Friday, April 30, 2010


"Women's movement in Iraq grows despite lack of international support" (Allyn Gaestel, Media Global):
Iraq is still in the grips of fierce political negotiations to form a government following parliamentary elections in March. But as votes are recounted and parties struggle to form coalitions to choose the prime minister, women are pushing under the radar to assert their rights across all sectors of society.
Basma Fakri, President of the Women’s Alliance for a Democratic Iraq (WAFDI), a women’s empowerment organization uniting women across political, ethnic, and religious lines, told MediaGlobal: “Unfortunately, women’s rights is not one of the main factors on the negotiation table between the main political parties, but that won’t stop Iraqi women from keep on fighting for their rights.”
Women in parliament fought for open electoral lists so voters can choose both parties and individuals. They contributed to the implementation of a quota system; women are constitutionally mandated to fill 25 percent of seats in parliament, and even with the continuing negotiations women have already secured 82 seats (25.23 percent) in the March elections. (The United States, by comparison has only 16.8 percent women in the House of Representatives.) Iraqi women parliamentarians were also instrumental in defeating resolution 137 in 2004, which would have replaced Iraq’s family code with Shari’a law.
Women in government come from diverse backgrounds, with varying levels of experience in politics and civil society. Some are considered seat holders, put in place by their party to fulfill the quota requirement. But once in parliament, even those less active in politics previously have begun to take on their roles and fight for causes they believe in. Janet Benshoof, CEO of the Global Justice Center, an international NGO that works with women to implement international equality laws into national legal structures, told MediaGlobal “Even if some of them were just put in by the religious party to occupy the woman’s slot, those women don’t all change, but a lot of them change when they get in office.”

It really is amazing how much lip service the women in Afghanistan received with some then trying to deliberately confuse Iraq with Afghanistan and give lip service to 'helping Iraqi women' when there was never anything done that really helped Iraqi women's lives.

They were far better off under Saddam Hussein and had actual rights. That is all gone. Maybe they can reclaim their rights at some point in the future, maybe not. But the illegal war not only personally destroyed their lives, it set all women in the country back.

Speaking of women, Sunny kindly added a note to my last post (scroll down, too tired to link). It went up Wednesday night. A number of e-mails came in asking about Sunsara Taylor's webcast?
I attempted to watch. I had the password because I'd donated money and I was goign to write it up. However, I could not get the stream to work.

"War Crimes Then And Now" (Phyllis Bennis, ZNet):
Some of the recent exposés demonstrate that not every operation in Afghanistan or Iraq is shrouded in the "fog of war." The pilots and gunners in the helicopter gunships hovering over the Reuters journalists and the crowd of Iraqi civilians around them in 2007 were eager, laughing, urging each other on to the kill. When a local van pulled up to help transport some of the dead and wounded, the gunners asked for and got permission to fire again; this time they wounded two children, but blamed the Iraqi victims because "it's their fault for bringing their kids into a battle." In the February 2010 incident, if the reports of the Afghan investigators are correct, the US Special Forces - among the most highly trained killers of the US military - killed two innocent men in their Gardez courtyard and three women inside their house, then approached the dead women and girl to remove incriminating evidence (presumably identifiably made-in-the-USA bullets) from their bodies.

That will apparently be Phyllis Bennis' entire output on the video WikiLeaks released. How sad. She didn't disgrace herself the way so many did. She didn't whore for Barack in 2008. However, she didn't speak out either. She stayed in her comfort zone and hoped no one would hold it against her.

That's fine. Unless you want to self-present as a leader. If that's the case, you damn well better learn to lead.

Is it a War Crime? I'd love to see a real investigation.

My own opinion? That slaughter probably was. But I don't think we'll see an investigation because the crimes go to the top. Not to the soldiers following procedure and asking permission before moving onto each step. What the video reveals is how criminal the Iraq War actually is. Everything about it.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, April 30, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, GAO did a study (another study), post-election madness continues, Nouri holds a press conference to attack and instill fear, and more.

Today on hour two of
The Diane Rehm Show, Diane and her guests (including caller Ralph) Daniel Dombey (Financial Times of London), Moises Naim (Foreign Policy) and Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) addressed Iraq.

Ralph: . . . It's a no-win situation in all of these because it's fighting and enemy that's a civilian and I don't care what their political reasoning or whatever you cannot win any kind of insurgency or insurrection.

Diane Rehm: Interesting, we've got a number of comments on Facebook regarding Iraq which is likely one of the areas Ralph is talking about. Pam says, "Honestly, Iraq will destabilize before we get the last man out regardless of what's put in place. At some point, we just have to leave. It's just sad. We've let their infrastructure in an almost complete shambles." Nancy?

Nancy A. Youssef: Pam, in a lot of ways, sounds a lot like the Obama administration. The United States has said it is leaving even though it looks like it could be weeks or months before government is formed in Iraq, even though the election appears to have been divisive and that there's real question that Nouri al-Maliki and Ayad Allawi -- the-the, right now the winner -- and their coalitions will be able to work together. And I think the question becomes what could the United States do if it stayed? Remember, the United States is there at the invitation of the Iraqi government and-and the movement that -- the train has sort of left the station. The United States is moving towards training Iraqi forces, putting them in the lead and I'm not sure that there's anything more that the United States could do --

Diane Rehm: What about the election discord? Could that effect the US timetable, Moises?

Moises Naim: We're talking about three worlds of difference. These were elections where 325 seats, Parliament, and Maliki's State of Law won 89 and the Iraqiya won 91, so they're the winners. But they're contesting votes and everything else. So you can take two-two views about this. You can say, "Well that's what happens in imperfect democracies. We have seen around the world, contested democracies awhere people are clashing including in Florida." So that would be a flippant way of saying: Elections, that's the nature of democracy. The other more troublesome view, and I think more realistic view, is this is just more of the same -- a manifestation of a deadly, lethal clash, between Sunnis and Shi'ites there and is just a struggle for power and is now taking that manifestation. When that is over, they will continue to battle each other. The good news is that so far, this has not been as violent and deadly as it used to be two or three years ago.

Daniel Dombey: Yes, I would agree with a large part of that. I mean I think the interesting thing is that this exist shows the fall of US influence. The Obama administration has been very concerned about what Mr. Malliki's done to try and get the lead in the and the prospect of the next government back from Allawi. It's been very concerned about these effors to strike candidates that have already been elected from Parliament. But those are pleas that aren't backed up by anything very much. And in a certain sense that's perhaps good because these are decisions that Iraq has to make. It's not clear how keeping US combat troops would help. In fact, one of the big champions of the surge Fred Kagan, of the AEI, wrote a piece in today's Washington Post where he says 'it is really only in the most extraordianary circumstances should the US delay its plans to get its combat troops out' --

Diane Rehm: Nancy?

Daniel Dombey: -- by the end of this summer. I think that shows it is actually Iraq's problem and not a bad problem for a Middle East country to have: How to work out the results of an election?

Diane Rehm: Nancy.

Nancy A. Youssef: You know I thought it was interesting this week that we learned that there was a secret prison in Iraq that largely held Sunnis prisoners, where people were tortured and there are charges that Maliki knew about it. We're starting to see the kind of state that is emerging. It is a quasi-democracy that still sort of employs tactics that are reminescent of Saddam's regime. Who makes a good torturer? But someone who has been tortured. And we're starting to see that. What can the US do to stop that? The only thing I want to say is that there is a real practical reson why the United States can't leave and that's becauseit's committed troops to Afghanistan. That 30,000 that's being sent into Afghanistan -- is conditioned on US troops leaving Iraq And in addition, you have a US military that's really already starting to think poster in terms of how it's going to reset itself, train itself for the next kind of warfare. The military's left Iraq already and I think the Obama administration has to.
Diane Rehm: I met a young woman just last night, having served three terms of duty in Iraq headed off to Afghanistan Sunday.

Okay, the above. First off, Frederick W. Kagan didn't write a column -- he co-wrote one. If you'r colleague already publicly 'joked' on Diane's show about a "cat fight" between Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni, you probably should work a little harder to ensure that you credit women.
The column was written by Frederick Kagan and Kimberly Kagan. (Column ran in this morning's Washington Post.) Second, the Kagans gave three examples of what would slow the drawdown or stop it. Or what should in their opinion. David Dombey needs to learn to read because he has completely misrepresented the Kagans column which was not 'To Drawdown Or Not To Drawdown.' It was a call for US involvement in the post-election proceedings. Third, Nancy A. Youssef left the world of facts for opinions. And that's fine but that doesn't make her right. Example: The choice is not between staying or a drawdown -- and a drawdown is NOT a withdrawal, something Diane's guests need to learn REAL DAMN QUICK. That's nonsense. That's such nonsense that the string of words I would use to describe it could not appear here.

Reality, Nouri exists -- to this day -- only because US forces have propped him up. That's not 'opinion' or at least it's not uninformed 'opinion.' That is the opinion of the bulk of Democratic Senators and they have expressed it repeatedly and publicly -- that includes former senators Joe Biden and Barack Obama who are now vice president and President of the United States.

Reality, despite the oil profits (which are not going to the people), Iraq's 'government' still depends on a lot of US tax payer monies. And they can be denied that money. There's no reason to provide money (or credits for weapons) just to help Little Nouri become the New Hussein. No reason at all. In addition, there are many other diplomatic routes and there is also world opinion which can be courted.

Nancy's spending too much time at the Pentagon and appears to believe that the only answer is kill or don't kill but every problem doesn't require a show of violence to reach a solution. In her last exchange (last quoted above), I know what she meant but I'm not in the mood to interpret her. (She mispoke.) She's also wrong. "WE" did not learn about the secret prisons "this week." If "WE" had, then it wouldn't have been mentioned on Diane's show last week. Ned Parker broke that story online two Sundays ago. Ned Parker broke the secret prison story for the Los Angeles Times ("
Secret prison for Sunnis revealed in Baghdad") and Human Rights Watch issued a report this week on the secret prison ("Iraq: Detainees Describe Torture in Secret Jail "). Nouri's been laughably insisting it's all lies, made up by his enemies, and, so what, look what the Americans did at Abu Ghraib! If someone really thinks the story was breaking news this week, it goes to how little informed they are on the subject. I am aware it can be hard to think on your feet especially when the topic isn't scheduled but comes up because listeners took to the program's Facebook page. But, as with what she meant in her last exchange, I'm not in the mood to interpret her, I'm not in the mood to be generous.

A drawdown is not a withdrawal. Were I Nouri al-Maliki -- or
apparently Barack Obama -- I would declare that all reporters repeating that LIE should be imprisoned. But they need to start getting their facts right. A drawdown is what may take place. A drawdown would take the number of US service members in Iraq down to approximately 50,000. Such a drawdown has not yet taken place. If and when it does, it will be a fact that reporters can toss around. At present, they disgrace themselves when they make like Miss Cleo telling us what's happening months from now. How about you stop the predicting and get your facts right? It's not that difficult and it might let you know when a story broke or who wrote a column or any number of things. But when you're in such a rush to gas bag that you can't do the facts, you're not helping anyone.

Will the drawdown take place. "I'm no prophet, and I don't know nature's ways,"
Carly Simon sang (and wrote) in "The Right Thing To Do" (first appears on her No Secrets album). We do know the top US commander in Iraq, Gen Ray Odierno, is due to issue a report. Community member Joan caught a problem with yesterday's snapshot -- the bulk of a sentence is missing and it's my fault because of a link I put in that I didn't close and when it was dictated around later it ended up knocking out half a line. So this is what should have appeared in yesterday's snapshot ("*" indicates it's added today):Speaking Tuesday to John Hockenberry on The Takeaway, BBC News' Gabriel Gatehouse also felt that the counting would take longer than some estimates, "That could take several weeks. Then the votes have to be certified." In addition to noting that lengthy process, Gatehouse is apparently the only reporter aware of wh*at is supposed to be coming, a report by the top US commander in Iraq, Gen Ray Odierno. Gatehouse explained, "*General Odierno is the overall in charge of US forces here, has promised to make an assessment -- another assessment of that withdrawal time table two months after the election so we're looking at about a week from now. So I think we'll wait to see what he says in about a week's time."An evaluation is due from Odierno? And it will determine and assess. Now Barack can (and may) choose not to listen to it or at least not let effect the current stated plan or 'plan'; however, until that's decided, there is no, "In August, ____ happens." And reporters need to stop claiming that there is. You are not predictors. You deal in the known. When you fail to do that, you better not whine when someone objects to your bias. In fact, when you leave the factual world repeatedly, you are begging readers, listeners, viewers to check you for your bias.

Odierno will issue a report. It's probably not going to be the only report issued between now and August. President Barack Obama's stated plan is that the number of US troops in Iraq will drop down to approximately 50,000 as summer draws to a close. That's his plan. It's spring right now. What will or will not happen will not be known until then. That's reality.

Reality is that from November 2008 through January 2009, had George W. Bush attempted to sign million and billion dollars deals, people would be outraged. He was outgoing. He shouldn't be tying the country into any deals, agreements or debt. But Nouri, whose party did not win the most seats in the March 7th elections, is doing just that.
Sylvia Pfeifer (Financial Times of London) reports that Nouri's prepping a potential one billion dollar deal in which Iraq will purchase "Hawk trainer jets from the UK". What does the Iraqi Parliament say about that deal? Nothing. Their terms expired. Until the newly elected members are sworn in, there is no Parliament. Nouri's term should have expired as well. But he's pushing deals that will tie Iraq down for sometime including the five-year plan that he could never get through Parliament so he's now rammed it through his council.
UPI reports that Moqtada al-Sadr "has demanded that 'illegal' contracts signed with foreign oil companies in 2009 be negotiated." Nizar Latif (The National Newspaper) adds, "The Sadrists, fervent nationalists although they have been heavily linked with Iran, where their leader is currently based, say the deals break Iraqi laws. The Iraqi oil ministry says the contracts will result in 'more than US $100 billion' (Dh367bn) worth of investment."
Nouri rejected any notion of an interim government. Ayad Allawi is calling for one. But if Nouri doesn't control the government, then he can't get his recounts and he can't get the judges to go along with him and he can't steal the election. He also can't make any of the deals he wants to. Caesar Ahmed and Borzou Daragahi (Los Angeles Times) report Nouri al-Maliki appeared on Iraqi state TV today to declare, "We will not allow any foreign interference in our internal affairs that will breach our sovereignty." Which brings us back to Nancy A. Youssef. First, Nouri, Iraq was breached in March 2003. You weren't concerned about "foreign interference" then. No, you were cheering on an invasion. Nancy A. Youssef wants to claim that the US is present at Iraq's invation. What a load of s**t. First off, an uninvited guest who never leaves is not there on any invitation. Second, who 'invited'? Not the people of Iraq who want the foreign forces off their land. Not the Parliament as evidenced by the huge number of MPs who elected to skip the November 2008 vote. Ahmed and Daragahi report Nouri attacked Allawi in his televised statements and also of Allawi and others, "I don't know why there are parties criticizing the Iraqi judiciary. This demonstrates that there is a regional, international project against Iraq that seeks to overthrow [the government] via the ballot box." Does the idiot understand that using the ballot box to reject someone is more than allowed?

In DC today, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Kuwait's Deputy Prime Minister Muhammad al-Sabah.
The two spoke to reporters in the Treaty Room (link has text and video) and took questions. In one of her replies, Hillary noted the following:

The deputy prime minister and I discussed recent political developments in Iraq and the ongoing process of forming a new government. The security and stability of Iraq is critical to the security and stability of Kuwait, but of indeed the entire region. The United States recognizes that there is still work to be done to address some of the outstanding issues related to the Iraq-Kuwait relationship, and we are committed to working with Kuwait and the new Government of Iraq and the United Nations in the months ahead.
On the post-election madness,
Heather Robinson (Huffington Post) notes:

Iraqi liberal Mithal al-Alusi, who
raised concerns about fraud against himself and fellow liberals after he lost his seat in Parliament in the March 7 elections, is now raising concerns about a potential lack of oversight of the Baghdad recount that he says could lead to a repeat of the fraud that prompted the recount in the first place.
"It will be a disaster if the same people who did the first counting will do the second counting," Alusi told me in a phone interview from Baghdad.
Alusi is no stranger to controversy. Iraqi-born and bred, in the 1970's he protested Saddam Hussein's human rights abuses, and was forced to flee the middle east for his life. He returned to Iraq with his two grown sons following the U.S. invasion and took a position as culture director of the de-Baathification commission in the Iraqi interim government.

We dealt with the Kagans already. (Disclosure, as noted before I know Robert Kagan, that's Fred's bother, Kimberly's brother-in-law.) But, again, their column was completely distorted. From the right (the neocon right), the
Frederick and Kimberly Kagan argue in today's Post:

Washington should strongly support Iraqi leaders such as Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi and Allawi, who have strongly opposed the AJC's illegal effort to manipulate the results. The United States must encourage Iraq's Presidency Council to adhere to the electoral laws and reject the AJC's manipulation. The United States must also ensure that legal processes and court decisions about the elections are not unduly influenced by political or violent intimidation. Above all, the United States must oppose any effort to exclude votes properly cast and counted.
U.S. officials must state clearly that Iraq's government should be formed by Iraqis in Iraq and encourage Iraqis to form a government that ensures real power-sharing and continued political accommodation -- rather than cobbling together a government without any genuine political settlement.
Staying silent is not the same as remaining neutral. This does not mean that Washington should choose a party or prime minister, but the United States must protect the electoral process from politicians (and external actors) seeking to manipulate its outcome.

Again, the Kagans are right-wingers. Let's get some other opinions. For example, the
Toledo Blade's editorial board argues what listeners of Diane Rehm's program were wrongly told the Kagans (or at least Fred) argued:

Hints by U.S. military leaders suggest the withdrawal might be delayed if Iraqis don't assemble a credible government soon. But that plays right into the hands of Iraqi political and business interests that want U.S. funds - about $2 billion a month - to continue to flow there. Mr. Maliki and others also want to maintain the protective American shield around themselves and their government.
America's interest is to withdraw according to schedule. There is no good reason to divert from that plan.

That is consistent with the Toledo Blade's February editorial "
Don't yield to Iraqi stunts." Turning to the Carnegie Endowment For International Peace. When noting that 'NGO,' we will always note that they're not as 'independent' as they'd love to pretend, they are an arm of the US government. So what are they saying? Marina Ottaway and Danial Kaysi feel the rule of law is being ignored and that the Justice and Accountability Commission is among the worst offenders:

This decision to ban elected officials has truly taken Iraq into uncharted waters, where it is becoming increasingly difficult to separate ad hoc political decisions from those based on the legal criteria. The January 2008 law that established the JAC and defined its mandate did not foresee the possibility of banning candidates after the election and no precedent exists on which to base a decision as these are the first elections under the law. Making the decision even more political -- the post-election bans will affect Iraqiya particularly hard, as did the pre-election exclusions. With twenty-two of the candidates banned after the vote belonging to Iraqiya, it could lose its slim two-seat advantage over State of Law.
There are also questions concerning the current legal status of the JAC, whose members were nominated by the council of ministers, approved by parliament, and ratified by the presidency council -- institutions whose mandate was terminated at the end of the last parliament and are operating in a legal limbo in the transitional period until a government is formed. The situation will worsen as the transitional period stretches from the few weeks foreseen by the constitution to the many months that now
appear possible.

Alsumaria TV reports on seven candidates banned by JAC: "Al Iraqiya List spokesman Haidar Al Mulla revealed to Alsumaria News the names of seven candidates subject to the Justice and Accountability Law. Candidates include Fallah Hassan Zaydan, Iskandar Watout, Itab Jassem Nassif, Jamal Al Batikh, Adnan Al Jinabi, Mohammed Al Karbouli and Qays Shathar Hussein while an eighth winning candidate was not named."

Another view is offered by
Jim Waldo in a letter to the Duluth News Tribune where he observes, "Every day it seems we read about bombs going off in civilian settings and the marketplaces in Iraq. How long will it take before exasperated citizens put a strongman in power through voting or a coup? He might stop the carnage by temporarily suspending democracy, installing a secret police, forming a republican guard and adopting repressive measures. And he might indeed success in stopping the bombings." But, Jim Waldo feels, this is how the New Saddam Hussein is created. Alsumaria TV reports that Nouri insisted today that Iraq was at risk of "a coup" from within the region and internationally and that threats are being made of a rocket attack on the Green Zone. Save us, Nouri, save us!!!! (Yes, he does trade on the fear. It's always been his only currency.)

Turning to some of the violence reported today . .

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Garma roadside bombing injured two people and, dropping back to yesterday, reports a Heet roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left a second one wounded, a Baghdad roadside bombing wounded six people, a Baghdad car bombing claimed 8 lives and left twenty people wounded, a Baghdad sticky bombing which wounded CTO Sadoun Seyid Qassim. Xinhua notes a Baghdad roadside bombing which claimed 2 lives and left nine people injured. Reuters notes that 1 US service member was injured by a Baghdad roadside bombing last night.

Yesterday, a subcommittee of the US House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing on the "Status of Veterans Small Business." Calling the Economic Opportunity Subcommittee to order, Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin noted, "Today's hearing will provide the US Government Accountability Office an opportunity to update us on the ongoing work on veteran-owned small businesses, and brought the hearing to order and noted " This Subcommittee last held a hearing on veterans and small business on
March 11, 2010. The focus was on the Center for Veterans Enterprise and the Subcommittee were informed about problems to do with verification -- how some businesses that were not VA-owned were making it onto the list while others which were veteran-owned but could not make the list. What's changed? They did a study, the Government Accountability Office did a study. We'll note this exchange between the Chair, GAO's William B. Shear and Ranking Member John Boozman.

Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: [. . .] Because we have, as it relates to contracting requirements, a goal of making sure that it's veteran-owned businesses that are getting this opportunity just as it is in terms of the restriction Ms. [Diane] Farrell described, they're jobs created here as the objective so I -- You know, in your written testimony, you stated that the VA had hired a contractor to assess the verification programs process and the contractor's report included recommendations. Again, we're a little concerned with the progress the VA's making on the verifications as it relates to those on the database who have been verified to be veteran-owned businesses to deal with the issue of sort of veteran shopping that we have had concerns about with the Subcommittee previously. Can you elaborate on what recommendations were given to the VA?
William B. Shear: Uhm, I will paraphrase in a way that, uhm, as you know we have a draft report and as I stated we have a draft report. And among those, the needs to really implement information technology in a way that allows for more efficient processing of these applications. You also need -- really it's development of people in terms of their ability of the guidance that they have to have in terms of how they verify businesses. So I'm -- I'm segueing a little bit into what's-what's-what we're reporting on. But-but basically that it's been very slow in this process. And the reason we think it's very important is because the preferences are meant to serve veterans and veteran owned small business and there's not an assurance that that is happening. And it's been delayed for some period of time, so just the fact that the consultant study, that it took so long until they kind of like moved in that direction is of concern to us.

Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: Mr. Boozeman?

Ranking Member John Boozemmn: Thank you, Madame Chair. Mr. Shear, Public Law 109-461 requires VA to review contracts for compliance with subcontracting proposals. Would you share GIO's view of VA's performance in implementing the provisions

William B. Shear: Subcontracting was the one part that is contained -- will be contained in our final report. And what we observed with subcontracting requirements, there's -- there's certain issues as far as the date when that becomes effective. But what we have observed to date is that the -- with respect to subcontracting VA falls very short of its goals.

If we wanted to go deeper into the hearing, we could note that you do not appear before Congress chewing (smacking) gum. It's not a possible rule, it's a rule. Smacking your gum between and during your testimony not only distracts from your testimony, it makes it appear you really aren't ready to appear before Congress and that they might need to instead seat you at the kiddie table.

Hike for our Heroes is a non-profit started by Iraq War veteran Troy Yocum who is hiking across the country to raise awareness and money for veterans issues. He explains at the website:I am an Iraq-war veteran who is hiking 7000 miles across America to raise money for struggling veterans, and help get a national "Day of the Deployed" by getting signatures from mayors and governors across America on a custom Louisville Slugger batAnd with over 200 of the 7000 miles completed already, he has another milestone scheduled for the week: He's getting married Sunday. More information and videos can be found at Drum Hike.William J. Booher (Indy Star) reports that May is when Troy is set to be walking in Indiana and provides a list of some of the events including "a public barbecue May 7 at American Legion Post 252, 334 U.S. 31 S., between Main Street and Smith Valley Road." That is open to the public and begins at 12:30 in Greenwood, Indiana.
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 Naftali Bendavid (Wall St. Journal), Eamon Javers (Politico), Margaret Kriz Hobson (National Journal) and Karen Tumulty (Washington Post). And Gwen's column this week is "Washington Rhetoric: The Decoder." Remember that the show podcasts in video and audio format -- and a number of people sign up for each (audio is thought to be so popular due to the fact that it downloads so much quicker). If you podcast the show, remember there is the Web Extra where Gwen and the guests weigh in on topics viewers e-mail about. And also remember that usually by Monday afternoon you can go to the show's website and stream it there (including Web Extra) as well as read the transcripts and more. Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Melinda Henneberger, Eleanor Holmes Norton and Genevieve Wood. 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 immigration reform. For the broadcast program, check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes:
The All American CanalThe most dangerous body of water in the U.S. is a deep canal on the Mexican border with California where over 550 people - mostly illegal immigrants - have drowned. Scott Pelley reports.
Watch Video
Chef Jose AndresPioneering Chef Jose Andres takes Anderson Cooper's taste buds on a savory tour of his culinary laboratory, featuring his avant-garde cooking technique, molecular gastronomy. Watch Video
ConanLate-night television comedian Conan O'Brien appears in his first interview since having to give back his spot on the "Tonight Show" to Jay Leno. Steve Kroft reports.
60 Minutes, Sunday, May 2, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

nprthe diane rehm show
the financial times of londonsylvia pfeiferthe national newspapernizar latif
the los angeles timesned parker
bbc newsgabriel gatehousethe takeawayjohn hockenberrythe huffington postheather robinson
the toledo blade
mcclatchy newspaperssahar issa
60 minutescbs newsto the contrarybonnie erbe
washington week

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Music notes

[Sunny note added for Elaine April 29th, Sunsara Taylor's webcast didn't allow Elaine to log in and she had the password and all the other requirements.]

Did I download Kate Nash through Amazon? I was asked that in three e-mails Sunny read. Is there a problem downloading from Amazon? I don't know. I went ahead and used iTunes just because I needed to upgrade iTunes anyway. If I hadn't, I would have needed to take it off the computer because I don't think I've used it in forever.

There's a digital booklet that comes with the audio download but I haven't opened it so I have no idea.

I like all the songs but I think "Early Christmas Present" is probably the best. For me, at least.

What's the worst video I've seen lately?

Okay, that was Julia. Sunny wrote some notes on the e-mails and I had to go my purse and pull out her notes.

Julia wanted to know the worst video I'd seen in some time. I think I saw this back in August or September so it may be too old, but "All Day Long I Think About Sex."

JC Chasez? Is that his name. Lead singer in 'NSync?

The good news, he looks good in the bulk of the video.

But the song's not all of that and he looks like an idiot at the start of the video. He's doing this dramatic jerky thing that someone thought was dancing but just makes him look like a moron as does his punching the screen.

If they'd leave that out and take out the mock porn shoot, it would be a strong video.

But it really can't recover. It's ridiculous, like whenever Michael Jackson would whistle at a woman in a video.

Best video?

Vampire Weekend, but I forget the song. But they had a really good video.

Group I can't stand (that's Lance's question)? She & Him. Is that their name? That's just embarrassing. It's not retro. I've heard six of their songs including their version of "You Really Got A Hold On Me." Cher is a singer. Sonny Bono was not. When Sonny & Cher's version of "You Really Got A Hold Of Me" tops She & Him, it's time for She & Him to pack it in.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, April 28, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, post-election madness continues in Iraq, Human Rights Watch calls out Nouri's secret prison, Senator Jim Webb holds a hearing on military compensation and more.

In Iraq, post-election madness continues as Nouri abuses power and the system.
Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) adds, "Weighing in on legally dubious efforts to change the outcome of Iraq's March 7 parliamentary elections, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged Iraqi officials Tuesday to act more speedily and openly in forming a new government." We'll again note her statement in full:
On March 7, I congratulated the people of Iraq on their national elections, which were a clear demonstration of their commitment to democracy and a future without fear and intimidation. Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), the United Nations, the Arab League, and both international and domestic observers declared those elections to be free of widespread or systematic fraud. The United States respects the legal avenues that Iraq has set up for challenges to candidates and to electoral results. However, for challenges to be credible and legitimate they must also be transparent and must accord with the laws and mechanisms established for the conduct of the elections. Investigations into allegations of fraud should be conducted in accordance with IHEC procedures. Similarly, candidates should have every opportunity to answer charges against them. Transparency and due process are essential to protecting the integrity of the process and preserving the confidence of the Iraqi people in their democratic system. The United States does not support a particular party or candidate. We seek a long-term partnership with an Iraq that is stable, sovereign and self-reliant. As a friend and partner, the United States calls upon Iraq's leaders to set aside their differences, respect the courageous ballots of the Iraqi people, and to form quickly a government that is inclusive and represents the will of all Iraqis and their hope for a brighter future in a strong, independent and democratic Iraq.

Howard LaFranchi (Christian Science Monitor) reports the White House is troubled/worried over the continued non-progress and he speaks to Wayne White -- 25 years with the State Dept before he left and also a one-time Iraq analyst for the Dept, who states, "They're increasingly afraid of ending up with another Karzai-like mess. There was always concern over time and the impact a drawn-out process of naming [an Iraqi] government could have. But the prospect of a government tainted by illegitimacy is quickly becoming a much larger problem." Andrew Lee Butters (Time magazine) zooms in on US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill's efforts to prod the process along:

The fact that America's man in Baghdad was reduced to asking Iraq's politicians to perform their basic duties should be a warning sign to anyone hoping the U.S. will leave behind a stable democratic Iraq when its last troops are scheduled to depart at the end of next year. U.S. combat troops are scheduled to withdraw by the end of August, and U.S. officials have begun to doubt whether Iraq will have a government in place by then. In the past, U.S. officials have indicated they might slow the timetable of troop withdrawals should Iraq's election process not proceed smoothly. But even if the Pentagon puts the brakes on and keeps combat troops in country, there may not be much they can do to fix Baghdad's political mess.
Turning to the care and feeding of the New York Times. US troops need to leave and need to leave now. That's the position of this community -- has always been the position and always will be. But? Let's weigh in on the nonsense of 'firm' Barack.
Some people are worried that Iraq's descending into chaos and Barack's going to continue pulling troops out. They worry about that because of a New York Times piece, a recent one. That piece is so stupid we've never linked to it nor commented on it. As Politico notes today, the White House loves to feed the New York Times. Here's a little more reality: If that story was true, those two wouldn't be covering it for the Times.

Were the story the paper printed true, Michael R. Gordon would have had part of that byline. And it is to Gordon that Barack explained what would happen if he were president and was planning -- or had started -- withdrawal (he's not talking of doing a withdrawal, he's talking of doing a drawdown, they are not the same thing). He was very clear what would happen. It's a shame no one listened in real time. But the paper's not going to put Michael Gordon on the puff piece about Barack because Gordon's going to note what's being fed contradicts what Barack has publicly stated. He'd note that if only to give himself credit for his earlier interview. (He'd also note it because he believes US troops need to remain in Iraq.)
Ahmed Rasheed, Khalid al-Ansary,Michael Christie and Samia Nakhoul (Reuters) report that Ayad Allawi is calling out Nouri's attempts to steal the election, demanding a "caretaker government" to prevent that and states, "We will not stay silent in the face ofw hat is happening in the Iraqi political areana with attempts to marginalize and exclude the Iraqiya list." Alsumaria TV reports, "Kurdistan Alliance member Mahmoud Othman announced that the decision of the Justice and Accountability Commission to invalidate the votes of some winning candidates in elections is dubious mainly that it has allowed them to stand in elections while it banned others ahead of the electoral process, Othman noted." Saif Nasrawi (Al-Masry Al-Youm) reports that Allawi was in Egypt today and met with the country's President Hosni Mubarak and the two discussed "ongoing efforts to form the new Iraqi government."

Allawi's political slate won 91 seats in the Parliament in the March 7th elections while Nouri's party won 89 seats. In the time since, Nouri has thrown non-stop tantrums.
Jason Ditz ( reviews some of Nouri's attempts to invalidate the election:

Maliki's party got a ruling from the Iraqi High Court saying that the number of MPs who are seated in the first session of parliament, not the number actually elected, which decide who gets to form the government. Since then Iraqiya's winning members have faced harassment, arbitrary detentions, and efforts by the
Justice and Accountability Commission (JAC), which disqualified hundreds of Iraqiya candidates before the vote, to disqualify many of the winning MPs after the fact.
Iraqiya has
already lost two MPs to an Iraqi court ruling, and scores of non-winning candidates have also been lost, setting up possible gains for State of Law, the Kurdistan Alliance, and the Iraqi National Alliance (INA) in those districts.
Beyond that, JAC is looking to oust another nine MPs, mostly Iraqiya, at least one of their MPs is being indefinitely detained by the Maliki government, and the Maliki government has also promised to dramatically change the results of the Baghdad vote with a manual recount. When all is said and done Iraqiya would likely be a distant second if not a third place finisher in the parliament, despite having won the actual election.

An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy writes at Inside Iraq about issues facing Iraqis more important than the battles between Allawi and al-Maliki including:

Improving and developing the relation with the owner of the private generator is for sure more important than any political issue because it means having more electricity during our long summer season. Negotiations about one or two extra work hours will be very hard because of the high cost of the fuel and the greed of the owners. From their own sides, the owners of the generators will work for the best agreements with the electricity engineers who supervise providing Baghdad sectors with electricity. They will ask them to supply the areas with electricity during the work hours of the generator which means less generating hours with the same high prices for the supply. We already started the suffering of power shortages and these days we have electricity less than six hours a day.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .

Reuters notes 2 Baghdad sucide car bombings which claimed 5 lives (plus drivers of cars) and left seventeen people injured, a Baghdad truck bombing which injured four people, a Baghdad mortar attack on the Green Zone and two Baghdad roadside bombings which left six people injured. Today the US military announced: "CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq – A United States Division-North Soldier was killed in Diyala province. The names of the deceased are 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." The announcement brings to 4393 the number of US service members killed in the Iraq War.

Last week, Ned Parker broke the news about a secret prison in Iraq housing Sunnis which was under the command of Nouri al-Maliki in "
Secret prison for Sunnis revealed in Baghdad" (Los Angeles Times). On the secret Iraq prison, Human Rights Watch issued the following:
(Baghdad) - Detainees in a secret Baghdad detention facility were hung upside-down, deprived of air, kicked, whipped, beaten, given electric shocks, and sodomized, Human Rights Watch said today. Iraq should thoroughly investigate and prosecute all government and security officials responsible, Human Rights Watch said. Human Rights Watch interviewed 42 of the men in the Al Rusafa Detention Center on April 26, 2010. They were among about 300 detainees transferred from the secret facility in the old Muthanna airport in West Baghdad to Al Rusafa into a special block of 19 cage-type cells over the past several weeks, after the existence of the secret prison was revealed. The men's stories were credible and consistent. Most of the 300 displayed fresh scars and injuries they said were a result of routine and systematic torture they had experienced at the hands of interrogators at Muthanna. All were accused of aiding and abetting terrorism, and many said they were forced to sign false confessions. "The horror we found suggests torture was the norm in Muthanna," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "The government needs to prosecute all of those responsible for this systematic brutality." The Iraqi authorities should establish an independent and impartial inquiry to investigate what happened at Muthanna, determine who was responsible, and prosecute them, Human Rights Watch said, including anyone in authority who failed to prevent the torture. The government also needs to ensure that courts will not admit any confessions obtained through torture. The men interviewed said the Iraqi army detained them between September and December 2009 after sweeps in and around Mosul, a stronghold of Sunni Arab militants, including Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. They said torture was most intense during their first week at Muthanna. Several well-informed sources told Human Rights Watch that this secret facility was under the jurisdiction of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's military office. All the detainees interviewed described the same methods of torture employed by their Iraqi interrogators. The jailers suspended the detainees handcuffed and blindfolded upside down by means of two bars, one placed behind their calves and the other against their shins. All had terrible scabs and bruising on their legs. The interrogators then kicked, whipped and beat the detainees. Interrogators also placed a dirty plastic bag over the detainee's head to close off his air supply. Typically, when the detainee passed out from this ordeal, his interrogators awakened him with electric shocks to his genitals or other parts of his body.
During the interrogations, security officials mocked the detainees and called them "terrorists" and "Ba'athists." To stop the torture, detainees said, they either offered fake confessions or signed or fingerprinted a prepared confession without having read it. Even after they confessed, many said, torture persisted. The detainees told Human Rights Watch of other torture methods as well. They described how interrogators and security officials sodomized some detainees with broomsticks and pistol barrels and, the detainees said, raped younger detainees, who were then sent to a different detention site. Some young men said they had been forced to perform oral sex on interrogators and guards. Interrogators also forced some detainees to molest one another. Security officials whipped detainees with heavy cables, pulled out fingernails and toenails, burned them with acid and cigarettes, and smashed their teeth. If detainees still refused to confess, interrogators would threaten to rape their wives, mothers, sisters, or daughters. The interrogation sessions usually lasted three or four hours and occurred every three or four days. Muthanna held more than 430 prisoners before their transfer to other detention facilities earlier this month. For months, nobody knew their whereabouts. Detainees had no access to their families or legal counsel. They were not issued any official documents or even a detainee or case number. An investigative judge heard cases in a room down the hall from one of the torture chambers in the facility, they said. After the Los Angeles Times first reported the abuse at the Muthanna detention facility on April 19, the Iraqi government said it would investigate the torture claims and has arrested three army officers in connection with the abuse. "What happened at Muthanna is an example of the horrendous abuse Iraqi leaders say they want to leave behind," Stork said. "Everyone responsible, from the top on down, needs to be held accountable." The following are excerpts from the detainees' testimony:
Detainee A was captured with 33 others in Mosul on the night of September 17, 2009: "The interrogators would tie my arms behind my back and blindfold me before they would hang me upside down and beat me. They would suffocate me with a bag until I passed out and would wake me with an electric shock to my genitals. Even after they forced me to confess that I killed ten people, the torture never stopped. Ten days before I was transferred out on April 8, I endured a horrific beating for speaking to an inspection team from the Human Rights Ministry. After they left, the prison staff beat me so badly that I urinated blood."
Detainee B is a pediatrician who saw one of his cellmates dragged out for a torture session on January 18, 2010. When they brought him back to the cell, the doctor noticed swelling above his liver and suspected internal bleeding and told the guards that the man needed immediate medical attention. The guards took the tortured man out but returned him an hour later saying that he was fine. He died in the cell an hour later.
Detainee C was arrested in September in Mosul: "The torture sessions lasted for hours on end. The guards would come into our cell and grab three or four detainees at a time. They would walk us to the interrogation room to begin the abuse. They would beat us for hours and so badly that we could not stand up so they would have to drag us back to our cells. They would let us recover for three days before the cycle of torture began anew."
Detainee D, a formal general in the Iraqi army and now a British citizen, who is in a wheelchair, was arrested on December 7, after he returned to Mosul from London to find his son, who had been detained. His jailers refused him medicine for his diabetes and high blood pressure. "I was beaten up severely, especially on my head," he told Human Rights Watch. "They broke one of my teeth during the beatings. ... Ten people tortured me; four from the investigation commission and six soldiers. .... They applied electricity to my penis and sodomized me with a stick. I was forced to sign a confession that they wouldn't let me read."
Iraqi soldiers arrested Detainee E, a 21-year-old, on December 19 at his home in Mosul: "During the first eight days they tortured me daily. They would put a bag on my head and start to kick my stomach and beat me all over my body. They threatened that if I didn't confess, they would bring my sisters and mother to be raped. I heard him on the cellphone giving orders to rape my sisters and mother." During one torture session, the man, who was blindfolded and handcuffed, was stripped and ordered to stroke another detainee's penis. After he was forced to the floor, the other detainee was forced on top of him. "It hurt when it started to penetrate me. The guards were all laughing and saying, 'He's very tight, let's bring some soap!' When I experienced the pain, I asked them to stop and that I would confess. Although I confessed to the killings, I mentioned fake names since I never killed anyone. So the torture continued even after I confessed because they suspected my confession was false." One of the guards also forced him to have oral sex.
Detainee F was arrested with his brother in Mosul on December 16. His interrogators strung him upside down and severely beat him with his eyes blindfolded and his hands tied behind his back. He suffered broken ribs from the beatings and urinated blood for days. The interrogators threatened to rape his wife if he did not confess. One time he was stripped naked and told to penetrate another naked inmate lying on the floor or that he would otherwise be raped by two male guards.
Detainees G and H, father (59) and son (29) respectively, were arrested at their house in Mosul on September 30. Both endured sessions in which interrogators hung them upside down and beat them. During one session the father was stripped naked in front of the son, and the son was told they if he did not confess they would rape his father. The father was told that if he did not confess they would kill his son. The son was subsequently sodomized with a broomstick and the guards' fingers.
Detainee I, 24, was arrested on September 30 in Mosul. He still has severe leg injuries and wets his bed after he was sodomized numerous times with a broomstick and pistol. During one session, an interrogator told him that they would rape his mother and sister if he did not confess. During another beating, interrogators hit him so hard that he lost several front teeth.

Human Rights Watch researcher
Samer Muscati spoke to Melissa Block (NPR's All Things Considered) today:

Samer Muscati: What we saw was horrific. We went to the facilities on Monday and interviewed about 42 detainees who had been transferred from Muthanna and each of them told us of specific cases of torture. Many of the practices that were taken against them were the same in the sense that people were flipped upside down, suffocated with a dirty bag, beaten and hit with belts and other implements until they passed out and they were brought to using electrical shocks and other specific forms of torture as well including pulling out fingernails and breaking fingers.

[. . .]

Melissa Block: You also apparently heard numerous accounts of rape and-and sodomy in this prison.

Samer Muscati: Yes, and it was obviously very difficult for detainees to talk about -- especially in this culture, for a man to be raped or molested -- it's extremely humiliating. And it was extremely difficult for people to talk about what happened to them but I felt that they needed to explain what happened to them because they are seeking justice and accountability for what happened. But it seems that the younger men -- and actually there were minors there as well -- were subjected to rape while the older men were sodomized using various implements and lots of other ways.

In other prison abuse and torture news, the inquiry into the death of Baha Mousa continues. Yesterday,
Marcia explained that the inquiry was told that after Baha died in British custody, Maj Michael Peebles attempted to cover his own end by suddenly making calls to find out what the procedures were for holding a prisoner.

A subcommittee of the US Senate's Armed Services Committee held a hearing today. "The Subcommittee meets today to hear testimony on military pay and compensation," declared Senator Jim Webb, Chair of the Military Personnel Subcommittee. Appearing before the Subcommittee were DoD's William J. Carr, GAO's Brenda Farrell, CBO's Carla Tighe Murray and James Hosek of the RAND Corporation. Webb noted that to retain the quality in the services, compensation must be able to compete with private business and the need for a "robust benefits and compensation program." Webb noted (after the witnesses' opening statements) that when service was compulsary (draft) for males in the US, it was decided to spend more money on the career ranks but when it became voluntary, more money was on the lower end in as a recruiting tool.

Subcommittee Chair Jim Webb: The question that came to mind when I was listening to this, when we're talking about comprability with private sector. For instance when the comment was made if you include other benefits there's about an 80th percentile for the typical military person. I would like to hear from all of you. First of all, which benefits are we including when we do that and which benefits are we not? For instance, on the medical side, do we factor in such things as not having to have malpractice insurance or to pay for an office. Do we count that as compensation when we're looking at comparing what the cost would be on the outside. What are we doing on these different areas? What are we putting in and what are we leaving out when we hit these kind of numbers? Ms. Farrell, you might want to start on that.

Brenda Farrell: Sure, senator. As I noted, the studies differ in what they include. The first -- That's the reason you get different results. Although at this time, the reports that we looked at from my colleagues here all came up showing that the military pay was very favorable. When we're talking about the 10th QRMC including select benefits it was health care, retirement and the federal tax advantage. And we're talking about a very broad base. When you refer to malpractice insurance, I'm thinking maybe you're thinking more of a scenario that's comparing one occupation for a physician in the private sector. These studies are very broad based. And that's the reason that we say they have limitations because the populations differ from -- usually your private sector population is older than what you have in the military workforce. And usually your private sector population has already further ahead in education. As you know, many people join our military with the plans to go on and get that education. So you have different populations in terms of demographics that you're, uh, viewing -- that places some limitations. But with that said, there's -- We feel that the studies that we looked at with CNA being the backup for the data with the 10th QRMC that included the three select benefits took a very reasonable approach. There could be -- There were a couple of comments that were made on the CNA study regarding making assumptions about health care and retirement -- and some other organization could come up with different assumptions. But we still think it's reasonable. One of the assumptions made, for example, about retirement involves the discount rate. You know if someone's going to retire in twenty years and receive $100 -- to make it very simple -- the discount rate that would be the present value today and the discount rate that CNA used could be a little bit on the high side compared to if a different rate was used. So there's differences in the assumptions that are used for these non-cash benefits such as the health care -- trying to place the value on it -- as well as the retirement. Does that help?

Subcommittee Chair Jim Webb: That helps.

William J. Carr: Sir, to make a point, I think. Military pay, if it's simple and it's understood, for example, pay stub. We've for years used regular military service compensation which is roughly equivalent with pay stub. It considers my basic pay and allowances -- housing allowances for example. And because allowances are not taxable, the tax advantage. An enormous amount of time explaining that to the soldier, sailor, air, marines, so that they can gain some cross-comparison. Whether it's true -- And I'll stipulate that we're 70% against that pay stub measurement or 80% if we included esoteric things that aren't reflected in the pay stub, it's simply used as a means of communicating a baseline. Either one is producing the same effect. 80% if you're using the esoteric, 70% if you're not. But the importance is consistency in use. So if we are 70% today and we've used that measurement for years, and hope to use it into the future, then we're communicating a point at which core retention patterns look okay to us. So what was the pay level then? And we'd say, "Well the regular military compensation, cause we have to account for the tax break, is at this level and, yes, retention was good, and unemployment was that [gesturing below with his hand]." We can communicate in much simpler cogent terms that I think the troops would subsribe to because, first, because we've talked to them in those terms for so long and secondly because it has to do with the pay stub. And they get that.

Subcommittee Chair Jim Webb: Well the question though is whether we have the right information out to truly compare because there are a number of concerns. We hear it from the Military Officer Association, etc saying that the pay differential for the same type of job in the military is less. And we need an accurate number, if it's less, it's less. But if you're factoring all of the different pieces in together and it's good, we should say it's good. So the question again becomes what-what are we putting into this when we make the formula? And Ms. Farrell, when I was talking about medical insurance, it was just one of the things that popped into my mind when you were giving your presentation in that you can't sue a military doctor. Federal Tort Claims Act. So there are doctors in civilian practice who spend tens -- if not hundreds -- of thousands of dollars in medical malpractice insurance in order to cover the possibility of a lawsuit. We, argubably, should factor that in when we look at compensation for medical folks. Just one -- just one of many questions I would have in terms of how sophisticated are we in should people should be concerned about these pay levels as they are right now. They should, maybe they shouldn't. But are we using the right for formula?

Brenda Farrell: Again we think by going with the 10th QRMC's recommendation to includes select benefits, that's an advantage to DoD, to show how good their package really is. And that it could be used as a recruiting or retention tool. We have reported in the past, through our surveys with service members, they lacked an understanding of how their pay compared to counterparts in the private sector and there are a lot of misperceptions out there. Granted, DoD has in its hands full because this is such a large workforce. I mean, they bring in about 180,000 every year, they're maintaining 1.2 million service members, it's a vast array of occupations but by doing -- when you're doing a broad based comparison of how the military compares to the private sector, we firmly believe that the total package should be included. The regular military compensation that Mr. Carr mentioned? We're not saying "Don't look at that." And keep that measurement of how the cash does compare with the civilian but also go with the recommendation to look at select benefits to the extent possible because it will give a fuller picture, it will help DoD to monitor so you can keep pace and be competative with the private sector and it's a good recruiting tool as we said.

Subcommittee Chair Jim Webb: Dr. Hosek, what do you think about that?

James Hosek: Well, various things. The first thing to observe, I think, is that the basic elements, what in the past have been referred to as regular military compensation for officers or enlisted personnel, still constitutes the vast majority of their current compensation even when one considers benefits and allowances -- that is it's on the order of 90%. And what that means to me is that it's really important to make sure that whatever we do, we keep track of that and watch it carefully. The second thing is that probably the most salient benefit to military families on active or reserve duty today would be the health benefit. And that comes not only because the military has pledged to care for military service members and their famiilies and follow through with this health benefit -- it's a fairly comprehensive benefit. But also because the cost of similar services in the private sector have risen dramatically -- at times upwards of 40 or 50% a year increase in cost. Today I believe in the private sector, the cost of a relatively good health care benefit for a family of 4 is around $13,000 whereas at the beginning of the decade, it was probably half that. And so the value of the military benefit can be thought of in terms of what it would cost a military family to obtain quality health care outside. A few years ago -- I want to certainly recognize the find work that's been done by CBO and GAO in this area -- also CNA. But with that comment let me note, a few years ago we did a study at RAND trying to place a value on the military health care benefit by which we made use of information on private sector claims data for providers and skill sets and the aging and ethnic distributions similar to that in the military. To make a story short, we too came up with a number such that when you put it in the full context, enlisted personnel had a benefit including basic pays, allowances, tax -- you know, the non-taxibility of the allowance and the health care benefit, placing their compensation at or around the 80th percentile. For officers, I believe it was at or around the 90th percentile. I'll end there with only additional final comment that as you said at the beginning, as important as it is to look at the elements of pay and be clear about what we're including and how we're doing it. We always want to be able to relate those elements of pay to our recruiting and retenetion outcomes. Thank you.

Senator Jim Webb: And also, if I may, on an issue like health care, that's a moral contract. It's a moral contract that goes beyond benefits and it goes to the life of an individual who spends their career in the military. I can't tell you how many people, in my lifetime, who are career military who point that out while they are on active duty and after they retire.

No, the witnesses are not in agreement. Shortly after, Webb would note that there's really no business model here in terms of the budgeting but that's also true in terms of how they're estimating comparble pay. The easiest way to set a standard, and Webb may end up proposing this, is for Congress to come and declare what is measured and what isn't when calculating a pay scale that you can then compare to the civilian world's pay scale for similar jobs and/or duties. That would actually make the most sense because Congress is going to determine whether or not a bump in pay takes place. They control the purse. So since they'll be the ones determining that, it makes sense to have them set the standards by which to measure whether or not the pay is comparable to the civilian pay.

Mike's been noting KPFT's Queer Voices radio program at his site. One of the features of the program is This Way Out's newswrap which is archived in text form here. Taren James and Michael LeBeau covered a large number of topics this week and we'll note the following:

The U.S. queer community's new grassroots activist pit bulls,
GetEQUAL, upped the pressure on PResident Barack Obama this week over his failure to keep major campaign promises to LGBT Americans. Although Obama has taken several smaller steps seen as favorable or helpful, he's yet to secure passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, or repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.
Equality advocates are increasingly worried that chances for those actions will diminish after mid-term elections in November. While Democrats have significent majorities in both the House and Senate, and of course there's a Democrat in the White House, the majority party typically loses seats two years after a presidential inauguration.
Many in the mostly-younger generation of queer activists became activists after the passage of Proposition 8 in California. Some accuse the country's leading LGBT rights groups of being insider-wannabes who curry favor with administration officials rather than being the "fierce advocates" for equality that Obama himself promised to be. The Human Rights Campaign, which bills itself as the nation's largest, and its president Joe Solmonese, are the most frequent targets of that "business as usual" criticism.
GetEqual's latest broadside started April 19th at a political fundraiser for California's Democratic U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer in Los Angeles. She's facing a strong re-election challenge in November, and Obama was there to help her raise campaign cash.
Five GetEQUAL activists paid their way into the event, and then repeatedly shouted at Obama about repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell as he tried to address the gathering.
"Hey! Hold on a second! Hold on a second! We are going to do that!" Obama responded. "Barbara and I are supportive of repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, so I don't know why you're hollerin'."
The following day, April 20th, GetEQUAL protesters returned to the White House for a second round of handcuffing themselves to the fence and getting arrested, a months after the group's initial action there.
Six servicemembers locked themselves up this time. Lt. Dan Choi and Capt. Jim Pietrangelo II -- making return visits -- were joined by Petty Officer Larry Whitt, Petty Officer Autumn Sandeen, Cadet Mara Boyd and Cpl. Evelyn Thomas. "We are handcuffing ourselves to the White House gates once again," Choi said, "to demand that President Obama show leadership on repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
Thomas said that the protest by Choi and Pietrangelo last month "made me realize that I needed to do something to stand up for all the black female soldiers who have been discharged. . . Many people don't know that we Black women are discharged disproportionately more than others under Don't Ask Don't Tell."
The six protesters were taken into custody and released the following afternoon. Their court dates are pending. In an unsettling footnote, U.S. Park Police forced media people covering the event away from the action. "The park's closed. Back up," the Park Police officer yelled repeatedly as he herdered journalists away from the protest. Park Police spokesman Sgt. David Scholosser apologized the following day, telling that his department "screwed up."
GetEqual continued its onslaught in the U.S. capital on April 21st, disrupting a hearing of the House Education and Labor Committee to demand that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act -- or ENDA -- be marked up and sent to the House floor for an immediate vote. GetEqual cofounder Robin McGehee tried to give committee Chairman George Miller a magic marker so he could "mark up" EDNA. "I don't know if because of the recession that you guys can't afford markers or whatever the issue is," McGehee said, "but in our community there are people being fired [every day] because they are lesbian, gay, bi or transgender." "We're working on that as expeditiously as we can," Miller responded. "Thank you very much."
ENDA has been stuck in Miller's committee since last year even though openly gay U.S. Representative Barny Frank of Massachusetts had said it would be voted on by the end of 2009. More recently, Frank, openly gay Representative Jared Polis of Colarado, openly lesbian Representative Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have called the bill a priority and said that they have the vote to pass it. The protesters were not arrested. Polis escorted them from the hearing room. Frank called the disruption "immature" and "tacky," and "a stupid thing to do . . . I understand people are frustrated and angry," he added, but the action was "no help whatsoever."
"We've waited too long already," McGehee said in response. "We have been promised since last year and, since the 90s, that we were going to have employment protection put in place. And yet, we still don't have it on the House floor." As if to jump on the GetEQUAL bandwagon, more than 230 U.S. LGBT and supportive groups signed on to a one-sentence statement to Congress on the same day: "Pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act NOW!" The United States has not seen this kind of burgeoning grassroots activism since the heyday of ACT UP in the late 1980s.

iraqthe los angeles timesned parkerhuman rights watchthe washington posternesto londonoreutersahmed rasheedkhalid al-ansarymichael christiesamia nakhoulalsumaria tv
time magazineandrew lee butters
nprall things consideredmelissa block

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I've known animals with more grace

"Guns drawn on Chomsky" (C.I., The Common Ills):
Will they be able to intimidate Chomsky into silence? I don't know. Ten years ago, no. But he's older and he's lost his wife recently and who knows. But it's real damn shame that they're lining up, they're going gunning for him, to try to shut him up. Exactly the thing that the corporate media has done to Noam his entire career is now being done by the left. The same goal, the same techniques. It's embarrassing. And file it under one more bit of destruction in the Age of Obama.
You can join in, like Lance, and attack Noam but remember, it could be you next. Ask not for whom the pogom tolls, it tolls for thee.

C.I. phoned me this morning, she was furious (a common mood for her these days). She filled me in and I thought, "I will never be surprised by how much whoring the Socialist Worker will do." I was on the phone with her during most of the writing of the above entry (not just the excerpt, the whole entry). I want to take some credit here.

"Ask not for whom the pogom tolls, it tolls for thee"?

I laughed so hard when she said that.

I laughed so hard at so much she was saying.

Where's my credit I'm grabbing?

None of that was in the entry. I could hear her typing away furiously while we were on the phone talking and she'd get off a one-liner like that and I'd laugh and insist, "You have to put that in! It's too funny."

So that's what I want credit for. Convincing her to include her best lines.

It's an amazing piece. It's appalling how the attacks on Noam Chomsky are coming in. It's disgusting who they're coming from.

Okay, new topic.

Read Rebecca tonight. She and I were discussing a topic and planning on both writing about it -- Michele Martin of NPR LYING -- and I've got something else to cover.


C.I. forwarded me an e-mail. She was pissed. She was pissed at a number of people and I don't blame her.

But I'll say for the record that the White woman who wrote? She needs to stop referring to every African-American man as "brother." She doesn't do that with White men. It's condescending.

I'll offer next: Why the hell did you send this thing to C.I.?

You make no sense. You're asking for a link and you can't even explain what you want linked to? A writer who struggles with their native language has seriously problems.

Also, dear, I'm not in the mood for you, nor is C.I. She's busting her ass and what are you doing?

Not one damn thing.

She's busting her ass every day.

While you don't do a damn thing. She buried an ex-boyfriend last week. She is very aware of how limited time is. She's also given everything she has -- everything -- to trying to stop the Iraq War. That's the war you won't write about, dear.

Tomorrow she'll be rushing to make it into a Congressional hearing in the morning. She'll report on that hearing in the snapshot. She'll also attempt to provide a snapshot of Iraq. That will require going through more sources than you can imagine. She's busting her ass. What the hell are you doing?

When is the last damn time you highlighted anything she wrote?

But you want to rush in with your stupid New York 'political' (pretend) story about how some state legislator no one in the real world heard of is being mistreated by the press and you just know it's racism.

Get a damn grip.

There are serious issues out there. You haven't found one of them.

But you did find a way to yet again holller, "Racism!" That's really what's important to you, isn't it?

It's funny, you traffic in sexism and you never defend women from sexism. But you'r eforever screaming racism.

I don't recall you getting upset and calling out the gang rape of 14-year-old Abeer by US soldiers. Nor do I recall you even linking to coverage of Steven D. Green's trial.

I don't recall you doing much of anything but screaming "Racism!" I guess it's good to have a hobby.

C.I.'s right, you got into the gutter on the Eliot Spitzer story. But, funny thing, all your mock outrage? You don't write about sex workers. You don't write about political spouses. But suddenly you cared about both when you could go after Eliot Spitzer. Course, back then, you thought David Paterson was an amazing man. Due to his skin color.

You were one of the ones attacking Fred on SNL which I haven't forgotten and you better believe C.I. hasn't forgotten. You can bank on that.

You can also bank on the fact that in your White, White world, I'm sure you think you're really doing something. But in the real world? You remind me of a guy named Rick in college (real name). He wanted to 'rap' and be 'real' so he followed us into a home -- the family was African-American. He couldn't shut up and listen. He had to keep weighing in. Then, to be 'real,' he takes his shoes and socks off and lies on the floor.

We were working on the war issue, I think. But the woman we're working with catches my eye and I follow her to the kitchen.

"Who does that man think he is taking his shoes off in my house?"

We both laughed so hard.

"And does he think we come home and sit on the floor?"

We went back to the living room and his face was red and he was putting on his shoes which indicated to us both that C.I. had something to him. She had. When we were out of the house, she ripped him apart and told him that was beyond rude and didn't look 'real' or 'cool.' She told him that his 'familiarity' actually came off like racism -- intended or not.

That's how I feel when this woman uses "brother" whenever she's talking about an African-American man.

Grow up, honey.


Some might wrongly accuse her of being obsessed with race. She's obsessed with only one race.

In the roundtable we did at Third Sunday, C.I. said something and then pulled it. I'll include it here. She's got a boyfriend in England now and she really doesn't have the time to do everything she's doing and juggle this relationship.

Point? She's busting her ass to cover the Iraq War. She's dealing with serious and real issues. You're little bulls**t about some local politician and how the press is being so mean to him? It doesn't rise to "national news." It probably doesn't even rate "state news." It's nothing but a local story and it has nothing -- NOTHING -- to do with Iraq. Why are you boring her with it? Why are you bothering her with it?

When I wrote about her college boyfriend passing away last week, I told people not to be surprised by what happened. I know a few of you have noticed. She's not in the mood these days. She's just not in the mood for the crap. She doesn't have time for it, she doesn't want to make time for it.

Most importantly, she shouldn't have to.

I'll yet again point out that basic manners are missing. I'll point out how rude it is to repeatedly ask someone to link to your issue or cause when you never do their issue. Her issue is Iraq. She doesn't e-mail people saying, "Link to me!" She rejects all media requests for interviews (as C.I., she gives interviews otherwise). (Sometimes, she gives interviews.) But that honestly doesn't excuse your one-way relationship where you're always asking her to do for you.

Maybe you don't like her writing?

I wouldn't be surprised. Unlike you, a Green Party member, she didn't cheerlead Barack Obama. She didn't lie for him, unlike you.

So I wouldn't be surprised if a woman who won't whore herself isn't your type of woman. I wouldn't be surprised if a woman who won't cower or put women's needs last or under the bus isn't your type of woman.

But before you ask anyone to highlight something you've written again? First ask yourself, "Have I highlighted them?"

Maybe you were raised in a barn? If so, I've known animals with more grace.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, April 27, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the post-election chaos continues, Chalabi and boy pal set to ban even more candidates, Amnesty releases a new report on the targeted in Iraq and more.

Amnesty International issued a [PDF format warning] report today entitled "Iraq: Civilians under fire,"
click here. The human rights group's 28 page report focuses on the groups targeted in Iraq:

Hundreds of civilians are still being killed or maimed every month in Iraq, even if the past two years have seen an overall reduction in the number of civilian deaths. As a result, safety and security remain key concerns for Iraqis -- especially for those who, because of their religious, ethnic or other identity or because of their profession or work, are particularly vulnerable to be targeted for violent attack.
Although civilians have been killed, injured or otherwise abused by Iraqi security forces and foreign troops based in Iraq and by members of private military and security companies, most killings of civilians are being carried out by armed groups.

For the report, Amnesty spoke to a wide range of Iraqis in Iraq as well as to Iraqi refugees in Jordan and Syria and other countries. The targeted include those are who are targeted for speaking out or for reporting on abuses. "Women who have taken the lead in confronting violence against women and promoting women's rights," the report notes, "have been directly targeted because of their activities, notably by members of Islamist armed groups and militias. Some have been attacked and killed because of their efforts to promote gender equality." The report notes:

Wars and conflicts, wherever they are fought, invariably usher in sickeningly high levels of violence against women and girls. All parties to the armed conflict in Iraq have been involved in violent crimes specifically aimed at women and girls, include rape. Perpetrators have included members of armed groups, militias, Iraqi government forces and foreign military forces. In addition, women and girls continue to be attacked and sometimes killed by male relatives and Islamist armed groups or militias for their perceived or alleged transgression of traditional roles or moral codes. Most of these crimes are committed with impunity.

Relatives attacking women include not only husband but "fathers, brothers and otehr relatives, particularly if they try to go against the wishes of the family." Another targeted group would be composed of the religious and ethnic minorities. Unlike other targeted populations, they are guaranteed (a small amount of) representation in the Parliament -- or some are. Iraq's now dwindling Jewish population, for example, was never had set-aside seats in the Parliament. We cover the persecution of religious minorities regularly and will do so in another snapshot this week so we'll instead focus on one of the least reported ongoing persecutions: the assault on Iraqi's LGBT community.

Members of the gay community in Iraq live under constant threat. They are confronted by widespread intolerance towards their sexual identity and scores of men who were, or were perceived to be, gay have been killed in recent years, some after torture. Violent acts against gay men have occurred against a background of frequent public statements by some Muslim clerics and others condemning homosexuality.
[. . .]
The wave of attacks on gay men in early 2009 coincided with statements by Muslim clerics, particularly in al-Sadr City, urging their followers to take action to eradicate homosexuality from Iraqi society. They used language that effectively constituted incitement to violence against men known or alleged to be gay.
Gay men face similar discrimination as women under the legislation that provides for lenient sentences for those committing crimes with an "honourable motive". Iraqi courts continue to interpret provisions of Article 128 of the Penal Code as justification for giving drastically reduced sentences to defendants who have attacked or even killed gay men they are related to if they say that they acted to "wash off the shame". In its rulings, the Iraqi Court of Cassation has confirmed that the killing of a male relative who is suspected of same-sex sexual conduct is considered a crime with an "honourable motive", thus qualifying for a reduced sentence under Article 128.
Although provisions under Articles 128 have been amended in the Kurdistan Region by Law 14 of 2002 and, therefore, may no longer be applied in connection with crimes committed against women there, they continue to be applicable throughout the whole of Iraq in connection with crimes against gay men.
For example, on 24 October 2005 the Court of Cassation of the Kurdistan Region confirmed the conviction for murder and one-year prison sentence imposed on a man from Koysinjak who had confessed to killing his gay brother earlier in 2005. The court found that he had killed his brother with "honourable motives" because he "wanted to end the shame which the victim [of the crime] had brought over his family by practicing depravity and by being engaged in homosexuality and prostitution." The court also accepted that a one-year prison sentence was in this case appropriate for premeditated murder, a crime which carries the death penalty.

You can kill a gay man and get away with it in Iraq. Which sort of makes John T. Fleming look like a lying prick. (Much worse than that but I can use "prick" and still manage work safe language.) Fleming is with the US State Dept. Last June,
Seth Michael Donsky (Boston's Edge) reported:

John T. Fleming, who heads public affairs for the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, takes pains to point out that homosexuality is not a crime in Iraq. "Homosexuality," he pointed out in a recent e-mail to EDGE, "is outlawed by more than 85 countries and is punishable by death in several Islamic states . . . but Iraq is not one of them."

Being gay's not a crime in Iraq . . . except it is. And if you kill a man because he's gay and you're a family member you can walk. Much, much more complicated than Fleming's 'informed' explanation. From a US official acting the fool to a British one,
Paul Canning (Pink News) explains David Miliband (Foreign Secretary) is providing one whopper after another:

He said: "Under Labour the UK will continue to be a beacon of hope for LGBT people."
This delusion sounded a lot like Home Office minister Phil Woolas' article last year, when he wrote that he was proud of the attendees of the London Pride march who'd found sanctuary in the UK -- never mind that his office would have refused them and fought tooth-and-nail to remove them.
The pair should form a double act.
An Amnesty International report released today said that gays in Iraq have no protection from the state and are allegedly even being targeted by some security forces. Yet Miliband's 'beacon' government would tell those seeking our sanctuary they could safely return and be "discreet".

Also at Pink News,
Jessica Green covers Amnesty's report and notes, "An Amnesty International report claims that the UK and several other European countries are breaching United Nations rules on returning vulnerable Iraqi asylum seekers."

The internally displaced are also targeted, especially if they attempt to return to their homes. The Palestinian refugees in Iraq remain targeted and vulnerable to assaults "mainly by Shi'a militias." And, of course, the residents of Camp Ashraf -- Iranian dissidents -- remain targeted by Nouri al-Maliki in his attempts to curry favor with the Iranian government. The report closes with recommendations for a number of groupings in Iraq. We'll note two. First the US could

* Exercise due diligence and protect the human rights of all civilians in Iraq.

* Ensure prompt, impartial and thorough investigations into all attacks on and other violent crimes against civilians by US forces, and bring those resposible to justice in conformity with internation law and without recourse to the death penalty.

For those in government in Iraq?
* Exercise due diligence and protect the human rights of all civilians in Iraq.

* Review and improve protection measures for human rights defenders, other critical voices and vulnerable groups, including by consultation with representatives of groups at risk.

* End discrimination, including with regard to protection measures, on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, origin, colour, religion, sect, belief or opinion, or economic or social status -- as required by Iraqi and international law.

* Ensure prompt impartial and thorough investigations into all attacks on and other violent crimes against civilians, and bring those responsible to justice in conformity with international law and without recourse to the death penalty.

* Immediately disarm all militias.

* Train and instruct law enforcement personnel to identify at risk individuals or groups and ensure effective protection measures.

* End the indication of holder's religion on identity cards in light of the risk of grave human rights abuses entailed in the inclusion of religious affiliation on identity cards, in consultation with religious minority communities.

* Abolish legislation that provides disproportionately lenient sentences for perpetrators claiming "honourable motives" for crimes against women and members of the gay community perceived to be transgressing traditional gender roles or moral codes.

* Ban or enforce existing bans on harmful traditional practices for girls, namely female genital mutilation and forced and early marriages.

* Provide assistance to all displaced people, including shelter, health care and other essential needs.

* Do not forcibly return any refugees or asylum-seekers to countries where they are at risk of human rights violations.

For the global community, the recommendations include: "End all forcible returns to any part of Iraq; any return of rejected asylum-seekers should only take place when the security situation in the whole country has stabilized."
Friday on Free Speech Radio News, it was noted that Denmark was forcibly returning an Iraqi refugee.

Sondre Bjordal: A resigned atmosphere hung over the small group of protestors this afternoon after Umaeed the Iraqi asylulm seeker who had since 2002 was led by police to the gates. Umaeed is one of about 280 aslyum seekers including some two dozen children who are effected by an agreement between the Danish and Iraqi governments that lets them repatriate asylum seekers even if their lives may be in danger in the war ridden country. Under the agreement, Iraq has promised their safety but the UN doubts that promise can be fulfilled. Forced repatriations now happen about once a month. Umaeed's pregnant wife told FSRN that she now sees little hope for the future.

Umaeed's wife: I don't know what to do. I can't provide for myself. I can't. A woman with two children can't provide for herself. And the children of course need their father.

Sondre Bjordal: As many as 200,000 Muslims live in Denmark where limiting immigration has become a major political issue.

That was pointed out by a FRSN friend who also informed me that I was wrong (I was wrong) and that
FRSN had noted the Friday's bombings on Fridays:

In Baghdad today, numerous bombs exploded across the city -- at least 58 people are dead. Varying reports say there were between 6 and 13 blasts -- most targeted Shia mosques during Friday prayers. The blasts follow yesterday's announcement that yet another high level al Qaeda leader was recently detained. In the past week, US and Iraqi forces have killed at least three high level al Qaeda in Iraq leaders, and detained a number of others.

As noted, I was wrong in yesterday's snapshot. My apologies for my error and thank you to a FRSN friend for calling me and correcting me.

Amnesty's also notes how the continued election confusion isn't helping either. It's not surprising that Iraq has yet to form a government. No one's surprised by that, not even Chris Hill. What's surprising is that roadblocks keep being tossed out there to prevent talks to forming a coalition -- such as yesterday's disqualifying of candidates -- including two who won seats in the Parliament. Today
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued the following statement:

On March 7, I congratulated the people of Iraq on their national elections, which were a clear demonstration of their commitment to democracy and a future without fear and intimidation.
Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), the United Nations, the Arab League, and both international and domestic observers declared those elections to be free of widespread or systematic fraud. The United States respects the legal avenues that Iraq has set up for challenges to candidates and to electoral results. However, for challenges to be credible and legitimate they must also be transparent and must accord with the laws and mechanisms established for the conduct of the elections. Investigations into allegations of fraud should be conducted in accordance with IHEC procedures. Similarly, candidates should have every opportunity to answer charges against them. Transparency and due process are essential to protecting the integrity of the process and preserving the confidence of the Iraqi people in their democratic system.
The United States does not support a particular party or candidate. We seek a long-term partnership with an Iraq that is stable, sovereign and self-reliant. As a friend and partner, the United States calls upon Iraq's leaders to set aside their differences, respect the courageous ballots of the Iraqi people, and to form quickly a government that is inclusive and represents the will of all Iraqis and their hope for a brighter future in a strong, independent and democratic Iraq.

Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reminds, "Before the elections, the IHEC banned more than 500 politicians, mostly Sunnis, from running in the national vote over alleged links to Baath party." Firas Al-Atraqchi (Huffington Post) shares a fear, "The decision by an Iraqi court to disqualify dozens of candidates -- including one winner from the Iraqiya coalition led by former premier Iyad Allawi -- for alleged ties to the Baath party could push the country closer to civil war." It's a common fear. Osama Al Sharif (Arab News) notes, "Iraq is tailspinning into a bottomless pit of terrorism, sectarian violence and political disarray. Since the March 7 elections, the government has become dysfunctional while the country's various political parties and alliances continue to engage in futile bargaining that has prevented any of them from clinching the required majority to end the impasse." Also noting disturbing events which might be trends is Simon Tisdall (Guardian):

Last Friday saw a
series of bomb attacks on Shia targets in Baghdad and Anbar, in the Sunni triangle. Some of the carnage was attributed to al-Qaida in Mesopotamia, purportedly to avenge the killing by US forces of its two most senior leaders. But the savagery was reminiscent of the mosque bombings in 2006 that sparked Sunni-Shia sectarian warfare -- and was seen as an attempt to rekindle it.
Iraqi soldiers who arrived on the scene of one of the bombings were stoned by angry Sunnis who oppose the Shia-led government. Ominously,
Moqtada al-Sadr, the Iran-based foe of prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, has since said his Shia Mehdi army, demobilised under a 2008 truce, is ready to step in to protect worshippers. His "offer" resurrected the spectre of the militia battles of old.
In a separate incident last week, the family of a Sunni tribal chief who supported the US-initiated programme to build a Sunni alliance against al-Qaida was butchered after gunmen stormed their home in Tarmiya, north of Baghdad. Police said the man's three young sons had their throats cut while his wife and daughter were shot in the head.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post's
Leila Fadel reported that troops from Iraq's predominantly Shia army beat and tortured dozens of Sunni men in Radwaniyah, west of Baghdad, after the killing of five soldiers. The incident was said to have underscored the gulf of mistrust separating the two communities.

UAE's The
National Newspaper notes, "Certain Shiite factions are using a variety of procedural tricks to weaken Iraqiyya, the secular party led by Ayad Allawi, which won the most seats in last month's elections. We have seen these games before. The infamous de-Baathification Committee, led by Ali Al Lami and Ahmad Chalabi, themselves running for parliament, disqualified hundreds of candidates, alleging that they had ties to the banned Baath Party. Cooler heads were able to limit the vendetta's damage and there was no boycott of the election." And of course, yesterday saw al-Lami and Chalabi get their way yet again as 50 candidates from the March 7th election were announced banned. Ma'ad Fayad (Asharq Alawsat Newspaper) reports, "Iraqiya spokesman Maysoon al-Damluji told Asharq Al-Awsat via telephone from Amman on Sunday that 'the Iraqiya bloc will go the UN Security Council -- as Iraq remains under Chapter VII [of the UN Charter] -- as well as the European Union, the Arab League, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, in order to protect the political process in Iraq.' He added that 'the US signed a security agreement with Iraq taking responsibility to protect the democratic process [in Iraq] which Iraqis died for'." Today's Zaman reports, "Iyad Alawi, the leader of the Iraqi election-winning al-Iraqiyya bloc, said on Tuesday in Ankara that his cross-sectarian alliance will not let a small group of judges take the political process hostage, referring to a ruling by an Iraqi election court that disqualified 52 candidates, including one al-Iraqiyya winner -- a decision that threw Iraq's disputed election results into even deeper disarray."

Jason Ditz: It's a dispute about the election which is now a month and a half ago and we still don't have any real effort to form a government by any of the parties and we're not even really clear who won because the election commission has announced that they are recounting all the ballots in Baghdad which is something that Maliki has wanted since the election because his party didn't do as well in Baghdad as they thought but since the election commission is so close with Malaki there's kind of assumption that these recounts are going to be designed to ensure that he get a few extra seats.

Jason Ditz is with and
Scott Horton interviewed for Antiwar Radio.

Scott Horton: Give us the lowdown on the three major blocs and the compromises that are not being worked out. I mean it's a parliamentary system, they need a majority in their one big House of Representatives to chose their prime minister, right?

Jason Ditz: Right no one of these parties is going to get anywhere near a majority. Right now the preliminary talk showed Iraqiya which is Ayad Allawi's bloc which is sort of a secular bloc and has a large number of Sunnis in it leading with 91 seats. Maliki is just behind with 89 seats. And then the third place finisher ,which is kind of a king maker, is Moqtada al-Sad'r Iraqi National Alliance which has 70 seats

Scott Horton: Right and it's important I think when you call it Moqtada al-Sadr's Iraqi National Alliance, as you explained on the show the last time you were here -- it's really no longer the Hakims' Iraqi National Alliance. The older Hakim, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, has died, his son has taken over and apparently Sadr has really muscled into control over that entire group.

Jason Ditz: Right the younger Hakim never appeared all that interested in politics. And he tried, he isn't all that savy either. So. The Surpeme Islamic Iraqi Council barely got any seats in the election, I mean they're --

Scott Horton: Are they going to stay in the coaltion with Sadr or is there a chance that they might split off and go join with Maliki's new party?

Jason Ditz: Well there's been some talk that they might do that. But Hakim has also spoken favorably about Allawi being the winner of the election and that Allawi should be allow to form a government. So I'm not really sure that they've made any decision to change.

UPI reports today that the extra-legal Justice and Accountability Commission announced, via Chalabi's boy pal Ali al-Lami, that it was reviewing nine "would-be lawmakers" to determine if they were 'Ba'athists.' And I really don't mean to kick the stupid, I really don't. But I will note -- without naming him -- that if indeed the US had -- as he falsely reported -- worked out an agreement for Nouri and Ayad to share the prime ministership (splitting it in half by years), then all of this wouldn't be taking place. I will note that his fanciful 'reporting' never ceases to amuse even if it never quite matches up with reality. Surveying events, Robert Dreyfuss (The Nation) draws some conclusions:

The latest evidence of Iran's maneuvering in Iraq: the pro-Iranian Iraqi National Alliance and its ally, the so-called Justice and Accountability Commission (JAC), have struck again, this time disqualifying several winning candidates in the March 7 election and threatening to disqualify many others. (In January, you'll recall, the Commission barred more than 500 candidates from the ballot on spurious charges that they were members or supporters of the Baath Party, the former Arab nationalist party that was a powerful force in pre-2003 Iraq, going back to the 1950s.)

Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) reports that Nouri's cabinet "passed a five-year development plan" today. The Parliament is over. The newly elected, once sworn in, will be the Parliament. But currently the country has no Parliament. Why is Nouri using this time to push through things like five-year plans? And if we followed the $186 billion he's committing/giving to various people in this plan, might we find he's buying off influence -- with other blocs or possibly judicial types?

The at-risk population remains at-risk. Nothing's changed. One at-risk population in Iraq is journalists.
Alsumaria TV notes, "The Committee to Protect Journalists urged the Pentagon on Monday to probe the death of journalists in Iraq by US forces." We noted that in yesterday's snapshot. There's been more than enough time for it to make into the news cycle . . . but try to find it. France's AFP does and notes, "The New York-based media rights group published its 2010 'Impunity Index' earlier this month, a list of a dozen countries where journalists are killed regularly and governments fail to solve the crimes - topping the list was Iraq with 88 unsolved journalist murders." There's Reuters' article. Excuse me, where's the US outlet covering it? And not a wire service. Where's the newspaper covering it or all the 'reporters' working on the style section today? Where's NPR covering it or are they too busy covering Billy Carter 2010?

In Iraq today,
Reuters notes 2 college students were shot (one dead, one wounded) in Kirkuk, a Mosul shooting claimed the life of 1 police officer and left another wounded and police exchanged fire injuring "a child and a man" while two Mosul roadside bombings left two people injured.

And that's going to be it except for a message from me. I'm hearing what we're being asked to note, stuff e-mailed to the public account. We will note the DPC tomorrow. I'm told it's too wide -- the press release -- to be copied and pasted and I'm not going to ask the friend I'm dictating this too to retype a lengthy press release. For the same reason, an event in Tennessee can't be noted here. Both will be noted in the morning entries tomorrow. However, not those but other things. I'm not interested. I am not interested in your need to scream "RACIST" in order to score some political points.

Stop sending me your crap. Don't send me your crap about so and so being treated poorly by a racist press. I'm not in the f**king mood. Is that clear?

Senator Roland Burris was treated in a racist manner and you never spoke up. And you never defended him. So why don't you just sit your White ass down and think about your actions.

The press followed that lead that people like you created with regards to Roland Burris but the press had enough sense to reconsider when they saw, with their own eyes, how it looked as Senator Burris was not seated. Is the press "racist"? It can be. It can follow the mood of the country. It can usually do some self-examination as well. I'm sick of all this "Oh, this is what the press is, that's what the press is" b.s. from people who don't know what the hell they're talking about. I'm less and less enchanted with some of the media criticism that's being churned out these days by people who don't even understand the way the media works. I grew up in a media family and I do understand how it works, I understood before I was ten.

I'm not really sure if it's that people don't understand it or that they want to make charges to work the ref. But I don't have time for it. Stop it. Don't send me another thing. And here's one more thing to all you people with websites wanting endlessly to be noted here. You don't have to link to me, I don't give a damn. If I wanted attention, I wouldn't be "C.I." online. But I do care that none of you cover Iraq. So in the future, when you're asking for yet another favor, why don't you include when you last noted the ongoing Iraq War. And if it hasn't been in weeks, how 'bout you don't bother with an e-mail?

As Katya says in Russia House, "I hope you are not being frivolous, Barley. My life now only has room for truth."
The world does not revolve around New York. I know that surprises you. I know you wanted to go to town on Eliot Spitzer. And I know I said it was a political hit job and you should be defending him. You didn't, did you? Still think you made the right call on that? Going smutty work out real good for you? Going smutty work out real good for Wall Street?

Did you
defend Noam Chomsky? Oh, no, you didn't do that either did you. You don't do too much at all, do you? But you scream "Racist!" to advance Democratic politics -- even though you yourself are not a Democrat.

I am offended that I'm being pulled into this nonsense. I'm not in the mood for this s**t and it's exactly what's going to make us go back to only including things that have to do with Iraq or that a personal friend of mine asks to be noted. Stop abusing the public e-mail account and, honestly, grow up. I'm passing this stupid e-mail over to
Elaine who will probably comment on it at her site.

amnesty international
seth michael donsky
antiwar.comjason ditz
scott horton
simon tisdall
the nationrobert dreyfuss
bloomberg newscaroline alexander