BULLY BOY PRESS & CEDRIC'S BIG MIX -- THE KOOL-AID TABLE
CELEBRITY IN CHIEF BARRY O GETS NO BUMP IN THE POLLS.
WHY IS THAT?
MAYBE IT'S BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE GETTING TIRED OF BABYING THE GROWN MAN?
MAYBE IT'S BECAUSE PRETTY SPEECHES DOESN'T PUT FOOD ON THE TABLE OR, AS JOHN BOYD JR. (NATIONAL BLACK FARMERS ASSOCIATION) EXPLAINS, "THE PRESIDENT MADE A STRONG COMMITMENT TO SHOW LEADERSHIP TO GET THIS DONE, AND BASICALLY WE HAVEN'T SEEN HIM SHOW THAT LEADERSHIP. THE PRESIDENT DIDN'T HELP US FINISH THE JOB."
FROM THE TCI WIRE:
While the 'winner' of the elections may now be in question, one 'winner' is not in question and Queerty announces that 'winner' is . . . : "We're sure the Jamaicans might have something to say about it, but Iraq has won the prestigious award of being dubbed "the most dangerous place on Earth for gays." For stuff like this. Congratulations!" As noted Saturday, San Diego Gay and Lesbian News reposts Paul Canning's "Iraq is the most dangerous place on Earth for gays:"It often shocks people to hear this but talk to Iraqi gays who've made it out and they'll tell you -- Life was better under Saddam. Baghdad played the role that Beirut does now as a sanctuary for Middle Eastern gay life with clubs which men from the Gulf and Saudi Arabia flocked to. In sharp contrast, for the past six years Iraq has been the worst place in the entire world to be gay. Far, far worse than Uganda or even Iran. Hundreds of gays, lesbians and transgender people have been hunted down and killed in the most vile ways imaginable -- and imagination is the right word. Doctors have confirmed reports of men have had their anuses glued shut by militia forces and others have accused the government of being involved. No one has been prosecuted and the Iraqi government has failed to do anything to stop it. So Iraqi gays have helped themselves. They have created safe houses, although many have been discovered and become a new killing field. Many have fled but they have faced a cold wall of indifference and they have needed friends and luck to actually make it to sanctuary. Our government, the British government, has turned its back on those who have arrived here. All have initially been refused asylum. The system instead has told them that Iraq is safe and they should go home.Ali Hili is an Iraqi attempting to be granted asylum in England, he is also the head of Iraqi LGBT. It is past time for Congress to hold a hearing on the issue of the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community. Among those who have spoken out publicly against the targeting are US House Reps Jared Polis, Tammy Baldwin and Alcee Hastings and US Senator Kirsten Gilibrand. Gilibran and Baldwin led on an effort last month. From the Gilibrand press release, we'll note the letter she and other members of Congress sent to the US Secretary of State:
The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State of the United States of America
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520-0099
Dear Madam Secretary,
We are writing to share our concerns about the safety of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals in countries where these individuals' health and lives are threatened and governments provide inadequate protection. Our concern was sparked most recently by accounts of LGBT individuals from Iraq and Iran who have had to flee after being severely beaten or worse, or because they face a significant risk of such persecution. Unfortunately, this situation is not unique to Iraq and Iran. LGBT individuals in a number of other countries are also under threat. Moreover, we are troubled by the fact that a number of countries criminalize or are taking steps to increase penalties against the LGBT community.
We know you share our concern. We appreciate the attention that the United States Government has paid to the special circumstances of people fleeing countries where they face persecution due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, particularly Iraq and Iran. The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, for example, has raised the unsolved attacks on gay men with the Ministry of Interior and the Human Rights Ministry. While we value these steps, we remain concerned about people's safety in both these and other countries with reports of persecution of LGBT individuals and/or groups. We are likewise very troubled that LGBT refugees from Iraq and Iran and possibly other countries face risks in first asylum countries where refugees often remain for years, and which are often nearly as hostile to the LGBT community as their home countries.
Therefore we respectfully request you to consider several ways in which your leadership and guidance would improve protection for LGBT individuals in both the countries where they are targeted and the first asylum countries where their safety is in question.
1. United States Ambassadors in countries of concern should strongly and consistently raise the fact that laws targeting homosexual activity and a lack of protection for LGBT individuals or groups violate international human rights law.
2. United Nations and its appropriate agencies, such as the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, should increase their promotion of the human rights of LGBT individuals and ensure that appropriate programs are focused on support of such individuals and groups.
3. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) should increase the training of all of its employees, contractors and implementing partners following its Guidance Note on Refugee Claims Relating to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. UNHCR should maximize its implementation of this important guidance so that LGBT refugees are not disadvantaged by inappropriate conduct or inadequate processing by UNHCR employees or implementing partners. It appears that additional LGBT refugee protection tools would need to be developed. As the largest donor, the U.S. could help foster an appropriate focus on this issue.
4. Ffor LGBT individuals, such as those from Iran and Iraq, who face risks in the countries of first asylum, as well as inside their home countries, resettlement processing should be expedited. This can be done in a number of ways, including:
a. Those LGBT refugees who can articulate a serious protection concern because of their sexual orientation or gender identity in the country of first asylum can be designated "refugees of special humanitarian concern" so they are eligible for Priority 2, or direct processing to the U.S. refugee admissions program. The United States already designated several groups of at-risk U.S.-affiliated Iraqis as P2-eligible in 2007 and 2008, and has used the designation for refugees from other countries in the past. We appreciate that this category of direct-access eligibility is reserved for some of the most at-risk groups and must be carefully crafted to identify a discrete group.
b. Processing of LGBT refugee applications can be expedited by UNHCR or the Department of State entering into agreements with qualified non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to identify or screen refugees who need to be taken immediately out of harm's way. Those LGBT refugees with serious protection concerns who are so identified by NGOs -- or who are otherwise known to UNHCR or the U.S. Government -- should be "fast tracked" by UNHCR or the State Department, as appropriate.
c. In appropriate cases, individuals might be moved by UNHCR to its emergency transit centers (ETCs) in order to ensure their safety during refugee processing. Our understanding is that such transit centers are currently used to house populations whose safety cannot be guaranteed while they are in refugee processing. If such centers are used to temporarily house LGBT refugees, UNHCR would need to take steps to ensure that the centers are sensitive to the protection needs of LGBT individuals. In cases where evacuation to an ETC is not practicable, we urge you to work with the Secretary of Homeland Security to expeditiously parole or conditionally admit particularly vulnerable refugees to the United States for processing, as the United States did with applicants evacuated from northern Iraq in 1996 and Macedonia in 1999.
d. Finally, the U.S. agencies involved in the security clearance procedures required as part of the refugee resettlement process should continue to improve coordination in order to enable these procedures to be completed in a timely manner.
Again, thank you for your attention to this matter. We would be very pleased to work with you and support you in any way we can.
Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senator Patrick J. Leahy
United States Senator Daniel K. AkakaUnited States SenatorJeff BingamanUnited States SenatorSherrod BrownUnited States SenatorRobert P. Casey Jr.
United States SenatorRussell D. FeingoldUnited States SenatorFrank R. LautenbergUnited States SenatorJoseph L. Lieberman
United States SenatorJeff Merkley
United States SenatorCharles E. Schumer
United States SenatorRon WydenUnited States Senator
Tammy BaldwinUnited States RepresentativeJared PolisUnited States Representative
Barney FrankUnited States RepresentativeJan SchakowskyUnited States RepresentativeJerrold NadlerUnited States RepresentativeMichael M. HondaUnited States RepresentativeLois CappsUnited States RepresentativeJames P. MoranUnited States RepresentativeZoe LofgrenUnited States RepresentativeDavid WuUnited States RepresentativeEdolphus TownsUnited States RepresentativeCarolyn MaloneyUnited States RepresentativeAlcee HastingsUnited States RepresentativeJohn ConyersUnited States RepresentativeLuis GutierrezUnited States RepresentativeBill DelahuntUnited States RepresentativeEliot EngelUnited States RepresentativeRaúl M. GrijalvaUnited States RepresentativeChellie PingreeUnited States RepresentativeJoseph CrowleyUnited States RepresentativeGary AckermanUnited States RepresentativeAnthony WeinerUnited States RepresentativeMaurice HincheyUnited States RepresentativeSteven RothmanUnited States RepresentativeJames P. McGovernUnited States RepresentativeLynn WoolseyUnited States RepresentativePaul TonkoUnited States RepresentativeMike QuigleyUnited States RepresentativeSteve IsraelUnited States RepresentativeHoward BermanUnited States RepresentativeHenry WaxmanUnited States RepresentativeBrad ShermanUnited States RepresentativeCongress -- especially the DPC -- has had hearings into waste and fraud. It's past time that hearings took place about human rights. Paul Canning believes one of the most helpful things that can be done presently for Ali Hili and Iraq's LGBT community is for the US Congress to invite him to testify before them. To contact Tammy Baldwin, Jared Polis and Kirsten Gillibrand visit their websites. To contact the DPC (Democratic Policy Committee), click here. To request that the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs take up the issue, click here.
"We are here today" Christopher Shays declared in DC this morning, "to talk about transitions in Iraq. March 20 was the seventh anniversary of the US, British and other allies invasion of Iraq. American combat operations there have lasted almost twice as long as the American Civil War or US involvement in WWII."
Shays was reading the opening remarks of the commissioners of the Commission on Wartime Conracting in Iraq and Afghanistan as they held another of there oh-so-rare hearings. Shays explained the Commission was concerned that contractors -- such as KBR "whose employees account for half of all contractors in the country" -- were keeping accurate numbers of their employees -- and didn't have "unnecessary staff hanging around" -- since each one can cost the US tax payer approximately $1,000 a month. In addition, "We also want to explore what appears to be alarming data revealed in audits by the Defense Contract Audit Agency and the Inspector General of the Department of Defense."
Adam Weinstein (Mother Jones) reported earlier this month, "It was just a single contract for a single job on a single base in Iraq. The Deparmtne of Defense agreed to pay the megacontractor KBR $5 million a year to repair tactical vehicles, from Humvees to big rigs, at Joint Base Balad, a large airfield and supply center north of Baghdad. Yet according to a new Pentagon report [PDF], what the military got was as many as 144 civilian mechanics, each doing as little as 43 minutes of work a month, with virtually no oversight. The report, issued March 3 by the DoD's Inspector General, found that between late 2008 and mid-2009, KBR performed less than 7 percent of the work it was expected to do, but still got paid in full."
The Commission heard from two panels. The first was governmental -- Lt Gen James Pillsbury, DCAA's Patrick J. Fitzgerald and RICC's James Loehr. The second was KBR execs Doug Horn and Guy H.A. Laboa. All the witnesses were sworn in -- and sworn in at the start of the hearing. Shays is one of the co-chairs of the Commission, Michael Thibault is another. Thibault declared in the first round of questioning that he was "on a tear about efficiency and economy." He noted Loehr's report which found KBR was repeatedly late with providing cost updating, that they were overstaffed and that they were mismanaged.
Commissioner Michael Thibault: So my question, Mr. Loehr, is, please, what's going on here?
James Loehrl: Okay, um. What that PEB [Performance Evaluation Board] is is that's a monthly assessment that the Defense Contract Management Agency's ACO's perform with KBR in theater on a monthly basis to give the contractor feedback. And as you said, all of that leads -- flows into the bi-annual award fee process. Uh, some of what is in there very clearly, if what the ACL is reporting there was correct and KBR is not implementing ACL changes and getting those ACL changes incorporated into the base line, then that is an issue and the proper way to be addressing them is at that PEB form so the KBR understands that that is then going to flow into their award fee evaluation and effect their profitability. And so that is what that process is going on. I believe that particular PEB was one on the core logistics, then calls into the same thing Mr. Fitzgerald brought up with that DCAA report regarding that staffing of that logistic's mission. So I think two of those --
Thibault cut him off and noted the problems outlined before stating, "Multi-billion dollar and my sensitivity is if you don't have the kind of score keeping, sir, that you need, in order to do your job, how are we going to get it?" His time was up but he noted Shays had indicated he wanted to pursue the line of questioning when his turn rolled around. Pointing to one report regarding staffing, Commission Robert Henke noted over $190 million in waste of the tax payer dollar by KBR and he wanted to know if "the Army or the Army Material Command has responded to this report? If someone would write me a report that said, 'You can save $193 million,' I'd write 'em back and say I agree or disagree. Sir, has the Army responded?" Lt Gen James Pillsbury reponded, "I will take that for the record. I don't know if we have responded exactly to-to it. I know that we are taking actions to drawdown" contractors. Henke then asked Fitzgerald if the Army had "responded formally to the report?"
Patrick Fitzgerald: Sir, if you mean formally in writing --
Commissioner Robert Henke: Yeah.
Patrick Fitzgerald: No. [. . .]
Commissioner Robert Henke: General, since the Army hasn't responded to the audit, could you do that here?
Lt Gen James Pillsbury: Uhm. Again, sir, the-the-the drawdown in Iraq is-is on pace. Uhm, given the DCAA audit and the fact that General [Ray] Odierno [top US commander in Iraq] has said that we would draw down by 5%, the actions of -- that I believe are ongoing -- are prudent. Now, I am not an auditor. I am an operational logistician and requirements in a flowing battlefield, in a flowing theater, especially when its drawing down, are very difficult to put your arms around. So I will say to you, sir, I will take this for the record and get back to you with a written response from AMC with what are actions are for the audit but-but I will tell you sir, the situtations on the ground are somewhat fluid as you well know.
Commissioner Robert Henke: I-I-I appreciate that entirely but you're telling me that AMC has a comprehensive plan to drawdown contracts and contractos and the single biggest contractor in theater is KBR with 15,000 direct hires and 30,000 other peopl. I would think if an auditor would tell you, "There's a chance to save $193 million" that someone in the system would feel compelled to respond. I'm disappointed that the Army has not. We had the LOGCAP program manager up here before the Commission in December, asked him his response -- the report was just out -- so this is not new material. In fact, the point of the audit is that the savings are going, going gone. If the army had acted the savings could have been achieved but since the Army or the DoD hasn't responded, the savings are effectively gone. So my question to you, sir, is who is responsible for cost efficiency, for cost awarenss of expensive contracts in theater.
Lt Gen James Pillsbury: The Army Material Command leadership is as you well know. The contract oversight, we depend on our partners at DCMA and DCAA. [. . . . ]
Commissioner Katherine Schinasi returned to the PEB and wanted to know what the government did in terms of consequences for those who failed? She noted that the government has written to KBR: "You're not being pro-active enough, you're not taking the initative." So after they've been given instructive criticism, "what is the consequence if they don't do that?" James Loehr fell back on that this was part of their award fee criteria.
Commissioner Katherine Schinasi: And have you withheld award fee for that purpose? Because they have not done that?
James Loehr: Uhm. Yes. I think if you go back and look at the award fee evaluation, you'll find that K -- KBR, I don't think, has ever -- very rarely -- gets 100% in that category.
Commissioner Katherine Schinasi: Close to 100%?
James Loehr: Uhm. I think -- I'd have to get back to you for that specifically but they are generally in that-that high-very good, though, excellent range that category.
In other words, KBR suffers no real penalty. And they keep getting contracts. And Inspector General reports keep coming out calling out KBR. But it's calling out not just KBR but these people who are supposed to be watching this in real time, doing these PEBs in real time. But KBR gets to skate. It's already stolen $193 million from the US tax payers on one deal alone and James Loehr and others work real hard to ensure it's high rated -- despite only average reports -- so that it gets the bulk of its award fee. Kat intends to cover some aspects of the hearing at her site tonight.
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