Friday, April 16, 2010
Disagreeing with Ed Rendell
While Washington talks about Obama’s new mojo, polls show voters outside the Beltway are sulking — soured on the president, his party and his program. The Gallup Poll has Obama’s approval rating at an ominous 49 percent, after hitting a record low of 47 percent last weekend. A new poll in Pennsylvania, a bellwether industrial state, shows his numbers sinking, as did recent polls in Ohio and Florida.
So there are two Obamas: Rising in D.C., struggling in the U.S.
Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell admits that Republicans won the health-care messaging war and says he has been traveling to dinners and fundraisers across the country to implore Democrats to fight back.
“The spin took hold,” Rendell said. “I expected more of a bounce than he got, but again it all goes to 16 months in which the Republicans have dominated the spin on stimulus and health care. ... It’s time for us to roll up our sleeves and say, ‘Game on.’ And the more we do that, the better it will be.”
No. I like Ed Rendell but I'm not going to pretend he's correct. How did the Republicans win the spin war?
If they won -- if -- it's in part due to the fact that the media attacked them non-stop. You couldn't listen to Fresh Air in December without hearing Terry Gross attacking Republicans -- even if she was interviewing a comedian. What may have helped Republicans is a media that is out of control.
There is no effort at balance on most NPR programs and it's worse on television. Supposed journalists go on the air and laugh about Republicans. These are the same people who spent the bulk of the last ten years raving over the Republicans.
Now I'm not a Republican. But I happen to know that, despite the media stereotypes, they're not evil, foaming at the mouth people. Nor are they uneducated -- regardless of what year of schooling they completed.
But there's been a non-stop attack on Republicans by the media.
Not on their policies, on them. If anything's helped Republicans, that would be it. It's shameful the way the media has behaved.
You can add in that Democrats won the 2008 race but entered 2009 with a chip on their shoulder (I'm referring to elected officials) and never let it go.
I like Ed. I think he's a nice person.
But the media deck was stacked against Republicans. If they won a spin war, it resulted from people (including me) who aren't Republicans be embarrassed for the media that they were so in the tank for Barack that they don't even try to play fair. It's disgusting.
Noam Chomsky had some wise words recently and I want to carry that over to Third but the point of it is that we will never win when our entire existence is about ripping other people apart -- average citizens. It's disgusting. It's snobbery. It's foppish.
But I'll carry that to Third as a suggestion for a group piece.
"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, April 16, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the census may take place this year (or not), the US Congress hears about issues effecting the Guard and the Reserve, Iraqi refugees continue to travel to Syria (and continue to be denied entry to the US), and more.
In Iraq, a census was supposed to have taken place in 2007. It has not. Nor in 2008, nor in 2009. It's now supposed to take place in October of this year. However, if it's delayed, it wouldn't be shocking and would, in fact, continue the pattern. Swathmore College's War News Radio featured a report last week on the Iraqi census that was taped in November of last year:
Gabriel Ramirez: Nuha Yousef is the executive director of the census in Iraq. She has been working on the Central Organization for Statistics and Information Technology for 34 years and has helped conduct three censuses.
Nuha Yousef: In 1977, 1987 and 1997 -- in those three censuses, I was working in the Census Operation Room.
Gabriel Ramirez: Yousef says that Iraq has traditionally conducted a census every ten years. She took part in organizing the census for 2007 but things didn't go as planned.
Nuha Yousef: We started preparing for the 2007 census in 2006. But the security situation was the obstacle to holding a census in 2007 and it was postponed until 2009. So the security situation was the reason for canceling the 2007 census.
Gabriel Ramirez: In 2009, it seemed as if Iraq was ready to undergo a census. But in August, only two months before the census was to take place, Ali Baban, the Minister of Planning, made an announcement.
Ali Baban: We are fully ready to conduct the census technically and we have completed all the requirements. But we have also listened to some of the fears and reservations expressed by Iraqi constituents, especially in the cities of Kirkuk and Nineveh due to political reasons and relations between the known ethnic groups. These objections and reservations might drive us to reconsider doing the census and postponing it to another time.
Gabriel Ramirez: Two weeks after the minister made this announcement, the Kurdistan Regional Government released an official statement. The statement criticized Baghdad for postponing the census based on politically motivated reasons related to the federal budget law and Kirkuk Province. Liam Anderson, a senior honorary research fellow at the Center for Ethno Political Research Studies at the University of Exner, tells us why some Arabs and Turkmen in the city are threatened by the census.
Liam Anderson: What they claim is that all of these Kurds that have come back in are not legitimately former residents of Kirkuk and so, if you hold a census, and you come up with a figure of 500,000 Kurds for the Kurds in Kirkuk, Turkmen and Arabs would say that's a false figure. So from that point of view, if you count the actual number of Kurds right now and you end up with something like a majority, then that sort of legitimizes Kurds and the Arab and the Turkmen don't want that fact established.
Gabriel Ramirez: Youssef, the executive director of the census, notes that Kirkuk is a contentious issue. But she says that there's more to the story. She points out that the problem comes from an overlap of authority.
Nuha Yousef: Currently, there are overlapping local governments between the provinces -- mainly between the Kurdish provinces and other provinces -- like Nineveh Salah ad-Din and Diyala Province. There is interference between the local governments. So it is not acceptable for a local government to be counted as part of a Kurdish province and again be counted as part of other non-Kurdish provinces. There are areas under dispute between the provinces.
Gabriel Ramirez: Regardless of the political controversies, the census is a necessary administrative tool for the Iraqi government. Youssef explains.
Nuha Yousef: The census provides a massive data base concerning population and housing. That includes all the social, economic, educational and immigration issues. In addition to housing and utilities -- such as water, electricity, telephones and other services including the environment in addition to religion and nationality.
Gabriel Ramirez: She also adds that the upcoming 2010 census is especially important because it will be the first post-war census conducted in Iraq
Nuha Yousef: There has been a big dramatic change in the Iraqi social structure. Only the census can tell us the size of the change in this social structure and the changing demographics. During the former regime there was a campaign of forced migration in both southern and northern provinces. The population movement has now changed and the people have returned to their home provinces so this has changed things socially. The census will provide us with a new database in regard to the changes in the social structure.
Gabriel Ramirez: Although the census has already been postponed twice, Youssef is optimistic about the 2010 census.
Nuha Yousef: The census is now due to be held in October of 2010. We were fully prepared to do the census this year  but I think any postponement will be in the interest of doing a good census. What I am most interested in is covering every part of the country without repetition or excluding any administrative unit. So I think the postponement will be for the interest of the work.
Gabriel Ramirez: Youssef realizes that the census can and has been used for political purposes. But for her, conducting the census is a civil service. For War News Radio, I'm Gabriel Ramirez.
A census focused only within the Iraqi borders will not take into account the huge number of external refugees. War News Radio this week reports, among other things, on Iraqi refugees in the US. The bulk of the refugees remain in Iraq's neighboring countries -- such as Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. Carolien Roelants (NRC Handelsblad) reports on Iraqi refugees in Syria such as Burud who lost one foot and one hand in a Baghdad bombing and, as soon as she recovered, she went to Syria and became "one of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees who have been living in Syria for years. Most of them do not live in refugee camps but have found a place amongst the Syrians. About 163,000 refugees are currently registered with the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, but it is estimated that an additional 400,000 to 800,000 have not." Violence has not vanished in Iraq but the height of the violence is thought to have been 2006 and 2007 and Roelants reports that those who fled to Syria during that do not plan to return and, in addition, Syria is still getting Iraqi refugees on a daily basis, "Ever day, some 20 to 30 families, 150 a week, still check in here [UNHCR]. Approximately 60 percent are fresh from Iraq." At the start of the week, Catholic News Service reported Iraqi women in Damascus made a point to speak with North American Catholic leaders who were in Syria to tour the Melkite Catholic Church The women wanted to know, "What can be done for Christians who are being uprooted from Iraq?" Monsignor Robert Stern replied, "I think the most important thing we can do, first of all, is to be here and to see you and to let you know that you are in our hearts. We are not politicians. Even though we live in Western countries, we cannot control the policies of the countries or the United Nations." Later in the conversation, New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan stated, "But many people in America don't even know there are Christians in Iraq or Syria. We bishops know that, and we try our best to help. But what we must do after having our hearts touched by you is remind our people that they have brother and sister Christians in Iraq and Syria."
Very few of the refugees have made it to the US. James Denselow (Guardian) notes, "During his election campaign he promised $2bn to expand services available to Iraqi refugees and in last August he appointed Samantha Power (who during the election campaign famously described Hilary Clinton as a monster) as senior director for multilateral affairs and human rights, responsible for 'co-ordinating the efforts of the many parts of the US government on Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs)'. However, delivering on this has been delayed somewhat, especially now that the American administration has postponed 'until further notice' the appointment of Robert Ford as ambassador to Damascus, following recent information about trucks bearing advanced weaponry that passed from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon." Meribah Knight (Chicago News Cooperative for the New York Times) observes, "Iraqi refugees, according to the United States Office of Refugee Resettlement, went from zero to 1,298 from 2006 to 2009, making Chicago home to the second-largest Iraqi population in the country after Detroit." The refugee population is composed of the targeted. For example, Christians are a small minority in Iraq; however, they make up a significant number of the refugee population. Religious minorities are in the refugee population. Women are targeted, they also figure highly in the refugee population. And Iraq's gay community is targeted leading many men and women to attempt to be granted refugee status. David Taffet (Dallas Voice) offers an update on two gay males who did make it to the US:
The story of Yousif Ali and Nawfal Muhamed first appeared in Dallas Voice when they were here for the Creating Change conference.
Since the article appeared, the Houston GLBT Community Center and a gay Muslim support group have been helping them navigate the U.S. system and get services normally provided to refugees. The problem has been Catholic Charities, the organization that provides many of the federally funded refugee services, that has been unresponsive to the two gay men.
Now, the Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church has taken them under their wing to make sure they have enough money for food and other necessities. They have set up a fund to help them. Mark and Becky Edmiston-Lange, the church's ministers, have kicked the fund off with a donation from their discretionary fund.
Any who would like to donate can send checks or money orders to Emerson UU Church, 1900 Bering Dr., Houston, Texas 77057.
Another targeted population is the press. Bram Vermeulen (NRC Handelsblad) reports on the editor-in-chief of Alhurra TV, Fallah al-Dahabi:
He has decorated the walls with pictures of his TV appearances, he purchased a microwave and a fitness machine, he has a barbecue on the balcony and a flat-screen television no other guest at the hotel has. But it is still a hotel room, a refuge with room service. Home is somewhere else. This chief editor and his station were supposed to become the face of freedom and democracy in the Arab world after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Alhurra, 'the Free One', had to become a station where everything could be said, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, without commercial interruptions. The US government set it up in 2004 and has since invested 500 million dollars of taxpayers' money. It hoped to create the Arab equivalent of Radio Free Europe, the anti-communist station that broadcast information across the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. But Alhurra has proved no match for giants like Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya. Less than 2 percent of viewers watch it occasionally. Most deem it too pro-Western, too biased and unreliable. In Iraq, the channel and its chief editor have become targets for blind hatred.
Monday, Human Rights Watch released the following on press freedoms (or the lack of them ) in Iraq:
The Iraqi government should suspend media regulations that impose tight restrictions on the country's broadcast media and revise them to comply with international standards, Human Rights Watch said in a letter today to the official Communication and Media Commission (CMC).
The Commission began enforcing the regulations ahead of the March 7, 2010, parliamentary elections ostensibly to silence broadcasters who encourage sectarian violence, but the regulations are vague and susceptible to abuse. The regulations should be revised to define in detail all restrictions on and give meaningful guidance to broadcasters by clearly delineating their responsibilities, Human Rights Watch said. While the government can prohibit and punish speech that constitutes direct incitement of violence, the broad and vague wording of the regulations, such as prohibiting "incitement of sectarianism," falls short of international norms governing freedom of expression. "These broadcast regulations are a real setback for media freedom in Iraq," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "These restrictions open the door to politically motivated discrimination in the regulation and licensing of broadcasters." Over the months leading to the parliamentary elections, the government restricted freedom of expression in a number of ways. It clamped down on scrutiny of public officials, denied media accreditation to journalists, and sued media outlets that criticized government officials. In addition, police and security forces have harassed, arrested, and assaulted numerous journalists.
The regulations appear to give the CMC unfettered power to halt broadcast transmissions, close offices, seize equipment, revoke licenses, and levy fines on broadcasters. The rules empower the agency to cancel licenses even after the first minor violation of the licensing terms. In its letter, Human Rights Watch asked the agency to ensure that punishments are proportionate to the offense, increasing only in step with the severity and repetition of offenses. The rules should also give license applicants a clear and expeditious path to appeal denied applications.
Human Rights Watch also urged the agency to stop requiring broadcasters to provide it with a list of employees, as this poses an unacceptable security threat to media workers. Iraqi journalists already operate in an extraordinarily unsafe environment. Since 2003, at least 141 journalists have died in Iraq, some in politically motivated murders. Muaid al-Lami, head of the Iraqi Journalists' Syndicate, has been the subject of two assassination attempts, including one last month. Journalists in Iraq who wish to stay anonymous should be able to do so, Human Rights Watch said.
"Not only do the regulations give this agency enormous power to shut down broadcasters for minor and first-time transgressions, but they place the lives of Iraqi journalists at greater risk," Stork said. "The Media Commission should suspend the regulations until it fixes them."
While the press is curtailed, attempts at the tag sale on Iraq's assets continue unfettered. Dow Jones reports the country's Ministry of Oil is no longer looking for "recoverable five-year soft loans" but instead "signature bonuses." Hey, maybe like a certain actor who priced himself out of any worthy part, they could start demanding $500,000 just to consider an offer? Ahmed Rasheed, Michael Christie and Keiron Henderson (Reuters) note that the signature bonuses are being cut and provide the example of how $300 million was supposed to be the fees paid by "Italy's Eni and its partners Occidental Petroleum Corp and South Korea's KOGAS" has been dropped to $100 million. AP notes that the Ministry of Oil plans to allow bidding on three natural gas fields. The fields have not yet been identified but they are expected to be later this year. Tamsin Carlisle (UAE's National Newspaper) adds, "Royal Dutch Shell, Total and Korea Gas Corporation (KOGAS) are favoured bidders, said Sabah Abdul Kadhim, the head of the oil ministry's petroleum contracts and licensing directorate." Along with the favored, the Ministry Oil plans to pick the remaining bidders (for a total of 15) "from the 44 that qualified to bid in Iraq's first two post-war auctions of oil and gas licences last year." And Russel Gold (Wall St. Journal) notes that Paris-based Schlumberg Ltd is currently beefing up its staff with the intent of stationing 300 employees in Iraq by this summer and twice that amount by December 2010. War is big business which is why countries wage it -- even over the objections of its citizens.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Reuters notes a Baghdad sticky bombing which injured one person and a Tuz Khurmato sticky bombing which left six people injured.
Reuters notes 1 person shot dead in Baghdad and 1 'suspect' killed in Mosul by Iraqi forces.
Reuters notes 2 corpses discovered in Baaj.
"The attacks on September 11, 2001 set in motion the sustained increased use and heavier reliance on the reserves with over 761,000 reservists and guardsman mobilized to date, one third of whom have been activated two times or more," declared US House Rep Susan David yesterday. "The Department of Defense and the services have begun a transformation of the Guard and Reserve to an operational force with greater strategic capability and depth. This includes an equipping strategy to ensure the reserve components have the same equipment as their respective active component and an effective force management strategy to ensure the reserves are not over utilized. In response to the continued reliance on the reserves, Congress took some key steps to address the concerns that emerged. First it established the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves to provide a comprehensive independent assessment of the Guard and Reserves and its potential future roles. Secondly, as part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008, Congress: (1) elevated the Chief of the National Guard Bureau to the grade of 4-star general, (2) made the National Gurad Bureau a joint organization and (3) required specific actions with regards to equipping the Guard and Reserves. Congress also mandated the establishment of the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program to assist Guard and Reserve members and their families' transition back to their communities after deployment."
She was speaking at the opening of a the Military Personnel Subcommittee hearing. Davis chairs the Subcommittee and, as they explored issues of interest to the Guard and Reserve, they received testimony from Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs Dennis McCarthy, Lt Gen Jack Stultz (Chief of Army Reserve), Vice Adm Dick Debbink (Chief of Naval Reserve), Lt Gen John Kelly (Commander, Marine Force Reserve), Lt Gen Charles Stenner (Chief of Air Force Reserve), Lt Gen Harry Wyatt (Director Air National Guard) and Maj Gen Raymond Carpenter (Acting Director Army National Guard). We'll note this exchange between Ranking Member Joe Wilson and Dennis McCarthy.
Ranking Member Joe Wilson: [. . .] With that, another fact, Secretary McCarthy, is that it's so difficult to distinguish between Guard, Reserve, Active Duty except on the issue of retirement. And so I certainly hope that we can make some changes. In particular, current law allows a mobilized Reserve component member to earn three months credit toward retirement for every 90 days of aggregate service on active duty. Congress intended for those to be counted as active duty regardless of whether the active duty period occurred across fiscal years. But the Department has somehow implemented this that if it is across the fiscal years that it doesn't count at all. What is DoD going to do to fix this or what should we do to clarify? But there's no question that we certainly meant to disregard fiscal year.
Dennis M. McCarthy: Congressman Wilson, I'm well aware of that anomaly. I think everyone understands that it's not what either the Congress intended and it's not what -- uh -- is -- uh -- it's not the right thing to do. So it is going to take a fix. I'm not sure whether it will be a legislative or a directive fix. I suspect it will be the latter. I'm sorry -- I suspect it will be the former and that we will have to come to Congress on that. But I know that it's on the agenda to be -- to be resolved.
Ranking Member Joe Wilson: And I hope it will be resolved as quickly as possible. Additionally, we have a circumstance where we have mobilized Reserve component members who can earn retirement as Reservists or Guard members wounded or injured if they're placed in a Wounded Warrior Unit under the orders of the Wounded Warrior. Again, they don't receive credit for the period of time recovering from the wounds and, again, I just know my colleagues and I did not mean for that to be. So I hope that's corrected or please give us advice how we can correct it.
Dennis McCarthy: The change of a Wounded Warrior's status -- when they're mobilized, wounded and then have their status changed -- is purely a directive issue. It's something that was done a couple of years ago and I think that the result that you've described was an unintended consequence. But it's got to be fixed and I know that the people in Personnel and Readiness have that for action.
Ranking Member Joe Wilson: And I appreciate the effort because, uhm, we-we know that these troops are so dedicated, they want to be operational, they want to serve, but it's also very important for their families that there be proper protection.
We'll also note this exchange between US House Rep Joe Wilson and Carpenter:
US House Rep Walter Jones: I have -- this has been kind of an ongoing issue with a father of a National Guardsman in eastern North Carolina who was deployed on active duty, fought in Iraq and this father has met with me two or three times wanting to know why that a Guardsman who has fought for this country, active duty, called upon, that they do not qualify as an active duty Soldier or Marine with the GI Bill for educational benefits. Is this an issue that you hear quite a bit about? I think that Senator [Jim] Webb was at one time trying to put legislation in on the Senate side that would deal with this. And does this ring a bell with you?
Maj Gen Raymond Carpenter: Sir, I'm not aware of the specific case that you cite. But I do know that one of the things we hear from National Guardsmen and from states out there is the GI Bill -- what we call the new GI Bill -- applies to soldiers who deploy but does not necessarily apply to soldiers who are in a [. . .] Title 32 status. And a lot of the soldiers that I talk to see that as an inequity and so they raise that issue with us. I am not sure about the specific instance you talk about where somebody who was mobilized and deployed to the theater was not eligible for the GI Bill but if you'll give me the details, I'll certainly look into it.
The hearing addressed many other issues. Ava will continue the Walter Jones coverage at Trina's site tonight, Kat will cover a portion of Don't Ask, Don't Tell at her site and Wally's grabbing an aspect of the hearing (possibly an overview but it may be a specific testimony) at Ann's site tonight.
As noted yesterday, Binghamton, New York is getting a counter at City Hall which will count the financial costs to US tax payers of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Post-Standard's editorial board explains:Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan made a startling discovery a while back: By this September, Binghamton residents will have contributed $138.6 million to help pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- or rather, that's their share of the debt piled up by these military engagements. And that's not counting any supplemental billions requested by President Barack Obama and approved by Congress later this year.And they explain that people can check the costs to their own communities by visiting Cost Of War. George Basler (Press & Sun-Bulletin) reports:The counter is being funded entirely by private contributions from the Broome County Cost of War Project, a local grassroots organization.At Wednesday's event, Ryan said, he believes he has the authority as mayor to hang the sign.Legal questions surrounding the sign could soon be moot. Councilman Sean Massey, D-5th District, plans to introduce a resolution at Monday's council work session to have the council support the sign. He thinks a majority of the seven-member council - all Democrats, like the mayor - will support it.But, Massey said, he doesn't think the council has to approve the sign. He said Ryan, as mayor, has control over the physical site of city hall.WBNG News quotes the mayor stating, "That's where all the money comes from and we need up paying all the unfunded mandates. We end up not having the money to and that's where the national priorities come in they have to change."
Turning to peace news. Last Friday's snapshot noted 12-year-old Frankie Hughes who peacefully protested the Iraq War in Senator Tom Harkin's office and was arrested for protesting. On top of that, her mother, Renee Espeland, was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) reported on it Saturday and updated it mid-week to note that the charge against Frankie's mother was dropped with Polk County Attorney John Sarcone telling Rothschild, "Looking at all the circumstances, what happened didn't need to be addressed with a criminal charge. It was never an appropriate thing to begin with. They were just wrong-spirited." Yesterday, mother and daughter appeared on Democracy Now! (link has text, audio and video):
FRANKIE HUGHES: Well, I went to -- I went to, I think -- OK, so I went to Tom Harkin's office to protest how he is funding the war. I think it was a Wednesday. And it's just -- it's not OK what he's doing. And he has a way to make -- he has a way to be a hero and just not fund it. Yet he needs a push.
AMY GOODMAN: So when you went into the office -- and I know you have to turn up and down your computer as I'm talking and then turn it off when I'm not -- as you went into the office, tell us what you did.
FRANKIE HUGHES: I just walked in the office, and then I started -- I sat down. Chris Gaunt was on the floor. After like a minute, I went up and I talked to the man that was sitting at the desk. I told him to tell Tom Harkin a couple of things, like how I want to know the real reason why we're in there, and not the fake one, and how I want to know, like --and then I asked him why he thought we were there. And he said, "Well, my opinion doesn't matter." And I said, "Well, it matters to me." And then he said, "My opinion doesn't matter," repeatedly. And I just couldn't believe that somebody would think their opinion just didn't matter.
AMY GOODMAN: Renee, were you there?
RENEE ESPELAND: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: And were you participating in this action, as well?
RENEE ESPELAND: Well, we've been spending, either on a Wednesday or a Thursday --we have a Thursday vigil that we do in sort of downtown Des Moines, and then we go up to the federal building. And both Senator Grassley and Harkin's offices are all -- both on the seventh floor. So we've been making visits once a week since October. And so, this was just a day -- this was an extra day that we had gone, because Chris was going to be there. And yeah, we were just trying to go and kind of keep also some relationship building with the staff in the office, so that it's not, you know, just an intermittent thing, that they actually expect us and they know us and we can learn names, that kind of thing.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain who Chris is.
RENEE ESPELAND: Chris Gaunt has been just -- she has just been a champ, as far as making a really heartfelt, quiet, prayerful, oftentimes silent presence repeatedly and then staying. And so when Frankie said she was on the floor, she has been doing -- like at 4:00, she's been laying on the floor and kind of turning it from a sit-in into a die-in. And, for instance, about a month ago, they decided not to just give her a federal citation, but also state charges, and they took her to jail. But our state is broke, and so we have all these furlough days. So then the next day was a furlough day, so she had to stay in jail an extra day before she could see the judge. And in Pope County, where we live, they charge jail rent. And so, they most certainly -- I mean, they charged her the jail rent on the furlough day, which was interesting. But she was there doing a die-in, and then Frankie joined her.
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 Peter Baker (NYT), Gloria Borger (CNN), John Dickerson (CBS News and Slate), and David Wessel (Wall St. Journal). And Gwen's column this week is "Debating the Debate" which is worth reading (I'm recommending it). 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. Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Debra Carnahan, Avis Jones-DeWeever, Sabrina Schaeffer, Tara Setmayer and Jessica Vaughan 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 on the announced retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens. For the broadcast program, check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes:
21st Century Snake Oil"60 Minutes" hidden cameras expose medical conmen who prey on dying victims by using pitches that capitalize on the promise of stem cells to cure almost any disease. Scott Pelley reports. (This is a double-length segment.)
PacinoIn a rare sit-down interview, Oscar-winning actor Al Pacino talks to Katie Couric about his films and how he prepares for them, including his upcoming movie in which he stars as Dr. Jack Kevorkian.
60 Minutes, Sunday, April 18, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
james denselowbram vermeulennrc handelsbladdow jonesassociated pressthe national newspapertamsin carlislereuters
ahmed rasheedmichael christiekeiron hendersonthe wall street journalrussell goldthe press and sun-bulletinwbng news
60 minutescbs newsto the contrarybonnie erbe
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
PR Watch, War Criminal
Source: PRWatch's Twitter page, April 13, 2010
Now, follow PRWatch on Twitter ...and Facebook!
As secretary of state, Henry Kissinger canceled a U.S. warning against carrying out international political assassinations that was to have gone to Chile and two neighboring nations just days before a former ambassador was killed by Chilean agents on Washington's Embassy Row in 1976, a newly released State Department cable shows. ..In 1976, the South American nations of Chile, Argentina and Uruguay were engaged in a program of repression code-named Operation Condor that targeted those governments' political opponents throughout Latin America, Europe and even the United States...The State Department drafted a plan to deliver a stern message to the three governments not to engage in such murders.
I would love to see him stand trial before he dies but I honestly think that ship has passed. I would love to be wrong on that.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Gates attacks WikiLinks and 'independent media' is there to provide him an assist or at least a reach around, soldiers in the unit come forward to share their stories, despite Nouri's drama Iraqis continue seeking out their neighbors, and more.
Yesterday's snapshot noted Robert Gates, US Defense Secretary, and his embarrassing attempts to lash out WikiLeaks. We'll start there today with this from Tuesday's Pacifica Evening News (airs on KPFA and KPFK each weekday -- as well as other stations).John Hamilton: US Defense Secretary Robert Gates criticized the internet group WikiLeaks today over its release of a video showing a 2007 US helicopter attack that killed a dozen people in Baghdad including civilians and two news employees of the Reuters news agency. Gates said the group -- which says it promotes leaks to fight government and corporate corruption -- released the video without providing any context explaining the situation. Speaking with reporters on route to South America, Gates said, "These people can put out anything they want and they're never held accountable for it, there's no before and there's no after." The stark helicopter gunsight video of the July 12, 2007 attack has been widely viewed around the world on the internet since its release by WikiLeaks on April 5th.Male voice [from the clip]: Line 'em all up.Second male voice [from the clip]: Come on fire.[sound of gunfire]John Hamilton: Many international law and human rights experts say the Apache helicopter crew in the footage may have acted illegally. The video includes an audio track of a helicopter crew conversation many have been shocked by the images and some of the fliers' comments like this response to injuries to two Iraqi children.Male voice: Well it's their fault for bringing their kids to a battle.Male voice 2: That's right.John Hamilton: The US military said an investigation shortly after the incident found US forces were unaware of the presence of news staff and thought they were engaging armed insurgents, mistaking a camera for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Among the dead civilians in the attack were Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen and his assistant and driver Saeed Chmagh . WikiLeaks disputed Gates' contention that the video failed to provide context. In an e-mail, the group accused the US military of making numerous false or misleading statements including the contention that there was an active firefight between US forces and those killed. Meanwhile the Telegraph newspaper of London is reporting that WikiLeaks is preparing to make public another US military video, this time showing airstrikes that resulted in the deaths of Afghan civilians. The Telegraph reports the video shows previously classified footage showing a bomb attack on a village in Farah Province. The Afghan government initially said the May 4, 2009 airstrike killed 147 civilians and independent Afghan inquiry later revised that figure to 86 dea. The US military later estimated only 26 civilians were killed in that attack. A NATO spokesperson confirmed to the Telegraph that WikieLeaks plans to release the footage but a spokesperson for WikiLeaks declined to comment.Gates really needs to stop blaming WikiLeaks and start expressing some form of remorse in public. Barack, Biden, Clinton, et al can say, "That happened in 2007." That doesn't mean that they shouldn't express remorse or sadness for the dead. But they were not a part of the Bush administration. Robert Gates, in 2007, was the Secretary of Defense. He needs to stop lashing out and start expressing some sense of regret for the deaths. He should also avoid statements like, "These people can put out anything they want and they're never held accountable for it, there's no before and there's no after." When civilians have been killed -- again -- by the US military and you've been the Secretary of Defense for four years, do you really want to be saying that others -- OTHERS -- can get away with "anything they want and they're never held accountable for it"? Really?
Iraq Veterans Against the War notes Ethan McCord and Josh Stieber who served in Bravo Company 2-16 were interviewed yesterday on The Marc Steiner Show:
Marc Steiner: Ethan McCord, welcome to the program, good to have you with us.
Ethan McCord: Thank you sir.
Marc Steiner: And you have served this country in the armed services for a long time. You went from the Navy to the Army.
Ethan McCord: Correct.
Marc Steiner: And you and I had a really interesting conversation this afternoon. You're seen in this video coming up after the American military had opened fire, both on the eight men and then on the van.
Ethan McCord: Right.
Marc Steiner: And you were seen carrying these children away. Your perspective on it, I thought, was pretty profound and I think -- I'd just like you tell your story as you did this afternoon.
Ethan McCord: Okay. Well we were in a firefight a few blocks away when this incident happened. We heard the gunships opening fire. Us on the ground didn't know what was going on at the time but when we were told to move now to get to this position, we went down to that position. And what we came across was actually quite horrifying in a sense but it didn't seem real. Even in real life, it didn't seem real. It seemed like something you would see out of maybe a movie or something like that. The first thing I did was run up to the van and I saw a little girl sitting on the seat and a little boy half-way on the floorboard with his head laying on the seat next to his sister and the father slumped over. I originaly thought that the boy had passed. And the little girl had a wound to the stomach and had glass in her hair and eyes and my immediate response was to grab this child and I grabbed the medic and we went into the back and there were houses behind where the van was and I took the girl there and we worked on her as much as possible making sure that there was no exit wounds or anything because we really didn't know what had exactly happened at that time. And, uhm, handed the girl to the medic who then ran her to the Bradley. I in turn went back to the van and that's when I saw the boy somewhat take a breath. And I started yelling out that the boy was still alive, the boy's alive. I grabbed him and started running him towards the Bradley myself and I placed him in the Bradley which I got yelled at aftewards for doing that.
Marc Steiner: Talk about that, why were you yelled at by your platoon commander?
Ethan McCord: Because I -- my main focus wasn't on pulling security, going to a rooftop and pulling security. My main focus was to pull those children out. The first thing I thought of when I saw those children were my children at home. And, uh, I can't stand to see children like that, so that was my main priority and I didn't care what anybody said at that time.
[. . .]
Marc Steiner: [. . .] let's talk about the language and what happens in these situations and I think, Ethan, Josh -- Josh, you wrote an interesting piece kind of reflecting on that and, Ethan, you were talking today about what actually happens in this battle, that people who have not experienced this don't understand and, Josh, let me start with you. You really kind of articulated well in your article that even though you became against killing and are now a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War that that notwithstanding you're also trying to make people understand things they just don't understand unless they've been through this.
Josh Stieber: Right, yeah. I mean one of my major points is saying that, again, this is an indication of the system as a whole and just seeing the public outcry about the video directed at individual soldiers I think is wrong. I think there should be outcry about it because obviously a lot of things that the video show are very intense things but again they were not out of the ordinary and this weekend Secretary of Defense Gates gave his stamp of approval and said pretty much that the soldiers were doing what they were supposed to. Again, this is what the military looks like and this is what war looks like and if people don't try to understand that and try to understand the context in which all this happened from the context of that day to the context of what our military training looks like then we're missing a much needed conversation about the nature of this entire war in general. And again just focusing on a few people and to try to put it into an analogy, the saying "the nature of the beast," what is shown in this video is the nature of the beast and I feel like directing all our outcries to what the stains look like then we're not going to ask the questions in our own society of what the rest of the beast looks like and how we put people in this situation where a lot of guys thought that they were doing good things and that they were serving their country or defending the weak through their actions and obviously ended up doing something a lot different than they expected.
Marc Steiner: Ethan, I'd like you to pick up from there. You -- you -- we were talking. You said some things to me this afternoon that really touched me pretty deeply and you were talking about how the person you went over there -- the person who joined the army was a different person than came out of the army.
Ethan McCord: Of course, yes. Before I joined the military -- even when I was in the Navy -- I was a different person and I didn't go to Iraq, I didn't actually fight in any battles, serving my country. I joined the Army, I switched over to the Army and from -- from the very git-go in basic training they're telling you -- everything is about killing this person -- from the cadences that we marched to to as they call muscle memory of firing. You know it's your instinct to just fire -- don't think about it, just fire, it's muscle memory. To what you become in Iraq . . . When I first went to Iraq, I -- I thought I was going to help the people of Iraq and maybe I was living in a fairy tale world but I thought that we were going to help these people and when we get there and, almost on a daily basis, we're getting blown up and shot at -- and this is before we even did anything there, we were just out riding around. We hadn't had any contacts or anything. But then we started getting blown up or shot at for the mere presence of us there. You tend to get a little angry and have a little ill will towards the people who are doing this because you're like "I'm here to help you and you're doing this to me? You're trying to take my life." And when you're going into a situation of it's my life or their's and, I don't care who you are, you're going to choose your life. And if that means turning yourself into something that you're not, then you're going to do that because you have to become mentally tough in the situation and even -- You turn into a very hateful person while you're there. But yeah, you're like -- I came out of the Army a much angrier person than I was before I went in. And I have a lot of problems stemming from the Army that I didn't have before. .
Robert Gates is now attacking WikiLeaks. It needs to be strongly noted that Robert Gates was Secretary of Defense when the assault took place in 2007. It needs to be noted that he was Secretary of Defense when Reuters was requesting the video for over two years. It needs to be noted that he had the authority to release the video and refused to do so. When the incident became something a news agency filed regular and repeated requests, as Secretary of Defense, he should have familiarized himself with the incident. There should be a report that exists -- one he should have requested -- other than the after-action report filed sometime around July 19, 2007. Robert Gates knows that it's in Robert Gates best interests to attack WikiLeaks and defocus. But it is not in the country's best interests. As for the President of the United States? He should have been having several talks with Gates about this since the video was released online. The fact that the administration has refused to express regret over the loss of life is inexcusable and saying it happened under Bush is no excuse -- not when US troops are in Iraq still.
As most people should know, should damn well know if they were paying attention, soldiers in the Army are being trained before deploying to Iraq or Afghanistan on how to say they are sorry in the event of loss of life. Why is that soldiers are being trained in this but the Secretary of Defense doesn't have to be? Or the president for that matter? This is not about a legal admission of guilt. This is about expressing remorse over what you could term a "tragic inciddent." And since the US government continues to maintain that there were no War Crimes that took place in the incident, they should have no fears about expressing remorse.
Again, soldiers are being trained on how to handle civilian and Iraq/Afghanistan troop deaths, how to express regret when the US military accidentally kills someone. If we're expecting the women and men on the ground to do that, why don't we expect -- why don't we demand -- the same from the Secretary of Defense and the Commander in Chief?
But in the world we live in today, no demands are made on the president and hypocrites rush to see who can be the biggest fool. Justin Rainmondo (Antiwar.com) calls outsome of this nonsense of the faux left attacking WikiLeaks and founder Justin Assange:
First up is Mother Jones magazine, a citadel of Bay Area high liberalism and the left-wing of the Obama cult, with a long article by one David Kushner. The piece is essentially a critical profile of Assange, who is described as an egotist in the first few paragraphs, and it goes downhill from there. Most of the article is a collection of dishy quotes from various "experts" – including from the apparently quite jealous (and obviously demented) editor of Cryptome.org, a similar site, who says Wikileaks is CIA front. Steven Aftergood, author of the Federation of American Scientists' Secrecy News blog, "says he wasn't impressed with WikiLeaks' 'conveyor-belt approach' to publishing anything it came across. 'To me, transparency is a means to an end, and that end is an invigorated political life, accountable institutions, opportunities for public engagement. For them, transparency and exposure seem to be ends in themselves,' says Aftergood. He declined to get involved."
To begin with, quite obviously Assange and the Wikileaks group have a political goal in, say, publishing the Iraq massacre video – which is to stop the war, end the atrocities, and expose the war crimes of this government to the light of day. Surely the video, and the ones to come, will continue to "invigorate" our political life – perhaps a bit more than the Aftergoods of this world would like.
Kushner contacted a few members of the Wikileaks advisory board who claim they never agreed to serve – and gets one of them, computer expert Ben Laurie, to call Assange "weird." Kushner adds his own description: "paranoid: – and yet Laurie's own paranoia comes through loud and clear when he avers:
"WikiLeaks allegedly has an advisory board, and allegedly I'm a member of it. I don't know who runs it. One of the things I've tried to avoid is knowing what's going on there, because that's probably safest for all concerned."
This is really the goal of harassing and pursuing government critics: pure intimidation. With US government agents stalking Assange as he flies to a conference in Norway, and one attempted physical attack in Nairobi, Assange is hated by governments and their shills worldwide. And Mother Jones certainly is a shill for the Obama administration, a virtual house organ of the Obama cult designed specifically for Bay Area limousine liberals who'll gladly turn a blind eye to their idol's war crimes – and cheer on the Feds as they track Assange's every move and plot to take him down.
Kushner asks "Can WikiLeaks be trusted with sensitive, and possibly life-threatening, documents when it is less than transparent itself?" Oh, what a good question: why shouldn't Wikileaks make itself "transparent" to the US government, and all the other governments whose oxen have been viciously gored by documents posted on the site? Stop drinking the bong water, Kushner, and get a clue.
Hillary supporters, you saw Mother Jones LIE non-stop to help gift Barack with the nomination. You shouldn't be surprised that the same LIARS who never did an accurate correction (mealy-mouthed insults to the person you lied about discredit your so-called 'correction'). The same hatred they aimed at Hillary they now aim at everyone who threatens their Christ-child. So goes it in the Cult of St. Barack. Mother Jones needs to get their act together or take their final bow. And they aren't getting the support they used to but let's see if we can cut off even more of their funds.
They should be ashamed of themselves -- and read Raimondo's article, they're not the only ones who should be. This is right-wing Bush love. This isn't the way the left is supposed to behave. But that's the Cult of St. Barack, endlessly singing "Let the circle jerk be unbroken . . ."
Earlier this week, Nouri al-Maliki was throwing public fits over the fact that Iraq's neighbors were expressing interest. Thankfully few listen to him. (We're not noting his "I stopped a major bombing!" spin.) Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq leader Ammar al-Hakim met up with Saudi leaders, AFP notes, "Hakim's visit follows similar trips to Riyadh to meet the king by President Jalal Talabani last week and representatives of the Sadrist movement loyal to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in late March. In addition, leaders of Iraq's Kurdish minority have also met the king in the past week." al-Hakim has finished his visits and left but AFP reports that Iraq's Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi is in Saudi Arabia in "talks with King Abdulla of Saudi Arabia". In an editorial, Gulf News advocates for more visits and stronger diplomatic ties:Saudi Arabia had boycotted the Iraqi government for the past five years. It is believed that Riyadh blames the Nouri Al Maliki government for the sectarian strife that engulfed Iraq in the past five years, as well as the marginalisation of Sunnis. Now, the Saudis seem to see an opportunity to re-engage Iraq. This is because of the results of Iraq's national election, in which Al Maliki came in second to the Iraqiya bloc led by Eyad Allawi, who is widely perceived as pro-Saudi and who advocates closer ties with the Arab world. And this is not really a bad thing. The close involvement of Saudi Arabia, as well as other Arab countries for that matter, would bring Iraq back into the Arab fold, secure better security co-operation with neighbouring states to prevent terrorists from infiltrating, and encourage Arab business people to invest in the rebuilding of the war-ravaged country.
Alsumaria TV notes that the Kurdistan Alliance has announced it will be in "Baghdad next week for official talks with political parties on the formation of a new government." The Kurdish Herald interviews Dr. Najmaldin Karim who was elected to the Parliament in the March 7th elections. Excerpt:
Kurdish Herald: Many people expected that you would announce some sort of candidacy for the Kurdistani elections last year. What influenced your decision to leave your home in the U.S. to run as a candidate in the Iraqi elections, and particularly, to run to represent Kirkuk?
Najmaldin Karim: In the United States for many years, the Kurdistan issue – in all parts of Kurdistan – has been the focus of our activities. However, in the past few years, the challenges in Iraqi Kurdistan have become more pressing for all of us; particularly, the situation in Kirkuk.
As you know, the Anfal campaign and ethnic cleansing really all started in Kirkuk and the aim was to create demographic changes so that Kurds would no longer be able to claim Kirkuk and have it join the Kurdistan Region. The [current Iraqi] constitution was drafted and voted upon and Article 140 specifically laid out a roadmap for the return of all territories that have been cut off from Kurdistan. However, by the way of the actions of the government in Baghdad, and also lack of enthusiasm and push from the Kurdish side and our own deficiencies, the article has not been implemented. [Article 140] has 3 stages: Normalization, Census and the Referendum. We have not even started the first stage.
I felt that returning [to Iraq] would allow me to work to bring all the different communities in Kirkuk together, work toward having Article 140 implemented, and also address the many needs in Kirkuk with regards to services provided to the city. The best way to accomplish these goals and serve the people of Kirkuk and all its communities is to be there on the ground and work through the parliament and through any other position that allows me to address the needs of the people of Kirkuk and the other territories for that matter.
In some of today's reported violence . . .
Reuters notes a Baghdad sportswear store bombing which claimed 1 life and injured five more, a Hawija roadside bombing targeting Sahwa members which injured a leader and three bodyguards and when police arrived another bomb went off injuring two of them, and a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed the life of the Interior Ministry's counter-terrorism guru Brig Arkan Mohammed Ali.
Reuters notes a Mosul drive-by which claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers and one Iman shot dead by his home in Baghdad.
In other news, Keiffer Wilhelm took his own life August 4, 2009 while serving in Iraq after being targeted with bullying and hazing. Robert L. Smith (Cleveland Plain Dealer) reports the last 'action' against the four who tormented Keiffer has taken place and no one received "serious punishment" for their actions towards Keiffer. Keffier's step-mother, Shelly Wilhelm, is quoted stating, "All he did was get a slap on the wrist. We don't know what to say because we just don't understand. He was the platoon sargent. He was Kieffer's direct command. It doesn't make sense. I feel like the Army has let us down again." She's referring to Staff Sgt Bob Clements and the Mansfield News Journal reports he could have been sentenced to 25 years in prison; however, he "has been reprimanded and demoted" after being found guilty "of obstructing justice". The military pretends it wants to take suicide seriously. If it wanted to send the message that it does, it would not only have to make serious efforts to help those suffering, it would have to take suicide seriously when it happens and not rush to sweep it under the rug -- especially in such a way that appears to blame the victim. Chris Roberts (El Paso Times) adds:
Clements "just walks away," Shane Wilhelm, the private's father, said in an interview Tuesday. "I feel completely let down by the Army."Wilhelm said he still hoped the general in the chain of command overseeing the court-martial would throw out the verdict.Clements remains with the brigade, Caggins said. The 4-1 Armored is returning from a 12-month deployment in Iraq, where it was training Iraqi security forces.The court-martial was held at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait. Caggins, contacted late Tuesday in Iraq, did not know when the verdict was delivered. Wilhelm said it was Sunday.Two of the other accused soldiers were convicted on cruelty charges. The fourth offered to leave the military instead of facing a court-martial and was discharged.
Turning to the Congress, the Senate Democratic Policy Committee. has done some outstanding work with regards to toxic exposure of service members and contractors serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and outgoing Chair Byron Dorgan deserves a great deal of credit for his strong leadership on those issues (Senator Dorgan has decided not run for re-election to the Senate). When Congress is in session, Monday through Friday, there are usually daily vidoes at the DPC video page. The DPC issued the following:
Who is really on the side of middle-class Americans?
Democrats: On the Side of Middle-Class Americans
98 percent - The percentage of all working families and individuals in America who got a tax cut in 2009 thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. [Citizens for Tax Justice, 4/13/10]
$3,000 - The record average tax refund taxpayers are seeing this tax season thanks to the tax cuts in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. [White House, 4/12/10]
40 million – The number of American families with incomes up to $88,000 (for a family of four) that will receive a tax credit to help pay for health care coverage in the exchange, thanks to health insurance reform. [House Majority Leader Hoyer, 4/12/10]
Republicans: On the Side of the Wealthy
$120,000 – The average amount that the richest 0.3 percent of households with incomes above $1 million received in 2007 from the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts [CBPP, 5/9/08] (To put this number in context, sending your child to a private college for 4 years costs, on average, $105,000 in tuition and fees alone. [College Board, 2010])
$46 million – Average tax cut per filer received by the 400 wealthiest taxpayers in the entire country in 2007. [CBPP, 2/23/10] (To put this number in context, a person earning $50,300 per year, or the median income in the U.S. , would have to work 914 years to earn as much. [US Census data for 2008])
$18 billion – Total tax cuts for the 400 richest households in the U.S. in 2007. [CBPP, 2/23/10] (To put this number in context, $18 billion is the economic output of the entire nation of Bolivia . [CIA World Factbook])
2 percent - The percent of total benefits of the capital gains and dividend rate reductions in 2010 that went to the middle 20 percent of taxpayers, compared to 89 percent of the total benefits that went to the wealthiest 20 percent of taxpayers and 58 percent to the wealthiest one percent of taxpayers. [CBPP, 8/7/08]
1 – Number of years President Bush took to turn the budget surplus he inherited from President Clinton into a budget deficit. [OMB Data]
Finally, 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). He has an essay (text and photos) entitled "The People of the Central Valley" (21stcenturymanifesto):Dozens of dairies in California's Central Valley, in Tulare and Kern Counties, produce milk in industrial conditions. Wages are low and workers complain of injuries caused by pressure to work fast, and mistreatment. Most workers are immigrants from Mexico. Some dairies have unions, organized by Local 5 of the United Food and Commercial Workers. Many have had complaints against them filed by California Rural Legal Assistance.
iraqthe pacifica evening newsjohn hamiltonkpfkkpfa
the cleveland plain dealerrobert l. smiththe el paso timeschris robertsiraq veterans against the war
afpgulf newsthe kurdish herald
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Connect the Dots with Lila Garrett
Do some readers like me ripping the show apart?
I don't need the aggravation. It's not worth my peace of mind -- such as it is -- to listen to that show.
Some of you may have been sincere or moderately sincere.
But regardless, I'm not planning on listening again.
Yes, Lila did one of her monologues. But for all the brave talk at the top of the show, if you listen closely, you quickly grasp it falls apart as she goes from strength to 'woe ways me' and 'what are you going to do anyway?' I'm just not into it.
The segment with Bob Filner allowed him to talk about issues and history and allowed Lila to grandstand on race. Or am I the only one who notices how White her guests are? In all the weeks I listened and wrote about that show, the only person of color I who appeared on the showwas Maxine Waters. That's one person and only one person. Lila has three guests every show. Are you getting what a problem she has booking non-White guests? You should be.
Jodi Evans was on and we were supposed to applaud her and CODESTINK making idiots of themselves as they went after Karl Rove who not only does not occupy the White House but did not occupy it. In other words, they make a big to do about someone who wasa servant.
Which is all the show is. Sorry. Lila, callout Barack and talk about why you pushed him. Get honest. Otherwise, expect the circle jerk to never end. But that's actually the whole point, now isn't it?
"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, April 13, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Robert Gates lashes out at WikiLeaks, Nouri lashes out at Iraq's neighbors, Chris Hill needs a math tutor, here comes that wave of revisionary history, and more.
Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of an assault in Iraq. At The Nation today, Robert Dreyfuss weighs in and apparently, by his judgment, the worst offender in the assault is . . . Washington Post reporter David Finkel. For unknown reasons, he steers to PolitFact which quotes from Finkel but doesn't note where the conversation took place. Dreyfuss characterizes Finekl's comments as "blase defense of the slaughter" and states he "cavelierly dismisses the deaths of a dozen Iraqis as something that happens in the 'real-time blurriness of those moments'." First off, the online chat took place at the Washington Post April 6th. Second of all, comments by participants are left out in PolitFact's version. Third of all, Dreyfuss, where were you?
It's a little late to be wading in, isn't it? April 6th is when the online chat took place and we ignored it because we had an audio link to note instead: "Today, Neal Conan spoke to the Washington Post's David Finkel (who's written about the incident in The Good Soldiers and link has an exerpt of the book) on NPR's Talk of the Nation." If you read the chat in full or listen to Talk of the Nation, you find (as noted in that day's snapshot), "Finkel did not weigh in on responsibility and noted specifically that he was not villifying anyone or justifying anyone. He repeated this point more than once." That also comes through in the full online chat. Possibly if PolitFact had linked to it or noted where it took place, Dreyfuss would be less focused on Finkel? Maybe not. A right-wing talking point -- one Diane Rehm shamefully refused to counter and let stand as "the last word" -- is that the Reuters reporters killed in the assault -- Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh -- were with the 'terrorists' or "embedded" with them or some other nonsense. Again, on NPR, Diane Rehm allowed that false charge to stand. Maybe Dreyfuss can take on Diane Rehm?
During the online chat, this talking point was repeated constantly and Finkel repeatedly refuted it. One example:
Washington DC: I don't think anyone has done anything wrong here. I think Reuters had every right to embed their reporters with an enemy unit.
Do you think that Reuters should have let the US know specifically which insurgent group it had reportes with? Should US forces have withheld shooting at enemy units known to be accompanied by hostile reporters?
David Finkel: There's an assumption here I'm concerned about -- that Reuters embedded its staff with "an enemy unit." I know of no basis for that. What I was told that day, and subsequently, is that the two heard of something going on and went to check it out. That's just journalists being journalists.
Before the video was secretly leaked, a request by Reuters for it to be released was unfulfilled for two and a half years. Now the military is refusing to investigate the matter to determine whether or not any wrongdoing did occur in either the event or its aftermath.
Twelve innocent civilians died because of bullets that came out of guns fired by members of the U.S. Military. The soldiers acted with a casualness that is shocking to someone who does not regularly see images of war. They refer to the victims as "dead bastards." Clearly, effective soldiers cannot mourn the lives of those they kill in the midst of battle. Still, these "dead bastards" were posing no immediate threat.
Those soldiers represent me. They represent most of you.
We sent them to war.
It is on our behalf that they killed those 12 people.
It is on our behalf that 4,386 U.S. service members and 244 U.S. contractors have died.
Really terrible things happen in war, like a soldier shooting and killing a journalist because he mistook a camera for a rocket-propelled grenade. What is unfortunate to me is that our military was unwilling to admit to you, me and the families of the fallen how they died.
As noted in yesterday's snapshot, when Jake Tapper raised the issue with US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (who was Secretary of Defense when the assault took place in 2007), Gates offered no apology, offered no remorse, offered no consoliation to the families who lost loved ones. He could have made such a statement. He could have made it without admitting to guilt (which is a fear of some) but he chose not to. He chose to disrespect the dead and now what generally happens to someone like that is happening to Gates: He's lashing out. Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) reports, "Gates insisted it was "irresponsible" of Wikileaks to release the classified video and that it showed only a "soda straw" view of the overall war. He also lamented that Wikileaks 'can put out anything they want and not be held accountable'." Grasp that Gates can "lament" WIkiLeaks' actions -- which killed no one -- but can express no regrets (not even by terming it a "horrible accident") for the assault. KPFK's Leo Paz filed a report (LA Indymedia has text and audio) where he spoke with Iraq War veteran Cameron Wood about the Rules of Engagement:
Leo Paz: Marine Corporal Cameron Woods, from Minnesota, was part of a tank unit in the invasion in 2003 and took part in the siege of Falluja in 2004. He talked about how US army Officers gave orders to fire on any Iraq opposing the invasion.
Cameron Woods: As part of the invasion there would be a lot of times when they would have what they called a free-fire zone when we were told to shoot at anybody that we saw, whether they were shooting at us or not, they were supposed to be considered enemies because apparently they had been told to go inside or whatever. And on the second deployment, because a lot of incidents had happened and they were trying to keep things under wraps they were trying to implement what they called rules of engagement, was what they call 'em, but it was basically if you see someone firing at you or what you think is a gun then we engaged them.
Leo Paz: Corporal Woods also spoke of the nightmare soldiers have to live with after firing on civilians.
Cameron Woods: What I experienced was seeing civilinas that had been fired upon mostly in vehicles.
Leo Paz: Tell me more about that.
Cameron Woods: Set up checkpoints and you see vehicles approaching, and the vehicles don't stop and so they would fire on vehicles, we fired on buses, buses full of civilians and -- and I think part of the reason that happens is because you're essentially sending teenagers to go fight in a war, and these kids are scared and they will indiscriminately fire their weapons.. . . so you see the aftermath of that and those are the kind of images that you carry with you and those are the kind of things that haunt you. It's those types of situations that cause post traumatic stress.
Monday, the Kansas City Star editorialized on the topic:
But the real horror from the 2007 incident should come from the policy that led to that moment. It's clear in the video those in the helicopter arrived with a mind-set, amid a highly dangerous insurgency, that Iraqis were enemies. They did not come to this conclusion on their own. In fact, it reflects both U.S. policy and the incredible difficulty of successfully even defining, much less carrying out, a mission such as the one this nation faced in Iraq, and now faces in Afghanistan.
Given the attitude these men had when their helicopters arrived on the scene, in fact, the outcome was inevitable. Beyond mourning American involvement in a truly horrible moment, beyond what has to be a shared and deep regret for those who died and their families, lessons must be drawn from this video. They must be applied in Afghanistan, and beyond (if the United States is to continue nation-building).
Why is "continue nation-building" assumed and not questioned? Why, after all that's gone on and gone wrong in Iraq, does a McClatchy Newspaper accept the premise of the 'goodness' behind the illegal war? A McClatchy Newspaper?
You couldn't wait for answers
You just had to try those wings
And all your happy-ever-afters . . .
They didn't mean a thing
So I'm not gonna try at all
To keep you from the flame
Just remember not to call . . . my name . . .
When you cry wolf
Once too often
You cry wolf
No, I won't come knockin'
You cry wolf
I won't hear you anymore
-- "Cry Wolf," written by Jude Johnstone, recorded by Stevie Nicks on her album The Other Side of the Mirror
Walter Rodgers (Christian Science Monitor) is puzzled that "a major architect of the wra in Iraq," Douglas Feith, would argue that Washington (the administration) was tricked. Hmm. That is a shocker, isn't it? And no one could have seen that coming . . . if they were comatose. Matt Damon is a bad actor with buch teeth, no neck and some of the worst skin (it takes a lot of foundation to get him 'camera ready'). But damned if a number of idiots on the left didn't treat him as if he were The Widow Zinn and rush to prop up his offensive and appalling movie Green Zone. A number of idiots did. The whole left didn't. Ava and I pointed out last month of that bad, bad movie:
The argument the (fictional) film makes is that an Iraqi exile General Al-Rawi is the bad guy and the reason for the illegal war. He is the cause of the Iraq War because he tricked people in DC. Do you get how offensive to history that is?
Karl Rove may dispute "Bush lied and people died" (as he did last week on NPR's Fresh Air) but that's reality. (See Ann's post for how Terry Gross avoided one of the best known examples of Bush lying.) And it's really distressing to see some lefties rush to applaud this film. D-cup celeb Michael Moore gushes but he's not a man known for taste or intellect. Others are supposed to be a little smarter -- including a critic we'll be kind and not name but who sees the film as having a "message" that neocons were responsible. Did he miss the scene where General Al-Rawi brags to Matt Damon's character about tricking Washington?
At the Socialist Worker, Richard Seymour also caught on to the revisionary bulls**t in Green Zone and called it out ("Here neocon trickery took the US to war while the occupation failed due to bad planning, ideological zealotry, and an over-emphasis on democracy."). Excuse me, Seymour did that at Great Britain's Socialist Worker. At the US Socialist Worker, they were too busy eating Matt Damon's ass out and let's just hope it was as good for them as it was for Matt.
The Widow Zinn made a bad, bad movie that trafficked in revisionary history. And too many idiots on the left applauded that crap. Feith's now doing a variation on it? Not a damn surprise. The left set itself up for this when they decided that some punk ass actor who never did a damn thing for anyone was more important than the truth about the Iraq War. Actions have consequences and some people on the left better start grasping that and damn well better start owning their actions. They are encouraging revisionary history and there is no excuse for it. Some of the same idiots applauded the 'documentary' -- which I disclosed in real time I campaigned against and voted against and loved it when it didn't win Best Documentary -- which argued the problem with the Iraq War -- THE PROBLEM -- was that there wasn't better planning. People were applauding that s**t even though the 'film maker' was a War Hawk who not only advocated strongly for the Iraq War before it started but still advocated for it while promoting that piece of filth film. Maybe film criticism is just beyond the abilities of, for example, the US Socialist Worker? Maybe those idiots who don't know a damn thing but somehow seem to repeatedly endorse Iraq films that contain revisionary 'lessons' should do the world a favor and find another way to ply their bad writing? I'm not in the mood. Or as Stevie sings in "Cry Wolf:"
You can try but you can't get me . . .
Into the fire
'Cause I'm all out of sympathy . . .
And, baby, I can't walk this wire
While the US refuses to open an investigation into the July 12, 2007 assault in the wake of world condemnation, Iran calls for a different investigation. Xiong Tong (Xinhua) reports Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran, called yesterday for "a UN probe into the presecne of Western powers in Afghanistan and Iraq." Alusmaria TV adds, "In a letter to the UN Secretary General, the Iranian President said that the manners used by the USA and NATO troops in dealing with terrorism in the region were doomed to fail. Ahmadinejad called the UN Secretary General to launch an investigation the results of which shall be submitted to the UN General Assembly. As a consequence of the western presence in Iraq and Afghanistan millions of people were killed, wounded or became homeless to that the cultivation of poppy plants, from which opium is extracted, increased. To that, people in these regions are still living under threats, Iranian President added."
Iran? From yesterday's Pacifica Evening News (airs on KPFA and KPFK each weekday -- as well as other stations).
John Hamilton: Iraq's prime minister accused neighboring states today of meddling in his country's internal affairs in efforts to influence government building after March 7th elections produced no clear winner. Nouri al-Maliki told a government committee meeting he was upset to hear representatives of neighboring states talking on television as if they were Iraq's "guardians." "Our message is clear, do not interfere in our affairs," al-Maliki said. He didn't specify which of Iraq's six neighbors he was referring to. The March election left al-Maliki's State of Law Commision trailing former prime minister Ayad Allawi's Iraqyia by two seats. Neither side won enough to govern alone and has been scrambling to cobble together a coalition. Both coalitions, as well as other parties, have been rallying neighboring countries for support. al-Maliki has led a government dominated by devout Shi'ites for the past four years while Allawi, a secular Shi'ite, drew most of his support from the country's Sunni minority on a campaign pledge that he was looking to transcend ethnic and sectarian divides. Both coalitons as well as other political parties have been holding talks with neighbors in the wake of balloting. Tehran's ambassador in Baghdad said Saturday that all political blocs, including Sunnis, should play a role in the new Iraqi government. The statement was unusual for a representative of Iran which traditionally backs fellow Shi'ites in Iraq. al-Maliki has tried to dispel fears that Sunnis would be neglected by a Shi'ite led government. He spoke today at a meeting of the Committee for National Reconciliation with former Sunni fighters known as Sons Of Iraq who sided with American forces against al Qaeda. al-Maliki's charges of foreign interference come a day after his political party called for a recount of election results in five of Iraq's provinces, saying that thousands of votes were tainted by fraud.
More than one month passed since Iraqi parliamentary election had been conducted. Yet, no final results had been certified and no government was formed. The discussions about forming new alliances are still ongoing. The security situation is getting worse. In less than one week, more than 100 were killed and other hundreds were wounded in three separated attacks. Services in general became so bad. During the election day, we had electricity for the whole day and night. Now, we have it only for five or seven hours a day.
Our politicians are still talking about negotiations and discussions while the people who voted for them die everyday. One of the abnormal issues is the trips to the neighboring countries Many Iraqi politicians and officials visited Iran and Saudi Arab and more will do other visits to other neighboring countries during the coming days. Iraqis know the nature of these visits as they realize the role of these countries in stability of Iraq.
Over the weekend, Allawi appeared on Frost Over The World (Al Jazeera) where, among other topics, Frost wondered how Iraq moves forward?
David Frost: What are the key compromises that have to be made by somebody?
Ayad Allawi: I think the compromises really should start with the negotiations. What we need to see is that there is a success for the political process, there's a victory for the democracy as much as we can. I think we ought to look at what we can do to Iraq. We need to address the issue of security and this should be in capable hands. We need to restructure our security forces. I think everybody now acknowledges this fact -- that the security, the current security of the institutions are not ready to face the -- the threats that are facing us in Iraq. And it needs to be more active -- more structured to be able to face much more of the responsibility. I believe that there would be compromises along the line of security and on the formation and on the major positions in the country. We are trying now to find other substitutes where people can be and should be involved because we are still as we see it, all of us, we are still transitioning. And definitely this year is going to be a forecast for the transition of getting the American forces starting the drawdown and getting the Iraq forces to replace the American forces and securing this country. So everybody, I think, is ready for compromises, David.
Everybody? Including Nouri?
Normally Monday's snapshot notes Inside Iraq but yesterday there were too many problems (which is why the snapshot went up so late yesterday). On the most recent Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera), which began airing Friday, US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill was the guest.
Jasim Azawi: But the results of those elections are in jeopardy. Right now we just said that probably Ayad Allawi will not be called upon. There is -- I don't know what you'd call it. Call it conspiracy, call it an allegiance of forces, to cheat him out of his winning. So -- And that is going to throw the country into a dangerous zone. So I don't understand why would you be optimistic.
Chris Hill: Well, first of all, what those elections did was to establish which coalitions had which seats in the -- the Parliament, the Council of Representatives. So Ayad Allawi's coalition had 91 but you realize he needs another 64 seats if he's going to acheive a majority there. He needs to get to 163 and he only has 91 so he has 91, Maliki has 89, Maliki needs another 65. So the real question will be who's able to form a government, who's able to reach out to other coalitions. So -- uh -- Allawi can start with 91, but he's got a long way to go.
Actually, the real question is who the hell taught Chris Hill math. He is correct that 163 is the magic number. He's incorrect that 91 plus 64 reaches 163 (that would be 155) and he's incorrect that 89 plus 65 equal 163 (that would be 154). Who picked this lousy man to be the US Ambassador to Iraq? He can't even add simple figures. He's so stupid he can't even grasp that. If you think that's too harsh, grasp that whatever figure he thought he was adding to, Allawi has 91 seats and al-Maliki 89. He's saying to reach X (the same number for both men), Allawi needs 64 and al-Maliki need 65. If Nouri got 2 seats less than Allawi, it doesn't take a genius to realize that he would need 2 seats more than Allawi would need to reach magic number X -- whatever X is. (And, yes, 163 is the magic number.) Back to the program.
Jasim Azawi: And right now probably he is horse trading with other parties to come into a coalition and to form that government.
Chris Hill: Horse trading and everything else. I tell you, there's going to be a lot of cups of tea, a lot of cigarettes smoked by the time that process gets done.
Jasim Azawi: But one thing he did not do the others did and that is go to Tehran. It is ironic that Jalal Talabani, the president of Iraq as well as the representative from al-Maliki's coalitions State of Law, a represenative from Iraqi National Alliance headed by Amar al-Hakim and a few other junior members they went to Tehran and most probably they were summoned by the commander of Iran's Revolutionary Quds Force to come and listen and get the orders from Tehran to form the government. You, the US, you no longer call the shots.
Chris Hill chuckled at that and then deflected the question about US influence. To his credit, he did get the name of the Justice and Accountability Committee correct. That's more than many news outlets can manage. (Western outlets tend to call it the "Accountability and Justice Committee.") And the plan is to note more of it today, however, there's an update to a point Jasim was making, Andrew England (Financial Times of London) reports that Allawi's slate has plans to meet with leaders in Iran on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, as Jasim noted, the US has less and less influence (at least out in the open) and Joao Silva (New York Times) contributes a photo essay of a Najaf protest where US President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were burned in effigy and, prior to that, where they were hanged.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Reuters notes a Ramadi roadside bombing which injured three police officers, a Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded two people, a Mahmudiya sticky bombing claimed the life of a Lt Col in the police and left five people wounded, a Basra roadside bombing claimed 2 lives, a Baghdad roadside bombing targeting a liquor store and a Baghdad bombing attack on Al-Rasheed TV's public relations officer -- he and five more people were wounded.
Reuters notes 1 suspect was shot dead in Mosul by the Iraq forces and another injured
Iraqi refugees make up the largest refugee crisis in the world. In that population is a large number of LGBT members because Nouri's government has allowed them to be persecuted. Though we can all shake our heads, roll our eyes and mutter "Iraq," the reality is things aren't so good around the world. From Paul Canning's "Damning report says practically all UK LGBT asylum claims are being refused; Border Agency "cruel and discriminatory":"
According to the UK's lesbian and gay asylum and immigration charity the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG) the British government is refusing 98-99% of claims made by LGBT compared to 73% for claims made on other grounds.
The astonishing figure is the result of work revealed in a new report 'Failing the grade' released by UKLGIG 8 April. It is based on a review of 50 Home Office Reason for Refusal letters (refusal letters) issued from 2005 to 2009 to claimants from 19 different countries who claimed asylum on the basis of their sexual identity. The report does not purport to be a definitive piece of research but rather a study that indicates trends emerging from the Home Office's consideration of LGBT asylum claims.
Asylum applicants reviewed were from Belarus, Cameroon, Dominica, Congo, Gambia, Ghana, Iran, Jamaica, Kenya, Libya, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tanzania, Uganda, Yemen and Zimbabwe.
The UK-based leader of Iraqi LGBT, Ali Hili, told LGBT Asylum News that every Iraqi gay asylum seeker in the UK his group was aware of had been first refused asylum, including cases in the past two years (that is, since the situation for gays in Iraq, which includes militias systematically hunting them down and killing them, became widely publicised).
In 2008 the Scottish activist Robert McDowell asked the Home Office in a Freedom Of Information request how many LGBT asylum claims had been made the previous year. He was told that information wasn't collected and it would be too expensive to retrieve.
The definitive numbers are not known but evidence from overseas shows that LGBT asylum claims form a tiny component of overall numbers - even in countries understood to have 'liberal' policies.
Turning to the US and the subject of the Supreme Court, Francis A. Boyle is a law professor and expert in the field of international relations and rights. At the Institute for Public Acuracy, he shares his thoughts on the woman many say will be Barack's nominee for the Supreme Court, Elena Kagan:
"As dean of the Harvard Law School, Kagan hired Bush's outgoing director of the Office
of Legal Counsel, Jack Goldsmith, as a law professor. Goldsmith is
regarded by myself and many others in the field as a war criminal. He
wrote some of the memos that attempted to make violations of the Geneva
Conventions appear legal. Kagan actually bragged about 'how proud' she
was to have hired Goldsmith after one of his criminal Department of
Justice memoranda was written up in the Washington Post.
"During the course of her Senate confirmation hearings as Solicitor
General, Kagan explicitly endorsed the Bush administration's bogus
category of 'enemy combatant,' whose implementation has been a war crime
in its own right. Now in her current job as U.S. Solicitor General,
Kagan is quarterbacking the continuation of the Bush administration's
illegal and unconstitutional positions in U.S. federal court litigation
around the country, including in the U.S. Supreme Court. For example,
early this month, the Obama administration lost an illegal wiretapping
case. One of the lawyers in the case who won, Jon Eisenberg, said the
Obama administration is as bad or worse than the Bush administration
when it comes to issues like state secrets and wiretapping.
"Kagan is apparently being backed by several people who are indebted
to her from her time at Harvard. [Professors Laurence] Tribe, [Charles]
Ogletree and [Alan] Dershowitz all had plagiarism scandals while Kagan
headed up the law school -- and she in effect bailed them all out. Tribe
and Ogletree were teachers/mentors to Obama and still advise him today,
Tribe recently taking a job in the Department of Justice along with
Kagan. She was named dean at Harvard by Larry Summers, who helped
deregulate much of Wall Street in the Clinton administration and
organize much of its bailout under Obama.
"Kagan has said 'I love the Federalist Society.' This is a
right-wing group; almost all of the Bush administration lawyers
responsible for its war and torture memos are members of the Federalist
Society. Many members of the Federalist Society say that Brown v. Board
of Education [which struck down 'separate but equal'] was decided
"Five currently on the U.S. Supreme Court were or are members of the
Federalist Society: Harvard Law graduate Roberts; Harvard Law graduate
Scalia; Harvard Law graduate Kennedy; Yale Law graduate Thomas; and Yale
Law graduate Alito. A narrow elite is imposing itself through the legal
system, and ordinary Americans need to start asserting themselves."
Kagan, it should be remembered, ran interference (as did Cass Sustein) for Roberts. She lobbied Senators and also did a lot of non-public wrangling on Roberts' behalf. She is not of the left (nor is Sustein). There are many people who are worthy. Kagan is not one of them. Boyle wouldn't endorse Hillary Clinton, but others have. Caro of MakeThemAccountable notes:
The denials have been pretty weak.
Hillary for the court
by Brent Budowsky
Secretary of State Clinton would be the Super Bowl choice for Supreme Court justice. Like [retiring Justice John Paul] Stevens, she would almost certainly evolve into a kind of shadow chief justice. She would be a leader and pivot point for court liberals in the same way Stevens is, while Chief Justice John Roberts appears determined to move the court to the right, and reject judicial precedent that conservatives disapprove of, instead of shaping consensus among justices.
Secretary Clinton possesses an exceptionally rare combination of qualities for a Supreme Court justice. She is a legal authority in her own right on various areas of the law, both domestic and international. She has very high-level experience in both the legislative and executive branches. She has a very diverse set of life experiences, and the breadth of having reached out to the full range of people and cultures that constitute the American people and the American experience.
While gender should not be dispositive, it would be a plus for the court to have a third female justice. While religion should not be dispositive, her Protestant faith would offer diversity and depth to the court.
Above all, Secretary Clinton offers the kind of interpersonal skills and political savvy that make Justice Stevens such an important justice, and so hard to replace.
Also advocating for nominating Hillary to the Supreme Court are Ruth ("The Supreme Court") and Rebecca ("the supreme court").