Saturday, August 10, 2013

The deflation of Barack

Friday, the weekend at last.  My mom passed over something from Barry Grey and Andre Damon's piece for WSWS:

Obama personifies the antagonism between the entire political setup and the basic needs of the vast majority of the population. He won the election in 2008 by presenting himself as a progressive alternative to the hated administration of George W. Bush and its policies of war, social reaction and attacks on democratic rights. No sooner was he in office when he then began to repudiate his campaign promises.
Obama has intensified the right-wing policies of Bush: continuing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and launching new ones in Libya and Syria, deepening the attacks on democratic rights, and escalating the assault on the living standards of the working class. His rejection of any federal aid to Detroit signifies his administration’s support for the bankruptcy of Detroit to be used as a model for slashing the pensions of workers all over the country.
Obama’s reelection—against a multi-millionaire who made his fortune as a Wall Street asset-stripper—reflected the collapse of the popular illusions that helped propel him to power four years earlier. Voter turnout in 2012 fell by 10 million people from 2008. Obama’s own vote fell sharply, making him the first president in more than 60 years to be reelected with fewer votes in his second term than in his first.

I remember C.I. pointing this out in real time and my planning to write about that back then, but I never did.  But I think that goes to the reality about Barack.  He's not that popular.  I think it is so telling that he is the first president in 60 years to be re-elected with fewer votes.

It goes to the fact that he's a liar who has duped people.  In four years, at least 10 million people caught on and decided not to even bother to vote.

And that was before we learned about the illegal spying.  He really is a liar and a loser.

And I want to second C.I.'s point: It is not his job, role or function to comment on who is or is not a patriot.  He needs to shut his damn mouth.

I'm really offended that anyone holding the post would publicly declare any citizen to not be a patriot.

He really is trash.  Probably misses the days when he'd sit on step-daddy's lap and let himself be fondled.  Get treatment for your issues, Barack, and stop inflicting them on others.

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

Friday, August 9, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Iraqis continue to protest, Tim Arango offers an analysis of the violence, a report on the prison breaks is released, Barack holds a (brief) press conference on spying, NBC News struggles with the English language, a judge declines to release US political prisoner Lynne Stewart and more.

"No, I don't think Mr. Snowden was a patriot," huffed a snippy and petulant Barack Obama this afternoon as he was finally forced to hold a (brief) press conference.  "As I said in my opening remarks, I called for a thorough review of our surveillance operations before Mr. Snowden made these leaks.  My preference -- and I think the American people's preference would have been for a lawful, orderly examination of these laws."

Oh, poor, little pink thong-clad president, pantsed in front of the whole world, caught by surprise by that mean bully Ed Snowden and that trickey NSA!

Oh, wait, that's not how it happened at all but don't expect the cowardly press to point out that fact -- they're too busy cleaning up Barack's words in "No, I don't think Mr. Snowden was a patriot."

Barack did call for a review . . . in his first term as president.  It was done.  He was pleased with the results.  And thought he could continue to keep the results and the illegal spying from the knowledge of the American people.  As James Bamford notes in "They Know Much More Than You Think" (current issue of The New York Review of Books):

With the arrival of the Obama administration, the NSA’s powers continued to expand at the same time that administration officials and the NSA continued to deceive the American public on the extent of the spying. In addition to the denial I have mentioned by James Clapper, General Keith Alexander, the NSA director, also blatantly denied that his agency was keeping records on millions of Americans. In March 2012, Wired magazine published a cover story I wrote on the new one-million-square-foot NSA data center being built in Bluffdale, Utah. In the article, I interviewed William Binney, a former high-ranking NSA official who was largely responsible for automating the agency’s worldwide eavesdropping network. He quit the agency in 2001 in protest after he saw the system designed mainly for intelligence about foreign threats turned inward on the American public. In the interview, he told how the agency was tapping into the country’s communications and Internet networks. He revealed that it also was secretly obtaining warrantless access to billions of phone records of Americans, including those of both AT&T and Verizon. “They’re storing everything they gather,” he said.
In the months afterward, General Alexander repeatedly denied Binney’s charges. “No…we don’t hold data on US citizens,” he told Fox News, and at an Aspen Institute conference he said, “To think we’re collecting on every US person…that would be against the law.” He added, “The fact is we’re a foreign intelligence agency.”
But the documents released by Edward Snowden show that the NSA does have a large-scale program to gather the telephone records of every Verizon customer, including local calls, and presumably a similar agreement with AT&T and other companies. These are records of who called whom and when, not of the content of the conversations, although the NSA has, by other methods, access to the content of conversations as well. But the NSA has, on a daily basis, access to virtually everyone’s phone records, whether cell or landline, and can store, data-mine, and keep them indefinitely. Snowden’s documents describing the PRISM program show that the agency is also accessing the Internet data of the nine major Internet companies in the US, including Google and Yahoo.
Snowden’s documents and statements add greatly to an understanding of just how the NSA goes about conducting its eavesdropping and data-mining programs, and just how deceptive the NSA and the Obama administration have been in describing the agency’s activities to the American public.

And the deceptions continued today.  Barack was sworn in for his second term back in January.  Throughout his first term, the liar refused to inform the American people what was happening.

As I said in my opening remarks, I called for a thorough review of our surveillance operations before Mr. Snowden made these leaks.  My preference -- and I think the American people's preference would have been for a lawful, orderly examination of these laws.

He didn't go public in his first term and wouldn't have in his second if not for the brave actions of NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden.  The examination would not have included the American people were it not for Snowden.

The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald broke many of the recent spying stories and he Tweets:

  1. Obama: we were right on the verge of launching a really great, open debate on secret surveillance when Snowden went & did this

And before we go further, let's make one thing real damn clear: No one gave Barack the right to rule on who is or who is not a patriot.  With his education in Indonesia, I doubt he can name and explain many patriots in American history to begin with but he abuses his office when he starts issuing decrees on which living citizen is or is not a patriot and he needs to be told to shut his mouth.

Should Ed return to the US (of his own accord or due to rendition), he would then go on trial.  Barack's remarks are prejudicial and need to stop immediately.  He needs to shut his mouth.

But leaving aside the legal impact, no president is given the right to judge American citizens.  Barack, as usual, has overstepped the boundaries of the office and, as usual, it is out of gross ignorance of the American experience.  The next time someone who was schooled abroad for any length of time tries to run for the presidency, debates should be turned into civics test. It'll prevent someone trying to learn the job and learn about the US at the same time.

The president of the United States is a public servant and it is not his role or job to question or affirm the patriotism of any American citizen.  Shame on Barack Obama.

 Chuck Todd, Kelly O'Donnell and Carrie Dann (NBC News) note, "NSA leaker Edward Snowden’s revelations have forced President Barack Obama’s hand, leading the president to announce new reforms of the government’s classified surveillance programs."

I'm confused.  Are Todd, O'Donnell and Dann ignorant of the English language?  Were they asleep during the conference?  Or do they just want to lie?  No reforms were announced.  Chuck Todd was confused about this in the press conference as well.

Chuck Todd:  Given that you just announced a whole bunch of reforms based on essentially the leaks that Edward Snowden made on all of these surveillance programs, is that change -- is your mindset changed about him? Is he now more a whistle-blower than he is a hacker, as you called him at one point, or somebody that shouldn't be filed charges? And should he be provided more protection? Is he a patriot? You just used those words. And then just to follow up on the personal -- I want to follow up on a personal --

President Barack Obama: Okay, I want to make sure -- everybody is asking one question it would be helpful.

Barack, ever the school marm. Christi Parsons and Ken Dilanian (Los Angeles Times) handle the reporting that Team NBC apparently can't:

Obama said he is considering proposals to restrict the NSA from secretly collecting virtually all Americans’ telephone calling records, the most controversial of the programs Snowden exposed.

He said he also is considering proposals to create a permanent staff of lawyers to advocate for the public, or to allow outside groups to file “amicus briefs,” in cases before the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has approved the telephone surveillance effort.

Proposals are not reforms.  Proposals are talk (Barack today: "We can take steps" -- frequently, they are empty talk.  Reforms are measures activated and implemented, not words of 'maybe.'  Can we get some ESL teachers for Team NBC?

Jason Ditz ( also grasps the difference between reforms and 'reforms:'

 Or at least what passes for reforms in his mind. Obama insisted that he is entirely “comfortable” with the surveillance system as currently constituted and expressed anger that “rather than a lawful process” the public debate was a result of leaks.
The president promised four “reforms,” three of which amounted to talking with other officials about how to sell the American public on the idea that everything is going as well as he thinks it is, and the fourth of which offering a minor tweak to FISA courts.

Matt Berman and Brian Resnick (National Journal) terms the talk "goals" and go further by observing, "Don't necessarily bet on serious, quick reform though. Task forces like the one laid out today don't have a huge history of recent success. Just look at Vice President Joe Biden's gun task force, announced by Obama following the shooting in Newtown, Conn., last year. "This won't be some Washington commission" that goes nowhere, Obama said in December. The task force issued recommendations in January. And aside from a failed Senate amendment, it has not resulted in any tangible change."

Team NBC wants to 'inform' that Ed Snowden's "been charged with theft of government property and two offenses under U.S. espionage law."  Where is the point made that the claim of "government property" includes American citizens' information and property?  In other words the original thieves are charging others with stealing.

Proposals, again, are not reforms.  They're words and apparently words used in an attempt to stop the current outrage from growing further.  How else to explain both the long overdue (but brief) press conference and this from Senator Dianne Feinstein's office today:

Washington -- Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today announced the committee will hold a series of comprehensive hearings to examine intelligence data-collection programs:
“The Senate Intelligence Committee will undertake a major review of all intelligence data-collection programs involving Americans. This will be the primary order of business for the committee this fall and will be used to develop proposals to increase transparency and improve privacy protections for these vital national security programs.
“As I have said before, if changes are necessary, whenever feasible, we will make them. To the extent possible, I hope these hearings will better delineate the purpose and scope of these programs and increase the public’s confidence in their effectiveness.
“For example, I have suggested changes to the NSA call-records program (Section 215) requiring that the number of database queries and the number of warrants obtained by the FBI be released annually; the retention period of phone records be reduced from five years to two or three years; and the ideological diversity of the FISA court be increased, among other changes.”
“Section 215 continues to be mischaracterized as a domestic surveillance program. It is not. The program collects only phone numbers and the duration and times that calls are made. In fact, the database was queried fewer than 300 times last year and produced 12 reports to the FBI for further investigation, which could include warrants upon probable cause if the government sought content of communications.
“I am pleased the president shares the committee’s commitment to improving the public’s confidence with more transparency and more privacy protections. This is the right thing to do. I look forward to working with the intelligence community to achieve these goals.”

And will these be public hearings, Dianne?

Feinstein has no respect for the public or for an informed citizenry.  If you doubt it, she last presided over (as Chair of the Senate's Intelligence Committee) an open hearing on March 12.  Since then, she has chaired 30 closed hearings.

In DiFi's world, she knows best.  Which, of course, would explain her corrupt and unethical steering of contracts to her husband.  While the American people has grown increasingly outraged about the spying, Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Committee over US spying, has refused to hold one public hearing on the matter.  To call her derelict in her duty is actually to supply her with far more gravitas than her weak actions merit.

This afternoon, Shannon Young (Free Spech Radio News) reported:

 Texas-based encrypted email service provider Lavabit abruptly closed down Thursday afternoon. In a carefully worded statement, the company's owner and operator Ladar Levison wrote that the decision was between shutting down Lavabit or becoming "complicit in crimes against the American people." Levison added that, despite the constitutional right to free speech and making two separate requests, he has been legally prevented from sharing the experiences which led to the drastic decision. The wording of the statement suggests Levison is under a gag order which can accompany National Security Letters or sealed court orders.

Barack Obama: Bad for the economy, bad for business, bad for innovation.  That becomes ever more clear with every day.  Ted Samson (InfoWorld) observes:

Lavabit's move represents another black eye for the U.S.-based tech companies, many of which have struggled to protect their reputations in the wake of the revelations about the federal government's far-reaching surveillance programs. Foreign leaders have seized the opportunity to steer their citizens away from America-based services. Meanwhile, a recent report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation predicted that U.S.-based cloud companies stand to lose as much as $35 billion over the next three years, due to customer wariness of Prism and other spying programs.
Levison himself wrote that he would "strongly recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States."

John Constine (TechCrunch) adds:

The move has bolstered critics who are becoming increasingly vocal about how the U.S. government’s surveillance efforts are jeopardizing American technology businesses. They fear international customers may take their cloud business elsewhere in an attempt to avoid the NSA. Jennifer Granick, the Director of Civil Liberties at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, wrote that ”the U.S. government, in its rush to spy on everybody, may end up killing our most productive industry. Lavabit may just be the canary in the coal mine.”

If you missed the press conference, NPR has a transcript and audio of it up (they were the first with a transcript, by the way -- or the first with someone calling me about it -- others called later).  The (brief) press conference can best be termed Barack's Belive Me Because I'm Not Lying This Time.

This really comes across at the National Journal where they revisit Barack's recent remarks on the spying.

June 7th, Barack declares "when you actually look at the details, then I think we've struck the right balance."

June 18th, Barack declares the programs are "transparent.  That's why we set up the FISA court."

Were these statements accurate or truthful, the 'goals' and 'plans' Barack gave lip service to today would not have been needed.

KPFA broadcast the (brief) press conference live during Living Room and guest host Kevin Pina and guests Shahid Buttar (Bill of Rights Defense Committee) and Marcia Mitchell (author of The Spy Who Tried To Stop a War: Katharine Gun and the Secret Plot to Sanction the Iraq Invasion).  Buttar weighed in first on the press conference.

Shadid Buttar:  Well he's right that Edward Snowden accelerated a process.  I think to claim that it was going to happen already is a little bit of a farce.  The president had called for a thorough review of our nation's counter-terrorism policies but he certainly hadn't proposed, for instance, to add an adversarial process to the secret FISA court which he just promised.  Now that's a huge concession that he was not making previously.  The idea that we were going to impose long overdue restrictions on the Section 215 authority in the PATRIOT Act which he also just promised was not on the table before.  So this is a lot more than a mere acceleration.  The response to the Edward Snowden leaks and the grass roots firestorm from across the political spectrum has certainly shifted the ball in terms of what reforms are on the table.  And I do think the president papered over that.

Then Marcia Mitchell spoke and her remarks will transition us into Iraq.

Marcia Mitchell: The cases are quite similar and both are based on NSA illegal surveillance.  And I say illegal because I believe it is and I think that there is evidence -- abundant evidence -- that what they were doing was not in compliance with the law.  And I would just like to bring up here, the comment was made that people have lied to us about what NSA has done and about the law, you know, being in compliance with the law.  Looking back at the Katharine Gun case, just about that time, Michael Hayden, who was then head of the NSA, said that the lawfulness of the agency actions are done out of a heartfelt principle view the NSA operations had to be consistent with bedrock legal protections.  He said everything that the agency has done has been lawful but the fact is that it is not

Kevin Pina:  Now of course Katharine -- just to remind people, Marcia, Katharine was -- tell us who Katharine Gun was.

Marcia Mitchell:  Katharine Gun was a British secret service officer working for GCH2 which, as we know, is NSA's prime partner in the surveillance business.  And she was at her computer on the morning of January 31, 2003 during the debate about the legitimacy of invading Iraq.

Kevin Pina:  Now this is in the United Nations Security Council debate.

Marcia Mitchell:  Yes.  And she then saw on her computer from our NSA, from Frank Kosa, from the NSA inviting GCH2 to join in an illegal spy operation against members -- specific members of the UN Security Council -- those who had the swing vote as to whether or not we would have a new resolution to invade Iraq.  And those who were supporting the resolution, specifically Bush and Blair, were very passionate about getting this because they were concerned about Resolution 1441 which allowed inspections was not sufficient to allow invasion.

Kevin Pina:  So Katharine Gun basically blew the whistle on an NSA--

Marcia Mitchell:  Absolutely.

Kevin Pina (Con't): -- surveillance program on members of the United Nations Security Council who had the swing votes to approve  a US-sponsored resolution to invade Iraq.

Marcia Mitchell:  Right.  And the reason given in the message that Katharine read was to influence these voters to the US way of thinking.  And that message indicated that they would not only be doing not only the business offices of these UN security members but really their personal lives as well.  So what we were looking at really is high stakes blackmail.  This was a way to get information on these six men to get them to vote on behalf of the US-UK position.

Still on Iraq,  Newsbusters is a right-wing site, a media watch dog.  That doesn't make them bad or stupid and it's good to check and see how and where they are seeing bias.  They sent Scott Whitlock's piece today on Iraq which opens:

Over 1000 Iraqis were killed in July, victims of bombings and shootings marking that country's deadliest month since April of 2008. According to the Washington Times, Iraq is sliding into "chaos" with al Qaeda militants stoking terror. Yet, the three networks provided only scant coverage of the escalating death toll. From July 1 to July 31, the ABC, NBC and CBS evening and morning shows allowed only four minutes and 49 seconds to highlighting the unraveling situation.
In contrast, the networks in 2005 aggressively reported bad news and a pessimistic outlook for the country when a Republican was in the White House. Obviously, there's a difference between the two situations, given the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. troops. However, it seems as though NBC, CBS and ABC have effectively decided that the stability of Iraq is no longer a concern for George W. Bush's Democratic replacement.
[. . .]
 NBC managed two minutes and one second (or two segments). On the July 31 Nightly News, Brian Williams delivered the "sad headline," recounting, "July has now been the single deadliest month there since '08."
I'm not an apologist for the media.  First of all, as Newsbusters is pointing out, this should have been major news.  That said, NBC has an excuse for their coverage:  It didn't start on the 29th or the 30th or the 31st.
In the July 23rd snapshot, we noted Richard Engel's Iraq report for NBC's Today included:
Richard Engel: Iraq is now back in a civil war, US officials tell NBC News.  The hard fought US surge there, the benefits of American war to stop Iraq's civil war,  are being wiped out.  In car bombs, ambushes and gun fights  more than 250 killed in ten days.  Abu Ghraib prison notorious for American abuses and humiliations that United States [. . .] remains an open wound.  On Sunday, attackers free hundreds some say up to 500 inmates in a jail break include dozens of al Qaeda fighters.

In the July 24th snapshot, we noted the July 23rd Nightly News with Brian Williams included Richard Engel reporting on Iraq.

Richard Engel: Iraq is back in a civil war -- bad for Iraqis.  More than 600 killed just this month in bombings and Sunni versus Shi'ite vengeance.  And bad for Americans -- after all nearly 4,500 US troops died to bring stability to this strategic, oil rich country A trillion dollars was spent, hundreds of thousands of American troops were deployed and deployed again.  But now Iraq is tearing itself apart again.  al Qaeda in Iraq won a big victory this weekend, perhaps enough to reconstitute itself.  They staged a major prison break, a major assault on Iraq's notorious Abu Ghraib Prison.  Hundreds of militants were freed from their cells.  Iraqi officials today said at least 250.  al Qaeda in Iraq puts the number even higher at 500.  Militants stormed the prison, car bombs blasting open the gates, as suicide bombers rushed in and reinforcements fought off guards with mortars and assault rifles.  Nothing good seems to come from Abu Ghraib.  It was Saddam Hussein's dungeon.  After his fall, it held US detainees and became infamous for graphic images of prisoner abuse and humiliation.  And now a prison break releasing militants who will likely target the Iraqi government but who also have years of training fighting American troops. Richard Engel, NBC News.

Again, I do agree with Newsbusters that what's going on Iraq is a major news story and a clearly under-reported one; however, NBC News was covering Iraq and the mounting violence right before the time frame Newsbusters is reporting on.  I could be wrong, but I'm guessing Newsbusters is unfamiliar with those reports by Engel.  Many people were.  That's why, in addition to the snapshots, we noted Richard Engel's reporting in a morning post using the main point of his report as the title "US officials: 'Iraq is now back in a civil war'."

I can, and will, give allowances for that.  However, this, from Newsbusters' item, is just wrong:

Barack Obama is the President of the United States. His defenders may say that he didn't start the war and with troops gone, it's no longer his problem.
However, if this volatile and strategically located country was important before, it's still relevant now. As the Washington Times's Ashish Kumar Sen reported, the violence "could draw U.S. troops back into Iraq.

If Newsbusters wants to cover Iraq (and I'd love for them too), they need to be up to speed.  The troops aren't gone.  Not only were 15,500 troops moved to surrounding countries (largely Kuwait -- and the number is supposed to have dropped to 13,000 now according to a friend on the Senate Armed Services Committee), there were a number left in Iraq (not just the so-called 'trainers').  And let's drop  back to the April 30th Iraq snapshot so we're all on the same page:

December 6, 2012, the Memorandum of Understanding For Defense Cooperation Between the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Iraq and the Department Defense of the United States of America was signed.  We covered it in the December 10th and December 11th snapshots -- lots of luck finding coverage elsewhere including in media outlets -- apparently there was some unstated agreement that everyone would look the other way.  It was similar to the silence that greeted Tim Arango's September 25th New York Times report which noted, "Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions.  At the request of the Iraqi government, according to [US] General [Robert L.] Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence."

Get it? Troops didn't all 'come home' and, last fall, Barack sent a Special-Ops unit into Iraq.  The MoU authorizes, among other things, joint-patrols (US and Iraqi troops patrolling Iraq together). Including that would only make Newsbusters argument stronger: This is news and it's only more so when you factor in US troops on the ground in Iraq and the agreement for joint-patrols.

[The Newsbusters e-mail also noted, in reply to yesterday's snapshot, that they had offered a fact check on Barack's Tonight Show remarks -- see here, here, here and here.  When I stated "we fact check Barack since the press seems unable to," I was (a) not aware of Newsbusters ongoing critique and (b) wouldn't include them -- or, on my side of the political spectrum, FAIR as 'the press' -- I see both as media watchdogs.]

Today on All Things Considered (NPR), Melissa Block spoke with the New York Times' Tim Arango about the increase in violence.  Excerpt.

Melissa Block: Help us understand first off who is doing the killing and who is being targeted?

Tim Arango:  Most of the attacks are attributed to al Qaeda in Iraq, the Sunni insurgent groups and most of the targets are in Shia neighborhoods and Shia pilgrims and, you know, Shia citizens going about their daily business.  Of course, not all of the violence is attributed to al Qaeda.  There are many armed groups here including Shia, including mafia-like groups that carry out assassinations, so they are sort of like a hodge-podge.  But I think the bulk of what people call the spectacular attacks are carried out by al Qaeda in Iraq.

Melissa Block:  From the way you're describing it, it sounds like this is not exactly the same as the sectarian bloodshed -- the Shi'ite versus Sunni bloodshed -- that we saw earlier in the Iraq War or is it much the same?

Tim Arango:  No, it is quite different.  It's obviously a lot of it is sectarian nature in that Sunni groups are targeting Shia but we're not seeing the sort of violence from '06 and '07 that was almost an out-right sectarian war with death squads and with revenge killings.  We're not seeing that largely because the Shi'ite population -- you know, they're patient, they're not fighting back.  They-they control the government so there's this sense that there's much upside for them to go out like they used to and have these tit-for-tat killings.  [. . .]  They're [security forces] increasingly seen as incapable of securing the country and so you see a rising anger among the population against the security forces.  

Block never asked of protests despite the fact that they have been going on for over seven months and despite the fact that protest continued today in many areas including Tikrit and Falluja as part of a day of Unified Pride and Dignity. NINA reports:

Thousands of people flocked from different parts of Fallujah and Ramadi cities , to participate in the unified Fri-prayer.
Sheikh Mohammed Fayyad, one of the organizers of Anbar sit-ins ,said to NINA reporter : "The citizens participated in the prayers that held in the courtyard northern Ramadi and eastern Fallujah cities , stressing that the goal of this trickle is to send one again a message to the governing in Baghdad that our demonstrations are peaceful and backed by citizens deep conviction.

 This wave of protests kicked off  December 21st and shows no signs of stopping currently. Yesterday at a Ramadi sit-in, a protester was injured when 2 bombs targeting the protesters went off.  That has not stopped the protests.  Nouri's forces attacking them or arresting them have not stopped the protests.  Nouri's forces have, in fact, become one of the biggest sewers of tension and mistrust in Iraq.

Last month, Iraq saw two prison breaks on July 21st (prison break wasn't announced until Monday, July 22nd).  The prison breaks led not only to an INTERPOL alert but to international press attention. 

Dropping back to July 27th:

The Washington Post editorial board notes, "Iraq’s renewed conflict gained attention this week because of the spectacular attack by al-Qaeda on two prison facilities, including the Abu Ghraib facility near Baghdad. The coordinated assault led to the escape of hundreds of security prisoners, including a number of top al-Qaeda leaders."  The editorial board of the Bangkok Post observes, "To put things into perspective, it is universally accepted today that when the US-led invasion of Iraq was mounted in March 2003, al-Qaeda was a non-entity in the country, even though it was falsely... " Yesterday, one escapee was captured in an eastern Baghdad mosque.  KUNA reports, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki on Saturday fired director of the prison service and referred senior security officers investigations against the backdrop of the mass prisoner breakout."  NINA explains, "He listened to the report and statements by a number of the prisons' officers, he ordered the arrest of the officers, who primary report shows that they were negligent in their duty. Ordered that the report be referred to justice. They are: Commander of Federal Police Fourth Division, Commander of Federal Police Regiment charged with the Prison's security and his Deputy, as well as on duty Federal Police personnel. Maliki also ordered firing Director General of Prisons and refer him to justice."  All Iraq News also notes, "The Prime Minister ordered to detain several officers on the bases of their neglect for their duty including the Chief of Staff of the Iraqi Army Fourth Division, the Commander of the Federal Police Regiment along with his assistances, the intelligence elements, Federal police elements who were inside the prison during the jailbreak time."

In the latest news on those prison breaks, The Coordination Committee for Supporting the Iraqi Intifadha's "The Truth about the Massacres of Abu Graib and Al-Taji Prisons" (BRussells Tribunal):

After one of the armed groups in Iraq had stormed the prison (Abu Ghraib) on the evening of July 21 2013, a huge body of news, formal and informal, came out to explain that the group implemented twelve suicide bombings in order to demolish the outside wall of the prison and distract guards. This was followed by clashes between prison guards and units of the security forces on the one hand and the attacking group on the other. After the attack many of the detainees were smuggled and others fled.
Until today, no impartial and honest report about the incident has been announced, nor about the exact number of prisoners who were able to flee. Nevertheless, a member of the Security and Defense Committee in the House of Representative said in a program on Al-Baghdadiya TV[1] that at least 500 prisoners fled. But there is a total blackout on the part of the government in regards the number of casualties who were killed during the clashes between the two sides, or those who were executed on the spot, or after the forces regained control on the prison.
But the real number of detainees who had managed to escape according to many sources from the government, the media or the parliament, ranged from 500 to 3000. So far, there has not been any complete verification of casualties, or of those who have been arrested in the surrounding areas of the prison in the days following the operation. There is no information too about real data regarding the cases of those who fled, or the reason for their arrests in the first place.
Many observers had believed that what happened in the Taji prison on the same day is the same scenario that happened in Abu Ghraib prison, summarized above. But the Minister of Justice Hassan Shammari and many of the sources of the parliamentary committee of security and defense denied completely that there was any attack by any group on the Taji prison. Nevertheless, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said during a meeting with the leaders of the military and security units after the Abu Graib operation that the attack on the Taji prison had failed completely due to the fierce resistance of units of prison guards in Taji, a prison that is located amid a special military camp for special military troops, in charge of protecting the city of Baghdad. But anyway, demonstrations slogans all over Iraq, especially in the south, call Maliki a lier.
Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper said in a detailed report published on July 30th 2013[2] that the truth is very different from what has been said in many channels and media reports of local and international media. Al-Quds investigation report stated, according to Jabbar Azzam, a lawyer working on several cases in the prison, that what happened in Taji prison was a bloody and heinous retaliation crime carried out by the Iraqi security forces in revenge after the attack on the Abu Ghraib prison, a fact that was indirectly confirmed by the Parliamentary Security Committee when its member said that not a single prisoner who fled from Taji prison. The report said that the prison guards and special units opened the doors and lied to the detainees, saying that there is an attempt to liberate them, exactly like what happened in Abu Ghraib prison. When the detainees tried to exit outside their cells, they were surprised by the presence of SWAT forces before them in the courtyard, who opened fire and  shoot randomly and directly at them, which led to the fall of many, others who were injured but remained alive were re-arrest and tortured.
The SWAT forces not only committed this brutal crime; but they also collected the victims’ bodies in a heap and left them to rot outside the prison for at least two days in the open and under the sun heat. Then it proceeded to burn the bodies, in a new Iraqi Holocaust that has been going on for ten years[3].
According to the account of eyewitness from Baghdad -a mother of two detainees- charred bodies had been handed over later to the department of forensic medicine in Baghdad, but they were so deformed that it was impossible to identifying the victims. The families of the detainees were prevented from entering the department to identify the bodies of their loved ones for a long time. Until today officials have not explained the reason behind burning the bodies by SWAT and its accompanying security forces. But people believe that the bodies had been cremated to cover up the decomposition, to hide the traces of torture, or for both reasons.
One of the TV channels in Baghdad announced later that there are 105 bodies in the forensic medicine office and called their parents to go to there to receive them.
Conflicting news about the truth of what actually happened at massacres of Abu Ghraib and Taji prisons, are still coming out. An ex-judge in the current Iraqi Government, Muneer Haddad, said that thousands of the detainees are innocent people, but opacity and confusion remains the prevailing policies and behavior of the Iraqi officials. He repeatedly called upon Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki to step down and resign. In any case, most of the news and testimonies narrated by eyewitnesses confirm the massacre. Iraqi Parliament Speaker Osama Nujaifi called upon Chairman of the Supreme Court Hassan Ibrahim Himiari to investigate the horrible torture in Iraqi prisons, and the killing and burning of dozens of detainees.
The daily horrors of what is happening inside Iraqi prisons such as torture, violation of human rights, and sectarian motivated revenge and liquidations are no secrets to anyone nowadays. Perhaps the Abu Ghraib prison is one of the most famous Iraqi prisons in the world, in terms of the unmatched horror and gravity of crimes committed against detainees. But Journalist and activist Haifa Zangana, among others, has shown that Taji prison is comparable to Abu Graib, but remains unknown to the outside world.
In an article Zangana wrote on July 26th, 2013[4] she reviewed some of what is going on inside these prisons such as assaults on detainees, both physically and psychologically: beatings, depriving them of the simplest rights, insulting, and threatening of assault on their families or relatives. In some cases guards urinate on detainees and force them to drink urine and to clean toilets with their beards, not to mention keeping prisoners for long hours in the scorching summer sun, in order to force them to sign false confessions and fabricated accusations to incriminate them with fake and malicious charges.
All these crimes committed daily against detainees in Iraq, while the majority of detainees are not presented to the judiciary. Some of them do not know why they are arrested and what they are accused of, even after spending several years in prison. Many went on hunger strike to protest these crimes and violations. But the authorities have given them a deaf ear.
In a televised confession of former Interior Minister Bayan Jabr Solagh, he admitted that an Iraqi woman spent six years in jail without trial, and the case file was completely empty except of one document presented by the so-called secret informant who was completely unknown.

In more recent violence, All Iraq News notes last night saw an attack in Tikrit that left a police officer and his brother dead, and a Tikrit roadside bombing which left four Sahwa injured.  Rumors are circulating that General Abdul Ameer al-Zaidi, who commands the Dijla Operations, has been assassinated but All Iraq News reports the rumors are being denied.  AFP adds a Baghdad sticky bombing left an employee of the Ministry of Justice dead and his wife injured, 2 Sahwa were shot dead near Baiji and two more left injured, a Kirkuk bombing left one Iraqi soldier injured and 1 farmer was shot dead near Baquba.  (For those who don't read French, here's an English language version but it's incomplete so I'm using the French version.)  Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 193 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month -- which averages out to 21.4 deaths a day.

Lynne Stewart is a US political prisoner -- sentenced for the 'crime' of issuing a press release.  Lynne's 'crime' spans three administrations.  Her 'crime' took place during President Bill Clinton's second term.  Janet Reno was Attorney General.  Janet Reno looked into the matter, gave Lynne a slap on the wrist because Janet Reno had the brains to grasp that administrative measure is not a law and that breaking it by issuing a press release is not a crime.  So that was that.

And then the Supreme Court put Bully Boy Bush into the White House and he made John Ashcroft Attorney General.  Ashcroft's most important act was going after Lynne.  Maybe that's why 9-11 happened?  Maybe if Ashcroft had paid attention to actual issues, 9-11 wouldn't have happened?  Who knows?  But he made it his life's work to go after Lynne because Lynne is the people's attorney who spent her career taking the defendants no one else wanted.  Maybe they couldn't pay the big bill or maybe they were too 'controversial' -- but Lynne took them on and fought for them and gave them the strong defense that the US legal system demands.

For that she was punished.  One of the lies about Barack that the Cult of St. Barack whispered in 2008, trying to drum up support for the corporatist War Hawk, was that, as the son of a Black male and White female, and as a Constitutional law 'professor,' Barack would rush to free Lynne. (Lynne is White. Her husband Ralph is African-American.) While he wouldn't help her, he and his administration went out of their way to penalize her -- again, she is taken into custody not under Bully Boy Bush.  She was convicted in February 2005.  Bully Boy Bush, for all his many faults and crimes, did not insist Lynne be taken into custody.  She was not a security threat to anyone and she was being treated for cancer and she was appealing the conviction.  So Bush let her remain at her residence in 2005, in 2006, in 2007 and in 2008.  It's only after January 2009, when Barack is sworn in, that Lynne's ordered to surrender.  And it is only after Barack is sworn in that Lynne gets resentenced (from 28 months to ten years).

Lynne could be out now.  But as Stephen Lendman (People's Voice) noted months ago, "Obama Wants Lynne Stewart Dead:"

Lynne's 73.  She's gravely ill.
Obama killed Chavez.  He wants Lynne dead.  Unjustifiable longterm imprisonment assures it.
She's a breast cancer survivor.  It reemerged.  It's spreading.
She's dying.  Vital life-saving treatment is delayed or denied.  Expert private care can save her.  She needs it now.

Due to the return of her cancer, she has sought a compassionate release as well as asked (yesterday) Judge John Koeltl for an early release.  Yesterday on Democracy Now! (link is text, video and audio), Amy Goodman spoke with Lynne's husband Ralph Poynter, her daughter Zenobia Brown and her attorney Jill Shellow.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to read a letter from the Federal Bureau of Prisons Assistant Director Kathleen Kenney, dated June 24th, in which she denied Lynne Stewart’s request for compassionate release. She wrote, quote, "To date, she has been responding well to treatment. Ms. Stewart is ambulatory and independent in her Activities of Daily Living. While her illness is very serious, she is not suffering from a condition that is terminal within 18 months. Accordingly, Ms. Stewart does not present circumstances considered to be extraordinary and compelling to merit RIS at this time," unquote.

Now I want to compare that to the prognosis given by Lynne Stewart’s treating physician before she went into prison. Dr. Grossbard wrote in July 2012, about a year ago, quote, "The fact that Ms. Stewart’s disease has progressed on therapy along with the decline in her overall performance status and medical condition suggests [that] her survival will be less than 12 months at this time."

If—Jill Shellow, you’re Lynne Stewart’s attorney. She was denied compassionate release. Is this your last chance today with Judge Koeltl, the original judge in her case?

JILL SHELLOW: I hope not. I think it’s going to be part of a process. Lynne has—as a letter that you started—that you started to read from Kathy Kenney at the Bureau of Prisons says, if your circumstances change, you may seek reconsideration. Lynne has sought reconsideration of that denial. I believe that Judge Koeltl will hear us today. And while he could rule today, I believe it’s also possible that we will—that we will appear before him again at least once before this matter is resolved.

AMY GOODMAN: I also want to get response to a comment made by Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor who was Lynne Stewart’s adversary during the 1995 trial of Mr. Abdel Rahman. He said he had no problem with the idea that prisoners like Abdel Rahman, who are serving life sentences for heinous offenses, should have to die in prison. But regarding Lynne Stewart’s case, he said, quote, "As a private citizen who was very fond of Lynne when we dealt with each other, I prefer to keep my thoughts to myself and my prayers for Lynne and her family." I want to turn to Lynne’s daughter, to Dr. Zenobia Brown. What will happen if Lynne were to be released? How will she be cared for?

DR. ZENOBIA BROWN: She would probably continue with the same treatment she’s been getting in prison. I think the piece that most people are not sort of cognizant of is that at this stage of cancer there is no cure. So, basically, it is a battle for time. And at this point, she is losing that battle, and that is clear. That is why it was so shocking when the BOP denied her compassionate release based on really what was not the case. There were 200 pages of medical records that went into—that went up to Washington and that would appear that none of them were reviewed, that no specialist in palliative care or no one who has any prognostic background looked at a single document.

AMY GOODMAN: You are a special in palliative—a specialist in palliative care?

DR. ZENOBIA BROWN: Right, and people facing life-limiting illness. So, just sort of looking through it, they literally made this decision based on a single physician’s comment that the patient was responding well. No doctor in this country is really trained to deal out justice. And basically, the entire case of whether my mother would be released or not was on a two-sentence letter from her treating oncologist. So, just the—sort of the injustice of that and the fact that there really was no sort of objective party looking at this data is—it really is mind-boggling.

This morning in Democracy Now! headlines, Amy Goodman noted:

A federal judge hinted he may lack jurisdiction to grant attorney Lynne Stewart’s request for compassionate release from federal prison so she can die from cancer at home surrounded by her family. Her prison physician estimates she has less than 18 months to live — a key requirement for early release. As supporters looked on from a packed courtroom during arguments Thursday afternoon, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Dember told the judge: "It’s our position that Ms. Stewart has no authority to make the motion she has made, and your honor has no authority to consider it ... It is only the director of the Bureau of Prisons who has the authority." The Bureau denied the request earlier this year. U.S. District Judge John Koeltl at times appeared sympathetic to Stewart’s request, but told her defense team, "If I grant your motion, I would be violating the plain words of the statute" instructing the court on when it can grant early release. At one point during the hour-long hearing, Judge Koeltl asked the prosecutor: "You don’t think she has a strong argument for compassionate release, do you?" Dember replied: "There’s no doubt Ms. Stewart is ill. No one’s disputing Ms. Stewart’s illness, your honor." This is Stewart’s husband, Ralph Poynter’s reaction after the arguments.

Ralph Poynter: "The prosecution more or less said, 'Die or not, let's stick to the letter of the law.’ And his interpretation of the letter of the law is that there was no way for a judge to intercede in the bureaucratic chain of the prisons. And that is a very difficult pill to swallow."

Reuters reports that Koeltl ruled today and Lynne has "lost her bid on Friday to be released from prison because she is suffering from terminal cancer."

Let's state the grim truth, and the White House better pay attention to this, if Lynne dies in prison (which will happen without a compassionate release or pardon), this will be a stain on Barack's presidency like no other.  He's an attorney, she's an attorney.  Her life mirrors the fiction of Ann Dunham's life (Ann wasn't the noble person the press lies tell you) and, like Ann Dunham, she suffers from cancer.  If Barack does not ensure that Lynne is released her death in prison will be tied to him and used by one biographer after another to comment on his unresolved issues with his own mother.  These issues are ones his grandmother was very vocal about.  He'd be smart to hasten the release of Lynne even if it requires him making a phone call on his latest in a series of never-ending vacations.

jason ditz




Friday, August 09, 2013

Conor Oberst is a joke

Thursday.  The theme tonight, based on the roundtable we did for the gina & krista round-robin, will probably be disgust with the whores for Barack.

Ani DiFranco?  She was always a liar.  What is she on?  Her second marriage to a man despite selling herself to the public as a lesbian?  And toss Holly Near in there too.

For me, Conor Oberst was the big disappointment.  He is Bright Eyes.

And his claim to fame for most Americans is doing "When A President Talks To God" -- a rebuke of Bully Boy Bush for the Iraq War.

Where's Conor's song about the Libyan War?

Where's the song about The Drone War?

The one calling out the illegal spying on Americans?

No where.

I really thought he had courage and conviction when Bully Boy Bush was occupying the White House.

He had nothing.  Apparently, he's just a snotty nosed snob who didn't like Bush because he was from Texas.

I mistook him for someone with actual political convictions.

My bad.

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

Thursday, August 8, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, protests continue in Iraq, Falluja calls for Nouri to be fair, Ramadi's protest is targeted with a bombing, why are security measures being taken in Baghdad, we fact check Barack since the press seems unable to, and more.

Season one, episode 15 ("Hard Ball" written by Matt Hubbard) of the sitcom 30 Rock, starlet Jenna Maroney (played by Emmy award winning Jane Krakowski) is in damage control over her comments so she goes on Hardball and speaks with Chris Matthews (host) and Tucker Carlson.

Jenna: I have just as much right to my opinion as you or Chris.

Chris Matthews:  I'm not sure you do.  You've been on this show for 20 minutes now.  You sang six bars of something called "Muffin Top" --

Jenna:  Thank you.

Chris Matthews:  -- and then told a disgusting story about fleet week.

Tucker Carlson:  I guess this is the state of political discourse in this country and that's fine, let's just embrace it.  Let's have our policies determined by former Cable Ace Award nominees. 

Jenna:  First, I was great in that Arliss.  Second of all, if the president is so serious about the war on terror, why doesn't he hunt down and capture Barack Obama before he strikes again?  It's time for a change, America.  That's why I'm voting for Osama in 2008.  [Pause.]  Oh, no comeback? You burnt!

It was a hilarious moment and no one could top it . . . until Tuesday night when Barack Obama chose to channel his inner starlet on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

Pure Jenna is the only way to describe Barack declaring, "And the odds of people dying in a terrorist attack obviously are still a lot lower than in a car accident, unfortunately."

Unfortunately?  Was that a Freudian slip or is Barack just the airhead we always secretly knew he was?

In the gab-fest, Jay Leno notes the Sunday embassy and consulate closures and wonders is it "safe to say that we learned about these threats through the NSA intelligence program? Is that a fair assessment?"  Barack has an interesting reply.

Barack Obama:  Well, you know, this intelligence-gathering,uh, that we do is a critical component of counterterrorism. Uh, And obviously, with, uh,  Mr. Snowden and the disclosures of classified information, it's raised a lot of questions for people. But what I said as soon as it happened I continue to believe in, which is a lot of these programs were put in place before I came in. I had some skepticism, and I think ther's a --  we should have a healthy skepticism about what government is doing. I had the programs reviewed. We put in some additional safeguards to make sure that there's federal court oversight as well as congressional oversight, that there is no spying on Americans. 

There is spying on Americans, the meta data recording alone is spying. Christopher H. Pyle (CounterPunch) observes, "With the blessing of this secret court [FISA], the National Security Agency (and well-paid companies like Booz Allen) have recorded billions of phone calls and e-mails belonging to nearly all Americans, with the intent of searching them later."  Informing Congress? Most claim they knew nothing about it.  Glenn Greenwald (Guardian) reported last week:

Members of Congress have been repeatedly thwarted when attempting to learn basic information about the National Security Agency (NSA) and the secret FISA court which authorizes its activities, documents provided by two House members demonstrate.
From the beginning of the NSA controversy, the agency's defenders have insisted that Congress is aware of the disclosed programs and exercises robust supervision over them. "These programs are subject to congressional oversight and congressional reauthorization and congressional debate," President Obama said the day after the first story on NSA bulk collection of phone records was published in this space. "And if there are members of Congress who feel differently, then they should speak up."
But members of Congress, including those in Obama's party, have flatly denied knowing about them. On MSNBC on Wednesday night, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Ct) was asked by host Chris Hayes: "How much are you learning about what the government that you are charged with overseeing and holding accountable is doing from the newspaper and how much of this do you know?" The Senator's reply:
The revelations about the magnitude, the scope and scale of these surveillances, the metadata and the invasive actions surveillance of social media Web sites were indeed revelations to me."

But it is not merely that members of Congress are unaware of the very existence of these programs, let alone their capabilities. Beyond that, members who seek out basic information - including about NSA programs they are required to vote on and FISA court (FISC) rulings on the legality of those programs - find that they are unable to obtain it.

Two House members, GOP Rep. Morgan Griffith of Virginia and Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida, have provided the Guardian with numerous letters and emails documenting their persistent, and unsuccessful, efforts to learn about NSA programs and relevant FISA court rulings.

Additionally, there are no safeguards with a secret court and there never will be which is why secret courts go against democracy.

Barack Obama:  We don't have a domestic spying program. What we do have are some mechanisms where we can track a phone number or an email address that we know is connected to some sort of terrorist threat.

A lie.  Where are the fact checkers?  The phone calls are all collected -- not just ones related to a so-called terrorist threat.  (Fact check?  Have you read Politico's 'transcript'?  They not only do away with Barack's uh-uhs, they 'help' him with verb choice.  Someone explain to Politico that a transcript is a transcription of what was said, not what fans wish was said.)

Barack Obama:  And that information is useful. But what I've said beforeuh, you know, I want to make sure I repeat, and that is we should be skeptical  uh about the potential encroachments on privacy. None of the revelations show that government has actually abused ih these powers, but they're pretty significant powers.

There's the ignorance of a man who didn't learn American history in Indonesia (naturally) and who struggled with basic classes after he finally came back to America (as his own grandmother admitted). The government has clearly abused powers and Barack and others know that which is why the programs were kept secret from the American people.

Dennis is a terrorist in Scotland working with Cecile in Madison, Wisconsin.  Finding out that all phone calls are tracked or all e-mails are read does not mean Dennis and Cecile stop communicating. They have to communicate.  They may try to communicate in code -- but if they're terrorists, they should already be doing that.  The only people these programs had to be kept secret from were the American people who would instantly grasp that these are unconstitutional and an abuse of government power.

Barack Obama: And I've been talking to Congress and civil libertarians and others about are there additional ways that we can make sure that people know nobody is listening to your phone call, but we do want to make sure that after a Boston bombing, for example, we've got, uh, we've got the phone numbers of those two brothers -- we want to be able to make sure did they call anybodUh, and if we can make sure that there's confidence on the part of the American people that there's oversight, then I think we can make sure that we're properly balancing our liberty and our security. 

He thinks?  Who really gives a damn what Barack, a whore for Big Business, thinks?  In three more years he's just another idiot we have to spend millions on each year while his own income (from corporate whoring) goes untouched when it comes to health or security issues.  Who gives a damn what he thinks?  He's not a king, he's a public servant who works for the people -- you know the one group he didn't mention consulting with.  Because he's such a chicken he hasn't had the guts to face a real conference on these issues.

Barack Obama:  But there have been times where they slip back into Cold War thinking and a Cold War mentality. And what I consistently say to them, and what I say to President Putin, is that's the past and we've got to think about the future, and there's no reason why we shouldn't be able to cooperate more effectively than we do. 

Well, golly, what leader of another country wouldn't love a lecture from Barack?  Does his preening ego ever fall into check?  And let's point out one more time, with temporary asylum, Putin (or whomever is president) is not supposed to have any input.  As far as anyone knows, the Russian government's system was followed.  That means the body in charge made the decision.  Yet Barack and his administration have repeatedly lied and implied or stated that Putin was responsible for the decision.  These lies debase the White House.

Jay Leno:  And Putin seems to me like one of those old-school KGB guys. 

Barack Obama:   Well, he headed up the KGB. 

No, he didn't.  And considering Ann Dunham's actions in Indonesia,  I don't know where you get off knocking the KGB.  Wikipedia on Putin and the KGB:

Putin joined the KGB in 1975 upon graduation, and underwent a year's training at the 401st KGB school in Okhta[disambiguation needed], Leningrad. He then went on to work briefly in the Second Chief Directorate (counter-intelligence) before he was transferred to the First Chief Directorate, where among his duties was the monitoring of foreigners and consular officials in Leningrad.[36][37]
From 1985 to 1990, the KGB stationed Putin in Dresden, East Germany.[38] Following the collapse of the East German government, Putin was recalled to the Soviet Union and returned to Leningrad, where in June 1991 he assumed a position with the International Affairs section of Leningrad State University, reporting to Vice-Rector Yuriy Molchanov.[37] In his new position, Putin maintained surveillance on the student body and kept an eye out for recruits. It was during his stint at the university that Putin grew reacquainted with his former professor Anatoly Sobchak, then mayor of Leningrad.[39]
Putin finally resigned from the active state security services with the rank of Lieutenant colonel on 20 August 1991 (with some attempts to resign made earlier),[39] on the second day of the KGB-supported abortive putsch against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.[40] Putin later explained his decision: "As soon as the coup began, I immediately decided which side I was on", though he also noted that the choice was hard because he had spent the best part of his life with "the organs".[41]

And Barack's spy connections?  As John Pilger has explained:

In his book Dreams From My Father, Obama refers to the job he took after he graduated from Columbia in 1983.  He describes his employer as, and I quote, "a consulting house to multi-national corporations."  For some reason, he doesn't say who his employer was or what he did there.  The employer was Business International Corporation which has a long history of providing cover for the CIA with covert action and infiltrating unions on the left.  I know this because it was especially in my own country, Australia.  Obama doesn't say what he did at Business International and there may be absolutely nothing sinister but it seems worthy of inquiry and debate as a clue perhaps who the man is. During his brief period in the Senate, Obama voted to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He voted for the PATRIOT Act.  He refused to support a bill for single-payer health care.  He supported the death penalty.  As a presidential candidate, he received more corporate backing than John McCain. He promised to close Guantanamo as a priority but instead he's excused torture, reinstated military commissions, kept the Bush gulag intact and opposed habeaus corpus. 

Back to the gab-fest.

Jay Leno:  [. . .] the NSA leaker Edward Snowden. Some call him a whistleblower. What do you call him?

Barack Obama: Well, we don’t know yet exactly what he did, other than what he's, uh,  said on the Internet, and. uh,  it's important for me not to prejudge something.

Jay Leno: Got you.

Barack Obama:  Hopefully, at some point he'll go to trial and uh he will have a lawyer and due process, and we can make those decisions. I can tell you, uh,  that there are ways, if you think that the government is abusing, uh, a program, of coming forward. In fact, I, through executive order, signed whistle-blower protection for intelligence officers or people who are involved in the intelligence industry. So you don't have to break the law. You don't have to, uh, divulge, uh, information that could compromise American security. You could, uh,  come forward, come to the, uh, appropriate individuals and say, look, I've got a problem with what's going on here, uh, I'm not sure whether it's being done properly. If, in fact, uh, the allegations are true, then he didn't do that. And, uh,  that is a huge problem because a lot of what we do depends on, uh,  terrorists networks not knowing, uh, that, in fact, we may be able to access their information. 

What a liar.  But a press that can't do an honest transcription of a TV segment can't handle a fact check.

Barack can make all the lofty claims he wants, that doesn't make them true.  This is the editorial board of Bloomberg News from June 10th:

But anyone seeking to pass judgment on Snowden should try to understand the dilemma he describes. He says he didn’t want to live in a society that engages in the sort of program he worked on. Based on statements from President Barack Obama and members of Congress, it seems unlikely that Snowden would have found much support from inside government for his view that the program was abusive. So he concluded -- perhaps irresponsibly, perhaps arrogantly -- that going public was the only way to force a change.
Snowden’s case highlights the difficulty, if not impossibility, of debating U.S. national security policy in this age of ubiquitous technology: How do you build informed public consent for surveillance when the only people who know about those programs can’t talk about them? And without the public’s consent, how can those programs be legitimate in a democratic society?
Those questions aren’t new, but Snowden’s revelations give them new importance. Those who think what he did was wrong need to do more than just criticize his actions. The goal should be to make it easier for others like him to follow their consciences without breaking the law. And we need to have the public debate that Snowden concluded was lacking -- a point that can’t reasonably be contested, even by his angriest detractors.
The Obama administration may be tempted to respond to Snowden’s actions by intensifying its policy of intimidating would-be leakers through prosecutions. Yet as this case demonstrates, the prospect of imprisonment doesn’t deter everyone. The administration and Congress should instead acknowledge that members of the intelligence community need better avenues for reporting practices they find to be abusive - - if only because, absent such avenues, there will be more Edward Snowdens.

Barack's remarks were troublesome and filled with errors.  At one point he insisted, "If we don't deepen our ports all along the Gulf -- places like Charleston, South Carolina, or Savannah, Georgia or Jacksonville, Florida -- if we don't do that, those ships are going to go someplace else.  And we'll lose jobs [. . .]"  Dan Quayle was crucified for his spelling of potato but Barack can list cities that are not "all along the Gulf" but claim that they are and no one corrects him?

 We all have to play stupid so the princess isn't outshined?

Larry Johnson (No Quarter) addresses Barack's claims of specific threats:

If you are waiting for the Al Qaeda terrorist offensive, stop waiting. It is here. But it is not in focused in the 22 countries where Barack Obama, choosing the route of a coward, shuttered US Embassies. Nope. It is in Iraq:

The United Nations said Thursday that July was Iraq’s deadliest month in more than five years, describing a series of bombings and shootings as an epidemic of sectarian-tinged violence that had killed 1,057 Iraqis and wounded 2,326. The organization’s acting special representative for Iraq, Gyorgy Busztin, said in a statement that the severity of the mayhem was the worst since 2008, when Iraq verged on civil war after the American-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein and his Sunni minority from power. Many of the attacks in July were aimed at members of the Shiite majority that has dominated Iraq’s politics since the withdrawal of the American military at the end of 2011.
This is the deadly harvest the is the work of George W. Bush and now, Barack Obama.
The current warning issued by the Obama Administration is bulls**t. As I wrote earlier this week, Obama and members of Congress claim it is “specific” but, rather than focus on stopping a specific threat, they insist in the same breath that they don’t know what, when or how. That ain’t specific!

Meanwhile the Cambridge Chronicle notes:

The government is beginning to sound like the boy who cried wolf. First it was Bradley Manning and his leaks which damaged national security. Those leaks occurred in 2010 and we’ve yet to see how in any way they’ve damaged our national security.

Over 500 hundred people have died in Iraq just this month alone. Seems that’s more damaging to national security than Bradley Manning, who, by the way leaked documents showing the number of people killed in Iraq is greater than what the government is reporting. We’ve been here before, the Pentagon Papers proved that what the government knew and what they were telling the country about what was going on in Vietnam, were two different things.

Now they’re saying the same thing about Edward Snowden and his leaks telling of government collection and storage of data, they say the leaks are a great threat to our national security.

Geoffrey Ingersoll (Business Insider) raves over a photo of Falluja residents.  He seems unaware that it is part of the ongoing protests.  Click here for Iraqi Spring MC's photo of the same huge group from another angle.   NINA notes the sermon delivered by Sheikh Mohammed Mattar said there could be no "calm as long as their rulers rule it in unfair" and:

The preacher of Fallujah demanded al-Maliki to run the country in a fair and equitable manner.  
He pointed out that protesters and demonstrators in six provinces will stay in the streets of the sit-in, braving harsh weather conditions of heat and cold to claim their rights usurped by the Iraqi government."

The Falluja and Ramadi protests have been among the strongest in the country and part of the reason Nouri al-Maliki delayed the vote in Anbar Province.  Since December 21st, ongoing protests have been taking place in Iraq.  Today at a Ramadi sit-in, a protester was injured when 2 bombs targeting the protesters went off. NINA reports another Ramadi bombing claimed the life of 1 woman and left her husband injured, and, last night, a Tikrit car bombing killed 19 people while leaving fifty more injured.  In addition, NINA reports 1 suspect was killed by Nouri's forces in Asriah village, a Haqlaniya bombing claimed 2 lives, 1 police officer was shot dead in Balad, and a Samarra bombing claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers and left two more injured.

Violence last month, Iraq saw two prison breaks on July 21st (prison break wasn't announced until Monday, July 22nd). All Iraq News reports, "The Premier, Nouri al-Maliki issued a general amnesty for the escapee security elements or who joint terrorist groups."  This was quickly followed by another report as Nouri rushed to change his earlier remarks, "A statement by Maliki's office received by AIN cited 'The mistake is that he said the amnesty involves those who joint terrorist groups while the intended are those whose absentees exceeded the limits."

Considering how the prison breaks are seen as a major indictment of Nouri's so-called leadership, it's no real surprise that he fumbles even when speaking of them. Dropping back to July 27th:

The Washington Post editorial board notes, "Iraq’s renewed conflict gained attention this week because of the spectacular attack by al-Qaeda on two prison facilities, including the Abu Ghraib facility near Baghdad. The coordinated assault led to the escape of hundreds of security prisoners, including a number of top al-Qaeda leaders."  The editorial board of the Bangkok Post observes, "To put things into perspective, it is universally accepted today that when the US-led invasion of Iraq was mounted in March 2003, al-Qaeda was a non-entity in the country, even though it was falsely... " Yesterday, one escapee was captured in an eastern Baghdad mosque.  KUNA reports, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki on Saturday fired director of the prison service and referred senior security officers investigations against the backdrop of the mass prisoner breakout."  NINA explains, "He listened to the report and statements by a number of the prisons' officers, he ordered the arrest of the officers, who primary report shows that they were negligent in their duty. Ordered that the report be referred to justice. They are: Commander of Federal Police Fourth Division, Commander of Federal Police Regiment charged with the Prison's security and his Deputy, as well as on duty Federal Police personnel. Maliki also ordered firing Director General of Prisons and refer him to justice."  All Iraq News also notes, "The Prime Minister ordered to detain several officers on the bases of their neglect for their duty including the Chief of Staff of the Iraqi Army Fourth Division, the Commander of the Federal Police Regiment along with his assistances, the intelligence elements, Federal police elements who were inside the prison during the jailbreak time."

Dar Addustour notes the federal government supposedly has documents implicating a number of Abu Ghraib prison guards in the prison break there and that "treason" charges may be brought. Aswat al-Iraq adds, "Iraqi ministry of justice revealed documents and correspondence between Baghdad Central Prison and the federal police, informing the plans to attack the prison before four days. In a statement, copy received by Aswat al-Iraq, the ministry added that the information was delivered on 17 July, 2013." AFP reports one of the escapees still on the lose supposedly killed his brother yesterday:

On Wednesday night, a group of militants went to the house of a policeman in Tikrit, north of Baghdad, dragged him into the garden and executed him, said army Staff Lt Gen Abdulamir Al Zaidi.
The policeman's brother, an Al Qaeda member whose name was not given, led the group of killers, apparently as an act of revenge for informing on him. The militants also bombed the house, and left a car bomb at the scene that exploded after a crowd gathered, killing 10 and wounding 58.

That's the assault Betty noted last night.

Violence has people considering different approaches.  From the July 16th snapshot:

On the violence, ABC News Radio quotes Baghdad University professor Nabil Mohammed stating, "People can’t say that things are getting better or are going to be better in the near future.  People are just looking for something to help them survive."
Hence the return of the proposed 'moats.'  This time the 'protective trench' would be around dispute Kirkuk.  Yerevan Saeed (Rudaw) reports:

Two months ago Kirkuk’s Provincial Council decided in a majority vote to dig a 58-kilometer security trench around the city, in a controversial decision to control entrance into the oil-rich and violence-wracked area which is at the center of a dispute between Iraq’s different ethnic and religious groups.
This plan would leave the city with four main entrances, which are to be monitored by surveillance cameras. The trench itself is to be reinforced with barbed wire and regular police patrols.
Hassan Turhan, a Turkmen official in Kirkuk’s provincial council, first proposed a security trench in 2012. But Kirkuk officials only put the plan into action this year, particularly after a series of deadly bombings that killed dozens and wounded hundreds.

Nouri began proposing the idea of a moat around Baghdad to protect the city.  That idea never took off.  Whether or not it will take off this time remains to be seen.    World Bulletin notes:

Iraqi Turkmens are the third-largest ethnic group in Iraq and live primarily in Kirkuk and Tuzhurmatu. Kirkuk Province is a historically diverse area; in addition to ethnic Turkmens, there are also many Arabs and Kurds. Friday's blast in the city took place in an area of previous ethnic, sectarian and political clashes.
Mehmet Tütüncü, the general director of the İstanbul-based Iraqi Turks Culture and Mutual Aid Society (ITKYD), told Today's Zaman that there is a bomb blast every day of the week in Iraq and pointed out that there are many more attacks occurring in predominately Turkmen areas as compared to other ethnic groups in Iraq.
“It is very hard to say who is behind the attack in Kirkuk, but I can easily say that there are many attacks directed at areas where Turkmens live,” Tütüncü said, underlining the fact that the Turkmen community is the only unarmed ethnic group in Iraq.

The plan was put forward weeks ago.  Today, it suddenly finds objection. AFP reports today that the "unusual plan" is provoking anger among "Arab leaders."  Two minor 'leaders are quoted near the end of the article and their complaints are that this is a land grab.  That's an interesting call that is not backed up -- not even a faulty argument is presented on how it would be a land grab.  So file the whole thing under the failures of Nouri (in 2007, he was supposed to implement Article 140 of the Constitution -- he refused to do so and has continued to do so putting him in violation of the Constitution and his oath to uphold it).

Kirkuk is oil-rich disputed territory.  The semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government claims Kirkuk as their own as does the central government in Baghdad.  The Kurds are thought to be the largest ethnic group in the world without a homeland.  That could change and some fear an event this month might be leading to such a change.  Dropping back to the July 31st snapshot:

 As a global representative of the KRG, [President Massoud] Barzani is also a leader to many Kurds across the world.  Arabic News Digest notes, "Mr Barzani called Kurdish political parties in Syria, Turkey and Iran to a "nationalist convention" to be held in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, in order to discuss the Kurdish situation in these countries and examine the possibility of establishing autonomous rule there, as a prelude to a future territorial unification."  Dr. Kemal Kirkuki (Rudaw) notes, "The idea of a National Conference was first initiated years ago by President Barzani, who also heads the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Abdullah Ocalan, head of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the late Idris Barzani, and Jalal Talabani, secretary general of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Iraq’s president. But political turmoil and different regional and international factors always posed a barrier to making this goal a reality. What is happening now is the revival of the ideas of those four leaders."

Yesterday, Aso Fishagi (Rudaw) reports:

As Kurdish leaders across the Middle East prepare for a National Conference due later this month, some Iraqi leaders have voiced concern about the true intentions of the meeting.
An official from Iraq’s ruling State of Law coalition says that Baghdad has no objection to such a conference as long as it does not debate the separation of Kurdistan, and that outcome of the talks do not mean  a threat to Iraq or the region.
“If a National Conference is to find a better life for Kurds in Iraq and the region, we have no issues with that,” State of Law spokesman Ali Shalla told Rudaw. “The era of dictatorship and marginalization is over and no one should be able to control what we want to do.”
However, if the intention is to separate Kurdistan from Iraq, then Baghdad will certainly take a stance, Shalla added. He said that the organizers should invite some Iraqi MPs to attend the event.
“We hope that some Iraqi MPs, especially those who are known to be friends of the Kurds, get invited to the conference so that Baghdad knows what is discussed there and avoids any suspicions,” he said.

Hiwa Barznjy (Niqash) reports:

Kurdish groups and political parties from various different countries will finally come together in Iraqi Kurdistan at the end of August to work out how to form a united front in the face of regional conflict. Its the first time in recent history?

Finally the meeting that many people of Kurdish ethnicity had been trying to organise for years will happen. On July 22, representatives from 39 different Kurdish parties met near Erbil in the semi-autonomous state of Iraqi Kurdistan to prepare for just such a meeting in August. The meeting gathered parties from the four parts of the region that many Kurds like to call “greater Kurdistan” and which involve Kurds from areas in Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria.

The Kurdish people are one the largest ethnic groups in the world without an actual homeland and Kurdish living in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey share a language, culture and ethnicity. For many, the idea of a nation of their own, a greater Kurdistan, is something to strive for – and in fact, this is one of the biggest conflicts between militant Kurdish fighters who believe in that dream and the governments of the various countries in which they live, such as, for example, Turkey.

During this first meeting a preparatory committee was formed. It was made up of 21 representatives of Kurdish groups, with six from Turkey, five from Iraqi Kurdistan, five from Iran, four from Syria and one representative from the Kurdistan National Congress, a coalition of organisations from across Europe, formed by exiled Kurdish politicians, lawyers, and activists.

The last thing the meet-up needs is non-Kurds -- especially unneeded is Nouri's State of Law.  The meet-up, if it takes place, will be a huge moment for the Kurds -- their moment.  A great deal will need to be discussed and it needs to be a Kurdish conversation.

Meanwhile, what's going on in Baghdad?   NINA reports motorcycles and "pulled and pushed vehicles" have just been banned in Baghdad.  The official excuse is Eid al-Fitr.  Dar Addustour reports there are rumors of a palace coup against Nouri  -- Nouri's convinced foreign governments (plural) have banded together and hired assassins who now have the credentials not only to move freely in the Green Zone but also to walk directly up to the entrance of his home.  Poor Nouri, when you project evil onto others, it has a way of screwing up your own mind.  Already paranoid, he now fears constantly for his safety.

Finally,  Eugene Robinson (Washington Post via Miami Herald) observes, "If the new, decentralized al-Qaida is such a threat that 19 American embassies, consulates and other diplomatic posts have to be shuttered for a week, we have a decade of wrongheaded U.S. policy to blame." That would shut the mouths of most braying asses but not Chuck Schumer.

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