Five years later, Baker and Weisbrot would publish their book, Social Security: The Phony Crisis. In their dedication, they praised “the thousands of volunteers, including many senior citizens, who have generously volunteered their time and energy to defending Social Security…against an avalanche of misinformation, disinformation, and powerful political and financial interests” (our emphasis).
But even by 1994, that “avalanche of misinformation” had had its way with the public. In that year, the Associated Press reported an iconic survey of younger voters (ages 18 to 34). “Young Americans find it easier to believe in UFOs than the likelihood Social Security will be around when they retire,” the AP reported in September of that year. Among respondents, only 34 percent said they believed that Social Security would still exist when they retired.
Five years later, Baker and Weisbrot published their book—and it was largely ignored by the ever-feckless “liberal world.” And from that day forward, no liberal entity has made any real attempt to explain the logic of Social Security in a way average people can understand.
The disinformation keeps rumbling down; it’s even pimped by hapless “liberal” players like Lawrence O’Donnell and Gail Collins. As this happens, the liberal world continues to sit and stare—except when we get the chance to insult the typical voter.
When Lawrence O’Donnell plays the fool, reciting key points of the disinformation, we pseudo-liberals gaze politely on his manifest greatness. When a grocery store clerk shows that he’s been disinformed by people like O’Donnell, we stand in line to roll our beautiful eyes about his incredible dumbness.
It’s hard to have sufficient contempt for this aspect of “liberal” culture. But this has been a central part of our ratty culture for at least five decades now. As we enact this part of our culture, we doom the chances of progressive advance.
We show that, when it comes to pure dumb, there’s no group as dumb as we are.
In our view, Digby performed an important service when she reported the conversation she stumbled upon at Albertson’s (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/14/10). She stumbled upon an important conversation—a conversation conducted by three average people who don’t understand the logic or workings of the Social Security program. But this conversation has been occurring all through the society for at least the past twenty years—and it’s perfectly obvious why so many people are so misinformed.
Why are people so misinformed? Powerful interests set out to accomplish this task, and they have plainly succeeded. And sure enough! As they have pursued this objective, the liberal world has sat and stared, even when major players like Collins, Bai and O’Donnell recite the bogus talking-points which define this plutocrat war.
We liberals only stand to complain when average people say such things. Then, we thunder, exclaim and parade, remarking upon how brilliant we are as compared to these unlettered rubes.
It’s hard to be dumber than we are at such moments. It’s hard to have rattier character.There are a lot of people attacking Social Security. It is not a Democrat versus Republican issue when it comes to our elected official because a large number of Democrats have participated in the attacks on Social Security. Even now, Barack Obama pushed through his Catfood Commission over the objections of Congress (who refused to create it) and staffed it with people who want to gut Social Security. Bob Hauge (Wisconsin Public Radio -- link has text and audio) reports that U.S. Senator Russ Feingold is defending Social Security against his opponent in the general election, candidate Ron Johnson who goes around insisting that "everything's on the table" and likening Social Security to "a Ponzi scheme." In a 31-second video ad at Mr. Thomas' website he announces that Social Security monies have been "raided" and "Guess what? It's gone." He then has the nerve to asserts, "And I respect you enough to tell you the truth." Social Security runs at a surplus. It forever has since the system began. Due to our population pyramid, this year we will begin paying out more in a year than is taken in an a year. As Trina explained of this talking point, all it requires to be refuted is for you to realize that Social Security has been around for 70 years and run a surplus all that time. So where is the surplus?
Al Gore proposed a "locked box" which would prevent politicians from borrowing from the fund. I actually would support that (and did in the 2000 campaign) but the reality is that it is not "raided." The U.S. government takes money out of the surplus and uses it and issues the trust a bond. That is a government bond like you or I might buy for one of our grandchildren. It is a promisary note that remains in effect unless the U.S. government ceases to be.
Social Security will not run at a loss from this day forward. It will do so briefly due to the population pyramid and the slight loss will not be the end of the world. It will mean that if nothing is done -- that would include cashing in the bonds -- the program, for several years, would be paying out over 80% of benefits. Even that is not an issue until years and years from now (the 2030s). Again, the program quickly rights itself and returns to the surplus model.
At his campaign site, Senator Feingold offers this on Social Security:
For years, some in Washington have argued for privatizing Social Security, and for years Russ has opposed those types of efforts in the Senate. Fortunately, given the current fiscal and economic crisis, Social Security wasn't privatized. However, there is little doubt that once the markets pick up again, we'll hear the same arguments for privatization. Russ will continue to fight any effort that puts Social Security at risk -- and that also means opposing any efforts that use Social Security Trust Fund money to pay for new spending programs or tax cuts.
That is a point Trina and I both like to make and it goes like this: Do you have a 401 K that you are investing in for your retirement? How is that going? With the 2001 economic crash, the tiny 'recovery,' followed by the Great Recession, many people feel that the investments have been a waste of time because there is so little to show for it. Imagine if we did not have Social Security and that 401 K was all you had to retire on. Most of you are aware that for the last ten years, that would not be enough to keep you in food -- even cat food -- for any length of time. 401 Ks are a gamble and, in a good economy, it can be a nice gamble. But the last ten years have demonstrated why we do not privatize Social Security and farm it out to Wall Street. The safety net continues to be needed and you can count on Social Security whereas gambling is always a risk. One more point, if you have friends with 401 K, check around. You will find the ones doing best (and still not having accumulated enough to make a solid retirement fund) are the ones who put part or all of their money in . . . U.S. bonds.
This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today:
Friday, September 17, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, support mounts for Bradley Manning, the US military announces yet another death in Iraq, reports insist the political stalemate is about to be a thing of the past, and more.
Starting with Bradley Manning. Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. This month, the military charged Manning. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements. Manning is now in Virginia, under military lock and key and still not allowed to speak to the press. As Daniel Ellsberg reminded from the stage in Oakland last night, "We don't know all the facts." But we know, as Ellsberg pointed out, that the US military is attempting to prosecute Bradley.
Daniel Ellsberg was a RAND Corporation military analyst alarmed by the Pentagon Papers charting the government's continuation of a lost and illegal war. He copied the papers to pass to the press (the press feared receiving the originals would be receiving stolen property and leave them open to prosecution). Lengthy court battles ensued via Richard Nixon and his so-called Justice Dept but the press -- for a change -- didn't buckle. Ellsberg was targeted by Tricky Dick with various efforts to smear him and to harm him. He also faced imprisonment. Back then, fundraisers were held. Barbra Streisand, for example, sang to a group of people -- including Joni Mitchell, John Lennon, Yoko Ono and David Geffen -- present, singing their requests for donations to the defense fund and she also took requests over the phone at the event (Carl Reiner was among those calling in and making a request). Nixon kept an enemies list and Barbra ended up on it for fundraising (over $50,000 was raised from Barbra's event if I remember correctly) on behalf of Daniel Ellsberg's defense. We'll note some of Daniel Ellsberg's remarks from last night:
Thank you very much, Let me echo what you just heard, my wife, when I set out for this, said how many people do you think will be out there? I said "who knows? Half a dozen? A dozen? What will it be?" It's wonderful to see this place filled, standing room only. And I was thinking who would like to see this? And I thought of a way to do it. I was just talking an hour ago to Bradley's aunt, Deborah van Alstyne, who was possibly his relative who was closest to him, mother's sister and who's seen him several times in jail. And she did want to say -- I told her what was happening tonight -- and she said, "Let people know how much he appreciates the support thaty he's getting. It means a tremendous amount to him. He was in prison, you know, in Kuwait for a long time, a couple of months. No communication with anybody. I don't even think he was seeing military lawyers at that point. Who knows what was happening? But no news whatever. And until he got to Quantico, he had no news of what happened, how anything had been received. He didn't know how well, actually, the [New York] Times, der Spiegel, the Guardian had dealt with the early disclosuers -- which I think would probably be very important for him to know. Or the reaction to the video and so forth. So, when she sees him, it's through heavy glass with somebody listening at the side at all times -- which brings back memories of what I expected to happen to me. People have asked me why I had my children help me copy papers for a couple of nights? Seemed very strange to them and I can understand that. But there was a reason. At that point in the fall of '69, when I was copying these 7,00 pages of top secret documents, I reallly expected them to come out shortly to Senator [James Willism] Fullbright, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, within a couple of weeks, and I expected to be in prison almost surely. Oh, I'm sorry, where do you want me? Oh, sorry, okay. Okay. Do I have to be behind this [podium]? Just in the light, right? [Laughter.] Okay. Third degree here, right? I knew that what they'd be hearing then within weeks was that their father had gone crazy. Just what Bradley Manning's friends and relatives are hearing right now. And what I suppose he's getting. He's heard that I'm sure. And that he was a traitor. But that he 'snapped,' that he'd gone crazy. And I wanted my children to see before I started a lifetime, perhaps of talking to them through glass that I'd done this because I thought it was the right thing to do, in a business like way, just something that I thought had to be done. And that I hadn't gone crazy. I wanted them to see me doing it. And so it just occured to me, of course, Bradley had a technology here that I didn't have, that I'm very jealous of, I must say, if he did what he's accused of. It does imply, by the way, that the possibility of telling the truth about a policy that's reckless, criminal, murderous, disasterous, of various kinds. The power to change that by telling the truth is literally at the finger tips of hundreds, perhaps thousands of people. Just a few key strokes can actually -- the policy is vulnerable to that. They have to rely -- "they," the ones who are running this policy -- have to rely on the trustworthiness or what they call the loyalty, the faithfulness, the patriotism -- in their eyes. Of the thousand people, even more who know what's happening, but the thousand who know that its wrong and who could change it if they told the truth but they have to count on those people. And they do. And on the whole, I'm sorry to say, they're right to rely on those people keeping their mouths shut. The three of us here, you saw before, two in the army, one in the Marine corps, were all in the service. We share a number of things in common and one of them is that there were times when there were truths that we could have told but didn't. And could have made a real difference. And we've learned to be real regretful of that and to want to use our lives differently and to urge other people to do the same. And okay, it finally, when I first spoke to Deborah van Alstyne a month ago after she'd just seen him. She said he'd finally learned of his support. The Guardian article a while ago on the support that was quite good. And he'll be learning of this. I asked her whether he knew that Michael Moore was campaigning for him, was supporting. She said that she didn't know directly but that one of the lawyers had mentioned it to her so she was pretty sure he had discussed it with Bradley. And that's very good. But as I say with all this new technology in the world here, I can now get your pictures to Bradley in a matter of days because Debraorah going to see him this weekend. And it just occured to me, I have her e-mail. So those of you who wish to hide your faces because this is going over e-mail -- that means copied to NSA and the FBI and who knows who ever else. But there were 25,000 people who contributed to my trial and so I have learned to appreciate that and I have been doing fundraisers for other people every since -- never more enthusiastically than tonight. So another way to use that technology -- You may not have had much cash here, you may not even have had your checkbook with you, but at home, if you have computers, the Bradley Manning -- what is it? Dot org? BradleyMannning.org will give you a chance with Paypal to send as much as you can possibly send. And the people who are watching on the internet should now turn to your computers and don't bother watching me. It's much more important to send a contribution right now before you forget. while you have the impulse to this because it really is essential. And so here we go, I can actually send Bradley a video. Thank you for standing up for me, how about standing up for Bradley? [Cheers and applause.] Okay. Now. Great. Okay and as I say that's very good. That's virtually as important as I say of going to your computers and doing your own e-mail and getting it all to him. What are we doing? We're honoring an American hero. I'm glad that Ray [McGovern] made the point here, let's no go through locution, we don't know the facts. We don't know the facts and, in particular, as I know, it's up to the government to prove their case beyond a reaonsable doubt, and we can't hand it to them anyway. We don't know anymore than they do or less. But let's just assume that for once the army is telling the truth about what they accuse him of. [Laughter.] They're hardly the last word on any subject but maybe on this one. Whoever was the source, and let's call him Bradley Manning, deserves our thanks and deserves honor. Not everybody, of course, honors him. I actually am very happy to see this room fuli -- If not in Oakland and Berkeley, then where? But I am glad to see it. And he'll be glad to see it. But there are a lot of people who see him differently, obviously and in terms, by the way, that are not very well grounded in American history, in America principals., I was just a few days ago in New York on a show called The Dylan Ratigan Show on MSNBC and he quoted at me in his brief interview, an article by a guy Marc Thiessen who is a former George W. Bush speechwriter -- obviously deserving of indictment himself. And I'll explain why a minute. He's now a Washington Post columnist, of course. And so Ratigan quoted him saying to me, "WikiLeaks is a criminal enterprise." Well interesting that Thiessen would say that since he's just retired from a very large criminal enterprise, I would say, the George W. Bush administration. And I must say that the, let me give you a little piece of current history probably most people here don't know. Barack Obama, who said that he doesn't want to look back at the crimes -- or the alleged crimes -- of the George W. Bush administration, wants to look forward and move forward and, in effect, has decriminalized torture, a war of agression, warantless wiretapping -- obviously criminal under both the Fourth Amendment and American domestic law at that time -- years of criminal activity. Renditions, kidnappings, indefinite detention, the suspension of Habeaus Corpus in effect meaning, which most people really don't have a very clear idea of that, meaning detention without charges indefinitely. We now have a president actually who has declared the right to keep detained people indefinately that he suspects should not be out, even if they've been acquitted, he can keep them. In other words, as well as before without charges, following in the foot steps of George W. Bush in virtually all those respects. He claims that torture has ended but there is lots of evidence that it has not ended in Bagram and probably other secret sites at various places. The rendention, the kidnapping. Still. He's gone actually further than Bush in terms of open claims, the claim of the right -- through his intelligence chief at that time, Dennis Blair, who announced that the president had a hit list of American citizens and others that he felt -- that he'd given orders to kill, to assasinate, to execute, to murder abroad American citizens basically. But I just happened to read the words of the Magna Carta of 1215 today. I'd seen it before, I looked it up, but somebody else was referring to it. And the words are: "No free man shall be deprived -- shall be harmed, shall be destroyed or deprived of freedom except by a jury of his peers." In other words, this is a wiping out of rights that go back to 1215 -- almost 800 years right now. In short, in these Constitutional matters, we have an administration -- and in the foreign affairs matters, we have an administration that is a third term of George W. Bush. I'm not saying that's true in every respect. I'm not saying that the Republicans are not much, much worse. Actually they are in domestic matters. Actually Obama has not been strikingly better or different in matters of foreign affairs or Constitutional policy. In fact, we thought we were getting something here with a Constituational lawyer, a teacher of Constitutional law, Barack Obama, I haven't seen any opinions his Dept of Justice has been putting out [with] any difference in the opinion of Berkeley tenured professor John Yoo.
From across the Atlantic, support is expressed by people who knew Bradley when he lived in Wales. BBC News quotes James Kirkpatrick stating, "He is an absolute hero, anybody who is going to bring up such injustices, you've got to consider them a hero. I found out the first week he was being held and was shocked. I couldn't believe it. I felt proud of him really, whistleblowing against such controversies, it's quite a heroic thing. I was shocked but really impressed by him as well."
A number of events are planned and A.N.S.W.E.R. offers this list:
Los Angeles, California
Top of the Santa Monica Pier (Palisades Park, just north of the pier at the cannon)
Sunday, September 19, 1-3pm
Thursday, September 16, 7-9pm
Humanist Hall, 390 27th Street, Oakland CA (Between Telegraph and Broadway)
Presented by Courage to Resist, with the help of National Lawyers Guild Bay Area Military Law Panel, Veterans for Peace-Bay Area Chapter, CodePink, War Resisters League-West, Iraq Veterans Against the War-Bay Area, and BAY-Peace.
San Diego, California
Rally and film showing
Sunday, September 19, 12-2 pm
Horton Plaza, 4th & Broadway
Sponsored by Activist San Diego, San Diego Peace and Justice Coalition
San Francisco, California
March and rally
Saturday, September 18
Rally at 2pm, march at 3pm, ending at 4pm at Union Square
in front of the SF War Memorial Building, 401 Van Ness Avenue
Organized by Courage to Resist, Veterans for Peace-SF Bay Area, ANSWER Coalition, Bay Area United for Peace and Justice, and CodePink
New Haven, Connecticut
Friday September 17, 4 pm
59 Elm Street, New Haven, CT 06510. In front of Rosa DeLauro's office.
Sponsored by the Greater New Haven Peace Council
Sunday, September 19, 4 pm
In front of 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA (MIT building with the dome.)
Sponsored in part by Veterans for Peace, Chapter 9, Smedley Butler Brigade
Rally & Film Showing
Friday, September 17, 4:30-6 pm
Mayday Bookstore – 301 Cedar Avenue – Minneapolis
Thursday September 16, 5 pm
South Broadway & 2nd Street SW
Sponsored by the Southeastern Minnesota Peace Makers
Keene, New Hampshire
Keene town commons
Saturday September 18, 11:00 am
NH Peace Action, in conjunction with the Free State Project
New York City, New York
Film showing and speakers
September 16th, 7pm
St. Mary's Church, 521 West 126th Street
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Sponsored by the Oklahoma Center for Conscience
Friday, September 17, 5-6 pm
SE Corner of S. 59th and Western Avenue
Friday September 17, 5 pm
Benton Country Courthouse, Corvallis, OR, 97330
Supported by Veterans for Peace
Thursday, September 16th
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Friday, September 17, 11:30 am-1 pm
Granby St. & City Hall Ave.
Sponsored by the Norfolk Catholic Worker
Rally followed by outreach
Sunday, September 19, 11:30 am
Town of Quantico Municipal Park (River Road and 4th Avenue)
Sponsored by IVAW, Code Pink, and other area activists
Seattle/Fort Lewis, Washington
Saturday, September 18, 2-4 pm
"Freedom Bridge" and gate area at I-5 exit 122 (Madigan Hospital exit).
Sponsored by Greater Seattle Veterans For Peace (VFP 92)
Thursday, September 16, 12:00 noon
Corner of Wellesley and Division
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, September 19, 12:00 noon
U.S. Consulate, University Avenue
Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia
Speakers and cultural performances
Friday, September 17, 7-9pm
SCU Room, upstairs in the Byron Community and Cultural Centre
Last night World Can't Wait attempted an NYC web broadcast but due to problems substituted an August 1st webcast on Bradley. Elaine Brower and Debra Sweet anchored the webcast. Marcia notes Elaine: "She observed, 'In 1971 there was a very strong antiwar sentiment in the country and Nixon was frightened by the Pentagon Papers coming out. I believe that the White House is frightened because they don't want to see an anti-war movement like we had in the late sixties and early seventies'." To keep the webcast free of charge, commercials run every 20 minutes or so which can mean a break in streaming. Trina explained Debra asked people what the number one thing that needs to be carried to the general population is: "And what did the people say? My stream went to the commercial. But when the commercial was over, they were discussing Barack Obama's continuation of George W. Bush's crimes and wondering why do we support him and what's a war criminal and what does it mean when civilians get killed in war? (Debra's words.)" Ann had trouble with the stream and specifically when attempting to hear Ethan McCord speak: "I'm sure he was amazing. That's why I picked him. But I just couldn't hear what he was saying, sorry. Now there will be a DVD made of this event (to raise awareness of and money for Bradley Manning) that World Can't Wait will sell and I'm sure Ethan will be easier to understand on that because they'll probably have him plugged into the sound board. Whereas on the livestream, he's echoing and the connection is bad." Stan enjoyed Josh Steiber's remarks but disagreed with an aspect of them, "But I really think that in the movement there's been too much effort to glorify soldiers. I think Josh probably sees a lot of stuff and he speaks from that and that's great. But there's also the reality that either everyone's welcome or no one really is in which case, it's not a movement, it's a clique. I don't think he's trying to start a clique. I think he's trying to address serious problems and I believe him that he's seen these serious problems; however, I also believe there's a lot of group-think and a lot of 'let's hide behind soldiers' and other stuff like that." Kat covered Matthis Chiroux who stated, "Debra, you know me, and the type of messages I put out tend to be very direct. These things are resonating with folks, they are identifying with the truth. Which in our current situation are very radical." Ruth noted Matthis stated that people in the military he was in contact with were looking through their old videos to see if they have anything like the WikiLeaks vidoe and she quotes him stating: "We need you to hear this call to action. Whoever released this video didn't do it because they wanted to be a hero or whatever, they did it because the contents were so shocking and so disturbing." Rebecca did not enjoy Ray McGovern or McGovern's inability to call out Barack Obama while aiming 'jokes'/smears at Hillary Clinton and offered McGovern had issues: "no, cause he's a little, witty boy coward. still angry that mommy pulled him off her tits and going to take that out on every woman in the world. what a pig." Betty was so angered by McGovern's stunt that she stopped streaming and only turned it back on when Rebecca called her to say Dahr Jamail was on. Betty quotes Darh stating "I'm very excited about the WikiLeaks situation I think Julian Assange should get nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. I think it's the most important journalism this year." and "Someone put their butt on the line to get this information out there, taking huge, huge risks." Cedric and Wally offer a humor take on McGovern, focusing on a young McGovern playing football: "AS THE OPPOSING TEAM'S RUNNING BACK BARRELLED PAST HIM, YOUNG RAY-RAY MADE THE 'STRATEGIC' (COWARDLY) CHOICE TO IGNORE THE RUNNING BACK AND INSTEAD LAUNCHED A FLYING TACKLE AT 7-YEAR-OLD BOBBY MASON WHO WAS CHEERING FROM THE SIDELINES AND CONSIDERED 'SMALL FOR HIS AGE'." Isaiah wasn't planning on covering the stream but Cindy Sheehan came on and he quoted her stating, "We do have to realize that the traditional antiwar movement is mostly anti-Republican and they're not so antiwar when a Democrat is in power but Barack Obama owns the drone bombings, they've increased, they've more than tripled since he's been president." Mike also covered Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan who spoke about the weak turnout in opposition to the latest war funding. Mike outlines her points:
* Many people on the left on the so-called left on Tuesday they responded
like it was a victory because so many more Democrats voted against it this time
than last time.
* We have to decide what's the response of the so-called two-party system.
* As an antiwar movement we have to be more organized and we have to
be more outspoken now than we were when George Bush was president.
Today the DoD announced: "The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation New Dawn. Sgt. John F. Burner III, 32, of Baltimore, Md., died Sept. 16, in Iskandariya, Iraq, in a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the 63rd Signal Battalion (Expeditionary), 35th Signal Brigade, Fort Gordon, Ga. For more information media may contact the Fort Gordon public affairs office at 706-791-6001 or 706-791-6839." Add today's death to the DoD count and that's [PDF format warning] 4425 Americans who have died serving in Iraq. USF (formerly MNF) did not issue a release on the death -- which is their job, they announce deaths, DoD issues releases identifying the fallen. Yet again, USF is caught still not doing their job but they work for a president who wants to lie that the Iraq War is over (it's not) so don't look for any discipline to take place as USF continues to earn tax payer dollars while failing to do the most basic of their jobs. John Burner III is the fourth US service member to die in Iraq since Barack announced the 'end' of 'combat operations' in Iraq August 31st.
In other news of deaths and injuries, Reuters notes a Hawija bike bombing claimed 2 lives and left nine people injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed the life of 1 Ministry of Interior employee, a Baghdad roadside bombing injured two police officers, 1 Iraqi soldier shot dead in Mosul, 1 suspect killed in an Iraqi military raid in Mosul and 1 corpse discovered in Kirkuk.
Today Alsumaria TV reports that the leaders of Syria and Iran's governments -- Bashar Al Assad and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- will meet to discuss many issues including Iraq's government: "A well informed source in Damascus said last Saturday that Syria tends to nominate Syrian Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki for a second term stressing that Damascus currently wants to form an Iraqi government that encompasses all the components of the Iraqi society disregarding the candidates to Premiership." What's going on?
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted last month, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's six months and ten days with no government formed.
There Will Be War offers a timeline of Iraq which they believe illuminates the current political stalemate while Falah Mustafa Bakir (Washington Times) offers a series of questions:
However, if the situation remains at a standstill, other measures may be necessary. How long can a state hold out without a government, awaiting consensus? The lack of progress may force Iraq to take some difficult decisions to overcome this crisis and preserve the possibility of a democratic and pluralistic nation.
If all four blocs do not agree, should we consider a government formed by only three blocs? Should Iraq convene a caretaker government and hold a new election in a year's time? Should the Kurdistan Alliance itself consider identifying a compromise candidate?
If the three blocs will not budge and cannot move forward, does the bloc system any longer serve its purpose of representing the Iraqi people in a federal government? The principal blocs all contain a number of moderate parties. If the blocs are not capable of forming a government very soon, is it preferable to bring together the factions of each bloc genuinely interested in forming a government?
Last Friday, Marco Werman (The World, PRI -- link has audio and text) spoke with the New York Times' Anthony Shadid about the stalemate. Excerpt:
WERMAN: What is at stake for the US if something doesn't get sorted out with Iraq's civilian government?
SHADID: It's already embarrassing, the American government at this point,
that it's gone on as long as it has. We're talking about six months here and
the Americans they expected to have a government far before this August 31
deadline that they had set up as a turning point in this seven-year
experience there. So there is the issue of embarrassment. There's also the
issue of growing frustration in Iraq. Discontent across the board where you
think you're reaching a point where you may have the entire political system discredited. It's always struck me in [ Iraq that the country's still a lot like it
did in 2003 in some respects. And I don't want to overstate that comparison.
Back in 2003, as you have now, a country that's anxious, a country that has
an unclear political future. There's a question about American intentions
and there's a lot of ambiguity covering almost everything that goes on in
the country today. That's not to mention, of course, more practical issues. Electricity, water, sewage, lack of housing for education. It's an unsettled
place right now and it's probably going to stay that way for a little while.
Alsumaria TV reports today, "A well informed political source said that the Sadrist
bloc tends to work from within the Iraqi National Alliance in order to prevent State of
Law Coalition Leader, Nouri Al Maliki and Head of National Coalition Adel Abdul
Mahdi from winning Premiership position and aim at bringing another candidate for this position. The same source added that Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq might withdraw from the Iraqi National Alliance and form a parliamentary opposition bloc if Maliki wins
for a second term. In an interview with Alsumaria News the source uttered that the
Sadrist Bloc aims at complicating choosing a candidate for Premiership by
nominating Adel Abdul Mahdi which leads to undermining the candidature of both
Maliki and Abdul Mahdi because there is a mutual rejection between the two parties."
UPI adds, "Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, himself a candidate for prime
minister, said he was close to securing backing from a Shiite political alliance but
was blocked by former Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari." And, if DPA is correct,
that alliance might have been Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc, "Former prime minister Iyad
Allawi's Sunni-backed bloc on Friday backed Adel Abdul-Mahdi, Iraq's Shiite vice-president, to form a government, a blow to efforts by Shiite incumbent Premier Nuri
al-Maliki's to form a ruling coalition." UPI also reports that, "Aliya Nusseif, a key
figure in the secular Iraqiya slate, told the Voices of Iraq news agency that there
was an 'initial agreement' to give Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi the position
of prime minister and Iraqiya leader Iyad Allawi the position of president. A member
of a Kurdish alliance would get the position of the speaker of parliament."
Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) adds, "Ayad Allawi, who led his secularist Iraqiya bloc
to the largest plurality in the election despite the notable handicap of having a
number of its members banned by the ruling party, is said to be tapped as the
next president replacing Jalal Talabani. The Kurdistan Alliance would get the
Turning to the US, Senator Daniel Akaka is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and his office notes:
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) introduced a bill to extend the age limit for coverage of veterans' dependents through the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA) to the level set by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
"Thanks to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, families with private health insurance coverage can keep their children on their plans
until age 26. Surely coverage for veterans' family members in need
should meet this new national standard," said Senator Akaka.
CHAMPVA was established in 1973 to provide health care services to dependents and survivors of certain veterans. CHAMPVA enrollment
has grown over the years, and now covers over 336,000 unique
beneficiaries. Under the current law, dependent children lose eligibility
for CHAMPVA at 23-years-old if they are full-time students, or 18-years-
old if they are not.
To read Senator Akaka's introductory remarks and the text of the bill (S. 3801) in the Congressional Record, click here: LINK
Yesterday's snapshot mentions Libbyliberal's post a Corrente but does't include a link. My apologies. And I noted the wisdom of her post here.
TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, Jeanne Cummings (Politico), John Dickerson (CBS News, Slate) and John Harwood (New York Times, CNBC) join Gwen around the table while Dan Balz (Washington Post) files a report from Des Moines on the speech Sarah Palin makes to Iowa's GOP. Gwen now has a weekly column at Washington Week and the current one is "Who Exactly Are the Bums?" This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Debra Carnahan, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Leslie Sanchez and Tara Setmayer on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And this week's To The Contrary online extra is on college tuition -- its cost and its worth is debated. Need To Know is PBS' new program covering current events. This week's hour long broadcast airs Fridays on most PBS stations -- but check local listings -- and it explores US combat in Afghanistan, the US role in institutionalizing Afghan corruption; abuse and mistreatment of US seniors at home-based senior centers, Jon Meacham discussing "superlativism" and more. Turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
60 Minutes, Sunday, Sept. 19, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.