As it happens, there is such an issue, and it has the potential to decimate the two major parties by pulling support from both their bases.
I’m talking about Social Security and its more recent offspring, Medicare, both under threat by the Democratic/Republican duopoly in Washington.
Social Security is without a doubt the most popular program ever created in Washington. Virtually every American pays into it and expects to rely on it in old age, or if he or she becomes disabled. There are currently 54 million people who are receiving Social Security benefits ( 39 million are 65 or older, and 8 million are disabled). And there are some 74 million Baby Boomers — people born between the years of 1946 and 1964, representing one-in-four of all Americans — who will be receiving it over the next several decades. Add to that number the many younger people who are ardent advocates of the program, not just because they expect to also depend upon it, but because they know it is providing already for their parents and grandparents, and you have a bloc of voters and potential voters the likes of which this nation has never seen.
The key to getting them all together is establishing a political party whose raison d’être is preserving, improving and expanding Social Security benefits.
Seriously. If you missed it, the gutting of Social Security is expected to be announced on the 10th by Barack. That'll be next Wednesday.
So, as Pink and Shirley Bassey would say, let's get the party started.
Not only is he about to present the perfect timing for such a party but a move towards such a party could result in forcing Barack to back down.
So let's do this.
Get the third party rolling. Do we need membership rolls? What's going on? Pledges not to vote for politicians who support gutting Social Security?
Let's figure it out and get it accomplished already.
I'm not joking.
We either learn to fight for ourselves or we lose in silence.
Insert "Goonies" speech here:
But right now they gotta do what's right for them, 'cause it's their
time. Their time, up there. Down here it's our time. It's our time
down here. That's all over the second we ride up "Troy's bucket".
"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Never think Thug Nouri al-Maliki possesses any sanity. World Bulletin News reports that a Baghdad court has "issued arrest warrants and inquiry against outgoing Finance Minister Rafi al-Issawi on charges of 'involvement in issues of financial and administrative corruption'." This is not something minor. Protests have gone in Iraq for over 100 days. They kicked off December 21st. From that day's snapshot:
After morning prayers, Kitabat reports, protesters gathered in Falluja to protest the arrests and Nouri al-Maliki. They chanted down with Nouri's brutality and, in a move that won't change their minds, found themselves descended upon by Nouri's forces who violently ended the protest. Before that, Al Mada reports, they were chanting that terrorism and Nouri are two sides of the same coin. Kitabat also reports that demonstrations also took place in Tikrit, Samarra, Ramdia and just outside Falluja with persons from various tribes choosing to block the road connecting Anbar Province (Falluja is the capitol of Anbar) with Baghdad. Across Iraq, there were calls for Nouri to release the bodyguards of Minister of Finance Rafie al-Issawi. Alsumaria notes demonstrators in Samarra accused Nouri of attempting to start a sectarian war.
So what happened yesterday? Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports:
Iraq's Finance Minister Rafei al-Essawi said Thursday that "a militia force" raided his house, headquarters and ministry in Baghdad and kidnapped 150 people, and he holds the nation's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, responsible for their safety. Members of the al-Essawi's staff and guards were among those kidnapped from the ministry Thursday, the finance minister said. He also said that his computers and documents were searched at his house and headquarters. He said the head of security was arrested Wednesday at a Baghdad checkpoint for unknown reasons and that now the compound has no security.
Kitabat explains that these raids took place in the Green Zone, were carried out by the Iraqi military and that Nouri, yesterday evening, was insisting he knew nothing about them. In another report, Tawfeeq quotes al-Essawi stating, "My message to the prime minister: You are a man who does not respect partnership at all, a man who does not respect the law and the constitution, and I personally hold you fully responsible for the safety of the kidnapped people." BBC News adds, "Rafie al-Issawi, a prominent member of the al-Iraqiyya political bloc, said about 150 of his bodyguards and staff members had been arrested on Thursday."
That was day one of the protests. The targeting of Rafie al-Issawi was the final straw.
The arrest has echoes and implications that go far beyond your average arrest warrant. Not only will this likely impact the ongoing protests, there's the fact that provincial elections are supposed to be held in 15 days (in 12 of Iraq's 18 provinces). al-Issawi is a member of Iraqiya and a Sunni and this will be seen as yet another attempt by Nouri to influence the elections by painting his political rivals as crooked. (Iraqiya beat Nouri's State of Law in the March 2010 parliamentary elections.)
In December 2011, when most (but not all) US troops left Iraq (15,000 remain in the surrounding area -- in addition to those in Iraq), you had something similar take place. Dropping back to the December 19, 2011 snapshot:
CNN reported this afternoon that an arrest warrant had been issued for Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi by the Judicial Commitee with the charge of terrorism. Omar al-Saleh (Al Jazeera) terms it a "poltical crisis" and states, "The government says this has nothing to do with the US withdrawal, that this has nothing to do with the prime minister consolidating his grip on power. However, members of al-Iraqiya bloc, which Hashimis is a member of, say 'No, [Maliki] is trying to be a dictator." Sam Dagher (Wall St. Journal) observes, "The arrest warrant puts Mr. Maliki on a possible collision course with the Kurds, who run their own semiautonomous region in the north and participate in the central government but have longstanding disputes with Baghdad over oil and land; and with Sunni Arabs in provinces like Anbar, Diyala, Nineveh and Salahuddin who have pressed in recent weeks for more autonomy from Baghdad with the backing of the Kurds."
What the hell is going on?
Over the weekend, Nouri went for another power grab.
It actually started before Saturday but the press was ga-ga over photo-ops. 'Last soldier out! No, really, last US soldier out! Except for the ones still there! Don't look behind the curtain!' And apparently covering for Barack was more important than telling Americans what was taking place in Iraq.
Late Saturday night online (Sunday in print), Liz Sly (Washington Post) noted that the 'government' in Iraq is "unraveling faster than had been anticipated Saturday." Really? All in one day. Well, no, not in one day. She continued, "In recent days, the homes of top Sunni politicians in the fortified Green Zone have been ringed by tanks and armored personnel carriers, and rumors are flying that arrest warrants will be issued for other Sunni leaders."
"In recent days."
Golly, seems to me if you know -- for even just one damn day -- that Nouri's goons -- in tanks, no less -- are 'ringing' his political opponents home, you report it then. Yet even with Sly reporting this late Saturday -- by which point it was already all over the Iraqi media -- you had Jim Axlerod (CBS News) filing garbage and crap and pretending that was covering Iraq.
The targeting of Tareq al-Hashemi only ensured that Nouri's power-grab became more obvious. For months before that happened, you had Iraqiya, the Kurds and Moqtada al-Sadr calling on Nouri to honor The Erbil Agreement and stating that he was ruling like a dictator -- Ayad Allawi said it outright to a British publication; Saleh al-Mutlaq told CNN Nouri was the new Saddam. We'll come back to The Erbil Agreement because the US government officially trashed it this week -- but the US press 'forgot' to report that. Imagine that.
May they cut off his cock and shove it down his throat. Let's talk Iraqi women. Sophie Ghaziri (Al Arabiya) explained last month how the US-led Iraq War destroyed the status of women in Iraq:
Women in the country once had a place in society; held prominent and important roles across the public and private sectors. But after two wars, an authoritarian administration and U.N. sanctions Iraq has been left crippled with most women struggling to meet their most basic needs; most living in poverty.
The daily life of ordinary, poor women in Iraq is tough as they are without income, social security and are constantly at risk of being abused. Not to mention the women who still remain locked up in Iraqi prisons for unspecified reasons, or as blackmail to get their male loved ones to hand themselves over to security forces and confess to charges the government has brought against them.
Those women are the ones that sparked protests in Iraq over the last couple of months. Those women are the ones who face daily abuse, torture and no respect. The plight of female detainees brought thousands onto to the streets carrying placards of those who still remain behind bars, looking for justice.
In Margaret Atwood's novel The Handmaid's Tale, fundamentalist militias take over the United States and women lose all rights and agency. What was a brilliant but scary novel has become reality for Iraqi women.
Symbolism matters in Iraq today and has mattered. Canada deserves applause for their recent move. Fan-Yee Suen (CTV News) reported Monday on Stephanie Duhaime:
Duhaime, a Sudbury native who is fluent in English, French and Arabic, was appointed as the charge d’affaires of Canada’s newly created diplomatic mission in Iraq on Monday.
The new one-woman semi-ambassadorial post -- the Canadian embassy in Jordan will continue to work full-time to restore diplomatic relations in Iraq -- is meant to expand Canada’s engagement with the country at a time of economic prosperity.
Where Barack Obama flips the middle finger to the Iraqi people. Let's go back to Kitabat reports that Brett McGurk, a US State Dept advisor, dined with journalists at the American Embassy in Baghdad and declared that a majority government was fine and dandy. We mentioned The Erbil Agreement earlier. It's amazingly important and so rarely reported on by the western press which appears to have mistaken a major in whoring for one in journalism.
In March 2010, Iraq held parliamentary elections. They have a parliamentary government and the person with the most members in their 'Congress' is named prime minister-designate and given 30 days to form a cabinet. Not a partial cabinet. A full cabinet. You do that in 30 days or someone else named prime minister-designate.
The winner of the 2010 elections? Iraqiya headed by Ayad Allawi. It's a mixed political slate attempting to include of all Iraq. Iraqiya offers and embraces a national 'we are all Iraqis' identity. It is also the political slate that has female members of Parliament and not tokens. (Al-Fadhila's Susan Sa'ad is not a MP I would want to represent me but she's also not a token. One of the few non-Iraqiya female members who can make that claim.) In the 2009 provincial elections a thread in those results was that it appeared Iraqis were moving away from a (US-imposed) Sunni-Shi'ite split and going for a national identity. This was confirmed in the 2010 results when Nouri's State of Law was defeated by the new Iraqiya coalition (whose members were killed in the lead up to the election, whose members were barred from running by the Justice and Accountability Commission).
Nouri stomped his feet and demanded a recount. The results were the same.
It was now time for Nouri to step down and for a new prime minister to emerge via the process outlined in the Constitution.
But Nouri refused to allow that to happen. It's as though, in January 2009, Bully boy Bush announced he wasn't leaving the White House and Barack Obama wasn't going to be named president.
Nouri kept the country of Iraq in an eight-month political stalemate while he refused to step down as prime minister. He was only able to do that with the backing of the governments of Iran and the United States. Nouri is a White House puppet. He was first appointed by the Bush White House when they didn't want Ibrahim al-Jaafari to become prime minister in 2006. By 2010, Nouri's secret prisons, torture cells, corruption and much more were well known and documented. While Barack and others in the White House love to sneer at the Iranian government's alleged embrace of torture, their hands are just as dirty.
And the Iraqi people had gone to the polls. They had expressed their wishes and the votes were counted and then recounted. And yet the US that supposedly wanted to introduce 'democracy' to Iraq immediately pissed on democracy, pissed on the voters, pissed on the Iraqi Constitution.
During the eight month political stalemate, US officials repeatedly pressured the political blocs to let Nouri have a second term. No surprise, most said no and said no repeatedly. After it hit the eight month mark, US officials began telling the political leaders that Nouri was willing to go another eight months, that nothing would ever get done in Iraq. So why not be the adult in the room, give Nouri a second term as prime minister and, in exchange, we'll put your concerns on paper in a legally binding contract that Nouri will have to follow.
Their concerns? One example. Kirkuk is oil rich. Because it's oil rich, it's disputed. The semi-autonomous KRG in the north claims it and the Nouri's Baghdad-based government claims it. How do you solve who gets it? Well Iraq wrote and passed a Constitution in 2005. Article 140 explained how this would be addressed: A census and a referendum. Nouri took an oath in 2006 to obey the Constitution. He never implemented Article 140. Before you say, "Maybe he was busy," the Constitution mandates that Article 140 be instituted no later than December 2007. Nouri ignored the Constitution.
It is thought that a vore would see Kirkuk go to the KRG. So Nouri's delayed the vote, repeatedly ignoring the Constitution.
Okay, say US officials, we'll put it in writing, it'll be a binding contract and Nouri will have to honor it. [He wasn't honoring the Iraqi Constitution but he was going to honor a contract?] US officials did this with the leader of each political bloc to get them to agree that Nouri would get a second term. This is the US-brokered Erbil Agreement.
It is extra-constitutional because it goes around the Constitution which clearly defines how someone becomes prime minister. For example, Nouri never formed a full cabinet. Back in July, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support." Those positions were supposed to have been filled before the end of December 2010. They were not. They are still not filled. Nouri refused to fill them because once the Iraqi Parliament confirms a nominee, that nominee is autonomous. Nouri can't fire them, only the Parliament can. (Which isn't easy. Nouri's gotten Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi convicted of 'terrorism' and sentenced to death with the Baghdad courts he controls but he can't get Parliament to strip Tareq of his title.)
Because he was governed by The Erbil Agreement and not the Constitution, he didn't have to meet any requirements. And he trashed The Erbil Agreement. Immediately. A census was supposed to take place in Kirkuk the first week of December 2010. Nouri called it off, said it was postponed. It's never been brought up again. He was supposed to appoint Ayad Allawi to head an independent national security agency. Immediately after President Jalal Talabani named Nouri prime minister-designate, Nouri told Parliament that Allawi's position would have to wait. It's 'waited' ever since.
The US image in Iraq wasn't good before then. For obvious reasons (an illegal war that destroyed Iraq). Barack Obama's election meant that Iraqis thought a real change might be coming. They were hopeful. They no longer are. They have seen through Barack Obama and his 'withdrawal' which is actually more counter-terrorism US troops in Iraq today than at the start of 2012. (Not surprising because he told the New York Times he'd do that when he was first running for the presidency.) But what it mainly did was send the message to Iraqi political leaders that the US can't be trusted. For example, there is so much damage in the trust that did exist among Kurdish leaders. They now realize they will be screwed over every time. It didn't have to be this way.
Barack could have supported the will of the Iraqi people, the votes, the attempt at democracy. He refused to do so. Let's again note John Barry's "'The Engame' Is A Well Researched, Highly Critical Look at U.S. Policy in Iraq" (Daily Beast):
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."
What The Erbil-Agreement put forward was a power-sharing government. This week, Brett McGurk announced that the US government now supports a majority-government. that's what Nouri has been insisting on all along. He couldn't accomplish that at the ballot box -- hell, he couldn't even win a term as prime minister at the ballot box -- but now the US is backing his power grab. This is major news and will have huge implications on the way the Iraqi people see the US.
Nouri went to Karbala today. Speaking alongside his political cronies, Nouri refused to take off his sunglasses. None of the over 16 people standing beside him required sunglasses but Nouri had to hide his eyes. He has to hide a lot. Alsumaria reports that he accused other political parties and slates of being terrorists. And what is a reach around to Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, he declared that some political parties work to keep smaller ones from success. (al-Mutlaq is currently the leader of the National Dialogue Front which is a part of Iraqiya. al-Mutlaq and Nouri have gotten very tight as al-Mutlaq's leadership has fallen into question.) He also pushed his desire for majority government -- again, something the voters did not sign off on -- and declared it was the only way to end the "political impasse." Kitabat notes that he declared this is what has kept Iraq from moving forward. Parliamentary elections are currently supposed to take place in March of 2014. Nouri called for early elections and said the 2010 elections were marred by vote rigging. This is the piece of crap that the United States government has backed -- under Bush, under Barack. There's not a damn bit of difference between Bush and Barack except Barack can speak properly and Bully Boy Bush knew how to come off human (and not like the first place winner in a Leonard Nimoy competition).
Alsumaria reports that Brett McGurk has announced he will be entering discussions with various political leaders on how to solve the political crisis. Well it's "crises" -- not crisis. And the roots go back to the failure of Nouri to honor The Erbil Agreement and the failure of the US to keep their promise that they would ensure The Erbil Agreement would be honored. It's 2013. It's a little damn late, even if the US was trying to strong arm Nouri, for the 2010 contract to be honored (because come 2014, new parliamentary elections will be held). But why would any Iraqi politician expect either Nouri or the US government to be honest at this point? With their track record of lying over and over, why should Nouri or the US government be trusted?
Chain smoking cigarettes
Enemies across the table
Wonderin' if I can ever trust anyone again
-- "Darkness 'Til Dawn," written by Jacob Brackman and Carly Simon, first appears on Carly's Another Passenger
Wonderin' if I can ever trust anyone again. Kitabat reports protesters in Kirkuk and Hawija today called out the "traitors" -- Cabinet ministers who returned to the Cabinet meetings -- as usual the list of the denounced included Saleh al-Mutlaq. The people do not feel the government is representing them. NINA reports that Hayde al-Mulla has declared today that Iraqiya wants the protesters' demands to be met before they return to Cabinet sessions. NINA notes, "Thousands demonstrated in the protest squares in Ramadi and Falluja, on the international highway connecting Iraq with Syria and Jordan, carrying banners criticizing the Government for having double standards and demanding it put a stop to the executions and random arrests as well as not to discriminate between citizens." Organizer Mohammed al-Dulaimi declared that Nouri's government refuses to listen to the demands of the people but instead to respond with "executions and random arrests."
Today they also protested in Jalawlaa, Baiji, Samarra, Tikirt, and Baquba. They protested despite attempts to stop them. National Iraqi News Agency notes, "Security forces closed off all roads leading to the sit-in yard north of Ramadi before noon today." Despite this, NINA notes that "thousands of people flocked to the main sit-in squares north of Ramadi and eastern Falluja." Iraqi Spring MC reports that the Baghdad mosque was raided and one was raided in Nineveh Province. Arbitrary arrests of activists are taking place in Diyala Province and Nouri's forces disrupted morning prayers in Muqdadiya. In Samarra, NINA reports, Sheikh Hussein Ghazi declared that Iraq ranked "first in the world in human rights violations and corruption and criminality against the Iraqi people." And the outlet notes that Sheikh Yunis al-Hamdani in Falluja observed that Nouri bears "responsibility for assassinations and executions against Sunnis" and called on the Kurds to join in the cry to stop the mass executions. Iraqi Spring MC reports that the protesters in Falluja asked that the "BBC Make the Unmissable, Unmissable!!" But the BBC didn't rush to provide coverage.
On the topic of violence, National Iraqi News Agency notes that a Baquba bombing has left a number of people injured, a Hilla roadside bombing has claimed 5 lives and left two more people injured, an armed attack outside Kirkuk left three Sahwa injured, an armed attack to the north of Tikrit left 2 Sahwa dead and one injured, a Hilla car bombing claimed 2 lives and left two more injured, and a Tikrit sticky bombing claimed 1 life. All Iraq News adds that seven people were injured in the Baquba bombing, a Mahawil bombing claimed 3 lives and left seven more people injured, and, dropping back to last night, a farmer and his son were kidnapped from their Samarra farm. Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) notes that a Baghdad bombing (Abu Ghraib) claimed the lives of 3 Iraqi soldiers. Alsumaria notes 1 corpse was discovered in Mosul. In addition, AFP's Prashant Rao Tweets:
@USEmbBaghdad security message - 'Rocket casing discovered near the US consulate in Arbil' in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan
We noted the excavations yesterday. Arwa Damon has a strong story at CNN on the topic.
Now you tell me
Who you gonna get to do the dirty work
When all the slaves are free?
-- "Passion Play," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on Joni's Night Ride Home
When all the slaves are free. In the US, Lynne Stewart is a political prisoner, tossed in prison not for breaking a law but for breaking an agreement. Sentenced and then re-sentenced to even more time. She's over 70, she's a grandmother and her cancer has returned. If Barack had any compassion, he would move to release her immediately. She's an attorney who used her degree to try to defend people, not to try to get rich. She was the people's attorney and now she remains behind bars, the victim of Bully Boy Bush and Barack Obama. There is a petition calling for a compassionate release of Lynne due to her health. Ralph Poynter, her husband, notes:
5,600 and counting! Individuals are reaching out to their friends, family and colleagues. Organizations are reaching out to their members. People throughout the world are joining together in the effort to free Lynne Stewart.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu sent this Cri de Coeur: “It is devastating, totally unbelievable. Is this in a democracy, the only superpower? I am sad. I will sign. Praying God’s blessings on yr efforts.” +Desmond Tutu
Pete Seeger declared: “Lynn Stewart should be outa jail!” on a postcard signed “old Pete Seeger” accompanied by a drawing of his banjo.
Your outpouring of support has lifted Lynne’s spirits as she undergoes the ravaging effects of chemotherapy. On March 20, she sent this message to each and every one of you from her seven-person cell in the Federal Medical Center, Carswell, Texas:
“I want you, individually, to know how gratifying and happy it makes me to have your support. It is uplifting, to say the least, and after a lifetime of organizing it proves once again that the People can rise.
“The acknowledgement of the life-political, and solutions brought about by group unity and support, is important to all of us. Equally, so is the courage to sign on to a demand for a person whom the Government has branded with the ‘T’ word — Terrorist. Understanding that the attack on me is a subterfuge for an attack on all lawyers who advocate without fear of Government displeasure, with intellectual honesty guided by their knowledge and their client’s desire for his or her case, I hope our effort can be a crack in the American bastion. Thank you.” — Lynne
Lynne Stewart devoted over 30 years of her life to helping others as a criminal defense lawyer. She defended the poor, the disadvantaged and those targeted by the police and the State. Such had been her reputation as a fearless lawyer, ready to challenge those in power, that judges assigned her routinely to act for defendants whom no attorney was willing to represent.
Now Lynne Stewart needs our urgent help or she may die in prison. Our determination can compel the Bureau of Prisons to file the motion for compassionate release that will free Lynne Stewart.
Check out the Justice for Lynne Stewart website www.lynnestewart.org to view the signatories (up to 03/31/13), the postcard from Pete Seeger, Archbishop Tutu’s message as well as Lynne Stewart’s letter back to him, and much more.
Remind your friends to sign the petition and to disseminate it to others. Ask each person to get five people to sign, and each of those five to ask five people of their own. In five stages, you will have reached another 3,000 people!
the wall street journal
the wall street journal
michael r. gordon
the daily beast
national iraqi news agency
all iraq news
the associated press