Saturday, September 18, 2010

Barack is either pot or kettle





CBS News has learned that two donors to the Obama campaign that gave a total of $7,722 appear to have made their contributions under fake names that look like they were written by a mouse running across a keyboard: Dahsudhu Hdusahfd of Df, Hawaii with the following employer CZXVC/ZXVZXV and Uadhshgu Hduadh listed as living in Dhff, Florida listed their employer as DASADA/SAFASF.

CBS News did not find any records of these last names, towns or employers anywhere else. Newsweek reported two questionable Obama donors over the weekend named “Doodad Pro” and “Good Will”.



Starting with Bradley Manning. Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. This month, the military charged Manning. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements. Manning is now in Virginia, under military lock and key and still not allowed to speak to the press. As Daniel Ellsberg reminded from the stage in Oakland last night, "We don't know all the facts." But we know, as Ellsberg pointed out, that the US military is attempting to prosecute Bradley.

Daniel Ellsberg was a RAND Corporation military analyst alarmed by the Pentagon Papers charting the government's continuation of a lost and illegal war. He copied the papers to pass to the press (the press feared receiving the originals would be receiving stolen property and leave them open to prosecution). Lengthy court battles ensued via Richard Nixon and his so-called Justice Dept but the press -- for a change -- didn't buckle. Ellsberg was targeted by Tricky Dick with various efforts to smear him and to harm him. He also faced imprisonment. Back then, fundraisers were held. Barbra Streisand, for example, sang to a group of people -- including Joni Mitchell, John Lennon, Yoko Ono and David Geffen -- present, singing their requests for donations to the defense fund and she also took requests over the phone at the event (Carl Reiner was among those calling in and making a request). Nixon kept an enemies list and Barbra ended up on it for fundraising (over $50,000 was raised from Barbra's event if I remember correctly) on behalf of Daniel Ellsberg's defense. We'll note some of Daniel Ellsberg's remarks from last night:

Thank you very much, Let me echo what you just heard, my wife, when I set out for this, said how many people do you think will be out there? I said "who knows? Half a dozen? A dozen? What will it be?" It's wonderful to see this place filled, standing room only. And I was thinking who would like to see this? And I thought of a way to do it. I was just talking an hour ago to Bradley's aunt, Deborah van Alstyne, who was possibly his relative who was closest to him, mother's sister and who's seen him several times in jail. And she did want to say -- I told her what was happening tonight -- and she said, "Let people know how much he appreciates the support thaty he's getting. It means a tremendous amount to him. He was in prison, you know, in Kuwait for a long time, a couple of months. No communication with anybody. I don't even think he was seeing military lawyers at that point. Who knows what was happening? But no news whatever. And until he got to Quantico, he had no news of what happened, how anything had been received. He didn't know how well, actually, the [New York] Times, der Spiegel, the Guardian had dealt with the early disclosuers -- which I think would probably be very important for him to know. Or the reaction to the video and so forth. So, when she sees him, it's through heavy glass with somebody listening at the side at all times -- which brings back memories of what I expected to happen to me. People have asked me why I had my children help me copy papers for a couple of nights? Seemed very strange to them and I can understand that. But there was a reason. At that point in the fall of '69, when I was copying these 7,00 pages of top secret documents, I reallly expected them to come out shortly to Senator [James Willism] Fullbright, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, within a couple of weeks, and I expected to be in prison almost surely. Oh, I'm sorry, where do you want me? Oh, sorry, okay. Okay. Do I have to be behind this [podium]? Just in the light, right? [Laughter.] Okay. Third degree here, right? I knew that what they'd be hearing then within weeks was that their father had gone crazy. Just what Bradley Manning's friends and relatives are hearing right now. And what I suppose he's getting. He's heard that I'm sure. And that he was a traitor. But that he 'snapped,' that he'd gone crazy. And I wanted my children to see before I started a lifetime, perhaps of talking to them through glass that I'd done this because I thought it was the right thing to do, in a business like way, just something that I thought had to be done. And that I hadn't gone crazy. I wanted them to see me doing it. And so it just occured to me, of course, Bradley had a technology here that I didn't have, that I'm very jealous of, I must say, if he did what he's accused of. It does imply, by the way, that the possibility of telling the truth about a policy that's reckless, criminal, murderous, disasterous, of various kinds. The power to change that by telling the truth is literally at the finger tips of hundreds, perhaps thousands of people. Just a few key strokes can actually -- the policy is vulnerable to that. They have to rely -- "they," the ones who are running this policy -- have to rely on the trustworthiness or what they call the loyalty, the faithfulness, the patriotism -- in their eyes. Of the thousand people, even more who know what's happening, but the thousand who know that its wrong and who could change it if they told the truth but they have to count on those people. And they do. And on the whole, I'm sorry to say, they're right to rely on those people keeping their mouths shut. The three of us here, you saw before, two in the army, one in the Marine corps, were all in the service. We share a number of things in common and one of them is that there were times when there were truths that we could have told but didn't. And could have made a real difference. And we've learned to be real regretful of that and to want to use our lives differently and to urge other people to do the same. And okay, it finally, when I first spoke to Deborah van Alstyne a month ago after she'd just seen him. She said he'd finally learned of his support. The Guardian article a while ago on the support that was quite good. And he'll be learning of this. I asked her whether he knew that Michael Moore was campaigning for him, was supporting. She said that she didn't know directly but that one of the lawyers had mentioned it to her so she was pretty sure he had discussed it with Bradley. And that's very good. But as I say with all this new technology in the world here, I can now get your pictures to Bradley in a matter of days because Debraorah going to see him this weekend. And it just occured to me, I have her e-mail. So those of you who wish to hide your faces because this is going over e-mail -- that means copied to NSA and the FBI and who knows who ever else. But there were 25,000 people who contributed to my trial and so I have learned to appreciate that and I have been doing fundraisers for other people every since -- never more enthusiastically than tonight. So another way to use that technology -- You may not have had much cash here, you may not even have had your checkbook with you, but at home, if you have computers, the Bradley Manning -- what is it? Dot org? will give you a chance with Paypal to send as much as you can possibly send. And the people who are watching on the internet should now turn to your computers and don't bother watching me. It's much more important to send a contribution right now before you forget. while you have the impulse to this because it really is essential. And so here we go, I can actually send Bradley a video. Thank you for standing up for me, how about standing up for Bradley? [Cheers and applause.] Okay. Now. Great. Okay and as I say that's very good. That's virtually as important as I say of going to your computers and doing your own e-mail and getting it all to him. What are we doing? We're honoring an American hero. I'm glad that Ray [McGovern] made the point here, let's no go through locution, we don't know the facts. We don't know the facts and, in particular, as I know, it's up to the government to prove their case beyond a reaonsable doubt, and we can't hand it to them anyway. We don't know anymore than they do or less. But let's just assume that for once the army is telling the truth about what they accuse him of. [Laughter.] They're hardly the last word on any subject but maybe on this one. Whoever was the source, and let's call him Bradley Manning, deserves our thanks and deserves honor. Not everybody, of course, honors him. I actually am very happy to see this room fuli -- If not in Oakland and Berkeley, then where? But I am glad to see it. And he'll be glad to see it. But there are a lot of people who see him differently, obviously and in terms, by the way, that are not very well grounded in American history, in America principals., I was just a few days ago in New York on a show called The Dylan Ratigan Show on MSNBC and he quoted at me in his brief interview, an article by a guy Marc Thiessen who is a former George W. Bush speechwriter -- obviously deserving of indictment himself. And I'll explain why a minute. He's now a Washington Post columnist, of course. And so Ratigan quoted him saying to me, "WikiLeaks is a criminal enterprise." Well interesting that Thiessen would say that since he's just retired from a very large criminal enterprise, I would say, the George W. Bush administration. And I must say that the, let me give you a little piece of current history probably most people here don't know. Barack Obama, who said that he doesn't want to look back at the crimes -- or the alleged crimes -- of the George W. Bush administration, wants to look forward and move forward and, in effect, has decriminalized torture, a war of agression, warantless wiretapping -- obviously criminal under both the Fourth Amendment and American domestic law at that time -- years of criminal activity. Renditions, kidnappings, indefinite detention, the suspension of Habeaus Corpus in effect meaning, which most people really don't have a very clear idea of that, meaning detention without charges indefinitely. We now have a president actually who has declared the right to keep detained people indefinately that he suspects should not be out, even if they've been acquitted, he can keep them. In other words, as well as before without charges, following in the foot steps of George W. Bush in virtually all those respects. He claims that torture has ended but there is lots of evidence that it has not ended in Bagram and probably other secret sites at various places. The rendention, the kidnapping. Still. He's gone actually further than Bush in terms of open claims, the claim of the right -- through his intelligence chief at that time, Dennis Blair, who announced that the president had a hit list of American citizens and others that he felt -- that he'd given orders to kill, to assasinate, to execute, to murder abroad American citizens basically. But I just happened to read the words of the Magna Carta of 1215 today. I'd seen it before, I looked it up, but somebody else was referring to it. And the words are: "No free man shall be deprived -- shall be harmed, shall be destroyed or deprived of freedom except by a jury of his peers." In other words, this is a wiping out of rights that go back to 1215 -- almost 800 years right now. In short, in these Constitutional matters, we have an administration -- and in the foreign affairs matters, we have an administration that is a third term of George W. Bush. I'm not saying that's true in every respect. I'm not saying that the Republicans are not much, much worse. Actually they are in domestic matters. Actually Obama has not been strikingly better or different in matters of foreign affairs or Constitutional policy. In fact, we thought we were getting something here with a Constituational lawyer, a teacher of Constitutional law, Barack Obama, I haven't seen any opinions his Dept of Justice has been putting out [with] any difference in the opinion of Berkeley tenured professor John Yoo.

From across the Atlantic, support is expressed by people who knew Bradley when he lived in Wales. BBC News quotes James Kirkpatrick stating, "He is an absolute hero, anybody who is going to bring up such injustices, you've got to consider them a hero. I found out the first week he was being held and was shocked. I couldn't believe it. I felt proud of him really, whistleblowing against such controversies, it's quite a heroic thing. I was shocked but really impressed by him as well."

A number of events are planned and A.N.S.W.E.R. offers this list:

United States

Los Angeles, California
Top of the Santa Monica Pier (Palisades Park, just north of the pier at the cannon)
Sunday, September 19, 1-3pm

Oakland, California
Thursday, September 16, 7-9pm
Humanist Hall, 390 27th Street, Oakland CA (Between Telegraph and Broadway)
Presented by Courage to Resist, with the help of National Lawyers Guild Bay Area Military Law Panel, Veterans for Peace-Bay Area Chapter, CodePink, War Resisters League-West, Iraq Veterans Against the War-Bay Area, and BAY-Peace.

San Diego, California
Rally and film showing
Sunday, September 19, 12-2 pm
Horton Plaza, 4th & Broadway
Sponsored by Activist San Diego, San Diego Peace and Justice Coalition

San Francisco, California
March and rally
Saturday, September 18
Rally at 2pm, march at 3pm, ending at 4pm at Union Square
in front of the SF War Memorial Building, 401 Van Ness Avenue
Organized by Courage to Resist, Veterans for Peace-SF Bay Area, ANSWER Coalition, Bay Area United for Peace and Justice, and CodePink

New Haven, Connecticut
Friday September 17, 4 pm
59 Elm Street, New Haven, CT 06510. In front of Rosa DeLauro's office.
Sponsored by the Greater New Haven Peace Council

Cambridge, Massachusetts
Sunday, September 19, 4 pm
In front of 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA (MIT building with the dome.)
Sponsored in part by Veterans for Peace, Chapter 9, Smedley Butler Brigade

Minneapolis, Minnesota
Rally & Film Showing
Friday, September 17, 4:30-6 pm
Mayday Bookstore – 301 Cedar Avenue – Minneapolis

Rochester, Minnesota
Peace Happening
Thursday September 16, 5 pm
South Broadway & 2nd Street SW
Sponsored by the Southeastern Minnesota Peace Makers

Keene, New Hampshire
Keene town commons
Saturday September 18, 11:00 am
NH Peace Action, in conjunction with the Free State Project

New York City, New York
Film showing and speakers
September 16th, 7pm
St. Mary's Church, 521 West 126th Street

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Sponsored by the Oklahoma Center for Conscience
Friday, September 17, 5-6 pm
SE Corner of S. 59th and Western Avenue

Corvallis, Oregon
Friday September 17, 5 pm
Benton Country Courthouse, Corvallis, OR, 97330
Supported by Veterans for Peace

Knoxville, Tennessee
Thursday, September 16th
University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Norfolk, Virginia
Friday, September 17, 11:30 am-1 pm
Granby St. & City Hall Ave.
Sponsored by the Norfolk Catholic Worker

Quantico, Virginia
Rally followed by outreach
Sunday, September 19, 11:30 am
Town of Quantico Municipal Park (River Road and 4th Avenue)
Sponsored by IVAW, Code Pink, and other area activists

Seattle/Fort Lewis, Washington
Saturday, September 18, 2-4 pm
"Freedom Bridge" and gate area at I-5 exit 122 (Madigan Hospital exit).
Sponsored by Greater Seattle Veterans For Peace (VFP 92)

Spokane, Washington
Thursday, September 16, 12:00 noon
Corner of Wellesley and Division


Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, September 19, 12:00 noon
U.S. Consulate, University Avenue

Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia
Speakers and cultural performances
Friday, September 17, 7-9pm
SCU Room, upstairs in the Byron Community and Cultural Centre

Last night World Can't Wait attempted an NYC web broadcast but due to problems substituted an August 1st webcast on Bradley. Elaine Brower and Debra Sweet anchored the webcast. Marcia notes Elaine: "She observed, 'In 1971 there was a very strong antiwar sentiment in the country and Nixon was frightened by the Pentagon Papers coming out. I believe that the White House is frightened because they don't want to see an anti-war movement like we had in the late sixties and early seventies'." To keep the webcast free of charge, commercials run every 20 minutes or so which can mean a break in streaming. Trina explained Debra asked people what the number one thing that needs to be carried to the general population is: "And what did the people say? My stream went to the commercial. But when the commercial was over, they were discussing Barack Obama's continuation of George W. Bush's crimes and wondering why do we support him and what's a war criminal and what does it mean when civilians get killed in war? (Debra's words.)" Ann had trouble with the stream and specifically when attempting to hear Ethan McCord speak: "I'm sure he was amazing. That's why I picked him. But I just couldn't hear what he was saying, sorry. Now there will be a DVD made of this event (to raise awareness of and money for Bradley Manning) that World Can't Wait will sell and I'm sure Ethan will be easier to understand on that because they'll probably have him plugged into the sound board. Whereas on the livestream, he's echoing and the connection is bad." Stan enjoyed Josh Steiber's remarks but disagreed with an aspect of them, "But I really think that in the movement there's been too much effort to glorify soldiers. I think Josh probably sees a lot of stuff and he speaks from that and that's great. But there's also the reality that either everyone's welcome or no one really is in which case, it's not a movement, it's a clique. I don't think he's trying to start a clique. I think he's trying to address serious problems and I believe him that he's seen these serious problems; however, I also believe there's a lot of group-think and a lot of 'let's hide behind soldiers' and other stuff like that." Kat covered Matthis Chiroux who stated, "Debra, you know me, and the type of messages I put out tend to be very direct. These things are resonating with folks, they are identifying Boldwith the truth. Which in our current situation are very radical." Ruth noted Matthis stated that people in the military he was in contact with were looking through their old videos to see if they have anything like the WikiLeaks vidoe and she quotes him stating: "We need you to hear this call to action. Whoever released this video didn't do it because they wanted to be a hero or whatever, they did it because the contents were so shocking and so disturbing." Rebecca did not enjoy Ray McGovern or McGovern's inability to call out Barack Obama while aiming 'jokes'/smears at Hillary Clinton and offered McGovern had issues: "no, cause he's a little, witty boy coward. still angry that mommy pulled him off her tits and going to take that out on every woman in the world. what a pig." Betty was so angered by McGovern's stunt that she stopped streaming and only turned it back on when Rebecca called her to say Dahr Jamail was on. Betty quotes Darh stating "I'm very excited about the WikiLeaks situation I think Julian Assange should get nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. I think it's the most important journalism this year." and "Someone put their butt on the line to get this information out there, taking huge, huge risks." Cedric and Wally offer a humor take on McGovern, focusing on a young McGovern playing football: "AS THE OPPOSING TEAM'S RUNNING BACK BARRELLED PAST HIM, YOUNG RAY-RAY MADE THE 'STRATEGIC' (COWARDLY) CHOICE TO IGNORE THE RUNNING BACK AND INSTEAD LAUNCHED A FLYING TACKLE AT 7-YEAR-OLD BOBBY MASON WHO WAS CHEERING FROM THE SIDELINES AND CONSIDERED 'SMALL FOR HIS AGE'." Isaiah wasn't planning on covering the stream but Cindy Sheehan came on and he quoted her stating, "We do have to realize that the traditional antiwar movement is mostly anti-Republican and they're not so antiwar when a Democrat is in power but Barack Obama owns the drone bombings, they've increased, they've more than tripled since he's been president." Mike also covered Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan who spoke about the weak turnout in opposition to the latest war funding. Mike outlines her points:

* Many people on the left on the so-called left on Tuesday they responded

like it was a victory because so many more Democrats voted against it this time

than last time.

* We have to decide what's the response of the so-called two-party system.

* As an antiwar movement we have to be more organized and we have to

be more outspoken now than we were when George Bush was president.

RECOMMEND: "Iraq snapshot"
"Continued stalemate, continued lies"
"Bradley Manning"
"I Hate The War"

"The Peace Resister"
"Pasta Skillet in the Kitchen"
"Debra Sweet at the Bradley Manning event"
"The sick mind of Terry Gross and other things"
"Debra Sweet at the Bradley Manning event"
"Dahr Jamail"
"grab bag"
"dumb ass ray mcgovern"
"Social Security"
"Veteran and activist Matthis Chiroux"
"Jimi Hendrix and Laurel Canyon"

"Matthis Chiroux and World Can't Wait"
"It is a mosque"
"Elaine Brower"
"Joni Mitchell: In Concert"

"Josh Steiber"
"Bradley Manning, Iraq and peace"
"Stanley Aronowitz and the importance of what is said"
"Cindy Sheehan, World Can't Wait"
"Telling moments in sports history"

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Telling moments in sports history






Today the House Veterans Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity receive an update on the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The following exchange probably best captures the hearing between Subcommittee Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin and the VA's Mark Krause probably best captures the hearing..
Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: So do you have any estimates of how many of those 150,801 [veterans] might have received overpayment?
Mark Krause: I don't have that information available but I would be happy to look at it for the record --
Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: Or at least look at the trend of when we started this because, as we have discussed, this is a significant problem and we'd like to see an improvement as it relates to dealing with that problem. And that leads me to the question that came up from Ms. [Rosa] DeLauro and that is the issue of veterans who participated in a 35, an emergency payment last November. And then they entered a repayment plan and were automatically sent to debt management [. . .] and why is this happening and how are we going to fix this problem and when will these veterans accounts be cleared from the debt management center?
Mark Krause: They will be cleared. We are aware that there are situations where that is occurring when we're made aware of those situations we put those individuals directly in contact with the debt management center and we work it out manually on a case-by-case basis but it should not be happening as a category of cases and we are working hard on that.
If the overpayment issue seems familiar, it continues to pop up. If someone is overpaid it goes to the payee -- though the VA never claims fault -- and the student is then expected to quickly pay it back (unlike the VA which sends out a check whenever the mood strikes them). Then there is the issue of the emergency loans taken out by veterans who had to wait and wait for their checks to arrive. Though they had to wait and wait, note that they are expected to begin payments immediately. Why the hell did the VA set it up to turn this issue over to debt collection? The veterans who waited months and months did not for their overdue payments did not have the option of turning the VA over to a credit collection agency. How does the VA continue to manage to screw over the veteran? You'd think they'd work very hard about it; however, based on the testimony, incompetence is the answer.
Is the computer system up and running? Well . . . See those are basic questions and the VA can't answer basic questions. It can spend and waste a lot of money. The Subcomittee was informed that the computer system is still not integrated with some functions -- functions that 2009 and early 2010 hearings found the same witnesses (including VA's Keith Wilson) maintaining the system would interact with. Okay, well is everything functioning? Actually, the system purchased will require constant updates. And there's another update the current team is working on. Oh, and they're not under contract to work on it past this update.
Keith Wilson bored everyone with another of his bad slide shows -- sloppy and dull and overlong. If you're going to do a slide show, you should be able to do it in five minutes and when the Subcomittee Chair asks you to try to cut it down, you shouldn't expect to have ten minutes, especially after you've already wasted everyone's time reading your prepared remarks before, BEFORE, the slide show. Not only is this a time waster -- and there were a large number of breaks during this hearing -- but it also goes to the fact that the VA does no real prep before any hearing. They show up surprised that a question repeatedly asked of them in every hearing is again asked. They have to take issues involving the call centers -- still a problem -- for the record because they just don't come to the hearings prepared -- despite knowing they're supposed to testify. Does Eric Shinseki, Secretary of the VA, think this reflects well on him? It doesn't. And it indicates that there is no real leadership at VA.
Yesterday's snapshot covered another hearing, the House Veterans Affairs Committee (full committee) hearing that Steve Buyer stormed out of. Kat covered it at her site with "Steve Buyer's nuclear meltdown" and there were a few e-mails on the topic. First "acquisition reform" is the word that should be in this statement by Buyer, "You pass aquistion form and I will hug you. I will hug you!" The snapshots are dicated and I speak very fast. Typos are a given even in the morning entries that I usually type myself. In terms of Buyer's behavior -- short version, he attacked two witnesses on a panel and then stormed out of the hearing -- a few are worried it was included here by me to pump up Democratic turnout in the mid-terms. That was not the case. (Parenthetical, Libby Liberal at Corrente is correct and for those who can't see it, with it very likely that Dems will suffer in the mid-terms, it would be smart of the left to get out ahead of it and be able to say after See, we can go elsewhere, we don't have to vote for you, we can vote third party, we can vote Republican or we can just not vote. The alternative? Centrist Dems hectoring the Dem Party that they went 'too far' and 'too left.' Libby Liberal is correct and she's correct for a number of smart reasons.)
Could yesterday's behavior by Buyer be used to promote voting for Democrats? Absolutely. I don't buy the "party of no" as a GOP description but if a Dem wanted to illustrate that, they could just show Buyer attacking an Iraq War veteran and a reporter and then storming out of the hearing. Not only does that show "no,"they could add, "Not only do they just say no, they won't even listen." It could be used any number of ways. That's not my concern. I do understand that my noting I was a Democrat fed into some people's beliefs on this; however, I noted that because Buyer was a Republican and I was attempting to make very clear that I was speaking of my imprssions and someone else might have felt differently. I also attempted to be nicer about it than I normally would have just because I found it so shocking and so out of character for Buyer.
If a member of Congress makes angry statements and storms out of a hearing, that is news. My big concern in including it yesterday was that it might be seen as discrediting Chuck Luther. Chuck Luther was very believable and he has repeatedly told the same story . But I made a point to include Chuck Luther's response -- in full -- to Buyer's tantrum. Joshua Kors has been highlighted here many times and I was less concerned about getting every word of his response for that reason. I also noted /detailed his journalistic pursuit of this story so I thought that was clear. (He may have been short changed in that I feel like I am forever defending the profession of journalism -- if not the actual practice of it -- and grow bored with addressing that topic.)
Buyer threw a tantrum. Read Kat's post and note the walk through she provides. He threw a tantrum and, were he running for re-election, this might be a big deal to partisans. We didn't cover it due to partisanship. We covered it because it is news when a member of Congress launches into a tirade and then storms out of a Committee hearing. Many things that take place in Congress are not and will never qualify as news but that sort of behavior is news.
It was not covered to advance the Democratic Party or to help them in the mid-terms. It was covered because it was news.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"Stalemate and oil"
"Another US service member killed in Iraq"
"No ice cream with Terry"
"The sword cuts both ways"
"The economy and mysefl: Tired."
"bill murray"
"Elizabeth Edwards is still lying"
"Steve Buyer's nuclear meltdown"
"A push for accountability"
"Oh please"
"Netflix and Iraq"
"Not a happy camper"

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Not a happy camper





The US House Veterans Affairs Committee held two hearings this morning, one -- more or less -- after the other (there was approximately a 12 minute break between the two) and they couldn't have been more different. In the first one, Ranking Member Steve Buyer was (for the most part) beaming and playful, offering statements such as, to Chair Bob Filner, "You pass acquisition form and I will hug you. I will hug you!" In the second hearing, Buyer stormed out asking that Dr. Roe take his place, saying his integrity would be compromised if he stayed and "I'm not going to do it!"
Keep in mind that I am a Democrat and Buyer is a Republican, I've never seen anything like that. And that was only the culmination of Buyer's behavior in the second panel.
My impression, Buyer was not grandstanding, he was genuinely outraged (whether it was by the hearing or something outside of Congress, I have no idea). But he can't back that outrage up. He basically accused a witness of lying -- while dismissing the other on the first panel as useless -- and waived around a file of medical records implying that those documents proved the witness was lying, he lectured the witness and would repeatedly say he wasn't going to say more because he had too much integrity but then he would come back to the same issue. Repeatedly. His storming out had an immediate effect in that he insisted US House Rep David Roe sit in for him, which Roe did, however, Roe was not prepared -- as he more or less admitted. In the room, people seemed on edge as a result of Buyer's outburst. Again, it seemed genuine on Buyer's part. Again, it was harmful to himself. If he does have something -- if -- he can't reveal it so he is left looking like a hothead who lost it in a hearing and then stormed out.
Who was testifying? Iraq War veteran Sgt Chuck Luther and journalist Joshua Kors. Chuck Luther testified about the war and seeing friends he served with wounded and dead and came back to the US on leave where he had trouble coping and was glad to return to Iraq; however, nose bleeds, chest pain and other problems developed in Iraq. He sought counseling from a chaplain to deal with stress. A mortar attack by the tower he was guarding "threw me down and I hit my right shoulder and head. I had severe ringing in my right ear with clear fluid coming from it and had problems seeing out of my right eye." The pain continued and worsened:
After several days on suicide watch for making the comment that "if I had to live like this I would rather be dead," I asked to be sent somewhere where I could get help and to be able to understand what was wrong with me. I was told I could not go and I then demanded that I be taken to the Inspector General of the FOB. I was told by CPT Dewees that I was not going anywhere and he called for all the medics, roughtly 6 to 10. I was assaulted, held down and had my pants ripped off my left thigh and given an injection of something that put me to sleep. When I awoke, I was strapped down to a combta litter and had a black eye and cuts on my wrists from the zip ties. I eventually was untied and from that point forward for 5 weeks I was held in a room that was 6 feet by 8 feet that had bed pans, old blankets and other old supplies. I had to sleep on a combat litter and had a wool blanket. I was under guard 24/7 and on several occassions was told I was not allowed to use the phone or internet and, when I would take my meds and fall asleep, I was not awakened to get food. On one occasion, I had slept through chow and asked to be taken to the chow hall or PX to get some food. I was told no and given a fuel soaked MRE to eat. I was constantly called a piece of crap, a faker and other derogatory things. They kept the lights on and played all sorts of music from rap to heavy metal very loud all night -- the medics worked in shifts, therefore, they didn't sleep, they rotated. These are some of the same tactics that we would use on insurgents that we captured to break them to get information or confessions. I went through this for four weeks and the HHC Commander Cpt Wehri told me to sign this discharge and, that if I didn't, that they would keep me there for 6 more months and then kick me out when we got back to Fort Hood anyway. I said I didn't have a personality disorder and he told me that if I signed the paperwork that I would get back home and get help and I would have all my benefits. After the endless nights of sleep deprivation, harassment and abuse, I finally signed just to get out of there. I was broken.
For three years The Nation has been reporting on military doctors' fraudulent use of personality disorder to discharge wounded soldiers [see Kors, "How Specialist Town Lost His Benefits," April 9, 2007]. PD is a severe mental illness that emerges during childhood and is listed in military regulations as a pre-existing condition, not a result of combat. Thus those who are discharged with PD are denied a lifetime of disability benefits, which the military is required to provide to soldiers wounded during service. Soldiers discharged with PD are also denied long-term medical care. And they have to give back a slice of their re-enlistment bonus. That amount is often larger than the soldier's final paycheck. As a result, on the day of their discharge, many injured vets learn that they owe the Army several thousand dollars.
According to figures from the Pentagon and a Harvard University study, the military is saving billions by discharging soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan with personality disorder.
Chuck Luther told his story as he's told it publicly many times before. But for US House Rep Steve Buyer it was all new and shocking. Again, he claimed -- repeatedly -- to have documents detailing what really happened. He also savaged journalism, journalists and Josh Kors specifically. Although he referred to Kors repeatedly as "Reporter" and never by his name. After thanking Chuck Luther for being in the military, Buyer began referencing his documents.
Ranking Member Steve Buyer: I also have a lot of documents here that are about you that are non-disclosable. I'm not going to discuss them in public. So when you make statements, now you've made public statements, and I am not going to go into your personal life. I'm not going to discuss your military conditions. You've made certain statements and sitting to your left is a reporter that makes some very exaggerated statements. You've disadvantaged DoD. And guess what, they're going to come up here and they can't talk about your case, they can't come in here and talk about some of the things you have said. You've made some pretty strong statements that are not supported by what I have. And I'm disadvantaged also because, number one, I'm disadvantaged out of respect. I respect you, I respect your privacy. I also will say this. I would never -- when I was chairman of a subcommittee or full committee, put a reporter on a panel to testify. I would never do that. Why? Because your testimony is hearsay. It's hearsay. Everything you say, it's hearsay. What we're supposed to do is get to the bottom of things so we can understand them. You can make whatever allegations you want, you can lead us to our professional staff and then we can find that person so that the testimony is in first person. So I'd say to the gentleman, I'd say you can say whatever say and basically you have and you've surmised your opinion based on what you've seen and heard. But I think it's pretty shocking that you would even come here and provide testimony with regards to someone's medical condition. You're not a doctor. If you were a doctor, they'd knock you right upside your head for that. I'd be pretty upset if you went and testified about my medical condition in a public place. Let alone, where are your sensitivities to talk about a woman and her health. Wow. I-I'm pretty shocked that you would -- you would do that. So I'm going to yield back my time, Mr. Chairman. I-I-I just want you to know, sir [Chuck Luther], I respect you and I could do more than -- Gosh, I could go into this. But sir, uh, uhm, follow -- My advice to you is follow the counsel of some individuals that really have your interests at heart. And those doctors have your interests at heart. You're upset with regard to a diagnosis on your personality disorder. The PTSD, in fact, has been recognized. I have the records with regards to the findings from when you attempted to correct the military records and so I have seen everything they've said and I've seen the documents with regard to that process. I think what we want, we want you to get better. We want you to get better with regard to the PTSD. And-and please, uh, follow the counsel of your doctors and mental health professionals that take you, your interests best at heart. Not somebody else that may want to use you or use your case to write stories or do other things. If they truly had your interest at heart, they wouldn't take your case and what I know about you and put it on public display. That's Steve Buyer's opinion. I would never do that to a fellow soldier. With that I yield back.
Joshua Kors noted he had been investigating and researching this story for years and was offering a summarizing of the research he'd done, that he also had Chuck Luther's medical records, had spoken to people who observed Chuck Luther in confinement, spoken to his doctor, seen pictures, checked every aspect of the story out repeatedly, etc. "Nobody in this story," Kors explained, disputes what happened. The only question is what to do about it."
At which point Buyer went from lecturing to exploding about what can be said.
Ranking Member Steve Buyer: I have records in front of me!
Joshua Kors: All said what?
Ranking Member Steve Buyer: I'm not going to do this! I can't -- My integrity as a gentleman will not allow me to do this. Dr. Roe! Will you take this seat? I will not participate in this! I'm not going to do it! It's wrong!
A confused Rep Roe stands and moved towards the front while Buyer storms out. Kors explained that the soldiers speaking to him on the record wanted their stories told and that, of course, he wasn't divulging confidential information that no one wanted revealed.
Chuck Luther: Just what I'd like to say is this. I'm not here just about Chuck Luther. This is larger than I. I haven't made any statements that were inflamatory or lies. I wish I didn't have this story to tell but what I will tell you is that in the three years that I've been treated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the medications I've been given and several of my doctors have all said to me at different intervals to make sure I continue to fight to have my discharge changed because it doesn't reflect what my injury is. I saw a licensed clinical social worker and a pediatrician in a combat theater for less than two hours of face time and was given the diagnosis of personality disorder. In doing studying over three years, that is impossible to diagnose at that interval. In fact, in the last three years, I've been treated -- prognosed and diagnosed for my PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury, my cognitive function disability. And if it were a case of a personality disorder, I think that those licensed psychologists and psychiatrists would have in fact have found a personality disorder and seeing that I've never in my life had any issues prior to being blown up in Iraq.
Chair Bob Filner had little patience for the government witnesses from DoD and Veterans Affairs on the fourth panel as they attempted to repeatedly dance around the questions. Even something as basic as how many people had been discharged with personality disorders was a figure they didn't know. He noted, "You're playing with words." After stating they had no numbers, they repeatedly refenced them and Chair Filner observed, "So how can you even tell me that -- I ask you guys for figures and you don't have them. You're making judgments based on your sense of figures." He noted the topic of the hearing was known and they were brought before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs to testify on this subject; however, they were completely unprepared.
Things did not get better when Filner pursued an avenue he'd tackled on the other panels: Whether or not Chuck Luther was tortured? He directed the question on the fourth panel to DoD's General Gina Farrisee. Was it ever investigated?
Gen Gina Farrisee: Mr. Chairman, to my knowledge it was not. It first came out in the media it was referred to Fort Hood and I will have to follow up with them to see if
Chair Bob Filner: Man, if I were jyou, I would've jumped on it. We can't let something like that happen in the army. And if it's true, somebody's got to be punished and, if it's not true, that's got to be known too. People are making these public charges here where they're sworn to tell the truth, they've been in the newspaper and surely you'd be concerned if the army was accused of torturing its own soldiers, wouldn't you?
Gen Gina Farrisee: Yes, Mr. Chairman.
Chair Bob Filner: Would you find out if there was any investigation?
Gen Gina Farrisee: Yes, Mr. Chairman, I'll take that question for the record.
Speaking to the fourth panel at one point, Bob Filner pointed out that clearly there must be a problem or a perceived one with the original assessments if the military is claiming to have so many soldiers requiring personality disorders. (I just said "soldiers." Joshua Kors pointed out that the personality disorder discharge was not just happening in the army, it was happening in all four branches of the military.) If they believe the soldiers are being correctly discharged, then the military, Filner pointed out, should be working on fixing the initial assessment interview because clearly there would be a problem. In addition, Chair Filner noted he sounded frustrated because he was frustrated. He dismissed panel four and called Joshua Kors back from the first panel. Chair Filner: "I see you not as a person of hearsay but as someone who really understands this issue and is trying to do the best for our soldiers. What questions would you -- Or do you have any responses to some of the testimony you've heard since you testified this morning? Or what questions we should ask these panels?"
As to how many are being discharged for personality disorder, Kors maintained that soldiers taking their discharge papers to their initial VA screenings and the VA would be able to record that and keep an accurate number. He noted that Chuck Luther's VA doctors saw PTSD and not a personality disorder but DoD sent a letter to Luther stating that they are sticking with personality disorder.
Joshua Kors: So many soldiers come to me and say this discharge is like a scarlet letter they just can't wash off. In today's job economy, can you imagine going into a potential employer and handing them a paper saying you're mentally ill? You're just not going to get that job. And so that's how you end up with so many of these soldiers not just without benefits but also then broke and then homeless.
Kors also noted that service members discharged that way are also frequently asked to return signing bonuses and they've just lost their job via the discharge and now they've got to pay back money and this is how some service members end up homeless as well.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Barry and his whores






As the violence continues, so does the political stalemate. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's six months and seven days with no government formed.

Today Alsumaria TV reports, "Member in State of Law Coalition Kamal Al Saedi said that the delegation visit to Syria does not aim at normalizing the relations between the Syrian President Bashar Al Assad and the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, but to normalize the relations between the two countries. Saedi said that the Premiership nominations are an internal Iraqi issue." Khaled Yacoub Oweis (Reuters) adds that Nouri sent an aide to Syria to meet with the Syrian president today. And around Nouri and al Assad that the rumors fly with the biggest being that they are working out some agreement. Ma'ad Fayad and Sherezad Sheikhani (Asharq Alawsat Newspaper) report an Iraiqiya source tells them there's been no change in Syria's opposition to Nouri and the source then states, "The Syrian leadership is free to take its political stands that serve the interests of its country and people. All changes are possible in politics though we regard such a change happening unlikely even if it came by Iranian mediations. We know the Syrian leadership's principled stand on Al-Iraqiya's right to form the government in accordance with the Iraqi constitution." Gulf Times quotes Abdul Hamid al-Zuhairi stating, "We affirmed th depth of strategic ties between Syria and Baghdad. There have been (anti-Syrian) statements by Iraqi figures, but that's behind us now." Meanwhile Sami Moubayed (Gulf News) points out, "While it may have appeared that Syria was making advances to Al Maliki, in fact it was the exact opposite -- the Iraqi prime minister was cuddling up to the Syrians, in effect saying: 'I have mended fences with Damascus and will remain premier.' Syria, after all, can assist Al Maliki in ways that neither Iran nor Saudi Arabia could. It can mend his relationship with heavyweight Sunnis such as Tarek Al Hashemi and work on rebuilding trust between him and his former ally and now opponent, Moqtada Al Sadr. A multitude of players must sign off on any new Iraqi prime minister, and Al Sadr, who commands 40 seats in parliament, is top of the list. It is no secret that Al Sadr feels betrayed by Al Maliki, who failed during his years in power to protect the Sadrists from the US dragnet or to push for a timetable for withdrawal of US troops." And Alsumaira TV notes that Iraqiya is stating it is willing to enter additional talks with the Iraqi National Alliance.
How did Nouri get picked the first time? Oh, that's right, the US government shot down Iraq's first pick. But how did Nouri end up the next choice? "al-Maliki was chosen [prime minister] in a secret meeting of the Shia leadership, of all the Shia factions, that is Dawa, ISCI or SCIRI and the Sadrists and it was presided over by none other than General [Qassem] Suleimani, the head of the Quds Force, which deals with Iraq. He was the day-to-day officer in charge of Iraq policy for Iran. So he was snuck into the Green Zone without the knowledge of the United States by the Shia leadership and presided over a meeting which then, in April of 2006, chose al-Maliki to be the next prime minister of Iraq." That's Gareth Porter speaking on Antiwar Radio yesterday to Scott Horton about the myths of the surge (click here to read the text report Gareth wrote on this topic) and we'll note this from the broadcast on the second myth of the surge:
Gareth Porter: [. . .] what was really going on in 2006 was that the Sunnis were scared to death that they were going to be abandoned to the tender mercies of a Shia government and the Shia death squads because what was happening in that year, of course, was the Shia death squads were eliminating the Sunnis -- anybody who was suspected of being an activist either on the political or military side of the Sunnis was being ruthlessly eliminated by the Shia in Baghdad and they basically carried out ethnic cleansing of the capital, turning it from a mixed city -- Sunni - Shia mixed population -- into an overwhelmingly dominant Shia capital.
Scott Horton: In other words, the Sunni insurgency lost the civil war against the American and Iranian backed Supreme Islamic Council and the Dawa Party government that we were installing in Baghdad. And they cried uncle. They said we have too many enemies. We're fighting al Qaeda, we're fighting, we're fighting the Badhr corps and we're fighting the Americans all at the same time.
Gareth Porter: That's actually correct although it was primarily -- in Baghdad, it was primarily the Mahdi army of Moqtada al-Sadr which was ruthlessly carrying out the elimiatnion of the Sunni activists.
Scott Horton: And point of information here, I'm sorry I have to interrupt you but I have to bring this up. I just read the [David] Finkel book, The Good Soldiers, here, I interviewed Josh Steiber who worked for [Lt Col Ralph] Kauzlarich in that story and they're basically driving around in their Humvees getting blown up in east Baghdad, a Sadrist part of Baghdad throughout 2007, and none of these characters in the entire book -- including the author -- have any idea who they're fighting for. They're actually fighting -- they're in the middle of a civil war fighting on the side of Moqtada al-Sadr while they're fighting against him and patrolling east Baghdad, protecting east Baghdad from itself, from the terrible terrorists who are, of course, the Mahdi army guys that they're on the side of. And they're dying over here for a year --
Gareth Porter: This is the perfect illustration of the basic reality of the Iraq War which is the United States had no idea what it was really fighting for and was essentially continuing to carry out a war that made absolutely no sense whatsoever from any point of view -- either, you know, in terms of trying to foster reconciliation, foster peace, stability or the cold war against Iran. None of that was being accomplished.
[. . . ]
Scott Horton: And Petraeus never followed through with his deal with the Sunnis that 'Don't worry, I'm going to make sure that you're intergrated into the Iraqi army and into the government and etc. He just left them high and dry and now they're all going back to suicide bombings.
Gareth Porter: Well of course Petraeus never had the power to make that stick. He may have told them that we're going to integrate you into the Iraq army but it was really always going to be up to the al-Maliki regime to carry out such a policy and al-Maliki made it clear from the beginning -- and this is very well documented. He was very aware of this policy and was making no promises beyond very minimal integration of the Sons Of Iraq into the security structure of Iraq. So Petraeus had no ability to promise that sort of integration to the Sunnis.

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Doing everything but his job





"Al Qaeda in Iraq is back from the dead," announces Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times). "Once vanquished by Janabi and other Sunni Arab fighters who joined the U.S.-backed Awakening movement, the Islamic militant group is carving out new sanctuaries here in the farmlands south of Baghdad, in the deserts to the west and in the mountains to the east."
Turning now to a constant point.
June 4, 2009: The US puppet Nouri al-Maliki was put into power by the US and he sits on billions as he prepares for the US withdrawal (not coming anytime soon).
July 20, 2009: As Nouri sits on those stacks and stacks of money, the people under the puppet suffer.
August 1, 2008: "Turning to Iraq where puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki sits on a ton of money and spends it when he feels like on what he wants."
We could go on and on and on and on (nod to Erykah Badu) because it's in snapshots in entries all over this site. Poinr? Today Aram Roston (The Nation) reports:
Last month, nearly eight years after Wolfowitz's flawed prediction, as tens of thousands of troops left Iraq, a House subcommittee stamped its approval on President Barack Obama's controversial request for $2 billion in 2011 to arm and train Iraq's military. It is unclear if the Senate will follow suit, but they have approved some funding. On top of the $2 billion, the proposed State Department budget allocates an additional $2.5 billion to step up its operations in Iraq.
All that money is being sent to Iraq based on a simple presumption, that Iraq's government, run by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, is bankrupt and running a massive deficit. The Iraqi government, a caretaker regime now, was created according to a constitution and timetable drawn up under US occupation and is now considered both fragile and corrupt.
But now comes word from independent US government auditors that the presumption may be false: Iraq's government is not broke at all. Instead, Iraq's rulers have been sitting on a vast pile of cash while begging for billions of dollars from the United States and the international community. A draft report by the General Accountability Office has found that the Maliki government, in spite of proclamations of poverty, hasn't been spending what its budget allotted.
I'm not speaking of Aram Roston or The Nation here (nor am I slamming either), but people knew. People always knew. I'm not psychic. But apparently we're going to play it out like the GAO's report is a shocker? Is that's how it's going to go down? Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) notes the DoD's efforts to quibble and split hairs over the findings and she also points out:
Under the U.S. CERP program, U.S. field commanders were authorized to distribute funds for development and other projects they deemed important to the war effort. From fiscal years 2004 through Sept., 2009, the United States obligated more than $3.6 billion to the program. Iraq agreed to take over the program, changing its name to I-CERP, and distribute money through its own field commanders.
"However, as of Sept. 1, 2009," the report said, U.S. Forces in Iraq "had obligated $229 million of the $270 million in funding provided by Iraq for I-CERP, and Iraq had not provided any additional resources to support the program.
Violence might not be so high if Iraqis had any of the basic services they have to repeatedly do without. On this week's Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera, began airing Friday night), Teymoor Nabili was joined by Faiza al-Araji (activist and writer), Patrick Clawson (Washington Institute for Near East Policy" and Tahseen al-Shaikhli (Baghdad Security Plan's civilian spokesperson).
Teymoor Nabili: Tahseen al-Shaikhli, if I may start with you, we saw violence in Baghdad on Sunday with the involvement of US troops and it would seem to imply that the local security forces can't maintain order without US involvement. Do you agree?
Tahseen al-Shaikhli: No, I'm not agreed with this for many reasons. You know for us our forces are capable and able to handle the security here in Iraq, especially in Baghdad.
Teymoor Nabili: Well you say that, but so far -- You say that but what we have so far seen indicates that there is still a a tendancy -- and apparently an increasingly sophisticated one -- to attack very important areas of Baghdad and they're getting away with it.
Tahseen al-Shaikhli: Yeah, it happened. It's not just in Baghdad. In many, many countries it happens like this. Today, there is a blast in Pakistan. You know there is, many countries now there is encountering the same challenges we have here in Iraq. And we think our security forces now with the reliability to encounter the challenge that we believe in it. Like, you know, until now the security forces succeeded to fail many attacks for al Qaeda and their alliances.
Teymoor Nabili: Alright. Well let's go to Faiza al-Araji in Amman. Do you agree with that analysis? Baghdad is no more dangerous than a lot of cities around the world?
Faiza al-Araji: Well first of all, I agree about the pulling out the [US] troops from Iraq. I'm not with the staying of the occupation forces in my homeland. But in the same time, we have to talk about -- evaluation about how the security forces in Iraq and the army in Iraq, how are they functioning. And to talk about facts on the ground. We will not talk about emotions. Yes, we appreciate the hard work --
Teymoor Nabili: Well what are the facts on the ground as you see them?
Faiza al-Araji: Yeah, facts on the ground. If the Iraqi army and security, they have no right to have no air force cover, Iraqi air force cover. The Apache is used by American officers, it's not allowed for Iraqi to be the driver of the Apache. So can you control any fight on the ground without the air force? Please, I would like to hear.
Teymoor Nabili: That's important.
Faiza al-Araji: Yes, I would like to hear the answer.
Teymoor Nabili: Well come on to the exact nature of the relationship in a minute. But let me go to Patrick Clawson and ask you about the actual role here. Let's, for a start, dismiss this notion that perhaps combat operations are over. That was really only for American consumption at the end of the day. We know that those forces will engage when necessary. The question is are they going to be engaging all the time because it does seem as if there is no let up in the violence in Baghdad and there is still a great gap in the security forces ability to cope with it.
Patrick Clawson: Well there is a lot of violence in Baghdad. There has been a dramatic letup from last year. There's many fewer people who are dying in Baghdad --
Teymoor Nabili: Well let me stop you for a moment there, Patrick Clawson. This is the line we always here from supporters of the American position. It's meaningless to say there's been a dramatic drop unless you say your time frame here. The fact is, we're not comparing relative to last year or the year before, we're saying there's an unacceptable level of violence still in Baghdad and the security forces cannot deal with it.
Patrick Clawson: We measure progress. Progress is compared to the past. And we have to ask: Are we improving things? The answer is: Yes. And as -- as Ms. Araji's pointed out, it is true that the Americans still provide the air cover but that has only been necessary in about every month or less often this year.
In the US, last night was the MTV VMAs (Video Music Awards). Lady Gaga cleaned up but she also made news for her guests. Kara Warner (MTV) quotes her explaining at the pre-show arrival, "I'm here for a very, very important cause tonight. These are all my friends and they are with, which is an organization that was founded in 1993 under the reaction to the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policies. Their stories are very inspiring and there's so much we can do right now." Her friends were Maj Mike Almy, Staff Sgt David Hall, Katie Miller and Sgt 1st Class Stacy Vasquez -- three of whom were discharged under Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Katie Miller resigned from West Post in protest of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Terri Schwartz (MTV) compiles a list of the top ten VMA moments from last night while ABC News makes it's question of the day whether or not Don't Ask, Don't Tell should be repealed and notes Maj Margaret Witt, discharged in 2007 under Don't Ask Don't Tell, has her case heard today in a civilian federal court. James Dao (New York Times) explains Witt had served for 17 years when, in 2004, the estranged husband of Witt's romantic partner wrote a letter to the Air Force outing her which led to an investigation and then her discharge. Last week, another court case was in the news. Ian Thompson (ACLU Blog of Rights) wrote Friday evening:
On Thursday evening, U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips ruled that the discriminatory and counterproductive policy known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) violates the constitutional rights of lesbian, gay and bisexual servicemembers. In clear and striking language in the 86-page opinion, Judge Phillips stated that DADT has a "direct and deleterious effect" on the armed forces, and issued a permanent injunction barring enforcement of the policy (a step almost certain to be fought by the government).
Friday, Marcia wondered, "When's Congress going to act. When's Barack going to show leadership?" And as Mike pointed out Thursday night, the US Justice Dept fought to keep Don't Ask, Don't Tell in that case, and "they were acting on behalf of Barack Obama." (The Log Cabin Republicans -- a GOP LGBT organization -- were the ones filing the case to overturn Don't Ask, Don't Tell.) So where is the leadership, Barack? And what we warned of here is coming true and the Democratic leadership in Congress knew it when we were talking about in the snapshot: Dems are likely to lose the votes needed to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

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