Monday, June 08, 2009

Isaiah, ACLU

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Lowering the Brand."
Lowering the Brand

There truly is something sad about a woman over forty trying to be a cover 'girl'. The First Lady's acting highly embarrassing and, instead of being encouraged in that, someone should pull her aside and offer some serious advice.

Kat's "Kat's Korner: Ben Harper" went up on Sunday and I do enjoy the new album. I don't love it more than Both Sides of the Gun, though. For me, that really is the best Ben Harper album.

In May, "ACLU" noted "ACLU Sues To Stop Tennessee Schools From Censoring Gay Educational Web Sites" and there is now an update.

"Tennessee Schools End Censorship Of Gay Educational Web Sites After ACLU Lawsuit" (ACLU):
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666;
NASHVILLE, TN – Dozens of Tennessee schools have restored access to online information about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, just over two weeks after the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against two Tennessee school districts for unconstitutionally blocking student access to such sites. The company that provides Internet filtering software to as many as 107 Tennessee school districts has adjusted the software to allow access to a variety of educational and political LGBT Web sites that were blocked before the lawsuit was filed.
"All we ever wanted was to be able to get information out about LGBT issues, like what our legal rights are or what scholarships are available for LGBT students, so I'm really happy that the schools are finally making our Web access fair and balanced," said Bryanna Shelton, a 16-year-old student at Fulton High School in Knoxville and a plaintiff in the case. "These Web sites were never something dirty or inappropriate in any way and shouldn't ever have been treated like they were."
On May 19, the ACLU filed the case in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee against Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools and Knox County Schools on behalf of two high school students in Nashville, one student in Knoxville and a high school librarian in Knoxville who is also the advisor of the school's Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA).
About 80 percent of Tennessee public schools, including those in the two districts being sued, use filtering software provided by Education Networks of America (ENA). Until yesterday, the software's default setting blocked sites categorized as LGBT, including the sites of many well-known LGBT organizations. However, the filter did not block access to Web sites that urge LGBT persons to change their sexual orientation or gender identity through so-called "reparative therapy" or "ex-gay" ministries – a practice denounced as dangerous and harmful to young people by such groups as the American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association.
Last night, Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre released a statement saying that ENA was no longer blocking the LGBT category. The ACLU believes this change is in effect in all Tennessee districts that use the ENA software. Additionally, ENA's Web site shows that it has made a similar change for schools throughout the state of Indiana.
"Up until now, these schools were practicing unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination, plain and simple. It was keeping students from accessing information about everything from their legal rights to statistics they needed for current events assignments," said Catherine Crump, staff attorney with the ACLU First Amendment Working Group and lead attorney on the case. "We're pleased that these schools are finally living up to their legal obligation to allow the free and open exchange of ideas and information."
The ACLU first learned about the discriminatory filtering from Andrew Emitt, a Knoxville high school student who discovered the problem while trying to search for LGBT scholarships. Internet filtering software is mandated in public schools by Tennessee law, which requires schools to implement software to restrict information that is obscene or harmful to minors. However, the "LGBT" filter category does not include material which is sexually gratuitous and already included in the "pornography" filtering category.
"Schools that censor educational information out of some misguided assumption that anything about LGBT people is automatically sexual or inappropriate are doing a disservice to their students," said Tricia Herzfeld, staff attorney with the ACLU of Tennessee. "We aren't dropping the lawsuit right away, but we certainly look forward to getting assurances from both school boards in this case that they will respect students' rights and refrain from this sort of censorship in the future."
Due to the change in policy, students in Tennessee can now access the Web sites of many well-known national LGBT organizations which were previously blocked, including:
• Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)• The Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN)• Human Rights Campaign (HRC)• Marriage Equality USA• The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)• Dignity USA (an organization for LGBT Catholics)
In addition to Crump and Herzfeld, attorneys on the case are Chris Hansen of the ACLU First Amendment Working Group and Christine Sun of the ACLU LGBT Project.
The plaintiffs are Nashville students Keila Franks and Emily Logan, Knoxville student Bryanna Shelton, and Karyn Storts-Brinks, a Knoxville high school librarian and faculty sponsor for her school's GSA.
More information about the case, including the ACLU's complaint and a video featuring one of the student plaintiffs, is available online at:

So there's some good news and it may have to tide us through the rest of the week. It's not as if there's a great deal of good news these days.

Ava and C.I. contributed two things yesterday "TV: Who listens, who hears?" and "TV: State propaganda." There was a section that I wanted to quote from; however, my head is killing me and I can't find it.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Monday, June 8, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Nora Barrows Friedman proves Pacifica can address the Iraq War, the US tax dollars are wasted on propaganda aimed at Iraqis which the Iraqis do not read, contractors increase in the war that is allegedly ending, and more.

On KPFA yesterday,
Flashpoints Nora Barrows Friedman filled in for Andrea Lewis on Sunday Sedition and her guests included Iraqi journalist Ahmed Habib

Nora Barrows Friedman: . . . Ahmed, you know just about 20 minutes ago we got a call from someone who was pointing out the fact that there has been all this redirecting of Iraq's natural resources of gas and oil out into the western markets. Talk about this ongoing theft of natural resources in your country, in Iraq, and across the region -- how that kind of fits into this neocolonialism and of course neoliberalism standpoint of what's going on right now to your country in particular.

Ahmed Habib: In our country of course we are all one people that are bound together by our struggle. and I mean wasn't that the idea in the first place the systematic theft of Iraq, the creation of a new colony there where cheap labor and cheap products can compliment the global economic system. Of course since the occupation in 2003 there has yet to be a safe and steady monitoring system that's put into place and also out of the southern most point of Iraq that is of course where most of the oil exports come out of through the gulf. Only recently we saw that the Kurdish government has been allowed to sell oil through the pipeline leading through Turkey in a perverse sort of selling out of their national struggle as the Turkish army continues to try to oppress Kurdish liberation fighters [PKK] in the mountains through waging a sort of war on terror again. There the Kurdish government, rife with corruption, in conjunction with the Iraqi central government in the Green Zone has found a way to funnel off Iraqi oil. The sad part about all of this, Norah, is that the despite the fact that Iraq has the potential to be producing 7 million barrels a day which is an astounding number, none of the resource profits are being seen on the streets of Baghdad. We still see deplorable conditions in health care very much similar to how they were during the sanctions. Electricity and water are still a scarce resource. But it's interesting to see how the economic restructuring and engineering of post-occupation Iraq has really been indicative of how America envisions the rest of the world and Obama really hasn't made any effort to change that. We see that in Iraq. There's been a major selling off of the major industries in the country or rather the most major sectors turned into industries -- such as energy, such as health care, such as anything related with the most fundamental elements of the infrastructure of the country. We also see some sort of perverse manipulation of economic activity in Iraq. I know that I've shared this before but it's a really excellent metaphor that really encapsulates what's happening in Iraq is that Iraqi farmers who in fact were some of the first in history to implement systems of modern irrigation and were some of the first to make scientific advancements in farming are now being told that they should farm wheat only using grains, self-terminating grains, that are being sold by American corporations. And those grains are in fact best used for the [. . . 95?] string of pasta and for anybody who's had the opportunity to dive into the beauty of Arabic food they'll now that pasta isn't a main staple in our diet. So it's clear that Iraq is being set up as a place for exports. We see countries that have had happen to them throughout history. We see the Philippines -- another country that has been destroyed economically. There's tremendous poverty, there's a lack of infrastructure, there's a corrupt government. We see this in Mexico. I know that coming up next you have a guest who's going to be talking about the murder of indigenous activists in Peru and of course in that country things are very similar as well with many of the natural resources being -- minerals and what not -- being extracted at the cost of the indigenous people there. So what's happening in Iraq unfortunately despite the magnanimous scale of the calamity that's facing people we know that there's more than 700,000 people that have been confirmed dead as a result of the violence of the occupation, as many as five million people have been forced to flee their country. What's happening in Iraq isn't really unique to the country and within the microcosm of the Arab world it's very much tied to the continuing apartheid regime in Israel and throughout the rest of the world. It's very much tied to the neoliberal extraction and exploitation that indigenous people are facing everywhere.

The Iraq War continues, it has not ended. Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert grasps it, even if others don't.
Campbell Robertson (New York Times) writes about Colbert taping his show in Iraq and how "soldiers there" feel "that Americans have largely tuned the war out, that the economy had vacuumed up all the attention even though there are around 135,000 troops still here and still doing dangerous work. . . . Soldiers here are all too aware of America's attention span about this war, several of them at the taping said." Jon Kreig (Des Moines Register) knows the war hasn't ended: "The United States is digging in for more warfare, rather than planning to get out. Indeed, the deadline for U.S. troops to leave Iraqi cities has passed. Gen. George W. Casey Jr., Army chief of staff, said the Pentagon must plan for extended U.S. combat and stability operations in two wars -- up to 10 more years in Iraq. Meanwhile, a new report from the Pentagon indicated that there were now 250,000 private security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is fair to call these people mercenaries since they do the jobs that service members did in Vietnam and other wars." Lez Get Real notes a report by Russia Today (text and vido):

Alice Hibbert: It's been revealed that the number of private security contractors working for the US war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan has greatly increased. While troops are being pulled out a Pentagon report says that the number of contractors working for the US Defense Department has increased by up to 30% since President Obama came to office. This figure has now swelled to some 250,000 working for companies such as Blackwater and Triple Canopy.

In related news, today the
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute announced:Worldwide military expenditure in 2008 totalled an estimatedUS$1464 billion, according to new figures released today by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). This represents an increase of 4 per cent in real terms compared to 2007, and an increase of 45 per cent since 1999. SIPRI today launched the 2009 edition of its Yearbook on Armaments, Disarmament and International Security.The Yearbook shows that the USA accounted for the majority (58%) of the global increase between 1999 and 2008, with its military spending growing by $219 billion in constant 2005 prices over the period. Even so, it was far from the only country to pursue such a course. China and Russia, with absolute increases of $42 billion and $24 billion respectively, both nearly tripled their military expenditure over the decade. Other regional powers -- particularly India, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Israel, Brazil, South Korea, Algeria and the UK -- also made substantial contributions to the total increase.'The idea of the "war on terror" has encouraged many countries to see their problems through a highly militarized lens, using this to justify high military spending,' comments Dr Sam Perlo-Freeman, Head of the Military Expenditure Project at SIPRI. 'Meanwhile, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost $903 billion in additional military spending by the USA alone.'

The illegal war's not ending.
Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reported yesterday on a sinkhole for millions of US tax payer dollars to fund and operate Baghdad Now -- a piece of propaganda put together: "That the paper has no publicly known editor, no bylines and no ads is no mistake. It is part of America's huge psychological warfare campaign to influence Iraqis' behavior and attitudes." Iraqis do not take Baghdad Now seriously but it's a US military 'news' outlet "produced by an Army psychological operation unit and distributed for free by soldiers. Piles of it are left at entrances to the Green Zone for passerbys to pick up." Since these operations don't appall or get coverage from US media, let's grasp that the military is always testing. They've used every battlefield to test new weapons and to test new techniques. Don't be surprised if at some point Baghdad Now becomes DC Now or if we find out that the military is embedded again at CNN. The military does not go to other fields to fight for freedom. Troops are sent to battlefields to test new forms of war fare. That's the reality.

On the diplomated front the
Tehran Times reported Jalal Talabani, Iraq's president, met with Hassan Kazemi Quomi, Iranian Ambassador to Iraq, about increasing the ties between the two countries. In addition, Nouri al-Maliki made his pilgrimage to meet up with Sayyed Abdul Aziz al-Hakim -- Dick Cheney's friend, Iraqi exile who returned after the invasion and presumed to be deathly ill -- in Iran. UPI reports Jalal Talabani went to Iran Sunday to visit al-Hakim. Meanwhile Alsumaria is reporting whispers of what would be a significant change in governing in the Kurdistan Regional Government and have implications throughout Iraq: Barham Saleh, the current deputy prime minister, will reportedly resign his post to take over as Prime Minister of the KRG while Hurriyet reports that Turkey sent four to six airplanes to bomb northern Iraq Saturday in assaults on the PKK.

Over the weekend, arrests were announced.
Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reported that five US contractors were arrested by Iraqi forces in the death of a US citizen Jim Kitterman murdered in the Green Zone last month and has the name of two of them -- Donald Feeney Jr., Donald Feeney II -- from the son of Feeney Jr., John Feeney, who states his father and brother are innocent and were friends with Kitterman. John Feeney tells CNN, "We're pretty sure they will be questioned there in the next couple of days and released with no charges." BBC adds that "the US embassy in Iraq has not confirmed who they are and says no charges have yet been laid." Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) speaks with an unnamed US embassy spokesperson who states, "Embassy consular officials have visited the five and ensured they are being afforded their rights under Iraqi law. The men appeared well." Alissa J. Rubin and Marc Santora (New York Times) cover the arrest and note, "Under Iraqi law, charges are not made until a court appearance. For a person to be detained there must be sufficient evidence for a judge to issue an arrest warrant." Alsumaria adds, "Cabinet spokesman Ali Al Dabbagh told the AFP that five US security contractors were arrested on Friday in a joint Iraqi-US crackdown in the green zone as part of investigations in the murder of an American. Al Dabbagh noted that Americans are investigating detainees who if convicted will be transferred to Iraq judiciary for trial." But Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) reports the same spokesperson, Ali al-Dabbagh, is now insisting 4 Americans, not 5, were arrested. In other contracting news, AP reports they have an unreleased report from the Wartime Contracting Commission that has found more corruption including problems "with a $30 million dining facility at a U.S. base in Iraq".

Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .

Aseel Kami (Reuters) reports a Baghdad minibus bombing has claimed 7 lives and left 24 injured. BBC pins down the location in Baghdad, "Abu Dshir, a Shia Muslim enclave in the mainly Sunni neighbourhood of Dora." Ahmed Habib notes that it took place "in the ethnically cleansed district of Dora. Iraq is dying." Reuters adds a Mosul suicide bomber took his/her own life and injured two people and, dropping back to Sunday, a Falljua roadside bombing which claimed the lives of three police officers and a Mosul "ambush" which resulted in the deaths of two police officers. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) notes a Mosul roadside bombing which injured four people.

Turning to England where, over the weekend,
Patrick Hennessy (Telegraph of London) reported that with Gordon Brown, UK Prime Minister, under attack and his cabinet revolting, he's finally decided to make a move on the inquiry into the Iraq War but any investigation determination "-- which coulld be potentially politically damaging for Tony Blair, Mr Brown and other senior Labour figures -- would still almost certainlly not be known until after the next general election, which must be held by early June 2010." Rebecca's been covering Brown's problem, see her "gordon brown's troubles, debra sweet," "stinky gordon brown part ii" and "stinky gordon brown stands alone." The UK Daily Mail reported yesterday that Brown "last night campaigners warned him not to hold it in secret by appointing a group of Privy Councillors to sift through sensitive papers behind closed doors - as ministers suggested. They said it must examine the legality of the war, the timing of Tony Blair's decision to back an American invasion, the use of flawed intelligence to justify war, and the coalition's poor planning for the aftermath of the invasion."

"We'll stop doing this when the war ends,"
Melida Arredondo tells Jennifer Lebovich (Miami Herald). "It's very profound. You want to be strong. You don't want this to control your life. It hurts that it's still going on. Out of mercy, we'd like our pain to stop." Melida and Carlos Arredondo are the parents of Lance Cpl Alexander Scott Arredondo who was killed by sniper fire in Najaf August 25, 2005. August 25th is Carlos birthday and he went from celebrating that event to learning the news of his son's death. Since then, the couple has worked to end the illegal war. Carlos travels with the coffin around the country. In February 2007, Trymaine Lee (New York Times) noted he was in New York and reported, "In a whisper,he vowed never to let his son's death be forgotten. He closed his eyes and slid his right hand across the American flag stretched over the coffin, his fingertips tumbling over each of its faded red stripes." In March of 2007, Carlos told Amy Goodman (Democracy Now! -- watch, read, listen), "Well this is my pain. This is my loss, my son honored to protect us. I'm protecting my son's honor. As you know what happened in Walter Reed recently in Building 18, myself and many people are not too happy about the way they're treating their soldiers who come back from the battlefield right now. But the way I start doing that is for my own personal healing process, making this very public, since the government don't want we to see caskets during the funerals. And it's a way for me to share this grieving with the public, because many people live in their own bubbles, and they don't care really about what's going on outside their own bubbles, and I want them to feel what they see, what really happens every day, not only in this country, but this happens all over the country." Lebovich explains today that Carlos has visted 26 states with the truck and coffin and he tells Lebovich, "I think it's important for people to see how families grieve. I share my grieving very publicly." Carlos and Melida Arredondo are members of Military Families Speak Out and MFSO will have a members assembly at the University of Maryland, Colle Park Campus on August 8th as part of Veterans for Peace's August fifth through ninth conference.

Wednesday's "
Iraq snapshot" covered a hearing which Kat covers in "The House Committee on Veterans Affairs" and Thursday's "Iraq snapshot" covers a hearing that Kat covers in "House Committe on Veterans' Affairs' Subcommitte on Health." Most days when a Congressional hearing is covered here, you can go to Kat's site that night and find her reporting details which stood out to her. Kat was noted in Friday's snapshot before it became way too long. And now we'll hand off to Ty for the topic of IVAW.

Ty: At Third on Sunday we published "Who's duping who?" which has received positive feedback from friends with IVAW and from others. It's received a repeated rant from one person and I feel sorry for her -- having been filled on her by people who work with her -- so I'll just ignore her despite plans to let it rip here. I will note Rick Duncan because he came up in the exchange with the ill person and we debated at Third whether or not to include Rick Duncan in the article but decided not to. He's the subject of a lengthy article by Dan Frosch and James Dao in today's New York Times. This ain't Hell, but you can see it from here is a right wing website and, if you click here, you will be taken to their post on Rick Duncan and see him at the top of the post wearing his Winter Soldier IVAW t-shirt. Scroll down and you will see his bio at the Iraq Veterans Against the War website. Scroll down just a bit further and you will see how they disappeared it after it turned out Rick Duncan was Rick Strandlof and not a veteran or ever a member of the military. Only members would have the ability to post to IVAW's website. There's your answer. He posted there and he posted that he was a member. So he's a member. Kevin Simpson (Denver Post via Colarado Springs Gazette) has the man not joining offiicially. Note the way he words it. Officially. Rick Duncan was a member of IVAW. When his name was raised while we were writing the piece C.I. advocated for leaving it out (paraphrase), "It's not central to the story. We could mention it but it's an old story and I think we can leave it out." And we took a vote and agreed. It is an issue now because (a) it's a lengthy article in today's New York Times and (b) and someone wants to call us liars and bad reporters. I'm done with that person but we will note the Duncan story as we close the chapter.

Thanks to
Ty for the above. The feedback I've had (from IVAW friends) was favorable because they were already pointed out that the right wing has been promoting an attack on IVAW repeatedly for weeks now and they point to Jim Branum's post as the only non-right wing one on the issue but which they feel advances the idea that there are two equal sides and they do not feel that there are two equal sides. They feel they are under attack from some former members. And that's what the point of view of the article at Third was about. Regarding Rick Duncan, that's the first time his name appears here. We avoided him. We were introduced to him by a member of IVAW (who introduced him to Ava and I stating Rick was a member of IVAW) some time ago. We never mentioned him here because he was an obvious liar to us. When he was exposed as a liar last month, we were focused on other things (probably the War Crimes trial). His being a fake doesn't translate as"IVAW is a fake!" There's nothing fake about IVAW. But denying that someone was a member makes the organization look bad. He had the ability to post at the website, he was introduced by other IVAW members as a member and he presented himself publicly -- for months and months and months -- as a member of IVAW. It was IVAW's responsibility to correct the record back then if he wasn't a member. They didn't. They can't now erase the record. That looks worse than admitting you accepted someone into your midst that was a fake. The alternative to the risk of allowing a fake in is the risk of closing out potential members who need help. They should be open and if a mistake comes along, "Oh well, we were attempting to help." And that is why he was able to meet so many IVAW members. They were trying to help him. They rightly sensed someone struggling. What they didn't sense was that he was a fraud. There's no crime in being trusting and trying to assist others. And there's no shame in it either. People who never get fooled by frauds tend to be people who stopped feeling and sealed themselves off. Ava and I knew he was a liar because we weren't focusing on Iraq or combat. In a less than five minute exchange with him, we exchanged multiple looks as his story obviously changed on details we were paying attention to. On the topic of people I consider friends, Richard Brown. Brown was Cindy Sheehan's guest yesterday on Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox. The topic is torture and I doubt we'll be able to excerpt anything from the broadcast (no Iraq) but you can also read Cindy Sheehan's "Drop charges in 38-year-old murder case" (San Francisco Chronicle).

kpfaflashpointsnora barrows friedman
alsumariathe new york timescampbell robertsonalissa j. rubinqassim abdul-zahraaseel kamihurriyet
patrick hennessy
the washington posternesto londono
cnnbbcwaleed ibrahimthe los angeles timesned parker