Friday, November 23, 2007

PBS's NOW covers the Alaska scandal

On Friday, November 23 at 8:30 pm (check local listings) NOW shines a bright light on the scandalous connection between VECO Corporation -- an Alaska-based oil services company -- and Alaska's old-boy Republican network. Two state legislators have been convicted in Federal court for accepting bribes from VECO, while one more awaits trial. The FBI has video and audio evidence that reveal VECO executives shockingly handing out cash to those legislators in exchange for promises to roll back a tax on the oil industry. But that may only be the tip of the oily iceberg. NOW's Maria Hinojosa learns that dozens more lawmakers are being eyed in the growing scandal, including one of the country's most powerful politicians, Alaska U.S. Senator Ted Stevens. NOW investigates the bribes, the connections to big oil and the payoffs to obtain friendly tax policies. The NOW website at offers a web-exclusive report detailing how the oil and gas industry navigated Washington power structures during the past eight years. Using campaign contribution and lobbying data, the article connects the dots between the industry's biggest spenders and the favorable policy outcomes they received. The report also exposes the connections between Big Oil and 2008 Presidential candidates.

The above is what will be on PBS' NOW with David Brancaccio tonight. This is a breezy post. Don't expect a great deal from me. However, there will be illustrations. First up, Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Lame Duck Turkey".


If you didn't already have something to be thankful for this week, Isaiah provides you with it. I had a very nice Thanksgiving with much to be thankful for. One thing this week that I was thankful for was "John Edwards (Ava and C.I.)" which went up here Wednesday. Ava and C.I. filled in and I thank them for that. They filled in for Mike as well and we both got the same post which Ava and C.I. then apologized for. No apology necessary. We had just arrived at C.I.'s when they pulled up and it was obvious they were extremely tired. That's why, in fact, they didn't go out to eat with all of us. They said they'd knock out something but weren't sure what. They'd been on the road Wednesday talking about the illegal war with various groups and you could tell they were exhausted. We got back and they said, "We put a disclosure in saying we were speaking only for ourselves." No need. I knew that before I heard about it (Mike read it and then read parts of it to us on Wednesday night, I read it in full a little while ago). It's a wonderful post.

Dropping back to Sunday, Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Canada in Distress" is below.


Remember you can use the link or click on the image for a larger version. If I post them "medium" here, it throws off the website. The illustration is of Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey and I'm going to copy C.I.'s caption because Isaiah wanted it noted at The Common Ills:
"Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts 'Canada in Distress.' The illustration depicts the Canadian flag upside down dripping two tears. In the tears are US war resisters Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey whose appeal the Canadian Supreme Court refused to hear. Isaiah wanted it noted that both the War Resisters Support Campaign and Courage to Resist have campaigns to lobby the Canadian Parliament to step up." He wanted to weigh in on Hinzman and Hughey and to be sure that everyone wasn't expecting a Sunday morning laugh, he asked C.I. to post it Sunday evening. I think it's a wonderful illustrated editorial.

Now I'm just going to go over some of C.I.'s entries from yesterday and today. Many people are off today (not a complaint, I had my two days off as well). Thursday morning, "The 'Great Return': Bussed in & bought" went up. It is amazing and the hard hitting and logical response we all expect from C.I. There has been no mass migration back to Iraq or back to homes in Iraq (the latter for the internally displaced) but the limited trickle? The Iraqi government has been bussing in Iraqi refugees from Syria and it's been paying them to return. That's reality and that's grossly offensive. Over four million refugees (internal and external) and the Iraqi government (which has oil revenues of at least $20 billion a year) won't do a damn thing for them. But now that they al-Maliki needs to hold on to his puppet-power, the government opens the pocket book to pay them to return. Syria and Jordan were two of the hardest hit countries in terms of refugees relocating outside of Iraq and the Iraqi government has offered the governments no assistance. al-Maliki needs the appearance of an accomplishment because he's achieved nothing and, before the latest spin, the US Congress was making strong noises about his lack of accomplishments.

C.I.'s "Other Items" mainly addressed US war resisters and also included a critique of All Things Media Big and Small. Thursday night, "And the war drags on . . ." noted Harry Belafonte has been awarded and, at Keesha's request, returned to Katrina vanden Heuvel's shameful attempt to get mileage out of attacking Belafonte. It also includes the news that The Nation has done away with their "IRAQ" folder/heading on the main page of their website and things such as Jeremy Scahill's latest on Blackwater are instead filed under "MORE POLITICS." Has a weekly ever done so little to call out an illegal war? It is doubtful. The magazine's shoddy performance coincides with the emergence of vanden Heuvel to the post of publisher. There is a reason for that. It's not limited to the fact that she doesn't give a damn about the illegal war. It also includes that she is like a mocking bird darting from topic to topic.

"NYT: The Fraterist Gordo" went up this morning and C.I.'s taking on the nonsense dripping off of Michael Gordon that the paper scoops up and places on the front page. Here's a question: why are they able to resell the illegal war? Here's your answer: (1) Disinterest in the illegal war in general on the part of the allegedly independent press. (2) Fraidy cats who lack the guts to stand up and that is due in part to the fact that they lack the knowledge base to call out the lies. So they ignore it or they repeat the spin. They never directly take it on. That means we can expect the illegal war to continue to drag on. "Other Items" went up this morning as well and C.I. was mainly attempting to read as many e-mails from community members and visitors as possible.

So that's it for me.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, November 23, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, the mainstream press continues to issue spin, the so-called 'coalition of the willing' receives notice that one member is leaving the club, and more.

Starting with war resistance.
Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey are US war resisters in Canada who have sought refugee status. That status was denied and Canada's Supreme Court refused to hear the appeals to that decision. Matt Mernagh (Canada's NOW magazine) reports the status on legislative efforts: the leaders of Canada's Liberal party are cowards. Instead of addressing the situation, they're attempting to buy time by scheduling a hearing. Mernagh notes that war resisters will be allowed to testify at the hearings and quotes war resister Phil McDowell declaring, "We'll give them an understanding of what we're doing here. I think we can make a great case." Dee Knight (Workers World) ties the refusal by the Canadian Supreme Court with other recent actions and decisions and notes, "In the U.S., the organization Courage to Resist has organized a letter-writing campaign to Canadian government officials. The letter asks them "to make a provisionfor sanctuary" for U.S. war resisters, and cites Vietnam-era Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's statement that "Canada should be a refuge from militarism." (To sign, go to Courage to Resist.)"

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb,
Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Carla Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).

The voice of war resister Camilo Mejia is featured in Rebel Voices -- playing now through December 16th at
Culture Project and based on Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove's best-selling book Voices of a People's History of the United States. It features dramatic readings of historical voices such as war resister Mejia, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Malcom X and others will be featured. Musician Allison Mooerer will head the permanent cast while those confirmed to be performing on selected nights are Ally Sheedy (actress and poet, best known for films such as High Art, The Breakfast Club, Maid to Order, the two Short Circuit films, St. Elmo's Fire, War Games, and, along with Nicky Katt, has good buzz on the forthcoming Harold), Eve Ensler who wrote the theater classic The Vagina Monologues (no, it's not too soon to call that a classic), actor David Strathaim (L.A. Confidential, The Firm, Bob Roberts, Dolores Claiborne and The Bourne Ultimatum), actor and playwright Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride, Clueless -- film and TV series, Gregory and Chicken Little), actress Lili Taylor (Dogfight, Shortcuts, Say Anything, Household Saints, I Shot Andy Warhol, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, State of Mind) and actor, director and activist Danny Glover (The Color Purple, Beloved, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Rainmaker, Places In The Heart, Dreamgirls, Shooter and who recently appeared on Democracy Now! addressing the US militarization of Africa) The directors are Will Pomerantz and Rob Urbinati with Urbinati collaborating with Zinn and Arnove on the play. Tickets are $21 for previews and $41 for regular performances (beginning with the Nov. 18th opening night). The theater is located at 55 Mercer Street and tickets can be purchased there, over the phone (212-352-3101) or online here and here. More information can be found at Culture Project.

IVAW is organizing a March 2008 DC event:

In 1971, over one hundred members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War gathered in Detroit to share their stories with America. Atrocities like the My Lai massacre had ignited popular opposition to the war, but political and military leaders insisted that such crimes were isolated exceptions. The members of VVAW knew differently.
Over three days in January, these soldiers testified on the systematic brutality they had seen visited upon the people of Vietnam. They called it the Winter Soldier investigation, after Thomas Paine's famous admonishing of the "summer soldier" who shirks his duty during difficult times. In a time of war and lies, the veterans who gathered in Detroit knew it was their duty to tell the truth.
Over thirty years later, we find ourselves faced with a new war. But the lies are the same. Once again, American troops are sinking into increasingly bloody occupations. Once again, war crimes in places like Haditha, Fallujah, and Abu Ghraib have turned the public against the war. Once again, politicians and generals are blaming "a few bad apples" instead of examining the military policies that have destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan.
Once again, our country needs Winter Soldiers.
In March of 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will gather in our nation's capital to break the silence and hold our leaders accountable for these wars. We hope you'll join us, because yours is a story that every American needs to hear.
Click here to sign a statement of support for Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan

March 13th through 15th are the dates for the Winter Soldier Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation.

On Thursday, NPR's Melissa Block and Guy Raz (All Things Considered) reported that the US military was saying that violence in Iraq had been reduced. Block and Raz are both self-effacing and not interested in giving credit to their peers. The reality is the US military said it and then the neutered and spaded press repeated it over and over -- including Block and Raz. Truth didn't matter. Actual reporting didn't matter. It only mattered that they all file the claim and then -- if they hadn't already strained themselves taking down dictation -- they grab onto some anectdotal 'evidence' (which Centcom has been happily supplying) and offer that as proof. From the Abbey of Non-think, St. Thomas filed in the New York Times this morning the absurd claim that, "It's clear that the surge by US troops has really dampened violence in Iraq." Never one to be left out on a misinformation campaign, the paper's own War pornographer Michael Gordon (Judith Miller's co-writer on several of the more fictious 'reports') was given room to prance around naked on the front page shreiking "violence in Iraq on the decline"! And I thought that was his career that was on the decline? Gordo and St. Thomas and all the other cowardly peers missed the fact that Thursday saw at least 54 deaths reported in Iraq with reports of over 29 injured. And that doesn't Cara Buckley (New York Times) reporting today on an attack on Hawr Rajab village that claimed the lives of "at least 11 people" with the attackers wearing the uniforms of either the Iraqi military or the US collaborating Awakening Council. That would take the 54 to 65 dead. However the number is higher and AFP's reporting suggests that Buckley's referring to one incident but using the numbers from another. AFP reports that there was an attack in Hawr Rajab but it killed 3 Iraqi soldiers and 10 citizens while 11 died in another attack -- an attack on the village of Al-Kulaiyah. Regardless of where the attacks took place, that's another thirteen bringing Thursday's total to 78 dead. At least 78 deaths that were reported. And the press organs sends their dancing monkeys out to entertain with lies of safety. Dance, little monkeys, dance, prove that training didn't go to waste.

Staying on the topic of lies there's
The Myth of the Great Return. Things are so safe in Iraq, that people are eager to return. That's the lie anyway. BBC tried to enlist and do their part this week. Like a battered woman confronted by the stares of her neighbor, they repeated the lies they were told to, that a large number of Iraqis were returning to Iraq. They used the numbers the puppet government of Iraq fed them. They didn't try to verify the numbers. Maybe because the numbers can't be verified and they figured, "Why bother?" But buried in their own 'reporting' were certain uncomfortable realities. The Iraqi government is sending buses into Syria to bring Iraqis back and paying them to return. That explains the small trickle. But don't let the press off the hook because desperate though the refugees may be, if the media hadn't popularized the lie of 'safety' in Iraq, some might have elected not to return. The families of any who die should closely scrutinize the reports and columns to determine whether they have a case for litigation. The United Nations today issued a statement condemning the claims which noted, "UNHCR does not believe that the time has come to promote, organize or encourage returns. That would be possible only when proper return conditions are in place -- including material and legal support and physical safety. Presently, there is no sign of any large-scale return to Iraq as the security situation in many parts of the country remains volatile and unpredictable." Repeating from the statement "no sign of any large-scale return to Iraq".

Patrick Martin (WSWS) zooms in on the lies of the New York Times regarding the alleged 'Great Return': "A front-page report in Tuesday's New York Times gave the newspaper's stamp of approval to the Bush administration's policy in Iraq. The report, spread across four columns under the headline, 'Baghdad's Weary Start to Exhale as Security Improves,' described improving conditions of life and security in the war-torn Dora neighborhood in southern Baghdad, portraying it as the outcome of the massive US military buildup in the Iraqi capital. The Times report consists of a single anecdotal account--the story of one Shiite family who fled sectarian violence in Dora and has now returned--buttressed by figures supplied by the US military and the Iraqi regime, showing a decline in violent attacks from the highs recorded in the early part of this year. . . . After laying it on thick in this fashion, the Times is compelled to admit that the Shiite family profiled is more the exception than the rule. It describes the condition of a second Shiite family, the Nidhals, who fled violence in the west Baghdad neighborhood of Ghazaliya and have not returned because a Sunni family now occupies their home. . . . Why then the rose-colored portrayal of conditions in the Iraqi capital, prominently displayed in the most important American newspaper? Clearly what is involved here is a political adaptation by the Times, the most influential voice of official liberalism, to the Bush administration's policies in Iraq."
Operation Happy Talk never ends, it's just one wave after another. In the real world . . .


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Salahuddin roadside bombing that left four police officers wounded, a Mosul truck bombing targeting an Al-Qayara bridge in which "[t]wo of the bridge pillars" were destroyed, 2 Mosul car bombings that claimed 9 lives and left twenty-one wounded and a Baghdad roadside bombing on a pet market that claimed the lives of at least 13 people with fifty-seven more wounded. CNN puts the wounded toll at fifty-eight. Stephen Farrell (New York Times) reports, "The explosion left headless bodies, dead birds and shattered fish tanks around the Ghazil animal market in east Baghdad, where many families of all sects visit one of the most popular attractions in the city on the Muslim day of prayer." Paul Tait (Reuters) calls it the worst attack in Baghdad since car bombings on September 26th and notes, "Body parts were strewn among bird carcasses as bystanders piled victims into carts and rushed them to ambulances after the blast at the crowded Ghazil pet market. Police said four policemen were among the wounded." Reuters notes a Jurf Al Sakhar car bombing that killed 2 people visiting a mosque and injured two others. That's at least 24 reported dead today with at least eight-five wounded.


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that yesterday a "husband and wife" team of journalists for Al-Hayatt were shot at while traveling in their car but survived unharmed while today a boys school in Diyala was where a security "guard and his wife" were beheaded because "their two daughters are not following the Islamic laws." Reuters reports the beheadings differently: "Three suspected al Qaeda militans, including two sisters, beheaded their uncle and his wife forcing the couple's children to watch, Iraqi police said on Friday. The militans considered that school guard Youssef al-Hayali was an infidel because he did not pray and wore western-style trousers, they told police interrogators after being arrested in Diyala province northwest of Baghdad. The three cousnins executed Ayali and his wife Zeinab Kamel at the all-boys school in Jalawlah in Diyala province, village police chief Captain Ahmed Khalifa said." Reuters notes that yesterday "a doctor who was working with the US military" was shot dead in Kut.

That's two dead today (other reports were from yesterday but reported today).


Reuters notes "the manager of a grain company in Dhi Qar province" was kidnapped today.


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 6 corpses were discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes 3 corpses discovered in Dhuluiya.

That's at least 9 corpses reported found today. Add it to the previous figures and you have 35 reported dead so far today.

Free Bilal Huessein -- the Pulitzer Prize award winning photo journalist who has been imprisoned by the US military since April 12, 2006. AP reports, "A media watchdog on Thursday urged the U.S. military to show good cause for the detention [of] an Associated Press photographer in Iraq, and described his incarceration as 'unjust.' Military officials have alleged that Bilal Hussein, who has been detained for 19 months, had links to terrorist groups but are refusing to disclose what evidence or accusations would be presented. An AP investigation of the case, made public Wednesday, shows no support for allegations that Hussein, 36, took part in insurgent activities or bomb-making, and few of the images he provided deal directly with Iraqi insurgents. In a statement, Johann P. Fritz, director of the Vienna-based International Press Institute, said that the only grounds for Hussein's detention appeared to be the suspicion that he committed an offense. The burden of proof lies with the U.S. military to prove Hussein's guilt, Fritz said, adding it was fundamental to any criminal system that those holding the accused show good cause as to why they arrested him. This, he added, should then be tested in an independent court." David Crary (AP) reported on the AP investigation noting that, "Evidence and testimony collected by the AP shows no support for allegations that Bilal Hussein took part in insurgent activities or bomb-making, and few of the images he provided dealt directly with Iraqi insurgents" and then quotes from the fifty-page investigative report, "compiled last spring by lawyer and former federal prosecutor Paul Gardephe," noting, "Despite the fact that Hussein has not been interrogated since May 2006, allegations have been dropped or modified over time, and new claims added, all without any explanation. . . . The best evidence of how Hussein conducted himself as a journalist working for AP is the extensive photographic record. There is no evidence -- in nearly a thousand photographs taken over the 20-month period -- that his activities ever strayed from those of a legitimate journalist." The fifty-page investigative report can be read in full here (and it's not PDF format so there shouldn't be any problems for anyone attempting to read it). Bilal's 'crime' was documenting reality at a time when other trained (or 'trained') journalists were happy to supply fluff and stenography.

Ali al-Fadhily (IPS) continues to report reality from Iraq and notes that the true escalation of the year was the money the US tossed around to thugs and militias creating the roots for warlords (similar to the 'success' that is Afghanistan) and quotes Iraqi historian Wayil Hikmet explaining, "It is said in the Arab world that if thieves were not seen while stealing, they would be seen while dividing the loot. That is what goes for the accelerating collapse of the Iraqi political system that was made in the USA. The thieves of the Green Zone are now giving me and my colleagues good material to write down for the coming generations." and
Lukman Jassim explaining why the American-imposed 'parternship' of Abdul Aziz Hakim's Supreme Islamic Council in Iraq and Mutqtada al-Sadr's Sadr Movement will not work, "Hakim and Muqtada were brought to the scene by the Americans who employed the two ambitious clerics in order to fight side by side against any Iraqi resistance. But it is well known in Iraq that the two groups cannot put up with each other because of the historic disputes between their fathers and grandfathers and the conflict between them over power in Iraq. It was another American mistake."

Meanwhile the 'alleged' coalition continues to shrink.
Press TV reports Donald Tusk, new prime minister, has declared Poland will be withdrawing from Iraq: "In a year's time, I will tell you here in parliament that our military mission in Iraq is over."

jeremy hinzmanbrandon hughey