Friday, July 03, 2009

Sexist Melinda Henneberger embraces her own

What a proud day for failed mainstream media journalist Melinda Henneberger. At her hideous site, this is a typical comment to her latest 'article' on Sarah Palin:

Vaughn D. Gale
6:32PM Jul 3rd 2009
NOT!!!! Anyone who says something like that is GIVING HER 10 POINTS for SNATCH AND SKIN COLOR YOU RACIST!!!

What a proud moment for Melinda. Sweet Melinda, so very concerned that women be treated with respect, right?


It's also cute the way she captures Sarah Palin's remarks. Like many people, Palin starts her sentences with "and." I don't. It's a personal pet peave of mine and, if you searched this journal for the last three years, I would be surprised I would be surprised if you found more than one sentence of mine which started with "And." (I have no problem with others doing it. I just had a teacher who would hit us with a ruler if we started a sentence with "and" -- I really mean hit us with a ruler. So I do not start a sentence with "and.") Instead of allowing that, Melinda runs everything together to make it appear Palin makes no sense.

It really is interesting to look back on how the press attacks and fixes.

Barack Obama is a lousy speaker. Yet until Ava and C.I. regularly started hitting on his stumbling and stammers and uh-uh-uhs, it really wasn't noted. The press was happy to cover for him and they continue to do so. They not only leave out words he says (such as when he packs more than one verb into a sentence), they smooth over his words while putting quotation marks around it, pretending he actually said that.

They did the same thing for George W. Bush.

It is always interesting to see who the press decides to serve and, pay attention, it's never the public.

It's also not really a Republican/Democrat split. They have their favorites and pets on both sides. You can usually trace it down to who is enslaved to the corporations -- both the press and the politicians.

So they love Bush and they love Obama. They love any liar who declares war on the people.

They're not in the business of informing. They're in the business of trickery and deceit.

What a proud day for Melinda.

Not only does she expose her own hatred for women, she encourages her 'readers' to attack women for the 'crime' of being women.

The quote at the top is disgusting but, please note, it's one of the milder ones Melinda's attracted.

Again, what a proud day for her.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, July 3, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Joe Biden is in Iraq, so are land mines and the UN is drawing attention to the crisis, al-Sadr followers protest Biden, and more.

"Biden has come here to divide Iraq according to his plan." Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Iraq
yesterday and among today's activities is a protest of his visit by supporters of Moqtada al-Sadr. Andrew Quinn and Sattar Rahim (Reuters) report al-Sadr supporters marched in Baghdad and remarks from al-Sadr (including "Biden has come here to divide Iraq according to his plan") were read aloud to the crowd. The remark by al-Sadr refers to Biden's support for a federation of three autonomous areas in Iraq: Shia, Sunni and Kurd. That plan is among the reasons Biden has become the point-person for the administration on Iraq because the Kurds are increasingly unhappy with the US and increasingly vocal about what they see as US abandonment of their interests and needs. Quinn and Rahim note that al-Sadr's supporters were vocal as well, chanting "down, down USA" while burning US flags during their protest. Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports the Kurds aren't the only ones worrying that Iraq has been abandoned and she quotes Hoyshar Zebari, Iraq's Foreign Minister, stating, "My message to them [US] is . . . you lost Afghanistan in 2001, 2002, and 2003 because you turned your attention to Iraq from Afghanistan -- now you are redirecting your attentions of Afghanistan and if you disengage with Iraq, it could be another failure. The situation is not that solid." Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Timothy Williams (New York Times) quote Biden declaring he is there to ask: "What is their plan to resolve the real differences that exist?" Mark Silva (Chicago Tribune) quotes Biden stating, "The reason I came is the president wants focus within the White House on the implementation of our administration's plan to both draw down troops in Iraq and also to promote a political settlement on unresolved issues from boundary disputes to the oil law."
Alsumaria notes it is is a three-day visit and that the vice president "arrived to Baghdad Airport amidst a sand storm which prevented him from conducting a scheduled visit to the US Embassy." The White House offers three photos of the arrival and Biden being greeted by Zebari and the top US commander in Iraq Gen Ray Odierno. Thomas M. Defrank (New York Daily News) reports Biden had breakfast with son Beau. Delware's WDEL has an audio report here. Beau Biden is the Attorney General for the state of Delaware and serving in Iraq as a captain in Delaware's Army National Guard. Biden's the first child of a president or vice president to serve in this decade's Iraq War. (The 2008 Republican presidential ticket had two candidates with children serving in Iraq. US Senator John McCain's son Jimmy served in Iraq. Governor Sarah Palin's son Track is serving in Iraq.) Despite George W. Bush sending other people's children into harm's way, neither of his daughters served in his illegal war of choice. Nor did Mary or Deferment Cheney, Dick Cheney's daughters, serve.

Taking a sidebar on Dick Cheney, for those who have forgotten, retired Ambassador Joe Wilson was sent by the CIA to Nigeria to vet accusations that Saddam Hussein (then president of Iraq) was attempting to obtain yellow-cake uranium from the country. Wilson found no evidence to support the claims. Despite that investigation, the false assertion began working its way into cases for the illegal war made by the Bush administration and Bully Boy Bush himself would say that they'd recently learned Saddam attempted to obtain yellow-cake uranium from Africa. Was that Nigeria?Wilson, at that point didn't know, and attempted to find out. Maybe Saddam had tried with another African country? Nope. It was Nigeria. The administration was lying.What do you do?Wilson began warning reporters and then began speaking out publicly.In retaliation, the administration that LIED and attacked. This was their pattern repeatedly. When former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill went public with issues, the administration attacked him and the press -- hey, David Gregory -- ran with the administration's lies and presented them as fact. In O'Neill's case, he was being accused of stealing government information on discs. Gregory stood on camera, for Today, waiving a copy of Ron Suskind's The Price of Loyalty and repeating the White House charges with a who-knows-what-really-happened spin. Apparently the only one who could know reality would be the non-idiots who knew to read the introduction of a book before repeating baseless charges because the discs are covered in the intro. (As was so often the case on Today, Katie Couric would have to grab the mop and clean up for her co-workers the following day.)Now they were going after Joe Wilson.And it wasn't enough to go after Joe Wilson because this was a petty, mafia-like administration. They didn't just go after Wilson, they went after his wife and began outing her to the press as a CIA agent until they found some one (Robert Novak) willing to print their tale.Valerie Plame was an undercover CIA agent and her cover was blown by the government she worked for.Thanks to the efforts of George H.W. Bush and his administration, what had just taken place was a crime. Not for reporters, but for government officials or workers involved in the outing.Dick Cheney's right-hand I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby ended up convicted from the investigation. Many thought and hoped others would be as well. That was not the case. It was hoped that with a new administration, Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson would have the support of the government on their side as they attempted to discover what had happened to them.That has not been the case. "Status quo you can believe in" is the Obama administration's slogan and they've done everything they can to prevent the truth from coming out.R. Jeffrey Smith's "
New Evidence Cheney Swayed Reaction to Leak" (Washington Post) takes you through the latest that's emerged as Barry O's Justice Dept argues the truth must be buried. One of their claims is that to allow Cheney's testimony during the Plamegate investigation to be known would prevent other vice presidents from offering testimony to a criminal investigation. Uh, no, it wouldn't. And if testimony means anything, it means that it's not buried out of fear of what might happened some day.Barack's administration is not open, it's not trying to be open and is not attempting to put the US back on balance. It is attempting to continue all the abuses from the Bush administration. And it gets a lot of help from a cowardly Congress. (It's noted in the article that Congress once fought the Bush White House to make Cheney's testimony public. Not noted in the article is that any member of Congress could make Cheney's testimony public on the House or Senate floor.)

Back to Iraq, Biden is not the only official visiting Iraq.
Alsumaria reports that France's Prime Minister Francois Fillon met with Nouri al-Maliki and Jalal Talabani today with Fillon and Maliki doing a joint-press conference at Baghdad International Airport ". . . Fillon pointed out that Iraq is on the right track. No one should be worried over Iraq redress for it intends to cooperate with its neighbor and it constitutes an intergral part of the region's stability. France undertakes to help Iraq to reach stability as soon as possible, to resolve conflicts with its neighbor and to get fast result, Fillon said. He also added that France takes upon itself assisting Iraq to emancipate from international sanctions which hinder development process." Xinhua reports the two "signed a cooperation agreement to promote bilateral economic, cultural and scientific relations. According to the statement, the agreement stated that France comitted to support Iraq to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) and to conclude a partenership agreement with the European Union." CCTV observes (link has text and video) that Fillon was heading a delegation of "30 high-level business executives" and quotes him stating, "It is high time now we look to the future. The team accompanying me represents major French firms. Currently we have firms working in Iraq in the field of transportation and airports." At the start of the week, Jonas Gahr Storra met with Zebari. Store is the Norewegian Foreign Affairs Minister. Among the topics discussed were assisting Iraq in clearing land mines. Yesterday Patrick Quinn (AP) explained that the United Nations sees Iraq as "one of the world's most contaminated countries" when it comes to land mines and quotes the UN"s Development Fund's Kent Paulusson stating, "The government needs to recognize the size of the problem and deal with it. [. . .] Some areas are so contaminated that people can't live there." CNN notes that UNICEF joined the UN Development Fund in drawing attention to the land mine problem in Iraq and notes UNICEF's report: "The report says about 1 million Iraqi children are at risk of being injured or killed by mines and unexploded ordnance. Some 2,000 children -- a quarter of all victims -- have been maimed or killed by cluster bomblets since 2003, the report said." Aseel Kami (Reuters) adds Iraq's Environment Ministry estimates there are 25 million land mines in Iraq and that the border between Iraq and Iran "is particularly mine-infested." David Morgan (Global Arab Network) observes, "Vast stretches of potentially highly productive agricultural land cannot be cultivated because of the potentially lethal hazards presented by explosive materials that still lie undetected. Hundreds of Iraqi people continue to suffer injuries and dozens have been killed."
Today the
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees notes a new "special residentail centre for Iraqi refugees in the southern Armenian village of Darbnik. The building, a former agricultural college provided to UNHCR by the government last year, features 46 apartments and a social and recreation room. It was rehabilitated by UNHCR implementing partner, YMCA/Shelter." The Iraq War has resulted in a refugee crisis of both external and internal refugees. The refugees are a diverse group but a large number of them are Iraqi Christians. The assault on Iraq's LGBT community has led to a number of them becoming refugees as well. Sunday July 5th BBC Radio 5 airs Gay Life After Saddam (7 to 8 p.m. in England -- that will be eleven to noon PST). Ashley Byrne and Gail Champion produce the special for Made in Manchester. James Chaperlard (Crain's Manchester Business) reports:

In Gay Life After Saddam, presenter Aasmah Mir finds out how life for the country's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community (LGBT), has got worse since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Human rights campaigners claim hundreds of LGBT people have been killed or tortured while others have fled the country fearing for their safety since Saddam was toppled from power six years ago.

Not noted in the article but among the people interviewed for the special is Nouri al-Maliki, puppet of the occupation.

At CounterPunch today,
Anthony DiMaggio offers a look at Iraq and it's a serious attempt so he gets a link. I don't agree with the bulk of anything he says and feel he's repeating points that were made some time ago and that many don't hold up today. The continued and illegal occupation does stabilize Iraq. It puts into power the US interest, their puppets, and it blocks any real representation of Iraqis. It is not a sovereign government. It's one that would not exist were the US not still occupying the country.The illegal war itself and the continued occupation breed violence but part of the breeding is not just resentment over the continued presence of the US, it's also resentment over the installation of the puppet government. The exiles placed in power (by the US) are not representative of Iraq.The US took sides, installed one faction, a fundamentalist faction, and backed them because they believed this faction was ruthless and unafraid to resort to violence (the US was correct on both counts) and that these thugs would intimidate Iraqis into silence.Violence has never gone away in Iraq since the start of the illegal war. But that doesn't mean the puppet regime doesn't 'stabilize' it to a point where the violence lowers slightly, just enough to lull people into looking the other way.The 'civil war' wasn't a civil war. It was a genocide where the thugs in power went about ethnically cleansing parts of Baghdad. They succeeded. They did that with the whole world watching and with most of us not even grasping what was going on.DiMaggio is taking on the continued presence of US forces and also disputing the idea that there's any level of 'stability' in Iraq currently. The resentment and rage goes beyond the presence of foreign fighters. It goes to the fact that the 'rulers' are exiles installed by the occupiers, not chosen by the people. And those 'rulers' do allow for a form of 'stability' but they do it by targeting the Iraqi civilians and by using terror tactics.DiMaggio's argument's great for 2003 but it's completely out of step today because the people still pushing for continued war on and occupation of Iraq are not being countered with any claims DiMaggio's making. Their argument is that when the US leaves, violence levels will soar. DiMaggoi insists that US forces on the ground cause resentment and violence. That was true in 2003 and remains true today; however, we know more today and what he's saying isn't enough. It's not just the military, it's what they prop up, it's the 'government' the US has created.The response to those who insist in 2009 that the illegal war must continue for stability is that no one knows what will happen when US forces leave but there's not a real government there now and claiming stability via a thug regime doesn't encourage democracy or allow US forces to ever leave. The government is not of the people and it doesn't represent them. It will always need force behind it to remain in power.Lastly, the referendum on the Status Of Forces Agreement is not happening this month. It can't. It requires planning. The US stepped in and al-Maliki was more than happy to go along with it. The claim is it will now be held in January when national elections are held. Alsumaria explains, "Meanwhile, the government seeks to delay the referendum till January 2010, when the country also holds parliamentary elections as holding both at the same time will save money. In this concern, lawmakers and electoral authorities say there is no way a referendum can be organized in just a month." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports, "Attention here is now shifting to national elections expected in January. The elections are seen as the best hope for addressing the grievances of Iraqi factions that feel they've been left out of a political system created by the US and dominated since 2003 by a Shiite-led government."

Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul roadside bombing which injured three Iraqi soldiers and a Tikrit roadside bombing wounded one police officer.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 person was shot dead in Mosul and "an officer in the Iraqi army called Saddam Hussein" was shot ded in Kirkuk. Reuters notes "three judges who were traveling together in a car in northern Hilla" were injured in a shooting by unknown assailants.


Reuters notes 1 male corpse was discovered in Mosul and 1 female corpse in Hilla -- both has "bullet wounds to . . . head and chest".

Yesterday the
US Defense Dept identified the four soldiers killed in Baghdad June 29th: "They were assigned to the 120th Combined Arms Battalion, Wilmington, N.C. Killed were: Sgt. 1st Class Edward C. Kramer, 39, of Wilmington, N.C. [;] Sgt. Roger L. Adams Jr., 36, of Jacksonville, N.C. [;] Sgt. Juan C. Baldeosingh, 30, of Newport, N.C. [and] Spc. Robert L. Bittiker, 39, of Jacksonville, N.C." Jennifer McLogan (WCBS) speaks with Baldeosingh's sisters Jennyfer and Diana Baldeosingh. Jennyfer states, "At first it's anger. Why did he go? Why him?" Diana states, "Some of them have done two or three tours, they have families and kids, they need to be with them -- not over there. We did our time there. It's time to come home, please." John Valenti and Sophia Chang (Newsday -- link has text and video) also speak with the two sisters and they note: "He also leaves behind his wife, Rebecca, and three young daughters -- Emily, 2, and 5-year-old twins, Isabella and Kylie." ENCToday speaks with Brian Wheat, the stepfather of Robert Bittiker and explains, "Bittiker leaves behind his wife Tami, and two sons Cameron, 14, and Ronnie, 18, who just graduated from Southwest High School". The Salisbury Post notes Edward Kramer's wife Vicki issued a statement explaining, "He loved us very much and he did this for his children [Erica, age nine, and Megan, age seven] so they wouldn't have to". Catherine M. Welch (WHQR) reports a Sunday event to remember Kramer, "A memorial walk is planned for Sunday at 6:00 p.m. It will start at the Wilmington Fire Department Headquarters on Marketstreet in downtown Wilmington and end at the National Guard Armory."

World Can't Wait has several upcoming actions including:

Monday, July 13, The World Can't Wait and other organizations will protest the inclusion of military recruiters at the national NAACP Convention in New York City.
4:30-7:00pm New York Hilton Hotel 1335 6th Avenue (53/54 Streets)Also, on Thursday, July 16, when Barack Obama addresses the convention, we'll be there protesting the expanded war in Afghanistan, drone attacks on civilians in Pakistan, and Obama's refusal to release the torture photos and prosecute the Bush era war criminals. 9:30am until noon @ New York Hilton
Read letter sent by NYC High School student to Benjamin Jealous, CEO of the NAACP, asking him why recruiters are invited to the convention. Sign on to letter to be sent to the officers and Board of the NAACP this week:To Benjamin Jealous, President & CEO, NAACP

iraqjane arraf
the christian science monitorthe new york timessheryl gay stolberg
timothy williams
mark silvathe chicago tribune
anthony dimaggio
mcclatchy newspapers
laith hammoudi
aseel kami


Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The tortured and torturing logic of the White House

"Justice Department once again delay release of torture report" (Free Speech Radio News):
The Department of Justice has again delayed the release of a CIA report on interrogations during the Bush Administration. The CIA Inspector General compiled the report because of allegations of detainee torture. The CIA released a highly-redacted version last year that revealed little to the public. The American Civil Liberties Union sued to release more details from the report.

How embarrassing is that news? How shameful for the US? How about the fact that China's Xinhau gets to report on it? They note how this report was supposed to have already been released but the Justice Department asked for an extension to go through July 1st and how, once that arrived, they said they needed more time. It's a non-stop the-dog-ate-my-homework excuse and it's very embarrassing for the US on the world stage.

Meanwhile Mr. Hopey Changey wants to use 'evidence' obtained by torture in courts.

"ACLU: Obama Admin. Relying on Tortured Confession In Habeas Case" (Jason Leopold, The Public Record):
The American Civil Liberties Union accused the Obama administration in court papers Wednesday of relying on statements obtained through torture to support the indefinite detention of a prisoner being held at Guantanamo Bay who is being defended by the civil rights organization. In a 37-page legal brief, portions of which are redacted, the ACLU asked a U.S. District Court Judge overseeing the case to suppress all statements obtained against their client through torture. The habeas corpus case revolves around Mohammed Jawad, an Afghan who was believed to be 12-years-old when he was captured in December 2002, was “subjected to repeated torture and other mistreatment and to a systematic and sustained program of highly coercive interrogation” on more than 50 occasions. “U.S. personnel at Bagram [Air base in Afghanistan, where Jawad was detained after his arrest] subjected Mr. Jawad to beatings, forced him into painful “stress positions,” deprived him of sleep, forcibly hooded him, placed him in physical and linguistic isolation, pushed him down stairs, chained him to a wall for prolonged periods, and subjected him to threats, including threats to kill him, and other intimidation,” the ACLU’s legal brief states.

I'm reminded of the musical Hair. Specifically "Easy To Be Hard." "How can people be so cruel/ How can people be so cruel/ Easy to be hard/ Easy to be cold."

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, July 1, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Kenneth Pollack Laments, Patrick Murphy tackles Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and more.

Today US House Rep Patrick Murphy spoke about the need to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The Clinton era compromise came about when Colin Powell and others flaunted their homophobia and refused to allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, a pledge Bill Clinton campaigned upon. The compromise was that you couldn't be asked about your sexuality and you couldn't talk about it. Unless you were straight. It was a compromise and, for that time period, a step forward. Today is out of date and out of step.
Josh Drobnyk (Pennslyvania Ave. Blog) reports that with Ellen Tauscher's departure from Congress (she's now Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security), Murphy will now take the lead on the Military Readiness Enhancement Act which would not only repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, it would also allow everyone to serve regardless of their sexuality and with no requirement that they hide who they are. Iraq War veteran Murphy states, "This is going to take months and months, but change is going to happen." Yesterday Lt Dan Choi learned that a US Army board was recommending he be discharged because he is gay and refuses to hide in a closet. Martin Wisckol (Orange County Register) quotes Choi, "I'm a leader. A setback is an opportunity to keep fighting, and I'm going to do that through my actions." Yesterday Jasmyn Belcher (WRVO -- audio and text) spoke with Choi who explained, "My job is to be here and to continue being an officer everything I was trained to do regardless of the discomfort, regardless of the emotions that are going on, you still do your duty. I believe this is my duty to stand up and to fight to stay in." Choi is not done fighting and hopefully he will be successful at a higher level but if he's not he will be, as Stan noted last night, the 266th US service member to be discharged for being gay since Barack Obama was sworn in as president. If Barack wanted to, all he need do is issue an executive order for a stop-loss on discharges under Don't Ask, Don't Tell. That would stop it right away. Congress could then address it but all the people (over 200 under Obama already) being discharged would no longer be drummed out of the military as a result of that executive order. CNN notes this citing Knights Out's Sue Fulton: "Fulton said that while Obama can't change the law himself, he could sign an executive order halting discharges while the policy is under review." Barry O likes to play helpless but he's not. One executive order is all it would take. The Syracuse Post-Standard editorializes for the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy to be eliminated and observes that "enforcing the policy has cost taxpayers more than $400 million since 1994."

Joe Garofoli (San Francisco Chronicle) adds, "Still, some analysts say Choi's case is another example of how Washington leaders aren't showing much urgency -- or leadership -- in overturning 'don't ask, don't tell.' Obama has said he wants Congress to overturn the law; congressional laders say they are waiting for the president to take the lead; and military leaders say they won't change the policy unless directed by Congress." Mike McAndrew and Mark Weiner (Syracuse Post-Standard) report Choi "said he refuses to lie about being involved in a relationship with another man. Choi said the relationship has made him a better person, a better Christian and a better officer." Alexa James (Times Herald-Record) quotes Choi explaining, "All I did was tell the truth. I refused to lie about my boyfriend. His name is Matthew, not Martha."

McClatchy Newspapers' Sahar Issa appeared on Democracy Now! to address Iraq.

Sahar Issa: National Sovereignty Day, of course, is a day that is celebrated by the hearts of all Iraqis, you must know that Iraqi's pride -- is a proud country -- Iraqis are proud people. It is difficult for them not to be happy at the action of foreign troops leaving their cities and streets. At the same time that they are happy to gain control over their streets and cities there is doubt in their hearts whether the Iraqi security forces are actually adequate to the task that is in front of them in the coming days and weeks and months of keeping the peace and keeping the population secure. This is as the bottom of the doubts that you see: Is the Iraqi force actually adequate to the task? Are the Iraqi forces infiltrated by many? The Iraqi force has been formed upon somewhat sectarian lines. The Iraqi force also because of the administrative corruption -- has many people who have brought in their relatives, their friends, their neighbors, people who are not professional. And after six years, perhaps it would be a legitimate question to ask and to forward to the American forces: after six years of training they have understaken to present Iraq with a new force after dismantling the old one, why isn't the Iraqi force actually adequate to the task? The people of Iraq ask this question. It is the first question they ask. They are still not confident that the Iraqi forces are capable.

Those observations jibe with those of
Alissa J. Rubin's (New York Times), "The excitement however, has run hollow for many Iraqis, who fear that their country's security forces are not ready to stand alone and who see the government's claims of independence as overblown." Back to the Democracy Now! segment:

JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Sahar Issa, what about the ability of the Iraqi government to provide basic services to the population? There's obviously many reports of corruption within the government and continued infighting among the various factions. How has the public seen the ability of the government to administer the society?

SAHAR ISSA: To tell you the truth, if you look back a little bit, you will find that with the height of violence that only started coming down in the beginning of 2008, and while human life was at stake, violence was like a blanket, cutting off a cross-section of what is really happening inside the Iraqi government, because everything was so clouded, people were hurt, they couldn't look further than their lot.
But when the violence ebbed after the beginning of 2008, people started picking up the reins of their lives, looking around to see what was going on. And they found, horrendously, that the government is totally riddled with corruption. It is totally built on tribal and sectarian bases, where people have their relatives in very sensitive places simply to make the profit. And the confidence in Iraqis that they had at first when they went to elect their government, they lost this confidence. They said, "Then what is the difference, if it is going to be tribal again? What is the difference between this government and the past, even if it is elected, if it is going to use the same lines?"
And that is, of course, part of the problem, is that it is not a matter of just putting the government out there. The problem is this government needs to gain the confidence of the people. It needs to give them something that they can hold onto. It needs to look at their very difficult lives. They didn't have electricity when the -- you know, outside this building, if I walk out now, it is so hot, toys will melt in cars. To just to give you an idea, toys will melt in cars. That is the heat. And people don't have electricity. After six years, they don't have water in their homes.
I spoke to a person yesterday in Beya'a neighborhood, when we were touring the city for reactions. And she said, "How can I be happy with sovereignty, if sovereignty has not brought me enough water to bathe, I can't wash my clothes, if I don't have electricity so I can sleep at night? What kind of sovereignty is this?" We are struggling, my dear friend. We are struggling so hard to reach square one. And so far, we haven't achieved it yet.

AMY GOODMAN: Sahar Issa, are you afraid of having your image known, of being identified as a reporter?

SAHAR ISSA: Oh, certainly, certainly, certainly. Working for a foreign -- never mind a US, American -- news agency will have me very clearly titled as the pastor's pie or working for the occupation. People -- the simpler people, let us say -- can't differentiate between a person who is picking up information and lighting things and making things public for -- to, how do you say, to extend a hand to other people to know what is actually going on inside our country. They can't tell the difference between this person and the person who's gathering information perhaps for intelligence preferences. And therefore, yes, of course, I am afraid. No one knows. Only my parents and my children and the people working with me know. And even the people who are working with me, not all of them know where I live. That's how bad it is.

Jeremy Scahill was also a guest on the segment.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. I mean, this is a very contrived sort of Hallmark holiday here. I doubt that decades from now many Iraqis are going to be, you know, telling their grandchildren where they were on National Sovereignty Day. I mean, remember the whole stumbling of President Bush: when he declared Iraqi sovereignty, he talked about the definition of sovereignty as a sovereign entity. Paul Bremer already officially handed over sovereignty to the Iraqis five years ago, and yet we have 130,000 US troops that remain in the country. This really is George Bush's Iraq plan that Barack Obama is now implementing and taking the political risk of implementing, because if the violence blows up, then of course it looks very much like Barack Obama has been a failure in Iraq, and not George Bush. So Obama, in many ways, has played into the Bush administration's hand. But we can see the clearest endgame of the US occupation in the fact that the Iraqi government, on a day when they declare their own sovereignty and you have the US military commander handing over the keys to the Defense Ministry, the Iraqi Oil Ministry opens up the country for bidding now on its oil resources, and you had eight of the ten top oil companies in the world that are not part of a nationalized state apparatus. In other words, eight of the ten most powerful private oil corporations in the world are now bidding for large shares of the Iraqi oil supply. I mean, to me, this is a grotesque symbol of what exactly is happening in Iraq.
And let me just say, Juan, that while we're seeing the sort of contrived celebrations, where ordinary Iraqis, for the most part, are not permitted to go into these big celebrations -- it's largely off-duty police officers, Iraqi soldiers and dignitaries -- the reality is that US soldiers are simply going to the outskirts of the cities and could easily go in to strike at them. General Ray Odierno, the top US military commander there, would not be clear on how many US soldiers are going to remain in the region. At the end of the day, the US has a massive eighty-football-field-size embassy. They have thousands upon thousands of contractors, 130,000 troops still in the country. And they're going to keep a force of 35,000 to 50,000 residual US forces when Obama is officially done withdrawing from Iraq. So, in reality, we see Barack Obama implementing, almost to the letter, George Bush's and the neocons' plan for Iraq, while putting a Democratic stamp on it and essentially downsizing and rebranding what remains a US occupation. So, no, this is Hallmark holiday stuff. And I think it's clear for anyone who's been following this that this is the same situation as when Bush tried to declare Iraqi sovereignty, when Paul Bremer snuck out of Baghdad in June of 2004.

At Information Clearing House, Jeremy explains of the for-show play-day:

While a lot of the media hype today focuses on the U.S. "withdrawal," that is hardly the reality. As
previously reported, U.S. military commanders have said they are preparing for an Iraq presence for another 15-20 years, the U.S. embassy is the size of Vatican City, there is no official plan for the withdrawal of contractors and new corporate mercenary contracts are being awarded. The Status of Forces Agreement (SoFA) between the U.S. and Iraq gives the U.S. the right to extend the occupation indefinitely and to continue intervening militarily in Iraq ad infinitum. Article 27 of the SoFA allows the U.S. to undertake military action, "or any other measure," inside Iraq's borders "In the event of any external or internal threat or aggression against Iraq." As the airwaves and internet are flooded with reports of this new Iraqi sovereignty and U.S. withdrawal, it is important to remember a bit of history. Five years ago -- almost to the day -- President Bush put on an almost identical show. His proconsul L. Paul Bremer "handed over sovereignty" to the Iraqi government just before he skulked out of Baghdad on a secret flight (right after he issued an order banning Iraq from prosecuting contractors). Despite the pronouncements and proclamations and media hype, the occupation continued and real sovereignty was non-existent.

CNN reports that Moqtada al-Sadr has released a call for all US forces to leave Iraq and stated their presence "shows that the (Iraqi) government and the occupation are not serious about the withdrawal". Noting the silence on Iraq in the US, Dan Baltz asks "Have We Forgotten Iraq?" (Washington Post) in which he wonders, "If they [the White House] are wrong [about Iraq being able to stand up], there may be questions about what kind of country Americans are preparing to leave behind. Obama could find himself under pressure to adjust the withdrawal timetable." Or he could realize that it was a mistake to delay withdrawal because there is nothing else the US military can do (even the war hawks should agree with that) and allowing them to remain in the country as babysitters really turns them into sitting ducks of the continued occupation. And let's stop pretending the White House doesn't have plans. As we noted in Third's "Editorial: Save us from the panty sniffers" Sunday, US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill gave a press conference in the US June 18th:

What should have bothered Americans was Hill's refusal to discuss "contingency plans" for Iraq should the (partial) pull-back from cities (June 30th) result in increased violence. "Well, again," he repeated, "I don't want to discuss contingency plans." Why not? And why aren't these contingency plans known to the American public?

Thomas E. Ricks (Foreign Policy) ignored Hill's press conference, he feels something important is missed from the press conference Gen Ray Odierno held yesterday in Baghdad: "We'll be operating in the belts around Baghdad." Ricks takes that to mean "that the U.S. strategy in the coming months will be to try to protect Baghdad by cutting off insurgents and militias operating in the fields, towns and palm groves that surround much of the capital. And that was where some of the heaviest fighting took place during the spring and summer of 2007, as 'the surge' began." So that may be, that may be, as Cass Elliot once sang ("California Earthquake") but equally true, and reporters know this, when a person loses it at a scheduled press conference, that's also known as "very telling." Translation, Reuters shouldn't have been the only outlet to report on Odierno Earthquake yesterday. And, no, Ricks hasn't written of that.

Here's some of the exchange from
the DoD transcript:Q General, it's Andrew Gray from Reuters. You talked about a small number of U.S. forces remaining in the cities to train and advise. Can you put a figure? How many U.S. forces will remain? GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah, people have been trying to get me to say a figure now for about a month. And the reason I won't do it is because it's going to be different every single day, and it'll be based on how much training, how much advising, how much coordination is required. That will change each and every day. So I won't put a number on it. It is a smaller number, a significantly smaller number than what we've had in the cities now. But it has very specific missions: train the Iraqi security forces, advise them as we continue to move forward, enable them in order to -- potentially if they need some help with aviation, logistics, et cetera. But more -- almost as important, coordinate and help us to continue our situational awareness of all situations within Iraq. And that will help us to better support the Iraqi security forces.

Q General, just to follow up briefly, I am disappointed you didn't give us the scoop after a month of holding out, but I wonder if you could at least give us a -- you know, is it an -- a few thousand? If you could give us a kind of ballpark -- are we talking about several thousand? Would that be a reasonable ballpark to use? GEN. ODIERNO: Again -- again, there's hundreds of cities around, and we have hundreds of -- you know, and I've let the local commanders work this out. So for me to give a number would frankly be inaccurate, and I just don't want to do it. There'll be trainers, advisers, helping throughout all of the Iraqi cities where we continue to support and advise Iraqi security forces. Q Whatever the number is, how are you going to convince them basically, the U.S. forces remaining, not to jump in and be helpful, where perhaps you would prefer that the Iraqis take the lead? What will be different about what they're told to do, in a situation where they might think, their first instinct is, gosh, we can do that better.

GEN. ODIERNO: Well, again this is -- I call it -- we are working on changing our mindsets in the city. And I equate it to when we first started the surge, where we had to change our mindset. So pushing our soldiers back out, getting back into the communities, really partnering with the Iraqi security forces and today, it's the same kind of thing. We have to change our mindset. When we're in the cities, there's very specific things that we'll do. Actually we've been out of the cities, a large majority of the cities now, for the last eight months. So it's really only Mosul and the last remnants that we've had, in Baghdad, that have pulled out over the last few weeks. So we've actually been implementing this in many parts of Baghdad for a long time. And they understand what their mission is. They understand what we expect them to do. And you know, we have worked this very closely with all of the leaders in Iraq. We've worked -- I've worked very closely with the minister of defense, the minister of interior, the operations commanders, the operational commanders in order to work this out. And I feel very comfortable with where we're at.

Q General, it's Tom Bowman with NPR. I mean, you're reluctant to talk about how many trainers and mentors are in the cities. And it raises a question about whether or not this is just a show or not whether, you know, this is just semantics. There are essentially U.S. soldiers with guns in the cities. You can call them trainers or mentors. But how different is it from what we saw maybe two-three weeks ago? And if you have U.S. soldiers just outside the cities, I mean, what is this? Is this just a show for the American people?

GEN. ODIERNO: Well, I would say, you probably didn't listen to what I just said. Because what I just said was, having battalions and brigades inside a city is significantly different than having trainers, advisers and MiTT teams. And I said, we'll be operating in the belts around Baghdad. I've been very clear about this, just like we did in the surge. We had -- the reason we had to surge forces is, we had to get people in the cities. And then we had to eliminate safe havens and sanctuaries in the belts around Baghdad. It's the same thing, except the Iraqis will take responsibility for security in the cities. We will continue to do full-spectrum operations, outside of the cities, to work the safe havens and sanctuaries around the cities. And we will continue to do that. And it's legitimate, legitimate operations that we'll continue to conduct outside of the cities. If you're here in Baghdad, you would know. There is a significant change inside of the cities. There are thousands among thousands of soldiers that have pulled out of Baghdad. There -- and there hasn't been any soldiers in the cities in southern Iraq, there hasn't been any soldiers in the cities in Ramadi, there hasn't been any soldiers in the cities in Fallujah for months now. And we've been executing this very well. So again, if you're here in Iraq, you would see it for yourself there is a significant change.

As we noted
yesterday, he apologized for his outburst (and referred to it as his "temper"). But that's a key moment of the press conference and not just because some reporters are now talking of starting a pool to see how quickly they can get Odierno to explode in the next press briefing, but also because that's not normal behavior from him. He's under huge pressure from the White House to walk their line and stick to their script and his feelings are rather well known about that at this late date. The troops haven't left Mosul and are not leaving Baghdad and no one knows what else and no one knows how many. Except Ray Odierno. He knows exactly what is going on with US troops in Iraq. And he's not allowed to reveal that. That's where his frustration comes in. He felt like the biggest idiot in the world because he couldn't answer the question that he knew the answer to but which the White House won't let him speak on. That, Thomas E. Ricks, is an important detail.

Now let's sit down at the piano, it's time for "Miss Kenneth Laments" -- the lost Cole Porter song. "Sure, well, first, of course," hemmed and hawed War Hawk and Cheerleader Kenny Pollack, "as listeners of your show are aware, 'cause I've been on the show any number of times to talk about, this, I did believe that an, uh, invasion would be necessary but not the invasion that we got. Not in the time that we did it, not in the way that we did it, not how we did it or with whom we did it. As for what have we accomplished? I think the jury is still out." Brookings Boy Kenny sure was nervous and, please note, his 'answer' was to a question about whether or not the Iraq War was worth it. Monday on
NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, Diane explained, "And here's a question for you, Ken Pollack, you were among those who favored US invasion of Iraq. What do you believe we have gained if anything?" The question wasn't did he support the illegal war before it started.

And yet, he nervously stated, before getting to the question he'd been asked, ""Sure, well, first, of course, as listeners of your show are aware, 'cause I've been on the show any number of times to talk about, this, I did believe that an, uh, invasion would be necessary but not the invasion that we got. Not in the time that we did it, not in the way that we did it, not how we did it or with whom we did it." First, let's again note, this is the talking point and War Hawks pushed it after Vietnam as well. It goes like this: "The problem wasn't the war and its illegality, the problem was the way it was fought." No, the problem was the war. As for what he advocated for? His 2002 book Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq made it pretty clear in the title but in it he argues for the US "to mount a full-scale invasion of Iraq to smash the Iraqi armed forces, depose Saddam's regime, and rid the country of weapons of mass destruction." Saddam had no WMDs. Kenny boy forgot to include that on NPR Monday. He forgot to admit that or own any of his mistakes. Instead, he wanted to complain that the war he dreamed of arrived in the wrong size and color.

The Wall St. Journal's Gina Chon appears briefly at the start of the program, reporting from Iraq, but technical difficulties sideline her.

Diane Rehm: Okay, let's talk about what the Iraqi people can and cannot do.

Paul Pillar: As part of the bargaining that Prime Minister Maliki had to get agreement with his cabinet and Parliament for the security agreement, he agreed that there would be a referendum to approve or disapprove the agreement. Your caller is correct that July 30th was the date that had been previously set but it appears that it is most likely going to be delayed until January to coincide with the Parliamentary election. So that will be an important outcome -- whether or not the Iraqi people approve it. If they disapprove it, then what -- as I understand the agreement -- what comes into play is the withdrawal clause which basically says 'either party has a year to terminate the agreement' which means that would move up the deadline for all US forces to -- to get out by almost a year -- to 2010 rather than 2011. But, again, that does not preclude some new agreement being negotiated between the governments of the day in Baghdad and Washington.

Kenneth Pollack: This is a really important point because what you're seeing now is the Iraqis using the politics to deal with the security situation in potentially very difficult ways, dangerous ways. We talked a lot about how the Iraqis, the Iraqi people, are ambivalent about the agreement. We haven't talked about Prime Minister Maliki and his own ambivalence. At one level, he knows that he can't allow the country to fall apart and he's nervous that his own security forces can't hold it together. By the same token though, he sees the United States as an impediment to his consolidation of power and I think that there's a lot of evidence to suggest that he's moving it to January in hope that it will either discredit all of his political adversaries or cause a termination of the agreement prematurely exactly as Paul was suggesting.

[. . .]

Diane Rehm: Just before the break, one of our callers, Lily in Syracuse, New York, had asked about the referendum that's going to take place -- the decision of the Iraqi [. . .] [people] to stay or not to stay. That's a really important point, Paul.

Paul: It's very important and I'm glad we got the call, that raised the issue but I would simply agree with what we heard from Ken before the break. It's partly Maliki continuing to play a political game. But if -- if the referendum, it's voted down, uh, in January, uh, there are going to be extremely difficult decisions for the Obama administration to make about its policy and posture in Iraq over the course of the next year. To some extent, it might be seen as a political blessing for much of his constituency, it means getting out earlier, but he is going to have to sit down with his commanders, with General Petraeus, General Odeireno, or who ever is occupying their jobs at that time and have some very hard talk about the security situation in Iraq as of the end, not of 2011, but of 2010.

Diane: Elise?

Elise Labott: And let's not forget that President Obama won, in part, the presidency on his campaign to withdraw US forces from Iraq. He said that the war in Afghanistan was the more important war, the war that was the greater threat to US national security with the emergent -- the reemergence of the Taliban and al Qaeda and he wanted to pay more attention to that war and by all accounts you can't do that with 130,000 troops in Iraq. But the question is if the sectarian violence gets worse, if Iraq continues to spiral, the question is: Does Barack Obama have blood on his hands if -- if he withdraws all of his troops from Iraq and a lot of people -- it's a moral dilemma for him.

Diane Rehm: Ken Pollack?

Kenneth Pollack: Well I think that there's also a strategic consideration which is that the truth is that Iraq is ultimately of far greater strategic consequence to the United States than Afghanistan. Afghanistan is a problem because of the terrorism problem and because of relationship to Pakistan but you can't solve the problem of Afghanistan through Pakistan.

That last Pollack 'gem' is included to dissuade his cult from e-mailing and saying, "His 2002 book said!" Don't give me that crap. Don't spit out the Slate book review claiming Kenny's 2002 book said Afghanistan was more important. Kenny's all over the map, always has been, there's never been a cohesive argument from him. Only baseless charges followed by meaningless laments. The full hour was devoted to Iraq (
here for that segment itself) for those who missed it. (I did. An NPR friend passed it on.) The guests were (very briefly) Gina Chon, CNN's Elise Labott, Brookings Kenneth Pollack and Georgetown's Paul Pilar.

Earlier mid-June US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill claimed that fatalies were down in the month of June. Silly Chris and silly reporters who fell for that garbage.
Reuters reports that there was a spike and that the official numbers from the Iraqi Health Ministry is 373 for the month of June. Those are the Iraqi government figures. The actual figures are likely far higher. In some of today's violence, Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Iraqi forces shot dead a man in Mosul (a 'suspect') and that a Mosul roadside bombing injured a police officer.

Sir! No Sir! Exposing and Debunking Military Lies from Vietnam to Iraq notes a national anti-war conference put on by National Assembly to End the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Pittsburg End The War to be held at La Roche College in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Veterans for Peace's Michael T. McPherson, Arab American Union's Marily Levin, Black Voices for Peace's Gail Austin, Arab American Union's Monadel Herzallah and Iraqi poet-activist Zaineb Alani are among those participating. Cindy Sheehan will be participating as well and we'll note her in just a moment. Diane Rejman is also with Veterans for Peace and she tackles recruitment at CounterPunch noting:

The recruiting system leaves out the second part of this. Recruiters talk about travel, adventure, skill-training, and getting your college education paid for. They don't mention that the travel and adventure may involve being in 110 degree+ temperatures, loaded up with gear, sleeping in tents, having your life threatened on a daily basis, and maybe not even having enough clean water to drink. They don't mention that the skill-training is usually not transferable to a civilian job, or that some of the skills taught include how to be a prejudiced, hate-filled, bigot, who can be capable of killing another human being without feeling. They don't explain that the military will teach a person to hate when he or she enlists, but doesn't teach love when the soldier returns. And they certainly don't mention that only 14 percent of soldiers who sign up for the GI Bill use the benefit.
The lies of omission often go further. A recruiter may promise a job as a pilot, knowing the soldier won't qualify and will possibly end up as a truck driver in Iraq – one of the most dangerous jobs. A prospective Navy medic may not understand that he or she may end up in a combat zone since they are the ones who take care of Marines. Or the biggest lie of all – they convince the soldier he or she is signing up for three years, and don't point out that these days, with the stop-loss program in place, the enlistment agreement (note I don't use the word "contract") currently commits the soldier potentially to a life sentence.
But you know what, these are only a few of the lies involved in keeping a war machine going. The bigger ones come from society itself. That war is a good thing. That movies and video games represent reality. You get killed in a video game, press a button, and start over. You don't lose a friend, body parts, or your mind.

Click here to see Diane Rejman performing Bob Dylan's "Joe Brown."

As noted in
yesterday's snapshot, US presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney and others on The Spirty of Humanity being detained by the Israeli government and prevented from delivering humanitarian supplies to Gaza. Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan is calling out the detention:

Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, Human Rights' Activist and Gold Star Mother, Cindy Sheehan, calls on the Israeli government to immediately release the members and crew of the boat The Spirit of Humanity that was attempting to deliver humanitarian aid to the devastated peoples of Gaza.Speaking from Newton, Mass, Ms. Sheehan commented: "The detention of the crew and human rights' workers on The Spirit of Humanity is a clear violation of international law, as the blockade of Gaza is a clear violation of not only international law but the human rights of the people of Gaza. Not only must the Israeli government immediately release and recompense the captives, but it must allow the humanitarian aid to penetrate the blockade."
She continued: "I not only call on the Israeli government to do the right thing, but I call on our own President, who has claimed that he is an advocate for human rights, to condemn this act of international piracy by the rogue state of Israel and also demand the release of the kidnapped aid workers. This condemnation must be as strong and clear as the condemnation for the Somali 'pirates' was. A very courageous and dear friend of mine, Cynthia McKinney, was on that boat and the captives must all be treated with dignity and respect and speedily released."

Cindy Sheehan's Myth America Tour continues this month.
The dates for the start of the month include:

July 8th Wednesday 2 to 4 p.m. Cleveland Book Signing
Mac Bac's Books
1820 Coventry Road
Cleveland Hts. OH

Akron Main Public Library
July 8th 7 to 9 p.m.
60 S. High St.
Akron, OH 44326

Cleveland Community pot luck with Cindy
July 9th four to six p.m.
10220 Clifton Ave.
Lakewood, OH

St. Coleman's Parish Hall
July 9th seven to nine p.m.
West 65th and Madison

Drum Circle
July 10th noon to two p.m.

National Assembly to End the War
July 11th to 12th

Al Franken in a US Senator. See, the US can do recounts and can be patient. Al Franken and Norm Coleman (his Republican opponent who lost) proved (probably not intentionally on Coleman's part) that the Supreme Court did not need to stop the process in Bush v. Gore. The votes could have been counted. And would have been easily before Christmas 2000.
Al Franken is interviewed by former US Senator Fred Thompson here. The only one put out by the long drawn out process was Senator Amy Klobuchar and even she and her staff managed. The US can do recounts, no matter what the Supreme Court thinks.

iraqmike mcandrewmark weinerjoe garofolithe san francisco chroniclealexa james
jeremy scahillthe washington postdan balzthe new york timesalissa j. rubinsahar issamcclatchy newspapersdemocracy now
nprthe diane rehm show
cindy sheehan
elise labott

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Assault on gays in Fort Worth

"On Stonewall anniversary police raid Texas gay bar" (Free Speech Radio News):
On the 40th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, in which gay tavern patrons fought against a police raid, an incident at a Texas gay bar last weekend has local officials demanding answers. Rachel Clarke has more.
The Rainbow Lounge opened its doors less than a week before Fort Worth Police entered the gay and lesbian bar early Sunday morning with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. Police claim they went to the bar on a routine code check and were met with unwanted sexual advances. Patrons in the bar at the time dispute this account. One patron remains hospitalized with a brain bleed and five others were arrested for public intoxication. No one was charged with assault. This has city officials taking notice. On Monday, Dallas Councilman Joel Burns called for an investigation. He was joined by Fort Worth Mayor Pro Tem Kathleen Hicks. GLBT community member also supports an investigation.
"I think there needs to be a very, very thorough investigation, but I really hope it’s not investigated by the police themselves, I think it needs to be an independent organization comprised of the community itself that’s going to be doing the investigation on this one. The officers involved in this situation need to have some sort of very serious disciplinary action on them."
The police department is looking into the incident and it has come to light officers were unaware of the Stonewall anniversary. Reporting for Free Speech Radio News, I'm Rachel Clarke in Houston.

Correction to the above, Mike just got off the phone with Billie, Joel Burns is a Fort Worth City Council member. (Billie is a TCI community member who lives in Dallas and works in Fort Worth.) Mike and I were wondering about that, about why a Dallas council member would be the one leading the call? Dallas and Fort Worth are two different cities and they aren't even in the same county. If they were in the same county, the above would especially cause a problem because Dallas County's sheriff is Lupe Valdez who is an out lesbian.

I don't really know much about Fort Worth. When we visited Texas, we didn't go to Fort Worth. Now we planned to go there one summer for a peace rally but that thing was so disorganized and we didn't go. So I've never been to Fort Worth and can't claim to have any knowledge to impart on its workings.

I will say that the story is outrageous for any location and the entire country should be asking questions about this and about how it happened?

Though it may not be the case, it appears to be that some cops decided to beat up on the gay community. I understand Liz Smith would love that. (Confused? You won't be after this week's Third. Seriously, Ava and C.I. will be tackling Liz this Sunday. You don't want to miss it.)

Isn't it interesting that the assault comes on the anniversary of Stonewall? Thereby underlining how little progress has been made.

We saw Cheri tonight, Mike and I. Michelle Pfeiffer is always magnificent in everything and this is no exception. She's involved with a younger man and Kathy Bates is also in the film. I recommend it strongly.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, June 30, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces mulitple deaths, Lt. Dan Choi fights for his career, bombings grip Iraq, Barack Obama has another routine day while Ralph Nader speaks out and Cynthia McKinney gets active, and more.

Today the
US military announced: "BAGHDAD -- Four Multi-National Division–Baghdad Soldiers died June 29 as the result of combat related injuries. The Soldiers' names are being withheld pending notification of next of kin. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense Official Website at . The announcements are made on the Website no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. MND-B will not release any additional details prior to notification of next of kin and official release by the DoD. The incident is currently under investigation." The announcement today took the number of US service members killed in the Iraq War to 4321, with 15 for the month upsetting Operation Happy Talk plans for billing June as the second lowest month for US service member deaths since the start of the illegal war.

June 30th. The for-show play-day of pretend 'pull-out'.
Mike Tharp (McClatchy Newspapers) observes, "The American and Iraqi militaries had different notions of when the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from major cities would start. The Americans thought that "after June 30," as written in the status of forces agreement, meant 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, July 1. The Iraqis -- whose timeline ultimately prevailed -- interpreted the dawn of their new authority as when the clock ticked past midnight to Tuesday, June 30. That's one reason that so many Iraqis celebrated the handoff of authority Monday night with singing, dancing and parties in their streets and parks. In the end, once both sides realized the communications breakdown, the Americans simply told their forces to start abiding by the new rules 23 hours and 59 minutes earlier than they'd planned." So if it was a historic day, let's go to the numbers, let's go to the stats. Woops. Reporters tried to do that during a Baghdad briefining with top US commander in Iraq General Ray Odierno and it wasn't not pretty. Reuters quotes him exclaiming, "Because it would be inaccurate! Because I don't know exactly how many [US service members] are in the cities. It varies day-to-day based on the mission. [. . . .] How many times you want me to say that? I don't know." They note he apologized for his outburst ("temper" was his term) and it must be stressful to be the one who has attempted to avoid the spin but have it shoved off on you. CBS and AP cite CBS News' Lara Loogan quoting al-Maliki declaring, "Those who think Iraqis are unable to defend their country are committing a fatal mistake" and making that declaration from "a makeshift stand -- as much due to security concerns as by designs." Free Speech Radio News interviewed Iraqi Baswa Alkhateeb, an Iraqi mother of two in Baghdad (here for the segment). Manuel Rueda noted, "She says that nothing will change on a daily basis because US soldiers have already decreased their presence in Baghdad."

Baswa Alkhateeb: We don't see them around much like before so they've already shrinked their activites in the cities. They've already done that for the past four or five months. [. . . . On why she's not celebrating today.] We have a lawless state The alligance of the security forces that are taking over is not for the country or for the state it's for the Islamic groups for the clerics who are in the Parliament who ruling now so it's not really a blessing or something to be happy about. Add to that the whole institutions were dismantled. So the way that it was rearranged after 2003, 2004, it's not about the state, it's about allegiance to their sects, to the cultural, political cultural, that put them there. [. . .] What's happening now is no employment, no educational system, no health care, nothing. IDPs [Internally Displaced Persons] all over. We have graduates from university who do not have a place to be employed unless they're part of this political culture which is following the clerics and the Islamic extreme parties ruling the country. It's something new and deformed actually. Our elites are outside, they've all left. We need experts, we need professional people here. So it will take time I don't know and all these political groups, the extremist Islamists have militias. And more were enrolled in the armies -- in the security forces.

But don't believe her,
Marc Santora (New York Times) stuck his big toe out of the Green Zone and declares, "Schools are open, including one where a teacher had been strung up by her feet and her face cut off by extremists." Santora whores it so well he probably forgets that most readers of the paper may be thinking, "Why the hell didn't we ever hear about that story?" You didn't hear it because they didn't want you to. They looked the other way during the slaughter on Haditha Street, they looked the other way as thugs were installed, they looked the other way as Nouri and his thugs threatened the press (though they did pull the reporter whom Iraqi forces 'jokingly' shot at), they ignored so very much and now you're left with the choice of believeing Marc Santora who is paid by the paper that sold the illegal war or an Iraqi mother in Baghdad with children who damn well knows what the situation on the ground in her city is. While Santora worked himself into a frenzy trying to make it appear today was historic, the US government was less busy. At the State Dept's press briefing today, Iraq wasn't a topic Ian Kelly or the press bothered to bring up. At the White House, on this 'historic' day, tubby Robert Gibbs opened the press briefing laughing about his foul mouth being caught on (and edited from) video tape. Forced to address Barry O's lackadaisical attitude towards Iraq, Gibbs began insisting that wasn't the case and then dropped back to making jokes about the previous administration because when you have no plans yourself, let alone accomplishments, better to keep pointing the previous screw-up.

The 'pull-out' is not the 'drawn-down' or, heaven forbid, a withdrawal. Though he repeatedly lied to voters during the primary and presidential campaigns, Barack Obama's not done a damn thing he promised and
BBC News explains that "131,000 US troops remain in Iraq, including 12 combat brigades, and the total is not expected tro drop below 128,000 until after the Iraqi national election in January." Even then we wouldn't see withdrawal and the January elections were supposed to take place in December. Violence or other options might push them back again.

Violence? Kirkuk was the site of mass deaths from a car bombing.
Tim Cocks and Muhanad Mohammed (Reuters) count at least 32 dead with over one hundred injured Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) notes that the bombing also destroyed 30 shops in a market. Ali Windawi and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) explain, "The attack came barely a week after nearly 80 people were killed in a suicide truck bomb in Taza Khurmatu, a Shiite Turkmen town just south of the city. Both blasts pointed to a deliberate effort to fan the ethnic tensions in an oil-rich area that Kurds with to claim as part of their self-governing region in northern Iraq and Arabas want tied to the central government in Baghdad. The blast marred a day that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki had hailed as a historic victory". Daniel Williams (Bloomberg News) notes the death toll has risen to "at least 41 people and wounded 120 others."

Kirkuk was the subject of the Christian Science Monitor's editorial "
Iraq's next milestone: the Kurdish question" this morning -- excerpt:Tension between Mr. Maliki – an Arab – and the semiautonomous Kurdistan Regional Government in the north has escalated significantly in the last year. It touches issues of fundamental importance -- national unity, oil wealth, and the balance of power between the central government and the regions. Left unaddressed -- or worse, provoked -- the Kurd-Arab divide could split the Iraqi state. A wide swath of disputed territory lies at the heart of the problem. Last August, only direct negotiation between Kurdish President Masoud Barzani and Maliki was able to head off a military showdown between Iraqi and Kurdish forces in the Kurdish-administered town of Khanaqin. Nothing is more central to the territorial tug of war than the province of Kirkuk, which lies next to an oil field that contains 20 percent of the country's proven oil reserves. The Kurds consider Kirkuk historically theirs, but it is now populated by a mix of Kurds, Turkmens, Christians, and Arabs -- the latter group was sent by Saddam Hussein to flood the area. The 2005 Iraqi Constitution calls for Kirkuk's status to be set by referendum, but the vote keeps being delayed. In other reported violence today . . .


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 Baghdad roadside bombings which left four people injured


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an armed clash in Mosul with 1 death.


Reuters notes 3 corpses ("alcohol dealers" remember fundamentalists thugs rule in Iraq) were discovered in Tikrit.

While the for-show 'pull-out' captures the bulk of the attention today, many other telling moments took place. In Iraq?

The tag-sale on Iraqi oil had a . . . Well,
Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) calls it a disappointment: "Iraq was seeking bids from firms to develop eight of its existing oil and gas fields, but only one contract was awarded to work one oil field at a public auction televised live from Baghdad's Rashid Hotel inside the heavily fortified Green Zone." But it wasn't disappointing for everyone. This morning Keith Bradsher (New York Times) reported on what he saw as a surprise move on the part of Chinese oil companies to enter into the bidding. Surprising or not, a partnership between China National Petroleum Corporation and British Petroleum proved to be a winning combo. Robin Pagnamenta (Times of London) reports they won "access to Iraq's biggest oilfield" in the auction. It needs to be noted that there were other winners, they just didn't like what they wong. Pagnamenta reports that "all other foreign companies involved in bidding for a total of eight fields, including Royal Dutch Shell, rejected what were considered to be punitive terms on offer fromt he Iraqi Government. In total, nearly 30 overseas companies withdrew."

In the US?

Yesterday, as
Marcia and Stan noted, Barack Obama invited LGBT 'leaders' to the White House and tried to use his oily charm and pretty words to pretend he might someday -- not any time soon, understand -- do something. Someday. Maybe. In the real world, Lt. Daniel Choic fights for his career and does it with no help from the alleged 'fierce advocate' for the LGBT community. Alexa James (Times Herald-Record) reports that closed-door deliberations continue by a US Army board over what to do about the New York National Guard member who's 'crime' was being honest about who he was. James notes, "Choi graduated from West Point in 2003 as an Arabic major and served as an interpreter in Iraq in 2006 and 2007. He left active duty and joined the Guard last June." Daniel Nasaw (Brisbane Times) explains, "In one of the last instances of government-sanctioned discrimination, the military allows gay men and lesbians to serve in the military only if they keep quiet about their sexuality. For more than a year after meeting his boyfriend and falling in love, Lieutenant Choi was forced to lie or risk joining a list of almost 13,000 gay and lesbian personnel discarged in the past 16 years under the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy'." Mike McAndrew (Syracuse Post-Standard) notes the hearing began this morning at eight o'clock. Scott Horsley (NPR's All Things Considered) files a report featuring noted homophobe and hag Elaine Donnelly, apparently taking a break from writing for the National Review and taking ugly lessons, who weighs in against any changes to Don't Ask, Don't Tell declaring, "We don't make policy based on popular culture or marching in the streets or party favors." Party favors? The last time Donnelly was invited to a party, Howdy Doody was still on the airwaves, thereby explaining her bitter bitchiness. Bitchy? Oh, we're back to Barack who wanted to talk about how he was committed to changing people's minds when all the lazy ass needs to do is sign an executive order putting a stop-loss on discharges under Don't Ask, Don't Tell. That's all it takes. If he'd do that, Dan Choi would not be fighting for his career, no one would be at risk. It would cost him nothing and he wouldn't even have to go through Congress. Barry O loves to mingle with his fellow celebrities posing as 'leaders'. But Barry just doesn't like to do anything. June 19th on Democracy Now!, it was explained how simple it was for Don't Ask, Don't Tell to be stopped immediately:

AMY GOODMAN: And what is the significance of it being passed by Congress, rather than just a policy of the Pentagon?
NATHANIEL FRANK: Well, a couple things. First of all, because it's now a matter of federal law for the first time, because before that it was just a Pentagon policy and regulation, it's now that much more difficult for the policy to be repealed, because as a law passed by Congress, Congress would need to repeal it.I do want to correct one thing that Secretary Alexander said, that President Obama does have the power to stop the firings. He can act unilaterally to use his powers of stop-loss through a statute, 12305 from 1983, in which Congress itself gives the President the power to stop separations in the military for a variety of reasons. And so, he has said that he wants to stop the firings, and he actually has the power to stop the firings. And so, it's really been very unclear to many of us why he's unwilling to take that step. The White House has been --
AMY GOODMAN: You mean it would be an executive order?
NATHANIEL FRANK: It would be an executive order halting all separations while we are under a national emergency, which the statute defines as being -- having the National Guard mobilized, as it currently is. And then he could go to Congress some months down the line and say, "Look, we've had openly gay service officially" -- incidentally, we already have openly gay service; thousands of people are serving openly, notwithstanding the policy. But he could turn to this situation officially and say, "We have openly gay service because of this executive order. The sky hasn't fallen. Now, Congress, let's move to get this off the books permanently." So it would be a one-two punch. And that is an option that Obama has. And he's been asked about it, the White House has been asked about it, and they haven't given a good reason why, given what he said about wanting to stop the firings, he's continuing to let the firings go, when he has the power to do otherwise.

But he chooses not to do a damn thing. And the board has reached a decision to recommend that Lt Dan Choi be discharged. For the 'crime' of being gay and being honest about it.
Mike McAnder (Syracuse Post-Standard) reports Choi was informed of the decision at five this evening and that "he plans to appeal to higher ranking officers" because, "I refuse to lie about my love relationship."

The reality is that Barack could have stepped in at any point and put a stop to this witch hunt but he chose not to. And eality is that Barry O will be judged him not by his pretty words and empty promises but by his actions. Related, Chris Hedges' "
The Truth Alone Will Not Set You Free" (Information Clearing House): All periods of profound change occur in a crisis. It was a crisis that brought us the New Deal, now largely dismantled by the corporate state. It was also a crisis that gave the world Adolf Hitler and Slobodan Milosevic. We can go in either direction. Events move at the speed of light when societies and cultural assumptions break down. There are powerful forces, which have no commitment to the open society, ready to seize the moment to snuff out the last vestiges of democratic egalitarianism. Our bankrupt liberalism, which naively believes that Barack Obama is the antidote to our permanent war economy and Wall Street fraud, will either rise from its coma or be rolled over by an organized corporate elite and their right-wing lap dogs. The corporate domination of the airwaves, of most print publications and an increasing number of Internet sites means we will have to search, and search quickly, for alternative forms of communication to thwart the rise of totalitarian capitalism.Hedges supported Ralph Nader in 2008 and Ralph Nader's sent out an e-mail today entitled "Obama Betrayal Syndrome" which opens with:

"I want my money back, President Obama!" That's the title of Marie Marchand's column in Common Dreams this week.
Marie Marchand says she gave $20 a week for seven months to the Obama campaign -- plus $60 every once in a while for a t-shirt and sticker.
"I gave of my modest purse joyfully," she writes. "I thought I was supporting change I could believe in, not more of the same bloodshed and war!" She now feels betrayed. Millions of Americans are feeling betrayed. They thought Obama as President meant change we can believe in. They thought Obama as President meant withdrawal from Iraq.

"Well they were wrong then, weren't they?" as Marty Feldman says in Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein. Nader's e-mail is promoting
Single Payer Action TV, so check that out. Cynthia McKinney also ran for the US presidency in 2008. And Kimberly Wilder (On The Wilder Side) passes on this news release:

ISRAEL ATTACKS JUSTICE BOAT; KIDNAPS HUMAN RIGHTS WORKERS; CONFISCATES MEDICINE, TOYS AND OLIVE TREES For more information contact: Greta Berlin (English) tel: +357 99 081 767 / Caoimhe Butterly (Arabic/English/Spanish): tel: +357 99 077 820 / [23 miles off the coast of Gaza , 15:30pm] - Today Israeli Occupation Forces attacked and boarded the Free Gaza Movement boat, the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY, abducting 21 human rights workers from 11 countries, including Noble laureate Mairead Maguire and former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (see below for a complete list of passengers). The passengers
and crew are being forcibly dragged toward Israel . "This is an outrageous violation of international law against us. Our boat was not in Israeli waters, and we were on a human rights mission to the Gaza
Strip," said Cynthia McKinney, a former U.S. Congresswoman and presidential candidate. "President Obama just told Israel to let in humanitarian and reconstruction supplies, and that's exactly what we tried to do. We're
asking the international community to demand our release so we can resume our journey." According to an International Committee of the Red Cross report released yesterday, the Palestinians living in Gaza are "trapped in despair." Thousands
of Gazans whose homes were destroyed earlier during Israel 's December/January massacre are still without shelter despite pledges of
almost $4.5 billion in aid, because Israel refuses to allow cement and other building material into the Gaza Strip. The report also notes that hospitals are struggling to meet the needs of their patients due to Israel 's disruption of medical supplies. "The aid we were carrying is a symbol of hope for the people of Gaza , hope
that the sea route would open for them, and they would be able to
transport their own materials to begin to reconstruct the schools, hospitals
and thousands of homes destroyed during the onslaught of "Cast Lead". Our mission is a gesture to the people of Gaza that we stand by them and that
they are not alone" said fellow passenger Mairead Maguire, winner of a Noble Peace Prize for her work in Northern Ireland . Just before being kidnapped by Israel , Huwaida Arraf, Free Gaza Movement chairperson and delegation co-coordinator on this voyage, stated that: "No
one could possibly believe that our small boat constitutes any sort of threat
to Israel . We carry medical and reconstruction supplies, and children's toys. Our passengers include a Nobel peace prize laureate and a former U.S. congressperson. Our boat was searched and received a security clearance
by Cypriot Port Authorities before we departed, and at no time did we ever approach Israeli waters." Arraf continued, " Israel 's deliberate and premeditated attack on our unarmed boat is a clear violation of international law and we demand our immediate and unconditional release." One of the last labor reporters left in the United States is independent journalist
David Bacon -- whose latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press). At Immigration Prof Blog, Bacon's photos of a Mixtec migrant Margarito Salvador's family who work in the strwaberry fields of Watsonville, Calif.

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