Saturday, July 31, 2010

Peter Hart has no heart

"NBC's Chuck Todd, Sleepless and Depressed Over JournoList" (Peter Hart, FAIR):
Rebecca Says:

Peter Hart, if you want to ever be taken seriously how about your write a piece on FAIR and how you and FAIR ignored sexism throughout the Democratic Party primaries? How about you do that? How 'bout you explain your single sentence at the end of May and how it took Hillary being called a "bitch" on CNN for you to say a word — a single sentence.

Ava and C.I. documented it here, if you've forgotten, Peter.

And how about you talk about FAIR's action alert on the last debate between Barack and Hillary? And how about you talk about what Journolist did on that?

FAIR used to be FAIR. In 2008, it showed a really ugly side and I've seen nothing to indicate that it intends to change.

By the way, where's the article on Barack's homophobia?

You stayed silent when he put homophobes on stage in South Carolina (read Kevin Alexander Grey's piece in The Progressive for what FAIR wouldn't tell you), you stayed silent when he did it again in the general election and you stay silent all the time.

P.S. Stop sending me your FAIR alerts. I do not highlight sexists and homophobes at my blog. Stop sending me your 'alerts.'

Amen. Go, Rebecca. FAIR once had a purpose and a reason to exist. Now it's nothing but an echo chamber, a spin factory. They sold out their reputations, they whored.

FAIR -- in all of its factions -- should just close shop. It will never regain the footing it had for most of the last decade. That was the high water mark and, in the time sense, they've demonstrated they will cover for sexism, stay silent as homophobia is deployed, and whore, whore, whore.

It's amazing. Once upon a time, I listened to their weekly radio show and would actually get excited when it would be about to come on.

But they refused to follow the guidelines they hold others to. They became little whores as bad as Cokie Roberts or anyone else that they used to call out.

They became whores.

It's really cute that, in his column, Peter Hart wants to mention the Iraq War when FAIR hasn't been able to find Iraq for years now. In fact, Ava and C.I. caught Janine Jackson on CounterSpin one week crediting an event that took place in Iraq to Afghanistan.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, July 30, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Nancy A. Youssef continues to LIE about Bradley Manning, WikiLeaks' Julian Assange tells US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, "We will not be suppressed. We will continue to expose abuses of this administration and others," the Army releases a report on the increased number of suicides, and more.
Starting in the US, Elisabeth Bumiller (New York Times) reports, "At a time of record-high military suicides, commanders are ignoring the mental health problems of American soldiers and not winnowing out enough of those with records of substance abuse and crime, a United States Army report has concluded." The report is 234 pages of text entitled [PDF format warning] "ARMY: Health Promotion Risk Reduction Suicide Prevention REPORT 2010." The report opens with a note from Gen Peter W. Chiarelli which explains Fiscal Year 2009 saw 160 suicides among active duty soldiers and 239 suicides in the Army Reserves. Page i conveys that the Army wants to appear alarmed: "This is tragic!" It's very rare you encounter an exclamation point in a government report. So what has the Army been doing -- and the report covers only that branch of the military, the Army and Army reserves -- to address the problem?
Concrete steps taken by the Army may included the following (list is from page 126 of the report):
* June 2009, accessions waivers were reduced for adult felony (major misconduct) convictions; and drug/alcohol positive tests; misconduct (misdemeanor)/major misconduct for drug ues; possession; or drug paraphernalia, to include marijuana. This means over 4,000 recruits were not accepted into the Army compared to 2008.
* Revised legacy protocols for investigating and reporting suicide.
* Standardized a council at every post, camp and station to integrate all aspects of health promotion, risk reduction and suicide prevention into the community.
May? The list continues on subsequent pages and also insists that they have "Reduced the stigma associated with counseling services and maintained continuity of care by requiring all Soldiers to be in- and out-process through Behavior Health (BH), Social Work Services and ASAP." No, they haven't reduced the stigma.
And it's so stupid for them to continue to claim that. There are officers -- high-ranking ones -- who have sought counseling. They need to be encouraged to step forward and put a face on the issue. The stigma doesn't vanish from saying "There's nothing wrong with it."
over and over. The stigma vanishes when General Joe or Joanne Martin steps forward and says, "I went through a period where I was feeling really low. I couldn't understand that period or my mood, so I sought help. It made me a better soldier, it made me a better commander." That's what ends the stigma. When the enlisted can see that it helped someone high ranking and can see that there's no punishment or fall out for them seeking help. When a general stands up and makes such a statement, the thoughts no longer are a sign of 'weakness' but are natural thoughts that anyone could have and seeking help for them becomes a duty a soldier has to those he/she serves with and to his/her self. Until those in leadership start speaking out, serving as the Army's own personal PSA, nothing's going to change. And it's going to require men and women speaking out in the officers ranks because there are men and women serving. But it's especially going to require men coming forward because the stigma is there and 15 women generals, majors and lieutenants can come forward and it will not make a difference for a number of male soldiers because they will dismiss it with something like, "Well women are better in touch with their feelings."
The report does have objections and criticisms. Gen Peter Chiarelli shared with NPR last night that he feels that there are a number of factors at play including repeat deployments. He's probably correct on about the factors because the three he gave are interelated. Finances and family life and, if you're doing repeat deployments, you are limited in how far you can get ahead in a job that i not the US military due to the fact that you're constantly deployed. Constant deployments also affect your family. So the three are interrelated. And all three can wear on anyone and cause grief, shock, sadness, any number of emotions in the normal -- perfectly normal -- human range. The report focused on the Army. Today on Morning Edition (NPR -- link has text and audio), Wade Goodwyn reported on Mary Gallagher who has had to survive and live with her husband James Gallagher's decision to take his own life. James Gallagher was an Iraq War veterna, a Marine.
Mary Gallagher: Most Marines were not ones to really talk at all. Jim always said he'd placed it right in his heart and he said I'll carry it forward because that's what I have to do and that's how I'll get through it. I'm sure he saw a lot of ugly things, but I just don't know, you know, all the ugly he did see. [. . .] To me, he just seemed sad. You know, he was, you know, not quite himself but, you know, again -- I just had no idea that he was really struggling as bad as he was. And obviously he was struggling a lot. And that's the hardest part for me, you know? It's something I carry with myself every day -- that I didn't notice, that I didn't realize how much he was hurting.
Mary Gallagher is a member of Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) -- an organization for the loved ones of service members who have taken their own lives and which explains at their web site, "We are here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, whether it is just to talk, or meet others with shared experiences and understanding, or to find support and information from our professional network of resources."
From service members to veterans, we noted in yesterday's snapshot there was a press release from a Republican member of Congress but we didn't have room for it. Steve Buyer is from Indiana and serves on the House Veterans Affairs Committee where he is Ranking Member. His office released the following:
Continuing in his efforts to improve the lives of veterans and the Department of Veterans' Affairs, Congressman Steve Buyer (IN-04), Ranking Member of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, offered three amendments during the House consideration of the Military Construction and Veterans' Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (MILCON VA) on Wednesday. Congressman Buyer offered five amendments to the House Committee on Rules, though only three of the amendments were accepted by the committee. Of the Congressman's accepted amendments, the House passed all three by a voice vote.
The first amendment offered by Congressman Buyer would require that $10 million of the $2.6 billion appropriated for VA General Operating Expenses be used to increase the number of VA employees available to provided vocational training and rehabilitation to veterans with service-connected disabilities. The goal of VA's Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) program is to put disabled veterans back to work, or for the most severely disabled, to live as independently as possible.
The Congressman explained that the VA's counselors currently have an average caseload of over 130 disabled veterans. Because of the heavy workload which includes a significant amount of case management and regular interaction with their clients, the wait time for a disabled veteran to actually enter vocational training is nearly six months. That is on top of the average of the 6 months it takes to receive a disability rating needed to even become eligible for this benefit.
"The $10 million included in my amendment would fund one hundred additional professional level staff and reduce the caseload to a more manageable average of one hundred cases per counselor thereby shortening the time it takes for a veteran to begin their training. For many veterans and servicemembers VR&E training is the bridge to meaningful and productive employment," stated the Congressman.
The second amendment offered by the Congressman would require $162 million of the $508 million appropriated for VA construction of minor projects be used for renewable energy projects at the VA's medical facility campuses. Congressman Buyer for the past three years has worked with the Department to increase the VA's use of renewable energy. In 2009, the Congressman was responsible for securing funding to allow VA's renewable energy projects to continue in fiscal year 2010 -- and the amendment would continue this work.
"As the second largest Federal department operating the largest health care system in the nation, the VA is uniquely positioned to advance the use of alternative sources of energy," noted Buyer. "Savings accrued from an increased reliance on alternative energy, would allow additional resources to be devoted to improving the care and services offered to our veterans and reducing the rising budget deficit."
The last amendment offered by Congressman Buyer requires that $8 million of the $2.6 billion appropriated for VA General Operating Expenses be used to fund the adaptive sports grant program and that an additional $2 million be used to provide supplementary funding for the Office of National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events. The Congressman notes the $10 million would be used to fund the second year of the VA/U.S. Paralympics Adaptive Sports Program for disabled veterans.
"Several years ago I had the opportunity to visit the U.S. Olympic training center in San Diego. I was inspired by the attitude and positive example of our Olympians that train there, which they continue to set for all Americans. It truly was a remarkable place, and as I have said before, I learned that there is never a 'bad' day at the Olympic training center," expressed Buyer.
The Congressman went on to explain the amendment's purpose, "The US Paralympic program establishes partnerships with local adaptive sports programs. US Paralympics currently has over 100 of these partnerships in place across the nation. These local programs submit a proposal describing how they intend to attract disabled veterans to their adaptive sports programs. The types of programs run the gamut of sports from track and field to marksmanship, water sports, volleyball, and wheelchair team games like basketball, soccer and rugby. In short, there is a sport for any disabled veteran. The US Paralympics then chooses the best proposals and submits a funding proposal to VA. My amendment would provide $10 million to fund the second year of a 4-year program."
That's the US Congress. Iraq really has no Congress currently. It's met once, for less than twenty minutes in that last four months with no plans to meet again anytime soon. What's going on? The political stalemate. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. It's four months and five days and, in 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 4 months and 23 days. Today Andrew England and Anna Fifield (Financial Times of London) report that a US diplomatic mission is planned for August -- by which point, the current nominee for US Ambassador to Baghdad, James Jeffrey, may have been confirmed.
In today's violence, Reuters reports a Baaj roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier last night and left three more injured while a Buhriz roadside bombing today targeted Sahwa and killed 4 family members. Asia News reports Yonan Daniel Mammo, a Chalean Christian, was kidnapped in Kirkuk as he left work: "After he was abducted, he called his wife by phone, saying that he had been taken. Since then, there have been no news from him. Many believe he was kidnapped for ransom."
Moving to the US, we'll note this exchange from the second hour of today's The Diane Rehm Show (NPR) with guest host Susan Page of USA Today.
Susan Page: You had Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, on the Today Show this morning, on NBC, saying -- imploring WikiLeaks not to post more of those documents from the Afghan War. What is the White House concern here, Nancy?
Nancy A. Youssef: Well WikiLeaks has said that it has an additional 50,000 documents that have yet to be published. These documents are believed to be State Dept cables and to be a little bit more detailed -- some would argue damaging -- than the 75,000 that have already come out. And I think the real concern is in the 75,000 that have been released so far there are names of Afghan informants and families who have come forward, who have done things as innocuous as handing over weapons to providing useful tips to American soldiers. The Taliban has said, through their spokesman, that they're going through those documents now and there's a real worry that those Afghans will be killed for-for working with the allies. And the reality is the US doesn't have the resources to protect these Afghans who are living in remote villages and parts where we might not have the right resources to give them the kind of protection that they need?
Before we deal with Nancy, let's deal with some facts. Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Philip Shenon (Daily Beast) reported last month that the US government is attempting to track down WikiLeaks' Julian Assange. This month, the military charged Manning. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported he had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements.
Back to Nance. I thought Nancy Youssef was a member of the press. She's a member of the military now? What is that "we"? It certainly explains that piece of garbage explanation. A war is going on. WikiLeaks isn't enlisted. It's not its job to take sides. How stupid of Nancy to feel that "we" have a right to ask an independent body to do what is best for, presumably, "us." WikiLeaks exists to release information. There's nothing puzzling about it unless you're so simple-minded that you confuse yourself with the US military when you are allegedly a reporter. "We"?
Nancy went on to spread rumors about Bradley Manning again. We'll get to who he is in a moment. Nancy, the rumors from Iraq in 2006 were about you. Do we need to go into those? We can. We can treat them as fact if you like. There is a list. We can treat it as fact, if you like. I assumed it was jealousy on the part of your male colleagues but maybe it wasn't? Maybe we should WikiLeak your ass? What do you think, Nance?
Nancy A. Youssef: One of the key suspects of the leak is a Private by the name of Bradley Manning who has said that he leaked 287 documents to WikiLeaks, that he did it while humming to Lady Gaga's "Telephone."
Nancy, Bradley Manning has not said a damn thing. You need to quit lying. If you can't, you better believe that list floating around -- made by your male colleagues when you were in Iraq -- will be widely circulated. Repeating, I believed it was a lie by men jealous of your scoops. But if you're going to lie about Bradley Manning, if you're going to present rumors as truth, well we can turn the spotlight on your glass house, Nancy. Later in the program, Nancy Youssef won't "want to conjecture" about the military but she's more than happy to try and convict Bradley Manning despite the fact that he has thus far never spoken in public and has admitted to nothing that anyone's aware of.
Nancy's basing her 'Bradley said' on claims put forward by Felon and Drama Queen Adrian Lamo. Felon Lamo has trashed Bradley in public and launched a behind the scenes whisper campaign which the press should have walked the hell away from after the repeated press embarrassments of the 90s. But they're just as eager to convict as they were when they 'just knew' Richard Jewel was guilty. (He wasn't.) Ashley Fantz (CNN) is the latest to participate in backdoor gossip that is not passed on to the news consumer but which is influencing the way this story plays -- and check out the Joan Crawford-style portrait Lamo supplies CNN with.

In a regular court of law, convicted felon Lamo would make for a questionable witness at best. Somehow the press has embraced him fully and you have to wonder if that isn't part of selling the prosecution's case? Making the case for the prosecution? Well Julian E. Barnes really couldn't hack it at the Los Angeles Times so now he pairs with Miguel Bustillo and Christopher Rhoads to 'report' for the Wall St. Journal. What does the prosecution offer? They try their case in public via the apparent legal aid provided by the press. Oh look, here's CBS News trying the case for the prosecution. Why is the press reporting on what the prosecution claims -- outside of court -- to have?

While Manning is kept from the press -- and has just been transferred out of Kuwait to Virginia -- the government continues to attempt to sway public opinion and the press just goes along with it. Does no one remember innocent until proven guilty? Does no one remember that the press is supposed to be objective.

On the word of a deranged felon -- Adrian Lamo -- Bradley's been drug through the mud and the press has never stopped to question that nor has it bothered to point out to its audience that the government is trying the case in public while maintaining a lockdown on Bradley. They say whatever they want -- and the press runs with it as fact -- while Bradley Manning is not allowed to make any statement. This is justice? It's not reporting, that's damn sure, but it's also not justice.

Is the WikiLeaks whistle blowing like the Pentagon Papers? Daniel Ellsberg tells BBC World Service, "Oh very much so. There's a fundamental, very strong comparison here." So, in other words, David Sanger's an idiot. The New York Times reporter or 'reporter' was on The Diane Rehm Show today and blathering on about how the WikiLeaks papers were not the Pentagon Papers. Scott Horton interviewed Julian Assange of WikiLeaks Wednesday (link has audio and transcript) on Antiwar Radio:

Horton: Is it true that -- I guess there was a CNN report that said that WikiLeaks has received, I guess especially since the "Collateral Murder" video was published, a deluge of new high-level leaks from people inside the U.S. government?

Assange: Yes, that is true. And we are, as an organization, suffering, if you like, under this enormous backlog of material we're trying to get through. It will cause substantial reform when that material is released. Bar a catastrophe, that's going to go ahead, not just from the U.S. -- we have a six months' backlog to go through because we were busy fundraising and reengineering for this period of intense public interest. So it'll be interesting days ahead.

Horton: Yeah, it sounds like it. So I'm interested -- one of the things we like to cover on the show a lot here is American involvement in the war in Somalia since Christmastime 2006, and --

Assange: Well, that's good, that's good. That's very underreported. The first leak that we ever did was about Somalia.

Horton: Well, I'd read that, and I wonder whether you have any information about the renditions going on there, CIA, JSOC intervention inside Somalia on behalf of the Ethiopians and African Union forces there?

Assange: We have a little, although nothing -- I don't know in the queue, how much material there is there relates [sic]. But certainly there are some classified orders and policy material related to that. We also released a rendition log from Kenya -- where most of the Somalis end up passing through -- for about 103 people were -- I have to be careful on this number actually -- but somewhere between 50 and 150 people were renditioned through Kenya, most of them from Somalia, and we have the flight logs, which we put up about a year ago.

We are disappointed in what was left out of Secretary Gates' comments. Secretary Gates spoke about hypothetical blood but the grounds of Iraq and Afghanistan are covered in real blood. Secretary Gates has overseen the killings of thousands of children and adults in these two countries. Secretary Gates could have used his time, as other nations have done, to announce a broad inquiry into these killings. He could have announced specific criminal investigations into the deaths we have exposed. He could have announced a panel to hear the heartfelt dissent of US soliders who know this war from the ground. He could have apologized to the Afghani people. But he did none of these things. He decided to treat these issues and the countries effected by them with contempt. Instead of explaining how he would address these issues, he decided to announce how he would suppress them. This behavior is unacceptable. We will not be suppressed. We will continue to expose abuses of this administration and others.
"But it wasn't the Iraq War that did the Labour Party in, since the British people, like their American counterparts, are keen to forget that fiasco," scribbled eternal dumb ass Amitabh Pal at The Progressive in May. (Rebecca called him out here.) And that bag gas baggery just keeps on giving. Gas baggery, for the uninitatied, is what takes place on the Sunday chat & chews where woefully underinformed 'journalists' weigh in on every topic under the sun despite being immensely unqualified to offer anything even adjacent to an informed opinion. We're really not supposed to get gas baggery from so-called independent media; however, it's cheap to produce so it swams 'independent' media the same way it does the yack-fests. And Amitabh Pal's gas baggery is worth calling out so frequently because -- as Labour polls ahead and following the election demonstrated -- the Iraq War did have a huge impact on the elections and the Iraq War continues to be a significant topic in England.
Ed Balls: I was in Parliament at the time. I took a decision. It was the most agonizing process I have ever been through in my life. I have been over it and over it ever since. The reason I voted for the war was because the leader of the Iraqi Kurds pleaded with backbench Labour MPs to vote for the war because he said his people had no chance ever of being free from Saddam. The weapons inspectors, if they'd done their job and then eventually come to the conclusion that there were no weapons, that probably would have been a very bloody civil war in Iraq. With hindsight we look back. You know I look back at the lack of post-war planning and it horrifies me. But when I go back to that vote, did I do the right thing for the right reasons? And I believe I did and I'm not going to change that position just because I'm standing for the leadership position.
Victoria Derbyshire: Okay, would you --
Ed Miliband: First of all, first of all, I did tell people at the time that I was against the war -- you asked me. But secondly --
Ed Balls: Well you didn't tell me.
Ed Miliband: -- it's a really, it's a really fundamental --

Victoria Derbyshire: Sorry, what was that Ed Balls?
Ed Balls: Well I, you know I have to say, in 2005, the Times [of London] newspaper asked us whether we would have voted for the war? I said in 2005, I would have voted for the war. Ed didn't answer the question of the Times' newspaper --
Ed Miliband: I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I --
Ed Miliband: -- when I was standing for selection, my constitencuency party asked me if I was against the war and I said I was. But look, but look, the real issue here is not some great claim of moral superiority in 2003, the real issue is do you recognize the mistakes that were made and do you recognize the fact that we hitched our wagon to the United States on foreign policy in a way that was a profound mistake. And-and it's not just about the loss of trust that there weren't WMD, it is a profound issue about our foreign policy and about whether we're willing to say that actually there are times when we can't just go along with what the US says.
Victoria Derbyshire: So if you were to become leader, you would apologize, would you?
Ed Miliband: Yes, I would.
As disclosed many times before, I know and like both Miliband brothers.The Press Trust of India reports on the latest polling which has David Miliband in the lead with 37% of respondents, followed by his brother Ed Miliband with 29%, Diane Abbot with 12% and Ed Balls with 11%. In the May election, Labour suffered huge losses and a power-sharing coalition between the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats is now in charge. The latest poll leads Mehdi Hasan to declare, "The next Labour leader will be called Miliband" (New Statesman). And click here for an analysis of the race by Hasan that was written before the latest polling.
Staying in England where the Iraq Inquiry heard testimony today from Deputy Prime Minister (May 2, 1997 to June 27, 2007) John Prescott (link goes to text and transcript options). Taking time away from his very busy days of non-stop tweeting via his BlackBerry, Prescott mourned the loss of those who died in Iraq -- except for the Iraqis. He then whined about the Middle East process (he wanted 9-11 to mean Palestinians received "social justice" -- a term he didn't define). He blathered away about the intelligence. He felt it was spotty and incomplete. Did he vote for the Iraq War? Yes, he did. Which makes his judgment of the evidence today and his actions puzzling.
Committee Memeber Roderic Lyne: Did it [intel] convince you that Iraq posed a serious and growing threat to the region and to UK and western interests? YOU way it wasn't very substantial.
John Prescott: I think you are right, there was a threat to the region anyway by its actions whether it was an invasion of Kuwait or whether it was primarily this war between Iran and Iraq. It was obviously not a very stable situation there. I didn't need JIC to tell me that. Where we were concerned with the intelligence on JIC was to whether he was coopearting with the resolutions from UN in giving information as to whether he was actively involved in weapons of mass destruction. So to be fair to the intelligence agency, when they said in our report which led, in fact, to the information produced on the document, that there might be something happening in 45 minutes, they have this ability, they have these missiles, you do tend to accept that's the judgment and there must be something in it. I didn't totally dismiss it. I didn't have any evidence to feel that they were wrong, but I just felt a little bit nervous about the conclusions on what I thought seemed to be pretty limited intelligence.
And yet still he went along with the war. Okay. With this round closing, John Chilcot, who chairs the Inquiry, made some closing remarks which included:
Chair John Chilcot: Ove the coming months we will be analysing and integrating all this evidence and information as we begin to write our report. as we do his, we may find conflicts or gaps within the evidence. If we do this, we will need to consider how best to get to the bottom of what actually happened. This may be through seeking additional written evidence or, where we wish to probe more deeply, through holding further hearings, possible recalling witnesses from whom we have heard before. If, and I stress the word "if," we decid to do this, these hearings will probably take place in the late autumn. The Inquriy also hopes to visit Iraq. We want to see for ourselves the consequences of UK involvement, to hear Iraqi perspectives and to understand the prospects for Iraq today. For security both of the Inquiry team and those we wish to meet, we shall not publish any further details in advance of a visit. If we are able to visit Iraq, we shall provide a summary afterwards, as with all our other oveseas visits.
But Chilcot doesn't get the last word. It goes instead to Michigan's Green Party:
** News Advisory **
** ------------- **
July 30, 2010

For more information . . .
About the meeting:
Lynn Meadows -- Meeting Manager <>
(734) 476-7101

About the agenda:
Fred Vitale -- Co-Chair <>
(313) 580-4905

About the candidates:
John Anthony La Pietra -- Elections Coordinator <>
(269) 781-9478

Michigan Greens Hold Convention This Weekend
Nominating at All Levels for November 2 Ballot;
Will File Papers Monday to Make Candidates Official

Who: GPMI members from all over the state.

What: GPMI state nominating convention

When: Saturday, July 31 -- 9am to 5pm;
Sunday, August 1 --- 9am to 4pm

Where: Meeting Room, Great Wall Chinese Restaurant
4832 West Saginaw Highway, #1
Lansing, MI 48917

(Saginaw Highway is M-43 and Business I-69;
the restaurant is about 2-1/2 miles east
of Exit 93 off I-69/I-96)

Why: To nominate Green candidates for Federal,
state, and local office to appear on the
November 2, 2010 general-election ballot.
GPMI will file the appropriate nomination
paperwork with the Bureau of Elections
(and county clerks as necessary) on Monday,
August 2 to certify the convention results.

For information on the issues, values, and candidates of the Green Party of Michigan, please visit the party's homepage:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Barack wastes more money

This NPR report (Morning Edition) by Ari Shapiro was interesting for only one reason:

SHAPIRO: It's an overt sales pitch. But judging by the president's poll numbers, Americans aren't buying. Week after week, approval of his economic policies drops. In a Reuters poll out yesterday, 67 percent of voters said Mr. Obama has not focused enough on creating jobs.
So why does the tour continue? White House Deputy Communications Director Jen Psaki says the president benefits in ways that have nothing to do with his poll numbers.
Ms. JEN PSAKI (Deputy Press Secretary, White House): The purpose was to spend some time talking to people on the ground. And the goal is really to hear feedback, learn from people who are working, who are running businesses every day, about what's working, what's not working, just so we can come back and discuss and figure out how to continue the road to recovery.
SHAPIRO: She says there's no plan to end the tour, and she's not surprised that the speeches have so far failed to boost his approval ratings.

So why is he wasting money?

Not just the US tax payers' federal monies, mind you, but each visit is a huge drain on local municipalities at a time when no one has the money to spare.

So his summer tour's a bust but he won't pack it in. If he were footing the bill, he might. But as long as it is the tax payer footing the bill, Barack will remain on the road, appearing before dwindling groups of people.

This is somehow a good use of our money?

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, July 28, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the political stalemate continues, the VA can't account for millions, Congress wants to know why that is, and more.

"The US Dept of Veterans Affairs is the second largest agency in our system of government," declared US House Rep Bob Filner this morning as he called to order the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, "and each year, they are authorized billions of dollars to care for our nation's veterans. Miscellaneous obligations are used by the VA to obligate funds in circumstances where the amount to be spent is uncertain. They are used to reduce administrative workload and to facilitate payment for contracted goods and services when quantities and delivery dates are unknown." Bob Fliner is the Chair of the Committee and Steve Buyer is the Ranking Member. In his opening remarks, Buyer noted that, "The hearing today is very timely in light of the VA's announcement to our offices that they plan to halt the development of what the Chairman just talked about -- our integrated financial accounting system [pilot program entitled Financial and Logistics Integrated Technology Enterprise]. I, franky, was surprised the VA would take this step with the supposed blessing of OMB but without any plan for the real future other than to limp along. That's what surprised me the most." The main issue for the hearing was the VA's inability to track millions of dollars filed under "miscellaneous."

The Committee heard from three panels. The first was made up of the GAO's Susan Ragland, the second by the VA's Edward Murry and the third by the VA's Jan Frye. The first two witnesses were accompanied by others, Ragland was accompanied by the GAO's Glenn Slocum. After Ragland finished her opening statement, she was asked a question.

Chair Bob Filner: If you had to give a grade between your initial report and now, what would you give?

Susan Ragland: Oh.

Chair Bob Filner: I'm a teacher, so.

Susan Ragland: Oh, I guess I'd say somewhere between a C+ or a B-. Somewhere in there.

Chair Bob Filner: Sounded like an F to me, but what do I know?

And we're opening with that because it's a call everyone can follow -- whether they agree with it or not (I agree with the call). We're jumping ahead to US House Rep Cliff Stearns who picked up on the grade later in the hearing.

US House Rep Cliff Stearns: Ms. Ragland, you gave this exercise a B-. Now the report in 2008 was roughly 5.7 billion miscellaneous obligations that were unable to be identified as how they were spent and now it's 12 billion in 2009. I mean, so it looks like it's jumped twice. So the problem has gotten . . .

Susan Ragland: Twice as big.

US House Rep Cliff Stearns: Twice as big. And wouldn't that mean that they flunked? I mean, wouldn't you have to be honest to yourself and say, "It appears to me that nothing's been done"? I mean if this had, if you couldn't get $6 billion -- find out where it was spent in 2008 and now it's 12, following this extrapolation, it will be 24, 25 billion when you come back here again with your GAO report. At what point don't you think that there -- How can you say that they're passing?

Susan Ragland: Well you're making a really good point and really the thinking that I had behind my response was that I do think VA is making efforts in these areas and so --

US House Rep Cliff Stearns: So they get a B- because they're making efforts when it doubles?

Susan Ragland: Well.

US House Rep Cliff Stearns: Would you -- would you have a student that --

Susan Ragland: They do-they do have the policies and procedures in place and they are taking actions to monitor them and that's the information that we got from the MQAS [Management Quality Assurance Service] service, that they are doing inspections and finding these things which is what we would look for any agency. That they are looking --

US House Rep Cliff Stearns: I, I understand you're being diplomatic. In reading the summary in your report, you say there are "serious longstanding deficiencies we identifed that are continuing." So here, 2008, 2009, you say these deficiencies -- serious long-standing deficiencies are continuing and that's not very optimistic to me. And then you went on to say that "serious weaknesses continue to raise questions concerning whether VA management has established the appropriate tone at the top necessary to ensure that these matters receive the full sustained attention." So in both the statements I gave you, it appears that the management's not connecting, that you've identified long-standing deficiencies that continue and these serious weaknesses raise further questions. So I think you've done your job. I think you have to be woman enough to say these folks are flunking and you've got to be a little bit more draconian in your statement. Now let me ask you this question, you mention in your report they have outdated systems. Does the VA have the technilogical capabilities to do this? What do you mean by outdated systems?

Susan Ragland: You can take that.

Glenn Slocum: There are -- VA systems sometimes revert to manual processes in order to produce its year-end finan --

US House Rep Cliff Stearns: So they haven't used computers? They haven't use the internet?

Glenn Slocum: No-no, they do have -- they do have all that. But some of the reconciliations that they may need to do at year-end, uh, they have a MinX system which is used to, uhm, produce their year-end statements.

US House Rep Cliff Stearns: It's done manually then?

Glenn Slocum: It's not manually -- it's not totally manually. But there are, uh, reconciliations that take place that, in a better world, would be more automated. And it effects their inventory systems at pharmacies and that's what we're talking about.

US House Rep Cliff Stearns: In 2008, did you bring that to their attention with the same statement that they had outdated systems?

Glenn Slocum: Well -- well there are two reports. You know, there's one with miscellaneous obligation and I think that's the one that Ms. Ragland gave them a B- on. The other report dealt with the financial report deficiencies and those are the problems that have been around since 2000 or longer. And maybe there would be uh -- [looks at Ragland] maybe you would give them a lower grade on that? I'm not sure.

US House Rep Cliff Stearns: Okay, well then the statement says "a lack of sufficient personnel." Uhm, have you found that the personnel is one of the serious problems that they have? Personnel that either don't have the appropriate knowledge or skills or they just don't have the personnel?

Susan Ragland: That's been one of the independent public auditors' findings in the financial reports. And that's been over-over years.

US House Rep Cliff Stearns: Was that true in 2008? That same conclusion?

Susan Ragland: I'm not positive, I believe so.

US House Rep Jerry McNerney noted that fraud seemed very likely in the conditions Ragland described in her opening remarks (at "a level that would be scandalous") and voiced the belief that they should ''bring that to light before the press does, before outside activities do." McNerney also noted that the VA's plan for solving the problems, "those seem a little bit far off" (2011 and 2012). Ragland noted that announcements by the VA in 2008 of deadlines to be met have not been kept by the VA and have been extended.

US House Rep David Roe: I would think that when you have a -- Obviously $12 billion is a lot of money and it's a lot to look after, but there should be a plan that when this isn't implemented and you don't find it, someone ought to be held accountable and-and-and heads ought to roll. And clearly what Congressman Buyer said in the private sector [you get fired], that's clearly what happens. People get fired.

Susan Ragland: Yeah.

US House Rep David Roe: Is that what happens here? Or do we just don't do anything or what do we do?

Susan Ragland: Uh, I don't know if that --

Glenn Slocum: I would just say that OMB Circular A-50 addresses this point. You know, one of the things it talks about is holding people accountable for the remediation of these problems. But we have not looked at the extent to which that's actually taken place. It's part of a monitoring mechanism that should be there. But we haven't looked at that.

US House Rep David Roe: And I think -- and I agree with Congressman McNerney, my colleague, is that it reflects poorly on the VA which they don't want to be -- I mean, I understand that they want to do a good job -- and this Committee if we allow that to happen and if we come back a year or two years from now and the same thing's going on, what happens? Is there any corrective action that can be taken in your recommendation, Ms. Ragland.

Susan Ragland: I think that the only thing that we have is to come back to you all and-and point that out. That's-that's our role. Yeah.

If it reads like the Committee had a consenus building, you're not mistaken. US House Rep Ann Kirkpatrick would note, "And Mr. Chairman, I share the sentiment of the other members of this Committee, that this is a very serious problem that we really need to stay on top of." Following that the Ranking Member would weigh in on a pattern, "I mean, right now, you could look back and the last three or four [VA] Secretaries -- I mean, they have, since 2000, increased these directives without execution." He also wondered that "the VA's own audits showed a continued disregard for your recommendations."

Welcoming the second panel, Chair Bob Filner offered a warning: "I would not underestimate the anger that my colleagues feel on this on both sides of the aisle." And for the second panel, refer to
Kat who is reporting on that at her site tonight.

A few decades on down the line, history will probably include all the many helicopter crashes in Iraq that crashed due to rebel/resistance attacks. Today, we instead get 'hard landings' (that was hugely popular for years with the press) and 'sandstorms.'
Sinah Salaheddin (AP) wants to share this morning that 6 people are dead from an Iraqi helicopter crash due to, yes, "a sandstorm." ("A sandstorm downed an Iraqi military helicopter . . .") Could it have been a sandstorm? Yes, it could have. I wasn't there. (Though I did have the weirdest dream last night/this morning about Jane Arraf being in Mosul and having difficulty taking photos of an explosion.) So what's the problem. I'd say this is the problem (from the same report): "The crash is under investigation, and no other details were immediately available, al-Askari said." When a crash is under investigation, the reasons for the crash are not known. Reasons may be suspected, but they aren't known -- hence the need for an investigation. Repeating, decades from now we'll no doubt learn just how many helicopters were downed during the Iraq War by something other than 'sandstorms' and 'hard landings due to mechanical failure'. Reuters notes 4 died in the crash and, unlike AP, don't attempt to pin a cause on a crash which is "under investigation." They also note 5 people are dead from a Baghdad bombing with twelve more injured. BBC News also notes 5 dead in the helicopter crash

As noted, Mullen was on a whirlwind trip and we'll blame jet lag for many of his more dubious statements.
Dan De Luce (AFP) reports he hailed what he termed "stunning" progress (only on security and only by cheating the scale and referring to the last three years -- if you can't use 2007 as your benchmark, you can't claim 'success' -- stunning or otherwise). While Mullen praised the 'stunning' progress, it was left to his underlings to note the week's violence and to US Deputy Sec of State Jacob Lew to explain, "The events of the last few days are horrific, and they are sobering, but they don't deter us from the process that we're in." Which would be the drawdown. But interesting that the main speaker declares "stunning" while the lesser lights have to deal with reality. Tang Danlu (Xinhua) reports on Mullen's meeting with Nouri al-Maliki and Nouri's laughable claim that, "The regional interference is the reason behind hampering a new government, and we have repeatedly demanded such interference in our internal affairs be halted. We are going forward in the formation of the new government as soon as possible." Jet lag doesn't excuse Nouri's lies. But Mullen was under the weather. Press TV offers a quote, see if you catch it, ""We're still on track to reduce the number of troops to 50,000 by the end of August and to have all combat troops out of Iraq by 2011." Combat troops -- a laughable designation -- are supposed to be out at the end of next month, not "by 2011."
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. It's four months and five days and,
in 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 4 months and 20 days. No government.Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) offers, "Nearly five months after elections in March ended without a decisive winner, Mr. Maliki and the leaders of the other political blocs are divided over his efforts to stay in power for a second term. With no clear resolution in sight, many politicians now say that the impasse could extend after the United States officially ends its combat mission here after more than seven years of war and reduces the number of troops to fewer than 50,000 by the end of August." Ross Colvin (Reuters) notes that US Vice President Joe Biden has asked that the politicians "get on with the business of governing." The International Crisis Group's Joost Hiltermann weighs in with thoughts on the stalemate in an essay for the New York Review of Books:

What is holding things up, however, is the fear among many Iraqis that whatever party wins the right to form the government and appoint the prime minister will proceed to concentrate power around itself, using gaps and ambiguities in Iraq's new constitution to its advantage. Maliki's detractors point to his record during the past four years -- he has done little by way of concrete governance, but instead has spent much effort to carve out a power base, including setting up security agencies that have no basis in the constitution. In addition to Iyad Allawi and his mainly Sunni constituency, Maliki's critics and competitors include the Kurds and his Shiite rivals in the Iraqi National Alliance (INA). This last is a loose grouping that includes the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, the Sadrist movement, and a variety of smaller parties and independents, among them the US's erstwhile friend and current nemesis, Ahmed Chalabi. Moreover, Allawi asserts that since his list won the most seats -- ninety-one, compared to Maliki's eighty-nine -- he has the right to take the first stab at forming a government.
Maliki has questioned the election results, hinting in not so unambiguous terms that a "foreign power" -- understood to be the United States -- has defrauded him by manipulating the vote, the count, and the recount in Baghdad. Even now, while resigning himself to the decision by the federal Supreme Court to certify the original results in early June, he continues to challenge Allawi's bid to form the government. His main tactic has been to pursue an alliance with his Shiite rivals in the INA, in order to become the largest bloc in parliament, gain the right to form a government, and thus deprive Allawi of his presumptive right to become prime minister.
Whatever their opinion of Maliki and his autocratic tendencies, Shiite politicians fear most of all losing the position of prime minister, and they are convinced that although Allawi would have a hard time collecting by himself the necessary number of seats (a simple majority of 163 in Iraq's 325-member legislature), a hidden hand -- again, the United States -- will somehow assist him and through trickery and deceit cheat the Shiites out of the dominant position they have acquired since 2003, after what they see as the long years of Sunni oppression.
What is striking about the Obama administration's current approach to Iraqi politics, however, is not its presumed preference for one party, Allawi's, but its unexplained lack of will to push for a solution, something much noted by politicians of all parties.

Moving to London where the
Iraq Inquiry continued public testimony today with Gen Richard Dannatt and Gen Mike Jackson appearing before the Inquiry (link goes to video and transcript options). Chris Ames notes that the remarks by Dannut about the British military was stretched to the point where it was on the verge of breaking in 2006. The helicopter issue (specifically yesterday's testimony) was rejected, by the way.

As noted this morning, Hans Blix's testimony
yesterday to the Iraq Inquiry was a joke. Chris Ames, writing at the Guardian, feels differently and feels it said a great deal about David Miliband:

That is Miliband in a nutshell. Too clever for his own good. There are the usual weasel words about voting "to support the government" rather than for war. He wanted to show that he had done his homework but has ended up saying that he supported the invasion on the basis of Saddam's behaviour in the 90s and was thus seeking regime change rather than peaceful disarmament.

Chris does great work at
Iraq Inquiry Digest and is always worth reading on this subject. (And Chris has been working this story before anyone.) But I strongly disagree with his take (a) that there was much of value in Blix's idiotic testimony, (b) that the testimony said that about David and (c) that Ames would ever know what was or wasn't "Miliband in a nutshell." As disclosed before I have known David and Ed Miliband forever and a day. That is not David Miliban in a nutshell. Let's move to Blixie. (And for qualifiers/disclosures on my opinion, click here.) Hans Blix was, as usual, all over the map with his ridiculous testimony yesterday. His half-baked testimony provided a little for everyone and nothing of substance for anyone. Should inspections have continued? In retrospect, he believes they should have. And in real time? He wanted them to go on through April. At one point in his testimony. He wanted them to go on for months, at another point. He wanted armed inspectors to roam through Iraq for years, he offered at another point.With his meandering and ever changing opinions, Bush could well argue that what Blix did find (no WMD, no real violations but some small issues) and Blix' refusal to clear Iraq and say they had no WMD, his move was forced. Was he forced? Of course not. It's an illegal war. And it's a war of choice. It's in violation of the UN charter and every international law -- including those the US has signed on to. But if your argument is based on Blix, Bush can shoot back, "Blix supported me!" Because Blix' wishy-washy b.s. does just that. Blix is forever inconsistent. Giving a broadcast interview, he tosses charges around freely only to then walk it back after the interview airs. He was asked about some statements from a print interview yesterday and explained that he wasn't responsible for any remarks in an article unless he authored it.

Hans Blix was the white-wash witness and you have to wonder if, in fact, that's why he was called. Hans Blix appeared before the Inquiry and told a pleasing (for British ears) fairytale. "Sleep easy, England, Tony Blair is not a bad person." That's Blix' testimony in a nut shell. The US, apparently led by Condi Rice (whom Blix is obsessed with), controlled everything and pushed the poor British around. The British, Blix insisted, wanted to follow the UN rules. Really? That's in direct contrast to every British official in the legal department. Are we supposed to forget that? But it was a runaway train on the railroad and the US was driving while the poor British officials were stuck in the caboose unable to disconnect from the rest of the train.Hans Blix is one of the main reason the illegal war started. That shined through in his testimony. He hedged every statement. No government official would have taken him seriously. (Except for his constant repeating that he believed Iraq had WMD. He repeated that to everyone. And this is our hero? This is who the peace movement wants to support?) He was a joke and he was an idiot. Doubt it? Go to page 30 of the testimony and read him insisting he believed (up until after the war started) that Iraq had anthrax ("we were very suspicous") and "I came out right from September 2002 on to the very end when I said, 'Yes, there might be weapons of mass destruction'." The idea that he was a calm voice or one not echoing the stove-piped intell is really a joke.
Caroline Crampton (New Statesman) offers a selective reading of his testimony and attempts to rescue Blix:

He felt that once his team began reporting back that no evidence had been found at any sites, the US and UK should have changed their policy -- that, he feels, is the main lesson that should be drawn from the situation. His only regret, he says, is the "harsh tones" he used in the January document, which consituted a warning to Iraq to improve co-operation, which it then did.

His job was to find WMD or to clear Iraq. He failed at both. That's reality. He did not clear it ahead of the war. Nor did he find WMD -- he couldn't because there was no WMD in Iraq. And yet he felt they had it. That's reality, that's what he testified to. His enablers and rescuers can pretty it up as much as they want but Blix is as much at fault as Bush and Blair for the illegal war. And it was a damn shame that someone who knew SO DAMN LITTLE was allowed to testify about so much. If you don't get that, you missed his white washing of all crimes. There are no more war crimes today, Blix wanted to insist. The stupid idiot declared that the US back then "was high on military" but "this has changed with Obama." What the hell does that piece of s**t know about what "changed" or didn't "change"? Is he unaware that he's supposed to be testifying only to what he has witnessed. Is he unaware of what's going on in Afghanistan? Or Pakistan? Or what continues in Iraq? "Obama says yes, they will retain the rights to -- they reserve the possibility to take unilateral action but they will try to follow international rules."

If that statement shocks you (page 28 of the testimony, lines 1 through 4), that may be due to the fact that a number of outlets have 'improved' it to make it say something else. Stream the video, that's what he said. And Blix is praising Barack for that crap? Where's the 'change'? Barack "says yes, they will still retain the right to -- they reserve the possibility to take unilateral action but they will try to follow international rules." That's not a change? That's exactly what Bush said before the Iraq War for months and months.

His entire testimony exists to whitewash reality, to insist that the problem was George W. Bush (via Condi Rice) and that, with Bush out of office, the threat is gone. It's the sort of fairytale that exists to keep people ignorant of their governments' actions and motives. It's the sort of fairytale that reduces everything to a simple cartoon. There was no honesty in the garbage. And, if you were British, you may have been thrilled that sweet and cute Tony Blair really wasn't at fault after all. It was Bush . . . led by Condi.

John F. Burns (New York Times) reports on Blix's testimony
here. And, yes, if Burns -- Mr. Establishment -- is reporting on it (and not questioning it) then Blix exists to Whitewash and give Empire a pearly smile.

Jalal Ghazi (New America Media) notes that WikiLeaks' latest revelations echo earlier reports by Arab media:In many cases, Arab media used testimony by American soldiers themselves to validate their reports about U.S. responsibility for civilian casualties. For example, Al Jazeera English reported on March 15, 2008 that hundreds of U.S. veterans of the war in Iraq say the American military has been covering up widespread civilian killings in Iraq. The soldiers who testified said that there have been routine cover-ups of indiscriminate killings of Iraqi civilians.Former U.S. Marine Jason Washburn, for example, told Al Jazeera English: "We would carry these weapons and shovels so in case we accidentally shot a civilian we would toss the weapon on the body and we would say that he was an insurgent." U.S. Army veteran Jason Hurd said, "We would fire indiscriminately and unnecessarily at this building. We never got a body count and we never got a casualty count afterward." He added, "These things happen every day in Iraq." The veterans also showed videos supporting their claims. The testimony of the U.S. veterans also highlights the mental state of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan that may have led to acts of violence against civilians. Al Jazeera English journalist Omar Chatriwala wrote in a blog ("WikiLeaks vs. the Pentagon") that the WikiLeaks documents are supported by reports from the ground by Al Jazeera English.
Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) continued her coverage of the WikiLeaks Afghanistan revelations and spent the hour with WikiLeaks' Julian Assange. We'll note him on Bradley Manning (a suspect who has never issued a public statement on whether or not he leaked to WikiLeaks) and on Iraq. On Bradley:

JULIAN ASSANGE: In relation to a military source, alleged military source, Bradley Manning, who has been charged with supplying --the charges don't say to us, but supplying to someone the helicopter video showing the killing of two Reuters journalists in Baghdad in July 2007, he is now being held in Kuwait itself. A bit of a problem. Why isn't he being held in the United States? Is it to keep him away from effective legal representation? Is it to keep him away from the press? We're not sure. But there doesn't seem to be any reason why he could not be transferred to the United States. We obviously cannot say whether he is our source. We in fact specialize in not knowing the names of our sources. But nonetheless, he is a young man being held in dire circumstances on the allegation that he supplied this material to the press, and we were the initial publisher of that Iraq video. So we are trying to raise money for his legal representation. We have committed $50,000 of our own funds, that if the general public could contribute or other people could contribute, I know that his military counsel would find that of significant value. The lawyers that we have spoken to say that his representation will cost $200,000, assuming that it's a regular sort of trial, it goes ahead. People can go to, where there is a grassroots campaign that his friends and family and some internet activists have become involved to try and support him.

On Iraq:

AMY GOODMAN: And do you have more documents to release on Iraq?

JULIAN ASSANGE: We have an enormous backlog of documents, stemming all the way back to January. During the past six months, we have been concentrating on raising funds and dealing with just a few of our leaks and upgrading our infrastructure to deal with the worldwide demand. So that huge backlog is something that we are just starting to get through, and this latest Afghan leak is an example of that.

Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan gets the last word on she contemplates the meaning of these continued, illegal wars:

Deep down inside of me, there is the Cindy who is raging against the Democratic Congress's passage of the recent war-funding bill, but so I don't explode, I am outwardly calm. Pissed off Cindy has to be in here, or I wouldn't be writing this piece--but the rhetoric that I have written hundreds of times is now having the feeling of "been there, done that." Well, I am numb, I think, because I have visited this topic continually and words are just not cutting it. How many words are there for: murder, death, destruction, slaughter, starvation, predatory Capitalism, war profiteering, war, illegal, immoral, war crimes, callous, greedy, rape, pillage, plunder, blah, blah, blah!
We live in an Empire that on a daily basis murders dozens of people without blinking even before I drink my first cup of coffee and which always ignores the basic needs of its own citizens. But its citizens are quietly complacent and materially complicit in these crimes. Slaves of, and to, The Empire.
I am numb, I think.

iraqthe associated presssinah salaheddinafpdan de lucexinhuatan danluiraq inquirythe new york timesjohn f. burnschris amesnew america mediajalal ghazi

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bloomberg News' Ryan Donmoyer is a 'birther'

Imagine my shock, while reading through the Daily Caller's latest on the Journolist when I come across the fact that Bloomberg News' Ryan Donmoyer is a "birther."

Here's what he wrote:

One other question: Does it up the stakes here if records were falsified? I.e., the birth certificate, etc. Goes to a pattern, perhaps, of using higher office for personal purposes if the trooper thing is true.

A falsified birth certificate? Wow. Surely he was called out by the others on the Journolist, right? Wrong. Because he's speaking of Trig Palin and not Barack Obama. That's right, Trig Palin has two living parents and brothers and sisters who can vouch for him. Barack? Everyone alive when he was born is dead. His mother, his father, his grandparents. Barack the bastard was illegitimate (US law has never recognized bigamy and Barack Sr. left a wife at home to come study in this country, therefore he could never have legally married Ann Dunham). But it's Trig Palin Ryan attacks?

How very.

It's amazing that with all the witnesses Sarah Palin could trot before a jury about her birth, journalists questioned her child. But it's supposed to be out of bounds to question Barack's birth?

Oh, I'm sorry. We know all about Barack's birth, right? The Inn was full and his mother had to . . .

Get real. If you can slime Sarah Palin and her child, you need to stop pretending like the people with questions about Barack's birth are crazy. (I have no questions. He's illegitimate and that's why he won't release the birth certificate. For men his age, it is a stigma.)

Now go read "Serving under Richard Nixon, Chris Hayes (Ava and C.I.)" -- a great article.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, July 27, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the Iraq Inquiry hears from UN weapons inspector Hans Blix, the US House buys the wars again, an archbishop dies in Iraq, and more.

Today in London, the
Iraq Inquiry continued hearing testimony. This morning they heard from Lt Gen Andrew Figgures and Gen Robert Fulton. The issue of helicopters was explored -- much to the distress of Gen Fulton who came off agitated and anxious ("Yes! Yes! Yes!" at one point) as well as defensive (claiming that more helicopters provided would have just meant more requests for them). It was a comical exchange as he attempted to repeatedly maintain that all that was needed was provided to British forces while his speech, his demeanor, everything indicated otherwise. When stalling, he liked to rock his entire body back and forth in his chair. When especially defensive, he liked to hug himself and rock (such as with "Should they have?" being asked by Fulton to stall). He's fortunate that a lot of the press skipped his testimony in anticipation of the day's big witness: Hans Blix. The former UN weapons inspector was the focus of attention. [For video and transcript options of today's witnesses, click here.]

Well, from the Cold War, of course, the Security Council was paralysed. The security system of the UN did not work during the Cold War, but I think it changed completely with the end of the Cold War. In 1991, 1990 the Russians and the others went along with the action against Iraq, and Bush the elder, the President, said that this was a new international order. Well, that collapsed with his son and I think that the world has changed dramatically with the end of the Cold War. It is only recently in the last few years some American statement with Samman and others have said, well, we ought to re-discover, the Cold War is over. So the Security Council in my view was not paralysed in the 1990s. They are still not paralysed. That's why it is reasonable to look to it and to have respect for its decisions.

That was Hans Blix refuting the concern/fear that the United Nations Security Council was powerless. As noted in
yesterday's snapshot, a shadow has been thrown across the Iraq Inquiry. That shadow falls on John Chilcot who is the Chair. If, as Carne Ross maintains, he was prevented from referencing a document or providing full testimony, that issue falls on Chilcot because he is the Chair. In what may have been a mistaken attempt at 'getting tough,' he felt the need to instruct Hans Blix as to what Blix's job was in his mind.

Chair John Chilcot: Your job was to say, "This is the evidence of the extent to which there is a breach of UN resolutions", based on the evidence you had. It was not to go further than that.

Dr. Blix: Well, I think you would have to distinguish between different types of revelations or evidence that you find. You know we were given sites to inspect by the UK and the US and we wanted these sites and felt, "These people are 100 per cent convinced that there are weapons of mass destruction, but they also then should know something about where they are". We went to these sites and in no case did we find a weapon of mass destruction. We did find engines that had been illegally imported, we found a stash of documents that should have been declared. They did not reveal anything new. So there is evidence of more or less grey things. Even the missiles I think falls into that category. They certainly violated their obligations on the missiles, but we concluded that the Al-Samoud 2 type missile was prohibited, because it had a longer range than 150 kilometres and they had performed a test flight I think with 180 or 183 kilometres. So our international experts that we consulted concluded they were banned, but still it was on the margin.

[. . .]

Chair John Chilcot: Dr Blix, I have really a single question, which is about the burden of proof and where it lay. I know from your book you have formed a view about it. So here we are. We have resolution 1284. We have resolution 1441. Now we are at the end of 2002. There is much international concern about Iraq's failure to comply with the will of the international communiy and some nations more troubled than that about possible holdings of weapons. So it was up to Iraq to prove through your inspection regime that it, Saddam's regime, was innocent, or was it up to the international community through yourself to prove that Iraq was guilty? Which way did that go, because it was both a political question, I take it, and a legal question?

Dr Blix: I think the Iraqis tried to say that the general legal rule is unless you are proved guilty, you must be presumed innocent, and I tried to explain to them that this was not a parallel when it comes to a state, that a guy may be accused of having a weapon illegally and if he is not proved guilty, then he will be innocent. However, I said with regard to Iraq, you had these weapons, and people would laugh at me if I said I should presume you were innocent. We make no assumption at all. We do not assume you have weapons and we do not assume you don't have weapons. We will simply look for evidence. Of course, it was difficult for them. It is difficult for anyone to prove the negative, to prove they didn't have it. They said so, "How can we prove this?" I admitted in public, "Yes, it is difficult for you to do so but it is even more difficult for us. You after all have the archives and people, etc. You must make best use of this''.

Blix himself raised the criticism he received that his reports became more positive on Iraqi cooperation and how he responded, "Look here, if I am there to observe and the circumstances change I damn well ought to also change my reports" because "That is what happened, the Iraqis became more cooperative." And to Committee Member Usha Prashar, Blix stated, "I think what was really important about this business of sites given was that when we reported that, no, we did not find any weapons of mass destruction, they should have realised I think, both in London and in Washington, that their sources were poor." He noted he would have liked to have continued inspections through April but that Colin Powell (then-US Secretary of State) told him "that's too late" while Condi Rice (then-National Security Adviser), he suspected, was eager to get the war started in March due to the fact that temperatures would continue rising and the date couldn't be pushed back any further.

A key moment in the hearing was this.

Dr Blix: The first reflection that occurs to me is that if the British Prime Minister or Bush had come to their parliaments and said, "Well, we are not sure that there are weapons of mass destruction but we fear they could reconstitute," I can't imagine they would have got an authorisation to go to war for that purpose.

Near the end of the testimony, Blix was asked by Chilcot for reflections and he noted he had already shared one.

Dr Blix: The other reflection I have is a broader one about the going to war. I am delighted that I think your intention is to draw lessons from the Iraq war rather than anything else, and I think that when states can go to war still remains a vitally importnat issue, and the UN Charter in 1945 took a giant leap forward in this and said, "No, it is prohibited to do except in the case of self defence and armed attack or authorisation by the Security Council". Well, here in the case of Iraq you can see how the UK in the summer 2002 or the spring 2002 said, "Yes, we might, but it has to be through the UN power". Self-defence against an armed attack was out. Regime change was out. Straw was adamantly opposed to a regime change. Authorisation by the UN, yes, that's the path. So they insist upon [UN resolution] 1441 and they get it, but it is a gamble. 1441 is if they had shown or if the Iraqis had continued to obstruct, as it was expected, then they could have asked the Security Council for a second resolution and said, "Look, they are obstructing and we now ask for authorisation.' They never knew whether they would get that. Eventually they had to come with I think very contstrained legal explanations. We see how Mr Goldsmith, Lord Golsmith now, wriggled about and how he himself very much doubted that it was adequate, but eventually said, "Well, if you accumulate all these things, then that gives a plausible . . ." -- he was not quite sure that it would have stood up in an international tribunal. Most of your legal advisers did not think so either. Nevertheless he gave the green light to it. I think it shows the UK was wedded to the UN rules and tried to go by them, eventually failed and was a prisoner on the American train, but it is true at the same time that this rule against going to war is under strain.

Telegraph of London reports the following of Blix's testimony:

He told the inquiry: "Once they went up to 250,000 men and March was approaching, I think it was unstoppable or almost unstoppable - the (US) president could have stopped it, but almost unstoppable.
"After March the heat would go up in Iraq and it would be difficult to carry out warfare."
He added: "The whole military timetable was, as rightly said, not in sync with the diplomatic timetable.

Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) notes that Blix criticized Bush and seemed to take the heat off Blair. That was really ridiculous. (Not RN-T's observation, that is what Blix did, but Blix's assertion.) Tony Blair went along with Bush. The US did not hold the UK prisoner. The idea of Tony Blair as damsel in distress would be hard to stomach even without all the Inquiry has exposed regarding the Crawford meeting or that -- even while the legal advice Blair was receiving said war without a second UN resolution would be illegal -- Blair was already telling Bush that they were in it together.

Turning to Iraq,
Rania El Gamal, Suadad al-Salhy, Jim Loney and Matthew Jones (Reuters) break the news: The Iraqi Parliament will not meet today. Though already in violation of the country's Constitution, they are not meeting for their second time. (The first lasted less than 20 meetings.) Unlike their last stall, they have not this time provided a date for when they might meet again. Why aren't they meeting? Meeting means proceeding with forming the government and there's no movement there. Salam Faraj (AFP) quotes MP Fouad Massum (who has been acting as spokesperson and leader) stating, "We are postponing the session until further notice because the political entities failed to reach any agreement. We held a meeting this morning with tthe heads of the parliamentary blocs and we agreed to give more time to political entities to reach agreement regarding the selection of a speaker and his two deputies."
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. It's four months and five days and,
in 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 4 months and 20 days. No government. Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) explains, "Nearly five months after elections in March ended without a decisive winner, Mr. Maliki and the leaders of the other political blocs remain deeply divided over his efforts to stay in power for a second term and remain even more deeply suspicious of losing power to rivals."

The political stalemate has consequences.
Kari Lyndersen (In These Times) reported yesterday, "Last week electricity union offices across Iraq were raided under a July 20 decree from the Minister of Oil and Electricity, Hussain al-Shahristani, which banned trade unions in the energy sector and threatened serious legal action against union activity." While that's appalling by any standard, it should be noted that Hussain al-Shahristani is NOT the Minister of Electricity. Karim Wahid was the Minister of Electricity until he resigned June 21st. By June 25th, Hussain al-Shahristani was the acting electricity minister though the press reports were leaving out "acting." Reality, he has NO power. It's not just that Nouri's ass should have already been out of the prime ministership, it's that al-Shahristani has not been approved for that post. He is the Minster of Oil -- a Western puppet in that position, but not enough of one that he got to become the Prime Minister as 2004 rumors swore he would be. But he was approved for that post.

Yes, we're all aware Nouri al-Maliki thinks he is God. But delusions aside, he can only nominate cabinet positions. Check the Constitution -- I know no one bothers to, but laws are on the books for a reason. Nouri can name anyone to the Council of Ministers but they don't have that position and title unless and until the Parliament approves the person. The Parliament has never approved Hussain al-Shahristani to be the Minister of Electricity. For those who have forgotten, the Parliament has only met once and for less than 20 minutes. No, they did not approve al-Shahristani for that post. Let's repeat,
Karim Wahid was the Minister of Electricity until he resigned June 21st. And the Parliament met once and only once when? June 14th. Even if they'd wanted to approve al-Shahristani for another post (debatable), they didn't and haven't. He has no powers.

But Nouri's refusing to step down and what has some US government figures concerned is the belief/fear that Nouri is dragging out the process because he thinks that it will be easier for him to refuse to step down after the US drawdown.
Kari Lyndersen adds, "International labor groups are calling the decree part of a systematic attack on unions in Iraq in recent years. US Labor Against the War (USLAW) says the 'anti-union decree is the latest in an escalating series of measures designed to incapacitate and destroy the Iraqi labor movement'." And this is why you don't let things drag out. The US, under Bush, should never have gone along with a delay in the 2009 elections. What 2009 elections? That's when they were supposed to take place. Bush went along. Barack came in and went along with further delays. Now all this time later, Nouri's still stalling the political process. And you have his henchmen acting without any legal authority. That's why you don't let it drag on and why, if Barack's too much of a damn wimp, you bring in the United Nations immediately and force all parties to the table to hammer out something and do so quickly. This was nonsense and happened under the US occupation. Happens under the US occupation. US Labor Against the War is asking that people join them in protesting the attempts to destroy the electricity unions:

Police raided and shut down electricity unions across Iraq in mid-July, carrying out an order from the Minister of Electricity that could have been lifted from Saddam Hussein's rule book. The order prohibits "all trade union activities at the ministry and its departments and sites" and authorizes the police "to close all trade union offices and bases and to take control of unions' assets properties and documents, furniture and computers." [Details below.] The Iraqi trade union movement is calling on trade union members and labor solidarity activists everywhere to raise their voices in protest.
Hussain al-Shahristani, Oil Minister of Iraq, who was also appointed Electricity Minister, issued a decree that
1. Prohibits all trade union activity and ceases all forms of cooperation and official discussions with the electricity sector unions;
2. Directs management to help police enforce the closure of union offices and confiscation of documents, furniture, computers and anything else present;
3. Orders all enterprises to take immediate legal action against anyone who threatens or uses force or causes any damage to public property under the 2005 anti-terrorism law; and
4. Orders all departments and enterprises to repeal any benefits and privileges union members have gained.
This outrageous action violates all of the norms of internationally recognized labor rights. It escalates a broad attack on unions that has been taking place in Iraq since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein that has included:
* Continued enforcement of Saddam's ban on unions in the public sector and public enterprises;
* Freezing union bank accounts and assets;
* Banning union leaders from traveling outside Iraq without prior government approval;
* Transferring union leaders to remote locations far from their homes, families and union members;
* Issuing criminal charges against Oil Union Federation officers alleging they are undermining the Iraqi economy by protesting privatization of oil resources and companies;
* Ignoring the requirement in the Iraqi Constitution calling for enactment of a basic labor rights law;
* Violating ILO Convention 98 on collective bargaining to which Iraq is signatory.

If you
click here, US Labor Against the War has made sending e-mails to object very simple.

From war on the unions to other violence . . .


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left four people injured, a Karbala suicide car bombing which claimed the lives of 20 people with another fifty wounded, and a Mosul home bombing which wounded two people. (I think Karbala was yesterday, FYI, but it's billed as today.)


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul home invasion late last night in which 2 women were shot dead and an armed attack on a Mosul checkpoint in which 2 police officers were killed.

In other developments,
Catholic News Agency reports a passing, Auxiliary Bishop Andraos Abouna, 67-years-old, died today in an Erbil hospital -- possibly from kidney complications. The Auxiliary Bishop was ordained as a priest June 5, 1966 and had been working in Iraq all that time. The Assyrian Democratic Movement notes, "Mar Andraos is known for defending and fighting for peace between Iraqi factions and has great stance in maintaining the unity of the people of our Chaldean Syriac Assyrian. H.E. Mar Andraos is also known for promoting a unified religious dialogue and strengthening the unity of Iraqis to safeguard and consolidate the national unity and supports the diversity of Iraq." In January 2003, John L. Allen Jr. (National Catholic Reporter) filed a story on the Auxiliary Bishop:

During his Christmas Mass, the pope prayed that humanity will strive "to extinguish the ominous smoldering of a conflict that, with the joint efforts of all, can be avoided." On New Year's Day, he spoke in similar terms. "In dealing with ongoing conflicts and tension growing more threatening, I pray that peaceful ways of settling conflicts be sought after, driven by loyal and constructive cooperation in accordance with the principles of international law," John Paul said.
Few people were probably listening more attentively than Andraos Abouna, the new auxiliary bishop of Baghdad, who was personally consecrated by the pope along with 11 other new bishops on the Feast of the Epiphany, Jan. 6. Abouna will aid Patriarch Raphaƫl I Bidawid of Baghdad in shepherding a community of some 600,000 Iraqi Chaldean Catholics, who may soon find themselves at ground zero of the war John Paul is begging the world to avoid.
[. . .]
"We asked the Holy Father to pray for peace in Baghdad," Abouna said, "and you could see that he was moved. When he speaks about Baghdad, he does so from the heart, because this is the land of Abraham, the first believer in God. For us it is the Holy Land."
Abouna said he also appreciates the letter from the U.S. bishops on Iraq, which he described as a "very, very good statement."
Still, he is a realist about the potential impact of such interventions from religious leaders, given that John Paul opposed the Gulf War in 1991 and it didn't stop the bombs from falling.
"Politicians act in their own interest, often for economic reasons," he said. "They don't so much care what religious leaders say."
Vatican Radio notes his kidney problems two months ago and that yesterday the Auxiliary Bishop was taken to the hospital, yesterday afternoon, that the funeral was expected to be held this evening, that he was born in the village of Bedare/Zakho in 1943, entered the Monastery in 1975 (in Mosul), was ordained in Baghdad June 5, 1966 and had been a parish priest in both Basra (1967 to 1971) and Baghdad (1971 to 1991).

Turning to Turkey,
Today's Zaman reports, "A long-planned Kurdish conference which was to take place in northern Iraq under the auspices of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) with the participation of delegates from Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Europe is now back on the agenda once more." The news comes as Press TV reports that 4 Turkish security forces were killed yesterday -- possibly by the Kurdish rebel group PKK.

In the US, news comes that more billions of dollars supposedly spent on the Iraq War are missing.
Gabriel Gatehouse (BBC News) reports:A US federal watchdog has criticised the US military for failing to account properly for billions of dollars it received to help rebuild Iraq. The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction says the US Department of Defence is unable to account properly for 96% of the money.Out of just over $9bn (£5.8bn), $8.7bn is unaccounted for, the inspector says.The US military said the funds were not necessarily missing, but that spending records might have been archived.Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reminds this is far from the first audit which has turned up poorly or mismanaged funds in Iraq and that "In a written response to a draft of the audit, the Pentagon vowed to act on the inspector general's three recommendations to strengthen accounting mechanisms and dispose of the Iraqi money not yet relinquished. " Left unstated is that the Pentagon has repeatedly made similar promises. Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) offers this context: "The report comes as Iraqis are increasingly frustrated with their own government's inability to provide basic services, or to explain how tens of billions of dollars' worth of oil revenue has been spent since 2007. The alleged U.S. mismanagement of Iraqi money is certain to revive grievances against the U.S. for failing to make a big dent in the country's reconstruction needs despite massive expenditures."CNN notes Adm Mike Mullen, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has arrived in Baghdad. He is visiting the country to review the drawdown plans.

Yesterday's snapshot noted Wikileaks latest release of material on the Afghanistan War. If you're late to the party, IPA issued the following today:

Solomon today wrote the piece "State of Denial: After the Big Leak, Spinning for War," which states: "Washington's spin machine is in overdrive to counter the massive leak of documents on Afghanistan. Much of the counterattack revolves around the theme that the documents aren't particularly relevant to this year's new-and-improved war effort. ..."What has been most significant about 'the president's new policy' is the steady step-up of bombing in Afghanistan and the raising of U.S. troop levels in that country to a total of 100,000. None of what was basically wrong with the war last year has been solved by the 'new policy.' On the contrary." Solomon, author of War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death and president of the Institute for Public Accuracy, visited Kabul last year. He is available for a limited number of interviews.JOSH STIEBERStieber is a former soldier in the Bravo Company documented in the video "Collateral Murder," released earlier this year by WikiLeaks. The video shows, through a helicopter gun-sight, soldiers killing civilians including a Reuters photographer in Iraq and then shooting at people in a van attempting to rescue the wounded. After the release of the video, Stieber co-wrote "An Open Letter of Reconciliation and Responsibility to the Iraqi People" with Ethan McCord, another member of the unit. McCord, who was in the first team of dismounted soldiers to arrive on the scene, spoke at the National Peace Conference in Albany, N.Y. this weekend. Video of his graphic description of the "Collateral Murder" incident and the reactions of him and his commanders is available on YouTube: "Innocence Lost: Ethan McCord recounts aftermath of Iraqi civilian massacre."

In addition, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) did three segments on it today,
here, here and here. Meanwhile Newsweek reports:

The cache of classified U.S. military reports on the Iraq War as yet unreleased by WikiLeaks may be as much as three times as large as the set of more than 91,000 similar reports on the war in Afghanistan made public by the whistle-blower Web site earlier this week, Declassified has learned.
Three sources familiar with the Iraq material in WikiLeaks's hands, requesting anonymity to discuss what they described as highly sensitive information, say it's similar to this week's Afghanistan material, consisting largely of field reports from U.S. military personnel and classified no higher than the "Secret" level. According to one of the sources, the Iraq material portrays U.S. forces being involved in a "bloodbath," but some of the most disturbing material relates to the abusive treatment of detainees not by Americans but by Iraqi security forces, the source says.

Meanwhile, "Give Us One House And We'll End The War!" claimed the Democratic Party in the lead-up to the 2006 mid-term elections. The mistake voters made, apparently, was giving them control of two houses of Congress. With control of both the Senate and the House, the Dems were apparently too taxed to end the war. And the additional burden of having the White House via the 2008 elections? Well it means the wars continue.
David Swanson (War Is A Crime) reports:
On Tuesday evening, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill already passed by the Senate that funds a $33 billion, 30,000-troop escalation in Afghanistan. The vote was 308 to 114. What could the good news possibly be?The first good news is that, while we had no more than 35 congress members who would vote against war funding a year ago, or perhaps 55 when it was an easy vote with no pressure, we've now got 114. That's serious progress. That's a far more dramatic increase than we've seen in the number of congress members willing to vote for a non-binding unspecified timetable for a withdrawal. That number rose from 138 last year to 162 on July 1st (although the legislation was somewhat stronger this year). In other words, willingness to express mild interest in ending the war has reached a plateau. Willingness to take serious action to end the war is rapidly catching up. Of course, both have to top 218 before we win.The really good news is that we finally have an essential ingredient in any recipe for legislative change: a record of which legislators are with us, and which against us. Almost any effective campaign to pass, or -- as in this case -- defeat, legislation requires at least three stages. First you run a trial to identify who stands where. Then you reward and punish at the polling booth in the next election. Then you try again and possibly succeed. Until now, we've been unable to reach step one. The "leadership" in Congress has packaged war bills in unrelated measures, or -- as was done four weeks ago -- passed bills without holding a vote at all. Now we finally know, unambiguously, who stands where. The question is whether we're willing to act on it.

We'll close with this from Teresa Mina's (as told to David Bacon) "
THIS LAW IS VERY UNJUST!" (New American Media):I come from Tierra Blanca, a very poor town in Veracruz. After my children's father abandoned us, I decided to come to the U.S. There's just no money to survive. We couldn't continue to live that way. We all felt horrible when I decided to leave. My three kids, my mom, and two sisters are still living at home in Veracruz. The only one supporting them now is me.My kids' suffering isn't so much about money. I've been able to send enough to pay the bills. What they lack is love. They don't have a father; they just have me. My mother cares for them, but it's not the same. They always ask me to come back. They say maybe we'll be poor, but we'll be together. I haven't been able to go back to see them for six years, because I don't have any papers to come back to the U.S. afterwards. To cross now is very hard and expensive. My first two years in San Francisco I cleaned houses. The work was hard, and I was lonely. It's different here. Because I'm Latina and I don't know English, if I go into a store, they watch me from head to foot, like I'm a robber. After two years, I got a job as a janitor, making $17.85 per hour. Cleaning houses only paid $10. But then I was molested sexually. Another worker exposed himself to me and my friend. When we went to the company and filed a complaint, they took me off the job and kept me out of work a month. They didn't pay me all that time.That's when my problems started, because I called the union and asked them to help me. After that, the company called me a problematic person, because I wouldn't be quiet and I fought for my rights. Sometimes they wouldn't give me any work.When you work as a janitor you're mostly alone. You pick up trash, clean up the kitchen and vacuum. These are simple things, and they tire you out, but basically it's a good job. Lots of times we don't take any breaks, though. To finish everything, sometimes we don't even stop for lunch.
David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. Bacon can be heard on KPFA's The Morning Show (over the airwaves in the Bay Area, streaming online) each Wednesday morning (begins airing at 7:00 am PST).

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