Friday, May 17, 2013

The other Steve Miller appears before Congress

Today we were at the House Ways and Means Committee.  It was an early morning hearing.  On a Friday.  Ouch.

They really need a hospitality bar at these early morning hearings.  I think I'll make that suggestion.  (I'm joking about suggesting it but I could have gone for a Bloody Mary this morning.)

The committee heard from two witnesses.  The Acting Commissioner of the IRS was the main one and this was how out of it I was. I didn't get his name until a little while ago while I was going through C.I.'s notes.

Steve Miller.

Like the rock artist.  "Fly Like An Eagle."  Or, most importantly, "'Cause I'm a joker, I'm a smoker, I'm a midnight toker . . ."

But, sadly, it wasn't that Steve Miller.  This one was a dweeb.  This was about the IRS targeting political groups.  (And other groups.)

US House Rep  Allyson Schwartz:  We are outraged on behalf of the American people, that's number one.  The American people deserve to be able to trust their government --

Steve Miller: That's true.

US House Rep Allyson Schwartz:  -- for fairness and lack of bias --

Steve Miller:  Mmhumm.

US House Rep Allyson Schwartz: --  and that was violated.  And that violation was outrageous and unacceptable to us and I hope to you.  Number two, there need to be changes.  It's already happening.  Some changes you're making, but we need to be assured that those changes will be made.  Things happen, investigations have to be done and then changes have to be made to ensure the American people, that we know that and we will not accept bias or discrimination in any way.  I think that is clear to all of us.  The second thing I will say is that this Committee and Congress also has the responsibility to do this -- our own questioning and our own demand for accountability and transparency -- from you, from the administration for everything that happened.  To do it in a way that is not political, either.

Now he continued making noise while Schwartz was speaking.  (I liked Schwartz.  She had the right mix of feisty and outraged.)  I'd never heard anything like that.  I looked at C.I. during that exchange and another and I whispered, "Is he making all those noises?"  He was. 

Another weird thing about him?  Donors.

I say do-nors.  Like dough-nut.  I say it like the Committee did. 

He doesn't.  And he said it repeatedly that way: do-NORS.  The first syllable was short and the second was stretched long and he emphasized it.

That was strange.

I also liked  Rep Mike Kelly who said what I think most people were thinking after they asked Miller questions, "I don't know that I got any answers from you today."

He also pointed out that the IRS sure expects people to bend over and forgive their mistakes, their law breaking because "when the IRS comes to you, you're not allowed to be shoddy, you're not allowed to be run horribly, you're not allowed to make mistakes, you're not allowed to do one damn thing that comes into compliance. If you do, you're held responsible right then."

And he's right.

Which is why the IRS scandal is the most dangerous of the three.  Most Americans already dislike the IRS and that was before they learned about the targeting.  And knowing what the IRS has gotten away with (Gore Vidal used to write great essays about that), most people expect more than a we're-sorry for what they've done now.

Some Democrats were good.  A lot were embarrassing.  Like Oregon's Earl Blumenauer whose questions were as ridiculous as his owl glasses and bulky bow tie. 

Miller? He was smart mouthed, rude and arrogant.  And, worst of all, though Barack presented it earlier this week as 'he's gone' -- Miller remains on the job.

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

Friday, May 17, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, today is said to have the highest death toll in eight months, a new protest takes place in Baghdad, Ammar al-Hakim visits the First Lady, the war on the AP continues, the House Ways and Means Committee holds a surreal hearing on the IRS scandal, and more. 

Today, Danny Schecter the-so-called 'News Dissector' writes, "It turns out there is much more to the story about the government investigating leaks to the AP. It turns out the news and the government had been negotiating, about when to release the story, and the AP had held its story for five days and was wrangling with the White House over who would break it suggesting that there may be questionable practices on both sides." Don't you just hate stupid?

Does it turn out that way?  Today?  Friday, it turns out that way?

The scandal broke Monday.  Check Monday's snapshot -- it's in there. "It turns out there is much more to the story," Danny huffs, breathless from waddling back from the fridge.  Not only did we, and anyone else with a brain, note that the AP had been in discussions with the government, but the article from a year ago (which prompted the investigation) noted it as well -- we pointed that out in Monday's snapshot: "As Goldman and Apuzzo noted in their original report, the White House and the CIA knew AP would be reporting this and AP delayed the story for a week at their request."

This is not new information.  Danny Schechter is a deeply disturbed individual. Failed careers at CNN and ABC (as well as online) clearly have a lot to do with his inability to register the world around him.  In 1979, The Progressive published Howard Moreland's landmark article "The H-bomb Secret: How we got it and why we're telling it.The Progressive was in talks with the government.  They couldn't reach an agreement and that's why there was a lawsuit.  (The magazine rightly prevailed in the case.)  Woodward and Bernstein's Watergate stories?  The articles needed responses from the government for the paper to publish them.  That can be seen as negotiations as well.

He's a deeply stupid man, deeply.  I don't know the full extent of the conversations AP and the government had.  I don't really care.  I know that what happened was wrong and that you call it out.  Just like with the IRS scandal (which we'll address later in the snapshot).  Danny wants to poop on it because "Did the right-wingers now crying bloody murder ever speak up when the IRS harassed its enemies?"  Oh, heaven help us all.  That's the criteria for outrage from a media watchdog?  Because it sounds like the 'critique' offered by a three-year-old in the midst of a tantrum.

Did little Danny miss his afternoon nap?  Whether or not the other side spoke out about ___?  Who the hell cares?  I am not responsible for the actions of Generic Republican. I am responsible for my actions.  I can't control whether someone else is ethical, I can control whether I am.  What happened was outrageous. So you call it out.  Danny wants to go off on soft money.  Soft money corrupting elections? Yeah, we called out the IRS targeting on Monday and also managed called out the influence of soft money.  We've already been there.  For someone who writes a daily dissection, he sure is behind the times

On Benghazi, Danny dumps, "Former CIA analyst Melvin Goodman has come forward to question whether this office in Benghazi was really a consulate as we have been but an 'intelligence platform'  for use in a covert war that the sacking of the embassy became part of. "  Did Mel Goodman do that?  Wow.  What a genius.  Of course we noted that back in October when we attended the first hearing on Benghazi. See, US House Rep Jason Chaffetz kept saying during that hearing that things were being revealed in questions that shouldn't be and calling for the Chair to stop the revelations.  If you hadn't figure it out by then, when Chaffetz walked over to the Chair and neither appeared to know that people could hear them speaking, you should have grasped it then. If you didn't know it was a CIA outpost in October, I don't know what to tell you because I'm afraid you're brain dead.  It was also a 'consulate.'  It was a consulate that would, per Hillary Clinton's wishes, open before the end of 2012.  Maybe in six months when someone in the echo chamber Danny gets his spin from mentions that, suddenly he'll again be proclaiming, breathlessly, "it looks like there's much more to the story." Danny Schechter, stop dancing from foot to foot, go sit back on your potty chair, take care of your business and let the grown ups talk.

In peace news, the world's a little better today.  Eliana Raszewski (Bloomberg News) reports Jorge Videla has died in an Argentine prison ("from natural causes") where he was serving out his life sentence for running "the country's military junta from 1976 to 1981" -- The Dirty War which claimed the lives of thousands.  Raszewksi quotes  Ricard Gil Lavedra ("one of the judges who passed the [life] sentences in 1985") stating, "Videla will be remembered as a dictator whoplaneted death in Argentina.  He led the most bloody dictatorship that we ever had."  Adam Bernstein (Washington Post) observes of the dead despot, "He had spent his final decades consumed by legal battles stemming from the dictatorship and, in recent years, was convicted of human rights abuses such as the systematic abduction of infants from suspected left-wing radicals."  The Buenos Aires Herald also quotes Ricardo Gil Lavedra (who now serves in the Parliament) stating that "democracy judged him and gave him the opportunity for defense, an opportunity he refused to give to thousands of people. Unfortunately, he never showed remorse for what he did.  He is top responsible for a plan which ended the lives of thousands of Argentineans." In 1976, then-Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger visited the regime and declared that the thug "is a very dedicated, very intelligent man who is doing what is best for his country."  When does Kissinger go to prison?   The Buenos Aires Herald explains:

Rights groups say up to 30,000 people were "disappeared" - a euphemism for kidnapped and murdered - during the dictatorship, which began in March 1976 when Videla and two other military leaders staged a coup against President Maria Estela Martinez de Peron, the widow of former leader Juan Domingo Peron.
Argentina's left-wing guerrilla groups such as the Montoneros had been weakened by the time Videla came to power. He targeted union organizers, students, journalists and anyone else perceived to be associated with communism.

Human Rights Watch issued the following statement on the death:

Jorge Rafael Videla participated in the March 24, 1976 coup d’etat, and acted as de facto president of Argentina until 1981. According to local human rights groups, approximately 30,000 people were “disappeared,” thousands were tortured and arbitrarily detained, and hundreds of babies were stolen and illegally appropriated by other families during the military dictatorship that ended in 1983.
“Videla will be remembered as the man who headed the cruelest dictatorship in Argentine history,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “Fortunately, the Argentine judicial system did its job and held him accountable, allowing victims of his atrocities to have access to justice.”
In 1985, Videla was one of the first Latin American dictators to be convicted of crimes against humanity in the emblematic “Trial of the Military Juntas.” He was sentenced to life in prison.
Several important human rights cases were reopened after Congress annulled Argentina’s amnesty laws in 2003 and the Supreme Court confirmed that they were unconstitutional in 2005. Starting in 2005, federal judges struck down pardons that then-President Carlos Menem issued between 1989 and 1990 to former officials, including Videla, convicted of, or facing trial for, human rights violations.
Videla was convicted in a total of three trials, one in 1985, one in 2010, and a third in 2012 for his participation in human rights violations committed during the dictatorship, including torture, kidnappings, homicide, and illegal appropriation of babies. Videla died in prison, where he was serving his sentences.

Australia's ABC reports:

Videla showed little remorse for the systematic abuses that occurred during his presidency, a traumatic five-year upheaval still being felt today.
"Let's say there were 7,000 or 8,000 people who had to die to win the war against subversion," Videla said recently in a prison interview, according to journalist Ceferino Reato.
"We couldn't execute them by firing squad. Neither could we take them to court," Videla was quoted as saying.

In a 1995 piece entitled "Friendly Dictators" (Third World Traveler), Dennis Bernstein and Laura Sydell compiled a list of US-backed dictators

Soon after the coup that brought him to power in 1976 General Jorge Rafael Videla began Argentina's dirty war. All political and union activities were suspended, wages were reduced by 60%, and dissidents were tortured by Nazi and US-trained military and police. Survivors say the torture rooms contained swastikas and pictures of Hitler, Mussolini and Franco. One year after Videla's coup, Amnesty International estimated 15,000 people had disappeared and many were in secret detention camps, but although the U.S. press admitted human rights abuses occurred in Argentina, Videla was often described as a "moderate' who revitalized his nation's troubled economy. Videla had a good public relations firm in the U.S., Deaver and Hannaford, the same firm used by Ronald Reagan, Taiwan, and Guatemala. Videla also received aid from the World Anti-Communist League (WACL), through its affiliate, CAL (Confederation AntiCommunists Latinoamericana). CAL sent millions of dollars to Argentina from the US, including old anti-communist organizations with alliances with the Italian drug mafia. As part of its WACL affiliation, Argentina trained Nicaraguan contras for the US. Videla left office in 1981, and after the Falklands Crisis of 1982, he and his cohorts were tried for human rights abuses by the new government.

Since Reagan is mentioned, we should note Ronald Reagan (a president I didn't care for, to put it mildly) was sworn in as President in January 1981.  Point?  Videla left office later that year.  Point?  1976 is the last year of Gerald Ford's administration and, most importantly, Videla's human rights abuses -- ignored by the United States government -- take place mainly during the four year term (January 1977 to December 1980) of then-President Jimmy Carter.  With regards to Argentina, Reagan would basically embrace them but the Dirty War was largely over in Argentina, he embraced them and used them to fund his contras.  This would grow and grow until the illegal operation became public and was known as Iran-Contra which is considered the biggest blight on his presidency.

When the Dirty War was in full swing, Jimmy Carter was the US President.  Here's 'human rights saint' Carter vouching for the tyrant on September 9, 1977 after he entertained the War Criminal at the White House:

We discussed several items, but the two that we discussed at most length were, first, the question of nonproliferation of nuclear explosives. We are very hopeful that Argentina, which has been in the nuclear field for 25 years in the production of power, will join with other nations in this hemisphere in signing the Treaty of Tlatelolco to prevent any development of explosives. And I was very encouraged by what President Videla had to say.
The other item that we discussed at length was the question of human rights--the number of people who are incarcerated or imprisoned in Argentina, the need for rapid trial of these cases, and the need for Argentina to let the world know the status of the prisoners.
President Videla was very frank with me about pointing out the problems that have existed in Argentina and his commitment to make very rapid progress in the next few months. He wants Argentina to be judged not on his words alone, but on the demonstrable progress that he stated would be made.
We had a thorough discussion, and I think it was one of the most productive and most frank discussions that I've had with any leader.
I've had a chance to visit Argentina in the past and know the tremendous strength of your people and of your economy, the beauty of your nation, and the serious problem that presently exists in the opinion of the world about Argentina because of the repression of human rights and the terrorism that has existed there.
But we have great hopes that rapid progress might be made in alleviating this problem. And I was encouraged by what President Videla had to say.

Does Carter still think it was a good meeting with the despot, does he still "think it was one of the most productive and most frank discussions that I've had with any leader"?  Two years later (when there was no progress made) Carter did send an Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to Argentina September 6, 1979 -- nearly three years after he took office.  Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Patricia Derian headed that commission.  That was merely an investigation, a compiling.  The US government did nothing with the results.  Patricia Derian, however, returned to Argentina in 1985 to testify at the trials.

 Nothing changed.  You know who else gathered information?  Adolfo Perez Esquivel.   He was arrested for doing that in August 1977 and thrown into a prison where he was tortured.  His plight and his courage provided the spotlight from the world -- he was honored by, among others Pope John XXIII while he was imprisoned.  This is before Carter ever sends any commission to Argentina.  In May of 1978, he is finally released from the prison.  That's the same year, 1978 -- still before Carter's done anything other than entertain the despot at the White House, Amnesty International names Adolfo Perez Esquivel Political Prisoner of the year.  We're not done.  For his work, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1980Telesur TV catches up with him today.  He notes what was done went beyond Jorge Rafael Videla, that it was part of Operation Condor, a terror campaign implemented by right wing dictators in the Southern Cone of Latin America from 1976 to 1980 (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguqy and Uruguay).   The CIA, the FBI and the US Embassy were helpers in various countries.  In Argentina, in particular, Henry Kissinger was quick to convey, "The quicker you succeed the better. [. . .] If you can finish before Congress gets back, the better."  Click here for the National Security Archive for Kissinger October 1976 visit to Argentina (that's when he conveys the message quoted).

In Juan Mandelbaum's documentary Nuestros Desaparecidos (Our Disappeared), Patricia Derian asks:

What are the principles of this country?  Will we do anything to get what we want?  And the answer has always been yes, that's the sad fact of it.  We've done some wonderful things and helpful and saved people, restored governments.  But we have also -- also had a very dark side.

To be clear, she's not criticizing Carter.  She is criticizing others including Henry Kissinger.  She remains an ardent defender of Carter.  I'm the one pointing out Carter entertained the despot, made nice with him, and over half-way into his first and only presidential term, he sent an exploratory committee.  In the documentary, she notes that she was being given a tour of the Escuela de Mecaninica de la Armada and she states that she tells the officials she's knows they're torturing people on the floors below. She tells them, "I have a map, I know what's happening in every room."  Good for her.  Good for her for calling it out.  But, here's the thing, if Pat had the map and the knowledge, so did Jimmy Carter.  Unlike Pat, Carter had the power to do something.  He did nothing.  Sent a committee.  Wow.  The bravery.  (That's sarcasm.)  In the film, Pat talks about the torture which includes a woman being tortured and they put a rat into her vagina and then stitched it up.  That's what the committee could find and document.  In the fall of 1977.  And Carter did nothing.  Sent a committee which confirmed what was already known.  Did nothing after.

A lot of people do nothing.  Like today with regards to Little Saddam, Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister and chief thug of Iraq who was installed by Bully Boy Bush in 2006 (the Iraqi Parliament -- who are supposed to be 'the deciders' on this -- wanted Ibrahiam al-Jafaari) and whom the Iraqi people thought they had rid themselves of in 2010 when they voted Iraqiya into first place in parliamentary elections (Barack backed the loser and had the US-goverment broker The Erbil Agreement to go around the country's constitution and the will of the people to give Nouri a second term).

In Iraq, Fridays mean protests -- this wave has been going on since December 21st.  More and more, peaceful protests in Iraq also mean a wave of attacks on participants by Nouri's forces. 

In Ramadi and Falluja, NINA notes that security measures were "tightened" and a security source tells them, "The security services have taken preventive measures to protect the worshipers in the unified prayer which are held in Baquba capital of the province, Balad Ruz, Mandali, Jalawla, and Qaratappa districts."  NINA reports thousands of protesters turned out in Ramadi and Falluja and quotes sit-in organizer Sheikh Mohammed Fayyad stating that the protesters are gathered to send a message to Baghdad that the protests are peaceful and are supported by the Iraqi people.

Nouri's forces did not protect in Baquba.  Iraqi Spring MC reports a Baquba bombing has left many dead.  Protesters and bystanders who attempted to help the wounded to the hospital were attacked and beaten by Nouri's SWAT forces.   SWAT forces also surrounded Baquba General Hospital to prevent people from donating bloodNouri's Tigris Operation Command forces ordered the hospital not to reveal the number of dead and wounded they are receiving.  Why is the Iraqi military being used against citizens, why is being used to harass medical providers?

In addition to the bombing, his SWAT forces began firing at protesters.  At least 1 man was killedAlsumaria reports 40 are dead from the bombing and 46 injured.  Fang Yang (Xinhua) reports it was two bombs "which hit almost simultaneously."  Matt Brown (Australia's ABC) also reports two bombings.  Citing security and medical sources, AFP goes with 41 dead and fifty-seven injured.  Duraid Adnan (New York Times) explains, "The Saraya mosque, where the blasts took place, is one of the main mosques where Sunnis in Baquba pray and hear speeches to support protests in Anbar and other Sunni provinces calling for change in the Shiite-dominated government." The violence is part of what Deutsche Welle has hailed as, "The deadliest day in Iraq in eight months."  Mohammad Tawfeeq (CNN) reports Baghdad bombings, one which left 12 people dead and thrity injured and one in the Baghdad home of Iraqiya MP Ahmed al-Massari whic left two of his bodyguards injured.  Tawfeeq notes, "Al-Massari's brother was shot dead near his house in the Baghdad neighborhood of al-Bayaa on Thursday."  RT adds, "Another explosion struck a cafe in Fallujah, which killed two people and wounded nine." Al-Arabiya notes (link is text and video), "In Madain, south of Baghdad, a roadside bomb exploded near a funeral procession for a Sunni man, killing eight people and wounding at least 25, security and medical officials said, according to AFP." In addition, National Iraqi News Agency reports a Kirkuk inspection department employee was shot dead and his relative injured in KirkukAll Iraq News reports 1 woman's corpse was discovered in Mosul.  Jason Ditz ( looks at today's violence as well as Wednesday's and Thursday's and counts more than 160 deaths and more then 400 injured.  Dominic Kane (Al Jazeera -- in the video, not the text) reports that over 300 violent deaths have already taken place this month.
Various opinions make the rounds regarding the violence.  William Clarke (Telegraph of London) offers, "The burst of violence raises the spectre of the tit-for-tat killings that killed tens of thousands of people during the height of sectarian tensions."  Omar al-Saleh (Al Jazeera -- from text) observes of the violence, "It's an indication that security conditions are really going downhill in this country. There is a huge and growing sense of fear among Iraqis."

The Washington Institute's Michael Knights argued a few days ago at Foreign Policy that the problem is de-centralization was put into the Iraqi Constitution but then ignored:

But starting in 2008, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki re-centralized power, leaning on an increasingly narrow circle of Shia opponents of the previous dictatorship. And like all successful revolutionaries, this clique is paranoid about counterrevolution and has set about rebuilding a version of the authoritarian system it sought for decades to overthrow. Maliki’s inner circle dominates the selection of military commanders down to brigade level, controls the federal court, and has seized control of the central bank. The executive branch is rapidly eclipsing all checks and balances that were put in place to guarantee a new autocracy did not emerge.
 The root of Iraq’s violence is thus not ancient hatreds between Sunni and Shia or Kurd and Arab, but between decentralizers and recentralizers – and between those who wish to put Iraq’s violent past behind them, and those determined to continually refight it. The demands that have been consistently stated by the Kurdish and Sunni Arab anti-Maliki opposition could not be clearer. First, the opposition demands devolution of fiscal authority to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the provinces, encapsulated in a revenue-sharing law that will provide a formula for the proportion of the budget allocated to the KRG and provinces. Second, it demands the implementation of the system of checks and balances on the executive branch – particularly by empowering parliament and ensuring an independent judiciary. Third, it calls for a comprehensive truth and reconciliation process that provides justice for those damaged by Saddam’s regime, but stops short of collectively punishing Sunnis.

Did the world turn its back on Iraq?  Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari tells Aleem Maqbool (BBC News -- link is text and video, quotes are from video),  "We've been several times to hell and back. But Iraq still needs the engagement the commitment of the international community to work out its recent difficulties."  Aleem Maqbool observes, "What Iraqis are asking is why there's not the urgency here and abroad to try to avert what many see as almost invetiable civil war?"  Aziz Alwan (Los Angeles Times) points out, "Sectarian tension among Iraq’s Shiite and Sunni elite have soared in the absence of compromise on the issues raised by Sunni protesters, including resolving the fate of thousands of Sunni detainees and addressing the continued marginalization of those who served in late dictator Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party."  Today the UN News Centre noted:


17 May 2013 – The top United Nations official in Iraq today urged Iraqi leaders to protect civilians following a wave of bombings over the past few days which have claimed more innocent lives.
“It is the responsibility of all leaders to stop the bloodshed in this country and to protect their citizens,” said the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Iraq, Martin Kobler.
“Small children are burned alive in cars. Worshippers are cut down outside their own mosques. This is beyond unacceptable. It is the politicians’ responsibility to act immediately and to engage in dialogue to resolve the political impasse and put an end to this.”
According to media reports, two bombs near a Sunni mosque north of Baghdad killed at least 43 people and wounded more than 80 on Friday. One bomb reportedly exploded as worshippers were departing a mosque in the city of Baquba, while a second went off after people gathered at the scene of the first blast.
Hundreds of people have been killed or wounded in recent clashes across the country, including in Hawija, north of Baghdad, where government helicopters shot at militants hiding in the village, resulting in dozens of people killed or injured.
Mr. Kobler has repeatedly called on Iraqi authorities to take decisive measures to stop the escalating violence. Earlier this month, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged all Iraqis to come together and engage in inclusive dialogue to overcome the “deep political crisis” facing the country.
“Peace must come to this country now. The people of Iraq have suffered enough,” Mr. Kobler said. “We will continue to remind the leaders of Iraq that the country will slide backwards into a dangerous unknown if they do not take action.”

Returning to the topic of protests, Baghdad saw another target of a protest today.  All Iraq News notes that Moqtada al-Sadr is calling for the Bahraini Embassy in Baghdad be closed.  Alsumaria notes that "hundreds" of followers of cleric and movement leader Moqtada attempted to protest outside the embassy today in western Baghdad but were prevented from getting in front of the building by Nouri's forces.

Meanwhile All Iraq News reports Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq leader Ammar al-Hakim met today with First Lady of Iraq Hero Ibrahim Ahmed at her official residence in Sulaimaniya.  There, the First Lady "reassured" al-Hakim "on the health of President Talabani" and al-Hakim stressed that Jalal Talabani was both "a personal and national symbol for all Iraqis, not just the Kurds."  Last December,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.

 The incident took place late on December 17th (see the December 18th snapshot) and resulted in Jalal being admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20th, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.  Last week, questions arose regarding Jalal's health.  Friday,  All Iraq News noted that the PUK's Najm al-Din Karim declared that the rumors were false and that "Talabani enjoys good health and has continuous improvement" and "Talabani's health continues to improve day after day."  Monday morning, Nouri launched an effort to replace Jalal as president and by Monday evening it was being announced (by Kurdistan Alliance MP Muhsin al-Sadoun) that Jalal would be doing media appearances "shortly" -- though "shortly" was not defined as hours, weeks or months.    Al-Hayat (translation by Al-Monitor) reports that, in the disputed province of oil-rich Kirkuk, Arab tribes and political parties are saying replacing Jalal Talabani now would send the country further into crisis:

Sheikh Abdul Rahman Monshed al-Assi, a leader in the Arab Political Council, has called upon all related parties "not to lead the country and political forces toward a new conflict through the election of an alternative to Talabani.” He stressed the need to "refer to the constitution and not to exceed its content." The sheikh also demanded that "the nomination be done away from quotas and repartition of positions on a nationalist and sectarian basis, as this would harm the political process and cause crises."
Meanwhile, Arab tribal leaders have criticized "[the parties] for being ungrateful towards Talabani, who has been unbiased and patriotic. Throughout his presidency, Talabani has not dealt with issues on a sectarian basis."
In a statement to Al-Hayat, Sheikh Farhan al-Saadi said, "It is too soon for political blocs to talk about an alternative to President Talabani, as he is still in a difficult health condition."
Muqtada al-Sadr, on the other hand, has declared his support for the nomination of a replacement for Talabani and has called to speed up the measures in this regard. The United Nations Office in Iraq’s Kurdistan region has mentioned several reasons that would hinder the nomination of any alternative. In a statement issued by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Sokol Conde, head of the UN Office, said that the "no party alone can take the place of president Talabani. Governance in Iraq was built on the basis of consensus and partnership between political blocs and components, which imposes the attainment of national consensus on various issues."

Yesterday, the US State Dept issued the following:

Press Statement

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
May 16, 2013
On May 15 the first 14 Camp Hurriya residents departed Iraq for permanent relocation in Albania.
The United States expresses its appreciation to the Government of Albania for its generous humanitarian gesture to accept 210 former Camp Hurriya residents. Albania has been a strong partner of the United States in bringing peace and stability to Iraq.
The United States urges the Mujahedin-e Khalq leadership to cooperate fully with the UNHCR relocation process and to facilitate access by United Nations monitors to Camp Hurriya residents. The relocation of Camp Hurriya residents outside of Iraq is vital to their safety and security. It is the responsibility of the MEK leadership to facilitate for the residents of Camp Hurriya free and unfettered access to UN human rights monitors.
The United States reiterates its strong support for the efforts of UNHCR, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), and the Special Representative of the Secretary General Martin Kobler. We continue to emphasize that the camp and its residents must be secured in accordance with the December 25, 2011 Memorandum of Understanding between the United Nations and the Government of Iraq, and urge all involved parties to work together effectively on this.
There are over 3000 residents who need to be relocated.  These are the people who were housed in Camp Ashraf.  We call them Camp Ashraf residents because that is their history.  Moving them to Camp Liberty (Hurriya) was, in part, an attempt to strip them of their history.

US House Rep Kenny Marchant:  On July 25th, we had another Oversight Committee hearing  in which Commissioner Miller and I had an extended conversation about this very subject.  And that conversation is in this transcript, anyone can get it on the internet and read the questions but the questions were very specifically about Tea Party groups and their difficulties in getting their tax exempt status, the lengthy conversations that they were having, the questionaires that they were having to answer.  And, again, Mr. Miller in that exchange that you and I had, I came away with that, I felt, with the assurances by you and your office that there were no extraordinary circumstances taking place and that this was just a backlog and there was nothing going on.  Mr. Miller, was that your impression of the hearing that day?

Acting Commissioner Steve Miller:  Uhm, no sir.  What I said there and what I understood your question to be was -- again, we divide this world in two, there's a question of this selection process and there was a question of what was going on at the time of your question.  At the time of your question, what was out in the public domain and what I thought we were discussing was the letter.  As you called them, the questionaire.  Those were the overbroad letters that had been referred to continuously here. Uhm, again, I stand by my answer there. Uh, there was not, uh-h-h-h-h-h, I-I-I-I did talk about the fact that we had centeralized -- I believe, I'd have to take a look at it. But I was talking about the fact that we had fixed that problem.

Kenny Marchant:  But-but at that time, you knew, by that time, that there were lists being made, there were deliniations, there was discrimination going on and that there were steps being taken to try to correct it.  But you knew that it was going on at that time.

Acting Commissioner Steve Miller:  We had corrected it.  TIGTA was taking a look.  At that time, my assumption is TIGTA was going to be done with their report that summer. I was not going to go there because I did not have full possessions of all the facts, sir.

Any member of Congress who finds that 'answer' acceptable is an embarrassment.  A government official appeared before Congress to testify at a hearing and was asked about potential abuses.  He knew about abuses that the Congress didn't with regard to this subject and did not reveal them.  His lousy excuse about a report coming out? No.  He said (see above) that he had addressed it.  But report or no report, you don't conceal from Congress.  He played words games and he was dishonest.  As USA Today's Susan Page observed on the first hour of The Diane Rehm Show today, "Well, we have to go back and look at that, but he certainly left a misimpression among everyone who heard his answers. People heard him as denying it. Now, maybe it will turn out to be some turn of phrase that gives him an exit hatch. But I think it is hard for him to argue that he did not mislead."

That took place this morning in the House Ways and Means Committee hearing.  The Committee Chair is Dave Camp and the Ranking Member is Sander Levin.  Appearing before the Committee were J. Russell George and Steve Miller.  J. Russell George is an Inspector General for the Treasury Department while Steve Miller is the Acting Commissioner of the IRS.  The Acting Commission.  Wednesday, we carried in full the remarks from US President Barack Obama about the 'firing' of Miller.  Miller is not fired.  As was established in the hearing, he remains on the government payroll, he remains Acting Commissioner of the IRS.  He stated so himself today when questioned.

US House Rep Vern Buchanan: Were you terminated or fired?  What happened there?  Or are you getting ready to retire?

Steve Miller:  I was asked to resign and I will retire.

US House Rep Vern Buchanan:  Okay.

Steve Miller: Under the civil service rules.

[. . .]

US House Rep Tom Reed:  As you sit here today, you were not fired from your job.  And I can tell you, in my private experience, you would have been fired on the spot.  And all you were allowed to do is resign and retire?  And now you come here and try to say I did the honorable thing by falling on my sword' when nothing bad is going to happen to you.  You're going to get your full benefits.  You're going to get everything that's associated with your retirement as an IRS employee.

Steve Miller: [Laughing] Nohting bad is happening to me, Congressman?

US House Rep Tom Reed:  Financially.  You're allowed to retire.  That's the level of accountability in Washington, DC now. You're still acting [Commissioner].  You came here on the taxpayer dollar today. You're getting a paycheck for being here today.  Correct?  Correct?

Steve Miller:  [Pause]  Correct.

There is no accountability.  And he laughed.  He found the exchange funny.  He had many 'cute' moments.

US House Rep Peter Roskam: Why did you say you have notes if you don't have notes?

Steve Miller:  Sir, please.

US House Rep Peter Roskam:  Do you have notes or don't you have notes?

Steve Miller: (voice dripping with sarcasm) I don't know.

US House Rep Lynne Jenkins stated at one point during the hearing,  "I'm sad and I'm sick to my stomach that Americans could be targeted by a government agency based on their political beliefs."  Miller was not sick, he laughed, he found things amusing.  But why wouldn't it.  He's getting away with everything he wanted.
There's no reason to believe Miller was being honest or knows what's going on.  One of the people 'disciplined,' the press has noted this week, received an oral warning.  Oops.  Miller asked about that stated, "The oral counseling that was provided?  It turns out that that person might not have been involved."  This is a huge scandal. He is the official in charge -- still in charge, still on the job -- and he knew he was appearing before Congress but he still doesn't know who was at fault?

Is there any accountability at all?  By his testimony, not at all.  In the most outrageous moment, in response to questions asked by US House Rep Ron Kind, Miller declared, "We now have possession of the facts with respect to the TIGTA report.  Now is the time we should be looking at that, now that we have the facts."   What?  No, actually, the time to look was before the TIGTA report.  By the time the Inspector General of the Department is finding fault, you've failed at your job.  You should have corrected it and, as we know, the IRS knew long before the TIGTA report.  But, Miller insisted to Kind, that now is the time, now that the Inspector General's report has been released.  No, supervisors -- including Miller -- should have addressed it, should have found out the problems, should have found out who was involved.  Other signs of incompetence?  He didn't know that, in addition to political groups, churches were targeted.  He appeared before the Committee, after the report was released, to 'answer' questions and he didn't even know that churches were among the targeted.  What does he do all day?  He also made clear that though he doesn't "believe it should happen," he doesn't believe it's illegal.  Maybe he had been fired, as we were led to believe he was, he might have cared a little damn more.

And let's also be clear, this isn't the only IRS problem.  The IG has released one report.  As IG Russell George's remarks made clear, there are other ongoing investigations about the IRS and this issue.  Those investigations cannot be discussed because they are ongoing.  Again, this was established in George's exchange with US House Rep Tom Reed. ("That is an accurate statement, sir," George agreed.)

US House Rep Aaaron Schock had a number of issues to raise about what the IRS did. A pro-life was group was asked about the content of their prayers and Miller couldn't weigh in on wehter or not that was an appropriate question for the IRS to ask.  Another pro-life group was asked if they taught "both sides of the issue."  As anyone knows, I'm firmly pro-choice.  That does not mitigate my offense at these questions the IRS asked and, especially with regard to prayer, they crossed a line.  It's a damn shame Steve Miller didn't know how to respond but a clear indication he was never up for the job. Schock noted another pro-life group was asked to reveal what writing would be on signs they carried at a protest?  Again, Miller had no comment.

Popular responses from Miller included: "I don't know," "I don't believe so," "I have no reason to believe . . .," "I don't think so," "I don't have exact knowledge on that," "I'm really not sure" and "I'd have to go back and check."  He wasn't sure if he had notes.  He wasn't sure about timelines.  He was sure about this or about that. 

Tonight, Marcia will cover the hearing at her site, Kat at her site, Wally will cover it at Ann's site and Ava will cover it at Trina's site.

 the washington post

Sexist pig David Cronin

I think the secret to getting published at CounterPunch is hating women.  I think the more hateful you are to women, the more likely they are to publish you.

Little David Cronin is the perfect example of a useless, flacid prick who clearly has erectile problems.

The American feels the need to last out at Europe for not doing enough for Bradley Manning.

How quickly can one man reduce Europe to a woman?

Too quickly to count.

Crones beats his limp stick as he attacks Catherine Ashton of the European Union.

Then it's time for the idiot to attack Amnesty so he can attack Suzanne Nossel.  If the issue is Bradley Manning not being recognized as a political prisoner, why is he attacking Nossel?  It's May.  Nossel resigned January 11th.

Now watch this overreach:

For most of last year, Amnesty’s US office was headed by Suzanne Nossel, who had just finished serving as a deputy assistant secretary of state under Hillary Clinton. It is unthinkable that Amnesty would chose a senior aide to Robert Mugabe as director of its Zimbabwe team – unless that aide had renounced Mugabe first.  Nossel, to the best of my knowledge, didn’t speak out against how Clinton had cosied up to dictators in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Why on earth did Amnesty hire her?

To be clear, I won't be voting for Hillary if she runs in 2016.  I was at the hearing where she was doing her scream about What Difference Does It Make?

She lost me forever with that.

I will never, ever vote for her.  She was a heartless bully who didn't take responsibility while repeatedly insisting she was accountable.

That said, Hillary's not Mugabe.  And you really have to hate women to write the crap David Cronin has.

You know who's missing in this column?

The man who ordered Bradley's arrest, the man who's pronounced him guilty, the man who's in the White House.

Little limp dicks like David Cronin never can hold men accountable.  They're too busy demonizing women.

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

Thursday, May 16, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue,  the US talks good about press freedom even if it doesn't believe it, the IRS scandal continues, pouty babies dismiss the AP scandal as a "yawn," Saleh al-Mutlaq steered a meet-up with Iraqi protesters that looked like an accomplishment but then came reality, the Hawija massacre continues to dominate Iraqi outlooks, the Baghdad judiciary oversteps their role and announces they're investigating the Hawija massacre, Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution is noted, and more.

Monday came news of the Justice Dept secretly spying on the 167 year-old news organization Associated Press by seizing their phone records for April and May of 2012.  Earlier this month, May 5th, US Ambassador to Iraq Stephen Beecroft observed:

Today we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the UN General Assembly’s proclamation of World Press Freedom Day, an occasion for the international community, governments, media organizations, civil society, and average citizens to promote press freedom around the world, to recommit to defend the media from attacks on its independence, and to pay tribute to the journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession. Freedom of speech and expression is a cornerstone of all our democratic rights, for an uninformed citizenry cannot be a democratic citizenry.  In the United States, our Founding Fathers saw this right as so crucial that they placed it first in our Bill of Rights,  decreeing that “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press….”
World Press Freedom Day is an opportunity for us all to oppose repression of the media, to remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression, to protect journalists, and to tolerate opinions with which we may disagree. As democracy has increasingly replaced dictatorship around the world, the right of free expression has become a vital mechanism to maintain those hard-won freedoms. Journalists and bloggers keep citizens informed, keep governments honest, and often reveal uncomfortable truths.  We must work to ensure that journalists are not persecuted, threatened, attacked, or killed for seeking to inform and educate citizens; we must prevent newer online technologies – sophisticated media tools, networking groups and bloggers reaching millions – from being censored, firewalled, or closed.

It's a message the Justice Dept apparently missed.  In its 167 years this month, the Associated Press has won 51 Pulitzer Prizes, has lost over 30 journalists who died while practicing journalism and witnessed the changing technology:  "AP delivered news by pigeon, pony express, railroad, steamship, telegraph and teletype in the early years. In 1935, AP began sending photographs by wire. A radio network was formed in 1973, and an international video division was added in 1994. In 2005, a digital database was created to hold all AP content, which has allowed the agency to deliver news instantly and in every format to the ever expanding online world."  The Economist observes, "All manner of people who might have wanted to keep their contact with the press secret will have been caught in this dragnet; others might now hesitate to speak to reporters. That concern is not far-fetched: under Barack Obama’s watch, the government has indicted six officials for leaking secrets under a law called the Espionage Act, which had only previously been invoked against government officials three times since it became law in 1917."

Based on Attorney General Eric Holder's testimony to the House Judiciary Committee yesterday, this report by Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo from May 2012 is what has angered the government.  It opens with, "The CIA thwarted an ambitious plot by Al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen to destroy a U.S.-bound airliner using a bomb with a sophisticated new design around the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden, the Associated Press has learned."

Today on his radio program The News Dissector (Progressive Radio Network, airs Thursdays at 5:00 pm EST), host Danny Schechter observed that the Justice Dept's actions have "outraged people left, right and center."  On parts of the left, sure, parts.  As Danny quickly found out when he spoke to his guests.  Cult of St. Barack member Al Gioradano (who will never live down his disgraces in 2008) declared it a "big yawn."  Hobbyist Gioradano then referred to it as "pout rage."

Pouting is accurate -- in terms of describing certain elements of the left.  For everyone decrying, you have a large number of pouters.  Chris Hedges pouted yesterday on Democracy Now!, whining that his personal stories of choice (no, not his October 2001 front page New York Times article falsely linking Iraq to the 9-11 attacks) of choice didn't get coverage by the AP so what did it matter, the AP was silent, so what does it matter?  Well the AP isn't silent on Bradley Manning.  They do file repeatedly on Bradley Manning.  That was one of his two stories. On Julian Assange?  AP doesn't do feature writing.  Julian Assange is yesterday's news.  It's really not breaking news.  AP is a wire service that covers breaking news.  Some would journalist Chris Hedges would understand but those people probably missed his October 2001 front page effort to sell the war on Iraq.  Before there was Judith Miller, there was Chris Hedges.

On Danny's radio program, it was said who could name a reporter at AP?  Who can name a reporter anywhere these days other than TV? Most people can't.  I can name a ton of AP reporters off the top of my head including Sameer N. Yacoub, Adam Schreck who are among the reporters covering Iraq.  I can name former AP reporters such as Chelsea J. Carter but I'm someone who pays attention.  I can track the career trajectories of the last ten years, for example, of  Liz Sly and Sam Dahger -- two reporters who have changed outlets repeatedly.

AP stood alone in its coverage of the March 12, 2006 gang-rape and murder of 14-year-old  Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi by US soldiers stationed in Iraq. Brett Barrouquere owned that story.  And though he wrote very important reports and would probably have emerged as the best in a crowded field, the reality is others ignored it after the initial revelations.  There were court-martials of the soldiers still in the service and there was the trial of the ringleader who had already left the military.  Pacifica Radio, Democracy Now!, The Nation, go down the list, didn't give a damn.  In fact, Katha Pollitt only covered (half a sentence in a column) one of the most outrageous War Crimes of the Iraq War because she was shamed into doing so by the fact that non-feminist Alexander Cockburn had called it out and she hadn't.  When readers and critics began noting that, she finally did a half sentence on a 14-year-old Iraqi girl at home with her family when US soldiers broke into her home, took her parents and her five-year-old sister into another room as they started gang-raping Abeer.  As the gang-rape took place, Abeer could hear the gun shots and the screams as her parents and her sister were killed.  Then Steven D. Green came back into the living room, took his part in the gang-rape and then shot and killed Abeer which was followed by an attempt to set her body on fire.

This wasn't news to The Nation magazine.  This wasn't worthy of a column for feminist Katha Pollitt. When Green's trial started, the AP had a little competition -- local media in Kentucky and Arianna Huffington who, to her credit, saw this as a story worth paying for and The Huffington Post had regular coverage as a result.  The trial kicked off April 27, 2009 in Paducah, Kentucky. Apparently, although I thought it was a nine hour drive from DC, it's actually all the way around the world and unreachable by our so-called 'independent media' who couldn't be bothered to cover it.  By the same token, AP's the only US news organization filing regularly from Iraq now.  Every day they're filing, several times a day.

The pouters on the left who can't be bothered by AP are joined by the Cult of St. Barack which will make you eat lead paint and tell you it's broccoli.   Yesterday, Jason Linkins (Huffington Post) exposed Media Matters for America which was working a list of talking points about how the Justice Dept's seizure of records was no big deal:

Finally, the most obvious thing needs to be said: I'm pretty sure that if this probe of the Associated Press had been conducted by a Republican administration, you would not be doing all of this "Let's give the snoopers the benefit of the doubt."
I am pretty sure that your anger over the breach of these journalists' privacy would be epic and righteous and uncowed.
ThinkProgress! You guys need to check yourselves as well!
There are some deeds, I'm afraid, for which having the favored party identification is not an affirmative defense. It is not OK that the DoJ did this because the DoJ is being run by the guys who you perceive to be wearing the white hats. Snooping through the phone records of reporters doesn't become OK because Democrats are doing it, and it doesn't become evil by dint of the fact that Republicans are doing it. IT IS EITHER ALWAYS RIGHT, OR ALWAYS WRONG.
The thing is, Media Matters, you have painted yourselves into a corner here. Someday, in America, there is going to be a Republican in the White House. They will run the DoJ. They will contend with leaks of their own. They will face a choice as to whether to abridge the rights of the press to hunt that source down. They might even choose to do something very much like the DoJ did in this instance.

 Linkins is kind enough to add a statement from Media Matters where they insist it wasn't them, it was Message Matters.  Here is Message Matters -- above their name at the top of the screen is "Media Matters Action Network."  Message Matters is a division of Media Matters.  Yesterday evening Michael Isikoff (NBC News) filed a report that even put into question the supposed reason for the investigation:

Within hours after the AP published its May 7, 2012 story, then-White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, currently the director of the CIA, held a background conference call in which he assured television network commentators that the bomb plot was never a threat to the American public or aviation safety.
 The reason, he said, is because intelligence officials had “inside control” over it.

Stephen Walt (Foreign Policy) observes, "The greater but more subtle danger, however, is that our society gradually acclimates to ever-increasing levels of secrecy and escalating levels of government monitoring, all of it justified by the need to 'keep us safe.' Instead of accepting that a (very small) amount of risk is inevitable in the modern world, our desire for total safety allows government officials to simultaneously shrink the circle of individual freedoms and to place more and more of what they are doing beyond our purview."  On the first hour of today's The Diane Rehm Show, Diane's topics were the IRS and AP scandals.  Her guests were (all men -- how sadly normal for Diane's pathetic show) attorney Scott Fredericksen, NPR gadfly David Folkenflick and the ACLU's Gabe Rottman.  We'll note Rottman on the AP scandal.

 Gabe Rottman:  Absolutely. And it's important to realize here that the First Amendment and the freedom of the press that it protects is not protecting the press. It's protecting the public. It's protecting our ability and our right to know what the government is doing in our name. And that's all the more important when it comes to national security cases like this where the government has vast authority to make secret its activities. And this particular subpoena is so chilling because of two reasons. First, it's extremely broad. It covered 20 phone lines in offices where more than 100 reporters work. And then in addition to that and perhaps more troubling, the Department of Justice elected to delay notifying the Associated Press that it had issued the subpoena for these telephone records. What that means is the Associated Press was robbed of the ability to go to court to challenge the subpoena.

Danny Schechter announced he has an article tomorrow.  By that we'll be able to determine whether he was trying to offer provocative radio or agrees with the nonsense and crap  Al Gioradano was spewing.  This included that the IRS targeting of right wing groups was no big deal.  We're ignoring Cindy Sheehan's appearance on The Mike Malloy Show for the reason that Malloy also pimped this lie.  For Cultist Al it's not a surprise and if they really were going after people on the right, the IRS would have gone after Karl Rove's groups.  [And Kim Barker's Pro Publica report would appear to indicate that the IRS was quite happy to break the law with regards to Rove's group by sending out documents that they weren't legally allowed to distribute.]

Really?  I don't consider Al a reporter, nor does anyone I respect, but he does in work in Mexico and presumably, he's aware that when people are targeted, the first targets are the small ones.  You go after the most vulnerable when you target.  That's how it starts -- in any country around the world.  So, no, Karl Rove wouldn't be the first target, Rove's groups would be one of the last.  If she hadn't gotten so nuts, Naomi Wolf could explain that to Al in terms of open and closing societies.

As for his claim that it's not surprising, assassinations don't surprise me anymore but that doesn't make them any less outrageous.  Al needs to take his Too-Cool-For-The-Golden-Rule ass back to Mexico and write up some more of that reporting no one will ever read.

It is The Golden Rule.  If you wouldn't want to be treated by the government as they are treating someone else, then the actions are wrong.  It's been amazing to notice who stayed silent.  Law and Disorder Radio hasn't said a word (they weren't on WBAI Monday but they did have a weekly program for the other stations that broadcast them).  Three attorneys -- representing the National Lawyers Guild and the Center for Constitutional Rights and they couldn't say a word.  Not about AP and not about the IRS scandal.  US Socialist Worker's avoiding the topic too.  (But I do see an article I will link to -- first time in years -- Sharon Smith has an important article.  We've been too busy with other topics to weigh in here and since I know the subject, as disclosed before, it's been a 'am I enraged just because it's a friend being attacked, someone I've known she was a little girl, or is it also because of the offensive nonsense?'  That quandry hasn't stopped me from ensuring that the screenwriter who wrote the offensive nonsense about my friend has no American career.  I have contacted various friends at various studios and will continue to do so.  That screenwriter would be smart to return to England.)

On the IRS scandal, Zachary A. Goldfarb (Washington Post) reports, "This week, President Obama demanded the resignation of acting IRS commissioner Steven T. Miller, replacing him Thursday with budget official Daniel Werfel, a veteran of Republican and Democratic administrations. Also on Thursday, Joseph Grant, commissioner of the agency’s tax exempt/government entities divisions, announced that he would soon retire."   Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) offered the radio commentary "Obama's Bad Nixon Impersonation" yesterday -- from that:

He also needs to clean house at the IRS and fire the people responsible for the odious political witch hunt that was under way there against the Patriot groups, the underlying problem here is a lack of respect for Civil Liberties.  To reaffirm his respect for all our civil liberties, President Obama needs to come clean on the spying on Occupy protesters and not let Fusion Centers become centers for harassing political activists of all stripes.

That link is audio only; however, his "Runaway Executive Branch" radio commentary is also up in text here.   For the record, he is also calling out the targeting of the AP in those commentaries.  We covered yesterday's House Judiciary Committee hearing in yesterday's snapshot and "Eric Holder's childish tantrum," Marcia covered it with "The shameful Eric Holder," Kat with "Outstanding participant in the House Judiciary hearing?," Wally with "Competency tests for Congress? (Wally)" and Ava with "Biggest embarrassment at House Judiciary hearing."  From the hearing, this is a key exchange:

US House Rep David Scott: On the Internal Revenue situation, I think we can all agree that the published reports which suggest that IRS agents were denying people their proper consideration based on politics, that's the allegation.  I assume you haven't completed your investigation but I think there's bi-partisan agreement that you shouldn't be able to do that.  Now you've publicly said that you're having a criminal investigation.  There are obviously criminal laws against denial of Civil Rights under 1983.  There's also a specific IRS code that's says, "Any officer or employee of the United States acting in connection with any revenue law of the United States who with the intent to defeat the application of any provision of this title files to perform any of the duties of his office or employment" -- and then goes on to show that's -- if you violate that -- that's a five year felony. Are there any gaps in the criminal code that would make it difficult for you to pursue criminal sanctions if you find that IRS agents were denying benefits under the Internal Revenue Code based on politics?

Attorney General Eric Holder:  That actually is a good question and I'm not sure what the answer is.  I think the provisions that you have noted are the ones that we are looking at.  There are Civil Rights provisions, IRS provisions,  potentially The Hatch Act.  And I think we're going to have to get into the investigation before I can answer that question more intelligently.  But to the extent that there are enforcement gaps that we find, we will let this Committee know and hopefully work with this Committee to make sure that what happened and was outrageous -- as I've said -- and if we have to bring criminal actions so that that kind of action that kind of activity doesn't happen again.

US House Rep David Scott:  I understand that certain individuals in the IRS have apologized.  Does an apology immunize you from criminal prosecution?

Attorney General Eric Holder:  Uh, no.

An apology doesn't immunize you nor does being fired or quitting.  There's needs to be criminal prosecution for what took place. A simple slap on the wrist makes it that much easier for an IRS employee in the future to think he or she can get away with it.  There needs to be criminal prosecution because there are laws on the books and they are enforced for private citizens, they should be enforced for government workers.

Today on The Diane Rehm Show (first hour, NPR) Diane again mangled the discussion and declared, "But apparently, Republicans are not satisfied yet. They feel as though at least one of them said someone ought to go to jail."  US House Rep David Scott is a Democrat.  Diane really needs to research her topics and her guests need to stop being kind and correct her when she's wrong.   We don't make a point to note state or party i.d. here (in what I report) on Congressional hearings because we try to address the points and there's enough partisanship already out there.  How sad that Diane cannot speak to any issue without offering some idiotic, simplistic frame where everyone is either Democrat or Republican and all beliefs and statements must stem from that.

 Free Speech Radio News reported on the issue yesterday.

 Dorian Merina: A newly released Inspector General report from the Internal Revenue Service reveals the agency used “inappropriate criteria” when reviewing applications from political organizations applying to receive tax-exempt status. Both lawmakers and administration officials are condemning the revelations, but political watchdog organizations say many entities along the political spectrum do abuse their non-profit status and deserve scrutiny from the IRS. They’re calling on Congress to enact clearer laws regulating these so-called social welfare organizations, which are currently allowed to spend unlimited amounts to influence elections while keeping their donors’ identities secret. On Capitol Hill, FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has more.

Alice Ollstein: An Inspector General's investigation into the innerworkings of the federal tax enforcement agency says IRS staff flagged groups with Tea Party or Patriots in their name for additional questioning which delayed the process of their request for tax exempt status.  The report released Tuesday said the requests for information from many of these groups were burdsome and unnecessary and based in part on their criticisms of the government.  Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden who recently introduced a bill to reform fiscal spending said the revelations showed the IRS has too much discrection when it comes to enforcing tax laws.

Radio was where disgraced former US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill could be found today.  Over 16 minutes on NPR's Talk of the Nation.  If you thought Chris offered any 'talk of Iraq,' you don't know the idiot moron who did more to destroy Iraq -- and the Obama administration's goals -- than probably any American since 2009. A complete and utter disaster, Hill spent his time worrying that Gen Ray Odierno might be getting more media attention than he was.  He stomped his feet and had the White House order Odierno to stop talking to reporters.

Hill's pimping a bad column called "How To Talk To Monsters" -- hide under you desk?  That is what Hill did.  Chris Hill's fate in Iraq was sealed when he couldn't stop playing footsie with Nouri al-Maliki.  Odierno thought there was a chance the March 2010 elections would result in Nouri's State of Law losing the elections (which did happen) and therefore Nouri would not be the one named prime minister-designate by the Parliament.  He feared that if this happened, Nouri would refuse to step down (Odierno's near psychic!) and so he was arguing that a transitional government be put in place.  Hill assured the White House that he, a diplomat with a long history (and a really bad employment file), knew better than some general about politics.  Everything Odierno feared came to be.  And when that was unavoidable, that's when the White House began looking into Chris Hill's actions in Iraq (which, don't forget, included mocking the assassination of JFK by going to a Halloween party dressed as a Secret Service agent with a woman dressed as a bloodied Jackie Kennedy).  Hill's ignorance was evident at his March 25, 2009 confirmation hearing (see the March 25, 2009 and March 26, 2009 snapshots for coverage of that hearing).

That Chris Hill who left Iraq in disgrace, removed from his post by the administration, can be seen as an expert today on any topic is a puzzler.  Maybe we should all be grateful that the man who did so much damage to Iraq didn't speak about the country, maybe his silence was an actual blessing.

The Iraqi people see very little improvement in their daily lives from the Iraq War.  In most cases, things are worse.  Ten years after the illegal invasion, daily violence still haunts the country.  Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 256 violent deaths in Iraq through yesterday -- 38 deaths yesterday alone with Dar Addustour counting 12 bombings in BaghadAl Rafidayn reports that, as usual, Nouri immediately blamed the violence on 'Ba'athists.'  National Iraqi News Agency reports that Iraqiya MP Nada al-Jubouri is calling for an emergency session of Parliament to address yesterday's bombings, "These repeated security breaches came as a result of the lack of a way to detect car bombs, which claim the lives of people, in addition to the weakness of the intelligence information." 

Today National Iraqi News Agency reports a Mosul roadside bombing left two Iraqi soldiers injured, 2 Mosul car bombings have left six people injured, the brother of Iraqiya MP Ahmed Msari was shot dead in Baghdad, a Tikrit roadside bombing claimed the lives of 2 police officers and left a third injured,  a Mosul car bombing injured two police officers, another Mosul car bombing claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers and left three injured, Mosul security forces shot dead 1 suspect1 police officer was shot dead in Falluja,  and a car bomb went off in the Sadr City section of Baghdad. On the last one, Sinan Salaheddin (AP) reports that the Sadr City bombing resulted in 9 deaths ("including a 7-year old child") and sixteen injured while another Baghdad car bombing claimed the lives of 3 people with fourteen injured.  Prensa Latina adds, "Sources of the Ministry of the Interior reported two car bombs exploded almost at the same time near outdoor vegetable sale premises."

  Alsumaria reports a bombing targeting a Kirkuk funeral has claimed 4 lives and left twenty-five people injured.  Zhu Ningzhu (Xinhua) explains, "The suicide bomber entered the Al Zahraa mosque in Kirkuk, some 250 km north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, and then blew himself up, the police sources told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.Al Jazeera adds, "Relatives of victims from violence the day earlier had come to the husseiniyah to receive condolences. Bombings had killed 10 people and wounded 17 in the city on Wednesday."  Kareem Raheem, Mustafa Mahmoud, Suadad al-Salhy, Patrick Markey and Mark Heinrich (Reuters) note, "A Reuters witness said pieces of flesh and torn clothing lay scattered among pools of blood on the mosque floor."  In addition, Alsumaria report 1 corpse (shot dead) was found in Kirkuk.

The violence and other issues were raised today in the State Dept press briefing by State Dept spokesperson Jen Psaki.

QUESTION: Jennifer, I wondered if I could ask a question on Iraq.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Okay, if you would comment on the deteriorating situation, the spike in violence, the entry of PKK fighters in the north, and in fact, the very hostile rhetoric towards your guest, Erdogan, from Prime Minister Maliki.

MS. PSAKI: Well, broadly speaking, the risk of sectarian conflict is always a concern given Iraq’s history. We’ve seen, of course, the recent reports and we condemn the terrorist attacks perpetrated in Baghdad and the surrounding provinces. This deliberate targeting of innocent people and particular sects in an effort to sow instability and division is reprehensible and our condolences go out to the victims of these attacks and their families. More broadly speaking, we remain, of course, committed to supporting Iraq’s democratic system. We know that in this pivotal time, it’s going to take some time, but we’re always concerned about acts of violence and those reports that we’ve seen in recent days.

QUESTION: Okay. Mr. Maliki accused Mr. Erdogan of being party to – in aiding and abetting this sectarian schism that has taken place in Iraq. Is that something – an issue that the Secretary of State Kerry is likely to discuss --

MS. PSAKI: I have not seen --

QUESTION: -- with Mr. Erdogan?

MS. PSAKI: -- that specific report. I actually have to go shortly to go to this – to go to this bilateral meeting. More to say, I’m sure, on it tomorrow. So let me just take one more. 

Moving to the topic of Kirkuk, Shalaw Mohammed (Niqash) interviews Kirkuk Governor Najm al-Din Karim.  Excerpt.

NIQASH: You’re the governor of one of the most disputed territories in Iraq. By rights, Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution should have solved that dispute by now. But in fact, nothing has been done about it. What are your own thoughts on Article 140 now? Do you believe its dead in the water, so to speak?

Najm al-Din Karim: Article 140 is part of the Constitution and it will never die. The reason nothing has happened is because the Iraqi central government have not conducted a census or a referendum. And the Iraqi Kurdish are also partly at fault. I don’t think Iraqi Kurdish politicians in Baghdad are doing their best – they should be pushing for the implementation of Article 140.  

Before any of that happens though we should certainly meet with all parties and explain what’s happening – after all, Arabs and Turkmen make up about half of Kirkuk’s population. If it turns out that Kirkuk is to become part of [the semi-autonomous state of] Iraqi Kurdistan, and such a large number of its inhabitants are opposed to that annexation, then life in the city may never be normal.

Also, I think that setting a time limit for Article 140 was a mistake. The Iraqi Constitution was written in 2005 but it wasn’t logical to think that we would be able to normalize the situation in these areas within just two years. However that doesn’t mean we would give up on Article 140 altogether.

 Hawiji is in Kirkuk so let's turn to protests which have been taking place in Iraq since December 21st.  Nouri's response to demands for public services, an end to government corruption, releasing the innocent from prisons, etc. has mainly been to have his forces kill a protester here and a protester there.  He upped that last month with a mass killing.   The April 23rd massacre by Nouri's forces storming a sit-in in Hawija resulted in massive deaths and injuries.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP has been reporting 53 dead for several days now -- indicating that some of the wounded did not recover. UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

Ayad al-Tamimi (Al Mada) reports that MP Kamal Saadi (with Nouri's State of Law political slate) has lodged a complaint with the Human Rights Commission accusing the investigation of the massacre of being biased.  Meanwhile NINA reports Iraqiya MP Haider al-Mulla states that they have filed complaints about the massacre with the International Court of Justice, the Human Rights Commission and the United Nations.  Ali Abel  Sadah (Al-Monitor) reports:

 Nearly a month following the bloody events that took place in the town of Hawija, the Iraqi judiciary has decided to investigate the circumstances surrounding the events, just as it has adopted the Iraqi Council of Representatives’ report on the circumstances of the Iraqi army’s attack on the protest square in the city.
 The Iraqi general prosecution, which is a body of the Iraqi judicial authority, announced on May 13, 2013, the formation of an independent inquiry commission to look into the events of Hawija, and the transfer of the case to the Kirkuk province.

Not only is the court not qualified for such an investigation, there should be a huge outcry over the fact that while Iraqis in prison -- many without charges -- wait years for their day in court, the Baghdad judiciary thinks it has time to spare on an investigation?
Daod al-Ali (Niqash) reports a meet-up took place among protesters' representatives and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq:

The meeting, attended by NIQASH, seemed to calm the situation and although many called for al-Maliki to come to Ramadi to negotiate further, al-Mutlaq apparently convinced them this was impossible. Instead the protestors agreed to negotiate with a committee from Baghdad that would be headed by the Minister for Energy Hussein al-Shahristani, himself a leading Shiite Muslim politician.
Sunni Muslim cleric, Abdul Malek al-Saadi, who returned from Jordan to support the protestors and who was a figurehead for them, tried to advocate for peace too. He also demonstrated his potential influence with the protestors.

"I suggested the formation of a committee from among the protestors to negotiate with the government,” al-Saadi said in an emailed statement. “I was authorized by the protestors to do this. And I thank the protestors for their trust and wish them success.”

Al-Saadi called upon al-Maliki’s government “to form a committee and to give it the necessary powers to respond to the demonstrators’ demands without delay or procrastination”. He also advised anyone who spoke to the media to avoid “provocation and accusations against the demonstrators - and to abandon any behaviour that might incite hatred”.

Al-Saadi said he would reveal the names of those selected to negotiate in time for the first planned meeting with the government’s committee and he also suggested a meeting place: “The Askari shrine and mosque - peace be upon them - in Samarra because of the atmosphere of brotherhood, compassion and tolerance in these places”.
Apparently, the meet-up was another Saleh al-Mutlaq failure.  All Iraq News notes Nouri has imposed a curfew on Ramadi and Falluja.  Looking at the above, those aren't today's hot spots.  What's going on?  UPI explains:

Tribal forces in the Sunni-dominated province said they have an Iraqi military headquarters in Ramadi surrounded. They said they want Iraqi forces, alleged to have conducted raids on the community early Thursday, to leave immediately.
Sunni elder Ali Hatem al-Suleiman told CNN that tribal forces don't want to negotiate with the government after the latest raids.
"This is it. Enough is enough," he said. "We will attack every Iraqi army checkpoint in Anbar if they don't withdraw from Anbar province immediately."

In the US, four years and five days after a man killed 5 US service members -- Commander Charles K. Springle, Major Matthew P. Houseal, Staff Sergeant Christian E. Bueno-Galdos, Spc Jacob D. Barton and Pfc Micheal E. Yates Jr. -- in Iraq, he is sentenced.  Monday, Kim Murphy (Los Angeles Times) reported US Sgt John Russell had been declared guilty. Dropping back to the May 11, 2009 snapshot:

Today the US military announced a Camp Liberty shooting at 2:00 p.m. Iraq time in which five US service members were shot dead.  In a second announcement, they added, "A U.S. Soldier suspected of being involved with the shootings is currently in custody."  Luis Martinez and Martha Raddatz (ABC News) encourage people to watch ABC World News Tonight with Charles Gibson this evening for a report on the shooting.  Tom Leonard (Telegraph of London) states three more US soldiers were wounded in the shooting as does CNN; however, Jenny Booth (Times of London) goes with "at least two others were wounded" and she quotes Lt Tom Garnett (military spokesperson) stating, "The shooter is a US soldier and he is in custody."  CNN states the shooting took place at a clinic for US service members seeking assistance with stress.  Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) cites a US military official: "The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the incident shook up soldiers, many of whom are in their third and even fourth tours.  Some broke down in tears, he said."  Yochi J. Drezen (Wall St. Journal) draws the conclusion that many are drawing (and they may be right or they may be wrong) which is that it was likely fratricide, "Such crimes were more common during the Vietnam War, but have occurred only sporadically in Iraq. In 2003, Sgt. Hasan Akbar killed two soldiers and wounded 14 others in a grenade attack in Kuwait; he was convicted and sentenced to death. In 2006, Staff Sgt. Alberto Martinez was charged with murdering two officers in a suspicious explosion in Tikrit, though he was later acquitted. And last year, an American soldier was arrested in the shooting deaths of a pair of other soldiers at a base near the Iraqi city of Iskandariya."

Chelsea J. Carter (CNN) reports Russell has received a life sentence: "As part of the sentence, Russell was reduced in rank to a private and ordered dishonorably discharged from the Army, Maj. Barbara Junius, a military spokeswoman, said."  Eric M. Johnson (Reuters) quotes military Judge Col David Conn telling Russell today:

You are not a monster.  But you have knowingly and deliberately done incredibly monstrous things.
Sgt. Russell, you have forced many to drink from a bitter cup. That cup is now before you.

Adam Ashton (McClatchy Newspapers) notes that the judge found the killings were premeditated.

 Yesterday, Mike noted the wrongful distortions on ABC News' Jonathan Karl's earlier reporting and Mike noted a new report  Karl and Chris Goode did yesterday on the e-mails the White House released:

 The emails confirm the ABC News report that the so-called "talking points" written by the CIA on the attack underwent extensive revisions – 12 versions – and that substantial changes were made after the State Department expressed concerns.
The early versions of the talking points, drafted entirely by the CIA, included references to the al Qaeda affiliate Ansar al-Sharia and to previous CIA warnings about terror threats in Benghazi. State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland expressed concerns about including those references in the talking points.
In one email, previously reported by ABC News, Nuland said that including the CIA warnings "could be used by Members [of Congress] to beat the State Department for not paying attention to Agency warnings so why do we want to feed that? Concerned …"
After some changes were made, Nuland was still not satisfied.
"These don't resolve all my issues or those of my building leadership," Nuland wrote.

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