Friday, November 20, 2009

Hillary Is 44 on Elizabeth Drew

"Tinkerbell In Trouble" (Hillary Is 44):

August. He began July at 60% approval. The ongoing, contentious debate over national healthcare reform has likely served as a drag on his public support, as have continuing economic problems. Americans are also concerned about the Obama administration’s reliance on government spending to solve the nation’s problems and the growing federal budget deficit. Since September, Obama’s approval rating had been holding in the low 50s and, although it has reached 50% numerous times, it had never dropped below 50% until now.

Unlike the heroic and deserving Tink of Barrie, Obama’s light is flickering, fading, and not to return.

Gallup suggests that most presidents dip below 50% but then recover and sometimes get reelected. However, Obama’s looting economic policies, foreign policy dithering and applause seeking, and domestic scams and flim-flams are sure to continue a downward trend no matter what momentary bobs up and down occur. The downward trajectory is clear.

So clear is the downward trajectory that even Obama’s Big Media masters continue to turn on him. Indeed the current rebukes of Obama by Big Media are ones that strike at the very idea of Obama. The current Big Media assessment of Obama is deadly because, like Big Pink has written since our first publication date, the problem with Obama is his character, history, and friends.

Obama’s professed policies scams are bad enough but the problem with Obama is his character, history, and friends.

Renown longtime Washington, D.C. fixture and regurgitator of conventional wisdom Elizabeth Drew delivers the bad news to the D.C. Big Media clan. Elizabeth Drew is agitated about the Greg Craig backstabbing by Obama.

Yes, Elizabeth Drew is making excuses (”we didn’t know” cried the Germans as the ovens darkened the skies) for Big Media not investigating Obama and selling Obama to Americans. Yes, Sarah Palin’s book gets 11 Associated Press “fact checkers”. Yes, Obama’s books get no fact checking and when mis-truths and fictions galore arise Big Media prepares excuses.

But let no one doubt, Elizabeth Drew is attacking Obama’s character, history, and friends in an unprecedented manner. Drew draws the Obama portrait:

President Barack Obama is returning from his trek to Asia Thursday to a capital that is a considerably more dangerous place for him than when he departed.

While he was abroad, there was a palpable sense at home of something gone wrong. A critical mass of influential people who once held big hopes for his presidency began to wonder whether they had misjudged the man. Most significant, these doubters now find themselves with a new reluctance to defend Obama at a phase of his presidency when he needs defenders more urgently than ever.

This is the price Obama has paid with his complicity and most likely his active participation, in the shabbiest episode of his presidency: The firing by leaks of White House counsel Gregory Craig, a well-respected Washington veteran and influential early supporter of Obama.

Elizabeth Drew does not forget, nor does any serious observer, that there are a lot of Hillary supporters “bitter” and “clingy” and not forgetting the misogyny and sexism of Barack Obama. Drew does not blame us Hillary supporters for Greg Craig’s demise. Drew instead does the innocent “we didn’t know” routine to explain the traitor Craig’s demise:

The people who are most aghast by the handling of the Craig departure can’t be dismissed by the White House as Republican partisans, or still-embittered Hillary Clinton supporters. They are not na├»ve activists who don’t understand that the exercise of power can be a rough business and that trade-offs and personal disappointments are inevitable. Instead, they are people, either in politics or close observers, who once held an unromantically high opinion of Obama. They were important to his rise, and are likely more important to the success or failure of his presidency than Obama or his distressingly insular and small-minded West Wing team appreciate.

This Drew critique is an entirely different timbre and quality of attack. Now, Obama and his team are “insular” and “small-minded”. Too bad Americans never heard that analysis from Big Media when it mattered. We called Obama and his “team” what they really are, “thugs” in a Chicago Circus of Corruption long ago, so it is not a new set of facts that we see Big Media Drew finally acknowledge. Something deeper is going on.



Elizabeth Drew's emerging from her slumber? Good. What? Joan Didion was supposed to carry all the weight on her shoulders? I don't think so.

If you read the periodical, you know that it's pretty much Kool-Aid central.

That has been going on for far too long. Now that reality has brought some sanity to the publication, maybe it will be worth reading?

I'm really not in the mood to have my intelligence insulted which means I've taken a long break from The New York Review of Books.

That's it. My head keeps drooping and I keep nodding out.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, November 20, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US Defense Dept announces a death in Iraq, the 'intended' January elections remain murky, a War Hawk is denied a title, another War Hawk refuses to meet with the parent of a child kidnapped in Iraq, Congress explores the wounded, and more.
Today the Defense Department issued a release noting "the death of a sailor who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. Petty Officer 2nd Class Brian M. Patton, 37, of Freeport, Ill., died Nov. 19 in Kuwait in a non-combat accident." M-NF missed announcing the death (DoD is only supposed to identify the fallen) and the announcement brings to
4363 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war.
"According to the Defense Manpower Data Center, at the Department of Defense, approximately 35,000 service members have been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan," explained US House Rep Stephanie Herseth Sandlin yesterday afternoon. She was opening the House Veterans Affairs' Subcommittee on Economic Development's hearing entitled Adaptive Housing Grants. What are Adaptive Housing Grants? The VA explains: "Veterans or servicemembers who have specific service-connected disabilities may be entitled to a grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for the purpose of constructing an adapted home or modifying an existing home to meet their adaptive needs. The goals of the Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) Grant Program is to provide a barrier-free living environment that affords the veterans or servicemembers a level of independent living he or she may not normally enjoy."
The first panel was composed of Disabled American Veterans' John L. Wilson, Paralyzed Veterans of America's Richard Daley, Blinded Veterans Association's Thomas Zampieri and Homes For Our Troops' John S. Gonsalves. From Daley's opening statement, we'll note this section:
The $63,700 currently available using the Specially Adapted Housing grant is a significant help for a veteran to make the needed modifications to their existing home or newly purchased previously owned home. Since it is difficult to find an existing home that can be made totally accessible, some veterans choose to design a new house incorporating accessibility into the plans. Often financial considerations or a convenient living location near family members may preclude designing a new home. In those situations the often monumental task of making the existing structure accessible must be considered. Guidance and information to make modifications for accessibility can be found in the VA's newly issued VA pamphlet 26-13, Handbook for Design: Specially Adapted Housing for Wheelchair Users, which was also reviewed by PVA's Architecture Department before its publication.
Many existing homes can be modified to improve access for a wheelchair user and enhance the function of the home. Some basic alterations would include creating an accessible entrance to the home including an accessible route to the entrance door, a level platform that is large enough for maneuvering during door operation, and enlarging entrance doorways. One bathroom would need complete renovation including plumbing arrangements if an accessible roll-in shower is required. The movement of an existing wall may be necessary for a person in a wheelchair to use each fixture of the bathroom, allow room for door operation and general circulation in the bathroom. Similar construction alterations would be required for the kitchen to be accessible and usable, and perhaps alterations to the master bedroom. The current grant amount of $63,700 in many situations would not pay for the entire project of making a home accessible for a wheelchair user. Since the house must be made accessible for the veteran, they would have no other option than to pay for remaining construction costs from personal savings, arrange a loan from a bank, or borrow needed funds from family members. We have been told that more often, than not, this is the situation the veteran faces.
That provides a general overview of some needs shared by many disabled veterans. We'll now zero in on an example of one person's needs in particular.
Thomas Zampieri: I had an OIF blinded service member that sent me an e-mail about the special housing grant program which I included in my [prepared] testimony because it sort of explains some of the frustration. While he was happy that he got the $10,000 grant in 2007, I actually had to spend $27,000 to do the adapted housing changes that he needed to provide room and space for his computer, the monitors, the scanners, the printers and the magnifiers in order for him to complete his college degree. All of this was great VA adaptive technology that was provided to him as a blind veteran but you have to have a place in order to store it and a way for that equipment to be connected. A lot of the blind veterans have unique, uh, requirements in regards to lighting and electrical work and the current amounts don't cover that.
Today Kerry Feltner (The New Hampshire) reports on Nathan Webster's campus lecture "Can't Give This War Away: Three Iraqi Summers of Change and Conflict." Webster is a photo journalist. Feltner spoke with people who attended the lecture. Gretchen Forbes declared, "It's really unusual to get a first-hand report of the war. You'd think by now it would be our duty to have major news organizations over there to write about the war . . . that really surprises me. I feel like it's the media's responsibility." Betty Nordgren declared, "I'm always interested in hearing about the war and the images were great to see, but I think that the news organizations are in trouble if they don't start covering this war more thoroughly." Both women are correct and it's also true that the least covered in any war are the ones with visible wounds. It's apparently too tempting to look away. That's true of the challenged and disabled population in general but especially true of those members of that population whose wounds derive from a war or military conflict. We'll note the following exchange from the hearing.
Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: One of the concerns, I know that, Dr. Zampieri, you have in terms of the updated version -- Well, maybe not a concern. But maybe you could elaborate for us. With the updated version of the handbook, is that helpful for visually impaired veterans. What further provisions would your organizations like to see in-in the handbook?
Thomas Zampieri: Yeah, the handbook is helpful. A lot of the modifications in regards to lighting and additional electrical outlets and all those things. And then the --
Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: You had mentioned that in your oral statement. That you would like to see those types of adaptions added.
Thomas Zampieri: Right.
Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: So maybe a comprehensive list of what would be available --
Thomas Zampieri: Okay.
Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: Is that?
Thomas Zampieri: Right. And the voice activated types of devices are also, you know, he [John Gonsalves] had mentioned. Especially for blind veterans who now days live alone. All those things add to safety and other things.
Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: And then, Mr. Gonsalves, you had expressed concerns that I think that in terms of some requirements in the grants -- that there are injuries that require some sort of adaptions or its sort of mandatory but to have some additional flexibility in the grants would be helpful.
John Gonsalves: Right.
Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: Is that correct?
John Gonsalves: Yes, and I think some of that may have been taken I hadn't seen the new VA pamphlet. I-I hadn't seen it before the testimony but one of the things that Homes For Our Troops does now -- and you can kind of tell from one of the pictures that we have here -- we have a soldier who actually, before his house is being built -- this is under the Fully Functioning Kitchens For Mobility. We qualify what kind of adaptations are going to happen in a house based on injury. And I guess it would sort of work the way VA rates disability percentage. We -- At the time a service member gets qualified for SAH, we have enough information at that time. And what Homes For Our Troops has done is we have an adaptation check list. We only have five sets of home plans that we build. And the home, the footprint is always the same. The windows are always the same. The floor plan is always the same. But there's an adaptation check list based on what the soldier needs and that's why I provided some photos in here. It really gives you an idea. Obviously a quadriplegic would need a lifting care system where somebody that has the mobility of their upper arms probably doesn't need it. And I think at the time of being qualified for SAH, basically all of the technology is there. We've built for, I think, every type of injury out there from amputees who are blind to different levels of spinal cord injuries. So we know what's available to put in a home and it would be really great to be out in the front once they qualify. A whole checklist be put together.
Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: I think that that's very helpful and you have some ideas and recommendations that would be helpful and would like you to share those with us, with the VA. I think that with addition to what they've done to update their pamphlet, to have someone who's undertaken the mission that you've undertaken doing this work on the ground would be beneficial in creating those types of checklists. I would also think that it would be somewhat beneficial based on the work that you've done in having these checklists for the different types of injuries that the veteran may have suffered from and how to construct a home suitable to his or her needs as it relates to the overall cost of that. And I know that you agree in addition to TRA that the specially adapted housing grant be increased and again that's sort of the historical analysis that you're providing specific in Exhibit One for that grant. What do you -- do you have a ballpark figure? I mean, knowing again that if we adjust ed it to inflation, it would be up to $170,000. But based on the work you've done and the relative cost of doing that, do you have a ballpark figure?
John Gonsalves: Yes. On average, uhm, we've averaged $343,00 for the cost of building a new home.
Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: Okay. So that's even greater than the average new home price.
John Gonsalves: Right. But these are 100% fully adapted homes --
Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: Yes.

John Gonsalves: -- which they do cost a little more to build. You need a little extra square footage compared to what the average home that the census bureau uses.
[. . .]
Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: One last question. Mr -- Dr. Zampiri. Can you explain the difference in changing the Specially Adaptive Housing Grant from 5 - 200 to 20 - 200 with regard to visual impairment?
Thoomas Zampieri: Yes. In fact, thank you very much. I was afraid someone didn't notice that. And also I appreciate that Congressman [John] Boozman [Ranking Member] just coincidentally showed up at the right time [laughter from Zampieri and Boozman]. I'm legally blind. I can't drive. A lot of jobs I can't do. My vision is worse than 20/200. And I don't qualify for anything under this program because the requirement is 5/200 which is really just you can't tell if there's a light on. There's no light/dark perception for lack of a better way to describe it. If somebody has 5/200 and they waive their hand in front of your face and you don't see it, you're quote-quote, 'meet this requirement, "totally blind." Our concern is -- and this is growing thing -- a lot of the Traumatic Brain Injured service members who have significant functional impairments, who need extra lighting and all these other things get zip. When I was in Houston and I was first service-connected for my blindness, for example, because of the 20/200 vision, they said no. So I went and I ended up spending not a whole lot but almost $7,000 to do the modifications to my house in Houston because, you know. And so the total number of service members coming back that would be 5/200 is fairly low. In fact, the Navy says there's less than 20 in the last 8 years out at Bethesda. But there are 140 that are enrolled in the VA with this 20/200 and are told "nope" and -- So it's a frustrating thing. And I realize of course that the magic problem is that if you change this section and you open it up to 20/200 as the definition of blindness then of course, you know, the automatic reaction is "Uh-oh. You're going to expand the costs of the program." And-and, I'm always suspicious of that. It's sort of like a few years ago, a couple of years ago when you did the TRA legislation. I'm sure people initially reacted by saying this is going to cost millions and millions and you're going to have all sorts of veterans applying for this. And the experience that I have is it usually isn't that way. People don't apply automatically. But I think Mr. Boozman may have some thoughts about this problem of the vision complications.
Ranking Member John Boozman: I appreciate you bringing that up and you make such an important comment -- that probably the VA's the only entity in the world that uses that standard versus the 20/200 standard. As an optometrist, I helped start -- in fact I started the School For The Blind's low vision program in Little Rock. And I would say probably about 90% of the kids in there did not -- would not meet the -- did you say 5/200 was the standard? Yeah, I mean, that's the standard I'm familiar with because nobody uses it. But I would say that if you looked at all the kids in blind schools or schools for the impaired, the vast majority, the vast-vast majority, there's no way that they would meet a 5/200. Most people, and lay people don't understand this but, most people that-that are blind have a lot of usable vision that can be worked with. And it truly does, you know, going in and setting up a kitchen or setting up a house so that a person can easily pour a cup of coffee -- you know, do things, that we just take for granted. Somebody might really struggle with that that did not meet this definition of vision which is so stringent in the VA so I think you make a great point.
Thursday's snapshot noted the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia which Kat covered Thursday night. Wednesday's snapshot covered the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing and Kat covered that Wednesday night.
Remember the two women in New Hampshire noting the lack of Iraq coverage in the media? On NPR today, The Diane Rehm Show didn't have time for Iraq but it did have time for Nadia Bilbassy to laugh condescendingly at an e-mailer (Tom from Jacksonville, Florida) caller and presumably all Americans before she went on to declare what American tax payer money should be spent on. Nadia scored a double: She managed to (a) be insulting and (b) also pimp opinion passed off as fact. It was not attractive. And it was cute the way she worked every answer back to her own community and issues -- a fact not revealed on the broadcast. I wonder if the Basques in Spain will next be brought on to lobby for an hour without NPR revealing who they are? Her remarks did not approach journalism. But, hey, she got to be rude and insulting and isn't that what NPR is all about? Strangely, Diane's show last week (with a guest host) told people the vote was on track in Iraq. That's now up in the air so you'd think they would have felt the need to do an update. But possibly when one guest keeps talking about 'her people' (but forgetting to inform the listeners of that) there's very little time for anything else.
Let's turn to the issue of the elections. Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reported this afternoon that "the country's top election official said that even if lawmakers resolved all their differences, it would be impossible to hold elections in January" and quoted Independent High Electoral Commission's Faraj al-Haydari stating, "We have already stopped all our work." Arraf reminds that both the "IHEC and the United Nations officials have said they need at least 60 days to prepare a credible election."
This morning, the New York Times editorialized on the election issues noting:
The Constitution requires the election by the end of January. Election officials had said that the law needed to be done by Oct. 15 to allow enough time to prepare for the voting. Even though Iraq's Parliament overshot that deadline when it approved compromise legislation, the election was expected to take place between Jan. 18 and Jan. 23.
But the Presidency Council (composed of the president, a Kurd, and two vice presidents, a Sunni and a Shiite) has the final say. And Mr. Hashimi chose to exercise his veto power and put in doubt Iraq's second national election, a critical test of whether democracy can endure as the United States withdraws its troops.
The editorial board thinks the Constitution matters . . . sometimes. Sometimes Iraq's Constitution doesn't matter. It appears the editorial board is concerned with the Constitution only when what they want doesn't happen. Refuse to conduct a national census? The editorial board's okay with that. Refuse to resolve the Kirkuk issue (as the Constitution mandated be done by 2007)? The editorial board's okay with that. It's a funny sort of semi-devotion to the Constitution but then the New York Times is a funny sort of news outlet. Sami Moubayed covers the developments in Iraq at Asia Times notes the argument that the Iraqi refugees will be underrepresented in the Parliament (true even if there wasn't an effort to expand the number of seats and to hand the bulk to Shi'ites). Mouybayad explains, "Frantically [Nouri al-] Maliki responded. On Thursday evening, the Constitutional Court (over which Maliki has plenty of influence) overruled Hashemi's veto, calling it 'unconstitutional'." Let's jump to what's happening and then come back to the 'unconstitutional' assertion. Waleed Ibrahim, Suadad al-Salhy, Aseel Kami, David Alexander, Deepa Babington, Samia Nakhoul and Todd Eastham (Reuters) report, "Instead of addressing Hashemi's demand that the law give more seats to Iraqi refugees and minorities, lawmakers squabbled over whether the veto was legal. They scheduled a session Saturday in which they would vote on whether to reject Hashemi's veto and send the law back for approval by the three-person presidency council without changes, said the speaker of parliament, Ayad al-Samarai." Now back to the "unconstitutional" claim. The reporters go on to address the claims Baha al-Araji was making (see yesterday's snapshot) about the veto being "unconstitutional" and how this is "political wrangling" and MP Saleh al-Mutlaq states, "To my knowledge, the federal court did not say the veto is not constitutional. They are trying to create a real political crisis."
Turning to the daily violence. First, a correction. McClatchy was included in yesterday's daily violence and that was Wednesday's daily violence. Not Thursdays. It will not be counted in the weekly total at Third. McClatchy didn't do a violence report on Thursday or, thus far, on Friday. Apparently, there were other things to do. Reuters noted the following violence today a Mosul roadside bombing today which injured a police officer, a Mosul stabbing of "an Egyptian" last night and another civilian shot dead in Mosul last night as well as a Thursday Baghdad bombing which left nine people injured.

Moving to Europe where noted War Hawk Tony Blair was delivered some, for him, bad news. As Middle East Online reports, "Former British premier Tony Blair took a blow after being rejected as EU president, mainly due to his stained repuation after supporting and taking part in the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003." There is no joy in the killing fields tonight, Poodle Tony has struck out. Blair is the former British prime minister. His roll dog Gordon Brown is the current one. Leicester Mercury reports Brown is refusing to meet with the father of Peter Moore who was kidnapped along with 4 other British citizens in Iraq back in May 2007. The other four are all dead or thought by the government to be dead. Only Peter Moore is assumed to be alive at this point. But Brown has refused to meet with him and the reason given is that the "designated next of kin" is not Graeme Moore. Though some are shocked by Brown's decision, it should be remembered that Gordon is himself a War Hawk and, as such, may not be able to fake compassion very well and just attempting to do so may wear Gordon Brown out. In which case, he needs to limit the occassions on which he fakes sympathy in public.
Yesterday (or last night, for those not on the West Coast), KPFA's Flashpoints Radio spoke with Stephen Funk, Eddie Falcon, Clare Baird and Courage to Resist's Sarah Lazar. Nora Barrows-Freidman was speaking with them about the efforts of Iraq and Afghanistan war resisters to work with Israeli refuseniks. Stephen Funk wrote about this project earlier this month. Stephen is the first known Iraq War resister who self-checked out starting on February 9, 2003 and went public April 1st announcing that he would not deploy. We've noted Stephen Funk here before and will again, but he went public before this site started so we'll note his story in the following excerpt.
Nora Barrows-Freidman: We are now joined on the phone by Stephen Funk. He was one of the earliest who refused to serve in the occupation of Iraq. And, Stephen, thank you so much for being with us again on Flashpoints.
Stephen Funk: Thanks for having me.
Nora Barrows-Freidman: Tell us a little bit about your own history of refusing military service and then what can you say about this international push to dismantle militarism and the specific relationship between the United States and its expanding policies of entrenched occupations in the Middle East and Israel's ongoing and long suffering project of occupation and colonialism? What are the similarities that-that you're seeing there on the ground in Palestine, Israel? And what about the solidarity and the meetings you've been having with Israeli refuseniks?
Stephen Funk: I guess, with my own story, I joined the military after 9-11. I voluntarily enlisted in the Marine Corps. I came from a background of activism. I grew up in Seattle, organized for the WTO and I moved to LA and protested against the Democratic National Committee in 2000 and I also spent two months in the Philippines when their president was being impeached -- that was at the same time George W. Bush was being inaugurated for the first time and I was hoping that the same kind of thing could happen in the United States that was happening in the Philipines. But despite that background, I enlisted. I feel -- maybe as an activist, I thought I could be a more reasonable person in Afghanistan and not be like a racist, hot head which is what I thought a lot of people joining at the time -- there was a lot of a fear going on and lot of people joining at the time were very reactionary about 9-11 and, you know that was -- that was where I was coming from. But when I went to the Marine Corps, I went to the violent training and I had to shout "Kill! Kill! Kill!" all the time and, you know, I also had to deal with being queer in the military. And I realize that I didn't want to be violent and I did not want to participate in any war -- especially the Iraq War for political reasons. But then, that I couldn't aim a gun at anybody and pull the trigger and that, ultimately, that is what I would be doing if I stayed in the marines. I had the option -- because I was gay, I had the option to get out under Don't Ask, Don't Tell. And everybody knew I was gay, everybody thought I was gay. It wouldn't have been difficult. But my issue wasn't that I was being oppressed it was that I was being asked to oppress others. And I felt that it would be more honest to get out under conscientious objection. So I started work on that. I went back to San Francisco and participated in the shut down before the war began and kept on protesting and was speaking out anonymously. But then there wasn't very -- despite all of the rallies that were happening every weekend, despite, you know, all of the worldwide mobilizations and all of the people that were in the streets, the media wasn't paying attention to anybody. And I believe the difference between 2003 and the war began, it was as if everybody in the United States agreed with it -- despite the fact that I was living in San Francisco and clearly people were not happy that the war was happening. So I guess I just talked to people and I decided that I would become a public war resister. And I was the first person to do it. And, you know, the next several months, traveling the country -- I was based in New Orleans -- and I traveled the country. I was eventually sent to jail. That was the long story.
Eddie Falcon is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and he writes about the current project that he and others are working on here.
TV notes, NOW on PBS debuts its latest episode Friday on most PBS stations and this one examines:

The Pentagon estimates that as many as one in five American soldiers are
coming home from war zones with traumatic brain injuries, many of which
require round-the-clock attention. But lost in the reports of these
returning soldiers are the stories of family members who often sacrifice
everything to care for them. On Friday, November 20 at 8:30 pm (check
local listings), NOW reveals how little has been done to help these
family caregivers, and reports on dedicated efforts to support them.


Washington Week also begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and joining Gwen around the roundtable are John Dickerson (CBS News, Slate), Doyle McManus (Los Angeles Times), David Sanger (New York Times) and Karen Tumulty (Time magazine). Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Avis Jones-Deweever, Page Gardner, and Tara Setmayer to discuss the week's events on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

The Cost of Dying
Many Americans spend their last days in an intensive care unit, subjected to uncomfortable machines or surgeries to prolong their lives at enormous cost. Steve Kroft reports. | Watch Video


Witness
Recently freed after four months of interrogation and torture at the hands of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari tells his story to Bob Simon and writes about his ordeal in the next issue of Newsweek.


Cameron's Avatar
Morley Safer gets the first broadcast look at how "Titanic" director James Cameron created his $400 million 3D fantasy "Avatar." | Watch Video

60 Minutes, Sunday, Nov. 22, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Brief

"House Healthcare Abortion Ban Would be Widespread" (Bonnie Erbe, US News & World Reports):
Now the George Washington University's School of Public Health has released an analysis of the amendment, which says in part:
In view of how the health benefit services industry operates and how insurance product design responds to broad regulatory intervention aimed at reshaping product content, we conclude that the treatment exclusions required under the Stupak/Pitts Amendment will have an industry-wide effect, eliminating coverage of medically indicated abortions over time for all women, not only those whose coverage is derived through a health insurance exchange.
Who's going to be hit hardest? Poor women, that's who. These are the women who are least able to provide for the children they will have to bear and raise due to their lack of coverage for abortion.
If only the burden could be shifted to the people who limit access to abortion, the debate would be over. Let the uber-religious folks (who want to impose their view of "life" on the rest of us) pay for these children including all food, clothing, medical care, education, rent and so on from birth through the age of 18, and they'd stop being so-called pro-life in a skinny minute.
Instead we all have to pay--all taxpayers—in the form of huge taxes for social services. It's a crazy world we inhabit and this is one of the craziest aspects as far as I am concerned.


That's Bonnie Erbe and that's really all I'm offering tonight. We're doing a movie and sushi night and are running late. I will add that Martin Chulov of the Guardian speaks with Free Speech Radio News about the birth defects in Falluja here.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, November 18, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the Army's suicide rate for 2009 is already higher than last year, the US Senate explores veterans employment, the Iraq election law has met a veto, Anderson Cooper 360 began their 4-part series on the murder of 4 Iraqis last night, and more.

"These are difficult times for many Americans," declared US Senator Daniel Akaka today, "with an unemployment number higher than it has been for 20 years. When the number of those who have given up looking for work because they believe none is available is combined with those who are only able to find part-time employment, the extent of our challenge is staggering. For our nation's veterans, especially those who have recently separated from active duty, the search for a job can be particularly difficult. Skills honed on the battlefield are not easily translated to a resume for the civilian job market. Add to that the need for a readjustment to civilian life and the problem is compounded."

Akaka was chairing the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee's hearing entitled Easing The Burdens Through Employment. To underscore the problems with employment, Senator Patty Murray explained that the citizen-soldiers of the 81st Brigade Combat Team of the Washington Army National Guard "just returned this summer after serving their country honorably in Iraq," that there were approximately 2300 in the brigade "about 1/2 of them tried to get direct job placement or job training" but "only 20% have been able to get a job so far."

The first panel was the Assistant Secretary for Veterans Employment and Training from the US Dept of Labor, Raymond Jefferson who noted that this was his 100th day on the job in his current position andh touted the Dept of Labor's Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS) in his opening remarks. He also noted that the veterans population included under-served populations such as (from prepared remarks, except for a nod to Senator Jon Tester, more or less the same as what he stated to the committee) "Native American Veterans, especially those on tribal lands, are one such population. [Labor] Secretary [Hilda] Solis hosted a Summit of Tribal Leaders at the Department of Labor earlier this month that VETS participated in. We discussed the challenges facing Native American Veterans and potential solutions. This event began the process of better serving this community. VETS will also be participating in a number of major Native American outreach events in 2010. Furthermore, we are conducting a study on the employment needs of Native American Veterans living on tribal lands to identify best practices for serving this population." Another population he noted was "wounded, ill or injured" veterans which the VETS program is mainly addressing via
REALifelines and America's Heroes At Work. We'll note one exchange from this panel for two reason. (A) I don't think we've noted Senator Mark Begich in any hearing before. (B) Because the exchange resulted in some laughter.

Senator Mark Begich: Let me, if I can add, expand a little bit on, Senator Tester commentary. Being from Alaska, you know we also have a very strong rural component of our state but also of Indian country can you -- I was listening carefully to what you were describing to Senator Tester. What it sounds like, and I don't want to put words in your mouth, but I -- and I want this to be viewed as positive -- that there has not been an aggressive approach in reaching out to rural communities, especially American Indian country. Is that a fair statement?

Raymond Jefferson: Senator, when I took office 100 years ago, and I've assessed it -- [Laughs] 100 days ago,

Senator Mark Begich: 100 days ago.

Senator Jon Tester: I like the way he looks for 100 years.

Raymond Jefferson: It's been a lot of midnights.

Senator Mark Begich: It feels like 100 years, I know.

Raymond Jefferson: But, senator, I'm just not satisified.

Senator Mark Begich: Okay.

Raymond Jefferson: I realize that with the resources we have, we have to work. Working harder isn't going to cut it, I think we have to work more innovatively. And there's two key components. The first is the dialogue we're having with the Native American veterans and the tribal leaders and also, as Senator Tester alluded to, broadening that to the representatives of the rural community to find out from them what will best serve them. And then what I'm looking at is parternships, partnerships with other agencies and specifically non-profits and some of these new veteran volunteer initiatives can be helpful there.

Panel two was composed of
America Works's Peter Wikul (US Navy Capt, retired), Vietnam veteran Dexter Daniel (with Marriott), National Organization On Disability's Helen Tymes, Iraq War veteran Joshua Lawton-Belous (with Oracle) and Lutz Ziob (Microsoft). We'll provide a sample exchange from the second panel.

Chair Daniel Akaka: It seems that one of the themes running through all of your testimonies this morning is mentoring, coaching and hands-on approach to providing assistance. Let me ask each of you to rate this aspect of any program that might be developed in terms of its value and as a factor for success.

Helen Tymes: I'll make a statement on that.

Chair Daniel Akaka: Ms. Thymes.

Helen Tymes: Yes, sir. As far as the effectiveness of our program, it is right now 90% as far as the veterans that we serve and the opportunities that we have assisted to get. We -- we give individualized services to veterans. As far as the transition from being in the military has been stated later and to the civilian sector, many of those skill sets, the individual, the veteran, is not aware of what they are. Because of our education and history and knowledge of the military, we are able to get those skill sets out and come up with resumes that are working resumes, not just a show resume, but something that actually has substance to make that veteran competent for employment and to also help with any other application process there is for education. Our veterans today are facing a lot of mental problems -- PTSD, TBI, a combination of both. This makes the veterans upset, they get angry, have a very low temper tolerance and, because of our services -- because of our personalized services, we're able to assist the veteran with what needs to get accomplished.

Dexter Daniel: I concur with --

Chair Daniel Akaka: Mr. Daniels.

Dexter Daniel: -- Miss Helen. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. What I personally experienced was I was so ashamed when I came home, I just couldn't, you know, really face the reality of wanting to talk to people about my problems and I just didn't reach out. And, you know, the shame that I felt caused me to react in a lot of the ways that I did. Again, I always thank God for MAC VETS (Maryland Center for Veteran's Education and Training 1-410-642-1693) because they reached out in a way that no one else ever had. You know, I was literally in prison and they had a represenative that came around, I was in the cell and, at that time, I knew I was facing a lot. Then an individual came around and found out first and foremost, he's a veteran, number two, this is an availability of a program that we have. Longterm, two year availability to be able to do it, that to me is personalized. Once I got there, the counselors welcomed me with open arms and I still had a lot on my plate at that time. I still had obligations and commitments to the division of parole and probation to come out. They went the extra mile to even talk to my probation agent and the judge, to solidify this one final -- and that's how I felt, one final -- opportunity that I'd have in this life to do good. They gave me my shot and, you know, we've just had a wonderful partnership ever since then. That's the effect that it's had on me.
Chair Daniel Akaka: Mr. Belous?

Joshua Lawton-Belous: Mr. Chairman, as a representative of Oracle corporation, we've found that there are many reasons we don't actually need to ask for money from the federal government to run our wounded warrior program. Mainly because each wounded warrior we take in is a value added proposition for Oracle corporation. They add something to it. And it's a dual mentorship. It's a two-way street on the mentorship role. One is that those who are in the industry need to mentor wounded warriors, soldiers, marines, veterans coming out of the military to explain to them the career path. It's a completely different world when you go inside and understanding it will take some time. There's always that uptick no matter what job you go to where there's a learning curve. But secondly, it behooves veterans to mentor those who are mentoring them to show them 'This is exactly what I learned in the military, this is what I'm capable of doing.' Because, as we find now, only 1/2 of 1% of the population is actually serving in the wars that we are fighting today which means that over time -- and it has already occured where those who are hiring do not understand the valued added proposition that service members can bring to an organization. That, I believe, is the greatest effect of the mentorship program. That way programs that we have today to help veterans transition out of the military will be more successful when the vast majority of senior to mid-level managers are no longer military veterans.

Chair Daniel Akaka: Captain?

Peter Wikul: Chairman Akaka when America Works is racked and stacked against organizations that do similar types of work in the New York area, we consistently rank number one in terms of getting people jobs. People come in the door, we give them mentoring, we give them mentoring. We give them interview skills so that when we get them an interview, they give the right answers to the right questions so they can get them the jobs. We don't get them the jobs, we get them the interviews. They have to get the job and we coach them in that process. If you're a veteran and you need a suit, we get 'em a suit. There's a program to get them a suit. And I have to tell you just recently with in the last two weeks, I went to two veterans homeless shelters in New York City to give a motivational speech and some of these guys are really whipped down and they're broken. And you start talking to them and I try to motivate them and I try to tell them, "Look when we help you get a job, you will get back your self-respect and dignity and-and it will put you on the road to getting an even better job." And so we go there, we go right into the shelters, we talk to them, we give them a speech, and around town, we have a card and it says: "Do you need a job? America Works. If you're a New York City resident and are having difficulty finding a job, call this number and go here. No fee." And we are right in the trenches, we get these people, we bring them in the door . What's amazing is when I first hooked up with this company, which I really find amazing, is you walk in the door at the beginning of the day and it's loaded with people. It's just, you have to fight your way in to get to the offices. And I came back, we went on some sales calls, and I came back about five hours later and I said, "Where are all the people?" And they said, "Out on interviews getting jobs." And so this is what this company does. Against similar companies, we're ranked number one. We get people jobs. We're right on the streets. We're in the trenches. We go to homeless veterans shelters, we talk to the people, we mentor them, we bring them out of their shells, we give them the interview skills and a suit if necessary and we help them restore their dignity and their self-respect so that they can become whole and good American citizens.

Lutz Ziob: To answer your question, Chairman Akka, I believe internships are very important. Occupational success is typically the combination of subject matter expertise. You have to be a good nurse, system manager, but also know how to navigate the world of work, the changing world of work. It's your - your - what you know about your job. The mentorship people that are in the trenches can provide that guidance. The difficulty is they have a day job as well so we need to free up their time and find the opportunity to connect them -- mentor and mentee -- in an effective way.


This was more of a fact finding hearing and Senators Tester and Begich set up time next month with Raymond Jefferson to address concerns for rural veterans and Senator Murray sounded out Lutz Ziob specifically on potential legislation (a bill) she's attempting to draft and plans to bring to the Senate floor next year.

This morning
Anthony Shadid (Washington Post) reported that Tariq al-Hashimi, Iraq's Sunni vice president (they have two vice presidents, one Shia -- Adel Abdul Mehdi, one Sunni) vetoed the election law: "The veto by Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi was the latest wrinkle in growing criticism over the law by the country's biggest minorities, Sunni Arabs and Kurds. Both groups are effectively demanding the allocation of more seats to their blocs in the next parliament, which is almost assured of having a Shiite Muslim majority." In yesterday's snapshot, we noted that the food rations cards being used for the registry was a joke and included a number of reasons why. All Shadid can do is tell you that the food rations cards are overseen by the Trade Ministry. The name we used yesterday -- the one Shadid fails to attach to this story -- is Abdel Falah al-Sudani -- a Nouri appointee, to Minister of Trade, a member of Nouri's own political party and someone who was forced to resign in May of this year over corruption issues. It is not a minor issue when your voter roll was overseen by a minister who has had to resign in disgrace. In real time, Bloomberg News noted that al-Sudani "acknowledged cases of corruption and said the system needed to be revised" in May of this year and that "Iraq's Commission on Public Integrity earlier this month charged nine trade ministry officials with financial and administrative corruption related to the country's food import program." "Financial and administrative corruption related to" what is now being hailed as a legitimate voter roll. CNN added this morning that Tariq al-Hashimi "refused to sing the law without an amendment that would increase the number of seats allocated to refugees, many of whom are Sunnis, from five percent to 15 percent. The Constitution stipulates that every 100,000 Iraqis should have one representative in the country's parliament but al-Hashemi said that refugee numbers are not included in how seats have been calculated." Martin Chulov (Guardian) observes, "However, Hashimi's move has set the scene for a showdown between MPs and the Sunni minority, which increasingly feared it was likely to lose even more political ground. The last election, almost five years ago, was boycotted en masse by Sunnis." Liz Sly and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) provide this context: "Iraq's constitution stipulates that elections must be held by the end of January, and failure to meet that deadline could plunge the country into a constitutional crisis. The vote was originally slated for Jan. 16, but the commission had already said that would be impossible. Hussaini estimated that the latest date on which it can feasibly be held is Jan. 21. It will be impossible to hold the election in the last 10 days of January, Hussaini said, because of the Shiite Ashura holiday, when millions of pilgrims converge on foot on the holy city of Karbala from all over the country and the world. The roads will be clogged, and many Shiites will be away from their home constituencies and unable to vote." Anne Barker (Australia's ABC) reminds that the current Parliament is set to expire by the end of January. So where are things right now? Anthony Shadid and Daniel Dombey (at the Financial Times of London) flip through the memory books to pull this now-forgotten reality back out, "The election deal was only reached after sustained lobbying by Joe Biden, US vice-president, and had been portrayed by the Obama administration as a rare piece of good news from the Middle East and 'critically important' for Iraq's prospects". On today's All Things Considered (NPR), Corey Flintoff examined the latest news.

Corey Flintoff: When President Obama hailed the passage of the law on November 8th, he cited the link between elections and the US withdrawal.

US President Barack Obama (November 8th): This agreement advances the political process that can bring lasting peace and unity to Iraq and allow for the orderly and responsible transition of American combat troops out of Iraq by next September.

Corey Flintoff: US officials have said that if the security situation in Iraq is stable they can begin withdrawing troops 60 days after the election. Iraq's Constitution calls for a new Parliament to be elected by the end of January when the current government's mandate expires.
Flintoff notes that Constitutional crisis could take place but that some MPs state that the Parliament has the authority to extend the term by one month. At the US State Dept today, in the daily press briefing, spokesperson Ian Kelly declared:

We're disappointed at these developments related to the elections law. We urge the Iraqi leaders and Parliament to take quick action to resolve any of the outstanding concerns that have been expressed. And this is so elections can go forward. And these elections, of course are mandated by the Iraqi Constitution. We believe that it's the responsibility of all Iraqi partiest to ensure that the Iraqi people are able to exercsie their democratic right to vote and this election law represent the best way forward for the Iraqi government to be able to consolidate the democratic and political achievements.

The proper response to Kelly's statement was: "Oh, explain that law to us." Naturally, no one embarrassed Kelly with a difficult question -- one his laughable remarks begged for.
Ahmed Rasheed and Deepa Babington (Reuters) quote the Independent High Electoral Commission's chief commissioner Hamdiya al-Hussaini stating, "As a result of the veto, we have decided to stop all our activities and work as we await a final law with a presidential decree that determines the exact date of the election." BBC News quotes Tariq al-Hashemi stating, "I sent a letter to parliament asking for the law to be amended. Parliament said I could veto the contested first article, which is what I have done today. The proposed amendment affords justice to all Iraqis abroad, in all countries, and not just those residing in, or forcefully displaced to, neighbouring countries. Furthermore, the amendment would consecrate the concept of political pluralism and would preclude the monopolisation of the political scene by the strong electoral lists that win the elections." Rod Nordland (New York Times) adds, "Gen. Ray Odierno, the commanding general of U.S. forces, said he Wednesday was still hopeful elections would be held on time, but he added that the military could adapt if there were a delay." Ben Lando (Wall St. Journal) explains, "The election law now appears headed back to parliament, which only approved it after months of sectarian squabbling and heavy U.S. lobbying. The key sticking point in the final weeks of debate was how to carry out the vote in the contested Kirkuk province, claimed by Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen." Li Xianzhi (Xinhua) notes noted gum flapper Nouri al-Maliki whined today that "the veto is a serious threat to the political process." Richard Spencer (Telegraph of London) quotes Nouri whining, "The high national interests were not taken into consideration."

Violence continued today . . .

Bombings?

Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing which wounded "a governmental employee". Reuters notes a Garma roadside bombing which left two police officers wounded and, dropping back to last night, a Falluja bicycle bombing which injured one police officer.

Shootings?

Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad assassination attempt on Mohammed Aziz Al Shamari ("advisor for the Iraqi government") which left him wounded. Reuters notes a Baquba home invasion which claime dthe life of a Sahwa "leader and his cousin".

Turning to the US,
Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy's Kansas City Star) reports, "Suicides in teh Army are expected to reach a new high this year, with 140 suspected cases among active-duty soldiers so far, Army officials said Tuesday. This will be the fifth year in a row that grim stastic rose despite an aggressive military campaign to tackle the mental health stigman in the Army." Ann Scott Tyson (Washington Post) also reports on Army Vice Chief of Staff General Peter Chiarelli's press conference: "Substance abuse, which can be related to mental health problems and suicide, is on the rise in the Army, Chiarelli said, and he added that the force is short about 300 substance abuse counselors." Luis Martinez (ABC News) offers a video report here.

Last night
Anderson Cooper 360 (CNN) began the first part in Abbie Boudreau's four-part investigative series on the killing by US forces of four Iraqis. Click here for transcript, here for video. "It's the story," explained Anderson, "about three decorated Army sergeants who killed four Iraqis execution-style on the battlefield. They were convicted of premeditated murder. And they're all serving long sentences at Fort Leavenworth. But, as you're going to see tonight, in war, nothing is cut and dry." Here's an excerpt and note that Joshua Hartson was not charged or tried for any actions related to the murders.

Abbie Boudreau: The Army has a strict policy on detainees. At the time, the rules called for soldiers to drop off detainees at the detainee housing area, of the DHA. Bu tthat didn't happen.

Joshua Hartson: My 1st Sgt comes up to me and pulls me away from everybody. Then he asks me, if -- if we take them to the detainee facility, the DHA, that they're goign to be right back on the streets doing the same thing in a matter of weeks. He asked if I had a problem if we take care of them. And I told him "no."

Abbie Boudreau: And what do you think he meant by that?

Joshua Hartson: To kill them.

Abbie Boudreau: How could you be okay with that?

Joshua Hartson: They were bad guys. If we would have let them go or take them in, we risked the chance of them getting out and killing us, killing other people.

Abbie Boudreau: So, in a convoy of three vehicles, 13 soldiers holding 4 Iraqi detainees headed down this dusty road leading to the canal. 1st Sgt John Hatley was in charge. At the end of this canal, the soldiers lined up the men in their custody. The three leaders, Sgts Hatley, [Joseph] Mayo and [Michael] Leahy, put their .9-millimeter pistols at the back of the detainees' heads, shot and killed them. They left their bodies in the canal. A year later, divers could not find the bodies. For nine months, the soldiers kept the murders a secret. But, in time, the truth came out. Earlier this year, 1st Sgt Hatley, Sgt 1st Class Mayo and Sgt Leahy would be convicted of premeditated murder and conspiracy to commit premeditated murder. All three are in prison at Fort Leavenworth.

The four-part series continues through Friday night. Anderson Cooper 360 airs on CNN at 10:00 pm EST and tonight's report includes an interview with Jamie Leahy who is married to Sgt Michael Leahy.

In non Iraq news,
Ben Smith (Politico) tackles an issue today which I've avoided because (a) it belongs at Third and (b) the 'outside' help Newsweek has so often relied on. Ben Smith notes that women's groups seem dumbfounded on Palin's assertion that Newsweek has treated her in a sexist manner. The idiot Marie Wilson of the laughable White House Project (let's see, they couldn't save a TV show and they let women go down in flames in 2008 -- maybe they should just pack it in) says of the Newsweek cover, "It's much more complicated than sexism." What a piece of trash. She continues that, "What the [Republican] Party was selling, and people were buying -- and what the candidate colluded [in] -- is what shows up in that Newsweek picture. She winked at people, right?" Marie's never winked at people. With her lopsided and semi-disfigured face, a wink would be incredibly frightening.

Marie wants to blame a woman for sexist treatment. In Marie's world, any woman who doesn't follow Marie's rules gets what they deserve. No, it's not feminism. But Marie's not a feminist. Just another unattractive woman who couldn't cut it in the real world and tried to build herself a niche. Terri O'Neill has just made her first IGNORANT move as the head of NOW and she damn well better be aware that after Kim Gandy's misleadership of NOW, we're not in the mood. She better get her s**t together and get it together real damn quick. Her job is not to be a Barack cheerleader, her job is to defend women. She states of the Newsweek cover that it "didn't strike me as horribly offensive" but also claims it is part of a the "basically sexist" world we live in. Terri, what you're willing to live with, other women aren't. And you are no longer an individual, you are the president of NOW so start acting like it.

The photo is offensive since Newsweek previously allowed the wives of employees to screen Barack's cover shot. Or have we all forgotten that? Trophy wives, even smelly ones, don't feel the need to defend women, however, which is how the Newsweek cover began. The cover plays on "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?" which Terri O'Neill tries to pass off as a "proto-feminist anthem." Terri needs to get out more. Many a (male) lounge singer has performed that song for decades now and it's about as feminist as Paul Anka's "You're Having My Baby." The cover tag line was snide, the photo choice was snide. That's before you open the magazine. Newsweek's not supposed to be doing opinion journalism in what they present as news (they have columnists who write columns). The cover exists to ridicule and mock Palin and to mock all women. It's no different than when Vanity Fair decided to run a cheesecake photo of Sherry Lansing (a photo from several decades prior). What did that have to do with her job of running a studio (Paramount)? Not a damn thing but teh-hee, look at her body. It was sexism. It's sexism for Newsweek to run the photo of Palin. There's nothing wrong with the photo for Runner's World -- which is the publication Palin posed for. Newsweek ran it to ridicule her and to mock her. And any woman who can't grasp that isn't a feminist.

Flip through the magazine where they will find a 'doll' of Sarah Palin dressed as though she is Britney Spears filming the ". . . Baby One More Time" video. You'll find 'noted' woman hater Christopher Hitchens has contributed an article on Palin. You'll find a sexualized photo -- the same sort that the New York Times used against Hillary's campaign in 2008 -- of Palin speaking in public that strips away her identity and her view to render her a sex object. It's disgusting and Newsweek did it intentionally. I'd thought that could wait until Sunday. Marie's usual idiocy wasn't surprising but Terri's non-response is highly distressing.

Women's groups are not supposed to be in service of the Democrat Party, they're supposed to exist to fight for women's rights.
Ben Smith has another report which will seem familiar to you -- maybe you'll grasp Maxy Blumenthal and Thomas Frank just 'wrote' columns with all the same talking points? Despite the lies, the crowds are turning out for Palin. As Cedric and Wally pointed out last night, polls are showing Palins' more popular than Barack. No woman has to silence her disagreement with Sarah Palin's politics (if she has them -- I do) but she has no business tearing Palin apart and ignoring that the attacks on Palin are attacks on all women. Palin's being attacked in such a scorched earth manner that it damn well effects all women. I honestly don't know why so many women are willing to whore themselves out. Sarah Palin's not yet said there were 57 states in the United States so these cries of her being an "idiot" seem little more than yet another attempt to attack a woman in order to protect Barack -- Barack who, for the record, declared that he had visited that many states. Barack makes idiotic remarks like that and the press (and Saturday Night Live) all play "Lovely robes, Emperor!" Palin does it and she's ripped apart. When Max Blumenthal's father was (wrongly) accused of beating his wife, we were offended (on the left). These days, Sidney's son is one of the people hurling lies non-stop at Sarah Palin. It's ugly and it needs to stop and women damn well need to call it out. Too many of us were silent when it was Hillary, were silent when it became Sarah, were silent when Cynthia McKinney was rendered invisible. It's no longer acceptable to dismiss it as, "That's her problem." If your a woman, it is your problem, it is our problem and we better start calling it out and stop contributing to it.


iraq
the washington postanthony shadidthe new york timesrod nordlandcnn
nprall things consideredreutersahmed rasheeddeepa babingtonmartin chulov
the guardian
the los angeles timesliz sly
raheem salman
mcclatchy newspapersmohammed al dulaimy
the wall street journal
ann scott tyson abc newsluis martinez
cnnanderson cooper 360abbie boudreau

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

CRR (yea!), CCR (boo!)

"Center Launches First Abortion Ad in Anticipation of Historic Senate Health Care Reform Vote
Millions of Women Could Lose Abortion Coverage; New TV Ad Starts Running Tuesday
" (Center for Reproductive Rights):
News types:
Press Releases
11.16.09 - (PRESS RELEASE) The Center for Reproductive Rights released a new television and online advertisement today calling on pro-choice constituents to contact their senators and demand they not ban abortion coverage that millions of American women already have.
Watch the ad here >
"The promise of healthcare reform is expanded coverage and affordability, eliminating denials of coverage for pre-existing conditions, and a new basic package of essential benefits," said Center for Reproductive Rights President Nancy Northup. "Yet some in Congress are attempting to use the reform bill as a vehicle for banning insurance coverage for abortion services, coverage that millions of women have today. But healthcare reform is not an abortion bill. This attempt to roll back the clock on women's health and rights cannot be tolerated."
D.J. Feldman, a federal employee denied insurance coverage after a termination of a anencephalic fetus, said the denial of coverage surprised and shocked her: "That's when I learned just how punishing, invasive, and painful federal policy is when it comes to women's lives. A decision that should have been left between me and my doctor was made instead by politicians."
On November 7, the House of Representatives voted 240 -to-194 to approve an amendment offered by Rep. Bart Stupak (D.-Mich.) and other representatives to the healthcare reform package. The amendment was sold as a measure that merely maintains current law prohibiting the use of federal funds to pay for abortion. But the Stupak ban reaches beyond those restrictions and would in effect prohibit millions of women from using their own money to buy private health insurance that covers abortion.
Currently, a majority of private insurers offer abortion coverage. Under the Stupak-Pitts abortion ban, women would not be covered for abortions in the new health insurance market despite spending their own money on premiums. And women who opt into the more affordable public option would be banned from getting coverage for abortion services, even if their own money is used to buy their insurance coverage. With Stupak-Pitts, it would be far harder — and highly unlikely given market incentives — for private insurance companies to offer abortion coverage for plans in the health reform marketplace.
The ad will run on cable networks in the Washington, DC, market and on prominent Internet news sites starting Tuesday. The ad was also launched online as part of the Center's campaign at
www.NoAbortionBan.org, which also includes a repository of legal and research information on the impact of healthcare reform on abortion services overage.

Isn't it funny and telling that the center highlighting the above is the Center for Reproductive Rights?

What do I mean by that?

Where the hell's the Center for Constitutional Rights?

The right to privacy. I believe Roe v. Wade had Constitutional issues. Stupak attempts to override them.

Now CCR has time to whine about ACORN but not to defend the rights of women?

Well, of course, because ACORN got in trouble for advising people on how to use young girls as sex slaves and avoid getting caught.

So if you violate the rights of women and girls, CCR will step up to the plate and defend you. But if you're the women or girls being assaulted? CCR's not interested.

Lot of the little boys too busy stroking their meager little puds in a desparate effort to pretend their pathetic lives have amounted to anything.

CCR -- where all the little peckered boys go to sulk. Don't ever forget that they have yet again turned their back on women's rights.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, October 17, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the 'intended' elections get more iffy, the US Justice Dept files charges against a contractor, CNN begins airing a four-part investigation into US abuse of Iraqi prisoners, and more.

Starting with the 'intended' elections in January. There was already objection to the law [
yesterday's snapshot: " Waleed Ibrahim, Michael Christie and Micheal Roddy (Reuters) reports Iraq's Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi, has stated the law needs to be changed to allow external Iraqi refugees to participate and to be represented. If the law is not changed (by Tuesday afternoon), he states he will veto it. (The Presidency Council is made up of Iraq's President and two vice presidents. After Parliament passes a law, it goes to the council which decides whether to implement it or not.)"]. Today that's even more the case. RTT News reports that the KRG has "decided . . . to boycott the country's January national elections, protesting disparity in allocation fo parliamentary seats for the provinces." Jomana Karadsheh and Yousif Bassil (CNN) report that this is a threat at present, but one which is "casting further shadows over a vote" and note that the issue has to do with the perecentage of seats in the Parliament allocated currently for Kurds. Tariq al-Hashimi is also concerned with the allocation and the two reporters note, "He said the country's constitution stipulates that there should be one seat in the parliamentary Council of Representatives for every 100,000 Iraqis, but, he said, this does not take refugees -- or minorities including Christians into account." Equally true is that this 'development' is neither new nor unrelated.

Have we all forgotten November 2004? The lead up to the 2005 vote? What were some of the last minute objections? In that case, they were resolved in time for the vote. That may or may not be the case here. But this issue of the number of seats and representation popped up in 2004. That was when exiles, refugees and other groupings (such as "expatriates") suddenly became an issue and the US and the United Nations had to change their positions. The UN and the US had stated that no one not in Iraq would be voting. They had to change their stance (begrudingly) and the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq set up polling places in Jordan, Syria, Turkey, the UK, the US, etc. Whty did that take place then?

The easiest reason is that the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called for it to. The reality was that, at that time, the bulk of Iraqis outside of Iraq were considered to be Shi'ites so it was thought that allowing voting to take place outside of Iraq's borders would benefit Shi'ites. (al-Sistani is a Shi'ite.) Little has ever been done, since the vote, on the press' part to determine whether that hypothesis was accurate or not.

After Shi'ites, the group then expected to benefit the most was the Kurds. So today's issues are not really all that 'new' but traceable back to 2004. The real changes are (a) that the persecuted who became refugees since 2004 have been Sunnis and (b) the number of seats. (Thank you to three Western correspondents in Iraq for walking me through the seats issue over the phone.) To dilute non-Shi'ite populations, the Shi'ite dominated Parliament is attempting to expand the number of seats in Parliament from 275 to 323. The press hasn't really gone into that and you have to wonder why not until you grasp that the US Embassy is air brushing in their statements to the press. The additional seats will go across Iraq; however, the Shi'ite majority provinces are the ones getting the most seats. That flies in the face of all logic and there's no way that anyone studing just the internal migration within Iraq -- forget the external -- would buy the percentage growth that the 'government' in Baghdad is attempting to claim. For example, northern Iraq is where a large number of Iraq's internal refugees have fled. And yet this northern region, the Kurdistan Regional Government, is seeing only 3 additional seats (3 out of the 48 that would be added)? That makes no sense at all to anyone who's followed the migration patterns within Iraq.


The allocation of the new seats becomes even more problematic when reviewing the
press release the Kurdistan Regional Government issued today:

Dr Fuad Hussein, the Kurdistan Region Presidency's Chief of Staff, said that President Masoud Barzani has been closely following the mechanism recently put in place to allocate parliamentary seats to each Iraqi governorate for elections. He said that President Barzani believes that it is not possible to accept such a seat-allocation based on the food-rationing registry of the Iraqi Trade Ministry, because the mechanism is illogical, contradicts the reality on the ground and is a distortion of facts. Dr Hussein stated that the Kurdistan Region Presidency views this as an attempt to reduce the number of Kurdistan Region representatives in the next Iraqi parliament and diminish their achievements. He added that President Barzani is absolutely clear, that unless this seat allocation formula is reconsidered in a just manner, the people of Kurdistan Region will be compelled to boycott the election. As this is an historic moment in the history of Iraq, he also called on all political parties to shoulder their responsibility to promote democracy. He urges them to refrain from supporting a deceptive mechanism that obviously targets the Kurdistan Region, and which undermines the democratic achievements made so far.

The food-rationing registry? At this point, if you listen closely, you'll hear laughter.

The food-rations was a program (a needed one then and now) under Saddam Hussein that provided staples to Iraqis. The Kurdish north has never utilized it to the degree other areas of Iraq have. Why is that? Well, for starters, it was always a wealthier region than most parts of Iraq. Since the invasion, under US 'assistance,' the rations have been cut repeatedly to the point that they're nearly 60% less than they were under Saddam.

Now in 2004, the food registry was used (the cuts to the program hadn't been started yet -- despite efforts by Paul Bremer). And it was used with apology and, goodness, oh how, oh how will we ever do a census in time for an election, we have to use this!

The 2005 Constitution mandated a census. It has still not been done. So in 2009, it's pretty pathetic and a sign of how little 'progress' has been made in Iraq that they still haven't done a census.

Now the ration cards are impossible for refugees (for reasons we've outlined many times) and, for many, they're still listed in their old neighborhoods -- the ones they left. Which means a number of areas are being "padded." Not only that, what's not being told is that the registery got padded itself in the lead up to the 2009 provincial elections in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces. This is an important point and since the press did such a lousy job in January covering those elections -- many news consumers WRONGLY believe that was elections across the country, it wasn't -- they'll probably continue to get it wrong. But [PDF format warning]
you can review this United Nations document and you will see that the 'database' for the 14 provinces got padded. How? "Approximately 2.9 million Iraqis turned out for the voter registration update." This is, no doubt, part of that claim of population surge. But nothing equivalent took part in the four other provinces -- the ones not voting in January. Those were Kirkuk and the three provinces making up the Kurdistan Regional Government.

There is no national census. There is an effort by the Shi'ite dominated government to further increase their gains by expanding the number of seats in the Parliament and to do so by using the regsitry that was already laughable before the 2009 elections but that is completely unfair to the northern region which didn't do an 'update' to it. Before any vote takes place, the issue of the additonal seats should be resolved and the smartest thing to do would be to eliminate that, to add no new seats. But if they're going to try to push that through, they better be prepared to back up this alleged population growth. Without a national census, no respectable news outlet should accept any claims but do we have any respectable news outlets working in Iraq? (I'm referring to Western media.) If we did, maybe they'd be attempting to explain what's actually taking place instead of allowing spin from the US Embassy and their own desire to 'close the chapter' on Iraq to drive their 'reporting.' They might also note that a minister over the food ration program was among the ministers to have corruption charges filed against them. And this is the voter roll? Really? (That was Abdel Falah al-Sudani -- who resigned in disgrace in May of 2009. He was and remains a member of al-Maliki's Dawa Party.) Those who remember the problems with the 14 provinces voting in January may also remember the complaints that people had to go to one polling station only to be told go here, go there. This does not in any way indicate that the ration rolls are accurate.

In addition, the new seats and where they are going need to factored into Nouri's continued assault on minority rights. Not only has he and his spokesperson repeatedly stated that guaranteeing minority representation was bad for the government in recent months, the January 2009 elections saw minorities awarded less representation due to a law change that 'no one' had 'noticed' until it was too late. This is not a minor issue and it's really telling that the expansion of the Parliament didn't raise concerns from election watchers. One group that has voiced objection to the election law (and been ignored) is
Iraq's Communist Party:

"The Parliament, in the first article of the law, cut down the number of compensatory seats, originally allocated to the lists that do not meet the electoral threshold at the provincial level but achieve it at the national level, from 45 in the original law to about 15 seats! And when we know that part of these seats will be allocated to quotas for some of the ethnic and religious minorities (8 seats), and for the deputies who would be elected by Iraqis living abroad who constitute more than 10 percent of Iraq's population, we can see how this reduction is arbitrary and irresponsible. The seven or eight remaining seats will not be enough to cover even the votes abroad." "On the other hand, this reduction (of the number of compensatory seats) effectively usurps the right of the lists that achieve the national electoral threshold to gain representation in Parliament. This reveals the selfishness of most of the dominant blocs and their disregard of plurality and diversity in the Parliament, their quest to extend full control over Parliament and the whole of political power, monopolizing and carving it up among themselves, in contravention of democratic norms." "In Article 3 of the law, the big parliamentary blocs went much further in violating democracy and displaying blatant disregard for the voters. They have imposed, once again, giving the vacant seats to the top winning lists, rather than putting them - as obligated by democracy, logic and justice - at the disposal of the lists that attain the highest remaining votes. They have thus opened the door again to a repetition of the infamous experience in the provincial elections earlier this year, when the big blocs stole the votes of more than two and a quarter million people who had given their votes to other lists. This was used by those big blocs to grab additional seats in the provincial councils."

Today
BBC News reports the UN Special Envoy to Iraq, Ad Melkert, is dubbing efforts to ensure a free and fair election which will stand up to world scrutiny a "Herculean task." He stated that to the United Nations' Security Council where he put his concerns for emphasis on the time issue. Xinhua quotes him stating, "Success is far from guaranteed as inside and outside forces continue their efforts to impose an agenda of division and destruction."

Meanwhile Iraq plans to hold another oil bidding next month; however, they still haven't finalized the contracts from last month. Hassan Hafidh (Dow Jones) reports that the "two major oil deals" were not approved today due to the fact that 11 ministers did not attend today's cabinet meeting due to being out of town. October 13rh, Italian oil company Eni bragged of being "awarded the license for the development of the Zubair giant field in Iraq, following a successful first round bid." Suadad al-Salhy, Ahmed Rasheed, Michael Christie and Keiron Henderson (Reuters) remind the approval of the Eni deal and a deal with a conglomerate including Exxon and Sehll were supposed to have been approved last Tuesday but that was kicked back to this Tuesday and it's still not happening.

One thing that never gets postponed is the daily violence . . .

Bombings?

Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad stationary store bombing which wounded four people, a Kirkuk sticky bombing which wounded two police officers. Reuters notes a Falluja roadside bombing which left one police officer injured, a Falluja home bombing which left three members of a family injured and a Kirkuk liquor store bombing which injured two people.

Shootings?

Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an attempted assassination of Judge Abdul Kareem Mohamed in Nineveh Province today in which his driver was wounded. Reuters notes a Mosul attack in which a 1 man in a car was shot dead and his son was left injured.

Corpses?

Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses discovered in Kirkuk. AFP reports 1 corpse was discovered yesterday in Baghdad. The corpse was that of a child who'd been kidnapped and killed by Baghdad Police Lt Haidar Atlas.

Over a million Iraqis have died since the start of the illegal war. One is Baha Mosua whose 'crime' was going to work. The 26-year-old was arrested in a dragnet at the hotel -- arrested by British forces and he went on to die in their custody. As
Adrian Shaw (Daily Mirror) reminds, Baha died of 93 injuries -- all while in British custody. The ongoing inquiry into Baha Mosua's death is taking place in England. Yesterday's testimony by War Criminal Donald Payne got some press attention. Press TV notes that Payne "accused his superiors of routinely abusing and threatening civilian detainees in Iraq." Thomas Harding (Telegraph of London) adds:He also alleged that a platoon commander, Lt Craig Rodgers placed a petrol can in front of a young prisoner's hooded face then poured water over him and lit a match simulating a threat to his life.Minutes before he arrived to give evidence before the inquiry in London into the death of Baha Mousa, an Iraqi who died in British custody in Basra in 2003, Payne issued a short statement in which he accepted the disclosures would "harm the reputation of the both my former regiment and the British Army".Changing the evidence he had given to previous investigations, Payne said he saw every member of a unit commanded by Lt Rodgers "forcefully kick or punch" the group of Iraqi prisoners that included Mr Mousa.Payne claims that he previously covered up the extent of the abuse of Iraqis by British soldiers out of "misguided loyalty". Yes, he did make that claim in his prepared statement as well as in his testimony. He also made another claim. As noted in yesterday's snapshot:Gerald Elias: Can you help about this, Mr Payne: why were you lying about orders that you had received?Donald Payne: Self-preservation.
Elaine covered one aspect of the hearing last night:

During the hearing, a video was shown. Payne was in the video. He was abusing and cursing the Iraqi detainees. His verbal abuse included racist remarks. He was asked about prior experience in the military and whether he used racist language when dealing with people or prisoners in those countries? Payne replied that it was only in Iraq. Was he telling the truth? He might have been telling the truth. I have no idea. He has repeatedly lied to investigators. He admitted as much in his testimony today -- which was basically, 'I lied every other time but, this time, I'm telling the truth!' Along with claiming that he didn't use racist remarks anywhere else he was stationed, he also claimed not to know the video was being filmed. Gerald Elias pointed out that the video was clearly taken by a video camera and not by a cell phone. Payne replied that he didn't notice it. Elias then noted the spot in the video where Payne is clearly looking at the camera. He continued to deny that he knew the filming was taking place or had taken place immediately after and that he had no idea who was doing the filming.
Sidebar, last
Wednesday's snapshot covered the US Senate's Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee's Housing, Transportation and Community Development's Subcommitte on homeless veterans. Kat covered that Wednesday night and I haven't had time to note that until now. Back to the inquiry, Simon Basketter (UK Socialist Worker) reports:

His revelations expose a widespread pattern of abuse that extends well beyond Baha.
Payne said that his former commanding officer (CO) held a gun to a prisoner's head and threatened "to blow his face off".
The inquiry also heard that prisoners were scalded with boiling water, urinated on, kicked, punched, hooded, sleep deprived and made to stand in stress positions.
Payne said the soldiers in his unit enjoyed an "open season" of punching and kicking Baha and other prisoners.
He described how he was travelling in a patrol with his CO Colonel Mendonca when someone shot a flare into the air.
An Iraqi was arrested and Mendonca interrogated him.
Payne said, "The CO then cocked his pistol and said he was going to blow his face off. He was holding the pistol above the man's mouth. . . we left him there on the floor and drove off."

Robert Verkaik (Independent of London) observes, "The new allegations raise concerns about widespread abuse of dozens of Iraqi detainees and come days after the Ministry of Defence said it was investigating 33 other separate cases of torture carried out by British soldiers in Iraq and revealed in The Independent on Saturday." 33 cases? Last night, Stan noted, "UPI reports today that there's talk this could be "a second Abu Ghraib" -- the infamous prison the US ran in Iraq in which Iraqi prisoners were repeatedly tortured and abused. So keep your eyes peeled for developments on that." The allegations emerged late Friday night. BBC News reported that Phil Shiner, an attorney for some Iraqis, is calling for an inquiry into abuse allegations which include British soldiers raping "a 16-year-old boy". Robert Verkaik (Independent of London) explained, "Claims that British soldiers recreated the torture conditions of Abu Ghraib to commit the sexual and physical abuse of Iraqi civilians are being investigated by the Ministry of Defence. The fresh allegations raise important questions about collusion between Britain and America over the ill-treatment of Iraqi prisoners during the insurgency." BBC News (link has text and video) noted that the UK Armed Forces Minister Bill Rammell is insisting that there's no need for a public inquiry and claiming that any investigation can be handled (privately) by the Ministry of Defence. (Mike and Kat noted the story Friday night.)Meanwhile, in the US, CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 begins a four-part series (Anderson's show airs at 10:00 pm EST) into the way Iraqis were treated in US custody:

U.S. soldiers interrogated by the Army in the 2007 murders of four Iraqi detainees blamed a military policy they said made it too hard to detain suspected insurgents, a CNN investigation has found.
Soldiers questioned in the killings said the sergeant in command of their detachment ordered the suspected insurgents killed because Army rules made it too difficult to hold them.
"They're gonna be right back on the streets," one soldier put it.
CNN obtained an extraordinary 23½ hours of Army interrogation videotapes that detail the March 2007 executions of the prisoners by three sergeants who were attached to Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment.
The tapes, to be shown on CNN's "AC360," show one of the sergeants confessing to the crime, as well as agents from the Army's Criminal Investigations Division telling soldiers involved in the crime that the military's reputation was at stake.
On one tape, an Army interrogator compares the potential fallout from the slayings to the scandal over the treatment of inmates at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, telling a soldier, "This is gonna be ugly, 'cause it is."

In other news, yesterday the
US Justice Dept issued this press release:

The United States has joined a whistleblower suit against Public Warehousing Company (PWC), The Sultan Center Food Products Company (TSC), and PWC's chief executive officer, Tarek Abbul Aziz Sultan Al-Essa, the Justice Department announced today. The lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, alleges that since 2003, defendants have violated the False Claims Act by presenting or causing others to present false claims for payment under PWC's multi-billion contracts with the Defense Logistics Agency to supply food for U.S. service members serving in Kuwait, Iraq and Jordan. The complaint alleges that defendants knowingly overcharged the United States for locally available fresh fruits and vegetables that PWC purchased through TSC. The complaint also alleges that PWC failed to disclose and pass through rebates and discounts it obtained from its U.S.-based suppliers, as required by its contracts. The case was initially filed under seal by Kamal Mustafa Al-Sultan, the owner of a Kuwaiti company that originally partnered with PWC to submit a proposal on the food supply contracts. The case remained under seal to permit the United States to investigate the allegations and determine whether it would join the lawsuit. Under the False Claims Act, the United States may recover three times the amount of its losses, plus civil penalties. "We will not tolerate fraudulent practices from those tasked with providing the highest quality support to the men and women who serve in our armed forces," said Tony West, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division. "Those who do business with the government must act fairly and in accordance with the law. As this case illustrates, the Department of Justice will investigate and pursue allegations of fraud against contractors and subcontractors, whether they are foreign or domestic." "The decision to join in this civil lawsuit follows a multi-year probe into abuses in Middle East subsistence prime vendor contracts," said Acting U.S. Attorney F. Gentry Shelnutt. "This Office and the Department of Justice will spare no effort in investigating those persons and companies, regardless of location, who seek to defraud the United States." The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia also announced today that a grand jury returned a six-count indictment against Public Warehousing Company, also known as Agility, in connection with its prime vendor contracts. Assistant Attorney General West and Acting U.S. Attorney Shelnutt thanked the joint investigation team, which includes Special Agents with Defense Criminal Investigative Service; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (Army CID), auditors from the Defense Contract Audit Agency, and the Department of Defense, Office of the Inspector General, for the investigation of this defense procurement fraud matter.

Walter Pincus (Washington Post) explains, "Under the False Claims Act, the government may recover three times the amount of its losses plus civil penalties, according to the Justice Department announcement." Finally, NOW on PBS debuts its latest episode Friday on most PBS stations and this one iexamines:

The Pentagon estimates that as many as one in five American soldiers arecoming home from war zones with traumatic brain injuries, many of whichrequire round-the-clock attention. But lost in the reports of thesereturning soldiers are the stories of family members who often sacrificeeverything to care for them. On Friday, November 20 at 8:30 pm (checklocal listings), NOW reveals how little has been done to help thesefamily caregivers, and reports on dedicated efforts to support them.


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