Friday, December 12, 2008

The entitlement kids (Barack and Caroline)

Lest anyone forget the point of the American Revolution, our representatives are not chosen by hereditary succession, which, to quote Thomas Paine, "is an insult and imposition on posterity."
Of course, Caroline can ask for whatever she wants. The astounding part is that the idea of such a request hasn't been laughed out of the news pages.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, against all evidence, touts Caroline as "a very experienced woman."
Her government service starts and ends at raising private money for the New York City schools. While a worthy endeavor, it's a socialite's job.
For nearly four decades after her father's assassination, Caroline commendably resisted the call to become a Democratic Party ornament. Then at the 2000 Democratic convention, she stepped on the stage to the tune of Camelot and, with no little presumption, thanked the American people for "sustaining us through the good times, and the difficult ones, and for helping us dream my father's dream." Then she introduced "Uncle Teddy."
Women's groups have been eager to see Clinton replaced by another female. The Feminist Majority and the National Organization for Women had already endorsed Carolyn Maloney, a congresswoman who has represented parts of Manhattan and Queens for 15 years.
But if Caroline Kennedy wants the job, all bets are off, according to Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal. "You're talking to someone who thinks Ted Kennedy is the most effective senator there," Smeal actually told The New York Times.
Here you have it. Without a second thought, feminists talk of throwing a seasoned, self-made professional overboard to make room for a Kennedy princess.

Excuse me, some feminists, not all. That's from Froma Harrop's "Dems should say no to Senate bid by Kennedy" (Houston Chronicle). Harrop can refer to my "Princess Brat" from last night which notes a number of feminists objecting. And who listens to Eleanor Smeal? Does Harrop know how many subscribers Ms. magazine has lost in 2008? I think C.I. made the realities about Smeal clear in "Eleanor's Smear" back in August. And, if you missed it, the likes of Robin Morgan have gone into silent mode. In part because they can't risk antagonizing more readers of Ms. and donors to the Feminist Majority Foundation but also because Robin and crew do not want to call out the 27-year-old Jon Favraeu for what he did. Barack's chief speechwriter, now headed for the White House, posed for photos with a friend or male lover, doing vile and disrespectful things.

Yet another example of how Robin Morgan refuses to stand up for women. She won't stand up for all women, of course. She thinks she's got some right to lie about Sarah Palin, she doesn't feel she has to be honest when it comes to Palin. But what it really boils down to is she sees herself as the guard dog for Barack. She'll snarl at anyone who dares to call out the Christ-child.

PUMAs, by contrast, show no fear. We can't afford to, we've been trampled and scorned and we survived. This is from Murphy's "Gropergate Day 7" (PUMAPac) which went up Thursday:

You see this is the thing about being president — it’s kind of a big job. The Jon Favreau incident doesn’t just go away while you frantically try to coordinate all your lies about Blagojevich with all your lying associates and advisors. Neither does the collapsing economy. Still collapsing! Neither does international terrorism and unrest. Still raging! Neither does the daily work of governing. Still tedious!
Maybe obama wasn’t quite ready for all this? Perhaps he’s in over his head? Ya think?
Every day that Jon Favreau continues to have a job as obama’s chief speech writer is ANOTHER day that the office of the Secretary of State is undermined. Every day that the above image is in the news is another day that
creeps like Carville and Blitzer can convene all-male panels of sexperts and joke about how fun it is to gang up and sexually assault Hillary Clinton in effigy. (Wolf Blitzer, Alpha Epsilon Pi brother, along with Robert Novak and Jerry Nadler.Carville was a raging frat boy at LSU, where the motto is, “frat hard, frat often.”)

A friend at work is a very strong PUMA and she was asked (by a White woman who thinks all us Black people must vote for Barack and, apparently, eat watermelon) why that was? She seemed so shocked even after an explanation so I said, "Call me a PUMA too!"

Speaking of Barack, if you missed it, Jeremiah Wright was in the news this week. He gave a 'sermon' on Sunday. More of his stupidity and hate. (And, no, that is not what Black churches are like. I have no idea what nut-jobs go to Trinity but my father is a deacon and that is not how our church or any church in the area conducts itself.) So Jeremiah Wright, who is being sued for a former church worker who states she had an affair with him, decided to 'explain' Sunday that this was the anniversary of that awful day when the US dropped nuclear weapons on Japan. When the US attacked Japan. Someone forgot to explain to nut job that December 7th is when Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese. What a disgrace. And Trinity? Oh, what tiny minds must feel the pews there.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, December 12, 2008. The British military announces a death (and it's strange how closely it resembles their most recent Basra death), a US outlet reports on the remarks by al-Maliki's spokesperson (that the US military may be needed in Iraq for at least 10 more years), Donald Rumsfeld and many others are implicated in the Senate Armed Services Committe report, and more.

Starting with Alsumaria's "
Iraq: US Forces could be needed for 10 years:"

In the first statements that point out to Iraq's need for US Forces in the country since the declaration of the US-Iraqi security pact, Cabinet spokesman Ali Al Dabbagh said Iraq will need US troop presence to help build up its military forces past the newly agreed three-year deadline for the withdrawal of US troops.Al Dabbagh, representing Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki in Washington, said some U.S. forces could be needed for 10 years stressing that the terms of any extended presence would be negotiated between the next Iraqi and US governments in 2011 since the security pact has not tackled this issue. He added that until that time, the number of troops needed and the level of cooperation and support required would be clearer. Al Dabbagh statements came at a time when the International Security Council is getting ready to adopt during a meeting scheduled next week a resolution to end multinational forces mission in Iraq upon the request of Baghdad. Iraqi Ambassador to the UN Hamed Al Bayati affirmed in a statement to the Kuwaiti News Agency (Kuna) that Iraq has sent a similar letter to the Security Council Chief. He added that the letter has been distributed to members and will be official early next week. Al Bayati affirmed that Al Maliki has noted in a letter to the Security Council that the extension of multinational forces mission has been done for the last time and while their mission will end late this month.

Yesterday's snapshot noted David Morgan and Anthony Boadle's (Reuters) report and they noted that "Dabbagh's comments appeared to be the first to address the potential need for a residual U.S. presence since the pact was announced." (This topic was covered at length here.) Adam Ashton (McClatchy Newspapers) becomes the first reporter at a US outlet to report on it, noting today:

Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki last month sold the Iraqi people on a security pact with the U.S. that he called a "withdrawal agreement" to end the presence of American forces in his country by the beginning of 2012.
His top government spokesman, Ali al Dabbagh, undercut that claim this week, however, when he said in Washington that the U.S. might be needed in Iraq for another 10 years, a statement that reverberated with political leaders in Baghdad, renewing criticism of the deal.

On the treaty,
American Freedom Campaign:
The document parading around as the U.S.-Iraq agreement is not valid under the U.S. Constitution. Its legitimacy is based solely on the silence of lawmakers (and members of the media), who seem to be paralyzed by the fear of having an independent and intelligent opinion. Fortunately, one lawmaker has broken the silence and has acknowledged the truth before everyone's eyes.
It is now time for others, including you, to join their voices with hers.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the pending U.S.-Iraq agreement, decrying the fact that the Iraqi Parliament was being given the opportunity to vote on whether to approve the agreement while Congress was being denied - and was refusing to fight for - the same opportunity.
Well, thanks to our efforts and the leadership of Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), the U.S. House of Representatives may finally get to voice its opinion on President Bush's unconstitutional usurpation of Congress's legislative power.
Yesterday, Rep. Lee introduced a
resolution related to the U.S.-Iraq agreement, inspired in part by AFC's call for a "signing statement" resolution. The primary purpose of this resolution is to express the sense of the House that President Bush does not have the power under the Constitution to negotiate and sign such a far-reaching agreement with another nation without seeking congressional approval of the agreement.
Passage of this resolution -- most likely following re-introduction in January -- will send a message to the Bush administration, the incoming Obama administration, and the rest of the world that the agreement holds no legal weight under U.S. law and will be considered merely advisory by Congress.
In truth, even without passage of this resolution, Congress shall not be bound by its terms. No president can unilaterally commit $10 billion per month in U.S. treasure to keep our troops in another nation. The United States has never been a monarchy or a dictatorship and we are certainly not going to accept any similar kind of system today.
Putting aside the question over whether this agreement is currently binding or not, it is important that as many lawmakers as possible openly reject the constitutionality of the agreement. So please tell your U.S. representative to co-sponsor, support, and vote for Rep. Lee's signing statement resolution (H.Res. 1535) by
clicking on the following link
Once you have sent your message, please forward this email widely to friends and family. In the alternative, you can use the "Tell-A-Friend" option on the AFC Web site that will appear after you have sent your message.
Thank you so much for taking action.
Steve Fox Campaign Director American Freedom Campaign Action Fund

Joby Warrick and Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) cover yesterday's report from the Senate Armed Services Committee on which "accuses [former Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld and his deputies of being the authors and chief promoters of harsh interrogation policies that disgraced the nation and underminded U.S. security. The report, released by Sens. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCian (R-Ariz.), contends that Pentagon officials later tried to create a false impression that the policies were unrelated to acts of detainee abuse committed by members of the military." The 19 page report [warning, PDF format] is entitled "Senate Armed Services Committee Inquiry Into The Treatment Of Detainees In U.S. Custody." In a statement released by his office, Levin notes:

The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody compromised our moral authority and damaged both our ability to attract allies to our side in the fight against terrorism and to win the support of people around the world for that effort. In May 2004, just after the pictures from Abu Ghraib became public, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz said that the abuses depicted were simply the result of a few "bad apples" and that those responsible for abuse would be held accountable. More than seven months later, then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Asked about accountability for detainee abuses, Gonzales said "we care very much about finding out what happened and holding people accountable." Neither of those two statements was true.
Department of Defense investigations into detainee abuse failed to adequately assign accountability to those senior military and civilian officials who authorized abusive interrogation techniques.
As we began to dig into what happened, the influence of SERE (Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape) resistance training techniques on our interrogation policies and practices became more and more obvious and became the focus of our investigation. SERE training is intended to be used to teach our soldiers how to resist interrogation by enemies that refuse to follow the Geneva Conventions and international law. In SERE school, our troops who are at risk of capture are exposed -- in a controlled environment with great protections and caution -- to techniques adapated from abusive tactics used against American soldiers by enemies such as the Communist Chinese during the Korean War. SERE training techniques include stress positions, forced nudity, use of fear, sleep deprivation and, until recently, the Navy SERE school used the waterboard. These techniques were designed to give our students a taste of what they might be subjected to if captured by a ruthless, lawless enemy so that they would be better prepared to resist. The techniques were never intended to be used against detainees in U.S. custody. As one JPRA instructor explained, SERE training is "based on illegal exploitation (under the rules listed in teh 1949 Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War) of prisoners over the last 50 years."
So, how did it come about that American military personnel stripped detainees naked, put them in stress position, used dogs to scare them, put leashes around their necks to humiliate them, hooded them, deprived them of sleep, and blasted music at them.

How? The report makes clear, in the section entitled "Presidential Order Opens the Door to Considering Aggressive Techniques," how:

On February 7, 2002, President Bush signed a memorandum stating that the Third Geneva Convention did not apply to the conflict with al Qaeda and concluding that Taliban detainees were not entitled to prisoner of war status or the legal protections afforded by the Third Geneva Convention. The President's order closed off application of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which would have afforded minimum standards for humane treatment, to al Qaeda or Taliban detainees. While the President's order stated that, as "a matter of policy, the United States Armed Forces shall continue to treat detainees humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of the Geneva Conventions," the decision to replace well established military doctrine, i.e. legal compliance with the Geneva Conventions, with a policy subject to interpretation, impacted the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody.
In December 2001, more than a month before the President signed his memorandum, the Department of Defense (DoD) General Counsel's Office had already solicted information on detainee "exploitation" from the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA), an agency whose expertise was in training American personnel to withstand interrogation techniques considered illegal under the Geneva Conventions.

What follows is multiple meetings with then-National Security Advisor Condi Rice being brought in, with her requesting then-CIA Director George Tenet provide briefings to the NSC and for then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to "personally . . . review and confirm the legal advice prepared by the Office of Legal Council." Rice "also said that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld participated in the NSC review of CIA's program." In other words, the bulk of the administration in 2002 was involved. The Dept of Justice issued two legal opinions August 1, 2002:

One opinion, commonly known as the first Bybee memo, was addressed to Judge Gonzales and provided OLC [Office of Legal Counsel]'s opinion on standards of conduct in interrogation required under the federal torture statute. That memo concluded:

[F]or an act to constitute torture as defined in [the federal torture statue], it must inflict pain that is difficult to endure. Physical pain amounting to torture must be equivalent in intensity to pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death. For purely mental pain or suffering to amount to torture under [the federal torture statue], it must result in significant psychological harm of significant duration, e.g., lasting for months or even years.

[ . . .]

The other OLC opinion issued on August 1, 2002 is known commonly as the Second Bybee memo. That opinion, which responded to a request from the CIA, addressed the legality of specific interrogation tactics. While the full list of techiniques remains classified, a publicly released CIA document indicates that waterboarding was among those analyzed and approved. CIA Director General Michael Hayden stated in public testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on February 5, 2008 that waterboarding was used by the CIA. And Steven Bradury, the current Assistant Attorney General of the OLC, testified before the House Judiciary Committee on February 14, 2008 that the CIA's use of waterboarding was "adapted from the SERE training program."
Before drafting the opinions, Mr. Yoo, the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the OLC, had met with Alberto Gonzales, Counsel to the President, and David Addington, Counsel to the Vice President, to discuss the subjects he intended to address in the opinions. In testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Mr. Yoo refused to say whether or not he ever discussed or received information about SERE techniques as the memos were being drafted. When asked whether he had discussed SERE techniques with Judge Gonzales, Mr. Addington, Mr. Yoo, Mr. Rizzo or other senior administration lawyers, DoD General Counsel Jim Haynes testified that he "did discuss SERE techniques with other people in the administration." NSC Legal Advisor John Bellinger said that "some of the legal analyses of proposed interrogation techniques that were prepared by the Department of Justice. . . did refer to the psychological effects of resistance training."
In fact, Jay Bybee the Assistant Attorney General who signed the two OLC legal opinions said that he saw an assessment of the psychological effects of military resistance training in July 2002 in meetings in his office with John Yoo and two other OLC attorneys. Judge Bybee said that he used that assessment to inform the August 1, 2002 OLC legal opinion that has yet to be publicly released. Judge Bybee also recalled discussing detainne interrogations in a meeting with Attorney General John Ashcroft and John Yoo in late July 2002, prior to signing the OLC opinions. Mr. Bellinger, the NSC Legal Advisor, siad that "the NSC's Principals reviewed CIA's proposed program on several occasions in 2002 and 2003" and that he "expressed concern that the proposed CIA interrogation techniques comply with applicable U.S. law, including our international obligations."

As Carl Levin has pointed out the myth is of a "few bad apples" at the bottom being responsible for torture used in Afghanistan and Iraq. That is not correct. Equally true is that the report does not pin all blame on Donald Rumsfeld. There are "many bad apples" at the top and all need to share in the blame and in the shame.

By November 2002, alarms were being sounded by the Air Force ("serious concerns regarding the legality of many of the proposed techniques"), the DoD's Criminal Investigation Task Force stated some techniques could leave US military personnel open "to punitive articles of the [Uniform Code of Military Justice]," the Army's International and Operational Law Division objected (noting some of the techniques "crosses the line of 'humane' treatment"), the Navy asked for further "legal and policy review," and the Marine Corps wanted "a more thorough legal and policy review" (and expressed concerns about violations of federal laws). All of this was ignored even when the Legal Counsel to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Rear Adm. Jane Dalton and her staff brought these issues to the Defense Dept (specifically the General Counsel's Office).

The report notes that Donald Rumsfeld received a recommendation from DoD General Counsel Jim Haynes that 15 of the 18 techniques be approved (November 27, 2002) and this recommendation "indicated that he [Haynes] had discussed the issue with Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Doug Feith, and General [Richard] Myers and that he believed they concurred in his recommendations." Rumsfeld signed off on the recomendations (December 2, 2002) adding, "I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?" Alarms continued to be sounded and nothing was done (Rice states she held regular meetings to express concerns).

The report notes, "From Afghanistan, the techniques made their way to Iraq. According to the Department of Defense (DoD) Inspector General (IG), at the beginning of the Iraq war, special mission unit forces in Iraq 'used a January 2003 Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) which had been developed for operations in Afghanistan'." Col Steven Kleinman's testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committtee (September 2008) addresses abuses he personally saw. September 14, 2003 finds Lt Gen Ricardo Sanchez providing the authorization for "stress positions, environmental manipulation, sleep management, and military working dogs in interrogations." He withdrew that authority on October 12, 2003 but confusion (intended by Sanchez or not) remained as to what was and was not now authorized.

The report finds the problems went well beyond Rumsfeld. Conclusion One notes the White House's decision to toss aside Common Article 3 and Conclusion Two notes those particiapting in the process: "Members of the President's Cabinet and other senior officials . . National Security Council Principals". Conclusion 19 pertains specifically to Iraq so we'll note it in full:

The abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 was not simply the result of a few soldiers acting on their own. Interrogation techniques such as stripping detainees of their cloths, placing them in stress positions, and using military working dogs to intimidate them appeared in Iraq only after they had been approved for use in Afghanistant and at GITMO. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's December 2, 2002 authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques and subsequent interrogation policies and plans approved by senior military and civilian officials conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treament for detainees in U.S. military custody. What followed was an erosion in standards dictating that detainees be treated humanely.

On Wendesday,
Senator Russ Feingold issued a call to the president-elect on "Concrete Steps" needed for the Rule of Law to be restored. In terms of the topics noted above, these recommendations from Feingold are worth noting:

The new administration should express its unqualified commitment to enforcing the ban against torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and should establish as a matter of policy a single, government-wide standard of humane detainee treatment. I have supported efforts in Congress to make the Army Field Manual on Human Intelligence Collector Operations that standard. The new administration should revoke all existing orders and legal opinions authorizing cruel interrogations, including Executive Order 13440 and any relevant opinions of the OLC.The new administration should commit to providing timely notification of and access to the International Committee of the Red Cross for any and all detainees held in U.S. custody anywhere in the world.The new administration should close the facility at Guantanamo Bay, as you have pledged to do. Closing Guantanamo raises a number of complex questions, many of which were addressed in the hearing submissions. I hope those submissions can serve as a resource to your administration in addressing these difficult issues. As you tackle the Guantanamo problem, however, I urge you not to establish an entirely new preventive detention regime based on concerns about a very small number of difficult cases.The new administration should reject the flawed military commission trial system being used at Guantanamo Bay.The new administration should develop effective means of enforcing the ban against rendering individuals to countries where they have a credible fear of being tortured.

The Senate Armed Service Committee was not the only governmental body issuing a report yesterday. The Office of Inspector General at the Dept of Defense released a report yesterday.
Walter Pincus (Washington Post) reports, "The Pentagon's inspector general said yesterday that the Defense Department's public affairs office may have 'inappropriately' merged public affairs and propaganda operations in 2007 and 2008 when it contracted out $1 million in work for a strategic communication plan for use by the military in collaboration with the State Department." And around 11:00 AM EST, the man who insulted Stephanie Tubbs Jones back in 2005 (longterm community members know whom I mean -- remember the Ohio 2004 vote didn't matter to him) rewrote Walter's article for a website. No link to that trash.

It's Friday. Violence is rarely reported. Yesterday's bombing at Abdalla Kabab resulted in 57 deaths and over 120 wounded. We'll note some of this morning's reporting on that.
Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) explains, "The Abdullah restaurant was the kind of place Iraqis took their families on special occasions. It was the kind of place high-ranking officials in the northern city of Kirkuk chose for power lunches, where they dug in to plates on tables covered with white cloths as water burbled from a decorative fountain." Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) adds, "Hundreds of families were inside the Abdullah restaurant, an area landmark, celebrating the end of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, police and hospital officials said. It was the deadliest attack in Iraq in six months." Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) observes, "The room was a shambles. On the flood was mass of tortured humanity -- those that lived. Prams and pacifiers; ribbons and toys. Purses thrown open with make up and perfume bottles strewn everywhere. I can see them with my mind's eye. They look much like what my daughter carries in her purse. . . . My daughter, your daughter . . . anyone's daughter." Nico Hines (Times of London) offers, "The explosion may have been targeted at a group of Arab elders and Kurdish political officials who were holding discussions over lunch aimed at easing long-standing ethnic tensions in the northern Iraqi region." Timothy Williams (New York Times) quotes Abdalla Kabab's supervisor Shirzad Mowfak Zangana explaining, "All of a sudden we heard a very loud explosion. Two of the walls collapsed, and then the next thing I remember is that I felt blood covering my face. People were screaming. Children were crying. Smoke filled all three dining rooms." Williams also attempts to connect it to larger issues regarding Kirkuk. Youssif Bassil and Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) do that much better -- for starters they note Kirkuk is disputed territory -- and they sketch out the current struggle taking place as follows: "The Kurds have been flexing their muscles lately by building up their substantial oil industry without conferring with the central government. They also want to incorporate towns with significant Kurdish populations outside the region into their sphere -- particularly the city of Kirkuk. But Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government has pushed back, criticizing some of the Kurdistan go-it-alone business efforts and criticizing the deployment of the Kurdish peshmerga security forces in towns under the control of the federal government."

Today the
British Military announced: "It is with profound sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the death in Basra yesterday, Thursday 11 December 2008, of a solider serving with 20 Armoured Brigade. At approximately 2200hrs local time, a report was received of a soldier who had suffered a gunshot wound within the Contingency Operating Base. Immediate medical assistance was provided but sadly the soldier died at the scene. No enemy forces were involved and there is no evidence at this stage to suggest that any third party was involved in the incident. An investigation by the Royal Military Police Special Investigations Branch is underway." This is the second British military fatality in Iraq this month. December 4th David Kenneth Wilson died in Basra from a gunshot wound and, note, "No enemy forces were involved and there is no evidence at this stage to suggest that anyone else was involved." Today's announcement brings the number of British service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 178 (ICCC currently is at 177 as I dictate this, it will be at 178 when they note this death).

In other news, independent journalist
David Bacon latest book (just out this month) is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) came out in September and his latest labor article explores (at New America Media) explores this week's win for Chicago workers:

When the day finally comes that Raul Flores loses his job, he will face a bitter search for another one. "I've got a family to support, so I've got to do whatever it takes," he says. "It's going to be hard. The economic situation is not good, but I can't just wait for something to happen to me." That puts Flores in the same boat as millions of other U.S. workers. Last month alone 533,000 workers lost their jobs, the highest figure in 34 years. A week ago, the heads of the big three auto companies were in Washington DC, pleading for loans to keep their companies afloat. As a price, lawmakers and pundits told them they had to become "leaner and meaner," and in response, General Motors announced it would close nine plants and put tens of thousands of workers in the street. Ford and Chrysler described a similar job-elimination strategy. What makes Flores special? He didn't just accept the elimination of his job. Instead, he sat in at the Chicago plant where he worked for six days, together with 240 other union members at Republic Windows and Doors. Republic workers were not demanding the reopening of their closed factory. They've been fighting for severance and benefits to help them survive the unemployment they know awaits them. Yet their occupation can't help but raise deeper questions about the right of workers to their jobs. Can a return to the militant tactics of direct action, that produced the greatest gains in union membership, wages and job security in U.S. history, overturn "the inescapable logic of the marketplace"? Can employers, and the banks that hold their credit lines, be forced to keep plants open?

Public broadcasting notes. One of America's most gifted contemporary singer-songwriter,
Aimee Mann, has a Christmas concert on NPR tomorrow. Live from the Kewsick Theater in Pennsylvania, Aimee's concert will be webcast by WXPN beginning Saturday night at 8:00 PM EST. This concert is part of a series of Christmas performances by Aimme that will next find her in Alexandria, VA (December 15 and 16), NYC (December 17 and 18th) and Tarrytown, NY (December 19th). Can't make it to those concerts? One more reason to catch Saturday's webcast. For Saturday's concert, her guests will be Nellie McKay and Grant-Lee Phillips. (In a year of sheep, Nellie McKay stood up for peace and did so proudly and publicly. Very few can make that claim, let alone claim to have her courage.) Aimee first came to national attention as a member of the band 'Til Tuesday whose songs and singing ("Voices Carry," "J for Jules," "No One Is Watching You Now," "Welcome Home," etc.) registered strongly and immediately. On her own she's produced hits like "That's Just What You Are" while still trying to fit into the corporate label scheme before going off on her own and producing amazing work (and earning an Oscar nomination for "Save Me"). Her latest album is @#%&*! Smilers. Kat's reviewed her latest CD as well as The Forgotten Arm. And NPR's previous Aimee Mann coverage includes "Aimee Mann: Heartache And Hope" and "Aimee Mann: Bittersweet Holidays" (here for NPR's archive of Aimee stories).

NOW on PBS visits Kiribati as it examines the issue of displacement as a result of global warming. Washington Week also begins airing tonight on some PBS stations (others tend to air it as a Sunday morning chat & chew) and joining Gwen will be Pete Williams (NBC News), Christi Parsons (Chicago Tribune), David E. Sanger (New York Times) and John Maggs (National Journal). On broadcast TV (CBS) Sunday, 60 Minutes:Barney FrankLesley Stahl talks to Rep. Barney Frank (D.-Mass.), whose position as House Financial Services Committee Chairman puts him right in the middle of the huge and controversial government bailouts, first for the financial industry and now for Detroit's automakers. Watch Video
Where's The Bottom?The mortgage mess that touched off the financial meltdown is far from over, with a second wave of expected defaults on the way that could deepen the bottom of this recession. Scott Pelley reports.
Coach CarrollByron Pitts profiles USC college football coach Pete Carroll, who, in addition to his success in making the Trojans a football dynasty, is making positive contributions toward decreasing gang violence in Los Angeles. Watch Video
60 Minutes, this Sunday, Dec. 14, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

alsumariadavid morgananthony boadle
mcclatchy newspapersadam ashton
sahar issa
the washington postwalter pincuskaren deyoungjoby warwick
sudarsan raghavan
the los angeles times
tina susmanthe new york timestimothy williams
david bacon
aimee mannnprzoltan grossman60 minutescbs newswashington weeknow on pbspbs

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Princess Brat

Because women are the canary in the coalmines. Hate and prejudice aimed at all women could never be aimed at any group of straight men without being called out. It is in navigating how much abuse it can get away with towards women that society sets down its markers for others. And week after week, that remains one of the biggest lessons of 2008. It's not a 'happy' one. We use "interesting," an interesting lesson. And as a society, we can accept it or we can work to change it. We can take offense to the fact that a woman who has never held public office thinks she can bypass the voters and the campaigns to be appointed to the Senate on nothing but her family's name. We can take offense that women like Hillary and Sarah who have worked to get to where they are repeatedly get ripped apart, have their motives and actions questioned. Because a woman who does is always more threatening to our society than a princess who waits to be rescued. The same fairy tales generations grew up on are being retold but presented as fact.
And no one says "boo" about that. As Holly Near has warned, "The war against women rages on, beware of the fairy tale" ("Somebody's Jail," Show Up).

Ava and C.I. nailed the problem ("TV: The Fairy Tale") with Caroline Kennedy wanting to be gifted with a Senate seat. And Isaiah did an incredible comic on the issue entitled "Princess Brat."

Princess Brat

And I'm happy to see a lot of others speaking out. Including Marie Cocco. This is from her "Sen. Caroline Kennedy?" (Washington Post Writers Group):

Comparisons to Clinton's 2000 Senate bid are invalid. Clinton ran for the office, doggedly visiting all 62 counties and campaigning through long days and nights that took her from African-American churches in Brooklyn to Hudson Valley apple farms to agricultural fairs upstate. Her Republican opponent outspent her. The media coverage was relentless. Clinton won by a double-digit margin.
For all its cosmopolitan aura, New York's politics are defined by ancient grievances and clannish alliances. Ethnic and racial rivalries boil. There's an enduring rift between upstaters who resent New York City's dominance of state affairs, and downstate city and suburban residents who send most of the tax money to state coffers. Cuomo, one of Kennedy's chief rivals for the Senate appointment, is the former husband of one of her cousins.
Arcane squabbles routinely throw New York politics into utter turmoil. Example: Since Election Day, when Democrats wrested control of the state Senate from Republicans to gain full power for the first time since the New Deal, Albany has been consumed by a threat of three Democratic lawmakers to throw their support to Republicans, thus denying their own party the right to preside over the Senate chamber. Paterson was forced to broker a power-sharing solution to placate the dissidents -- a deal came just days ago.
A U.S. senator doesn't have to get into this swamp, but it's good to know how to navigate around it. Kennedy doesn't. Not that she couldn't learn.
In fact, if she wants to be senator, there is a path to the job -- the special election necessary to fill the Clinton seat in 2010, no matter who gets the interim appointment. A campaign would allow Kennedy to prove her mettle. Voters could take the measure of her as a potential leader, not as a celebrity.

And here's something from Scot Lehigh's "Kennedy not best choice for senator" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer):

Caroline Kennedy, however, is not a people person. She's intensely protective of her privacy, so much so that, according to a Washington Post report, friends are reluctant even to be mentioned in articles about her for fear of being frozen out. To those who don't know her, she comes off as distant and reserved.
"She's very quiet and shy," says one family friend. "I think she is a good person and a smart person, but I just don't know if she would make a good senator."
While Ted Kennedy took naturally to political life, Caroline Kennedy hadn't, at least until her appearances for Barack Obama this year. An indifferent speaker, she has never been much involved in the public fray.

For me, the point that connects most quickly is when writers (Cocco, Ava & C.I.) talk about how Caroline has no experience and bring in the way Sarah Palin -- a sitting governor -- was trashed and called inexperienced. But when it comes to Princess Entitlement, qualifications don't matter.

I'm also offended that Caroline thinks she has a right to the seat considering her hostility towards Hillary. Were Caroline the spouse of a sitting Senator who had died, qualifications or not, I could see her being allowed to finish the term. That's not the case, of course. But even more than not being the case, she actively dislikes Hillary. Where Princess Brat gets off thinking she's entitled to the seat, I don't know.

And, of course, there is the Lisa Marie Presley issue we covered at Third. She wants her privacy (Caroline) but was happy to pose as a mourner at Elvis' funeral so she could get details for a report she told no one she was writing. Her mother sued photographers for less.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Thursday, December 11, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, Iraq's latest buying spree, Punk Ass Liars for the Treaty Get It Upside The Head from al-Maliki's spokesperson (the sound you hear is a thousand liars trying to delete all their past commentaries and 'reporting'), and much, much more.

Let's start by remembering recent events. October 31st,
AP reported the puppet government in Baghdad's latest boo-hoo: Oil prices had dropped and their budget for 2009 had to be cut by $13 billion. The Guardian of London (via Iraq Directory) was writing that there was talk of raising production due to the drop from the expected $80 billion 2009 budget to the $67 billion budget. In 2008, they couldn't meet their spending targets and sat on a ton of money while infrastructure remained unrepaired and Iraqis suffered without electricity and potable water. This week they're on a spending spree. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency made several announcements yesterday [all links of announcements take you to PDF format]. DSCA announced: "On Dec. 9, the Dfense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of 36 AT-6B Texan II Aircraft as well as associated support. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $520 million." And they announced: "On Dec. 9, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of 400 M1126 STRYKER Infantry Carrier Vehicles as well as associated equipment. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $1.11 billion." And they announced: "On Dec. 9, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of 20 T-6A Texan aircraft, 20 Global Positioning Systems (GPS) as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $210 million." And they announced: "On Dec. 9, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of (20) 30-35 meter Coastal Patrol Boats and (3) 55-60 meter Offshore Support Vessels as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $1.010 billion." And they announced: "On Dec. 9, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of 140 M1A1 Abrams tanks modified and upgraded to the M1A1M Abrams configuration, 8 M88A2 Tank Recovery Vehicles, 64 M1151A1B1 Armored High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV), 92 M1152 Shelter Carriers, 12 M577A2 Command Post Carriers, 16 M548A1 Tracked Logistics Behicles, 8 M113A2 Armored Ambulances, and 420 AN/VRC-92 Vehicular Receiver Transmitters as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised could be as high as $2.160 billion." And they announced: "On Dec. 9, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of 26 Bell Armed 407 Helicopters, 26 Rolls Royce 250-C-30 Engines, 26 M280 2.75-inch Launchers, 26 XM296 .50 Cal. Machine Guns with 500 Round Ammunition Box, 26 M299 HELLFIRE Guided Missile Launchers as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $366 million." And they announced: "On Dec. 9, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of (80,000) M16A4 5.56MM Rifles, (25,000) M4 5.56MM Carbines, (2,550) M203 40MM Grenade Launchers as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $148 million." And they announced: "On Dec. 9, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of (64) Deployable Rapid Assembly Shelters (DRASH), (1,500) 50 watt Very High Frequency (VHF) Base Station Radios, (6,000) VHF Tactical Handheld Radios, (100) VHF Fixed Retransmitters, (200) VHF Vehicular Radios, (30) VHF Maritime 50 watt Base Stations, (150) 150 watt High Frequency (HF) Base Station Radio Systems, (150) 20 watt HF Vehicular Radios, (30) 20 watt HF Manpack Radios, (50) 50 watt Very High Frequency/Ultra High Frequency (VHF/UHF) Ground to Air Radio Systems, (50) 150 watt VHF/UHF Ground to Air Radio Systems, (50) 5 watt Multiband Handheld Radio Systems as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $485 Million." That is over six billion dollars being committed "if all options are exercised" -- which is a little over 10% of their entire budget for 2009. There's always money to spend when it comes to weapons. And human life is always done on the cheap.

Bill Van Auken (WSWS) observes, "In Iraq, the death toll has risen to well over a million. An estimated 2 million more have been wounded and at least 4 million have been forced to flee the country or turned into internal refugees. In short, nearly six years of war and occupation hvae left more than 20 percent of the nation's pre-war population, dead, maimed, expelled or homeless." IRIN reports on Egypt's Information and Decision Support Center (IDSC) and the American University in Cairo's Center for Migration and Refugee Studies survey of Iraqi refugees in Egypt which found, as stated by lead researcher Sara Sadek, "Lack of income is the main problem, followed by education." Meanwhile Christopher Watt (Maisonnueve) reports on Iraqi refugees in Syria, "In Damascus refugee circles, limbo is a popular word. The problems these people face often go deeper than uncertainty about their legal status. In the Sunni-Christian neighborhood of Jaramanah, where 100,000 Iraqis are said to live, a boy named Zaid is silent while his father, a former meachnic in Saddam's air force, describes a bus crash last year that left Zaid without his right arm and his face covered in scars. He shields them from view with a New York Yankees hat pulled down low. In a cruel irony, Zaid received his injuries on a visa run. The family had received its new stamps from Al Tanf border crossing east of Damascus, but on the road home to Jaramanah the bus driver lost control. They are seeking help in Canada, but the father believes his connection to the Baath regime could ruin Zaid's shot at plastic surgery and a better prosthetic." As the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres noted (writing in the Telegraph of London), "The refugee problem is a responsibility of the international community as a whole, and can only be effectively tackled by means of collective and cooperative action." And the issue of refugees (both Iraqi and non-Iraqi) inside Iraq?

Today the
United Nations Assitance Mission for Iraq released the following statement:

UNAMI SRSG Staffan de Mistura expresed concern about the situation of over 1000 foreign workers brought by international contractors currently in Baghdad Interntaional Airport. Mr. de Mistura said that "UNAMI takes the allegations of human trafficking by contractors in Iraq very seriously and is concerned about their predicament. The case in BIAP is one that has made public headlines but we are aware of other cases, some of which have reached relevant courts, and we hope will also be addressed in accordance with international labor law standards".
Mr. de Mistura stated that UNAMI has just conducted its own evaluation of the situation in BIAP which supplements the assessment conducted by Internaional Organization for Migration and others and coincides with their findings. He added that the relevant authorities and contractors concerned are expected to ensure that international labor standards are respected and enforced. Mr. de Mistura welcomed the indications that those directly involved are already looking into the issue and hoped it will soon be resolved, "so that the suffering of these people, whose hopes have been shattered and who have had to endure severe hardship and disappointment, is rapidly brought to an end."

This morning,
we were wondering which of Patrick Cockburn's personalities would show up next? Turns out it was Patrick Crazy Ass Cockburn. And if you doubt it, check this from Reuters: "Ali al-Dabbagh, spokesman for the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, said some U.S. forces could be needed for 10 years but told reporters that the terms of any extended presence would be negotiated between the next Iraqi and U.S. governments." Poor Crazy Ass Patrick Cockburn. You know what, if I had LIED non-stop about what the treaty said, if I was nothing but a FILTHY LIAR, I'd be hanging my head in shame. If I were, for example, Leila Fadel, I'd hide away for days (and maybe use some of that time to buy a decent bra). But if I was Patrick Cockburn and had just FLAT OUT LIED about the treaty this morning at CounterPunch, I think I would have to just state, "I am a worthless liar that no one should ever believe. Like everyone else in my crazy family, I have no grip on reality." Sucks to be one of the liars today. Poor babies. Poor, pathetic, useless trash babies. That's our topic for this evening. Lies the sort that Patrick, Leila and oh-so many others have trafficed in KILL. That's what's wrong with them. It's not like they're pretending they're still virgins or something personal. They're lying in ways that cost lives.

On violence, mass fatalities today in Iraq from a single bombing.
Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) notes the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan warned earlier this morning (when the death toll was said to be 30) that the "toll in today's attack is expected to rise." The BBC notes that the bombing took place "at a restaurant near the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk" and that it was done by a suicide bomber. Hurriyet adds, "The bomber detonated explosives inside a Kurdish restaurant about 10 km (6 miles) north of Kirkuk, said Major General Jamal Tahir, police chief of Kirkuk." CNN reports the death toll is "at least 55" with one-hundred and nine people injured according to local police and that the name of the restaurant is Abdalla Kabab. PBS' NewsHour calls it "one of the deadliest attacks in Iraq in the past six months" and also notes 'at least 55" dead but with one-hundred and twenty injured before adding, "The bombing apparently targeted a high-profile meeting of Kurdish officials from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the party of President Jalal Talabani, and a group of Arab tribal leaders called the Awakening, who had gathered in an attempt to negotiate ethnic tensions in the region." Yaseen Taha and Adam Ashton (McClatchy Newspapers) quote Khadijah Mohammed whose sixteen-year-old son died in the bombing, "My son has become a body. He was invited by his friends to have lunch on the last day of Eid. He went out with them. He told me that they will have a nice time in this restaurant and reluctantly, we allowed him to go, and now he is just a body." Now picture that. The son is begging his mother to go Adballa Kabab. She is stating it is still too dangerous. At some point he brings up or maybe she remembers the reports of how violence is down in Iraq, of how David Petraeus says that's true and of how every news outlet she can think of has run with that garbage. Bad news 'reporting' costs lives. Own it, accept that the blood of the young men is on your hands if you've lied or pimped the illegal war. Not just before it started or at the start, but if you 'report' spin as fact, accept your responsiblity in this death and all the others. Operation Happy Talk kills, accept it. Mustafa Mahmoud (Reuters) describes an emergency room following the bombing, "Men and women clutched their wounds as they lay on gurneys, while medics and family members rushed about, shouting and wailing. A small girl around five years old was curled up quietly on a stretcher, her clothes bloodied." AP quotes Salam Abudllah who was wounded in the attack along with his wife, "I held my wife and led her outside the place. As we were leaving, I saw dead bodies soaked with blood and huge destruction." Aswat Al Iraq reports President Jalal Talabani stated, "With heartfelt grief, we have received news of the death and injury of a large number of innocent citizens in a cowardly terrorist operation that targeted a crowded restaurant on the Kirkuk-Arbil highway. As we vehemently condemn this heinous terrorist operation perpetrated by the vanquished terrorist remnants, we stress for our great Iraqi people, particularly the steadfast residents of Kirkuk, that terrorists will never be able to upset the fantastic security achievements made all over the country's province."

Turning to US politics,
Dee Dee Myers (Vanity Fair) observes of Barack Obama's speech writer and professional pig Jon Favreau (not the actor-writer-director) groping a cut-out of Hillary Clinton:

I can't stop thinking about this picture, and I confess I find it really upsetting. And, no, it's not because I don't have a sense of humor. I like to think I have a well-earned reputation for often irreverent, sometimes ill-advised humor. But I'm not laughing now.
And it's not that I was never young. My friends from college and in the years just beyond can testify that I did some things then that I wouldn't want to see on the Internet now. But I had a big job in the White House at a young age too; at 31 -- just a few years older than Favreau is now -- I became White House press secretary. And I knew instantly that the rules had changed for me, that I could no longer go to all the parties of the people just a little younger than me, who had just a little less responsibility, and expect to be anonymous. Clearly, Favreau should have understood that too. If he's old enough and wise enough and mature enough to write for the president of the United States -- and not just any president but one who seems poised to take words more seriously than any since Abraham Lincoln -- than he's clearly old enough and wise enough and mature enough to avoid getting his picture taken behaving in a way that is embarrassing to him, his boss, the secretary of state -- designate, his family, and, one hopes, a majority of 27-year-old males (though that may be too optimistic.) It's indefensible. But that's still not what's bugging me.
What's bugging me is his intention. He isn't putting his hand on her "chest," as most of the articles and conversations about the picture have euphemistically referred to it. Rather, his hand -- cupped just so -- is clearly intended to signal that he's groping her breast. And why? Surely, not to signal he finds her attractive. Au contraire. It's an act of deliberate humiliation. Of disempowerment. Of denigration.
And it disgusts me.

It is disgusting. And good for Dee Dee for speaking out.
Murphy (PUMA Pac) observes:

Every day that Jon Favreau continues to have a job as obama's chief speech writer is ANOTHER day that the office of the Secretary of State is undermined. Every day that the above image is in the news is another day that
creeps like Carville and Blitzer can convene all-male panels of sexperts and joke about how fun it is to gang up and sexually assault Hillary Clinton in effigy. (Wolf Blitzer, Alpha Epsilon Pi brother, along with Robert Novak and Jerry Nadler.Carville was a raging frat boy at LSU, where the motto is, "frat hard, frat often.")
We need to amp up our message. Columnists
ARE talking about this issue, but they are saying that women's groups have been strangely silent. We know that National NOW and Emily's List are keeping a deafening silence, but the good women at New York and Los Angeles NOW have spoken up. But still, the message is not being received.

Emily's List won't say a damn word. You don't get cabinet positions (or more of them) by speaking out. What about the pathetic Women's Media Center? They haven't said one word as usual. Yesterday, they had the nerve to write about human dignity while being silent on Jon Favreau. Ms. is just as bad with their Feminist Wire that managed to note violence against women has "increased attention in Angola" but fails to raise objections to Favreau and his friend/male lover's attempt to prove they can get it up by (at best) disrepecting women.

Independent journalist
John Pilger and Chris Martin won Best Documentary for The War On Democracy at the One World Media Awards and The War on Democracy is now available on DVD. Groundhog Day is a Harold Ramis film starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell and Pilger references it in his new column (New Statesman):

Obama's slogan is now "continuity". His secretary of defence will be Robert Gates, who serves the lawless, blood-soaked Bush regime as secretary of defence, which means secretary of war. (America last had to defend itself when the British invaded in 1812.) Gates wants no date set for an Iraq withdrawal and "well north of 20,000" troops to be sent to Afghanistan. He also wants America to build a completely new nuclear arsenal, including "tactical" nuclear weapons that blur the distinction with conventional weapons.
[. . .]
There is more continuity in Obama's appointment of officials who will deal with the economic piracy that brought down Wall Street and impoverished millions. As in Bill Murray's nightmare, they are the same officials who caused it. For example, Lawrence Summers will run the National Economic Council. As treasury secretary, according to the New York Times, he "championed the law that deregulated derivatives, the . . . instruments -- aka toxic assets -- that have spread financial losses [and] refused to heed critics who warned of dangers to come."
There is logic here. Contrary to myth, Obama's campaign was funded largely by rapacious capital, such as Citigroup and others responsible for the sub-prime mortgage scandal, whose victims were mostly African Americans and other poor people.

Yes, the greed. As
Elaine noted of the scandal involving who will replace him in the Senate, "I think the whole thing is poetic. Barack's home state governor accused of attempting some form of payment to appoint someone to replace Barack. It's all about greed and what was Barack's campaign run on but greed? He refused public financing. Broke the pledge on that. He took in overseas donation and has no way to prove that the donations came from US citizens. He allowed individuals to repeatedly break the legal donation limit. The greed that built him could break him and, in fact, it should." That's Illinois. In New York, the assumption is that, in January, Hillary Clinton will be confirmed as the Secretary of State and will leave the US Senate. That will allow the current governor (never elected to that post, as Ruth has pointed out) to appoint someone to serve the remainder of Clinton's Senate term. Caroline Kennedy wants the Senate seat. Marie Cocco (Washington Post Writers Group) wonders:

How can Democrats, who ridiculed Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as an inexperienced political wannabe, now embrace the idea of elevating Caroline Kennedy -- who hasn't served a day in public office -- to Hillary Clinton's New York Senate seat? How, indeed, can the same "progressives" who opposed Clinton's election as president because they were repelled by the notion of extending the "Clinton dynasty" now be keen on perpetuating the Kennedy dynasty through an appointment?
As a longtime admirer of Sen. Ted Kennedy, I am embarrassed.
The iconic Massachusetts senator and others in the family are actively promoting John F. Kennedy's daughter -- who famously shunned the gritty political world for the sanctuary of public service through her private endeavors -- to take the Senate seat once occupied by her late uncle, Robert F. Kennedy, and now held by Clinton. A decision on filling the vacancy should Clinton be confirmed as secretary of state is up to New York Gov. David Paterson, who could be forgiven, in moments like this, if he fleetingly wishes that he'd not ascended to the office after predecessor Eliot Spitzer's indiscretions.
What, exactly, is the case to be made for Caroline Kennedy?

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