Friday, February 24, 2012

The stolen phrase

As C.I. noted this morning, we worked together on a piece.  It really is my fault that it didn't get posted. I was trying to get feedback to ensure everything we were saying was said clearly.  That was especially important since some people online don't seem to know what violence is.

Violence is not something done to property.  That is how the FBI would like you to see it, as violence.  They've spent forever inventing 'eco-terrorists' and need you to believe with them that setting fire to a Ford or whatever qualifies as violence.

Violence cannot be done to an inanimate object.  It is a crime to set fire to a car and that's more than enough right there.  You don't need to invent new levels of alleged crimes by turning a car, a building, a window, etc. into "victims."

It's amazing to watch these idiots online insist that violence was done to property.  They really are sad.  (Sadly, the crowd I am talking about is also left.)

So I was showing it to various friends and made the mistake of being stupid.  If I'd thought about it, I wouldn't have sent it to ____ because he's a speech writer.  C.I. had many turns of phrases in that (I think I contributed two) and it would be too hard for a speech writer to resist swiping something. 

So when the key phrase on OWS got swiped, that was the end of the piece.  C.I. was soured on it.  She didn't have time to think up a new phrase and there was no way she was putting something up online that would result in people saying, "You're copying ____!" 

A few e-mails came in, in response to C.I.'s statements in this entry, asking if C.I. was mad at me?  And a few came in asking if I was mad at her?

Yes, we've decided to never speak again.

I'm joking.

No, we're not mad at each other.  I am mad at myself for passing to the speech writer.  But that's it.  C.I. is furious with the speech writer. To be clear, it's the politician that delivered the line that destroyed it for C.I.  She can rewrite the thing in an instant.  She really can.  We used that phrase repeatedly in the piece.  It's what pulled it together.  (We largely wrote the piece via e-mails back and forth.) Now that phrase is forever clouded by ____'s using it. 

One e-mail asked if we were calling out Chris Hedges?


We have no problem with Chris Hedges.  We don't happen to agree with his "cancer" column but we weren't calling him out. 

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, February 24, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, the press loves to play, can you be both something and also linked to that something (no), Iraqi youths turn out to protest and make new demands, the 2012 budget is finally passed in Iraq, Veterans For Peace calls on the White House to drop the charges against Bradley Manning, and more.
Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports the US Embassy in Iraq has issued a statement on yesterday's attacks throughout the country which includes, "These heinous acts targeted people going to work and shopping, children going to school and security forces working to protect the citizenry." Yes, that would be wrong. Which is why, of course, that the US government evacuated every Iraqi out of the country in February 2003 in anticipation of the invasion. It's why the US ensured that no one was in Falluja before they started their November 2004 assault. What's that? Oh, right. The US government didn't do either of those things. It launched a war and didn't give a damn about children going to school or people going to work or people shopping or anything. It launched an illegal war of choice and now it thinks there's some high ground that can be stood on? There is none.
Last December, Iraq War veteran Ross Caputi (Guardian) wrote about the November 2004 attack on Falluja:
I do not see any contradiction in feeling sympathy for the dead American Marines and soldiers and at the same time feeling sympathy for the Fallujans who fell to their guns. The contradiction lies in believing that we were liberators, when in fact we opprssed the freedoms and wishes of Fallujahs. The contradiction lies in believing that we were heroes, when the definition of "hero" bares no relation to our actions in Fallujah.
What we did to Fallujah cannot be undone, and I see no point in attacking the people in my former unit. What I want to attack are the lies and false beliefs. I want to destroy the prejudcies that prevented us from putting ourselves in the other's shoes and asking ourselves what we would ahve done if a foreign army invaded our country and laid siege to our city.
I understand the psychology that causes the aggressors to blame their victims. I understand the justifications and defense mechanisms. I understand the emotional urge to want to hate the people who killed someone dear to you. But to describe the psychology that preserves such false beliefs is not to ignore the objective moral truth that no attacker can ever justly blame their victims for defending themselves.
Ross Caputi is the founding director of the Justice for Fallujah Project. And the birth defects that continue to be found in the children born in the area after the 2004 assault is not something Iraqis have forgotten or will. Alsumaria TV's most watched report this month was this report on the birth defects in Falluja. Last week, Matthis Chiroux spoke at the Occupy Military Recruiters actions in Manhattan (link is video at World Can't Wait).
Matthis Chiroux: Hey everybody, I'm Matthis. I haven't spoken out in awhile. I've been going to college and learning about the corruption in the market places and the courthouse and right here in these military recruiting centers. And on these US military bases all over the world. These abuses are not part of the story these recruiters are trying to sell your kids. They're trying to sell your kids the Boy Scouts. They're trying to sell your kids the Girl Scouts. They're trying to sell your kids the Peace Corps. The mission they are selling is to engage and destroy so called enemies of the United States of America. Killing bombing writing through streets with guns doesn't help people, is not the Boy Scouts, is not the Girl Scouts, is not fostering democracy. It's fostering a lot of debt. It's fostering a lot of hatred. It's fostering a lot of abuse. And the military, it bears the face of that abuse You see it in vets who come home and can't ever feel normal again. You've seen soldiers who are still in the military can't picture a life without war.
Matthis is an Afghanistan War veteran and Iraq War resister. He and Ross Caputi made some very important observations that appeared to escape our 'wise' press. Fortunately, on the second hour of today's The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), Diane and guests Abderrahim Foukara (Al Jazeera) and Moises Naim (El Pais) were able to discuss yesterday's violent attack across Iraq in an adult manner.
Abderrahim Foukara: Obviously, these bombings in Iraq have happened in a very interesting context because Maliki has been touting himself as the leader of the Iraqi Spring. He's been saying, 'My government' which is a Shi'ite dominated government 'has brought stability to Iraq.' The Iraqis are actually gearing up for hosting the Arab Summit in Baghdad as another sign that the government in Iraq thinks that Iraq is stable. The Saudis, to placate the Iraqis and reward them for joining the boycott of the sanctions against Syria, have said that they will actually -- that they have actually appointed an ambassador for the first time to Iraq since 1990. So I think this spate of bombings is really the answer to all this talk coming out of Baghdad that the situation is under control.
Diane Rehm: Could this be sectarian warfare?
Abderrhaim Foukara: There is definitely sectarian warfare. Nouri's government is Shi'ite dominated government and it's seen by many Sunnis -- not just in Iraq but also in the neighborhood of Iraq -- it's seen as a proxy of Iran.
Moises Naim: It is sectarian and has sectarian elements but let's remember it is also about power. These are the use of sectarian sentiments and manipulation of religious feelings and ethnic divides this is a very, very basic fight for power and how to share power between different groups that are jockeying to dominate politics and government in Iraq.
So what do you know, there are political aspects and social aspects and things that go so far beyound the simplistic narrative of "al Qaeda branch" and "al Qaeda llinked" and "al Qaeda adjacent with a stunning turn of the century cottage out back." Reality, the attacks were carried out by Iraqis. It sure makes things simpler if you just pin it all on "al Qaeda" and deny the reality that there are serious splits in Iraq to this day and deny that there is strong opposition to the Nouri al-Maliki government on the part of some Iraqis. If you ignore that, of course, then you'll never, ever have to way in on how authoritarian his goverment has gotten. Which is what most of the US press does over and over. They avoid the issues, they avoid exploration because crowing "al Qaeda! al Qaeda!" means you can have 'fun' conversations where you pretend what if you were an FBI agent tracking a terrorist or 'terrorist' and how you'd conduct yourself. By all means, sit on the couch and explore your own personal fantasies -- but with Oprah off daytime, maybe you should take those sessions to a licensed therapist and instead use media time to discuss realities in Iraq?
Lara Jakes apparently needs therapy desperately. She opens her AP report with, "A spokesman for al-Qaida in Iraq" -- not linked, not branch, not franchise, not chain food establishment, it is, Lara Jakes tells us, "al-Qaida in Iraq." Strangely, in her very next paragraph she insists that Abu Muhammed al-Adnani, the spokesperson she's referring to, is the "spokesman for the al-Qaida-linked Islamic State of Iraq." Which is it? Is it al Qaeda or is al Qaeda linked? Can we at least whatever today's lie is straight? Is that too much to ask?
Reading Jakes' report is distressing on every level including on the news consumer level.
Patient exhibits the signs of dissociative identity disorder as evidenced by her appearing to speak in one voice and then quickly shifting to another voice. The first voice maintains a man is the spokesperson for al Qaeda in Iraq. The second voice, or personality, chimes in that he is a spokesperson for "the al-Qaieda-linked." Neither personality appears aware of what the other stated. At this stage in the treatment it's too soon to determine if either is the host personality. Possible etiological roots of the reporter's disease may stem from her long-term assignment to conflicts and war zones which may have created higher levels of stress than the host personality could handle, causing a disruption which manifested itself in at least one additional personality.
You're either "linked to" or you "are" them. You can't be both. So let's try to figure out what today's lie is before rushing copy off to the wires, okay?
Lara Jakes does, fortunately, tell us that the translated remarks she's parading came from Rita Katz's SITE Intelligence Group. Ugly Rita's done a great deal of damage over the years. Robert F. Worth gushes about Rita and what a big help she was to him when he was covering Iraq, "Rita really knows what she's talking about -- who's responsible for attacks, what's a legitimate terrorist organization and what's not." Does she? Because I'm not remembering any great arrests resulting from Rita's 'information.'
But in this community, we remember 'reporter' Robert F. Worth and his accomplice Carolyn Marshall. We remember them in relation to their coverage -- excuse me, their pre-coverage -- of an Article 32 hearing into the March 12, 2006 gang rape and murder of 14-year-old Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, the murder of her parents Qassim Hamza Raheem and Fakhriya Taha Muhasen and the murder of her five-year-old sister Hadeel Qassim Hamza. These crimes were War Crimes and the criminals were US soldiers. We may have last noted Robert and Carolyn's 'amazing' 'reporting' in the April 6, 2009 snapshot:
Friday, June 20, 2006, Steven D. Green was arrested in the US (Asheville, North Carolina) having already been discharged in May. He was charged with murder and with rape. Green appeared in a Kentucky federal court November 8, 2006 and entered a plea of not guilty. Green was out of the US military, Paul Cortez, Jesse Spielman, Bryan Howard and James P. Barker were still in. An Article 32 hearing was scheduled for August (2006) and, strangely, Robert F. Worth and Carolyn Marshall (New York Times), ahead of the Article 32 hearing, presented the defense's argument. That was strange not only because the defense hadn't presented their argument yet but also because the defense argument was a strange one. After the defense had made the argument,
Andy Mosher (Washington Post) would quote the go-to-military law expert for the press, Eugene Fidell stating, "This is not a defense known to the law. But this kind of evidence could come in during the court-martial, and it might be pertinent to the sentence. They could be setting the stage to avoid a death penalty." Wow. So will Robert F. Worth and Carolyn Marshall ever be asked to explain how they offered the defense -- excuse me, how they made the defense argument in an alleged article of reporting? They didn't quote the defense. They didn't have to. They didn't present this as an argument, they presented it as what happened.
Talk about great reporting, Robert and Carolyn knew the defense's strategy before the defense revealed it. Or, possibly, lazy writers like Robert need someone to present them with a framework to put their easy conclusions into. So it's Rita Katz or it's whispers (uncredited in the article) from the defense. Once upon a time, if you presented the defense's case (before they did) in an article, if you made their case or tried to in what supposed to be a report, your editor would ask you who your source was. And if your source was the defense, if you were turning over your space in the paper to allow the defense to fight their case and you weren't even noting that you'd gotten this from the defense, you'd be out of a job. Rita Katz is the 'answer' for reporters who don't like questions and don't like doing real work. Just run with what Rita tells you and try to ignore the long, long history of grudge f**king she's done to that region and that she'll never get over Daddy being executed for being an Israeli spy.
And that suspect motive (I say her entire motive for breathing), but that suspect motive, that used to be enough to get you considered questionable as a source. And that's before you go on 60 Minutes pretending to be someone other than who you are.
It says a great deal about the lack of standards on the part of AP, the Washington Post, the New York Times and others using Rita's 'reports' and 'information.' It also says a great deal about their Islamophobia. And let's be very clear that we have objected to this for years publicly and we're not the only ones. When history reviews this time period and recoils in disgust at the witch hunts which took place, when those news outlets try to pretend that it was 'normal' and complaints were never raised about Rita Katz and her demented "Terrorist! Everywhere!" (she's sort of like Eleanor Abernathy, the crazy cat lady on The Simpsons), let it be known that those outlets are liars and that they were urged repeatedly to stop using the work of a woman who was well and widely known for her prejudice against Muslims. They were urged to but they chose to continue to use it and they made sure that they participated in this modern day McCarthyism. They'll try to turn Rita Katz into the great villain when they're the people who give her the megaphone.
Standards don't matter when the press is feeling frisky and wants to play. Charles Duelfer recalls (at the Washington Post) how a press corps entertaining itself (my description, not his) ended up having real world consequences on Iraq. He concludes his piece with: "It is worth recalling this today as we discuss equally signficant decisions regarding Iran and, in many ways, are equally ignorant about Iranian leadership -- and vice versa." Also worried about how the press could influence a war on Iran, Reza Marashi and Trita Parsi (Huffington Post) stress the need for the media to explore:
According to the Congressional Research Service, total war-related funding for Iraq has exceeded $800 billion -- an average of approximately $100 billion per year. With these numbers in mind -- and at a time of over 8 percent unemployment and unprecedented government bailouts -- how will we pay for a war with Iran?
Looking back at America's recent wars, the American people trusted that their elected leaders accurately assessed the pros and cons of their policies. It didn't take long before protracted quagmires collapsed that trust. With the notable exception of neoconservatives, most Americans eventually realized the sad truth: their leaders didn't have a plan beyond bombing; they knew little if anything about the country in question; and they failed to conduct a realistic cost assessment -- in both blood and treasure -- of the endeavor. By the time Americans realized all of this, the damage had already been done.
Avoiding another war of choice will require a media that digs beyond agenda-driven analysis and prevents the debate from being curtailed. It will require a media that doesn't permit a question of life and death to be framed in a simplistic manner that leaves the U.S. with a false choice of either bombing Iran or accepting an Iranian bomb. It is the responsibility of reporters -- not congressmen, senators, neoconservatives or foreign governments -- to not only get answers to their questions, but also to define the questions properly.
On Iraq, the mainstream media did not ask the right questions until disaster was a reality. On Iran, those questions need to be asked now so that disaster can be avoided.
Friday, February 25, 2011, protesters turned out throughout Iraq and they would continue to protest each subsequent Friday. In Baghdad, they gathered in Tahrir Square. Many were beaten, many were killed (at least 16 were killed). A number of journalists covering the demonstrations were later rounded up and tortured. That included Hadi al-Mahdi who was assassinated September 8th in his Baghdad home.

Today, the first anniversary is being observed. Kitabat notes that the protesters were demanding change and reform and that, back then, Moqtada al-Sadr was describing Nouri as a dictator. (Notice Nouri never went after Moqtada the way he has Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq.) A protester states that there demands were not met and that they will continue protesting until they are. AFP reports that police officers and the military made their presence known in Baghdad's Tahrir Square today with weapons ("wooden clubs, pistols and assault rifles . . . police vehicles mounted with machine guns"). They quote chant leader Muayid al-Tayyeb stating that "when the government faced these demands with repression, our request became new elections." Anissa Haddadi (International Business Times) notes, "Youth and pro-reform movements took to the streets in Baghdad to call for greater political reform and new elections." Aswat al-Iraq notes the protesters plan to "continue their protests on Saturday (Feb. 25) in memory of the first demonstration against corruption" and that on February 27th of last year, "Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki gave his cabinet 100 days to improve the delivery of services to Iraq's people or face 'changes,' but no one was ultimately fired." Nor were the services improved. Al Mada reports today saw crowds and verbal exchanges and scuffles and that the protest was no different than the ones which came before. But one thing, the paper reports, did change and that was the number attending which was far greater than the number who took part last Friday. The protesters noted the expected national conference (to resovle the political crisis) and stated if the conference should fail, Iraq would have no choice but to call new elections. They also called for a public debate between one of their own and Nouri to address issues such as Nouri's authoritarian rule. Dar Addustour also reports on the call for a public debate.
In other news, Iraq's finally approved their 2012 federal budget. The Great Iraqi Revolution posted a photo of a school to underscore how the money doesn't make it to the people. Aseel Kami (Reuters) notes the budget is $100 billion US dollars. Aswat al-Iraq adds that $17 billion of that is for "defense." KUNA explains the 2012 budget is "22 percent higher" than last year's budget. Kitabat breaks money issues down in real world terms , yesterday the Parliament voted to spend approximately $50 million (US) on 350 armored vehicles for their own members while Iraq citizens have no such protection, while Iraqi citizens receive no protection. But don't worry, the ruling elite will continue to live high on the hog and safely. At McClatchy's Inside Iraq, an Iraqi correspondent weighs in on the planned purchase:
I am speechless. I have no real words can describe my feelings now. Those people who claimed they would work for Iraqis think about no one but themselves. While the bodies of the people who voted for them scattered to pieces, they think about nothing but gaining more and more before the coming parliamentary election.
I felt so ashamed when I read the news about approving this law especially when i read sentence (the Iraqi parliament) because those group of people who carry the Iraqi citizenship prove with no doubt they are Iraqis only because they carry official Iraqi documents not because they are real Iraqis who care about Iraq and Iraqis.
Al Mada notes that the Sadr bloc (Moqtada al-Sadr's representatives) did put forward a motion (which passed) that 25% of oil export revenues to spending on the Iraqi people (Al Rafidayn states it's 20%); however, though it passed, the measure would still need the approval of Nouri's Cabinet.
Veterans for Peace has issued a press release on Bradley Manning, they are calling for all charges to be dropped:
In May 2010, the Army arrested PFC Manning, then 22, in Iraq, where he was working as a low level intelligence analyst. He is accused of leaking classified information, including an Army video that shows US soldiers in Baghdad shooting down unarmed civilians, including two Reuters employees, from an Apache helicopter. The video, dubbed "Collateral Murder," has been viewed millions of times on YouTube.
Prosecutors have also accused Manning of giving Wikileaks thousands of Army diaries from its occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army's own reports reveal that the killing of civilians was a regular occurence and that the Army regularly lied about it. The diaries also show that the Armyw as lying to the American people about the progress of the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
"It is not a crime to reveal evidence of war crimes, but it is a crime to cover up evidence of war crimes, as the Army has apparently done," said Leah Bolger, a former Navy Commander who was recently elected the first woman president of Veterans For Peace. "The American people deserve to know the truth about the wars being waged in our name," continued Bolger. "Our soldiers should not be asked to die for a lie, and those who tell us the truth should not be the ones being punished."
Bradley Manning has been confined for 21 months, including 8 months in solitary confinement at the Marine brig at Quantico, Virginia, where reports of his abuse bordering on torture caused an international outcry. Manning is now at another military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and the Quantico brig has been closed down. The US government has declined repeated requests by United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, to interview PFC Manning privately about his treatment.
Private Manning's lawyer, David Coombs, has complained on his blog that most of his requested defense witnesses were denied by the Army judge, while all of the prosecution witnesses were allowed.
"This is a kangaroo court martial," said Gerry Condon of Veterans For Peace. "It is now obvious that the US Army will not give PFC Manning a fair trial. That is why Veterans For Peace is calling on Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno, Defense Secretary Leon Panneta, and Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama to drop all the charges against Bradley Manning."
At its national convention in 2010, Veterans For Peace awarded Bradley Manning for his courage. "If he actually did what he is accused of doing, then he is a hero," said Mike Ferner, Interim Director of Veterans For Peace.
US political prisoner and attorney, grandmother and breast cancer survivor Lynne Stewart remains behind bars for the 'crime' of issuing a press release. Her sentecing is the subject of a hearing on February 29th. Before that:
Come and Support Lynne's appeal!
VIGIL -- February 28, 2012 sundown until @ Tom Paine Park, NYC
February 29, 2012 -- Lynne's Appeal @ 500 Pearl Street, NYC 9am
Lynne says:
"A Large Outpouring of Support in Folely Square and Tom Paine Park and in the Courtroom will signal to these abriters of 'Justice' that attention must be paid, the 99% are watching them with suspicion and tallying up the roads not taken."
Lynne's a very strong woman. I don't think many people could survive what she has -- the attacks from the Bush administration (the witchhunt against her, the desire to punish her for 'crimes' the Clinton Justice Department had already ruled weren't crimes -- the press release) and then the Barack administration which increased her sentence. But she can because she's strong. The thing is, with all she's given to so many people over the years, she really shouldn't have to be strong. After her dedication to helping the poor and the ones who would have no attorney and no legal voice, she really should be able to be home rallying NYC to support OWS and other things. Ralph Poynter, her husband, is no weakling either. But it is very hard on him to see his life partner and best friend locked away on these ridiculous 'crimes'. Stephen Lendman (URUKNET) writes about what's at stake and, most importantly, he writes about the meaning of an attorney like Lynne and why they would be targeted to begin with. Excerpt:
For 30 years, Stewart worked tirelessly defending America's poor, underprivileged, and unwanted. They're never afforded due process and judicial fairness without an advocate like her.

Where others wouldn't go, she did courageously, defending controversial figures like Weather Underground's David Gilbert, United Freedom Front's Richard Williams, Black Liberation Army members Sekou Odinga and Nasser Ahmed, and many more like them. She knew the risks, but took them fearlessly and courageously until wrongfully indicted for doing her job.

Her case sent a chilling message to other lawyers that it's dangerous defending unpopular clients ruthless prosecutors want to convict.

Throughout her career, she scrupulously observed the American Bar Association's Model Rules. They obligate lawyers to:

"devote professional time and resources and use civic influence to ensure equal access to our system of justice for all those who because of economic or social barriers cannot afford or secure adequate legal counsel."

She did that and much more. She's a model attorney and human being. Now she's wrongfully imprisoned for 10 years. On February 29, her skilled legal team will argue persuasively for justice. For Lynne, it's long overdue.

Her original sentence was unjust. Increasing it fourfold constituted cruel and unusual punishment. The Eighth Amendment prohibits it.

A single prison day ignores her lifetime commitment to community, the rule of law, society's poor, underprivileged and unwanted, and the profession she chose to represent them honorably and courageously.

Many worldwide support Lynne. This writer's proud to call her a friend. On February 29, join others in Manhattan's federal court on her behalf.

Lynne says her case is "bigger than just (her) personally." She'll always struggle for justice and urges others to as well in her signature comment, saying:

"Organize - Agitate, Agitate, Agitate."

"Love Struggle"

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Phyllis Scherrer

Phyllis Scherrer is on the Socialist Equality Party ticket as the vice presidential candidate.  WSWS has an essay by her entitled "Defend public education!" that I want to share something from:

Both of the parties that serve corporate America, the Democrats and the Republicans, are responsible for the deterioration of conditions in the schools. In Pennsylvania, where I have taught for the past 15 years, I have seen education systematically undermined under both Democratic and Republican governors and Democratic and Republican presidents.
The Bush administration devised its “No Child Left Behind” program to promote over-testing of children and punitive closing of schools as a bipartisan measure with the leading liberal Democrat, Senator Edward Kennedy. This has been succeeded by Obama’s “Race to the Top” program, which uses financial grants to a handful of states to promote school privatization and mass firings of teachers as in Central Falls, Rhode Island.
The assault on public education is an outcome of the growth of social inequality in America, which, in turn, is the product of the historical decay of American and world capitalism. The immense and growing chasm between the top 1 percent of society and the broad mass of the population is incompatible with democratic principles and the social reforms of the past, including the establishment of public education.
The expansion of public education in the 19th and 20th centuries was driven by a profound belief that in a democracy, every citizen should be literate and have access to culture, and that every child—whether their parents were former slaves, day laborers or immigrants who spoke no English—was educable. Moreover, it was well understood that cold, hungry and needy children could not learn as well as their peers. For this reason, educators fought for social reforms to provide a minimal safety net to children and families in poverty.

Public education was one of the best moves this country made.  They made it in part to socialize every into the system, to preach conformity.  But that also required teaching the basics such as reading.  Once you can read, you have the choice to read just what they want you too or to pursue your own readings.  Once you can read, they really can't hold you back from knowledge unless they practice censorship.

The attacks on public education are frightening. It's as though they want to attack the covered wagon next.  Or the pioneers.  Public education allowed the country to move forward and gave people a shot at (limited) mobility. (Limited due to our economic structure in this country.)

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, February 22, 2012.  Chaso and violence continue, the Committee to Protect Journalists releases a new report which ranks Iraq the third worst country in the world for journalists, the oil in the ground in Iraq needs to be extracted if Nouri's going to amass money, the US federal government sues Cindy Sheehan and more.
Arab News Blog provides this context for the 'progress' claims on Iraq, "One in six Iraqis live in poverty. This is in a nation with the second highest oil reserves in the world and a budget surplus of more than fifty billion US dollars in 2011. According to Transparency International, Iraq has one of the most corrupt governments in the world. Some of the wealth stays inside the country and is spread among the beneficiaries and clients of the new political elite. Much of it, however, is transferred outside and translated into real estate or other assets, or is often hard to trace. Not a year has passed without plunder in Iraq."
And of course, 2012 is the current year and yet, as Aswat al-Iraq notes, the government of Iraq is still at work on coming up with a 2012 budget. The 'good' news in 'free' Iraq never ends, Al Mada reports the judiciary and the Ministry of the Interior have charges against and plans to arrest several members of Parliament. Nothing says stability like being a dangerous place for reporting failure to come up with a budget for a year already underway and arresting elected officials, right?
February 12th,  Ben Lando and Ali Abu Iraq (Iraq Oil Report) noted that Nouri tried to stage a photo-op  at the floating port with assistants handing out flowers and flags right before the cameras started clicking. Let's hope it made for some pretty pictures.  Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) reports that the opening of the port has yet again been delayed with "bad weather" being given as the reason with one unidentified source stating, "Rough weather made it impossible for the crew to complete work at the floating terminal.  We had to halt work in the past days."
In other bad oil news for Nouri, Hassan Hafidh (Dow Jones) notes the country's crude oil exports for the month of January decreased by 1.8%.
Meanwhile in the KRG, April Yee (The National Newspaper) reports, "Kurdistan's welcoming of foreign partners has raised tensions between the semi-autonomous region's seat of power in Erbil and Baghdad. This month, the Iraqi oil ministry warned Total against signing any agreements with Kurdistan and barred ExxonMobil from a forthcoming auction of exploration licenses." A lot of Iraqi politicians made a lot of noise last week but the Ministry of Oil was forced to clamp down on those threats.  Monday, the Kurdish Globe translates a statement Mutasam Akram, Deputy Minister of Oil, issued which includes:

According to the Iraqi constitution, the oil and all the natural resources that exist in Iraq are national wealth that belongs to all Iraqi people, living in all of the regions and provinces of Iraq. This wealth should be used to increase the well-being and prosperity of all the people of Iraq. Therefore, such agreements should be a joint effort between everyone in Iraq and no individual group should single-handedly decide on how these resources are used.

In our view, these statements, especially those that threaten renowned international investment companies working in the Kurdistan Region, could lead to companies being reluctant to work in all of Iraq, and they will portray a negative image to investors across all sectors. This contradicts the general policies of economic openness, the promotion of trade and attracting foreign direct investment in order to provide better services to the people of Iraq, who have suffered for decades from closed centralized economic policies that have led to widespread poverty, destitution and deprivation.

In addition, such statements lead to increased disputes between the political parties and to the accumulation of new problems at a time when we need to think and work together in order to solve the problems that already exist--especially as we are building up a new democracy, which is what all the political and national components of Iraq want.

Yes, all those threats didn't play well to international corporations thinking about doing business in Iraq. In addition, Hevidear Ahmed (Rudaw) interviewed Matasam Akram on this topic:
Rudaw: Signing some contracts between the Kurdistan Region and ExxonMobil, an oil giant, has angered Baghdad and the capital has asked the company to cancel its deals. Where does this issue stand at the moment?
Mutasam Akram: Inside Iraq's Ministry of Oil, no actual step has been taken against ExxonMobil and what we see is only in the media. ExxonMobil is the biggest oil company in the world and, if they wanted to work in some part of the world, they would think it over a hundred times before making a decision. When they sign a contract, they know well what the results will be. If ExxonMobil had known it would lose by signing a contract with the Kurdistan Region, it would not have done it. The same goes for the French Total that is also one of the biggest oil companies now in Kurdistan. Both companies enjoy heavy economic and political weight in the world and they wouldn't have come to Kurdistan had they known they would lose
Back in the days of the non-stop threats, ExxonMobil and Total both faced threats of not being able to bid in the upcoming auction.  Not much of a threat since most of the oil industry saw the offerings and the proposed contracts as "a dingo dog with fleas." Shwan Zulal (Niqash) pointed out earlier this month:
The fact that attracting international oil companies into Iraq will be an ongoing challenge is illustrated by the delay in the fourth round of bidding for oil contracts. The bidding was to take place in January but has been postponed until the end of May. The contract on offer is a sort of new, hybrid version of contract. Some have noted that the contract is something of a production sharing contract in disguise -- and the contract is disguised because of the general Iraqi public's belief that a production sharing contract is selling out their oil to foreign owners.
However for the oil companies themselves, if they are risking their money and going looking for oil, they find it difficult to quantify risks. Even if they did find oil, there's no guarantee that Iraq's infrastructure would be ready to help them begin pumping the oil out -- especially given Baghdad's poor past record for completing projects and building capacity. 
In conclusion then, Iraq has had grand plans for its own oil industry as well as ambitions for the power and influence that its oil could give it upon the world stage. However procrastination and misguided thinking about the oil industry's most chronic problems seem to have made these ambitions impossible.
Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) notes the oft postponed "auction is now scheduled for May 30-31" and quotes the head of Petrocluem Contracts and Licensing Directorate Sabah Abdul-Kadhim stating, "We have made major amendments to the initial contract, and all of them are positive and serve interests of foreign firms."  They had to do something because there's been little industry interest and while Iraq may be one of the top oil reserves in the world, with the violence and the ongoing political crisis, a failed auction in May could do a great deal to damage the country's international business standing across the board.   Daniel J. Graeber (Oil Price) notes that "Iraq gets in its own way" on the issue of oil and reminds:
The political circus in Iraq, however, suggests not much gets done in a country where oil can buy a lot of things, but does little to keep the lights on for most Iraqis.
Iraq, after a stormy 2010 parliamentary election, smashed the world record for the longest period between elections and the forming of a new government. Not exactly an accomplishment for a country that had democracy handed to them by the so-called standard bearer of participatory government. Baghdad politics have since been held together by the tiniest of threads, with various political factions storming out of the halls of government at various times for various reasons. Though the fight hasn't yet taken to the streets, the country's Shiite prime minister ordered his Sunni vice president arrested on terrorism charges.

Al Rafidayn notes the Supreme Judicial Council has decreed that they will begin their trial of Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi in absentia on May 3rd. Nouri al-Maliki has accused al-Hashemi of terrorism and issued an arrest warrant for him. al-Hashemi is in the KRG and has maintained since December that he cannot receive a fair trial in Baghdad -- an assertion that was demonstrated to be true when a 9 member panel of judges held a press conference last Thursday and declared al-Hashemi guilty of terrorism before a trial had taken place and in violation of Article 19 of the Iraqi Constitution.

Al Mada reports on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees announcement yesterday that most of Iraq's internal refugees do not feel that they can safely return to their homes. Aswat al-Iraq states UNHCR's Claire Bourgeois will give a press briefing on this topic Sunday. During 2006 and 2007, ethnic cleansing took place in Iraq.  Whole neighborhoods were overturned.  What was mixed became Shi'ite or Sunni, what was Sunni became Shi'ite, etc.  Many had to flee their family homes to stay alive.  Often they received a death threat prior to uprooting themselves. Iraq birthed the largest refugee crisis in the region since 1948.  Over 4 million Iraqis became refugees -- either internal or external.  Internal refugees moved to other neighborhoods.  Some internal refugees moved close to their old ones.  Some, like Christians who fled Iraq for northern Iraq, moved futher from their homes.  Regardless, the ration cards were issued in certain neighborhoods and moving -- even a short distance away -- tended to result in Iraqis not being able to receive their rations (staples like sugar, flour and milk).  External refugees largely fled to the surrounding countries.  Some were able to go on to other host countries after but Jordan, Syria and Lebanon housed a large number of the refugees and Jordan and Lebanon continue to (Syria most likely does but the current conflict has dispersed some Iraqis along with some Syrians). Though Christians made up a small percentage of the Iraqi total population, they make up a significant amount of external refugees.
Binsal Abdul Kader (Gulf News) reports on an Iraqi mechanical engineer, Ayad Zaki, who fled Iraq in 2006 for his own safety:
Zaki is also a victim of the situation in post-war Iraq. His family confirmed what Zaki had told Gulf News -- that it was not safe for him to go to Baghdad.
"Even I have not gone back home during the past six years, being afraid of abduction and other crimes," Zaki's son who is studying in a south east Asian nation, told Gulf News over the phone yesterday.
Zaki's wife said the same from Baghdad but said she was ready to come to the UAE to take care of Zaki if there is any way they get any support. A prominent company which came forward to help Zaki following the Gulf News report said it would look into the possibility of offering him a job.
From leaving Iraq to visiting, Al Sabaah reports the Pope is planning a visit to the city of Ur shortly.
Turning to the topic of violence, Reuters notes a Baquba bombing targeting a police officer's home which injured his wife and their child, a Mosul roadside bombing injured one person and 1 person was shot dead in Mosul. Al Rafidayn notes a death yesterday Reuters never did, Skvan Jamil Mohammed, a college professor who was shot dead outside his Dohuk home.  He was shot ten times by assailants in a car and he died en route to the hospital. The paper notes he was also active in the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KRG President Massoud Barzani's party). Aswat al-Iraq reports a police officer's Falluja home was bombed today and his wife and their three children were left wounded.
The Committee to Protect Journalists issued a new report entitled "Attacks on the Press in 2011." The report notes that, since 1991, 151 journalists have been killed in Iraq and five are known to have been killed last year:

Hadi al-Mahdi, freelance

September 8, 2011, in Baghdad, Iraq

Alwan al-Ghorabi, Afaq

June 21, 2011, in Diwaniyya, Iraq

Sabah al-Bazi, Al-Arabiya

March 29, 2011, in Tikrit, Iraq

Muammar Khadir Abdelwahad, Al-Ayn

March 29, 2011, in Tikrit, Iraq

Mohamed al-Hamdani, Al-Itijah

February 24, 2011, in Ramadi, Iraq

The report ranks the top three most dangerous places for journalists in 2011 as:

1) Pakistan
2) Libya
3) Iraq
In what might be a bit of good news for Iraqi journalists, Mariwan F. Salihi (Gulf News) reports that construction is ongoing on the first phase of the Erbil Media City which will include "two high-rises, studios and other services needed for broadcasting" while the later three phases will see businesses (hotels, retail outlets, etc) come on board and when "the TV production and studio buildings open by the end of 2014, a large TV network will be established which will have separate news and entertainment channels broadcasting from Arbil Media City."
Moving over to the topic of education, Aamer Madhani (USA Today) reports that Iraqis officials are speaking with US counterparts in DC to discuss programs for Iraqi students studying in the US.  The US State Dept released the following statement today from the US-Iraq Joint Coordinating Committee for Cultural and Educational Cooperation:
The United States of America and the Republic of Iraq are committed to expanding and strengthening education and cultural cooperation. Pursuant to the 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA) between the United States and Iraq, the Joint Coordinating Committee for Cultural and Educational Cooperation met Monday, February 21, 2012 for the second time. The Committee last met in March 2011 in Baghdad. Since then, we have continued to expand our joint efforts in the areas of higher education, primary and secondary education, cultural heritage, and youth and sports initiatives.
This latest meeting of the JCC for Cultural and Educational Cooperation, hosted at the U.S. Department of State, was co-chaired by Iraqi Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Ali al-Adeeb and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Ann Stock. The meeting of the JCC builds on efforts to strengthen the strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq through academic and cultural exchanges and shared efforts to preserve the unique archeological heritage of Iraq.
Citing significant opportunities to send Iraqi students for advanced studies in the United States, the two sides stressed the importance of increased academic linkages and exchanges between the United States and Iraq as a key element in building a strong, productive bilateral relationship. They also reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening ties between the Iraqi and American people through professional, educational and cultural exchanges and dialogue.
The delegations noted with satisfaction that the people-to-people ties between the U.S. and Iraq continue to grow stronger. Fulbright fellowships, the International Visitor Leadership Program, the Iraqi Young Leaders' Exchange Program and other initiatives bring hundreds of Iraqi scholars, students, youth and professionals to the U.S. each year. Seven university linkages have been finalized and are actively promoting academic collaboration. Opportunities to learn English in Iraq are increasing, with the establishment of an Iraqi chapter of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) in November 2011. Vital work to preserve the ancient site of Babylon continues through a major U.S. grant to the World Monuments Fund as well as support to education programs at the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage, and bring a group of Iraqi graduate students to Washington, DC in the summer of 2012.
The U.S. side agreed to augment its student advising activities, including through EducationUSA college fairs modeled on the one held in Erbil in October 2011. These fairs support the Iraqi Government's goal of having at least 25 percent of the Iraqis studying abroad enroll in U.S. colleges and universities.
The delegations stressed the importance of ongoing consultation and information exchange at all levels, and pledged to reconvene the JCC again this year to assess progress on its shared priorities.
While some Iraqi students come to the US to learn, Abigail R. Esman (Forbes) observes that there is much Americans can learn from Iraqi artists:
My own first encounter with Iraqi art was five years ago, at the opening of an experimental exhibition in The Hague. I was, from the moment I arrived until the museum lights went dark, mesmerized, at once shaken and enchanted by the poignancy, the tenderness, the anger, the poetry, the melancholic dreams of these Iraqi visions: burned pages out of books from a bombed-out library in Baghdad; videos of children repeating words of hatred and of war; the remains of a car that had been blown up.
All of these reactions swept over me, too, the first time I saw the works of Ayad Alkadhi, an Iraqi artist now living in New York, whose first solo show runs through this week at Leila Heller Gallery's downtown (Chelsea) location. 
I have known Ayad a while, and written of him before.  His eloquence stretches beyond his canvases and his words into the very process of his toughts and understanding of the world in which he has made his place -- an Iraqi having escaped a war, a man who has spent his adult life in a culture far from the one to which he was born and raised: first in New Zealand and now in the USA.  And from that process, too, he forms his paintings.
From the artistic response to war and destruction to the financial destruction the war has imposed upon the US, Bob Geary (Indy Week) reports:
War. Wars. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The drumbeat for war in Iran.
"There is a tsunami coming to the United States," says Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., consisting of the trillions of dollars of debt and veterans' health care obligations for wars we cannot win and a military machine we cannot afford.
So Jones, no liberal and a lonely voice in the Republican Party (with his favored presidential candidate, Ron Paul), asks one simple question of Americans: "Where is the outrage?"
P. Solomon Banda (AP) reports US Senator Mark Udall declared ahead of a national security forum in Denver today that one of the biggest national security threats the US faces is the national debt -- to which the Iraq War has contributed so much. Brian Anderson (Digital Journal) adds, "Unless I'm living in some kind of community that is freakishly ignorant of these wars -- as an undergraduate surrounded by drunken fools, it is a real possibility -- there exists an eerie apathy that falls beautifully in line with Obama's coveted 'doctrine of silence.' I hope to remind all of these numerous wars we're in, lest we forget they're on our dollar, but, for now, we'll concentrate on Iraq and Afghanistan."  Anderson observes of Iraq:
Two years later we saw no change from the neoconservatives' blueprint. Misleading notifications on the morning of August 19th, 2010 shouted that Operation Iraqi Freedom had ended and that combat soldiers were finally leaving Baghdad. Many people assumed we were finally leaving Iraq. The truth was that the Obama administration was still keeping around 50,000 troops in the country, and, as usual, it didn't even count government contractors. The Congressional Research Service estimated to have almost 10,000 troops less than that number anyway, so was difficult to imagine Obama keeping his newer promise through a 90% reduction by the end of 2011. But he managed to pull off appealing headlines in time for the up-coming election.
"The Iraq War is Officially Over," announced the newspapers two months ago. Obviously not the first time it 'ended,' individuals were correct to be skeptical. The removal of troops from Iraq had nothing to do with the current president fulfilling a promise to end the occupation; it was a result of a deal cut by the Bush administration. So, in a way, no progress had been made at all since that deal three years ago. In fact, just the opposite had been occurring. Glenn Greenwald explains that the Obama administration had long lobbied to keep several thousand troops in the country, but the Iraqi government rejected demands to provide American soldiers with legal immunity and therefore a continued US presence became a non-option. A non-official presence is another story.
Spencer Ackerman, senior reporter for Wired, stated in a recent interview that, in addition to 150-person training office for Iraqi soldiers who will be operating American-made weapon systems, the State Department "is going to leave behind the largest embassy that it has on the planet. All told, there are going to be 18,000 people who work for this embassy." There will be 3,500 to 5,500 armed private security contractors, too; I assume they'll be busy escorting useless diplomats around the country, but violence between Iraqis and Americans will be an inevitable consequence of an occupation gone awry to hell and back. And, more likely than not, the US military's acquisition of biometric data on three million Iraqis will be utilized throughout the next inevitable consequence: Iran swooping into a new anti-American Iraq in order to affect political influence.
Cindy Sheehan is someone who doesn't have the luxury of ignoring the costs of war, her son Casey died serving in Iraq. Meghan Keneally (Daily Mail) notes that since her son died in 2004, she has practiced tax resistance "and now the Internal Revenue Service is suing her for the fnancial records, which is the first step to claiming back taxes" and quotes Cindy stating to Sacremento's Channel 10 News, "I feel like I gave my son to this country in an illegal and immoral war and I'll never get him back. If they can give me my son back then I'll pay my taxes and that's not going to happen."  At her website, Cindy notes she hasn't made her tax resistance a secret but was surprised to learn from Channel 10 News -- and not the US government -- that the IRS has filed against her in federal court:
I consider that my debt to this country was paid in full when my son, Casey, was recklessly with no regard for his safety (remember the rush to war with the "Army you have" which was not properly trained or equipped?) murdered for the lies of a regime whose members (Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Yoo, Wolfowitz, Perle, etc.) roam around the world free and unfettered by threatening prosecutions or persecutions after committing war crimes, crimes against humanity, crimes against the peace, and high crimes and misdemeanors against our own Constitution.
After the interview with Cornell was over, he said to me, "you appear so calm, most people would be freaking out if the US Attorney filed a lawsuit against them." I replied, "Cornell, what are they going to do to me? Kill another one of my children (god forbid)? I had the worst thing happen to me that could happen to any mother and I am still standing."
Of the lawsuit, she notes, "I would say, 'Bring it on,' but I am not about to quote the barely functioning killer [Bush] that murdered my son and so many more and who is also being protected by the very same agency that is persecuting me -- Obama's DOJ."
Blogger/Blogspot was acting up this morning.  I said in an entry that I'd note Wally and Cedric's joint-posts if they went up.  They did and they are:


From this morning, here's Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Scaling Back The Years"

scaling back the years

I also strongly recommend Kat's "Kat's Korner: Absorb the Graffiti."

So on Tuesdays, expect me to write about NBC's Smash.  I really am enjoying that show.  If you've read this site for any length of time, you know I'm not a big TV watcher and that's partly due to lacking the time and more importantly making a regular time.  Yes, you can DVR but that just gets filled up if you're not taking the time to watch.

So I will watch Smash this season, every episode.  That's my commitment to you.  Aren't you glad I can make at least one?

Ivy.  She's the character who got picked to play Marilyn Monroe in the Marilyn musical that Debra Messing and her partner are writing.  Ivy is so wrong for the part.  There was a lyric she sang that sounded kind of like Marilyn, I'll grant you; however there was no way of telling what she was saying at that moment.  That sort of sums up her Marilyn.  When she's convincingly imitating Marilyn that's all she's capable of doing.

They were casting the role of Joe Dimaggio.  And went with this guy who was currently performing Bruno Mars -- wowing NYC with Bruno Mars.  No I didn't find that believable either and that's before you got to the 'costumes.'  The less said the better.  But Michael?

Is the thinking that he can sing so he's a perfect Joe?

I'm not impressed with his singing. It's got that sort of southern twang to it (his speaking voice does as well). Joltin Joe?  How are they going to pull that off?  He's also Italian. I assume they could dye his light brown or blond hair but he looks nothing like Joe and doesn't call to mind Joe.

I also wouldn't pay money -- and I do go to the New York theatre -- to see him. Joe would be the deciding factor for me in a Marilyn musical. An unknown for Marilyn wouldn't bother me. An unknown for Joe wouldn't if he conjured up Joe. No play bill's going to make Michael into Joe.

I know they won't be so loose with Arthur Miller and my question therefore is whether the thinking is "Musical fans won't really know anything about Joe"?  I think Marilyn fans will.

On top of everything else Michael slept with Julia (Debra Messing) five years ago.  She tells her song-writing partner  Tom and his assistant (who hates her) is listening in and filing it way to use against her later on.

Anjelica Huston is wasted right now.  That's because, surely,  her big moment comes when they're ready to move to Broadway and she's struggling to raise the money for that.  So she gets little scenes right now to set that up and she handles them beautifully. I just wish Eileen (her character) was able to do more. I could also do with a lot less Jack Davenport as the director of the musical and Ivy's bed partner.

Ivy feared he didn't take her to his place (they always screw at her apartment) because he didn't see her as a partner, just a booty call.  He tells her this story that melts her heart but that sounded completely made up.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Tuesday, February 21, 2011.  Chaos and violence continue, veterans issues in the US include a call to suicide prevention which then resulted in criminal charges against the veteran, Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi delivered a speech yesterday on the charges against him, ane more.
Last night, Hal Bernton (Seattle Times) reported on the US Army Medical Command launching an investigation in Washington state's Madigan Healthcare System, specifically investigating "complaints by soldiers that their PTSD diagnoses were improperly reversed and into comments a Madigan psychiatrist made about how costly PTSD diagnoses were for taxpayers."  As part of the investigation, Col Dallas Homas was "administratively removed from command" -- that's as part of the investigation and standard procedure which does not mean that he's guilty of anything or suspected of being guility of anything.  ABC News (link is video) reports, "Tomorrow 14 soldiers from Joint Base Lewis McCord will receive the results of their PTSD re-evauations" as a result of the complaints.
PTSD is one of the many important issues the veterans community is facing today.  Another one is suicide.  If you call the VA's suicide hotline, you have a right to believe your call is confidential.  Christian Daventport (Washington Post) reported yesterday on Gulf War veteran Sean Duvall's troubles caused by seeking help.  He called the hotline and now he's facing criminal charges and, if convicted of them, could spend as many as 40 years in jail.  Sean Duvall called because he wanted to take his own life.  The homeless man had a gun he'd made himself.  He called for help and got that to a degree immediately (or that's how the story is being told).  What happened after that is that he found himself charged for the homemade gun.  That's what he could face up to 40 years in prison for. 
So you save someone's life to throw them in prison?  The case can be dismissed and should be dismissed.  If it's being done to 'protect' anyone then the answer is clearly to provide Sean Duvall with therapy because he's the one who needs protection.  He was contemplating self-harm, he wasn't stating he would harm others.  To put him beind bars for this is ridiculous and will also, as many are noting, make veterans less likely to use the hotline.  Let's pretend I'm a veteran (I'm not).  I'm depressed and I'm considering killing myself and I decide a gun's the way I want to go but I don't have one and I don't want for any waiting period.  So I buy a gun from something other than 'direct channels.'  I then decide maybe I don't want to take my life and call the VA hotline.  I get help and I feel like maybe life is worth living, maybe things weren't as bad as I thought and then, knock-knock-knock, it's the police arresting me for the way I purchased the gun.
Or I decide I want to do it with pills and swipe some from a friend of a hospital tray from a nurse's cart.  Then I call the VA hotline because I think I might want to live.  I decide not to take my life but then learn that I'm being prosecuted for having those prescription drugs that weren't my prescription. 
This is nonsense that is neither therapeutic nor helpful.  In the article, a family connection is noted.  I'm not interested in that.  If they were calling it a conflict of interest, I might be.  But a son-in-law (or daughter-in-law) rarely can be called off (prosecution in this case) by a relative. I think the attempt to prosecute is a huge mistake.  I think bringing in the family connection to Eric Shinseki, Secretary of the VA, is besides the point. (Unless the point is to humiliate Shinseki.)  It is wrong to presume that Shinseki can 'call it off' because people don't know the relationship between the two for starters. It's legally wrong to try to get Shinseki to call it off because someone took an oath not to Eric Shinseki but to uphold the laws.  I would hope that the decision to prosecute or not would be resolved (and quickly) by the AG grasping that prosecution did not serve either justice or the interests of the state. If the person can't grasp that, I would hope that a judge would and that he or she would toss the case out when the defense noted the events that led up to the arrest.  But while we might hope that everyone related to Eric Shinseki by blood, adoption or marriage thought as he did, that's never going to be the case and to ask someone to disregard what they feel their responsibility is because of the family they married into is a lousy argument and one that most people -- if it were argued to them -- would reject. 
Focusing on Shinseki -- who has no role in this at present -- also distracts from the main issue that if the suicide hotline is going to be effective, it's going to require that veterans have trust in it. 
Another issue facing the veterans community is unemployment.  Sunday, Steve Vogel (Washington Post) reported, "It is against federal law for employers to penalize service members because of their military service. And yet, in some cases, the U.S. government has withdrawn job offers to service members unable to get released from active duty fast enough; in others, service members have been fired after absences."  Those Vogel spoke with included people who felt that since the federal government, if caught and prosecuted, doesn't have to pay fines -- the way a civilian company would -- a number of federal employers feel they can risk it. 
February 2nd, the House Veterans Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity held a hearing.  The witnesses (government workers) as well as those on the Committee gave no indication that they knew it was against the law to fire someone because they were called up to active duty.  As I noted then, I stepped out the second time this came up in the hearing to call a friend with the Justice Dept and make sure the law hadn't changed.  (Again, I never assume I'm the smartest in the room, I start with the premise that I'm the least informed.  And if House Reps are saying, 'Golly, we should pass a law to stop this,' I'm going to assume that the existing law must have been overturned because surely these law makers know more than I ever could.  So I called and asked and, no, the law hadn't been overturned and it was still on the books.)  Another reason that this is happening may be because there is so little education on this law.  Maybe it's time for the Pentagon and VA to do one of those PSA they love and bombard it over the airwaves.  It's one of the few times that a PSA getting information out there might actually work -- especially if combined with serious law enforcement and with federal supervisors ensuring that those under them who broke this law didn't get promoted, didn't get a pay raise and maybe even lost their job over it.  If ignorance of the law is no excuse when you're before the court, why are we retaining federal workers who are breaking the law?  Whether they know the law or not, if they break this law, they should be fired.
Monday afternoon in Lacey, Washington, Senator Patty Murray held a listening session with veterans.  Senator Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Matt Batcheldor (The Olympian) reports on that session and quotes Murray explaining afterwards about asking the veterans if they were putting their military experience on the job applications:
The reason I asked the question about whether or not they put veteran on their employment when they apply for a job is because I'm hearing so many veterans quietly tell me that they never do.  We need to call this out; people need to know this is happening, and it needs to be fixed. That's just wrong.
A number of veterans, Guard and Reserve and active-duty service members are following the US presidential primaries.  Of those choosing to donate, they've repeatedly donated the most to US House Rep Ron Paul.  Veterans for Ron Paul staged an event yesterday. Julie Ershadi (Reason) reports:
On February 20, libertarian activist and Iraq War veteran Adam Kokesh, and Nathan Cox, co-founder with Kokesh of Veterans for Ron Paul, hosted a rally and march for veterans and active duty service members who support the Texas Congressman for the 2012 Republican nomination. The "Ron Paul Is the Choice of the Troops" rally began at noon in the Sylvan Theater by the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C.. Troops marched on the White House in a 48 x 8 formation, totaling 384, and they were joined by roughly a hundred supporters and observers.
Many people at the event were new to politics, yet they had traveled from out of state to participate in the rally. I spent some time with John, a teacher from Long Island, who told me that he came to support Ron Paul because of the financial meltdown of 2008. "I worked for Morgan Stanley in 2007. That's how I saw it coming. All that reckless betting." He said that in the aftermath of September 11, he supported the Iraq War. "I was eighteen. My dad is a fireman. But I got duped in the Iraq War. Most of us did. The same thing is happening now with Iran." He cited the rational self interest of Iranian authorities as reason to discount them as a threat to the United States, a much more powerful entity capable of causing disproportionate damage in response to any provocation. "That's what I try to teach my students. I say, they're crazy, but they're not stupid. You don't get to be a dictator by being stupid." John said he won't vote for any candidate who supports war at this point. "Look, I don't want to fight, so why am I going to vote for someone who's going to make someone else go and fight?"
Samantha Wagner (Hearst Newspapers) explains, "A crowd of more than a thousand people met alongside the Washington Monument Monday afternoon and marched to the White House in a demonstration of support for Ron Paul. With an "about face," veterans and active duty service members turned their backs to the White House and sent a message to the President: Ron Paul is the choice of the troops."  Matthew Larotonda (ABC News) adds, "The demonstration was a mostly silent affair, with the veterans standing calmly at attention in rows. An organizer bellowed that each second of quiet was for every military suicide since President Obama took office. A second moment of silence was for each soldier to die abroad under the current commander in chief."  Andrew Moran (Examiner) notes:
Paul, who has received a lot of criticism from the Republican base for his stances, is a non-interventionist that opposes pre-emptive war, wants to bring troops home from Germany, South Korea, Japan, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere and supports defense spending over military spending.
Instead, the bestselling author wants to apply the "golden rule" to foreign policy, which was actually disapproved as some Republican voters booed the Texas Congressman during a debate held in South Carolina last month. However, the voters did cheer when former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said to "kill them," referencing enemies of the U.S. government.
February 9th, Human Rights Watch noted that Iraq had executed at least 65 people.
AFP notes at least 4 more people were executed this week bringing the grand total to 69.  Al Rafidayn reports that Iraq's presidency council signed off on 33 more executions Sunday. If all are conducted in the next weeks, Iraq will have executed close to 100 people before 2012's half-year mark and AFP notes the 4 this week mean that Iraq has already executed more people in 2012 than it did in 2011. Observing the high rate of executions back in January, former UK Ambassador Craig Murray noted that the judicial killings were only the tip of the ice berg:
Extra-judicial killings by state sponsored actors are much higher, and still higher are killings by various violent factions.
Meantime there are less than a third as many operational hospital beds as before the invasion, and less than 20% of the doctors. There are three million maimed people in Iraq. Available electricity in MW/h is about 30% of pre-invasion levels.
January 24th, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesperson Rupert Colville (link is video and text) explained, "Thirty-four individuals, including two women, were executed in Iraq on 19 January following their conviction for various crimes. Even if the most scrupulous fair trial standards were observed, this would be a terrifying number of executions to take place in a single day.  Given the lack of transparency in court proceedings, major concerns about due process and fairness of trials, and the very wide range of offences for which the death penalty can be imposed in Iraq, it is a truly shocking figure.  The High Commissioner is calling on the Government of Iraq to implement an immediate moratorium on the institution of death penalty, around 150 countries have now either abolished the death penalty in law or in practice, or introduced a moratorium."  That moratorium never took place. Iraq wants the UN to remove it from Chapter VII and has been lobbying for that for years.  Apparently Nouri wants to kill Iraqis more than he wants Iraq to be truly independent and sovereign.
In other 'great moments' in Nouri leadership, al-Maliki still can't provide a national conference still -- despite Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and President Jalal Talabani calling for one since December 21st. Aswat al-Iraq reports that Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc states it has prepared an agenda for the national conference -- to deal with Iraq's ongoing political crisis -- which is scheduled to be discussed today in yet another prep-meeting. The agenda is said to "start with the topics that were not implemented from the Arbil agreement and the joint issues between Iraqiya and the Kurdish blocs." The Erbil Agreement ended Political Stalemate I in November 2010. Following the March 2010 elections, Nouri at first disputed the results, demanded a recount and then refused to abide by the results. This created Political Stalemate I. Though his State of Law came in second, the US-brokered Erbil Agreement found the other political blocs (including Iraqiya which came in first) agreeing to allow Nouri to remain as prime minister. As a result of that aspect of the Erbil Agreement, the political blocs were supposed to get various things. What happened was after Nouri was named prime minister-designate, he refused to follow the Erbil Agreement. This starts the ongoing Political Stalemate II which can be said to have begun at the end of December when Nouri refused to name the Minister of Defense, the Minister of Interior and the Minister of National Security. The nominees for the post were reportedly agreed on and in the Erbil Agreement. Nouri refused to fill the positions. He lied and stated he would shortly. Critics of Nouri insisted he was refusing to name the positions because it was part of his power-grab. The US press largely ran with Nouri's claim as reality and either ignored the critics or else chided them. All these months later, it's the critics and not the US press that were correct. For a year and two months now Nouri has refused to name the posts. (Per the Constitution, he should not have been transferred from "prime minister-designate" to "prime minister" as a result of this. Per the Constitution, Talabani should have named a new prime minister-designate at the end of December 2010.) Ayad al-Tamimi (Al Mada) reports that sources in the National Alliance (which State of Law is a part of) state that they want the security ministries to remain empty until the next prime minister is elected.

Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reports
that KRG President Massoud Barzani stated on Sunday that he hopes the national conference ends the political crisis and that Baghdad decides to abide by the Erbil Agreement including the issue of Kirkuk. Al Rafidayn notes that the spokesperson for the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, Hamid Maaleh, states that his party is working with various components of the National Alliance including the Sadrists and are striving for a way to move the political process forward. In addition, the Adel Abdul Mahdi has recevied a delegation from the Sadr bloc and discussed the situation and what can be done. Adel Abdul Madhi isn't just a high ranking member of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, he's also the former vice president of Iraq. He was v.p. from 2006 through the summer of 2011 when he resigned due to the corruption in the government and the refusal of 'leadership' to address it. Aswat al-Iraq, citing the Chair of Parliament's Human Rights Commission, reports Iraqiya's calling for the national conference to limit the three presidencies (Iraq's President, Prime Minister and Speaker of Parliament) to two terms.

The big news yesterday was Iraq's Sunni Vice President delivered a speech from Erbil denouncing charges against him and stating he would not be tried in Baghdad, that the trial should be moved to Kirkuk and that, if it wasn't, international observers should take over. Sky News observes, "It now also threatens to draw a new wedge between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shi'ite, and Kurdish leaders in Iraq's north who refuse to hand over al-Hashemi for trial."
In December, after multiple photo-ops with US President Barack Obama, Nouri returned to Iraq and quickly ordered the homes of his political rivals circled by tanks -- a detail the US press 'forgot' to report for at least 24 hours (most estimates are 48 hours). The bulk of US forces had left Iraq when Nouri made his move (a detail international observers are stressing). He began calling for Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq to be stripped of his office. Like al-Hashemi, al-Mutlaq is also Sunni and also a member of Iraqiya. In October, Nouri had begun ordering the mass arrests of Sunnis on the pretext that he had information of an impending coup attempt. There was no attempted coup and none planned. Those inside Nouri's Cabinet have been loudly whispering to the press about that.

Sunday December 18th, Tareq al-Hashemi and Saleh al-Mutlaq, along with bodyguards, attempted to leave out of Baghdad International Airport for the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government -- three semi-autonomous provinces in Iraq). Nouri's forces pulled all off the plane and detained them for approximately an hour before allowing some bodyguards and al-Hashemi and al-Mutlaq to reboard. The next day, December 19th, Nouri issued an arrest warrant for al-Hashemi whom he charged with 'terrorism.'

al-Hashemi did not 'flee' to the KRG. He went there on business and could have been stopped if Nouri wanted tos top him. A day after he arrived, an arrest warrant was issued and he elected to remain in the KRG. He has been the guest of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and KRG President Massoud Barzani. He has noted that many believe Nouri controls the Baghdad judiciary and first asked that the case be moved to the KRG (refused) and then that it be moved to Kirkuk. He's also been stating that international observers were needed. And despite the inept reporting today of a lazy and uninformed press, that call didn't initiate today -- as this February 10th Alsumaria TV report indicates.

Thursday the 'independent' Supreme Court in Baghdad issued a finding of guilt against Tareq al-Hashemi. Was a trial held? Because Article 19 of Iraq's Constitution is very clear that the accused will be guilty until convicted in a court of law. No. There was no trial held. But members of the judiciary -- who should damn well know the Constitution -- took it upon themselves not only to form an investigative panel -- extra-judicial -- but also to hold a press conference and issue their findings. At the press conference, a judge who is a well known Sunni hater, one with prominent family members who have demonized all Sunnis as Ba'athists, one who is currently demanding that a member of Iraqiya in Parliament be stripped of his immunity so that the judge can sue him, felt the need to go to the microphone and insist he was receiving threats and this was because of Tareq al-Hashemi, that al-Hashemi was a threat to his family.

Having already demonstrated that they will NOT obey the Constitution, the judiciary then indicated -- via the judge's statement -- a personal dislike of Tareq al-Hashemi. What they did Thursday was demonstrate that Tareq al-Hashemi had always been correct in his fear that he would not receive a fair trial in Baghdad.
Pakistan's Daily Times noted the speech was a half-hour and that he called on "all honest Iraqi people" to join him in rejecting the charges. Yara Bayoumy, Ashmed Rasheed, Patrick Markey and Alastair Macdonald (Reuters) quote al-Hashemi declaring, "All of these accusations against members of my protection detail are a black comedy." He repeated his belief that a trial should be held in Kirkuk and stated if that did not happen the his next move would be to "turn immediately to the international community." He also spoke of forced confessions.   Al Jazeera quotes him stating, "We have pictures of bruises on their faces and bodies." AFP gives the full quote as, "All the arrested people from my bodyguards and the employees of my office are being held in secret prisons over which the ministry of justice has no authority, and confessions are being taken from them through torture. We have pictures and evidence proving that the bodyguards were tortured, physically and psychologically." CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq reports:

Al-Hashimi criticized the investigation, saying, "How come they finished investigating 150 cases against me and my bodyguards within a few days?
"Where did my bodyguards plan for these 150 attacks? On the surface of the moon?" he asked.

Aswat al-Iraq notes that the Baghdad judiciary is making noises about trying the vice president in abstentia and Lara Jakes and Yahya Barzanji (AP) offer, "Al-Maliki and Kurdish regional President Massoud Barzani have had a rocky relationship for years over how to share disputed land, oil revenues and federal funding. Barzani has shown no indication that he plans on handing over al-Hashemi to Baghdad, and officials in Irbil say doing so could worsen sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shiites."
On this week's Law and Disorder Radio -- a weekly hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) -- topics explored include why guest Chris Hedges was suing the White House.  Excerpt.
Michael Smith: The National Defense Authorization Act was signed by President Obama on December 31st of last year and takes effect this coming March.  The act authorizes the military to begin domestic policing.  The military can detain indefinitely without trial any US citizen deemed to be a terrorist or an accessory to terrorism.  Vague language in the bill such as "substantially supported" or "directly supported" or "associated forces" is used. We're joined today by returning guest Chris Hedges in his capacity as a plantiff in a lawsuit that he's just filed against President Barack Obama with respect to the National Defense Authorization Act and its language about rounding up even American citizens and salting them away forever.
Heidi Boghosian: Chris, welcome to Law and Disorder.
Chris Hedges:  Thank you.
Heidi Boghosian: Can you talk about the significance of codifying the NDAA into law   essentially several over-reaching practices that the executive has been implementing for awhile now?
Chris Hedges: That's correct but it's been implementing those practices through a radical interpretation of the 2001 law, The Authorization to Use Military Force Act. You remember old John Yoo was Bush's legal advisor.  It was under the auspices of this act that Jose Padilla who is a US citizen was held for three and a half years in a military brig.  Remember, he was supposedly one of the other hijackers that never made it to a plane.  Stripped of due process.  And it's under that old act that the executive branch, Barack Obama, permits himself to serve as judge, jury and executioner and order the assassination of a US citizen, the Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. 
Michael Smith: Two weeks later his 16-year-old son.
Chris Hedges: Yes, exactly.  So what this does is it essentially codfies this kind of behavior into law. It overturns over 200 years of legal precedent so that the military is allowed to engage in domestic policing and there are a couple of very disturbing aspects in the creation of this legislation.  One of them is that [US Senator] Dianne Feinstein had proposed that US citiens be exempt from this piece of legislation and both the Obama White House and the Democratic Party rejected that.  Now Obama issued a signing statement saying that this will not be used against American citizens but the fact is legally it can be used against American citizens.  There was an opportunity for them to protect American citizens and to protect due process and they chose not to do that.
Michael Smith: Well he also announced that he was going to close Guantanamo.
Chris Hedges:  Right, so it's very disingenous.
Heidi Boghosian: And signing statements really carry no legal force.
Chris Hedges. Right. And if they wanted to protect basic civil liberties, they certainly had a chance to do so and it was there decision not to do that.  I mean, the other thing that's disturbing is that it expands this endless war on terror.  So the 2001 act is targeted towards groups that are affiliated or part of al Qaeda.  Now it's groups that didn't even exist in 2001.  There are all sorts of nebulous terms like "associated forces,"  "substantially supported."  When you look at the criteria by which Americans can be investigated by our security and surveillance state, it's amorphus and frightening: People who have lost fingers on the hand, people who hoard more than seven days worth of food in their house, people who have water-proof ammunition.  I mean, I always say I come from rural parts of Maine. That's probably most of my family.
Chris Hedges: It's a very short step to adding the obstructionist tactics of the Occupy movement. 
Michael Smith: Well that's what we've wanted to ask you because we've thought all along with the beginning of this war on terrorism that ultimately these laws stripping us of our Constitutional rights would be used against the social protest movements at home and the latest development is absolutely chilling and we wanted to ask you about that.
Chris Hedges: We don't know what the motives are. We do know that all the intelligence agencies as well as the Pentagon opposed this legislation.  Robert Muller, the head of the FBI, actually went before Congress and said that if it was passed it would make the FBI's work in terms of investigating terrorism harder because it would make it harder to get people to cooperate once you hand the military that power. So I think it's interesting, to say the very least, that the various agencies that are being pulled into domestic policing -- especially the Pentagon -- didn't push for the bill.  I don't know what the motives are but I know what the consequences are and that is that it hands to the corporate state weapons, the capacity to use the armed forces internally in ways that we have not seen for over two centuries.  That is the consequence of the bill.  What are the motives?  You know I haven't gone down and reported it in Washington.
Heidi Boghosian: Chris, you know I'm thinking of the Supreme Court Case Humanitarian Law Project and the notion "providing material support."  [Center for Constitutional Rights analysis here -- text and video.]  And in that case it was also very vague and things that seemed benign could be construed as providing support but it strikes me that under this piece of legislation also the notion of associating with others that the government may deem terrorists becomes possibly vague.
Chris Hedges: Well it is vague. And that's what's so frightening.  And the lawsuit was proposed by Civil Rights attorneys Carl Mayer and Bruce Afran who approached me and said that I needed a credible plantiff.  Now because I had been the Middle East bureau chief for the New York Times and because I was in the Middle East for seven years I spent considerable time with both individuals and organizations that are considered by the US State Dept to be either terrorists or terrorist groups. That would include Hamas, Islamic Jihad in Gaza, the Kurdistan Workers Party -- or the PKK as it's known in southeastern Turkey, northern Iraq.  All of these organizations -- I mean, I used to go to Tunis and have dinner with Yasser Arafat [President of the Palestinian National Authority from 1996 until his death in 2004] and Abu Jihad [the PLO's Khalil al-Wair] when they were branded as international terrorists.  And there are no exemptions in this piece of legislation for journalists. And the attorneys felt that I was a credible plantiff because of that.  We have already seen under the 2001 law, a persecution of not only Muslim Americans in this country but Muslim American organiations -- in particular charity organizations and mostly charity organizations that support the Palestinians.  And under this legislation, it is certainly conceivable that not only -- many of these organizations have been shut down, their bank accounts have been frozen, their organizers have been persecuted -- but under this legislation they're essentially able to be branded as terrorists, stripped of due process, thrown into a military brig and held, in the language of the legislation, until the end of hostilities -- whenever that is.