Friday, June 19, 2009

Senator Burris is cleared

No Illinois Perjury Charge for Burris
New York Times - Monica Davey - ‎10 hours ago‎
CHICAGO — Roland W. Burris, who was appointed to fill Barack Obama's seat in the United States Senate, will face no charges resulting from a ...
Burris cleared in perjury probe USA Today
Senate ethics committee next up for Roland Burris The Associated Press
Sen. Burris won't say if he's running in 2010 Chicago Tribune
CNN - Reuters
all 524 news articles »

Those are some of the articles. You'll note that USA Today doesn't play with their headline, they just tell it like it is.

Senator Roland Burris was found innocent of perjury. That's what the entire thing turned on,f or those who don't recall. The Senate ethics committee has nothing because they were sticking their nose into something that was none of their business to begin with: Senator Burris' remarks to the Illinois state legislature.

Senator Burris has been cleared.

It'll be interesting to see who steps forward to note that. It'll be interesting to see who continues the attacks on him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hillary is 44

This is an excerpt of the latest at Hillary is 44:

One group that supported Obama is clearly waking up from the Hopium. 2010 Obama Dimocrats have a money problem and vote problem as voters one-by-one and interest group by interest group wake up to the Obama Dimocrat lies. As individuals and groups wake up to the Obama lies they immediately close their wallets. Closed “gay” wallets are forcing Obama to try his usual FAKE today:
Mr. Obama, in an Oval Office announcement, is expected to offer details about which benefits will be provided. It is the most significant statement he has made on gay issues, and it comes as he faces intense criticism from several gay rights leaders over what they suggest has been a failure to live up to campaign promises in the first months of his presidency. [snip]
“Extending benefits to partners of gay federal employees is terrific, but at this point he is under enormous pressure from the gay civil rights community for having promised the moon and done nothing so far,” Richard Socarides, an adviser to the Clinton administration on gay issues, said Tuesday evening. “So more important now is what he says tomorrow about the future for gay people during his presidency.” [snip]
But administration officials said the timing of the announcement was intended to help contain the growing furor among gay rights groups. Several gay donors withdrew their sponsorship of a Democratic National Committee fund-raising event next week, where Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. is scheduled to speak.
With Obama it’s always about the money. Whether it’s Rezko or healthcare (Obama sent out yet another email request for money yesterday)
it’s always about the money.
The presidential memorandum — scheduled for signing tomorrow at 5:45 p.m., may in the short term, give Joe Biden something positive to say at a June 25 fundraiser that has seen prominent guests drop out, a host sharply attack the administration, and which is expected to be marked by protests.
Gay “leaders” have been secretly winking and nodding and promising their constitutents for months now that Obama was going to do great things for the Gay community “soon” These Gay “leaders” were complicit in the Obama bamboozle. But now these Gay “leaders” are running to get ahead of the parade as Gay-Americans put aside the Hopium syringes:
The order is one of several lower-profile moves the administration had promised gay groups this month, but appears to have been announced this evening to stem rising protest.
There is only one way to deal with a thug and Gay “leaders” are learning Obama is a thug:
And they’re shifting toward a more confrontational strategy, which could include a march on Washington later this year.

We shoulod be all be marching. Barack is a con artist and, yes, I knew that. That's why I voted for Ralph Nader, the real deal. But just because I knew he was a con artist doesn't mean he doesn't need to be held accountable for his lies.

Hold his feet to the fire.

And the gay community did so without 'leadership,' they were the leaders. If they'd left it to their 'leaders' excuses would have continued to float down.

There's a lesson in courage and action that the LGBT community is teaching if anyone's paying attention.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Don't pass to Michelle, she's not open

Hillary is 44 has posted a letter from US Senator Charles Grassley (a Republican). You should read their entire post but check out this letter:

Dear Mr. Solomont:
As a senior member of the United States Senate and as the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Finance (Committee), it is my duty under the Constitution to conduct oversight into the actions of the executive branch, including the activities of the Corporation for National and Community Service (Corporation). In this capacity, I must ensure that the Corporation properly fulfills its mission of addressing a critical community need as the nation’s largest grantor supporting service and volunteering organization, as well as maintaining adequate accountability of millions of dollars in Federal funds.
An issue was recently brought to my attention by the Office of Inspector General (OIG), which concerns the misuse of Federal grant funding by St. HOPE Academy, a grantee of the Corporation. The investigation conducted by the OIG found evidence of the misuse of $850,000 of Federal grant funds provided to St. HOPE Academy from 2004 to 2007. It was reported that this particular investigation was contentious. Furthermore, according to some recent reports this investigation may have been a contributing factor in the decision to remove Inspector General Gerald Walpin. I am very concerned about the appearance that the IG’s communication with my office about this matter may have contributed to his removal. Inspectors General have a statutory duty to report to Congress. Intimidation or retaliation against those who freely communicate their concerns to Members of the House and Senate cannot be tolerated. This is especially true when such concerns are as legitimate and meritorious as Mr. Walpin’s appear to be.
In September 2008, after reviewing the facts that the OIG investigation presented, the Corporation’s Debarment and Suspension Official (Official) determined that the grantee’s two principals, Kevin Johnson and Dana Gonzalez were responsible for six acts of diverting grant funds to non-grant purposes, and found that “immediate action is necessary to protect the public interest.” In total about $850,000 was misused.
As a result, the OIG requested that the Official suspend all future Federal grant funding to both St. HOPE Academy and Kevin Johnson and Dana Gonzales individually. The Official ultimately suspended St. HOPE Academy and its principals “from participating in Federal procurement and non procurement programs and activities.” None of the respondents exercised their right to submit facts objecting to the suspension.
On April 9, 2009, a settlement lifting the suspension was executed by the Corporation’s General Counsel (GC), the designated Corporation Official, and the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of California (USAO). For reasons that I do not yet understand, the OIG was excluded from this proceeding and the settlement lifting the suspension, was done in complete disregard of the OIG’s findings, as well as the previous determination of wrong doing identified in the Notice of Suspension. Perhaps the settlement agreement was reached without any input from the OIG, because less than half of what was misused by the Corporation grantees is being returned to the taxpayer and the OIG would not have agreed to this arrangement. In fact, an argument can be made that not even half of the misused funds is being returned, because the settlement does not require that payment in full be made. Rather the settlement places the grantees on a type of payment plan that will occur over a decade; to date less than 10% of the misused money has been recovered.
Not only did the evidence demonstrate that Johnson, Gonzalez, and St. HOPE misused about $850,000 in Federal grant funds, but they also acknowledged that they did not document the expenditures as required. And yet, Mr. Johnson continues to have access to Federal funds through the city of Sacramento, primarily because the settlement agreement ignored the Suspension and Debarment procedures {(2C.F.R §§180.700(b), 180.800 (a)(4),(b)} that the Federal Government put into place in order to prevent such grant misuse. These procedures are intended to protect Federal agencies by making the grantee’s accountable for the misuse of Federal funds under their control. Based upon the documents in my possession, it seems that the facts of this investigation were substantially disregarded and the blatant waste of federal taxpayer dollars were handled with little more than a slap on the wrist. [snip]
Moreover, according to documents in my possession, St. HOPE Board members ignored a Federal subpoena and erased Mr. Johnson’s emails during the course of investigation. This was discovered after Mr. Johnson’s replacement as Executive Director of St. HOPE, Rick Maya, resigned on the same date of the Settlement Agreement because of various improprieties and potential obstruction of justice issues by St. HOPE Board Members.
In light of the removal of the Inspector General, it is vital that Congress obtain a full understanding of the role that you and your colleagues at CNCS played in these matters. Accordingly, please provide any and all records, email, memoranda, documents, communications, or other information, whether in draft or final form, related to:
1) the performance of Gerald Walpin as Inspector General;

2) the removal of Gerald Walpin as the Inspector General;

3) contacts with the United States Attorney’s Office;

4) contacts with officials in the Executive Office of the President;

5) contacts with officials in the Office of the First Lady;

6) St. HOPE Academy;

7) Kevin Johnson;

8 ) or CUNY.
No records related to these matters shall be destroyed or otherwise made inaccessible to Congress. Subsequent to the production of the documents requested above, I request that you provide a detailed briefing to my staff regarding what steps you are taking to ensure that funds are not similarly misused in the future.

Now that might be one spotlight Michelle Obama decides to run from. Explain to me how, in an election where health care was allegedly important, no one showed any real interest in what exactly Michelle did on that hospital board?

Like Michelle, I play women's basketball and so I think she'll grasp what I mean when I say this, "Ain't nothing like watching a big woman fall down." Yeah, the giants fall the hardest and make the loudest noise when they drop on the court. SMACK. DOWN. You'd think the phrase was invented for the likes of Michelle.

I'm going to enjoy watching this unfold and watching Michelle I Don't Know Nothing Bout Birthing No Business try to avoid the spotlight on this one.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, June 16, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, a lot people play 'proud parents' of Iraq, a call to halt executions in Iraq, and more.

Yesterday on
KPFA Flashpoints, Iraq Veterans Against the War's Camilo Mejia appeared with soldier Victor Agosto who has refused to deploy to the illegal war in Afghanistan.

Camilo Mejia: I actually was pretty much against the occupation from even before my deployment. I had not bought into the whole rationale of weapons of mass destruction and links to al Qaeda and 9-11. But it was all very political and all very -- I guess not very heart felt. I wasn't really willing to put my livelihood or my good military record on the line and I figured, you know, I'd just go to the theater, to Iraq, and get it over with and put it behind me once I returned home. But when I went to Iraq, my opposition to the war became more moral, more spiritual, more personal. It wasn't just an abstract thing. It wasn't just political because the first mission that we had was basically to run a POW camp -- a prisoner of war camp -- and to keep prisoners sleep deprived and for that we used a number of psychological tactics fear tactics that amounted to torture. And being an infantry man and being an infantry squad leader, following that mission we engaged not just the enemy but basically the population of Iraq particularly in a place called Ramada. And it just became a really horrible situation you know it became something that you're not ready to do as a human being. But at the same time my experience was very intense we didn't really have a whole lot of time to think philosophically or morally. Basically we wanted to get out of the place alive and in one piece so the will to survive kicked in and pushed aside moral concerns and it wasn't until I returned home on leave and I had a little bit of piece of mind and safety that I went back to my questioning of the war -- not just political but now moral as well and coming from a personal experience. I realized that I had to choose between being an obedient soldier and following my conscience you know I couldn't do the two at once. So I chose to follow my conscience and to not go back to the war and to eventually speak out against the war like Victor is doing. And there are different angles from which you can look at what Victor's doing and some people will say what awaits him is jail time and court martial and a lot of stress, the rejection of some of his peers and a harsh future in life. But in reality I think that his decision not to go back to an occupation that he finds immoral and illegal that goes against his conscience -- it's quite liberating and in the end going to work better for him than obeying something that is against his principals. And that's something you find from people who have gone through similar things like we have gone through like Stephen Funk and Augustin Aguayo and Kevin Benderman and other resisters. Yes, there's jail time and you may be put behind bars and some people may call you a coward or a traitor, but in the end you did what you knew was right in your heart and there's no greater sense of satisfaction and spiritual freedom than following your conscience. So I support him and I think that he's doing the right thing and I think that he's to be much better off resisting even if it means jail time than going back to Afghanistan and doing things that he later on will not be able to live with.

Nora Barrows Friedman asked Camilo about the state of things currently.

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

Iraq Veterans Against the War has been requesting people call their Congress members and demand a No vote on the War Supplemental:In mid May, we asked you to take action by contacting your legislators about the supplemental funding bill that would continue the U.S. occupation in Iraq and escalate our presence in Afghanistan. Well, since then, there have been some interesting developments, and we may have a real opportunity to defeat this funding. Republicans who previously voted for the earlier version of the bill do not want to give the IMF funds to bail out international banks or the economies of developing countries that have been affected by the global economic crisis. And progressive Democrats do not want to support money for the IMF due to its lack of transparency and its track-record of offering small nations economic bailouts with high interest rates and other nasty strings attached. Both sides have pledged to vote "NO" on the current version of the bill that now includes the IMF funding.This vote is expected to go to the House of Representatives TODAY. Please contact your member of the House today and tell them to vote "NO" on the Supplemental Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2009 (H.R. 2346).

This morning
Carolyn Lochhead (San Francisco Chronicle) reported on US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's strong-arming attempt to get 218 out of 256 Democratic House members to support funding the illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the undeclared war in Pakistan. US House Rep Lynn Woolsey is quoted stating, "I see no reason to be keeping our troops in Iraq that much longer and to start into Afhgnaistan when there's no end in sight. If we were voting on funds to bring our troops home from Iraq, I'd vote for it in a minute. . . . I just hope we're not repeating the mistake we made in Iraq." Lynn Woolsey went public last week on Pelosi and the White House's strong arming techniques earning the wrath of Barack's sock puppets and professional whores across the internet. Woolsey is a member of the Out of Iraq Caucus and one of the most telling votes will come from another member of that caucus, one who spent 2007 cutting details for her support of Barack and setting her own end up. Should she vote as she's led the White House and Pelosi to believe, one so-called dove will be sprouting her War Hawk feathers. Should it happen, it will be a big shock to her constituents and aid the challenge being planned against her in 2010. Rebecca notes her former pen pal has an article at CounterPunch wherein David Swanson notes MoveOn attempts a bait-and-switch by endorsing a non-binding amendment proposed by US House Rep Jim McGovern: "And MoveOn's timing, together with other organizations in the Win Without War coalition, was telling. Because many members of these groups oppose the war and have complained about their organizations' silence on the supplemental vote, the organizations' leaders chose the moment of the war vote to propose something else that might at least look like a halfway step. In reality, however, it may turn out to be counterproductive -- a development that would please Pelosi and [White House Chief of Staff Rahm] Emanuel." There is a chance the War Supplemental could go down in flames. If enough Dems and Republicans say "no," it won't pass. Walter Alarkon (The Hill) reports that the Republican plan in the House is "to vot en bloc against the $106 billion war-spending bill".

This morning Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) spoke with Bob Fertik of and he explained Republican opposition to the War Supplemental and demonstrated the problems with his organization's 'strategizing':

AMY GOODMAN: And what do you make of --what you're asking for is the Democrats to join with the Republicans in voting against the appropriations bill. Why are the Republicans against it?

BOB FERTIK: Because of the $5 billion for the IMF, which is a bailout for European banks.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, you're asking Democrats to join with the Republicans.

BOB FERTIK: Well, we're asking them to vote no on the bulk of the bill, which is the war funding for Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan.

He defines, he himself defines, the IMF issue as "a bailout for European banks" but when Amy follows up that he's asking for Dems and Republicans to join together? "Well, we're asking them to vote no on the bulk of the bill . . ." Because heaven forbid the man from work together with anyone to end the funding. I'm so sick of that nonsense. Yes, Dems and Republicans opposed to the bill -- for whatever reasons -- need to work together if they can. And that's in Congress and it's out of Congress. And Bob earlier wanted "everybody" to "call their representative at (202) 225-3121" -- everybody. And, guess what, Bob, some of those US House Reps that "everybody" will be calling? Republicans. For those who missed it, partisanship has ended the Iraq War, stopped the Afghanistan or prevented the undeclared war on Pakistan.
Corey Boles (Wall St. Journal) reports Steny Hoyer is bragging publicly that he believes the Dems have the votes to pass the War Supplemental. Hoyer notes Barry O's efforts to push the bill through and praises him for possibly toying with an executive order barring the release of the torture photos because, after all, America is an executive order. What's that? It's a democracy? Don't tell Steny, he might pee all over himself in shock. Jeremy Scahill (Rebel Reports) points out, "In funding the wars, the White House has been able to rely on strong GOP support to marginalize the anti-war Democrats who have pledged to vote against continued funding (as 51 Democrats did in May when the supplemental was first voted on). But the White House is running into trouble now because of Republican opposition to some of the provisions added to the bill (and one removed), meaning the pro-war Democrats actually need a fair number of anti-war Democrats to switch sides. In short, the current battle will clearly reveal exactly how many Democrats actually oppose these wars."

So Bob Fertik wants you to stop the funding of the illegal war -- apparently without working with any of those cootie-laced Republicans. And what of the other brave hearts? American Freedom Campaign forgot about the Iraq War -- woopsie! -- but did find time today to send out an e-mail entitled "Book Recommendation: Daybreak" (no, not the Joan Baez book from decades ago, a new book by David Swanson). Those brave men and women at TomPaine, surely, they're all over this, right? Wrong. They sent out an e-mail today too . . . . On public health care. Well The Nation, surely The Nation magazine . . . . Oh, they e-mailed on "Iran's Twitter Revolution." Well put a twit in charge of The Nation, expect Twittering. Besides Katrina vanden Heuvel sold the 'good war' of Afghanistan. She'll moan a little ("Oh, the humanity!") but otherwise march along as she's told. Curse of the unpopular still desperate to fit in. True Majority e-mailed . . . to tell you it was your "last chance" to help Barry O with his his health plan. Good. Now they can find something else to mail about. (They won't.) CODESTINK is, of course, silent. They whored it out to Barack throughout 2007 and 2008. They whored it out and they've no credibility remaining. So it's probably good they just stand in their corners for the rest of 2009 and think what about they did. MoveOn tries to distract from the War Supplemental vote by suddenly pretending they care about the environment via a pollution e-mailing. Anyone else remember the "The earth can't wait one more minute!" screaming of 2007 and 2008? Anyone else noticing that Barack doesn't give a damn about the environment (first hint: Pro-mountain top removal and pro-nuclear energy)? Anyone else noticing the silence from the Crazies who were screaming "End of Times" last year and the year before? Sheryl Crow and her gal pal plan to corner David Axelrod and scream at him about what's happening to the administration? Just wondering.

Meanwhile the New York Times' John F. Burns is just a whore who will never recover from whoring. That's apparent today in the crap he scribbles under the headline "
Britain to Investigate Role in Iraq." Couldn't keep it in his pants Burnsie played Go-Go Boy Gone Wild in the Green Zone and if there's one person who filed in Iraq that brought more shame to the paper than Dexy Filkins, it was his teacher, mentor and wet nurse Burnise who was way too old not to know better. He's still way too old not to know better and his article is an embarrassment. We gave him the benefit of the doubt yesterday and just avoided it for the snapshot. He might be rushing. He apparently was rushing. He rounded it out by taking the Conservative leader's speech and basically presenting points from it as a critique. Possibly that's a good thing since his own critical abilities fail him. There's not any informed and honest follower of the David Kelley inquiry at this late date who would refer to it without serious questioning. But Burnsie thinks it's an example of a great inquiry. And public, too! For those who've forgotten, the BBC accused Blair's cabinet of sexing up the intel and that was based on information provided by the late David Kelley. The inquiry was a whitewash. Only later revelations, after the inquiry closed, proved how right the BBC was. But this was after heads rolled. It takes a real idiot to invoke the Kelley inquiry as anything worthy of praise but Fat Ass Burnsie's been a real idiot for years now. Link provided for laughter only. Laugh at him and grasp he can't just sit at a desk in this economy. In the past the paper would keep useless garbage like Burnsie on the payroll for decades as long as they reported for work each day. They never had to actually compose a story worth publishing. It was sort of the payroll version of the "Gentleman's C." Those days are largely over. Catherine Mayer (TIME magazine) manages to actually report, pay attention, Burnsie. She quotes Rose Gentle protesting the non-public 'inquiry,' "What is the point of an inquiry behind closed doors? No family would be happy with that. We already feel that we have been lied to by the government. We don't want any more lies." And Mayer notes that "the new inquiry has no powers of subpoena and will hold no public hearings. Its report will be published, but with some information considered potentially harmful to national security redacted."

Released today in the US was [PDF format warning] "
Joint Audit of Blackwater Contract and Task Orders for Worldwide Personal Protective Services in Iraq." It is the latest report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. As explained in the Executive Summary, "this report focuses on Blackwater contract in Iraq". The report questions oversight of the contract (including on labor costs billed to the government by Iraq). It's a minor report (44 pages of text -- largely outlining what Blackwater told them -- Blackwater, though not identified as such, is the primary source for the report. That's apparent due as they go through the step-by-step hiring process of Blackwater, etc. There was little independence in this report which really should have given Blackwater co-authorship of this report since they took all claims by Blackwater on employment hiring practices at face value.) Viola Gienger (Bloomberg News) notes that the report finds US diplomats were at "unnecessary risk" because Blackwater did not staff properly. Yes, a scary thought, all the damage Blackwater did in Iraq and they were understaffed. Imagine how many civilian slaughters they could have carried out if they'd been full staffed? CNN goes with the understaffed aspect as well but emphasizes the finanical portion: "The State Department failed to seek $55 million in penalties from the American security firm once known as Blackwater for not properly complying with its security contract for protecting diplomatic personnel in Iraq, an audit shows." Yochi J. Dreazen (Wall St. Journal) doesn't see a failure to seek penalties so much as "the State Department overpaid the contract-security firm".

While the press debates that, few bother to note that the European Union issued "
Declaration by the Presidency on behalf of the European Union on the continuation of mass executions in Iraq:"The European Union is deeply disturbed at reports that in recent days further death sentences were carried out in Iraq, probably totalling number 20.Moreover, the European Union is severely alarmed about indications that further mass executions might be imminent. The European Union opposes the death penalty in all cases and in all circumstances. Our view is that the abolition of the death penalty contributes to the enhancement of human dignity and the progressive development of human rights. The European Union considers the death penalty as a cruel and inhuman punishment and a violation to the right to life. We consider that it provides no added value in terms of deterrence. At a time where a positive image of Iraq and of its achievements is emerging, the resumption of the execution of capital punishment affects that image and does not help the effort aiming at promoting the awareness of the positive developments in Iraq within the international community and public opinion. The European Union is particularly disturbed about the way in which the death penalty is applied in Iraq, a country where the judiciary is still being developed. The EU recalls that any miscarriage or failure of justice in the application of capital punishment represents an irreparable and irreversible loss of human life.The European Union considers it indispensable that where States insist on applying the death penalty, it is carried out with due respect to international obligations for the protection of human rights, including the obligation that the death penalty may only be carried out pursuant to a final judgment after legal process which gives all possible safeguards to ensure a fair trial, at least equal to those contained in article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, including the right of anyone suspected of or charged with a crime for which capital punishment may be imposed to adequate legal assistance at all stages of the proceedings. The EU therefore urges the Government of Iraq to resume the de facto suspension of the execution of death penalty, which had been observed in Iraq since August 2007, pending legal abolition. This suspension should include all cases still on death row in Iraq. Such a step would be in line with the global trend towards abolition, as demonstrated, inter alia, by the recent UN General Assembly Resolutions calling for a moratorium with a view to considering the abolition of the death penalty for all crimes. The Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia* and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania and Montenegro, and the EFTA countries Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, members of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Armenia align themselves with this declaration. * Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.CTK adds, "A halt to the executions in Iraq was also recently demanded by Amnesty International human rights watchdog." From yesterday's snapshot, we'll note:

Nell Abram (Free Speech Radio News) reports a hunger strike in Iraqi, "Dozens protested outside an Iraqi prison today where hundreds of detainees have launched a hunger strike -- they're protesting what they describe as abuse. Most of the 300 men at Iraq's Rusafa prison have been held without charge for at least a year. Last week, a Sunni lawyer who was a prominent voice for prisoners' rights was killed. Harith al-Obeidi, the head of Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front, had publicly called for Iraqi officials to respond to claims of torture in Iraqi jails."

Hey, kids, who runs that prison? The Ministry of the Inerior. Last November, they were offering
Andrew North (BBC News) a tour of the Baghdad prison to disprove allegations of abuse. Is a potential pattern emerging?

Yes, it is the Ministry of the Interior and
Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) reports today, "Iraq's interior minister promised on Tuesday to punish any prison workers found guilty of abusing inmates." Iran's Press TV also notes it is "an interior ministry prison".
Today in Iraq,
Reuters reports a bus accident in southern Iraq has resulted in the death of at least 14 people ("many of them children") with at least thirty more injured. The dominant thread coming out of Iraq today is a lot of press members playing proud parents. You know how those are. A B-report gets inflated to an A, etc. So they hope no one attended Nouri's recital and saw the hole on the seat of his tights when he was doing an Arabesque. Instead, everyone's supposed to pretend that the acres and acres of the US Embassy that anchor the Green Zone don't exist and that Nouri really, honest!, has control over the Green Zone!!!! And forget those sprawling US bases bordering and running through Baghdad and Mosul, Nouri's got control!!! Control!!! It's such a proud moment and we're all so very -- Nouri, don't pick your nose. Stop that. But it's such a proud, proud moment and we're all so very . . . . It's not news. It's not even good propaganda. It's reporters shaming themselves in public. Way to drop that whole pesky disinterested, objective pose. In other reported violence . . .


Laith Hammoudi and Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) report a Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded two Iraqi civilians and one US service member, a Mosul roadside bombing which wounded four people and, dropping back to Monday night, a Mosul roadside bombing which left two people wounded. Reuters notes a Monday Mosul bombing which left "a judge and two of his aides" injured and a Monday Kirkuk car bombing which claimed the life of 1 person and left five more injured.


Laith Hammoudi and Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) report the US military fired at a car in Mosul and ended up hitting a woman and a driver on a bus, wounding both.


Laith Hammoudi and Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) report 1 person stabbed to death in Kirkuk today. Reuters reveals that the victim owned a cell phone store and was killed in it.


Laith Hammoudi and Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) report 2 people kidnapped last night in Kirkuk.

Today the
US military announced: "CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq -- A Multi-National Division-South Soldier was killed by an improvised explosive device near the city of Samawah June 16. The Soldier's name is being withheld pending notification of next-of-kin. The name of the Soldier will be announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official Web site at The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next-of-kin." The announcement brought to 4313 the number of US service members killed in the Iraq War.

In the US,
Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan continues speaking out against the war machine. Her latest book is Myth America: 10 Greatest Myths of the Robber Class and the Case for Revolution. She's on the road and June 17th will be in St. Petersburg, Florida (6:00 pm at NOVA 535 and 8:00 to 9:00 pm at Cafe Bohmia). June 18th to 23rd, she blankets Philadelphia and surrounding areas with eight different venues. June 20th she will hold a noon event at Penn Wynne Presbyterian Church in Wynnewood, PA, then at three p.m. an event at Center City Phildelphia, then that night, at beginning at seven thirty, she'll be at the Moonstone Art Center in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. June 21st finds her at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Princeton, New Jersey starting at two p.m. and later that night, 6:30, at St Luke's United Church of Christ. June 22nd she'll be at Phila Community Center starting at two p.m. and at Central Bucks & Montgomery County that night at seven. June 23rds events include the Unitarian Universalist Church in Bethlehem, New York at seven p.m. June 24 and 25th are NYC. For a full listing click here. Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox is Cindy's weekly radio program and Dallas radio station 1360 AM, Rational Radio, is now carrying it on Sundays. World Can't Wait has video of Cindy's protest last week at Bush's home in Dallas.

In other news, "This Is Why" is a mailing sent out by the Democratic Party today (Democratic National Committee), it's filled with lies so big surprise it's signed by Barack Obama. (Wall Street bought and paid for you Barack, only you're most demented still believe your myth of small donors.) It's another "Send money!" Another, "You got a dollar?" The begging is appalling. It's not 2010. It's not begging for a political race. It's just begging. It's just greed. Some people need to start worrying about how tacky and cheap they're coming off. It's bad enough to have Celebrity In Chief. It's far worse to have one who can't stop whoring it out for a few dimes. Try to maintain the dignity of the office. Please stop trying to prostitute the office of the presidency due to your never ending greed.

iraqthe san francisco chroniclecarolyn lochheadthe hillwalter alakronkpfa
flashpointsnora barrows friedman
camilo mejiairaq veterans against the war
cindy sheehan
amy goodmandemocracy now
mcclatchy newspaperslaith hammoudisahar issa
the wall street journalyochi j. dreazen
waleed ibrahim
free speech radio news