Friday, April 11, 2008

Barack hates Small Towns in America!

Friday at last! :D I love the weekends! Marcia's here this weekend so that's great. She's been here before but she called today and said, "Is it okay to attend the Iraq study group?" Of course! So it's the weekend. Let's get to the news.

Okay, here's Reuters on how Bambi Obama has insulted the country today:

Democrat Hillary Clinton criticized presidential rival Barack Obama on Friday for describing small-town Pennsylvania residents as bitter and said she would help economically struggling communities, not look down on them.
Clinton, whose once big Pennsylvania lead over Obama in opinion polls has been shrinking ahead of their April 22 primary election showdown, said residents in small towns suffering from job losses across the state were resilient and optimistic.
"Pennsylvania doesn't need a president who looks down on them," she said at a rally in Philadelphia. "They need a president who stands up for them, who fights for them, who works hard for your futures, your jobs, your families."

Via USA Today, here's Bambi insulting Small Town America:

"You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

I guess he's not a fan of John Mellencamp's "Small Town." :D Oh, he just keeps insulting America, doesn't he? I don't think he could be president even if everyone dropped out of the race -- in all parties. The reason is, I don't think he could be president of a country he so obviously feels is beneath him.

He really grew up hating America, didn't he? It would be great to see Bambi try to go into a small town right now and give a speech. :D I'm laughing at the thought of it. What a pompous ass. He's so full of himself, he must go to the bathroom every ten minutes.

He's as crazy and as hateful as his supporters. Hey, Donna Brazile gives bad e-mail. This is from Masslib's "Donna Brazile is for Obama" which is an exchange of e-mails with Brazile:

ME: I don't expect you to watch the sexism. I was hoping for a more fair reading from you. I think it's loopy to think Hillary has run a racist campaign. Really loopy. Again, the 3am ad, winning NH??? These are not signs of racism. If you respect a candidate, you run against them on the merits, which Hillary has done.

DB: Just ask Hillary why is she apologizing to Black folks at every turn. And now Obama has to denounce his pastor.

ME: She doesn't have to. She just is because she doesn't want anyone to feel alienated or offended. I can not believe that's what you really see. How sad.

DB: I defended the Clintons and it was Black people who kept their asses in office.
Now, show respect and not indifference or worse insularity and more insults.
I am not checking my black or feminist credentials into the locker box for either candidate.
ME: Let's agree on some things. I have never walked a mile in your shoes. I am outraged by the continued institutional racism in our justice system, in our educational system, in our society. We are not at odds here. As far as McCain goes, I dislike him, and his extremist supporters. I do think that if you believe Hillary Clinton is a racist or has employed a racist campaign strategy, you are overreaching to the extreme.

DB: She’s the one apologizing to Black folks. Not me. Not You. She is the one saying I regret. Not me. Not you.

ME: Yes, because she doesn't want any one to be offended. She's a buck stops here person. I think that's an admirable quality.

DB: Blacks have been deeply wounded by the duplicity of the Clintons . Now, you may not like it or agree. But as a black person who helped saved the Clinton presidency, please just respect what I am saying. [emphasis added] Again, you disagree. But, I honestly believe the wounds will not heal. It’s personal and the Clintons have shown their darker demons. [emphasis added] Now, I will end it here. I was Al Gore’s Campaign Manager. Let the buck stop here. If I make a decision to go with Obama, people read it as Al Gore hates the Clintons. So, I stay above the bull and do not take bull from the Clintons or the Obamas or the McCains. I don’t owe anybody a dime. And if I counted who has helped me since 2000, it's Republican men and not Democrats.

"It was Black people who kept their asses in office." What the hell is wrong with that crazy? Is she saying Hillary was elected to office in 1992? Again in 1996? Prior to Bambi (and Donna Crackpot Brazile) starting those false charges of racism, the Clintons were popular with African-Americans. But by Brazile's reckoning, they'd have to make up over half the population. Does she mean during impeachment? Again, the majority of the country (all races included) were opposed to impeachment. Donna Brazille is just nuts. She really is. And she's a hateful woman. No wonder she's so fat, she probably eats to deal with her hatred. Poor Donna, ugly, fat and stupid. She hit the trifecta, as Bully Boy would say. :D

Since these are her feelings about the Clintons, she doesn't need to be on CNN as an "analyst" anymore. I wish she'd leave the Democratic Party already, like she's threatened to do. If you're sick of Donna Brazile, remember, Hillary gets the nomination and Donna's out. That's what she said. She didn't say, "I won't vote." She didn't say, "I'll vote Nader or McKinney." She said she'd leave the party. So give Hillary the nomination because it means Loser Brazile takes a hike. She won't be missed.

Poor Donna Brazile. She's really got nothing today and probably nothing tomorrow. I can see her at midnight, lonely in the supermarket, as she heads for the Ding Dongs and Twinkies. "You love me, don't you, Twinkee?" she ask as she holds it in front of her face. "Of course you love me!" she exclaims before shoving it down her throat. She has to destroy the things she loves. Coz she's Donna Brazile: Hateful Fatty.

Seriously, someone needs to tell her to lose some weight. It's not healthy at her age and with all the hypertension she obviously has, all that rage inside, she's just begging for a heart attack. Lose the weight, Donna, or you won't be leaving the Democratic Party, you'll be leaving the world.

Here's Howard Wolfson's "HUBdate: Safe and Secure Communities:"

Previewing Today: Hillary delivers a "Solutions for Safe and Secure Communities Now" speech in West Philadelphia with Mayor Michael Nutter and outlines her $4 billion a year crime-fighting plan...the plan cuts murders in half, and "put[s] 100,000 more cops on the streets, create[s] a $1 billion grant program to fight recidivism, and provide[s] more funds to combat gangs and drugs." Read more and more.
Recapping Yesterday: Hillary responded to President Bush's address on Iraq: "The President refuses to face the reality that we are confronted with in Iraq"... "Mrs. Clinton also dismissed Mr. McCain's housing market proposals as 'warmed-over' and 'half-hearted' versions of her own plans."
Read more.
Basking in Support: At last night's Allegheny County Democratic Dinner, Hillary "bask[ed] in support"... and "invoking her mother, her daughter and the other women in her family, Pittsburgh's first female mayor [Sophie Masloff] endorsed a candidate battling to be the first woman to preside in the Oval Office."
Read more.
Three In 36 Hours: Hillary received the support of three new automatic delegates over the past 36 hours…the campaign also announced that Hillary has now received the endorsement of over 270 elected officials in Pennsylvania.
Read more and more.
Renewing the American Dream: Yesterday, Hillary attended the Beaver County Democratic Dinner in Hopewell Township, where "she promised a boisterous Democratic audience that she'd renew the American dream and repeatedly said she could fix mistakes made by President Bush on the economy and the war in Iraq."
Read more.
On Tap in Indiana: Hillary will host "Solutions for the American Economy" events in Indianapolis, Mishawaka, and Valparaiso on Saturday. Sen. Bayh previewed the trip on a call with reporters.
Read more.
Standing Strong: Other elected officials, including Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) are joining Hillary in her calls for President Bush to boycott the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics because of the recent human rights violations committed by the Chinese government against Tibetan protestors.
Read more.
In Case You Missed It: Sen. Obama has lost the 10-point lead nationally over Sen. John McCain he had a month ago, while Hillary leads McCain 48% to 45% in the same poll.
View here.

I thought I had posted this! Rebecca and I started talking and I hadn't posted this. But that's cool because it let's me say, "Go read Ma's 'Potato and Ham Casserole in the Kitchen'." Along with the recipe, she's also covering a Congressional hearing this week. Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, April 11, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, The Petraeus & Crocker Variety Hour week concludes, Najaf under curfer, and more.

Starting with war resistance. "As the Vietnam War fades into the past, the struggle for reinterpretation continues. One area that has received insufficient attention is war resistance. The script offered in public circles often reads like this: the war has ended for resisters; isolated numbers of people resisted military service, most of them 'draft dodgers'; all of the legal issues surrounding military resisters were resolved -- they eventually 'got off' and people only refuse military service when they face a draft. These myths, like most others about the war, are designed to influence future generations of potential warriors,"
reminds Harold Jordan (AFSC) in an essay reviewing the realities now fogged and ignored. Reality does make a difference and reality has been torn apart by those who continue to falsely insist that war resisters who went to Canada during Vietnam were just those avoiding the draft. Some had already been inducted into the service, some had deployed to Vietnam. There was never a procedure in Canada, during this period, where you had to state, "I left the service but I was drafted in!" It did not matter. In fact, it was assumed those going to Canada after serving in Vietnam were not only taking a courageous stand but were also bearing witness. Those who repeat the lies that it was just draft evaders have made the current climate in Canada more difficult as everyone latches on to the pot-hazed memories (of people who did not resist) as proof that the Vietnam era war resisters were only granted safe haven because there was a draft. The draft was not the issue, the illegal war was. As it is today.

James Burmeister is a class of 2007 war resister -- tranlation, Panhandle Media ignored him. While serving in Iraq, he saw the Bait and Kill teams -- US materials being planted (not just weapons, as the MSM reported when they picked up on the story in the fall of 2007) so that Iraqis could be shot when they touched US property. Burmeister returned to the US last winter, turned himself in at Fort Knox waiting to hear what happens next.
Courage to Resist posts an interview (audio) with him and his father Erich Burmeister. Asked whether or not Canada had placed "pressure on you to leave," James Burmeister explained, " Of course. You know, they kind of drag out the decision on whether or not they will let us stay. They make it hard for us to get jobs or financial assistance. We're kind of in the middle up here and that's how they pressure us, they don't really give us the status. They make it hard to live up here." Erich Burmeister spoke of the help Ann Wright and Anita Anderson Dennis (Darrell Anderson's mother) have provided. He also noted the kill teams.

Erich Burmeister: It was more what he was involved in there. Particularly what really bothered him was the bait and kill thing which now is a pretty infamous subject which has come up in some of the trials of some of the soldiers that have been put on trial for murder. This sniper, you know, putting out pieces of equipment and waiting for someone to touch it and they shoot him. And that really, really bothered him. Plus the fact that when they would go through these neighborhoods and, you know, kick in people's doors and raid their houses and just loot their houses, and the terror that he saw on people's faces. He told me these things had really bothered him. And the devestation he saw around him. It was -- it was really hard for him to deal with that. He told me times that he would see people digging through garbage, women digging through garbage, and he couldn't believe the conditions that the Iraqis were forced to live under and he felt like he was somewhat responsible for this.

While Burmeister waits to find out what the military will do, war resisters in Canada wait to find out whether they will be granted safe harbor. The Canadian Parliament will debate a measure this month on that issue. You can make your voice heard. Three e-mails addresses to focus on are: Prime Minister Stephen Harper ( -- that's pm at who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion ( -- that's Dion.S at who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua ( -- that's Bevilacqua.M at who is the Liberal Party's Critic for Citizenship and Immigration. A few more can be found here at War Resisters Support Campaign. For those in the US, Courage to Resist has an online form that's very easy to use.
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Matt Mishler, Josh Randall, Robby Keller, Justiniano Rodrigues, Chuck Wiley, James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb,
Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Clara Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Logan Laituri, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum. Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).

The week's biggest story is the death of 19 soldiers this week. Should have been but few seem aware of it (and, in fact, one news program yesterday evening said there were 16 deaths for the month so far, no, there have been 20 for the month thus far). ICCC has had problems (hacking their server) and possibly that's left some outlets confused. But yesterday's deaths resulted in 19. There are 20 for the month. The only death prior to this week was Travis L. Griffin who died in Baghdad from hostile fire on April 3rd. Clicking here will show you the 20 and the days they died. Starting Sunday (April 6th -- when 8 died), there have been 19 deaths. The deaths, little noticed and incorrectly counted when noted, came as The Petraeus & Crocker Variety Hour got some attention. But what would the reaction have been to the dog and pony show this week had most Americans read on the front page of their newspapers or heard at the start of their news broadcasts that 19 US service members were killed in Iraq this week thus far? Due to the media snoozing on the job, we can only guess.

On today's second hour of NPR's
The Diane Rehm Show, Rehm spoke with Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers), Demetri Sevastopulo (Finacial Times of London) and Michael Hirsh (Newsweek) about the week's events in the US and Iraq.

Diane Rehm: And this week, Moqtada al-Sadr threatened to call of the cease-fire. What is weighing, Nancy? And what does it mean for the security situation in Iraq?

Nancy A. Youssef: Well it's critical to the current, current political situation, because even the US conceeds that that cease-fire has been a key reason behind the recent drop in violence. This week Nouri al-Maliki threatened that anyone with any sort of militia behind them would not be able to participate in the elections and I think that's one reason Sadr is considering his actions this week. If he lifts it, it would substantially change the security situation and I think it would also raise questions about the directions he's headed in. When he declared the cease-fire, many interpreted Sadr as trying to rebrand himself as a Shia nationalist. He spent a lot of time in Iran building up his religious credentials if you will and if he lifts the cease-fire, I think that will put all of that into question. It would also say that he's pretty confident that he can control those forces which I think many people question right now whether he can.

Diane Rehm: The other question that arises, Demetri, is to what extent did the diminishment in violence that occurred in Iraq come about because of the surge or because Moqtada al-Sadr declared a cease-fire?

Demetri Sevastopulo: Well I think depending on when you asked the US military and the commanders this question, the answer had been different. For example, when President Bush went to Al Anbar Province last fall, as we were traveling out there, some officials said that the decline in violence there, the so-called Sunni "Awakening" where the shieks who had previously been fighting the Americans, allied themselves with Americans to take on al Qaeda. And we were told that that was in some ways serendipity and that surge was now going to have to build on that. Other officials said no, it wasn't serendipity, the surge created the situation or the platform for that to happen. I think it's very difficult to say. What you see at the moment is that the cease-fire is in danger of unraveling. Formally it's still in place. But the violence in Basra, the violence in Basra that has also spread to Baghdad is showing that it's very volatile. So I think, really, it's too early to tell and we're just going to have to wait and see. And General Petraeus yesterday warned that he was concerned the cease-fire could break.

Diane Rehm: So how did that upsurge in violence effect General Petraeus' comments, Ambassador Ryan Crocker's outlook?

Demetri Sevastopulo: It's been a difficult one for them to address because when it started in Basra, when Nouri al-Maliki launched his offensive, President Bush said this was a defining moment -- the Iraqi Prime Minister was showing the Iraqi people that the Iraqi troops were standing up on their own two feet, they were fighting for their country. On the other hand, Genereal Petraeus, he welcomed that, but he also pointed out that the operation was poorly planned that Mr. Maliki did not take his military advice and I've been told by some of my sources that Mr. Maliki also rejected offers of support from British forces who've been in Basra albiet pulled back at the airport.

[. . .]

Diane Rehm: Here's an e-mail from Josh in Athens, Ohio, Nancy, he says "What happened to the benchmarks that President Bush shared last year? Has anyone forgotten what he said about marked progress? How will we end this war?" Nancy?

Nancy A. Youssef: You know, it's funny, the benchmark question came up during testimony on Capitol Hill this week from some legislators asking that very thing. The administration says that the Iraqis have met three of the eighteen benchmarks. But Ryan Crocker, the Ambassador, was quick to point out that if the Iraqis meet the benchmarks that doesn't necessarily mean that the security situation will improve or that it will lead to political reconciliation -- which was very interesting. And he, essentially, in saying that, really questioned what the benchmarks were for? Was it for the Iraqis? Or was it for the US to say here's tangiable proof that the Iraqi government is working on something?

Diane Rehm: So how much of what we're seeing in this upsurge is political and how much of it is military, Michael?

Michael Hirsh: You mean in terms of the politics here?

Diane Rehm: Yes, exactly. Politics here and the politics there as well.

Michael Hirsh: I think it's equal parts both. Clearly Petreaus is very serious about pursuing the surge and believes that Iraq would fail, come apart, if US troops were not there in current strength. But at the same time Bush came out yesterday, essentially embraced Petraeus' recommendations, said there had been a strategic shift in Iraq and that we now had the initiative -- is how he put it -- and that's obviously a political message for the fall campaign for those who might be or might not be voting for McCain. John McCain's candidacy, and the Republican ascendancy, and, I think, Bush's legacy as he sees it is very much wrapped up in McCain being seen and Iraq being seen in a positive light as McCain goes into November.

Petreaus spoke with Katie Couric (CBS Evening News -- link has audio and text) for Thursday's broadcast and among the questions Couric put to him, "In our latest poll, 54 percent of Americans think the war is going badly. More than half obviously. How can you sustain this effort without more popular support here at home?" He replied with a denial statement insisting there was progress while acknowledging that "you have to leave that to the American people, who have to be the judge ultimately, who have to weigh all the different consequences along with of course our leaders." At the end of that segment, Couric notes, "General Petraeus also revealed for the first time that he's been engaged in secret diplomatic efforts. In recent months, he's quietly visited several Middle Eastern countries, including Jordan, Kuwait and Turkey, hoping to convince those governments to stop the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq." And of course Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, US Ambassador to Iraq, plan to visit Saudi Arabia to discuss Iraq. Which leads one to wonder exactly what is the US Secretary of State doing? As US Senator Chuck Hagel noted Tuesday during the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting Condi Rice doesn't appear to be doing anything "Kissinger-esque". The Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday hearing was reported on by Paul Richter (Los Angeles Times), "Committee Chairman Sen. Joseph Biden Jr. (D-Del) noted that at least two of the presidential candidates disagreed with President Bush on overall Iraq policy. He warned David Satterfield, the State Department's top Iraq advisor, that 'if the president persists in this course, the Congress will insist on a role in approving or disapproving' the agreements. 'This is folly!' Biden said." The agreements sought by the White House are the Status of Forces Agreement and what's seen as a strategic framework agreement.

Bully Boy's bad speech yesterday dominated the bulk of the press. It was nothing new. As
US Senator Joe Biden noted of it, "The President confirmed what I've been saying for some time -- he has no plan to end this war. His plan is to muddle through and then to hand the problem off to his successor. So the result of the surge is that we're right back where we started before it began 15 months ago: with 140,000 troops in Iraq, spending $3 billion every week, losing 30 to 40 American lives every month -- and still no end in sight." After week long wave of Operation Happy Talk from the administration and its surrogates, what really happened? Peter Schmitz (Der Spiegel) observes, "Bush, in short, is changing nothing -- unless one counts the reduction in a tour of duty from 15 months to 12 months." And that change doesn't kick in until August 1st of this year. Anyone sent over prior to that date will be sent over on a 15 month term. Ann McFeatters (Scripps Howard News Service) pointed to the happiness of some, "[US Senator John] McCain exulted that progress has been made, even though Petraeus stressed it is 'fragile' and reversible.' . . . [McCain] and his buddy, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, are among few optimists left in Washington." While those two got happy in the Land of Denial, Frank James (Baltimore Sun) notes John McCain's former National Security Assistant Anthony Cordsman declared this week, "The Congress, our military, and the American people deserve more than inarticulate Presidential bluster that seems to thinly camoflage a leadership vacuum."

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


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad rocket attack on the Palestine Hotel that claimed 3 lives and left seven wounded, a rocket attack on the Green Zone, 2 Baghdad roadside bombings that resulted in 4 deaths and three people being injured, a Baghdad mortar attack that claimed 2 lives and left five people wounded, a Ramadi car bombing claimed the lives of 4 members of the "Awakening" Council members and left three people wounded, a Salahuddin Province car bombing that claimed the life of 1 "Awakening" Council member, 2 Diyala Province roadside bombings that claimed the lives of 1 child and 2 Iraqi soldiers and left six family members of the child injured. Reuters notes a Mosul mortar attack that left eleven people injured.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the Najaf assassination of Seyid Riyadh al-Noori ("brother in law to Seyid Muqtada al-Sadr") "as he was returning from Friday prayers." CBS and AP note that Najaf is now under curfew. Reuters notes a police officer was shot dead outside Baiji and "three of his children" were wounded in the attack while, elsewhere in Mosul, 1 more person was shot dead.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 corpses discovered in Baghdad and 1 corpse (police officer) in Kirkuk.

Turning to US presidential politics. "I believe that impeachment was taken off the table because it's far easier to distance one's self from the American people than it is to distance one's self from the corridors of power,"
Cynthia McKinney declares to Cindy Piester (video only). McKinney is running for the presidential nomination from the Green Party. In a wide ranging interview, Piester takes you through McKinney's long years of public service, in Georgia's state legisture, in the US Congress and the social justice issues that matter to her campaign. Kevin Zeese (Dissident Voice) writes of McKinney, "McKinney served 12 years in the U.S. House of Representatives where she urged an end to the Iraq occupation, advocated for impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, sought release of 9/11 Commission's underlying data, advocated on behalf of Katrina victims and sought to cut the bloated military budget. Twice she was defeated in the primary by a Democratic Party leadership approved candidate who worked with Republican cross-over voters for her defeat. She registered Green in September and became a candidate in a 'Power to the People' campaign in October. She is the putative nominee of the Green Party and will be on the ballot in almost all states." Stephanie M. Lee (The Daily Californian) reports on Wednesday's political forum at UC Berkeley and notes: "Larry Shoup, a local activist backing Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney, said preserving minority viewpoints is crucial in a democracy. 'Once (Clinton or Obama) are elected, in our view they're going to move to the center,' Shoup said. 'The only way we can keep them honest and moving toward good positions is if we have an independent movement." How might Obama respond to that? "And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations"? Susan UnPC (No Quarter) notes that statement of Obama's that's raising eyebrows. Hillary Clinton's response is: "I saw in the media it's being reported that my opponent said that the people of Pennsylvania who faced hard times are bitter. Well, that's not my experience. As I travel around Pennsylvania, I meet people who are resilient, who are optimistic, who are positive, who are rolling up their sleeves. They are working hard everyday for a better future, for themselves and their children. Pennsylvanians don't need a president who looks down on them, they need a president who stands up for them, who fights for them, who works hard for your futures, your jobs, your families."

Judi Panasik (The Weekly Reader) points out, "Obama, like the last two Bush campaigns, is playing off of the fears and concerns of voters with no real merit behind what he is saying. . . . And correct me if I'm wrong but wasn't it Bush that convinced us the country was divided and that he would be the one to bring us all together?" From Obama to a candidate who actually stands for something . . . Ralph Nader is running for president. He has selected Matt Gonzalez as his running mate. Angelica Dongallo (The Daily Californian) reports that Gonzalez spoke about Obama's voting record:

"I'm picking on Senator Obama ... because your professor told me this is a pretty strong Obama crowd," Gonzalez said. "It says something about a candidate that can stand in front of you and repeatedly say, 'I can change the culture of Washington, (D.C.)' ... without giving you an accounting of what is going on here. What are these votes about?"

Earlier this week, Foon Rhee was 'covering' (not covering) Senator Hillary Clinton's proposals for breast cancer research. Rhee (Boston Globe) is back to gloat that Nader's campaign "is off to a slow start filling its campaign coffers" having pulled in $321,700 through February. Though not the millions the 2008 Democratic and GOP races that began in 2007 has gotten many to accustomed to, that's an impressive amount for a third party candidate. Rhee seems unaware when Nader declared he was running for president -- February 23rd. Again, that is an impressive amount to have pulled in. Ralph Nader writes: "

April 15 is around the corner.
Could the corporate executives of this country please stand up and show a little appreciation?
To the taxpayers who subsidize them? And bail them out?
How about the $30 billion bailout of reckless Bear Stearns as the most recent and egregious example?
I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that April 15th of each year be designated Taxpayer Appreciation Day, a day when corporations receiving taxpayer subsidies, bailouts, handouts and other forms of corporate welfare can express their thanks to the citizens who provide them.

US Senator Hillary Clinton is running for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Nichola Gutgold (WMC) compares and contrasts the way Clinton and Obama are speaking to voters in Pennsylvania and determines Hillary's is more effective and cites this example of Hillary connecting with voters:

I met with a group of truck drivers in Harrisburg yesterday. They are pretty fed up with high fuel prices and they were making their opinions known. Who is listening? I'm listening, but it doesn't seem like the White House is listening. The president is too busy holding hands with the Saudis to care about American truck drivers who can't afford to fill up their tank any longer. I meet workers all over Pennsylvania and elsewhere who lost their pensions; they have seen companies go into bankruptcy and discharge their obligations. We have a vice president, who, when he was CEO of Halliburton--which now gets all these no bid contracts, don't they, from the government?--workers lost $25 billion in pensions. But Dick Cheney got to strap on a golden parachute worth $20 million. You get tax breaks to people who don't need them while our children get stuck with the bill.

Also at WMC,
Peggy Simpson interviews pioneer and political scientist Jo Freeman about the 2008 race. One point not made in the must-read-article is that, should Clinton win the nomination, November would find two women on the ballot for president -- Clinton and McKinney. Meanwhile Delilah Boyd (A Scriverner's Lament) weighs in on the insulting way Obama's been speaking to women lately. Nancy Reyes (Blogger News Network) notes a poll by Lifetime TV. The poll had an interesting finding that some reports are mentioning but no one is highlighting. This finding directly contradicts everything the MSM has repeatedly told news consumers. From Ellen Wulfhorst (Reuters):

As to Obama, 23 percent said they liked him more now than in January, citing his personal characteristics, while 22 percent said they liked him less. Of those, the most common reason was the Illinois senator's controversial relationship with the outspoken Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

That would be the 'non-issue' Wright who damned the United States from the front of his church in the midst of a sermon. One who did get it was Stuart Taylor Jr. and
click here for his piece Monday for National Journal (that was noted in Tuesday's snapshot but the link didn't make it into the snapshot).

Tonight (in most markets)
NOW on PBS explores poverty. Bill Moyers Journal (also PBS and also tonight in most markets) looks at hunger in America. On the issue of economic realities David Bacon examines day laborers as he continues to report on immigrants and, in September, his latest book is released on this topic: Illegal Workers -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press). You can also see his work here at Political Affairs magazine. Sunday on WBAI (11:00 a.m. EST), The Next Hour is hosted by Andrew Andrew and, on Monday, Cat Radio Cafe (2:00 p.m. EST):Adam Mansbach talks about his new novel, "The End of the Jews"; Stephen Frailey, head of the Department of Photography at the School of Visual Arts discusses "The 2008 Mentors Exhibition"; and painter Simon Dinnerstein discusses his collaboration with his daughter, virtuoso pianist Simone Dinnerstein and radio star Robin Quivers on "A Night of Music & Art with the Dinnersteins," a fundraiser for Healing Bridges, an organization creating jobs for women in Africa.

mcclatchy newspapers

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hillary gets 3 more superdelegates

In front of a lively crowd at Radio City Music Hall in New York, Elton John "Crocodile Rocked" the house in honor of his good friend Hillary Clinton last night. Elton put on a tremendous performance -- his piano playing was unbelievable and he really engaged the crowd, calling out for cheers and urging people to sing along.
By the end of the night everyone was up out of their seats and dancing to the music – even Hillary! The crowd gave Elton several standing ovations, especially when he slipped Hillary’s name into one of the songs. Towards the end of the concert, Elton told the crowd that as a close friend of Hillary, he knows she is the one who can turn our country around. To top off the moment, he dedicated the perfect song to Hillary: "I'm Still Standing." Although the applause for Elton was impressive, the crowd erupted at the end of the night when Hillary joined him on stage with President Clinton and Chelsea. If you asked any of the concert-goers, "Can you feel the love tonight?" the answer was a resounding "yes!"

Yes, it was great and that's from Lindsay Levin's "I'm Still Standing." A number of you e-mailed on why I posted early yesterday. That's why. Elaine and I both did.That was a great night and we were up forever. Elaine had cleared her morning appointments and I had the morning off from work but even so we're both dragging tonight.

Thank you C.I. I mentioned, during the roundtable, how tired I was and C.I. texted me just a second ago and said to check my e-mails. This is from the Wall St. Journal:

After weeks of news about superdelegates choosing rival Barack Obama, Clinton picked up three endorsements in 36 hours.
The campaign exuberantly announced as the candidate headed to Pennsylvania for a day packed with campaign events that Sophie Masloff, a former mayor of Pittsburgh, will endorse Clinton. Masloff made the announcement Thursday night at the Allegheny County Democrats' annual Jefferson Jackson Dinner.
Clinton also picked up the support of Bill Burga, a former president of the Ohio chapter of the AFL-CIO.
Jackie Speier, who this week took over the late Tom Santo's seat in Congress, announced she would be supporting Clinton.

And this is from Stuart Rothenberg's "Why Should Clinton Just Pack It In When Nothing Is Decided?" (written before the news of the superdelegates):

Clinton's upset scenario is based on two hopes. First, she must hope that Obama makes another mistake or that information surfaces that so far has not. Given the Illinois Senator's relatively brief time under the national microscope, that certainly is possible.
And second, Clinton must hope that before Obama locks up the nomination, national polls show that she has a much better chance of beating McCain than he does. The "electability" issue remains a wild card in the Democratic contest, and it could well be the Clinton campaign’s best hope.
Finally, it's more than a little amusing that some observers are calling for Clinton's exit given the twists and turns that we have seen during this campaign. Obama wasn’t expected to win Iowa. After he did, Clinton was widely regarded as DOA in New Hampshire, which she won. McCain's candidacy was all but over in July and August.
You'd think that we’d all be a bit more humble and modest given the presidential elections we've witnessed over the past decade, especially since there are just a couple of months to go until the primaries are over.
Clinton should play every card she has in her hand. She owes it to herself and, even more important, to all of her supporters.

Gina asked C.I. to go over the superdelegate math (Clinton's ahead and far ahead when you count publicly undeclared who are in her corner) during the roundtable and it really is going to be a battle at the convention. :D Oh, I have an e-mail from Beau asking me what I think about Bill Richardson and James Carville? I know Ava and C.I. aren't commenting so, let me make it clear, this is my opinion only. I think Carville's right. Richardson's watching this year's Superbowl with the Clintons, he got how many jobs from Bill Clinton? Bill campaigned for him in the New Mexico race. So I agree with Carville that Richardson was a Judas. (But not a surprising one. I will pass on that. Ava and C.I. called that back in January. I forget which TV commentary but they knew it and they avoided lobbying him as a result.) I think Richardson's being a bitty-baby about it because it stings. He was a Judas and it hurts him that he got called on it. I don't dislike Bill Richardson now. And he can certainly do whatever he wants. But when you do something like that you are a Judas. I mean, Tony was over here watching the Superbowl. If me and somebody else were running for the same spot and Tone endorsed the other person, I'd tell him, "Anthony, you are a Judas." He might argue and get his feelings hurt but the fact would remain that he was a Judas. I'd be surprised if Ava and C.I. didn't agree with me but they're not saying a word even if you ask them. (They both know Bill Richardson.)

Need a big laugh? This is from the New York Times about Bambi and that foreign experience he supposedly has:

To counter opponents' accusations that he lacks experience in foreign policy, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois often cites his ties to relatives in poor villages in Kenya and the years he spent growing up in Indonesia. Now he has added a new personal detail to that resume: a trip to Pakistan while a college student.

He left Indonesia at age eleven, right? And he didn't live there every year. As for his "relatives in poor villages in Kenya," he never met them until 1995. He's not visited since. They live in "poor villages," he lives in a mansion. It's not playing out well.

Here's Howard Wolfson's "HUBdate: Commander-in-Chief on Day One:"

Ready to be Commander-in-Chief: Yesterday, Hillary hosted a "Solutions for a Strong Military" town hall in Aliquippa, PA...Standing alongside retired Generals and Admirals, and local PA vets, Hillary discussed her "agenda to improve veterans services." Read more.
Calling on President Bush: At yesterday’s event, Clinton also "demanded that President Bush disclose his 'endgame’ in Iraq…She also asked Bush to pledge in a speech today on Iraqi policy that he would allow Congress to 'review and vote on' any long-term security pact the administration negotiates with the Iraqi government."
Read more and more.
Setting the Record Straight: In a new 60-second radio ad, the Clinton campaign aims to set the record straight on Sen. Obama's energy record. A misleading television ad claims Sen. Obama doesn’t take money from oil companies when in fact "Obama has accepted more than $213,000 from individuals who work for companies in the oil and gas industry and their spouses." Read the
fact check. Listen here.
New Endorsement: Former Pittsburgh Mayor and superdelegate, Sophie Masloff, endorsed Hillary today in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Read more.
Strong in Puerto Rico: A new Puerto Rico poll conducted by Research & Research shows Hillary with a 13-point lead over Sen. Obama.
Results here.
Partner in Democracy: Yesterday, as "part of a whirlwind tour of eastern Pennsylvania…[former Secretary of State Madeleine] Albright told a group of about 75 people gathered in a classroom...'We had a partnership. [Hillary] was able to deliver a tough message to leaders and then go out to the countryside and meet with women’s groups and show her human side."
Read more.
Smart, Tough, and Committed: In a Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed, a supporter says of Hillary: "She still believes that ideas matter. She is intellectually brainy and emotionally brawny. She has the kind of remarkable endurance that makes it possible for her to press on, despite the klieg lights of controversy and criticism almost always trained in her direction. These are critical attributes for a world leader, and a U.S. president."
Read more.
Rocket Man Lends Star Power: Sir Elton John performed at a Hillary event at Radio City Music Hall in New York, raising more that $2.5 million for her campaign.
Read more.
Today in PA: Hillary attends the Beaver County Democratic Dinner in Hopewell Township, and gives remarks at the Allegheny County Jefferson Jackson Dinner in Pittsburgh.
On Tap: Hillary will campaign in the Philadelphia area on Friday and in Indiana on Saturday.
In Case You Missed It: The McCain campaign is renewing criticisms of Sen. Barack Obama for "deriding the public financing system for presidential[ing] it the latest signal that the Democratic candidate may abandon a promise to participate in the system, should he become the Democratic nominee."
Read more.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, April 10, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces more deaths, what happens in Iraq come December 31st, Senate hearings, and more.

Starting with war resistance. War resistance includes resisting moves to put the draft back in place in the US so consider The Huffington Post no friend to war resisters since they insist upon running the crazy scribbles of a Bambi groupie named Frank Schaeffer who argues "progressives" (I guess that's to include the Closet Political Types and not just liberals) must support the draft and that the lack of a draft is why the illegal war drags on and that's due to an elevation of the military. What? Joe Lieberman tossed the 2000 election on NBC's Meet the Press when he waived all voting rules and regulations for those serving in the military who voted in Florida. That had nothing to do with the Iraq War. There is a glorification of the military (though not of individuals actually serving in the ranks who are ignored repeatedly in the press), there always has been. It helps sell wars. It's how corporations work. Maybe Right Wing Daddy hit Frankie too hard one day but the last thing the US needs is a draft. Wouldn't that argument, though, come from someone safely out of the age of a draft? Yeah, it would.

The lack of a draft isn't why the illegal war has dragged on. Were there a draft in place and able to immediately implement a draft lottery on March 1, 2003, it still wouldn't have made a difference in the illegal war going on currently. The Bully Boy believes in outsourcing. He believes in corporate welfare. The mercenaries (such as Blackwater) in Iraq currently would still be there even if there was a draft because the whole point -- something many generals objected to in real time (but Frankie forgets that) -- was to do the war on the cheap and to put as few boots on the ground as possible. So a draft is nonsense, it wouldn't have made a difference. Bully Boy wouldn't have activated it. I'm really sick of all the closeted types hiding behind the label "progressive" but the reality is there is nothing in it for the left in calling for a draft. That is so offensive and it would have to come from an idiot raised by a right-wing radical. There are no standards at The Huffington Post. We've seen that over and over. We've seen mentally disabled children MADE FUN of by those posting articles (not comments, articles) at The Huffington Post. There are NO standards. Crazy Frankie loves Bambi Obama and that's good enough for Arianna. We're not linking to that crap site. When they thought it was okay to make fun of mentally disabled children, they crossed a serious line. We're done with them. And we're obviously not missing anything since Fundamentalist Frankie is a featured writer there. (You'll note, Frankie's not a Democrat. If they had to depend upon actual Democrats to voice support for Barack, you'd hear nothing but crickets chirping.) The US doesn't need a draft and the left needs to loudly call that nonsense out.

They also need to pay attention to Canada. War resisters in Canada are attempting to be granted safe harbor. The Canadian Parliament will debate a measure this month on that issue. You can make your voice heard. Three e-mails addresses to focus on are: Prime Minister Stephen Harper ( -- that's pm at who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion ( -- that's Dion.S at who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua ( -- that's Bevilacqua.M at who is the Liberal Party's Critic for Citizenship and Immigration. A few more can be found here at War Resisters Support Campaign. For those in the US, Courage to Resist has an online form that's very easy to use.
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Matt Mishler, Josh Randall, Robby Keller, Justiniano Rodrigues, Chuck Wiley, James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb,
Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Clara Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Logan Laituri, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum. Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).

Hearings went on today regarding Iraq and we'll note them after the reported violence in Iraq but first we'll note that, yesterday, the US Senate's Committee on Foreign Relations held a meeting presided over by Senator Bill Nelson. Among those testifying was Mary Beth Kineston who noted at the start:

I hold a commercial truck driver's license and my husband John and I joined KBR on January 19, 2004 in order to go to Iraq and work for KBR at Camp Anaconda in what appeared to be an exciting and well paying truck driving job. I would earn compensation at the rate of about $84,000.00 per year tax free when employed at KBR. When I was hired I expected that KBR would protect my physical safety while working as far as it was able and I did not expect any special treatment merely because I was a female. I am a hard worker and a loyal employee and can deal with my share of hardships as evidenced by the fact I voluntarily agreed to work for KBR at a forward combat basein a war zone in Iraq as a condition of my employment. It is undisputed I was qualified for KBR employment as a truck driver at all times relevant. However, that being said, I was not expecting to trade my self respect or right to be free from sexual assault as a condition of continued KBR employment and I did not view myself as selling my human dignity as a female employee when I accepted KBR paychecks. I also expected that when I made a complaint about such activity, it would be thoroughly investigated in good faith, that is, with an intent to resolve the problem immediately, and that I would be protected from the perpetrator in the mean time. I also expected that if the laws were broken by KBR relative to gender discrimination or if I were a victim of a crime I would have an adequate legal remedy for the offense. I expected that given KBR had a sexual harassment policy and given KBR was obligated to abide by federal civil rights laws regarding gender discrimination it would protect me in the event I was a target of any sexual misconduct by co-workers. I can assure this Committee that none of my expectations about KBR were fulfilled.

Along with illegal sexual harassment, being denied access to restrooms, food and water, Kineston was raped and sexually assaulted after. She noted, "The perpetrators in my case have not spent a day in jail although they committed crimes on what amounts to in effect U.S. soil and committed acts that in this country would enver be tolerated."

"The bottom line,"
Senator Nelson stated, "is that American women working in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to be assaulted while their assailants continue to go free. Either the U.S. government has the authority to prosecute contractors for sexual assault and is failing to do so, or it doesn't have the authority or resources it needs and hasn't come to Congress. Either way, it is a travesty." Lesley Clark (Miami Herald) reports: "An attorney with the Defense Department told Nelson the Pentagon is ramping up efforts to stamp out sexual harassment among government contractors." That would be Assoc Dept General Counsel for Military Justice and Personnel Policy at the Dept of Defense Robert Reed who declared, "The Department of Defense has engaged in a concerted effort to combat sexual assaults within our stateside and overseas military communities. Beginning in early 2005, over a dozen policy memorandums were issued that addressed sexual assault issues and care for victims of sexual assalt. The Department established a Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office to further these policy issues and, by June 2006, issued a DoD directive and DoD Instruction on the Sexual Assault and Prevention and Response Program. The Program includes a netowrk of Sexual Assault and Response Coordinators and Sexual Assalut Victim Advocates who assist victims of sexual assault." That's blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Memos? They issued memos? Well that certainly is cover-your-own-ass-we've-got-documentation. But it's not addressing the situation and they have refused to address the situation. The programs are underfunded. The victims are discouraged from them. The 'justice' is non-existant. Kim Wendel (WKYC) notes that Dawn Leamon testified of how "she was sodomized and forced to have oral sex with a soldier and a co-worker after she drank a cocktail that made her feel strange." Maddy Sauer (ABC News) reports that when Leamon reported the sexual assaults, she was encouraged not to report it ("You know what will happen if you do") by KBR, she was "then assigned full-time security guards to her which gave her no privacy to talk about the incident, and her movements around camp were restricted, yet her attackers' movements were unrestricted." If it sounds familiar, you may be thinking back to December when Brian Ross, Maddy Sauer and Justin Rood were reporting on 22-year-old Jamie Leigh Jones who went to Iraq to work but ended up getting gang-raped by employees for Halliburton/KBR. The rape was folloed by KBR holding Jones in a pod and denying her food, water and contact with the outside world. A sympathetic co-worker passed her a cell phone allowing her to phone her father, "I said, 'Dad, I've been raped. I don't know what to do. I'm in this container, and I'm not able to leave." As US Senator Hillary Clinton [PDF format warning] noted then:

As I hope you are all aware, recent news accounts indicate that Ms. Jones, a Halliburton/KBR employee in Baghdad, alleges she was gang-raped by her fellow employees and then held under guard against her will in a shipping container in order to prevent her from reporting the horrific crime. She states that she was denied food and water during her detention and told that she would be fired if she left Iraq to seek medical attention. More than two years later, news reports state that no U.S. government agency or department has undertaken a proper investigation of the incident. These claims must be taken seriously and the U.S. government must act immediately to investigate Ms. Jones' claims. These allegations implicate all three of your departments. If one of your departments has already launched a private investigation, I urge you to disclose your findings without delay. If no investigation has been started, I urge you to decide the proper course for an inquiry into these claims and to commence your investigation with the utmost urgency.

In Iraq,
Sam Dagher (Christian Science Monitor) reports, "Since March 25, when clashes with the Mahdi Army started in Basra, Baghdad, and other parts of southern Iraq, at least 142 people have been killed and 800 wounded in Sadr City alone, according to Qassim al-Suwaidi, the hospital's director [Iman Ali Hospital]. Nearly one-third of the victims have been women and children, he says. On Thursday, US air strikes continued to hit buildings in Sadr City and at least 15 people were killed in the district, the Mahdi Army's main Baghdad stronghold. The US military says it is targeting 'criminals'." Targeting 'criminals'? You heard the same excuse from the puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki during the assault on Basra. A McClatchy Newspapers Iraqi correspondent visits the area and writes (at Inside Iraq):

When I passed the small bridge towards the new bus station, I noticed that I couldn't hear the shouting of the drivers. I kept walking for about five minutes and I reached the area I couldn't find the buses. I asked a young man and he told me that they were ordered by the American and the Iraqi forces not to stop in the place and more. I saw few American military vehicles. The street was empty. The Youngman told me "if you plan to walk, go through the bystreets because the American snipers may shoot you."

[. . .]

I know there is an ongoing fight between the American and the Iraqi forces from one side and the gunmen from Sadr City on the other side but I also know very well that there are thousands of families sponsors need to leave Sadr City to work in other places. Their life and their families needs depend on their daily wages they get. No daily wages may mean no lunch or no dinner for these families. People in Sadr City now suffer from the lack of food substances. Everybody knows that empty stomachs are always angry and dangerous. I believe that the military commanders who decided to impose the blockade on Sadr City know very well that women, old men, infants and children of Sadr City don't fight them. What is going on now in Sadr City is seems like mass punishment. It's not fair to punish the innocent and treat them as insurgents because they are not.

Anwar Ali (NYT's Baghdad Bureau) wrote Tuesday, "At the beginning we thought that maybe things would settle down within a few days, and we would again be busy following other usual problems like mortar shells, car boms, suicide bombers and I.E.D.s. In fact most of the people in most of the Shiite neighborhoods like ours are Sadrist, if not Mahdi Army, and they are very many. So we thought that the government would not do anything serious here because the Sadrists are the majority, and we can find them even within the army and the police. . . . In fact I realized that we still want to believe that the security situation is imporving and that those clashes are an illusion, and that the concrete proof of this is that we are still alive no matter what is going on around us." Kim Sengupta (Independent of London) reports, "The Iraqi capital remains under curfew after another round of bloodshed in which mortar rounds landed in Sadr City, killing seven people, including two children, and injuring 24 others. Further gunfights in the sprawling Shia slum led to six more dying and 15 others being wounded. The area is a centre of support for the radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and came after days of clashes between his militia, the Mehdi Army, and Iraqi government forces in which 55 people have been killed and more than 200 injured. The Shia fighters vowed last night that retribution would be taken for the 'unprovoked attack' in Sadr City which they claimed was the responsibility of the US forces." As Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) noted earlier this week, US Ambassador Ryan Crocker was telling the US Congress this week that the passage of a bill calling for provincial elections was progress (those elections may or may not take place) but "[m]any Sadr loyalists viewed the offensive" currently going on in Iraq "as an attempt by Maliki's Dawa party and the Shiite rivals of the Sadr movement to undercut the much more popular Shiite movement prior to elections in October." Of planned elections, Mariam Karouny (Reuters) explains that, "Major players -- such as the movement of populist Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and Sunni Arab tribal groups -- will be competing for the first time and are expected to make gains at the expense of those now in power. . . . The results will provide early clues on how parties will far in parliamentary elections scheduled for 2009 -- polls that will determine if Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki retains power or another leader takes his place." Citing "an Iraqi Interior Ministry official," UPI reveals that 6 civilians have died in "the past 24 hours from two U.S. air strikes in Sadr City area in Baghdad". Presna Latina reports, "The US warplanes continue targeting civilian areas, claiming that those opposed to the Iraqi government and the foreign occupation, as the Mahdi Army militants loyal to Shia Muslim clergyman Moqtada al Sadr, are hidden there." Iran's Press TV speaks to Salman al-Fraiji who "noted that three million inhabitants of Sadr City are presently under siege. They are prevented from leaving and from reaching food supplies" and quotes him stating, "We will obey the orders of Moqtada al-Sadr but if the violence against the Iraqis continues, if the blood of Iraqis continues to be spilled, the ceasefire will definitely be lifted." AFP cites, "An AFP reporter who toured Sadr City in the afternoon said streets were shaken sporadically by the sound of automatic gunfire while loud explosions were heard from time to time. The main streets were deserted. Residents said the roadways are primed with bombs placed by Shiite militiamen fighting US forces. US Apache helicopters were seen flying high overhead while the sound of warplanes could be heard."

In some of the other reported violence today . . .


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 Baghdad roadside bombings that left eight people wounded, an attempted assassination via bombing in Salahuddin Province on the "Head of the Muncipal Council of Dor" that he survived, a Mosul mortar attack that left eleven people wounded and 2 car bombings in Mosul that claimed 4 lives (three police officers, one civilian) and left twenty-five people injured.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a PUK member was shot dead in Nineveh province today, two children were shot dead in Kirkuk today and 1 representative of the Ministry of Interior was shot dead in Salahudding Province along "with one of his relatives". Reuters notes that the Kirkuk shooting that killed the two boys also wounded their parents.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes 33 corpses were discovered in Mahmudiyah.

Today the
US military announced: "A Coalition force Soldier was killed when an improvised explosive device struck his vehicle during convoy operations in central Baghdad April 9." ICCC's total is 4032 US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war with 19 of those announced beginning on Sunday.

In Iraqi legal news,
Free Bilal. As Reporters Without Borders notes AP photographer, Pulitzer Prize winner, Bilal Hussein has been found not guilty of charges in the Iraqi courts -- trumped up charges the US has hidden behind to imprison him since April 12, 2006. Robert H. Reid (AP) reports that the court found Bilal "should be 'immediately' released" and yet the US military has not released him. Noah Barkin (Reuters) reports the US military is tating that they will 'review' his status.

Damien McElroy (Telegraph of London) reports: "A secret draft agreement is being drawn up to allow United States forces to remain in Iraq indefinitely, it has been reported. The document, which was written a month ago and is and marked 'secret' and 'sensitive,' is intended to replace the United Nations mandate for coalition troops, including British forces, to remain in Iraq, which expires at the end of the year. The draft authorisation would allow for the US to 'conduct military operations in Iraq and to detain individuals when necessary for imperative reasons of security'." That sets the stage for this morning's hearing by the US Senate's Committee on Foreign Relations. Senator Joe Biden is the chair of that committee and it has been addressing Iraq this week and last. McElroy was reporting on the treaty the White House wants to sign with puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki, the one they're calling a Status of Forces Agreement. As the hearing wound down, Biden informed David Satterfield (US State Department) and Mary Beth Long (US Defense Dept), "I respectfully suggest that you don't have a Constitutional leg to stand on."

But that was the conclusion. The hearing started with Biden noting the Declaration of Principles that Bully Boy and al-Maliki put their names to in November which sent up "many red flags with me and other Americans. We've pledged we're not only going to consult when there is an outside threat, but also when there is an inside threat. We've just witnessed when Mr. Maliki engaged in the use of force against another Shia group in the south, is this an inside threat?

Senator Joe Biden: We will hear today about the two agreements that the Administration is negotiating with Iraq which were anticipated in the November Declaration. On Tuesday, Ambassador Crocker told us that these agreements would set forth the "vision" -- his phrase -- of our bilateral relationship with Iraq. One agreement is a "strategic framework agreement" that will include the economic, political and security issues outlined in the Declaration of Principles. The document might be better titled "What the United States will do for Iraq," because it consists mostly of a series of promises that flow in one direction -- promises by the United States to a sectarian government that has thus far failed to reach the political compromises necessary to have a stable country. We're told that the reason why we're not continuing under the UN umbrella is because the Iraqis say they have a sovereign country. But they don't want a Status of Forces Agreement because that flows two ways. The Administration tells us it's not binding, but the Iraqi parliament is going to think it is. The second agreement is what Administration officials call a "standard" Status of Forces Agreement, which will govern the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq, including their entry into the country and the immunities to be granted to them under Iraqi law. Unlike most SOFAs, however, it would permit U.S. forces -- for the purposes of Iraqi law -- to engage in combat operations and detain insurgents. In other words, to detain people that we think are bad guys. I don't know any of the other nearly 90 Status of Forces Agreements that would allow a U.S. commander to arrest anyone he believes is a bad guy.

Biden spoke of how US Ambassador Ryan Crocker told the committee on Tuesday that this was about setting "forth a vision, to use his words, of our relationship with Iraq" but "one of the problems . . . is the visition this administrations shares for Iraq is not shared by two of the thee" current candidates for president in the Democratic and Republican Parties -- referring to Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Biden noted that those appearing before Congress keep stating that the agreements "aren't binding to us but, in Iraq, they think we mean it . . . because otherwise we wouldn't be having this kind of discussion." Biden noted the "internal threat" aspect being proposed and how these requires the US "to support the Iraqi government in its battle with all 'outlaw groups' -- that's a pretty expansive commitment." He noted that it requires the US "to take sides in Iraq's civil war" and that "there is no Iraqi government that we know of that will be in place a year from now -- half the government has walked out."

"Just understand my frustration," Biden explained. "We want to normalize a government that really doesn't exist." Senator Russ Feingold wanted to know if there were "any conditions that the Iraq government must meet?" No, that thought never occurred to the White House. "Given the fact that the Maliki government doesn't represent a true colation," Feingold asked, "won't this agreement [make it appear] we are taking sides in the civil war especially when most Iraqi Parliamentarians have called for the withdrawal of troops?" The two witnesses didn't appear to have heard that fact before. Feingold repeated and asked, "Are you not concerned at all that the majority of the Iraqi Parliament has called for withdrawal" Satterfield feels the US and the agreement "will enjoy broad popular support" in Iraq. Satterfield kept saying the agreement wasn't binding. And Feingold pointed out, "The agreement will not bind the Congress either, if the Congress were to" pass a law overriding it which seemed to confuse Satterfield requiring that Feingold again point that out and ask him if "Congress passed a clear law overriding the agreement, would the law override the agreement." Satterfield felt the White House "would have to look carefully at it at the time" because "it would propose difficult questions for us."

"I would suggest," Feingold responded, "your difficulties are with the nature of our Constitution. If we pass a law overiding it . . . that's the law." The treaty and the efforts to bypass the Senate's advise & consent role was something that bothered senators on both sides of the aisle. Senators Norm Coleman and Johnny Isakson also addressed it. Republican Isaskson wanted to know if the agreement being pushed could be cancelled "by either at any time". "Yes, sir," Satterfield responded. Isakson noted the "pending elections" and couldn't remember a time when anything like that had happened before, where you'd put forth an agreement like this so close to the end of term. Mary Beth Long wasn't aware of a precedent either. Sentor Coleman was also concerned with the timing.

Senator Robert Menendez pointed out that renewing the UN authorization would mean there was no need for an agreement. "Many of us on both sides of the aisle," Menendez stated, "believe that such an agreement needs to come before Congress." Menendez also felt that things were being offered without any bargaining being made, that "a tremendous leverage opportunity" was being wasted and, in doing so, "undermining a critical opportunity to make the Iraqi government make the hard choices." Senator Jim Webb built upon the legal issues. "In your view," he asked Satterfield, "the international authority after December 31st would come from what document?" Satterfield attempted to bob and weave to duck the issue but Webb pursued the topic forcing Satterfield to finally answer that it would be the executive agreement that would be "binding."

"What you're maintaining," Webb pointed out, "is that an executive agreement can bind us -- let me use a better word -- can authorize a continue military presence in Iraq?" Satterfield hemmed and hawwed but finally agreed leading Webb to stress that if "it's an essential document . . . I would argue it's a document that needs Senate consent."

Webb: What is a premanent base?

Satterfield: Senator the administration has made clear that we're not seeking permanent bases in Iraq.

Webb continued to explore the meaning of "permanent base" and asked Long, "Are there permanent bases in Japan?" Webb explained, "It's sort of a dead word, it doesn't really mean anything" noting the whole concept of 'permanence' and that "to say that these won't be permanent bases really doesn't go to what they will be. What we're saying won't be -- it's a dead word." He then noted that the Status of Forces Agreement the White House wants is said to "reflect all the major parties of Iraq but at this point it does not reflect all the major parties in the US."

As the hearing wound down, Biden pointed out, "Truth is, when this UN authorization expires in January, no other foreign forces are allowed to be in Iraq unless the Iraqi government" enters into contracts "with those countries" because they "can't piggyback on the agreement" the White House wants to make. He then took up the issue of the 2002 resolution and noted that if the US is creating an agreement "with a government in Iraq, it's not longer a threat ."

"That's an awful hard case to explain to the American people," Biden stressed, pointing to the death toll, the number wounded and how "if that ain't enough then guess what? If the Iraqi Parliament votes for us to go home, guess what? I predict 89% of Republicans, 95% of the Democrats [and --% of the independnets) will say, 'Hey, man, they don't want us? We're out of there."

This afternoon (and it's still going on as I dictate this), the US Senate Armed Services Committee heard from Sec of Defense Robert Gates and chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen. Senator Carl Levin is the chair of the committee. As Gates and Mullen completed their opening statements, Levin pointed out to Gates, "There's no way you can paper over the difference between" his view and that of Gen Petraeus over the brief pause in withdrawing the troops added in Iraq for the escalation/surge. Gates agreed that "there certainly is a difference in the way we described it" but felt it was just a misunderstanding and offered the most convulated justification (that included "I talked to the press at the time, I continue to believe . . . while we use different words") tried to say they were on the same page and that "I believe," come September, Petraeus will be on the same page with Gates but Petraeus needs to time to think. He's such a rebel, that Davy Petraeus. In fact, Gates was making like Darlene Love and singing, "He's a Rebel" to Congress. Levin wasn't buying it, "General Petraeus' testimony is very different from what you're saying hearing." Still sounding like a sap (or speaking for the girl groups of the 60s), Gates insisted it wasn't any different, he and Davy were just alike but "one of the benefits" to being Gates "is I'm allowed to hope more than" he does. "I hope that you're doing more than hoping," Levin deadpanned noting that Gates' job was to give a clear assessment to the president.

Senator Bill Nelson stressed the issue of reimbursment and wanted to know about that. He pressed Gates to figure out what "could be reimbursable by the Iraqis so that they don't come at the expense of the American taxpayers borrowing on future generations." Gates noted that "the subject of them reimbursing us . . . has not been broached yet." Nor apparently even considered due to "this focus on reconstruction and military equipment but" cheerily Gates added "based on this hearing, I'm more than happy to take this back to the administration."

As part of the latest wave of Operation Happy Talk, today Bully Boy gave a speech. Instead of recounting his nonsense, we'll note
Senator Hillary Clinton's response:

Today, President Bush delivered yet another address on Iraq -- but we've heard enough speeches that are long on promises, short on facts.
And the fact is, there will probably be more troops in Iraq after the surge than before the surge. Iraq has barely moved toward political reconciliation, meeting only a few of the benchmarks set out by the Bush Administration at the start of the surge. And violence has once again spiked in Baghdad and Basra.
On Tuesday, I asked General Petraeus when he came before the Senate Armed Services Committee what conditions would mean we should change course, given that the surge has failed to achieve political reconciliation. He did not answer.
Yesterday I called on President Bush to answer the question General Petraeus did not. But the President refuses to face reality.
I want to commend President Bush for agreeing to cut the length of deployments from 15 to 12 months. But it is deeply unfortunate that the President only made this change when the strain he placed on our forces required it.
Now, once again President Bush is asking Americans for time and patience -- but the American people are saying he's had enough of both.
Our troops have done all that's been asked of them and more. It's time for the President to answer the question being asked of him: in the wake of the failed surge, what is the endgame in Iraq?
As President, I will do what this president has failed to do: recognize reality and end the war responsibly.

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