Sunday, January 06, 2013

Truest statement of the week

And last but certainly not least, we have President Obama's apparently favored choice for Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, offering up one of the most, if not the most, blatantly unbelievable non-apologies when he decided, after 14 years of silence, to finally apologize for his repulsive anti-gay remarks about the first openly gay American ambassador, James Hormel, but only after President Obama started floating his name as a potential Secretary of Defense. And even then Hagel couldn't actually admit that his comments were wrong, saying that he just feels that they were "insensitive."

-- Wayne Anderson, "2013: The Year of the Anti-Gay Non-Apology" (Huffington Post).

A note to our readers

Hey --

Another Sunday.

First up, we thank all who participated this edition which includes Dallas and the following:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Trina of Trina's Kitchen,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts,
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.

And what did we come up with?

Wayne Anderson gets it this week.

Hagel's the wrong choice.  That is the theme for this edition.  Barack is supposedly set to nominate Hagel for Secretary of Defense tomorrow.  We cover the many ways in which Hagel is wrong. 
Ava and C.I. tackle last month's recess by the broadcast networks.
Hagel's not enviro-friendly.

Appointees don't always follow orders.  Colin Powell didn't.
A year and nine months in a draft military doesn't really prepare you to lead today's diverse and all volunteer US military.

Phyllis Bennis wants to 'talk' Hagel but forgets to address homophobia.

A petition's gone up opposing Hagel.

We grab C.I.'s Monday snapshot (and add some photos) to have an Iraq feature this week.
Look, Senator Murray addressing serious issues involving the military.  Maybe she should be named Secretary of Defense?  She'd certainly be qualified (not just 'more qualified than Hagel,' qualified period.)

Repost from  Great Britain's Socialist Worker.
Mike and the gang wrote this and we thank them for it.  


-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.

Editorial: The Wrong Choice

How did we get to the point where President Barack Obama might unleash Chuckie Hagel on the Defense Department?

curse of chuckie

If you missed it, supposedly Monday will find Barack nominating Chuckie to be the next Secretary of Defense.  If it takes place, it will be news because a clearer statement on how little the base matters to elected Democrats will be on full display.

Hagel has an awful record.

As FloraLine pointed out at Daily Kos:

 He voted six times for banning servicewomen from being able to get an abortion in military medical facilities WITH THEIR OWN MONEY even if they are stationed in countries where abortion is forbidden for civilians (and he succeeded). In twelve years' time. He also thinks pregnancies caused by rape are "irrelevant" when talking about his no-exceptions-anti-choice position because they don't happen a lot - while fully knowing that a servicewoman is twice as likely to be raped by a fellow American than a civilian is, even, and that the majority of abortions in the military are performed because the subject was raped. Hagel's past has had more than serious consequences for hundreds, if not thousands, of valuable people in the military. Many people got fired for returning home to be able to get an abortion, while many others' careers were terminated because (surprise!) literally forcing unwanted pregnancies to continue creates single moms.

One of the two biggest issues the next Secretary of Defense will have to address is the rate of assault and rape within the ranks of the US military.  It's amazing, therefore, that someone who believes rape is "irrelevant" with regards to reproductive rights could even be seriously considered.

When Hagel said it was "irrelevant," he was stating that rape victims don't get pregnant.  If that sounds familiar, it may be due to the fact that another Republican said that last year.  He was running for the US Senate against incumbent Claire McCaskill who issued this statement, "It is beyond comprehension that someone can be so ignorant about the emotional and physical trauma brought on by rape.  The ideas that Todd Akin has expressed about the serious crime of rape and the impact on its victims are offensive."

When Todd Akin says it, it ends up costing him a close race.  When Barack's potential nominee adheres to the same 'faith,' we're all supposed to look the other way.

 The other big issue the Secretary will face will be addressing the huge number of suicides among service members and veterans.  Hagel has experience in that how?

There's the LGBT issues.  James Kirchick (New York Daily News) points out:

President Obama campaigned for President in 2008 on a pledge to repeal DADT, a goal he achieved in 2010. While allowing open service has caused minimal disruption, shepherding a vast bureaucracy undergoing a fundamental cultural change requires great skill and sensitivity. Further challenges also lie ahead, for instance, the new secretary of defense will have to deal with the question of whether or not the partners of gay service-members should receive the same benefits as those of straight ones. It is worth asking whether Chuck Hagel is really the right man to oversee a government institution unwinding a decades-long discriminatory policy. 

Hagel is not the person to lead on those issues.  As Michelangelo Signorile (Huffington Post) explains, "Hagel scored a zero on the Human Rights Campaign's Senate scorecard between 2001 and 2006 (which is not that long ago), voting against pro-gay initiatives and for anti-gay ones, and was on record as opposing allowing gays to serve openly in the military (calling it a "social experiment"), let alone representing this country as ambassadors."

 If it were the 20th century and not the 21st, Hagel might make an okay Secretary of Defense.

But it is the 21st century.  Women now serve in the military.  (And the next Secretary of Defense will impact whether or not women -- who already serve in combat 'unofficially' -- can do the same officially.)  Gays and lesbians now serve openly as well.  It's not the military that Chuck Hagel was briefly (less than 2 years) serving in back in the 60s.

Nothing he's done in the last 12 years has demonstrated he's stepped into the 21st century or desires to.  The military must address the crisis of suicide and the crisis of assault and rape.  The next Secretary of Defense matters.  Chuck Hagel's not an answer, Chuck Hagel's a spare tire -- a back up you hope you never have to use.


Illustration is Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Curse of Chuckie."

TV: Recess is over

You remember recess from school.  It was play time.  You broke from the schedule and did what you wanted.  It was a lot of fun and a taste of freedom.  Made you realize how much better life would be if you weren't on someone else's schedule.  In the changing TV landscape, overpaid suits working through old issues decided to program similarly.  The results were not pretty.


Take Hulu where they were left to promote Family Ties as must stream media.

No offense but Family Ties?  Yes, it actually has one classic episode (season's three's "Love Thy Neighbor," written by Michael J. Weithorn, Alan Uger and Rich Reinhart, where Jennifer tries to compete with Mallory for a guy's attention, contains Tina Yother's cry of "I'm fine and I'm not a little girl. Waiter, my bike!") -- but it's not really a lure.  The show's been in syndication for years now and it wasn't all that in real time as it fawned over Alex Keaton and sidelined Jennifer (Yothers) and Mallory (Justine Bateman).  If you weren't charmed by Michael J. Fox and were immune to the greed of Alex Keaton, the show was just tired and grating.

Despite its lackluster status, Hulu had to promote it as if it were Finding Nemo because they've had so little in the last weeks to offer as ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox all went on vacation and gave their viewers a lengthy recess.

In the past, holiday fare has often crowded out regular programing in December.  But in the past, holiday fare wasn't available at your local Wal-Greens on DVD.  Meaning, just how special is the second or third showing of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in one month?

Considering all the money that Christmas special has raked in from repeated showings since 1964, from videocassette and DVD sales, you'd think the networks would be all over themselves each year attempting to create a new animated special.  We don't mean one of those ridiculous sequels.  The specials that last were originals: Rudolph, Frosty, etc.

But that would require preparing for the future and the network suits today can't think beyond tomorrow's overnights.

The lack of long range planning goes a long way towards explaining why networks are in trouble and stuck there.

When you're bleeding viewers every year, do you encourage them to go away?  Do you give them an extended recess?

We waited and waited for the Water Cooler Set to address this topic last month.

Who were we kidding?

The Water Cooler Set is scared of their own shadows.  They have a pack mentality and are unable to offer an original thought.

Which is a shame because this most likely does not end pretty.

What broadcast TV is doing currently in December is what cable has long done: Take a hiatus.  Broadcast TV in the fifties was expected to work and did, programming seven nights a week.  Today it really can't handle six nights.  And in 2012, December became hiatus month?

If the Water Cooler Set was capable of thought, maybe the network suits could picture something beyond tomorrow's overnights?

In film, as Ann and Stan pointed out in the year-in-review, the films that used to be staples are gone, the ones that deal with the family, that deal with family issues, the On Golden Ponds, the Ordinary Peoples, those are gone and few have even noticed.  Broadway, as well, now has little room for the observations of life and is now basically carnival barker and juke box 'musicals.'

As the broadcast networks send the audiences away, it will have an impact on the future of TV.  It will impact what airs and what doesn't air.  Already, there have been disturbing developments that the Water Cooler Set couldn't be bothered with.

Harry's Law, starring Kathy Bates, delivered an audience -- especially for NBC, it delivered an audience.  It's second season average was higher than all but one episode of Smash.  But  Harry's Law got the axe last spring and Smash was brought back.  NBC's Parenthood also got renewed and Harry's Law's second season average was higher than the 12 episodes of Parenthood NBC's broadcast so far this season.  NBC's new drama Chicago Fire?  It has yet to have an episode with as many viewers as the season average of Harry's Law.

Now when Kathy Bates did a guest spot on Two and A Half Men as Charlie (Charlie Sheen's character), the Water Cooler Set couldn't stop yammering.  But that was a 'trendy' topic.  Dealing with actual TV issues?  Unless critical thought comes in the goody bags the networks handed out, don't hold your breath waiting for the Water Cooler Set to discover it.

Now maybe you're okay with that.  Maybe, for example, you think Broadway was created for Jersey Boys and film invented for the questionable talents of Michael Bay?

If so, get ready for a million more (bad) attempts to re-invent Lost combined with a lot of niche shows that appeal to those who make big purchases.  Just don't expect anything that challenges.  (Niche shows, as a rule, confirm the audiences internal prejudices while reassuring them that they are a rarefied class.)  Look for 'event' TV that's the equivalent of what you're getting from Broadway and film currently.

It is amazing to us that as TV digs its own grave further and further, there is no outcry from the Water Cooler Set that is supposed to be the critic, the watchdog.  There is just a rush to play Kook Kidz and act like they're part of whatever HBO fad has currently caught their fancy.

TV is not going away.  Maybe they think it is?  Hulu was lucky to have Hot in Cleveland and Happily Divorced (from cable's TV Land) the last few weeks or it really would have had nothing.  And that's true of the people who Tivo or buy episodes from iTunes or Amazon or what have you.

No matter how it's delivered, you currently do depend on TV to foot the bill, to greenlight the show, to air it so that you can watch it on whatever platform you choose.  That may change.  Maybe some web show will actually break out in the near future and not be an anomaly but an actual trend?  Maybe not.  If or until that happens, you're left with TV.

So maybe it's time for the networks to stop strip mining and start building?

If the networks are at a loss, we'd suggest that they start by finally making an Easter special out of Du Bose Heyward and Marjorie Hack's The Country Bunny And The Little Golden ShoesBack in a 2005 book discussion, Kat noted this 1939 classic, "The Country Bunny is a Sally Field type, plucky and feisty.  She wants to be one of the Easter egg carriers.  Each year, there's a contest and the fastest bunnies are selected to deliver the eggs.  Although the Country Bunny is one of the fastest, she is told that it's too bad she has so many children or she could be one of the five selected."  In 2010, The New Yorker noticed the book and observed that "it has never been out of print" which is quite an accomplishment for any children's book -- especially one dating back to 1939. Even a network suit should grasp you can grow an audience via a special based on that.

World's largest polluter to be run by who?

In a 2010 piece entitled "U.S. Military -- The World's Largest Polluter," Political Affairs observed, "As the world's largest polluter, the U.S. military has its work cut out for it when it comes to greening its operations.  According to the nonprofit watchdog group, Project Censored, American forces generate some 750,000 tons of toxic waste annually -- more than the five largest U.S. chemical companies combined."


Good thing there's a Democrat in the White House, right?  Surely, Barack Obama will make sure that any nominee for Secretary of Defense would be environmentally-friendly if not an actual environmentalist, right?

Wrong.  If you're new to the Kyoto Protocol, Greenpeace explains it here.

And you may be new to Chuck Hagel's environmental positions as well.  Here he is speaking about the Kyoto Protocol July 24, 202:

Tomorrow will mark the five-year point since the Senate voted unanimously to provide President Clinton and Vice President Gore with clear advice regarding the Kyoto Protocol. It is unfortunate that the Clinton Administration ignored the Senate's 95-0 vote on S.Res. 98, or the Byrd-Hagel Resolution, but the conditions outlined in that resolution remain the guideposts for U.S. international climate change policy. I would also remind my colleagues, and this frequently gets forgotten in the discussion, perhaps even more significant than the 95-0 vote was that the Byrd-Hagel Resolution had 65 bipartisan cosponsors. As we know, the Byrd-Hagel Resolution was very clear. It called on the President not to sign the Kyoto Protocol, or any other international climate change agreement, unless two minimum conditions were met. First, S.Res.98 directed the President not to sign any treaty "...unless the protocol or agreement also mandates new specific scheduled commitments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions for Developing Country Parties within the same compliance period." The message was simple. Yet as we know, the Kyoto Protocol does not include a single developing nation. These are the very nations, such and China and India, that will soon lead the world in manmade greenhouse emissions. Any treaty that exempts them from participation is folly. Second, the Resolution stated the President should not sign any treaty that "...would result in serious harm to the economy of the United States." The Kyoto Protocol would have legally bound the United States to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to seven percent below 1990 levels by the years 2008 to 2012. As President Bush stated in February, this would have cost the U.S. economy $400 billion and resulted in the loss of 4.9 million jobs. The Clinton Administration never submitted it to the Senate for debate and consideration. I suspect it is because they knew what is still true today - if put to a vote in the Senate, the Kyoto Protocol would face resounding defeat. Other nations are also reconsidering their early ardent advocacy for the Kyoto Protocol. Japan has ratified the treaty, but has no enforceable plan to meet its obligations. The same is true for the European Union. Australia has joined the United States in saying it will not ratify the protocol. Canada and Russia have not made final commitments to ratification.

Hagel's not fit for the post of Secretary of Defense, not in the 21st century.

Because appointees always follow orders . . .

When people bring up solid objections to Chuck Hagel being nominated for Secretary of Defense over his attitude towards gays and lesbians or his opposition to women's reproductive rights, a lot of uneducated gas bags say it doesn't matter.

Let's listen in to two fools who undercut women's rights all the time with their weak-ass and spineless positions.  NARAL's Donna Crane insistes, "President Obama's views on this issue would prevail if Hagel were appointed." View would prevail?  Interesting.  Planned Parenthood's Dana Singiser insistead, "Any Secretary of Defense nominee should be expected to fully implement the law of the land and support the President's positions."

Good to know.  And thank goodness that political appointees always follow the law and always follow the wishes of a president, right?



Hey, look, it's Colin Powell in a White House photo taken by Moreen Ishnikawa on July 9, 2001.

Before he was Bush's Secretary of State, Powell had other appointed positions including, from October 1, 1989 to September 30, 1993, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  Powell would choose to step down from that position but not before doing a great deal of damage to gays and lesbians.

Bill Clinton explained it to Jann S. Wenner in his Rolling Stone exit interview following his two terms as President of the United States.

Jann S. Wenner:   One of the very first things you did in office was try to overturn the military's ban on gays. Why did this backfire, and what did you learn from that?

Bill Clinton:  I think it backfired partly because the people that were against it were clever enough to force it. I tried to slow it down, but the first week I was president, Senator Dole - who, I think, saw it as an opportunity - decided to push a vote in the Senate disapproving of the change in the policy. I tried to put it off for six months, and the Joint Chiefs came down and raised hell about it. I wanted to do it the way Harry Truman integrated the military. He issued an executive order and gave the military leaders a couple of years to figure out how best to do it. But a lot of the gay groups wanted it done right away and had no earthly idea what kind of reaction would come. They were shocked by the amount of congressional opposition.
A lot of people think I compromised with the military. That's not what happened. We knew that at least seventy-five percent of the House would vote against my policy. If I was going to be able to do anything, I had to have a veto-proof minority in either the House or the Senate. But the Senate voted sixty-eight to thirtytwo against my policy, which meant that I could not sustain my policy in either house.
And it was only then that I worked out with Colin Powell this dumb-ass "don't ask, don't tell" thing. I went to the Army War College and explained what the policy was going to be, based on the agreement we'd reached together. Then they wrote that into law, and then we had several years of problems, where it was not being implemented in any way consistent with the speech I gave at the War College - of which General Powell had agreed with every word.
 [Secretary of Defense] William Cohen has now changed the training and a lot of the other elements that contributed to the fact that this policy continued to have a lot of abuse in it, and I think it's better now. But I still don't think it's the right policy. I think the policy that I wanted to implement originally was the right policy.

In the fourth paragraph of his response, Bill is saying Cohen implemented the policy as planned but only after (third paragraph) Powell had been an obstacle.

But, hey, NARAL, Planned Parenthood, keep being useless.

Chuck Hagel's military 'expertise'


As President Barack Obama seems set to nominate Chuck Hagel for the position of Secretary of Defense, a lot of uninformed people and a lot of  professional liars want to insist Hagel's qualified because of his 'military experience.'

David Petraeus, whatever you think of him, has military experience.

Chuck Hagel?

By his own narrative, he joined in April of 1967 and "got home in December 1968."

So less than two years, in a draft military, a military rife with racial tensions (President Harry Truman ordered the military desegregated in July of 1948; in 1951, the US military began desegregation), a military where gays did not serve openly, a military that did not welcome women.

Based on those less than two years, over 40 years ago, he is qualified to be in charge of a diverse, all volunteer military?

Who knew the year of wishful thinking kick-started in 2013?

The face of intolerance

phyllis bennis

It's Phyllis Bennis, professional gadfly, tired of the position of Village Idiot so currently auditioning for Village Oaf.

At IPS, where the 'scholar' resides, they've published a recent gas bag session Phyll participated in.

The topic was Chuck Hagel potentially being nominated by Barack Obama to be Secretary of Defense.

Despite rambling on for over ten minutes, Bennis never felt the need to raise the issue of Hagel's anti-gay positions.  Not only did he attack James Hormel in 1999, his Senate voting record on LGBT issues is appalling.  He left the Senate in 2009.  This isn't 'distant history.'

But it wasn't worth mentioning for Phyll.

Who knew she was going for The Face of Intolerance?

Congratulations to Bennis on her new title and let's hope the silence IPS is currently displaying on Hagel's homophobia is remembered when IPS asks for donations next.

Don't Appoint Anti-Choice Senator

At, Emily Bockrath has started a petition entitled "Protect America's Servicewomen: Don't Appoint Anti-Choice Senator to Defense Secretary Position."  To sign it, click on the link.  Here's Bockrath's explanation of her petition.

Target: President Barack Obama

Goal: To protect the sexual health of U.S. servicewomen by stopping the appointment of anti-choice candidate, Chuck Hagel, for the position of defense secretary.

Recently, Chuck Hagel, a former senator opposed to abortion rights, has become the top choice in President Obama’s consideration for the appointment of the next defense secretary. Hagel has a long history of opposing women’s right to choose and, more specifically, limiting access to abortion for servicewomen stationed abroad. In the past Hagel told the Omaha World Herald that he did not believe in exceptions for abortion in the cases of rape and incest because the numbers of pregnancies that result from these violent acts are not “relevant.” He has also repeatedly voted against allowing female soldiers to pay out of pocket for their abortions while abroad. Beginning in 2013, the Defense Department health insurance plan will cover abortions for servicewomen who become pregnant as a result of rape. If Chuck Hagel assumes the position of defense secretary, it will be his duty to enforce this new policy, which he has clearly opposed in the past.

As women make up 20 percent of the armed forces, ensuring the protection of the sexual health of female soldiers is important for a number of reasons. According to the Guttmacher Institute, there has been a recent increase in the number of sexual assault reports in the military. Reports indicate that 88 percent of the victims are female, and 33 percent of servicewomen have experienced attempted or completed rape. In addition, the Defense Department estimates that 20 percent of sexual assault cases go unreported. Many of the countries in which the U.S. military is stationed prohibit abortion altogether, making the military health facilities the only option for servicewomen to receive an abortion. If abortion services are denied to these women, they could be forced to carry the unwanted pregnancy to term or to return back to the U.S. to obtain an abortion, jeopardizing their military careers and health.

These statistics are unacceptable in their own right, but the chance that servicewomen’s access to abortion could be inhibited is too big a risk to take. With Hagel’s political history, this risk could become a reality and endanger the health of thousands of women. Sign the petition below to tell President Obama to protect the sexual health of female service personnel by reconsidering his appointment of Chuck Hagel to the defense secretary position.

[Again, the petition can be found here.]

Iraq in 2012

While C.I. did "2012: The Year of Avoidance" last week, two days before she also offered a look-back at Iraq.  Our focus this edition is on Chuck Hagel.  So ensure that Iraq is noted, we're grabbing Monday's snapshot to note 2012 trends in Iraq.


Then came the official end of the war. On December 31, 2011, the country celebrated "Iraq Day" and the departure of U.S. troops. As Iraq prepares to mark the anniversary, also known as the "Day of Sovereignty," last year's celebratory tone has been replaced by a more somber one.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's political bloc, the Islamic Dawa Party, called on Iraqis not to become divided along sectarian or ethnic lines by "malicious schemes." The country has struggled to define itself, as its government stumbles from one political crisis to another.
Just as the last U.S. troops withdrew, al-Maliki, a Shiite, moved to arrest Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni, who al-Maliki accused of using his security detail as a hit squad.
More recently, a few days before the first Iraq Day anniversary, thousands of Sunnis took to the streets in Anbar province, a major trade thoroughfare to Jordan and Syria, to protest al-Maliki's order to arrest the bodyguards of Finance Minister Rafaie Esawi, a Sunni. The arrest of Esawi's bodyguards came just hours after President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd who is widely viewed as a stabilizing political force in Iraq, left the country to undergo treatment for cancer in Germany.
2012 saw another cholera outbreak in Iraq thanks to Nouri al-Maliki's refusal to spend any of the billions made off of oil on the Iraqi people.  They lack potable water in most areas.  If you don't have potable water -- safe water -- to drink, you have to boil it before using it (or add purification tablets) and you better hope you didn't rush the boil and that the tablets still work.  This wouldn't be a problem if Nouri would fix the public services.  He's been prime minister since 2006, that's six years so the responsibility and the failure is all on him.
In addition to a lack of potable water, Nouri's also failed to provide dependable electricity.  All this time later, it's still apparently too much to expect to have electricity for more than a few hours.  Strange because, before the start of the Iraq War, these electricity shortages weren't so common.  Even something as basic as sanitation is beyond Nouri's capabilities so children -- risking infection and disease -- can be found playing in the piled up sewage so common on many Iraqi streets.  Nouri's also refused to spend money on the crumbling infrastructure.  This winter, Iraqis saw what Nouri's cheapness has resulted in: Flooding throughout Iraq, homes falling down from the flooding, people dying in the homes, people dying from drowning, people dying from electrocution, people trudging through parts of Baghdad in knee-high water.  When you let the infrastructure fall apart, drainage becomes problematic.  The Iraqi Red Crescent Society had to evacuate at least one village this month as a result of homes collapsing from the flooding
Surely Nouri's done better somewhere, right?  Nope.  Iraq is still among the most corrupt countries as ranked by Transparency International. 176 countries were ranked this year on transparency and Iraq came in as the 169th most transparent country.  Only seven countries were ranked as less transparent.  Nouri's long been accused of skimming off Iraq's funds and his family lives high on the hog.  He also employs his son who is said to be as much of a terror as Uday Hussein was said to be.  Nouri's son is part of current corruption scandal.

October 9th, with much fanfare, Nouri signed a $4.2 billion dollar weapons deal with Russia.  He strutted and preened and was so proud of himself.  Yet shortly after taking his bows on the world stage and with Parliament and others raising objections, Nouri quickly announced the deal was off.  The scandal, however, refuses to go away. The Iraq Times stated Nouri was offering up his former spokesperson  Ali al-Dabbagh and others to protect the truly corrupt -- the truly corrupt -- according to members of Parliament -- including Nouri's son who got a nice little slice off the deal.  These charges came from Shi'ite MPs as well as Sunnis and Kurds.  Even the Shi'ite National Alliance has spoken out.  All Iraq News noted National Alliance member and one-time MP Wael Abdul Latif is calling for Nouri to quickly bring charges against those involved in the corruption.  (The arms deal is now treated by the Iraqi press as corrupt and not allegedly corrupt, FYI.)   Latif remains a major player in the National Alliance and the National Alliance has backed Nouri during his second term.  With his current hold on power reportedly tenous and having already lost the support of Moqtada al-Sadr, Nouri really can't afford to tick off the National Alliance as well.  Kitabat reported MP Maha al-Douri, of Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc in Parliament, is saying Nouri's on a list of officials bribed by Russia for the deal. 
 Public Domain: Iraqi Policeman by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway (DOD 070327-F-2828D-599)
Then there's the other big news this year, bomb sniffing dogs and explosive detectors.  Iraq's finally getting them.  This might be seen as 'good news' except for one thing: They've needed them for years and Nouri's pride prevented that.
The magic wands.  It's a story so old even David Petraeus weighed in at one point.  Nouri's government spent a small fortune purchasing these magic wands from a British company that apparently didn't also sell magic beans.  You held the magic wand by a car and you 'jogged' in place, pumping your legs up and down and the magic wand, activated by your movement, would then detect a bomb if one was present.  If you're not believing it, October, 9, 2009,  an Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy was exploring the subject at Inside Iraq:

Before starting telling you what happens in most of the checkpoints you should know about the "explosives detectors". The device is carried by security man who stops your car and walk beside it carrying the device. The device's pointer changes its direction when passed by a car that supposedly carries explosives.

The small hand-held wand, with a telescopic antenna on a swivel, is being used at hundreds of checkpoints in Iraq. But the device works "on the same principle as a Ouija board" -- the power of suggestion -- said a retired United States Air Force officer, Lt. Col. Hal Bidlack, who described the wand as nothing more than an explosives divining rod.
Still, the Iraqi government has purchased more than 1,500 of the devices, known as the ADE 651, at costs from $16,500 to $60,000 each. Nearly every police checkpoint, and many Iraqi military checkpoints, have one of the devices, which are now normally used in place of physical inspections of vehicles.
With violence dropping in the past two years, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has taken down blast walls along dozens of streets, and he contends that Iraqis will safeguard the nation as American troops leave.
It wasn't just that US generals laughed at the magic wands, by 2010 even the British government was disturbed, demanding the devices no longer be manufactured and suing the company.  But Nouri refused to join in the lawsuit (he apparently only likes to sue the press and politicians) and insisted that the magic wands continued to be used.  Instead of admitting that he had wasted over one million dollars on magic wands that didn't work, Nouri put his vanity ahead of the safety of the Iraqi people.  Last November, years after the problem was first discovered, it was quietly announced that Iraq would finally be getting bomb sniffing dogs and explosive sensors.
Did he not sue because he got a kickback on the deal?  Who knows?
Iraqis continue to live in poverty and it is a nation of widows and orphans -- over a million orphans we learned as the year wound down.  Nouri's 'answer' to that?  End the food-ration card system.  This system was put in place in the 90s and provided the Iraqi people with basic staples.  After the start of the Iraq War in 2003, the US government targeted the food-ration card system.  Paul Bremer was only the first US official to attempt to end it.  Ending it would not be easy so they instead worked on cutting it each year so that it offered less and less.  In 2006, when Nouri became prime minister, he continued the cuts.
This fall, he decided, with record poverty and unemployment close to 40% in Iraq, that now was the time to end this program.  Cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr was the first to call him out and insist this wasn't happening.  Iraqiya and others quickly backed Moqtada and Nouri was forced to back down (and even tried to claim that it wasn't his idea -- his Cabinet had planned it out without him).  Iraq takes in billions on oil sales each year.  Yet Nouri claimed there was no profit to share with the Iraqi people.  Moqtada also pushed back on that and has been meeting regularly with the ministries to find out where the money is going.
It's not going to the Iraqi people.  Well what about justice?  Is Nouri providing justice?  Early 2012 saw the Ministry of the Interior visit schools and tell Iraqi students that Emo and LGBT youth were devil worshippers, were vampires, were perverts and that they must die.  That's appalling and that's Nouri.  Nouri is the Minister of the Interior.  How can he be the Minister of the Interior and the Prime Minister.  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."   See, according to the Iraqi Constitution, if you can't appoint a full Cabinet, you can't become prime minister (someone else is named prime minister designate and given 30 days to build a Cabinet).  But US President Barack Obama wanted Nouri to have a second term so no rules applied then (or apply now).
So Nouri had his Ministry go into schools and egg on violence against Emo and LGBT Iraqis -- and Iraqis who might be mistaken for Emo or LGBT.  There was worldwide outrage.  The story got covered by outlets that normally didn't even cover Iraq -- such as England's NME and the US' Rolling Stone magazine.  Nouri called off his dogs and tried to lie that the Ministry of Interior was not involved; however, the Iraqi press quickly printed the handout the Ministry of the Interior had circulated on its school visits.  Nouri's such a damn liar.
Dropping back to the November 12th snapshot:
Staying with violence, as noted in the October 15th snapshot, Iraq had already executed 119 people in 2012.  Time to add more to that total.  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported last night that 10 more people were executed on Sunday ("nine Iraqis and one Egyptian").  Tawfeeq notes the Ministry of Justice's statement on the executions includes, "The Iraqi Justice Ministry carried out the executions by hanging 10 inmates after it was approved by the presidential council."  And, not noted in the report, that number's only going to climb.  A number of Saudi prisoners have been moved into Baghdad over the last weeks in anticipation of the prisoners being executed.  Hou Qiang (Xinhua) observes, "Increasing executions in Iraq sparked calls by the UN mission in the country, the European Union and human rights groups on Baghdad to abolish the capital punishment, criticizing the lack of transparency in the proceedings of the country's courts."
Amnesty International was among those condemning the mass executions.  Though all the executions for 2012 have yet to be tabulated, Iraq is expected to be at the top of the list of most people put to death. 
Nouri's also targeted the press.  5 journalists were killed in 2012 (we'll have more on that near the end of the snapshot). Outlets that report realities Nouri doesn't like are repeatedly attacked.  Both Al Mada and Kitabat were hacked in 2012 following their hard hitting reporting on corruption.  Dropping back to Saturday, December 15th:

The Iraq Times reports that cable channel Baghdadi was surrounded by the Iraqi military on Friday and they forced everyone out and then shut the station down.  They also note that Nouri ordered the closure.  The Iraq Times reports that Iraqiya spokesperson Maysoon al-Damalouji declared today that Nouri is attempting to rebuild the Republic of Fear (a reference to the days of Saddam Hussein) and decried the closing of Baghdadiya TV.
The satellite channel's crime?  Reporting on the corruption in the Russian oil deal. This month, he also began targeting Fakhri Karim who is the editor and chair of Al Mada newspaper -- he's had Karim's home surrounded by the US military.  Isn't it strange how in 'free' Iraq, Nouri's always sending in the military to attack the press.  And isn't it strange how the US government -- even most of the US media -- refuse to call that out?  (Friday, he used the military to keep reporters away from the protests in an attempt to ensure that they did not get coverage.)
The White House backs thug Nouri.  Elaine pointed out Friday:

Nouri is a threat and danger to the Iraqi people.
They voted for change and Barack went around their votes, the democracy, the Constitution to devise a contract (Erbil Agreement) to give Nouri a second term.
Again, gays are targeted, Sunnis are targeted, Nouri refused to even have one woman in his Cabinet until there was international outcry -- and this is who the US government backs.
Remember that the next time Barack wants to pretend to give a damn about human rights.
Nouri is in his second term as prime minister.  Why?  Barack Obama.  In March 2010, Iraqis voted in parliamentary elections.  Nouri's State of Law was expected to win by a wide margin.  The Iraqi people had other ideas.  Nouri's State of Law came in second to the Ayad Allawi headed Iraqiya slate.  Per the Constitution, per democracy, per vote counting, that made Iraqiya the winner and, as such, they were supposed to be immediately named prime minister-designate (one person from their slate, most likely Allawi) and then given 30 days to form a Cabinet.  Failure to do so would result in someone else being named prime minister-designate.  This is clearly outlined in the Constitution.  But Nouri didn't want to lose his post.  So he threw a public tantrum for eight months basically refusing to vacate the palace.  And he was able to get away with that because he had the support of Barack Obama.  During this time, the US government didn't argue for fairness or democracy or rule of law or the Constitution.  They went to the political blocs and told them that they were in the wrong.  They told them they needed to be mature and give.  They need to give to the loser.  Grasp that, the US government started a propaganda campaign at political leaders to get them to give up what they'd won to the loser Nouri.  A few asked questions.  Supposedly Iraqi President Jalal Talabani (currently in Germany receiving medical treatment) got very short with US Vice President Joe Biden in one phone call (no, not the one where Joe asked him to let Allawi be president).  Talbani finally, supposedly, had the brains to ask, "What's in it for us?"
Like a lightening bolt, the US government decided they could give Nouri a second term by going around the Constitution, by drawing a contract between the political blocs.  This 'inspiration' resulted in the US-brokered Erbil Agreement.  Leaders of political blocs agreed to give Nouri a second term (and end the eight-month plus stalemate) in exchange for Nouri agreeing to give them certain things.  The primary demand by the Kurds was that Article 140 of the Constitution be implemented (finally).  Iraqiya's primary demand was that an independent national security council be created and headed by a member of Iraqiya.  Nouri used this contract to get his second term.  Then he trashed the contract.  The White House had given their word that not only was the contract legally binding but that they would stand by it.  They did nothing.
In the summer of 2011, the Kurds, Moqtada al-Sadr and Iraqiya began publicly calling for Nouri to honor the contract.  He blew them off creating the current stalemate on which numerous political crises have been stacked.  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 was in it for the White House?  Well they were allowed to leave behind US forces in Iraq after the drawdown (wrongly billed as "withdrawal") of December 2011.  They were able to leave "trainers," CIA, FBI, Special-Ops and more.  And the White House is able to add more.  Back in September, Tim Arango (New York Times) reported:

Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions. At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence.
More troops sent in.  This month, Press TV and The Voice of Russia both reported that the US military was deploying more US troops into Iraq from Kuwait.  Then there's the Memorandum of Understanding For Defense Cooperation Between the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Iraq and the Department of Defense of the United States of America which was signed December 6th.  As we noted in the December 10th and December 11th snapshots, this allows US troops in Iraq for joint-patrols and counter-terrorism missions.  Maybe that's why Barack Obama has backed thug Nouri?  John Glaser ( reports today:
The Obama administration has kept largely quiet about Maliki's behavior, aside from about $2 billion in annual aid and tens of billions in military assistance. While this keeps the halls of power in Washington and the oil corporations happy, even the best case scenarios are damning, for Iraqi citizens as well as the geopolitics of the region.
"Maliki is heading towards an incredibly destructive dictatorship, and it looks to me as though the Obama administration is waving him across the finishing line," Toby Dodge, an Iraq expert at the London School of Economics said earlier this year. "Meanwhile, the most likely outcomes, which are either dictatorship or civil war, would be catastrophic because Iraq sits between Iran and Syria."

Violence slams Iraq today as both the month and the year wind down.  Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) notes Iraq witnessed "a wave of bombings and shootings."  EFE counts 23 dead and seventy-five injured.
Specific incidents of violence?   All Iraq News notes a Baghdad mortar attack which left "multiple" people injured, an undisclosed number of people were injured in a Tuz Khurmatu car bombing, a Mosul polling station was attacked leaving 2 guards dead,  there was an attack on a Sahwa leader's home in Diyala Province today that left 1 of his bodyguards dead, 3 Musayyib bombings have left 4 people dead and another seven injureda Khalis car bombing has left fiften people injured and 2 Balad Ruz bombings left 4 members of one family dead and a child injured. Alsumaria notes that Ammar Youssef survived an attempted assassination by bombing today in Tikrit -- two civilians were injured in the bomb targeting the President of the Salahuddin Province Council.  Alsumaria reports a Baghdad car bombing has claimed 3 lives and left sixteen injured.  All Iraq News adds that the victims were largely part of a convoy planning a pilgrimage to pay respects to Imam Hussein. AP explains Imam Hussein is the grandson "of the Prophet Muhammad" who died in the 7th century.   Press TV notes that the death toll in the Baghdad bombing has risen to 4 and 1 in Latifyah and 1 in Tuz Khurmatu. There was also a bombing in Hilla and  Reuters quotes hospital worker Mohammed Ahmed who states, "We heard the sound of a big explosion and the windows of our office shattered.  We immediately lay on the ground.  After a few minutes I stood up and went to the windows to see what happened.  I saw flames and people lying on the ground."   On Hilla, Nehal el-Sherif (Deutsche Presse-Agentur) reports, "Seven people were killed and four wounded when gunmen blew up three houses, security sources told the German news agency dpa. The attack followed a car bombing that killed one person and wounded 17 near a Shiite mosque in the city."  All Iraq News also notes that visitors to a Shi'ite shrine in Babylon were targeted with a car bombing, leaving 1 dead and three injured.  And Alsumaria notes a Kirkuk rocket attack that left 5 police officers dead and six other people injured.  RTE offers, "No group has claimed responsibility for any of the attacks, which targeted government officials, police patrols and members of both the Sunni and Shia sects."

The latest attacks also came amid continuing anti-government demonstrations in several Sunni-dominated cities protesting against marginalization by the Shiite-led government as well as the alleged arrest of hundreds of Sunnis.
The demonstrators also accused the Shiite-dominated security forces of arresting women instead of the wanted male of their family members.
The protests were first sparked last week after the Iraqi security forces arrested chief of the Sunni Finance Minister Rafia al-Issawi's protection force and nine bodyguards over charges of terrorism.

The Middle East Monitor offers this take, "The demonstrators are demanding to an end to what they allege is the Iraqi government's 'marginalisation and exclusion policy'; they're also asking for the release of prisoners as well as an end to inhumane treatment in the country's prison."
 kitabat 2

Protests continued over the weekend.  Al Bawaba News noted, "Pressure is mounting on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to step down, after the largest scale protests so far saw tens of thousands of Iraqis gather on Friday to call for his removal."  All Iraq News reported that Minister of Defense Saadoun al-Dulaimi received a list of demands from members of the council of Anbar Province whose citizens passed on the demands: They want the detention of women stopped, they want detainees released and Article 4 of the Constitution reviewed.  The Defense Minister was visiting Anbar Province one day after Friday's massive demonstration took place in Falluja (with a conservative estimate of the protesters being 60,000). Al Mada noted that Nouri pronounced Friday's protests in Mosul and Ramadi "uncivilized"; however, rock throwing wouldn't emerge until Sunday.

Mosul is the capital of Nineveh Province.  All Iraq News reported that Council Members have informed the central government in Baghdad that their citizens demand the release of prisoners an end to Article 4 and an end to the Justice and Accountability Commission.  Article 4 is how Nouri dubs various Iraqi rivals 'terrorists.'  And the Justice and Accountability Commission is what Nouri uses to prevent people from running in elections.  They have no job, they have no real role.  Any Saddam Hussein loyalists would have long ago been captured.  But Nouri uses this Article 4 to destroy his political rivals.  Alsumaria added that Nineveh Provincial Council announced Saturday a general strike in solidarity with the protesters. It's a 72-hour strike (medical facilities will not be on strike). Today Alsumaria reports that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi has declared that Parliament will abolish Article 4.  He compares Article 4 to the Sword of Damocles hanging over the neck of Iraqis.

Atheel (or Ethel) al-Nujaifi is the governor of the province.  He's also the brother of Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi.  Alsumaria notes that the governor declared Saturday that Nouri al-Maliki can end the current crisis within 24 hours just be returning the arrested to their provinces.  Al Mada explains that Nouri has repeatedly targeted Atheel al-Nujaifi.

In October, allegations of torture and rape of women held in Iraqi prisons and detention centers began to make the rounds.  In November, the allegations became a bit more and a fistfight broke out in Parliament with an angry State of Law storming out.  By December, Members of Parliament on certain security committees were speaking publicly about the abuses.  Then Nouri declared that anyone talking about this topic was breaking the law. He continued on this tangent for weeks claiming this past week that he would strip MPs of their immunity.  (The Constitution doesn't allow for that.)  Also this past week, it was learned that at least four females were raped in a Baghdad prison.

The outrage here is part of what has fueled the protests.  Alsumaria notes the Ministry of Justice's latest spin Saturday: Only women guards are at these prisons!  Whether that's true or not (most likely it is not) world history demonstrates that when women are imprisoned it's very common for someone to get the 'bright idea' to sell access to these women.  Greed is a strong motivator.  Again, the very claim is doubtful but if there are no men on staff, that doesn't mean men have not been present in the prisons.  It wasn't enough to silence objections or stop the protests.  Sunday,  Al Arabiya noted, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered on Sunday the release of female prisoners, who were arrested for terrorism charges without judicial warrants or because of terror crimes committed by their relatives, to appease to protesters who want to see the scrapping of anti-terrorism measures in the country, a local website reported."
Protests continued on Sunday with most of the press attention going to Ramadi where  Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq was involved in an incident.   Chen Zhi (Xinhua) reports that al-Mutlaq's office issued a statement claiming there was an assassination attempt on him while he was by the protesters and, following the assassination attempt, his bodyguards fired on the protesters.  His office also claims that his bodyguards were injured.   Citing witnesses and video, AP states that the bodygaurds fired on protesters who were making demands and throwing "rocks and bottles." AP notes that two protesters were injured by the gunshots.  Reuters speaks with local witnesses and ends up with the same sequence of events AP has.  Salma Abdelaziz, Yousuf Basil and Mohammed Lazim (CNN) report:

Some demonstrators Sunday called for al-Multaq, who is Sunni, to submit his resignation to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government. Protesters chanted, "Leave! Leave!" and threw stones at him, witnesses told CNN.
The deputy prime minister's bodyguards opened fire in an attempt to disperse the crowd as protesters hurled stones at the stage, Anbar provincial council member Suhaib al-Rawi told CNN. A protester with a gunshot wound was among five people injured, al-Rawi said. Details about the other injuries were not immediately clear.

All Iraq News counts 1 protester dead and four injured.  Samantha Stainburn (Global Post) observes, "It is not known if the injured protests were shot intentionally or accidentally."  The statement al-Mutlaq's office issued can be seen as an attempt by the politician to cover what happened.  Why he was stupid enough to go to a protest is beyond me.  Yes, he is Sunni and, yes, he is in the Iraqiya slate.  But Saleh al-Mutlaq is not popular.  He and Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi (also Sunni and Iraqiya) were both targeted by Nouri in December of 2011.  While Tareq ended up having to leave the country and being convicted of 'terrorism,' Saleh sailed right through.  In May, Nouri dropped his efforts to strip Saleh of his office.

By that point, there had been months of speculation in the Iraqi press that Saleh al-Mutlaq had cut a deal to save his own ass, that he was now in partnership with Nouri al-Maliki.  This seemed to be even more true when Saleh was seen as undermining efforts to get a no-confidence vote against Nouri as spring was winding down.

Saleh al-Mutlaq is seen -- rightly or wrongly -- by Sunni Iraqis as someone who protects himself and does nothing for other Sunnis (whether they're politicians or average citizens).  His actions on Sunday did nothing to alter that opinion.  Today Dar Addustour observes that Mutlaq was seen as attempting to distract protesters from their legitimate demands for and that his words were seen as throwing shoes at the protesters.  (Remember, throwing shoes is a major insult in Iraq.)  Kitabat adds that al-Mutlaq further insulted the protesters by refusing to get on the platform to address them.
Al Mada notes the Mosul sit-in continued today.  They also report that, according to a police source, six people taking part in a sit-in in Salahuddin Province were arrested yesterday and that the Salahuddin Provincial Council is warning Baghdad against ignoring the demands of the protesters.  Alsumaria reports that Speaker of Parliament al-Nujaifi declared today that the government must offer real solutions and not fall back on procrastination.
On death and violence, Mark Sweney (Guardian) notes that of the 121 journalists killed worldwide in 2012, the International Federation of Journalists points out five were in Iraq.  IFJ notes these are the top countries:
1) Syria: 35 journalists killed
2) Somolia: 18 journalists killed
3) Pakistan: 10 journalists killed
  (tie) Mexico: 10 journalists killed
5) Philippines: 5 journalists killed
   (tie) Iraq: 5 journalists killed
The five Iraqi journalists killed were Salahaddin TV's Kamiran Salaheddin, Al Adwa's Farqad Husseini, Dyali TV's Ziad Tareq, Al Gamaheer's Samir Shikh Ali and Sama Al-Mossoul TV's Ghazwan Anas. This list does not include Safir editor-in-chief Safi Qasis who has been missing since December 9th and is hopefully still alive.  Yesterday, the Iraq Journalists Syndicate released their report.  There were five Iraqi journalists killed in 2012.    Aswat al-Iraq noted, "The Iraqi press Syndicate said on Saturday that five journalists have been killed in Iraq in 2012 by armed group raising the number of media men who have been killed since 2003 to 373.Xinhua also noted it, "Five journalists were killed in Iraq's violence during 2012, bringing the number of the journalists killed in the country to 373 since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, an Iraqi journalists' body said on Saturday." It's a shame that the so-called Committee to Protect Journalist couldn't get it right.  According to their report released earlier this month, no journalists were killed in Iraq.  It doesn't make their top 20 because no one died.  How shameful.

Murray pushes for a plan for veterans and servicemembers

Senator Patty Murray
Senator Patty Murray (at the head of the table in the photo above) is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Her office issued the following last week:

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013
CONTACT: Murray Press Office
(202) 224-2834
MILITARY SUICIDE: Murray Effort to Create Standardized Suicide Prevention Program Signed into Law by President Obama
New law will eliminate gaps in care from one service to the next; change comes in response to major review of military suicide prevention programs
(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, an amendment sponsored by U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, that would require the Pentagon to implement a standardized and comprehensive suicide prevention program was signed into law by the President as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (S.3254).  Murray crafted the amendment after a major study by the RAND Corporation showed that there are serious gaps and a lack of consistency in military services' suicide prevention programs.  The new law comes as the number of active duty suicides continues to rise with 2012 exceeding 2011.
"This law is another step forward in our efforts to ensure that servicemembers aren't slipping through the cracks," said Senator Murray.  "It will help to not only standardize suicide prevention efforts, but also contains provisions to reduce wait times, ensure proper diagnoses, and achieve true coordination of care and information between the Pentagon and the VA.  We cannot afford to be passive about the military suicide epidemic we face.  We must continue to respond with every legislative and outreach effort possible in order to turn this tragic trend around."
Senator Murray's amendment [calls on] the Department of Defense to create a comprehensive, standardized suicide prevention program; expand eligbility for Department of Veterans Affairs mental health services to family members; strengthen oversight of DoD Mental Health Care and the Integrated Disability Evaluation System; improve training and education for our health care providers; create more peer-to-peer counseling opportunities; and require VA to establish accurate and reliable measures for mental health services.  For more information on Senator Murray's ACCESS Act which was signed into law as part of the Defense Authorization Act visit:
Matt McAlvanah
Communications Director
U.S. Senator Patty Murray
202-224-2834 - press office
202--224-0228 - direct

Sadie Robinson on the 'fiscal cliff' deal

Repost from Great Britain's Socialist Worker:

US economic deal will hit ordinary workers and protect the rich

by Sadie Robinson

US politicians agreed a deal on the economy last week amid panic that failure to do so would lead to economic disaster.

Many commentators claimed the deal would force the rich to pay more tax while protecting the poor from yet more spending cuts. In fact it protects most rich people—while taking more from ordinary Americans.

The deal will impose mild tax rises on the super-rich—families earning more than $450,000 a year (£280,000) and individuals earning more than $400,000.
This is far higher than the $250,000 and $200,000 figures that president Barack Obama had initially promised. It affects only the richest 2 percent of people in the US.

Tax cuts for the rich introduced by George Bush in 2001, which were meant to have expired by now, largely remain in place.

Meanwhile workers will have less to spend than before since the deal ends Obama’s cut in “payroll tax”—similar to Britain’s national insurance scheme. Workers will now pay 6.2 percent in payroll taxes, as opposed to 4.2 percent, no matter what they earn.

Changes to income tax are weighted in favour of the rich too. In 2002 the poorest workers paid 10 percent income tax—the same rate they will pay in 2013. Yet the richest will pay less—35 percent in 2013, down from 40 percent in 2002.

Unemployment benefits have been extended for one year. This has been portrayed as a boost for those out of work. But other aspects of unemployment benefit are under sustained assault.

In 2011 someone out of work in the US could receive 99 weeks of unemployment benefits. Now that’s been cut to 73 weeks. Some states have imposed further barriers to accessing the benefit, such as drug tests.

Most analysts predict that unemployment in the US will remain steady or rise. Some 40 percent of those out of work in the US have been unemployed for more than six months.
Nor is the deal likely to “save the US economy”. The bond traders on Wall Street are still threatening to downgrade the country’s credit rating.

Nearly 50 million Americans live in poverty according to the US census bureau. That official figure soared by 700,000 between 2010 and 2011. And the true figure will be much higher.

A staggering $1.2 trillion in spending cuts over a decade will kick in from March unless another deal is done.

But North America remains the richest place on earth. The wealth of the world’s richest 100 people now stands at $1.9 trillion. It rose by $241 billion in 2012 compared to the previous year, according to the Billionaires Index.

So the money is there to create jobs, fund decent benefits and pensions, and provide education and healthcare for everyone. But no politician in the US is prepared to take on the rich.

The following should be read alongside this article:
Cliffhanger for the US economy
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