Friday, April 23, 2010

The real Tina Fey

"TV: The Woman Who Loathed Women" (Ava and C.I., The Third Estate Sunday Review):
In the world we live in, Lindsay Loham is a never ending train wreck, no question about it. But you won't find a lot of Loham jokes in our writing.



Oh, yeah. Tina Fey wrote the screenplay for Mean Girls which starred Lindsay Loham who was able to turn it into a hit film. And her thanks for that from one-time co-star Fey is to have her mother ridiculed on national television?

There was Tina Fey portraying Loham's mother as a drunken slut with chest freckles (marketing a new item called: Checkles). Now we're not close to Loham, we barely know her. But we do know who she considers the source of pain in her life.

It's not her mother. It would be her father who can't stop talking about her, blogging about her, anything to ride her name to fame. And her supposed, alleged 'friend' Tina Fey made fun of her mother on national television, ridiculed the woman.

That's Tina Fey, that's the real Tina Fey. Always letting a man get away with murder while slamming a woman for the least offense. That's Tina Fey, the real Tina Fey. Stabbing everyone who ever helped her along the way in the back and then insisting her bitchery is "humor" and that others need to lighten up.

If you never got how true it was, you might need to check out Lindsay Lohan's Tweet page today. Her dead beat father invented some 'endangerment' issue regarding Lindsay's 16-year-old sister Ali being with her and got the cops over. Lindsay shares her feelings about the whole thing including her father in Tweets like this:

Ali IS IN SCHOOL! It's called HOME SCHOOL! IT'S NOT EASY in public school when YOU are PUBLICLY humiliating your OWN CHILDREN AND MOTHER OF THEM!!! nor was it for me and Michael when our father threatened to kidnap and kill us IN FRONT of our friends! the only one in need of police protection here is ME AND ALI from our pathological, lying ex-father! my mother is AMAZING! not ANYTHING like what Michael is saying. W/out her, i wouldn't of been able to follow my dreams and be as strong as i am today
Ava and C.I. know Lindsay in an air-kiss-kiss kind of way. They've been very clear that she is not their best friend or friend. By contrast Tina Fey worked on a film with her. Fey was on the set every day (not just when filming her scenes). But we're supposed to believe that Tina had no idea that trashy skit calling Lindsay mother a horny, drunken fool was something Tina didn't know would be hurtful?

Tina Fey knew.

She always knows.

She takes care of herself, she sets up her end and she burns everyone in her way.

The idea that she would mock Lindsay's mother is insulting all by itself. The idea that she would do so when, as Ava and C.I. note, Lindsay's been very clear who the villain in her life was (her father)?

Tina Fey is evil.

As I noted last week, Ava and C.I.'s Lindsay joke is confined to a 2005 short story for Third's first summer read edition where they wrote an advice column by Cokie Roberts (it was a parody) and Cokie talked her way into the job even though the editor wanted Lindsay or Hillary Duff. (The joke was that Cokie didn't know who either woman was.) They have made no jokes about her problems or her growing experiences and they have certainly not tried to turn her mother into a cheap joke.

But Tina Fey's the sweet one?

Is that how we're going to tell the story?

I hadn't planned to write about that but Sunny mentioned (a) it was popping up in the e-mails and (b) 30 Rock apparently was on last night and there was a scene at the writer's table. Ava and C.I. pointed out in their review that Tina has to be Queen Bee and the token. So Ronald e-mailed that he paid attention and saw, yes, Liz is the only female on the writing staff of The Girly Show (TGS) (the SNL like show Tina's character produces on 30 Rock).

Yes, that is Tina Fey. Supposedly her character Liz writes for a sketch show entitled The Girly Show but there are no female writers save for Tina.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, April 23, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Baghdad is slammed by bombings, the US military announces another death, a new ruling knocks out an earlier one from 2007, and more.

Iraq was slammed today by multiple bombings. In the Iraqi city of Khaldiya,
Reuters counts 7 dead and 10 injured in at least seven bombings. BBC News adds, "They were planted among several houses belonging to police officers and a judge." NPR also noted in hourly headlines that police and a judge were targeted. Khaldiya is part of Al Anbar Province which is Sunni majority. In the fall of 2006, Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily (IPS via reported on how children at the local school were so accustomed to the bombings that one "just outside the school" didn't even cause them pause. Noting anti-occupation sentiment in the fall of 2003, Anthony Shadid (Washington Post) described it as having a population of approximately 15,000.

The attack on the Sunnis has been tossed into the scrap heap because
8 dead in these bombings was no longer big or even moderate news for the cycle once Baghdad was slammed with bombings. Ben Lando (Wall St. Journal) puts the number of car bombs at "at least five" and notes they went off throughout Baghdad, outside mosques. Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) counts "at least 64" dead in Baghdad leading Moqtada al-Sadr -- whose supporters were among those targeted -- to call up the Mahdi Army (al-Sadr's militia) with the orders that they protect Sadr City. The regrouping of the Mahdi Army may have as much to do with the bombing today in Sadr City as it did with the reactions to and from Iraqi forces: "Minutes after the car bomb detonated in Sadr City on Friday -- as worshipers were leaving prayers -- residents began lobbing bricks and stones at Iraqi soldiers who responded to the scene, witnesses said. The soldiers opened fire in response, killing some and injuring several, according to some of the wounded and doctors in Sadr City." Though some may have found that news reassuring, others did not. Alice Fordham (Times of London) adds, "Fears that the attacks could heighten sectarian tensions reawakened by the elections were strengthened by a statement from Hojatoleslam Moqtada al-Sadr, leader of the Sadrist political and religious movement. He called, via a representative, for mosques to be protected by the Mahdi Army, the militant wing of the movement. The Mahdi Army, responsible for massive bloodshed during the worst years of sectarian fighting, has formally been disbanded." Al Jazeera's Mike Hanna (link has text and video) reports of the bombings:

Mike Hanna: A period of relative calm violently ended. In a series of apparently coordinated attacks bombs explode in six Baghdad neighbourhoods. There's no clear sectarian pattern as citizens are killed in both Shia and Sunni districts. The most serious attack though in the Shia neighborhood of Sadr City. There two car bombs killed well over 30 people shopping at the local market following Friday prayers. And intense anger among residents aquestioning how cars carrying explosives managed to pass through numerous check points to get into the area.

Sadr City Male Resident: The vehicle entered Sadr City without being searched. It is not acceptable when a car bomb goes off near a policeman. I think there must be a plot with the police. Why was Sadr City a target?

Mike Hanna: The escalation of violence follows what the Iraqi government said were major successes in the fight against the insurgency.

Jane Arraf, Sahar Issa and Mohammad al-Dulaimi (Christian Science Monitor teaming up with McClatchy Newspapers) report, "Iraqi security officials took the unusual step of announcing the death toll. In a statement run on Iraqiya television, the spokesman for the Baghdad Operational Command said 54 people had been killed and 180 injured in the attacks in Baghdad. At least another six people were killed and 12 wounded by bombings in Anbar Province, an Al Qaeda in Iraq stronghold." Andy Winter (Sky News -- link has text and video) observes, "The deadly blasts came just days after the reported killings of the top two al Qaeda leaders in Iraq in what was seen as a major blow to the insurgency." Frank James (NPR) has posted the text to one of Quil Lawrence's top of the hour reports on the violence in Iraq today in which Lawrence notes Baghdad was slammed by car bombings and by motorcycle bombings and that "the blasts today may be in response to what Iraqi and American authorities have heralded as a hugely successful campagn to roll up al-Qaida's leadership." BBC News' Gabriel Gatehouse offers this analysis: "Whoever did carry out the attacks, it is hard not to conclude that they were designed to inflame tensions between Iraq's Sunni and Shia communities at a time of political uncertainty." Sadr City wasn't the only area struck and Larisa Epatko (PBS' NewsHour) notes, "Other explosions struck the mainly Shiite neighborhood of Zafaraniyah, killing one person and wounding 12; a Shiite mosque in the northern Hurriyah neighborhood, where eight people were killed and 36 wounded; and the eastern neighborhood of Amin al-Thaniyah, killing 14 and injuring 36." NewsHour? No, it hasn't aired yet as I dictate this but remember they are increasing their online presence and they offer content throughout the day. Larisa Epatko's coverage is part of "The Rundown News Blog" for the program. Rebecca Santana (AP) terms it "the bloodiest day of the year in Iraq" and counts 69 dead.
In other reported violence today,
Reuters notes 1 corpse was discvoered in Shirqat. Today the US military announced: "BAGHDAD – A U.S. Soldier died of non-combat related injuries in Baghdad Thursday. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website at The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The incident is under investigation." This brings the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the Iraq War to 4393.

Today on the second hour of NPR's
The Diane Rehm Show, Diane was joined by Abderrahim Foukara (Al Jazeera), Roy Gutman (McClatchy Newspapers) and Trudy Rubin (Philadelphia Inquirer) and they addressed Iraq multiple times. We'll note this section at the start of the show (however, calls and e-mails promoted the topic to be revisted throughout the show).

Diane Rehm: This death toll in Iraq, two top al Qaeda leaders were killed. Tell us about it, Roy?

Roy Gutman: Well today's bombings show that even though the leadership has been decapitated so to speak, al Qaeda Iraq is alive and still has a lot of suicide bombers trained and ready to go and to attack. It's still so incredible to me. People at their Friday prayers in the mosques of Baghdad. I think it should just induce a certain amount of humility in the Americans and Iraqi officials who somewhat triumphantalist mood this week proclaimed that they had really broken the back of al Qaeda --

Diane Rehm: You know we've heard that before and now to have this kind of enormously effective retalitory effect, as you say, should bring some humility, Abderrahim.

Abderrahim Foukara: Absolutely, Diane. We've heard this before, we've heard it under President Obama and we certainly had heard it during the Bush administration and every time that they say they've broken the back of al Qaeda, they'll kill one or two top leaders and then they'd be replaced and things go back to business as usual. What's really sinister this time from the point of view of the plan that the Obama administration has to get out of Iraq is that all this mess now is happening in Iraq six weeks after the-the election. And six weeks after the election, the Iraqis --- We don't even know yet who's actually won the election. So if there was trepidation in light of the vacuum that happened post the 2005 election for several months before they actually got a government going, think about it this time. Six weeks -- we don't even know who the winner is.

Diane Rehm: Trudy, are they still counting ballots?

Trudy Rubin: Yes, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's party appealed the count in Baghdad and the votes are being recounted there and, needless to say, this has encouraged other parties to talk about wanting recounts in their areas. This Baghdad recount should be finished in a week but it is important to say that al Qaeda here clearly has a strategy. You only need a handful of people to have a strategy like this and suicide bombers who come from outside and come in. And the strategy is to provoke sectarian warfare. I was in Baghdad just a week ago, and there were warnings that al Qaeda was trying to steal an airplane and fly it into a holy Shi'ite shrine, possibly the shrine of Iman Ali the holiest in Najaf. And, in fact, there were stories out of the Czech Republic that that might have been where they tried to get a plane and somebody was stopped there -- Iraqis. So there is a clear effort to provoke sectarian war. I don't think the country wants it, they are sick of it. But it will take a lot of careful manuevering for this election process to not spin off the rails. Right now the United States is trying to stand back. I think they're going to have to get more involved in mediation.

Diane Rehm: Now what about the questions of allegations of fraud and what's happening in terms of violence, do you think this could effect US decisions to move out, Abderrahim?

Abderrahim Foukara: Well we've had reassurances from the-the top brass of the US military in Iraq that it will not effect the decision to withdraw US troops. But those decisions were made when things looked promising that there would be elections in Iraq and that some sort of government would emerge -- even if emerges a little late -- that could take care of the security situation. Now we have this thing that's just been mentioned. You have Iraqi -- You have Prime Minister Maliki contesting the results of the election. Because of that, you also have [Aya] Allawi, his competitor, contesting the election now and demanding a recount in the south, you also have some of the Kurdish parties also demanding a recount in some of northern Iraq. So this whole thing seems to be unraveling and then you get the violence, the thing about al Qaeda and also about the prison that the Prime Minister was accused of running where inmates were alleged to have been tortured.

Diane Rehm: And you also have the case of Navy Seals accused of abusing a prisoner, Trudy?

Trudy Rubin: Let me say that I think that Navy Seal case is peanuts compared to previous cases. I really don't think that Iraqis are going to pay too much attention to the relase because, you know, after much bigger cases like Abu Ghraib and higher ups were not punished or the case where Blackwater shot up 17 people in a major square in Baghdad, you know this is really tiddly winks. I think the torture case has more possibility of upsetting people because there is -- there was -- a secret torture facility at the Muthana Airport Base where I was just nearby last week. And many Sunnis were held there and the key in this election situation is whether Sunnis feel they have sufficient place in the government. Let me add,
my driver was tortured in that facility just in January and this is typical now of the problems in Iraq, he is a Shi'ite who protested against the killings of Sunnis in his neighborhood by Jaish al-Mahdi, Shi'ite militia men. He helped US and Iraqi forces to roll up those militia men and when the US pulled out the Jaish al-Mahdi got their revenge and they have contacts in the army and the police. And this man has been in jail for sixteen months and been tortured because he helped Americans and Iraqis. So I think Prime Minister Maliki, the other political leaders will have a lot to do to prevent sectarian tensions from getting out of hand and, as I said, I think the US is going to have to play a bigger role than they now want to do.
Roy Gutman: I wanted to come back to the elections if I could because -- and the recount because it is often assumed that Iraq being a third world country without a great tradition of
re-elections cannot conduct good elections. But the actual fact is-- and the record is -- that their own independent electoral commission has run very, very solid elections. It's true the politicians want recounts and what politician doesn't if he's on the losing end? But in fact, in the last -- I think it was the provincial elections -- I was there myself in Iraq some months ago and talked to commission members and they said of the 40,000 polls or polling places around the country in the previous provincial elections, only about, I think, 1% had general problems of -of too many ballots, or something going awry. So I think that part of the process is actually more in tact than most people realize.

Abderrahim Foukara: If the recount, at least in -- If the recount -- at least in Baghdad, which I understand represents about 20% of the vote, the overall vote -- if the recount gives an additional two, three seats to the prime minister Maliki who is, by the current results, is lagging behind his competitor Ayad Allawi by two seats -- If that happens, number one, we don't know how Ayad Allawi is going to react. Number two, and this has a very important regional dimension, Ayad Allawi is a Shi'ite but because he canvased heavily among the Sunnis in Iraq, he gave hope to the regions of Iraq, the Sunni regions of Iraq, the Saudis among others, that if the government emerges in which he plays a very active role, then they could do business with the Iraqi goverment. As opposed to al-Maliki who is perceived by the Sunnis as being too close to Iran.

Diane Rehm: Could you end up with something like a mixed government? And if you did, what kind of power would there actually be, Trudy?

Trudy Rubin: I think that is the goal. It is certainly the goal of Prime Minister al-Maliki. I talked to one of his top advisors last week and he told me that their strategy is to try to bring all the blocs in. There are two major Shia blocs, one major Sunni bloc headed by a Shi'ite, a Mr. Allawi, and a big Kurdish bloc. And Maliki is talking to all of them. The Kurds have not ruled out going with Maliki. And there are probably Sunnis who might make a deal. There are all kinds of issues in place such as whether the president of Iraq, instead of being a Kurd as he now is, might be a Sunni, what cabinet posts -- The consequence of parceling everything out by sect and ethnicity; however, is going to be a government of patronage that really doesn't hold together and perform well. On the other hand, such a government might be necessary to prevent sectarian upheaval. And my guess is this is the direction it's going to go. The question is: How long will it take them to agree on a prime minister?

Reporting on today's bombings,
Steven Lee Myers and Duraid Adnan (New York Times) note, "A member of Parliament from the [Sadr] bloc, Balqis Koli al-Kafaji, put the attacks in the context of several recent vents that she said contribute to the overall chaos here: the still unresolved elections, the controversy surrounding a previously undisclosed prison in Baghdad that held Sunnis from northern Iraq, and the government's claims of recent success in dismantling the leadership of Al Qaeda in Iraq, also know as Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the main insurgent group here." The secret prison Trudy Rubin was referring to? Khalid al-Ansary, Muhanad Mohammed, Aseel Kami, Nick Carey, Michael Christie and Lin Noueihed (Reuters) report, "The unit that operated the detention centre reported directly to the office of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shi'ite Muslim, but officials denied any connection to or knowledge of the facility in Maliki's inner circle." And if that doesn't make you roll your eyes, how about this? They're reporting the prison closed down today. This despite claims that the prison was already closed since Ned Parker's "Secret prison for Sunnis revealed in Baghdad" (Los Angeles Times) broke late Sunday -- including claims by Iraq's Human Rights Minister. Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) offers this on the process post-election thus far:

Positions in the 325-seat parliament were split between four main political blocs, meaning that at least three of them would probably have to band together to form a comfortable majority. But six weeks after the vote, serious talks still haven't begun.
"I don't detect serious movement yet on the real decisions regarding government formation," says Ambassador Gary Grappo, political counselor at the US embassy in Baghdad. "I could envision a scenario where it might go relatively quickly and you could have something by early June but it could drag through the summer."
US and Iraqi officials say the political parties are willing enough to bargain that a coalition government could take almost any kind of form but will have a hard time overcoming their objections to the leaders themselves.

Committee to Protect Journalism notes the disappearance of Iraqi journalist Saad al-Aossi who is "editor-in-chief of the critical weekly Al-Shahid." They explain:

Armed men entered al-Aossi's home in central Baghdad on the morning of April 14, seized his computer and took him to an unknown location, according to local and regional news reports. The identity of the armed men remains unclear; various news sources have described them as being a "
mixed force" consisting of police and military elements, belonging to the Baghdad Operations Command, or to a special security force attached to the prime minister's office.
Colonel Qassem Atta, spokesperson for the Baghdad Operations Command, issued a
statement today denying government involvement in al-Aossi's kidnapping and stating that he is not in government custody.
Al-Aossi's abduction from his home took place on the same day that military and police personnel conducted wide-ranging sweeps in multiple Iraqi cities of upward of 100 Iraqis under the pretext of a preventive anti-terror sweep, according to a
report in the Qatar-based newspaper Al-Arab that quotes an unnamed Iraqi police official. The same unnamed source stated that many of the detained individuals are vocal supporters of Ayad Alawi, a political opponent of the prime minister. Al-Aossi has regularly criticized the prime minister's performance in his columns.
"We are deeply concerned about the safety of Saad al-Aoosi," said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem . "The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki must clarify the circumstances of his seizure by men reportedly belonging to the security forces, and account immediately for his whereabouts."
They are calling for answers. And, if pattern holds, they'll be among the only ones doing so. That's really the biggest problem and why Saad is missing.Nouri al-Maliki became prime minister in April of 2006. Shortly after the Green Zone was nearly breached in a Friday attack, Nouri announced a number of programs. Many of the programs were already in place and he hadn't created them. I know, it's very difficult to imagine Nouri ever grand standing, right? But one of his rules was an attack on journalists. And, except for the BBC, no news outlet covered what he was proposing. Other outlets, including the New York Times, covered every plank of Nouri's proposals . . . except the one to do with journalism.Nouri should have understood there would be a loud and public international rebuke. Instead, the message was sent to him that even the press didn't care if he went after the press. Which is how you get his forces aiming a gun at a New York Times reporter and pulling the trigger -- for a joke, you understand. He set the tone. Things weren't perfect before him. I'm not trying to imply they were. (And the KRG is its own region with its own issues.) But Nouri repeatedly attacked journalists and repeatedly got away with it.Journalists were harassed. Rules and regulations were repeatedly issued.He tried to do that with regards to the January 2009 elections and got a push back from the UN and many in the press (including the New York Times) which caused him to drop that list of demands.But even now, when he's claiming journalists need to be registered for their own safety, there has been very little pushback against him. There should have been a huge push back. Americans should be aware of that. McClatchy Newspapers' Iraqi journalists have won many awards.In October of 2007, they were awarded the International Women's Media Foundation Courage in Journalism Award and
McClatchy noted:In introducing the six McClatchy reporters — Shatha al Awsy, Zaineb Obeid, Huda Ahmed, Ban Adil Sarhan, Alaa Majeed and Sahar Issa — ABC News reporter Bob Woodruff said: "These six Iraqi women have reported the war in Baghdad from inside their hearts. They have watched as the war touched the lives of their neighbors and friends, and then they bore witness as it reached into the lives of each and every one of them.
"All the while, they have been the backbone of the McClatchy bureau, sleeping with bulletproof vests and helmets by their beds at night, taking different routes to work each day, trying to keep their employment by a Western news organization secret," said Woodruff, who himself was grievously wounded while covering the war in Iraq.
"All have lost family members or close friends," he continued. "All have had their lives threatened. All have had narrow escapes with death."
Shyness and modesty didn't make them conceal their identies. It was that they and their families weren't safe. And that's only more true if a registry is put into effect. They can then be targeted by security forces or imprisoned, those in the government not happy with their reports can leak their names to hostile militias ensuring their deaths. In case anyone's not getting it, let's quote Trudy Rubin from today's Diane Rehm Show, "Let me add,
my driver was tortured in that facility just in January and this is typical now of the problems in Iraq, he is a Shi'ite who protested against the killings of Sunnis in his neighborhood by Jaish al-Mahdi, Shi'ite militia men. He helped US and Iraqi forces to roll up those militia men and when the US pulled out the Jaish al-Mahdi got their revenge and they have contacts in the army and the police."

This isn't a minor issue. But as long as so many outlets ignore Nouri's attempts to register journalists, expect to see more problems for journalists. And don't be surprised that this week that the Committee to Protect Journalists' "
2010 Impunity Index" found that Iraq tops all countries with its number of unsolved murders of journalists (88):
All 88 journalist murders over the last 10 years are unsolved, putting Iraq at the top of the index for the third year in a row. All but seven cases involve local journalists, the vast majority of whom were targeted by insurgents. The victims include Al-Arabiya television correspondent
Atwar Bahjat and crew members Khaled Mahmoud al-Falahi and Adnan Khairallah, who were shot on assignment outside the Golden Mosque in Samarra in 2006. There is a positive trend: For the first time since the U.S.-led invasion, CPJ documented no work-related murders in Iraq in 2009. (Four journalists were killed in crossfire in 2009.) Nevertheless, with an impunity ranking nearly three times as high as any other country, Iraq has posed unparalleled dangers to the press.
Impunity Index Rating: 2.794 unsolved journalist murders per 1 million inhabitants.Last year: Ranked 1st with a rating of 2.983

This climate is encouraged when the message is sent to Nouri that attacks on the press are no big deal.

Turning to updates,
Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) notes the latest on a 2006 case:

A military appeals court has overturned the murder conviction of a US Marine in the 2006 killing of an Iraqi civilian in the town of Hamdania. Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins had been the only one of seven US servicemembers involved in the killing to receive a murder conviction. On Thursday, the verdicts were overturned on the grounds Hutchins' attorneys were improperly dismissed before his 2007 trial. The victim, Hashim Ibrahim Awad, was dragged from his home, shot, and then planted with a weapon to make it appear he was planning an attack.

For court documents,
click here. Last week, we noted that Binghampton, New York would be getting a financial cost of war counter for Iraq and Afghanistan. That has changed. Kai Liu (Binghampton University Pipe Dream) reports, "Binghamton Mayor Matthew Ryan announced Tuesday that he would reevaluate his decision to install a digital sign on Binghamton City Hall that would display the cost of American wars."

TV notes,
Washington Week begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and joining Gwen around the table this week are Jeanne Cummings (Politico), John Harwood (NYT and CNBC), Janet Hook (LAT) and David Shepardson (Detroit News). And Gwen's column this week is "Remember Dorothy Height" who passed away this week and Gwen and company have dipped into the archives to provide a 2003 video interview Gwen did with Dorothy Height. Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Dona Edwards, Nicole Kurokawa and Irene Natividad on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And at the website each week, there's an extra just for the web from the previous week's show and this week's it's the effects physical discpline can have on children (more likely to bully). For the broadcast program, check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes:
The NarrativeA former member of a Muslim extremist group tells Lesley Stahl the reason for the increase in home-grown jihadists like the U.S. Army major accused of shooting 13 at Ft. Hood is an ideology called "the narrative," which states America is at war with Islam.
Boosting Brain PowerMore people, especially college students trying to improve their grades, are illegally boosting their brain power by using prescription "smart drugs" like Ritalin and Aderall, meant for those with attention deficit disorders. Katie Couric reports. |
Watch Video
Competing Against TimeByron Pitts reports from the construction site of the future Bay Bridge from San Francisco to Oakland, Calif., where there's a race to complete the new, earthquake-resistant span alongside the old structure, which authorities fear cannot stand up to the next large earthquake. |
Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, April 25, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Fat cats and tubby ones too

"Democrats haunted by corporate ties" (Jonthan Allen and Eamon Javers, Politico):
President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats are promising a climactic clash with Wall Street, but there’s a complication in their battle plan: The Democratic Party is closer to corporate America — and to Wall Street in particular — than many Democrats would care to admit.
Former White House counsel Greg Craig has just signed on as an institutional Sherpa for Goldman Sachs, the iconic financial firm facing fraud charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Former House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt lobbies for Goldman Sachs, Visa and the coal industry. Former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle — Obama’s first choice to head Health and Human Services — is an adviser for a lobbying firm that represents Charles Schwab, Comcast, Lockheed Martin, Verizon and a host of other corporate interests.

But the thing here to remember is that it's not just past relationships (or current ones), it's also the impression created when Barack , during this bad economy, goes breezing here for a $2.5 million fundraiser and there for a big one that people are charged $17,500 to attend. All of this moves the party and Barack further and further from the myth of the Small Donors. It was always a lie but so many were willing to pimp it and continue the lie.

Strange, you don't hear Amy Goodman or Allan Nairn this year telling you how Barack is built by and courts small donors. But in 2007 and 2008, they repeatedly that lie constantly. Non-stop.

These days, they don't say a word. Yet they're crazy if they think the people aren't noticing that "Small Donors" Barack is fat-cat fundraiser.

I don't know how you do that, how you run for re-election while trying to recapture your perceived authenticity. I think each and every day Barack takes another step that ensures he will be a one-term president.

In the current recession, how does it look when Barack's traveling here, there and everywhere on Air Force One (tax payers pay for that) to fund raise and pocketing millions?

It just hammers home Barack's huge ties to big business which, in turn, reminds them he supported the Big Bank bailout and the Big Auto bailout.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Wednesday, April 21, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, post-election jockeying continues and a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee better be willing to plead "the dog ate my homework" because there's really no excuse for what took place today.
Starting with veterans issues, Les Blumenthal (News Tribune) reports:

With more than one in five veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan unemployed, Sen. Patty Murray introduced legislation Tuesday that would provide expanded training, job placement and small business assistance to them, calling the current situation unacceptable.
"It really makes you ask how this can be, how these heroes … struggle so much when they come home," said Murray, D-Wash., adding that existing programs offered by the Veterans Affairs Department and the Defense Department were inadequate.
The legislation has bipartisan support. Among the co-sponsors are Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin.

Bi-partisan support doesn't mean a great deal to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee as senators on both sides of the aisle can attest. It is a dysfunctional committee that appears repeatedly unable to address new business. Murray's legislation may fly through, however, because what does get accomplished tends to happen as a result of her. She's pretty much the acting chair and the Committee would do much better if the current chair would acknowledge the reality that, at 85-years-old, he is not up to the job of chairing a committee, certainly not one with such pressing responsibilities. The Democratic Party has shown no leadership in confronting him on this matter.
Today the Committee held one of those oh so rare blink and you miss it hearings. So rare, in fact, that Senator Jon Tester felt the need to declare to Akaka, "I want to thank you for the hearing." Chair Akaka was doing stand up -- and about as funny as Dane Cook (translation, not at all -- though Tester might disagree, he noted after Akaka's stand up was completed, "I can't top that by any means."). The hearing was on the GI Bill and Akaka declared (straight face/dead pan) that, "Since the programs began, the Committee has been actively monitoring the implementation of the new benefits." Really?
I didn't realize Stephanie Herseth Sandlin served on this committee.
Oh, wait, she doesn't. She serves on the House Veterans Affairs Committee and I know I've attended at least three hearings she's held in the last seven months which have addressed the payments in the GI Bill program and other details of the program. And Danny Akaka has chaired how many hearings on this? Help me out here? The answer comes back, until today: ZERO.
Akaka's got time for jokes because he's not chairing a functioning committee. Veterans were waiting for their fall semester checks, having to take out loans, risking losing their housing and Akaka couldn't hold a hearing? This was a national scanald last fall and Akaka's response was to ignore it. This is unacceptable and the fact that Democratic leadership refuses to address it (they had no problem removing Robert Byrd as the Chair of a Committee) is beginning to translate into: We don't give a damn about veterans. The veterans of America do not have time to waste because Akaka's 85-years-old and won't admit that he's barely keeping it together and that he needs to resign as chair. The veterans of American and their loved ones do not have time to waste because the Senate Democratic leadership will not impose discpline and explain to Akaka that seniority and senility share a lot of common syllables.
The hearing was composed of two panels. The first panel was the VA's Keith Wilson and Dan Osendorf as well as DoD's Robert Clark. The second panel was Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America's Marco Reininger and Faith DesLauriers, Robert Madden (American Legion) and William Stephens (National Association of State Approving Agencies).
The eye rolling never stops with the ineffective Committee and its government witnesses. All on the first panel were proud of themselves and full of themselves. Keith Wilson's song and dance is old -- but of course, unlike the House Veterans Affairs Committee, the Senate version was finally hearing him for the first time.
Let's drop in to Dan Osendorf's remarks. Those paying attention should be offended.
Dan Osendorf: In October 2009, VA began issuing advance payment to veterans and service members who had not received their benefits for the fall enrollment period This was done so they could focus on their academic studies and not be burdened with their financial concerns. VA notified advance payment recipients in late January and February of the reimbursment process for the advance payments. Notification explained that $750 dollars would be deducted from their monthly education payments beginning April 1st and they could make arrangements with the debt management center for a reduced withholding if $750 was causing a financial hardship. Individuals not currently enrolled in school received notification on how payment arrangements could be made to satisfy the debt. Anticipating a large number of requests for lower withholdings for the April 1 check. VMC added six telephone lines and eight operators and extended telephone service hours an additional hour to handle the increased volume. In addition, we created a form that allowed them to request a reduced withholding and could be e-mailed to DMC. This was also furnished to the VVA education websites so that they could take calls and forward the forms to us. We created special mailboxes where they could send the forms to, we could process them to. In addition, VVA added it to its website [. . .]
Wow, you worked real hard and you're such a big sweetheart to do all that. If we forget that you had to do all of that because the VA wasn't doing their damn job. No "advance" payments would have been needed had the VA distributed the fall checks in a timely manner -- and, yes, there are still some who have not received their fall checks, their fall 2009 checks. This is akin to an arsonist bragging about how s/he saved the building after setting it on fire. If the building had never been set on fire, no efforts to put out the fire would have been needed. The idea that "advance" checks were a favor? That's laughable.
So was having to sit through another slide show by Keith Wilson -- though, again, this was a first for the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee since they chose to do nothing when Kimberly Hefling and AP broke the story. They chose to do nothing while parents were in danger of losing their housing. They chose to do nothing while veterans -- as late as December -- were having to take out short term loans at high interest rates to pay for Christmas for their children because they'd used every spare bit of their own money to cover the tuition that the VA was supposed to have already covered. I love how it's "advanced" checks today -- in real time, they were calling them "emergency" checks. But let's downplay that as well.
Wilson lied to through his teeth at one point and if anyone on the panel had been to college (or paid attention to their child's college) in the last two decades, they would have confronted him on it (instead Akaka quickly moved on -- well maybe one of his great grandchildren will go to college soon). Universities do not set their tuition rate as the fall semester begins. They would lose a huge number of students that way because students (and parents if parents are paying) need to know in advance what the cost is. But Wilson pinned the blame for the delays in checks on the fact that it was "crunch time" and just as the VA wants to be paying the full fall semester at the start, well at the start of the fall semester is when the universities are setting their tuition. And anyone in college in the last two decades or with children in college would have said, "Uh, explain to me then early enrollment?" This week alone, KOMU has reported that tuition for grad school will increase this fall (2.7%) for the University of Missouri System, the Jackson Citizen Patriot editorial board just praised Michigan University's board of regents for announcing that there will be no increase in tuition (or the cost of room and board) for the fall 2010 semester (or the spring 2011). And we could go on and on. But this is set well ahead of time. We'll note the exchange in full. Please note Wilson -- as he always does -- refers to the start of the year when in fact he means the fall semester. He does that in every hearing. I have no idea why. But read the remarks in full and you'll grasp how he's claiming that the schools are submitting fall enrollment funds to the VA at the same time that the tuition rates are still up in the air. That is incorrect. There are about seven lies/errors in his testimony and, were I not so disgusted, we'd go through each one.
Chair Daniel Akaka: What one change do you believe would be most important to streamline and simplify the implement a new program?
Keith Wilson: I have to limit that to one? [Laughs at what he thinks was his own humorous remark.] The program itself is a fabulous program. Uh, and anything I would say, I wouldn't want to detract from - from the significance of this program. From-from the user perspective, from the students -- the veterans perspective what I hear a lot about is the confusion of having -- thank you [volume on his microphone had been turned up] -- more than one GI Bill program. As you're aware, the programs that we had prior to the post-9/11 GI Bill are still in existance and individuals need to make those decisions on what the best program is for them based on their unique situations. It's not always the Post-9/11 GI Bill, it's not always the Montgomery GI Bill. But that decision process causes a lot of confusion for our students and it makes it that much more cumbersome for us to administer as well. There are a lot of other issues with the payment structure uh and timing. For example, uh, paying the tuition and fees and setting the tuition and fees are at the beginning of the year. That causes us a lot of problems because the time that the states are setting the tuition rates is the same time that schools are submitting enrollment information to us and we're wanting to pay benefits. Just that crunch time that occurs in the fall with the establishments of the rates -- uh -- is very challenging.
Chair Daniel Akaka: Uh, Mr. Warren . . .
I'm not in the damn mood and the fact that the Committee was goes to their lack of leadership and, honestly, their lack of awareness. Do we have to buy them building blocks and Play Dough to explain what's what to them? This is ridiculous. US House Rep Harry Teague was calling out the problems with choosing one of the two bills -- Montgomery or Post-9/11 -- in a hearing on October 15th and he was calling it out to whom? Keith Wilson. Yeah. And now Keefers want to act like it's a big problem.
Before the problem, when answering Teague, was "statutory requirement" -- confronted with the issue, he pushed it off as a problem Congress had created. Now, he brings it up on his own and still doesn't take responsibility. I'm going to repeat what we noted when we covered that before: The VFW -- FOR FREE -- helped veterans figure out which program was best suited for their needs. They stepped up and did that for free. That's great and many were helped by the VFW doing that; however, that's the role of the VA. The VA -- paid to do this -- didn't do their damn job and the VFW -- not an arm of the government -- came in and picked up the slack as best they could.
Congress has refused, REFUSED, to call out the VA for this. People are confused, Keith Wilson wants to say today. Well, yeah, they are and it's the VA job to clarify. I know Wilson's job would be so much easier if it weren't for those 'pesky veterans' but those veterans are why he has a job, why VA exists and its past time that they started doing that job. And veterans are aware of this. It was a friend who's an Iraq War veteran that asked me to note, last fall, that the VFW was doing this and doing it for free. And he noted he was on hold or couldn't get through with the VA over and over but there was little to no wait time with the VFW. Why is that the VA isn't held to any standards at all?
And why is it that on the House Committee you have so many who are informed and who work so very hard and will ask the tough questions but on the Senate Committee it's all grins and giggles. Let's drop back to that October 15th hearing to again note US House Rep Harry Mitchell refusing to be spun by Keith Wilson:
US House Rep Harry Mitchell: Mr. Wilson, this is not your first appearance before this subcommittee. You have appeared before it several times since the GI Bill was signed into law to keep the committee members apprised of the VA's efforts to implement the GI Bill. And you offered assurances that the VA would be ready by August 1st. You even brought in a detailed timeline to show us how the VA would be ready by August 1st. In February, [John] Adler of this Committee asked if the VA needed more tools to accomplish the goal of program implementation and you responded by stating, "This legislation itself came with funding. This funding at this point has adequately provided us with what we need for implementing payments on August 1, 2009." If this legislation provided you with what you needed then why did you go to the VA -- or then where did you and the VA go wrong in meeting the implementation goal? So I'd like to ask two questions. How are we supposed to believe the assurances you're offering today? And, two, knowing how interested Congress is in implementing the GI Bill, once you knew you were running into problems, why didn't you let us know? Why did we have to first hear about it from veterans and read about it in the Army Times?
Keith Wilson: You rightly call us out in terms of not providing timely service to all veterans. We acknowledge that and uh are working as hard as humanly possible uh to make sure that we are meeting those goals. Uh the timeline that we provided to the subcommittee uh I believe was largely met uh in terms of our ability to generate payments on the date that we were required to deliver the first checks -- first payments did go out August 3rd. Uh there were a couple of significant challenges uh that we had not anticipated. One was uh the volume of work created by the increase in applications for eligibility determinations that did not translate into student population dropping off other programs. But we had significantly more work in our existing programs than we would have expected to have to maintain going into the fall enrollment. One of the other primary challenges that we have responded to is uh when we began our ability to use the tools that were developed uh to implement the program in the short term. Uh May 1st is when we began using those tools and it was very clear to us from the get-go that even accounting for our understanding that they weren't perfect, we underestimated the complexity and the labor-intensive nature of what needed to be done. We responded by hiring 230 additional people to account for that.
US House Rep Harry Mitchell: And I read all of that in your testimony. My point is, once you knew you were running into problems, why didn't you come back to us? We heard it first by veterans and through the Army Times that you were having problems.
Remember that this morning's hearing was the first time that the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing. They had other things to do . . . like rest. And rest some more. Nap. Naps are good. Find some soft foods that don't require a great deal of chewing. Nap. Nap some more. And when they finally hold a hearing, they are uninformed and they are unwilling to probe.
Oh, excuse me. Akaka did ask about checks. He asked about checks that were over the amount needed and how the VA was going to ensure that this didn't happen again. That he was worried about. (As was Ranking Member Richard Burr.) A small number (about 6,000) of veterans were overpaid and the VA now has to go back and figure out who those were (that was the VA's error, by the way, not the veterans) and that was a deep concern to Akaka. All the ones whose life were turned upside down while they waited, the ones who are now being pressured to pay back the "advance" payments, those aren't a real big concern for the Committee.
Jon Tester tried to ask questions and if I were in the mood to spoon feed him, I'd go over all the lies he was told. But the automated program -- and he can check with the House committee on this -- was supposed to be no problem except for new arrivals. That means when Tester was told that there would be about a 10% reduction in the future of processing, he was lied to. The VA is again changing their timelines and their figures. That was obvious throughout the hearing. Tester had some good questions (including about rural areas) but if anyone on his staff had bothered to contact the staff of the House members of the Veterans Affairs Committee, they could have prepped him and he would have realized that agreed to targets and that happy spin that was provided over the last months just got pushed back dates. There's no excuse for this.
And if you're not grasping it or you need a walk through, we'll drop back to the January 21st snapshot for this exchange that took place during a hearing of the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity where Keith Wilson and his co-horts were again Happy Talking:
Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: Let me start with a statement, Mr. Wilson, that you made. On slide four, the long-term release II scheduled for June 30, 2010 that sort of allows for the automated data feeds for the schools, DoD, that this is a game changer from the user point of view. You know, for Mr. Baker, Mr. Wilson, I assume that the goal for the long-term release II is to have that operatational for processing fall 2010 semester claims. Is that correct?
Keith Wilson: Yes, that's correct.
Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: That being the case, Mr. Baker, according to your testimony, release I has been modified to reduce its functionality because of this software requirement that you recently --
Roger Baker: Yes. The increased complexity, yes.
Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: So why did it take until just recently to identify the need for the new software requirement?
Roger Baker: Actually . . . uhm . .. what-what occured is as the subject matter experts and the software people were sitting down together to walk through what does an amended reward really mean? What are the intracricies, the decision trees required for an amended reward . . . uhm . . . They kept uncovering , if you will, more and more depth of what was required on software of amended awards and it went beyond the estimates they had originally had for what it was going to take to do amended awards. Uh, so as we determined that the amount of work to make that March 31st date exceeded the amount possible to accomplish, we had to determine what would come out of that release?
Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: And how confident are you then that the June 30th deadline can be met --
Roger Baker: We're --
Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: In light of how important that deadline is to the fall semester?
Roger Baker: We're -- we're pretty confident in that. We-we, as you can imagine, we've had some significant focus on that as well. And we've talked about what is it possible to do in the June 30th timeframe. We know that we can get everything in that was originally scheduled for release I and release I was intended to be the replacement for the current system so -- functional replacement. If we had delayed release I until about mid-May , we'd have had a fully functional release. There's about that much additional work that was added. Uh, so we know that will come in. And we will be releasing that functionality in incremental pieces along the way to mid-May and if VBA determines it's appropriate allowing the users to work with the increased functionality in that time frame. And then adding those automated feeds that are critical as we ramp up to June 30th. So we-we have a reasonably good confidence in the June 30th -- and if you don't mind, I'll elaborate on that just a little bit further. The-the thing that I have to tell you that I'm pleased with in the slip -- and I know this is going to sound a little strange -- is that in December, this project team was able to tell us that they had a problem with meeting the March 31st date. That's not a usual thing inside of VA projects. Usually, you hear about it March 30th. Uh, you know, that's going to happen on March 31st. That gave us time to make rational decisions about: Do we want to allow the slip or do we want to force the delivery date so that we see the software and what is the impact of that on subsequent releases? And so that's why we have a reasonable degree of confidence that we're going to have what we need on June 30th for a more automated system going into the fall semester. That's exactly been our focus with that June 30th release.
Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: Well I would just request that as that team -- you know, you've got a lot of internal milestones you're trying to meet and you've been very helpful to our committee and our committee staff in sharing information at every step of this process but in light of the problems that we've had with the interum solution, in light of the importance of this long-term solution, we-we need to stay on top of this, day-by-day, week-by-week. And if there is any other problem that is revealed to your project team, uh, we just need to be made aware of some of that ongoing work because of the importance of these deadlines in meeting the benefits for these students and-and understanding what more you might need from us because it's a high priority not only among this committee but the colleagues we hear from who have student veterans who are experiencing problems. You know, we want to make sure that we're able to answer questions immediately.
The automated data feeds were supposed to be in place by June 30th, reducing much of the work and speeding up the fall 2010 process. Today in the hearing, we heard otherwise; however, no senator was aware that they were hearing otherwise. Maybe if the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee had a functioning Chair and actually did some real work, they'd know these things. Instead they got played and punked in public and, yes, people at the hearing were shaking their heads over the lack of knowledge on that Committee.
Senator Scott Brown did a fine job. Wally's going to highlight Brown at Rebecca's site tonight -- he's Rebecca's senator (and Mike's, and Trina's). Other than him and one other -- and I may be grading him on a curve since he's new but I don't think so, "how are you going to ensure that it doesn't happen again" is a question all senators should have been asking, I only heard Brown do it -- I don't offer excuses for any of them. We're talking about people's lives here and the committee members are entrusted, by the citizens of the United States, with oversight. But they didn't want to use it. It's past time for the Democratic leadership to explain to Akaka that he needs to step down and to make Patty Murray the Chair. (Or do they really want to go into the election cycle with a disfunctioning Committee and at the same time drawing attention to how few Chairs are women in the Senate?)

Who was the one other? Ava's covering Senator Roland Burris (at Trina's site tonight). Burris actually does work. He always has. He's been an impressive senator and it's a real shame that those who never knew his work joined with the efforts to deny him the ability to run for election (he was appointed to his seat). Senator Burris knows the basics before he shows up for the hearing. (Disclosure/Reminder: I advocated for Burris to be seated after he was appointed to the Senate. I've never met him and never spoken to him.)
The second panel was very brief, roughly 35 minutes. Apparently there wasn't a great need from the Committee to hear from the people who are actually effected. At length, we'll note the following from IVAV's Marco Reininger who served in Afghanistan as a National Guard member:
Marco Reininger: Late GI Bill checks mean no rent checks and sleepless nights. I applied for my new GI Bill benefits on May 1st, shortly after being accepted to Columbia University. I knew that living in New York City and attending a private school meant that I could not afford any delays in my benefits. When my first living allowance check was significantly late, I was incredibly worried. I did not live in university housing and had to count on the generosity of my landlord to forgive my late rent paymetns. Columbia University was also very accommodating and did not penalize student veterans for late VA checks. That wasn't the case for all student veterans. A fellow Army veteran was un-enrolled from courses shortly before his final exams because of overdue account balances. I am thankful the VA finally started issuing emergency checks in October. Without this stop-gap measure, I would have quickly gotten into severe financial distress. When I stood in line, at the local New York City VA office, for my $3,000 advance payment, many of my fellow veterans from all over the region were extremely hesitant to accept the emergency payment. They were concerned that it would come back to haunt them in the future. This engrained distrust of the VA is not unusual among my peers. I had no choice but to accept the emergency payment. I took the hand written check and a letter from the VA to my bank, so they wouldn't place a hold on the check when I deposited it. In addition to the VA checks, members of our student veterans community supported one another by lending each other cash in order to get by, avoid bad credit scores and collection agencies. I finally started receiving my GI Bill benefits in November 2010. Last fall, I was one of the lucky ones who received their GI Bill in a somewhat timely manner. Sadly, many of my friends and fellow students had to struggle to make ends meet because their GI Bill checks never arrived. A fellow Columbia veteran pal of mine just received his first check last month.
Interestingly enough the most common complaint I hear from my fellow student veterans is that they didn't know when their GI Bill checks would arrive. Student veterans can scrimp and save in a pinch, photocopying assigned readings instead of buying the textbooks or being content to eat Ramen noodles for another week instead of going out to dinner with our clasmates. We can make due, but only if we know that our GI Bill check is going to arrive on a particular day. Not knowing when it will arrive and not being able to get an answer from the VA can wreak havoc on your life. You have to plan for the worst. I know some veterans who took some drastic measures. A fellow veteran ate canned beans and sardines three meals a day for an entire semester, trying to scrape up gas money for his wife and children back home. How could he possibly thrive at school when he was consumed with the responsibility of providing for his family? The new GI Bill was meant to relieve him of that burden.
[. . .]
I recently received a letter from the VA Debt Management Center warning me that they were planning to take back the $3,000 emergency payment they loaned me in the fall. They advised me that they would be deducting $750/month from my living allowance check unless I made other arraignments. Thankfully, I was reminded by IAVA that I needed to turn in my paperwork by the April deadline, otherwise the VA would have deducted the $750 automatically from my living allowance. It wasn't the VA that told me --- it was IAVA. I emailed the VA Debt Management Center, and they set up a payment plan of $150/month, which is within my means. Other student veterans didn't have it so smoothly. Some tried to set up payment plans but still had the full $750 deducted from their living allowance check. When you are living on a tight budget, $750/month can mean the difference between focusing on studies and looking for a second job. Other veterans had their debt applied to their accounts, even though the VA owed them money.
[. . .]
Lastly, and I hope not to sound too petty, I believe the VA owes me some money. The military Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) rates went up on January 1st, but I never saw an increase in my living allowance checks. I know the rates for Columbia's ZIP code increased slightly. So what happened? I ask because I know if I owed the VA money (which I do), they would certainly be in quite a hurry to collect (which they are). But when the VA owes me money, I can't seem to get any answers. Furthermore, in some of my veteran friends' areas the difference is quite significant, particularly when one receives less money than originally budgeted.
Kat's covering the second panel at her site tonight. Moving to Iraq, March 7th, Iraq ended voting in Parliamentary elections. The way it works, the prime minister is selected when someone has the support of at least 163 seat holders in the new Parliament. The winner of the elections was Ayad Allawi's slate which won 91 seats in the Parliament. Current prime minister Nouri al-Maliki's slate won 89 seats. To reach 163, either will have to form a power-sharing coalition with other blocs. Thus far, that hasnot happened and Nouri has thrown up a large number of roadblocks including, most recently, the demand for a Baghdad recount. Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reminds, "U.N. officials, who worked closely with Iraq's electoral commission, have said they found no evidence of widespread fraud." UAE's the National Newspaper editorializes today, "For Mr Allawi to become prime minister, he must overcome the perception that he is merely a proxy for Sunnis. This is something that the third place coalition -- the religious, Shiite Iraqi National Alliance (INA) -- is particularly afraid of. The Kurds might be receptive, but not without concessions on the key city of Kirkuk, where Mr Allawi prevailed. He would be seen as betraying his Sunni allies if he gave it up to the Kurds." The Watertown Daily Times notes of the Baghdad recount, "The court's ruling applied only to the Baghdad province but other challenges are pending that could expand the recount. Officials and international observers election fear delays could cause instability and violent repercussions." AP reports that the recount could begin as early as next week. Al-Masry Al-Youm adds that the recount could take two weeks. Meanwhile David Rising (AP) reports that Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Islamic Supreme Council in Iraq, is expressing the opinion that the position of prime minister would be better filled by someone either than Allawi or al-Maliki, "We are talking about a person who should be accepted on a national level. This is the most important point because the prime minister is not going to be a prime minister of his own party or his political movement, but for all of Iraq . . . On such a basis, we find it's difficult for Mr. Maliki or even Mr. Ayad Allawi to gain the needed acceptance." Translation, as noted Sunday, Ibrahim al-Jaafari still has the momentum behind him to be prime minister. In post-invasion Iraq, the country has three prime ministers. The first was al-Jaafari, followed by Allawi and then al-Maliki. Nouri was a compromise candidate selected in April of 2006 only after the US said "NO!" to al-Jaafari who was the choice of the Iraqi government. Moqtada al-Sadr followed the March 7th vote with a referendum open to all (though the press believes only al-Sadr's supporters voted) to decide whom al-Sadr's Parliament bloc should back. al-Jaafari was the winner of that poll. al-Sadr's bloc holds 40 seats in the new Parliament, a formidable number. In addition, they are part of a bloc with ISCI and al-Hakim has repeatedly sent emmisarries to meet with al-Sadr since the March 7th elections.
In an attempt to increase his favorables, Nouri (and puppets in the press) have attempted to make much out of the alleged deaths of terrorists in Iraq. Around the world, the reaction has been great skepticism. The Ethiopian Review notes this from the centrist Brookings Institute:

The announcement by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki that the two top leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq have been killed after a very long manhunt was greeted by many al Qaeda watchers with skepticism. The Iraqi government and the American military have claimed to have killed Abu Ayub al Masri, the Egyptian leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, more than once in the past. Abu Omar al Qureshyi al Baghdadi, the leader of al Qaeda's self proclaimed Islamic State in Iraq has also been reported dead or captured several times in the last few years. At other times the U.S. military has claimed he is not a real person but an invented one, a fictional leader of a fictional state.
If the claims are indeed true this time, expect al Qaeda to laud its martyrs publicly. It will be a serious but not fatal blow to al Qaeda in Iraq. The al Qaeda franchise in Iraq has been in retreat for the last four years -- ever since its founder Abu Musab al Zarqawi was killed on June 7, 2006 by an American air raid. What is so astonishing is not that al Qaeda in Iraq is now in retreat, but rather how close it came in 2005 and 2006 to pushing Iraq into a civil war and defeatingthe American intervention in Iraq with very little real popular support in the country and a leadership composed largely of foreigners like Zarqawi, a Jordanian, and al Masri, an Egyptian.
Sam Dagher (New York Times) reports on the reaction of Iraqi's being "somewhat muted but there were some instances of jubilation, particularly given that the American military backed up the Iraqi government's announcement this time. But in a tongue-in-cheek posting on Wednesday the Iraqi blogger Ishtar al-Iraqiya questioned the very existence of the two leaders, writing wryly: 'Finally, Maliki and the American administration agreed to kill the legend!'" Andrew Lee Butters (Time magazine) adds:
Nor does it seem likely that Allawi's Iraqiya and al-Maliki's State of Law coalitions could easily put their differences aside and share power, despite the fact that al-Maliki recently said the next government should contain significant Sunni representation. Iraqiya politicians believe that al-Maliki orchestrated the move by a government de-Baathification committee to ban some 500 parliamentary candidates -- most of them Sunni and many of them members of Iraqiya -- from running in the election just a few weeks before it took place. And they have long claimed that the Prime Minister has been using a special counterterrorism unit to arrest critics and political opponents. On Monday, Iraqi human-rights officials said they discovered a secret prison run by al-Maliki's military office that contained hundreds of Sunni men who had been routinely tortured and raped by guards. It's beginning to feel like 2005 again in Baghdad.
In some of today's reported violence . . .

Reuters notes Ramadi bombings injured eight people, a Mosul roadside bombing injured two police officers, another Mosul roadside bombing injured six people, a Baquba car bombing claimed 3 lives and injured two people and three Baghdad roadside bombings left six people injured.

Shootings and beheadings?
Xinhua reports, "Five family members of local leader of Awakening Council group were killed, among them three children were beheaded, at their home in north of Baghdad on Tuesday, a local police source said." The deaths were noted in yesterday's snapshot but this additional details (including the beheadings).

Reuters notes 2 corpses were discovered in Baghdad, "The killings were worryingly reminiscent of sectarian murders at the height of the violence in 2006/07, when dozens of bodies were found each morning, but they could be related to crime."
Abdu Rahman and Dahr Jamail have an important article at Asia Times and we'll try to note it tomorrow (we will be noting Dahr tomorrow). But we're short on space, so lastly, news of a new documentary:
Journalism has faced challenges in forecasting and covering the truth behind our economic calamity. There was a media failure alongside the financial failure. There were some economists and columnists who did see the handwriting on the wall, among them Danny Schechter, the former ABC and CNN producer and leading independent filmmaker. His 2006 film IN DEBT WE TRUST exposed subprime lending and forecast a credit collapse.

He is back with a new feature length documentary,
PLUNDER: THE CRIME OF OUR TIME, as well as a companion book, calling the financial crisis what it is: A Crime Story… and the word is getting out. Rupert Murdoch's The Wall Street Journal, who you might expect would dismiss this contention, has given Schechter serious attention in the paper and on its respected Deal blog:


Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Warning, this post won't inform you of news (I'll include the snapshot and you get news from C.I. via that, but otherwise).

Kat wondered if she should mention something and Rebecca said, "I'm not touching it!" So I will. Kat or Rebecca wouldn't be in trouble for mentioning it. Also C.I.'s rule is always, "You can write whatever you want just don't ask me to comment."

C.I. had a really hard day when she learned someone had passed away. It's a guy Rebecca and I knew as well because C.I. dated him in college for nearly a year. He got weird and maybe it was drugs, the times or whatever. But the relationship ended (it was never violent, even when he got weird -- he join one of those sects, I can't remember which, who hand you flowers at the airport, for a few years).

I don't know what happened on his end specifically. I think (think) it had to do with who C.I. was and just being intimidated. But he dropped out of college for a brief spell. We were all well on with our lives when he left the sect. C.I. found out and offered money for him to use for college but he wouldn't take it, so C.I. set up a scholarship at the university with the understanding that -- I need to give a name here. Josh. I'll call him, Josh. With the understanding that Josh would be receiving one of the scholarships.

So Josh got one (and never knew C.I. had set it up) and went back to college.

One thing about C.I. is she doesn't end relationships over silly stuff. Or even over things that I would end them for. But if you betray her in some serious way (you intended to betray her), she cuts you out. Otherwise, even after the relationship is over, she's still going to be the man's friend.

That wasn't possible with this guy.

It was Christmas and I don't remember the particulars. In college. C.I. and I were celebrating. (My brother being my only living relative then and he took a job overseas as soon as I went to college so C.I. always stayed through Christmas so I'd have someone to celebrate with -- and we continue that tradition having only missed two Christmases in all of our time since college.) I remember talking about how well things were going with Josh and C.I. joking, as we crowded over the stove cooking something, "Don't jinx it!"

The next day (Josh joined us for Christmas dinner, but the next day) Josh's sister was calling asking what had happened?

His older sister was the person he was closest to in the world. She lived nearby campus (and was one of the reasons he'd selected the campus). He'd told her she was out of his life, he'd called his brothers and other sisters and told them they were out of his life and he'd told his mother she was out of his life.

Kathleen said she'd tried and tried to talk with him but he wouldn't budge. She wanted C.I. to try to talk to him and C.I. told her, "I don't think I'll be able to. If he's cutting you out, then I'm on that list too and he just hasn't gotten to me yet."

Shortly after, he showed up. Very cold. Announced it was over. Didn't want to talk about it, didn't want to say anything.

He was dropping out. He was selling his sports car. He was moving. Wasn't saying where. If he saw her before he left, don't say anything because he wasn't going to say anything back.

Then he left.

C.I. kept it together long enough to call Kathleen back and tell her the same thing had just happened at our place. Then she cried a bit and then really never talked about it.

But I know it hurt bad and I know it hurt his sister Kathleen and I think he just saw a world that he didn't think he could fit into (true of Kathleen's life as well). I think it freaked him out and he sought alternative answers.

So anyway, he passed away and C.I. got a call about it today (from Kathleen). At one point, about seven years ago, he had needed money and the last person he wanted to ask was C.I. They hadn't spoken in years. But he needed it at that time (due to investments, he ended up having a successful business life after he finished college) and C.I. gave it with one request, that he call Kathleen. After that, he did let Kathleen back in his life (the only family member he did).

So it was just very weird, the ending of the relationship. If he'd called her a bitch or yelled or screamed or tried to hit her, she would have laughed it (and him) off. But that was one of those things that just never made sense and C.I.'s not one to try to sort out an answer (she believes life is chaos) but I know that was a puzzler. There was always the hope -- true of Kathleen as well -- that someday Josh would explain what had happened.

Now of course that won't happen.

He was gorgeous too. C.I. really didn't date for looks and he was probably the most gorgeous guy on campus. Kat was worried because, when C.I. got the news from Kathleen over the phone, she just went into these rapid breaths and couldn't speak. But she passed the phone over to Ava and walked off to the women's room, when she came back, she called Kathleen back and Kat was surprised at how calm she was. Kat was also worried that that calm would fall apart. Nope. It took her by surprise. She knows now. It doesn't make it hurt any less but she never expects neat and tidy bows or sunshine and butterscotch endings.

But if she seems a little different online in the next few days, that'll be why. (If she reads this, she won't seem different at all because she'll go out of her way to maintain some consistency online. I know her.) (And I love her, as the Beatles once sang.)

Josh really was a great guy before whatever. He was so enthusiastic. He was always looking for answers. Almost always convinced he'd found one. Everyone "blew my mind" (he'd say, "___ blows my mind" about everything). He was so sweet and so caring and probably one of only a handful of men who dated C.I. who felt she needed to be protected. She's strong and she's always been strong. But a large number of men (some for good reason, some for not) have used that as an excuse to be laid back and take the attitude of "Oh, she'll handle it."

Josh really was a sweet guy. I can still remember his face from college. He'd be grinning in excitement over everything. If there's anything beyond this, I hope he finds happiness there.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, April 20, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Iraq tops a list and comes in first!, Little Nouri's recount does not go over well as voices are raised in opposition, Amnesty International wants to know more about the secret prison, the refugee crisis continues, and more.

Though you better believe the New York Times won't blog it and pimp it in print the way they did with Iraq's soccer team, Iraq has come in first.

However, their 'gold' comes on the Committee to Protect Journalists' "
2010 Impunity Index" which finds Iraq tops all countries with its number of unsolved murders of journalists: "Iraq is at number one with 88 unsolved journalist murders, while Somalia is second, reflecting insurgents' routine use of violence to control the news media." They note:

All 88 journalist murders over the last 10 years are unsolved, putting Iraq at the top of the index for the third year in a row. All but seven cases involve local journalists, the vast majority of whom were targeted by insurgents. The victims include Al-Arabiya television correspondent
Atwar Bahjat and crew members Khaled Mahmoud al-Falahi and Adnan Khairallah, who were shot on assignment outside the Golden Mosque in Samarra in 2006. There is a positive trend: For the first time since the U.S.-led invasion, CPJ documented no work-related murders in Iraq in 2009. (Four journalists were killed in crossfire in 2009.) Nevertheless, with an impunity ranking nearly three times as high as any other country, Iraq has posed unparalleled dangers to the press.
Impunity Index Rating: 2.794 unsolved journalist murders per 1 million inhabitants.Last year: Ranked 1st with a rating of 2.983

Iraq didn't just come in first, it remained number one. Something Nouri al-Maliki should consider campaigning on. But it's not just the Baghdad-controlled portion of Iraq,
CPJ issued an alert today regarding the Kurdistan Region:

New York , April 20, 2010 -- Anti-riot police assaulted journalists covering two different protests in Sulaimaniya in Iraqi Kurdistan on Saturday and Tuesday. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the attacks and calls on authorities to stop harassing journalists reporting in the field.
Several journalists told CPJ today that police prevented them on Saturday from covering clashes between security forces and students who had taken to the streets to protest the Ministry of Education's decision to change the grading system in high schools. Among those obstructed were Soran Ahmed, reporter for the independent biweekly Hawlati, Shikar Mu'tasim, a reporter for the independent weekly Rozhnama, Aso Khalil, a reporter for Zhyar magazine, and Talan Kosrat, a cameraman for Zahmatkeshan television channel.
Ahmed told CPJ that security forces insulted and hit journalists, confiscated their cameras and ordered them to leave the scene. "They beat me, seized my camera and my phone, handcuffed me and forced me into a police van," Ahmed told CPJ. He added that he sustained bruises on his chest and arms before being released within a half hour.
"Assaults on journalists seeking to cover public events are becoming increasingly commonplace," said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator, Mohamed Abdel Dayem . "We call on the Kurdistan Regional Government to make it clear to security personnel that it will not tolerate attacks on journalists. The government must ensure that journalists are not attacked or threatened in an effort to censor coverage."
On Tuesday, more journalists were assaulted while covering a protest in front of the building of the General Directorate of Education in Sulaimaniya. Hawzheen Gharib, a reporter for the independent daily Chatir told CPJ that authorities confiscated his camera but that they later returned it with a broken memory card. He added that at least three other photographers had their cameras damaged by the police during the same protest.

Late Sunday, Ned Parker's "
Secret prison for Sunnis revealed in Baghdad" was published online by the Los Angeles Times detailing Nouri al-Maliki's off-the-books prison where he was holding and torturing Sunnis. Michael Roston (True/Slant) reports:This story was probably set to lead off foreign coverage this morning, especially with the results of Maliki's re-election fight against former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi still up for grabs... .until Prime Minister Maliki appeared on the scene to announce in a press conference that Iraqi commandos in a joint raid with US forces had killed two senior al Qaida in Iraq or 'Islamic State of Iraq' leaders. And then suddenly, it was as though the the secret torture site had never been uncovered!You won't find reference to it in Tim Arango's coverage in the New York Times. Ernesto Londono elides mention of the Muthanna in his report for the Washington Post as well. And Yochi J. Dreazen steers clear of it in the Wall Street Journal, too. And of course it wasn't on Vice President Biden's mind when he touted the mission in a press conference today -- of course, hours after Maliki got to tee off the announcement.But these reports do reveal a couple of crucial facts. For instance, the Post notes that the two leading Al Qaida in Iraq figures -- Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi -- were killed in an operation late on Saturday night/very early Sunday morning, i.e. less than 24 hours prior to the LA Times's newsbreak on Old Muthanna. And the Journal reports that DNA testing on the corpses of the two killed leaders by the American military had not yet been completed to confirm their identities. Is it possible that they weren't certain of who they had killed, or whether this was the opportune moment to announce it?From yesterday's snapshot:
Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reports that a huge number of people are stepping forward to sing praises of the operation including Gen Ray Odierno (his comments are actually in the previous military press release we linked to above) and Nouri al-Maliki (we'll come back to the singers, the Three Tenors, if you will, in a moment) and she notes that the US and Iraq spokespersons are claiming that Abu Hamza Muhajr and Abu Omar Baghdadi were the two killed on Sunday in the US forces-led operation. US forces-led operation? That's me, not Sly. But let's be clear that if air power was supplied, it was a US-led operation. Baghdad's air force is non-existant and expected to be that way until late 2013 by the most positive estimates. So while the US makes those claims, Sly points out, "The Iraqi government has on numerous occasions claimed to have captured Baghdadi, and last year televised the confession of a man who claimed to be Baghdadi, to widespread skepticism. U.S. officials said privately they did not believe the man was Baghdadi, and some Iraqi officials said then the real Baghdadi was a man with the same name as that given by the U.S. military." Sly leaves out the fact that the press ran with that claim -- that false claim -- with very few exceptions. It was embarrassing (and we called it out in real time). But let's underscore that today we have confirmation that it was false and we know that the confession was false. Remember that the next time the Iraqi government parades a confession or makes an assertion. But he's not the only one they've claimed to have caught in the past. As Laura Rozen (Politico) reminds, "Al-Masri, an Egyptian also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, had previously erroneously been reported killed in late 2006 as well as in 2007." In other words, this heavily panted over 'operation' which netted 'two' 'evil doers'? Don't be surprised if six months to a year from now we're again being told that al-Baghdadi and al-Masri have either been killed or captured.
As Liz Sly and Laura Rozen explained, both men have been trumpeted as 'dead' and 'caught' before.
On today's Morning Edition (NPR), Quil Lawrence noted of al-Baghdadi, "And he's a very interesting one because in the past, the U.S. officials, off the record, had even suggested that he might be a fictional character that had been created to put a name to all of these bombings. And the Iraqi government had claimed several times in the past to have captured or killed him, so there was some skepticism." Michael Scherer (Time magazine) observes, "The killings may hold more symbolic value for the Iraqi government, and the White House, than strategic value. Al Qaeda in Iraq has long been a weakened body, far less concerning to U.S. intelligence leaders than other Al Qaeda groups in Yemen and Pakistan." If the death claims are accurate, it may still mean nothing -- as The Economist points out "Decapaitation is not yet victory:"

Mr Maliki, displaying gruesome pictures of two corpses, told reporters that the attack had taken place in the early hours of April 18th, after his security forces had shared intelligence with the American army, which was asked to help target the men. An American soldier was killed as a helicopter attacked the house where the two men where hiding, south-west of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's home town, in Salaheddin province, north of Baghdad. At least two other men in the house were killed in the raid.
The deaths of Iraqi insurgent leaders, including Mr Baghdadi, have been reported before and later found not to have occurred, so DNA testing of the bodies will have to be done before the Iraqi government's claim can be verified. The two men, also known as Abu Hamzah al-Muhajir and Hamid Dawud Muhammad Khalil al-Zawi, have been shadowy figures. Mr Masri was apparently born in Egypt and has led AQI since the death of its Jordanian founder, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, in 2006. Mr Baghdadi's history is so murky that he was at one time thought to be fictional.

BBC News notes that today Nouri claimed they'd killed Ahmed al-Obedi. That's generally the thing that trips up Nouri when he's making false claims -- they're bought and he just keeps upping the claims. Time will tell if that was the case again this time.

Now, as Michael Roston noted, Ned Parker's scoop has not received the attention it warrants. It was discussed today by
Quil Lawrence and Renee Montagne on Morning Edition (NPR).

Reneee Montagne: And, Quil, just a last question - I'd like to ask you about a story that ran in the L.A. Times this week. It documented a secret prison system run by the Shiite-led government, in which Sunnis have been tortured. Is this story an indication or a sign of a return to Iraq's sectarian dirty war?

Quil Lawrence: It certainly stokes those sort of fears. The story written by Ned Parker in the L.A. Times is about hundreds of men, Sunnis, arrested around the city of Mosul, some of them without warrants. They were held for months, and apparently they were subjected to torture routinely in a secret prison in Baghdad. Now, Iraqi government officials claim that they have to bring prisoners to Baghdad sometimes, because otherwise they'll just be released by judges, courts that are sympathetic, perhaps, to the insurgents in places like Mosul. But the tales of torture and rape as torture in the prison are really horrific. The prime minister told the L.A. Times that when he discovered that this was going on, he shut it down. But certainly, Sunni families of these men are not accepting that the prime minister himself wasn't involved. And it really raises questions about whether the sectarian violence is over or just dormant here in Iraq.

At The Nation, Robert Dreyfuss notes Ned Parker's article. Amnesty International released a statement (and, note, you can go to the link and hear the statement as well as read the text):

Amnesty International has called on the Iraqi authorities to investigate allegations that security forces tortured hundreds of Sunni detainees at a secret prison in Baghdad. Iraqi Human Rights Ministry inspectors said on Sunday that more than 100 of the facility's 431 prisoners were tortured using electric shocks, suffocation with plastic bags and beatings. Prisoners reportedly revealed that one man had died in January as a result of torture. Amnesty International expressed concerns at Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's claim that he was unaware of abuses at the prison, which he has vowed to shut down. "The existence of secret jails indicates that military units in Iraq are allowed to commit human rights abuses unchecked," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa deputy director. "Prime Minister al-Maliki's claim that he was unaware of abuses cannot exonerate the authorities from their responsibilities and their duty to ensure the safety of detainees." The prisoners were detained by Iraqi forces in Nineveh province in October as part of an operation targeting alleged Sunni fighters. Iraqi Security forces reportedly obtained a warrant to transfer the men to Baghdad, where they were held in isolation in a secret detention facility at the old al-Muthanna airport, which is run by the Baghdad Brigade - a special force under the direct control of the Prime Minister's office Their whereabouts came to light in March after concerns were raised by relatives of the missing men. "Al-Maliki's government has repeatedly pledged to investigate incidents of torture and other serious human rights abuses by the Iraqi security forces, but no outcome of such investigations has ever been made public," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui. "This has encouraged a widespread culture of impunity but this time, Iraq must investigate the torture allegations thoroughly and bring to justice those responsible for carrying out any abuses." Iraqi officials have said that 75 prisoners have already been released from the secret jail, while 275 have been transferred to normal prisons. In 2005, 168 detainees were found in appalling conditions at an Iraqi secret detention facility in the al-Jadiriya district of Baghdad. The findings of an investigation into the incident launched shortly afterwards were never made public and no one has been prosecuted in connection with the abuses that took place at the prison.

Yesterday Little Nouri's foot stomping and sulking paid off and he got a Baghdad recount (which should take between eight to ten days).
Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reports, "The legal decision raised Maliki's hopes that his Shiite-dominated coalition would be awarded more parliamentary seats than his rival Iyad Allawi's secular bloc, which had stunned the nation by winning a slim plurality in the Mrach 7 vote. But it also raised fears that if the results are overturned" violence could return in stronger form to Iraq." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) adds, "As political maneuvering continues over the election results, US and Iraqi officials say the key political parties have yet to begin serious negotiations on forming a coalition government. Before the election, Maliki broke away from his traditional Shiite partners, leaving both his coalition and Allawi's a broad range of potential political partners." CNN reports that Allawi says the Baghdad recount is okay but feels other areas need recounts as well: "We believe very strongly in the manual recount, but the issue is why no other areas have been included in the recount where there are accusations of problems that have occurred in Basrah, Najaf and Diwaniya. We are worried about where the ballot boxes have been kept, since the election until today. Over a month-and-a-half have elapsed. We really don't know where those boxes have been, we don't know who [had] access to them, and we don't know whether they have been tampered with." Timothy Williams (New York Times) adds that Allawi's provided "evidence to the court detailing instances of fraud that occurred in the days after the Mrach 7 parliamentary elections in several provinces in southern Iraq, a region where Mr. Allawi faired poorly."

While Allawi accepts it, Iraq's Sunni vice president does not.
Today's Zaman reports that Tariq al-Hashemi has termed the recount "unacceptable" and quotes him stating, "This ruling is a very dangerous development. And we will not accept this ruling because it is unnecessary." By the way, now that the recount appears to be happening, any in the press going to revist Chris Hill's DC press conference right after the elections when he flat out lied to them. Are they all still so chicken s**t that they're afraid to call Mr. Bi-Polar out?

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


Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing left four people injured, a Mahmudiya roadside bombing injured five people, a Kirkuk roadside bombing injured the police chief's driver, a Baghdad roadside bombing (near a movie theater) injured two people, a Mahmudiya roadside bombing injured six people and a Baghdad roadside bombing left two people injured.


Reuters notes 1 police officer was wounded in a Kirkuk attack, that a possible 'smuggler' (Iranian) was wounded by Iranian artillery in Sulaimaniya and, dropping back to Monday, a Tarmiya home invasion targeting a Sahwa leader in which his wife and their 4 children were killed.
The violence has, of course, created the largest refugee crisis in the world. There's a report that's being spun by some outlets -- including Voice of America -- that an International Organization for Migration report is maintaining refugees are returning to Iraq and that the migration out of Iraq has stopped. IOM is part of the United Nations. In Syria, the UN is still registering (as of this week, I just got off the phone) Iraqi refugees who are just arriving. The IOM report (
click here for IOM's summary) is not about external refugees. It's about Iraqis who stayed in Iraq but fled their own homes. The internal refugees.

On the subject of refugees,
War News Radio latest weekly broadcast features a report on the Mandaeans -- ninety percent of whom have now left Iraq.

Caitlin Jennings: A few months after the US invasion, Basil al-Majidi began working for the coalition forces in Baghdad. He was appointed general manager of a tracking company responsible for making contracts to support US operations in Iraq As a member of the Iraqi minority group, the Sabian Mandaeans, al-Majidi says that he felt like a second class citizen under Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist regime. With Hussein no longer in power, al-Majidi and his parents were optimistic about the future but in the months that followed sectarian violence between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims. Pacificsts by doctrine the Mandaeans are one of the most peaceful religious groups in Iraq; however, al-Majidi felt forced to keep his religious identity a secret.

Basil al-Majidi: I worked from 2004 'till 2007 and no one -- absolutely no one -- in my company knew that I was Manaean. They knew that I was a Muslim. When they used to ask me, "Are you Sunni or Shi'ite," I refused to tell them. I told them I was just a Muslim. I don't discriminate.

Caitlin Jennings: Mandaeans are followers of John the Baptist and their religious practice centers on the rites of Baptism. But for Majidi and many Mandaeans public religious practice was out of the question.

Basil al-Majidi: We couldn't do funeral ceremonies for dead people. It was a problem. Many people were buried in their own backyards to avoid going to the cemetary which was in the Abu Ghraib area. So, like for practicing rituals, for maintaining and preserving your own faith inside yourself? No. We just forgot about that. We just left it behind.

Caitlin Jennings: He started to receive death threats from Islamic militias both at his work and at his house. By 2006, the situation had reached what he refers to as unbearable limits.

Basil al-Majidi: You just feel that you are, that you are being rejected from all of the community, from all of your surroundings, from all of your surroundings. So I had to escape.

Caitlin Jennings: al-Majidi and his parents fled to Syria where they joined 1.3 million other Iraqi refugees already there. After two and a half years of waiting, al-Majidi was accepted for re-settlement in the United States. Although al-Majidi is now safe in the US, he is still unable to practice his religion. He no longer fears religious persecution but without priests and other Mandaeans, he cannot practice or perform rituals. Dr. Suhaib Nashi, Secretary General of the Mandaeans Associations Union -- an umbrella organization that encompasses all Mandaean Associations outside of Iraq and Iran argues that the resettlement of Iraqi Mandaeans around the globe while saving individuals is destroying the community as a whole.

Dr. Suhaib Nashi: Dispersing them all over the place is sweet poison for us. It kills the religion It finishes what the insurgency are doing. With all of our benevolence, with our feeling of doing good for them, we are destroying them without us knowing. We really, really need understanding and being sensitive to that part of the salvage of Mandaeans. That's not salvage of a family, it's salvage of a culture -- salvation of a whole community and a whole group of people and a language and religion.

Caitlin Jennings: Originally from Iraq, Nashi, who is Mandaean, fled in 1991 after the Iraq War. He currently lives with his family in New Jersey. He says the only way for the group to survive in the longterm is to have a sustainable community in one place.

Yesterday's snapshot noted the first panel -- DoD -- of the Commission on Wartime Contracting's hearing. Some e-mails came in about the second panel. The first panel was of more interest. We'll note the second panel which lasted about a third of the time the first panel took up. Today we'll note panel two which was composed of contractors: AECOM Government Services CEO Jay Ward and CACI International's senior vice president Terry Raney. The Co-Chairs are Christopher Shays and Michael J. Thibault. Aegis Defense Services president Kristi Clemens was scheduled to testify but did not show. Thibault swore the two men before they gave any testimony. We'll note two sections.

First, AECOM has been in Iraq and in Afghanistan since 2005. Questioning Ward, Thibault noted that in Afghanistan "life support and security" is provided for Ward's employees by the US Army and he

Co-Chair Michael J. Thibault: Does the company in any case or for other purposes or other have to employ your own security?

Jay Ward: Yes, in Iraq, we've had security subcontractors provide transportation primarily from Bagram or the Green Zone or out to the different locations. And then because we work on Iraqi military installations as opposed to inside the wire at Taji, we'll have uh a security service provide parameter security at the gate into our living compounds.

Co-Chair Michael J. Thibault: And that is -- those are contractors that are awarded by the site security -- are those JCCIA contracts or are they your own?

Jay Ward: They're subcontracts to us.

Co-Chair Michael J. Thibault: That are your own?
Jay Ward: Yes, sir.

Especially due to the Afghanistan conversation, it appeared that Thibault was concerned regarding the oversight of the subcontractees in Iraq. The other moment that appeared to be going somewhere addressed disbelief on the part on the part of one commissioner.

Commissioner Grant S. Green: You have about how many people providing support to JCAA? About fifty people?

Terry Raney: We have 40 in Iraq and 12 in Afghanistan.

Commissioner Grant S. Green: And these people are providing aquisition management services, they're providing program management advice, aquisition advice to officers and managers, true?

Terry Raney: Yes, sir.

Commissioner Grant S. Green: You had mentioned in a response to Commissioner [Dov] Zakheim's question, 'Has anyone ever called, oop, I got a problem, my boss is asking me something and it crosses the line?' And you said, 'No, they never had."

Terry Raney: Not that I've received that call or I believe --

Commissioner Grant S. Green: I just -- I just find it hard to believe, human nature being what it is -- and you acknowledged this initially, that your people were probably more experienced in the workings of JCCAI/A contracting than is the new civilian or military contracting officer walking through the door to a new assignment. It's just hard for me to believe since 2004, there has not been any discussion that crosses this line. So I guess my question to you is what is your level of confidence in percentages that nothing like this has ever happened?

Terry Raney: I'll come at your question from two ways. The first is, we've been -- The requirement we have from the JCCI from day one has been to bring very experienced people. That means people familiar with the authorization processes and systems and recognize these things. And we talk about that before they go over, alright? So I guess I would say I am sure, likely, that there have been conversations between some of our people that are very experienced with somebody who's not relative to 'This is the way that I see this but it's your -- it's your -- I'm providing advice, that's what we're required to do. You have your responsibilities as well to do and that's in awarding the contract, making those decisions.' So I would suspect and I would guess that we've had some of our more experienced people handle it on a personal basis and that's the way we would look to -- look to handle it because that's what we expect of people with that kind of experience and expertise.

Again, the most interesting panel was the first one (which was covered in yesterday's snapshot). Tomorrow we may cover a hearing from late to date but it was bumped to cover the above. Meanwhile Barack went to California and it was not pretty. Though he was attempting to drive up support for Barbara Boxer, he only succeeded in antagonizing the crowd.
Lin Zhi (Xinhua) reports he "was repeatedly interrupted by a number of listeners who attacked him on his policies barring gays from openly and equality serving in the military when he was delivering a speech . . . . The protesters come from GetEQUAL, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group that has also organized similar protests recently. A coalition of groups called for the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan." It left some acid rain dripping on Barack's attempt to fundraise for Senator Barbara Boxer's increasingly challenging run for the US Senate. In an effort to appease the protesters, Barack made the ridiculous claim that he and Barbara were leaders on Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal. That kind of crap would fly in NYC -- where Panhandle Media would lap it up because it sounds good to them. But in California, we know Boxer's done nothing. We know that Senators Roland Burris and Kirsten Gillibrand have been doing more and doing more in public and that both were just appointed to the Senate in 2009. Boxer's a senator from California who's been elected to her seat repeatedly. She bragged in 2004, in fact, that she won a greater percentage of the vote than did Bully Boy Bush. She should have been leading on this issue. Instead, allegedly due to the Prop 8 vote and the video of her that's supposed to portray her as disrespectful of the military, she's hung in the background.
Well . . . hung in the background and promoted her poorly written (co-written) latest attempt at Harold Robbins. Bad books, after all, rarely sell themselves. And picture that -- 2004, she got a higher percentage of votes than any other senator (or Bush, for that matter) and joked about having a "mandate" but today, her first re-election run since then, she's in the fight of her life just to hold on to her seat. How out of it, how non-leadership is Barack on this issue? In the middle of the protest, he had to ask Boxer if she voted for Don't Ask, Don't Tell originally and she said she didn't at which point he informed the audience "
I just checked with Barbara, so if anybody else is thinking about starting a chant, Barbara didn't even vote for 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' in the first place." Thanks for that 'breaking' news, Barack. If she had voted for it, you better believe she would have been a one term senator. For just a moment grasp what took place.Barack claims he wants to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. And he claims he is in Los Angeles standing by his friend Barbara Boxer . . . and he doesn't even know how she voted? That tells you exactly how distant Barack actually is from this issue. Ed O'Keefe (Washington Post) reports of one protester, "'I am protesting because while I volunteered for, voted for, and still believe in Obama, I also believe is time to repeal don't ask don't tell,' an apparent protester wrote on"When not spinning Boxer's professional lethargy, the two were confronted by people such as Iraq War veteran Mike Prysner, of March Forward!, who the AP quotes telling Barack, "As an Iraq War veteran, I understand the importance of stopping these unjust wars. Too many civilians and soldiers are dying, too much money is going to fund death and destruction, while so many of us are hurting here at home."We are in the Great Recession and it probably doesn't help Barack look 'of the people' when the Los Angeles Independent reports, "A ticket to the dinner was $17,600 per person, a figure arrived at by combining half the maximum $30,400 contribution to a national party committee combined with the maximum $2,400 donation to a candidate. All the events sold out." They also report Barack whined about the issues he faces as president. Oh, I'm sorry, did he think it was all pageant waving and super market openings? Cover shoots and Jay Leno interviews? Andrew Malcolm (Los Angeles Times) also notes the price:
As The Ticket reported here earlier Monday, Obama flew across the country for no public events but just two fundraisers for the embattled liberal Democrat Sen. Barbara Boxer seeking a four Senate term where tickets ranged up to $17,600 to sip wine and hear the president.
Obama's batting average campaigning for fellow Democrats is
a pathetic 0-7 in recent months,. But Boxer needs help (especially in the money department in this expensive state) even in liberal California where she's been unable to reach the key 50% approval rating this year against a trio of potential Republican opponents.

Cedric's "
He Loves LA, LA Remains Lukewarm" and Wally's "He Loves LA, LA Remains Lukewarm" (joint-post) covered the less-than-warm welcome Barack received, Ann covered the silence on Iraq "Diane Rehm has time for sleep none for Iraq," and Ruth ("Out-FM disgraces itself") and Mike ("Queer Voices, Goldman Sachs, Third") covered LGBT issues.

iraqthe los angeles timesned parkertrue/slantmichael rostonliz slypoliticolaura rozentime magazinemichael sherernprmorning editionquil lawrencerenee montagne
amnesty international
the nationrobert dreyfuss
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