Friday, March 16, 2012

Demand accountability

Disturbing news from the ACLU.

"Government Confirms That It Has Secret Interpretation of Patriot Act Spy Powers"
Posted by Alex Abdo, National Security Project at 12:59pm
The government has just officially confirmed what we've long suspected: there are secret Justice Department opinions about the Patriot Act's Section 215, which allows the government to get secret orders from a special surveillance court (the FISA Court) requiring Internet service providers and other companies to turn over "any tangible things." Just exactly what the government thinks that phrase means remains to be seen, but there are indications that their take on it is very broad.
Late last night we received the first batch of documents from the government in response to our Freedom of Information Act request for any files on its legal interpretation of Section 215. The release coincided with the latest in a string of strong warnings from two senators about how the government has secretly interpreted the law. According to them both, the interpretation would shock not just ordinary Americans, but even their fellow lawmakers not on the intelligence committees.
Although we're still reviewing the documents, we're not holding our breath for any meaningful explanation from the government about its secret take on the Patriot Act. We do know now that there are two memos from the Office of Legal Counsel (the same Justice Department group that issued the torture memos) relating to Section 215. But as has become a routine practice for the Justice Department, the OLC is keeping those memos entirely secret.
This secrecy is overbroad and unnecessary. Americans have a right to know how their government is interpreting public laws, especially when those laws give the government sweeping authority to collect more and more of our personal and private information.
Stay tuned.
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How is the PATRIOT Act being used and why do we have to fight the government to find that out?

We were told, in 2007 and 2008, that a Barack presidency would be the death of the PATRIOT Act.  Instead, it's allowed the act to become more entrenched.

Barack was never about anything except re-selling empire.  The fools who gush and squeal over him are idiots walking to the gas chambers gleefully.

Americans are lulled into complacency by the media, yes, but they're also more than willing to spin fantasies and fairy tales for themselves.

The Great Recession continues.  Instead of trying to help Americans, Barack and Michelle have lived it up, with date nights and foreign travel, refusing to acknowledge the suffering of the American people.  There's no wave of outrage over that.  Instead, it supposedly makes priss-pot Barack 'cool.'

America's priorities are f**ked up and Barack's the perfect politician to take advantage of that.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, March 16, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, the targeting of Iraqi youth continues, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch issue statements decrying the targeting, US State Dept spokesperson Victoria Nuland accuses the US military of offering safe harbor to a terrorist camp (she's given a chance to walk it back by an AP correspondent but chooses not to), and more.
In every culture, the youth attempt to make their mark. They attempt this by finding their own identities which often means dressing differently. The fashion may elict laughter or groans but it doesn't usually result in murder. Except in Iraq. Ellena Savage (Eureka Street) explains:

When I was in middle school, my taste for fashion was -- to say the least -- interesting. I would hack my hair into asymmetrical experiments, dye it impossible colours, and layer myself with kitsch garments found in northern suburbs op-shops. I would have liked to have been caught reading Camus in public, and for people to ask what made me such a complex personality.
In other words, I was another precocious teenager who wore her emerging individuality on the outside. I've toned down on the black nail polish, but I still cut my own hair (with varied results).
Right now in Iraq, teenagers just like I was are afraid for their lives. The media have dubbed the phenomenon 'Emo Deaths': young men who dress in emo fashion -- skinny jeans, black t-shirts, piercings -- are being targeted as homosexuals.

The Iraqi youths are simply expressing themselves as young people do around the world. But doing this in supposedly "free" Iraq can get you killed. Killed by being pushed off a building, by being shot dead, by being beaten with concrete blocks, there are many ways Iraqi youths are being murdered. Roby Hurriya has photos of his murdered Friend Saif Asmar and shows them to the press as he explains, "They laid him down on the pavement and smashed his head with a cement block." Lists are compiled and people are threatened. Emily Alpert (Los Angeles Times) notes, "Activists say one sign decorated with two handguns in Baghdad's Sadr City threatened 33 people by name, warning them to stop their 'dirty deeds' or face 'the wrath of God.' Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr issued an online statement calling emos "a lesion on the Muslim community," the Associated Press reported." And through it all, the government looks the other way. Who's doing the targeting? Karlos Zurutuza (IPS) reports:

Ruby points directly to the Mehdi militia - a former insurgent group led by cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Such crimes are being committed in complete impunity, says Ruby.
"Ours is a militia-run government," complains this young man on the run. "The only possible solution is that Western governments put pressure on Iraq to end this nightmare."
Dalal Jumma from the Organisation of Women's Freedom In Iraq concurs, and complains about the lack of a "mandatory separation between state and religion.
"The militias' letters hanging on the walls even accuse homosexuals or 'emo' followers of 'Satanism for participating in the martyrdom of Imam Hussein' – the Shia community leader killed in the Seventh century. How can we deal with such monstrosity?" says Jumma at the NGO's headquarters in Karrada district in southeast Baghdad.
IPS has had access to one of the letters allegedly found in Sadr City – it had a list of 33 individuals classified under their residence block numbers.

In a sign of how much effect the world attention to these attacks are having, Moqtada al-Sadr has issued a statement. Alsumaria TV reports that the cleric declared yesterday that the targeting of Iraqi youths did not "please God" and he denounced the attacks. On Saturday, you may remember, he issued a statement calling them the scourge of the earth. What changed in the last five days? The level of attention the issue is receiving around the world. Which includes Amnesty International issuing a statement today:
The Iraqi government should immediately investigate and bring to justice those responsible for a targeted campaign of intimidation and violence against young Iraqis seen as belonging to an "emo" subculture, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW), and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) said today.
The attacks have created an atmosphere of terror among those who see themselves as potential victims.
A 22-year-old gay man in Baghdad told the international rights groups that anonymous callers made death threats on his phone on 11 March. The callers described a friend of his whom they had kidnapped and brutally beaten days earlier, saying that was how they got his number. They told him that he would be next. He has since cut his hair and does not leave his house for fear of being targeted. He said:
"When the news started spreading about emos, the threats and violence against gays increased. They are grouping us all together, anyone who is different in any way, and we are very easy targets."
The campaign's victims appear to represent a cross-section of people seen locally as non-conformists. They include people suspected of homosexual conduct, but also people with distinctive hairstyles, clothes, or musical taste. In English, "emo" is short for "emotional," referring to self-identified teens and young adults who listen to certain types of rock music, often dress in black, close-fitting clothes, and cut their hair in unconventional ways. People perceived to be gay, lesbian, transgender or effeminate are particularly vulnerable.
In an official statement on 8 March, Iraq's Interior Ministry dismissed reports by local activists and media of a campaign against those seen as emos, saying the reports were "fabricated" and "groundless," and that it would take action against people who were trying "to highlight this issue and build it out of proportion." However, an official ministry statement on 13 February had characterised emo culture as "Satanist", casting doubt on the government's willingness to protect vulnerable youth, the international rights groups said.
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said:
"At best the response of the Iraqi Interior Ministry is completely inadequate, at worst it condones the violence against emo youth. Iraqi authorities should unequivocally condemn the attacks, investigate any killings and protect anyone in danger."
There is more to the statement but let's stay on the topic of statements to jump over to Huffington Post where they post two paragraphs and maintain that's a statement from the State Dept. Those two paragraphs are part of the four paragraph statement we ran in yesterday's snapshot. Maybe we should have included the title to the statement? "U.S. Embassy Condemns Attacks on 'Emo' Youth In Iraq." Use the link, you'll be taken to the US Embassy in Baghdad's website. From the title alone, you should be able to grasp -- even if you write for the Huffington Post -- that this is a statement not from the State Dept but from the US Embassy in Baghdad. It's a real shame Huffington Post can't stick to the facts or even do a basic fact check. As we noted yesterday of Hillary's 'quote' in the statement -- she's not speaking of Iraqi youths, it's from a speech she gave at the start of December.
Huffin Puff also forgets to note that the State Dept has received billions this fiscal year (and are asking for billions for next fiscal year) because they are the leaders of the US mission in Iraq. Where's the leadership? Silence and cowardice from the top, all the way down. If the State Dept -- and that includes Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- can't publicly condemn these killings than they've just demonstrated that they are unable to lead any mission in Iraq and that no further monies should go to them for this purpose.
The State Dept provides no leadership on this or any other Iraq issue. Not only that, they offer no transparency. When the Pentagon was in charge, reports had to be issued, press conferences on Iraq held. Getting billions of dollars -- billions of US taxpayer dollars -- has increased the State Dept's budget, it has not increased their efforts to inform the public of how the taxpayer money is being spent in Iraq. There is no oversight. The American people are supposed to take it on blind faith that their dollars are being used wisely in Iraq -- no, that is not how a democracy works. In December, State officially took over the US mission in Iraq. Since that time, Hillary Clinton has not given one press briefing on Iraq. She has been able to avoid the topic and the issue. The American people should be getting regular updates on how the monies are being spent. But the Congress can't even get straight answers from the State Dept on that.
The Huffington Post has a poll, the question is: "Should the U.S. and/or other countries offer support to the LGBT people and 'emo' young adults of Iraq?" That's far too vague a question. A much simpler one would be: "Should the U.S. publicly condemn the attacks on the LGBT people and 'emo' young adults of Iraq?" It's disgusting that the State Dept and Hillary can't even issue a statement calling out these murders. It sends the wrong signals and it's disgusting.
Here's the opening of the statement issued by Human Rights Watch today:
The government of Iraq should immediately investigate and bring to justice those responsible for a targeted campaign of intimidation and violence against Iraqi youth seen as belonging to the non-conformist "emo" subculture, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission said today. The attacks have created an atmosphere of terror among those who see themselves as potential victims.
On March 8, 2012, the Interior Ministry, in an official statement, dismissed reports by local activists and media of a campaign against those seen as emo. The ministry said the reports were "fabricated" and "groundless," and that it would take action against people who were trying "to highlight this issue and build it out of proportion." An official ministry statement, on February 13, that characterized emo culture as "Satanist" cast doubt on the government's willingness to protect vulnerable youth, the international rights groups said.
"The government has contributed to an atmosphere of fear and panic fostered by acts of violence against emos," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Instead of claiming that the accounts are fabricated, Iraqi authorities need to set up a transparent and independent inquiry to address the crisis."
The campaign's victims appear to represent a cross-section of people seen locally as non-conformists. They include people suspected of homosexual conduct, but also people with distinctive hairstyles, clothes, or musical taste. In English, "emo" is short for "emotional," referring to self-identified teens and young adults who listen to alternative rock music, often dress in black, close-fitting clothes, and cut their hair in unconventional ways. People perceived to be gay, lesbian, transgender, or effeminate are particularly vulnerable.
And State remains silent. I attend the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing yesterday thinking Iraq might come up (the topic was the naval fleet). It didn't. But let's note a section where accountability was expected and demanded. This is Ranking Member John McCain questioning the Secretary of the Navy Raymond Mabus and then between McCain and the Marines' General James Amos.
Senator John McCain: As you know, Mr. Secretary, the reason why Senator Webb, Senator Levin, I and others have been concerned about the issues of Guam is because the costs have escalated dramatically. At least in one area, from six billion to sixteen billion dollars. There has been slow progress with the Japanese. So we decided after Senator Levin, Senator Webb and other of us, that we needed some outside view. An independent view of this situation. We passed the Defense Authorization Bill in December. It's now been two-and-a-half months. How long does it take to let a contract -- to get an independent assessment, Mr. Secretary?
Secretary Raymond Mabus: Senator, since this contract is not under my purview, since I don't let this contract --
Senator John McCain: I see, it's somebody else's responsibility. Well I want to tell you for sure that until we get that independent assessment there should be no concrete plans made by the Secretary of Defense or the Defense Department until we have a chance to examine the assessment and then go through the authorization process or any expenditure of funds that need to be made in order to get this redeployment issue into some kind of sanity. Believe me, we acted -- as is our responsibility -- because of our intense frustration about the lack of progress on this issue. And now, two-and-a-half months go by they haven't even let a contract to get an independent assessment by the way. And we wanted it to be completed by the first of April, the end of March, which obviously cannot happen. I'm not going to let you continue to slow walk us on this issue. Just to put things in perspective, on the F35, again, we started the program in 2001, cost estimates for a couple of thousand aircraft, 2456 aircraft were going to be $238 billion. We've now had additional costs of $150 billion. A hundred fifty additional billion dollars in cost. Block IV, as I understand it, please correct me if I'm wrong, General Amos, Block IV, 32 aircraft which are approximately fifty-percent complete are not $500 million over original estimated costs. Are those figures wrong?
General James Amos: Senator, I can't say whether the figures are wrong or not. Uhm --
Senator John McCain: Do you know what the original costs were supposed to be, General?
General James Amos: Oh, I do. I was the --
Senator John McCain: Alright, was [cross-talk] Is that fact, is that fact wrong?
General James Amos: That fact is pretty close, sir.
Senator John McCain: And there's been an additional $150 million cost overrun. Is that fact true?
General James Amos: I'm -- I'm not -- I can't comment on that. I-I don't know.
Senator John McCain: You don't even know what the cost overrun has been?
General James Amos: Well, I-I, sir, this is not a single point in time. I've noticed the program grow, I've witnessed the technical baseline review last year --
Senator John McCain: Let me interrupt you again. Do you argue the fact that there's been a $150 billion additional costs of the aircraft since the original estimate of $238 billion?
General James Amos: Sir, I can't comment on that. I cen't tell you whether it's a hundred fifty billion dollars. I know it's significant.
Senator John McCain: So, for the record, you don't know how much the cost overrun has been for the F35?
General James Amos: Not precisely.
Senator John McCain: Roughtly? [silence] Do you know roughtly what the cost overrun has been? Sir, I'm assuming since --
General James Amos: No, I don't!
Senator John McCain: That's remarkable.
Do you think State could hold up under that kind of questioning about Iraq? I don't.
Do you know what a winning election theme is? There's no evidence that either major political party does currently but that is. McCain calling out waste. That's a winning strategy any election year but especially when programs -- needed programs -- are begin cut. When that happens, the electorate really isn't the mood for officials who don't think they have to answer to the American people on how the taxpayer money is spent. Having been told the Iraq War is over (it's not), the taxpayer really isn't prepared for the billions that are going to Iraq through the State Dept and that's before you get into the lack of transparency.
Were I Secretary of State, I would've gotten my head out of my ass long ago and scheduled weekly briefings on Iraq so the American taxpayer knew what was going on.
Earlier this month, the US government posted two positionsfor a US "AID Project Management Specialist (Economic Growth and Agriculture Office -- Baghdad)." Why is US AID going to Iraq?
Back in December, Hillary received loud applause for declaring, "Gay rights are human rights." Karen McVeigh (Guaridan) reported, "President Barack Obama has instructed officials to consider how countries treat their gay and lesbian populations when making decisions about allocating foreign aid. In the first US government strategy to deal with human rights abuses against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens abroad, a presidential memorandum issued on Tuesday instructs agencies to use foreign aid to promote such rights."
Pretty words. Did they have any weight? Did they have any meaning? Not to judge by the terrorizing of Iraq's gay and/or Emo population. Amnesty International notes:
While it is unclear who is behind the anti-emo campaign, Iraqi media reports have fuelled it by characterising what they call an "emerging emo phenomenon" as Satanists, vampires, immoral and un-Islamic. Some clerics and politicians have also contributed to the demonisation of young emos. The Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called them "crazy fools" and a "lesion on the Muslim community", though he also maintained that they should be dealt with "within the law."
Documents received by Amnesty, HRW and the IGLHRC indicate that in August 2011 Iraq's Education Ministry circulated a memo recommending that schools curb the spread of emo culture, which it called "an infiltrated phenomenon in our society."In its 13 February statement the Interior Ministry's indicating that it was seeking approval from the Education Ministry for "an integrated plan that would let them [police] enter all the schools in the capital." On 29 February the Interior Ministry released another statement announcing a campaign against emo culture in Baghdad, particularly in the Khadimiya neighborhood, where they identified one shop as selling "emo clothing and accessories."
After widespread media coverage of the violence and intimidation against emos, the Interior Ministry toned down its language in its 8 March statement. It warned against "radical and extremist groups attempting to stand as protectors for morals and religious traditions from any conduct against people based on a fashion, dress or haircut." The ministry denied that any emos had been killed and threatened "necessary legal actions against those who try to highlight this issue and build it out of proportion."
Meanwhile, on 14 March security forces in Baghdad detained the film crew of Russia Today's Arabic TV channel, Rusiya al-Yaum for three hours as they tried to film a segment related to the attacks on emos. Security forces confiscated their footage even though the channel had a permit to film in Baghdad. Meanwhile, a report by Al-Sharqiya TV on 7 March said that men in civilian clothes brutally beat two young women in public in al-Mansour district because of their "fashionable clothing."
On 15 March the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project, a non-profit organisation that provides legal assistance and safe passage to Iraqis facing severe persecution, told HRW that in the past week it had conducted interviews with 23 young Iraqis, most of whom had cut their hair short and were in hiding after receiving death threats and harassment because they were perceived to belong to the emo or LGBT communities. The interviewees also reported that ten others perceived to be in those communities had been killed since mid-February.
And still the White House and State Dept remaing silent. In December, Barack and Hillary had a lot of strong words, but their actions this month demonstrate that they were empty words, nothing more.
The actions of the media and organizations are having some impact. You can see it in the fear of foreign coverage and in the actions of the Ministry of Interior yesterday.
First up, Kitabat reports that Russia Today (RT) found itself detained in Baghdad when it attempted to report on the targeting of Emos. Ashraf al-Azzawi Ali Hussein (correspondent and cameraman) and Abdullah al Ashe (assistant cameraman) were filming and had been given permission to film when police approached them and confiscated their equipment and film, took them to police headquarters and detained them there for three hours. When they were released, they were told they could not film in downtown Baghdad.
Secondly, Alsumaria TV also reports that the Ministry of the Interior officially recognized the murders yesterday. Though various officials have talked about the murders, they have done so on background and the Ministry's official position has been that these attacks are not happening -- this despite their posting a statement to their website in February (only removed this week) calling for the elimination of the Iraqi Emo.
Dan Levin (The Cutting Edge) observes:

Killings have been reported by other methods and in other cities as well. Since national authorities are not recording the incidents as a special category, the total is not known. In recent days, members of Shi'ite militias, mainly in the Sadr City district, have circulated lists of names of people targeted for killings. The threats refer to "obscene males and females," understood to refer to both gays and "emos," an American teenage subculture of distinctive hairstyles and black clothes that has spread to Iraq. Hurriya says he believes at least 200 men have been killed in recent years either for being gay or appearing effeminate. During an interview at the Reuters bureau in central Baghdad, he opens a satchel and brings out a series of photographs of bludgeoned corpses of young men found on the streets of Baghdad. He has been documenting the killings and running a safe house for gay men. "We, as the gay community, are connected like string," he says. "We know if anything bad has happened to any of us."
The apparent spread of the violence in recent weeks to heterosexual youth who dress in emo style has caused panic among young Iraqis. Emo, a once-obscure genre of American "emotional" punk rock, became a mainstream subculture in the West in the past decade. In Iraq, it appeals to young people -- male and female -- hungry for self-expression in a conservative, often violent culture. Young Iraqis who call themselves emos typically wear long or spiky hair, tight jeans, T-shirts, silver chains, and items with skull logos. In recent days they have been rushing to barbers to get their hair cut. Shops selling clothing and jewelry with skulls and band logos have quickly taken down their emo displays. Iraq's Shi'ite-dominated government may not be helping. The Interior Ministry last month released a statement that labeled the emo culture "Satanism." It said a special police force would stamp it out.
At the State Dept today, Victoria Nuland came off more like an EST counselor than a spokesperson, crying out, "All right, everybody. Let's go right to what's on your minds. Happy Friday." Sadly, nothing about Iraq's youths were on her mind or on the mind of the so-called press gathered to jot down her faux pearls of conventional wisdom. For any who've forgotten,
since this story developed two Mondays ago, there has been no State Dept press briefing where a spokesperson has brought up the issue of the targeting of Iraqi youth or where the press has raised the issue. Today was no different from the other days.

Well, except for the fact that Nuland accused the US Army of harboring terrorists, providing aid and comfort. It's not every day a State Dept spokesperson does that. From today's brieifing (link is transcript and video):
QUESTION: Do you have any update on the status of the MEK as a terrorist group?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know that the review is ongoing. Beyond going back to something that the Secretary said when she was on the Hill, I don't have anything new to say. I think the Secretary made clear that it is important to us in the context of looking at this review that the MEK vacate its last known terrorist camp in Ashraf and that that would be a factor in our decision if they were be able to do that.
QUESTION: What about the court order that is asking for a response from this building by, I believe, next Friday in response to some petition on – for action on petition to be removed from the list? Do you have anything on that?
MS. NULAND: I'm not aware of any next Friday deadline, Ros. If you have something on that, you can send it us.
MS. NULAND: But we are going to do this in a deliberative way.
QUESTION: Can I try -- you're going to get bombarded. I just want to make sure that you meant to say – you meant to call Camp Ashraf a terrorist camp.
MS. NULAND: I don't know what I meant to call it. Suffice it to say, that what the Secretary on the Hill is our statement of record on that subject.
QUESTION: Right, but do you – does the United States –
MS. NULAND: The closure of camp – sorry, it's main paramilitary base. Thank you, Matt. As the Secretary said, the closure of Camp Ashraf, the MEK's main paramilitary base, will be a key factor in any decision regarding the MEK's FTO status. Thank you for cleaning up my language as usual, Matt.
So the US military provided aid and comfort to a terrorist camp according to Victoria Nuland. And Matthew Lee was correct, March 26th is the date the federal court has ordered the State Dept to offer their classification. If Victoria Nuland doesn't know that, that's rather sad.
The Associated Press reports that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani left the Mayo clinic on Wednesday and is scheduled to be back in Baghdad in time for the Arab Summit (March 29th). To review, on or around March 26th, Baghdad Airport International will be closed to all commercial traffic, no protests will be allowed on the day of the Summit, 100,000 security forces will be dispersed throughout Baghdad (leaving other areas prime targets for attacks), Baghdad will have spent over $86 million (in US dollars) on the summit and Al Sabaah reports all vehicles (including bicycles) will be banned for the Arab Summit.

Going to be hard to spin that as a success.

Question: If, for example, Basra, Samara, Najaf and Rutba all suffer attacks on March 29th, would the security forces in Baghdad be forced to disperse to those areas? And, if they did, wouldn't it be similar to the way attackers use one bombing to draw the security forces to the location only to present them with another bombing?

Wednesday Kitabat reported that the 28th and 29th would be declared a holiday. Today Al Mada reports that the Baghdad government is denying that there will be a holiday. (A holiday would allow the government to close down a number of facilities.) Speaking of holidays, Al Mada reports the Parliament wants to take 35 days off (holidays) this year.
We'll close with this from the Feminist Majority:
March 14, 2012
Contact: Francesca Tarant, 703-522-2214,
Feminist Majority and NOW Supports the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
Attorneys representing the Roman Catholic Church and priests who have been charged in two Missouri sex abuse cases have filed a case in an effort to legally compel the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) to disclose its records from the past twenty-three years. The documents requested include correspondences with victims, witnesses, police officers, and lawyers. SNAP, a network of survivors of religious sexual abuse and their supporters, is neither a plaintiff nor a defendant in the case.

Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal adamantly spoke out against the outrageous attempts to intimidate SNAP and compel the release of its records: "The bishops are playing hardball with survivors of priest abuse, but the bishops are not playing hardball with priest predators. The Conference of Catholic Bishops needs to focus on stopping cleric sexual abuse and the hierarchy's cover-ups."

"The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is at it again. In addition to playing a major role in the right-wing war on women, the all-male hierarchy of the Catholic Church is trying to silence an organization dedicated to helping women and men who have been victimized by clergy," said Terry O'Neill, President of the National Organization for Women.

In the past few months, David Clohessy, national director of SNAP, and SNAP have been subpoenaed five times and questioned extensively about SNAP's operations by defense attorneys, despite the fact that SNAP is not a party in the litigation. Since SNAP refused to respond to all of the questions in the deposition or submit all of the subpoenaed documents in Kansas City, the attorneys on behalf of Catholic officials and the accused priests have filed a motion, scheduled for April 20, in attempt to compel SNAP to comply. "The effort to gain SNAP's records threatens not only survivors of priest pedophilia but also could set a dangerous precedent for victim advocates in domestic violence or other rape cases," said Smeal. Ten victims' advocacy groups filed a supporting amicus brief for SNAP saying the subpoena in unconstitutional since it violates the rights of association and would harm victims.

SNAP criticized the court's efforts to "unseal" its private records in a
statement: "Catholic officials are demanding thousands of pages of private records from child sex abuse victims and others. This has been called a 'fishing expedition.' But it's much worse than that. It's a cynical, shrewd legal maneuver to deter victims, witnesses, whistleblowers, police, prosecutors, journalists and others from exposing predators, protecting kids and seeking help from SNAP. And it threatens the long-standing privacy protections that almost all crime victims - not just child sex victims of predatory clerics' victims - have enjoyed for years."

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

NBC pulls reporter

POLITICO reports that the last broadcast reporter buried in Ron Paul campaign has bee n pulled. 

They're convinced that with no state win thus far, there's no point in covering him with an embed.

I understand the cost factor.  But I would have thought when NBC was the only one with someone on the trail, they'd use that, work it and promote it. 

Instead, they play "Follow the Other Big Outlets" into news chains.

It's a shame they're not into showing their independence.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Tuesday, March 14, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, Moqtada orders no protests during the summit, Iraqi youth continue to be targeted, the State Dept and White House continue to be silent, the Senate hears about homeless veterans, and more.
Sandra Strickland: In January 1990, I process out of the Army and received an Honorable Discharge. With the skills and training that I acquired from the Army, I set out to live the American dream and become a business owner. Life happened along the way and in nOvember 2002 I met and married my husband. We talked about opening up an auto repair shop together, but about 4 months after we were married, he was called back to active duty to assist in training the soldiers who were being sent to Iraq and Afghanistan, and was stationed at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina while I stayed at our home in Stafford, Virginia. In 2006, my spouse was released from active duty and when he returned home, we opened up our auto repair shop in January 2007. Our marriage suffered because of the separation, among other things, and we continued to grow apart and eventually talked about divorce. Two days before Christmas of 2010, when my spouse picked up our children from school and preparatory academy, he made a verbal threat to the academy director that he was going to kill me and the kids. That was the day I took my kids and left -- and ended up living in a domestic violence shelter with my two younger children in two (ages 6 and 4 at time). At the time I was working as a temp on a Government contract so I managed to save enough money to move me and my children into a 1 bedrom with den apartment in February 2011. Everything was going great until I wakled into work on Monday, April 25, 2011 and was told that the contract that I was working on was ending and Friday, April 29, 2011 would be my last day. I became unemployed on April 29, 2011 and, despite being a veteran, going on countless interviews and submitting countless resumes and having a wealth of administrative experience, I remained unemployed until September 2011. Although I received unemployment compensation for a brief time, my fanances became depleted and the eviction notices started coming. Also during this time, I was dealing with custody issues for my children. Although the court awarded joint custody to me and my spouse, I was awarded temporary physical custody until such time as we went to court for the final custody hearing. That hearing took place and although we both maintained joint custody, the judge reversed the order and awarded physical custody to my spouse because he still had the marital home that our children grew up in which was in their best interest to stay there and because my apartment was out of their current school district, it would not be in their best interest to transition them to a new school for the upcoming school term. Not only was I in shock by the decision, I felt as though I was being victimized because I chose to take my children and leave an unhealthy environment -- regardless of the fact that we were homeless. Not only did I lose physical custody of my children, I eventually ended up losing my apartment because I couldn't afford to pay the rent, due to the lack of funds from being unemployed and not having a full time job. So now, I am homeless and have been reduced to a "every other weekend" mother because my children no longer live with me every day.
Sandra Strickland was testifying before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee at today's hearing on homeless veterans. Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Committee. During her opening remarks, she explained, "In 2009, Secretary Shinseki laid out the bold goal of ending homelessness among veterans in five years. As we reach the halfway point, today's hearing will examine the progress made to date, as well as the challenges and opportunities moving forward -- particularly the challenges that homeless women veterans face. As many in the room know, VA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development recently announced that the number of homeless veterans dropped by 12% -- to a little more than 67,000. VA and HUD deserve to be commended for the signficant progress they have made. But despite this progress, challenges remain."
The number of homelss earlier in the decade was said by the VA to have been 275,000 and now the VA states it has been reduced to 67,494 veterans. While the overall veterans homeless population has been reduced, there has been an increase in the number of homeless women veterans. They once made up 2% of the homeless population but that has increased to 6% by the VA's current numbers.
The VA's Deupty Assistant Inspector General for Audits and Evaluations Linda Halliday offered anecodtal evidence as to why that number might be increasing as she discussed the results of a recent audit:
31% of the 26 providers reviewed did not adequately address the safety, security and privacy risks of veterans, especially female veterans. GPD prgoram medical facility staff allowed providers to house female veterans in male-only approved fcailities and multi-gender facilities for which security and privacy risks had not been assessed and mitigated. For example, we identified the following risks: bedrooms and bathrooms without sufficient locks, halls and stairs without sufficient lighting and female and male residents on the same floor without access restrictions. In addition, some providers housed female veterans in female-only facilities that had inadequate security measures -- such as inadequate monitoring and not restricting access to non-residents. We discovered serious female veteran safety, security and privacy issues at one site that required immediate VHA management attention. Two homeless femal veterans were housed in a male-only approved provider facility. The two female residents shared a bathroom with male residents without an adequate lock and had sleeping rooms on the same floor as male residents witout adequate barriers restricting access to the female rooms. We found that since fiscal year 2002, VA's GPD program staff had placed 22 homeless females in this male-only approved facility without adequately addressing the safety, security and privacy needs of the female veterans.
Strickland and Halliday were part of the first panel to appear before the Committee. That panel also included Rev. Scott Rogers (Executive Director of the Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry), Vietnam Veternas of America's Marsh Four who chairs the National Women Veterans Committee, National Coaltion for HOmeless Veterans' John Driscoll. We'll note this exchange.
Chair Patty Murray: You contacted the VA and asked for help. Obviously, they just said to you nothing. Right? They just said nothing. You got no response?
Sandra Strickland: No. No, to me, their basic concern was my mental health. Because I had shared with them everything that was going on with me and their first question to me was, "Are you mentally stable?"
Chair Patty Murray: So you weren't assigned a case manager or referred for employment or training services or anything?
Sandra Strickland: No.
Chair Patty Murray: What do you think they should have said when you first called?
Sandra Strickland: What do you need? Not what I wanted or what they wanted for me but what I needed. And if they weren't able to provide the resources themselves, provide resources that I could reach out too. I wasn't even given that. They just told me they could give me a list of shelters. I could do that myself. But I mean, are they -- I just felt that there should be some type of partnership. If they're not able to assist or provide the assistance then there should be partners that they work with that they could refer a veteran too so that they're not just left when they hang up the phone feeling hopeless because that's how I felt.
Chair Patty Murray: Yeah. Ms. Halliday, your testimony was really eye opening, I think. Telling someone that they're going to be some place sleeping without a lock on the door, bathrooms that don't have locks. Insufficient lighting. Ms. Strickland, what would that type of environment have meant to you?
Sandra Strickland: An unsafe environment?
Chair Patty Murray: Yes.
Sandra Strickland: I would have stayed in my car. It's -- It's different when you have children, you know? I mean, of course I think of my safety but I think of my children as well. There aren't -- There are programs but it's not enough for women with children. Yes, I could have gone to other shelters but I wouldn't be able to take my children with me. And then, a female? Just from being a woman, you want to be able to feel that when you go to a transitional home or shelter that you do have adequate safety.
Chair Patty Murray: Basic. Ms. Four, Reverend Rogers, what would that have meant for the women who live in your facilities?
Marsh Four: Let me just say we do have, that's the agency, a 30 bed transitional program exclusively for women veterans. And, uhm, I believe in some cases the women do come there because it is a place that they know is safe, that they know is secured. We take great attention to that and I think one of the situations that exists is that there are so few of these programs in the community that are exclusive to women veterans, that are designed for them, to address their tremendous needs. That is one of the shortfalls also.
Chair Patty Murray: Reverend Rogers, what is the importance for basic security and things like that in your clients?
Rev. Scott Rogers: It is absolutely paramount. We really feel like it took almost two years for us to earn that trust and making sure that we could commit the amount of resources that were needed. That's why I asked you'll to consider some kind of a challenge grant. The community wants to respond but because of the numbers of women and their children are low, even though we have them housed separately and they're able to have their own room and facilities, it's at a much greater cost. With a little bit of extra help from this Committee and from Congress, we can provide not only that safety and security but that can also address the professional needs around sexual trauma, having a well trained staff, being really able to train our volunteers. I've got women who want to mentor other women but don't always understand the levels and complexities of that trauma. We would like to be able to have the funding and the support and we believe we can get it matched by the community with some leadership here because we don't, again, believe in the entitlement system but we do want to help you create the incentives but with the funding to overcome the smaller numbers but dealing with more complex issues.
Chair Patty Murray: And both of the VA's Inspector General and GAO really made it clear that the VA has to improve their services for homeless women veterans. But reports that were issued by two organizations and oversight by my staff have found really disincentives for homeless women veterans to seek VA's housing programs -- including no minimum standards for gender specific safety and limitations in available housing options for homeless veterans, especially with children. So my question to all of you is what would you do -- What would you direct the VA to do today to serve homeless women veterans? Ms. Strickland, if you had the opportunity to say to the VA, "Do this," what would it be?
Sandra Stickland: Provide adequate programs that can deal with the unique needs of female veterans.
Chair Patty Murray: The basics.
Sandra Strickland: The basics.
Chair Patty Murray: Safety, security, locks, privacy.
Sandra Strickland: Yes. And then resources to help us get back on our feet, to help us become self-sufficient, so that we don't become --
Chair Patty Murray: Chronic homeless?
Sandra Strickland: Correct.
Chair Patty Murray: Ms. Four?
Marsha Four: One I think would be that certainly the issue of the security really impacts their ability to focus on the programs that they have to work in. I think it's very important that the VA truly does some oversight of what they have in order to remold and work with some of the opportunities they have in front of them. I think that the addition of some extra funding through the special needs grants for those programs that want to do the work with women veterans -- it can be quite costly because the staff that's needed and the support that that grant allowed for assistance to the families who took care of the children while the women were attending to some very specific and some very important work to go into the mental health filed, I think that's another important place. And also to really make an evaluation of how many military sexual trauma specific residential treatment programs there are in this country and the fact that, if they are a far distance, how do they expect the homeless women to get into those programs and travel there.
Chair Patty Murray: Reverend Rogers?
Rev. Scott Rogers: First, I want to say thank you, Ms. Strickland for your courage and I'm sorry for your experience. We-we simply ask the VA to be right there with us. And what we say and what Charles George VA Medical Center does is they train their staff. There staff is with us as much as three and four days a week in our facility working with both our women and our men. But they're also there saying they're going to be the advocate, the ombudsman right alongside us as a faith-based and other community based providers. I think it's when they exhibit and put in place men and women, professionals, with that same passion that it really makes the difference because nobody can understimate the power of saying, "Welcome home, veteran."
Chair Patty Murray: Ms. Halliday, final comment?
Linda Halliday: We'd like to say that we'd like to see the VA transition away from the reliance of providing these services in multi-gender facilities. We'd like to see incentives put in place for special needs to ensure that female veterans needs are met, just as it was said before. And I think you would also have to possibly explore using contracts outside of the grant and per diem program to fit the unique needs of female veterans especially when they don't represent a large number and it would be smaller and get better economical solutions
We may cover more of the hearing in tomorrow's snapshot. Right now, we're moving over to the targeting of Iraqi youth. Michelangelo Signorile interviewed (reposted at Huffington Post) Iraqi LGBT's Ali Hili on his Sirius XM radio program. The targeted are those who are or suspected of being gay and/or Emo.
Michelangelo Signorile: What has the US State Dept done? And certainly, in light of [Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton's strong statements about countries around the world -- she gave a speech in Geneva speaking out about the brutality [against] gay people and said the US would be, you know, pulling funding even in some cases for countries, foreign aid would be in jeopardy, that were pushing an anti-gay agenda. Is the US State Dept just trying to look the other way?
Ali Hili: They have been looking the other way and it's a shame on the international world community that this genocide is happening under the eyes of the world and the gay community in particular. No one is doing anything to help support their brothers and sisters inside Iraq and this is on the conscious -- this is on the conscious of everyone who's been responsible to post it.
Michelangelo Signorile: What do you think people listening right now should be doing? Americans listening. Should they be putting pressure on the State Dept and Hillary Clinton?
Ali Hili: Of course. People should stand up. Stand up against this. this administration in Iraq, this establishment of killing that has been prosecuting sexual minorities, minorities and groups like even the Emos. Nobody ever did anything to stop these killings, these atrocities. The media is going to pick up on it for a period of time and then it's going to slow down and disappear. But those victims who are living there in fear, who's going to help them who's going to support them?
Michaelangelo Signorile: Has there been any official statement from the State Dept or Hillary Clinton?
Ali Hili: No. Nothing. Nothing. We haven't heard anything.
And no statment again today. Victoria Nuland handled the State Dept briefing. She came out joking ("Only the early birds here today!") and did everything but called for someone to bump up the lights as she asked, "So, what's on your minds?" Tomorrow, Victoria does the Tarzan yell.
Who is going to stand up for the Iraqi youth? The State Dept? The White House? Anybody? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?
While the so-called adults in government cut class, the tragedy continues for Iraqi youths. Peter Graff (Reuters) reports the way some Iraqi youths are dealing with the targeting:

Hafidh Jamal, 19, who works in a shoe store in the upscale Karrada neighbourhood, said he used to dress in black with his hair long in the back, but he fled his home in Sadr City this week and cut his hair. Two friends were killed for dressing in the emo style, he said.
"Let them kill me. They killed my close friends," he told Reuters. "I support emo. I love this phenomenon."

Tim Marshall (Sky News) notes the work of the Organization of Women's Freedom In Iraq to call out the murders:

The OWFI documents some of the crimes here (be aware this link leads to a graphic image) and says the current wave of killings began on February 6th. Gays have always been persecuted in Iraq, but two things happened after the 2003 invasion of the country which led to the wave of anti gay killings in 2009 and now again.

Ali Hussein (Al Mada) notes Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi's condemnation of the killing of Iraqi youths for being or thought to be Emo and Hussein notes that the targeting brings back memories of the Saddam Hussein regime when innocent people were behead and tossed into the garbage. Al Rafidayn quotes Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi stating that the liquadation of youths on the pretext of reforming Iraqi society is about embracing violence and terror and that they killers are in violation of the law. Another Al Mada article notes that while Nujaifi has spoken out against the killing, the Ministry of the Interior has remained silent except to deny that any targeting is taking place. MP Chuan Mohammed Taha serves on the Security and Defense Committee and notes that that governmental indifference to these killings is a new form of terrorism and that the Ministry of the Interior is a participant in the killings if only due to the fact that they know about the murders and they hide them from the public. Taha also declares that Emo is the expression of a personality and the law guarantees Iraqis the right to freely express their opinions.

Abe Greenwald (Commentary) offers
his thoughts on the subject:

In a Contentions post, I noted that the initiative allowed Obama to shirk America's unique role in actually securing human rights around the world, while earning praise from identity-politics activists. The administration's failure (and disinclination) to maintain an American presence in Iraq after 2012 meant that anti-gay barbarians such as al-Qaeda and Iranian proxies would stay behind and prey upon Iraq's homosexuals without fear of American influence. If Obama really wanted to protect gay rights from history's most vicious anti-gay forces, I wrote, he'd keep America in Iraq (and Afghanistan) instead of issuing memos and giving speeches. And if the progressives singing his praises really felt that gay rights were human rights they'd have been more inclined to support George W. Bush's freedom agenda and less eager to cut and run in our wars abroad. How tragic to have been proven so right so soon.
So even Commentary -- a right-wing periodical -- can weigh in publicly but elected and appointed officials in the US all have a case of Vegas throat?
Last night, Turkey launched another wave of air strikes on northern Iraq. Reuters notes Turkish Col Hussein Tamr states the assault -- supposedly targeting the PKK -- lasted over "an hour." Yesterday David Petraeus, the Director of the CIA, was visiting Turkey and speaking with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. RTT reports that they discussed "escalating sectarian strife in Iraq." Press TV tries to cover it and opens with:

The director of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), David Petraeus, has expressed concerns about the possible trial of Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi on charges of involvement in terrorist activities.
Al Sabaah reports that three "followers" of Tareq al-Hashemi were sentenced in Dhi Qar's Criminal court for possession of prohibited weapons and conspiracy terrorism charges. Al Rafidayn reports the three were sentenced to life imprisonment.
Meanwhile Baghdad prepares to go on lockdown. March 29th the Arab Summit is scheduled to be held in the capital and Al Sabaah reports that the Baghdad Operations Command has declared approximately 100,000 security officers will provide protection during the summit. In addition, Chen Zhi (Xinhua) reports that starting March 26th, Baghdad International Airport will be shut down. Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) notes that Moqtada al-Sadr has issued a statement announcing protests will not take place during the summit. So much for free expression in Iraq and, if any violate the edict of Moqtada, which of his deadly militias will he use for slaughter? Dar Addustour notes that the Cabinet has agreed to foot the bill for the Summit which, according to Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh, will cost $100 billion dinars. That would be $86,073,447.54 in US dollars. As so many Iraqis remain unemployed and in poverty, it will be interesting to see how the costs play out among the people.
Nouri is stalling on the national conference to address Iraq's political crisis and his latest stalling attempt is insisting that it take place after the Arab summit. Al Rafidayn notes that Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi and KRG President Massoud Barzani are both calling for the conference to take place this month before the Arab Summit (scheduled to kick off March 29th). Al Mada adds that after all the prep meetings for the national conference (there have been at least five), it was decided Monday to create a small committee that would set the agendy and that this committee is scheduled to meet today. For those who've forgotten, those prep meetings? They were also supposed to determine the agenda.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Smash airs Monday nights on NBC and streams online around the clock.  The show stars Anjelica Huston, Debra Messing, Jack Davenport, Katharine McPhee and others.  The premise is that Julia (Debra) and her writing partner Tom end up writing a musical about Marilyn Monroe.  Eileen (Huston) is the producer,  Derek (Davenport) is the director and Ivy and Karen (McPhee) are lead and understudy.

So this was a really tight episode that only grabbed breathing room when Eileen went to Bush Whacked (a dive) twice throughout the episode.

Tom walked out on his date (who was introducing Tom to his friends) to go hand-hold cry baby Ivy.  She's losing her voice and unable to hit notes.  The doctor gives her medicine.  She doesn't want to take it.  She should have told her or him that and gotten another prescription.

Instead, it's high drama.  Dennis is also there and that's even worse.

Tom has a sexy boyfriend who loves him and puts up with his crap (this date, Tom leaves; the previous one has Tom dragging the boyfriend to jail to bail out Julia's teenage son, etc.) and yet he was flirting with Dennis.

He was nice to Dennis?

No.  He was rude and that's how Tom flirts.

I really will have no stomach for Tom and Dennis.  It would be different if the two had gotten together earlier but now that there's a boyfriend who really is perfect, Dennis needs to find someone else.  Add in that Tom repeatedly insists Dennis is straight (he's not) so that would imply that Tom was one of those self-loathing types who can only fall for men who appear straight -- or, as I believe they word it in the classifieds "St8t acting seeks same."

Most of the episode was tease.  Would Julia sleep with Michael?  Even after her husband returned from his business trip? 

Of course.

Karen almost got to take over rehearsal but I think that's coming.  Ivy's voice is not holding up.  Karen also sang at a private function and a recording exec was impressed.

Eileen needs money but is managing.  She is lining up backers for the play and even found a nice place to live.  She'd probably do better to lean on Ellis less (and trust him not at all) but he's attached himself to her hip despite the fact that he's supposed to be Tom's assistant.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Tuesday, March 13, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, CIA Director David Petraeus talks to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan about Iraq's political crisis, the State Dept and White House remain silent on the targeting of Iraqi youth, French oil giant Total is interested in a deal with the KRG, the US is bound by international law to protect the residents of Camp Ashraf, and more.
Today's Zayman notes Turkish media is reporting that US CIA Director David Petraues visited Turkey today to speak with the country's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan about Iraq and Syria with an empahsis on "the latest specter of sectarian strife in Iraq amid its worst political conundrum." AFP adds, "The talks were not part of Erdogan's official itinerary."
The political conundrum? It includes many aspects. Let's start with Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi. Nouri al-Maliki has charged him with terrorism and issued an arrest warrant. He waited until al-Hashemi was in the Kurdistan Regional Government (three semin-autonomous provinces which do not answer to Baghdad) to issue the warrant. al-Hashemi chose to remain in the KRG where he has been a guest of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and KRG President Massoud Barzani. al-Hashemi has asked that his trial be moved to Kirkuk where he feels he could get a fair trial. He does not feel he will get one in Baghdad and he's correct. This was demonstrated when 9 members of the Baghdad judiciary held a press conference to announce that Tareq al-Hashemi -- who has not been before a court of law -- was guilty. These statements (and others) were made in violation of the Constitution and of the oath the judges took. They should actually be censored for their comments. But they were doing Nouri's bidding and no one will hold them accountable.
At the start of the week, the Sunday Zaman reported al-Hashemi states "he has Turkey's support not because he is a Sunni politician but because Turkey is protesting injustice in Iraq's worst political crisis since the US invasion nine years ago."
Aqeel Abas (Al Mada) reviews and notes that Nouri al-Maliki was declaring in July 2010 (four months after his State of Law came in second to Iraqiya in the 2010 elections) that Ayad Allawi would never be prime minister. As Abas observes, Nouri appeared to claim the right to determine who his successor would be -- a right not written into the Constitution -- and Abas explores how this was part of many statements from Nouri which have run contrary to the Constitution and to democracy. It's noted that the judiciary has become less and less independent. The Erbil Agreement, Tareq al-Hashemi and more are noted.

The 2010 elections did not go Nouri's way. He should have, therefore, not been named prime minister-designate and given a chance at creating a Cabinet. He knew that but he also knew he had the White House's support (and the Iranian government's) so he refused to budget creating a stalemate, Political Stalemate I, that lasted eight months. This ended only after the blocs agreed to the US-brokered Erbil Agreement which found political blocs making very concessions. It also allowed Nouri to remain as prime minister. When he got that aspect, he refused to follow the Erbil Agreement. He refused to stand by what he had signed off on. Since last summer, the Kurds have been calling for a return to the Erbil Agreement and Iraqiya joined them. Iraq is in Political Stalemate II and has been for some time. Hurriyet Daily News reports today that Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi states, "There are three options for the future [of Iraq]: Either a full partnership [will be implemented], as we agreed in Arbil, or we'll hold an early election. Thirdly, the National Alliance [could] replace Nouri al-Maliki [Iraq's prime minister] until the next elections."
Meanwhile Alsumaria TV reports that the Kurdistan Alliance declared today that they remained committed to an independent Kurdistan. The article never uses "independence." It repeatedly uses "Kurdish revolution" and talks around the point. The point of the KRG, the dream -- as Jalal Talabani often refers to it -- is an independent Kurdistan.
Late yesterday, Alsumaria TV rans a story with a headline that Washington (DC) has strongly condemned the targeting of Iraqi youth. I wish. DC hasn't said a damn word. You might think it was James Jeffrey, US Ambassador to Iraq, speaking out. You'd be wrong there too. He's not in Iraq. He's in DC. The person offering a condemnation was the Embassy spokesperson Michael W. McClellan who told Alsumaria -- in an interview -- that the US strongly condemns the violence and the targeting based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. I believe McClellan's been with the State Dept for 28 years.

Good for him. But DC hasn't condemned the actions. If DC wanted to condemn the actions, Hillary Clinton could have done so to the UN Security Council yesterday or at the UN press conference she gave, Mark Toner could have read a statement at the beginning of yesterday's press conference, etc. And of course the White House could have issued a statement via any of the many interviews Barack Obama gave yesterday -- it's more important, apparently, that he yammer on about Peyton Manning than he stick up for the targeted, Jay Carney could have delivered a statement on behalf of the White House, etc.
The administration chose not to take any of those steps. Instead, an embassy spokesperson gave an interview to a TV network most Americans have never heard of and one that broadcasts in Arabic.

Any of the previous steps would have resulted in media coverage. They really didn't want media coverage. But, thankfully, that is what they're getting. Chris Geidner (Metro Weekly) reports (correctly) that the US Embassy in Baghdad called out the killings and note that a statement had been conveyed to Gays Without Border and that Metro Weekly confirmed with Michael McClellan that the Embassy sent the e-mail which read, "Along with the Embassy, the U.S. Department of State strongly condemns the recent violence and killings in Iraq by groups who appear to be targeting individuals based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or personal expression. These acts of intolerance should have no place in society." That's the Embassy, that's not the State Dept. And please note, the Embassy had an e-mail exchange with a group in San Francisco and then confirmed that exchange to Metro Weekly. That becomes more clear as we turn to broadcast media.

Brian Todd (CNN) did a video report today and, no, this isn't the State Dept condemning anything either.
Brian Todd: On the streets of Baghdad, this is a very different and dangerous look. A western style with longer hair, tighter clothes. It's called Emo and if you're a young man in Iraq who wants to look like this, it could get you killed.
Iraqi Male Activist: There is a very strong wave of killing people who are such called Emos of gays. You know, people who look different than the usual Iraqi people, tight jeans, long hair maybe goatee.
Brian Todd: We spoke to a human rights activst who didn't want us to use his name or show his face. He says he's not gay or Emo but has longer hair. listens to heavy metal music. He said he shaved his goatee out of fear. What is the atmosphere like in Baghdad right now for people like yourself just to walk around?
Iraqi Male Activist: Well basically when I was coming to the CNN bureau here in Baghdad, there were two checkpoints who told me to cut my hair, they will kill me with the blocks of -- not them, but they were like advising me so people won't kill me with the blocks of cement, cement blocks.
Brian Todd: A senior Iraqi Ministry of the Interior official not authorized to talk to the media tells CNN at least 14 young men perceived to be either gay or dressed in Emo style have been killed in Baghdad in recent weeks. Human rights activists put the number much higher and they provide graphic evidence. Photos posted online show people believed to be victims because of their appearance. It's not clear exatly who's killing them. But activists have given CNN copies of warning letters and lists like this one distributed in conservative neighborhoods like Sadr City in Baghdad, lists identifying potential gay or Emo targets. There are also serious questions about whether the Iraqi government is able or willing to protect these men. Last month, Iraq's Interior Ministry released a statement saying it was following the "Emo phenomenon or Devil worshipping." Also saying "we have the approval to eliminate it as soon as possible and that the so-called moral police would enter schools in Baghdad. The Ministry later issued a statement saying it's received no reports of Emos being murdered. It warns vigilantes from attacking and says those dressed in Emo style will be protected. One young man who says he's not gay but wears tight jeans and shirts says he's not taking chances.
Iraqi Male: I can't do like the Emo thing and the clothes. I can't do that anymore. I'm afraid I might get killed.
Brian Todd: Contacted by CNN, a State Dept spokesperson says it is monitoring this closely, has expressed concern to the Iraqi government, and "We strongly condemn the recent violence and killings in Iraq by groups who appear to be targeting individuals based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or personal expression." The spokesman also points out that in recent days, Iraqi Parliamentarians and religious leaders including Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani have denounced these attacks. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.
Well, at last! The State Dept spoke!
No, it didn't.
When the State Dept decries something, it does so with a name. It doesn't do so anonymously.
Do you realize how cowardly what the State Dept did was?
Let's address the CNN report for a second and then come back to the State Dept. They credit to the Feburary Ministry of Interior statement to Col Mushtaq Taleb Muhammadawi. Remember that. Remember there was a name attached to it. When no one gets punished for the targeting of Iraqi youth, remember that there was an official call for them to be targeted and that it had name attached to it: Col Mushtaq Taleb Muhammadawi.
Yes, the State Dept wants you to know "clerics" have called out the attacks? Clerics? The Grand Ayatollah has called them out. Many more have supported the attacks and that includes Moqtada al-Sadr who made statements on Saturday.
Now back to the State Dept's cowardly refusal to play anonymous when it came to callingo ut the targeting of Iraqi youth. If the State Dept wanted to condemn these acts of terrorism, they know how to do so. They issue a statements not cloaked in the unnamed. They can do that in text form, they can do it via an announcement. They chose to do neither.
Victoria Nuland, State Dept spokesperson, gave the press briefing today and opened with, "Good morning, everybody. It is still morning and we are out here. Can you feel the buzz of energy in this building? We have Chiefs of Mission from all over the world here at the mother ship for the annual conference." I'm not making this up, yes, she does sound like she's dropped acid. She wasn't done with her opening remarks yet, so let's resume where we left off: "I have nothing at the top." Nothing to share. No announcements?
Because if the State Dept wishes to condemn some action in another country, right there, right at the start of the day's press briefing, that's where they put it.
But the State Dept had "nothing at the top."
Surely, you insist, some reporter asked her of Iraq today!
Wrong. They don't ask. They check themselves for fleas and lice, they thump their tails on the carpet while they wait for treats and snacks, but they don't ask.
At the White House today, Jay Carney gave the press briefing. Not one reported asked of Iraq. Jay Carney delivered no opening statement condemning the killings. Nor did the White House write up a statement that they issued.
If they had, it might resemble (in appearance) this statement that the White House did issue on Iraq yesterday.
Readout of Vice President Biden's Calls with Prime Minister Maliki and Amir Al-Sabah
Vice President Biden spoke by phone this morning with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and this afternoon with Kuwaiti Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. The Vice President discussed with the two leaders recent regional developments, including their upcoming meeting in Kuwait City and the March 29 Arab League Summit in Baghdad, and reaffirmed the United States' enduring partnership with both nations.
See, they know how to issue statements. They just choose not to.
So to delcare that the State Dept, the White House or the administration has denounced -- strongly or otherwise -- the targeting of Iraqi youth is to make a false statement. The US Embassy in Baghdad has denounced the targeting -- to one Iraqi television network and to one LGBT weekly in the US that happened to ask of a private e-mail exchange that had taken place. An anonymous State Dept employee, on background, called out the targeting.
What happened to all the talk about bravery and leadership we got from US President Barack Obama once upon a time? He can't even call out the murders of kids in Iraq. And we're supposed to see him as capable for the job?
When trashy Samantha Power is no longer part of the government and tries to pretend to be outraged over something taking place somewhere on the earth (where ever it is that she wants war at that moment), remember she said not one damn word about the Iraqi youth. Remember that, as is always the case, The Problem From Hell very much is Samantha Power.
Their silence is actually a gift. It demonstrates to whatever's left of the anti-war movement that they truly don't care about human rights or human suffering, that they only pretend to care when it helps them market their war plans, that they are as cowardly as they are insufferable and that no one should take them at all seriously.
Aswat al-Iraq reports Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi declared today that the liquidation of Emo is a crime. Pay attention, US State Dept and White House, that's how you denounce the targeting.
Turning to the issue of oil, AFP reports that French oil giant Total is in talks with the KRG and quotes CEO Chritophe de Margerie stating, "Kurdistan is part of Iraq. A lot of companies are investing in Kurdistan-Iraq and we don't see why Total couldn't do it. We are looking at opportunities. We are discussing, but there is nothing done yet." Emily Knapp (Wall St Cheat Sheet) points out, "Foreign oil companies involved in Iraq's oil expansion generally prefer to be compensated for capital expenditure and service fees in oil because cash payments are more complicated to arrange. Now the parties have reached an agreement in which they will be paid in crude. Exxon and Shell spent $910 million on West Qurna-1 last year, and were repaid $470 million in cash." They are not the first to seek a relationship with the KRG. Benoit Faucon (Wall St. Journal) observes, "The news come after the U.S.'s Exxon Mobil Corp. recently signed a deal to enter the region, rebuffing opposition from Iraq's central government, which says the Kurdish deals are illegal." Yesterday, Peg Mackey (Reuters) reported, "Exxon Mobil and Baghdad have reached agreement for the U.S.-based company to be paid in oil for work on the huge West Qurna-1 oilfield, after months of negotiations over contract terms, an Iraqi official said." Steve Gelsi (MarketWatch) added, "The reported agreement comes despite moves by Exxon Mobil to ink exploration agreements with the Kurdistan Regional Government, an entitity considered illegal by the Iraq central government."
On the topic of energy, workers are striking. Alsumaria TV reports "hundreds" of temporary workers with Basra's Electrical Distribution threatened to cut off electricity to homes if they're demands were not met. What are they demanding? Temporary contracts, a daily wage and they want to become permanent workers. Last month, Falh Alwan (Workers Liberty) reported on Karbala workers striking and safety concerns were among the issues but so was their demand for a daily wage.
Turning to violence, AKnews reports that Professor Abdulah Ahmed al-Hamdani and his sister, a final year student at Mosul University's College of Denistry were shot dead in Mosul. Alsumaria TV reports that the Ministry of the Interiror announced today that a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed the life of the head of a security committee and left a bystander injured.
Onto the issue of Camp Ashraf -- which houses Iranian dissidents in Iraq and which now demostrates that there's not a bit of difference between George W. Bush and Barack Obama except, of course, the fact that Barack's even worse. Jennifer Lin (Philadelphia Inquirer) reports on former Governor Ed Rendell who is now under investigation by the US Treasury Dept. As disclosed before I know and like Ed. For how this is being used to silence dissent, read this morning's entry.
Camp Ashraf, for those who need a reminder, a refresher or who are completely new to the topic, houses a group of Iranian dissidents (approximately 3,000 people -- 400 were moved to Camp Liberty last month). Iranian dissidents were welcomed to Iraq by Saddam Hussein in 1986 and he gave them Camp Ashraf and six other parcels that they could utilize. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq.The US government had the US military lead negotiations with the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US government wanted the residents to disarm and the US promised protections to the point that US actions turned the residents of Camp Ashraf into protected person under the Geneva Conventions. As 2008 drew to a close, the Bush administration was given assurances from the Iraqi government that they would protect the residents. Yet Nouri al-Maliki ordered the camp attacked twice. July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observes that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."

The White House doesn't want to live up to the agreement. The issue is whether or not we, the United States, are bound by the law or not. That's the only issue. So many have confused the issue telling you Camp Ashraf was 'icky' or a 'cult' or whatever else.

International law and the Geneva Conventions kicked in and when they did the US government was honor bound to protect the residents of Camp Ashraf. They could be mass murdering pedophiles. It wouldn't matter. The US could certainly attempt to prosecute them for that, but in terms of the safety issue, the US would still be bound to protect the residents. (I am not calling them pedophiles or mass murderers.)

The residents are protected, the MEK is not. The MEK is Iranian opposition dispersed throughout the globe. Regardless of whether or not the MEK is removed from the terrorist list, the US government entered into a relationship with the residents of Camp Ashraf that requires the US to protect them now. That's not in dispute. The governments own official documents back that up.
There's no walking away from international law without another blow to the US image abroad. If that's what Barack wants to deliver, I believe he's now destroyed every reason people were supposed to vote for him in 2008. Or have we forgotten the lie that Barack in the White House would make the United States beloved around the world?
The majority members of the U.S. House of Representatives and dozens of the most prominent former U.S. national security officials have defended the rights of Ashraf residents and have been critical of the U.S. for reneging of its legal, political, and moral obligation to the residents.
You can add the Senate Armed Services Committee to that list. Chair Carl Levin, Ranking Member John McCain, independent Joe Lieberman have publicly led on the obligation the US has to the residents and how Nouri's failure to provide protection will have consequences.
The press 'forgot' to report on that hearing. (Insisting John McCain was 'mean' to Leon Panetta is not reporting -- only Elisabeth Bumiller reported on the hearing.) We covered it in repeated snapshots. The hearing was Tuesday November 15th and we covered it in that day's snapshot and every snapshot for the rest of that week. November 17th, we emphasized the Camp Ashraf portion of the hearing. We'll note the beginning of the excerpt with "***************" and note the end that way as well.
"The status of the residents at Camp Ashraf from the Iranian dissident group MEK remains unresolved," Senator Carl Levin declared Tuesday. "As the December 2011 deadline approaches, the administration needs to remain vigilant that the government of Iraq lives up to its commitments to provide for the safety of the Camp Ashraf residents until a resolution of their status can be reached. We need to make it clear to the government of Iraq that there cannot be a repeat of the deadly confrontation began last April by Iraqi security forces against Camp Ashraf residents."
He was speaking Tuesday morning at the Senate Armed Services Comittee hearing while delivering his opening remarks as Chair of the Committee. Senator John McCain is Ranking Member on the Committee. The first panel the Committee heard testimony from was composed of US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and the Chair of the Joint-Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsy. Camp Ashraf came up in Chair Levin's opening remarks and it came up later during the first panel.
Senator Lindsey Graham: Do you think -- do you think the people in Camp Ashraf, do you think they're going to get killed? What's going to happen to them?
General Martin Dempsey: The, uh, as you know, Senator, the State Department is leading an effort to ensure that -- work with the Iraqi government ---
Senator Lindsey Graham: Can you tell the people back here that the likelihood of their friends and family being killed has gone up greatly if there are no American forces up there policing the problem?
General Martin Dempsey: I won't say anything to those people because I'm not involved in the outcome.
Senator Lindsey Graham: Fair enough.
In what was now the second round, John McCain went on to laugh with Leon Panetta and to thank him for appearing before the Comittee and putting up with pointed questions. He brought up a request that Panetta had made to him and Senator Graham (formally, in a letter) and noted they were working on that issue (defense funding). We're not going to excerpt that but since so much was made of the first round of questioning between Panetta and McCain, we will note that both laughed with one another in an exchange in the second round. (The hysterical gossip corps portrayed McCain being testy as new or novel and may have left many with images of poor Leon struggling for the vapors. Neither person was harmed by the exchange in the first round nor appeared to hold a grudge or ill will towards the other.) Near the end of his second round, McCain did bring up the issue of Camp Ashraf.
Ranking Member John McCain: Could I just say finally on the Camp Ashraf issue, I know the Secretary of Defense -- I mean, Secretary of State is addressing this issue, but it is American troops that are protecting them now. I hope that you can give us some idea of what disposition is going to be because I think it's -- I think it's very clear that the lives of these people are at risk and I thank you, Mr. Secretary.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta: I appreciate that.
Chair Carl Levin: Well, just on that, to turn it into a question -- and, maybe, General, this needs to be addressed to you too -- what -- There's obviously a greater risk to folks there unless the Iraqis keep a commitment. What's going to be done to make sure, to the best of our ability, that they keep that committment and what about the question of removing them from the list of -- not them, the organization from the terrorist list?
General Martin Dempsey: Well, Senator --
Senator Carl Levin: We're all concerned about this --
General Martin Dempsey: And we share your concern. [General] Lloyd Austin shares your concern. And I know that Ambassador Jeffreys shares the concern and there is no -- we're not sparing any diplomatic effort to encourage the Iraqis to do what we think is right in this regard to ensure the protection of those folks in Camp Ashraf. But right now, actually, the Iraqi security forces guard Camp Ashraf with our advisory and assistance group with them. And so the concern, when we do leave that capacity, is a real one. And But I actually think we've got to put the pressure on the Iraqi government diplomatically to have the outcome that we think is correct.
Senator Carl Levin: Just assure them if you would that there's a real strong feeling around here that if they -- if they violate a committment to protect those people -- assuming that they're still there and that they haven't been removed from the terrorist list so that they can find other locations -- that if they violate that committment to us, that is going to have a severely negative impact on the relationship with the -- I think I can speak here -- the Congress although I'm reluctant to ever say this. I think there's a lot of concern in the Congress about it and this will, I believe, in my opinion, will severely negatively impact their relationship with the Congress. Let me leave it at that.
Secretary Leon Panetta: Senator, I want to assure you that Ambassador Jeffrey has made that point loud and clear, loud and clear the Iraqis.
Senator Carl Levin: Senator Lieberman?
Senator Joe Lieberman: Thanks, Mr. Chairman. And add my voice and I think you can speak for Congress members of both parties in both houses in expressing our concern about the safety of the people in Camp Ashraf.
From the Congress to diplomacy, Laura Rozen (Yahoo's The Envoy) reports that Brett McGurk is being whispered to be the new nominee for US Ambassador to Iraq.

For those keeping track, McGurk would become the fourth US Ambassador to Iraq since Barack was sworn in. US Ambassador Ryan Crocker was already in the spot in 2009 but agreed to stay on while they scrambled to find a replacement -- that they had to scramble demonstrates how little Iraq ever really mattered. They manic depressive Christopher Hill was next. Third was the present US Ambassador James Jeffrey. For those wondering, no that is not normal. Some would even make the case that it's unacceptable and that the post needs stability not constant fluxuation.

Proving yet again that the War Hawks get rewarded for illegal war, the Council of Foreign Relations notes of their member Brett:

He served on the National Security Council staff of President George W. Bush (2005-2009), first as director for Iraq and then as special assistant to the president and senior director for Iraq and Afghanistan, and President Barack Obama, as a special advisor.

And it just gets 'better':

He is a former Supreme Court law clerk, clerking for the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist from 2001 to 2002, and in 2004-05 served as an attorney with the Coalition Provisional Authority and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, focusing on issues of constitutional reform, elections, and government formation.

He also applauded the "surge" which, you may recall, when Barack was attempting to get the Democratic Party's presidential nomination he was against. But not so much against that today he sees it is an indication that maybe someone's judgment was misguided. And he's never really been opposed to the Iraq War so he has no problem bringing in the planners of the illegal war. Time and again, America's seen -- if they looked closely -- that Barack poses wonderfully but he's got all the depth of a glossy 8 x 10.

Lastly, US Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and her office notes this Wednesday hearing on the issue of homeless veterans (it should be an important hearing, the witnesses are impressive and well versed in this issue):
Contact: Murray Press Office
(202) 224-2834
Monday, March 12, 2012
TOMMORROW: VETERANS: Murray to Hold Hearing on Veteran Homelessness

Hearing will discuss VA's progress on 5-year plan to end homelessness among veterans

(Washington, D.C.) -- Tomorrow, March 14th, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, will hold a hearing to discuss the progress the VA has made in its 5-year plan to end homelessness among veterans. During the hearing, the Committee will hear from 2 homeless female veterans, service providers, and officials from the VA.

WHO: U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee

Homeless Veterans

Marsha Four, Executive Director of Philadelphia Veterans Multi-Service & Education Center

Reverend Scott Rogers, Executive Director, Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry

Linda Halliday, Deputy Assistant Inspector General for Audits and Evaluations, Office of Inspector General, Department of Veterans Affairs

Pete Dougherty, Acting Executive Director, Homeless Veterans Initiatives Office

WHAT: Hearing to discuss VA's progress on its 5-year plan to end homelessness among veterans, including the unique needs of homeless women veterans

WHEN: Tomorrow, March 14th, 2012

10:00 AM ET

WHERE: Russell Senate Office Building
Room 418

Washington, D.C.