inside my skin.  I want to be authentic. And I also want to look towards the future.  Face it, the American Empire is declining.  This is it.  We are collpasing.  And we are watching the collapse of the US Empire. How long did it take other countries?  Well ou know for some it took a century.  For others it took just a few years.  Look at the Soviet Union.  Two years for the Soviet Union to collapse.  A year for Portugal, 8 years for France.  17 years for Great Britain.  There are historians. I interviewed one on [KPFK] Connect the Dots, Dr. Alfred McCoy who wrote in The Nation magazine who predicts that by 2025 it's over.  Just 15 years from now, the empire will be over. So given that, the US Empire, with its military bases in 3/4 of the countries in the world is just not sustainable.  It's imperative that we look to our future and embrace something positive. We know what we don't want. What do we want?  And that's what attracted me to the Green Party. 
David Swanson:  Well clearly the US Empire could end in a variety of ways -- some softer and easier than others.  Do you think that the Democratic Party and, in particular, President Obama are better or worse or about the same in relationship to the Republican Party and George W. Bush in terms of the manner in which the empire is over-extending itself and moving towards its collapse? In other words, would we be better off in these final years of empire to have the Democrats doing it or the Republicans?
Marcy Winograd: That's a very tough question, isn't it?  I know that I will not be voting for Barack Obama for president. And I did support him when he ran previously.  But this time I am going to be voting for the Green Party nominee because I really do want a different vision for our country and now's the time for us to speak out and say this is the alternative vision:  a party of non-violence, a party that opposes weapon sales  to other countries, a party that wants to build sustainable communities and invest in our communities, not extract wealth and send jobs to other countries. I think, at the end of the day, that it's very dangerous to have somebody in the White House who people don't necessarily who people don't necessarily know or understand and who may project an image of concilation and partnership but in reality is escalating what began under former President George Bush.  I'm talking about this "war on terror."  Right after Obama took office, he escalated the drone attacks on Pakistan.  We now have an increase in Joint-Special Operations Command Forces in other countries -- from 60 countries under Bush to 75 countries.  We have codified indefiniate detention, extraordinary rendetion and targeted assassination.  We have moved beyond what was considered under the Bush administration as an order for hot pursuit.  In other words, if somebody attacked us or an ally, we could cross a border in hot pursuit.  Now the whole world is a war theater under Barack Obama. So I'm afraid that under the Democratic leadership -- both in Congress and in the White House -- we are not seeing what we think we want to see or what we think we are seeing.  Instead, we're seeing increased militarism.  So I think it's very dangerous to think that this is an alternative path.  In fact, I think under President Obama, we've seen the Democrats able to advance a Republican agenda, at least on the foreign policy side, at least better than the Republicans could.
"Download or get embed code from or AudioPort or LetsTryDemocracy or RadioProject."  I really am surprised by Marcy's news and will assume others are as well.  Who's running in the Green Party for the presidential nomination?  A press release from the Green Party of Michigan answers that question:
For Immediate Release:
Green Party of Michigan Presidential Nominating Convention Saturday
Mt. Pleasant) - This Saturday marks the beginning of the Green Party's nominating convention at the university's campus in Mt. Pleasant which will last through Sunday afternoon. Excitement for the event has been building for months as the presidential candidates have been particularly exciting among members this year.
Dr. Jill Stein of Massachusetts has been travelling throughout the country to stand in
solidarity with Occupy movements, to speak at Green conventions and events and has most recently walked with those protesting the PGA in Benton Harbor. A long-time activist and dedicated member of the Green Party, Dr. Stein is currently the forerunner in the nomination pool.
Comedienne and activist Roseanne Barr of California has likewise been a long-time
supporter of grassroots movements. Her rallies in California have drawn hundreds of
supporters. Although she was the last candidate to announce her running, she has made a
strong showing in state polls.
Dr. Kent Mesplay of California was the first to announce his candidacy and has
remained a strong contender as a long-time Green. Having also vied for the presidential
nomination in 2008, he is the candidate with the most experience. As the son of missionaries, he grew up alongside native peoples in a nature-centered environment. This has shaped the focus of his message.
The three contenders for the presidential nomination will be speaking remotely at the
convention on Saturday afternoon. Candidates for state and some local offices will also be
nominated this weekend. The straw poll for the presidential nomination will take place on
Saturday with the results being announced on Sunday. The decision of the straw poll will guide the choice the delegates will make at the National Convention in Baltimore, MD on July 12-15.
Highlights of the convention will also include entertainment Saturday evening by musical
acts Stephen Colarelli, a singer/songwriter, Rope and the Rulers, and Poor Player.
The Members of the Green Party of Michigan have been active in petition drives to have
several critical issues placed on the November ballot including the Emergency Manager repeal which was thrown out on a questionable technical objection and the current ban on fracking petition gaining strength and support throughout the state.
If you are interested in becoming a member of the Green Party or want to learn more
about our key values, see our webpage:
For more information, please contact
Convention organizer and Green Party Co-chair Fred Vitale:
or Green Party Elections Coordinator John A La Pietra:
Your vote is your vote.  Use it as you want.  Like Marcy, I cannot vote for Barack Obama.  I don't reward War Hawks.  As I've stated before, I think I'll just sit out the voting for that office.  That's what I'm doing, you do what you want, if you're voting you're an adult so you should be able to figure out who speaks to you (if anyone does) and vote (or vote by not voting) accordingly.  (And for more on the Green Party race, you can refer to this post by Ian Wilder at On The Wilder Side.)
Today the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) released "Report on Human Rights in Iraq: 2011."  As with the Iraq section of the US State Dept's 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices released last week, UNAMI's findings weren't pretty.
But it's difficult to tell who's the bigger joke: Nouri al-Maliki or the UN.  Martin Kolber is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Envoy to Iraq.   Having sat through Martin Kobler's presentation to the UN Security Council April 10th and seeing the single sentence that couldn't use the term "gay" but hinted that the targeting of Emo and LGBT youth (and those perceived as such) would be addressed in the report (the one released today), this report's an embarrassment.  That section is the smallest section of today's report, it's buried deep.
10. Attacks on persons for reason of their sexual orientation
The topic of homosexuality is largely taboo in Iraq. Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community usually keep their sexual orientation secret and live in constant fear of discrimination, rejection by family members, social exclusion, intimidation and violence.  While the Iraqi penal code does not expressly prohibit homosexual relations between consenting adults, a variety of less specific, flexible provisions in the penal code leave room for active discrimination and prosecution of LGBT persons and feeds societal intolerance.
During the reporting period, UNAMI continued to receive reports of attacks against individuals based on their perceived or actual sexual orientation.  In one case, a 17 year old boy was relocated with assistance from an NGO after his family tried to kill him on the basis of the boy's perceived homosexuality.  The Government takes no action to protect people from violence or discrimination based on sexual orientation, and there are few social services available.
And that's it.
That's it?
As we noted April 11th:
What pretty words.  What a shame his Special Envoy to Iraq spits on those words, betrays Iraq's LGBT community, stays silent as they're targeted and killed, ignores the persecution.  
As we noted yesterday, the Special Envoy Martin Kobler appeared Tuesday before the United Nations Security Council where he yammered away for approximately 20 minutes and also handed in a written report/statement which was 17 pages long.  Though he was supposedly concerned about violence and targeted groups and though he made his focus the first three months of the year, he couldn't bring himself to mention the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community.  He could talk about the so-called 'honor' killings but not in relation to gay men or lesbians.  Ban Ki-moon assured the world's LGBT community just last month that they were not alone.  Just yesterday, his Special Envoy to Iraq, made clear that, in fact, Iraq's LGBTs are very much alone.  Martin Kobler made very clear that the United Nations, as represented by him in Iraq, will gladly and always look the other way while thugs go on killing sprees.  One of the slogan of the United Nations is, "It's your world." But apparently that doesn't apply for LGBTs.  Someone with the UN to address whether Ban Ki-moon was lying or if Martin Kobler just doesn't understand how offensive what he did yesterday was?
Excuse me, I though Ban Ki-moon was saying LGBT rights were human rights.  But that's not what I got from Kobler's presentation or from this report released today.  Either UNAMI intends to seriously address the targeting or it intends not to.
For those who missed it, Emo and LGBT were lumped together.  LGBT is, of course, a sexual orientation.  Emo is more of a social scene.  In Iraq, the two were lumped together and worse.  Worse?  The Iraqi youth were supposedly also practicing witchcraft and also they were vampires as evidenced by the fact that they drank blood.
Did they drink blood?
Years and years ago, have I told this story, there was a presenation on gangs to a group of concerned lawmakers (state lawmakers).  A friend who works with gangs couldn't make it and asked if I'd fill in.  That's not my area but I was adequate if not good.  But what stood out to me was the guy who had never spoken to a teen in a gang but 'knew' everything.  It was that "Calvin Kline" who was making people gang members because it helped sell his clothes.  It gets better (or at least more humorous), rap artists "like Cindy Lauper" (Cyndi Lauper) were also glamorizing gangs.  This man was completely serious.  He thought he had studied and arrived at logical conclusions.  (Calvin Klein was pushing underwear and baggy jeans at that time, if he was pushing anything.  Cyndi Lauper is not now and never has been a rap artist.)  This man was so uninformed that he made my adequate presentation seem like an informed lecture.
And the point here is two-fold.  First, this isn't ha-ha, we're so much smarter than the Iraqis.  No.  Humanity's all basically on the same page with some people in every area reading just a little bit ahead of the others.  Second, a lot of people (in every country all over the world) hear a topic mentioned and think they're an expert.  Emos have been demonized around the world, not just in the MidEast, in Mexico as well. And that panic mind set allows some really stupid things to be said by supposed experts.
In the case of Iraq, it was the Ministry of Interior that went into the schools and demonized Emos (who again are also wrongly said to be gay -- you can be Emo and gay, you can also be Emo and straight).  Let's drop back to March 9th:
Meanwhile Kitabat notes that the Interior Ministry is declaring there have been no deaths and this is all a media creation. That would be the same Ministry of Interior that, please note, was declaring earlier this week that Emo was the number one threat to Iraq. Guess someone got the message about how badly this was making Iraq look to the rest of the world? Now the still headless ministry (Nouri never appointed a minister to head it) wants to insist that it is only a small number of Iraqi youth who are even into Emo. The ministry insists that the only truth on the subject of Emo is that which the government tells. But the Parliament's Security and Defense Commission also spoke to the media on Thursday and they spoke of the discovery of 15 corpses of young Iraqis -- Emos or thought to be -- discovered in one Baghdad neighborhood. Activist Hanaa Edwar also speaks of the large number of Iraqi Emo youths being targeted. Al Mada notes the Parliament committee stated that the security forces have failed to protect the Emo youth. Dar Addustour reports that activists Mohammed al-Kazimi has pointed out that the constitution of Iraq guarantees Iraqis the right to freedom of expression and that Emo youth are not unconstitutional.
When this was going on, Iraqi youth were pretty much on their own.  Iraqi groups and activists did speak out but internationally you had a lot of silence.  (Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International were not silent.) And the US State Dept refused to speak of it but was kind enough to leak an e-mail when pressure was coming to bear on the administration.  If that e-mail had not been treated like something amazing (it wasn't) by the LGBT press in America, the administration might have been forced to make a public statement.  And as silent as the State Dept was the United Nations.
Iraqi youths were being killed.  To be really clear, if you are a gay Iraqi youth, that doesn't mean you can be killed.  That's not acceptable.  That's not something the world should ever look the other way on.  But damned if they didn't try, these supposed groups and governmental agencies there to help.
There are things in the report that will be noticing this week.
But here, I called out Martin Kobler repeatedly for his silence at the UN briefing.  And I heard from UN friends about how it's 'referred' to in the written report.  No, it's noted that this issue will be dealt with in an upcoming report.  That report was the one released today.  Two pathetic paragraphs is not dealing with it.  Failure to even use the term "Emo" is pretty sad. Failure to note the Ministry of the Interior went into schools and asked for names is shameful.
I took Kobler to task several days in a row here and only stopped when UN friends swore the report would go into what was taking place.  The report's out today and yet again, YET AGAIN, the United Nations has failed the LGBT in Iraq (as well as those perceived to be).  In failing them, it failed every LGBT.  Because it sent the message that though the UN will give lip service and pretend that they give a damn about LGBT rights, the reality is they'll only mention it in a report if they're forced to and, even then, they'll rush through it and ignore most facts and events.
What I've written isn't all that damning (though I'll get phone calls for it).  What's really damning is that the United Nations is supposed to help those in need, those in crisis but, read their report, the only one who got helped was a 17-year-old who was helped not by the UN but by an NGO.  That pretty much says everything that needs to be said about where the United Nations stands today on LGBT issues.

 Alsumaria reports Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi states he will return to Iraq soon and that the targeting of Baghdad provincial council member Laith al-Dulaimi (arrested on Nouri's orders by Nouri's forces who tortured him) confirms much of what al-Hashemi has stated about being targeted.  Specifically, al-Hashemi states it confirms what he has stated about human rights, about the lack of justice, about the judiciary being politicized and about torture being a key characteristic of Iraqi imprisonment.  In protest of the proceedings, al-Hashemi's attorneys walked out May 20th on the trial against him.  Like Laith al-Dulaimi, the Vice President is accused of terrorism.  Like Laith al-Dulaimi, the Vice President is a member of Iraqiya.

Iraqiya's big 'crime' appears to be coming in first in the March 7, 2010 elections.  For months before the election, Nouri al-Maliki attempted to demonize them, had them arrested, had them kicked out of the race and someone -- Nouri? -- was also having the assassinated in the lead-up to the elections.  Nouri 'promised' -- the  media swore to us -- that there would be no third term.  But as we have repeatedly noted, that line has been walked back and walked back.  And, no, we didn't fall for the claim when he made it.  We questioned it even then pointing out that in the original assertion, he'd left himself wiggle room.

Among the current issues that various blocs can agree upon is that Nouri should have no third term.  The one that can't agree with that is Nouri.

If you'll think back to the lead-up to the 2010 elections, you'll remember Nouri was convinced his State of Law would win overwhelmingly.  But the reality was they didn't even win by a hair.  It's possible that the attacks currently are part of his attempts for the next round of parlimentary elections (which are now supposed to take place in 2014) or even to influence the provincial elections (scheduled for next year currently).  Nouri does have problems with the provinces.  He's got a war going on with Ethyl al-Nujaifi who is the brother of Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi.  Ehtyl is also the Governor of Nineveh Province and Nouri -- who is so shocked that people are calling for him to step down -- has twice called for al-Nujaifi to step down as governor.

Al Rafidayn notes the real purpose of Nouri's holding the Council of Ministers meeting in Mosul (as opposed to Baghdad) yesterday: He met with tribal leaders in Nineveh in an attempt to shore up support for him as moves are made to push for a no-confidence vote which would, if succeessful, remove him from the post of prime minister.  Nouri also again launched an attack on Osama al-Nujaifi.  Which really doesn't seem smart in the province that elected his brother governor.  But Nouri's not know for his wisdom.

To distract from the push for a no-confidence vote in him, Nouri and flunkies recently announced there was a push for a no-confidence vote in Osama al-Nujaifi.  However, the National Alliance (a Shi'ite grouping of political parties which includes Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc, Ibraham al-Jaafari's group, Nouri's State of Law and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq among others) publicly dismissed that.  They noted that the National Alliance was not calling for a move against al-Nujaifi.  They noted that State of Law had not even made a proposal to the National Alliance about such a move.  And the press kindly let the matter die instead of pointing out that Nouri had been caught in yet another lie. 
Today a new reason for the ongoing political crisis is given: Jalal Talabani.  Alsumaria reports that State of Law states Osama al-Nujaifi attempted to call for a no-confidence vote but Talabani stopped it.  If true, that conditional is always needed when speaking of State of Law, it's time for Jalal to go.  Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) also reports that Jalal Talabani rejected the call for a no-confidence vote and cites Kurdish MP Mahmud Othman as the source. 
 Press TV reported Saturday that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was calling for a national conference again.  He's been calling for that since December 21st.  How long he'll continue to call, who knows? 
His son, of course, just spent over a million dollars on a DC home (the six bedroom and six bath house -- not all six baths are full bathrooms -- is on Daniel Road in Chevy Chase, Maryland and they closed on it January 27th agreeing to the price of $1,155,000).  I guess if I were a child of Talabani's and I was seeing exactly how ineffective he had become, I think I'd probably decide to spend money on a home in another country as well.  It is interesting that a public servant like Talabani can afford to purchase a home in that neighborhood.  You wouldn't assume that being the KRG lobbyist in the US would pay enough to warrant a million-dollar home. 

I think someone should ask Talabani why his son purchased a home in the US -- you can lease in that area -- and how large of a salary his son draws?

He's swearing to Kurds that he's going to stand with them but even PUK (the political party he heads) doubts that.  They're starting to point out the obvious: Is Jalal really in a position to demand that Nouri not seek a third term?  If he takes up that position, doesn't that mean that Talabani can't seek a third term as president of Iraq?

Without that position, he's just the aged head of political party he's led to lower and lower turnout.  The PUK needs new leadership. 

Talabani is just Nouri in a ceremonial post.  Why did Iraq have elections?  To get a new speaker of Parliament?  That's really all that changed despite the results. 
In news of violence, Alsumaria reports that a roadside bombing today in Ramadi claimed 1 life and left two other people injured.  In addition, Al Rafidayn notes that a bridge connecting Anbar Province and Salah ad-Din Province was blown up today.  In addition, Alsumaria notes 1 person was shot dead as he left his southern Baghdad home yesterday.
Lastly, I'm offering my opinion on Chris Hayes.  The short version is, he didn't do anything wrong.  He's apologized for what he stated and I believe that was sincere, he's generally a sincere person.  But what he said before his apology?  If that was a shock to you, you don't really know a wide cross-section of people who've lost a loved one to war.  You may know many, but you apparently only know one grouping.   Chris Hayes' comments weren't at all shocking to me.  I speak to pro and anti and in-between veterans groups and there's a wide range of opinions out there.  I'll assume that those who objected online to what Chris said on his MSNBC program were being sincere.  But I think they would have been better served -- and our national dialogue would have been -- if they'd grasped that their opinion isn't the only one out there.  I'm not the voice of veterans, I don't present myself as such. 
Would I have said what he did?  No.  I wouldn't have ventured an opinion on the topic and don't believe I ever have.  I'm more interested in hearing what people think than sharing my own opinions (and I don't have an opinion on everything or rush to form one). I'm mainly weighing in today on Chris because a writer slammed me in an series of e-mails today on how I hadn't come to his (the writer's) defense.  And my reaction to that is, "I don't know your soap opera.  I don't have time to research your last three years and all the people you've pissed off.  But I do know that woman at the New York Times that won't take your calls anymore?  Your rage frightens her.  And she's not the only one."  But being read ___'s attacks over the phone by Martha (who got the 'joy' of being the one to open those foul e-mails -- thank you, Martha for all you do) with their f-you and the rest attacking me for not coming to his defense (over problems I wasn't even aware of -- I didn't even know he was lying about me -- which he also admits in his e-mails -- in 2011 online until today), I thought finally, "You're on your own."  And that made me think, the people who really do care and really don't try to hurt people, those are the ones who deserve support.  And that's the type of person Chris Hayes is.
There are a lot of people who don't care.  They go on TV and they really don't care.  It's a party and a game, they say their piece and they go home and don't even think about it again. (For those who take that as a slam on the right -- I know many people on TV on the left and in the center.  I can't speak to the right-wing TV pundits and wouldn't presume to being unfamiliar with them and their lives.)  Whether you agree with Chris or not, he does give a great deal of thought to not only events but to how he impacts them and whether or not he said the right thing or communicated correctly.  He does not set out to be controversial or to hurt anyone.  He's not trying to 'play with the format.'  He's honestly attempting to communicate.  He meant no harm and he was speaking -- whether he knew it or not -- for a group of people around the country who were mourning the fallen and whose feelings about their loved one are just as valid as those who disagreed with Chris.
If you were honestly bothered by Chris' opinion -- which he identified as such -- he's offered a sincere apology and if the attacks on him continue, I'll assume you're not sincere but working some political angle or trying to.  He's done everything he can and then some at this point so if you've got a problem, it's beyond Chris and on you.  There are a lot of people I wouldn't vouch for.  When I was making a list of that as Martha read the series of e-mails from ____, I immediately thought of Chris Hayes and how he's someone who is worth vouching for.