Friday, March 09, 2012

POLITICO wallows in its sexism

It's amazing, it's one day after International Women's Day and POLITICO can't stop whoring for a sexist and offensive man.

POLITICO tells you 'comedian' Louis CK has dropped out of an event and that Greta Van Susteren led the call for him to drop out.  Good for her.  Unless you're POLITICO.

This article says "crude jokes," this article is a little better noting "offensive and sexually explicit remarks," and this one says Greta "is opposed to Louis C.K. because of language he has used to describe women" and urges you to read Greta's post "In all it's asterisk'd-detail."

Three articles and none of them can tell you about his 'jokes.'

At her blog, Greta offers examples.  Such as "her f*** re**ard making c***" His comments are sexist and they're offensive.  Sarah Palin is who he's talking about and she has a special needs child.  He's using the "r" word for special needs children.  He is grossly offensive and should be off the air.

Instead, you get little media whores like Terry Gross giggling over Louis.  She played him saying the "f" word (derogatory term for gay man) over and over on his show while he and she giggled about it.  That's what got Terry Gross dropped from the NPR station that Rachel Maddow and the other liars wouldn't tell you. Only Ava and C.I. told you the truth (see their "Of stupidity and NPR").

Ava and C.I. have repeatedly called that piece of trash out.

Good for Greta.

Louis C.K. has bailed on the event and probably thinks this will blow over.  It probably will.  See, very few people give a damn about sexism in this country.  Many lefty males pretend to give a damn when they can trash one of their political enemies by calling him a sexist.  But that's the only time they give a damn.

POLITICO can't even call him out, POLITICO won't even explain just how disgusting his 'jokes' were.  There's a lot of sexism in the media and POLITICO would rather mock Greta than take on sexism.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, March 9, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, Iraqi Emo youths and LGBTs remain targeted, a document said to be from the Interior Ministry explaining how to kill the LGBTs surfaces, the political crisis continues, the US Senate discussed Iraq and more.
"In Iraq," US Senator John McCain declared Tuesday, "Prime Minister Maliki continues to centralize power at the expense of the other political blocs while the threat posed by al Qaeda appears to be growing along with the kinds of horrific, spectacular attacks, like the one we saw yesterday." He was referring to Monday's attack on Haditha security forces which left at least 27 dead with three more injured. Senator Carl Levin is the Chair of the Committee, McCain is the Ranking Member. General James Mattis (Commander of US Centcom) and Admiral William McRaven (Commander of the US Special Operations Command) were the witnesses appearing before the Committee. We had to hold this to cover the Veterans Affairs Committee hearings this week (and there's a House VA hearing we still didn't get to).
The drawdown in Iraq is a drawdown. The military's been clear in their use of "drawdown" and "reposturing" and just as clear in the non use of the term "withdrawal." There are at least 200 US service members guarding the American Embassy in Baghdad and the various consulates. In addition, there are US service members present as "trainers." Nouri al-Maliki has publicly spoken this year -- and repeatedly -- on this issue. The number he supplies publicly is 700. You don't read that in the US newspapers. His number may be too high, it may be too low. Maybe if US newspapers weren't so busy attempting to spin and reported facts, we'd know what the number was. At this point, the only number given is Nouri's number of 700. And there are more, as US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey admitted to Ted Koppel last December on NBC's Rock Center with Brian Williams.
MR. KOPPEL: I realize you can't go into it in any detail, but I would assume that there is a healthy CIA mission here. I would assume that JSOC may still be active in this country, the joint special operations. You've got FBI here. You've got DEA here. Can, can you give me sort of a, a menu of, of who all falls under your control?
AMB. JAMES JEFFREY: You're actually doing pretty well, were I authorized to talk about half of this stuff.
In addition, the US State Dept has its largest mission in Iraq and Iraq is the mission they have militarized. There are 16,000 foreigners working for the US State Dept in Iraq -- that includes a large number of contractors.
Iraq is reported badly if at all by most outlets today. You get the Josh Rogins who want to pretend they're journalists but don't want to be held to the guidelines of journalims if it interferes with them completing another page in their slam book. The US occupation of Iraq continues. It hasn't ceased. Moqtada al-Sadr grasps that. So many in the US press pretend otherwise.
In addition to those US service members still in Iraq, there are the thousands stationed in the region around Iraq. General James Matthis noted to the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday that most US troops had left Iraq.
General James Mattis: The question then becomes: How do we maintain our presence with a light footprint? To accomplish this, the USCENTCOM AOR will assume an increasingly maritime character with special operations forces (SOF) and strong air enablers. Naval forces -- with embarked troops -- provide presence and a cost efficient means of rapidly projecting power in a crisis to execute contingency operations. Sustained naval presence and response forces provide a lighter footprint on the ground and are vital for reassuring our partners, deterring those with malign intent and tempering destructive actors from fermenting trouble in the region. The maritime environment also permits freedom of action unfettered by international boundaries and agreements. However, the stacked Iranian threats in our AOR of ballistic missiles, long range rockets, mines, small boats, cruise missiles and submarines demand stronger naval presence and capability to protect vital sea lines of communication.
The US news industry is a story of budget cuts. So Americans get less and less news from the news industry. Less and less coverage. It's much cheaper for Diane Sawyer, Scott Pelley and Brian Willaims to, for example, waste three or more minutes of airtime 'reporting' on some YouTube sensation where a pet does a trick. Pets can be house broken. News anchors, I'm not so sure. As the news industry goes for the cheap and the banal, Americans are less and less informed about what is going on due to this news failure.
General James Mattis: Our successful military drawdown from Iraq puts the need to develop a new strategic relationship with the Iraqi government at the forefront of our regional policy. The Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq (OSC-I) has been established and testifies to our respect for Iraqi sovereignty. Our relationship going forward will be based on mutual respect between two sovereign nations. USCENTCOM will work to expand security cooperation activities and deepen our military-to-military ties with Iraq while helping to expand its military engagement with key regional partners. Simultaneously, we remain clear-eyed, recognizing Iran's access to and efforts to subordinate Iraq and work to counter that malign influence. OSC-I -- working under Chief of Mission authority and with the full support of USCENCOM -- is the lead proponent for executing the military component of our intent. Thank you for your fast action in support of our special authority for OSC-I and for your continued patience as we work through a successful transition. The danger from al Qaeda in Iraq is still serious and it remains capable of spectacular attacks against the people and the government there even as it takes advantage next door in Syria to mount attacks there.
The Congress, the Pentagon and the State Dept continue to have to address Iraq -- that's staffing, that's budgeting. But the news media tells Americans that the mission (occupation) has ended.
We'll note this exchange from the hearing.
Ranking Member John McCain: General, are their strong indications that al Qaeda is making a comeback in Iraq?
General James Mattis: Yes, sir. Particularly in the western Iraq area but the threat is extending into Baghdad.
I think al Qaeda in Mesopatamia is both a catch-all to blame anything on and, especially for the US government and the US press, a device that allows denial. If al Qaeda in Mesopatamia is responsible, then there's no need for the US government of US press to factor in just how much US actions have resulted in a government that so many Iraqis oppose. You might also think that since the US went into a trillion dollar debt over the Iraq War -- a debt that will weigh on the country for decades to come -- the news media might continue to cover Iraq as a result of the money invested but you would be wrong. Then again, maybe the news media avoids Iraq for that reason -- don't you dare let the taxpayers know just how poorly their money was spent.
Maybe that's why Senator Claire McCaskill's comments at the hearing weren't noted? Specifically when she observed, "I can give you anecdotally disasters in Iraq. In fact, I am trying to compile all the infrastructure we build in Iraq and what the status is of it today. But I think everyone knows, it's not a pretty picture. How much got blown up? How much was never utilized? How much sits crumbling? And -- and that's all an incredible amount of resources of our country that we have invested."
The press is supposed to be a watchdog and provide oversight. Does it really look like that's happening today?
We'll note this exchange from the hearing.
Senator Ben Nelson: I've got a number of concerns about our presence in Iraq at the current time. I don't think that I have a clear understanding of what our mission is there. And it's further complicated by the fact that we've got questions about the new embassy which is a significant -- in terms of size -- building with a significant number of security contractors located there -- perhaps not even functioning in a security role outside of the embassy. And the embassy continues to be expanded. And I understand, perhaps, the State Dept is now in charge of establishing what our mission in Iraq is. Can you -- either of you -- help enlighten me about what our mission truly is in Iraq today? And how that might relate as well to the providing of security by contractors and the continuing expansion of a building that seems to be gargantuan in size already. General Mattis?
General James Mattis: Sir, as far as our mission in Iraq, it's going from a military-led effort in Iraq over the last eight years to a State Dept-led mission under the Ambassador. There I do have a Lt. General with a small footprint on the ground, part of the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq and they are engaged in everything from the sales of certain military equipment, providing contractor-led training, to organizing the Iraqis who want to go to military schools in the United States. We've maintained those relationships, that's what they're doing. As far as the security contractors, sir, who actually protect the embassy, those come under the US embassy, under the State Dept. But having been there recently, they're simply doing the guard duty you would expect in a high threat area. And as far as the size of the building, sir, I'm really not competent to respond on that part of the question.
Senator Ben Nelson: But it is big, isn't it?
General James Mattis: It's big.
Senator Ben Nelson: Thank you. In trying to understand the role of the contractors there in providing security, in other embassies in other countries, are we required -- do we require ourselves to provide security or do we look to the host nation to provide security?
General James Mattis: Sir, the host nation provides the external security outside the grounds. Inside the grounds, it's sovereign territory and we do that. We do that generally with contract guards, many of them are long serving guards there, and inside the building itself, you have Marine security guards.
Senator Ben Nelson: Is that the way it works in Iraq? In Baghdad?
General James Mattis: Yes, sir. It is.
Senator Ben Nelson: The Iraqis provide the external security?
General James Mattis: They do, sir.
Senator Ben Nelson: And if our personnel are moving from one place to another, who provides the security?
General James Mattis: That security is provided by our own -- our own contract guards.
Senator Ben Nelson: What level of security would the Iraqis provide externally to the -- to the Embassy?
General James Mattis: In that zone, when you go there, sir, you see that there are checkpoints set up some blocks away. They have patrols that go by. It's not just for our embassy, it's for other embassies in town as well as they provide the kind of diplomatic security that's expected around the world. Here in Washington, DC, some police men [and police women] can provide it because the threat is very low. In a place like Baghdad, prudent measures require the Iraqi army, the Iraqi police to do the security in a much more visual, obvious way.
If the State Dept is now in charge of the US mission in Iraq, why are they doing reports? When they weren't in charge, through 2011, they did the "Iraq Status Report." (Click here if you never read them.) Not anymore. And why isn't the State Dept regularly briefing on Iraq. They're supposedly in charge. They are answerable to the American people. They should be required to provide regular updates. They are operating in darkness, they are cloaking their actions and it's not surprising that a senator wants questions answered as to what the mission is. (Yes, I am aware that Victoria Nuland made comments Thursday -- only when asked -- on Iraqi women. I've never seen such ill-informed remarks. And that's despite the fact that we're referring to only a few sentences. I'll address them when I can do so a bit more calmly.) (And I've noted many times that I know Robert Kagan -- and often disagree with him. Victoria and Robert are married. I know Victoria as well. Check the archives, she's gotten no special treatment as a result of that.) They're not just spending taxpayer money, they are asking for record levels of taxpayer money and they can't be open about what they're doing? That should be unacceptable to everyone.
We'll note this exchange from the Tuesday hearing.
Senator Scott Brown: Regarding Iraq, I am as concerned as others are about the vacuum that has been created. And, as you know, al Qaeda in Iraq has carried out more attacks this year than it did in the entire second half of last year. Do you think there's a security vacuum there since we've left or what?
General James Mattis: It's not a security vacuum, Senator Brown, but it is a less capable Iraqi security force without our capabilities there. They're scrambling to try and fill in those gaps. We are working with our small footprint there to help them fill in those gaps but it is a concern, I know, for the Iraqi government and it is a concern for [US] Ambassador [James] Jeffreys.
Senator Scott Brown: Alright. You think al Qaeda -- You think al Qaeda's making a comeback in Iraq?
General James Mattis: Yes, sir, they are. It's not significant. It won't threaten the government. It will kill a lot of innocent people.
Senator Scott Brown: And what about the favoritism in the Iraqi government for the majority Shia political party? Do you think that's fueling another insurgency potentially and does this play right into al Qaeda's hands potentially to create that instability?
General James Mattis: It's not playing into al Qaeda's hands yet and I think that there has been some progress back into a political dialogue here in the last couple of weeks that I think is back on the right track. So it's -- I give you a cautious, optimistic view of this -- but it's very, very cautious at this point.
Wow. Mattis offers less spin than the US press. Which is supposed to be independent? That's right the US press. But they've rushed to tell you -- especially the New York Times -- that the political crisis is over. No such thing has happened. Mattis offered his "optimistic view" and it was more fact-based than anything the New York Times has offered on the political crisis. That's great for General Mattis, good for him. But that's damn lousy for the US press.
Brown and Mattis explored the political crisis. If you're the New York Times, you pretend that the political crisis kicks off on or around December 21, 2011. That's not accurate. The political crisis is ongoing and years-old. The easiest way to trace the current problems is to return to March 2010 when parliamentary elections were held and Nouri al-Maliki was unhappy with the results, stomped his feet for a recount and even after that was completed his State of Law still did not come in first. Instead, the Ayad Allawi-led Iraqiya slate came in first. Per the Constitution, President Jalal Talabani should have named Allawi the prime minister-designate and, at that point, Allawi would have had 30 days to put together a Cabinet -- failure to do so, per the Constitution, would mean Allawi's turn was over and a new prime minister-designate would be named. But Nouri used everything to hang on to his post, from the non-independent Supreme Court to the US White House.
For over eight months, Nouri refused to budge. This is Political Stalemate I. It is ended in November 2010 only when the US-brokered Erbil Agreement is signed off on by all parties. The agreement puts a number of things into writing including that Nouri can remain prime minister for a second term. All the political blocs get a little something in the Erbil Agreement -- such as a referendum on Kirkuk will finally take place or Ayad Allawi will head an independent security council. But Nouri gets named prime minister-designate and Nouri immediately calls off the census of Kirkuk that had been announced and due to start in December. Nouri insists that the security council headed by Allawi will need to wait. He gets made prime minister -- moved from prime minister-designate -- on the basis of the Erbil Agreement, not on the basis on the Constitution because the Constitution required him to name a Cabinet -- not a partial one, a Cabinet. Nouri didn't do that in the 30 days, he was in violation of the Constitution and a new prime minister-designate should have been named.
The White House and non-independent lackeys in the US press insisted that Nouri would soon name the empty posts. The most critical empty posts were the Minister of the Interior, the Minister of Defense and the Minister of National Security. Nouri's critics charged that he was intentionally refusing to name them because it was a power-grab on Nouri's part.
Naming them -- nominating them and allowing Parliament to vote on them -- means they have power and independence. Including, but not limited to, the fact that if Nouri wants to get rid of them, he has to go through Parliament. Once they're approved by Parliament, Nouri can't fire them on his own. (As he's found out with Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq who he's been calling for to be stripped of his post since December with no luck thus far.)
So who was right?
The White House and the US press or Nouri's critics?
It's 15 months since Nouri named his 'Cabinet' and still those three security ministries remain with no heads. It was a power grab. The National Allaince spoke candidly in February to the press stating they didn't want Nouri to name anyone to the post (State of Law is one of the components of the National Alliance, others include the Sadr bloc, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and other Shi'ite bodies). When this caused distress among some Iraqis, the National Alliance backed off from and disowned those statements.
But it was a power grab. Nouri controls three ministries that he wouldn't otherwise. These are the security ministries. As Iraq's security worse and worse over the last 15 months, it's time to grasp that this falls on Nouri.
The US press and the White House insisted for months after December 2010 (when Nouri provided a partial cabinet) that Iraq needed time and then all would be well. For awhile even detractors were willing to give it another week, another month . . . Until finally, over the summer of 2011, the Kurdish bloc begins demanding that Nouri return to the Erbil Agreement. That the Erbil Agreement be implemented. This is not confusing, this is not in doubt. KRG President Massoud Barzani -- among others -- has been very vocal publicly on this issue. But the New York Times and ignore that fact. Iraqiya joined the Kurdish call. Others followed.
In October 2011, Nouri's dislike for Sunnis became more pronounced. It was obvious by his treatment of the Sahwa (largely Sunni; forces who were put on the US payroll to stop attacking the US military). He refused to bring them into the process. Not just to bring them into the security forces but to bring them into the government in non-security jobs. October 2011, he began having Sunnis arrested throughout the country and Tikrit was among the areas. He lied and claimed he had intel from Libya. There was going to be an attempted coup, he inisted.
Insisted? Try confessed. If Freud got anything right, it was the criminal's compulsion to confess. Nouri was carrying on a coup against Sunnis. A large portion of the arrested were college professors. Sunni ones. They're now out of jobs. Even the many who've been released (supposedly all are in the process of being released). They haven't just been replaced with Shi'ites, they've been replaced with fundamentalists who now carry out attacks on Iraqi students. (The efforts to control Iraqi youths are typical moves by a despot in any authoritarian regime.)
While Nouri's slate (as well as his political party Dawa) are Shi'ite, Iraqiya was a mixing. It is Sunni, it is Shi'ite (Allawi himself is Shi'ite), it is Turkmen and much, much more. And that's what Iraqis voted into first place in the March 2010 elections. As with the provincial elections the year before, the 2010 elections saw Iraqis rejecting sectarianism and reaching for a national identity instead. The White House, Barack Obama, refused to honor the wishes and will of the Iraqi people and the political crisis is the fault of the White House.
Nouri and Barack posed and preened for the cameras in December 2011, claiming success in the 'new' Iraq. Reality would be visible by the end of the week when Nouri returned to Baghdad, ordered troops to patrol the homes of Iraqiya members -- tanks circled the homes -- he began attacking Iraqiya members publicly.
December 21st, while Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi was in the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government -- three provinces which are semi-autonomous and free from Baghdad's control), Nouri al-Maliki issued an arrest warrant against al-Hashemi claiming the vice president was a terrorist. al-Hashemi has remained in the KRG where he has been a guest of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and KRG President Massoud Barzani. The KRG has refused to hand him over to Baghdad. Tareq al-Hashemi has asked that the trial be moved to Kirkuk noting he did not believe he could get a fair trial in Baghdad. Last month, when 9 members of the Baghdad judiciary held a press confrence to announce he was guilty, they demonstrated al-Hashemi's was correct when he asserted he wouldn't receive a fair trial. (Guilt is determined at the conclusion of a trial, it is not determined by judges before the trial even starts.)
As AP and AFP noted Sunday, Nouri was again demanding al-Hashemi be handed over to him. Tuesday, the Oman Tribune noted that al-Hashemi told Al Hurra he had no plans to leave the KRG and quoted him stating, "I will stay in Kurdistan unless Kurdistan says that the status of Hashemi is causing us embarrassment."
Though the New York Times pretends it's nothing, this political crisis is not a minor thing. As Daniel J. Graeber (Oil Price) obsereves, it's even effecting the oil industry, "Baghdad announced triumphantly this week that oil production increased to more than 3 million barrels per day for the first time in more than 30 years. Exports, the government said, should increase substantially once a new floating oil terminal starts operations later this week. The IEA in December said crude oil production in Iraq could reach an average of 4.36 million bpd by 2016, about half of what Riyadh produces. The agency warned, however, that Iraq's fractured political system might be as much of an obstacle as anything."
How do you resolve the crisis? Starting December 21st, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujfafi and President Jalal Talabani began calling for a national conference. Instead of supporting the call, Nouri dragged his feet. Now he's insisted that the Arab Summit (scheduled to kick off in Baghdad on March 29th) had to be the focus and everything else must be put on hold. It's another delaying tactic on the part of Nouri. Meanwhile Al Mada reports that the Sadr bloc is insisting Iraqiya should not raise the issue of the political crisis at the summit. Apparently the Sadr bloc is under the mistaken impression that the Arab neighbors are ignorant of what's been going on in Iraq for months? Al Mada also reports that Iraqiya's current position is that it will raise the political crisis at the summit.
Today Dan Littauer (Gay Star News) reports this morning, that's one of the ways Iraq's LGBTs, Emos and suspected LGBTs and Emos are being killed -- approximately 100 of them since the start of February is by beaten with concrete blocks. Littauer notes that another popular way of targeting them for death is "pushing [them] off the tops of high buildings." Littauer reports:

The report from the local LGBTQ activist indicates that Jaish Al-Mahdi (Mahdi Army) and Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq (League of the Righteous) are at least partially responsible for the murders.
An anonymous official in Sadr city's municipal council affirmed that some people are recruited by extremist armed militias who carry lists stored in their phones with the names of emo youths and LGBTQ people to be murdered.
It has also emerged that some officials are actually behind the killings.
Colonel Mushtaq Taleb Muhammadawi, director of the community police of the Iraqi Interior Ministry, stated on 6 February that they had observed the so-called Satanists and emos. He added that the police have an official approval to eliminate emo people because of their 'notorious effects' on the community.
The colonel declared to Iraq News Network that: 'Research and reports on the emo phenomenon has been conducted and shared with the Ministry of Interior which officially approves the measures to eliminate them.
'The Ministries of Education and Interior are taking this issue seriously and we have an action plan to "eradicate them". I will be leading the project myself and we have the necessary permits to access all schools in the capital,' added the colonel, thus possibly indicating at the very least Iraqi state complicity with the

It should be noted that Nouri al-Maliki is the one bringing the League of Righteous into the current political process. Margaret Griffis ( adds, "The Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq warns of a surge in anti-gay attacks across Iraq, particularly in Basra and Baghdad. The attacks, which began in early February, have left at least 42 dead, according to the women's rights group. Militia groups have publicly posted threatening messages and even lists of suspected homosexuals to target. Many of the victims were tortured before their deaths. It is unclear if their deaths went unreported in regular news reports."
While many are silent, As Sheikh (Dar Addustour) takes on the issue of the attacks on the Emo youth. He notes a lot of the fear is based upon people not knowing what Emo is and that the media can assist in times like these by not falling back on silence but by clarifying what is taking place. He notes the variety of things Emo youth have been confused with -- including Satanists and vampires -- and how that alarms further. He points out that the hair and clothes are styles and the may be momentary fads or something longer lasting. He points out that you don't kill someone ("some young innocent") because you don't like the way they dress and that there is no blessing granted for murdering someone for those sort of reasons.

Meanwhile Kitabat notes that the Interior Ministry is declaring there have been no deaths and this is all a media creation. That would be the same Ministry of Interior that, please note, was declaring earlier this week that Emo was the number one threat to Iraq. Guess someone got the message about how badly this was making Iraq look to the rest of the world? Now the still headless ministry (Nouri never appointed a minister to head it) wants to insist that it is only a small number of Iraqi youth who are even into Emo. The ministry insists that the only truth on the subject of Emo is that which the government tells. But the Parliament's Security and Defense Commission also spoke to the media on Thursday and they spoke of the discovery of 15 corpses of young Iraqis -- Emos or thought to be -- discovered in one Baghdad neighborhood. Activist Hanaa Edwar also speaks of the large number of Iraqi Emo youths being targeted. Al Mada notes the Parliament committee stated that the security forces have failed to protect the Emo youth. Dar Addustour reports that activists Mohammed al-Kazimi has pointed out that the constitution of Iraq guarantees Iraqis the right to freedom of expression and that Emo youth are not unconstitutional.
Instinct magazine publishes what may be a document from the Ministry of the Interior giving the orders to kill Iraq's LGBTs and they interview Iraqi Ali Hili who now lives in England and remembers a time when he was able to live in Iraq without fear:
When the US and UK invaded Iraq. That ended the secular state of Iraq, and turned it into a very "dark ages", fanatical, religious period for Iraq. They brought us a Shi'ite government whose ideology is imported from Iran, they adopted their lifestyle strategy and cultural habits, and they tried to impose this on Iraq's society.
Turning back to the US, yesterday the Secretary of the Army, John McHugh, appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee. That was an interesting hearing but we're just going to quickly grab some figures McHugh provided. Specifically, he noted that "less than one-half of 1 percent of Americans [currently] serve in the Army [. . .]. Over one million soldiers and Department of the Army Civilians served courageously in Iraq. [. . .] Their heroic actions earned 8,238 awards for valor, including 408 Silver Stars and 16 Distinguished Services Crosses. Two Medals of Honor were awarded posthumously to Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith and Private First Class Ross A. McGinnis."
Scott Weakley tells Denver's 9News (link is text and video), "It isn't like you're in a Humvee where you can name the date, time and route you were on. With these post-deployment lung disorders veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are getting, we don't know [where they are coming from]." The former army Major spent 22 years in the military, he did marathons when not deployed, after his last deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, he returned to home to discover marathons were out and even trying for a half mile was impossible. Tests on his lungs reveal that they "are damaged, constricted and scarred" and that both together now function as if they are "just half of one." Weakley is among many who suffer from exposure to burn pits and he's trying to raise awareness on this issue. National Jewish Health is currently studying the issue and Dr. Cecile Rose is leading the study into exposure to "burn pits, desert dust and extreme humidity."

Rosie Torres: It wasn't the military it was the contractors that were running those burn pits. Everything was burned. I mean, amputated body parts, unused pharmaceuticals, batteries, tanks, you name it. Everything was burned there. Because I asked him, I said, "Well didn't you notice?" He's like, "No, no, I have pictures. I've seen the smoke, it's there, but when we ask questions, it's like, no everything's fine, everything's safe." Because they were told that too. So it never dawned on them. He was like, "We were just there to fulfill our mission. We weren't there to ask about smoke, you know?" It would go through the mess hall like when they were eating. The plume would just sort of hang all over. Like the air conditioner unit, would come in through there. There was like no escaping it, it was everywhere. What people fail to realize is that invisible wounds aren't just PTSD, I mean it's now toxic exposure too.

Rosie Torres is the wife of Iraq War veteran Leroy Torres and, like Scott Weakley, Leroy Torres was deployed fit and healthy and came back to the US with multiple health issue. Kelly Gustafson and Kristen Kellar (Medill Reports, link is text and audio -- Rosie Torres' comments above are from the audio) report:

When Torres lost both of his jobs -- he was a captain in the Army Reserve and a Texas state trooper -- because of his ailments, his wife made the march to Washington. There, she fought to create a national registry that could link long-term health problems with burn pits in the future.
"We need to make every legislator aware of our cause. These soldiers are from every state," Torres said. "I think what people fail to realize is invisible wounds aren't just PTSD, it's toxic exposure, too."
Torres rallied congressional support from Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.). While the bill sits in front of the Committee of Veterans Affairs, Torres has started an online registry that is tracking more than 500 soldiers.

And you can find out more information at Burn Pits 360.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012



Ron Paul’s top strategists are confused and frustrated that the wild enthusiasm they see at their campaign rallies and events is not translating into votes.
Thousands turned out to see the Texas congressman at events in Alaska, Idaho and North Dakota in the days before Super Tuesday. Paul said publicly and believed privately that he could win all three states outright. When the votes were counted, though, he finished third in Alaska and Idaho and second in North Dakota.

I don't know.  I was honestly shocked by Ralph Nader's votes in 2008.  I do not believe all the votes were counted.  Sorry.  That of course (the same problem) would not explain a caucus.

I have no idea why he's not performing better.  He's not performing awful.  I believe he has something like 47 delegates.  I wish it were more.  A lot more.  But there's a rush to say, "He's doing awful!"

He's not doing awful.  This is acceptable.  But if they can sell: "He's doing awful," then what?

People stop turning out to vote for him because they think it won't make a difference.

 Never expect a candidate who campaigns on peace to be properly portrayed by the press.  Always expect them to repeatedly undermine such a candidate.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Tuesday, March 7, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, double bombings hit Tal Afar, over 50 Emo kids have been killed in the last weeks, Saddam Hussein's daughter rejects rumors flying around about her, US Senators call for US troops in Afghanistan to come home, the VFW outlines budget concerns to the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees, and more.
We'll always open with a serious call to bring US troops home. There is a bi-partisan effort in the Senate calling for US troops to come home from Afghanistan. Senator Patty Murray's office issued the following:
CONTACT: Murray Press Office
(202) 224-2834
Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Twenty-Four Senators Tell President it's Time to Focus Nation-Building on American Jobs

(Washington, DC) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee and member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, joined a bipartisan group of 24 Senators today in calling on the President to bring American combat forces home from Afghanistan. As the Senate considers the 2012 Highway Bill on the floor this week, the Senators pointed out that the total dollar amount spent in both Iraq and Afghanistan to date would provide enough funding to rebuild the American interstate highway system five times over.

"We simply cannot afford more years of elevated troop levels in Afghanistan. We are spending roughly $10 billion in Afghanistan each month at a time when we're making tough sacrifices at home. Your recent budget calls for $88 billion more for the war in Afghanistan in 2013. If this money is appropriated, we will have spent a total of $650 billion in Afghanistan. A majority of Americans worry that the costs of the war in Afghanistan will make it more difficult for the government to address the problems facing the United States at home. They're right," the Senators wrote.

In June 2011, Sen. Murray
spoke on the Senate floor to discuss her views on the need for a sizable and sustained troop drawdown in Afghanistan, and to outline her concerns over the unseen human costs of war.

Led by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), the letter also included: Patrick Leahy (D-VT); Jeff Bingaman (D-NM); Tom Harkin (D-IA); Barbara Mikulski (D-MD); Herb Kohl (D-WI); Ron Wyden (D-OR); Dick Durbin (D-IL); Chuck Schumer (D-NY); Maria Cantwell (D-WA); Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ); Bob Menendez (D-NJ); Ben Cardin (D-MD); Bernie Sanders (I-VT); Sherrod Brown (D-OH); Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI); Tom Udall (D-NM); Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY); Al Franken (D-MN); Joe Manchin (D-WV); Rand Paul (R-KY); and Mike Lee (R-UT).

Complete text of today's letter follows below:

March 7, 2012

The Honorable Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama:

We write to express our support of a transition of U.S. forces in Afghanistan from a combat role to a training, advising and assistance role next year, as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stated was his intention on February 1st, 2012. Although we would prefer a more rapid reduction of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the statement made by the Secretary is a positive step towards ending the decade long war.

It is time to bring our troops home from Afghanistan. The United States intervened in Afghanistan to destroy al Qaeda's safe haven, remove the Taliban government that sheltered al Qaeda, and pursue those who planned the September 11th attacks on the United States. Thanks to the exceptional service and sacrifice made by the American Armed Forces and our allies, those objectives have largely been met. We should continue to confront America's enemies wherever they are through targeted counterterrorism operations and end the large scale counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan.

We simply cannot afford more years of elevated troop levels in Afghanistan. We are spending roughly $10 billion in Afghanistan each month at a time when we're making tough sacrifices at home. Your recent budget calls for $88 billion more for the war in Afghanistan in 2013. If this money is appropriated, we will have spent a total of $650 billion in Afghanistan. A majority of Americans worry that the costs of the war in Afghanistan will make it more difficult for the government to address the problems facing the United States at home. They're right.

Our troops and their families have made unimaginable sacrifices during the past ten years of war in Afghanistan. Over 1,900 American troops have been killed and over 14,300 have been wounded. Thousands more return home with invisible wounds that will make it difficult to ever again enjoy life the way they did before the war.

There is strong bipartisan support in Congress to change course in Afghanistan. The majority of Americans want a safe and orderly drawdown of forces in Afghanistan. In May, the U.S. House of Representatives nearly passed an amendment to the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act requiring a plan to accelerate the drawdown of troops from Afghanistan. A similar amendment introduced by Senators Merkley, Lee, T. Udall, and Paul was passed by the U. S. Senate on November 30th.

We look forward to reviewing the report required by Section 1221 of the FY2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which will set benchmarks to evaluate progress toward the assumption by the Afghan government of lead responsibility for security in all areas of Afghanistan. In light of the comments made by Secretary Panetta on February 1st, we would also be interested in learning more about how quickly U.S. troops will be coming home, the number and purpose of troops that might remain in Afghanistan and for how long a period, and the costs and savings of accelerating the completion of combat operations. Nonetheless, we welcome his announcement and encourage you to take every possible step to end the large scale combat operations in Afghanistan and transition our effort to a targeted counterterrorism strategy.


Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)

Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI)

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL)

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA)

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ)

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM)

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN)

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)
Meghan Roh
Deputy Press Secretary
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Again, that call is news, big news.
Say a little prayer till they all get home
Say a little prayer till they all get home
I knew when we woke up
You would be leaving
You knew when you left me
It might be too long
That kiss on your shoulder
It's me looking over
Close to your heart
So you're never alone
Say a little prayer till they all get home
Say a little prayer till they all get home
-- "Till They All Get Home," written by Melanie (Safka) and first appears on Melanie's Crazy Love
Today the Veterans of Foreign Wars appeared before Congress in a joint-hearing of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chair is Patty Murray. Let's note this from her opening statements.
Chair Patty Murray: Last month, I set down with veterans from across my home state when we were out at home over recess and I heard from veterans who time and again couldn't get access to VA mental health care in a timely way, who weren't getting the type of treatment they need, talked to women veterans who told me about their ongoing struggles to get specialized care and time and time again from veterans who shared their stories about the claims system that just wasn't working, veterans told me about the obstacles to employment that they continued to face. Some told me that they're even afraid to write the word "veteran" on their job application, for fear that those who have not served will see them as damaged and unstable. We passed last year the Vow to Hire Heroes Act and I want to thank Chairman Miller and everyone for their work on that. It was a great first step in tackling the high rate of veteran unemployment but it was only that, a first step. We have to focus now on building partnerships with private companies -- large and small -- to make sure that they have the information and tools they need to hire and train our veterans. We need to take advantage of the great sea of good will across the country from those who want to do the right thing and hire a veteran and as part of that effort we also need to beat back the myth and disinformation about the invisible wounds of war. No matter the challenges on the battlefield, we owe it to our veterans to give them a fair shot as they look for work when they come home. That's why the litmus test for hiring veterans can't be fear or stigma of PTSD or mental health issues. Instead, it must simply be whether a veteran is qualified for the job at hand. So I will continue to highlight the tremendous skills and leadership and talent our veterans bring to the table and I will continue to work with employers across the country to make sure our veterans can find good paying jobs here at home. And while we focus on jobs we can't lose sight of our veterans who are heading back to school. Before veterans commit their GI Bill benefits, we need to make sure they have the right information to make the best choice about their education and the school they choose. I'm pleased to say that in the next couple of weeks, I'll be introducing a bill that targets how educational institutions are recruiting our veterans and make sure veterans are given a clear picture about an institution's track record with other veterans. But whether is education or jobs or mental health or claims system that isn't working, each of those challenges serves as a constant reminder of the important work ahead to fuffill our obligation to our nation's veterans.
Senator Richard Burr is the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee. The Ranking Member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee is US House Rep Bob Filner. The Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee is US House Rep Jeff Miller and we'll note this from his opening statement.
Chair Jeff Miller: Sequestration is in fact probably one of the top issues out there and it could be dealt with pretty quickly. Unfortunately, I've been trying to work for eight months now to get some type of a resolution from the administration and I can't. I've asked the Secretary and I've written a letter to the president. We've asked for all types of folks to come forward and say whether or not sequestration does in fact apply. And I'm sure you've already heard about it while you're up here but there is a conflict in the law. The newest law that was passed basically says you are in fact exempt from sequestration but unfortunately right now there's some -- some discrephancy. So I filed a bill on the House side that basically says that veterans health care and veterans benefits are exempt from sequestration. It will clarify totally the problem for the future so we won't have to ever contend with this again. And I ask you, as you're making your visits on the Hill, to talk to your senators, talk to your members of Congress and certainly on the House side ask your folks to sponsor this one-and-a-half page piece of legislation. Around here, one-and-a-half pages is pretty rare, most of it is thick stuff. This is pretty easy and it basically says veteran dollars are exempt from sequestration.
The VFW was represented on the panel by Commander-in-Chief Richard DeNoyer, Executive Director Robert Wallace, Director of National Veterans Service William Bradshaw, Director of National Legislative Service Raymond Kelley and the Chair of the National Legislative Committee Louis C. Stifano.
DeNoyer noted in his opening remarks, "Americans will soon forget what these warriors and veterans have done for our great nation." I am of a different opinion: Americans will soon forget what the government has done to these men and women. DeNoyer is absolutely right that there is a time limit on national interest and it's already fading. The VFW is focusing on issues that their membership feels are important. Other veterans organizations should make sure that they are representing the needs their members rank most important.
For the VFW, DeNoyer explained that two of the big issues involve transitioning to civilian life which has to do with education and employment. (Wally's weighing on education tonight at Rebecca's site.) On unemployment, he gave these figures: Iraq and Afghanistan veterans unemployment rate in February 2012 was 13.1% ("compared to 7.7% among all veterans) and that "nearly a third of young veterans are unemployed, more than 20% of women veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are unemployed."
The other two concerns were medical. First, are the veterans getting the treatment they need? The VFW is concerned over the suicide rate and that more work needs to be done on providing assistance and on removing any stigma on asking for assistance. They are also concerned with the stigma that some people may be placing on veterans who suffer from PTSD or other wounds. That's a brief summary, Ava's going to cover those remarks at Trina's site tonight. That was the first part of the medical. The second concern of the medical for the VFW is the facilities themselves which are in need of repairs, in need of expansion and, in some cases, needing to be replaced.
We'll note this exchange between DeNoyer and Chair Patty Murray.
Chair Patty Murray: [. . .Y]ou mentioned about our newest student veterans needing to be able to get accurate information and have realistic expectations about the academic programs they choose so they can make their best choices about how to use their GI Bill benefits. As this Committee looks at this issue in the coming months, I want to ask you what are some of the key points that we should keep in mind as we look at this?
Richard DeNoyer: We need to provide veteran students with a clear understanding of what colleges offer and what their requirements are and what the requirements of the school are? It seems that many are using the GI Bill for the 21st Century and are not aware of their requirements before they get into school. They are not aware of graduation requirements, curriculum requirements and it would be our recommendation to have a centralized office that they could go to to get this information and that would be one of the solutions that we would encourage to do that.
Chair Patty Murray: Okay I appreciate that because I want to make sure --
Richard DeNoyer: That would help the state approving agencies also with their juridiction over colleges and so forth.
Chair Patty Murray: Okay. So they use their GI Benefit well since they can only use it once we want to be sure that they get good information.
Richard DeNoyer: That's right.
Chair Patty Murray: I appreciate that. I want to ask you -- and thank you for the VFW's really great work on the Independent Budget and for highlighting some of the major and minor construction for VA. As we talked about, the President's budget for construction is less than the Independent Budget recommendation. I know that you and I share the same concern about the VA's request. We need to take a hard look at the gap between the funding the VA needs to bring its facilities up to date and the funding that's now actually been requested by the department. In my home state of Washington, this is very important. We want a new pain clinic, a new spinal cord injury ward in Seattle, a new fire structure in Walla Walla. These are all critical infrastructure projects that are not going to get done for a great deal of time and I wanted to ask you if you could kind of share with the members of this Committee what this gap in funding will mean across the country?
Richard DeNoyer: Well access is the key to many of the facilities particularly those that provide speciality care. We're concerned the space, with the quality of the care and we believe that many of these are old and antiquated or maybe need to be renovated or even replaced. Safety is also an issue that we are concerned about to with some of these buildings. The seismic conditions. And, therefore, it nets down to access for specialty care and also safety.
Chair Patty Murray: Okay. Safety and access. Alright, I appreciate that. Commander, I really appreciated your comments about tasking the high rates of unemployment for returning veterans -- and for your leadership and work on this issue. This is something I care deeply about and I know we've got a lot of work ahead of us. As I talk to veterans and to employers, it has been really troubling to me to hear so many veterans who tell me directly that they don't write the word "veteran" on their resume when they apply for a job because of the fear that they have of the stigma attached to PTSD and mental health issues. I know we've got a lot of work ahead of us to address the misinformation about the invisible wounds of war but I wanted to ask today through your work on this, what strategies have you found to be most effective in fighting against the type of misinformation that many of our men and women are facing in terms of the invisible wounds of war.
Richard DeNoyer: Well first and foremost, Madam Chairman, we believe that today's military are the best educated, best qualified, best experienced individuals that America has ever fielded in an army. And they come home and they're completely qualified. They have skills that they could easily integrate into civilian society and the civilian workforce. Unfortunately, there seems to be a gap, a misunderstanding, between the skills that the military provides and the skills that they're looking for in civilian society. We believe that that could be easily resolved. The mental health issue, on the other hand, we propose a screening on mental health before the individual even goes into combat and a screening when they come back and periodic screenings afterwards. We also propose immediate care if needed -- mental health care -- as quickly as possible and only the pharmaceutical drugs used if absolutely necessary so that drug dependence doesn't result in that. And we feel that this would be -- hopefully, resolve these problems.
He was speaking of drug dependency and the need for care in prescribing drugs, a new study on PTSD finds that veterans are being overly medicated. The Universty of California, San Francisco (UCSF)'s Steve Tokar reports on the study conducted by UCSF and the San Francisco VA Medical Center which found that veterans being prescribed opiates for PTSD and/or pain are "more likely to receive higher dose prescriptions, two or more opiate prescriptions and concurrent prescriptions of sedative-hypnotics such as valium." And while that is serious all by itself, the study also found that "all veterans who were prescribed opiates were also at significantly higher risk of serious adverse clinical outcomes, such as drug and alcohol-related overdoses, suicide and violent injury, with the risk being most pronounced for veterans with PTSD." Dr. Karen Seal was the lead author of the study and Tokar notes:

Seal explained that previous studies have shown that patients with PTSD may experience physical pain more intensely because of either lowered pain thresholds or disruption of the production of endorphins – opiates secreted naturally in the brain and body. PTSD, an anxiety disorder, may be a cause, itself, she said. "The more anxious you are, the more likely you are to be attuned to pain symptoms, which in turn, make you more anxious, which makes the pain worse, so it becomes a vicious cycle."
To break that cycle, Seal and her co-authors recommend that the VA continue to extend its current stepped approach to treating patients who have both pain and PTSD. "Fortunately," she said, "the elements of that approach are in place, or can be put in place, throughout the VA health care system."
Seal said that those elements include Patient Aligned Care Teams (PACTs), which align primary care physicians with nurse care managers, mental health providers, pharmacists and social workers. "For patients presenting to primary care with pain, PACTs are important step in the direction of better care," she said. "Patients requiring more intensive treatment can 'step up' to multi-disciplinary specialty pain management and PTSD services that are available at most VA medical centers. And the VA is also a leader in providing evidence-based combined cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD and pain.Finally, she said, the VA is "making strides" to implement pain management guidelines developed by the VA and the Department of Defense that discourage the overuse of opiate medications in favor of anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, exercise, relaxation techniques and complementary alternative medicine such as acupuncture.
Even in remote VA clinics and isolated rural areas, many of these resources can be tapped through the use of video teleconferencing with pain experts at the medical centers, as well as online," said Seal. She recommended that veterans visit the VA site MyHealtheVet at

Nadia Kounang (CNN) adds
, "The authors emphasized that the study didn't find that PTSD or other mental health diagnosis caused increased pain or opioid use. Rather, the study was an alarm to the consequences of pain management through opioids." Kounang quotes Dr. Seal stating, "We now need to start considering alternative solutions to relieving our patient's pain and suffering."
Yesterday's snapshot covered the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing, Kat covered it last night with "US House Veterans Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations," Wally covered it at Rebecca's site with "VA refuses to take accountability" and Ava covered it at Trina's site with "VA wants money but not rules." The House Veterans Affairs Committee released the following yesterday:
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, the Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations (O&I) held an oversight hearing to examine the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) construction contracting practices. The Subcommittee examined the proposed construction of the community based outpatient clinic in Savannah, Georgia as a case study of VA construction contracting practices nationwide.
"We have evidence of similar dubious practices taking place at other locations, and our intent is to have VA fix the problems and conduct necessary oversight at all of its construction sites," stated Rep. Bill Johnson (OH-6), Subcommittee Chairman of O&I.
Rep. Johnson noted that the Subcommittee brought these matters to VA's attention last year, but VA ignored them and continued their flawed process, "This Subcommittee contacted VA last year with several specific concerns about this site in Savannah with the hopes of helping VA conduct better business. The response was disheartening; despite the specific concerns cited, VA dismissed the Subcommittee's efforts to reach out and work together, instead giving a cursory response."
Johnson expressed further dissatisfaction with regard to the way VA worked through the acquisition process. "VA stumbled through [this] process, using an incomplete and careless appraisal process that according to many involved in commercial real estate lacks common sense. To veterans, taxpayers, and Congress, the resulting concern is that VA is failing to get the best value."
VA witnesses failed to adequately answer how their initial estimate of needs in Savannah had been so significantly miscalculated, and admitted to not being forthcoming to Congress about significant changes to the size and scope of construction projects. Based on its interpretation of a long-standing practice, VA has provided notice to Congress of large-scale changes only after new leases had been executed, prompting members of the Subcommittee to suggest changes were needed to improve transparency and oversight.
Construction delays, faulty contracting practices and cost overruns were other major failures discussed by the Subcommittee during today's hearing. Noting that these delays reach beyond contracting, Johnson stated that "veterans in need of services are the ones being harmed by delays, cost overruns, and failure to thoroughly analyze costs and benefits associated with every alternative."
We're pressed for space, I know. But that hearing was important and I don't know that even AP filed a report on it (usually you can count on AP if no one else for veterans hearings in Congress).
Yesterday also brought the news that Iraq's LGBT community was against being targeted. Worker's Liberty carries this joint-statement from the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq and Iraqi LGBT:
"New barbaric attacks started against the Iraqi LGBT in many cities like Baghdad and Basra while using inhumane methods such as hitting the head and body parts of gay victims with building concrete blocks repeatedly till death or by pushing them over high building roof which took place in Basra city. The actions of killings, torture, and dismembering against those who were described as "adulterous" by Islamic Shia militias, besides hanging lists on the walls of several sections in Al-Sadr city and in Al-Habibea region, had all terrorized the society at large and especially the Iraqi LGBT community, knowing that those attacks are directed against anyone suspected with gay practices or appearance.
"The first killings took place on the sixth of February 2012 and continued or rather escalated till the current days. One of the hanged lists in Al-Sadr city included the names and addresses of 33 person, while other lists included other tens of names in other areas. News confirmed that 42 gay men were tortured and killed so far, mostly by concrete blocks, while some by dismembering.
"The Islamic militias in Iraq believe that the religious family should consist of a male husband and a female wife, and is the cornerstone of building a pious Islamic society. Such an institution is handed to the males to rule and control. Under such an institution, they deny the right-to-life, or rather they command a death sentence against all who do not fit under the religious description of a family.
"Based on those rules, the campaigns of honor killings happen against women and LGBT under the same token. Just as women face honour killing as a result of extra marital affairs, the lesbians and the gays face the same destiny because of their sexual practices which do not relate to marriage.
"We call on all freedom-lovers of the world, the women's and human rights organization and governments in the advanced world to put pressure on the Iraqi government to provide protection to the lgbt in Iraq, and establish legislation for defending their right to life, and criminalizing all aggressions against them. We demand also a full enquiry into the groups and criminal behind the killing campaign and that they get full punishment from the legal and correctional system."
We'll note some of the other coverage. Trudy Ring (SheWired) reports:

A recent wave of violence in Iraq has resulted in the kidnapping, torture, and killing of about 40 people perceived to be gay or lesbian, with the murder weapon sometimes being a concrete block to the head.
The killings began in early February after an unidentified group put up posters with death threats against "adulterous individuals" in largely Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad and Basra, reports the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. The threats listed the targets' names and ages, and gave them four days to change their behavior or face divine retribution.
Some of the murders have been carried out by smashing the victims' skulls with concrete blocks or pushing them off roofs of tall buildings, says a report from two other groups, the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq and Iraqi LGBT.

Evan Mulvihill (Queerty) notes, "Hillary Clinton made her landmark speech to the UN on the issue in December, and we have seen some commitment to activity in Ecuador and Honduras. But in the Middle East, we haven't seen any commitment to intervention --yet." Huffington Post covers the story here. No, the New York Times couldn't find the story. Did you really think that they would?
Receiving more attention is today's double bombing. Adn Kronos International notes a car blew up in Tal Afar and, "when a crowd of people gathered at the scene" after, a suicide bomber set off a second bombing. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) observes, "The Tal Afar bombing followed a familiar pattern often associated with al Qaida in Iraq -- an explosion followed by another a few minutes later, after rescuers had arrived to assist the victims of the first bomb." Prensa Latina adds, "No organization attributed responsability for the attacks. The government and the police said the perpetrators were members of Al-Qaeda and said Taafalar is in a strategic area between the border with Syria and Mosul." Mohamad Ali Harissi (AFP) counts 14 dead in the bombings with fifteen more injured according to Tal Afar Mayor Abid al-Al Abbas.Earlier today, Nayla Razzouk and Khalid al-Ansary (Bloomberg News) report, "Iraqi Construction and Housing Minister Mohammad Saheb al-Darraji escaped unharmed when a car bomb exploded near his convoy in Baghdad today, injuring six of his bodyguards, the ministry said." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports 1 person was killed and four were left injured and that al-Darraji "was not part of the motorcade" al-Darraji is a member of the Sadrist movement. Jamal al-Badrani (Reuters) notes a Baghdad minibus bombing claimed 2 lives. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) notes 1 person died in a Haditha bombing and three other people were injured while a Garma roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left two more injured. Many reports speculate that the attacks are intended to negatively impact the planned Arab Summit scheduled to start in Baghdad on Marcch 29th. The big news on the potential summit; however, is Hoshyar Zebari has announced United Nations Seretary-General Ban Ki-moon will attend. Actually, there's other big news but it's only Arabic outlets reporting so we'll assume no one in the US press reads Arabic? Is the alternative that US press is yet again lying to the American people? Al Mada reports on a move by the Baghdad-based government to get US forces to protect Iraqi air space for the Baghdad summit.
Instead of addressing security concerns, Nouri al-Maliki and his forces would rather go in search of mystics and monsters. Last month, for example, there was the 'big bust' in Baghdad of the "sorcerers" for practicing "voodooism" has not increased the safety in Iraq They also waste time chasing vampires. They call Emo kids that. Apparently, they believe Iraqi youth has been overtaken by a vampire outbreak. The oh-so-modern Baghdad brought to you by Nouri al-Maliki. Al Mada reports that Parliament is offended by the attacks on Iraq's Emo youth while at the same time they note that Emo is criminal behavior and goes against human rights. Ahmed Hussein (Al Mada) reports that Emo youth are considered aliens, other-worldly, are targeted for "liquidation" the same as Iraq's LGBT community. And they're confused with Satanists, vampires and more. It sort of reminds you of when the Twilight crowd comes to Southpark Elementary and the Emo kids are outraged to be considered Twighlight wannabes by the uninformed. Dar Addustour reports that 56 of Iraqi's Emo Youth have been killed. And please note, the security forces consider the Emo kids to be a top security priority. Are you starting to understand why the current government can't provide protection to the citizens of Iraq?
When not wasting their time obsessing over Emo kids, the security forces obsess of Raghad Saddam Hussein. Who? Saddam Hussein's daughter. Al Bawaba reports that she's issued a strong denial of the repeated rumors that, from Jordan, she's orchestrating an attempt to overthrow Nouri al-Maliki. Her response to the rumors includes the following:
Some press reports said I was in contact with senior military officers in Iraq and providing them with funding to toplle the current government. That is not true. How can I think of staging a coup against ag overnment supported by the military and protected by the most advanced intelligence and monitoring technologies? The time for coups is long gone and nobody does that nowadays. [. . .] Iraqis have enough on their plate. They are oppressed by a ruthless occupation and a tyrannical government, both supported by the military.
So they fear a woman in Jordan, they fear Emo kids and their own LGBT community. A lot of fear in Nouri al-Maliki's Iraq. The tone's set at the top.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012


Smash airs Monday nights on NBC.

So what's going on?

First, Karen's boyfriend wants to be press secretary at his city job.  But there's another guy in the running.  I think what Karen accomplished at a party with flirting was to find out who the other guy was.  The boyfriend was thrilled regardless.

(I wasn't. I thought it was the weakest moment of the show.)

They really need to give Anjelica Huston more airtime.

At one point, she's on the phone with her assistant who takes a moment to explain to her that he quit to go to work for her soon to be ex-husband.

That could have been developed as opposed to dropped in from nowhere and moments later forgotten.

Any fears that Ivy was misunderstood are gone.  She's just a little tramp.  When the director goes hard on her at rehearsals, what does she do?

Hop back into bed with him.

That might be 'smart' but it goes to who she is and I don't care for the character.

Tom ended up in bed with his boyfriend.  And they had lousy sex and thought it was hysterical.  So hysterical that we never saw them kiss or even hold each other.

They had to have bad sex?  I'm not sure why that was.

Tom's writing partner Julia?  Her son was picked up by the police in a pot bust.  Tom's boyfriend (an attorney) got the kid out.

The most interesting aspect is that the director doesn't like Ivy's performance as Marilyn.  I agree with him on that.  Slowly and slowly, Karen's being brought in more to show Ivy how it's supposed to be sun -- underscoring that Ivy's not much of a singer.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Tuesday, March 6, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, the US Congress learns more about how the VA asks for X and then spends X-plus without any Congressional authorization, Iraq's LGBT community is again being stalked by death squads, and more.
Chair Bill Johnson: The VA clearly indicates in a letter from Secretary Gould on November 24,2010 that they automatically go to the two-step acquisition process which by definition precludes evaluation of existing lease space as an option of lease spaces for all leases greater than 20,000 feet. Does VA presume that this authorizes them to bypass the requirements of federal acquistion regulations in 38 US Section 8104B.
Robert Neary: No, sir, we do not presume that we've got authority to violate title 38 or the federal acquisition regulations.
This afternoon the US House Veterans Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing. Bill Johnson is the Subcommittee Chair, Joe Donnelly is the Ranking Member. Robert Neary is the Acting Executive Director of the Office of Constructin & Facilities Management at the Department of Veterans Affairs and he was joined by the Dept's George Szwarcman (Director of Real Property Services) and Brandi Fate (Director of Capital Asset Management and Support). Robert Neary began his opening remarks before the Subcommittee with what he termed an "update" but what are more popularly known as a "correction."
Robert Neary: In response to a series of questions from the Subcommittee in December 2011, VA provided an incorrect appraisal for the targeted relocated Savannah Outpatient Clinic site. Instead of referencing a 46,85 acre site, VA inadvertently referenced a 16.85 acre location. The appraiser failed to identify that the deed of sale and the tax records did not reflect the same information. Since learning of the discrepancy, VA immediately requested a revised appraisal and provided an update to the Subcommittee on March 2, 2012, acknoledging the error. VA is contracting for another certified appraiser to review the initial appraisal, and provide a determination regarding fair market value of VA's preferred site as of Spring, 2010. Finally, VA is also obtaining a new appraisal that reflects the current land value of the site. VA will review all the appraisal reports concerning the targeted parcel in Savannah in order to determine what appropriate corrective action may be warranted. I want to emphasize that VA only uses appraisers who maintain appropriate licensure and accreditation, in addition to adherence to the Uniform Appraisal Standards for Federal Land Acquisitions, which is standard operating procedure. I would like to apologize to the Committee for the delay in uncovering the facts and provide assurance that response to future inquiries will be more thoroughly investigated.
And before you think, 'At least the VA's being upfront . . .,' no, they are not. They got caught. I'm not referring to Neary himself -- I have no idea who was responsible. But Ranking Member Joe Donnelly explained what was going on:
The VA sought Congressional authorization for the Savannah, Georgia clinic expansion in its FY 2009 budget submission. This authority, for a clinic with 38,900 net usable square feet at a cost of $3.2 million, was provided in October 2008. Sometime after this authorization, the VA epxanded the project by over 45% and is now seeking to lease a clinic with a maximum net usable square footage of 55,193. The VA has not notified Congress or sought additional authorization for this expanison. In addition, although this project was authorized in 2008, construction is just now going forward.
Okay, let's review that. In 2008, the VA had a plan to expand the Savannah clinic and presented it to Congress while Congress was working on the 2009 budget. Congress examined the proposal and signed off on it with funding of $3.2 million. Four years later, construction is only now beginning. Construction was supposed to have already been completed and the expanded facility up and running no later than June of last year. In addition, what VA presented and Congress approved was not good enough for someone(s) who took it upon themselves to expand the plan by nearly 50% ("over 45%"). Why would you do that? Why would you turn in plans for an expansion, get approval and then double what you had planned?
Because you know Congress will foot the bill. The costs will fall under "cost overruns" and Congress isn't going to default on payment to various contractors and subcontractors overseeing the work and construction workers doing the building. (Nor am I suggesting that Congress should. The fault is not on the building end, the fault's with VA management and supervision.) Most likely, Mr./Ms. X knew that the Savannah project was going to be a big one. They presented Congress with plans for only half the work needed knowing that once the project was started, it would be cost overruns and Congress wouldn't pull the plug. What they did wasn't 'creative.' What they did was most likely fraud.
And if that term ("fraud") seems too strong or if someone wants to argue it's an accident. It happens too often to be an accident.
Ranking Member Joe Donnelly: The clinic in Savannah is not the only project which the VA has expanded after seeking authorization. Projects in Atlanta, Georgia; Eugene, Oregon; Fayetteville, North Carolina; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Green Bay, Wisconsin and Greenville, North Carolina are all slated to be substantially larger than authorized by Congress.
Sequestration is very likely this year -- meaning the 2013 Fiscal Year budget will face automatic cuts. The country has a huge deficit which is supposedly this huge concern. So why is VA being allowed -- and it's not just VA -- to get away with cost overruns?
Congress needs to have an automatic policy regarding cost overruns. Again, I don't subscribe to denying payment to the various contractors and construction workers. But I do think if you have a cost overrun, you need to be responsible. And by "responsible," I mean out of job. You're supposed to have planned this. They can make an exception for inflation. They can even allow a 15% overrun not resulting in termination. But when you're project has increased over 45% by what Congress approved, you need to be out of a job.
That's because you're either too incompentent to oversee a project in the first place or you're not providing the oversight needed. Either way, the taxpayer can't afford you and your mistakes.
There need to be clear consequences here. We are willing (wrongly, I believe) to automatically sentence someone to prison under "three strikes and you're out" laws. But we have no law requiring that those who waste -- intentionally or due to incompetence -- taxpayer monies aren't immediately fired? It's past time for departments to start being held accountable. And it's very clear that VA and others will not hold themselves accountable so Congress needs to start providing some input.
It is not fair that everyone else from a shoplifter to, yes, even a member of Congress faces some form of accountability (Congressional members can be kicked out in any election if enough voters don't feel they're doing their jobs) but those responsible for cost overruns are never disciplined, never lose a job, never lose a night's sleep.
Again, you may think, 'Well it was just a mistake . . .' No, it wasn't. Back to Subcommittee Chair Johnson.
Subcommitee Chair Bill Johnson: Why did the three annual lease status reports reported to Congress since 2009 continue to repeat the original authorization amounts when the VA clearly knew their efforts were not consistent with the Congressional limits.
Robert Neary: Sir, I-I -- I think our current process for the past several years has been to notify the Congress -- to notify the Committees on Veterans Affairs when we, uh, are planning to enter into a lease that exceeds the, uh, uh, what was authorized by greater than 10%. And our practice is to do that after we have received market-based pricing based on our procurement. Now, in this case, significant time has passed since the original authorization. Uh. But-but that's the reason that we have not, uh, notified the Committee. We're waiting for the, uh, price proposals to receive, uh, through competition.
Subcommittee Chair Bill Johnson: Okay, I'd like to point out that the Green Bay clinic is a similar scenario the FY '09 budget authority request was for 70,600 square feet, two-million-eight-thousand annual rent and $3,883,000 initial payment. Total budget authorized over 20 years was 44 -- I'm sorry, 44,043,000. As recently as the 2012 submission to Congress, the VA has indicated in the lease status report that Green Bay lease was not changed from FY '09 authorization request, however, SFOVA-101-09-RP-0200, issued 6-24-2009 was for 161,525 square feet -- 228% higher than authorized. And news reports indicate that the Green Bay lease has now been awarded.
Repeating, for the 2009 budget, they claimed they were requesting for 70,600 square feet. They knew at least by June of 2009 that they were actually going to be dealing with 161,525 feet. They didn't notify Congress, they stayed silent for years. This was fraud. When you present that you need X but you actually need greater than that amount and you know that once the project's started, it will be very hard for Congress to pull the plug, then you're engaging in fraud.
You're presenting false numbers -- fraudulent numbers -- to Congress because they will get approved while the whole time you're intending to spend much more. You're defrauding the taxpayer.
Chair Bill Johnson: Uhm, let me ask you another question. Has the VA already paid approximately 100,000 or so for a purchase option on the land in Savannah.
Robert Neary: That's correct, Mr. Chairmn.
Chair Bill Johnson: Under what authority does VA purchase an option to buy real property?
Robert Neary: I'd like to ask Mr. Szwarcman to answer that.
George Szwarcman: . . . [Microphone not on] Oh, thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Robert Neary: Okay, it's on.
George Szwarcman: Okay. Uhm . . . [Clears throat] VA -- According to a decision, or an opinion by the Office of General Counsel, VA does, uh, have authority to purchase options to purchase real property. Uh, the only distinction I would make in this case is that VA is purchasing an option for -- an assignable option -- or I should say -- yeah -- purchases an option to buy that property which will be assigned to the eventual developer. So it is never really the intent of VA to acquire a piece of property such as in Savannah for VA to own.
Chair Bill Johnson: Uhm, you know, I think the operative word here is to purchase an option. The red book makes it clear that agencies need a specific statutory authority to purchase an option. This is a separate authority than the authority to buy real property outright. I can refer you to that -- to the red book. A quick search of VA's authorities do not provide an authority for their action. So I'm a little bit lost with that. There's a difference between purchasing an option and purchasing property outright. Has the VA obligated itself to purchase the land?
Robert Neary: Uh, no, sir, we've not.
Chair Bill Johnson: And if the land is not purchased, will VA get any of that money back?
Robert Neary: No, sir.
Chair Bill Johnson: So that's taxpayer dollars down the drain.
Robert Neary: If a decision were made not to acquire that site, then the money would be lost, yes.
There is so much more from that hearing I would like to cover but there's a big story out of Iraq that will be ignored by many -- if 2009 was any indication -- and we don't ignore it here so we need to move over to Iraq now.
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission has today received reports from Iraq of a wave of targeted killings of individuals who are perceived to be gay or lesbian. According to Iraqi human rights activists, in early February 2012, an unidentified group posted death threats against "the adulterous individuals" in the predominantly Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad and Basra. The threats gave the individuals, whose names and ages were listed, four days to stop their behavior or else face the wrath of God, and were to be carried out by the Mujahedin. According to sources inside Iraq, as the result of this new surge of anti-gay violence close to 40 people have been kidnapped, brutally tortured and murdered. The Iraqi authorities have neither responded to this targeted violence nor have they publicly denounced it. It is widely believed that these atrocities are being committed by a group of the Shiite militia.
All US aid to Iraq should immediately stop. For those who are not aware, this wave of attacks is only the latest wave. The White House should have addressed it earlier. They didn't. And now the same problem all over again. April 13, 2009, Amnesty International issued the following:
Amnesty International has written to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki expressing grave concern about a reported spate of killing of young men solely because of their sexual orientation and calling for urgent and concerted action by the government to bring those responsible to justice and to afford effective protection to the gay community in Iraq.
Over the last few weeks at least 25 boys and men are reported to have been killed in Baghdad because theyw ere, or were pereceived to be, gay. The killings are said to have been carried out by armed Shi'a militamen as well as by members of the tribes and families of the victims. Certain religious leaders, especially in al-Sadr City neighbourhood, are also reported in recent weeks to have urged their followers to take action to eradicate homosexuality in Iraqi society, in terms which appear effectively to constitute at least an implicit, if not explicit, incitement to violence against members of the gay community. Three corpses of gay men are reported to have been found in al-Sadr City on 2 and 3 April 2009; two of the bodies are said to have had pieces of paper bearing the word "pervert" attached to them, suggetsting that the victims had been murdered on account of their sexual identitiy.
In the letter sent to the Prime Minister Amnesty International expressed concern at the government's failure to publicly condemn the killings and ensure that they are promptly and effective investigated, and that the perpetrators are brought to justice. The letter also drew attention to reported statements by one senior police officer that appear to condone or even encourage the targeting of members of the gay community in Baghdad, in gross breach of the law and international human rights standards.
Amnesty International reminded the Iraqi government that it is a fundamental principle of international human rights law, including international treaties that have been ratified by and are binding on Iraq, that "All human beings are equal in dignity and rights" and are entitled to all rights and freedom set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, without distinction of any kind, such as on grounds of race, sex, religion, political, or other status, including sexual orientation and gender identity. The organization called on Prime Minister al-Maliki [to] take immediate and concrete steps to address this sitatuion, including to publicly condemn, unreservedly and in the strongest terms, all attacks on members of the gay community or others on account of their sexual, gender, ethnic or other identity, and to commit to ensuring that those responsible for such abuses are identified and brought to justice. Further, police officers or other officials who encourage, condone or acquiesce in such attacks must also be held to account and either prosecuted or disciplined and removed from office.
Dropping back to the April 17, 2009 snapshot:
This morning AFP is reported that signs are going up around the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad threatening to kill a list of people alleged to be gay. The posters are put out by the Brigades of the Righteous and AFP translates the posters as stating, "We will punish you, perverts" and "We will get you, puppies" has been scrawled on some posters -- "puppies" being slang for gay males in Iraq. The Australian carries the AFP report here. Liz Sly and Caesar Ahmed (LAT's Babylon & Beyond) report the message on the posters included, "If you don't cease your perverted acts, you will get your fair punishment." The reporters also noted that a Sadr City resident saw a poster with approximately 15 names (of people who would be killed) written on it. These posters are going up around Sadr City. Where is the United Nations condemnation? Where is the White House, where is the US State Dept? Chris Johnson (Washington Blade) notes the only member of the US Congress to condemn the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community, US House Rep Jared Polis and reports:
["] Noel Clay, a State Department spokesperson, said U.S. officials "condemn the persecution of LGBTs in Iraq," but he couldn't confirm whether the violence they're facing in Iraq is because of their sexual orientation.
Clay noted that while homosexuality is against the law in Iraq, the death penalty is not the punishment for homosexual acts. ["]
And yet at the start of this month the State Dept's Iraqi Desk John Fleming was telling Kilian Melloy (The Edge) that, "Homosexuality not a crime in Iraq." He was also stating that same-sex relations were of no conern to Iraqis ("immaterial"). That is laughable. Noel Clay has stated that same-sex relations have been criminalized in Iraq so unless or until the State Dept issues a public clarification, we will operate under the belief that Clay is correct. Attempts by the press to figure this out has been stonewalled.
Barack Obama never called it out. Not once. In the 80s, Ronald Reagan was US President. The AIDS crisis emerged. When Reagan died in 2004, his non-response to the AIDS crisis was noted. From Allen White's "Reagan's AIDS Legacy: Silence equals death" (San Francisco Chronicle):
As America remembers the life of Ronald Reagan, it must never forget his shameful abdication of leadership in the fight against AIDS. History may ultimately judge his presidency by the thousands who have and will die of AIDS.
Following discovery of the first cases in 1981, it soon became clear a national health crisis was developing. But President Reagan's response was "halting and ineffective," according to his biographer Lou Cannon. Those infected initially with this mysterious disease -- all gay men -- found themselves targeted with an unprecedented level of mean-spirited hostility.
A significant source of Reagan's support came from the newly identified religious right and the Moral Majority, a political-action group founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell. AIDS became the tool, and gay men the target, for the politics of fear, hate and discrimination. Falwell said "AIDS is the wrath of God upon homosexuals." Reagan's communications director Pat Buchanan argued that AIDS is "nature's revenge on gay men."
With each passing month, death and suffering increased at a frightening rate. Scientists, researchers and health care professionals at every level expressed the need for funding. The response of the Reagan administration was indifference.

Even during the non-stop death pageantry, the glorification and the worship, there was still time for a small bit of reality. Barack Obama better be thinking about his legacy. His silence as Iraq's LGBT community (as well as people merely thought to be LGBT) is targeted and killed is appalling. There's no excuse for it. And history will not provide one. History's provided none for Ronald Reagan -- Barack's hero, remember?
Today the Government of Iraq represents a fully sovereign and democratic country. As such, it must protect all of its citizens including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from hate-filled violence and death at the hands of armed militias. Vigilantes who perpetuate the targeted killing of those perceived to be gay or lesbian must not be tolerated in a new Iraq. We have seen these atrocities before. In 2009 vigilantes murdered hundreds of Iraqi individuals for their perceived sexual orientation. There are no excuses for such heinous human rights violations. We demand that the Iraqi Government put a stop to the wanton persecution and killing of gay people, and that the perpetrators punished.
Dan Littauer (Gay Star News) speaks with LGBT Iraqi activist Bissam who had to leave Iraq for his own safety and he states:
I had a confirmed report in October 2011 from a gay young man who lives in Baghdad, his name is Haider, that al-Mehdi militia are threatening that they are coming back and they will kill gays. For some reason some of the militia men knew about him being gay because he was told they came looking for him, so he fled his home and was hiding. Last I heard from him was in late November but don't know what happened to him. Many men get kidnanpped and go missing all the time. He also reported that this has been happening to many of his friends.
For those who missed the 2009 wave of attacks (not the first and not the last), the only non-LGBT program on Pacifica Radio to cover the attacks was Lila Garrets' Connect the Dots on KPFK. LA City Council member Bill Rosendahl raised the issue on her show June 1, 2009 (see that day's snapshot for the exchange -- you can contact KPFK about ordering a copy of the show; however, there is no free archive of that broadcast available any longer). In terms of big media, the leader was the Denver Post. The New York Times, despite having people over there to report on Iraq, had no real interest in the story an only filed one story after other outlets were reporting on it. Their lack of interest was not unlike the lack of interest they showed in the 80s when the AIDS crisis emerged. By their patterns of silence, they do reveal themselves.
If you've forgotten or weren't around during the 2009 coverage, from the June 1, 2009 snapshot, we'll note some resources from this site and the media coverage of the targeting:
This year, the targeting's been noted here first in more on the issue, you can see this snapshot, this entry and the roundtable Friday night ["Roundtable on Iraq," "Roundtabling Iraq," "the roundtable," "Iraq," "Iraq in the Kitchen," "Roundtable on Iraq," "Talking Iraq," "Iraq," "Talking Iraq roundtable" and "Iraq roundtable"] That's going back to the start of April and it is not true that the MSM has ignored it. They could do a lot more but they have covered it and where there has been no amplification is in Panhandle Media which appears to feel it's a 'niche' story to be left to the LGBT media. In April, Wisam Mohammed and Khalid al-Ansary (Reuters) and Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN), the Dallas Morning News, UPI and AFP reported on it. Michael Riley (Denver Post) covered the story and covered US House Rep Jared Polis' work on the issue (which included visiting Iraq), PDF format warning, click here for his letter to Patricia A. Butenis. Polis is quoted at his website stating, "The United States should not tolerate human rights violations of nay kind, especially by a government that Americans spend billions of taxpayer dollars each year supporting. Hopefully my trip and letters to US and Iraqi officials will help bring international attention and investigation to this terrible situation and bring an end to any such offenses." For the New York Times, Timothy Williams and Tareq Maher's "Iraq's Newly Open Gays Face Scorn and Murder" covered the topic. BBC News offered "Fears over Iraq gay killing spate." The Denver Post offered an editorial entitled "Killing of gay Iraqis shouldn't be ignored: We applaud Rep. Jared Polis for his efforts last week to shine the spotlight on the killings of homosexuals in Iraq," Nigel Morris offered "Iraqi leaders attacked over spate of homophobic murders" (Independent of London), the Telegraph of London covers the issue here. Neal Broverman (The Advocate), Jessica Green (UK's Pink News), and Doug Ireland covered it (here's one report by Ireland at GayCityNews -- he's filed more than one report), AFP reported on it again when signs went up throughout Sadr City with statements such as "We will punish you, perverts" and "We will get you, puppies" (puppies is slang for gay men in Iraq) and Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reported on that as well. Chris Johnson offered "Polis seeks to aid Iraqis: Says gays 'fear for their life and limb' after fact-finding trip to Baghdad" (Washington Blade), Killian Melloy (The Edge -- this is the April 2nd story that contains the State Dept stating it's not happening -- the denial) and [PDF formart warning] the April 15th "Iraq Status Report" by the US State Dept notes the killings. Amnesty International weighed in as did the International Gay and lesiban Human Rights Campaign. Jim Muir (BBC News -- text and video) reported on the targeting and the attacks. UK Gay News covered it, last week ABC News offered Mazin Faiq's "Tortured and Killed in Iraq for Being Gay" Chicago Pride and UPI covered the latest deaths last week. And AFP and Jessica Green (UK's Pink News) covered the public statement from Moqtada al-Sadr about how they needed to be "eradicated" for "depravity" and he thinks they can be 'taught' not to be gay.
And if you're wondering about the administration's response? Barack never called it out. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton raised the issue and was the highest ranking official to do so publicly. While this was taking place, the State Dept spokesperson never felt the need to note it at the start of a briefing or to express sorrow or regret for the deaths -- maybe if they'd been known as Shi'ite LGBTs, the State Dept would have given a damn? And in all the press briefings, only once in 2009 was the State Dept ever asked about the issue in a press briefing. And that question? It came from the BBC. Of all the reporters in the room, day after day, killing time and telling really sad jokes, only the BBC ever felt the need to raise the issue of the killing of Iraqi LGBTs. Only the BBC.
News of the latest atrocities comes on the eve of a United Nations panel on queer rights to be held in Geneva, Switzerland, on March 7, marking the first time the UN's Human Rights Council focuses on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The panel is also taking place in the midst of opposition by 56 Islamic states in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which refuse to acknowledge gay rights as human rights.
This isn't a minor issue. This is a major issue and we're not going to ignore it. Giving the issue and news the due it requires means we don't have time for Tareq al-Hashemi and we don't have time for ExxonMobil and many other things -- including Lynne Stewart. We'll pick those up tomorrow. But this is a serious issue and too many walked away and remained silent on this in 2009. There's no excuse for it to have ever happened, there is no excuse for alleged friend of the LGBT community, 'fiercest advocate for gay rights' (or whatever Michelle Obama called him) to have been silent in 2009. He needs to understand that silence on this in an election year will be unacceptable. The media needs to understand that their silence is being followed and registered as well.