Friday, June 19, 2009


Why didn't I cover the House Veterans Affairs subcommittee hearing C.I.'s writing about? I wasn't there for it. It was supposed to start at two. C.I. left about three to do a speaking thing and I stayed but it was starting a few seconds after C.I. got back. (Which I believe was after 6:30 p.m.) So I didn't cover it because I was gone. I went to eat and then to relax some. If it had started while I was there, I was going to cover it. That was the plan. C.I. assumed that I'd have it to cover last night and the snapshot today would quote from my coverage.

But the hearing never started. It was at least four hours and thirty minutes late starting, at least. I've never had a hearing being that delayed. I blame the same person (not on the committee) that C.I. does. The little "OH HELP ME!! OH HELP ME!!! THE REPUBLICANS ARE OUT OF CONTROL" whiner.

I stayed thinking I would be covering it. Instead I was just one of many people staring.

Free Speech Radio News had an interesting headline today:

More than 700 UK workers fired after holding unofficial strike
In the UK a dispute by construction workers at a Total oil refinery threatens to spread across the UK. Workers at 17 power stations and construction sites are holding solidarity actions for the more than 700 workers fired by the French oil corporation. From London, FSRN’s Naomi Fowler reports:
Reporter:According to Total oil refinery workers, 700 people were sacked Thursday night for their previous involvement in unofficial strike action. They say Total has been bringing in foreign European workers in order to drive down wages and undermine job security. Workers say they are not opposed to foreign labor, but believe if they lose this fight, it will give the green light to other big corporations to behave similarly. Total says striking workers are taking part in an "unofficial, illegal walk-out" and that firing workers is normal practice when different parts of a project end. It has so far refused to meet with the unions. Naomi Fowler, FSRN, London.

Big Oil knows no boundaries. As the Iraqi people can certainly attest. Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, June 19, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the VA backlog continues and will continue for some time judging by a Congressional hearing, Gordon Brown continues to be a newsmaker of the week (not a good thing for Brown), Iraqi refugees continue to struggle, and more.

Late yesterday, well after 6:00 p.m., the House Committee on Veterans Affairs' Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs called their 2:00 p.m. hearing to order. US House Rep John J. Hall chaired the subcommittee hearing, "Addressing the Backlog: Can the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Manage One Manage One Million Claims?" Hall observed, "This is a problem that's plagued the VA and the veterans it's supposed to serve for years."

The first panel was composed of the
American Legion's Ian de Planque, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, Disabled American Veterans' Kerry Baker, Service Women's Action Network's Rachel Ntelson and Gulf War veteran David Bohan of Oregon.
Bohan shared his personal story which is not unique to him and which members of the House Veterans Committee and its various subcommittees have heard repeatedly but there's still been no action on it -- even with John Hall having proposed legislation to assist with this (
HR 952).

David Bohan: A counselor at the VA in Roseburg suggested I pursue a claim for my PTSD and for injuries to my left foot during the time I was stationed at Fort Riley Kansas and recommended I contact the American Legion for help. The VA system is confusing, overwhelming and it is not all friendly to veterans. [. . .] So many of the people at VA are not veterans and don't understand what we are going through. You end up feeling like some of them care more about their rules and regulations and paperwork than they care about the veterans. We veterans don't have any idea where the piece of paper or that record is after all of the time. Regarding military records, veterans don't have any idea where our records are kept. And apparently the military doesn't know either. I was up late last night digging through boxes, looking for records to prove I was in the army, that I was in the Gulf War and that I had been in a combat -- in combat and that I had all the necessary stressors to qualify for VA assistance. The memories -- the memories that going through all these materials from my army days were very painful. With the help of American Legion service officer Gregg Demaris, I received a PTSD rating from the BA. But the issues with my foot have not yet been -- been addressed. My medical records from Fort Riley are missing. I've spent hour on the telephone, I've sent faxes, I've even sent e-mails. But after months of trying, no one can find my records. The hospital at Fort Riley says they do not have the records of the surgeries on my foot. I have contacted the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis many, many times. But I still do not have the records of the multiple surgeries on my foot. Until I can obtain those records and present them to the VA, I cannot pursue the rest of my case.

HR 952 would make it much easier for veterans suffering from PTSD to receive treatment for it without jumping through hoops of paperwork. The measure would not help David Bohan with his foot injury. The issue of the foot injury, however, is something that a call to one of his senator's office should have resolved already. (Via the office lighting a fire under the VA. I'm not stating Bohan hasn't pursued that. I would guess he has. I'm stating someone's dropping the ball: Gordon Smith or Ron Wyden -- or both.) We'll note this section of Rachel Ntelson's opening remarks.

Rachel Ntelson: To begin, studies indicate an institutional bias in favor of claimants with combat experience, an advantage which disproportionately favors men. Not only do claim processors fail to understand the degree to which women are effectively -- if not nominally -- serving in combat positions but they also fail to appreciate the extent to which service members in non-combat occupations and support roles are exposed to traumatic events. Among the most pervasive stressors experienced by military women are incidents of sexual assault and harassment. The prevalence of sexual assault in the military is hardly news and has been the subject of a number of recent Congressional hearings and Pentagon reports. By some accounts, nearly a third of female veterans report episodes of sexual assault during military service while seventy-one to ninety percent report experiences of sexual harassment. These experiences are closely associated with PTSD in a variety of studies; in fact, military sexual assault is a stronger predictor of PTSD among women veterans than combat history. Likewise, studies indicate that sexual harassment causes the same rates of PTSD in women as combat does in men. In spite of this correlation, the VA grants benefits to a significantly smaller percentage of female than male PTSD claimants. This disparity stems largely from the difficulties of substantiating experiences of military sexual assault -- especially in a combat arena. Under military regulations, for example, sexual harassment investigations are only retained on file for two years from the close of each case. While criminal investigations of sexual assault are better documented, eighty percent of assault victims fail to report the offense and over twenty percent of those who do file reports opt for a 'restricted' mode that precludes official investigation. Although training and reference materials for raters provide a great deal of guidance on how combat medals and commendations may be used to support PTSD claims, they make little mention of how to address the challenges of documenting military sexual assault as an in-service stressor.

The first panel was the only one not staffed by government employees. We'll note a series of exchanges from it and these are my notes and I may have missed a word or two. (I was tired. During the long wait for the hearing to start, I believe it was Kerry Baker who was on his laptop throughout the wait using the time wisely. Most waiting were thinking, "This has to start soon. This has to." Or as one reporter put it during the long wait, "It won't look very good for the House Veterans Committee if they can't handle a hearing on whether or not the VA can handle claims." No, it wouldn't. That's all stated because the Ranking Member may have had good questions but my pen skids right across the paper during his questions. It was a long wait for the hearing to start.)

Chair John Hall: Mr. de Planque, there have been some concerns and misperceptions about the role of service connection in being able to access VA health care. If a veteran is not service connected than how likely is it that he or she will get turned down for VA health care treatment? Should veterans with claims pending adjudication be held eligible for VA health care and should mental health counseling be offered to all veterans during the stress of the VA claims processing system?

Ian de Planque: In the sense of that, Mr. Chairman, it's -- it's actually -- it's a slightly complicated issue and there have been a number of things that have changed although they are attempting to bring them back forward. In 2003, when the category eight veterans were shut out of VA from treatment, it made it very difficult for them to receive treatment for -- for medical conditions. And that is being phased back in. However veterans who are serving now in the present conflict are entitled to five years of VA health care after they demobilize, after they are discharged from the military and it will run out after that point and they will not be able to get health care for the conditions that are not service connected. With regards to mental health care, in many of the VA outreach clinics they're not in a position to be turning people away from trying to get the care they need but it's not always capable of getting the full level of care that particularly severe cases of mental disorders which can arise. It is possible to get some degree of health care within certain circumstances when you fall into certain categories as a veteran but in terms of an all inclusive group of veterans being able to receive health care if they are not service connected for a condition than that is not the case.

Chair John Hall: I would ask you one more question if I may which is that some of the solutions highlighted in your testimony were already considered and enacted by Congress in PL110-389. Do you think these provisions are sufficient or are there other legislative changes the Legion would like to see Congress enact?

Ian de Planque: In some sense with the changes which have been enacted, they've all been enacted very recently and we're seeing promising signs for example with what VA is beginning to do with improving electronic communication and making 4As into the IT solutions. They're showing promising signs but it's still very early to determine how overall effective those will be. As I've stated before, it would be beneficial to work with the -- the changes that are creating improvements but we don't want to just change the set of tools that continues to operate within the same system. If we -- if you're continuing to make the same problems but doing it electronically that doesn't make it any better than if you're making the same mistakes and doing it on paper. In terms of legislative solutions which could be brought forward, already up for consideration are the -- as we mentioned in our testimony -- the changes to the Section 1154 which covers veterans -- currently covers veterans who have engaged in combat in proving the occurrence of incidents that are consistent with combat and the expansion of it to combat zones as we recognize the non-linear battlefield of modern warfare and that the documentation of all such incidents for all soldiers -- not just soldiers who have infantry cross rifles and can get a combat infantry badge. Not just soldiers who are wounded and receive a Purple Heart which makes things obvious, but all the soldiers who are deployed to combat zones and experience these incidents which are sometimes difficult to document. So continuing to work towards the legislation and pass solutions on that front would be a great help in reducing because it would reduce a lot of their burden for overdeveloping. They would be able to grant that one point and they wouldn't spend a lot of time needlessly developing.

Chair John Hall: Thank you sir, and Mr. Bohan once again thank you for your testimony and your service. It sounds like nobody from VA mentioned to you that you could file a claim even though you were in treatment for over 15 years before you did file. Would your experience with this process have been easier if you had filed a claim right away?

David Bohan: Mr. Chairman, not knowing what the technology back then at that point, I'm assuming there would be roadblocks also as well. But that's hard to say because I did not file back at that time.

Chair John Hall: Fair enough. Thank you. And, Mr. Jackson, I'm interested in the provisional claims processing proposal you mentioned in your testimony. Could you elaborate on how it would work practically by walking us through the first steps of finality for a veteran who might file a claim under this system?

Robert Jackson: My pleasure, Mr. Chairman. What this does, it essentially is not a -- it's not a permanent fix. What it does is buys time. What you're doing is you're -- you're allowing existing information to be used for a provisional rating. The veteran then -- if he or she decides that that rating is not what they think is sufficient then they can continue the process that they normally would. The goal of the provisional proposal that Jerry [Manar] has created is to -- is to get claims -- new claims through the system quickly allowing the VA workforce to work on the backlog. It's -- it's something that's not going to be a permanent fix but it's something that could certainly alleviate some of the workload.

This is where the Ranking Member Doug Lamborn came in. I believe I nodded off for his entire questioning of the first panel. Here's where Hall resumed speaking.

Chair John Hall: In listening to your testimony I'm reminded of a hearing we held over a year ago on artificial intelligence, Dr. Randy Miller, Chair of Biomedical Informatics, Vanderbilt University made similar observations about reducing the days to process claims by using clinical informatics which is what your imaging scanning center would seem to do. Have you also considered that the scanned image should be converted into a standardized electronically processed format? What is the feasibility of implementing the proposed centralized information system that you mentioned in your testimony?

Kerry Baker: Well Mr. Chairman, if you're talking about -- are you suggesting if we use something like an image scanning center would you do more than just copy the document? Would you have a workable format that could provide some sort of database and search-able tool? That would absolutely be preferable. It would allow people to search the claims file much, much easier than sitting there having to read 1000 pages on the computer. The feasibility of that? I'm afraid I don't have the expertise. I don't know where VA is in their IT development, if they could do something like that. As I understand it, there's a lot of companies out there and processes out there that can capture that sort of data. I just don't know where VA is with that technology.
Chair John Hall: Thank you. And your plan also calls for a reduction time from one year to 180 days of the time that a veteran can make an appeal but then allows them the opportunity to ask for an extension. Other insurance programs have restrictions that do not allow an appeal after the due date. Are their circumstances in which you could see a case being closed and an appeal being disallowed? And should there be a limitation on the number of times that a veteran can appeal the same condition without new evidence?

Kerry Baker: I could see where one could get closed and disallowed if they allowed the six months to run out and they did not request an extension and they couldn't show any cause as to why their appeal should be equitably told. That would be no different than the appeal running out at the in excess of one year point right now. Only right now they cannot request an extension and they cannot be equitably told the court have stopped short of addressing that issue with the appellate period. So we realize that the six months issue may not be met with a lot of favoritism upfront but when you're providing a couple of extra benefits that a lot of people are going without right now -- which is the extension and the equitable tolling -- we think that's more than fair. And it's still six months we're talking about. The average time it takes VA to get an NOD is forty-one days. 90% of all the POs are received in the first six months. So we think in the long run the system will be much better with that. You had a second part of that question?

Chair John Hall: Should there be a limitation on the number of times the veteran can appeal the same condition without new evidence?

Kerry Baker: Well VA -- VA has a process now, a lot of people get it confused. If you -- if you reapply for the same thing and you've been denied for and you don't have any new evidence, what you normally get is -- you will get a decision saying 'you haven't presented new evidence, your claim is not reopened.' However, that issue -- in and of itself -- can be appealed all the way up to the courts. So it is, in effect, a claim within the system -- the claim is an appeal to reopen the claim. During the appelate process, that could be decided in favor of the veteran and goes all the way back down to the beginning just to be reopened and the actual issue decided so I mean there is some convulsion there -- how do you go about, you know -- Iiii -- rectifying that. I wouldn't suggest that you simply not allow the veteran to reopen anything without new evidence, I mean there's a fine line where you start taking away rights as some point. But if they had no evidence whatsoever, that's kind of what they do now. You can just appeal that decision just like you can appeal anything else.

Chair John Hall: Thank you very much. And Ms. Ntelson, thank you first of all for your support of HR 952. The information that you've presented on women's veterans -- women veterans corroborates what we have heard before at our hearings. When the Department of Defense appeared at one of these hearings, they described their PTSD approach as relying on the opinion of the medical examiner which is what it seems you are suggesting. So if VA like DoD instituted a disability evaluation system that relied more on medical opinions than psychometric testing results, do you think this change would be reliable enough for the establishment of compensation?

Rachel Ntelson: Well I think that there's a value in allowing -- a VA professional has a treating relationship with the claimant. To have their word, you know, taken at face value. Presumably since these are VA medical professionals, there's been some sort of vetting, some sort of determination, that their credentials are approriate. So it doesn't make very much sense to me that if somebody has been in a treating relationship with a medical professional or counselor employed by the VA on the VHS side of the equation that -- that somebody on the benefit section to decide that, you know, that person's word isn't good enough.

Chair John Hall: Thank you. And lastly would you please elaborate on your recommendation to incorporate upon request investigative files of harassment and sexual assault into the joint virtual lifetime electronic record. How would thi help women veterans

Rachel Ntelson: Well an enormous problem for women with military sexual trauma in establishing their in-service stressor is that it's so hard to obtain those documents. Like I say there are actual military policies -- especially with harassment as opposed to an actual criminal case of assault that prevent records from even being kept on file for more than a couple of years. So if somehow those -- the documents that do exist could be memorialized and kept within the system, you know, for as long as possible, so that if the claimant elected to they could use that in support of their claim. I think that would be very helpful in establishing that there was an in-service stressor.

The second panel was composed of the VA's Lt Gen James Scott and the VA's Michael Ratajczak. Michael Ratajczak made many sound points in his opening remarks but the point we'll emphasize was his points that managers without experience or with only a little experience when it comes to processing claims are not able to provide training, to supervise or to assist with the work. That's basic but it is a repeated point you will hear from VA as you step away from the appointees and administrators at the top. US House Rep Deborah Halvorson was probably the strongest voice from the committee or the panel on the second panel. She pointed out how confusing the form alone was and how someone's claim being turned down can be confusing and leading to more work as a result of appeals over a denail that may or may not have been judged correctly. Who answers the question when a veteran calls in about a denied claim is a basic question.

Her efforts to keep it basic and simple weren't helped by Ratajczak meandering answer that did not address the issues but offered bromides (no heading in the manual with "do the right thing"). Good for Halvoroson for interrupting and asking, "And why aren't we doing that?" Why aren't veterans brought in immediately when there's something confusing about their case that might lead to a denial. Ratajczak replied that it's "because we're not giving credit for doing it." Halvorson explained how she runs her office, "Because I have a lot of caseworkers in my office and I don't let them share cases, I want them starting it and finishing it because when there's questions, one person can answer the question because if you've got a team or five people working on something, you're going to get five different answers depending on who answers the call." Ratajczak wanted to offer a ton of examples that backed up Halvorson's question but none that answered her question. He ate the time, ran out the clock and avoided providing an answer.

"I don't have an answer for that," Michael Waldcoff said in a flat voice on the third panel. Though VA sends many people to Congress who make that comment, the Deupty Under Secretary for Benefits was replying to John Hall's question about how many veterans committed suicide while waiting for their claims to be settled? That's a basic question and as distrubing as Wadlcoff's claim that he didn't know was his obvious disinterest in the question. Hall rightly noted that this was "a question that VA should be able to answer" -- yes, they should.

Gregg Zoroya (USA Today) reports that there has been an increase ("nearly doubled") in the number of enlisted seeking treatment for dependency on or abuse of alcoholism. and he notes there were 142 recorded army suicides in 2008 and that there are already 82 confirmed so far this year. This as VA's backlog continues.

Turning to England. Gordon Brown's been the topic of the week. Fresh from nearly losing his prime minister post and on the heels of the
spending scandals in Parliament, Brown promised a new age of transparency only to turn around Monday and offer the long promised inquiry into the Iraq War . . . as a back-door, hidden-from-public view song and dance. Today Andrew Sparrow (Guardian) offers "Iraq war inquiry: Five reasons why a full Gordon Brown U-turn looks inevitable" which includes:

1. The Commons wants a public inquiry This hasn't had much publicity, but yesterday the (Labour-dominated) Commons public administration committee
published a strong report criticising the format proposed by Brown. This was its key finding: While we welcome the government's announcement that an inquiry into Iraq will be held, that it will have a broad scope, and that it will aim to learn lessons from the decision to go to war, the conflict and its aftermath, there is a strong risk that the inquiry as currently constituted will not be able to pursue what should be its fundamental purpose: to identify the truth and ensure that the executive can be held properly accountable for its decisions and conduct in relation to Iraq. Tony Wright, the committee's chairman (and the man Brown has just asked to recommend ways of making the Commons operate more effectively), said this: It is also crucial that the inquiry be conducted openly and in public, and that Parliament has a role in establishing it. Only an open, legitimate and credible process of this kind will satisfy a sceptical public that this inquiry is not a whitewash.

Aljazeera's Inside Iraq this week explores Gordon Brown's never ending problems. "The announcement,"
Aljazeera notes of Brown's closed-door inquiry, "was supposed to boost his populartiy among the British public. However the calls for an inquiry has met with indifference at best, hostile criticism at worst." John F. Burns (New York Times) offers that the "outcry" has been from the families who lost service members in Iraq, "the House of commons, from newspaper editorials and from powerful establishment voices, including a retired military commander, Gen. Sir Michael Jackson, who oversaw Britain's operations in Iraq as army chief in 2003." Duncan Gardham (Telegraph of London) covers Brown's spokesperson who swears that "the precise format of the inquiry" will be determined by Sir John Chilcot.

While everyone else appears eager to pull correspondents out of Iraq, a British paper has actually sent another correspondent into the country.
Alice Fordham (Times of London's Inside Iraq) notes that Barham Salih, Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister, is now Twittering. Yesterday Salih noted he was following news on Iran's elections while "Busy with our own elections". Click here for Ray Odierno's Facebook page. Alice Fordham is blogging at the paper's Iraq blog and blogging regularly on a variety of topics. Visiting an American base, she noted all the food associated with the US, "It's not a new observation, and my colleague Martin Fletcher wrote brilliantly about the supply chain required to keep the thousands of troops stationed here in popcorn and Froot Loops. But sometimes in Iraq an unexpected offer of marmalade or somesuch reminds me of the British colonial legacy here, and I wonder if, as the Americans withdraw, they will leave behind a taste for infintely variable ice cream and baseball."

From baseball to karate, BBC reports 45-year-old Izzat Abdullah was shot dead in Mosul today. He had been the coach of Iraq's karate team. On the topic of Mousl, Thursday
Chelsea J. Carter (AP) reported it was allegedly Mosul police that shot dead US Lt William Emmert February 24th, as well as his interpreter (five more people were wounded in the attack). Carter reported that Col Gay Volesky was told by the Mosul police chief that the reason the two alleged killers hadn't gone before a judge was because there were 'doubts' but "Volesky wasn't buying it, saying the men's relatives had identified them." Nikki Weingartner (Digital Journal) observes, "The first step in the process of prosecution is appearing before a judge."

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


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul bombing targeting an alcohol store which left two people injured, a Baquba roadside bombing which wounded Ahmed Zarkush ("District Commissioner of al Saidyah") and three members of his security team, a Falluja house bombing and an Anbar Province sticky bombing targeting Zeki Obaid's son who was wounded (Obaid fled to Jordan in 2008).


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports aremd clashes in Falluja in which two civilians were wounded, 1 person shot dead in Mosul from "a speeding car" and, dropping back to last night, 1 Iraqi soldier and 1 iraqi civilian shot dead in Mosul.

Patrik Jonsson and Kristen Chick (Christian Science Monitor) report on the small number of Iraqi refugees admitted into the US and note that the number who have been able to find work has fallen from 80% in 2007 to 11% this year. International Rescue Committee's Alaa Naji states that the Iraqi refugees "never imagined that they would be struggling to survive here in America. They expected more from a country that was involved in the violence that destroyed our land, homes, and loved ones." IRC has a new report [PDF format warning] entitled "Iraq Refugees In The United States: In Dire Straits." "We conclude," the report notes, "that the U.S> resettlement program, likely the only safe alternative for thousands of Iraqi refugees, faces major structural challenges in its organization and funding. These challenges are exacerbated by a simultaneous global economic downturn and resettlement of a highly educated refugee population with many special needs. Issues like rising unemployment and homelessness are threatening the well-being not only of Iraqi refugees but also of all recently resettled refugees in America." The report notes conditions that can add to economic issues:

Many of the women widowed by the war in Iraq have young children. Without male relatives, these women are especially at risk in Iraq and in its neighboring countries and are considered among the most vulnerable of refugees. In Phoenix, the IRC delegation met with six refugee women from Iraq whose husbands were killed. The situation for those who are here alone with young children is especially precarious. Like other refugees, they must secure a job soon after arrival in the United States. Manyhave been separated from sons, brothers or other family members because of the delays from the additional security checks that Iraqi men are subjected to before the United States will grant them admission.
In Atlanta Commission members met Shayma Sadeq, a single mother with three children who recently obtained a job working the night shift cooking for inmates at a detention facility in Atlanta. It is a job she is not likely to continue to hold for long. The support she receives from the state pays only for certified day care providers, and such providers do not operate at night. Unable to afford nightmare childcare for her three minor children, she has arranged for a neighbor to watch the children at night, but the arrangment is not sustainable. At the same time, the financial support the IRC is able to provide to her has run out. Without a job she and her children will soon face eviction.
Inaya Al Basha, a widow from Iraq living alone in Phoenix, has received multiple eviction notices. She jokes that if she is evicted she will come to sleep at the IRC office. Like other refugees with eviction notices, she has nowhere else to go. The homeless shelters in Phoenix are at capacity and the waiting list for subsidized housing is up to two years long.

Assyrian International News Agency also covers the refugees with a report (including many photos) entitled "
Assyrian Refguees in Sweden Caught in Political Struggle." The article notes that despite puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki meeting with Pope Benedict XVI there's no increase in trust. A refugee is quoted stating, "How will he [al-Maliki] protect anyone? He doesn't even dare to leave the Green zone."Meanwhile Asia News reports that the Pope met with the Patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians Ignace Youssiff III Younan today and the Pope declared, "I constantly pray for peace in the Middle East, in particular for the Christians who lived in the beloved nation of Iraq, every day, during the Eucharistic Sacrifice, I present their suffering to the Lord." On Iraqi Christians, Iran's Press TV observes the declining number of Christians in Iraq stating "nearly half have fled" as a result of threats and attacks "unleashed by the Salafi militants as well as the Al-Qaeda. These Salafi groups did not appear over night in the Arab countries. Some regional governments have been funding these groups primarily to target Shia Muslims and those Sunnis who rose up against extremism." A large percentage of Iraq's external refugees are Christians. Some Christians remain in Iraq. In Kirkuk, Archbishop Louis Sako has called for an end to executions in Iraq as Amnesty International also has. Adnkronos Security quotes Archbishop Sako stating, "The Death penalty is horrible deed. It is humanly and spiritually unjustifiable. It is an offence to life and to the maker." This as Iraq Oil Report notes a Sunni satellite TV station which is said to broadcast hate speech aimed at Shi'ites and Christians inflaming tensions in Najaf with such comments as, "If I have ten nuclear bombs, I would use one against Christians and Jews, and the remaining nie agains Shi'ites."

TV notes. Starting with PBS. This week on
Bill Moyers Journal (begins airing tonight on most PBS stations, check local listings, and it streams online -- video and audio -- and offers transcripts):

Instructed by a dream and organized in prayer, Leymah Gbowee andthousands of everyday women in Liberia - both Christians and Muslimsalike - confronted warlords and a corrupt president to successfullyfight for peace and dignity in their war-torn nation. "I realized thatevery problem we encounter on this journey, I'm going to rise above itand lead these women because they trusted me with their lives and theirfuture," says Gbowee. Journal guest host Lynn Sherr interviews LeymahGbowee and Abigail Disney, who documented their inspiring tale in theaward-winning film PRAY THE DEVIL BACK TO HELL. Lynn Sherr is along-time broadcast journalist who most recently covered events inLiberia for PBS' news program, WORLDFOCUS.
NOW on PBS offers:According to the Department of Education, the average amount of undergraduate student debt in this country is now more than $22,000. And sudden changes in lenders' terms and rates can quickly turn a personal debt into a financial sinkhole, grounding the dreams of many college graduates even before they've started.This week, NOW follows the story of a single mother in Baltimore trying to dig herself out of more than $70,000 student loan debt. While issues of personal responsibility are debated, there's no question the high price of higher education is creating an ocean of student loan debt for people who can least afford it.How are the 70 million Americans with student debt frustrating America's economic recovery?Washington Week finds Gwen sitting around the table with Barbara Slavin (Washington Times), Karen Tumulty (TIME magazine), David Wessel (Wall St. Journal) and Jeff Zeleny (New York Times). All begin airing tonight (check local listings) on most PBS stations and tonight also finds Bonnie Erbe sitting down with Karen Czarnecki, Irene Natividad and Leslie Sanchez to discuss the week's news on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
A Clean Version Of Hell Exclusive footage from within and a rare interview with its former warden takes viewers inside the secretive "Supermax" federal prison, where the nation's most dangerous and infamous criminals - including terrorists - are held under the strictest rules. Scott Pelley reports.
The War Next Door Drug-cartel fueled violence has turned into a war in Mexico, with thousands of deaths and the government battling well-armed gangs whose military-quality weapons come mostly from U.S. dealers. Anderson Cooper reports.
LeBron Steve Kroft profiles the Cleveland Cavalier's superstar, LeBron James, who at only 24, is already among an elite handful of athletes who command tens of millions a year in playing and marketing fees.
60 Minutes, Sunday, June 21, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

the new york timesjohn f. burnsandrew sparrow
patrik jonssonkristen chickthe christian science monitor
mcclatchy newspapers
bill moyers journal60 minutescbs newsto the contrarybonnie erbenow on pbsnprthe diane rehm showpbs

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Feingold & Holder, absestos

Washington, D.C. - Today, Attorney General Eric Holder appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee for a hearing on Department of Justice Oversight. Under questioning from Senator Russ Feingold, Holder declined to call the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program “illegal” despite previous instances where both he, and then-Senator Obama, labeled it as such. Following the hearing, Senator Feingold issued the following statement:
“I was disappointed by Attorney General Holder’s unwillingness to repeat what both he and President Obama had stated in the past – that President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program was illegal. For an administration that has repeatedly stated its intention to restore the rule of law, this episode was a step backward. While the Attorney General restated his belief that the program was inconsistent with the FISA statute, his testimony today, and the administration’s delay in withdrawing the Bush Administration’s legal justifications for the program, are troubling.”
Video of Senator Feingold’s exchange with Attorney General Holder today is available
here and a transcript is available here. Holder’s response to Feingold’s questioning was markedly different than past comments Holder has made on the issue. As Senator Feingold mentioned, Holder referred to the program in the June 2008 speech to the American Constitution Society as an “act in direct defiance of federal law.” And as Senator Feingold mentioned, President Obama labeled the program as “illegal” back when he was a Senator (Woodrow Wilson Center on Terrorism, August 1, 2007).

That's Senator Russ Feingold's on Eric Holder's nonsense yesterday. If you missed it, Holder refused to admit that Bully Boy Bush's administration broke the law. Under direct questioning from Feingold, he refused to admit it. He sidestepped it over and over.

If you missed it, Democracy Now! featured some of the exchange today:

Sen. Russ Feingold: “Now that you’re the attorney general, is there any doubt in your mind that the warrantless wiretapping program was illegal?”
Eric Holder: “Well, I think that the warrantless wiretapping program, as it existed at that point, was certainly unwise, in that it was put together without the approval of Congress.”
Sen. Feingold: “But I asked you, Mr. Attorney General, not whether it was unwise, but whether you consider it to have been illegal.”
Holder: “The policy was an unwise one, and I think that the concerns that I expressed then have really been remedied by the fact that Congress has now authorized the program.”
Sen. Feingold: “But did you think it was illegal?”
Holder: “Well, I thought that, as a I said, it was inconsistent with the FISA statute and unwise as a matter of policy.”

This is Free Speech Radio News with a health and enviornment update:

EPA declares a public health emergency in asbestos riddled Libby, MT
Just months after a judge ordered the W. R. Grace & Co. to pay $250 million to help clean up the asbestos-riddled town of Libby, MT, the US Environmental Protection Agency for the first time ever has declared a community has a public health emergency. Because of asbestos contamination remaining from Grace & Co.’s vermiculite mine, the community’s rate of repertory disease and cancer is well above the national average.
“It is a toxic legacy. The legacy of decades of mining operations.”
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.
“While EPA has been conducing a clean up of Libby for several year, we are recommitting to getting the job done right. Our superfund program is today signing an action memorandum to assure the financial resources needed for that cleanup. And we will be considering the cleanup of more properties based on the data we are currently analyzing.”
In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services says it will provide grant funds for residents suffering from asbestos-related illnesses.
In May, a judge cleared the executives of W. R. Grace & Co. of personal wrongdoing in the case.

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, June 18, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, a fire blazes in Baghdad, Iraq's LGBT community gets some attention, Gordon Brown paints himself into a corner, the Senate votes for more war, Norman Solomon makes a fool of himself yet again and more.

Phil Sands and Nizar Latif (The National) report, "American troops may have to remain in violent cities such as Mosul and Baquba after the end of this month, despite plans for a complete US pull-out from urban areas, according to an official in one of Iraq's most powerful political parties. Mohammed al Gharawi, of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC), the largest single party in Iraq's parliament and the group in control of the ministery of the interior, said he would support an extension for the US military presence to prevent a worsening security situtation." Meanwhile AFP reports on "U.S. army commanders" who stress that there is confusion ("mired in confusion") over the so-called departure from Mosul by June 30th ("when U.S. soldiers must leave cities and major towns nationwide") and that "[t]hey also believe the political message emanating from Baghdad about the U.S. withdrawal has created a false impression among Iraqi citizens that U.S. troops will no longer be seen on Mosul's streets when, in fact, they will."

The Iraq War hasn't ended.
Ann is filling in for Ruth and Tuesday she noted a Jackson Sun article her aunt passed on of "how 140 Tennessee National Guard members were being deployed to Iraq." The Mercury reports Maj Gen Vincent Brooks is headed to Iraq (and "900 members of the headquarters of the Big Red One are deploying"). Vinnie Brooks became famous at the start of the Iraq War as The Daily Liar though his official title was "Deputy Directo fo Operations". Karen Middleton (The News Courier) reports "80 members of the Athens-based 203rd Military Police Battallion" will be leaving for Iraq (departure certemony tomorrow at Beasley Field, 4:00 p.m.). And Chris Roberts (El Paso Times) notes approximately "125 soldiers with the post's 47th Transportation Company will head for western Iraq for a 12-month tour of duty." ("The post" is Fort Bliss.) Monday on KPFA Flashpoints, Iraq Veterans Against the War's Camilo Mejia appeared (noted and quoted in Tuesday's snapshot) and we'll again note one section:

Camilo Mejia: For an organization like
Iraq Veterans Against the War for instance, who depend greatly upon contributions from the public and support from ally organizations, we're having a very difficult time right now getting through to people and fund raising and doing things like that because the sense right now within the larger public is that the Iraq War is ending, that the Iraq occupation is coming to an end -- which is not true, and that the Afghanistan War is now the good war and that the -- Basically the Iraq War became indefensible. People turned against it. And they needed a new centerpiece for the global war on terror which is just another excuse for invading and occupying another country to go after their natural resources and Afghanistan is that war now. So a lot of people are on the fence or skeptical or giving President Obama the benefit of the doubt. If you add to that the financial crisis and a lot of people out there who are holding on to their savings and taking pay cuts and unemployed and not contributing the same and don't really feel like anti-war issues are any more that relevant, not as relevant as before. So that's the civilian side of things. I think right now we are on a stand-by when it comes to the civilian side. When it comes to the GI side? Regardless of what the official rhetoric is soldiers are still being deployed -- soldiers, marines, air service men and women -- we're still being deployed. And people are still coming back form Iraq and Afghanistan with untreated Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, returning to poverty in a broken economy being recycled from Iraq to Afghanistan. The VA crisis is really bad. We're short staffed. We have people who are suicidal who are waiting months to see a psychiatrist or psychologist or even a case worker. So regardless of the state of the civilian side of things we're going to continue to resist because our experience hasn't changed.

The Iraq War is not over and it will not be over this year (or next or . . .).
Jeremy Scahill (RebelReports) examines Tuesday's House vote for the War Supplemental and reports, "New York Democrat Anthony Weiner, who voted against the war funding in May -- when it didn't matter -- only to vote Tuesday with the pro-war Dems, sounded like an imbecile when he made this statement after the vote: 'We are in the process of wrapping up the wars. The president needed our support.' What planet is Weiner living on? 'Wrapping up the wars?' Last time I checked, there are 21,000 more US troops heading to Afghanistan alongside a surge in contractors there, including a 29% increase in armed contractors. Does Weiner think the $106 billion in war funding he voted for is going to pay for one way tickets home for the troops? What he voted for was certainly not the 'Demolition of the 80 Football-field-size US Embassy in Baghdad Act of 2009.' To cap off this idiocy, Weiner basically admitted he is a fraud when he said the bill he voted in favor of 'still sucks'." Joshua Frank (Dissident Voice) observes, "No longer can the blame for the turmoil in Iraq and Afghanistan rest at the feet of George W. Bush alone. This is now Obama's War on Terror, fully funded and operated by the Democratic Party. [. . .] Had Bush pushed for more military funds at this stage, the antiwar movement (if you can call it that) would have been organizing opposition weeks in advance, calling out the neocons for wasting our scarce tax dollars during a recession on a never-ending, directionless war. But since Obama's a Democrat, a beloved one at that, mums the word." As Trina observed earlier this week, "never forget that Iraq was always seen by other countries as a chance for Big Business to take control. A tag sale enforced at gun point. There are no uncharted countries on the earth so the 'missions' these days aren't to discover new markets in a new world. The missions are to take a country under and create a new market on top of the corpses."

At a press conference today, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared of her party and the House she leads, "As you know, the veterans issue has been a high priority for us. We planted that flag when we took the majority in the Congress. We did more in that first two years than had been done in the 77-year history of the Veterans Administration. It's now 78, 79 years old. We have a Democratic President in the White House. Secretary Shinseki, working with him, we are able to do even more." Some argue that those who care about veterans go out of their way to ensure that more wounded ones aren't created by continuing illegal wars. Today the Senate followed the House lead.
Perry Bacon Jr. (Washington Post) reports Barack got his War Supplemental with 91 votes supporting more death, destruction and financial waste and only five voted no. They are Russ Feingold, Bernie Sanders, Jim DeMint, Mike Enzi and Tom Coburn.

This morning the House Veterans Affairs' Health Subcommittee held a legislative hearing and US House Rep Deborah Halvorson stepped in to chair the subcommittee. She did a strong job as chair. Not "as a first-term member of the House, she did a strong job," she did a strong job period. US House Rep Jerry McNerney was among those speaking on legislation. He introduced HR 1546 and we'll note some of his remarks explaining the need for it.
HR 1546: "To amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish the Committee on Care of Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury.

US House Rep Jerry McNerney: More than 1.6 million troops have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and about half of those brave men and women are now veterans. Traumatic Brain Injury or TBI has become the signature wound of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A Rand Corporation Study estimates that up to 320,000 troops who served in these conflicts suffer from brain trauma. Milder forms of TBI can result -- these are milder forms -- can result in cognitive problems such as headaches, difficulty in thinking, memory problems, abnormal speech or language and limited functioning of arms and legs. TBI's effects on veterans and their families can be devastating. I've met personally with several veterans from my district who suffer from severe brain injury in Iraq. One is doing well in my hometown with a four year scholarship from the
Sentinels of Freedom. I just had lunch with him a couple of weeks ago and I'm very pleased to see how well he's adjusted. Unfortunately, many wounded veterans face an even more arduous path to recovery. The brain is probably the most adaptable organ of the body but any time there is a traumatic injury or section of the brain is damaged, it takes time to adjust and compensate. When a soldier's wounded, he or she is first transported to a trauma center to treat brain swelling. Brain swelling is the biggest and most immediate risk from a brain injury. After being stabilized, soldiers may face invasive surgical procedures and painful cooling treatments to combat inflammation followed by extensive physical and psychological therapy. I've seen first hand how difficult this treatment is and we owe our veterans the very best.
Blasts from improvised, explosive devices have become one of the most common causes of injury for troops currently serving in combat zones and recent studies show that 59% of blast exposed patinets at Walter Reed have been found to have some form of TBI. In April of 2007, the Veterans Administration began screening veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan since the beginning of October 2001 for symptoms that may be associated with TBI. Of the 61,285 veterans that the VA screened for TBI 11,804 -- or 19% -- of those veterans screened positive for TBI symptoms. Department of Defense and Veterans Administration experts note that TBI can occur even if a victim does not suffer from an obvious physical injury -- which sometimes takes place when the person is in the vicinity of a powerful detonation. In these instances, signs and symptoms of TBI -- such as the ones I mentioned earlier -- are not often readily recognized. According to the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration's mental health experts, mild TBI can also produce behavioral symptoms similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or other mental health conditions. And TBI almost always causes Post Traumatic Stress. The relationship between TBI and Post Traumatic Stress can further complicate diagnosis and treatment. As a result, further research must be conducted to examine the longterm effects of these injuries which are not yet fully understood and the best treatment models to address TBI and improve coordination care for injured veterans.
Traumatic injuries -- Traumatic Brain Injuries have often effected a large number of female service members and as the number of women enlisted in the armed forces continues to grow, we must ensure that our focus on health care continues to encompass all veterans. I hope we can continue to collect data to ensure that the women veterans receive the same quality of care as their male counterparts and I am committed to working on this committee to assist in that endeavor.
When a solider is transitioning to civilian life, it is imperative that we have a system in place that is able to properly evaluate and assess the risks and challenges if any these veterans and their families might face. Given that evidence suggests that combat related TBI is an increasingly frequent occurance and that the effects of TBI are still poorly understood, prioritizing research and oversight will help plan for addressing treatment and long term care. Research in TBI is also particularly important for understanding Post Traumatic Stress because the amnesia that often occurs as a result of TBI increases the challenges of Post Traumatic Stress treatment. Studies have shown that, in the absence of factual recall, individuals may have delusional or reconstruct memories of trauma. These individuals may retain false memories rather than factual results.

Turning to England where the good times keep coming for Gordon Brown. His efforts at a behind-closed-doors 'inquiry' appear to be falling apart.
Philip Webster (Times of London) reported this morning, "Parts of the Iraq war inquiry may now be held in public after Gordon Brown was forced into a partial climbdown." James Kirkup and Alastair Jamieson (Telegraph of London) add that Lord Bulter was "critical of the decision to hold hearings behind closed doors". At the Guardian, Toby Helm stated that "Buter will accuse the government of 'putting its political interests ahead of the national interest'" today. Andrew Grice, Kim Sengupta and Nigel Morris (Independent of London) report it's not one noted person who'll be speaking out against Brown, it's two: Lord Hutton and Lord Butler. Great Britain's Socialist Worker notes the crony-infested panel for Gordo's inquiry: "John Chilcot, its chair, was part of the last Iraq whitewash, the Bulter inquiry. Another committee member, Sir Lawrence Freedman, wrote Tony Blair's 1999 Chicago speech setting out the idea of 'humanitarian' war." The Belfast Telegraph reports that Gordon's closde-door policy has been criticized by former Prime Minister John Major who states: "The Government's decision to hold the inquiry into the Iraq war in private is inexplicable -- not least in its own interests. [. . .] The arrangements currently proposed run the risk of being viewed sceptically by some, and denounced as a whitewash by others. I am astonished the Government cannot understand this." ITN quotes Bulter stating, "The form of the inquiry proposed by the Government has been dictated more by the Government's political interest than the national interest and it cannot achieve the purpose of purging mistrust." Rebecca will be blogging about this topic tonight and should remember to include these words "I told you so." (Because she did.)

The executive editor of the Merced Sun-Star, Mike Tharp, is back in Iraq for McClatchy Newspapers. Today
at McClatchy's Baghdad Observer, Tharp explains a trip in the Green Zone, "Haider, our driver, and I were threading our way through 108 degrees and a narrow concrete path hemmed in by blast walls in the International Zone (IZ). . . . At a dozen points along the 20-minute route, we were checked for IDs, and sometimes body-searched, by Iraqi soldiers, police and hard-eyed Peruvians. The modern-day Incas were armed with AK-47s and looked as if they wanted to revenge Pizarro by humiliating any gringo in range. The name of their private security company is Triple Canopy. In what passes for military logic, some of the checks and searches were only 30 or 40 meters from the last one, in plain sight of the next group of gunsels, who had just watched their comrades force us to dump everything from our pockets into a plastic bowl."

In Baghdad today,
Xinhua reports, fire fighters attempted to battle a blaze at the Ministry of Health's 11-story building: "Dozens of the ministry's employees have been stranded in the upper stories, but Iraqi civil defense managed to evacuate them, the source said."

Iraq's LGBT community remains under assault.
Khalid al-Ansary (Reuters) reports on those who have sought refuge in Turkey including 28-year-old Ameer who fled after repeated death threats. Ameer now hopes he will be granted refugee status in the US -- but the 'fierce advocate' for gays and lesbians in the White House is doing nothing. While the federal government has done nothing, the city councils in Los Angeles and San Francisco have spoken out as have many California legislatures. Cynthia Laird (Bay Area Reporter) notes this announcement:

Gays Without Borders/San Francisco will hold a fundraiser for Rainbow World Fund/Iraq Friday, June 19 from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. at Cafe Flore, 2298 Market Street in San Francisco.
The event takes place after last month's successful local action to bring attention to the fact that LGBT people are being persecuted in Iraq, including reports of torture, beating, and killing of gay Iraqis in an effort by police to "clean up" the country by getting both beggars and gays and lesbians off the streets.
Gary Virginia and Michael Petrelis are two San Francisco activists who have taken the lead on local organizing efforts; the Rainbow World Fund is serving as a fiscal sponsor to collect and distribute the funds raised.
The plight of gay Iraqis has garnered attention from politicians. Last week State Department spokesman Ian Kelly condemned acts of violence and human rights violations committed against individuals in Iraq because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Earlier this month, 45 California lawmakers, led by state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and the LGBT Legislative Caucus, called on the Obama administration to prevent the persecution of LGBT people in Iraq.
For more information about this week's fundraiser, contact Virginia at (415) 867-5004. Donations can be made online at

While California activists again pick up the slack, Barack ignores the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community just as Bully Boy Bush did.
Duncan Osborne (Gay City News) reports:

Writing in Gay City News, Doug Ireland first broke the story in March of 2006 that Iraqi gays were being killed by death squads. Ireland and other gay press outlets continued covering the story in 2006 and into 2007, with the mainstream press offering occasional stories. The killings and the gay press reports on them have continued into 2009. In September 2007 -- nearly two years ago -- Gay City News sent a Freedom of Information request to the State Department that sought all records "that relate to or identify homicides, assaults, or other violent acts committed against homosexual persons in Iraq." On May 26 of this year, the department responded, releasing two documents, totaling nine pages, that represent all the records that agency compiled from March 1, 2003, roughly the start of the Iraq War, through the date of the records request. No documents were withheld and only a small portion of the released documents was blacked out. Two pages consist of a letter, dated March of 2007, from Senator Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican, to the department that forwarded an email from a constituent who was concerned about the killings.
The other seven pages are mostly internal emails -- three pages are a 2006 Washington Blade story on the killings -- with one from September 2006 and the rest from 2007.

ORAM, Organization For Refuge, Asylum & Migration, [PDF format warning] issued a press release noting: "ORAM, a groundbreaking international refugee advocacy organization, announced its launch today. The Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration is the first non-governmental organization (NGO) to focus exclusively on refugees and asylum seekers fleeing sexual and gender based violence. ORAM provides free legal counsel for LGBT refugees in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), who have escaped violence, executions and 'honor killings' in their home countries."

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


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a mortar attack on the Green Zone, a Mosul roadside bombing which wounded an Iraqi soldier and a Diyala Province sticky bombing which injured one man and his son.


Reuters reports 1 person shot dead (from "a speeding car") in Mosul and an Iraqi soldier accidentally shot another Iraqi soldier to death in Mosul. DPA notes 2 Iraqi police officers were shot dead in Mosul.


DPA reports 1 corpse discovered in Mosul.

CounterPunch today, professional media hooker Norman Solomon demonstrates that, even with a plush bankroll, you can't teach an old whore new tricks. Normy gave it up for Barack. He could have remained neutral but he whored it. And he LIED because he didn't think he needed to tell people he was supporting Barack, that he was a pledged delegate for Barack. He noted it in his columns but his radio appearances? 'Surely no one would pay attention.' He thought wrong. His reputation in tatters, he keeps trying to slink back in as an 'independent' voice. You can only lose your cherry once, Norman. In "Obama and the Antiwar Democrats" (no link to trash), Norman wants to YET AGAIN tell you what to do. Forgetting that's what got him into trouble in the first place. He wants you to support . . . Marcy Winograd. Why the hell should anyone support her? Because Norman loves her? Last year, he was spreading for Barry O -- his judgment is a joke. Norman wants you to know Marcy's different. Really? Back in May, Ruth wondered, "Why should anyone vote for Marcy Winograd?" Noting Marcy's sexual ravings over Barack (she pants as easily as does Norman), Ruth wrote, "She is perfectly fine with all of Mr. Obama's cavings last week (military tribunals, torture photos, etc.). She said so. What is progressive about that stance?" Not a damn thing. Not one damn thing. And after you hijacked the peace movement and whored it out for Barack in 2007 and 2008, shame you on you, Norman Solomon, for showing up in 2009 and telling people the answer is a 2010 election. Norman Solomon really needs to consider retirement. He's destroyed his reputation and he apparently has nothing left to offer except, "VOTE!" Norman's confused a high school civics lesson with activism.

Pity Norman didn't want to teach history instead. That's needed. May 28, 2009,
Alyssa Rosenberg (Government Executive) was reporting on US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's announcement that "domestic partners of gay and lesbian diplomats" would be granted "many of the same rights and protections as the spouses of heterosexual Foreign Service officers." That would be the same Hillary who issued a statement June 1st noting this month is Gay and Lesbian Pride Month. Poor Barry O, he spent the primaries going around declaring, "What she said!" All this time later, he still can't lead. Yesterday Barry O finally had a remark to offer on . . . Well, no, he didn't and no one called him out, now did they? Click here for the White House video of Barry's remarks. Search in vain for "gay" or "lesbian." He says "the people that they love are of the same-sex" and gets in one ref to "LGBT employees". And Homophobic Barry Obama never notes that it's Gay and Lesbian Pride Month. How embarrassing. He's still a half-assed copy of Hillary. Marcia, Cedric and Wally covered the do-nothing Barack last night.

You need to grasp how much you would ridicule a White president who refused to mention Black History Month while signing legislation effecting African-Americans during Black History Month. There's a lot of bigotry going on and not all of it can fall under "soft bigotry." Witness raging homophobe Harry Jackson who was a guest on today's
Diane Rehm Show (NPR) and lied and flamed and made a real ass out of himself. First off, Harry, no photographer has a license. A photographer who doesn't want to take a photo doesn't get a "license revoked." No surprise that a bigot like Harry Jackson would also be an idiot. Maybe if he wants to weigh in on life today, he needs to do a little more research. Most jaw dropping moment when he likened same-sex relationships to suicide. He also used "you people" to refer to gays and lesbians, insulted them as a "sudden population" (that will apparently die out? or be executed?), whined repeatedly about "reverse discrimination" and how "my kids are going to be taught . . . my kids will be taught in school" that people like Harry Jackson are bigots. And people like Harry Jackson are bigots so apparently Harry Jackson also wants to declare a war on education. Harry whined about how he's been intimidated. As dumb as he is, one has to wonder how he'd even know if someone was trying to intimidate him. Harry basically told every caller and e-mailer they were idiots and was especially patronizing to those in Diane's audience who self-identified as Christians.

State of journalism. The Washington Post's
Walter Pincus has written an essay for Columbia Journalism Review and it's worth reading but I've been asking, "When is anyone going to ask the real questions?" Janet Coleman interviewed him for Monday's Cat Radio Cafe on WBAI and she didn't raise what I feel are the big issues. It's a fine interview, Janet always does strong interviews and knows her craft. You have eighty or so days to catch it at the WBAI archives and I believe it stays up at Cat Radio Cafe as long as that site is up. But before Walter's interviewed next, notes. Politico is not a site I care for (obviously) and it's nothing but Rona Barrett's DC! But Walter needs to be asked about it because this is an online version of what he attempted in the early seventies -- only not as gossip, as news. There were eight or nine places around the country where the paper he and others were planning would be printed and service those communities. Especially with various laid off, forced retired et al journalists willing to explore doing an online combine today, Pincus should share the insight on why that project did not work. In passing, and on his own, he alluded to that with Janet.

Walter Pincus: I'm one of these people who, years ago, tried to start a paper and had to learn the hard way that it's the business side that takes the hardest work. We all know how to write stories, to some degree know how to find out information. But making it pay and producing a package that appeals to a wide enough number of people to support advertising is the trick. And I think this younger generation once they put down their Twitters and all these superficial electronic gadgets that are headline services and do something really worthwhile are going to come up with some ideas and we'll have a new generation of press entrepreneurs.

Walter Pincus, and others, were planning their paper at the start of the seventies. There would be national coverage in all the papers and some regional coverage would migrate into the other papers. That was the plan. It was ambitious. And he speaks above, briefly, about a paper that failed. If you're talking about the state of journalism today, that passage above is as important as anything in his essay. Maybe more. By the way,
Liza Featherstone also has an article in the new CJR, she's covering the identity crisis at the Wall Street Journal.

PBS note, this week on
Bill Moyers Journal (begins airing tomorrow night on most PBS stations, check local listings, and it streams online -- video and audio -- and offers transcripts):

Instructed by a dream and organized in prayer, Leymah Gbowee andthousands of everyday women in Liberia - both Christians and Muslimsalike - confronted warlords and a corrupt president to successfullyfight for peace and dignity in their war-torn nation. "I realized thatevery problem we encounter on this journey, I'm going to rise above itand lead these women because they trusted me with their lives and theirfuture," says Gbowee. Journal guest host Lynn Sherr interviews LeymahGbowee and Abigail Disney, who documented their inspiring tale in theaward-winning film PRAY THE DEVIL BACK TO HELL. Lynn Sherr is along-time broadcast journalist who most recently covered events inLiberia for PBS' news program, WORLDFOCUS.

phil sandsnizar latif
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camilo mejiairaq veterans against the war
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joshua frank
philip websterjames kirkupalastair jamiesontoby helmandrew gricekim senguptanigel morris
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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

My BFF Kevin Zeese

Oh look, my Best F**king Friend Kevin Coward Zeese writes an article at Dissident Voice and concludes with his usual b.s.:

Will Obama ever have the political courage to actually fight for what he knows is the answer? State senator Obama, circa 2003, said, “I happen to be a proponent of a single payer universal health care program.” (applause) “And that’s what I’d like to see. But as all of you know, we may not get there immediately. Because first we have to take back the White House, we have to take back the Senate, and we have to take back the House.”
Well, the public has given the Democrats all three but Obama and the Democratic leadership have refused to even consider single payer. Instead they fight for the interests of the insurance industry and falsely call it health care reform. Mr. President, please show some political leadership — stand up for what you know is right.

Listen to Kevin begging from his knees. Will he rub his face in Barack's crotch next?

Why the hell not. Kevin Zeese is a pathetic know nothing.

Wake up, you stupid s**t, Barack's not for universal health care, not for single-payer.

Kevy poo, go to Morning Edition (NPR) this morning and listen along to the segment. Here's NPR's summary:

As lawmakers on Capitol Hill hammer out legislation to overhaul the nation's health care system this year, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says that a single-payer option is not on the table.
"This is not a trick. This is not single-payer," Sebelius told Steve Inskeep. She added: "That's not what anyone is talking about — mostly because the president feels strongly, as I do, that dismantling private health coverage for the 180 million Americans that have it, discouraging more employers from coming into the marketplace, is really the bad, you know, is a bad direction to go."

I think Kathleen just told you what Barack thinks is right. How's it feel to be a Punk Ass? How's it feel to always be the dumbest piece of s**t floating in the tank?

Truly, Kevy, you were going to get brave. Remember when you were telling me that? Remember when you were going to show that spine?

You have no spine, you stand for nothing. You can't stand because you're always on your knees. Stand up and stop embarrassing yourself. You're as craven as Michael Moore in 2004, on his knees begging Ralph Nader not to run. Grow the hell up.

P.S. I'm mentioned in the snapshot. Don't want to get in a back and forth with C.I. but what I wrote yesterday and Monday in no way was as outstanding as what C.I. wrote this morning. If you missed it, C.I. sparked the fire online on that topic. I appreciate the praise and I love that C.I.'s modest but the reality is C.I. did more this morning on that topic than I did yesterday and today.

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Wednesday, June 17, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, Nouri offers trash talk to Le Monde, house raids and arrests in Iraq, and Gordon Brown remains stuck in the trap of his own making.

Last night the Democratically controlled US House of Representatives passed the War Supplemental.
226 members (221 Democrats, 5 Republicans) voted for it, 202 members (32 Democrats, 170 Republicans) voted against it. (Six members did not vote, three Dems, three Republicans.) Perry Bacon Jr. (Washington Post) notes that Anthony Weiner caved and broke down like a do-nothing piece of trash despite claiming he wouldn't vote for it. He is quoting saying it "sucks." Yes, and this week so does Tony. Bacon reports the strong arming efforts by "Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner" as well as US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Janet Hook (Los Angeles Times) also notes the pressure, "Administration officials and Democratic leaders intensely lobbied holdouts among the Democratic ranks in advance of the House vote. The result was close because only five Republicans supported the bill and 32 antiwar Democrats opposed it." Hook quotes cowardly George Miller who voted for it after it opposing it last month. The coward insists, "I'm against the war." David Lightman (McClatchy's Miami Herald) quotes US House Reps Dennis Kucinich and Lynn Woolsey. Kucinich wonders, "How do we support the troops? We support them by bringing them home. That's what we should be appropriating money for, not to keep them there." Woolsey declares, "I don't vote to fund the troops in these situations, ever." Cindy Sheehan (Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox) states, "I am not even remotely surprised that the new supplemental bill for war funding passed the House today." She notes the War Hawks Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Obama and Rahm Emmanuel would not have allowed a vote to be taken if they were sure it would be rammed through and that Nancy, Steny, Barack and Rahm -- as members of Congress -- "gave George Bush every damn penny for war he demanded so why wouldn't they also fill their own WAR chests?" Cindy explains how she left the Democratic Party in 2007 because of disgust over exactly these sort of actions and encourages Woolsey and Kucinich to follow her lead. It was not just Democrats who voted against the measure, obviously by the count. Paul West (Baltimore Sun) reports that his state's conservative, Roscoe Bartlett, and liberal, Donna Edwards, voted against it ("the only Marylanders to"). Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) stated this morning, "The Republicans opposed a part of the bill to increase funding for the International Monetary Fund." That's painting with a broad stroke. Ron Paul would have voted against the measure regardless of the IMF provision. And it doesn't really matter why they voted "no," what matters is they voted "no." If I'm on trial for murder and you vote me not guilty but because you like my shoes, I don't give a damn. I'm just happy you voted me not guilty. There's a purity play going on that's not helpful. And, most importantly, the House Republicans demolished the talking point that they and a lot of Democrats fell back on repeatedly: Not to vote for the war funding was to spit on the troops! No. Not voting for the war funding was not voting for the war funding and, thanks to the House vote, maybe we can avoid that loco talking point for a few years. Goodman played Kucinich stating:

We are destroying our nation's moral and fiscal integrity with the war supplemental. Instead of ending wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan now by appropriating only enough money to bring our troops home, Congress abdicates its constitutional authority, defers to the President, and asks for a report. That's right. All we're asking for is a report on when the President will end the war. [. . . .] There's money, too, for the IMF, presumably to bail out European banks, billions for the IMF, so they can force low- and middle-income nations to cut jobs, wages, healthcare and retirement security, just like corporate America does to our constitutents. And there's money to incentivize the purchase of more cars, but not necessarily from the US because a Buy America mandate was not allowed. Another $106 billion and all we get is a lousy war. Pretty soon that's going to be the only thing made in America: war.

At Kokesh for Congress, Adam Kokesh speaks with Ron Paul (video). We're getting ready to vote for the supplemental bill which is a total disaster and going exactly the opposite direction. So in time, we're going to see a change because we can't continue this, we just can't spending money, borrowing money, and then printing what you don't have. That just leads to a disaster." At, Scott Horton's posted Ron Paul's remarks on the House floor regrding the War Supplemental and we'll note this section:

I wonder what happened to all of my colleagues who said they were opposed to the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I wonder what happened to my colleagues who voted with me as I opposed every war supplemental request under the previous administration. It seems, with very few exceptions, they have changed their position on the war now that the White House has changed hands. I find this troubling. As I have said while opposing previous war funding requests, a vote to fund the war is a vote in favor of the war. Congress exercises its constitutional prerogatives through the power of the purse.

Jeremy Scahill (Rebel Reports) concludes, "This vote has revealed a sobering statistic for the anti-war movement in this country and brought to the surface a broader issue that should give die-hard partisan Democrats who purport to be anti-war reason for serious pause about the actual state of their party. Only 30 Democrats voted against the war funding when it mattered. And these 30 did so in the face of significant threats to their political future from the White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. That means that only 30 out of 256 Democrats are willing to stand up to the war and the current president presiding over it."

From sell out Dems to sell out New Labour Gordon Brown.
BBC reports this afternoon that "Conservatives are to step up the pressure on the government to hold the Iraq war inquiry in public by staging a Commons debate on the issue. MPs will debate a Tory motion next week calling for the Iraq proceedings to be held in public 'whenever possible'." For those late to the party, Rebecca's been following Brown's problems for weeks now and she offered last night:and, as i pointed out when he managed to skate by, his 'saved' job is not 'good news' for him. he now has to deliver.right out of the gate, gordon's already demonstrated he can't deliver and that there's been no change. which means the next time they try to oust him, he won't have a card left to play.he can't say, 'i'll be transparent this time!' he promised that before. he promised every thing to hold on to his job.and he got to hold on to his job.and he went back to doing exactly what he'd always done.gordon doesn't grasp it but that 'saving' was actually the beginning of the end.

Gordon Brown came very close to losing his prime minister post. His first action after pinky swearing he was a changed politician was to announce (
Monday) a closed door inquiry into the Iraq War staffed by his friends. Michael Evans (Times of London) reports General Lord Guthire of Craigiebank feels the inquiry Brown's proposing is insufficient and says a full inquiry would also "examine Mr Brown's role in the failure to supply the Armed Forces properly." David Pamment writes the Guardian to ask, "What has happened to his promises, made little more than a week ago, to being to listen to the people and would make parliament more transparent, open and accountable? Gordon is unable to change the way he does politics. We should stop colluding with a prime minister who is deep in denial, and clearly unable to deal with his addiction to secrecy and government by cabal."
Jim McCluskey writes the Independent of London:

In setting up an investigation into an alleged crime it would seem unwise to create an investigating panel composed of employees, ex-employees and friends of the alleged criminal. If the investigating panel is then told to work in secret and not find anyone guilty there is a chance that suspicions might be aroused with respect to the authenticity of the exercise. Groans of disbelief and despair echo round the country as Mr Brown's inquiry into the Iraq war is compared with his promise of more open government. As your columnist Adrian Hamilton says (16 June) this is an insult to the citizens and to Parliament. The response must be for the citizens, against whom the alleged crime of entering into an illegal and unjust war was committed, to set up their own parallel inquiry.

Adrian Hamilton's column (mentioned in the letter above) concluded with this: "The invasion of Iraq did not have full public support, it has not ended in victory and it is impossible to deal with the questions it poses without apportioning blame. This inquiry is a classic establishment exercise in driving a thorny subject into the long grass -- par for the course, yes; predictable, no doubt; but nonetheless an insult to the public and to Parliament for all that." Chris Irvine (Telegraph of London) reports General Sir Mike Jackson is also calling out the behind-closed-doors nature Brown is proposing with Jackson saying it fees "the climate of suspicion and skepticism about government". Kim Sengupta and Michael Savage (Independent of London) note, "Senior military and intelligence officers have condemned Gordon Brown's decision to hold the Iraq war inquiry in secret, warning that it looks like a cover-up. Military leaders, who have lost 179 personnel in Iraq, want their actions judged by the public, and intelligence officials say the politicans' manipulation of intelligence should be thoroughly examined." Dubbing it "scandalous," Jonathan Steele (Guardian) wonders, "Does he [Brown] seriously imagine he can dictate its mandate and procedure on his own? At the very least, he should have discussed these issues with the leaders of other parties first. Better still, he should allow a day's debate in parliament on it." Binoy Kampmark (CounterPunch) observes, "The difficulty with this inquiry is that it already has an appearance of being toothless even before it begins in earnest. The procedure of this paper tiger will take place in camera. It has no powers of any consequence, lacking such important means as that of subpoena, relying on the goodwill of those it asks to attend. (Tony Blair will, in all probability attend to spite his long time rival, though he need not.) Evidence need not be given on oath. When ultimately published, sensitive material will be abriged for the public readership."

Joey Jones (SKY TV -- link has text and video) noted this morning that Brown's Children's Secretary Ed Balls ended up being put on the spot when he showed up for an interview on a different topic and he did say "he hoped the inquiry team would hold some hearings in public". Paul Waughn (This is London) reports Balls "threw No.10 into a panic when he suggested in a TV interview that his 'personal view' was that the Iraq inquiry should be accessible to the public." MP George Galloway of the Respect Party issued the following statement: "This was a war that has killed a million people, conceived in secrecy and justified with lies. Now we are to have an inquiry in secret presided over by figures who are thoroughly compromised. This is an insult and belies the commitment to 'transparency' that Gordon Brown made just days before. Not even the generals who carried out the orders to attack Iraq have any confidence with the terms under which the inquiry has been set up. It will not have the right to apportion blame and it will only report after the next election. This is an utterly cynical manoeuvre that will convince no-one. In the meantime, the war in Afghanistan is growing and getting worse."

From the British Parliament to the Iraq one, MP Harith al-Obeidi (also spelled Obaidi) was
assassinated Friday outside his mosque. The day before he was assassinated, he had called for an independent investigation into reports of abuse and torture in Iraqi prisons. Amnesty International issues the following:

Iraq: Amnesty International calls for an independent investigation into the assassination of Dr Hareth al-'Ubaidi
In a letter sent to the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamil al-Maliki, Amnesty International has expressed grave concern at the killing of Dr Hareth al-'Ubaidi, Vice-President of the Human Right Committee of the Iraqi parliament, and requested urgent clarification as to what steps the government has undertaken to investigate the murder. The organization has also called for an independent investigation into reports of torture of detainees in a prison in the city of al-Diwaniyah.
Dr al-'Ubaidi, who also headed the Sunni Accord Bloc in parliament, was shot dead at the end of Friday prayers on 12 June 2009 at al-Shawwaf Mosque in the Baghdad district of al-Yarmuk. After firing at Dr Hareth al-'Ubaidi with a pistol the killer is reported to have thrown a hand grenade at other prayer attendees, killing five people and injuring 12 others, before he was shot and killed by police.
A number of Iraqi parliamentarians have since denounced the killing and attributed Dr Hareth al-'Ubaidi's murder to his human rights work, especially his recent exposure of cases of torture, including rape, of detainees following a visit he undertook a few weeks ago to a women's prison in al-Kadhmiya in Baghdad. Dr al-'Ubaidi told the media that several women detained at the prison told him that they had been raped during interrogation.
Further evidence of torture of detainees is reported to have been brought to light by a human rights body affiliated to al-Diwaniyah Governorate, which has accused the security authorities of torturing detainees during interrogation in order to extract "confessions". Investigators from the Interior Ministry are reported to have identified bruising on 10 of the 170 prisoners in al-Diwaniyah Prison that may have been caused by torture or other ill-treatment.
In its letter, Amnesty International has requested prompt clarification of the steps being taken by the Iraqi authorities to investigate the attack on Dr al-'Ubaidi and other worshippers at al-Shawwaf Mosque, which it strongly condemns, and to establish whether it was perpetrated by a gunman acting alone or with the active assistance of others. Further, the organization has requested prompt clarification of the steps being taken by the Iraqi authorities to investigate the allegations of torture cited above and to bring to justice those responsible for such abuses. In accordance with Iraq's obligations under international human rights law, including the UN Torture Convention (CAT), such investigations should be independent, impartial and conducted and completed without delay. The outcome should be made public and anyone found responsible should be brought to justice through fair trial procedures and without recourse to the death penalty.
The organization has called on the Iraqi authorities to ensure that all detainees have access to regular medical care, families, lawyers of their own choosing and the right to challenge the legality of their detention. In addition, all persons in custody should either promptly charged with recognizable criminal offences and trial in accordance with international standards of fair trial, or released. Public Document
For more information please call Amnesty International's press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566 or email:
International Secretariat, Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW, UK

al-Obeidi was assassinated Friday. Monday reports emerged of a Baghdad prison where prisoners were on a hunger strike to protest the conditions. Naturally the Ministry of the Interior runs it. And naturally no one notes that over two years ago the Ministry of the Interior was supposed to have STOPPED running prisons -- in fact, they were supposed to have only run detention centers (not prisons) and that was supposed to have een stopped with CPA Order No. 10. June 5, 2003, PDF format warning,
the order in question read: "Full authority and control over all detention and prison facilities, currently exercised by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and the Ministry of Interior, is hereby vested in the Ministry of Justice. The Directorate of Adult Prisons and Directorate of Juvenile Prisons in the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, all facilities under their authority, and all employees thereof, are hereby transferred to the Ministry of Justice." AP reports Jawad al-Bolani, Interior Minister, assured the press that at least 40 'bad apples' employed at the prison would be fire. In other distractions, Middle East Online reports a raid today in Baghdad in which Ahmed Abed Oweiyed was arrested. Who? Exactly. Aljazeera magazine reports the claim is he's a member of al Qaeda in Iraq and he's responsible for the assassination of al-Obaidi. "Wait," you say, "a fifteen year-old . . . who turned out to be 25 or 27 depending upon reports, is supposed to have been responsible." The 'logic' goes that Ahmed Abed Oweiyed was the "mastermind" of the assassination. Al Qaeda in Iraq targeted al-Obaidi specifically because . . . Well no one's supposed to ask that. It's supposed to fall under the generic "Sunni MP too close to Shi'ite" 'logic.' Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) reports that while the convicted-let's-sentence-him claims were being made, "[o]ther officials were more cautious in their assessments. . . . Al Qaeda and Sunni hardliners accuse members of Ubaidi's Accordance Front of being traitors for taking part in the political process with a Shi'ite-led government. But Ubaidi was also a leading rights defender, in particular of Iraqi prisoners, and some fellow politicians have tried to point the finger at other potential culprits, such as Interior Ministry officials."

Kim Gamel (AP) covers the raid and also notes that Nouri al-Maliki was interviewed by Le Monde and that he states of the American troops, "We will not ask them to intervene in combat operations or in operations related to maintaing public order." Yeah, that's the feel good quote which is why we skipped it this morning -- any outlet that covers will note that and ignore all the rest. Le Monde offers a Q & A with Nouri al-Maliki entitled "Les Arabes doivent prendre Obama au sérieux." al-Maliki maintains US and Iraqi relations are "good" and must continue to have mutual respect and non-interference. (No, the US and Iraq relationship has never had either.) He claims Iraqi sovereignty is restored and, with it, civil order which allows his (puppet) government to now rule.
On the Iranian group of rebels or terrorists (considered terrorists by Iran), the ones Saddam welcomed in Iraq and the ones the US military has protected since 2003, Nouri declares that they killed Iranians (at least 12,000) in Iran and that they killed Kurds and Shi'ites once Saddam let them into Iraq. He states that no country will take them but they must leave Iraq. They have no place in Iraq, he insists, but Iraq will not turn them over to Iran.Claims Iraq will have a national identity and not a Shi'ite one or Kurdish one or Sunni one. On the Sahwa ("Awakening" Councils, "Sons Of Iraq"), Nouri states he was lied to.Nouri states the United States lied to him.Nouri states that he asked the US how many Sahwa there were and he was told only 53,000. At which point, he says, he agreed to integrate them into Iraqi forces and asked only for lists. When the lists finally arrived (he says six weeks after being requested), there weren't 53,000 names there were 107,000. He gets a snide remark about the US military officers not being very selective. He compares it to the Iraqi police of 2003-2004 which he claims were actually members of al Qaeda in Iraq or militias and argues he had to fire 30,000 such people as a result (fire from the police).He states only 20% of Sahwa will be integrated into Iraqi forces. He states many broke the laws and those who did are going to the courts. Everyone, he maintains, cannot be integrated. Nouri lies throughout and, on the point of Sahwa, he knew it was more than 50,000. The US Congress, in April of 2008, was making a very big deal about the huge number -- approximately 100,000 -- and Nouri was following those hearings (Petraeus and Crocker) and he was also given a briefing on them by then US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker.

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


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing wounding five people.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports armed clashes in Mosul with at least one civilian wounded and at least 1 civilian dead. Reuters note 1 man was shot dead last night in Iskandariya.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 6 corpses discovered in Baquba.

US military announced: "Multi-National Division – North CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, TIKRIT, Iraq – A Multi-National Division – North Soldier died as a result of a non-combat related incident in the Ninewa province of northern Iraq June 16. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website at The announcements are made on the website no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The incident is under investigation." The announcement brings the total number of US service members killed in the Iraq War to 4314.

At a roundtable at the US Socialist Worker, Jeremy Scahill and Anthony Arnove discuss Barack's wars and occupations. Excerpt:

Jeremy: Let's step back and look at what we've seen happen over five months of the Obama administration when it comes to foreign policy.
We've seen a radical escalation of the war in Afghanistan. We've seen Obama continue to use a quarter-million U.S. contractors--50 percent of the force that's fighting the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. He's increasing the number of mercenaries in Afghanistan by 29 percent and approximately 23 percent in Iraq.
He's continuing the U.S. occupation of Iraq, and maintaining the monstrous U.S. embassy that was built, in part, on the basis of slave labor. He's continuing to dole out contracts to KBR, the single greatest corporate beneficiary of the war, despite the fact that its work has electrocuted U.S. soldiers.
He's pumping up the National Endowment for Democracy, the leading organ to promote U.S. neoliberal economic policy and interfere in the elections and democratic processes of countries where the outcome might not be favorable to U.S. interests. He's continuing to use the rhetoric of the war on drugs in Latin America.
Overall, he's implementing a U.S. foreign policy that in some ways--or, I think, in many ways--advances the interest of the American empire in a way the Republicans could only have dreamed of doing.
What people, I think, misunderstand about Barack Obama is that this is a man who is a brilliant supporter of empire--who has figured out a way to essentially trick a lot of people into believing they're supporting radical change, when in effect what they're doing is supporting a radical expansion of the U.S. empire.
I think that it's a bit disingenuous for people to act as if though they were somehow hoodwinked by Barack Obama about this.
If people were playing close attention during the election--not just to the rhetoric of his canned speech that he gave repeatedly, and the commercials, and the perception of his supporters was that he somehow was this transformative figure in U.S. politics, but also to the documents being produced by the Obama campaign and the specific policies he outlined--you realized that Barack Obama was very much a part of the bipartisan war machine that has governed this country for many, many decades.
What we see with Obama's policies in Iraq, Afghanistan and the broader Arab and Muslim world, as well as his global economic policies, are a continuation of the most devastating and violent policies of the Bush administration--while placing a face on it that makes it easier to expand the iron fist of U.S. militarism and the hidden hand of the free market in a way that Republicans, I think, would have been unable to do at this point in history.

Anthony: I think the key word is perception. Whether or not people were paying enough attention, it's clear that Barack Obama was able to get elected by signaling, even if only rhetorically, a shift in U.S. foreign policy. But as Jeremy points out, the continuity is really disturbing on a number of fronts.
There are striking similarities to the policies of the Bush administration. Take, for example, habeas corpus rights. The Obama administration made a lot of noise about closing down Guantánamo. Yet in a series of briefs, the Justice Department has said that prisoners held in any base other than Guantánamo don't have habeas corpus rights--for example, prisoners being held in Bagram, Afghanistan.
The administration has also filed briefs saying people in Guantánamo shouldn't have the ability to challenge their detention in civilian courts, so it's preserved the military commissions policy of the Bush administration.
In Iraq, although Barack Obama promised he would have all troops out by 2012, the ground is being laid for troops to stay in Iraq for years and years to come. The army chief of staff, Gen. George Casey, said that the Pentagon was making preparations to keep troops in Iraq until the year 2019.

Anthony thinks the key word is "perception." Fine, Anthony, let's talk perception. Let's talk about the very clear "perception" the Socialist Worker presented all through 2008 that Saint Barack, the Christ-child, was the answer to all of society's ills. And, staying with "perception," when you and Howard Zinn agree to host a Barack inaugural ball, it creates a "perception." And don't e-mail me with that excuse about how you and Howard wanted your names taken off. Had you asked, your names would have been taken off. That ball wasn't staged by strangers, it was staged by your friends. There was never, NEVER, any excuse for you or Howard to lend your names to that event.

"Perceptions"? Yeah, there are a ton of them and it's really time to own the ones that you are responsible for. It gives me no pleasure to point that out. But it needs to be said and we need to quit playing like we had bravery. We had nonsense. And it was especially disappointing to be calling out a Corporatist War Hawk in 2008 and grasp that the bulk of the Socialist Worker -- SOCIALIST! -- wouldn't even join in because they were too vested in Barry O's victory. You need to own your part in creating "perceptions." I'm not in the mood for revisionary history. You need to get honest, do a self-inventroy and take some accountability. It's not that easy, Anthony. Those of us who stood up when it mattered, who screamed loudly about the War Hawk aren't going to let those of you who promoted him suddenly pretend that they were also calling him out. Uh-uh. We put it on the line, you coasted. That's reality. You were an enabler for Barry, but you were not a liar for him. (Many others were and they get ripped apart by me here with glee. With glee!) You could have been much worse and many were and those people wouldn't get a link in any snapshot. But we're not playing that game. Too many of us stood up for the issues that mattered when they mattered and too many others coasted. There's not going to be any revisionary history. And, one other thing, Socialist Worker will never have any growth in readers in the US until it's political gas bags (I mean that gas bags, I don't mean writers-thinkers like Lance) grasp that insulting the working class doesn't make them want to read you. 2008 was a shameful period for the Socialist Worker and they either need to clean house or they need to implement a sensitivity training because the bulk of the writers demonstrated no ability to relate to the working class -- they did, however, demonstrate how much 'fun' it was for them to insult the working class. Repeatedly.

This morning
I shared my thoughts re the media frenzy on Iran. Shirley and Martha say that's the big topic in the e-mails. Repeating, Kat has been covering this. Click here and here. And Jeremy Scahill weighed in this morning. And he highlights Sibel Edmonds take. It's not an Iraq subject and that was my excuse for not weighing in until this morning (also true, I've still got that stupid cold and this morning was the first morning this week I read the Times in full) but the opinion I expressed was neither novel nor unique. Kat was already on the terrain before me and you can read Jeremy and Sibel's opinions as well. All are common sense opinions and the fact that you're not getting them goes to the fact that media is trying to emote you into a war with Iran.

Iraq War veteran and conscientious objector Josh Stieber is on a cross-country trip in the US.
Meghan Tierney (Maryland's Gazette) reports he's taking eight months to travel to California on foot and on bicycle. He states, "I hope to encourage people to live closer to the things they say they believe and demonstrate that violence isn't the only way to solve problems." Josh Steiber is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. More information on his journey can be found at Contagious Love Experiment.

Meanwhile, as
Cedric and Wally noted last night, after the offensive DOMA brief (comparing same-sex relationships to incest and pedophilia) the "very least" Barack could do was to extend benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees, the very least. Kilian Melloy (Boston's The Edge) reports that "critics charge that the memorandum, which has limited scope and staying power, is an anemic gesture that will do little to redress the inequalities in federal benefits faced by gay families. Partly because of DOMA itself, full equality of family benefits for federal employees would be difficult to come by without comprehensive legislative action." USA Today adds, "Response from gay rights groups to President Obama's offer of some federal benefits to same-sex partners of government employees: The sound of one hand clapping." Holly Bailey (Newsweek) notes the offensive DOMA brief and the Don't Ask, Don't Tell cave while pointing out, "All the bad publicity prompted the White House to schedule Obama's announcement today, though an administration official insisted to Newsweek that the 'memo' had been in the works all along. Indeed, privately, White House aides have been giving the wink and nudge treatment to the gay community for weeks, saying that Obama still believes everything he said in the campaing but he's had to deal with other pressing issues. (Btw, that sounds a lot like what Obama has said about abortion.)" The Baltimore Sun observes, "Mr. Obama has been disappointingly tepid in his commitment to affirming civil rights for gays at a time when he should be not only using his powers as chief executive to extend those rights but also his powers of moral persuasion to get the country behind them."

David Zurewik (Baltimore Sun) continually demonstrates that TV criticism need not be reduced to the Water Cooler nonsense served up by the Idiot Bellafante (who just makes up moments on TV shows she 'reviews,' click here for Ava and I noting that) and so many others but something that actually resembles thought because it is actual thought and an actual critique:

It really is a cozy game that the White House is playing with the TV news industry, and it will be too late for us as citizens when some enterprising journalist (are there any left?) chronicles it in a book that is published two years from now. But wait, she or he will have to have access to the White House to get a decent advance, which demands its own kind of getting into bed with the administration.
Perhaps, the best measure of how compliant the mainstream TV press has become is Obama's complaint Tuesday about having "one television station that is entirely devoted to attacking" his administration. Obama declined to name the "station" when asked by CNBC interviewer John Harwood -- what a childish, silly bit of gamemanship by a president. How could anyone not think it is Fox?
When Harwood said he assumed Obama was speaking of Fox, the president replied, ""That's a pretty big megaphone. You'd be hard pressed if you watched the entire day to find a positive story about me on that front."
Given all the reckless and irresponsible words uttered by the likes Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity, I hesitate to write these words, but good for Fox. It must be doing something right, if it has the president complaining about the tiny bit of scrutiny he gets on TV.
On the other hand, if Fox News is our last, best TV watchdog on the White House, then the TV press, as well as media critics like me, should be profoundly embarassed, and vow to start doing a better job -- immediately.

iraqthe washington postperry bacon jr.the los angeles timesjanet hook
cindy sheehandavid lightmanmcclatchy newspapers
paul west
killian melloy
amnesty international
amy goodmandemocracy now
mcclatchy newspaperssahar issa
waleed ibrahim
michael evanschris irvinekim sengupta
le monde
jeremy scahill
anthony arnove
david zurawik