CELEBRITY IN CHEIF BARRY O WASTED 2009 AND A LOT OF EASY PRESS ON PUSHING FOR THE GIFT TO THE INSURANCE LOBBY KNOWN AS OBAMACARE. HE FAILED TO WORK ON THE ECONOMY OR END THE WARS BUT HE PUSHED HARD ON TAKING AWAY AMERICANS RIGHT TO BUY INSURANCE AND FORCING THEM TO BUY INSURANCE.
THEN CAME 2010 WHEN, EVEN THOUGH THE PEOPLE DIDN'T WANT HIS CRAP (THEY WANTED SINGLE PAYER, UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE), BARRY O INSISTED ON SLINGING HIS TIRED ASS FOR THE INSURANCE LOBBY AGAIN AND OBAMACARE WAS RAMMED THROUGH.
IT REMAINS IMMENSELY UNPOPULAR, SO MUCH SO THAT HE WASTED TIME IN LAST NIGHT'S STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS DEFENDING IT AGAIN.
SOMEWHERE BEFORE THIS MOMENT, NATURAL LEADERS WOULD HAVE BOUGHT A CLUE.
FROM THE TCI WIRE:
Last night Hari Sreenivsan (PBS' NewsHour, link has text, audio and video) noted, "At least 26 people died in Iraq today when twin car bombs targeted Shiite pilgrims south of Baghdad. The blasts occurred just outside Karbala, where annual religious rituals were being held. Some 75 people were wounded. A recent surge in violence has claimed the lives of more than 170 people in Iraq in just the last week." In this morning's New York Times, John Leland adds, "American and Iraqi security forces have regularly reported discovering collaborations between former Baathists and Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a Sunni extremist group, though the two groups are radically different in their orientations and goals. Recently Lt. Gen. Robert W. Cone, second in command of American forces in Iraq, said he had seen little evidence of such collaboration, though some Baathists might work for Al Qaeda for money."
Despite the violence, Abdelamir Hanoun (AFP) reports Shi'ite pilgrims poured into Karbala today, "Arbaeen marks 40 days after the Ashura anniversary commemorating the slaying of Imam Hussein, one of Shiite Islam's most revered figures, by the armies of the caliph Yazid in 680 AD. Throngs of mourners overflowed Hussein's shrine in Karbala, demonstrating their ritual guilt and remorse at not defending him by beating their heads and chests in rituals of self-flagellation. Sad songs blared from louspeakers throughout the city and black flags fluttered alongside pictures of Hussein and his half-brother Imam Abbas, both of whom are buried in the city." Muhanad Mohammed, Ahmed Rasheed, Jim Loney, Michael Christie and Tim Pearce (Reuters) quote several pilgrims including 57-year-old Abdul-Khaliq al-Hathal who states, "It's my first visit . . . and I feel stunned by the vision of a sea of pilgrims. I can't say I'm not afraid, but how long should we be deprived of practicing our rituals?" 38-year-old Aqeel Fadhil states, "I'm happy to finish the rituals and I'm not afraid at all because when I left Baghdad I was expecting death at any moment, but that would never deter me." Alsumaria TV notes, "Iraqi Forces tightened security in the city of Karbala to protect pilgrims coming from inside Iraq, Arab and Islamic countries. The annual Arbain pilgrimage draws hundreds of thousands of Shiite Muslims from Iraq, neighboring Iran and other Shiite communities in the Muslim world." Nabil al-Haidari (Iraqhurr.org) reports this year's pilgrimage saw a marked increase in the number of participants and that the estimates from locals on the number of visitors was ten milliong with approximately 300,000 being non-Iraqis. England's Press and Journal notes that in the wake of this week and last week's violence, "Followers of anti-US Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who have been blamed for some of the worst sectarian violence in past years, criticised Mr al Maliki for not naming new defence, interior and national security ministers. Mr al Maliki formed a new government on December 21 after months of deadlock but has said he needs more time to find security ministers who are apolitical. He meantimes controls the ministries."
He controls a great deal more. Over the weekend, Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) reported that the easily manipulated court system in Iraq had again bended to Nouri al-Maliki's will in what some are terming a "coup" as independent agencies -- such as the Independent Higher Electoral Commission, the High Commission for Human Rights and the Central Bank of Iraq -- put under the control of Parliament by the country's Constitution are being turned over to Nouri by the Supreme Court. Ned Parker and Salar Jaff (Los Angeles Times) quoted opposition group Iraqiya's statement, "The decision of the federal court to connect the independent boards to the council of ministers directly instead of the parliament . . . is considered as a coupl against democracy." Prashant Rao (AFP) reports today, "Several of the agencies affected have already criticised the supreme court ruling, noting it harms their non-partisan reputation, while opponents of the decision have said it was a move by the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to consolidate power. Among the most prominent critics of the move was central bank governor Sinan al-Shebibi, who warned on Tuesday that the ruling threatened Baghdad's assets overseas." AFP explains al-Shebbi is arguing that tying the Central Bank to Nouri al-Maliki, as opposed to allowing it to be an independent body, might lead to claims and/or seizures from Iraq's creditors -- "a host of potential claims, dating from the 1991 Gulf War, from several countries and many businesses and individuals" in five months when it no longer has the United Nations Security Council to protect the monies. Alsumaria TV notes that the Central Bank has requested "the Supreme Court [. . .] issue a second explanatory ruling that clarifies its first ruling placing it under the supervision of the cabinet, and not of parliament." Shashank Bengali and Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) note, "The controversy illustrates the widespread anxiety over Maliki's tendencies toward authoritarian rule, two months into his second term, even after he unveiled a Cabinet last month that includes members of rival parties. It underscores the fragility of Iraq's democratic institutions less than a year before U.S. troops are to complete their withdrawal." And they quote Judge Qassim al Aboudi (and Independent High Electoral Commission member) stating, "The move has no legal basis. This will have very grave consequences for the course of democracy in this country." Liz Sly (Washington Post) explains, "The ruling, sought by Maliki in an unpublicized case brought in December and posted without fanfare on the court's Web site late last week, went largely unnoticed for several days because it coincided with a major Shiite holiday. But as the holiday winds down, opposition is building, with critics denouncing the ruling as further evidence that Maliki, a Shiite, is bent on consolidating power at the expense of democratic institutions." And Nizar Latif and Phil Sands (The National) provide this perspective:
Since starting his second term as prime minister last month, Mr al Maliki already had unprecedented personal control over the ministry of defence, ministry of interior and ministry of national security. After this latest move, he is now also in charge of overseeing how elections are run in Iraq, how the central bank allocates funds and how human rights abuses and corruption inside his government are to be investigated.
Civil servants as well as Mr al Maliki's political opponents - and even some of his allies - have reacted with alarm, saying Iraq's fledgling democracy may have been fatally undermined.
"It's a coup," said Leyla Khafaji, a National Alliance MP, part of the coalition that Mr al Maliki heads. "How can you have a working democracy if the institutions monitoring the government are under government control?
"From this moment onwards, we cannot know if elections will be fair and independent, and if the integrity commission answers to the government, how will it fight the legions of corruption that stand behind that government?"
In addition, Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reported that Nouri's Baghdad Brigade "is holding detainnes in miserable conditions for months at a time" at Camp Honor. Khalid Walid (Iraqhurr.org) reports that the Deupty Minister of Justice, Busho Ibrahim, continues to deny the charges of abuse and mistreatment including during an interview with Radio Free Iraq. He insists they are being dealt with a timely and fair manner and that their families and attorneys can visit them in the prison within the Green Zone but Walid notes that just to get into the Green Zone you have to have special identification and this can prevent many from entering which has led human rights activists such as Hassan Shaaban to argue that the prison needs to be moved outside the Green Zone.
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