Friday, March 26, 2010

Alex Cockburn the Global Warming Denier

This is the last link I'll ever give CounterPunch. If it's on my blogroll (it was at one time), I will follow C.I.'s lead and pull it.


I'm tired of the damn lies. I'm tired of the trashy Cockburn family -- none of whom seems able to tell the truth. That includes the ugly, ugly Laura Flanders who Mike will take on at his site tonight.

But my last link goes to Alexander Cockburn.

Alex has written another column praising Barack. He did that throughout the Democratic Party primaries. Then, after he helped eliminate Hillary, he pretended otherwise. By the time some on the left who were fooled were waking up to the realities about Barack, he was strutting around LYING that he hadn't fallen for it.

I'm tired of Alex Cockburn, I'm tired of his begging ass and I'm tired of his lies.

He's now back in cheerleader mode and I'm just sick of him.

I've been more than kind while he's attacked others. He launched his little war on Truthout (I'm not fan of the site) and wanted to hector them about journalistic standards and how they shouldn't have published a certain writer because of past problems.

That might have carried some weight were it not for the fact that CounterPunch was publishing the same writer. Woops! Alex forgot to issue a correction.

But he slams everyone and I'm just sick of his lies. I'll go to the mat for someone else that wants to believe global warming isn't real if they've got something worth praising. But I'm not going to defend loony tunes Alex anymore.

He's two-faced, his back stabber and he's the bitchiest little fat ass online. The only thing worse than Alex is the self-loathing lesbian niece of his Laura Flanders.

These are the bottom feeders. These are the ones who bleed others dry. Stop giving money to fund their habit. They're not reporters, they're not journalists. They're liars and hate merchants.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, March 26, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Ayad Allawi is thought to be a winner, Little Nouri refuses to go peacefully, bombings slam Iraq resulting in multiple deaths, Cindy Sheehan closes Peace Camp until the summer, Courage to Resist sends out a plea for help and assistance on behalf of Marc Hall and more.
March 7th was the official day of voting in Iraq (early voting began days before with security forces voting on Thursday) and 95% of the results of an unofficial (not yet certified) count has been released. Today, a 100% count is supposed to be released. Muhanad Mohammed, Khalid al-Ansary, Jim Loney and Janet Lawrence (Reuters) report Nouri's 'supporters' are still insisting upon a recount today "hours before officials were due to release the final vote tallies." Katarina Kratovac (AP) reports a laughable move by Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani -- he's insisting that the count not be released, he's insisting it will cause violence. I'm sorry, Jawad, weren't you just insisting Wednesday that "the elections proved the terrorists' days are numbered"? (Yes, he was.) Oh, how quickly things change in Iraq. On the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR) today, Diane was joined by Daniel Dombey (Financial Times of London), Paul Richter (Los Angeles Times) and Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers).
Diane Rehm: And what about the Iraq election results? What's the latest there, Daniel?
Daniel Dombey: Well we're still waiting for the final results but it's a very interesting story because you have two men who both want to be prime minister who can't stand each other, who have very different profiles, who have both served in that office and virtually neck and neck -- neck and neck. And this is actually a very, very important contest between Ayad Allawi and Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister. Maliki feels very strongly that he's the man who saved Iraq -- that he took on the security problems in Basra and Sadr City and so on. And he has strong Shia support. Allawi has reinvented himself as a more secular kind of figure and gets on much better with the Iraqi neighbors particularly Syria and Saudi Arabia and so on. There's concern some people voiced if Maliki made it it would be seen as a real blow by the Sunni Arabs who would respond accordingly and be bad for relations. On the other hand, Maliki says he has a record of success. So there's an awful lot to pay for and there's always the possibility that someone from outside as happened someone else can come from outside as happened when Maliki who was previously someone you'd never heard of. But it's a very important issue all the more so for the fact that it doesn't get the attention it deserves.
Nancy A. Youssef: I think the other thing is that there's real angst in the streets of Iraq about what happens when these elections -- when the results come out -- which are scheduled for 7:00 p.m. local time in Iraq tonight, which is in the middle of the morning for us in the United States. There's a real angst about how the transition to power will happen and whether it will lead to more violence given that Maliki and Jalal Talabani called for a recount, called the elections fraudulent, whether the elections will be seen as legitimate. And also because these elections really galvanized and re-empowered Moqutad al-Sadr and his bloc. Of all of the -- As we talk about the jostling between Allwai and al-Maliki, Sadr comes out pretty strong in this. He will have more seats than any other member. And that fundamentally changes the dynamic as well. So it's a very interesting time. It will be months before we have this government seated which is a dangerous place for Iraq to be in given the precarious security situation -- all while the United States plans to rpaidly drawdown it's forces from 96,000 today to about 50,000 at the end of August.

Diane Rehm: Paul Richter.
Paul Richter: The comeback of Ayad Allawi is an interesting story. He was prime minister of Iraq early in the American occupation. He left office with seemingly very little public support. A secular Shia, kind of a "strongman," and known to have past ties with the CIA. Now he's possibly back. Intresting personal story.
Nancy A. Youssef: You know the interesting thing is, from the Iraqi persepctive, Allawi is seen as an American puppet and Maliki is seen as the Iranian one. And so it's an interesting dynamic about who is going to emerge and what that means. And what Sadr really represents is the Iraqi movement, in a way. And so those are the three sorts of powers that are vying for their place in the post-America Iraq, if you will.
That was this morning. Results were announced during a lengthy presentation and Ayad Allawi's secular party, National Dialogue Front, has won the most seats in the Parliament. Michael Hastings (True/Slant) offers, "Four big questions that come to mind: Does Maliki, who is calling for a recount, hand over power? Can Allawi find the 72 seats needed to get him to the 163 seats required to form a government? How does Iran–which has close ties to the other large Shiite list–feel about Allawi? Ie, will Tehran give the okay to the Shiite list to join forces with Allawi against Maliki? Finally, how does this impact the security situation, or, how much violence will we see during the government formation process?" Hannah Allam (McClatchy's Miami Herald) notes that 91 of the 325 seats went to Allawi's political party with 89 going to State of Law, Nouri's slate. Anne Barker (Australia's ABC) calls it "an unexpected upset" while BBC News calls it "a surprise result" -- and it certainly is surprising to NPR and Quil Lawrence as well as anyone who depended on NPR's reporting from Iraq to enlighten them. Possibly next time there's an election, before Quil Lawrence and Steve Inskeep declare a winner, they might try waiting until some votes have been counted? Sunday March 7th was the election. Monday March 8th, while pretending to 'report,' Quil Lawrence and Steve Inskeep called the election for Nouri al-Maliki -- despite the fact that no vote tallies had been released. They would continue to make this call daily during the first week even though they were going by less than half of Iraq's provinces and those counts were less than 50% of each province. But they gas bagged and they gas bagged. They didn't report, they didn't enlighten. They were wrong. WRONG. It's not the press' job to call the election. And what Quil and Steve did was not reporting. It was gas bagging and not the sort of thing NPR needs to engage in during what is supposed to be a news report. Rod Nordland and Timothy Williams (New York Times) report that drama queen Nouri took to "national television" to proclaim, "No way we will accept these results." The United Nations' Secretary-General's Special Representative to Iraq, Ad Melkert, hailed the elections as "an historic achievement" and called on everyone "to assume responsibility to lead Iraq to the next stage of democracy, stability and prosperity for all. Whether winning or losing, participation in the elections has been a collective victory." Again, Nouri's reponse on Iraqi TV was, "No way we will accept these results." On behalf of the US State Dept, Philip J. Crowley (Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs) issued the following statement:
Today, Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) issued the provisional results of the Iraqi parliamentary elections held on March 7. We congratulate the Iraqi people, the Iraqi government, candidates and coalitions, and IHEC for carrying out a successful election. In support of the election's integrity, IHEC has investigated and adjudicated a number of complaints. International observers and the more than 200,000 domestic observers expressed their confidence in the overall integrity of the election and have found that there is no evidence of widespread or serious fraud. We note the critical role played by the United Nations in supporting this historic election.
We urge all political entities to pursue any complaints or appeals through established legal mechanisms and processes. Following IHEC's release of the results, political entities may file appeals that will be heard by the Electoral Judicial Panel. When these have been resolved, Iraq's Federal Supreme Court will certify the results. Iraq will then move to seating a new Council of Representatives, choosing a President, and forming a new government.
These important steps likely will take months. We call upon all candidates and all parties to accept the results, respect the will of the Iraqi people, and work together cooperatively to form a new government in a timely manner. In this connection, it will be important for all sides to refrain from inflammatory rhetoric and intimidation. It also is important that the Iraqi government continue to provide security and other essential services for its citizens during this period leading to the formation of a government.
The United States will continue to work closely with all Iraqi leaders to build a long-term, multi-dimensional relationship between our two nations.
The results still have to be certified by the country's Superme Court but, as Andrew England (Financial Times of London) points out, "The results mark a remarkable turnaround for Mr Allawi, who served as prime minister in 2004 in the wake of the US-led war to oust Saddam Hussein, and a blow to Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister." The New York Times offers a photo essay including two photos of Nouri's fan club -- one protesting today before the results were announced, the other of them protesting tonight after the results were known -- both photos by Joao Silva. Of Little Nouri's fan club, Richard Spencer (Telegraph of London) reports, "More worryingly, his supporters have openly threatened there would be a return to sectarian violence if Mr Allawi were declared the winner." Alice Fordham (Times of London) reports Little Nouri "responded angrily to the news, which was widely seen as a damaging blow to his crediblity and leadership." And what's the real scoops in the news cycle, Fordham notes, "Sources in Nassariya and Basra told The Times that protests there were orchestrated by State of Law, which rallied supporters and instructed government employees to attend." Just like when the banned candidates from Allawi's parties were unbanned and Nouri got his thugs out in the street to use violence to intimidate in order to change the results. Bobby Ghosh (Time magazine) goes over the numbers and the uncertainties:
It's far from certain that Allawi will get al-Maliki's job. State of Law and other blocs have already indicated they will contest the results and demand recounts. Even if the results announced today hold up to scrutiny, there's a chance al-Maliki will be able to pull together a coalition to form the new government and retain the Prime Ministership. Meanwhile, the main Shi'ite bloc, the National Iraqi Alliance, won 70 seats; the main Kurdish alliance got 43. A simple majority of 163 seats is needed to govern.
Allawi also took to the airwaves, as celebratory gunfire resounded through parts of east Baghdad. In a triumphant speech he said: "Iraqiya [his party] has started a dialogue with other parties already and we will not refuse anyone."
He confirmed he would be his cross-sectarian list's candidate for the prime minister's office, his second tilt at the top job, but a position that Maliki's State of Law list and the conservative Shia Islamic Iraq National Alliance had vowed to block him from taking.
Chulov also quotes Haidar Dakhle of Dora stating, "This is a big step for the future of Iraq. Allawi is the best candidate because Maliki had started to resemble a dictator." Also at the Guardian, Ranj Alaaldin counsels against counting anyone out and notes that the battle for the next prime minister may be a lengthy one. In terms of the results themselves -- which were only on seats in the new Parliament -- Margaret Coker (Wall St. Journal) provides the walk through, "According to the Iraqi electoral process, candidates have a three-day period to lodge complaints. After that, the Supreme Court ratifies the results." Clicking here takes you to a Wall St. Journal video (The News Hub) half of which is Coker discussing the news.
Simon Constable: Meg, I want to ask you, are the losing sides accepting the results? Because I know there's been a lot of challenges about whether the elections were fair or not.
Margaret Coker: Right. Prime Minister Maliki has already had a press conference this evening straight after the election results were announced. He said he is not going to accept the results. And he's going to challenge them through the legal process that-that goes on for the next three or four days whereby the electoral commission will hear new complaints against the process. So Nouri al-Maliki is not a happy man tonight. On the other hand, Ayad Allawi, the challenger, has called for a grand coalition, an alliance to build a stable, new government and he says he's willing to take all comers who want to join a government with him.
Simon Constable: Meg, stay with us, I want to bring in Adam Horvath. Adam, the context of this is pretty important because an alliance has to form because no one party has a majority, right? This is -- what do they call this?
Adam Horvath: A hung Parliament is a possiblity out of it. Right now you have each one of these main contenders has about a third of the seats so they need to build a coalition as Meg said. And the coalition powers in Iraq, some of them are very divided from each other. Uh, no one is a perfect partner for anyone else, you might say. So a lot of kingmaking and a lot of rangling is going to start that could last awhile.
Reuters coverage includes speaking to multiple analysts for their take on the results and we'll note IHS Global Insight's Gala Riani:
"Allawi has achieved what Maliki had hoped and aimed to do. The mission he had was to run a coalition on a non-sectarian platform and secure an election victory on that platform. "Iraqiya (Allawi's bloc) has fared much better across the board than State of Law has, much better in the southern provinces than State of Law did in the north. It puts Allawi in a better place to secure better credibility across the county. "What Allawi has achieved is hugely significant. It's a massive blow to Maliki, to his credibility and to the type of platform he has tried to run."
Reuters offers five facts about Allawi and five about al-Maliki. Stephen Farrell (New York Times) offers the reactions of 8 Iraqi citizens and we'll note Amal al-Jalili (a teacher in Mosul), "This election is the justice which was absent from Iraq for 36 years. It is the right of the people, and it is what brought us real, nationalist, people who defended the country and took it away from sectarianism, and those who pursue sectarianism. The best outcome is to change Prime Minister Maliki." NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams covered the results this evening:
Brian Williams: Richard, you were saying earlier in the newsroom today, people rooting for the US-side of the equation would be dancing in the streets of Baghdad at this result. What did you mean by that?
Richard Engel: This was an incredibly significant day, perhaps the most important one in the last several years in Iraq. Ayad Allawi won these elections. Now he is a Shi'ite, he's secular and he's pro-American and he's very anti-Iran. The current government in Iraq right now is a religious state that leans toward Iran. So if Ayad Allawi can hold on to this position, that he gained today, he still has to form a government and face off challenges by the current prime minister, then we could see a major change in direction in Iraq.

Brian Williams: Dancing in the street with those cement blast walls in the background, kind of a reminder that it's still a dangerous state.
Prior to the announcing of results, CNN reports, Khalis was slammed with two bombing -- one car bombing, one roadside bombing, resulting in the deaths of at least 32 people and sixty-eight more injured. DPA reports the death toll has climbed to 42.
Wednesday, US House Rep John Hall chaired a Subcommittee hearing (House Veterans Affairs' Subcommittee on Disability) and we'll note this from his opening remarks:
I just want to say, I welcome you here in what has been a profoundly historic and important week for the nation and for our veterans. Over the last seven days the Full Committee convened a successful Claims Summit which brought many of you and other dozens of top veterans stakeholders together and from the Summit came a lot of very useful information which we welcome and look forward to working with the VA and all the veterans groups to try to turn into action to solve the problems that we're facing. In a rare Sunday session, Congress passed and the President signed the sweeping health care reform package and I'm pleased that [VA] Secretary Eric Schinseki as well as the Chairman of the full VA Committee (US House Rep Bob Filner] and the full Armed Services Committee [US House Rep Ike Skelton] have signed a letter and sent it to the VSOs stating unequivacly that Tri-Care and VA care will not be effected by the health care legislation. We also passed this week the End Veteran Homeless Act of 2010 to provide funding to help Secretary Schinseki's goal of ending homelessness for America's warriors. The Help Heroes Keep Their Homes Act , the COLA -- cost of living increase for veterans, the National Guard Employment Protection Act.
Those are his verbal remarks. He submitted a written opening statement for the record but we've gone by what he actually said and included it to note that the House VA Committee does work -- and works very hard -- all the time. That's a lot to do in a seven-day period. That was Wednesday and earlier that day, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing. Senator Daniel Akaka is the Chair of the Committee and Senator Richard Burr is the Ranking Member. Chair Akaka noted the homeless rate among veterans continues to alarm. In 2008, Akaka explained, there were 131,000 homeless US veterans (VA estimate) and this month, the VA stated that the number of homeless veterans stood at 107,000 in 2009. Ranking Member Burr noted that from that 107,000 veternas, 1,589 are in North Carolina and he called out the delays in Congress being supplied with requested information.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: [. . .] Unfortunately, I've been disappointed about the Administration's collaboration with us so far. Last October, the Committee held a hearing on comprehensive homeless legislation, S. 1547, but received no official views from VA on the bill. In the absence of any views, the Committee marked up the legislation in January with expectation that VA would be providing us with a greater understanding of how it fits in with the Secretary's plan. Five months and multiple inquiries -- and we received the views last night, giving my staff no opportunity to do a thorough analysis of the information. Of course, this is not the first time VA waits until the 11th hour to provide responses to inquiries they have had for months. This is also not the first time I have had to raise this problem. And I will continue to do it. I don't understand the delay. Why does it take VA five months to provide Congress with the crucial information we need to do the best job we can for our veterans?
That's all we have room for on Congress. In peace news, Cindy Sheehan (Peace of the Action) explores the pluses and minuses of Peace Camp which has closed ("not for long") and includes praise for the many college students who took part:
By the way, not only was our demand to meet with President Obama not granted -- three of our Camp OUT NOW volunteers (including myself) have been given stay away orders from the White House.
We tried to get into the Senate Appropriation's Committee meeting today at the Capitol and we were followed and harassed the entire time and in the transparent age of Obama, the hearing was closed to us citizens, anyway. I was able to watch the rerun on C-SPAN 3 and I can tell you all one thing, these wars are planned to continue indefinitely. I am not okay with that.
To take advantage of the energy and enthusiasm of our young people, we are planning on returning in June to set up Camp and start our actions again.
So we will be keeping the spirit of the Camp alive until the students get out of school and, hopefully, we can make a go of it in the summer.
More information and essays on the importance of peace can be found at Cindy's Soapbox (including links to her radio program). We've covered Marc Hall many times. He's the service member 'guilty' of 'rapping.' Courage to Resist has sent out the following on the latest development in the military persecution of Hall:
Donate to help defend Marc - 146 people have given $5,408. Because the Army kidnapped Marc to Kuwait for trial, we will need to raise at least $10,000 to provide a civilian defense lawyer. Critical expert witnesses to could be another $5,000, in addition to the $4,600 already spent.

Courage to Resist. March 25, 2010

US Army Specialist Marc A. Hall sits in a military brig at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, facing an imminent court martial for challenging the US military's Stop-Loss policy in a song — his pre-trial hearing was held last week on March 17. Yet it was not the hip-hop song he wrote criticizing the Stop-Loss policy that landed him in trouble. What put the 34-year-old New York City native in the brig were his persistent assertions of inadequate mental health care that culminated in a Dec. 7 complaint to the Army Investigator General. Just five days later Hall was charged with violating "good order and discipline" at Fort Stewart, Georgia, and was shipped out of the country.

Hall's court martial is likely to occur late April or early May.

The jailing occurred a full five months after Hall wrote a rap song protesting the Stop-Loss order that halted his discharge after he served his country for 14 months of combat in Iraq. Hall was charged with 11 counts of "communicating threats" related to the song and has since been charged with violating Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Conduct. All the alleged violations occurred between last July and December, yet not one warranted warning, counseling, or non-judicial punishment at the time.

On Feb. 20 Hall wrote, "A charge that was not a threat before, but all of a sudden became a threat now. I communicated a need for mental evaluation -- not a threat."As if that were not enough the military took the nearly unprecedented step of moving Hall overseas for court martial, instead of putting him on trial in Georgia where the alleged threats occurred. On Feb. 26 Hall was put on plane to Iraq and transferred to Kuwait for pre-trial confinement. This put him out of reach of his civilian legal defense team, friends, and family. It will also make it extremely hard for defense witnesses to appear at trial on his behalf.

TV notes. NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):

In the debate over energy resources, natural gas is often considered a
"lesser-of-evils". While it does release some greenhouse gases,
gas burns
cleaner than coal and oil, and is in plentiful supply -- parts
of the U.S. sit above some of the largest natural gas reserves on Earth.
But a new boom in natural gas drilling, a process called "fracking",
raises concerns about health and environmental risks.

On March 26 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW talks with filmmaker
Josh Fox about "Gasland", his Sundance award-winning documentary on the
surprising consequences of natural gas drilling. Fox's film -- inspired
when the gas company came to his hometown -- alleges chronic illness,
animal-killing toxic waste, disastrous explosions, and regulatory

Drilling down to the truth about natural gas. Next on NOW.

Staying with TV notes, Washington Week begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and joining Gwen around the table this week are Ceci Connolly (Washington Post), Helene Cooper (New York Times), Paul Richter (Los Angeles Times) and Alexis Simendinger (National Journal). Remember that the show podcasts in video and audio format -- and a number of people sign up for each (audio is thought to be so popular due to the fact that it downloads so much quicker). If you podcast the show, remember there is the Web Extra where Gwen and the guests weigh in on topics viewers e-mail about. And also remember that usually by Monday afternoon you can go to the show's website and stream it there (including Web Extra) as well as read the transcripts and more. They're beefing up their online presence and that includes highlighting archived shows (this week it's a 15th anniversary broadcast from February 26, 1992) and Gwen's weekly column which, this week, is entitled "Translating History." Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Linda Chavez, Bernadine Healy, Melinda Henneberger and Eleanor Holmes Norton on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And at the website each week, there's an extra just for the web from the previous week's show and this week's it's a discussion on immigration. For the broadcast program, check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes:

The Case Against Nada Prouty
Former FBI and CIA terrorism fighter Nada Prouty was herself accused of aiding terrorism, but in her first interview, she denies she was anything other than a patriot. Scott Pelley investigates her case. | Watch Video

The Russian Is Coming
Mikhail Prokhorov, perhaps Russia's richest man, discusses his planned purchase of the N.J. Nets basketball team, his vast wealth and the surprisingly unusual way he made most of his money in his first American television interview. Steve Kroft reports. | Watch Video

The Sharkman
Anderson Cooper dives unprotected with great white sharks and the South African who's spent more time up close with the ocean's most feared predator than anyone else. | Watch Video

60 Minutes, Sunday, March 28, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Radio. Today on The Diane Rehm Show (airs on most NPR stations and streams live online beginning at 10:00 am EST), Diane is joined the first hour (domestic news roundup) byNaftali Bendavid (Wall St. Journal), Susan Page (USA Today) and Christopher Rowland (Boston Globe). For the second hour (international news roundup), Diane is joined by Daniel Dombey (Financial Times of London), Paul Richter (Los Angeles Times) and Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What Have They Done To The Rain?

On last night's post, most of those e-mailing agreed with my take. Two were vocal that they didn't. Cecile Richards job is to run Planned Parenthood -- a reproductive service. Her job is not to provide cover for the Democratic Party.

If you can't grasp that, it's not my problem. We have enough 'leaders' of women who won't stand up for them. Or we'll pretend to care.

Sunsara Taylor, come on down.

What the hell was that?

I listened to The Sunday Talkies two Saturdays ago with Ava and C.I. and couldn't believe that crap. Sunsara is going around speaking about the abuses women suffer.


She doesn't think it's important and said so to Kris Welch. She said, and she's talking about domestic abuse which is pretty much institutionalized in this country, it's not as serious as racism. Sunsara, go speak about racism then.

But don't betray women by pretending you're interested in the many issues they face only to reveal you're apparently just doing this to get then tuned into Communism. (Sunsara is an open Communist, I haven't outed her. I've highlighted her writings on that before and will again. I won't highlight her on women's issues because they're pretty much trivial to her and not all that serious as evidenced by her remarks to Kris Welch.)

Sunsara also revealed that class was more important than problems women face. So, again, stop talking about women's issues. If they're not important to you, just close your mouth.

That is my opinion and I think we've suffered as a gender due to too many leaders who wouldn't stand up for us and our rights and I'm not in the mood for it anymore.

Now tonight.

It is a theme post. The theme is a song you find yourself humming or singing during the day.

That is a very easy one for me. It is the only song I can play on guitar. (In college, I asked C.I. to teach me the song because it's one of my favorites.) It's one that I've loved forever.

Malvina Reynolds sang and wrote it, "What Have They Done To The Rain."

Just a little rain falling all around
The grass lifts its head to the heavenly sound
Just a little rain, just a little rain
What have they done to the rain?

You really need to hear her sing it. She sings it so movingly and it just really drives the point home. It's an ecology song. But long before I ever grasped that, I was entranced with the melody.

We're just supposed to blog about a song but I don't blog on Thursdays so I need to note something tonight that C.I.'s going to try to include in tomorrow's snapshot.

Many artists have recorded this song and, after Reynolds, I think the best version was done by Lili Taylor in the film Dogfight. She just really captured it and, if you've seen that film, you know what I'm talking about.

"NOW Calls for Swift Repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Demands President Obama Immediately Suspend Discriminatory Policy" (NOW):

March 22, 2010

The National Organization for Women joins Lieutenant Dan Choi, Captain Jim Pietrangelo and equal rights advocates around the country in demanding President Obama act immediately to suspend the military's discriminatory Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, which prevents LGBT service members from serving openly. Lt. Choi and Capt. Pietrangelo were arrested March 19 after chaining themselves to the fence of the White House in protest of the policy, under which Choi faces discharge and Pietrangelo was discharged. The policy has resulted in the discharge of more than 13,500 service members since its inception in 1994. An estimated 66,000 LGBT people currently serve in the military

The Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy has a disproportionate impact on women in the military, according to the Service Women's Action Network. Sexual harassment of military women often takes the form of lesbian baiting; and in 2008, 34 percent of service members discharged were women, although women make up only 15 percent of military personnel.

"The Department of Defense doesn't need to study this issue any longer," NOW President Terry O'Neill said. "Extensive research has already been done. Equality and justice are on the line. Instead of wasting time on another study, NOW calls on President Obama to immediately suspend Don't, Ask Don't Tell, Congress to repeal the policy and the DOD to focus on implementing the discontinuation without further delay."

"Delaying implementation until December 2010 is unnecessary," O'Neill continued. "Every day that this unjust policy continues is another day of discrimination that leads to the military's loss of valuable service members and the needless disruption of their careers and lives."

"Leadership from NOW joined Lt. Dan Choi and Capt. Pietrangelo on Friday for their arraignments after the two men spent the night in a cell filled with cockroaches -- all for peacefully demonstrating for the repeal of this extremely unjust and unnecessary policy," O'Neill said. "NOW commends all LGBT service members for their contributions to this country and demands the immediate repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell."


For Immediate Release
Contact: Mai Shiozaki, 202-628-8669, ext. 116

I know after Kim Gandy's destructive leadership in that last year, many no longer trust NOW but Terry O'Neill is hitting harder than most of the 'leaders' today. She's not playing 'let's all be fans and not activists.'

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, March 24, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri wants a recount, a RECOUNT!!!!!, the US media coverage is examined, DoD lies to Congress again, Iraq's LGBT community remains under attack and more.

We'll start with the topic of the Iraqi elections.
The latest Listening Post (Al Jazeera, began airing Friday) included a recollection that the American media -- Big and Small -- didn't make time for in their seven year anniversary coverage.

Richard Gizbert (Listening Post anchor): As the Iraqi polls closed last week, we at the Listening Post analyzed election coverage in the country and the state of the media there. This week, we're looking at the same story but switching our focus to the narrative on Iraq in the American media. It is fair to say that US news outlets have, in editorial terms, been all over the place on the Iraq War. Even the so-called liberal media were hawkish during the run-up, then many outlets turned against the war when it was going badly. But now some of them and their opinion makers are changing their tune. They're going back to where they started. We're zeroing in on two pieces in particular: A cover story on Newsweek magazine that talked of victory in Iraq and a column by Thomas Friedman, a foreign policy expert at the New York Times. Our starting point this week is Baghdad. With a story that's being scripted in Washington, DC and being told in America and around the world. Thomas Friedman of the New York Times was not the only editorial voice in America to support the Iraq War. He was just one of the most influential because of who he is and where his work is published.

Michael Hastings: Many of the columnists -- the Thomas Friedmans, the Fareed Zakarias, the George Packers of The New Yorker, you know, these guys are supposed to be these genius foreign policy thinkers, right, and they got the biggest foreign policy question of their generation completely wrong.

Richard Gizbert: As the Times' foreign policy columnist, Thomas Friedman is considered a must-read for many Americans -- particularly policy makers in Washington.

Matthew Duss: He's been able to transform himself into kind of a condenser of the conventional elite wisdom on the Middle East.

Michael Hastings: What Thomas Friedman writes helps shape the debate in Washington, DC, helps shape the debate policy makers are having.

Richard Gizbert: In the column he published on the Iraq election entitled "It's Up to Iraqis Now. Good luck." Friedman wrote, "Of all the pictures I saw, my favorite was the Iraqi expatriate mother, voting in Michigan, holding up her son to let him stuff her ballot into the box. I loved that picture." But Michigan is a long way and a far cry from Baghdad.

Matthew Duss: I do see some irony in the fact that Tom Friedman chose a picture of Iraqi refugees voting in Detroit. It just brings to mind that there is a huge refugee situation -- 5 million people, it's estimated, were displaced this policy of invasion and occupation is now one that's going to be validated no matter what people like Tom Friedman would like to believe.

Jason Linkins: It's a fitting example of the distance of his thinking. What's a woman in Michigan got to worry about. She's not going to be facing the consequences of what's gone on there -- she lives in Michigan. All the people that live in Baghdad, in Barsra, in Kirkuk, they live with these things daily and to Friedman it's all one grand abstraction.
Richard Gizbert: Friedman went on to write: "President Bush's gut instinct that this region craved and needed democracy was always right. Some argue that nothing that happened in Iraq will ever justify the cost. Historians will sort that out.

Matthew Duss: Tom Friedman's column is unfortunately, I think, symbolic of the generally caviliar attitude he's had about this from the very beginning. The American people understand that we cannot go about the world just starting wars, invading and occupying countries; however, our elite media, Tom Friedman and others being the perfect example, seem to think that we can.

Richard Gizbert: Friedman talks a lot about democracy in the column but nowhere does he mention the Weapons of Mass Destruction that were never found or the 9-11 attacks that precipitated the war even though back in 2003 terrorism was in the forefront of Friedman's thinking and his writing.

Thomas Friedman (speaking to Charlie Rose in 2003 clip): The Terrorism bubble that basically built up over the 1990s saying "Flying airplanes into the World Trade Center? That's okay. Having your preachers say that's okay? That's okay." And what they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house from Basra to Baghdad. Uhm and basically saying: "You think this bubble fantasy, we're just going to let that go? Well suck on this."

Jason Linkins: The problem of course with the thinking there is that there wasn't anyone in any homes from Basra to Baghdad who had anything to do at all with the 9-11 attacks. You may as well have been kicking in the doors of people in Minneapolis.

Thomas Friedman (speaking to Charlie Rose in 2003): We could have hit Saudi Arabia. It was part of that bubble. Couldda' hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could.

Jason Linkins: This, I think, correctly represented the way that the Bush administration viewed the world and it represented an unfortunate tendency of many in the media to react to 9-11 in a very defensive and a vey belligerant manner.

Richard Gizbert: The New York Times has a reputation in the US for being ideologically liberal. So does Newsweek magazine whose cover story and splashy headline also attracted attention -- not all of it good.

Michael Hastings: I thought Newsweek magazine's cover that said "Victory At Last" was just very embarrassing for the magazine to even put up there. I don't use the word propaganda lightly but it seemed to me that was propaganda. What it was meant to do was to tell Americans, "Hey, look guys, we won even though the facts don't really back that case up at all.

Richard Gizbert: The Newsweek article was not quite as triumphal as the headline. But it's Newsweek.

[MSNBC anchor]: Your cover of Newsweek -- "Victory At Last"

Richard Gizbert: So it caught the attention of news channels that, back in 2002, 2003, also backed the war.

Newsweek's Jon Meacham: Our reporting has shown that in fact there is a level of stability and a kind of political culutre taking hold. What General Petraeus did and what President Bush came to, seems to have worked.

MSNBC Bobble Head: It's a stunning story.

Jon Meacham: It really is.

Richard Gizbert: However, the Newsweek editor did face on challenging question. Just one.

Panel Pundit: What happens if three or four months down the road, they can't put a government together?

Jon Meacham: Then we will say victory still to come.

[War Hawk Daughter Mika Brzezinski braying uncontrollably, with far less grace than a donkey.]

Richard Gizbert: That was just a joke but it contained a disturbing element of truth. Some of the American media took a one day exercise in Iraq democracy and turned it into much more than that.

Ned Parker and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) report, "Senior politicians from Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's ruling coalition warned Tuesday that Shiite Muslim-dominated southern Iraq could severly loosen its ties with Baghdad if the nation's electoral commissionf ailed to meet its demand for a manual recount of ballots in parliamentary elections." With Nouri's desire to circumvent rulings, it's a good idea to examine past history and, most recently, that includes his reaction when Sunni candidates were 'unbanned' which was to threaten that violence would result and then unleash his thugs in select cities in order to frighten the commission into changing their judgment. Late to the party? We'll drop back to February 7th for catch up:
Wednesday an Iraqi appeals court ruled that the 500 plus candidates being banned by Iran via the extra-legal Accountability and Justice Committee would be allowed to run. This did not sit well with the thug of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki. As one of the many chicken s**t exiles who pulled the world into a war they were too cowardly to fight on their own, Nouri knows a thing or two about perception management even if Reuters doesn't.
Helen Long (Reuters) plays fool or whore -- you decide in a video 'report' on 'thousands' of Shi'ite protesters 'offended' that suspected Ba'athists were running. Helen hopes you are so stupid you aren't aware that Ba'athists included Shi'ites during Saddam Hussein's reign. She's also hoping you don't realize how many Shi'ite exiles were Ba'athist. Most of all, she hopes she don't get your information from anywhere else. Especially not Germany's DPA which tells you what Helen refused to: " Thousands of supporters of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Dawaa Party demonstrated outside the house of parliament in Baghdad on Sunday, to call for the exclusion of 'Baathist' candidates from the March polls." Who were these 'typical' protestors? The governor of Baghdad was among them. Helen whores it and prays the whole world is stupid and doesn't catch on. Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) reports, "Tensions over the dispute flared elswhere, as thousand of protesters attended anti-Baathist rallies in Baghdad and Basra organized by Mr. Maliki's political oranization, the Dawa Party. The Baghdad rally was broadcast at length on state television, showing Mr. Maliki's aides denoucning those sympathetic to the Baath Party". You get the idea that, given the chance, Helen Long would insist to you that the April 2003 US PSY-OPS operation in Firdos Square where the US military brought down the statue of Hussein amidst a small group of exiles just brought back into the country (by the US) (as well as marines and 'reporters') was a 'legitimate' and 'real' protest by Iraqis. Helen really hopes you're as stupid as she believes you are and that you don't notice, for example, that these 'average Iraqi protestors' are carrying handmade flags . . . Iraqi flags? No, like any 'normal' and 'average' Iraq, they're carrying home made US flags. Yeah, that's believable. (Also note that the women are covered from head to toe but the men were track suits, dress suits, pullover shirts, etc. while few sport any kind of a bear let alone one would that would demonstrate devout religious beliefs -- translation, Nouri stands for more even more suppression of women's rights.) For those who have missed the combined 'reporting' of Michael Gordon and Judith Miller, breathe easy, Helen Long is on the scene.

Something similar wouldn't be surprising especially as Friday approaches when 100% of the vote is supposed to be released.
Jason Ditz ( covered the announcement yesterday that Nouri's State of Law would refuse to recognize any results as legitimate without a recount. Even more predictable was today's 'protest' in Basra. CNN reports a hundred or so members of Nouri's political party mobbed the streets demanding a recount. As Alice Fordham (Iraq Oil Report) observes, Nouri's demands were "spurring supporters" into just that action.

Ned Parker, because the Los Angeles Times works so very closely with US military brass, offers the US military's projections of the votes -- votes that the Iraq elecotral commission hasn't even released (they are supposed to release their results on Friday). Parker and Raheem Salman add, "Sami Askari, a member of Maliki's inner circle and his State of Law election slate, described the electoral commission as a U.N. puppet. He also accused the CIA and elements of the State Department of working to bring Allawi, who has ties to the U.S. intelligence community, back to power." Meanwhile Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reports that (if initial results hold), the 'kingmakers' may likely be the Sadr bloc and the Kurds. 'Kingmakers' was tossed around over and over in the lead up to Parliamentary elections and in the gas baggery that followed the first week of the vote (like Kat, I wonder Where have you gone Quil Lawerence, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you?). It was an easy call and it may turn out to have been a wrong call. Fadel reports:"The Sadrists had political and military power that surpassed that of the government, but they misused it and ended up in jails and in exile," said political analyst Ibrahim al-Sumaidaie. "Now, they have mastered their political power. They will find that the political game will give them more power and a wider role than their guns." In 2006, the Sadrists played a part in choosing Maliki, a Shiite, as prime minister. Two years later, Maliki relented to U.S. pressure and deployed the Iraqi military to target the Sadrist militia, the Mahdi Army, in a successful offensive. But instead of disappearing, the Sadrists regrouped, shifting their focus from armed struggle to political strategizing. In advance of this year's elections, the Sadrists were among the only blocs in Iraq to educate voters about the nation's complex electoral system. Although they nominated only 52 candidates out of the more than 6,000 who ran nationwide, they were shrewd in deciding which seats to target. As a result, they are expected to win as many as 40 seats in the next parliament, with their Shiite allies probably taking just over 20. There are 325 seats in the new parliament.

What is known is that women will hold seats in the Parlimanet.
Hannah Allem (Christian Science Monitor):

In an electoral process full of complicated equations, the allocation of seats for women is one of the most arcane. Few of the female candidates can explain the math, but they bristle at being put down as just quota appointees or "political decor," as Nada al Abidi, a candidate from the rural southern Wasit province, put it.
"As long as there is a quota, people perceive women as gap-fillers and not deserving members of parliament," said Damlouji, who's still unsure if she'll get a seat. "The perception of a man is as an individual, but for women it's as a bloc. So if one woman failed, it's as if the entire womanhood has failed."

Delilah Jean Williams (All Voices) reports on the women running for office and explains:

One candidate, Feyruz Hatam from Baghdad, made history by campaigning without wearing the traditional head-to-toe abayas and black clothing. Her head and face were uncovered and she wore make-up in her personal appearances and when she posed for her poster photographs.
Hatam is determined to be a face that helps to change how Iraqi society views women.
"The mentality of Iraqi voters has changed. I'm happy because my photo conveys the message that times have changed," says Hatam, whose brown pantsuit made her stand out from other Iraqi National Alliance candidates.
Feyruz Hatam and other courageous Iraqi women were an unexpected surprise during the campaign, with uncovered faces in all forms of media, advertisements, posters, and television appearances.

Iraqi women are among the targeted in Iraq. They can be straight or gay and they will be targeted. Iraq's LGBT community has been targeted repeatedly and you actually don't have to be gay to be targeted, you just have to be suspected or mistaken of being gay. To call Iraq 'stable' today requires that you ignore the persecution of Iraq's LGBT community (or the Christian community or . . .). On the LGBT community:

The UK government through its Border Agency has decided not to give priority to the asylum application of Iraqi LGBT leader Ali Hili, in exile in London. The application has been outstanding for nearly three years and while it is outstanding, Ali cannot travel. This decision directly impacts not just on Ali but on harshly persecuted Iraqi lesbians and gays through the reduced ability of their sole visible leader to raise their profile internationally.
Can you help?
As you may be aware, numerous human rights organisations and journalists have documented the pogrom against lesbians and gays in Iraq. Iraqi LGBT estimates that over 700 LGBT have been assassinated over the past few years. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has advised 'favourable consideration' for asylum claims because of the situation. As the public leader of the only group representing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people both inside Iraq and in the diaspora, Hili has received a fatwa from inside Iraq as well as numerous threats in London which have forced him to move. He is under the protection of the Metropolitan Police. US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin spoke last month of their concerns for LGBT both in Iraq and as refugees, in a letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton co-signed by 64 other Congresspeople. Hili has received many requests to speak about the situation in Iraq internationally, including from US-based groups such as the Gay Liberation Network and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Campaign, which he has been unable to pursue. His solicitor, Barry O'Leary, wrote to the UK Border Agency (UKBA) in August 2009 that: "he desperately wishes to do this [travel] in order to further the aims of his organisation, that is, supporting lesbians and gay men in Iraq and bringing the world's attention to their plight." Six months later, the UKBA told O'Leary that:
the assistance given by Hilli to the Foreign Office "does not count"
the fatwa does not mean that Hilli "falls within the classification of clear and immediate vulnerability"
that the delay in deciding Hilli's asylum case (since July 2007) "is not in itself an exceptional circumstance"
his case is not "compelling"
Peter Tatchell says of Ali:
"It was Ali Hili of Iraqi LGBT who first alerted the world to the organised killing of LGBT people in Iraq - way back in 2005. For a long time, he was a lone voice." "Mr Hili was also the person who set up the 'underground railroad' and safe houses inside Iraq, to give refuge to LGBT people on the run from Islamist death squads and to provide escape routes to neighbouring countries - which saved the lives of many Iraqi LGBTs.
Ali must travel!
The UK Foreign Office Human Rights Report for 2009 specifically names Iraqi LGBT over other NGOs as a key source of information. Hili has met with them numerous times. The report quotes Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell condemning persecution of LGBT in Iraq. Foreign Office Minister Chris Bryant wrote in his blog on Feb. 24: "I know some people dismiss LGBT rights as something of a sideshow in international relations, but I am proud to say that the FCO has argued for a decade that human rights are a seamless garment." Yet the same government through the Home Office is effectively aiding that persecution through the failure of government recognition to Iraqi LGBT's leader.
We want the UK government to expedite Ali Hili's asylum claim so he is properly able to tell the world about what is happening to LGBT in Iraq.
How you can help
Sign the international petition
Write to the UK Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, to ask that he intervene in Ali's case that his asylum application be prioritised. Please mention Ali's Home Office reference which is S1180507/7. (
Get a standard letter - please personalise and remember to sign it)
Rt Hon Alan Johnson MP, Home Secretary, 2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF Telephone: 020 7035 4848 Write to UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, to ask that they ask Johnson to intervene in Ali's case. Please mention Ali's Home Office reference which is S1180507/7. (Get a standard letter - please personalise and remember to sign it)
The Prime Minister, 10 Downing Street, London, SW1A 2AA
Email the Prime Minister's Office Write to your MP to ask that they ask Johnson to intervene in Ali's case. If you are outside the UK, ask politicians, prominent persons and organisations to invite Ali to your country and make Brown and Johnson aware of this request. Ask those politicians, prominent persons and organisations to issue their own public statement in support of Hili's asylum prioritisation from the UK government.Write to newspapers, write blog posts in support of Ali, tell people about Ali. Please copy any letters to the campaign in support of Ali Hili to
Join the Facebook page ~~~~~~~Visit our website, LGBT asylum news (formally Save Medhi Kazemi)http://www.medhikazemi.comTwitter

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


Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing injured five people, another Mosul roadside bombing injured one person, a Mosul mortar attack which left four children and three adults injured, a third Mosul roadside bombing which claimed 1 life and left two people injured, a Muqdadiya roadside bombing which claimed 1 life and a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured three people.


Reuters notes Iraqi forces in Baghdad killed 1 person (another injured). Timothy Williams (New York Times) reports 5 Iraqi soldiers were shot dead in a Baghdad "by a group of men in three cars as they passed through a checkpoint".

DoD lie of the day: "I promise that going forward, we-we will be as open as we possibly can and candid about the -- the uh -- what's going on in this program." DoD lies, where does it take place? Congress. The House Armed Services Air and Land Forces Subcommittee and Seapower and Expeditionary Forces Subcomittee held a joint-hearing today. US House Rep Adam Smith Chaired the hearing and he raised the issue of the spending, of the costs that keep rising. He is Chair of the Air and Land Forces Subcommittee and Roscoe Bartlett is the Ranking Member. Bartlett also raised the issue of soaring coasts and how Congress is not kept up to date on the spending. And we'll note this section of his opening remarks:

I also share my colleagues' concern over the health of the Joint Strike Fighter program. This is an enormously expensive program that promises a great deal of capability, but I'm frankly concerned that cost growth will render it unaffordable in the long term. In my eighteen years in Congress, I have seen program after program in which the cost grows, the production is reduced to fit inside a fixed budget, and the program ends in a spiral that leaves the services well short of their inventory requirements.

US House Rep Gene Taylor is the Chair of the Seapower and Expeditionary Forces Subcommittee and Todd Akin is the Ranking Member. In his opening remarks, in the first sentence of his opening remarks, Akin called for Congress to be kept informed as to "affordability challenges." He outlined, at length, with hard numbers, how the Department hadn't been very good with numbers.

The soaring costs would come up repeatedly in the hearing but Bartlett bore down on the issue. For the record, Congress controls the purse. Congress controls all spending. Congress is supposed to be kept informed of any cost increases for programs they authorize (they authorize but which the tax payers fund). Bartlett is speaking with the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

US House Rep Roscoe Bartlett: Are there regulations, written or unwritten, in the building that precludes including us as a partner in those discussions?

Ashton Carter: Uh -- I have to get back to you on the technicality of that. Certainly uh-yuh as a general matter, no, we try promptly to keep this Committee informed of important developments in programs that are in -- are in your purview. As I said when I uh earlier, because of the particular timing of the jet estimate and the Department's deliberations which were in the December-January period, leading up to the release of the president's budget -- It wasn't until the president's budget was released that the uh-uh jet estimate was -- which was included in that budget -- was uh-uh available. We did however -- It's my understanding that the jet estimate, even back in 2008, was made availabe uh to the Committee.

US House Rep Roscoe Bartlett: Thank you. Your statement goes on to say that program management contractors and the department need to surface candidly and openly issues with this program as they arise so that Congress is aware of them and they can be addressed." In the spirit of that statement, it would have been nice, I think, if we'd been part of that two month discussion between November and January. Would you agree?

Ashton Carter: I promise that going forward, we-we will be as open as we possibly can and candid about the -- the uh -- what's going on in this program.

Yesterday's snapshot and Kat's "Military Personnel Subcommittee hearing" covered a hearing of the House Armed Service's Military Personnel Subcommittee. Kat noted, "You've got a woman over 80-years-old but for her to receive the monies she's owed, she needs to drop her widow status and remarry." A visitor e-mails the public account to ask if that's hyperbole? No. Suzanne Stack testified, "Ms. Kozak of Jacksonville, Florida, needs to receive her SBP in full but does not want to start dating and remarry at age 85." I'm not sure that "Kozak" is the spellling, it may be "Kozack." But it was part of Stack's testimony. The woman does not receive her Survivor Benefit Pay and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation monies in full. Because she is eligible for both, her SBP is reduced. That's not fair but there is a way around that. She can, after the age of 57 (and she's 85), remarry and she'll get both payments in full. An 85-year-old widow being told to remarry to get the money she's owed and the money her husband assumed she would receive. SBP today, this was one part of the testimony, is not being explained accurately to service members who are signing up and thinking that the payments will be full. They take this out, it's a policy. Then they die and their wife or husband may or may not receive the full payments.

In the US over the weekend, demonstrations against the wars were held around the country.
Sam Waite and Michael Chase (US Socialist Worker) report today:

In Washington, D.C., thousands turned out to a demonstration, called by International ANSWER, against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan across the street from the White House early in the afternoon. Well-known antiwar activists such as Cindy Sheehan, Cynthia McKinney and members of Iraq Veterans Against the War took the stage to denounce the Obama administration's continuation of George Bush's "war on terror." "We can't make more excuses for the government," said Sheehan. "We can't make any more excuses for the president, no matter what party that president comes from."The sentiment was widely shared by demonstrators. "Obama is the president. He's the leader of this war effort, and we're going to oppose it," said Bruce Wolf of U.S. Labor Against the War. Wolf has organized a weekly vigil outside Walter Reed Memorial Hospital since 2005. Jessica Rua, who came from Atlantic City, N.J., agreed, saying that Obama's election had "no effect at all" on the prospect of ending the wars. "Our kids don't deserve this hell," said Rua, whose brother is missing in action in Afghanistan.The crowd was notable for its diversity. Veterans of antiwar movements since the Vietnam era mixed with a sizeable student contingent. Immigrant rights activists took part, as did Muslim and Arab American organizations.

Samuel Davidson (WSWS) reports on the DC actions:
On the official website of the demonstration,, there is little of Obama. His name did not even appear on the website's home page. Only a few of the more than two dozen updates on the website calling for people to attend the rally and reporting on support mention the Obama administration.Outside of a few homemade signs, none of the official mass-produced placards mentioned Obama and the role of the Democrats in promoting the war.As for the speakers, one had the strange feeling that you could have heard the exact same speeches at the rallies held two years ago when George W. Bush was still president. One had to wonder if Obama's name was censored from their remarks. However, it is more likely that the silence on Obama was self-imposed, a reflection of the fact that most of those who addressed the rally had either endorsed Obama in the 2008 elections or had adopted the more general "anybody but Bush" line promoted by the protest groups as a shamefaced form of backing the Democrats.Brian Becker, the National Coordinator for the ANSWER coalition did not mention Obama at all, and gave no explanation for the growing militarization of American life.

John Catalinotto (Workers' World) has a strong article but we're grabbing on Los Angeles because there's been little coverage of that action:

In Los Angeles, thousands, including many youth of color, gathered at the intersection of Hollywood and Vine and marched down Hollywood Blvd. to the rally site at Highland Ave. There they listened to speakers prominent in left and progressive movements demand an end to U.S. militarism and money for human needs at home and abroad.

Martin Steiner files what may be the lengthiest report on the Los Angeles action and she files it (audio report) for KPFK's Uprising. We'll note this from a male speaker in her report:

As students, we are gathering from all around the state to say, Mr. President, we are the future! And we need education! As veterans, we are saying today, Mr. President, we will not fight your battles anymore! We will not spill our blood for you anymore! We will not give our lives for you anymore! And for the profit of these corporations that run these wars and then profit off of the deaths of our brothers and sisters every single day in the war! Today, let us stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with the people of Iraq, with the people of Afghanistan and with the homeless men and women and children of America and say that today we will stand up and we will form a movement and we will be back in the streets every day until we get our demands!!!

The report features many other speakers and it also features interviews with people taking part. 8 people were arrested at the DC protest including
Cindy Sheehan. Jon Gold (Peace of the Action) writes of the arrests:

Cindy Sheehan, myself, and others walked through the crowd until we reached the barrier closest to those laying down on the sidewalk. As you can see in
this video, the barrier failed, and Cindy Sheehan walked across. As soon as she entered the "arrest zone," the Park Police immediately grabbed her, and handcuffed her. They were literally manhandling her.
This made me angry, and I yelled at the Park Police to "let her go!" Before I knew it, the barrier was back up. I tried to push through the barrier, but the Park Police pushed back. I managed to push two Park Policeman back until one of them grabbed for something on their side to use against me. It was probably mace, but it could have been anything. I stopped pushing. I walked around to the side where the police tape was, that failed, and I found myself within the "arrest zone." I decided that I was going to allow myself to be arrested in order to keep an eye on Cindy. One of the Park Police grabbed me by my arm, and placed me next to Matthew and the others.
When I sat down next to Matthis, he said to me, "you're on the right side of the line," and I said, "I know." One of the Park Police walked over to me, and said to another officer, "he crossed the line, arrest him." That Park Policeman lifted me up, and put me in regular metal cuffs. As I stood up, I screamed as loud as I could, "THIS ARREST IS DEDICATED TO 9/11 VICTIM FAMILY MEMBER
ROBERT MCILVAINE JR.!!!" and part of the crowd cheered. As they walked me away I could see Ann Wright waving her fist at me with a big smile on her face as if to say, "RIGHT ON!"

al jazeerarichard gizbertlistening post
true/slantmichael hastings
james hider
the times of londonthe new york timessteven lee myers
alice fordham
the los angeles timesned parkerraheem salmanthe washington postleila fadel
the socialist workersam waitemichael chasewswssamuel davidson
workers worldjohn catalinotto

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


"Reform Vote Gets Yays, Nays from Women's Lobby" (WeNews):

Advocates for women's rights decried the exclusion of abortion coverage in the House health reform bill passed late Sunday in a historic 219-212 vote.

But they were mixed in their ultimate up-or-down assessment of the legislation.

[. . .]

Dr. Suzanne T. Poppema, board chair of Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health, focused on abortion restrictions in her statement Monday. "Even as health reform expands access to insurance, it restricts coverage of one critical service. Abortion is essential health care--1-in-3 women will have an abortion in her lifetime--but millions of women could be denied coverage under this legislation."

Poppema said physicians already had the difficult task of telling women in the military, in government service and on Medicaid that their insurance denied coverage for the legal, safe, medical procedure.

I've eliminated Cecile Richards. I'm not her mother. Also, I'm damn tired of BITCHES. Either you're a woman who supports women or you're on your own. Ann Richards' idiot daughter is on her own. She's window dressing for the subjugation of women and no one should advance her tired ass. I've also never been fond of those who coasted on their parents' name. Carve out your own life, with your own identity or resign yourself to always being compared to your parent -- and unfavorably in Richards' case.

It's a damn shame that the figurehead, let's not call the air head a leader, can't stand up. I will give a link to Poppema's organization.

So women got screwed over again and some women are so self-loathing they'll applaud it the way Cecile does. Other women will stand up. Those of us who stand up deserve the title "women." Those like Cecile? Bitches. We can't afford them. There's too much work to be done to improve women's lives. It's as if the boat's overloaded and we've got to send the Bitches off on their own little raft to continue our journey on the big boat.

This is Poppema's statement in full:

Statement of Suzanne Poppema, MD, Board Chair of Physicians for
Reproductive Choice and Health, on Final Push for Health Care Reform

New York, NY—“Today is a bittersweet moment for physicians who provide reproductive care to women and men. Thanks to the health reform legislation passed last night, millions of Americans will finally have access to health care. However, this achievement has a painful side effect, as many women will be denied access to abortion—even in cases when their health is threatened.

“Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health spent the last year fighting to ensure that health reform would improve reproductive health. We’re pleased with many aspects of the bill, including a ban on charging women more for insurance and guaranteed coverage for preventive health services. There’s no doubt this bill will help physicians keep women and families healthy.

“Even as health reform expands access to insurance, it restricts coverage of one critical service. Abortion is essential health care—one in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime—but millions of women could be denied coverage under this legislation. As physicians, we’ll face the painful task of telling women their insurance won’t pay for the legal, safe medical procedure they need. We know what it’s like: we doctors already have to deliver that message to families in the military, in government service, and on Medicaid. We know the pain and suffering that result—financial, emotional, and physical.

“The goal of health reform was to end inequities in our health system. Instead, anti-choice politicians wrote discrimination into the bill.

“As physicians, we believe every American deserves unfettered access to all reproductive health care. The health of our country depends on it. We call on Congress and the administration to correct the wrongs in the health reform bill. We will fight to ensure every woman has access to the full range of medical care she needs.”



Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health is a doctor-led national advocacy organization. We use evidence-based medicine to promote sound reproductive health policies. We believe in reproductive choice for everyone.

So Barack makes a big woop-te-do about signing the bill and calling it historic and used how many pens to sign it but he's going to do the executive order tomorrow, the one destroying women's rights, in private. Politico reports the small, invited audience is:

Senator Bob Casey
Representative Bart Stupak
Representative Kathy Dahlkemper
Representative Marcy Kaptur
Representative Nick Rahall
Representative Jerry Costello
Representative Chris Carney
Representative Steve Driehaus
Representative Charlie Wilson
Representative Jim Oberstar
Representative Alan Mollohan
Representative Brad Ellsworth
Representative Henry Cuellar
Representative Mike Doyle

Goodness, Barry, if you've done nothing wrong, why are you hiding? Remember when Ms. magazine wanted to toss Barry O on the cover and lie that he was what feminism looks like? Remember that?

Meanwhile Politico tells us that Senator Tom Coburn (a Republican) is introducing an amendment declaring that, under ObamaCare, convicted sex offenders won't be able to obtain Viagra. Goodness, any male need or desire got fulfilled by ObamaCare -- even if it put women's lives in jeopardy -- while women's health was tossed under the bus.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, March 23, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the US Congress hears about service members' needs and they hear about the neglect military widows (and widowers) and their family suffer from the US government while left to answer questions such as "'Mom does it hurt to drown?'; 'Why couldn't the Marines save Daddy if they could save the others?'; and 'Was I the last thing he thought of?'"

Starting in the US where the Iraq War has not ended despite claims from some.
Chris Durden (Kansas CW) reports that some members of the Kansas Army Reserve have learned they're deploying to Iraq and a send-off ceremony will take place this Saturday at two p.m. (3130 George Washington Blvd, Wichita, Kansas). Sending Reserves and Guards out of the US? The National Guard is supposed to protect the US, right? Bush threw that to the wind and Barack's continued to do so.

Which is a good time to shift into these comments from this morning.

Retired Master Sgt Michael Cline: The [National] Guard and Reserve are unique. A lot of the benefit programs that are in place for them -- even though they have improved over the last ten years are still relics of the Cold War. And as we rely more and more on the Guard and Reserve to be an operational force, we've already been told from fairly high ranking officers that the Guard's mission in Iraq is going to continue well into the future. We will become the peacemakers in Iraq. Not only that but we have the Sinai mission, Africa, Bosnia -- you name, we're there, along with the Afghan mission. And 90% of the air sovereignty of the United States is flown by Air National Guard pilots. And if we don't do something to retain these people and, as the economy gets better, we're going to start losing real good people. And then what's going to happen is recruiting and retention budgets are going to go up and then we're going to have to spend $100,000 per soldier, per air man to get them retrained. And so we have to find a balance. We have to bring the operational reserve force into the 21st century with pay and benefits. And when we -- when Congress gave the Reserve retirement program, they started it on January 28, 2008. You said from those people who served from 9-11 to that time, "Your service don't count." And yet you still want them to go. We have units right now in Minnesota that are on their fourth rotation to either Iraq, Afghanistan or Bosnia. And, you know, these people are being taken away from their civilian jobs, they're losing their 401Ks, putting stress on the families. Bankruptcy is becoming an important thing in the Guard and Reserve community. So things have to change. We realize it's stressing the budget but, you know, it's not uncommon to see the rules waived to provide things. We've seen it with the GI Bill. We've seen it with Tri-Care for life.

Cline informs that the Guard and Reserves will continue to shoulder the burden of Iraq -- guess Iraq really is a US colony now, that this screws with their own lives, their own families, their own financial security at present and when they retire. And he provides that to the House Armed Service's Military Personnel Subcommittee which is chaired by US House Rep Susan Davis. Joe Wilson is the Ranking Member. Chair Davis explained at the start of the hearing, "Today the subcommittee will focus on the legislative priorities of military associations and the implications of direct spending on the ability of the Congress to meet these priorities. It has been the tradition of this subcommittee to hear from the beneficiary and the advocacy organizations at the start of the legislative season so that the Subcommittee has a better understanding of the many issues of interest to service members and their families."

Cline was part of the first panel which also included The Retired Enlisted Association's Deidre Parke Holleman, Retired Col Steve Strobridge, CBO's Sarah Jennings and Retired Master Chief Petty Officer Joseph Barnes.

Since, as Davis noted, the point was to hear about the issues, we'll again go to Cline who was speaking of the disparities in pay.

Retired Master Sgt Michael Cline: Well I think it would go a long way in solving any future retention problems that we have. You know anytime that we have a deployment, we have soldiers that come home, air man that come home, sailors and marines that come home and their families have said, "I've had enough, you know, I'm tired of you being gone." The employers are starting to get riled up. These service members are looking at their civilian careers and they're saying, "Every time I'm deployed, I'm losing money out of my 401 K. I'm losing part of my future retirement. The start of January 28, 2008 for that retroactivity, that was a great start. Your idea of for every two years of service, you get a year early retirement --

Ranking Member Joe Wilson: [Every year] Over 20.

Retired Master Sgt Michael Cline: You know, we've been fighting, I've been doing this for 21 years and for 21 years we have been trying to get the H55 retirement. You know, every place you go -- in fact, I talked to a group of chief master sergeants yesterday, and that's the first thing out of their mouth -- the retroactively or the early retirement. "When are we going to see this?" And unfortunately the public doesn't understand mandatory spending and discretionary spending. When they see $750 billion given to banks and auto makers, or $3 billion in three weeks to clear carlots, a trillion dollars for health care -- they don't understand that it's a different pot of money. We do because we work it every day and try to explain it to our members. But they're the tax payers, they're the voter, they're sitting there saying, "Hey, I've done my service but you're not recognizing me. You know, I've rotated twice before Januay 28, 2008 and you're not recognizing my service." It's like you're sticking them in the side with an ice pick.

There were two panels that the Subcomittee heard from and the second panel was composed of Gold Star Wives Suzanne Stack and Margaret McCloud.
Kat's grabbing some of Suzanne Stack's testimony (at her site tonight) so we'll go with Margaret McCloud for the snapshot.

Margaret McCloud: Good morning. I am Maggie McCloud, proud widow of Marine Lt Col Joseph Trane McCloud who was killed in Iraq over three years ago. Thank you very much, Madame Chairwoman, Congressman Wilson and members of the Committee for allowing us to speak to you today regarding our personal narrative regarding the elimitation of the offset which affects 54,000 military surviving spouses, 94% of whom are survivors of retirees who pay premiums [. . .] and 6% like me who are survivors of active duty deaths. My husband paid for it with his life, the retiree paid for it with premiums and now we are both being denied it. As Suzanee has said and I will echo, Congress has set precedents in removing offsets to military retired pay such as the penalty for military retirees working as federal civilians, concurrent receipt of disability compensation and retirement pay for severely disabled retirees and the Social Security offset to SBP at age 62. The president's budget restores full military retiree pay to all other disabled retirees and therein lies my confusion. Why can't we find the money to fund this offset, one that effects 54,000 military widows, if we are able to find the money to fund these other most worthy benefits? We are told over and over again, year after year that the issue is cost not the principle but the reality has been that finding the funding has not been a priority. Elimination of this widows' tax was included in the GI bill of Rights for the 21st Century. Congress acknowledged this inequity by creating the Special Survivor's Indemity Allowance. Additional money was found last year in the tobacco legislation. Small progress for which we are grateful but recognition of the injustice created by the off-set. In explaining it's opposition to removal of the off-set, OSD has stated an inequity would be created with one select group receiving two survivor annuities. There are already groups receiving two benefits, widows who remarry after age 57 and widows like me who forfeited their SBP annuity to their children to ensure adequate resources to raise our families now and surviving spouses of federal civilians. The vast majority of military retirees did not die of their service but rather they retired and went on to have second careers. My husband did not enjoy the opportunity to have a second career and help raise his children and the DIC should be added to, not subtracted from, his retirement annuity. As it should, the administration has shown its strong support for our military members and veterans for whom the fighting has ended. Well the fighting has ended for our loved ones as well. Whether they fought on the beaches of Normandy, in the jungles of Vietnam, the desert of Iraq or the countless other places where brave Americans have fought and died. But we their survivors are still struggling each day. And now I also have to answer such questions as "Mom does it hurt to drown?"; "Why couldn't the Marines save Daddy if they could save the others?"; and "Was I the last thing he thought of?" These are the questions the families of the fallen have to face while carrying on and holding our families together. In conclusion, my family continues to support our military service members in any way we can. You need only look at my living room in December when it was filled with Boy Scout popcorn to send to our troops or currently the hundreds of boxes of Girl Scout cookies that I have yet to mail. It is very important to me to show our support for our military members who willingly leave their families and lay their lives on the line every day to protect and defend our freedom. As a country, don't we have a responsiblity to support their survivors when they don't come home or when they die later from that service ? How can't our government find the money to fix this widows' tax? Thank you so very much.

SBP is Survivor Benefit Pay. We'll note that Suzanne Stack's husband, SGM Michael Stack, also died serving in Iraq.

Ranking Member Joe Wilson: The American people need to know what the widows' tax is. Ms. Stack, you did an extraordinary job explaining the net. That's horrifying to think that somebody would get a four dollar check, a fourteen dollar check -- that-that -- And so, we have a time constraint here but I really am interested if you could -- both of you -- explain again what the Survivor Benefit Plan is briefly and who administers it and what it's intent, and then the indemnity -- dependency and indemnity compenstation, who administers that and then, without being totally specific, you take a number, you subtract a number and then you come back. The American people need to know this.

Suzanne Stack: I'll start. Thank you so much. It's hard to begin. The SBP is a annuity, it's something that is purchased at retirement when a military person does retire and they make a choice to have a certain portion of their retirement income provided to their spouse if they should die. It also has now been opened up to active duty deaths which is where both Ms. McCloud and I will fall and we receive that same benefit. That is usually figures as a percentage. Our husbands would be considered 100% disabled at a thirty year mark. If they -- My husband entered the service earlier than 1980, so his retirement pay would be based on the last base pay that he had received. I think Ms. McCould's started after that period so hers would be based on the high three. And then there's an average. And you take 75% of that and then 55% of that is what the SBP is based on. I don't know if that's clear, but it's easier when you have a chalk board.

Ranking Member: Joe Wilson: No, no, no. But that's good. And then the offset?

Suzanne Stack: Well the DIC [Dependency and Indemnity Compensation] is from the -- the SBP comes from the DoD, the DIC comes from the VA.

Ranking Member Joe Wilson: The VA.

Suzanne Stack: And for the two of us, we are provided the DIC on a flat -- rate, flat rate, excuse me, I couldn't think of what it was. A flat rate amount. Again, prior to that, it would be rank based. And if you receive both of SBP and DIC then the SBP is off-set by the DIC. For some people, as you saw in my remarks, they receive nothing. There is a great number that receives absolutely nothing. And that tends to be the E6 and below -- widows and widowers, we do have some widowers. And that can be very, very difficult and very hard -- very much a hardship on their families. [To McCloud] Can you think of anything that I've left off?

Margaret McCloud: Well what I would like to add -- and I appreciate your comment about trying to get this story out -- first of all, to all the people from the first panel who spoke so strongly and elequently on our behalf this morning thank you so very much. The military coalition has been a wonderful advocate on our behalf for years now. But the fact remains that as far as who this off-set truly effects, it's 54,000 military widows -- largely elderly women scattered across the country and they keep telling me I'm a young woman, I'm a young widow -- I have to say I feel like I've aged in dog years the past three years -- but so you're asking elderly ladies throughout the country who are in frail health themselves. They gave up so much over the years during their spouses own military career, they followed them around, they gave up their opportunity frequently to work themselves and generate their own retirement income. Then their spouse became ill and they spent year after year after year caring for them at great physical cost to themselves. And then you have the "young widow" such as myself. I'm not a whiner but our plates are very full. We hold down jobs. We do the work of both parents. My husband was an operational officer -- Operations Officers for the Second Batallion, Third Marine Regiment out of Kaneohe Bay Hawaii and I would like to think he would be in awe of the operation plan that I have to have in effect every day to raise three children by myself, to get them to school, Scouts, church, after school requirements, band. For fun last week, I just had to do a wonderful father-daughter event with my five-year-old daughter because I didn't want her to be there alone. That's what we have to do. Our plates are very full. And then we're told Congress has agreed the benefit in principle this is wrong , it's simply a matter of funding and we need to get the word out. Well we're trying but it's very discouraging and hard to keep coming at this year after year after year and hear: "We support you in principal but we just can't find the money."

Ranking Member Joe Wilson: And something -- and my final point -- this effects a family like a thousand dollars a month.

McCloud: Yes.

Ranking Member: Joe Wilson: And so raising small children or people of age, hey, that's a lot of money. And it can be quality of life. So thank you very much for being here today.

Chair Susan Davis: Thank you both. I would say it's not just the dollar [. . .] -- it's not just the dollars, it's also the idea that you're fighting for and I think that we certainly acknowledge and recognize.

And Iraqis have, of course, suffered. A point
David Corn raised in debating Michael Rubin on today's Talk of the Nation (NPR). No transcript or excerpt. Rubin's far too touchy and I'm not in the mood for "--" to note Corn being cut off or the other nonsense. Short version: Rubin tried to surf a wave of Operation Happy Talk and David Corn stayed factual. If they could provide Corn as a monologue, it would make for a nice listen but Rubin's too touchy and too eager to stretch the truth -- stretch to the point that it has runners throughout and finally breaks. Corn is with Mother Jones now. We will note one caller (whom even Rubin knew better than to attack):

I don't think we're better off because of the war. My son was killed in September 2007 in Iraq and the only ones I can see that've gained on this is like Exxon-Mobile and Shell who are now drilling for oil over there and it moved the price of oil from $20 a barrel to $147 during this war.

On the oil issue,
Antonia Juhasz and Joseph Juhasz tackle it at Iraq Veterans Against the War. Last week, Aamer Madhani (USA Today) noted some of the scars Iraqis suffer from:

The soldiers said they had received tips that Senaa's husband and her sister's husband were insurgents against the government in Iraq. Senaa and her four children were hustled outside.
When they were let back in, they found her husband on the kitchen floor, his bloody body full of bullet holes. Senaa's brother-in-law was dead in the living room.
"I was sitting on the couch the other day, and all I could do was cry and wish that I was dead," says Abid, recalling her distress as her four young children played nearby.
"I know my psychological situation is fragile," she says. "I am always thinking about committing suicide, but there is a voice inside my head that tells me my responsibilities are too big to leave this world."

Reporters Without Borders notes that journalists Muayad al-Lami and Maytham al-Ahmed both recently escaped assassination attempts:

"The Iraqi authorities must take all necessary measures to put a stop to the violence and to ensure that both attacks are properly investigated," Reporters Without Borders said. "Parliament's delay in adopting a law protecting journalists is prolonging the situation of impunity and seems to be the main reason why attacks on the press are continuing."
Gunmen opened fire on Al-Lami's car as he was travelling through Baghdad's Qadisiya district at about 9:30 p.m. on 21 March, seriously wounding his driver but failing to hit Al-Lami, who sustained no injuries. Al-Lami was previously the target of a murder attempt in September 2008, when a dynamite charge was set off outside the building that houses the union.
In Basra, two men on a motorcycle -- one in a policeman's uniform and one in civilian dress -- threw a grenade into the garden of Al-Ahmed's home on 17 March, seriously injuring his brother's daughter but no one else. The target was clearly Al-Ahmed himself, who is the manager of radio Sindibad and editor of the independent weekly Al-Amani.
Reporters Without Borders has meanwhile learned that the Basra press is currently refusing to cover the activities of the US and British military forces in protest against the way soldiers manhandled journalists during a news conference at which work permits were supposed to have been issued. A number of journalists were detained for several hours after the incident. A US military spokesman has sent a letter of apology to the Basra media.

Reuters notes Iraq saw two Baghdad roadside bombings leaving six people injured.
And they are still counting the ballots in Iraq.
Alsumaria TV offers these projections: "After counting 95% of polling centers, State of Law Coalition is expected to occupy 92 seats followed by Al Iraqiya with 89 seats. Iraqi National Alliance is expected to occupy 64 seats and Kurdistan Alliance 42 seats while Accordance List is expected to occupy six sears and Iraq's Unity Coalition three seats." Those are projections, they are not official results. Catholic News Agency reports that Kirkuk's Archbishop Louis Sako declares himself to be "very optimistic" regarding the vote: "The elections were carried out very well. During the campaign period, the political parties debated their programs in a very civilized way. The last election in 2005 was much more sectarian. Now people have chosen more secular parties, not like last time. Whatever happens, it will be a good result. I am very optimistic about that." Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) reports that talks are ongoing between Nouri's political party and the Iraqi National Alliance -- the two largest Shi'ite parties -- in an attempt at a power-sharing coalition which would "sideline [the political party of] secularist former premier Iyad Allawi, whose cross-sectarian Iraqiya coalition won strong support from minority Sunnis." Actually, Allawi's political party most likely (there are no knowns until the count is official) received Sunni support. It also received non-Sunni support. And the party presented itself as a non-sectarian party with a slate of candidates (many of whom ended up banned) who were Shia and Sunni. On those banned candidates, we'll note Robert Dreyfuss (The Nation):

Today, however, I want to focus on the fortunes of the Great de-Baathification Machine, namely, Ahmed Chalabi and Ali al-Lami, whose provocative purge of more than 500 candidates -- nearly all of whom were associated with anti-Iran and secular, nationalist movements -- polarized Iraq in the weeks before the vote. (Those who've seen "The Green Zone," the thriller starring Matt Damon, saw Chalabi's role as an exile who lied about Iraq's weapons program portrayed beautifully.)
Among other things, it appears as if the anti-Baath purge boosted Sunni turnout and turned more moderate Shiite voters away from, rather than toward, Chalabi, Lami, and the Shiite religious coalition that they created.
Lami, who was Chalabi's ally and head of the Justice and Accountability Commission, got only about 900 votes in the election, according to Visser's count, meaning that he likely won't be elected to parliament. Chalabi, who ran as a stalwart -- indeed, the organizer -- of the Iranian-backed Iraqi National Alliance, the Shiite coalition of religious parties, will take a seat in the next parliament. As Visser reports, the INA -- which included the former Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the Sadrists, and other Shiite parties -- won 16 seats in Baghdad province, and among them Chalabi finished ninth.

Yesterday Warren Olney (PRI's To The Point) spoke with the Center for American Progress' Brian Katulis about the election

Warren Olney: With 5% of the vote still uncounted, the party of Prime Minister al-Maliki is behind the slate led by Ayad Allawi. Both men are Shi'ites but Allawi's support comes largely from Sunnis. al-Maliki claims fraud and says if there's not a manual recount, there could be violence. The electoral commission has refused his request. Brian Katulis is a fellow at the Center for American Progress, he is co-author of The Prosperity Agenda: What The World Wants From America and What We Need In Return. Good to have you on our program.

Brian Katulis: Thanks for having me on, Warren.

Warren Olney: You've spent time in Iraq, you're familiar with the parties involved and, of course, with the dynamics there -- particularly between sectarian factions. How -- how concerned are you about this warning from al-Maliki invoking his role as commander-in-chief of the armed forces that there might be violence if there isn't a recount.

Brian Katulis It's cause for serious concern. I've-I've said in advance of these elections that these elections were a stress test of Iraqi politics, whether the institutions and the various leaders would actually respect the results. And I think this is a worrisome time. We need to watch it carefully. I don't think he's done anything, as yet, to use security forces or anything like this, but the tone of this -- and I know many US officials are concerned about it -- raises a lot of questions about what might happen in the next coming days when results are finally tabulated -- we think by the end of this week. [. . .] I think it's important to keep in mind that the overall popular vote doesn't matter that much because if you think our electoral college here in this country is complicated, Iraq has a very complicated election system and figuring out how many seats each party gets according to the number of votes is a complicated formula. And I think we'll -- I'll suspect we'll see a lot of disputes over the next coming days -- especially after the results are announced.

Addressing the complicated system is
Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) who explains:

In an electoral process full of complicated equations, the allocation of seats for women is one the most arcane. Few of the female candidates can explain the math, but they bristle at being put down as just quota appointees or "political decor," as Nada al Abidi, a candidate from the rural southern Wasit province, put it.
"As long as there is a quota, people perceive women as gap-fillers and not deserving members of parliament," said Damlouji, who's still unsure if she'll get a seat. "The perception of a man is as an individual, but for women it's as a bloc. So if one woman failed, it's as if the entire womanhood has failed."
In close races, some male candidates who thought they'd narrowly won a seat will learn that they were bumped to accommodate women who didn't get nearly as many votes. By law, women will make up a quarter of the next parliament -- 82 seats in the 325-member legislature -- but the algorithm for assigning seats is so complex that one diplomat likened it to orbit mechanics.

Trudy Rubin is a Phildelphia Inquirer columnist (and she's syndicated elsewhere) who has long covered Iraq and visited it often.
Her latest column is an open letter to Nouri al-Maliki which opens:

I'm writing you at a time when the outcome of
Iraq's election is still uncertain. Your political bloc may get a plurality of votes - or not. Even if you win the most parliamentary seats, you will have to struggle to form a governing coalition, which may take months.
But it's not too early for you (or any other leader who seeks your job) to respond to this question: What kind of
Iraq do you want? An Iraq in which Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds are at each other's throats? An Iraq where decent people are jailed for sectarian revenge?
Or an
Iraq in which all who are loyal to their country, irrespective of sect, have a role to play?
I have a personal reason for asking. My Iraqi driver and friend, Salam, has been in a
Baghdad jail for 15 months because he believed in an Iraq that rises above sect. That belief could cost him his life.
As noted in
yesterday's snapshot, at the DC action Saturday, eight people were arrested including Cindy Sheehan who questions the motivations behind the arrest at her website (Cindy's Soapbox):
Was it a coincidence that Camp OUT NOW had two major actions over the weekend to try and hold our campsite that I missed due to being jailed? I don't think so
Well, those two days were some of the most miserable days of my life! We were taken to a lock-up and Elaine and I were put into a freezing room and I had a t-shirt and flip-flops on, being unprepared to be arrested. For four women, our cell had one cement block bench that was about 7-8 feet long, so at least one of us always had to be on the stone-cold floor. Sleeping was fitful as it was very chilly all night -- and very noisy!
Thirty-six hours, and eight bologna-like and cheese-substitute sandwiches later, we were taken to the court for our arraignment and stayed in that cell for seven hours and were finally released at 5pm after we all pled "not-guilty" and were scheduled for a trial on June 9th.
Basically, six of us stayed in jail for 50 hours for an offense that ends up to be the equivalent of a traffic ticket and we even had to go to traffic court to be arraigned. I am positive that everyone in DC who gets a traffic ticket and is from "out-of-town" does not have to stay over night. Then, I found out that the penalty for my charge "Crossing a police line" doesn't even carry any jail time. I spent two nights in jail on an offense with no jail time! The maximum penalty is $300! Boy, I will be even more pissed if I go through a trial and have to pay $300 dollars after I have already spent two nights in jail.
To make matters even worse, I was the only one who was forced to come back for a trial even though Elaine has more DC arrests than I do. The other seven have chosen to go to trial with me, but they were given the option to "pay and forfeit" which means to pay the fine and forfeit your right to a trial.
The icing on the entire crappy cake came when the eight of us were given a "stay away order" from the White House -- I asked the Judge how could that be legal because we weren't convicted of anything, but the Judge assured me that conditions could be placed on our release. I also think this is very suspicious considering our Camp OUT NOW actions were focusing on the White House.

Yesterday's snapshot also noted Daniel Ellsberg's speech at the San Francisco peace action Saturday. Before speaking there, he spoke with trade unionists in the Bay Area.
Jonathan Nack (OpEd News) reports:"I think there is no prospect that we will achieve anything of any benefit to anyone in Afghanistan, or to us, by our efforts in Afghanistan," Ellsberg told the audience."Obama said " he will be withdrawing troops 15 months from now, 18 months from now. Gates [Secretary of Defense] has said maybe 24 months from now, and maybe it won't be too fast... The implicit promise is that that's a ceiling, that we'll be drawing down from that," said Ellsberg. "I don't think there's any chance of that," he declared. Based on his evaluation of the insurgency, Ellsberg predicted that, "there will be more troops in Afghanistan in two years, and still more in four years."Regarding Iraq, Ellsberg said that, "it's taken for granted in everything I read that Obama is going to carry out his promise to get all American troops out of Iraq by the end of 2011 - all combat troops earlier than that, maybe this year. I don't think there's any chance of that." Ellsberg accused President Obama of intending to maintain U.S. Military bases in Iraq for much longer, "not just as long as he's alive, not just as long as he's in office as long as his children are alive!" Ellsberg said he expects there will still be 30,000 to 50,000 troops in Iraq by the end of Pres. Obama's second term. "I'm saying that Obama is lying in the same way, and to the same degree, as my former President Lyndon Johnson did," accused Ellsberg.

At MakeThemAccountable, Caro notes an article in which Brent Budowsky proclaims the female century (yes, I'm doubtful but he's offering more than a 'year of the woman'):

With the House of Representative's passage of the healthcare bill, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has cemented her standing as one of the great Speakers in modern history.
Receiving her Academy Award for Best Director for the brilliant and important motion picture "The Hurt Locker," Kathryn Bigelow shattered another glass ceiling and brought warmth to the hearts of Americans who honor the men and women who serve our country...
With official Washington unpopular throughout the nation, first lady Michelle Obama has earned sky-high levels of trust and good will from Americans across the political spectrum.
Regarding the scandals of Wall Street and finance, how many perp-walks have involved women? Meanwhile, the National Venture Capital Association recently selected Kate Mitchell, a leading venture capitalist, to be its chairman, making Mitchell a national leader among risk-takers and job-creators.

TV notes.
NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):

In the debate over energy resources, natural gas is often considered a "lesser-of-evils". While it does release some greenhouse gases, natural gas burns cleaner than coal and oil, and is in plentiful supply -- parts of the U.S. sit above some of the largest natural gas reserves on Earth. But a new boom in natural gas drilling, a process called "fracking", raises concerns about health and environmental risks. On March 26 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW talks with filmmaker Josh Fox about "Gasland", his Sundance award-winning documentary on the surprising consequences of natural gas drilling. Fox's film -- inspired when the gas company came to his hometown -- alleges chronic illness, animal-killing toxic waste, disastrous explosions, and regulatory missteps. Drilling down to the truth about natural gas. Next on NOW.

David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. Bacon can be heard on KPFA's The Morning Show (over the airwaves in the Bay Area, streaming online) each Wednesday morning (begins airing at 7:00 am PST). We'll close with this from Bacon's "Immigration Reform: We Need a Better Alternative:"

OAKLAND, CA (3/19/09) - Senators Charles Schumer and Lindsey Graham announced Thursday their plan for immigration reform. Unfortunately, it is a retread, recycling the same bad ideas that led to the defeat of reform efforts over the last five years. In some ways, their proposal is even worse. Schumer and Graham dramatize the lack of new ideas among Washington powerbrokers. Real immigration reform requires a real alternative. We need a different framework that embodies the goals of immigrants and working people, not the political calculations of a reluctant Congress. What's wrong with the Schumer/Graham proposal? 1. It ignores trade agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA, which produce profits for U.S. corporations, but increase poverty in Mexico and Central America. Since NAFTA went into effect, income in Mexico dropped, while millions of workers lost jobs and farmers their land. As a result, six million Mexicans had to leave home and migrate north, looking for work. If we do not change U.S. trade policy, millions of displaced people will continue to come, no matter how many walls we build. 2. People working without papers will be fired and even imprisoned under their proposal, and raids will increase. Vulnerability makes it harder for people to defend their rights, organize unions and raise wages. That keeps the price of immigrant labor low. Every worker will have to show a national ID card, (an idea too extreme even for the Bush administration). A problematic ID would mean getting fired, and maybe jailed.This will not stop people from coming to the U.S. But it will produce more immigration raids, firings, and a much larger detention system. Last year over 350,000 people went through privately-run prisons for undocumented immigrants. That number will go up.

alsumaria tvcatholic news agency
robert dreyfuss
trudy rubinthe philadelphia inquirer
david corn
talk of the nation
usa todayaamer madhani
cindy sheehan
jonathan nack
pbsnow on pbs
david bacon
hannah allemmcclatchy newspapers