Friday, April 16, 2010


Friday!!!! Weekend at last!!! :D Doing some TV talk tonight.

Okay, picking up on Eric Mass, this is from Carol D. Leonnig (Washington Post):

The day after Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) announced he was resigning amid a sexual harassment scandal, the congressman wrote a $40,000 check from a campaign account to his chief of staff, federal campaign records show.
In the records, Massa described
the March 4 payment to Joe Racalto as a "campaign management fee."
Racalto said through his attorney Friday that the lump-sum payment was for work on Massa's reelection campaign for 2010. Racalto agreed to defer being paid for 15 months -- until he learned Massa was not going to stay in office, the attorney said.

I was hoping he was innocent. But it appears he wasn't. I'll keep it updated as I see stuff on this story since I did write about it when the scandal broke.

Let's go to Fringe. On Thursdays on Fox and on Hulu on Friday mornings. I don't know. I'm really eager to see how this seaon ends. Peter's got to find out that he's not from this earth/plane. I keep waiting for it and really thought it would be this episode.

I'm really curious about how you deal with it.

When he finds out that he was taken from another dimension and that this Walter isn't his father, what happens?

Yeah, they look the same (the Walters) but they are not the same. And Peter's got to freak out.

I mean, how would you feel?

If I were Peter, I'd be so angry. I'm be enraged. And feel like a stranger raised and kidnapped me.

But I can't wait and wait for him to find out. He needs to find out real soon. This has been strung out enough.

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

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 [2009] 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.

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?


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.

the guardian
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
washington week

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Tonight I'm dealing with one topic only. An e-mail came in from Keith who had a question about something he saw. I showed it to my grandfather, my parents and told C.I. about it. All saw the problem.

It doesn't help anyone when you lie.

I hope that's clear enough.

And if you're claiming to be a Vietnam military resister, don't go on to lie in the telling of your story.

Or, I should say, "story."

Reading it for me, C.I. pointed out, "[Mohammed] Ali wasn't put in the stockades. If you resisted the draft and were caught -- as with David Harris -- you were tried in civilian courts. Not in military courts. You were not a member of the military, having refused induction. So you went to prison, a federal prison, and not a stockade, brig or military prison if you were convicted."

So the man writing the letter? There were two groups of resisters: Those resisting the draft and those resisting the military after induction (deserters).

He then goes on to lie about Carter's amnesty and how it helped him. What?

I hate liars. Carter didn't give a damn thing to deserters. Gerald Ford is who the idiot meant but he's slamming Ford in his letter and in a 2008 article he wrote.

Here's Andrew Glass (Politico):

On this day in 1977, President Jimmy Carter, in his first day in office, fulfilled a campaign promise by granting unconditional pardons to hundreds of thousands of men who had evaded the draft during the Vietnam War by fleeing the country or by failing to register.
Gerald Ford, Carter’s predecessor in the White House, offered conditional amnesty to some draft dodgers. Carter, however, seeking to heal the war’s physic wounds, set no conditions, although some individuals were excluded from the blanket pardon.
Thus, military deserters were ineligible. Also excluded were convicted civilian protestors who had engaged in acts of violence.

Before it was "The NewsHour," the PBS program was called The MacNeil/Lehrer Report. And from 1977, here they are reporting on Carter's pardon (and this is text and audio and video):

Meanwhile, many in amnesty groups say that Carter's pardon did too little. They pointed out that the president did not include deserters -- those who served in the war and left before their tour was completed -- or soldiers who received a less-than-honorable discharge. Civilian protesters, selective service employees and those who initiated any act of violence also were not covered in the pardon.

So ___ is lying in his letter (and in his article) that his desertion was pardoned by Carter and that his less-than-honorable discharge was taken away by Carter's pardon. By Ford's? It sounds like he jumped through the hoops of Ford's program.

But Carter didn't do a damn thing for deserters and people like "H" lying confuses the historical record. It needs to stop and next time I won't be nice. I'll note the publication and I'll note the LIAR by name.

I'm not interested in your bulls**t. I don't care care for Carter, I don't care for Ford. I have no vested interest in either of them (both were out of the White House before I was born). But I do care about the truth. And Vietnam resisters who lie disgrace themselves and the peace movement. They need to stop.

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

Thursday, April 15, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, rumors swirl about alliances in building Iraq's next government, a Congressional hearing demonstrates how institutionally screwed up (by all means, use a stronger word) the US government is, and more.

This morning the US House Armed Services Committee held a hearing. They were taking testimony from an "independent" panel on the Quadrennial Defense Review. Chair Ike Skelton called the hearing to order and moved to welcome members of the 'independent' panel who were present but would not be giving testimony. He declared, "Congress created the independent panel in the Fiscal Year 2007 National Defense Authorization Act. It was charged with conducting an assessment of the QDR [Quadrennial Defense Review] and presenting its findings to Congress. Last year, we expanded the panel by adding eight additional members appointed by the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committee."

And behind the curtain, waiting to provide testimony were William J. Perry and -- drum roll and possibly serial killer theme from a slasher movie -- Stephen J. Hadley.

Can someone explain that? Nancy Pelosi, you took impeachment "off the table." The country, the world didn't get the needed impeachment of Bully Boy Bush. You were a coward and put your own personal interests ahead of what the country and the Constitution needed -- what the Constitution demanded. But did you have to allow the criminals to be appointed by Congress to 'independent' panels?

Hadley's not the only one. In fact, the gossip girl Hadley's partner in crime in outing CIA agent Valerie Plame's on the panel. Explain HOW THE HELL THAT HAPPENS?

It happens because we have an INEFFECTIVE and INEPT Congress. They created this panel in 2007. If you're mind's functioning, you grasp that Democrats controlled both houses of Congress then (and now). There are 20 members on the panel. Congress only appoitns 8. They forked over 12 to the Secretary of Defense. With him/her selecting the majority of the members, it will never be independent and Congress needs to stop insulting the American people.

Nancy can at least take comfort in the fact that Stephen Hadley and his roll dog weren't appointed by Congress. Robert Gates appointed Hadley. He's also the one who appointed Richard Armitage. (
Click here for DoD press release.)

Richard Armitage. The Hedda Hopper of the DC set stepped forward, for those who don't remember or never knew, after an investigation was opened into the outing of CIA undercover agent
Valerie Plame. Dick revealed he was a real Chatty Cathy and, WOOPSIE!, he's the one who told journalist Robert Novak that Valerie Plame was CIA. After that, you really should be off the government payroll, after that you really are done. You shouldn't be trusted with any information at all. It's as though Dick burned down the White House while playing with matches and, shortly afterward, the US government decided to make him a ranger in charge of Sequoia National Forest.
Why does the country have so many problems? Your answer is found in that 'independen't panel. Be a government employee who outs a CIA agent and you get to continue doing government work, being paid for by the government? Congress creates an 'independent' panel but gives the Secretary of Defense the power to select the bulk of the committee members. It's nonsense and it's why DC runs in circles chasing its own tail. There is no accountability and you can do the most vile and disgusting thing and continue to receive the US tax payer money instead of having to get a real job. And that's Dick Armitage and Stephen Hadley both. Throughout 2005, at this site and at Third, we were noting Hadley's role in the outing (
click here for a July 2005 piece at Third). From SourceWatch:

National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley was "the senior administration official" who told Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor
Bob Woodward that Valerie Plame Wilson was a CIA officer, attorneys close to the investigation and intelligence officials" told Raw Story reporters Larisa Alexandrovna and Jason Leopold November 16, 2005.
Identified by the Washington Post as Rice's "top lieutenant", Hadley, "along with
CIA Director George J. Tenet -- took responsibility for allowing into Bush's State of the Union 2003 address a dubious and ultimately inaccurate claim about Saddam Hussein's efforts to obtain nuclear materials." [2]

Hadley not only outed Valerie Plame, he also couldn't properly vet a speech? And he's chairing a panel today -- with his salary paid for by the US tax payers?

There's no accountability and Congress rushes to turn over their own powers to flunkies in the executive branch. And it's there in the fact that Robert Gates remains Secretary of Defense when he should have been replaced long ago. How many scandals do you get to have on your watch before you are asked to step down? At the end of January,
Kevin Baron (Stars & Stripes' Stripes Central blog) called out the 'independent' panel:

Independent? In this town? You can't throw a lobbyist into DC without hitting a former government official somewhere. Last week the president of the left-leaning Center for a New American Security trumpeted his own selection to the panel. By the way, the Pentagon's policy chief in charge of the QDR, Michele Flournoy, was the last president of CNAS.
Maybe "bipartisan revolving door panel" is a better term.

"Prevailing in today's wars will also help our military prepare to defeat adversaries and succeed in a wide range of contingencies," Hadley prattled on after noting that losing "today's wars" would create further conflict. Could it? If so, maybe Hadley doesn't need to be on the panel?

If you sold the Iraq War, should you really be advising anything at this point? Hadley served on the White House Iraq Group.
From SourceWatch:

The White House Iraq Group (aka, White House Information Group or WHIG) was the marketing arm of the White House whose purpose was to sell the 2003
invasion of Iraq to the public.
[. . .]
Barton Gellman and Walter Pincus, in the
August 10, 2003 Washington Post, seem to have broken the story of the White House Iraq Group, [. . .]:
The escalation of nuclear rhetoric a year ago, including the introduction of the term "mushroom cloud" into the debate, coincided with the formation of a White House Iraq Group, or WHIG, a task force assigned to "educate the public" about the
threat from Saddam Hussein, as a participant put it.
Systematic coordination began in August 2002, when Chief of Staff
Andrew H. Card, Jr. formed the White House Iraq Group, or WHIG, to set strategy for each stage of the confrontation with Baghdad. A senior official who participated in its work called it "an internal working group, like many formed for priority issues, to make sure each part of the White House was fulfilling its responsibilities."
"In September 2002, the White House was beginning a major press offensive designed to prove that Iraq had a robust
nuclear weapons program. That campaign was meant to culminate in the president's Oct. 7 speech in Cincinnati." [1]

Why are we allowing anyone with these issues to advise -- on the tax payer dime -- what's needed and not needed?

I know Ike Skelton and like him, but he made a real fool of himself today patting himself and the Committee on the back as he claimed that they worked really hard to be not just bi-partisan but non-partisan. While appointing criminals to a panel? You want to brag about that? In fairness, repeating, Congress itself did not appoint Hadley and Armitage; however, when it surrendered the right to appoint all the members, they invited it, when they surrendered their own powers, they courted it. It's on them.

And Hadley couldn't stop mentioning Iran and he was far from the only one bringing it up in the hearing. That too is on the Democratically controlled Congress.

Hannah Allam (McClatchy's Miami Herald) reports that the last five months have seen at least $4 million counterfeit US dollars circulating in Iraq: "In recent weeks, the officers said, Iraqi and U.S. forces have launched an anti-counterfeiting push that involves educating merchants and bankers, as well as gathering intelligence on whether the money is linked to Iran's attempt to influence Iraq's March 7 parliamentary elections and to launder money for militia activity in Iraq's southern Shiite heartland." It is thought (or spun) by unnamed US officials that the fake money entered as a way to influence the March 7th elections and that Iran was in some way involved. (Thought, not sourced, not backed up.) Today Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported on her interview with Ayad Allawi who declared he is warning other Iraqi political groups:

I told them, 'Don't embark on this course. It's going to be very dangerous, it's going to be counterproductive, and the backlash will be severe. The whole foundation of whatever infant democracy we've built will be ruined.

Allawi's political slate came out with 91 seats in the Parliament. The second biggest seat winner was Nouri al-Maliki's slate. Nouri continues to insist that there was voter fraud. Fadel reports that Allawi (rightly) points out that none of the benchmarks have been met. Those benchmarks were set by the White House with the US Congress and Nouri al-Maliki signing off. Bully Boy Bush's gone. Those benchmarks are still the Congress' duty and they're Barack's now as well. For those who've forgotten, 'tough talking' Nance Pelosi and others were going to pull war funding if Iraq didn't show 'progress' by meeting 'benchmarks.' Never met and the illegal war is still fully funded. I guess Nancy took benchmarks "off the table." Fadel offers that Allawi could be shut out if the National Alliance teams with State Of Law. Yeah, if that happens. If. But that's not the big rumor coming out of Iraq these days regarding the next prime minister. Yesterday, the biggest was that Irbrahim al-Jaafari has secured some sort of guarantee from a number of groups including the Kurds. That's a rumor. And it's one the US State Dept has heard. If true, it'll be known soon enough since the Kurdish delegation goes into Baghdad next week to start official talks.
Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) reports:

President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, said the Kurdistan list consisting of his Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and Kurdish President Masoud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party, stood ready to back a tie-up between Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law bloc and the Iraqi National Alliance (INA).
Talabani made his comments after a meeting on Wednesday night with former Iraqi prime minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, whose faction is part of the INA.

Rahmat al-Salaam (Asharq Alawsat Newspaper) reports that the alliance is just waiting for the big announcement and:

As to choosing the next prime minister, the SLC spokesman said "the method will be within the framework of a mechanism that the two sides agree on and this allows all the parties inside this alliance to present their candidates. The person who will lead the next government will be chosen under this mechanism." Regarding the INA's conditions for having an alliance with the SLC, Al-Husni said "no conditions were imposed. The talk is about the government program, the mechanism for forming it, and making the decisions through it", adding that "there are no conditions and no concessions between the parties that will forge an alliance to form the largest parliamentary bloc."

Alsumaria TV reports, "Al Iraqiya LIst spokeman Haidar Al Mulla affirmed that the alliance between the State of Law Coalition and Iraq's National alliance is not clear yet. Al Iraqiya List has many chances to ally with other parties, Al Mulla noted. The Federal Court stipulates that to form a new government, both coalitions should be merged not allied, he argued. Al Iraqiya List will withdraw from the political process if the State of Law Coalition and Iraqi National Alliance merges." If the alliance takes place and if all members of both blocs are in the reported alliance, that would bring Nouri, et al 2 seats short of the needed 163. As noted some time ago, Iraq's religious minorities could end up being "king makers." Should they announce their merger and have no additional seats (or have a few from their two blocs bail), Allawi's slate could still be a winner. There are 325 people who were elected to Parliament. 161 (or less) going to the new alliance would still leave 164 seats.

82 of those seats,
Quil Lawrence (NPR's Morning Edition) reported today, are held by women.

Quil Lawrence: Afaf Abdel-Razzak would only be interviewed by phone. She's effectively gone into hiding since she won. Groups like al-Qaida still operate in Anbar and might target a female politician. She's been moving between Anbar and Baghdad, until the new parliament opens and she gets her official guard detail. Afaf is a teacher, and as a lawmaker, she's hoping to promote education along with women's rights. At the beginning, it wasn't conceivable that a woman could run, she says. But now, even in Anbar province, people will get used to the idea of having women be their voice in parliament.

online poll at Aswat Al Iraq asks: "How far did the Independent High Electoral Commision (IHEC) succeed in organizing and guaranteeing the integrity of the legislative elections?" The biggest vote getter is "No success" with 61% (1,220 votes), followed by (29%, 584 votes) "Great success," then "Medium Success" (7%, 149 votes) and "Limited succes" (3%, 52 votes). That is a non-scientific poll and is 'limited' to anyone who visits their website.

"Iraqi politicians insist they're forming a coalition government through a truly Iraqi process of consulation. It may seem strange then that the most substanitive meetings should happen in neighboring countries,"
declared NPR's Quil Lawrence (All Things Considered). Lawrence noted Nouri's strong criticism of 'outsiders' and states it was clear that Nouri was referring to Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, he reports that Nouri wasn't invited to visit Riyadh and that this was seen by some as a "snub" to Nouri. Meanwhile Alsumaria TV reports that Rafea al-Isaawi represented Iraqiya in Tehran yesterday while meeting with Ali Larijani, Speaker of Iran's Parliament, and with Saeed Jalili, Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council and they note that he was "expected as well to meet with Sayyed Moqtada Al Sadr over government formation talks and the possibility of new alliances" according to Iranian television.

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


Reuters notes a Baghdad drive by in which 1 Iraqi soldier was wounded and 3 suspected assailants were killed, 1 person was shot dead in a Mosul drive-by and a Mosul home invasion left 4 people shot dead (three were women).

Reuters notes 14 corpses were discovered in Samarra. Aswat Al Iraq reports that 1 corpse was discovered in Kut, a "decaying body, belongs to a 20-year-old man, bore signs of torture".

Salah Hemeid offers a think piece at Al-Ahram Weekly which includes the following:

US president Barack Obama, who swept into office on an anti-Iraq war ticket and has since claimed that the war is winding down, has signaled his determination to pull all US forces out of the country by the end of 2011. Commentators are nevertheless sceptical that Obama's pledge to remove "combat troops" by 1 September, leaving about 50,000 troops in "non-combat" roles, will bring about a real end to the war. If the violence in the country continues to soar, as has been threatened by last week's bombings, and goes on to spark another sectarian chain reaction, then, they argue, the United States will be forced to keep its troops in the country longer than has been promised.
In recent weeks there has been much speculation in the US media that the military might indeed try to slow down the withdrawal. Head of the US Central Command, General David Petraeus, had said the US may leave stronger-than-expected forces in northern Iraq if the situation requires it, even as it acts to reduce troops elsewhere in the country to targeted levels. Testifying before a Senate panel, Petraeus confirmed plans to meet Obama's target of 50,000 US troops in the country by the end of August, down from about 97,000 today. He also noted that the situation in Iraq remains fragile, despite declining levels of violence and the high turnout in the recent national elections, and said that the US military was still tinkering with plans on how best to administer the drawdown.
Last month General Ray Odierno, the top US general in Iraq, made international headlines when his request to keep a military combat unit in the contentious northern city of Kirkuk after next September was leaked to the media. Pentagon officials have made clear that US troops remaining in Iraq after 1 September, although technically on an "advise and assist" mission, will still be capable of conducting military operations.
And even as regular forces are withdrawn, many observers expect that the level of Special Operations forces will remain constant. Some have also argued that the designation of non-combat status is "a false dichotomy," since it implies that "everyone in the military is a combat soldier."
No matter what detailed conclusions one might draw, it remains clear that the US is in a serious situation that might force the Obama administration into rethinking its plans in Iraq. Is it time to start bringing the troops home, or is more time needed to complete US goals in the country?

Though vague while playing the rainmaker in those tent revivals throughout 2007 and 2008, Barack was very clear to the press that if things got 'worse' in Iraq, he wasn't opposed to halting a withdrawal schedule (which was then 1 brigade a month -- a broken promise) or sending in MORE troops.

yesterday's snapshot, this appeared: 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.) At the time 'terrorism plot foiled!' was the story being pushed hard. Many gladly embraced it and made fools of themselves. Nouri the hero! Preventing terrorist attacks! Foiling plots to attack with planes! 9-11 style! Prima facie, it was laughable. But, again, some ran with it. 'Najaf! And maybe Baghdad! Almost the targets of planes!' CNN reports today: "Sheikh Fayyad al-Shimari, head of the Najaf provincial council, and other officials downplayed reports of a security threat. 'There were talks concerning some security threats in Najaf,' he said. 'Those threats are not new to the province'." Reuters notes, "A Defence Ministry spokesman today denied reports a plot to crash a passenger jet into the Imam Ali shrine in Najaf, in southern Iraq, had been foiled while local Iraqi officials said reports like that had circulated for up to a year." It then goes on to cite a US official insisting it is true. And like most 'truth tellers,' the US official goes . . . unnamed.

Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of an assault in Iraq. Lamar W. Hankins (San Marcos Mercury) weighs in: As a longtime member of Military Families Speak Out, I don't write about war atrocities easily. But I believe that the American people as a whole have an unrealistic view about war and an unwillingness to accept that committing atrocities during war is inevitable. My conclusion is that engaging in war is morally justified only in self-defense or defense of another. Neither the Iraq nor Afghan war qualifies as justified under that standard. The US military (like virtually all other militaries in the world) train our troops using propaganda and psychological techniques from the ancient to the modern. We use these techniques to manipulate our troops into becoming a part of an operation whose primary purpose is to kill other human beings for purposes fancied by our political leaders. We tell our soldiers that they are serving their country, that they are protecting it, but too often they are merely carrying out some politically inspired or economically desired purpose that has nothing to do with serving and protecting the American people. Teba Mohammad (Independent Florida Alligator) also weighs in: I was outraged by the video -- not necessarily shocked -- because the U.S. Army has a history of slaying innocents and has always labeled it as "collateral damage." Since the war started in Iraq, civilians -- including journalists, farmers, doctors and children, to name a few -- have been ambushed and caught in the line of fire by military forces. Among the 12 Iraqis killed on that tragic day was Namir Noor-Eldeen, a prominent photojournalist who worked for Reuters. Though he was only 22 when he was killed, friends and coworkers describe him as a well-respected, brave human being who left behind an incredible body of work that documents the reality of war in Iraq. Another victim was Saeed Chmagh, a Reuters driver and assistant. He was 40 years old and left behind a wife and four children. Along with the dozen deceased Iraqis, two children were wounded.I could not help but think about these two human beings who had nothing to do with insurgency and did not even have weapons. They were normal, hardworking men with families, values and passion for their profession. How come these acts of murder are not covered by the U.S. media? Why do so many Iraqi victims get killed this way and their stories go untold?

In the US, Binghamton, New York may be getting a counter/cost ticker at City Hall which would detail the financial costs of the wars in real time. WBNG reports that the counter is scheduled to go up next week and that the city's mayor, Matt Ryan, "says it's needed so people realize the toll federal spending is taking on local budgets."
George Basler (Press & Sun-Bulletin) adds, "Ryan emphasized not one penny of taxpayer money is going to pay for the electronic sign, which will go up next week. The cost, set at about $6,000, is being funded entirely by private contributions from the Broome County Cost of War (COW) Project, a local peace action group that has been demonstrating against the two wars. The group also will pay for the sign's upkeep." USMC Combat veteran Nicholas Legos writes the Press & Sun-Bulletin to remind that the cost of war includes the dead and wounded as well as the financial cost. IPA issued the following press release yesterday: The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote Tuesday: "A group called the National Priorities Project has a popular web site that keeps a running tally of the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It even breaks down the cost per city and suggests what could have been purchased in a year with that tax money. ... "Matt Ryan, the mayor of Binghamton, N.Y., population 47,000, was so impressed with the numbers for his town that he plans to attach a digital cost-of-war counter to the facade of City Hall. By September, Binghamton taxpayers will have contributed $138 million to fund the wars." SUE McANANAMAA member of the Broome County Cost of War Project, McAnanama is speaking at a news conference Wednesday with Mayor Ryan. McAnanama said today: "People need to be aware of the simple facts about where our money is going. This year our Pentagon budget is $700 billion while our community and so many others around the nation are facing cutbacks and crises. ... "Binghamton taxpayers have spent $140 million for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars since 2001, which is more than enough to cover ALL local property tax bills for the next FOUR years. ... New York taxpayers have already spent $67 billion for the seven years of war in Iraq. Compare that to New York State's 2009 High Speed Rail Plan, announced in March of 2009, which aims to spend $10.7 billion to 'transform' and upgrade our transportation systems -- over the next 20 years. ... Private sources paid for the sign and even the electricity for it; no taxpayer funds were used for this project." For further information, see the Binghamton Bridge web site. JO COMERFORD CHRIS HELLMAN Comerford is executive director and Hellman is communications liaison for the National Priorities Project. This year their web site has a tax calculator where taxpayers can put in the amount of federal taxes they paid in 2009 (or 2008) and take stock of how the federal government spent each of their income tax dollars. It also provides localized information that community groups are using to create flyers that some are passing out in front of post offices as many people mail their tax forms tomorrow. Comerford wrote the piece "Tax Day and America's Wars: What the Mayor of One Community Hard Hit by War Spending Is Doing," which states: "A construction crew will soon arrive to install Binghamton's 'cost of war' counter which will overlook the city's busiest intersection and spur conversation around tax day. During the three minutes local motorists wait at the nearby traffic light, they can join Mayor Ryan in waving good-bye to $100. And Binghamton as a whole can grapple with spending $49,650 in war costs every day of 2010." For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Time and space won't permit more than a link to
Zeina Khodr (Al Jaezeera) on Iraqi security (link has text and video) but hopefully we can pick it up tomorrow and we may cover another hearing from today in tomorrow's snapshot.

mcclatchy newspapershannah allam
the washington postleila fadel
the san marcos mercurylamar w. hankinsthe independent florida alligatorteba mohammad
nprmorning editionquil lawrence
alsumaria tv
wbngipapress and sun bulletingeorge basler
all things considered

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Polls, Eric Massa, 24

Hump day and Obama at all time low in AP poll. :D Ha, ha. You get what you deserve. Karma may take a little time but it will get you. Or as one of my corny professors says (but I like him), "My dogma ate my karma." :D

I was covering Eric Massa when the rumors were swirling and when he stepped down. So I need to note that Jonathan Allen (Politico) has a new report:

Seems to me if you are filing a complaint against someone and you're an adult, you can come forward. Unless he was sexually assaulted, I don't understand the need for secrecy. (As a rule sexual harassment cases don't hide names, rape victims are generally off limits unless they go public.)

I think there's been enough secrecy on the issue.

And there's a battle raging. In the e-mails. 10 of you say Renee should have lived and 13 say her dying gave the show more depth. Wasn't trying to start up a debate when I shared my view (I think she should have lived). But it is interesting to read the e-mails. If you watched from the very start, by my e-mails, you think Renee needed to die to give Jack the kind of ending he needs. ("No sunsets!" wrote Coy.) If you joined later in the show, you think Renee should have lived and we should have had a happy ending.

Unlike me, all 10 who think Renee should have died plan to still watch up to the end. (This season is the final season.)

There was also a lot of relief because a lot of you like the show as an action TV show but feel like you can'[t due to torture or whatever. It's a TV show. I think it did promote torture. But it's a TV show. And if you're against torture, I wouldn't feel too bad about it. It's going off anyway.

That's going to be it. We've got a ton of sushi tonight and I was waiting until I posted to dive in but you know I can't wait long enough to do a long post! :D

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

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 ( 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, 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,
$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,
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,
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,
1 – Number of years President Bush took to turn the budget surplus he inherited from President Clinton into a budget deficit. [
OMB Data]

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.

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