Friday, March 26, 2010


An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy has posted results from the election at Inside Iraq. Judy Woodruff did a segment on the elections for tonight's NewsHour (PBS).

The tally was released today (on Iraq elections), just FYI.

It's late and these are the posts I hate. I have nothing to say. And I could tell myself I'll write tomorrow instead; however, I'll hate myself for that. On the plane ride home tomorrow, I'll be thinking, "I've got to write a damn post tonight!" So better to get it out of the way.

Things that surprised me this week:

* That Cindy closed Peace Camp.

I understand why (and it will re-open in the summer) but I really thought there would be a lot more support for it.

I don't know why I thought that. The minute Cindy announced she was going to run opposite Nancy Pelosi The Nation magazine dispatched Ugly Girl Katha Pollitt to attack. And it's not like Cindy ever got back in 'the club'. She should wear that as a badge of pride. She's too good for the Dems.

* That's I'd be so estranged from my own party.

I always voted Dem for president until 2008. I'll probably vote Green or Independent in 2012. I can't see voting Dem ever again. There is too much bad blood -- both from what they did to steal the nomination from Hillary and from the lies so many of my 'peers' have taken to spinning. I think I'm pretty much done with political parties.

* That Amy Winehouse wouldn't release a follow up.

I know Winehouse has troubles -- we all know -- but four years ago she released that breakthrough album and you'd think if only to pay the bills someone would put a new release out. I'm actually listening to Back To Black right now.

* That cookie dough could taste so much better raw.

My mother made homemade cookies from scratch. I mean chocolate chip, what have you. And we always wanted to lick the bowl. But these days, if I'm tired, I'll toss a thing of cookie dough (the square kind) in a fridge and eat about a third of it raw. (At which point, I usually say to Wally, "Cook this and eat it or I'll keep eating until I make myself sick.)

* That there could be so many flavors of ice cream yet none would appeal to me.

Wally again. He and I went to the grocery store in DC one night when we were both starving. He found something to eat but I got it into my head that I wanted ice cream. I was starving and couldn't find an ice cream. What I wanted was a milk chocolate. What I really wanted was a milk chocolate (or any chocolate) with some ribbons of chocolate but no nuts.

Couldn't find any.

I found every other flavor you could imagine and many you couldn't. But not a good chocolate without nuts.

I found "fried ice cream" (an honest to goodness flavor, I'm not making it up), a raspberry-chocolate combo, an ice cream made with Baby Ruth candy, an ice cream made with Oreos, french vanilla, traditional vanilla, vanilla bean, velvety vanilla and old fashioned vanilla (all kinds displayed), cherry cordial (which looked kind of like chocolate covered cherries as an ice cream), birthday cake (that was the title and the lable promised it tasted like cake and had a blue icing), death by chocolate, chocolate marshmallow, cookie dough, fudge brownie, apple cobbler and banana cream pie (those were both flavors of ice cream), pistachio almond, mint chocolate chip, coffee, strawberry, strawberry surprise, banana split (a flavor, yes), chocolate ribbon, french silk (some form of chocolate), Heath candy bar ice cream, M&M ice cream, "candy bar," an ice cream with peanut butter cups, and on and on it went.

And though, as Wally pointed out, I was on the ice cream aisle for 30 minutes, I never could select one. (I finally got some frozen egg rolls.) After we left, Wally said I should have just gotten plain chocolate and some chocolate syrup and I was like "Ah! Why didn't I think of that!"

* That I would suffer from heartburn.

This year heartburn entered my life. I'd never had it before. The first time I had it, I thought I was dying. My whole upper chest was on fire. I get it from pizza which is a shame because I love pizza. That's the only thing I get it from. I can eat hot and spicy food and no problem. But pizza? It's not all pizzas. I can eat anchovy. And I can do Canadian Bacon and pineapple or Canadian Bacon and mushroom. But if I have pepperoni or any beef, I will have the worst case of heartburn. It's like I'm breathing fire.

* That I would still be blogging.

I'm not as reluctant a blogger as Elaine but I'm close and, no, I didn't realize that this site would last five years. Ay-yi-yi.

* That the Iraq War would still be ongoing.

In the summer of 2005, while we were all working on an edition of Third (I think it was the trippy edition), C.I. shocked us by saying that she wanted her site to go dark after the 2008 election. She needed to feel there was an end coming up. And then she shocked us even more by saying that the Iraq War would still be going on at that point.

If you've forgotten, summer 2005 was the most active the peace movement got after the start of the Iraq War. You had Cindy doing Camp Casey and just giving the peace movement real life. And who would have thought the illegal war would still be going on?

I wouldn't have. But it is. Barack's not going to end it. I agree with Daniel Ellsberg on that. Barack's all talk and we'll offer an 'excuse' as 2012 rolls around.

Here's Matthis Chiroux on the wars:

For so long I have suffered from “truths” that weren’t my own. I listened to them and repeated them, like Santa, my orders or television. I’ve been searching all my life for the courage to express myself without fear, shame or compromise; to deliver a pure message on where I stand and how I feel. It was in this spirit Elaine Brower, Robyn Murray and I sparked a light we hope may grow to illuminate struggle yet unseen.

As the burning American flag clutched in my fist above me bathed my fingers in yellow flame, I felt no pain nor shame of conscience. I stared into the eyes of 5,000 people and returned to dust a genocidal fairytale. One force-fed to me since birth and later used to enslave my body. A bed-time story of epic deceptions. A lost dream groped for in the empty darkness.

Fairytales are never told just for entertainment. They serve a function. They guide us and mold us. They beg us to believe in their values. They connect with our inner most delusions of grandeur. They place our minds at the center of the universe. They elevate us above our lived realities, and sometimes, we don’t want to come back.

The American flag is a weave of fantasy. We embrace it only because we’ve not fully lived out its reality. It is a spiked symbol of subservience wrapped over our faces preventing us from seeing all that is. What pride is connected with it must only be measured in comparison to the atrocities our country was founded on and continue to carry out.

So that's my weekend post.

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

Friday, March 26, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Ayad Allawi is thought to be a winner, Little Nouri refuses to go peacefully, bombings slam Iraq resulting in multiple deaths, Cindy Sheehan closes Peace Camp until the summer, Courage to Resist sends out a plea for help and assistance on behalf of Marc Hall and more.
March 7th was the official day of voting in Iraq (early voting began days before with security forces voting on Thursday) and 95% of the results of an unofficial (not yet certified) count has been released. Today, a 100% count is supposed to be released. Muhanad Mohammed, Khalid al-Ansary, Jim Loney and Janet Lawrence (Reuters) report Nouri's 'supporters' are still insisting upon a recount today "hours before officials were due to release the final vote tallies." Katarina Kratovac (AP) reports a laughable move by Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani -- he's insisting that the count not be released, he's insisting it will cause violence. I'm sorry, Jawad, weren't you just insisting Wednesday that "the elections proved the terrorists' days are numbered"? (Yes, he was.) Oh, how quickly things change in Iraq. On the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR) today, Diane was joined by Daniel Dombey (Financial Times of London), Paul Richter (Los Angeles Times) and Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers).
Diane Rehm: And what about the Iraq election results? What's the latest there, Daniel?
Daniel Dombey: Well we're still waiting for the final results but it's a very interesting story because you have two men who both want to be prime minister who can't stand each other, who have very different profiles, who have both served in that office and virtually neck and neck -- neck and neck. And this is actually a very, very important contest between Ayad Allawi and Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister. Maliki feels very strongly that he's the man who saved Iraq -- that he took on the security problems in Basra and Sadr City and so on. And he has strong Shia support. Allawi has reinvented himself as a more secular kind of figure and gets on much better with the Iraqi neighbors particularly Syria and Saudi Arabia and so on. There's concern some people voiced if Maliki made it it would be seen as a real blow by the Sunni Arabs who would respond accordingly and be bad for relations. On the other hand, Maliki says he has a record of success. So there's an awful lot to pay for and there's always the possibility that someone from outside as happened someone else can come from outside as happened when Maliki who was previously someone you'd never heard of. But it's a very important issue all the more so for the fact that it doesn't get the attention it deserves.
Nancy A. Youssef: I think the other thing is that there's real angst in the streets of Iraq about what happens when these elections -- when the results come out -- which are scheduled for 7:00 p.m. local time in Iraq tonight, which is in the middle of the morning for us in the United States. There's a real angst about how the transition to power will happen and whether it will lead to more violence given that Maliki and Jalal Talabani called for a recount, called the elections fraudulent, whether the elections will be seen as legitimate. And also because these elections really galvanized and re-empowered Moqutad al-Sadr and his bloc. Of all of the -- As we talk about the jostling between Allwai and al-Maliki, Sadr comes out pretty strong in this. He will have more seats than any other member. And that fundamentally changes the dynamic as well. So it's a very interesting time. It will be months before we have this government seated which is a dangerous place for Iraq to be in given the precarious security situation -- all while the United States plans to rpaidly drawdown it's forces from 96,000 today to about 50,000 at the end of August.

Diane Rehm: Paul Richter.
Paul Richter: The comeback of Ayad Allawi is an interesting story. He was prime minister of Iraq early in the American occupation. He left office with seemingly very little public support. A secular Shia, kind of a "strongman," and known to have past ties with the CIA. Now he's possibly back. Intresting personal story.
Nancy A. Youssef: You know the interesting thing is, from the Iraqi persepctive, Allawi is seen as an American puppet and Maliki is seen as the Iranian one. And so it's an interesting dynamic about who is going to emerge and what that means. And what Sadr really represents is the Iraqi movement, in a way. And so those are the three sorts of powers that are vying for their place in the post-America Iraq, if you will.
That was this morning. Results were announced during a lengthy presentation and Ayad Allawi's secular party, National Dialogue Front, has won the most seats in the Parliament. Michael Hastings (True/Slant) offers, "Four big questions that come to mind: Does Maliki, who is calling for a recount, hand over power? Can Allawi find the 72 seats needed to get him to the 163 seats required to form a government? How does Iran–which has close ties to the other large Shiite list–feel about Allawi? Ie, will Tehran give the okay to the Shiite list to join forces with Allawi against Maliki? Finally, how does this impact the security situation, or, how much violence will we see during the government formation process?" Hannah Allam (McClatchy's Miami Herald) notes that 91 of the 325 seats went to Allawi's political party with 89 going to State of Law, Nouri's slate. Anne Barker (Australia's ABC) calls it "an unexpected upset" while BBC News calls it "a surprise result" -- and it certainly is surprising to NPR and Quil Lawrence as well as anyone who depended on NPR's reporting from Iraq to enlighten them. Possibly next time there's an election, before Quil Lawrence and Steve Inskeep declare a winner, they might try waiting until some votes have been counted? Sunday March 7th was the election. Monday March 8th, while pretending to 'report,' Quil Lawrence and Steve Inskeep called the election for Nouri al-Maliki -- despite the fact that no vote tallies had been released. They would continue to make this call daily during the first week even though they were going by less than half of Iraq's provinces and those counts were less than 50% of each province. But they gas bagged and they gas bagged. They didn't report, they didn't enlighten. They were wrong. WRONG. It's not the press' job to call the election. And what Quil and Steve did was not reporting. It was gas bagging and not the sort of thing NPR needs to engage in during what is supposed to be a news report. Rod Nordland and Timothy Williams (New York Times) report that drama queen Nouri took to "national television" to proclaim, "No way we will accept these results." The United Nations' Secretary-General's Special Representative to Iraq, Ad Melkert, hailed the elections as "an historic achievement" and called on everyone "to assume responsibility to lead Iraq to the next stage of democracy, stability and prosperity for all. Whether winning or losing, participation in the elections has been a collective victory." Again, Nouri's reponse on Iraqi TV was, "No way we will accept these results." On behalf of the US State Dept, Philip J. Crowley (Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs) issued the following statement:
Today, Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) issued the provisional results of the Iraqi parliamentary elections held on March 7. We congratulate the Iraqi people, the Iraqi government, candidates and coalitions, and IHEC for carrying out a successful election. In support of the election's integrity, IHEC has investigated and adjudicated a number of complaints. International observers and the more than 200,000 domestic observers expressed their confidence in the overall integrity of the election and have found that there is no evidence of widespread or serious fraud. We note the critical role played by the United Nations in supporting this historic election.
We urge all political entities to pursue any complaints or appeals through established legal mechanisms and processes. Following IHEC's release of the results, political entities may file appeals that will be heard by the Electoral Judicial Panel. When these have been resolved, Iraq's Federal Supreme Court will certify the results. Iraq will then move to seating a new Council of Representatives, choosing a President, and forming a new government.
These important steps likely will take months. We call upon all candidates and all parties to accept the results, respect the will of the Iraqi people, and work together cooperatively to form a new government in a timely manner. In this connection, it will be important for all sides to refrain from inflammatory rhetoric and intimidation. It also is important that the Iraqi government continue to provide security and other essential services for its citizens during this period leading to the formation of a government.
The United States will continue to work closely with all Iraqi leaders to build a long-term, multi-dimensional relationship between our two nations.
The results still have to be certified by the country's Superme Court but, as Andrew England (Financial Times of London) points out, "The results mark a remarkable turnaround for Mr Allawi, who served as prime minister in 2004 in the wake of the US-led war to oust Saddam Hussein, and a blow to Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister." The New York Times offers a photo essay including two photos of Nouri's fan club -- one protesting today before the results were announced, the other of them protesting tonight after the results were known -- both photos by Joao Silva. Of Little Nouri's fan club, Richard Spencer (Telegraph of London) reports, "More worryingly, his supporters have openly threatened there would be a return to sectarian violence if Mr Allawi were declared the winner." Alice Fordham (Times of London) reports Little Nouri "responded angrily to the news, which was widely seen as a damaging blow to his crediblity and leadership." And what's the real scoops in the news cycle, Fordham notes, "Sources in Nassariya and Basra told The Times that protests there were orchestrated by State of Law, which rallied supporters and instructed government employees to attend." Just like when the banned candidates from Allawi's parties were unbanned and Nouri got his thugs out in the street to use violence to intimidate in order to change the results. Bobby Ghosh (Time magazine) goes over the numbers and the uncertainties:
It's far from certain that Allawi will get al-Maliki's job. State of Law and other blocs have already indicated they will contest the results and demand recounts. Even if the results announced today hold up to scrutiny, there's a chance al-Maliki will be able to pull together a coalition to form the new government and retain the Prime Ministership. Meanwhile, the main Shi'ite bloc, the National Iraqi Alliance, won 70 seats; the main Kurdish alliance got 43. A simple majority of 163 seats is needed to govern.
Allawi also took to the airwaves, as celebratory gunfire resounded through parts of east Baghdad. In a triumphant speech he said: "Iraqiya [his party] has started a dialogue with other parties already and we will not refuse anyone."
He confirmed he would be his cross-sectarian list's candidate for the prime minister's office, his second tilt at the top job, but a position that Maliki's State of Law list and the conservative Shia Islamic Iraq National Alliance had vowed to block him from taking.
Chulov also quotes Haidar Dakhle of Dora stating, "This is a big step for the future of Iraq. Allawi is the best candidate because Maliki had started to resemble a dictator." Also at the Guardian, Ranj Alaaldin counsels against counting anyone out and notes that the battle for the next prime minister may be a lengthy one. In terms of the results themselves -- which were only on seats in the new Parliament -- Margaret Coker (Wall St. Journal) provides the walk through, "According to the Iraqi electoral process, candidates have a three-day period to lodge complaints. After that, the Supreme Court ratifies the results." Clicking here takes you to a Wall St. Journal video (The News Hub) half of which is Coker discussing the news.
Simon Constable: Meg, I want to ask you, are the losing sides accepting the results? Because I know there's been a lot of challenges about whether the elections were fair or not.
Margaret Coker: Right. Prime Minister Maliki has already had a press conference this evening straight after the election results were announced. He said he is not going to accept the results. And he's going to challenge them through the legal process that-that goes on for the next three or four days whereby the electoral commission will hear new complaints against the process. So Nouri al-Maliki is not a happy man tonight. On the other hand, Ayad Allawi, the challenger, has called for a grand coalition, an alliance to build a stable, new government and he says he's willing to take all comers who want to join a government with him.
Simon Constable: Meg, stay with us, I want to bring in Adam Horvath. Adam, the context of this is pretty important because an alliance has to form because no one party has a majority, right? This is -- what do they call this?
Adam Horvath: A hung Parliament is a possiblity out of it. Right now you have each one of these main contenders has about a third of the seats so they need to build a coalition as Meg said. And the coalition powers in Iraq, some of them are very divided from each other. Uh, no one is a perfect partner for anyone else, you might say. So a lot of kingmaking and a lot of rangling is going to start that could last awhile.
Reuters coverage includes speaking to multiple analysts for their take on the results and we'll note IHS Global Insight's Gala Riani:
"Allawi has achieved what Maliki had hoped and aimed to do. The mission he had was to run a coalition on a non-sectarian platform and secure an election victory on that platform. "Iraqiya (Allawi's bloc) has fared much better across the board than State of Law has, much better in the southern provinces than State of Law did in the north. It puts Allawi in a better place to secure better credibility across the county. "What Allawi has achieved is hugely significant. It's a massive blow to Maliki, to his credibility and to the type of platform he has tried to run."
Reuters offers five facts about Allawi and five about al-Maliki. Stephen Farrell (New York Times) offers the reactions of 8 Iraqi citizens and we'll note Amal al-Jalili (a teacher in Mosul), "This election is the justice which was absent from Iraq for 36 years. It is the right of the people, and it is what brought us real, nationalist, people who defended the country and took it away from sectarianism, and those who pursue sectarianism. The best outcome is to change Prime Minister Maliki." NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams covered the results this evening:
Brian Williams: Richard, you were saying earlier in the newsroom today, people rooting for the US-side of the equation would be dancing in the streets of Baghdad at this result. What did you mean by that?
Richard Engel: This was an incredibly significant day, perhaps the most important one in the last several years in Iraq. Ayad Allawi won these elections. Now he is a Shi'ite, he's secular and he's pro-American and he's very anti-Iran. The current government in Iraq right now is a religious state that leans toward Iran. So if Ayad Allawi can hold on to this position, that he gained today, he still has to form a government and face off challenges by the current prime minister, then we could see a major change in direction in Iraq.

Brian Williams: Dancing in the street with those cement blast walls in the background, kind of a reminder that it's still a dangerous state.
Prior to the announcing of results, CNN reports, Khalis was slammed with two bombing -- one car bombing, one roadside bombing, resulting in the deaths of at least 32 people and sixty-eight more injured. DPA reports the death toll has climbed to 42.
Wednesday, US House Rep John Hall chaired a Subcommittee hearing (House Veterans Affairs' Subcommittee on Disability) and we'll note this from his opening remarks:
I just want to say, I welcome you here in what has been a profoundly historic and important week for the nation and for our veterans. Over the last seven days the Full Committee convened a successful Claims Summit which brought many of you and other dozens of top veterans stakeholders together and from the Summit came a lot of very useful information which we welcome and look forward to working with the VA and all the veterans groups to try to turn into action to solve the problems that we're facing. In a rare Sunday session, Congress passed and the President signed the sweeping health care reform package and I'm pleased that [VA] Secretary Eric Schinseki as well as the Chairman of the full VA Committee (US House Rep Bob Filner] and the full Armed Services Committee [US House Rep Ike Skelton] have signed a letter and sent it to the VSOs stating unequivacly that Tri-Care and VA care will not be effected by the health care legislation. We also passed this week the End Veteran Homeless Act of 2010 to provide funding to help Secretary Schinseki's goal of ending homelessness for America's warriors. The Help Heroes Keep Their Homes Act , the COLA -- cost of living increase for veterans, the National Guard Employment Protection Act.
Those are his verbal remarks. He submitted a written opening statement for the record but we've gone by what he actually said and included it to note that the House VA Committee does work -- and works very hard -- all the time. That's a lot to do in a seven-day period. That was Wednesday and earlier that day, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing. Senator Daniel Akaka is the Chair of the Committee and Senator Richard Burr is the Ranking Member. Chair Akaka noted the homeless rate among veterans continues to alarm. In 2008, Akaka explained, there were 131,000 homeless US veterans (VA estimate) and this month, the VA stated that the number of homeless veterans stood at 107,000 in 2009. Ranking Member Burr noted that from that 107,000 veternas, 1,589 are in North Carolina and he called out the delays in Congress being supplied with requested information.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: [. . .] Unfortunately, I've been disappointed about the Administration's collaboration with us so far. Last October, the Committee held a hearing on comprehensive homeless legislation, S. 1547, but received no official views from VA on the bill. In the absence of any views, the Committee marked up the legislation in January with expectation that VA would be providing us with a greater understanding of how it fits in with the Secretary's plan. Five months and multiple inquiries -- and we received the views last night, giving my staff no opportunity to do a thorough analysis of the information. Of course, this is not the first time VA waits until the 11th hour to provide responses to inquiries they have had for months. This is also not the first time I have had to raise this problem. And I will continue to do it. I don't understand the delay. Why does it take VA five months to provide Congress with the crucial information we need to do the best job we can for our veterans?
That's all we have room for on Congress. In peace news, Cindy Sheehan (Peace of the Action) explores the pluses and minuses of Peace Camp which has closed ("not for long") and includes praise for the many college students who took part:
By the way, not only was our demand to meet with President Obama not granted -- three of our Camp OUT NOW volunteers (including myself) have been given stay away orders from the White House.
We tried to get into the Senate Appropriation's Committee meeting today at the Capitol and we were followed and harassed the entire time and in the transparent age of Obama, the hearing was closed to us citizens, anyway. I was able to watch the rerun on C-SPAN 3 and I can tell you all one thing, these wars are planned to continue indefinitely. I am not okay with that.
To take advantage of the energy and enthusiasm of our young people, we are planning on returning in June to set up Camp and start our actions again.
So we will be keeping the spirit of the Camp alive until the students get out of school and, hopefully, we can make a go of it in the summer.
More information and essays on the importance of peace can be found at Cindy's Soapbox (including links to her radio program). We've covered Marc Hall many times. He's the service member 'guilty' of 'rapping.' Courage to Resist has sent out the following on the latest development in the military persecution of Hall:
Donate to help defend Marc - 146 people have given $5,408. Because the Army kidnapped Marc to Kuwait for trial, we will need to raise at least $10,000 to provide a civilian defense lawyer. Critical expert witnesses to could be another $5,000, in addition to the $4,600 already spent.

Courage to Resist. March 25, 2010

US Army Specialist Marc A. Hall sits in a military brig at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, facing an imminent court martial for challenging the US military's Stop-Loss policy in a song — his pre-trial hearing was held last week on March 17. Yet it was not the hip-hop song he wrote criticizing the Stop-Loss policy that landed him in trouble. What put the 34-year-old New York City native in the brig were his persistent assertions of inadequate mental health care that culminated in a Dec. 7 complaint to the Army Investigator General. Just five days later Hall was charged with violating "good order and discipline" at Fort Stewart, Georgia, and was shipped out of the country.

Hall's court martial is likely to occur late April or early May.

The jailing occurred a full five months after Hall wrote a rap song protesting the Stop-Loss order that halted his discharge after he served his country for 14 months of combat in Iraq. Hall was charged with 11 counts of "communicating threats" related to the song and has since been charged with violating Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Conduct. All the alleged violations occurred between last July and December, yet not one warranted warning, counseling, or non-judicial punishment at the time.

On Feb. 20 Hall wrote, "A charge that was not a threat before, but all of a sudden became a threat now. I communicated a need for mental evaluation -- not a threat."As if that were not enough the military took the nearly unprecedented step of moving Hall overseas for court martial, instead of putting him on trial in Georgia where the alleged threats occurred. On Feb. 26 Hall was put on plane to Iraq and transferred to Kuwait for pre-trial confinement. This put him out of reach of his civilian legal defense team, friends, and family. It will also make it extremely hard for defense witnesses to appear at trial on his behalf.

TV notes. NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):

In the debate over energy resources, natural gas is often considered a
"lesser-of-evils". While it does release some greenhouse gases,
gas burns
cleaner than coal and oil, and is in plentiful supply -- parts
of the U.S. sit above some of the largest natural gas reserves on Earth.
But a new boom in natural gas drilling, a process called "fracking",
raises concerns about health and environmental risks.

On March 26 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW talks with filmmaker
Josh Fox about "Gasland", his Sundance award-winning documentary on the
surprising consequences of natural gas drilling. Fox's film -- inspired
when the gas company came to his hometown -- alleges chronic illness,
animal-killing toxic waste, disastrous explosions, and regulatory

Drilling down to the truth about natural gas. Next on NOW.

Staying with TV notes, Washington Week begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and joining Gwen around the table this week are Ceci Connolly (Washington Post), Helene Cooper (New York Times), Paul Richter (Los Angeles Times) and Alexis Simendinger (National Journal). Remember that the show podcasts in video and audio format -- and a number of people sign up for each (audio is thought to be so popular due to the fact that it downloads so much quicker). If you podcast the show, remember there is the Web Extra where Gwen and the guests weigh in on topics viewers e-mail about. And also remember that usually by Monday afternoon you can go to the show's website and stream it there (including Web Extra) as well as read the transcripts and more. They're beefing up their online presence and that includes highlighting archived shows (this week it's a 15th anniversary broadcast from February 26, 1992) and Gwen's weekly column which, this week, is entitled "Translating History." Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Linda Chavez, Bernadine Healy, Melinda Henneberger and Eleanor Holmes Norton on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And at the website each week, there's an extra just for the web from the previous week's show and this week's it's a discussion on immigration. For the broadcast program, check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes:

The Case Against Nada Prouty
Former FBI and CIA terrorism fighter Nada Prouty was herself accused of aiding terrorism, but in her first interview, she denies she was anything other than a patriot. Scott Pelley investigates her case. | Watch Video

The Russian Is Coming
Mikhail Prokhorov, perhaps Russia's richest man, discusses his planned purchase of the N.J. Nets basketball team, his vast wealth and the surprisingly unusual way he made most of his money in his first American television interview. Steve Kroft reports. | Watch Video

The Sharkman
Anderson Cooper dives unprotected with great white sharks and the South African who's spent more time up close with the ocean's most feared predator than anyone else. | Watch Video

60 Minutes, Sunday, March 28, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Radio. Today on The Diane Rehm Show (airs on most NPR stations and streams live online beginning at 10:00 am EST), Diane is joined the first hour (domestic news roundup) byNaftali Bendavid (Wall St. Journal), Susan Page (USA Today) and Christopher Rowland (Boston Globe). For the second hour (international news roundup), Diane is joined by Daniel Dombey (Financial Times of London), Paul Richter (Los Angeles Times) and Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers).

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Josh Ritter's NPR concert

Josh Ritter is doing an NPR concert tomorrow at 12:00 p.m. EST (that's noon in the Eastern Time Zone). NPR explains:

Influenced by classic songwriters such as Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, Idaho native Josh Ritter began writing songs while attending Oberlin College, where he changed his major from Neuroscience to Folk Music. After relocating to Boston, Ritter started getting his name out through a self-released eponymous debut album and near-constant gigging. Since then, he’s become a star around the worl—-- known as a folk-rock singer of substance and widespread acclaim in Ireland, America and beyond. Return to this space at noon ET Friday to hear Ritter perform live in concert from WXPN and World Cafe Live in Philadelphia.
Opening slots on tour with both Dylan and
The Frames netted Ritter a good deal of attention, and even led to his own sold-out headlining tour of Ireland. His growth as a songwriter and a musician continued unabated, with 2003's Hello Starling and 2006's The Animal Years each displaying a different facet of Ritter's complex musical world. The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter followed in that tradition, and his sixth album — titled So Runs the World Away — comes out next month. With any luck, Ritter will showcase some of that new material at this daytime show.

So make a point to listen in -- live if you're around a computer. NPR's music division works very hard lining up concerts and they've offered some amazing ones over the year. (Aimee Mann's is probably my all time favorite.)

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

Thursday, March 25, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the counting of votes in Iraq continues, Bob Gates wants to talk, Congress hears about veterans' bills, and more.

Starting with Iraqi elections,
The Economist states, 'With the count almost complete, it is impossible to say who will head the next Iraqi government. The electoral alliance with the most seats will have first shot at forming one -- but with no guarantee of success. The likelist contenders are the prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, and Iyad Allawi, one of his predecessors. But a compromise candidate could yet slip throught middl, as has happened before." On yesterday's Antiwar Radio, Scott Horton spoke with Michael Hastings about the elections:

Michael Hastings: I think Maliki's people -- you know, Maliki's party is the Dawa Party was essentially in exile for thirty until the US brought them back into power and they -- and once you have power, you want to hold onto it. And that's what this is about. This is about Maliki trying to hold onto power and using whatever sort of brinkmanship -- in this case, calling for a recount -- whatever tactic he's going to use to hold onto power. So will it result in violence? I think it's hard to say. What -- what we're seeing -- and this is sort of the argument I've been making -- is that Iraq is sort of slipping back to its more familiar authoritarianism and sort of this experiment into democracy that the Americans tried to enact over there is essentially failing and when Maliki, you know, whoever this new government is, the question is: If they're not willing to give up power when there's 90,000 Americans there and heavy American pressure on them, what's the chances of four years from now, of the next government willing to give up power peacefully? But I think these parties have shown a willingness to play chicken with the security of Iraq so they will continue to make these threats, they will continue to go as close to the edge as possible and are willing to accept a pretty high level of violence to maintain power.

Marc Lynch (Foreign Policy) writes a piece exploring where things stand and he also notes the use of threats and violence:

The moment of truth for Iraq will come if Allawi edges out al Maliki, or if the latter wins a narrow victory but cannot assemble a governing coalition due to the considerable animosity he has generated among his political rivals. Will he peacefully accept the rotation of power? Iraqis and outside analysts have watched nervously over the last few years as the prime minister centralised power within his office. His warning, pointedly issued as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, that an "illegitimate" electoral result could result in violence further frayed nerves – leading one Saudi newspaper to describe him as "Iraq's Ahmadinejad".
Iraq therefore faces a double-edged test after the elections. If al Maliki triumphs in a narrow election and assembles a coalition that largely reproduces the outgoing government, many Iraqis may feel that the election was a sham, and that democracy is not capable of producing true change. If al Maliki loses, he may not surrender power without a fight -- and many of his backers may reject the prospect of being ruled by Allawi, who drew so heavily on Sunni votes.
Robert Dreyfuss (The Nation) adds:

In a more politically mature nation--say, one whose polity was not destroyed by US invasion, subsequent insurgency and then several years of horrendous civil war -- the politicians who lead those blocs could form a coalition. But in Iraq a peaceful outcome is not at all certain. The Kurds and the INA have powerful paramilitary forces, and Maliki has shown he is prepared to use the security forces to do his bidding. And Sunnis, many of whom supported the 2003-07 insurgency, could rebel again. Even if the worst is avoided in the immediate future, Iraqi politics is a Rubik's cube of which it's hard to imagine a stable, ruling alliance forming the necessary majority in the National Assembly.

Dreyfuss also rejects Colin Powell's Pottery Barn analogy and that's so long ago that some may not know the story (and some may have forgotten). War Hawk Colin -- so
embarrassed by his Blot -- said of the Iraq War that the US would end up owning Iraq because it would be like the Pottery Barn rule: You broke it, you bought it.

Lizz Winstead (formerly of Air America's Unfiltered) long ago provided the walk through that's so obviously been forgotten: Pottery Barn has no such rule. (Maybe Rachel Maddow could stop making nice with War Hawk Powell's friends and remind her audience -- her tiny audience -- of what her former radio co-host long ago explained?) There is no rule of "You broke it, you bought it" at Pottery Barn. As with most things out of the mouth of Collie Powell it is oh so distantly related to the actual truth.

Having dealt with the factual, let's take a moment to deal with something else that gets a pass and no one ever calls out. Iraq is not Pottery Barn. How the hell dare Colin Powell imply that another country is Pottery Barn for the US. It's a damning revelation that everyone's avoided for 7 years now but it's Colin admitting -- use your brains -- that the Iraq War was all about foreigners getting their hands on Iraq's assets. Why else compare a country to a store where all items are on display and have price tags? Iraq was already OWNED BY THE IRAQIS.

Back to the elections, as
Chaka Khan once asked, "Who's it gonna be this time/ Who's gonna be the next in line" ("Who's It Gonna Be" written by Gary Goetzman and Mike Picirillo, appears on Chaka's Destiny album). What's known today? A lot more than was known the day after the election when no results were known but that didn't stop Steve Inskeep and Quil Lawrence from gas bagging, did it? And their gas bagger? Ashes, ashes, we all fall down. Red-faced embarrassment may explain why NPR -- despite Ron Elving's on air bragging -- hasn't filed from Iraq in nine days now. So we'll return to the discussion between Horton and Hastings and notice how Hastings is not afraid to say when something is not known.

Scott Horton: Basically Allawi or Maliki -- either one of them -- is going to have to align with Moqtada al-Sadr in order to become prime minister, is that right?

Michael Hastings: I think -- I think that's right. I mean, literally, this is not a dodge of the question, but you ask the most knowledgable experts on what's going to happen in terms of the Iraqi government formation process over the next few months --

Scott Horton: Right. That's what I'm doing right now. [Both laugh.]

Michael Hastings: Yeah. And I'm telling you no one -- no one -- really has a clue. And I say that not to dodge the question but because -- just look what happened last time. Last time how did Maliki get his job? Maliki got his job after six months of protracted negotiations. He was not even -- this guy was not even on the political map but he became this compromise candidate who no one had heard of before. Now this time around, uh, from my reporting, I've talked to Allawi's people, they have said that their most likely, they've already started to reach out to Sadirsts. So you could see that as a powerful alliance -- the Sadirsts joining with Allawi and possibly Hakim's people also supporting Allawi but you never know if they're going to. The question is Allawi acceptable because he has this sort of Ba'athist baggage? Will he be an acceptable pick for prime minister? Maliki has been politically isolated. He's alienated a lot of his friends, he really doesn't have too many friends left which is why I think he's so adament about a recount and trying to make the case that he, you know, he's the legitimate leader of the country so no matter what the results are, he's going to stay in power. So I think -- but then you have the Kurds come in. You know, who are they going to support? They don't like Maliki right now and they could probably live with Allawi. So-so really there are all sorts of combinations. We might -- the next prime minister could be someone we've never heard of. That's a possiblity.

Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) sees the (unofficial) results thus far as indicative of "a deeply fragmented Iraq in which sectarian interests remain paramount." She also reports that the Minister of the Interior called for the vote tally not to be released tomorrow; however, the electoral "commission refused to postpone the results." To rule, one of the two parties (presuming they maintain their positions in the official count) must form a power-sharing relationship with other political parties. That requires trades and meet ups. Qassim Khidhir Hamad (Niqash) reports:In just ten days, Eyad Allawi, head of the Iraqiya alliance, twice visited the Kurdistan Region and met the region's president, Massoud Barzani and Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani, also a Kurd.Kurdish officials described the meetings as 'consultative'. they say no decision has yet been made over which side to ally with in the formation of the new government."Kurds have two conditions for its post-election coalition partner. First, the partner should have faith in article 140 of the constitution relating to the disputed areas and second, Kurds should be the main partner in the next government."

Many political parties and slates competed for votes in Iraq's March 7th election and among them was the Ahrar Party which issued the following today:

Ahrar challenges validity of election results
In a letter to world leaders including Gordon Brown, Nicholas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel, Ayad Jamal Aldin formally contested the conduct of the Independent High Electoral Commission and called for a recount in the votes under the supervision of Supreme Judicial Council, Ministry of Justice, United Nations and the Arab League representatives.
Read an excerpt of the letter below, and the full text
Dear Sir,
As a political party we have a duty to ensure that the recent electoral vote within Iraq represents the people of Iraq's true opinions and their votes are counted accurately.
Currently, we do not believe this has happened and on behalf of my party, and all the people of Iraq, I want to formally challenge the recent election results.
The Electoral Commission has demonstrated a lack of independence throughout the election process epitomised by their decision to reduce the official campaigning time to just three weeks. For other candidates this represents an unacceptable interference from the Institute of Justice and Accountability.
In addition to this, a number of Iraqi political parties, including Ahrar Party, were subjected to malicious and violent acts of hostility by entities who are in power and other religious political parties who took advantage of their position in government and religious authorities and worship places.
The most concerning from my party's point of view are the witness statements of the voters who declared that on the 7th March, after they closed all the ballots, the results of each station were shown on the wall of each centre. At this point the total votes for AHRAR was 690,000 however now the Election Commission is declaring that Ahrar achieved only 44,995 votes. This is deeply concerning.
For further information, contact:
Ahrar Media BureauTel: +964 (0)790 157 4478 / +964 (0)790 157 4479 / +964 (0)771 275 2942
About Ayad Jamal Aldin:
Ayad Jamal Aldin is a cleric, best known for his consistent campaigning for a new, secular Iraq. He first rose to prominence at the Nasiriyah conference in March 2003, shortly before the fall of Saddam, where he called for a state free of religion, the turban and other theological symbols. In 2005, he was elected as one of the 25 MPs on the Iraqi National List, but withdrew in 2009 after becoming disenchanted with Iyad Allawi's overtures to Iran. He wants complete independence from Iranian interference in Iraq. He now leads the Ahrar party for the 2010 election to the Council of Representatives, to clean up corruption and create a strong, secure and liberated Iraq for the future.

Violence continues in Iraq.

Reuters notes a Tuz Khurmato roadside bombing which claimed 1 life and left five people injured, a Mosul roadside bombing which injured a police officer and a child, a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 "commander in a government-backed local militia" and left "two of his follwers" injured, a Kirkuk grenade attack which injured two police officer, a Ramadi bombing which injured three police officers and, dropping back to yesterday, a suicide bombing in Hit in which the bomer took his own life as well as the lives of 3 additional people and three more were injured.


Reuters notes 2 women shot dead in a Baghdad home invasion.

Turning to the United States where US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates held a press conference today at the Pentagon and a House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee held a hearing. We'll start with actual news. This morning, US House Rep Michael Michaud called to order the Subcommittee On Health so that they could review pending bills. The first panel was made up of members of Congress including the Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee Bob Filner.

Us House Rep Bob Filner: Mr. Chairman, we thank you for your leadership on this Subcomittee and for your fine working relationship with [Ranking Member] Mr. [Henry] Brown. I appreciate the leadership that both of you have given and I know I speak for all my colleagues when I say we appreciate the opportunity to talk about our legislation before you, so thank you for that. The bill that I am speaking on,
HR 949, would improve the collective bargaining rights and procedures for reviews of adverse actions of certain VA employees. This bill is all about ensuring equity amongst the health care professionals employed by VA so that providers such as doctors, nurses, dentists, chiropractors, optomerists and podiatrists who are hired under the so-called "pure title 38" system have the same rights -- the same rights as their fellow VA health care professionals who are hired under different hiring systems. Without this bill, the "pure title 38" providers do not have the right to challenge errors in pay computations and lack other key bargaining rights enjoyed by their colleagues at the VA. To address this problem, HR 949 would clarify that these "pure title 38" providers have equal rights -- equal rights -- to collective bargaining. This means that they would be able to challenge personnel actions through such methods as grievances, arbitrations and labor-management negotiations. This bill would also require the VA to review the adverse presonnel action and issue a final decision, no later than 60 days after the employee appeals the adverse personnel action. Finally the bill would subject the VA's final decision on employee appealed adverse personnel action to judicial review in the appropriate US District Court or the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. I know that the VA has concerns , I know that they are in discussions with stakeholders and I am looking forward to working with all of them as we move forward on this piece of legislation.

These hearings allow Congressional members to present their bills to the subcommittee or committee and allow the VA to provide testimony and any others that the Congress might chose to hear from. US House Rep Steve Scalise is a representative from Louisiana and he is sponosring
HR 1075 which would address continuation of medical care should a disaster close a VA hospital -- as happened with the New Orleands VA Medical Center as a result of Hurricane Katrina. US House Rep Leonard L. Boswell is sponsoring HR 3926. Boswell took a moment to recognize his legislative director Alexis Taylor who is an Iraq War veteran and he explained discovery the need for this bill when Taylor "went back to Iowa for a five-year post-deployment reunion with her unit and others and one of the women at the reunion had returned home from serving her country and was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to undergo a double mastectomy at age 25. Through the course of the night, the service members at the reunion were able to piece together, talk to one another, about six women they were deployed with who had come back from their deployment in Iraq with breast cancer -- all between the ages of 25 to 35 years old. Also, there were another half dozen women who returned with new lumps in their breasts that needed additional tests such as mammograms, ultrasounds and/or biopsies. With 70 women deployed in a battallion of about 700, this incidence rate in young women seemed high and alarming as Alexis brought this to my attention." His bill calls for a study on breast cancer within the service and within veterans to determine whether the rate is higher among the military and whether breast cancer might be a service connected disability? Boswell noted that he personally believes it is. He also explained how, during Vietnam, he was exposed to Agent Orange and suffers many health issues as a result and feels that the Congress needs to be on top of this issue now and not waiting as was the case with recognition of the effects of Agent Orange. "If we could do something about it," he declared, "and we don't, shame on us."

US House Rep Virginia Brown-Waite is sponsoring
HR 84 which is concerned with the lengthy wait involved in seeing a doctor and calls for timely appointments and eliminating delays.

US House Rep Virginia Brown-Waite: In September 2007, the VA Office of the Inspector General found that the Veterans Health Administration's method of calculating waiting times of new patients understates the real waiting times. In this report, the Inspector General made five recommendations to reduce these wait times. To date, four of these five recommendations remain unresolved. When I first was elected to Congress, I inquired about wait times from my local VA community, out-based clincis and hospitals. The numbers the VA gave me both for VISN 8 and nationwide quite honestly did not match the stories that I was hearing from my veterans. I challenged them on it and I told them that I was going to be in their offices watching and waiting and talking to individuals. What was happening was, they were making the appointments within 30 days but then, around the 20th day, they'd call and change the appointment to a later date so it would be maybe 40, maybe 50 days.

US House Rep Gabrielle Giffords is sponsoring
HR 2698 and 2699 which are both concerned with treatment for PTSD. The first would provide a scholarship to train VA workers and allow veterans to access PTSD health care at the VAs even if -- especially if -- the PTSD is newly emerging/manifesting. The first bill would put more and better trained workers in the VA and allow the veterans greater access to treatment. The second bill would create pilot pograms that would provide treatment but also track feedback from the veterans and their families in order to devise better treatments. US House Rep Ann Kirkpatrick is from Arizona and "my district is home to 11 tribal communities spread out across an area larger than 26 states and yet it is served by only one VA medical center." HR 4006 is one of the bills she is sponsoring.

If at all possible, we'll cover -- even if it's only one tiny section -- something from the subcommittee hearing US House Rep John Hall chaired yesterday. It went on too late to make it into yesterday's snapshot and there's not room for it today.

Moving to Sec Gates' Pentagon briefing today where he declared:

In February, I established a high-level working group to review the issues associated with implementing a repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell law and to develop recommendations for implementation should the law change. At the same time, I directed the department to conduct a review of how the militiary implements the current policy, and, within 45 days, present to me recommended changes that would enforce the existing law in a fairer and more appropriate manner. Today I have approved a series of changes to the implementation of the current statute. They were developed with the full participation of the department's senior civilian and military leadership and the changes are unanimously supported by [Joint Chiefs of Staff] Chairman [Mike] Mullen, Vice Chairman [James] Cartwright and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Department's General Counsel, Jeh Johnson, and the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel have also concluded that these changes are consisten with the existent Don't Ask, Don't Tell law. These changes reflect some of the insights we have gained over 17 years of implementing the current law -- including the need for consistency, oversight and clear standards. The changes are as follows. [1] We will raise the level of the officer who is authorized to initiate a fact-finding inquiry or separation proceeding regarding homosexual conduct to a general or flag officer in the service member's chain of command. [2] We will raise the level of the person who is authorized to conduct a fact-finding inquiry to the level of lieutenant colonel, navy commander or above. [3] We will raise the level of the officer who is authorized to begin an inquiry or separation proceeding by, for example, specifying that information provided by third parties should be given under oath and by discouraging the use of overheard statements and hearsay. [4] We will revise what constitutes a "reliable person," upon whose word an inquiry could be initiated with special scrutiny on third parties who may be motivated to harm the service member. Finally, certain categories of confidential information will no longer be used in support of discharges including [a] information provided to lawyers, clergy and psychotherapists, [b] information provided to a medical professional in furtherance of medical treatment or a public-health official in the course of a public-health inquiry, [c] information provided in the course of seeking professional assistance for domestic or physical abuse and [d] information obtained in the course of security-clearing investigations in accordance with existing DoD policies. The services will have 30 days to conform their regulations to these changes. Meanwhile these modifications will take effect immediately and will apply to all open and future cases. In effect this means that all separations from this point forward will take place under the revised regulation. I believe these changes represent an important improvement in the way the current law is put into practice -- above all, by providing a greater measure of common sense and common decency to a process for handling what are difficult and complex issues for all involved. Of course only Congress can repeal the current Don't Ask, Don't Tell statute. It remains the law and we are obligated to enforce it. At the same time, these changes will allow us to execute the law in a fairer and more appropriate manner. The work of the DoD working group chaired by Mr. Johnson and Gen Carter Ham continues. As i told the Congress in February, I am determined that we in the Dept carry out the president's directive on Don't Ask, Don't Tell in a professional and thorough way. I look forward to the continued progress of the working group as they undertake their important task in weeks and months ahead.

The announcement offers damn little to cheer but it does indicate the pressure the administration is finally start to recognize and feel.
Last week, Lt Dan Choi and Capt Jim Piertrangelo chained themselves to the White House fence to protest Barack Obama's refusal to keep his campaign promise and repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. After entering not guilty pleas last Friday, the two left the court and Choi made a statement.

Lt Dan Choi: There are other people who are oppressed that have the chains on them in their hearts. There were many times when people would say when you go and get arrested, it's difficult because your hands are restrained and the movement is a little bit stymied or halted on the physical level. But it is my hope that the larger movement, even with the chains on it, will do nothing but grow to the point where it cannot be controlled by anything but that freeing and that dignified expression of getting arrested for what you know is absolutely morally right. There was no freer moment than being in that prison. It was freeing for me and I thought of all the other people that were still trapped, that were still handcuffed and fettered in their hearts and we might have been caged up physically but the message was very clear to all of the people who think that equality can be purchased with a donation or with a cocktail party or with tokens that are serving in a public role. We are worth more than tokens. We have absolute value. And when the person who is oppressed by his own country wants to find out how to get his dignity back, being chained up and being arrested, that's how you get your dignity conferred back on you. So I think that my actions, my call, is to every leader -- not just gay leaders, I'm talking any leader who believes in America, that the promises of America can be manifest. We're going to do it again. And we're going to keep doing it until the promises are manifest and we will not stop. This is a very clear message to President Obama and any other leader who supposes to talk for the American promise and the American people, we will not go away .

Who stood with them? (Backstory, US House Rep Barney Frank revealed the administration was not pushing to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. That's what led to the White House fence action.) Who stood with them?

The Center for Constitutional Rights used to brag in their BAD ASS BUSH YEARS that they didn't whine, they got active. So did CCR publicly stand with Dan Choi? Hell no. Hell _____ no. You can't stand from a kneelling position, someone tell CCR. What about our radical friends at the National Lawyers Guild? Did they issue a release supporting Choi? Nope. Like their noted alumni John Conyers, they talk a good game when things are easy. It was real easy for John Conyers to talk impeachment when the Democrats weren't in power. They get into power and John asks, "How far does my leash go, Nancy?" And Pelosi snaps her fingers and he drops to the floor and rolls over so she can scratch his belly. And as pathetic as John is (has karma hit the home life?), even more pathetic was how stupid he thought Americans were. We can and will, he would insist, impeach Bush after he's out of office. There's nothing to stop us, he would maintain, from impeaching Bush after he's out of office. John Conyers. What a sad, sad way to go out of public life. And will the defense be (the rumor is the current criminal charges may spread beyond the spouse) be: "I'm just a senile old man married to a young woman and I don't know what the hell she was doing, your Honor"? Fun times. Like Conyers, NLG couldn't speak out because speaking out required holding the White House accountable. You can't stand while you're on your back, boys and girls. The joke that is Amnesty International USA? That's funny. Friends with Amnesty in other countries ask what's up with our Amnesty? What's up? They're the 'independent' and 'non-partisan' organization that turned their website over to glorify the deity that thought they saw in Barack Obama. Like many a false god, he let them down -- hence the loss of their cute little graphic about Barry O and his 100 days. Amnesty, you'll never be able to speak with something rammed down you throat -- you know what I'm saying. So did anyone speak up for Dan Choi? Yeah, acutally, one organization stood with him publicly. (LGBT organizations have stood with him -- though not the cowardly HRC -- but I'm not talking about that. On the left, we either stand with each other or we allow them to turn us against one another. Dan Choi and others are fighting for basic dignity and our humanity as a nation. Everyone should have been on board.) So
the only one to get on board was . . . NOW.

The National Organization for Women joins Lieutenant Dan Choi, Captain Jim Pietrangelo and equal rights advocates around the country in demanding President Obama act immediately to suspend the military's discriminatory Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, which prevents LGBT service members from serving openly. Lt. Choi and Capt. Pietrangelo were arrested March 19 after chaining themselves to the fence of the White House in protest of the policy, under which Choi faces discharge and Pietrangelo was discharged. The policy has resulted in the discharge of more than 13,500 service members since its inception in 1994. An estimated 66,000 LGBT people currently serve in the military
The Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy has a disproportionate impact on women in the military, according to the Service Women's Action Network. Sexual harassment of military women often takes the form of lesbian baiting; and in 2008, 34 percent of service members discharged were women, although women make up only 15 percent of military personnel.
"The Department of Defense doesn't need to study this issue any longer," NOW President Terry O'Neill said. "Extensive research has already been done. Equality and justice are on the line. Instead of wasting time on another study, NOW calls on President Obama to immediately suspend Don't, Ask Don't Tell, Congress to repeal the policy and the DOD to focus on implementing the discontinuation without further delay."
"Delaying implementation until December 2010 is unnecessary," O'Neill continued. "Every day that this unjust policy continues is another day of discrimination that leads to the military's loss of valuable service members and the needless disruption of their careers and lives."
"Leadership from NOW joined Lt. Dan Choi and Capt. Pietrangelo on Friday for their arraignments after the two men spent the night in a cell filled with cockroaches -- all for peacefully demonstrating for the repeal of this extremely unjust and unnecessary policy," O'Neill said. "NOW commends all LGBT service members for their contributions to this country and demands the immediate repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

NOW stood with Dan. CCR? They just soiled their diapers and cried like the little babies they've now become. If you missed that earlier ad, from their Bad Ass Bush Years,
click here because Mike posted it at his site back in 2006 when CCR actually was worth praise.
Good for NOW and good for their president. Terry's standing up when everyone else is crumpling or playing silent. And, since it is the month for it, let's note the obvious: Of course it would take a woman to lead. Of course. Praise for Terry.

Cedric and Wally noted, Barry O's trying to sell ObamaCare in Iowa -- apparently the economy can continue to wait. Community posts last night covered a theme so be sure to check out Elaine's " What Have They Done To The Rain?," Mike's "What's my age again?," Marcia's "Erotic City," Ruth's "Venus," Rebecca's "american pie," Betty's "Silly," Ann's "Silly," Trina's "You Keep Me Hangin' On," Stan's "Wishes" and Kat's "I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)." The theme involved music and, online, you can stream Joanne Newsom's March 23rd concert at NPR. Kat reviewed Newsom's new album (Have One On Me) last month. In May of 2006, Kat praised Josh Ritter's The Animal Years. Tomorrow at noon EST, Josh Ritter performs live on NPR's World Cafe.

TV notes.
NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):

In the debate over energy resources, natural gas is often considered a "lesser-of-evils". While it does release some greenhouse gases, natural gas burns cleaner than coal and oil, and is in plentiful supply -- parts of the U.S. sit above some of the largest natural gas reserves on Earth. But a new boom in natural gas drilling, a process called "fracking", raises concerns about health and environmental risks. On March 26 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW talks with filmmaker Josh Fox about "Gasland", his Sundance award-winning documentary on the surprising consequences of natural gas drilling. Fox's film -- inspired when the gas company came to his hometown -- alleges chronic illness, animal-killing toxic waste, disastrous explosions, and regulatory missteps. Drilling down to the truth about natural gas. Next on NOW.

the economist
michael hastings
scott horton
marc lynch
robert dreyfuss
niqashqassim khidir hamad
mcclatchy newspapershannah allam
pbsnow on pbs

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)

Tonight we have a theme post, a song that can just stick in our heads if we think of it or our mind just happens to wander to it.

For me it's "I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)" written by Stevie Wonder and Yvonne Wright and off his masterpiece Talking Book.

The first time I heard it, it gave me chills and still does.

I believe when I fall in love with you it will be forever.

That's repeated over and over in the song (there are other lyrics) and he finds so many different ways to phrase that.

The first time I heard it, I thought, "He's just made the sex song."

I don't mean a sexy song -- it is that -- to play during a make out session.

I mean, listen to the changing rhythms, his voice becomes a couple engaging in the act of sex. (I have tested that theory by playing it during sex.)

I think that's why I love it so much. It's so honest and so vulnerable which makes it even sexier.

At his best, Stevie goes where no one else would dare.

And, on music, if you missed Joanna Newsom's concert last night on NPR, they've got it archived online so please check it out.

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

Wednesday, March 24, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri wants a recount, a RECOUNT!!!!!, the US media coverage is examined, DoD lies to Congress again, Iraq's LGBT community remains under attack and more.

We'll start with the topic of the Iraqi elections.
The latest Listening Post (Al Jazeera, began airing Friday) included a recollection that the American media -- Big and Small -- didn't make time for in their seven year anniversary coverage.

Richard Gizbert (Listening Post anchor): As the Iraqi polls closed last week, we at the Listening Post analyzed election coverage in the country and the state of the media there. This week, we're looking at the same story but switching our focus to the narrative on Iraq in the American media. It is fair to say that US news outlets have, in editorial terms, been all over the place on the Iraq War. Even the so-called liberal media were hawkish during the run-up, then many outlets turned against the war when it was going badly. But now some of them and their opinion makers are changing their tune. They're going back to where they started. We're zeroing in on two pieces in particular: A cover story on Newsweek magazine that talked of victory in Iraq and a column by Thomas Friedman, a foreign policy expert at the New York Times. Our starting point this week is Baghdad. With a story that's being scripted in Washington, DC and being told in America and around the world. Thomas Friedman of the New York Times was not the only editorial voice in America to support the Iraq War. He was just one of the most influential because of who he is and where his work is published.

Michael Hastings: Many of the columnists -- the Thomas Friedmans, the Fareed Zakarias, the George Packers of The New Yorker, you know, these guys are supposed to be these genius foreign policy thinkers, right, and they got the biggest foreign policy question of their generation completely wrong.

Richard Gizbert: As the Times' foreign policy columnist, Thomas Friedman is considered a must-read for many Americans -- particularly policy makers in Washington.

Matthew Duss: He's been able to transform himself into kind of a condenser of the conventional elite wisdom on the Middle East.

Michael Hastings: What Thomas Friedman writes helps shape the debate in Washington, DC, helps shape the debate policy makers are having.

Richard Gizbert: In the column he published on the Iraq election entitled "It's Up to Iraqis Now. Good luck." Friedman wrote, "Of all the pictures I saw, my favorite was the Iraqi expatriate mother, voting in Michigan, holding up her son to let him stuff her ballot into the box. I loved that picture." But Michigan is a long way and a far cry from Baghdad.

Matthew Duss: I do see some irony in the fact that Tom Friedman chose a picture of Iraqi refugees voting in Detroit. It just brings to mind that there is a huge refugee situation -- 5 million people, it's estimated, were displaced this policy of invasion and occupation is now one that's going to be validated no matter what people like Tom Friedman would like to believe.

Jason Linkins: It's a fitting example of the distance of his thinking. What's a woman in Michigan got to worry about. She's not going to be facing the consequences of what's gone on there -- she lives in Michigan. All the people that live in Baghdad, in Barsra, in Kirkuk, they live with these things daily and to Friedman it's all one grand abstraction.
Richard Gizbert: Friedman went on to write: "President Bush's gut instinct that this region craved and needed democracy was always right. Some argue that nothing that happened in Iraq will ever justify the cost. Historians will sort that out.

Matthew Duss: Tom Friedman's column is unfortunately, I think, symbolic of the generally caviliar attitude he's had about this from the very beginning. The American people understand that we cannot go about the world just starting wars, invading and occupying countries; however, our elite media, Tom Friedman and others being the perfect example, seem to think that we can.

Richard Gizbert: Friedman talks a lot about democracy in the column but nowhere does he mention the Weapons of Mass Destruction that were never found or the 9-11 attacks that precipitated the war even though back in 2003 terrorism was in the forefront of Friedman's thinking and his writing.

Thomas Friedman (speaking to Charlie Rose in 2003 clip): The Terrorism bubble that basically built up over the 1990s saying "Flying airplanes into the World Trade Center? That's okay. Having your preachers say that's okay? That's okay." And what they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house from Basra to Baghdad. Uhm and basically saying: "You think this bubble fantasy, we're just going to let that go? Well suck on this."

Jason Linkins: The problem of course with the thinking there is that there wasn't anyone in any homes from Basra to Baghdad who had anything to do at all with the 9-11 attacks. You may as well have been kicking in the doors of people in Minneapolis.

Thomas Friedman (speaking to Charlie Rose in 2003): We could have hit Saudi Arabia. It was part of that bubble. Couldda' hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could.

Jason Linkins: This, I think, correctly represented the way that the Bush administration viewed the world and it represented an unfortunate tendency of many in the media to react to 9-11 in a very defensive and a vey belligerant manner.

Richard Gizbert: The New York Times has a reputation in the US for being ideologically liberal. So does Newsweek magazine whose cover story and splashy headline also attracted attention -- not all of it good.

Michael Hastings: I thought Newsweek magazine's cover that said "Victory At Last" was just very embarrassing for the magazine to even put up there. I don't use the word propaganda lightly but it seemed to me that was propaganda. What it was meant to do was to tell Americans, "Hey, look guys, we won even though the facts don't really back that case up at all.

Richard Gizbert: The Newsweek article was not quite as triumphal as the headline. But it's Newsweek.

[MSNBC anchor]: Your cover of Newsweek -- "Victory At Last"

Richard Gizbert: So it caught the attention of news channels that, back in 2002, 2003, also backed the war.

Newsweek's Jon Meacham: Our reporting has shown that in fact there is a level of stability and a kind of political culutre taking hold. What General Petraeus did and what President Bush came to, seems to have worked.

MSNBC Bobble Head: It's a stunning story.

Jon Meacham: It really is.

Richard Gizbert: However, the Newsweek editor did face on challenging question. Just one.

Panel Pundit: What happens if three or four months down the road, they can't put a government together?

Jon Meacham: Then we will say victory still to come.

[War Hawk Daughter Mika Brzezinski braying uncontrollably, with far less grace than a donkey.]

Richard Gizbert: That was just a joke but it contained a disturbing element of truth. Some of the American media took a one day exercise in Iraq democracy and turned it into much more than that.

Ned Parker and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) report, "Senior politicians from Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's ruling coalition warned Tuesday that Shiite Muslim-dominated southern Iraq could severly loosen its ties with Baghdad if the nation's electoral commissionf ailed to meet its demand for a manual recount of ballots in parliamentary elections." With Nouri's desire to circumvent rulings, it's a good idea to examine past history and, most recently, that includes his reaction when Sunni candidates were 'unbanned' which was to threaten that violence would result and then unleash his thugs in select cities in order to frighten the commission into changing their judgment. Late to the party? We'll drop back to February 7th for catch up:
Wednesday an Iraqi appeals court ruled that the 500 plus candidates being banned by Iran via the extra-legal Accountability and Justice Committee would be allowed to run. This did not sit well with the thug of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki. As one of the many chicken s**t exiles who pulled the world into a war they were too cowardly to fight on their own, Nouri knows a thing or two about perception management even if Reuters doesn't.
Helen Long (Reuters) plays fool or whore -- you decide in a video 'report' on 'thousands' of Shi'ite protesters 'offended' that suspected Ba'athists were running. Helen hopes you are so stupid you aren't aware that Ba'athists included Shi'ites during Saddam Hussein's reign. She's also hoping you don't realize how many Shi'ite exiles were Ba'athist. Most of all, she hopes she don't get your information from anywhere else. Especially not Germany's DPA which tells you what Helen refused to: " Thousands of supporters of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Dawaa Party demonstrated outside the house of parliament in Baghdad on Sunday, to call for the exclusion of 'Baathist' candidates from the March polls." Who were these 'typical' protestors? The governor of Baghdad was among them. Helen whores it and prays the whole world is stupid and doesn't catch on. Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) reports, "Tensions over the dispute flared elswhere, as thousand of protesters attended anti-Baathist rallies in Baghdad and Basra organized by Mr. Maliki's political oranization, the Dawa Party. The Baghdad rally was broadcast at length on state television, showing Mr. Maliki's aides denoucning those sympathetic to the Baath Party". You get the idea that, given the chance, Helen Long would insist to you that the April 2003 US PSY-OPS operation in Firdos Square where the US military brought down the statue of Hussein amidst a small group of exiles just brought back into the country (by the US) (as well as marines and 'reporters') was a 'legitimate' and 'real' protest by Iraqis. Helen really hopes you're as stupid as she believes you are and that you don't notice, for example, that these 'average Iraqi protestors' are carrying handmade flags . . . Iraqi flags? No, like any 'normal' and 'average' Iraq, they're carrying home made US flags. Yeah, that's believable. (Also note that the women are covered from head to toe but the men were track suits, dress suits, pullover shirts, etc. while few sport any kind of a bear let alone one would that would demonstrate devout religious beliefs -- translation, Nouri stands for more even more suppression of women's rights.) For those who have missed the combined 'reporting' of Michael Gordon and Judith Miller, breathe easy, Helen Long is on the scene.

Something similar wouldn't be surprising especially as Friday approaches when 100% of the vote is supposed to be released.
Jason Ditz ( covered the announcement yesterday that Nouri's State of Law would refuse to recognize any results as legitimate without a recount. Even more predictable was today's 'protest' in Basra. CNN reports a hundred or so members of Nouri's political party mobbed the streets demanding a recount. As Alice Fordham (Iraq Oil Report) observes, Nouri's demands were "spurring supporters" into just that action.

Ned Parker, because the Los Angeles Times works so very closely with US military brass, offers the US military's projections of the votes -- votes that the Iraq elecotral commission hasn't even released (they are supposed to release their results on Friday). Parker and Raheem Salman add, "Sami Askari, a member of Maliki's inner circle and his State of Law election slate, described the electoral commission as a U.N. puppet. He also accused the CIA and elements of the State Department of working to bring Allawi, who has ties to the U.S. intelligence community, back to power." Meanwhile Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reports that (if initial results hold), the 'kingmakers' may likely be the Sadr bloc and the Kurds. 'Kingmakers' was tossed around over and over in the lead up to Parliamentary elections and in the gas baggery that followed the first week of the vote (like Kat, I wonder Where have you gone Quil Lawerence, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you?). It was an easy call and it may turn out to have been a wrong call. Fadel reports:"The Sadrists had political and military power that surpassed that of the government, but they misused it and ended up in jails and in exile," said political analyst Ibrahim al-Sumaidaie. "Now, they have mastered their political power. They will find that the political game will give them more power and a wider role than their guns." In 2006, the Sadrists played a part in choosing Maliki, a Shiite, as prime minister. Two years later, Maliki relented to U.S. pressure and deployed the Iraqi military to target the Sadrist militia, the Mahdi Army, in a successful offensive. But instead of disappearing, the Sadrists regrouped, shifting their focus from armed struggle to political strategizing. In advance of this year's elections, the Sadrists were among the only blocs in Iraq to educate voters about the nation's complex electoral system. Although they nominated only 52 candidates out of the more than 6,000 who ran nationwide, they were shrewd in deciding which seats to target. As a result, they are expected to win as many as 40 seats in the next parliament, with their Shiite allies probably taking just over 20. There are 325 seats in the new parliament.

What is known is that women will hold seats in the Parlimanet.
Hannah Allem (Christian Science Monitor):

In an electoral process full of complicated equations, the allocation of seats for women is one of the most arcane. Few of the female candidates can explain the math, but they bristle at being put down as just quota appointees or "political decor," as Nada al Abidi, a candidate from the rural southern Wasit province, put it.
"As long as there is a quota, people perceive women as gap-fillers and not deserving members of parliament," said Damlouji, who's still unsure if she'll get a seat. "The perception of a man is as an individual, but for women it's as a bloc. So if one woman failed, it's as if the entire womanhood has failed."

Delilah Jean Williams (All Voices) reports on the women running for office and explains:

One candidate, Feyruz Hatam from Baghdad, made history by campaigning without wearing the traditional head-to-toe abayas and black clothing. Her head and face were uncovered and she wore make-up in her personal appearances and when she posed for her poster photographs.
Hatam is determined to be a face that helps to change how Iraqi society views women.
"The mentality of Iraqi voters has changed. I'm happy because my photo conveys the message that times have changed," says Hatam, whose brown pantsuit made her stand out from other Iraqi National Alliance candidates.
Feyruz Hatam and other courageous Iraqi women were an unexpected surprise during the campaign, with uncovered faces in all forms of media, advertisements, posters, and television appearances.

Iraqi women are among the targeted in Iraq. They can be straight or gay and they will be targeted. Iraq's LGBT community has been targeted repeatedly and you actually don't have to be gay to be targeted, you just have to be suspected or mistaken of being gay. To call Iraq 'stable' today requires that you ignore the persecution of Iraq's LGBT community (or the Christian community or . . .). On the LGBT community:

The UK government through its Border Agency has decided not to give priority to the asylum application of Iraqi LGBT leader Ali Hili, in exile in London. The application has been outstanding for nearly three years and while it is outstanding, Ali cannot travel. This decision directly impacts not just on Ali but on harshly persecuted Iraqi lesbians and gays through the reduced ability of their sole visible leader to raise their profile internationally.
Can you help?
As you may be aware, numerous human rights organisations and journalists have documented the pogrom against lesbians and gays in Iraq. Iraqi LGBT estimates that over 700 LGBT have been assassinated over the past few years. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has advised 'favourable consideration' for asylum claims because of the situation. As the public leader of the only group representing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people both inside Iraq and in the diaspora, Hili has received a fatwa from inside Iraq as well as numerous threats in London which have forced him to move. He is under the protection of the Metropolitan Police. US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin spoke last month of their concerns for LGBT both in Iraq and as refugees, in a letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton co-signed by 64 other Congresspeople. Hili has received many requests to speak about the situation in Iraq internationally, including from US-based groups such as the Gay Liberation Network and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Campaign, which he has been unable to pursue. His solicitor, Barry O'Leary, wrote to the UK Border Agency (UKBA) in August 2009 that: "he desperately wishes to do this [travel] in order to further the aims of his organisation, that is, supporting lesbians and gay men in Iraq and bringing the world's attention to their plight." Six months later, the UKBA told O'Leary that:
the assistance given by Hilli to the Foreign Office "does not count"
the fatwa does not mean that Hilli "falls within the classification of clear and immediate vulnerability"
that the delay in deciding Hilli's asylum case (since July 2007) "is not in itself an exceptional circumstance"
his case is not "compelling"
Peter Tatchell says of Ali:
"It was Ali Hili of Iraqi LGBT who first alerted the world to the organised killing of LGBT people in Iraq - way back in 2005. For a long time, he was a lone voice." "Mr Hili was also the person who set up the 'underground railroad' and safe houses inside Iraq, to give refuge to LGBT people on the run from Islamist death squads and to provide escape routes to neighbouring countries - which saved the lives of many Iraqi LGBTs.
Ali must travel!
The UK Foreign Office Human Rights Report for 2009 specifically names Iraqi LGBT over other NGOs as a key source of information. Hili has met with them numerous times. The report quotes Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell condemning persecution of LGBT in Iraq. Foreign Office Minister Chris Bryant wrote in his blog on Feb. 24: "I know some people dismiss LGBT rights as something of a sideshow in international relations, but I am proud to say that the FCO has argued for a decade that human rights are a seamless garment." Yet the same government through the Home Office is effectively aiding that persecution through the failure of government recognition to Iraqi LGBT's leader.
We want the UK government to expedite Ali Hili's asylum claim so he is properly able to tell the world about what is happening to LGBT in Iraq.
How you can help
Sign the international petition
Write to the UK Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, to ask that he intervene in Ali's case that his asylum application be prioritised. Please mention Ali's Home Office reference which is S1180507/7. (
Get a standard letter - please personalise and remember to sign it)
Rt Hon Alan Johnson MP, Home Secretary, 2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF Telephone: 020 7035 4848 Write to UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, to ask that they ask Johnson to intervene in Ali's case. Please mention Ali's Home Office reference which is S1180507/7. (Get a standard letter - please personalise and remember to sign it)
The Prime Minister, 10 Downing Street, London, SW1A 2AA
Email the Prime Minister's Office Write to your MP to ask that they ask Johnson to intervene in Ali's case. If you are outside the UK, ask politicians, prominent persons and organisations to invite Ali to your country and make Brown and Johnson aware of this request. Ask those politicians, prominent persons and organisations to issue their own public statement in support of Hili's asylum prioritisation from the UK government.Write to newspapers, write blog posts in support of Ali, tell people about Ali. Please copy any letters to the campaign in support of Ali Hili to
Join the Facebook page ~~~~~~~Visit our website, LGBT asylum news (formally Save Medhi Kazemi)http://www.medhikazemi.comTwitter

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


Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing injured five people, another Mosul roadside bombing injured one person, a Mosul mortar attack which left four children and three adults injured, a third Mosul roadside bombing which claimed 1 life and left two people injured, a Muqdadiya roadside bombing which claimed 1 life and a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured three people.


Reuters notes Iraqi forces in Baghdad killed 1 person (another injured). Timothy Williams (New York Times) reports 5 Iraqi soldiers were shot dead in a Baghdad "by a group of men in three cars as they passed through a checkpoint".

DoD lie of the day: "I promise that going forward, we-we will be as open as we possibly can and candid about the -- the uh -- what's going on in this program." DoD lies, where does it take place? Congress. The House Armed Services Air and Land Forces Subcommittee and Seapower and Expeditionary Forces Subcomittee held a joint-hearing today. US House Rep Adam Smith Chaired the hearing and he raised the issue of the spending, of the costs that keep rising. He is Chair of the Air and Land Forces Subcommittee and Roscoe Bartlett is the Ranking Member. Bartlett also raised the issue of soaring coasts and how Congress is not kept up to date on the spending. And we'll note this section of his opening remarks:

I also share my colleagues' concern over the health of the Joint Strike Fighter program. This is an enormously expensive program that promises a great deal of capability, but I'm frankly concerned that cost growth will render it unaffordable in the long term. In my eighteen years in Congress, I have seen program after program in which the cost grows, the production is reduced to fit inside a fixed budget, and the program ends in a spiral that leaves the services well short of their inventory requirements.

US House Rep Gene Taylor is the Chair of the Seapower and Expeditionary Forces Subcommittee and Todd Akin is the Ranking Member. In his opening remarks, in the first sentence of his opening remarks, Akin called for Congress to be kept informed as to "affordability challenges." He outlined, at length, with hard numbers, how the Department hadn't been very good with numbers.

The soaring costs would come up repeatedly in the hearing but Bartlett bore down on the issue. For the record, Congress controls the purse. Congress controls all spending. Congress is supposed to be kept informed of any cost increases for programs they authorize (they authorize but which the tax payers fund). Bartlett is speaking with the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

US House Rep Roscoe Bartlett: Are there regulations, written or unwritten, in the building that precludes including us as a partner in those discussions?

Ashton Carter: Uh -- I have to get back to you on the technicality of that. Certainly uh-yuh as a general matter, no, we try promptly to keep this Committee informed of important developments in programs that are in -- are in your purview. As I said when I uh earlier, because of the particular timing of the jet estimate and the Department's deliberations which were in the December-January period, leading up to the release of the president's budget -- It wasn't until the president's budget was released that the uh-uh jet estimate was -- which was included in that budget -- was uh-uh available. We did however -- It's my understanding that the jet estimate, even back in 2008, was made availabe uh to the Committee.

US House Rep Roscoe Bartlett: Thank you. Your statement goes on to say that program management contractors and the department need to surface candidly and openly issues with this program as they arise so that Congress is aware of them and they can be addressed." In the spirit of that statement, it would have been nice, I think, if we'd been part of that two month discussion between November and January. Would you agree?

Ashton Carter: I promise that going forward, we-we will be as open as we possibly can and candid about the -- the uh -- what's going on in this program.

Yesterday's snapshot and Kat's "Military Personnel Subcommittee hearing" covered a hearing of the House Armed Service's Military Personnel Subcommittee. Kat noted, "You've got a woman over 80-years-old but for her to receive the monies she's owed, she needs to drop her widow status and remarry." A visitor e-mails the public account to ask if that's hyperbole? No. Suzanne Stack testified, "Ms. Kozak of Jacksonville, Florida, needs to receive her SBP in full but does not want to start dating and remarry at age 85." I'm not sure that "Kozak" is the spellling, it may be "Kozack." But it was part of Stack's testimony. The woman does not receive her Survivor Benefit Pay and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation monies in full. Because she is eligible for both, her SBP is reduced. That's not fair but there is a way around that. She can, after the age of 57 (and she's 85), remarry and she'll get both payments in full. An 85-year-old widow being told to remarry to get the money she's owed and the money her husband assumed she would receive. SBP today, this was one part of the testimony, is not being explained accurately to service members who are signing up and thinking that the payments will be full. They take this out, it's a policy. Then they die and their wife or husband may or may not receive the full payments.

In the US over the weekend, demonstrations against the wars were held around the country.
Sam Waite and Michael Chase (US Socialist Worker) report today:

In Washington, D.C., thousands turned out to a demonstration, called by International ANSWER, against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan across the street from the White House early in the afternoon. Well-known antiwar activists such as Cindy Sheehan, Cynthia McKinney and members of Iraq Veterans Against the War took the stage to denounce the Obama administration's continuation of George Bush's "war on terror." "We can't make more excuses for the government," said Sheehan. "We can't make any more excuses for the president, no matter what party that president comes from."The sentiment was widely shared by demonstrators. "Obama is the president. He's the leader of this war effort, and we're going to oppose it," said Bruce Wolf of U.S. Labor Against the War. Wolf has organized a weekly vigil outside Walter Reed Memorial Hospital since 2005. Jessica Rua, who came from Atlantic City, N.J., agreed, saying that Obama's election had "no effect at all" on the prospect of ending the wars. "Our kids don't deserve this hell," said Rua, whose brother is missing in action in Afghanistan.The crowd was notable for its diversity. Veterans of antiwar movements since the Vietnam era mixed with a sizeable student contingent. Immigrant rights activists took part, as did Muslim and Arab American organizations.

Samuel Davidson (WSWS) reports on the DC actions:
On the official website of the demonstration,, there is little of Obama. His name did not even appear on the website's home page. Only a few of the more than two dozen updates on the website calling for people to attend the rally and reporting on support mention the Obama administration.Outside of a few homemade signs, none of the official mass-produced placards mentioned Obama and the role of the Democrats in promoting the war.As for the speakers, one had the strange feeling that you could have heard the exact same speeches at the rallies held two years ago when George W. Bush was still president. One had to wonder if Obama's name was censored from their remarks. However, it is more likely that the silence on Obama was self-imposed, a reflection of the fact that most of those who addressed the rally had either endorsed Obama in the 2008 elections or had adopted the more general "anybody but Bush" line promoted by the protest groups as a shamefaced form of backing the Democrats.Brian Becker, the National Coordinator for the ANSWER coalition did not mention Obama at all, and gave no explanation for the growing militarization of American life.

John Catalinotto (Workers' World) has a strong article but we're grabbing on Los Angeles because there's been little coverage of that action:

In Los Angeles, thousands, including many youth of color, gathered at the intersection of Hollywood and Vine and marched down Hollywood Blvd. to the rally site at Highland Ave. There they listened to speakers prominent in left and progressive movements demand an end to U.S. militarism and money for human needs at home and abroad.

Martin Steiner files what may be the lengthiest report on the Los Angeles action and she files it (audio report) for KPFK's Uprising. We'll note this from a male speaker in her report:

As students, we are gathering from all around the state to say, Mr. President, we are the future! And we need education! As veterans, we are saying today, Mr. President, we will not fight your battles anymore! We will not spill our blood for you anymore! We will not give our lives for you anymore! And for the profit of these corporations that run these wars and then profit off of the deaths of our brothers and sisters every single day in the war! Today, let us stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with the people of Iraq, with the people of Afghanistan and with the homeless men and women and children of America and say that today we will stand up and we will form a movement and we will be back in the streets every day until we get our demands!!!

The report features many other speakers and it also features interviews with people taking part. 8 people were arrested at the DC protest including
Cindy Sheehan. Jon Gold (Peace of the Action) writes of the arrests:

Cindy Sheehan, myself, and others walked through the crowd until we reached the barrier closest to those laying down on the sidewalk. As you can see in
this video, the barrier failed, and Cindy Sheehan walked across. As soon as she entered the "arrest zone," the Park Police immediately grabbed her, and handcuffed her. They were literally manhandling her.
This made me angry, and I yelled at the Park Police to "let her go!" Before I knew it, the barrier was back up. I tried to push through the barrier, but the Park Police pushed back. I managed to push two Park Policeman back until one of them grabbed for something on their side to use against me. It was probably mace, but it could have been anything. I stopped pushing. I walked around to the side where the police tape was, that failed, and I found myself within the "arrest zone." I decided that I was going to allow myself to be arrested in order to keep an eye on Cindy. One of the Park Police grabbed me by my arm, and placed me next to Matthew and the others.
When I sat down next to Matthis, he said to me, "you're on the right side of the line," and I said, "I know." One of the Park Police walked over to me, and said to another officer, "he crossed the line, arrest him." That Park Policeman lifted me up, and put me in regular metal cuffs. As I stood up, I screamed as loud as I could, "THIS ARREST IS DEDICATED TO 9/11 VICTIM FAMILY MEMBER
ROBERT MCILVAINE JR.!!!" and part of the crowd cheered. As they walked me away I could see Ann Wright waving her fist at me with a big smile on her face as if to say, "RIGHT ON!"

al jazeerarichard gizbertlistening post
true/slantmichael hastings
james hider
the times of londonthe new york timessteven lee myers
alice fordham
the los angeles timesned parkerraheem salmanthe washington postleila fadel
the socialist workersam waitemichael chasewswssamuel davidson
workers worldjohn catalinotto