Monday, April 13, 2015

Truest statement of the week

Everyone knows that Iran does not have nuclear weapons. These negotiations are really about re-integrating Iran into the  U.S.   Imperial Order as Iran was before the 1979 Revolution— becoming once again the American  “policeman” for the Persian Gulf. For well-known reasons, Israel cannot do that job. Israel will remain America’s “policeman” on the Mediterranean for the Northern Middle East. And Iran is slated to become once again  America’s “policeman” for the Persian Gulf together with all  its oil and gas fields  and the Straits of Hormuz through which most energy supplies are  shipped to Europe, China, Japan and elsewhere in Asia.  Integrating  Iran will also enable the United States to consolidate its tenuous toe-hold in Afghanistan and thus continue to project power into Central Asia with its riches of oil and gas fields there. It appears that Iran is willing to go along with this Agenda.
Professor Francis A. Boyle
Francis A. Boyle
Law Building
504 E. Pennsylvania Ave.
Champaign, IL 61820 USA

-- Francis A. Boyle is an attorney and a professor of international law.  He's also the author of many books including, most recently, United Ireland, Human Rights and International Law.

Truest statement of the week II

Oliver’s attack on Snowden reached extraordinary and insulting heights. At one point, he interrupted the internationally respected whistleblower for sounding too much like “the IT guy from work… Please don’t teach me anything. I don’t want to learn. You smell like canned soup,” Oliver said to the courageous defender of democratic rights, who has now endured nearly two years of persecution and exile.
Oliver’s hostility towards Snowden and Julian Assange of WikiLeaks is an expression of his staunch support, almost universally shared among well-to-do strata in American society, for the continuation of the US government’s surveillance programs.

-- Thomas Gaist, "John Oliver’s interview with Edward Snowden: Pseudo-satire in defense of NSA surveillance" (WSWS).                  

A note to our readers

Hey --

Another . . . Monday.


For the third time in our five-years-plus of publishing, we're publishing on Monday. 


A number of reasons.

First, 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.

What did we come up with?

Francis A. Boyle gets another truest.
Thomas Gaist breaks down the reality of the John Oliver interview.
We're really tired of the whores and the liars, can you tell?
Ava and C.I. explain how one soars while another falls.  
He's so damn magical. 
Facts is hard for some.
The White House apparently believes he's outrageously ugly.

Thugs are created, not born.

What we listened to.

Joint-statement from Senators Johnny Isakson and Richard Blumenthal. 
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America make clear they will not be silent.

Paralyzed Veterans of America.

Mike and the gang wrote this and we thank them for it.


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

Editorial: Oh, now you're outraged

Our readers are great.  They care about issues, they care about Iraq.

So the segment we're about to call out, it's not you.

It's the people who do nothing or, worse, the ones who lie and whore.

As Iraq fell apart, we covered it in real time, we screamed our heads off here trying to get an apathetic press to pay attention.

They and so many 'activists' in the US all  had 'better' things to do as Iraq descended, day after day, into the all the crises that, only in June when Barack spoke, the world suddenly wanted to register.

And then they wanted to lie.

They wanted to say, "Oh, this is because of the 2003 invasion.  This is all Bully Boy Bush's fault."

If we could bring back one Iraq for every American liar or whore, we'd probably be able to bring back at least a million of the Iraqis who've died in the illegal war.

We are the reality that the Cult of St. Barack wants to deny.  Every day damn day, we charted how Iraq was dragged further into the abyss by Nouri al-Maliki's crimes against humanity.

This community paid attention.


They WalkedOn, to other topics, for the most part.

For the most part?

At Antiwar Radio, you could find Scott Horton and Jason Ditz discussing Iraq -- and how great Nouri al-Maliki was.

This was long after he'd terrorized Iraq's LGBT community and urged students to hunt them down -- suspected lesbians and gays -- and kill them, long after he'd sent his Ministry of the Interior employees into the schools to tell the students that these 'evil forces' would actually try to suck their blood from them so these 'evil forces' had to be put down.

Scott Horton and Jason Ditz -- too enthralled with indulging their own political sexuality -- rooted deeply in masochistic desires over some foreign leader allegedly standing up to the United States government -- never could call out what Nouri was doing -- or even acknowledge it.

So those little bitches deserve a lot of the blame as well.  They stroked and blew their wads while Iraq suffered under Nouri al-Maliki.  But hey, like a squirrel, they got their nut, right?  And that's what they think is really important.

These days, some are suddenly returning to following news out of Iraq.

And they get alarmed.

The Islamic State just killed a woman because she was a witch! This is outrageous! 

We're glad you're repulsed.

We wish you could have been repulsed when all the other women over the last six years were killed in Iraq because they were accused of being a witch or the men who were accused of being sorcerers.

A 9-year-old girl is pregnant by the Islamic State! 

Again, where were you when Nouri's thugs attempted to introduce a law allowing men to marry 9-year-old girls (actually 8-year-old girls as a few keen observers caught)?

Nothing that the Islamic State is doing, including the attacks on religious minorities, is new to Iraq.  These actions all took place under Nouri, under his supervision and his orders.

And you didn't care then.

These crimes against humanity that shock you when carried about by a group of Sunni criminals didn't bother you at all when they were carried out by the Iraqi government.

You are the problem.

If you had paid attention, if you'd spoken out, the White House would have been forced to take a stand against their puppet Nouri al-Maliki.

Instead, they made nice with him.  

And, yes, that's on you because these 'outrages' that so offend you today didn't bother you one damn bit when the were being carried out by the Iraqi government.

Yes, as Iraq was descending into its current state, the Iraqi people even publicly begged for support and the world turned its collective eye.


 From Samarra من سامراء

Iraqis in Samarra with a message for the world (photo via Iraqi Spring MC) March 15, 2013.

 Their pleas were ignored.

The Iraqi government targeted them.

Hunted them.

Killed them.

Yet now when a small group (the Islamic State) carries out crimes on a much smaller scale, when the media sells these crimes with no perspective (because the media sells conflict and war), the lazy want to express outrage?

TV: The rise of Netflix, the fall of Hulu

Friday, Saturday and Sunday were all about Netflix as the country rushed to stream Marvel's Daredevil.  Netflix took up so much of the media conversation that few are even talking about Deadbeat returning for season two to Hulu.


Hulu started in 2007 and was something of a novelty.  Early streamers got it.  They enjoyed the films Hulu offered -- like Doris Day's Caprice, Vincent Price's Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine and William Castle's The Spirit Is Willing.  But mainly they enjoyed being able to catch TV shows.

Hulu offered the network TV shows -- all but CBS eventually. (And all but CBS still.)  Back then, you could watch, for example, an NBC show the day after it aired on NBC.

Hulu 'got' it.

CBS didn't.  NBC didn't.

Harry's Law was a successful show on NBC starring Kathy Bates.  And they ran off the audience by, in season two, deciding to stop streaming.

Streaming had helped make NBC's Chuck a hit.

And the backlash from ardent Chuck fans -- many who watched a week's episode five and six times -- was loud and clear when, in fall 2011 during the show's final season, NBC decided to stop streaming the show.

Fall 2011 found NBC struggling as they faced a backlash from viewers now conditioned to get content online.

NBC got it and then they got greedy.

When they went greedy, they caused their own self-destruction.

CBS didn't get it and CBS was always greedy.

Leslie Moonves missed the digital revolution going on around him.

Which is why the CBS head nixed joining Hulu even after it all the other majors were in.

His ignorance could be seen in his refusal to allow CBS programming to stream.

He was convinced that allowing that to happen would cut into CBS' ratings.

So immense was his stupidity that he even refused to allow episodes of The Big Bang Theory to be sold online via iTunes or Amazon.

Today, he's rushing to catch up -- CBS is developing several levels of online options -- but the reality is that stockholders should have long ago asked Moonves for an estimate of how much money CBS lost as a result of his stupidity?


Hulu had power.

Fringe wouldn't have been the success it was without Hulu.

Season one of Fringe set a record for streaming -- and, in fact, for streaming in the workplace.  Fringe became the show loyalists shared with co-workers, sent them a Hulu link, said "check this out."  Chuck was another Hulu sensation.  ABC's Cougar Town (fall 2009) was the first sitcom to register and benefit from Hulu.

Hulu had impact.

It had power.

That now seems so long ago.

Hulu streamers today have to wait a week after CBS, NBC or ABC airs an episode to stream it on Hulu.

As the economy continued to tank, Hulu was one of the ways to drop cable and still enjoy entertainment programming.

But that changed in November 2010 as Hulu launched Hulu Plus.

For $7.99 a month, you could have Hulu Plus.

Like free Hulu, Hulu Plus features commercials -- not trailers, paid commercials for products.

Unlike free Hulu, you could watch programming the next day -- the way it once was for Hulu.

Fringe was helped by Hulu at the start of the series.  At the start of Hulu Plus, Fringe was able to return the favor.  With Fox now refusing to allow streaming of their programs until a week after and Fringe winding down, those who'd given up cable and satellite TV flocked to Hulu Plus to pony up $7.99 a month and be able to see their favorite show the day after the episode aired.

Netflix, during all of this, was the Redbox or Blockbuster by mail service.

You paid X number a month to have X number of DVDs out at a time.

You also had streaming.

Streaming mattered then at Netflix mainly due to their deal with Starz.

You could stream Starz online in real time.  Or you could stream the variety of films and TV series the network offered.

When the two parted ways, Netflix suffered and, to this day, it has not found a way to bring back their level of classic films available for streaming.

But Netflix was focused on something different.

There were bumps along the way such as when they tried to end the DVD plans and subscribers objected.

But the main thing they wanted to move to was original programming.

They were a supplement to Hulu in some ways.

On Hulu, for example, you could stream episodes of a show from this season -- at least the five most recently aired.  If you were lucky, you could find the previous seasons on Netflix.

Without original programming, Netflix would always be behind Hulu with regards to television.

Early on, Netflix was exploring picking up programming.  When NBC took the axe to The Event, for example, there was talk that Netflix would rescue the show (did not happen).  When ABC took the axe to Happy Endings, there was talk that Netflix would rescue the show (did not happen).

But Netflix did bring back Fox's Arrested Development for a season several years after the show had ceased production.  (And they'll be bringing the sitcom back for another season of new episodes.)

And they did greenlight a fourth season of The Killing after AMC cancelled the show (for the second time).   They also became the US broadcaster for Lilyhammer as well as for Gillian Anderson's The Fall.

And then there were the shows created exclusively for Netflix.  House of Cards and Hemlock Grove premiered around the same time.  House of Cards has gone on to win four Emmy awards and two Golden Globes and Hemlock Grove (which set Netflix streaming records when the first season was released) has been nominated for two Emmys.  Since then, they've added Jenji Kohan's Orange Is The New Black (which has won 3 Emmys), the Lorenzo Richelmy and Joan Chen vehicle Marco Polo, Tina Fey's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, the Kyle Chandler vehicle Bloodlines and now Marvel's Daredevil.

Next month will see the debut of the Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin sitcom Grace and Frankie as well as the drama Between with the Wachowskis' Sense8 following in June.

Netflix has offered new programming starring the likes of Jane, Lily, Sissy Spacek, Sam Shepard, Famke Janssen, Lili Taylor, Kyle Chandler, Joan Chen, Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, Gerald McRaney, Carole Kane, Rosario Dawson, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Vincent D'Onofrio, Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi, David Cross, Jessica Walter, Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman and plans to debut its first original talk show -- hosted by Chelsea Handler -- next year.


Well they did do a talk show -- Spoilers With Kevin Smith.  They carried the ten episode first season. The second season wasn't carried by Hulu.

Season two's a real problem for Hulu.

The only show that currently has a second season scheduled premier is the hideous Deadbeat which offers new episodes (ten) beginning April 20th.

That alleged sitcom stars Tyler Labine -- who may prompt the question, "Who?"

However, the better question is: Why?

He tanked in Reaper, Sons of Tuscon, Mad Love and Animal Practice.

That means he's failed on The CW, Fox, CBS and NBC.

And, of course, on Hulu.

But Hulu's failing period.

The Simpsons hasn't aired a new episode since March 15th.

That doesn't effect Netflix.

But it does effect Hulu and Hulu Plus since the Fox sitcom remains one of the most popular shows Hulu offers.   There has been no breakout series for Hulu this season -- no breakout series that the networks have developed.  And Hulu is stranded by that as well.

When people pay $7.99 a month for your service, they have a right to expect that you'll provide something.

Hulu Plus doesn't.

This is most clear if a subscriber does a search by network.

Search that way and select USA or FX.

Go ahead, we'll wait.

Did you see it?

16 episodes of this, X episodes of that.

Now try to watch any of those episodes of Covert Affairs or Justified or whatever.

And you'll quickly be asked to provide your cable or satellite subscription information.

Hulu's not carrying those episodes.

You're paying them $7.99 and they're not even carrying any of those episodes.

They're a joke and much funnier than anything Deadbeat will ever offer.

Hulu Plus is not creating original content -- not anything worth watching.

And each summer, we're begged to note here -- begged by people with Hulu -- that they have new episodes of this or that show.

That's because their streaming numbers drop every summer since they have so little programming to offer.  (Last summer, Fox' limited edition 24 series greatly helped Hulu's numbers.)  But last fall and especially this spring found Hulu tanking with numbers they generally only see in July and August.

These days, Netflix has much to celebrate and there's a story in that.  Hulu Plus -- which charges the exact same fee Netflix does -- has nothing to celebrate and there's a far bigger story in that.

The Doug Henning of US Presidents

He's yet to make rainbows fly out his ass . . .

but with a little help from a willing photographer he can pretend to make one fly out of his hands.

Mashable should try to master journalism before practicing law

Mashable is desperate for content and short on brains.

So when former CIA agent Valerie Plame posted a public response to disgraced journalist Judith Miller, Mashable saw a cat fight and plunged right into it.

Jason Abbruzzese is the misinformed who elected to flaunt ignorance.

Did you catch the mistake?

"Outing a CIA agent is a felony, so the identity leak was investigated by the Department of Justice. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby was convicted for interfering with the investigation."

Is outing a CIA agent a felony?

No charges were brought against journalist Robert Novak, after all.

That's because it's not a crime to out a CIA agent.

Murder is a crime for everyone.

If you murder someone, that's a crime.

But outing a CIA agent?

The Intelligence Identities Act makes it a crime for anyone with access to classified information to expose the identity of a CIA agent or anyone who has a pattern of exposing them.  This law was passed in response to former CIA operative Philip Agee writing Inside The Company: CIA Diary in 1975 in which he outed several CIA agents.

What's really sad is that Mashable thinks they have it right when they don't and that they even offer:

Updated: April 7, 2015, 6:14 P.M. EST This article was corrected to clarify that revealing the identify of a CIA agent is a felony. 

The article needs another correction to clarify the mistake their clarification created.

How ugly is Joe Biden?

The Vice President of the United States is someone we'd rank handsome.

And we don't need to add a qualifier ("for his age").

He's a handsome man

But apparently the White House begs to differ.

Last week, Joe Biden gave a heavily promoted speech.

And the White House wanted America to rush to their website to stream the speech.

For example . . .

Starting soon! Biden will deliver remarks on U.S. policy in at 12:30pm ET. Watch live at .
37 retweets 32 favorites

Yet after all that (and more) spent promoting the live feed?

Audio only.

Audio only?

Do they think he looks like Quasimodo?

Here's his speech.



US Vice President Joe Biden:  General Padilla, thank you very much for the introduction. And it is genuinely an honor to be here before such an incredibly distinguished audience. And, Ambassador Nesbitt, thank you. She is a senior vice president. I’m just a Vice President. These days I don’t like the word senior associated with my name. Provost Yaeger, and finally I’d like to say to Ambassador Failly, the -- Iraq’s Ambassador to the United States -- it’s an honor to have you here, as well today. Military officers, men and women, and Brian McKeon -- how you doing, Brian? Brian doesn’t want to tell anybody. He’s in the Defense Department now, but he worked with me since he got out of the University of Notre Dame, and that was 412 years ago.  But at any rate, it’s good to see you, Brian.
Next week, Prime Minister Abadi will make his first visit to Washington, D.C. And this provides us with an opportunity to take stock of where things stand right now. And that’s going to be the focus, with your permission, of my remarks today.
Critics have made a number of claims regarding our policy in Iraq and the state of affairs in Iraq today. They say that Iraq’s fight against ISIL -- under the command of the Iraqi government, backed by America and an international coalition -— has stalled, has been stalemated. We read that ISIL remains in a commanding position inside of Iraq; that Iran and its proxies are leading the fight against ISIL, and that they are dominating Iraq; and that Iraq itself is likely to be a thing of the past, doomed to split apart because of sectarian violence.
There’s just one problem with these critiques: The claims do not reflect the circumstances on the ground. The claims do not respect and represent the circumstances on the ground.
They don’t reflect Iraq’s progress against ISIL -– incomplete but significant and growing; Iraq’s resilience and unity in confronting the crisis many predicted would split them apart; or Iraq’s resolve to uphold their sovereignty and their independence -– even as they look to their neighbors in all directions for assistance.
The jury is still out. That’s the truth. It’s not over yet. But the momentum is in the right direction. I’d like to speak about that for a few moment’s today.
It is true that when ISIL swept into Ninewa last summer and took its capital, Mosul, we saw the collapse of the Iraqi army --we saw it melt away -- the horrific slaughter of innocent civilians; and the enslavement of women; ethnic cleansing of minority groups, including Christians who had lived in Mosul for over a thousand years.
ISIL gained significant amounts of money from the banks that they robbed, significant and sophisticated military equipment left behind by Iraqi forces, and manpower from brutal conscription and foreign fighters, and maybe most dangerously a sense of momentum, even a sense of inevitability which seemed to attract more foreign fighters.
That’s why, when Mosul fell, President Obama responded decisively. Within hours, he took steps with all of you, the military, to make sure that all our people in our embassy were secure. Within days, we put Special Forces into the field temporarily to better understand the battle space. We surged intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. And we set up a Joint Operations Center in both Baghdad and in Erbil -— all to prepare to help the Iraqis fight back.
We knew though that the first order of business was to make sure that Iraq had a functioning, inclusive government. For all the years I spent in dealing with Iraqi public officials and the Iraqi government, we knew for certain without a united Iraqi government, there was no possibility -- none -- of defeating ISIL.
When Mosul fell, Iraq had just held their national election. Fourteen million -- roughly 14 million Iraqis had shown up at the polls. But now they had to form a government in the middle of this chaos. And having been deeply, deeply involved, as Brian McKeon will tell you because he was with me, trying to help form the first government and being engaged, we knew this could be extremely difficult [sic].
During the term of the last government, distrust had deepened so profoundly between Sunni, Shia, and Kurds -— creating serious obstacles to a unified effort against ISIL and a questioned willingness of whether they were willing to literally stay together.
But the irony -- the irony of all ironies -- is that Iraq was actually -- helped form its government because of ISIL. ISIL the very outfit that intended to tear Iraq apart and establish a caliphate, it actually united Iraqis.
The Sunnis realized they preferred a united, federal Iraq under a new government to being at the mercy of ISIL or dependent upon the other Sunni states. The Kurds realized that withdrawing from Iraq was not a viable option, and they did not want a terrorist state on their doorstep. I don’t know how many conversations I had with President Barzani relating to this. And the Shia, they realized they didn’t want to take on ISIL alone or become a vassal of a neighboring state. Consequently, they each concluded they were better off if they were in this together. And to quote a famous American politician in an early war of ours, we either hang together or hang separately.
The Iraqis themselves recognized how badly the trust had been broken among them. Nothing less than a comprehensive change could deliver a united Iraqi government that could effectively take on ISIL, and many Iraqi leaders believed that the only way to do this, as I believed, was a wholesale change in leadership; that every interest in Iraq had to find different leaders this time to occupy the seats of power.
I remember speaking to -- with Usama Nujayfi, a proud son of Mosul, who had been the speaker of Iraqi’s parliament, and him deciding that in order to make way for a new wave of leaders, it was very important -- which he thought was important as well -- that he would have to step down as speaker.
And so there was a need, from the speaker to the Prime Minister to the president, to find new leaders. And the result was -- another widely respected Sunni, Salim Jabouri, became the new parliamentary speaker, and Iraq chose Fuad Masum, a well-respected Kurdish senior statesman, to be the new president. And he stuck to his convictions under enormous pressure -- because you know how the process works -- he, the president, is the one that then turns to one of the factions to form a government.
There was an enormous amount of pressure, but he stuck to his guns. And he named Haider al-Abadi, the Prime Minister, a Shia leader who had built up majority support within the Shia National Alliance, which won a majority of the votes. There was a consensus among these leaders that Iraq would need a much greater measure of functioning federalism, which is called for in the constitution. They all agreed to that. That common understanding backed by genuine acts of statesmanship has led to significant progress. And the chance of a long-term unity government here.
In just eight months, Prime Minister Abadi and other Iraqi leaders have formed an inclusive government, in record time, arrived at a national budget with equitable revenue sharing, forged an oil deal between Baghdad and Erbil. I don’t know how many times Brian and I sat there over the 23 visits into Iraq being told there’s an oil deal just over the horizon. Never occurred. But in the face of this crisis, they pulled that together.
They built a consensus and began to mobilize thousands of Sunni fighters to fight against ISIL. And just this past week, Prime Minister Abadi visited Erbil, met with President Barzani to discuss cooperation with the Peshmerga forces in a plan, coordinated by General Austin in part, to help liberate Mosul. Yesterday, he was in Anbar Province announcing the delivery of over 1,000 weapons for Sunni tribes in preparation for the liberation of Anbar, in part, as part of his commitment that he made to Sunni leaders in the formation of the government.
More efforts to organize, arm, and integrate the Sunnis willing to fight ISIL are going to be needed in the months ahead to liberate Anbar and Mosul. And the Prime Minister has also tried to improve relations with his Arab neighbors and Turkey. He’s visited Amman, Cairo, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Ankara. And for the first time since 1990, Saudi Arabia has agreed to open an embassy in Baghdad at the invitation of a Shia Iraqi president.
These are only initial, but these are very -- I promise you having done this for the last 12 years -- very promising, promising steps. Obviously a great deal of work remains, including moving forward on the national guard legislation, legislation designed to advance national reconciliation including de-Ba’athification, continuing to mobilize and integrate and arm and pay Sunni forces, further integrate the Pesh into the Iraqi national security force, bringing volunteer forces under the command and control of elected Iraqi governments, empowering local governance and planning for reconstruction in the liberated areas consistent with their notion of federalism.
All of which, all of which we will be discussing with Prime Minister Abadi -- not that we haven’t discussed it a lot. He and I have probably spent more time on the phone than we have -- I have with my wife.
The entire region -- the entire world -- but the entire region-- is watching this closely, and Iraqi leaders can’t afford to lose that sense of political urgency that brought them to this point.
And much hinges on the Prime Minister, but not the Prime Minister alone. Ultimately, this is about all of Iraqi leaders pulling together and they must continue to compromise. And it is hard. It is hard. Thousands of bodies have been strewn and lost in the interim. But they’re doing it. We knew that in addition to forming a united Iraqi government, the next challenge would be to help them put back together an ability to be able to position itself and succeed on the battlefield.
That started with helping Iraqis reorganize and reconstitute the security forces. For years, in the face of terrorism and insurgency, many Iraqis have fought bravely and given their lives. Thousands have given their lives in the fight against ISIL. That would challenge any army.
But as we saw last summer, some units, including those in Mosul, had been hollowed out with corruption, questionable leadership appointments, a lack of discipline, sectarian in-fighting. And the collapse helped make the fall of Mosul possible.
So we began to help Iraqi leaders rebuild their forces with hires based on competence, not on ethnicity. Abadi appointed a number of former military officers -- or, excuse me, relieved a number of former military officers, and appointed new officers. He appointed a Sunni from Mosul as Defense Minister. He replaced 36 commanders in November, and he continues to reform Iraq’s military leadership.
We sent our Special Forces to assess which Iraqi units could actually be salvaged. And under the leadership of General Austin, we began working with the Iraqi military to reconstitute their divisions. We are now training and have continued to train Iraqi forces at four different sites across the country. Six thousand have already graduated; thousands more are in the pipeline.
And we’re supplying weapons and critical equipment. Since the fall of 2014, the United States has delivered over 100 million rounds of ammunition; 62,000 small arms systems; 1,700 Hellfire missiles. Two hundred fifty mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles -- MRAPs -- were delivered in December that are now protecting Iraqi forces and Pesh forces from mines and homemade bombs. And 50 additional MRAPs with mine rollers will begin transfer to Iraq this week.
At Al Asad Air Force Base that many of you served in and were part of securing, we’re training, advising, and assisting Iraqi army forces who, in turn, are training and mobilizing Sunni fighters; Iraqi National Security Forces training Sunni tribesmen.
We also brought Iraqi pilots to the United States, who are in advanced stages of flight training in Arizona, to enhance their capacity to defend their country in the air.
And we’re not doing it alone. We led and mobilized a massive international coalition of over 60 partners -- NATO allies, Arab nations, and many others -- to help take on ISIL. It’s not just a military coalition. It’s a global effort to weaken ISIS across the board, from undercutting its messaging to tracking its foreign fighters.
And several nations are providing significant support in Iraq. Eight coalition partners have launched over 500 airstrikes in Iraq. The Spaniards, Australians, Danes, and others have provided trainers and advisors inside Iraq. The French, the Dutch, the U.K., Canada, Germany, Italy and others are working with us to train and resupply the Kurdish Peshmerga who have reclaimed a significant portion of the territory initially gained by ISIL. And several countries, including Japan and Saudi Arabia have also made significant non-military contributions in areas such as development assistance and humanitarian aid.
A majority within each of the Iraqi constituencies and communities supports this U.S. effort and these coalition efforts. Leaders from across the Iraqi political spectrum have publicly asked for our help and our continued help.
And we’re providing that help in a smarter way -- small numbers of advisors backed by a large coalition. And this large coalition is backed up by the most capable air force in the world. We are pounding ISIL from the sky, nearly 1,300 U.S. airstrikes alone. Thus far, thankfully, we have not lost -- knock on wood -- a single solitary U.S. serviceman to enemy fire, not one. But this is a dangerous, dangerous, dangerous place.
With our assistance, Iraqis have made significant progress on the battlefield. Eight months ago, ISIL was on the offensive everywhere in Iraq. No force in Iraq or Syria had proven capable to defeating ISIL head on, but today in Iraq, ISIL has lost large areas it used to dominate, from Babil to Diyala, to Ninewa, to Salahadin -- excuse me -- Kirkuk Province. ISIL has been defeated at Mosul Dam, Mount Sinjar, and now Tikrit.
ISIL’s momentum in Iraq has halted, and in many places, has been flat-out reversed. Thousands of ISIL fighters have been removed from the battlefield. Their ability to mass and maneuver has been greatly degraded. Leaders have been eliminated. Supply lines have been severed. Weapons, check points, fighting positions, IED factories, safe houses have been destroyed. And reports of demoralization within ISIL ranks are rife. And some ISIL fighters refusing to fight; foreign fighters being killed by ISIL because they want to return home.
There’s still a long fight ahead. I don’t want to paint an overly rosy picture here. But the -- ISIL’s aura of invincibility has been pierced, and that’s important.
Let me give you once recent example, where Iraqi’s military capability was tested, as well as, quite frankly, its political leadership was tested.
Three weeks ago -- in every newspaper in the West and here in the United States and on the news -- the speculation was that the United States, the coalition, and Iraqi’s elected leaders had been sidelined in the fight against ISIL, particularly in Tikrit. Military forces backed primarily by Iran were running the show. And you saw pictures, and they made it clear, Soleimani made it clear that everybody would see he was there; the implication being, we now own Iraq.
Then something changed. The attack stalled. And minister -- and Prime Minister Abadi stepped up. He courageously stepped in, making it absolutely clear that the Iraqi government, him, as Commander-in-Chief, was in charge of this operation. When I spoke with him, he made it clear to me that he wanted the United States and the coalition to engage all over Iraq, was his phrase. And explicitly, he wanted us engaged and requested support in Tikrit. His call was joined by that of Sunni leaders as well as the most senior religious leader in the country, Grand Ayatollah Sistani who declared that the Iraqi government had to be in the lead; that the units had to be directly under the command -- all units -- under the command of the Iraqi government; and that Sunnis had to be included in the liberation of their own communities.
And we made clear-- General Austin -- that we were prepared to help in the battle with volunteers both Shia and Sunni fighting alongside Iraqi forces, but only if all elements in the fight operated strictly under the chain of command of the Iraqi military. Because that’s the only way we could ensure the safety of those on the ground and minimize the risk of friendly fire.
Today, Iraq’s national flag -- not ISIL’s -- hangs over the city of Tikrit.
But success brings new challenges: Holding liberated areas, policing them with forces that are trusted by the community in the community that they’re returning home to; transiting governing authority back to local officials, as envisioned in their federal system; restoring vital public services.
And in the face of reports relating to Tikrit that there was mass looting and burning of homes, the Prime Minister stepped up, took swift action. He condemned the abuses, ordering the militia out of the city, ensuring regular forces are patrolling those seats, and frankly acknowledged the degree of loss that had occurred, hiding nothing.
Once inside Tikrit, Iraqi soldiers uncovered execution grounds where ISIL murdered as many as 1,700 young men last summer and poured them into mass graves. And as I speak, mass graves are still being found, a stark reminder of the brutality of ISIL and the need for its defeat.
While this battle continues inside Iraq, we’re also taking the fight to ISIL in Syria. The international coalition has now launched over 1,300 airstrikes against ISIL and other terrorists inside of Syria -- bombed refineries that have been taken over by ISIL, the oil both refined and crude being used to fund their operations, eliminating that as a source of revenue. We’ve embarked on a train and equip program under the Defense Department to take on ISIL and protect Syrian communities. In Kobane, killing thousands of its fighters and providing ISIL -- and proving ISIL can be beaten inside of Syria, as well.
However, the regional challenge for Iraq extends beyond Syria. For years now, Iraq has risked being pulled apart by a wide range of sectarian competition internally and externally. But the reality is that Iraqis do not want to be drawn into regional conflicts. They don’t want to be owned by anybody. Everybody forgets there was a war not but a decade before where over 100,000 were killed, a war with Iran, their neighbor. They don’t want to be puppets dangling on a string of anyone’s puppeteering in the region.
Don’t underestimate the power of Iraqi national pride, independence, and sovereignty. It’s only natural that Iraq will have relations with all of its neighbors, including Iran. The history is too long. The border is too long. And it’s a difficult neighborhood. But Iraq must be free to make its own sovereign choices under the authority of elected representatives of an Iraqi government.
We want what Iraqis want: a united, federal, and democratic Iraq that is defined by its own constitution where power is shared among all Iraqi communities, where a sovereign government exercises command and control over the forces in the field. And that’s overwhelmingly what the Iraqis want.
So I go back to the focus on, Mr. Ambassador, on the Iraqi government. When the three major constituencies -- Sunni, Shia and Kurd -- are united in wanting a whole and prosperous Iraq, the likelihood of being pulled into the orbit of any single nation in the region is diminished exponentially because this would represent the only -- the only government in the region that actually is not based on sectarian dominance.
This is going to be a long haul. The ultimate success or failure is in the hands of the Iraqis. But as they stand up and stand together, this administration, this country, is committed to stand with them.
I need not tell this audience since 2003 more than 1.5 million American women and men, including my son, have spent significant amounts of time on Iraqi soil. Every single morning since I have been Vice President, before as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, we contact the Defense Department, and I ask the same question. Give me the exact number of Americans who’ve given their lives on Iraqi soil and Afghan soil. Give me the exact number, not a generalization, exact number of those who have been wounded and are lost in Afghanistan. Because no audience knows more than this -- every one of those lives, every one of those brave women and men represents a community. Represents a family and a larger family.
Only 1 percent of all Americans have waged these fights for us, but 99 percent of all America owes them support and recognition; 4,481 Americans have given their lives on Iraqi soil, including many who served alongside the people in this room. I’ll bet every one of you in uniform know somebody who was lost or wounded.
And although our mission is significantly different today -- you may ask why am I focusing on this -- although our mission is significantly different today than it was during that period, there are still men and women in uniform in Iraq making sacrifices as I speak from protecting our embassy, to training and equipping Iraqis, to flying sorties.
And all of you who wear the uniform know that one of the loneliest feelings for your family -- particularly if they don’t live on a base -- is while every other kid in school, while every other family at church, while every other family in the neighborhood thinks everything is fine, Dad or Mom is not home for that birthday. They’re missing that graduation. They’re not there for Christmas or to make a Thanksgiving toast.
We have an obligation. We have an obligation. And just because we no longer have 160,000 troops there, it’s an obligation that’s intense and as real as it was when we had 160,000 troops there. They warrant our support. Their families warrant our deep gratitude.
And so, folks, as a country, our one shared obligation is to give them what they need on the battlefield and care for them when they come home.
Their blood and toil helped give Iraq another chance. Our mission now is to help the Iraqis themselves make the most of this.
Thank you all for listening, but most of all, thank you for your service.
May God bless the United States of America and may God protect our troops. Thank you.


Why Haider?

  Thug Haider al-Abadi resembles a Weebel

We get why the US government keeps picking pliable puppets for the post of prime minister.

The government's crooked (US) and they don't want anyone they can't control.

But what puzzles us is why they keep picking these grossly overweight men.

This edition's playlist

1) Carly Simon's The Bedroom Tapes.

2) Ringo Starr's Postcards from Paradise.

3) The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club. 

4) Joni Mitchell's For The Roses.

8)  Tori Amos' Unrepentant Geraldines.

9) Prince's Purple Rain.
10) Donna Summer's Bad Girls.

As Unacceptably-long Wait Times for Veterans Persist, Isakson, Blumenthal Call on VA Secretary to Provide Detailed Plan on Use, Integration of Care Outside VA System

Senator Johnny Isakson is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Friday, his office issued this joint-statement he and Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal have made:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                    
Contact: Amanda Maddox (Isakson), 202-224-7777
Josh Zembik (Blumenthal), 202-224-6452

As Unacceptably-long Wait Times for Veterans Persist, Isakson, Blumenthal Call on VA Secretary to Provide Detailed Plan on Use, Integration of Care Outside VA System
Senators Urge VA To Do Everything Possible To Ensure Veterans Are Aware Of All Health Care Options Available, Inside and Outside VA Health System


WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, respectively, today wrote to Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald to request he provide clear guidance to local VA medical centers and their patients regarding options for veterans to receive health care from local, community-based providers outside of VA hospitals and facilities.
"Non-VA care is used by VA to reduce and end unacceptably long wait times, to provide services when there is a lack of available VA specialists, and to decrease excessive travel distances for treatment,” the senators wrote. "We believe that it is vitally important veterans and providers receive accurate information on care available at the local Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers (VAMC) and in the community in order to understand the care options feasible. All too often, veterans and providers are unaware of these options and local facilities offering or approving non-VA care seems to vary arbitrarily from one VAMC to the next.”
The letter requests that Secretary McDonald and VA provide a detailed plan for correcting inconsistencies and underutilization of health care options for veterans when they receive that care outside of VA facilities. This plan should include next steps for disseminating information to third-party administrators and local VAMC’s to ensure that veterans and providers are aware of all options available, utilizing data about increases or decreases in outside spending, conducting a review and making a recommendation regarding consolidating all programs that VA uses to provide veterans with care in their community in the future.
The full text of letter can be downloaded as a PDF here, and is included below:
April 10, 2015
Dear Secretary McDonald:
We write to ask that you promptly provide clear guidance to both local VA Medical Centers (VAMC) and their patients on using medical care and services provided in the community, known as “non-VA care”. As spending on non-VA care surged forty-six percent to over $7 billion in the last fiscal year, we are concerned VA has yet to set forth a consistent and sustainable policy for this program.
As you are aware, non-VA care is used by VA to reduce and end unacceptably long wait times, to provide services when there is a lack of available VA specialists, and to decrease excessive travel distances for treatment. We believe it is vitally important veterans and providers receive accurate information on care available at the local VAMC and in the community in order to understand the care options feasible. All too often, veterans and providers are unaware of these options and local facilities offering or approving non-VA care seems to vary arbitrarily from one VAMC to the next.   We have heard from veterans across the country that have tried to utilize non-VA care and were turned away with no explanation of other options that might be available. The recent hearing on March 24th before the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs has confirmed and dramatized these failings, which are unfortunate and unacceptable.
Therefore, we ask you to provide us with a detailed plan for improving and integrating all non-VA care options used by VA not later than May 20, 2015. The plan should include VA’s proposed or planned action to:
1.   Correct inconsistencies and underutilization of different care options available to veterans, particularly when a veteran may be eligible for more than one care option and costs of such options based on utilization rates of Choice, Patient Centered Community Care (PC3), Individual Agreements, and Project ARCH over the next three fiscal years.
2.   Disseminate information to the third party administrators and local VAMCs to ensure that veterans and providers are aware of all options available to produce a plan for utilizing each program efficiently and effectively.
3.   Utilize data about increases or decreases in spending on non-VA care options to make decisions about internal staffing needs.
4.  Conduct a review of all traditional non-VA care programs (PC3, Individual Agreements, Fee-basis, etc.) and make recommendations about the program best suited to provide veterans with care in the community in the future.  This review should include the rates VA pays non-VA providers, utilization of the programs, and identify a manner to communicate to VAMCs the non-VA care programs available to provide veterans care in the community.
Reforms will help improve veterans care options. We hope for a plan by May 20, 2015. We look forward to working with you to bring consistency to utilization of the various non-VA care programs authorized by Congress. Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Johnny Isakson
Richard Blumenthal
The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is chaired by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in the 114th Congress.

Isakson is a veteran himself – having served in the Georgia Air National Guard from 1966-1972 – and has been a member of the Senate VA Committee since he joined the Senate in 2005. Isakson’s home state of Georgia is home to more than a dozen military installations representing each branch of the military as well as more than 750,000 veterans.
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