Saturday, April 28, 2012

Annie

"Annie."  My daughter wanted to watch it.  She saw the remake from the 90s, the TV movie with Kathy Bates, with one of her friends.

So we sat down to watch it and she was hating it.  If Carol Burnett hadn't played Miss Hannigan, we probably would have turned it off.  (I've seen the movie before.)  Carol kept her interested.

And soon she loved the movie.

But not at first. And that's my post tonight, my point is "Annie" has awful visuals including a lousy color scheme and bad color processing.

John Huston directed the film and I'm not pinning the blame on him.   I blame Richard Moore, the cinematographer.  He and Huston worked together on "The Life and Times of Judy Roy Bean."  But that was about a decade before.

And if they do anything else to the 80s film, it should be artificially work on the color.  The color buries that film.  It's harsh where it should be amusing, it's badly lit and the print looks dark throughout.

That's why "Annie" had its detractors fromd ay one.


"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, April 27, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue,  the prosecution says they don't have to establish that Bradley Manning's actions resulted in any harm to go after him, the political crisis continues in Iraq, a State of Law flunky disses Biden, and more.
 
Starting in the US where perceived whistle blower Bradley Manning and his defense have been in pre-court martial hearings this week.  The judge has issued a ruling.  AP reports Col Denise Lind announced yesterday that she would not toss "aiding the enemy" allegation the government has made against Bradley.
 
 
Monday April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." In March, 2011, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. The Article 32 hearing took place in December.  At the start of this year, there was an Article 32 hearing and, February 3rd, it was announced that the government would be moving forward with a court-martial.
 
Recent weeks have seen a flurry of pre-court-martial hearings.  Arun Rath (PBS' Frontline) explains, "Yesterday, Army Col. Denise Lind, the presiding judge in the court-martial of alleged WikiLeaker Bradley Manning, announced that his trial would begin on Sept 21.   After weighing arguments from the defense and prosecution, she also ruled that all 22 charges against Pfc. Manning would stand."  Larry Shaughnessy (CNN) adds:
 
Manning's attorney, David Coombs, argued that the charge should be dropped for two reasons. First, the prosecution failed to show intent in the way the charge is worded, he argued. Second, Coombs said, the charge is so vague and broad that it's unconstitutional.
Coombs argued the charge is "alarming in its scope." He told the judge that if he accepted the government's argument, "no soldier would ever be comfortable saying anything to any news reporter." Coombs said they could even be charged after posting something on a family member's Facebook page.
 
Trent Nouveau (TG Daily) notes that Maj Ashden Fein, prosecutor for the United States government, states that the government isn't required to prove that any damage took place, "Just because a damage assessment might say damage did occur or didn't occur, it's completely irrelevant to the charges.  That tomorrow's effect is somehow relevant to the charges on the crime sheet is irrelevant."
 
That's certainly a curious take on the law.  If there's no injury, what's the point? If Bradley Manning is guilty -- he's thus far entered no plea -- and there were huge damages, the judge would certainly be encouraged by the prosecution to keep that in mind.  The government has not only declared him guilty -- that includes US President Barack Obama who truly does not know the law if he thought pronouncing the accused guilty before a trial was how a president conducts themselves -- they've insisted repeatedly that tremendous damage was done.
 
Having used that to drive the press coverage, the government now wants to claim that the level of damage -- if any -- doesn't matter?  The court-martial has been set for September 21st.  The Center for Constitutional Rights  Michael Ratner retweets:
 
 
 
 
In Iraq, violence continues.  Erik West (Australian Eye) reports an Abu Garma home invasion in which 3 children (ages ten to fifteen) were shot dead along with their mother when a killer or killers broke into the home around three in the morning.
 
KUNA notes that Joe Biden, Vice President of the United States, met with Hussein al-Shahristani, deputy prime minister for energy, yesterday at the White House and that Biden "reaffirmed U.S. commitment to work with Iraqi leaders from across the spectrum to support the continued development of Iraq's energy sector."  While Joe was making nice, al-Shahristani was showing his ass.  Alister Bull (Reuters) explains, "A simmering dispute between Iraq's central government and the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan is an internal affair, a top Baghdad official said on Thursday, in an implicit rebuff of U.S. efforts to broker a compromise between the two sides."
 
Thursday Erbil witnessed what some news outlets are calling a historic moment.  Press TV reports on Moqtada al-Sadr's visit to the KRG  to meet with KRG President Massoud Barzani and the press conference Moqtada held in Erbil.  They quote him stating, "I came here to listen to their (Kurds') points of view (on issues related to Iraq's political situation).  In fact, I adovcate getting closer to the Iraqi people and protecting the Iraqi people before protecting our parties and blocs.  All sides have to pay attention to the public interest and the Iraqi people. The oil of Iraq is for the people and no one has the right to claim it for himself and exclude others. . . . Dialogue is the only solution to end former and current political disputes and all other issues."  Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) notes, "During talks with Kurdish President Massoud Barzani yesterday, Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr mandate insisted that there would be no support for an overthrow of the government, but he did suggest the possibility of not renewing Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's mandate as premier. Barzani and Sadr have both called Maliki a dictator in recent weeks, and the increasingly marginalized Sunnis mostly agree with them."  At Foreign Policy, journalist James Traub examines Nouri al-Maliki:
 
 
Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq, has a remarkable ability to make enemies. As Joost Hiltermann of the International Crisis Group puts it, "Personal relations between everyone and Maliki are terrible." This gift was vividly displayed in March, when the annual meeting of the Arab League was held in Baghdad. Although the event was meant to signal Iraq's re-emergence as a respectable country after decades of tyranny and bloodshed, leaders of 10 of the 22 states, including virtually the entire Gulf, refused to attend out of pique at Maliki's perceived hostility to Sunnis both at home and abroad, turning the summit into a vapid ritual. The only friend Iraq has left in the neighborhood is Shiite Iran, which seems intent on reducing its neighbor to a state of subservience.
 
[. . .]
But one can be agnostic about Maliki's motivations and still conclude that he is doing harm to Iraq's own interests. No sensible Iraqi leader would pick a fight with Turkey, as he has done. Back in January, when Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, suggested that Maliki should not be waging war against the Sunni opposition at home, Maliki accused Turkey of "unjustified interferences in Iraqi internal affairs," adding for good measure that Erdogan was seeking to restore Turkey's Ottoman hegemony over the region. This in turn led to another escalating round of insults and a mutual summoning of ambassadors.


Moqtada was attempting to address the ongoing political crisis. Briefly, March 2010 saw parlimentary elections.  State of Law (Nouri al-Maliki's slate) came in second to Iraqiya (led by Ayad Allawi).  Nouri did not want to honor the vote or the Constitution and refused to allow the process to move forward (selecting a new prime minister).  Parliament was unable to meet, nothing could take place.  This is Political Stalemate I and it lasted for over eight months.  In November 2010, Political Stalemate I finally ended.  What ended it?

The US-brokered Erbil Agreement.  This was a written document where everyone made concessions and everyone got something out of it.  Nouri got to be prime minister.  He was loving the Erbil Agreement then.  And as soon as he was named prime minister-designate, he began demonstrating he wouldn't honor the Erbil Agreement.  He had called for a referendum and census on Kirkuk for December 2010.  He was supposed to have done that by the end of 2007.  But he refused to even though Article 140 of the Constitution demanded it.  But as he was trying to get everyone to agree to the Erbil Agreement, he was trying to appear resonable and scheduled the referendum and census.  After being named prime minister desisngate, he called off the census and referndum.  It's still not taken place all this time later.  He was also fully on board with the idea of an independent national security commission and it being headed by Ayad Allawi.  But then he got named prime minister-deisgnate and suddenly that was something that couldn't be created overnight but would take time.  17 months later, it's still not happened.


Nouri used the Erbil Agreement to get a second term as prime minister and then trashed the agreement.  He used everyone's concession to him but refused to honor his concessions to them.
This is Political Stalemate II, the ongoing political crisis in Iraq and, no, the political crisis in Iraq did not start December 19th or 21st as Nouri went after political rivals from Iraqiya (Iraqiya came in first in the 2010 elections).  From Marina Ottaway and Danial Kaysi's [PDF format warning] "The State Of Iraq"  (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace):
 

 
Within days of the official ceremonies marking the end of the U.S. mission in Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki moved to indict Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi on terrorism charges and sought to remove Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq from his position, triggering a major political crisis that fully revealed Iraq as an unstable, undemocractic country governed by raw competition for power and barely affected by institutional arrangements.  Large-scale violence immediately flared up again, with a series of terrorist attacks against mostly Shi'i targets reminiscent of the worst days of 2006.
But there is more to the crisis than an escalation of violence.  The tenuous political agreement among parties and factions reached at the end of 2010 has collapsed.  The government of national unity has stopped functioning, and provinces that want to become regions with autonomous power comparable to Kurdistan's are putting increasing pressure on the central government.  Unless a new political agreement is reached soon, Iraq may plunge into civil war or split apart. 

 
Kitabat reports Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani declared today in Karbala that the Erbil Agreement should be published.  The Ayatollah noted that there are disputes about whether or not it was implemented.  He says the way to end the dispute is to publish the agreement and that the people can then decide for themselves whether the agreement was carried out, whether or not it was Constitutional*, whether or not it represented the best interests of Iraq.  The agreement and the Constitution? There's nothing in the Constitution that allows for the Erbil Agreement.  There's also nothing in the Constitution that bars the Erbil Agreement.  The White House and the State Dept examined that at length before it was put into writing.  They brokered the agreement and did so to end the eight-month-plus gridlock (Political Stalemate I).  The agreement is clearly extra-constitutional and we warned about that in real time.  But it is not forbidden by the Constitution.  After getting what he wanted from the agreement, Nouri and his lackeys began to insist that it couldn't be honored because it was unconstitutional.  It's not.  If it is unconstitutional then the Parliament needs to vote on a PM because they haven't freely done that, they've allowed Nouri to become prime minister-designate (and then prime minister) in spite of the Constitution.  An argument can be made that the only known aspect of the Erbil Agreement that might be unconstitutional would be Nouri being PM since the Constitution is specific on how you become prime minister designate (Nouri didn't meet those qualifications and he knows it, that's why he implemented the eight month stalemate) and since it is specific on how you then move to prime minister. 

For those who've forgotten, a prime minster-designate is judged to be competent to be prime minister by forming a Cabinet in 30 days.  That is nominating the people and get the Parliament to vote on each one.  A Cabinet is a Cabinet.  The Constitution doesn't allow for half Cabinets or partials.  Nouri was unable to name a full Cabinet in 30 days (actually more than 30 -- as usual Jalal Talabani broke the Constitution for Nouri thereby allowing him more than 30 days).  The Constitution is clear that if you do not form a Cabinet in 30 days, a new person is picked to be prime minister-designate.

Nouri failed.  Among the posts empty when he was wrongly and unconstitutionally moved to prime minister were all three of the security posts.  He had no Minister of the Interior, no Minister of Defense and no Minister of Natioanl Security. 

For those who want to claim that a full Cabinet wasn't what was intended, that's a flat out lie.  The Constitutionw as written in 2005, not 80 years ago, not 100.  There is only one requirement to move from prime minister-designate to prime minister: building your Cabinet.

And for those who still can't grasp that this means every seat, every post, then at least have the brains -- if not the integrity -- to grasp that there is no way in hell that the Constitution ever intended for Minister of the Defense (army) or Minister of Interior (police) to be empty posts.


When Nouri refused to announce them in December 2010, "critics" (so labeled by the press) turned out to be prophets.  They stated that Nouri wouldn't fill them in the next few weeks (as the press claimed), they siad it was a power grab.  All this time later, these posts are still not filled.

Which is why Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com), reporting on Moqtada's visit to Erbil, observes, "Removing Maliki could be harder than it seems, however, as he is not only the prime minister but the acting Interior Minister, Defense Minister, National Security Minister and chief of military staff. This gives him de facto control over the entire national army and police force."
 
Massoud Barzani has stated that a solution must be arrived at by the start of September (or the Kurds may include choices on the ballots of their provincial elections).  Barzani, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi are calling for a national conference to address the political crisis.  Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi tells AFP, "We could enjoy a prime minister from the Shiite national alliance on the ground that he is committed to power sharing ... and he keeps all Iraqis equally according to the constitution.  This is all what we are dreaming, this is all what we are looking for."
 
 
 
Turning to the United States . . .
 
Senator Jon Tester: There is a stigma in this country -- and probably in the world
 -- but definitely in America, in the United States, attached to mental health
issues -- injuires.  There are  -- I have multiple stories about folks who won't
go get treatment because they're afraid it wll be on their record,  of afraid they
won't be able to get a job, afraid it might impact the job they do have,
perception by family, friends, colleagues.  Does the VA have an active education
pogram to try to reach out to those folks,  to let them now that this part of --
this is -- as Major General [Thomas S.]  Jones says, it's increasing, it's present,
it's growing and it's not uncommon. Is there -- Is there some kind of education or
outreach going on?
 
William Schoenhard: Yeah.  Yes, Senator.  There's Make The Connection
Initiative that has just been undertaken. I think it gets back to the primary
care integration of mental health where we're able to screen for PTSD.  And
the other aspect of care that we haven't mentioned today is the vet centers --
 
Senator Jon Tester: Yes.
 
William Scoenhard:  -- who are also ways veterans can approach for help if they
have -- for whatever reasons -- reluctance to access the traditional system.
 
That's from Wednesday's Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.  Appearing before the Committee was the Dept of Veterans Affairs' William Schoenhard and Mary Schoh, Iraq War veteran Nick Tolentino who testified about what he observed while working for the VA, Outdoor Odyssey's retired Major General Thomas Jones and VA's Office of Inspector General was represented by Linda Halliday and John Diagh.  Four senators participated including Committee Chair Patty Murray, acting Ranking Member Scott Brown, Senator Jon Tester and Senator Jerry Moran.  What was the hearing about?
 
 
Chair Patty Murray: Today's hearing builds upon two hearings held last year.  At each of the previous hearings, the Committee heard from the VA how accessible mental health care services were.  This was inconsistent with what we heard from veterans and the VA mental health care providers.  So last year, following the July hearing, I asked the Department to survey its own health care providers to get a better assessment of the situation.  The results as we all now know were less than satisfactory.  Among the findings, we learned that nearly 40% of the providers surveyed could not schedule an appointment in their own clinic for a new patient within the 14 days. Over 40% could not schedule an established patient within 14 days of their desired appointment.  And 70% reported inadequate staffing or space to meet the mental health care needs.  The second hearing, held in November, looked at the discrepancy between what the VA was telling us and what the providers were saying.  We heard from a VA provider and other experts about the critical importance of access to the right type of care delivered timely by qualified mental health professionals.  At last November's hearing, I announced that I would be asking VA's Office of Inspector General to investigate the true availability of mental health care services at VA facilities. I want to thank the IG for their tremendous efforts in addressing such an enormous request.  The findings of this first phase of the investigation are at once substantial and troubling.  We have heard frequently about how long it takes for veterans to get into treatment and I'm glad the IG has brought those concerns to light.
 
If there's any confusion, McClatchy Newspapers are featuring an editorial by the editorial board of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (one  of the newspapers McClatchy owns).  It notes the VA problems that were addressed in the hearing. Excerpt:


Even though the Veterans Health Administration reported in 2011 that 95 percent of veterans received a comprehensive mental exam within 14 days of requesting one (the time frame in agency policy), the actual number was 49 percent, the inspector general reported this week. It took an average of 50 days to provide a full evaluation for the rest, the report said.
"VHA does not have a reliable and accurate method of determining whether they are providing patients timely access to mental health care services," the inspector general said.
Part of the problem is with the way records are kept: Schedulers don't always follow the rules, and the lag between referral by a primary care physician and the evaluation might not be reflected properly.
Part of the problem is a shortage of personnel, particularly psychiatrists. Officials knew the data-keeping was problematic; the inspector general pointed it out in reports in 2005 and 2007.
They also knew of the growing staffing needs and, in fact, increased personnel 46 percent from 2005 to 2010, the report said. But in an informal survey of VA mental-health professionals, requested by Congress, 71 percent of those responding said their centers didn't have enough people to keep up. A veteran seeking treatment at the VA medical center in Salisbury, N.C., for instance, had to wait 86 days to see a psychiatrist, the IG said.
 
We covered the hearing in Wednesday's snapshot.  Kat offered her take and conclusions in "Fire everyone at the VA."    Ava covered it at  Trina's site with "Scott Brown: It's clearly not working (Ava)" and what she emphasized was the exchange between Brown and Schoenhard with Brown growing more and more irritated at Schoenhard who did not want to answer questions and did not want to own the problem.  From Ava's report, this is when Brown tried to get answers as to why there were delays in care but referrals outside the VA were not being utilized.
 
 
Again, it had long ago been established that only 2% had been referred out last year.  But Schoenhard wanted to insist on top of the referral issue that the VA was providing veterans with immediate care.

Before we go further, grasp that the IG report already demonstrated that Schoenhard's claim was false.  Grasp that.



Senator Scott Brown: But they're not.  But they're not.


William Schoenhard:  They should be.


Senator Scott Brown: But they're not. But they're not!


William Schoenhard:  We have an obligation to be sure that they are.



Senator Scott Brown:  But they're not!


Then Schoenhard wanted to argue that the VA can provide the best care.

Brown responded, "Sir, with all due respect, that's not happening. That's why we're here.  It's clearly not working."



 Wally covered the hearing at  Rebecca's site with "VA paid out nearly $200 million in bonuses last year (Wally)" and he emphasized Brown's shock over the vast amount of money VA's paying out in bonuses.  Excerpt.
 
 
Brown's other big issue was that the country's in a fiscal nightmare.  And yet the VA -- which has had one scandal after another -- is handing out bonuses.
There's been the failure to send out the GI Bill checks.  There's the alarming suicide rate of veterans.  There's lying about the time wait for appointments.  We could go on and on.  So the point is, bonuses are being handed out.
You might not think it's a big deal.  Do you know how much the VA gave out last year in bonuses?
Remember this is on top of the salary and wages they paid.  In 2011, Brown noted that the VA paid out $194 million in bonuses.  Nearly $200 million dollars.  Brown asked what the average salary was for someone receiving a bonus and the VA's William Schoenhard wanted to take that for the record.
On top of that, Schoenhard felt the VA deserved credit for keeping the number so low.  Brown was shocked and asked if Schoenhard was saying that in years prior to 2011 over $200 million was paid in bonuses?  Yep.
 
 
Again, only four Committee members were present.  Moran used his time mainly, as he noted, to allow someone to talk about a program that was working -- a non-VA program. Since I didn't note Moran Wednesday, we're going to include a little of  that today.
 
 
Senator Jerry Moran:  Part of my interest in this topic is coming from a state as rural as Kansas in which our access to mental health professionals is perhaps even more limited than more urban and suburban states.  And we need to take advantage of the wide array of professional services that are available at every opportunity.  And so I'm here to encourage you -- now that you've made that announcement, let's bring it to fruition. And thank you for reaching the conclusion and getting us to this point.  I want to direct my question to General Jones. I thank you very much for your Semper Fi Odyssey efforts. I had a Kansan visit with me in the last month who has organized a program -- I don't know whether it's modeled after what you're doing -- it's the same kind of focus and effort.  And it's somewhat related to the conversations and questions of Senator Tester about the stigma or lack of willingness to admit that one needs help, the lack of knowledge of what programs are available, how to connect the veteran with what's there.  I wanted to give you the opportunity to educate me and perhaps others on what it is that you've been able to do to bring that veteran who is not likely to know of the existence of your program or programs like yours.  And, secondly, what can be done to overcome the reluctance of military men and women and veterans to access what is available -- such as your program.
 
Major General Thomas Jones:  Thank you, sir.  Well first off, I think that the Semper Fi Fund that I've been a board member of is --  provides the ability for these veterans to come. Admittedly, most of the veterans that come back to the case workers of Sempre Fi Fund have some problems or they wouldn't be there. I mean, they've had a difficult time making the transition. So when they arrive in western Pennsylvania for one of the weeklong sessions, they arrive with a major degree of skepticism and very tentative and we try to restore them to what was really the strength of their experience in the Marine Corps: the team, the cohesion, team building and basially restoring their trust.  I would say -- trust in the system and trust in others.  I think my work through the Semper Fi Odyssey because of the mental health professionals that have come in and really bought into the program and really advertised the program and allowed me to speak to other groups led me to a project I'm doing with the Institute of Defense Analysis, sponsored by OSD, that looks at best practices.  So, you know, I was a Marine for a long time, we never talked much about mental health issues until recently.  As a Vietnam platoon commander, we never talked about it.  But now there are programs in the Marine Corps and I would say the army too -- Comprehensive Soldier Fitness in the army; Marine Corps' program is Operational Stress Control and Readiness.  It's a great program. But it's not easy to overcome the stigma and the program really rests on the strength of the NCO. No Major General's going to ride into  a Marine Corps squad or platoon or company and build immediate trust.  It's going to come from the NCO. So overcoming that skepticism, that chasm of trust, is difficult but it's happening -- especially those units that have deployed four and five times, young NCOs, young officers are seeing the power of what a squad leader or a platoon commander can do to identify problems when they're still in the category of combat stress injuries and haven't migrated to combat stress illnesses. I think that's the strength of the Marine Corps program. I think the problem -- this is only my opinion now -- of the army program is that it's very well built, the application is not focused on the young NCO as is the Marine Corps program. And I don't say it because I'm a Marine.  I just sense that the NCO identifying in Iraq or Afghanistan, if there's a problem, you can start the dialogue right then, you can start the reconciliation process right then.  You don't have to wait six months after he returns and he's got this problem in his mental wall locker and he pulls out then when he's by himself. So we try to restore and very successfuly restore because all these veterans have come in and actually volunteered their services. 
 
 
So in one form or another, the above and the work by Kat, Ava, Wally and the Wednesday snapshot have covered the bulk of the points raised in the hearing. 
 
On the topic of helping veterans, Tuesday Iraq War veteran Jason Moon will take part in a fundraiser for Soldier's Heart at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 246 S. Church St., Grass Valley, California.  The event, which kicks off at 6:00 pm,  is open to the public and free but there is a suggested donation rate of $10.
 
 
The things that I have done that I regret
The things I seen, I won't forget
For this life and so many more
And I'm trying to find my way home
Child inside me is long dead and gone
Somewhere between lost and alone
Trying to find my way home
-- "Trying To Find My Way Home," written by Jason Moon, from Moon's latest album Trying To Find My Way Home

Iraq War veteran Rick Collier (with No Soldier Left Behind) shares his PTSD story at The Oregonian.  Excerpt:


My time in country left me with traumas and exposures no human should see or be a part of. It also created an environment in which hazing and death threats were part of my ritual coming from my NCO. Without knowing it, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) soon became my reality and at 18 I started to lose control of my life.
Shortly after my return my best friend Daniel Parker died in Iraq. I was the lead pallbearer for his military funeral. After losing Daniel, I felt I lost everything. I struggled with lack of family and support upon my return and found Daniel's death, combined with my PTSD, set me over the edge.
I tried getting help from my command. I spoke with my NCOs in charge and even a Sgt from another platoon. I couldn't take the harassment from my NCO both in country and at home, topped with PTSD and the loss of my best friend. With lack of help I began to drink and numb my pain. My suicidal ideation grew and I began to lose sight of who I was. I ended up going UA (unauthorized absence) with suicide in mind.
When I was brought back to base by Marine Corps Chasers I soon found myself in the brig again with no help from my command. I was left to deal with PTSD in a cell, like a POW. After a couple months in the brig I was court martialed and given a Bad Conduct Discharge. All I needed was help, I never wanted out.
After being discharged, I was released from duty and sent on my way. Here I was a combat vet, a kid, just left out on the street to fend for myself. Not once did I get mental health treatment. It took me two years after my discharge to finally figure out I had PTSD. It took me doing my own research, trying to help myself, to put all the pieces together from symptoms I was showing. It hurt having to do it alone.

And then Collier got help, right?  Wrong.  That's when he begins a long struggle to get the treatment he needs.  That involved the VA, getting a discharge upgrade and much more.  His experience and wanting to assist in others in the same situation led to his founding No Soldier Left Behind
 
 
 We'll close with this from the Feminist Majority Foundation:
 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
 
April 27, 2012
 
Contact: Hannah Gordon, 703-522-2214, media@feminist.org
 
Feminist Majority Board Member Dolores Huerta to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom
 
 
Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal, Executive Vice President Kathy Spillar, and Chair of the Board Peg Yorkin issued the following joint statement on the announcement that Board Member Dolores Huerta will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom:
The Feminist Majority Foundation and its board salutes our colleague and friend Dolores Huerta for all of her historic achievements for social justice and equality. We are very proud that she will be awarded by President Barack Obama the highest civilian award.

In response to the announcement, Chair of the Board Peg Yorkin said, "No one deserves this honor more than Dolores Huerta. She has worked tirelessly on behalf of those who work the farm fields of this country and has been an incredible advocate for women and girls' empowerment."

President Eleanor Smeal said, "For some 25 years, we have worked very closely with Dolores Huerta in our fight for women's equality, civil rights, and worker's rights. Dolores is an inspiration to all of us at all times. She is dedicated to win equality for women in the state house and Congress and she has significantly increased the number of Latina women running for office."

Executive Vice President Kathy Spillar praised Dolores' work, saying, "It has been my great honor to work with Dolores for nearly 25 years to empower women and girls and secure our fundamental rights. I have learned enormously through her example. Despite the hardship she has seen and the difficulties she has endured, she is the single most optimistic person I have ever known. There is nothing that can't be done when Dolores Huerta is involved."
 
 
 
pbs

Thursday, April 26, 2012

It's also the cult

Thank you to Ruth for filling in last night.  I hope you enjoyed her "Cougar Town" -- I did and I also enjoyed the night off.

"Mitt Romney And The New Fair Deal" (Hillary Is 44):
Harry Truman. This year was supposed to be the year Barack Obama switched persona, again. No longer the great and wise Abraham Lincoln (and extravagantly gaudy Mary Todd’s spouse), Barack Obama was to refashion himself into give ‘em Hell Harry Truman (Michelle presumably sewing the sleeves back on her frocks to assume the role of modest Bess). Barack Obama was to abandon his celebrity sports friends in order to troll the streets of the nation at taxpayer expense damning the “do nothing Congress” and demanding “fairness”.
The fly in the ointment, the flaw in that notion, is that Harry Truman campaigned for popular New Deal programs. Obama has only Obaminations hated by the oppressed populace to offer. How to campaign against a “do nothing Congress” when the American people would have the Congress “do nothing” rather than legislate hated diktats?
But on “fairness” Obama was to be the head Occupy Wall Streeter occupying the White House (even though his coronation would be held at Bank of America stadium). Obamas were to parade like subsidized Colombian street walkers, on the taxpayer dime, shouting “FAIRNESS” while fist-bumping the unemployed peeps.
Michelle grudgingly agreed to her temporary supporting role. Usually dressed in garish outfits more appropriate to a drag queen remake of Queen of Outer Space (”I hate zat qveen“) Michelle Obama is now frequently the homespun “folksy” girl (”It could all come down to those few thousand folks we need to help to get to the polls…”). Michelle won’t give up those free vacations without a fight even if she has to lose her glue-on nails in the struggle.
Barack bowed to sacrifice as well. Slumming into dive bars to hang with the homies Barack suffered yogurt showers and foul breaths. The unfairness of it all – having to campaign again instead of just a shout of acclamation ‘midst Grecian columns. To Barack that is the real “unfairness”. But Barack still agreed to talk about the unfairness suffered by those other than himself. And that was to be the campaign theme. That was to be the message. But an odd thing happened….

I'm supporting Jill Stein.  (Green Party.)

I don't know how anyone can vote for Barack.

Not with his awful record.  So many Americans are jobless. 

And he's doing the drone war and spying on American citizens.  I just don't see how or why people are doing this.

In four years, he has become everything he campaigned against.

He was probably always that way.

But he's demonstrated it in the last four years.

And his little Cult ignores it and lies and they're just so awful.  I made the mistake of reading comments at Huffington Post and I was surprised to be surprised by how hateful the comments were about everyone that didn't tremble and orgasm at the thought of Barack.

As much as I want to see him out of the White Hosue, even more I want to see his awful Cult go down as well.


"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Thursday, April 26, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue,  Moqtada meets up with Massoud Barzani in the KRG, State of Law whispers to the press, the White House points a finger but fails to realize four point back to them, and more.
 
Starting with violence, Al Rafidayn notes 3 car bombs were discovered in Anbar Province (before they went off) and the Ramadi home of a police officer was blown up and 1 corpse (Iraq soldier -- shot dead and tossed in the river) was discovered in Diyala  Province.  On Diyala, RIA Novosti notes a suicice car bombing there today.  BBC News adds that it was a suicide car bombing followed by a cafe bombing.  Reuters counts 10 dead and eighteen injured.  Mohammed Lazim (CNN) reports Baghdad also saw twin bombings -- a car bombing in the al-Hurriya district and another bombing in Sadr City. Raheem Salman (Reuters) counts 5 dead and twenty-seven injured in the Baghdad bombings.  Violence in Iraq has risen sharply since the 2003 invasion.  (Yeah, that's the way AFP and the others should report it instead of their embarrassing clowning where they use 2006 as a 'base year' for everything in Iraq.) And  Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts 10 dead yesterday and seventeen injured.
 
We noted an important column by Joel Wing about nine days ago and were going to note it as the month drew to a close with the hopes that some outlets would actually pay attention to the topic.  I hadn't planned for us to do that today but we'll jump the gun on it due to another article.  First, the coverage -- the lack of coverage -- of violence in Iraq is ridiculous.  Reuters, of course, dropped their "Factbox" which was one of the few things that covered daily violence -- McClatchy long ago dropped their daily roundup of violence.  With most western outlets no longer covering violence unless at least 20 die in one day, the false impression that violence disappeared in Iraq takes hold.  Reality is further threatened by a lazy press which has never kept their own numbers for Iraqi dead but now just pander to Nouri al-Maliki and cite his and only his figures.  It's in Nouri's interest to lie and pretend violence is dropping, dropping, almost gone.  As we've noted repeatedly in the last months, the 'official figures' don't even meet the totals of Iraq Body Count.  And for the bulk of the Iraq War, the press went with Iraq Body Count's numbers.  Now they won't even acknowledge those numbers because it might make Nouri look bad.  You've got a press corps that has bowed and scraped to Nouri in a way that makes CNN's overtures to Saddam Hussein under Eason Jordan look like nothing more than professional courtesy.  Credit to Joel Wing for his column on the issue of the dead and the way their being counted.  Excerpt.
 

In February 2012, the Iraqi government released its official figures for casualties from April 2004 to the end of 2011. It had over 69,000 deaths for that time period. That count was 30,000 less than other organizations that keep track of violence in Iraq. During the height of the civil war, the country's ministries' numbers were comparable to other groups, but since 2011 they have consistently been the lowest. While some Iraqi politicians have claimed that the official counts miss many deaths, it could also be argued that the statistics are being politicized by the prime minister who controls all of the security ministries.
On February 29, 2012, Iraqi government spokesman Ali Dabbagh announced the government's numbers for deaths in the country. He said that from April 5, 2004 to December 31, 2011 69,263 Iraqis were killed. 239,133 were also wounded. The deadliest year was 2006 when there were 21,539 dead, and 39,329 wounded. 2011 was the least violent with only 2,777 casualties. Of the nation's eighteen provinces, Baghdad was the deadliest with 23,898 dead for the reported time period, followed by Diyala, Anbar, and Ninewa. Muthanna in the south was the safest with only 94 killed over the seven years covered. A member of parliament's human rights committee immediately criticized the report. The deputy claimed that there were thousands of people who disappeared during the civil war that were never counted. He also said that out in the countryside, reporting to the ministries was poor. No numbers on violence in Iraq can be anywhere near complete. During the civil war from 2005-2008 there were sections of the country that were too dangerous to enter and do any serious reporting. Some insurgent groups also buried their victims. The problem with the ministries numbers however are that they are so far below other organizations that keep track of violence in Iraq, which was not always true.
 
Read the column in full.  But with that in mind, see if you can spot the problem in the following passage by Robert Tollast from an interview with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (again, the passage below is writtne by Tollast):
 
In March 2006 for example, an estimated 1500 people died a violent death in Baghdad according to Iraq Body Count, and that was not the capital's worst month. In sharp contrast, official figures show a civilian death toll of 112 across all of Iraq for March 2012.
 
 
Did you catch the problem?  In 2006, X is the figure and Iraq Body Count is the source.  Last March, Z is the number of deaths but they're using "official figures," not IBC.  That's what they call comparing apples and oranges.  112 people died in Iraq last month?
 
No.  That's not what Iraq Body Count found.  They found 295 deaths in the month of March.  We used a screen snap of their monthly total in this earlier editorial for Third Estate Sunday Review. Right now -- with no addition of today's deaths, they're counting 250 dead so far this month in Iraq.  Will the press note this when they cover deaths in their monthly look back?  If the new pattern holds, they'll ignore Iraq Body Count.  And continue to pretend that reporting the tallies released by an interested party as if (a) they're objective and (b) the only tallies that exist.
 
On the topic of violence, Robert Tollast did explore the targeting of Iraqi youth -- Emos and LGBTs and those suspected of being either with Michael Knights:
 
RT: This month we have seen a disturbing spike in violence against young Iraqis who are guilty of nothing more than sporting western style fashions, which the Iraqis have dubbed "emo" (after the American music genre.) They are only the latest group to be targeted by religious extremists, alongside barbers deemed un-Islamic and homosexuals. Iraqi religious leaders have been united in condemning attacks against "emos" notably al-Sadr and Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali al-Sistani. The violence is also specific to Iraq, since these fashions are banned in Iran, but were briefly popular and not punishable by death. There is clearly a new generation in Iraq who are desperate to move on from war and oppression, and they are being targeted by men who are simply after the next person to kill, now that their local Sunnis have fled and the US has departed. Perhaps this is what the reconciliation of groups like Asaib ahl-Haq will look like: they will always find something to violently resist. Can the Iraqi government reasonably expect to rehabilitate groups like AAH, who could well be behind a lot of these killings?     MK: Anyone familiar with the "loss" of Basrah to the militias in 2006-2007 will shudder to see the same trends writ large across Baghdad and southern Iraq. In Basrah, the first targets for the Shiite vigilantes were the alcohol vendors, the music shops and eventually the university campuses. Some horrific things happened back then and this most recent set of attacks on youth is a reminder that religious vigilantes remain a major threat to personal security and liberty in Iraq. Back in 2006-2007 in Basrah, the British effectively surrendered the city to the vigilantes; now groups like AAH have greater license to operate because they are starting to side with the government in national politics.
The lesson from Basrah is that the militias do not stop after they target the minorities and niche groups: they keep pushing until they begin to rival the government and threaten the public perception of the government's "monopoly of force." When that day comes, the government is forced to smash the militants back down to their roots again, as occurred in Basrah and Baghdad in 2008. Getting back to your question, it is clear that reconciliation efforts should, as a prerequisite, only involve movements that have frozen their involvement in violence. AAH has never fully recanted violence: even when the United States was seeking to de-militarize AAH, the movement would not agree to any of the preconditions that other insurgent groups accepted (providing an oath to renounce violence, surrendering biometric data, etc.). Building up AAH -- which is the real Iraqi counterpart to Lebanese Hezbollah, unlike Moqtada's scattered followers -- is a dangerous game for any government to play.
 
By the way, if you're in Boston tomorrow (we will be but not in the afternoon), Boston University is hosting a panel on Iraq and Afganistan moderated by BU professor John Carroll with the following panelists: professor Andrew J. Bacevich, the Boston Globe's David Greenway, former US Ambassador Peter Galbraith and retired General David McKiernan.  Details are here and the 1:00 pm event is free and open to the public.  Early on the Boston Globe covered Iraq itself (instead of reprinting articles by their corporate owners the New York Times).  Back when they were covering Iraq, Elizabeth Neuffer was their correspondent.  She died May 9, 2003 in a car accident outside Samarra. Since her death, the International Women's Media Foundations has annually awarded the Elizabeth Neuffer fellowship. The most recent journalist honored with the fellowship is Ugrandan reporter Jackee Budesta Batanda who has covered acid attacks on women in Uganda among other topics.  IWMF notes of the fellowship:
 
One woman journalist will be selected to spend seven months in a tailored program with access to MIT's Center for International Studies as well as media outlets including The Boston Globe and The New York Times.  The flexible structure of the program will provide the fellow with opportunities to pursue academic research and hone her reporting skills covering topics related to human rights.
The Elizabeth Neuffer Fellowship is open to women journalists whose focus is human rights and social justice.  Applicants must be dedicated to a career in journalism in print, broadcast or online media and show a strong commitment to sharing knowledge and skills with colleagues upon completion of the fellowship.  Excellent written and spoken English skills are required.  A stipend will be provided, and expenses, including airfare and housing, will be covered.
 
For the next honoree, applications are currently being accepted and will be through April 30th -- May 1st will be too late.  If you're interested in applying, you can click here for more information.  In addition, next week, May 3rd, IWMF will announce their winners of the 2012 Courage in Journalism Award and Lifetime Achievement Award.  We will be including that whether it involves Iraq journalism or Iraqi journalism or not.  A friend with IWMF feels that last year's winners did not get coverage from the bulk of the press.  (We didn't cover it here at all, I'll freely admit.  But she's talking about the press, not about this site.)  I told her last night I'd do what I could offline as well as mention it here.
 
Back to Iraq, the political crisis continues.  Al Rafidayn reported this morning that Moqtada al-Sadr would be visiting KRG President Massoud Barzani today to discuss the crisis   Earlier, Aswat al-Iraq reported Barzani had invited Moqtada to a May 7th meet-up in Erbil to address the political crisis.  Today AFP quotes the Sadr bloc's Salah al-Obeidi stating, "The crisis needs such a move to resolve the situation.  The Sayyed is trying to put Al-Ahrar [his parlimenatry bloc] and himself personally in the middle." Lara Jakes (AP) reports on a "45 minute interview" with Barzani in which he calls out the ongoing crisis and states, "What threatens the unity of Iraq is dictatorship and authoritarian rule. If Iraq heads toward a democratic state, then there will be no trouble.  But if Iraq heads toward a dictatorial state, then we will not be able to live with dictatorship."  A longer version of Lara Jakes' report can be found at Lebanon's Daily Star.  In the interview, Barzanai says that September needs to be agreed to as the time by which the political crisis must be solved and, if not, breaking with Baghdad may be put on the KRG ballot.

The KRG is supposed to hold provincial elections September 12th.  They do their provincial elections differently than the rest of Iraq.  Not just because they're semi-autonomous but also because when the KRG says they're holding elections, they do so.  The 2010 parliamentary elections across Iraq were supposed to have been held in 2009.  But Nouri and company couldn't get it together to pass an election law.  The 2010 elections led to eight months of political stalemate as Nouri refused to relinquish the post of prime minister even those his State of Law came in second.  In November 2010, Political Stalemate I was ended when the US-brokered Erbil Agreement was signed off on by all the parties.  This was a series of concessions.  Nouri, for example, conceeded to allow Ayad Allawi (of Iraqiya which came in first in the elections) to head an independent security council and to hold the census and referndum in Kirkuk that the Iraqi Constitution demands he hold.  He had to make other concessions (on paper) but those were among the biggies.  In exchange, the other parties agreed to allow Nouri a second term as prime minister.  Nouri used the Erbil Agreement to get that second term and then (Decemeber 2010, one month later) trashed the agreement, refusing to honor his promises to the other political blocs.  That's what started Political Stalemate II, the ongoing crisis.  Since last summer, Iraqiya, the Kurds, ISCI and the Sadr bloc have called for a return to the Erbil Agreement and for it to be fully implemented.  Yesterday, Margret Griffis (Antiwar.com) reported, "Separately, the Iraqi Accord Front, which is a member of the Iraqiya bloc, complained that Maliki has ignored the Arbil Agreement that he accepted in order to retain the premiership for a second term. Barzani was instrumental in the creation of the agreement after 2010 elections failed to produce an uncontested winner. A spokesman for the front said if they agreement is not fulfilled, they would withdraw confidence from Maliki."  Alsumaria reports that Barzani has called a meeting "next Saturday" and invited members of the Kurdistan Alliance serving in Parliament as well as all members of the KRG's Parliament -- all regardless of political party. Barzani has not announced what the topic of the meeting will be leading to speculation that this meet-up may explore Iraq politics (such as replacing Nouri) or KRG politics (such as breaking further with Baghdad). 
 
 
 
 
Massoud Barzani, the president of Iraq's Kurdistan region, warned on Wednesday that Kurdish voters may consider secession if Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki and his Shiite bloc do not agree to share power by September. He said that Iraq's unity is threatened by Maliki's "dictatorship and authoritarian rule." Barzani's comments followed earlier remarks on Sunday in which he expressed his concerns that Maliki might use F-16 warplanes against Iraqi Kurdistan, saying "We must either prevent him from having these weapons, or if he has them, he should not stay in his position." Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr arrived in Kurdistan on Thursday in an attempt to help resolve the situation.
 
 
C Luan (Xinhua) notes that al-Sadr and Barzani were scheduled to meet today.  AFP has a photo of Barzani greeting Moqtada al-Sadr as he leaves arrives in Erbil.  And they quote him declaring at the Erbil Airport, "I met Nouri al-Maliki in Tehran, and I came to listen to the opinions of the Kurdish leaders and their views. Everyone should look out for the public interest and the unity of the Iraqi people, and I hope that everyone will be responsible."
 
 
Al Rafidayn meanwhile notes that Nouri's State of Law is insisting Barzani is leading Iraq down "a path of darkness."  Of Barzani, AFP notes, "He is the highest-ranking Iraqi official to disavow Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government for sidelining its political opponents and, in some cases, persecuting them in what critics call an unabashed power grab.  Critics are seeing Barazani's statements as an attempt by the Kurds to place pressure on Baghdad and force the central government to follow the Kurdish way instead of a real pursuance of secession. " 
 
It's being called a "historic moment" by some news outlets.  Aswat al-Iraq noted yesterday, "Sadrist Trend MP Hakim al-Zamili disclosed that some of the political blocs desire to have a candidate from the Sadrist Trend to assume the premiership, which matter shall be decided by Sadrist leader Muqtada al-Sadr."  As we've noted since the summer of 2010, French and British diplomats believe that when Tehran pressured Moqtada to back Nouri al-Maliki (whom Moqtada loathes), they finally got his agreement by promising they would back him to be the next prime minister.  Earlier this week, we noted the publicly expressed strategy of Sadr which is that if there is agreement on who would be the next prime minister -- agreement among the political blocs in Iraq -- he would take part in a no-confidence vote.  Interestingly, while AFP quotes Moqtada stating that the issue of the security ministries needs to be addressed (Nouri was supposed to have nominated people to head the ministries back in December 2010 but he never did that for the security ministries which has allowed him to control those ministries), Kitabat reports that one of "the most important discussion topics" between Barzani and Moqtada is that Nouri must not have a third term as prime minister.  Kitabat notes that Moqtada was expected to go to Najaf after leaving Erbil.

 
 

Al Rafidayn meanwhile reports that Nouri's State of Law is insisting Barzani is leading Iraq down "a path of darkness."   When you put all the current pieces together, it appears Moqtada may be even closer to becoming Iraq's prime minister.  Dar Addustour is among those reporting today that Nouri met with Moqtada while Nouri was in Tehran over the weekend and that Moqtada promised his support. Also citing an unnamed source, Alsumaria reports on the alleged meeting.  Is it in Moqtada's interest to leak the story?  No.  But it is in Nouri's interest.  Nouri and his State of Law is the most likely source of the rumor.  It may or may not be true.  And Nouri has a habit of hearing what he wants to hear.  Also true, Moqtada has become quite the political figure and may be playing every angle.  (That's not a slam against him but it is noting that Moqtada al-Sadr of 2012 is not the struggling and tone-deaf politician of the early stages of the Iraq War.)  Finally, Alsumaria reports the League of Righteous -- armed militants/terrorists, etc. -- held a press conference in Baghdad today to announce that they plan to participate in the elections for provincial councils and that they represents the resistance which was able to defeat the most powerful country in the world (the United States). The League split with Moqtada al-Sadr over a number of issues.   Nouri had hoped to use them as a way to block Moqtada but that hasn't happened thus far.
 
 
 
In the US, Iraq's becoming a campaign issue. Ben Smith and Zeke Miller (Buzz Feed) report Mitt Romney's being slammed for choosing the husband of journalist Campbell Brown (formerly of NBC and CNN) for a foreign policy advisor because the man, Dan Senor, was a White House advisor in Iraq from April 2003 through July 2005 where he helped with press briefings and was an adivsor to Paul Bremer and many more tasks. The re-election campaign for President Barack Obama sent out a release that Smith and Miller quote from which includes: "DAN SENOR WAS THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION'S SPIN MASTER FOR THE WAR IN IRAQ AND WORKED TO ADVOCATE LONGER U.S. INVOLVEMENT IN IRAQ."  Ali Gharib (Think Progress) has a rap sheet of Senor's supposed crimes. Smith and Miller note that "Democrats see in Senor's emergence an extension of the unpopular Bush Administration and its unpopular war." And so everyone's mouthing off when, quite frankly, they all need to pipe down.
 
I'd love it if we were holding people accountable.  But that's not the case.  As so many work overtime to let you know that Dan Senor is close to Robert Kagan (I know Kagan), we're all supposed to look the other way on the fact that Barack's administration has chosen to make Victoria Nuland a State Dept spokesperson.  For those who don't know, Victoria Nuland is married to Robert Kagan.  NPR wants you to believe that when they let Kagan critique then-presidential candidate John Kerry on air that they had no idea Kagan was the husband of Victoria Nuland who was, at that time, Dick Cheney's national security advisor.  (If you need a refresher or this is new to you, drop back to November 2004 and read "When NPR Fails You, Who You Gonna' Call? Not the Ombudsman.")  Dick Cheney's national security advisor?  Who's married to Robert Kagan?  I'd say Joe Biden (who's the designated attack dog on this point) needs to find a new topic damn quick.  Victoria Nuland is not the only neocon that Barack Obama has brought into his administration, nor is she the only supporter of the Iraq War that he has brought into his administration.  I'd love it if they had maintained some sort of a standard, if the current White House had, but they maintained no such standard.  Most people aren't even aware of this but the only US Ambassador to Iraq that we have so far had who was against the war?  That was Ryan Crocker, the Bush appointee.  Chris Hill, Barack's first appointee, was for it.  Frothing at the mouth for it.  The current Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey was for it.  Barack's new nominee?  Brett McGurk?  Not only was he for the Iraq War, he was tasked with that war in the lead up to it and after it.  That's what his focus was when he was on Bush's National Security Council. Let's go to McGurk's Harvard bio:
 
During the Bush administration, McGurk served as Director for Iraq and then as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Iraq and Afghanistan.  In this position, McGurk oversaw all aspects of U.S. policy relating to wars in both theaters.  In 2005 and 2006, he was an early proponent of the strategy now known as the "surge" and was a lead participant in the 2006 strategic review of Iraq policy, which led to the surge of U.S. forces into Iraq and significant changes to U.S. strategy there.
In 2007 and 2008, McGurk served as lead negotiator and envoy for negotiations with the Government of Iraq on both a long-term Strategic Framework Agreement and a Security Agreement (also known as a "SOFA") to govern the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq and the normalization of bilateral relations between Iraq and the United States.  The Iraqi parliament ratified both agreements on November 26, 2008, and they went into effect on January 1, 2009.  In recognition for
this achievement, McGurk received the State Department's Distinguished Honor Award from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice -- the highest award the Secretary of State can bestow on a civilian not serving in the Department.
Prior to serving on President Bush's National Security Council staff, McGurk served as a legal advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and then the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad under Ambassador John Negroponte.  In this capacity, he helped structure the legal framework for Iraq's first nationwide election and was a key participant in the negotiation of Iraq's interim constitution.  He was identified in 2004 as "one of the heroes" of the CPA period by Atlantic Monthly magazine, and has since been recognized by leading commentators as one of the few policymakers who advocated the critical changes to U.S. policy that led to the surge and an improving situation in Iraq.
 

Again, drawing attention to Dan Senor's Iraq connections?  They blew that chance years ago when they brought so many War Hakws into the administration.  In addition, nominating McGurk pretty much ensured that all the Iraq War Hawks were immunized.  Ben Smith will always carry Barack's water -- probably his urine as well -- but not everyone in the press will choose to be so compliant.  The White House will fnd out quickly that if they try to make Senor an issue, the press will be happy to note his counterpart's in Barack's administration.  It's not a winning strategy.
 
 
On top of that, there's the hypocrisy.  Justin Raimondo (Antiwar.com) calls the administration out:
 
 
 
The world is in chaos, war is breaking out all over, there's blood flowing in the streets of cities from the Middle East to Africa, but not to worry – we've got an "Atrocity Prevention Board"! Now doesn't that make you feel much better?
The board is chaired by the infamous Samantha Power – whose advocacy of the "responsibility to protect" doctrine is credited with the Obama administration's support for Islamist rebels in Libya, and is currently energizing calls for a similar intervention in Syria. The announcement of this new bureaucratic instrument of war was made by Obama at a recent speech delivered at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, where professional warmonger and Israel Firster Elie Wiesel took the opportunity to call for war with Iran and the President, for his part, announced the imposition of new sanctions on both Iran and Syria.
The atrocities this board is supposed to prevent are those that are not committed by the US: our atrocities, you understand, are really "humanitarian" acts, as opposed to their atrocities, which are … well, just plain old atrocities. One can safely assume the cold-blooded murder of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, killed by US sanctions prior to the invasion, is not one of those atrocities to be considered by the Board. Nor will those many thousands of Iraqi civilians who lost their lives in the war be so recognized.
No, designation will be reserved for the actions of governments that defy our will, like Iran and Syria. Obama singled out South Sudan and Libya as monuments to this policy of "atrocity prevention" – Libya, whose Islamist government is jailing, murdering, and otherwise repressing its own people, and South Sudan, a completely made-up "nation" that owes its very existence to Western intervention, routinely arrests opposition figures and journalists, and is currently involved in putting down local and tribal insurgencies in the majority of its provinces (with our help, you can be sure).
The piddling atrocities carried out by such tinhorn despots as Bashar al-Assad and the Iranian mullahs are nothing compared to the large-scale war crimes routinely committed by US forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Our drones roam the world, wreaking random havoc on innocents and "terrorists" alike – oh, but that isn't an "atrocity." It's "fighting terrorism." That is how the world's biggest perpetrator of atrocities gets to set up an "Atrocity Prevention Board" and not be laughed off the world stage.
 
 
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