Saturday, May 22, 2010

Bury the problem in committee













Today Barack Obama worshiper E.D.Kain (Truth/Slant) reminds (before excusing), "The potentially big viral video of the day is this one. It's of Barack Obama promising, 16 months ago, that by today -- May 21st, 2010 -- we'd be out of Iraq." As noted, he quickly excuses the broken promise. That's it, E.D., keep suckling on your golden calf. Those man boobs of Barack may yet bear milk. But make room for Jamelle Bouie who wants to go even further in minimizing Barack's broken promise. He says it's not a broken promise because Barack wasn't president!!!! What a stupid ass. "I don't know as much as I should about our Iraq policy" confesses Dumb Ass Jamelle. He doesn't know much about anything. Barack broke his promise. And it's not even a surprise. Samantha Power said he would, that's what she told the BBC in March 2008. From the Friday, March 7, 2008 snapshot:
Obama still lacks the leadership to take control of his campaign -- that would have required firing Power. Instead she resigned indicating that he's unable to run a campaign as well as unable to tell the truth. Power -- who also went to work for Obama in 2005 when he was first elected to the US Senate (November 2004) -- also had to deal with the BBC interview she'd given. Barack Obama has not promised to pull ALL troops out of Iraq in 16 months. He has promised the American people that "combat" troops would be removed. But promises, promises (as Dionne Warwick once sang) . . .
Stephen Sackur: "You said that he'll revisit it [the decision to pull troops] when he goes to the White House. So what the American public thinks is a commitment to get combat forces out within sixteen months, isn't a commitment is it?"
Samantha Power: "You can't make a commitment in whatever month we're in now, in March of 2008 about what circumstances are going to be like in January 2009. We can'te ven tell what Bush is up to in terms of troops pauses and so forth. He will of course not rely upon some plan that he's crafted as a presidential candidate or as a US Senator."
Which would mean Mr. Pretty Speeches has been lying to the American people.
In a bit of good news for Jamelle, Barack has two nipples. That's one for Jamelle and one for E.D. Suckle on your golden calf, boys. And be sure to wipe the floor down when you leave -- maybe even disinfect it. In the real world, Jason Ditz ( observes:
In all seriousness, everyone who has been following the story even a little knows that just two days after his inauguration, President Obama was already talking about the promise as "aspirational" and a month later the "16 month plan" was formally replaced with the so-called 19 month plan, which would involve having some American troops leave Iraq by August 2010, declaring combat over, and keeping 50,000 troops "indefinitely."
At the time that pledge seemed a terrible betrayal of a campaign promise that was made the center of his foreign policy in debates. Now, even the "19 month plan" is looking pretty good by comparison, as officials admit it too is being "reconsidered."
Xinhua reports a car bombing in Diyala Province's Khalis. CNN notes it was "just outside a coffee shop" and resulted in 22 dead and fifty-three injured. BBC adds, "The BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad said a car containing explosives was set off in a busy market in front of a coffee shop where crowds were enjoying the cool evening." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) quotes Mohammed Ahmed stating, "The explosion was so big I thought for a minute I was in hell." Waleed Ibrahim, Jim Loney and Charles Dick (Reuters) report the death toll has climbed to 30 with eighty injured. AFP reminds, "Khales itself was last struck with a major attack on March 26, when twin bombings in front of a cafe and a restaurant in the city killed 42 people and wounded 65 others."
In other reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing which injured four police officers. Waleed Ibrahim, Jim Loney and Charles Dick (Reuters) report a Nimrud car bombing which left seven people injured. Reuters notes a Kirkuk Thursday roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 militia member and a Mussayab Thursday night car bombing which left six people wounded.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an Abu Zaid armed clash which claimed 4 lives and left a fifth wounded and dropping back to Tuesday a Mosul attack which claimed the lives of 2 police officers. Reuters notes a Baquba home invasion (by assailants "wearing military unifornm") in which 4 family members were slaughtered and a fifth was left injured.
Iraqis continue to die while in 'custody' and Hannah Allam and Jamal Naji (McClatchy Newspapers) report families of six Sunni men who died this month while imprisoned are planning to sue the Iraqi government, that "at least three of the six [. . .] showed signs of torture and they quote the late Salah al Nimrawi's brother Talib al Nimrawi stating, "I blame the Iraqi government, which bears responsibility for the death of my brother, and the American forces hold even more responsibility for handing him over to the Iraqis. The Americans should exert pressure on the Iraqi government to hand over the criminals who did this. Otherwise, (our) tribe is not a small tribe."
Yesterday's snapshot noted the Turkish military bombing northern Iraq. Reuters notes that the Kurdistan Regional Government issued a statement today regarding that bombing and the shelling the Iranian military has been doing on northern Iraq: "The presidency of the Iraq Kurdistan region condemns these attacks on the border regions, and at the same time considers this a violation and aggression on the sovereignty of the Iraqi state and demands its immediate cessation." Iran is in the news for other topics as well including influence. Marjorie Olster and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) report that unattributed 'chatter' portrays the US government concerned with Iran's alleged backing of Nouri al-Maliki to remain as prime minister of Iraq. Nouri al-Maliki's political slate, State Of Law, came in second in the March 7th elections winning 89 seats in the new Parliament. Ayad Allawi's slate, Iraqiya, came in first with 91 seats. Al-Ahram Weekly quotes Allawi stating, "I really don't know how it will end but what I know is that we are not going to accept that the will of the Iraqi people is going to be confiscated."
The Iraq War created many things but democracy wasn't one of them. Refugees? The illegal war created a huge number of refugees internally and externally. This week the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre released [PDF format warning] "Internal Displacement: Global Overview of Trends and Developments in 2009." Findings in the report include:
* This internally displaced population -- equivalent to one in ten Iraqis -- had been displaced in three phases. Since February 2006, around 1.5 million people had fled sectarian and generalised violence including military operations by multinational, Iraqi, Turkish and Iranian forces in northern Iraq. Approximately 190,000 people had been displaced by military operations and generalised violence from 2003 to 2005, and close to a million by the policies of the former government of Saddam Hussein, including the "arabisation" of Kurdish areas, destruction of marshlands in southern Iraq, and repression of political opposition.
* Iraq's many minority groups faced particular threats, including Christian Assyrians, Faeeli Kurds, Yazidis, Palestinian refugees, and also Sunni and Shia people where they were in the minority. Children and women faced recruitment by armed groups, sexual and gender-based violence, and labour exploitation. Despite the decline in violence, the UN and the humanitarian
community continued to report human rights abuses and violations against civilians by militias, criminal gangs, and security forces, with perpetrators generally avoiding prosecution.
* Over half of the world's internally displaced people (IDPs) were in five countries: Sudan, Colombia, Iraq, DRC and Somalia.
* Internally displaced women and children were particularly exposed to rape and sexual violence in many countries including Chad, Colombia, DRC, India, Iraq, Kenya, Myanmar, Somalia and Sudan.

* In Iraq, displaced women heading households on their own faced higher risks of sexual exploitation than women who were accompanied by men.
*In many countries, returns were not voluntary and IDPs' involvement in planning the process was limited. In countries including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Columbia, Iraq and Sudan, IDPs were encouraged or forced to return before it was safe or sustainable for them to do so.
* In Iraq, most displacement in 2009 was caused by the actions of militant groups targeting members of other communities.
* In Iraq, the number of returnees increased but remained a small percentage of the number displaced.
* In Iraq, despite the overall decline in violence, returnees and IDPs continued to face endemic violence and threats on the basis of their religious, sectarian or ethnic origins, or simply for being displaced or a returnee.
All starred statements above are direct quotes from the report. Iraq makes the list of countries with the most internally displaced people (Iraq comes in third with an estimated 2.76 million IDPs). That's the internally displaced. There are also the external refugees.

Fran Kelly: . . . Michael Otterman, a freelance journalist and human rights consultant. He is the author of a new book called Erasing Iraq: The Human Cost of Carnage. Michael, thanks very much for joining us again on Breakfast.
Michael Otterman: Thanks for having me in.
Fran Kelly: The premise of your book, Erasing Iraq, is the litany of wrongs that Iraqi people have suffered at the hands of foreigners. It's seven years since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, there's still plenty of violence going on as we hear every day or every week at least. But there is now some political stability. They're have been elections recently -- although they're still being resolved. Is Iraq a better place than it was under Saddam Hussein in 2003?
Michael Otterman: Well you have to look at the wider costs. Things are more stable today certainly as they were right after the invasion. The rates of violence relative to the worst days of the post-invasion chaos are down but what my book is about is the human costs. The costs have been tremendous. As part of this book's research, I've spent time in Syria and Jordan speaking to Iraqi refugees and they were very quick to point out the trauma they've experienced -- obviously it endured under Saddam Hussein. And I include narratives of life under Saddam and torture that some people endured under Saddam. But they're -- in terms of US aggression in that country -- they pinpoint 1991, during the first Gulf War, and the UN sanctions and then, finally, 2003 and the post-invasion chaos as this real continuum of suffering. The costs have been tremendous. Over five million displaced. Millions killed. So it's really hard to compare apples to oranges -- what's better, what's worse? Iraqis I spoke to -- Look, some supported the toppling of Saddam Hussein but I didn't meet any Iraqi that supported this prolonged occupation.
Fran Kelly: Okay. Just the title itself, Erasing Iraq. What do you mean?
Michael Otterman: Well we talk about the concept of sociocide in the book and sociocide is a term which -- essentially it reflects the killing of people and displacement but also reflects the larger cost. And we argue that includes the destruction of society. And sociocide's an apt term to describe the level of destruction in Iraq. And-and is akin to erasing Iraq because not only do you have millions killed and millions displaced, but you have destruction of very basic and central elements of Iraqi life coming through, say, if you look at the religious and minorities in Iraq. We talk about the Mandaeans which is a religious group that have lived, well, for centuries in Iraq. They numbered about 50,000 strong before 2003 and after 2003 they've just been obliterated by Sunnia, Shia fundamentalists. Their numbers are about four or five thousand today, down from fifty thousand. And they've had this almost global diaspora. They've been killed, kidnapped within Iraq. So this is a religious group that's unique to -- or was unique to Iraq -- which has been completely obliterated in the post-invasion chaos. Sociocide, erasing Iraq, also refers to the destruction of cultural elements in the country, the destruction of shared artifacts. Things like the Baghdad museum which was sacked after the invasion. Over 9,000 artifacts are still lost and presumed destroyed. This reflects the wider costs of this war which the term sociocide describes.
Fran Kelly: I suppose no one really thinks any war has no costs. And here, sitting in the West, perhaps we think it's worth it, Saddam is gone, these people are now holding relatively free and fair elections, it seems to be moving forward. I think one statistic that I read in your book that I hadn't really focused on much was the displacements, the displaced people, the amount of refugee people living -- well, homeless in Iraq but outside of Iraq. It numbers in the millions, as you said,
Michael Otterman: Yeah, I mean, it's an incredible number. It's an incredible movement of people. It's the largest refugee crisis in the region since 1948 and the establishment of Israel. But it's almost an invisible crisis because, like I said, there's almost 2 million externally displaced refugees. Most of them live in Syria and Jordan. But unlike other refugee crises that come to mind, these people aren't living in tents. They live in the outskirts of Damascus and Amman in kind of the rougher neighborhoods and in ramshackle buildings. Interestingly, these are mostly middle-class Iraqis, many professionals and school teachers. These are actually the people that Iraq needs certainly right now to rebuild -- to rebuild its society. But they remain displaced and, despite relative drops in violence, they choose not to return because they don't see a country that (a) is stable and (b) that - that has water, power, basic sewage, the services --
Fran Kelly: So life is better in sort of some kind of refugee situation in Syria or Iran or Jordan than it is in Iraq?
Michael Otterman: That's right. I mean, there hasn't been massive returns. Actually, there's only been a trickle of returns.

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Next come the locust






Helen Benedict is someone we've noted many times before. She wrote The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq and she is a professor at Columbia University. She appeared before Congress today and her opening remarks included:

Too often they told me that when they tried to report an assault, the military and VA treated them as liars and malingerers. They also told me that their Sexual Assault Response Coordinators, assigned to them by the military, often treated them with such suspicion that they felt re-traumatized and intimidated out of pursing justice. Indeed, the usual approach to a report of sexual assault within the military is to investigate the victim, not the perpetrator, and to dismiss the case altogether if alcohol is involved. Counselors have told me of seeing case after case where a battered and abused victim has been told, "It's your word against his." It is therefore essential that the counselors used by the military and the VA be trained in civilian rape crisis centers, away from a military culture that habitually blames the victim and that is too often concerned with protecting the image of a platoon or commander by covering up wrongdoing. These counselors -- and indeed anyone within the military charged with investigating sexual assault -- should be trained to understand the causes, effects and costs of sexual abuse to both the victim and to society. Within the VA, reform is also needed. The process for evaluating disability caused by military sexual assault needs to be automatically upgraded. And victims who were too intimidated to report an assault while on active duty should never be denied treatment once they come home, as they so often are now. The VA needs to recognize the fact that some 90 percent of victims never report assaults within the military because its culture is so hostile to them. The VA must also recognize and address the fact that it can take years to recover from sexual assault and that untreated trauma caused by sexual assault can result in depression, homelessness, self-destructive behavior and suicide. No victim of military sexual assault should ever be denied benefits and help.

She was but one qualified witness appearing before the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, chaired by US House Rep John Hall, and the Subcommittee on Health, chaired by Michael Michaud. There were also two who shouldn't have been present. Kaye Whitley, for example, will always get eye rolls when talking about how 'happy' she is to speak to the Congress (it will never be forgotten that she refused to appear before the Congress under Bully Boy Bush). And then there was Scott Berkowitz and I'm not donating to RAINN anymore. Scott's an idiot and he's always been an idiot but, more importantly, he spoke on behalf of an organization. Every other oganization sent women: Anuradha K. Bhagwati (Service Women's Action Network), Jennifer Hunt (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America) and Joy J. Ilem (Disabled American Veterans). But even with Whitley and Berkowitz, it should have made for a strong hearing.

It should have.

How many times did we hear a variety of this: "Your complete written statements are a part of the record, Chairman Michaud and I uh spoke about the time situation before and if ther'es no objection from members of the submccomties we would like to submit our questions in writing and for the record and move on to the second panel so that we can try and hear from as many witnesses as possible."

That's US House Rep John Hall. Guess what? Unacceptable.

What a load of s**t. 'Mexico's president is in the country!!!!!!' Can we not wet ourselves.

And we can talk decorum? I don't care what the Arizona law is (I haven't read it -- like the White House, I haven't actually read it), you do not applaud someone from another country -- you certainly don't stand up and applaud -- coming into the halls of Congress and delivering a speech calling out one of the fifty states. I believe the Dixie Chicks -- who did not hold any public office -- were banned, had their CDs burned and more for much, much less. That was shameful and disgusting. Joe Biden had the sense to remain seated, Nancy Pelosi was standing.

That was a shameful moment. It's a very thin line and the Congress needs to learn how to walk it. They are the public servants of the United States of America. Arizona is a part of those fifty states. To applaud and cheer Calderon's remarks against Arizona? That was disgusting. As they demonstrated at State of the Union address, the Congress has made WHORES out of themselves and no one should ever take them seriously. Apparently, when not in session, they can be found providing laugh tracks and applause for various sitcoms. They are not private citizens (the Dixie Chicks are), they are public servants and they were in the US Congress making monkeys of themselves.

At some point, someone might want to ask why Calderon of I-stole-the-election fame (or infamy) was even allowed to speak? He's unhappy with Arizona? Well I think the world's unhappy with the murders in Oaxaca. What the hell is he doing on that? And if it objecting to a law in the US is keeping him from addressing that issue, by all means take your ass back to your own country, don't feel you have to stay any longer.

So there was a serious topic today and it wasn't addressed seriously.

What was the hearing. We all had to stand for the Pledge. Why was that? If time was of essence, guess what, that's the first thing that could have been chucked. (Hall always starts his hearings with the pledge.) Then Hall made his statement then Doug Lamborn spoke from Land of Crazy -- you know all these false rapes and false claims and blah, blah, blah. But he was going to listen and hoped to learn something. The first thing he should have learned? When to stay silent. When not to flaunt the ignorance.

So here's how the 'hearing' went, there were three panels. Each witness read their prepared statement outloud. As one finished the next started. When panel one finished, panel two was called, then panel three.

Where were the questions?

There were none.

Don't worry -- we were told -- they'd be part of the record. They'd be done in writing. No, that's not good enough. That's outrageous.

What is that? Hearing by correspondence?

That is an embarrassment and it's an insult to those suffering from MST and those working in that field. You can give many sentences -- as Hall and Michaud did at the end of the 'hearing' -- claiming that this isn't an insult to the issue or the people or blah, blah F**KING blah. That's exactly what it is.

Calderon never should have been invited to address Congress to begin with. He had nothing of value to say and he's done nothing of value in his own country. But his chance to insult Arizona was deemed more important than the US government doing their business -- the business they are paid by the tax payers to do.

But they're only following lazy-ass-in-chief for whom every day is a snow day. Which is why the Gulf disaster continues. But hey, Barry got a chance to preen and pose today and isn't that what democracy is all about.

This hearing needed to take place and it needed to take place publicly.

There is no excuse for this.

In Iraq, bombings from the skies. Hurriyet Daily News states Turkey's military aircraft "hit PKK camps in northern Iraq." Counting 20 planes, Al Jazeera reports, "Turkish fighter jets have bombed dozens of Kurdish separatist targets in northern Iraq, local television has reported." The network's Anita Mcnaught declares, "This is one of the biggest strikes in the last two years. This was a very much larger strike than usual -- almost 50 locations. And a day long attack involving all these fighter jets." Ivan Watson and Yesim Comert (CNN) report, "A Turkish military source told CNN Turk, CNN's sister network, that the military scrambled jets to carry out the attack after a group of suspected fighters were detected on Iraqi territory, approaching Turkey's mountainous border with Iraq." And AFP adds, "Thursday's strikes followed a series of daring attacks in recent weeks by PKK rebels on Turkish military targets in the country's southeast, which left several soldiers dead." RTT notes, "At least 37,000 people have died in the two-decade-long violence unleashed by the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by most of the international community including the United States and the EU."

March 7th was when elections were held. If the last time Nouri was crowned is any indication, there are still two months to go before anyone is 'selected' for prime minister. Back then, elections were held in December 2005. Nouri was 'crowned' in April 2006. Should the schedule be similar this go round, it would be July. However, this go round brought new stresses and Nouri and his toys did everything they could to tarnish Iraqiya's victory. They screamed that the results weren't accurate and that there was massive fraud -- so much so, they just knew (they claimed 'proof') that in Baghdad alone they could pick up to 20 extra seats via a recount. They screamed that elected candidates were Ba'athists and would not be seated in the new Parliament. They targeted Iraqiya with harassment and arrests. And, in the process, not only upped the stress levels for Iraqis, they put a cloud and question mark over Iraqiya's win which was the whole point. While Iraqiya was defending their win, Nouri was working on coalition building -- something he would have been rebuked on had he not made Iraqiya's win murky. (The winning slate is guaranteed first shot at forming a coalition.) While this may have been a 'winning' 'strategy' for his State Of Law slate, it has created stress among Iraq's middle class. Borzou Daragahi (Los Angeles Times) reports fundamentalists militias invading Ibtisam Hamoody's neighborhood didn't send her packing, "turning it into a killing field" didn't send her packing and her husband being shot dead didn't send her packing. But now she and her youngest daughter or leaving Iraq with plans to live in either Jordan or Syria. Why? The continued uncertainty and return to violence in the madness of post-election Iraq. Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) notes, "More than two months after the vote, Maliki and former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi -- leaders of two political blocs considered essential to a coalition government -- have still not met." Arraf notes that he was out of the country today as many leaders attended a scheduled lunch with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Alsumaria TV explained that the meeting today with Talabanai would be attended by Iraqiya's Tareq al-Hashemi (Iraq's Sunni vice president), Mohammed Allawi, Hussein Shaalan and Hasan al-Ulwi but "Kurdistan Alliance senior official Abdul Bari Zebari demeaned the importance of the meeting at Talabani's headquarters." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) reports on the meet up and notes that with all the leaders attending, there was "not a single woman among them" and he quotes Tariq al-Hashemi stating of the drawn out post-election period, "It's a shame on Iraq. The United Kingdom formed a government in five days. Despite the political conflicts in Sudan, they were able to form a government quicker than us."

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

His own personal Michael Lohan






Scott Brown is a junior US senator, just elected in January. Does he know that he stopped a very important conversation from taking place today? Does he know that the American people almost got some truth but he cut off the Veterans Affairs official? I have no idea. I don't know Brown. But I do know that the White House wants to put Social Security on the chopping block ("trims" is their codeword that no one in the press wants to report on but everyone in the DC press knows). Last week, US House Rep Susan Davis chaired a Subcommittee hearing of the House Armed Services Committee. I like Davis, she's a great Chair. But I ignored the hearing because I really didn't want to unpack all this. Today we have to. The White House wants to cut Social Security benefits (again "trim" is their word). To sell that, the current plan is to spin that "we" "all" "have to sacrifice." That means "all." And "all" means everyone not independently wealthy. (That's not sour grapes on my part. I'll be sitting pretty regardless of what happens.) That would include veterans. And, for a brief second, before Scott Brown cut the witness off, Americans almost learned what the White House might have in store.
Senator Scott Brown: I'm wondering if you could just tell me what benefits might be at risk at this point and time? Any specific issues that we need to focus on that we're missing or falling through the cracks?

Thomas Pamperin: Benefits that are currently being delivered that might be taken away?

Senator Scott Brown: Right. Things that we -- that you're saying, "You know what? We got to keep our eye on this."

Thomas Pamperin: Uh - uh, we'd be glad to - to give you a more extensive response in - in the future. Uh . . . My - my concern is that the nation clearly --

Senator Scott Brown: Can I interrupt just for a second?
He clearly could because he did and he then rephrased the question so that it was about benefits that are in place that aren't being worked in full. (Wally is covering Brown's testimony at Rebecca's site tonight.)
What benefits, Brown asked, might be at risk. And Pamerin was clearly frustrated -- taking long pauses in responding (in the above excerpt), stumbling over his words and uh-uh-ing. "Benefits," he asked Brown, "that are currently being delivered that might be taken away?" And then continuing down that line, he started talking about a "concern" "that the nation clearly" when he was cut off.
The US "clearly" had what "concern" at present? That would be the economy, that would be the debt. Brown should not have cut off the witness, he should not have rephrased the question. DC talk is all about the cuts that the White House is dreaming of pushing through. And there was the VA's Thomas Pamperin stating -- before he was cut off -- what everyone's talking about on the social circuit in DC while they avoid reporting on it at their papers and on their broadcasts.
The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee is Chaired by Daniel Akaka and today's hearing was on pending legislation. Not on the lengthy list of pending legislation? The national list that Senator Evan Bayh presented to the Committee in October of last year. The first panel is our focus -- both for the Brown exchange and another. But we need to pick up one aspect of the second panel first. Vietnam Veterans of America's Richard Weidman was among those testifying on the second panel. In his opening testimony, he commented on each proposed piece of legislation. Senator Richard Burr is the Ranking Member on the Committee. On Burr's proposed Multifamily Transitional Housing Loan Program legislation, Weidman testified:
In regards to possible improvements in the multifamily transitional housing loan program, VVA favors signficant expansion of this program beyond five loans. We have been stuck at no more than five loans since this program was first enacted as a loan guaranty progrm in 1998. The animus of the permanent bureaucracy at the Office of Management and Budget to this program from the outset continues to be a classic study in the irrationality of a runaway and virtually unaccountable fourth branch of government. Initially the OMB opposition was because it was a loan guaranty program and therefore less subject to tight control by the OMB bureaucracy. Whether this move to change this from a loan guaranty program to a direct loan program is due to finally acceding to bureaucratic wishes, or simply a reflection fo a vry different reality in the private capital markets due to financial problmes of the last few years, we do not know. However, we do know that if this program is worth doing, and we believe it is, then after being in existence for more than a decade it must be expanded beyond something that can and is used for the benefit of only one or two private investors. This program in an expanded form is very much needed if we are to virtually eliminate, or at least to dramatically reduce, homelessness among veterans with the next five or six years.
His prepared remarks will be noted (ahead of time) in this exchange during the first panel.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: Mr. Jefferson, I'll show you the same love today OMB provided you to come to this hearing. [C.I. note: OMB did not clear the prepared remarks by the Dept of Labor's Raymond Jefferson in time for them to be included in the record. ] Mr. Pamperin, in your testimony, it indicated VA would be submitting a legislative proposal in the near future. Now I didn't see anything in your description of it relating to homelessness so let me turn to Dr. Jesse. Does the administration require legislative changes as part of its overall homelessness program?
Dr. Robert Jesse: Uhm, I don't think so at this point. Right now as you know homelessness is one of uhm -uhm Secretary Schinzeki's major initatives. It's his top initiative. Not just to reduce homelessness but to eliminate it. And there are, uh, significant forces being martialed towards that end -- both at very high levels within his office as well as in uh, uhm, the VHA to address homelessness not just from providing housing but trying to address the fundamental issues related to that.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: Were those the FY011, 012 advance funding requests anticipate or require changes in the law to release funding for homeless veterans programs?
Dr. Robert Jesse: Uhm -- from my perspective, I don't see that it does at this point but I don't think we should preclude asking for that.

Ranking Member Richard Burr: Can anybody tell me when the Committee would be wise to expect legislation to come from the VA?
Richard Hipolit: Uh, I was in touch with the Office of Management and Budget yesterday and they're assuring us they're going to clear our bill for submission.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: I hope they do better than they did with Mr. Jefferson's testimony today.
Richard Hipolit: Yeah, they're telling me they hope to clear it today in fact. So hopefully we'll be getting it up very shortly.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: Well Dr. Jesse, our second panel, Mr. Weidman, testifies, will testify in support of my bill but he had some criticism of the Office of Management and Budget -- arguing that OMB's permanent bureacracy has been opposed to the program from the onset. What's been your experience as it relates to the oversight of the program?
Dr. Robert Jesse: Uhm -- I apologize but I don't think I can really speak to that.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: Have you had an opportunity to look through the bill that I've introduced with Senator Akaka, with Senator [Roland] Burris, with Senator [Dick] Durbin?
Dr. Robert Jesse: Uh, we -- we -- we're -- we don't have comments cleared for - for that, sir.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: Well, I -- Do you have any personal comments that you'd like to make? Other than the comments of the Office of Management and Budget? Now let me say, I whole heartedly endorse the Secretary's committement to homelessness. Let me tell you, OMB doesn't give a s**t about homelessness. If they did, this problem would be solved. The Secretary is genuine and passionate about ending it. But if OMB is going to design the program, it's not going to get solved. I'm not soliciting an answer. I'm not asking a question. I'm making a statement that I hope all of you let it penetrate. If we're going to solve this problem, we can't wait for somebody down the street to come up with another bureaucratic solution to a problem that keeps veterans on the streets. We can go home and feel good about the fact that we put a shelter over their head. But if OMB is not willing to release the program to work where the wrap around services provide that veteran everything they need to end permanent homelessness, it isn't going to happen. So let's quit fooling ourselves. And you might say to the Secretary, he's the only one who can have a conversation with OMB. If OMB is the one that we need to pull up here and not VA, then for goodness sake, tell the Chairman and we'll start pulling OMB up. Mr. Pamperin, in a recent opinion, Posey v. Shinseki, a judge on the US Court of Appeals for Veterans [Judge Lawrence B. Hagel] provided this observation [concurring opinion] about what happens when an individual tries to appeal to the court but mistakenly sends his or her notice of appeal to a VA office: "It has become clear to me that VA somewhat routinely holds correspondence from claimants that it determines, sometime after receipt, are Notices of Appeal to this Court. As a result, in far too many cases, the Court receives the Notice of Appeal from VA only after the 120-day appeal period has expired, permitting the Secretary to then move to dismiss the appeals for lack of jurisidiction." First of all, can you give us an idea of how frequently a Notice of Appeal mistakenly is sent to the VA rather than the court?
Thomas Pamperin: Uh, no - no, sir. I - I am aware that it does happen periodically. But in terms of a hard number, I don't have such a number.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: What policies are in place for dealing with a Notice of Appeal that's mistakenly been sent to the VA?
Thomas Pamperin: The letter is sup -- is to be returned to the veteran and advised as to where he should file it.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: Has a written guidance been provided to VA staff on these policies and, if so, can the Committee have a copy of that written policy?
Thomas Pamperin: Uh -- Sir -- I don't know specifically that but if -- I will bring that back and we will provide you with the instructions that have been provided.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: Do you know if VA staff is following these policies?
Thomas Pamperin: [Long inhale] The VA routinely conducts site surveys of its regional offices. Each regional office, once every three years. And an assessment of the performance of the office in terms of compliance with instruction is included in that. I do not recall, in the last couple three years, a specific reference that that has been idenfitied as an issue.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: Last question, Mr. Chairman, do you think that more could be done to protect the appeal rights of veterans who mistakenly send their Notice to the VA instead of to the court?
Thomas Pamperin: Yes, sir. I think that there are legitimate uh occasions when the 120 day, hard and fast rule needs to be adjusted.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: Well given - given that you can't cite an instance lately, I'll be more than happy to supply you with some instances that you can look back at. I thank the Chair.
Again, Senator Daniel Akaka is the Chair of the Committee and his office notes:

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) held a hearing today to review pending veterans' benefits and health care legislation. The Committee questioned witnesses and reviewed 20 bills in preparation for later legislative action.

"The bills before us represent a sincere effort to improve the care and benefits veterans receive. I will work with my colleagues on developing a package of legislation that can move forward," said Akaka.

The Committee heard from the Departments of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Labor (DOL), as well as representatives from leading veterans service organizations, on legislation to improve veteran employment, telehealth services, and VA outreach. Assistant Secretary for Veterans' Employment and Training Ray Jefferson described several veterans' employment initiatives currently underway at DOL. The Committee also reviewed four technical bills Akaka introduced to help veterans and their survivors, based on Committee oversight of the VA disability compensation system.

Chairman Akaka's full statement, as well as written testimony from today's witnesses, and a webcast, is available at To view the agenda, including a list of the bills reviewed today, please click here: LINK.

In addition, Chair Akaka's office notes:

The U.S. Senate passed legislation last night to clarify that VA health care programs can meet the minimum coverage standard required by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This includes the health care VA provides to children with spina bifida born to veterans of the Vietnam War, to some veterans who served in Korea during specified times, and to children of women Vietnam veterans with certain birth defects. The bill passed the House of Representatives last week, and now awaits the President's consideration.

"This bill gives the Secretary of Veterans Affairs the authority to ensure that veterans' family members who receive health care from VA will meet the health insurance reform law's minimum health care coverage requirement," said Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), author of the Senate bill.

Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, individuals must hold a minimum level of health care coverage. The bill passed last night, H.R. 5014, would provide the VA Secretary with the authority to designate VA health care programs as meeting the minimum standard.

The original clarification bill authored by Akaka, S. 3162, was approved in the Senate on March 26. H.R. 5014 is the House companion to Akaka's bill.

Repeating, Wally is covering Brown's testimony at Rebecca's site tonight. Also noting, Memorial Day (May 31st) will not have a snapshot unless the news of the day demands one. But there will be an entry re: veterans that a number of community members and visitors are helping with. Reminder on that, you need to weigh in (including responses) no later than May 27th to ensure that you're heard on that. Rural veterans (community members and visitors) are weighing in (and thank you for that) and if that remains where the bulk of responses are, that will be the focus of that Memorial Day entry.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Not happy with the menu





Because he just didn't get it. Gordon Brown is the former prime minister of England. He's former because he never got it. Poodle Tony Blair's crimes became Gordon's because Gordon had nothing to offer. Take the Iraq Inquiry where he had one last chance to draw a line between himself and Tony Blair (Blair was prime minister prior to Brown). Instead, he attempted to echo Blair's testimony and, as Labour's own polling indicated, that was it for Brown. He never recovered from that moment (and his poll numbers had already been dangerously low). He was forever dishonest, forever lying. Gordon Brown killed Labour.

Right before the elections, Brown answered questions for Pink News that readers sent in on LGBT issues. Simon Reader asked about the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community:

Life in Iraq is now much worse for gay people than it was under Saddam Hussein. As architects of the political situation in Iraq do you consider your government morally obliged to extend asylum more actively and with less bureaucracy to gay Iraqis who are in danger as a direct consequence of UK intervention in their country?

Most people can read that question and reply in an honest manner. Not so for the anchor around the neck of the Labour Party. Gordon Brown wanted to lie, he always wanted to lie:

I unreservedly condemn abuses of gay rights, wherever in the world they happen, including in Iraq. But I'm sorry I can't agree that this is a result of military intervention. Saddam's was a brutal regime which mistreated a wide range of minorities inside Iraq including LGBT people. Whatever people's views about the military intervention -- and I have made clear that I think the international community had no choice given Saddam's repeated flouting of international resolutions as well as his abuses of his own people -- I hope they will acknowledge that in almost all respects Iraq is a better place, and the Middle East a better and safer place, with him no longer in power. Iraq is now an emerging democracy -- definitely still with many flaws, but a strengthening democracy with the recent elections. We must continue to press the Iraqi government to improve their record on tolerance and human rights as we do with other countries in the region and the world. I believe that human rights are universal, and that it is the job of mature democracies like Britain to support the development of free societies everywhere. I think Iraq now has a better chance of becoming a free society that genuinely respects human rights than it did under Saddam. As to your question on whether there is something we could do for gay asylum seekers from Iraq as a group, it is a fundamental principle of our asylum system that each cases is assessed fairly, separately, and on its merits.

No, life was not worse for Iraq's LGBT community before the 2003 invasion. Life was far from perfect for them -- for all women, for Christians, for Jews, for academics, for doctors, for aetheists -- but it was better (for all categories) than it is today. That's because Iraq was a secular nation. And the US and the UK governments invaded and wanted to establish 'order' quickly so they selected brutal people to work with -- fundamentalists and/or exiles with a grudge they wanted to avenge. Iraq is not a secular state today. And all women, gay men, men who may appear to others as gay (for various reasons including, yes, wishful thinking on the acuser's part), Jews, Christians, academics have it much, much harder than they did prior to the 2003 invasion. Gordon Brown lied and, in doing so, in defending that illegal war, he merged completely with Tony Blair at a time when the only thing that could have saved him was proving he was not Blair II. With regards to Iraq's LGBT community, Ashley Byrne (BBC News) was reporting in July of last year on the various members of the LGBT community who were able to give testimony that life under Saddam Hussein was better than what has followed:

All the LGBT Iraqis interviewed for Gay Life After Saddam maintained that life was easier for them when Saddam Hussein was in power, from 1979 to 2003.
Some spoke fondly of an underground gay culture that flourished before the war in Baghdad.
But it was unclear exactly what Saddam's view on homosexuality was, and there has been some evidence to suggest that the former dictator was acting to clamp down on sexual minorities in the latter years of his reign.

A month later, August 2009, Human Rights Watch released their report [PDF format warning] "They Want Us Exterminated: Murder, Torture, Sexual Orientation and Gender in Iraq." The report features the narratives of many Iraqis. Hamid shares this story:

It was late one night in early April, and they came to take my partner at his parent's home. Four armed men barged into the house, masked and wearing black. They asked fo rhim by name; they insulted him and took him in front of his parents. All that, I heard about later from his family.
He was found in the neighborhood the day after. They had thrown his corpse in the garbage. His genitals were cut off and a piece of his throat was ripped out.
Since then, I've been unable to speak properly. I feel as if my life is pointless now. I don't have friends other than those you see; for years it has just been my boyfriend and myself in that little bubble, by ourselves. I have no family now -- I cannot go back to them. I have a death warrant on me. I feel the best thing to do is just to kill myself. In Iraq, murderers and thieves are respected more than gay people.
Their measuring rod to judge people is who they have sex with. It is not by their conscience, it is not by their conduct or their values, it is who they have sex with. The cheapest thing in Iraq is a human being, a human life. It is cheaper than an animal, than a pair of used-up batteries you buy on the street. Especially people like us.

Tariq is another Iraqi detailing the new realities in 'democratic' Iraq:

At the end of March, I started to hear from friends that the Mahdi Army was killing gays. The newspapers also reported there was an increase in the "third sex" in Iraq, also known as "puppies" [jarawi]. Then on April 4, I found out that two of my gay friends, Mohammed and Mazen, had been killed. I think those were their names; within a gay group, gays rarely give out their real names. We were friends, we met in cafes or chatted on the Internet, and one day they just disappeared.
A few days later, I met the brother of one of them and he told me they were killed. They were kidnapped on the street and then their bodies were found near a mosque, with signs of torture. One was 18, one was 19.
A couple of days after that, on April 6 or 7, I was in my parents' house, and someone threw a letter at the door. I didn't see who. Inside the envelope was a bullet. It had brown blood on it, and the letter said, "What are you still here for? Are you ready to die?"
I think those two were tortured into giving my name, because two days after I learned they were killed I got this threat. . . . I spoke by phone to a friend of mine yesterday night: he is also gay but he's very masculine and no one knows about him. He said, "Get out if you can and save yourself. They are killing gays left and right."
I said, "Who is doing it?" He said, "Everyone knows. Who do you think? The Mahdi Army."

Last month Amnesty International released [PDF format warning] "Civilians Under Fire" which noted:
Gay men face similar discrimination as women under the legislation that provides for lenient senteces for those committing crimes with an "honourable motive". Iraqi courts continue to interpret provisions of Article 128 of the Penal Code as justification for giving drastically reduced sentences to defendants who have attacked or even killed gay men they are related to if they say that they acted to "wash off the shame". In its rulings, the Iraqi Court of Cassation has confirmed that the killing of a male relative who is suspected of same-sex sexual conduct is considered a crime with an "honourable motive", thus qualifying for a reduced sentence under Article 128.
Although provisions under Articles 128 have been amended in the Kurdistan Region by Law 14 of 2002 and, therefore, may no longer be applied in connection with crimes committed against women there, they continue to be applicable throughout the whole of Iraq in connection with crimes against gay men.
For example, on 24 October 2005 the Court of Cassation of the Kurdistan Region confirmed the conviction for murder and one-year prison sentence imposed on a man from Koysinjak who had confessed to killing his gay brother earlier in 2005. The court found that he had killed his brother with "honourable motives" because he "wanted to end the shame which the victim [of the crime] had brought over his family by practicing depravity and by being engaged in homosexuality and prostitution." The court also accepted that a one-year prison sentence was in this case appropriate for premeditated murder, a crime which carries the death penalty.
Impunity or, at most, a disproportionately lenient prison sentence for the murder of gay men by their relatives, appears to be the rule rather than the exception in Iraq.

In fairness to Gordon Brown, he's not the only one refusing to deal with reality. The Nation magazine -- the bible of the faux left -- showed no interest in the issue. Richard Kim works a special kind of gay beat -- he runs around screaming whenever a well off public figure is called gay -- especially if they are they gay. He ignores the people who actually need help and, of course, refuses to call out the politicians who put homophobes onstage . . . if there names are Barack Obama.

Not staying silent is Ali Hili -- an Iraqi attempting to help other LGBT Iraqis and fighting for his own right of asylum in England. He shares his story with the New Internationalist:I used to work as a DJ at the 1001 nightclub in Baghdad at the al-Rashid hotel. I started working there when I won a DJ contest in 1987. It was a great scene -- lots of dance parties -- and a hang-out for the gay community. When I was 18, I had a partner who was a foreign diplomat. Iraqi intelligence forced me to become a spy and report back to them, threatening that they would kill my family if I didn't. This went on for almost 10 years. I wanted to leave. I tried to escape once via Kurdistan but was arrested and handed over to Iraqi police. I used my connections to escape a jail sentence. The police asked me, why do you want to leave? I said life was hard under sanctions and I couldn't make a living. So they sent me to Dubai to work for them. There I met my current partner -- a Texan. I explained the situation to him and he understood. I started to get harassed by the mukhabarat [secret police] -- they wanted information from me. We tried to escape to Dubai via the US embassy and were able to get to Europe. Eventually after many difficulties -- constant threats from Iraqi secret police, several failed attempts and many traumatic incidents (including being nearly deported back to Iraq) -- I made it to England in 2002. My partner had a job there. For the last seven years I've been fighting for the right to stay and seeking political asylum. I've been refused a couple of times already. I was granted permission to stay until 2008 but that's expired. I've received a death fatwa against me from the Ayatollah Sistani in response to my activist work for gays in Iraq. The group that kidnapped British hostages, Assab Alsar Al-Haq (The League of the Righteous), has also threatened me. Now I'm under police protection, moving from house to house. But even the police said to me: 'You have created this situation. You scream and shout against fundamentalists and they will threaten you. What do you expect?' The irony is that the situation for gays has been caused by the Anglo-American invasion. The fatwas were issued by people empowered by the invasion. Now Britain should take responsibility for protecting their victims. Some people in Iraq are targeted because they are doctors, or Sunnis or Shi'as or women or Christians. But no-one is talking about the killing of gays by the fundamentalist militias. One of my best friends -- a transsexual -- was murdered by a militia from the Ministry of the Interior. They beat her and then set her on fire. That's an excerpt. Iraq's LGBT community is among the many who have been targeted. The Jewish community and Christian community have been targeted as well.

[. . .]

US President Barack Obama has nominated Elana Kagan for the Supreme Court. Human rights and international law professor Francis A. Boyle was a guest on Law & Disorder yesterday and spoke with Michael Ratner and Michael Smith (Heidi Boghosian wasn't a part of the segment) about the nomination. Here's a sample:

Francis A. Boyle: She has fully defended all of the Bush administration's hideous atrocities on civil rights, civil liberties, human rights and international law --

Michael Ratner: We're talking about Elana Kagan now.

Francis A. Boyle: Kagan. Right. Elana Kagan. There has been no retreat. No abandonment of any of the Bush positions. Even the Ninth Circuit, as you know, was amazed. She's fully carrying out the Bush policies in United States federal courts. And, you'll note, she's supposed to be replacing Justice [John Paul] Stevens. No great liberal there, but at least Stevens, on the cases that counted -- Rasul, Boumediene and Hamdan -- came through for the American republic and our Constitution.

Michael Ratner: Francis, talk about why those three cases counted, what they stood for.

Francis A. Boyle: Well, gosh. First, the writ of habeas corpus which really separates our country from a police state and a dictatorship was at stake in two of them. And the last one, Boumediene, as you know was a five-to-four decision. Fortunately, Stevens was able to win over Justice [Anthony] Kennedy to grant cert and then to rule in favor of habeas corpus. Kagan would have been on the other side. Boumediene, that was a near death experience for our Constitution. If they had ruled the other way, I shudder to think where we'd all be today without the writ of habeas corpus. On the Hamdan decision, striking down the kangaroo courts on Guantanamo, for violating the Geneva Conventions and Uniform Code of Military Justice, and there even Justice Kennedy pointed out in his separate opinion that violating the Geneva Conventions also violated the US War Crimes Act of 1996 and thus was a War Crime. Again, we would have lost all those cases under Kagan given the position that she has taken. She did write this one tendentious tome in the Harvard Law Review. I haven't gone through it all but I did read the abstract and it's basically the equivalent of the Federalist Society unitary executive power theory of the presidency that really goes back to Thomas Hobbes and The Leviathan and a blue print for a totalitarian state. So in my perspective, she'd be a total disaster on the cases that really count for the future of our Constitution, the Bill of Rights, human rights, international law.

Michael Smith: Francis Boyle, what do you say to those liberals who argue that she's the best we're going to get?

Francis A. Boyle: I don't believe so at all. She's -- she's not liberal at all. I mean, basically she's a neoconservative. She has literally no qualifications to speak of except that she was Dean of Harvard Law School. And the only reason she was made Dean of Harvard Law School was that the neoconservative president of Harvard, Larry Summers, made her the dean to carry out his neoconservative agenda at Harvard Law School. She promptly announced that of the $400 million capital campaign, she was going to allocate $20 million to promoting Summers' globalization at Harvard Law School. Immediately proceeded to hire large numbers of conservative and neoconservative White faculty toward that end. Only hired one professor of color.

Michael Ratner: Those figures are astounding. First, in terms of race, what she did was basically make the place more White than it already was. And then, you've pointed out and others have, she hired Jack Goldsmith who was one of the authors of a number of the torture memos.

Francis A. Boyle: And not just the torture memos, as I'm sure Michael can tell you, Goldsmith helped set up the kangaroo court system down in Guantanamo, he authored torture memos. And, in addition, he authored another memo that authorized -- in his capacity as [Office of] Legal Counsel -- the kidnapping of people from Iraq and then they're transported to another country where they would be tortured in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture which are War Crimes. Now I made sure that Kagan and the rest of the Harvard faculty knew that Goldsmith was up to his nose in torture, War Crimes, forced disappearances and crimes against humanity. And they hired him anyway because that was what Kagan was instructed to do, pretty much, to carry out the neocon agenda of Larry Summers who supported the Bush 'War on Terrorism.'. And so she, Kagan, wanted to hire one of the architects of the Bush 'War on Terrorism' which Michael Ratner and the Center for Constitutional Rights has done such a heroic effort to oppose in the United States federal courts for the last nine years. And we're still fighting against Kagan supporting the Bush War on Terrorism in all its essential accoutrements.

Michael Smith: Francis, let me step back and ask you a more fundamental question and ask you what your views are on this. Justice Stevens has said that perhaps the only exception being Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the court has gotten more and more reactionary over the last 40 years with each successive judge being further to the right than the last one that was appointed. Obviously, you think that that would be true of Kagan as well and I agree with you. But my question is this: What process do you see as underlying all of this? Why has there been that right wing drift for four decades? What's going on here in terms of -- what forces are shaping the Supreme Court?

Francis A. Boyle: Right. Well there's a new book out by a professor at Princeton University Press that I think documents the deliberate effort by all the right-wing funders and think tanks to move the United States judiciary and American legal education to the extreme right. And it goes back to, certainly, to the founding of the Federalist Society by Meese and Bork and some of the others. You probably remember the Heritage Foundation report put together as --before the Reagan administration came to power.

Michael Ratner: Called "Mandate For Change." I remember it well, Francis.

Francis A. Boyle: Right. And all of this was funded and orchestrated and bought and paid for by all these right-wing funders. So this has been done deliberately and on purpose starting with the Reagan administration coming into power. Now the main problem with this book by this professor that just published at Princeton on the conservative legal movement is that he bought all the Kool-Aid on the Federalist Society -- that somehow they're a 'balanced,' 'reasonable' organization. We know for a fact the Federalist Society is in favor of overturning Brown v. Board of Education.
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Tuesday, May 18, 2010





Gulf Coast Drilling Disaster 2010



Starting with the Shame of the Movement. Little Raed Jarrar -- the Jar Jar Blinks of the Peace Movement. Today Jar Jar declares of the Status Of Forces Agreement, "It is very important to understand how we've managed to reach to the the current plan, which is a good plan aimed at ending the occupation completely." Note, "the the" is his typo. Didn't we always picture Jar-Jar as Eva Braun? Someone fly him to Highland Park ASAP so he can hop into the bunker with Bully Boy Bush. It's "a good plan." Gushing is second nature to Raed. No, it's a lousy contract. And the dope doesn't understand the US Constitution so he probably should sit his ass down, open a book and try to learn. It's clear he's never going back to Iraq. Fine, learn about this country or don't speak. Raed knows nothing about the law or the Constitution. He wastes his time -- when not posing as a Quaker (he's not a Quaker) -- and he wastes everyone else's. David Swanson, for all his many faults, grasps that the SOFA is unconstitutional. It flies right over Raed's head, so busy is he pulling his pud and exclaiming, "It's a withdrawal!" It's nothing of the sort. Raed's pimping Peace Action which ridiculously still brags on its website that they are "a leading member of the United for Peace and Justice and Win Without War coalition" -- yeah, the backstabbers who sold out the peace movement, hijacked it, turned it into a Get-Out-The-Vote action for the Democratic Party (which has not ended the Iraq War). You'll note how Peace Action ranks their goals by what gets listed first:

Peace Voter Campaign
Citizen Movement

How sad. Jar-Jar's an idiot. Ava and I gave up on educating him (he really seems to have some developmental issues) and I know Dona's had it with him as well. In Friday's snapshot we were noting Nouri al-Maliki's summer of 2009 remarks about US forces remaining in Iraq after 2012. It doesn't matter whom you cite or what, Jar-Jar doesn't deal in reality. There is something seriously wrong with his head. In the real world William Rivers Pitt (Truthout) offers:

President Obama will not get the United States out of Iraq in his first term. If he wins a second term, it is highly unlikely he will get us out of Iraq before he finally leaves office.

Print that out and tack it to your wall. Six years from now, it will still be hanging there, yellow and curled, but entirely correct. We're not going anywhere.

[. . .]

Whether President Obama is a prisoner of this situation, or is actively continuing the policy, is entirely irrelevant at this point. He may hate this war, or he may love it, but at the end of the day, he will continue in the manner of his predecessor.

We're there, and unless this country erupts in a frenzy of furious protest and civil disobedience, we're staying. Even that may not make the nut, but it would be awfully nice to see this country shake itself out of its stupor and do what needs to be done.

Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan and Peace of the Action (not to be confused with Peace Action which just wants you to vote) are preparing for a Sizzlin' Summer Protest with a "Rethink Tyranny" 4th of July to kick things off at one in the afternoon in Lafayette Park. Monday through Friday (July 5th through 9th), Lafayette Park will be a meet up spot each morning and late in the afternoon. Afternoon protests will be in front of the White House during the day at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum's Unmanned Aerial Vehicle display. The first week of summer protests will be celebrated that Saturday with a bash for Cindy Sheehan (July 10th is her birthday) and for the spirit of protest. There are many more July actions being planned and some are announced (click here). If you'd like to participate, they ask that you e-mail or because they are attempting to get a head count.

Turning to Iraq and the post-election madness. Sunday, Anthony Shadid (New York Times) reported that the results of the Baghdad recount (of the March 7th elections) have been released and there was no evidence of fraud, nor did the outcome change. Ayad Allawi's political slate remains 91 seats in the Parliament to Nouri al-Maliki's 89. al-Maliki's spokesperson declared no objections further indicating that the recount was always intended to be a stalling technique to question the legitimacy of Iraqiya's win allowing the raised doubts (and fears that al-Maliki would get his way) to sideline any attempts by Iraqiya to form a coalition-sharing alliance. Meanwhile Alsumaria TV informs, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki told Alsumaria that the State of Law Coalition has no other candidate than him for Premiership." Nouri also instilled the fear that backing Iraqiya was a lost cause because his 'helpmates' Ahmed Chalabi and Ali al-Lami were ensuring that various members of Iraqiya would not be seated. Today Anthony Shadid and Riyadh Mohammed (New York Times) report that a court issued a ruling today stating no elected candidate would be prevented from serving in the Parliament: "The decision Monday was handed down in the same obscure and capricious fashion that has plagued the entire de-Baathification process. It was not made public; that was left to Mr. Lami. Even as he promised to abide by the court ruling, he warned that he might open more cases against sitting members of Parliament. Electoral officials acknowledged being unclear over precisely what the decision said Monday." Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) adds, "The attempted disbarment of the candidates -- now newly elected members of parliament -- for alleged ties to Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath Party was among the factors that prevented Iraqi officials from certifying the results of the election. [. . .] Maliki tacitly supported the disqualification process and was the driving force behind the recount in Baghdad. In the end, neither effort affected the seat distribution."

Nouri played it very well. He knew Chris Hill, US Ambassador to Iraq, was both inept and a living failure. He knew he could make threats and bully and not even worry about Hill calling for a face-to-face talk over any of it. He knew that while Allawi, Iraq's Foreign Ministers and others called for US and UK involvement to ensure the post-election period was fair, the idiot Hill would continue to issue his 'everything is fine on the ground' reports to DC. He knew he could rob the store and burn it down and Hill would tell DC the 'real news' was that the store would be reopening.

If you still haven't grasped what happened, try to do so now. Despite Nouri having all the power of the office, despite him tossing around bribes and election year promises, despite the press covering for him, despite the press insisting he (they should have said his party) was a shoe in and that it would win 100s of seats, the Iraqi people rejected him. Many Shi'ites rejected him by not voting. Others joined Sunni voters in voting for Iraqiya. Still others voted for the National Alliance. The big winner whom the press told you would dominate the elections barely came in second.

The Iraqi people spoke. They wanted something different, they wanted something new. They were willing to risk an unknown in Iraqiya just because they knew they didn't want more of what Nouri had to offer. They did their part. They voted (or stayed home to register their objection). The election observers did their job. And yet despite that stunning upset, despite that huge rejection, thanks to Chris Hill, it now appears Nouri will remain in power. Something the majority of Iraqis did not want.

There may still be a challenge. Waleed Ibrahim, Serena Chaudhry and Michael Roddy (Reuters) report, "Iraq's Sunni vice president [Tariq al-Hashemi] said on Monday that the cross-sectarian Iraqiya coalition he belongs to was more determined than ever to claim the right to form the next government after a recount maintained its election win." And that may be it because Saturday Hassan Abdul Zahra (AFP) reported that Moqtada al-Sadr's spokesperson was insisting al-Sadr no longer had any objection to Nouri being prime minister. (For life?) Reuters offers a breakdown on the basics once the results are certified. Reuters also notes, "After the last parliamentary election in 2005, violence erupted when politicians took more than five months to negotiate a new government." Elizabeth Palmer (CBS News) ponders whether a civil war is on the verge of breaking out.
And on that front, Reuters reports Sheikh Abdullah Shakoor al-Salhy was beheaded today by assailants "wearing Iraqi military uniforms" and the iman's head was then put atop an electric pole in his Diyala Province village. AFP adds, "According to the Diyala military officer, in the village of Al-Bushaheen, 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of Baquba, gunmen burst into the home of Sheikh Hashim Arif at about 3:00 am (0000 GMT), dragged him to his garden and shot him dead in front of his family." And Press TV reports that a US helicopter crashed in Nasiriyah on Saturday.

Last week, Turkish press was still noting that Turkey had invaded Iraq's airspace (that's the way the Turkish press billed it) as they chased after people they suspected of being PKK. Despite that (because of it?), Today's Zaman interviewed with Nouri al-Maliki's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh who made a surprising assertion, "Turkey is a very close friend of Iraq. We are proud that we have achieved this level in the relationship. Mr. [Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-]Maliki and [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdo─čan have that [shared] vision, and we at the different levels of the Iraqi government, most of us are sure that Turkey is our real partner, our strategic partner. And I think that our counterparts in Turkey feel the same. Iraq is a very important country for Turkey -- this understanding, this vision has spurred the relations to the level that they're at. It's a model partnership between two neighboring countries; we want to promote this model with Iran, we want to promote it with Saudi Arabia." Turkey should be the model for Iraq's interaction with other neighbors, according to Nouri's spokesperson.

[. . .]

They might qualify as biggest laugh of the day were it not for Janet Napolitano. Appearing before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs this afternoon, she declared -- straight faced -- regarding the Gulf Coast Drilling Disaster 2010, "Since day one, the Administration has engaged in an all-hands-on-deck response to this event." That was approximately one month ago and the ocean continues to have oil pouring into it. In fact, it was NPR, not the government, that informed us Friday that the amount pouring into the ocean "may be at least ten times the size of official estimates" (click here for Richard Harris' Morning Edition report). A month later and as many 84,000 barrels a day may be pouring into the Gulf waters and Napolitano wants to claim that the administration has been on the job since day one?

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