Friday, August 05, 2011

Out of control Justice Dept.

"US government targets open access activist" (Patrick Zimmerman, WSWS):

The prosecution of open access activist Aaron Swartz for downloading articles from a database of academic journals is part of a campaign by the US government to place increasing restrictions and controls on internet activity.

Aaron Swartz, a researcher at Harvard, was indicted by federal authorities on July 19 for allegedly using a Massachusetts Institute of Technology networking closet to access JSTOR and download 4.8 million articles. Swartz has pleaded not guilty to all charges and was released on $100,000 bond.

After apprehension, JSTOR sought to immediately recover the documents. After receiving the hard drives containing the documents along with a promise from Swartz that they had not and would not be shared, JSTOR decided not to press charges.

The Department of Justice however, has decided to pursue criminal charges against Swartz, charging him with computer fraud, wire fraud, and unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer. If convicted, he could face up to 35 years in prison.

Does that make sense to you?

It sure doesn't to me. A person goes to a place where you can download information and he downloads information and it's a crime because of how much he downloaded?

How does that make sense?

Reeves Wiedeman of The New Yorker explains:

Defenders say Swartz was arrested for the online equivalent of “checking too many books out of the library,” as phrased by the executive director of Demand Progress, a political-action non-profit founded by Swartz. U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz had a different view: “Stealing is stealing whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars.” Swartz, for his part, pled not guilty.

I don't see how it's stealing at all. I do get how he's being punished for "checking too many books out of the libary" and that makes no sense.

Supposedly, this is according the feds, he put a laptop in an MIT closet and used it to download all that data that's supposedly criminal.

The New Yorker tries to figure out the supposed crime as well.

Sneaking into a building at M.I.T. might seem like trespassing, but that’s not a federal crime. He’s charged instead with wire and computer fraud—for having knowingly accessed a computer with the intent to defraud, and gaining some value from it. (A JSTOR subscription like M.I.T.’s could go for fifty thousand dollars.) Swartz is also accused of accessing a “protected computer” (more on that in a moment) without authorization, and damaging it—his downloads overwhelmed JSTOR’s server, shutting down access at M.I.T. for a time. Critics of Swartz have compared the act to breaking and entering, while supporters note that the better analogy is to say that JSTOR gave Swartz the keys to its house, then got upset when he drank all the milk.

It makes no sense and it's just another sign of how a change in the White House didn't mean a change at all.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, August 5, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Ban Ki-Moon gets a new special envoy to Iraq, talks continue to extend the US military presence in Iraq, Barack places two million ahead of thirty million (in an apparent attempt to make up for releasing the killers of 5 US soldiers -- blood money doesn't wash, Barack), Nouri attempts to ensure protests do not get covered, and more.
Starting with the Libyan War. Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is the special correspondent on Libya for Pacifica Radio's Flashpoints. Over the weekend, his latest article (for the Centre for Research on Globalization) addressed the apparent plan (by the US and NATO) to divide Libya into three individual countries and notes the historical efforts to do this, "There have been longstanding designs for dividing Libya that go back to 1943 and 1951. This started with failed attempts to establish a trusteeship over Libya after the defeat of Italy and Germany in North Africa during the Second World War. The attempts to divide Libya then eventually resulted in a strategy that forced a monarchical federal system onto the Libyans similar to the "federal system" imposed on Iraq following the illegal 2003 Anglo-American invasion. If the Libyans had accepted federalism in their relatively homogenous society they could have forfeited their independence in 1951." On today's second hour of The Diane Rehm Show, Al Jazzera's Abderrahim Foukara spoke briefly of the possible plan to "partition" Libya.
For those who've forgotten, US President Barack Obama never served in the military but sure does love to send the US military into war. (The term for that is "chicken hawk.") A CIA-backed group of exiles (sounds a lot like Iraq, doesn't it?) wanted control of Libya and began a 'civil' war. March 19th, on the 8th anniversary of the ongoing Iraq War, Barack announced that the world was getting another war, though he insists that the war not be called a "war." Fancy Pants was out of the country when he gave his speech which included:
Today I authorized the Armed Forces of the United States to begin a limited military action in Libya in support of an international effort to protect Libyan civilians. That action has now begun.
[. . .]
I've acted after consulting with my national security team, and Republican and Democratic leaders of Congress. And in the coming hours and days, my administration will keep the American people fully informed. But make no mistake: Today we are part of a broad coalition. We are answering the calls of a threatened people. And we are acting in the interests of the United States and the world.
Please note, these were comments to the press as he traisped through Latin America. There was no White House address proper to inform the American people what was being done in their name. As the US Embassy in London noted, "The United States will contribute its 'unique capabilities at the front end,' he told reporters traveling with him in Brasilia, Brazil, March 19. Obama added that the use of force was not his first choice and 'not a choice I make lightly'." Muammar Gaddafi is the leader of Libya. While exiles funded by the CIA (and later by France and other governments) may have wanted him out, the Libyan people living in Libya didn't seem to share that desire then and do not share it now. What the Libyan War has done is take those who were doubtful or unsupportive of Gaddafi and made them firm supporters. Why? Because being attacked by an outsider tends to bind people together all the more tightly -- that is the purpose of a common enemy. What Barack insisted would last only a few weeks has now lasted months. The effort to allegedly protect civilians has bombed food warehouses, water plants and medical centers. Children have been killed by the NATO bombings and, yes, that does include some of Muammar Gaddafi's grandchildren -- something that should result in universal shame not cries of, "We got his six-year-old! We took his six-year-old out!"
Recent reports indicate that continued military operations in Libya are imposing increasing hardship on civilians and may have also resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians. Yesterday's Washington Post reports that "a hospital worker in western Libya said that NATO froces struck a local hospital on Monday and killed seven people, including three doctors" in Zlitan, Libya and may have also bombed food warehouses. In addition, The Washington Post reports that residents of Tripoli are experiencing significant gas shortages and high food prices. If the reports of civilians killed by a NATO strike are true, the U.N. and the International Criminal Court must take immediate actions to hold member states and NATO's top command in Libya accountable.
It is an illegal war. Barack did not get authorization for it. He has refused to follow the War Powers Act. And the side he backed is questioned more each day. As James Kitfield (National Journal) pointed out on the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR) today, it's becoming obvious that enough work was not done on researching the 'rebel' side. That's becoming obvious because of a development last week: a member of the Transitional Council was killed. The Transitional Council is the so-called 'rebels' fighting to 'free' Libya. Thursday of last week on Flashpoints (KPFA, Pacifica), guest host Kevin Pina spoke with Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya about the death (Flashpoints Radio airs live on KPFA from 5:00 to 6:00 pm PST, Monday through Friday).

Mahdi Nazemroaya: Abdul Fatah Younis has been declared dead. The circumstances around it exactly aren't known. We'll know at the press conference. And CNN will be present, BBC, Sky News, as well as various international news services.

Kevin Pina: Well Mahdi, explain to us who this man was and why it's so important. And obviously this is a breaking news story, you're breaking news on Flashpoints that this man was confirmed dead.

Mahdi Nazemroaya: Well this man was the former Interior Ministry of the government in Triopoli. He's a longtime friend of Col Gaddafi as well and he's also a member of the group of young Arab officers who started the revolution with Col Gaddafi. So it was actually a big surprise when he defected and joined the Transitional Council in Benghazi. Now his death, as I mentioned, the circumstances around it aren't known. I've heard different things I'm going to have to confirm. I was told that the rebel forces, the so-called rebels, have claimed that they killed him themselves because he was about to defect --

Kevin Pina: Defect back?

Mahdi Nazemroaya: Yes. He was going to do a second defection. Because a lot of the rebels are also tired of the fighting and I've heard that there might have even been negotiations for them to end the fighting and to come back. But anyways, I've also heard that he probably could have been killed by the government side. So this is not clear and it has to be confirmed.
This was a major development. Sunday at Third, we pointed out, "And what message does it send to defectors when they learn that the defector they put in charge of their forces was never trusted? The message is that no one in the so-called rebels trusts anyone. That's some form of team building exercise . . . for losers." Justin Raimondo ( wrote an in depth column on the meaning of the murder. Excerpt:
Aside from the general barbarity of this act, which gives us a glimpse of what the rebel regime will look like if and when they take power in all of Libya, look at the curious factional line up in the rebels' internal power struggles. Although the Official Story, as promulgated by the NTC, keeps changing -- initially, a "pro-Gadhafi" faction in Benghazi, an "armed gang," was blamed for the killing, but there are too many Western reporters in town to keep a lid on the truth (or some approximation of it) for long. Now we are told that those responsible for the killing -- rebel soldiers -- have been arrested. However, whomever gets the Official Blame in the end isn't what's interesting: the real scoop is that our boy, Haftar -- think Ahmed Chlabi, Libyan version -- is aligned with the Islamists against the more secular elements, defectors like Younes and the Benghazi lawyers who make up the civilian leadership of the rebellion.
As in the Balkans, where US-trained and-funded "Kosovo Liberation Army" guerrillas fought alongside al-Qaeda's legions and NATO forces, so the same alliance is fighting to "liberate" Libya. It is as if a time machine has thrust us back in the Clinton years -- and indeed these are the Clinton years, redux, at least in the foreign policy realm, as this is the policy area that has been ceded to the Clintons by a disengaged and generally hapless President Obama. All of which puts in a new perspective recent boasts by top administration officials and various "experts" that we are on the verge of finally defeating al-Qaeda. Why, then, are they allying with Osama bin Laden's Libyan legatees?
From the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show today:

James Kitfield: One thing about the Younis situation that worries me is that he was summoned by the Council itself, the Transitional Council apparently thought he had done something wrong and somewhere between being summoned and getting to the Transitional Council, he was murdered. So -- his tribe is now up in arms saying they may break off from the rebellion.
In an analysis published by WSWS yesterday, Peter Symonds explains, "The unexplained killing last week of the Libyan rebel military commander, General Abdel Fatah Younis, has highlighted the divided and unstable character of the NATO-backed Transitional National Council (TNC) and the military stalemate in its efforts to oust the regime of Muammar Gaddafi. The assassination has provoked a series of comments by British and French ministers that effectively reverse months of US and NATO propaganda predicting the imminent fall of Gaddafi."
Again, from the second hour of today's Diane Rehm Show, National Journal's James Kitfield:
James Kitfield: And one further complicating factor. People aren't really talking about but I believe it's in September the UN resolution that really okayed this runs out and given that NATO has gone way beyond what it originally said it was going to do which was just to protect people from massacre from the air to bombing command centers and taking out tanks, it's very hard for me to imagine that they get an extension of that [resolution] through the [United Nations] Security Council so that means that there might be a due-by-date on NATO airstrikes and power for this and that further complicates it.
When we quote from The Diane Rehm Show, we generally give one link. There are multiple today due to the fact that it was pointed out to me that last Friday's snapshot did not include any link for the excerpt. We were rushing (me dictating and my friend typing) and that was among many things that were forgotten. My mistake and my apology. To make up for it, we have included a link every time we noted it in this snapshot. On Diane's second hour today, CNN's Elise Labot had much to say on several topics and I'm passing that over to anyone in the community who wants to grab that at their site tonight.
2008 presidential candidate and former US House Rep Cynthia McKinney went on a fact-finding mission to Libya and has gone around the country since returning speaking out against what is happening. Black Agenda Report features many of her talks about Libya (some with video and some with just audio). She and others have more reports back coming. We'll run the full announcement tomorrow but there's not room in the snapshot. This is from the announcement:
A continuing mobilization against the U.S. war on Libya has taken place in cities across the country. Packed, standing room only audiences at major meetings have heard former Congressperson Cynthia McKinney report on her June fact-finding trip to Libya with the Dignity delegation. In every meeting the message rings out: Stop the U.S./NATO bombing of Libya.
In the coming ten days Cynthia McKinney is scheduled to speak at meetings in Boston on Saturday, August 6, in Los Angeles on Sunday, August 7, in Vancouver on Tuesday, August 9. McKinney will speak at the Millions March in Harlem of August 13 along with Minister Farrakhan and other opponents of war and sanctions on Libya and Zimbabwe. She is scheduled to speak at 2 meetings in North Carolina on Sunday, August 14 hosted by the Black Workers for Justice in Rocky Mount and later at a historic civil rights church in Durham.
To see Cynthia speaking at Riverside Church, click here. The release notes that Cynthia spoke to a standing-room-only audience at Newark's Abyssinian Baptist Church. Quoting from the release:
A Full listing of the current tour follows and is available at:
National-tour, now to 19 cities, organized by International Action
Center in coordination with many antiwar and
community organizations from July 7 to August 28, 2011.
July 7 Thursday- Houston, TX
July 9 Saturday - Peacestock, Hager City, WI & Minneapolis, MN
July 10, Sunday – Albany, NY,
July 11, Monday –Washington DC,
July 14, Thursday – Northampton MA,
July 24, Sunday –Atlanta, GA
July 28, Thursday – Newark, NJ,
July 30, Saturday – New York City, NY
August 6, Saturday – Boston, MA
August 7, Sunday – Los Angeles, CA
August 9, Tuesday – Vancouver BC, Canada
August 13, Saturday - NYC with Millions March in Harlem
August 14, Sunday - Rocky Mount, and Durham, NC
August 19, Friday – St Louis MO
August 21, Sunday - Pittsburg, PA
August 25, Thursday - Baltimore, MD
August 27, Saturday – Detroit, MI
August 28, Sunday – Denver CO
If you're able to see Cynthia on the remaining dates, you should make the effort. She's been the strongest voice against the Libyan War and a real leader on this issue. (And she's an amazing speaker on any topic.)
Turning to Iraq, today United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated he intends to appoint Garmany's Martin Kobler as the special envoy to Iraq, replacing Ad Melkert who has held the post since 2009. (And Ad Melkert has proven highly ineffective when you measure the needs-to list he was given with what was actually accomplished. When you've failed to accomplish what you were supposed to, you may be tempted to spin reality in the progress report you provide the Security Council.) So who is Martin Kobler?
The Goethe Institut has described the 58-year-old as "a globe-trotting diplomat." Gamal Nkrumah (Al-Ahram Weekly) offered of him in a profile, "He is a disarming mixture of joshing informality and intense enthusiasm, and appears to like questions rather more than answers." Current reports on the announcement (AFP, DPA, Reuters, etc) tend to ignore the three children and his spouse. The latter is surprising because in 2006, Britta Wagener was news. That's when her husband (Kobler) was Germany's ambassador to Egypt and and he made the second in charge at the embassy was Britta Wagner. Complaints were filed over it, there was a protest at a staff meeting in December of 2004 and issues of conflicts of interest were raised. If you read German, you can click here for one report on the issue. Also not being discussed is the fact that he's going from Afghanistan (UN Mission in Afghanistan) to Iraq at a time when so many are going the opposite way.
Kobler was previously Germany's Abassdor to Iraq for roughly one year (August 2006 through September 2007). Of that period of time, he told the Goethe Institut, "I never experienced anarchy before living in Iraq. In 2006 there was no trust, no system, nothing to give a backbone to the society. The situation had stripped people of all morality. At any moment children could be kidnapped, held for ransom, anyone might be caught in a bomb blast. It made me realize that Fate alone decides if you are born into a protected childhood."
Let's stay on the topic of diplomacy to note this Tweet by Al Jazeera and the Christian Science Monitor's Jane Arraf about Iraq's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hoshyar Zebari.
jane arraf
janearraf jane arraf
Yes, the topic of non-withdrawal, Al Mada reports that Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc in Parliament is stating that they have not agreed to go along with or approve the plan to keep the US military in Iraq under the guise of trainers. The spokesperson calls it a betrayal of Iraqis and notes that if the issue was really training there would be no need to specify how many US soldiers would remain in Iraq. Jane Arraf adds:
jane arraf
janearraf jane arraf
Mohammed A. Salih (Christian Science Monitor) explores feelings on the issue in Kirkuk and finds many who want the US military to remain such as Mohammed Jassim who states, "Ideally, I would not want US soldiers to be ehre. But the reality makes me want them to stay. If they were leave now problems and tensions might emerge. There are many sides who don't want things to go well here." Part of the reason many in Kirkuk may want US forces to stay is that their oil-rich region is still a huge question mark. This despite the fact that Constiution of Iraq called for the issue to be resolved with a census and a referendum no later than the end of 2007. Nouri al-Maliki was prime minister then, he is prime minister now. He refused to follow the Constitution.
With the exception of Chris Hill (one-time US Ambassador to Iraq -- who infamously told the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee that it was "just an old fashioned land dispute"), diplomats with various governments and the United Nations have publicly spoken of how important resolving the issue of Kirkuk is to the future and stability of Iraq. Due to the oil there, everyone wants it. Due to the historical expulsions of various groups in differing waves, claims are made on the region. The central government out of Baghdad wants it and the Kurdistan Regional Government wants it. Tensions run high between Arabs and Kurds over this issue and these tensions threaten the future of Iraq as the RAND Corporation's recent report, entitled "Managing Arab-Kurd Tensions in Northern Iraq After the Withdrawal of U.S. Troops," noted. (See the July 26th snapshot for more on the RAND report.) While Arabs and Kurds are the large parties disputing who has the right to Kirkuk, they are not the only groups of people in Kirkuk. Among others, there are the Turkemen who first came to Kirkuk as far back as 1055. It's a very complex issue and the plan was to have it resolved by 2007. Despite that being written into the Constitution, it did not happen and the fate of Kirkuk remains unresolved today.
Zhang Xiang (Xinhua) observes that "the Kurdish bloc, the largest gainer in the Iraq War, hopes for a long-term presence of the American soldiers, especially in the disputable region of Kirkuk. Worries from the other religious party Sunni Muslim will be deepened as the Shiites in neighboring Iran will expand its clout without the threats posed by the U.S. military." Of course, Jalal Talabani has already stated his opinion that US forces need to remain in Iraq stated it to Chinese Television. From that interview last month:
Axes: On the subject of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, there are media reports talking about the agreement of the Iraqi parliament on this issue, hoping to keep U.S. troops in Iraq after the end of this year, while White House also hoped to extend the stay of troops U.S. in Iraq, what is your opinion on the subject of the withdrawal of U.S. forces or keep them?

President Talabani: First, this news is not true, that the Iraqi parliament decided anything for the survival of U.S. forces, the Iraqi parliament to now did not study the subject, well known that relations between Iraq and the United States determined agreement (SOFA), which provides for the evacuation of U.S. forces at the end of this year, as well as our (the strategic framework agreement) on the principles of relationships, the parties of Iraq and the U.S. insist on this agreement, which sets political and trade relations, cultural and technological ... etc. The theme of the survival of U.S. forces in Iraq, First extension of the agreement is not possible because the extension of the agreement requires approval by two thirds parliament and this can not be obtained, while you remain a number of American forces for training or not? I chaired the days before the two meetings of leaders of Iraqi political attended by all political actors, some views were clear and some are not clear, for example, the direction of the Sadrist movement, which to them (40) deputies in the parliament is the categorical rejection of the presence of U.S. forces, the direction of Kurdish leadership is to keep U.S. forces a limited number, at least in the disputed areas, and the rest They still studying this topic, Voattiyna Mhlten of Iraqi political parties to give us an answer within the prescribed time about whether they agree with the survival of a number of U.S. troops, and not all the troops, the Americans also do not want to keep all their forces, and proposed is that the number of U.S. troops for training, of course I want to say a thing which is that according to the reports of officers and the military leadership of Iraq, the military leadership of the Air Force, Navy and armor and infantry filed reports to the President and the Prime Minister in these reports say where he can not protect the Iraqi Air and the sea of ​​Iraq and the Iraqi border after the withdrawal of U.S. forces, say they can protect the internal security but can not protect the atmosphere air, land and sea, our aircraft, American aircraft that we purchased had not yet reached, if reached need to be a period of training as well, for the Navy do not have boats enough to protect sea, which for us is very important, because the only source of the great Iraqi oil is the sea so we if hampered the export of oil will affect our economy, our line of oil passes through Turkey, this line is not sufficient for the export of oil, we now produce more than (3) million barrels per day and over the next year, God willing, we get to (4) million, then we need two others, we intend to extend another line through Syria, and run the old line passing through Syria broken now, as well as the oil pipeline to Aqaba through Jordan, only then we can export the quantities of oil we produce in the country, and as I said, Iraqi experts believe that Iraq remains a need to protect the air, sea and training the Iraq on the weapons that we bought from America, weapons, armor, Abrams tanks and aircraft (F16) and (F18) that we bought, we bought from America all were new to the Iraqis, we need the training, I noticed during the discussions between the Iraqi political forces that there is a tendency for the survival of a limited number of U.S. trainers, and the survival of a larger U.S. troop is not there a strong desire, as I said there is opposition to the survival of these forces by some forces.

Aswat al-Iraq reports that US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffery and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani met last night to continue discussions about keeping US forces in Iraq beyond the end of the year. Karamatullah K. Ghori (Asia Times) notes of the reasons (excuses) being given to argue for keeping US troops in Iraq:

In touting the line that Iraqi forces are inadequate to rise to challenges that remain largely undefined beyond the cryptic excuse of sectarian divide, the generals betray an appalling disregard for their own failure to train their Iraqi proteges sufficiently. If they couldn't do it in eight years, despite all the resources and numbers at their command, what's there to lend confidence to anyone that they'd be able to find the holy grail of a competent and fully trained Iraqi security force with a thinned-out and scaled-down presence?
Iraqi politicians, representing the full spectrum of the country's myriad factions and clans, do seem to a certain extent to subscribe to the American angst on account of the Iraqi troops' half-baked ability to take charge of the gargantuan task of keeping the country secured against anarchy.

As part of the deal to open discussions (and to keep US troops in Iraq -- Nouri wouldn't have given in just for 'discussions'), Nouri's agreed to finally create the security council to be headed by Ayad Allawi that the Erbil Agreement promised last November. Al Mada reports that State of Law is attempting to fast track the issue through the Parliament and stating that no additional conditions have to be met to create the council.

Protests swept the MidEast and that included Iraq. Nouri al-Maliki tried to distract (his 100 days), tried to suppress (beating and jailing reporters covering the protests) and his assault continues. The Great Iraqi Revolution published the following:

The Green-Zone government will start pursuing and prosecuting the Iraqi activists and protesters who are using the Facebook to share protests news through the Articles of the - Electronic Crime Act - . The preliminary reading of the NEW E-Crime Act was a few days ago and here's its articles :

Article 4 - Whoever starts or runs a website with the intent to execute programes or ideas to disobey the public order or promote , facilitate or implement such actions will be sentensed with life imprisonment and a fine of not less than 25 million Iraqi Dinars and not more than 50 Iraqi million Dinars .

Article 6 - A sentence of life imprisonment and a fine of not less than 25 million Iraqi Dinars and not more than 50 Iraqi million Dinars will be executed if any citizen uses the computers or the internet with intent to commit one of the following acts :
1- Creating chaos in order to undermine the authorities using the country's electronic systems .
2- Provoking an armed rebellion, threatening of starting it or promoting it , inciting sectarianism, disturbing security or public order or offending the country's reputation.
So the corrupt government has started a new law to use it as an excuse to pursue us and silence our voices, is this the "democracy" of the "new" Iraq ? the democracy that we lost our independence and 1.5 million Iraqi casualties for ?

Last week in al-Rifeiat, a US-Iraqi mission resulted in the deaths of at least 3 Iraqis (some reports say four). The New York Times' Tim Arango has covered the events here and here. Today Aswat al-Iraq reports on a joint-raid by the US-and Iraqi forces in a the village of Kidhr in which 1 small boy and a police officer were killed by the joint-forces and the child's father was left injured. Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing left twelve people injured and that there was a Baghdad rocket attack on the Green Zone. In addition, Aswat al-Iraq notes a Baghdad sticky bombing wounded two people.
Turning to the United States where President Barack Obama offered a number of proposals today. We disagree with his tax rewards for hiring veterans but before we get to that, we'll note this from Senator Patty Murray's office:
(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs' Committee commended President Obama on outlining new initiatives to promote veterans employment. Chairman Murray is the author of the bipartisan Hiring Heroes Act of 2011, which takes major new steps to put our nation's veterans into fulfilling jobs when they return home. Senator Murray's bill, which has companion legislation in the House of Representatives and is co-sponsored by 32 Senators, cleared the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee on June 29th and is set to be considered by the full Senate in the fall.
"The President clearly knows that getting our economy back on track and getting our veterans back to work go hand-in-hand. Our veterans are disciplined, experienced, team-players with the unique expertise our employers are seeking. But we have to make sure they get their foot in the door.
"That's why I'm working to pass the bipartisan Hiring Heroes Act in the Senate which provides job skills for every single member of the military who's separating from service. My bill, which has been passed out of Committee with unanimous support, will for the first time ensure that we are making the most out of the enormous investment we make in our servicemembers. Instead of patting them on the back for their service and letting our veterans go into the job market alone, my bill equips them with the resources needed to help find a rewarding career.
"I welcome the President's bold ideas and initiatives to this effort and look forward to working with him in the months and years ahead. But I also hope to give this effort the jumpstart it needs now by putting the Hiring Heroes Act on his desk as soon as possible."
The Hiring Heroes Act of 2011
A bill to improve job training and placement services to ensure veterans who have served and sacrificed for our nation have jobs when they come home. Bipartisan legislation that for the first time takes a comprehensive approach to addressing the skyrocketing unemployment rates for our veterans.
Veterans have the skills, determination, discipline and talent to succeed in the twenty-first century economy. But too often they face unique challenges that translate into trouble finding a job or starting a business.
· Department of Labor data estimates that the unemployment rate for veterans age 20-24 has been as high as 27 percent.

· With the President's announcement that 33,000 U.S. troops will be pulled out of Afghanistan by the end of 2012, added to those already returning from Iraq, the problem of veteran unemployment will only grow larger.

· Returning veterans face certification barriers-- medics who return home from treating battlefield wounds can't get certifications to be an EMT or to drive an ambulance and truck drivers are unable to get CDL licenses.
Helping veterans find employment provides an income to support their families; creates self- esteem and pride; and is critical to avoiding veteran homelessness.

· The Institute of Medicine, citing a study by the National Center for Homeless Veterans, found an inability for veterans to translate military skills into civilian employment as being a primary cause of homelessness. It is also widely acknowledged, including in a recent RAND study, that employment difficulties are a serious risk factor for suicide among veterans.

· The dignity and security that work provides are critical in addressing some of the biggest challenges veterans are facing including skyrocketing suicide statistics, problems at home, substance abuse, and even in rising homelessness among our young veterans.

The Hiring Heroes Act of 2011 is a landmark bill that for the first time authorizes programs aimed at improving the transition from servicemember to civilian employee.

· Provides job training for service members leaving our military by ensuring that every transitioning servicemember participates in DoD's Transition Assistance Program (TAP) which provides job skills training including resume writing, interview skills, and job search information. Currently, the TAP program is not mandatory even though we have a 27% unemployment rate among young veterans.
· Provides a fast track to federal employment for veterans by allowing them to start the process of getting a job without having to wait months for their veterans preference. This will help more veterans have a job waiting for them the day they leave the service.

· Will finally move forward with helping service members transfer the skills they learned in the field back to civilian jobs by beginning to cut the red tape around training and certification barriers.

· We have invested billions of dollars in training our young men and women with new skills to protect our nation. Every servicemember receives formal training for a specialty within their service in addition to training in other areas such as leadership and strategic planning. When servicemembers leave, those valuable skills leave with them. Concurrently, many elements of the Government need dependable people with those same skill sets. It benefits the Government and the servicemember to keep them in the Federal system, and to streamline that process.


· The bill is paid for by allowing the VA to collect a home loan fee from those who utilize the benefit more than once.
· There is also additional cost savings DoD savings from unemployment payments. Military unemployment payments have doubled since 2008. The military paid $882 million in unemployment benefits last year, up from $450 million in fiscal 2008. The 2011 figures are trending even higher.

Matt McAlvanah

Communications Director

U.S. Senator Patty Murray

202-224-2834 - press office

202--224-0228 - direct

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We have endorsed the Hiring Heroes Act, it is needed and we applaud Senator Murray and the others for their hard work on the issue. But we do not endorse what Barack proposed today. Steve Vogel (Washington Post) reports of Barack's announced plan, "The proposed tax incentives would provide companies a $2,400 credit for hiring an unemployed veteran and $4,800 for hiring a veteran who has been unemployed six months or longer. An existing tax credit for firms that hire veterans with a service-connected disability would be increased to $9,600." The plan is already a flop on arrival. I've spoken with three members of the Black Caucus today to find out what the reception was from their constituents to this proposal? Not pleased.
Not a surprise. African-Americans have been hit hard by the Great Recession and a record number cannot find employment -- you have to drop back over fifty years to find a comparable situation. African-Americans can rightly make a claim to historical inequalities that require a remedy -- that is the legal basis for Affirmative Action. There is no legal basis at all for rewaring employers for hiring veterans. At a time when the country faces massive unemployment, Barack wants to waive through a tiny segment of the population which cannot claim any historical grievance. Supposedly people serve to protect the nation and for other noble ideas. If the nation is indeed a democracy, you're not going to put a class of non-aggrieved citizens ahead of all others.
If you use the figures bandied about, there's a million veterans needing employment now and another million to be added next year. The official unemployment rate is currently 9.1%. It's actually much higher and a conservative, but realisitc, estimate would be at least 16%. Barack's saying these Americans don't matter, don't hire them, don't employ them, hire these veterans and we'll give you thousands and thousand of dollars. (The White House estimates they'll spend $120 million in the next two years on this.)
That's not fair, that's not right. Senator Patty Murray's bill attempts to ensure that veterans are on equal footing. That means, for example, if you were a medical assistant in Afghanistan and you're applying for a related job in the US, you have certification from the military that allows you to be credited with and recognized for the training you've already recieved and the abilities that are your own. That would allow you to compete with anyone else with similar civilian experience for that job. Because in the civilian world, the person would have gotten a certification. Currently, in the military, certifications and licenses for various tasks (even including truck driving) are not awarded. So you return to civilian life with skills but with no documentation that you can show. That's not fair, that's not right. Senator Murray's bill aims at equalizing the playing field.
We support that 100%. We even support training centers for veterans to give them additional skills. But when you walk into a room for an interview, you should be on equal footing. The government stating (whispering), "Hire the veteran and we'll pay you cash for doing so," destroys equal footing.
Senator Murray's office has been very careful in their use of figures. When they use a figure, they can back it up. Not everyone has been so precise and the figure appears to be created by each news outlet. Again, I've spoken to three members of the Black Caucus today and, no, I wasn't surprised at all that people are voicing disbelief to their representatives about this plan. Barack proposes to give 2 million veterans a preference in hiring when, as Leo Hindery Jr. (Huffington Post) pointed out last February, 29.6 million Americans are unemployed. The numbers are not on Barack's re-election side.
By now, over 30 million Americans are unemployed. As they remain unemployed, they now have a target for their ire: Barack and his scheme to place veterans ahead of them. What was the crime of these 30 million which necessitates they be punished? That's what Barack's scheme does, it punishes the already unemployed. Not only does that not grab votes from the unemployed, but it also donesn't grab votes from the employed -- many of whom worry that next month may bring the layoff and they're seeing no relief from the White House, no action from the White House to help them. But they see Barack wanted to grand stand and take away their shot at equality by giving tax dollars -- their tax dollars! -- to companies for hiring veterans.
If the thought was, "Well, it will help us with veterans and veterans families." No. No, it won't. There are many reasons Ron Paul -- not Barack Obama -- leads on campaign donations from the military enlisted. And today's stunt is seen very poorly by the many veterans and veterans families already angered at Barack for his 'dance with terrorists' -- wherein he released the killers of 5 US service members in order to curry favor with a foreign government. For those late to the party, we'll again drop back to the June 9, 2009 snapshot:
This morning the New York Times' Alissa J. Rubin and Michael Gordon offered "U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.'s." Martin Chulov (Guardian) covered the same story, Kim Gamel (AP) reported on it, BBC offered "Kidnap hope after Shia's handover" and Deborah Haynes contributed "Hope for British hostages in Iraq after release of Shia militant" (Times of London). The basics of the story are this. 5 British citizens have been hostages since May 29, 2007. The US military had in their custody Laith al-Khazali. He is a member of Asa'ib al-Haq. He is also accused of murdering five US troops. The US military released him and allegedly did so because his organization was not going to release any of the five British hostages until he was released. This is a big story and the US military is attempting to state this is just diplomacy, has nothing to do with the British hostages and, besides, they just released him to Iraq. Sami al-askari told the New York Times, "This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners. So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned." In other words, a prisoner was traded for hostages and they attempted to not only make the trade but to lie to people about it. At the US State Dept, the tired and bored reporters were unable to even broach the subject. Poor declawed tabbies. Pentagon reporters did press the issue and got the standard line from the department's spokesperson, Bryan Whitman, that the US handed the prisoner to Iraq, the US didn't hand him over to any organization -- terrorist or otherwise. What Iraq did, Whitman wanted the press to know, was what Iraq did. A complete lie that really insults the intelligence of the American people. CNN reminds the five US soldiers killed "were: Capt. Brian S. Freeman, 31, of Temecula, California; 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Nebraska; Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Gonzales, Louisiana; Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Cortland, New York; and Pfc. Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Alabama." Those are the five from January 2007 that al-Khazali and his brother Qais al-Khazali are supposed to be responsible for the deaths of. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert H. Reid (AP) states that Jonathan B. Chism's father Danny Chism is outraged over the release and has declared, "They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it."
The decision to release those people already strikes veterans and veterans families with the same sense of outrage expressed over the attack of the USS Liberty and that had many, many years to build. If Barack thinks a little blood money will wash that away, he's sadly mistaken.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

The wake up call

"Satan Is In The Details " (Hillary Is 44):

There you have Barack Obama specifically and in detail telling his cult to not bother explaining details to the electorate. There you have Obama laying out to his cult the way he bamboozles the public and avoids answering questions. Those details are so ugly and contrary to Obama’s answers that if the details are discussed the voters will continue to rebel. Barack Obama does not want details discussed.

Unfortunately for the corrupt clown from Chicago, today is also the day that the two chief operatives at Politico decided to discuss details. In a very long article Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen, two reporters who used to be very good at their jobs until their real jobs became protecting Barack Obama, are back looking at the details Obama wants kept hidden:

“The politics of the debt fight were a drag for President Barack Obama, yanking his popularity to new lows. Here’s an even bigger drag: Obama emerges from the months-long fracas weaker — and facing much deeper and more durable political obstacles — than his own advisers ever imagined.

The consensus has been that for all his problems, Obama is so skilled a politician — and the eventual GOP nominee so flawed or hapless — that he’d most likely be reelected.

Don’t buy into it.”

Hey, Jim and Mike, Obama is a boob as a politician as just about anyone with eyes can now see. It was you guys in Big Media that protected Obama and attacked every other candidate thereby making Obama look like a genius. But Obama was always a corrupt boob willing to do and say anything to advance himself. You know like, attack millionaires and billionaires then give them billions/trillions in bailouts in exchange for a few campaign dollars. But you are right about those “fundamentals”:

“This breezy certitude fails to reckon with how weak his fundamentals are a year out from the general election. Gallup pegs his approval rating at a discouraging 42 percent, with his standing among independents falling 9 points in four weeks.

His economic stats are even worse. The nation has 2.5 million fewer jobs today than the day Obama took office, a fact you’re sure to hear the Republicans repeat. Consumer confidence is scraping levels not seen since March 2009.

Where’s the bright spot? Hard to see. Obama has few, if any, domestic achievements that enjoy broad public support. No one assumes employment, growth or housing prices to pick up much, if at all — something Obama is essentially powerless to change. And the political environment and electoral map are significantly tougher than in 2008, especially in true up-for-grabs states.”

Amazing. Only now, in August of 2011 do we hear that Obama has “few, if any, domestic achievements”. Wasn’t Obama just a few months ago, certainly last year, the new FDR? Obama the new Reagan? Obama the new Zeus? Nope, he’s just a dope, peddlin’ false Hope.

At last the truth begins to emerge.

But for it to be reported, do you notice, Barack's got to be so low that there's little hope of him bouncing up.

It's not that different from Bush in some regards. While Bush had 9-11 fever and some in the country as well, the press treated him like a god, refusing to call out his obvious mistakes, his lies and more.

They've treated Barack the same.

FAIR is a joke. They were outraged over the fawning treatment by the media of the 2005 inauguration. But that was nothing compared to the fawning of Barack's inauguration which, no surprise, they didn't give a damn about.

At least Big Media's waking up to reality.

Lord knows, it took long enough.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Thursday, August 4, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, War Truths get spoken (but why only by the right?), Barack's plan o extend the illegal war continues, and more.

Yesterday on Flashpoints (KPFA, Pacifica), Kevin Pina spoke with Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya who has left Canada to report from Libya on the illegal war. Flashpoints Radio airs live on KPFA from 5:00 to 6:00 pm PST, Monday through Friday. Excerpt.

Kevin Pina: So Mahdi, we know that the Chief of Staff of the so-called rebels was killed last week on Friday. We know that there was said to be a purge of pro-Gaddafi troops from within the rebel forces which doesn't sound plausible at all. And, of course, you had said to us earlier that this also involved the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group or the LIGF which had connections or contacts somehow with al Qaeda. What is going on and who killed Younis and what does it mean for the rebels at this point?

Mahdi Nazemroaya: Well Washington is directly tied to Younis' death. I can tell you that from the start, Kevin. the two members of the fighting group who were described here as al Qaeda essentially when we talk about al Qaeda in Lybia, we're generally speaking about the Libya Islamic Fighting Group but there are also other elements that are foreign or Libyan that we can also speak of being al Qaeda. So he was killed by two of these individuals who are well known by the United States. We know there was tension between him and Khalifa Haftar who came from Great Falls, Virginia -- from specifically Vienna in Great Falls, Virginia, he came here. And there was tension between them over who would run the military. And Washington wanted their man to run the military. So right now the United States wants Transitional Council negotiations to parallel or to be in coordination with Washington and NATO's negotiations with Tripoli. So they couldn't afford anybody who would get in the way of such negotiations at all.

Kevin Pina: And that is the voice of Mahdi Nazemroaya, our special correspondent, speaking to us directly from Tripoli in Libya. We're discussing the situation there. So Mahdi, I'm also wondering where is the bombing campaign? Has NATO continued bombing? Has the bombing stopped for the moment now that Ramadan has begun?

Mahdi Nazemroaya: No, no, it's the third day of Ramadan. The Muslim holy month of Ramadan. And the bombings in Tripoli and other parts of Libya have not stopped. In fact, I wanted to mention this the last time we spoke that there was one bomb that was very close to me in a vehicle during the afternoon. They bombed near Bab al Aziziyah, which they've bombed at least 30, 40 times. They continuously bomb the same sites over and over again. I've seen bombings with my own eyes to the east of the city, to the east and north of the city. They have not stopped the bombings. And you hear them almost consistently on some days. On the weekend, you hear them consistently. So Ramadan has had no impact on the bombings. But we know that negotiations are intensifying. The United States is trying to get its proxies in the Transitional Council to meet with it. It does not want independent negotiations between Tripoli and Benghazi. It wants them coordinated with the NATO and US negotiations with the government in Tripoli. So if there's anybody in Benghazi or the Transitional Council that stands in their way, you can see them ending up like Abdul Fatah Younis.

Kevin Pina: It's also been said that his family and his tribe to which he belonged to are none to happy, that they've been demanding an investigation by the Transitional Council that controls Benghazi and several other cities in the east. However, so far we understand that there has been no official explanation of who and how he was killed beyond what they've claimed which is pro-Gaddafi forces which, again, seems implausible.

Mahdi Nazemroaya: Well I have to tell you Kevin that Jalil so-called president of the Transitional Council in Benghazi, his statements were very contradictory. He said the body was not found and then he said the body was shot. Then they buried the body. There was a funeral. If the body was not found, how do you bury a body?

The Libyan War continues and largely continues in silence. In the Bush era, it would have been a defining issue at The Nation, The Progressive, In These Times, ZNet, etc. Those days are long gone, aren't they? If you appreciate the coverage Kevin, Mahdi and Dennis Bernstein are providing, KPFA is in pledge mode. If you want to donate and can afford to, the number is 1-800-439-5732. You can also safely contribute online.
Onto Iraq. Yesterday on Free Speech Radio News, Andrew Stelzer discussed with Phyllis Bennis the announced negotiations on extending the US military presence in Iraq beyond 2011 Excerpt.

Andrew Stelzer: First of all, I'm sure many of our listeners are skeptical on the whole premise of this debate. Is there really a possibility that we're going to see a full US withdrawal from Iraq before 2012 begins?

Phyllis Bennis: I don't think so. I think that there are a number of scenarios where include a complete withdrawal. The SOFA as orignally signed requires all US troops and all Pentagon paid contractors to be out of Iraq by the end of this year. But there's another part of the SOFA that's problematic as well and that is that by specifiying that Pentagon paid contractors must be removed it leaves the door open for State Dept paid contractors. And one of the things that I think we're already seeing on a small scale and it may end up being rather small scale but it may be quite big as well is that a number of Pentagon paid contractors will have their contracts be immediately signed on to State Dept contracts. They will do exactly the same work, the same level of non-accountability and probably even the same huge amounts of money but because they will be paid, their check will be cut by the State Dept rather than the Pentagon, they won't officially be required to leave by the end of the year so that's a serious problem as well.

Andrew Stelzer: And so what are the different political factions on the sides of this debate in Iraq?

Phyllis Bennis: It's hard to know. There's no one in Iraq that believes that there's a popular view. In fact, there's new reports today about a so far not released poll that the US took in Iraq, indicating that there's a widespread hope that the US is out entirely according to the conditions of the SOFA**. The real issue is where do people, individuals within the government, powerful people from a number of different parties, where do they stand? The only party that I think from the broad, mass base of it right up to the top leadership that is thoroughly opposed to it, to the US remaining, is probably the Sadrists, the supporters of Moqtada al-Sadr, whose militias have played a key role in the fighting but who also play a major role in the Iraqi Parliament. There are various individuals who believe that their particular brand of power certainly including President Maliki [C.I. note Nouri al-Maliki is prime minister], that their own position of power and influence is dependant on US protection, the US remaining in place. But they can't necessarily go and say that publicly because there is such widespread opposition. So how this plays out is going to be very interesting.

**No, Phyllis, that is not the conditions of the SOFA. That was the lie. There's a difference between truth and lie. Phyllis may choose to paper over reality so that some lying assholes can sneak off with their dignity intact, I won't. Iraqis have died because of these lies. Shame on the liars.

The SOFA replaced the UN mandate. The UN mandate legalized the occupation (there was no mandate for the invasion) and provided legal cover for US troops. Without it, as Joe Biden repeatedly noted in the Senate, and without any replacing agreement, US troops would be in danger of legal prosecution. That was the reason for the mandate, that was the US government's concern. Nouri al-Maliki becomes prime minister in the spring of 2006. The UN mandate expires at the end of that year. He renews it without consulting Parliament. Parliament is enraged. 'This can't happen,' they insist, stating that the Constitution gives them a say. Okay, if the Constitution gives you a say (I agree it did), then you don't go pass new legislation. But that's what they did. And Nouri swore it would never happen again.

Let's look at the wording, "Decides to extend until 31 December 2007 the arrangements established in paragraph 20 of resolution 1483 (2003) for the depositing into the Development Fund for Iraq of proceeds from export sales of petroleum, petroleum products, and natural gas and the arrangements referred to in paragraph 12 of resolution 1483 (2003) and paragraph 24 of resolution 1546 (2004) for the monitoring of the Development Fund for Iraq by the International Advisory and Monitoring Board;[. . .]" That's the UN mandate. The fact that it only extended to December 31, 2007 meant that all foreign forces (including US) had to leave at the end of 2007 . . . unless the contract was replaced with another one (be it a mandate or a new contract).

Now following the extension at the end of 2006 (Nouri's letter requesting the extension was dated November 11, 2006), 2007 played out something like the "Slipped my mind" skits from Kids in the Hall, 2007 was drawing to a close and the UN mandate was expiring. What did Nouri do? Renewed it without consulting Parliament. And then pretended to be sorry about that. The US knew their puppet couldn't take the heat on this every year. So the SOFA would be a three year agreement, not a one year. Phyllis may want to stretch the truth to give assholes cover, I don't. The SOFA is no different than the UN mandate. In 2006, when the UN mandate was set to expire, no one was going around saying, "That means the US leaves!!!!" Everyone knew it was very likely the mandate would be renewed. People should have grasped that reality about the SOFA. But you had a lot of liars and a lot of people who don't know the first thing about contract law. That we have arrived at this point is not shocking or unexpected. And you can check the archives from November 2008 and see we've been sounding the alarm on this repeatedly while others whored and lied and while Iraqis died. Playing dumb or excusing the lies does not bring back one Iraqi life. And, in fact, it cheapens their deaths if you rush to distort reality (LIE) so that some US gas bags don't have to take accountability for the lies that they repeatedly told, lies that had consequences, lies that resulted in deaths.

Equally true, the myth of "trainers" needs to be called out. It's not hard. Watch Jason Ditz and Scott Horton talk about it truthfully on Antiwar Radio:

Scott Horton: There are so many wars. We don't have enough time to talk about all of them. But could we fit in Iraq and the future of the American occupation?

Jason Ditz: We can certainly try. The latest with Iraq, it seems to be that the Maliki government is looking to just ignore Parliament entirely, to take a page out of the US book and circumvent the Iraqi Congress and try to prove an extension of some sort without such a vote.

Scott Horton: And so what's the reaction in the Parliament to that?

Jason Ditz: Well there hasn't really been a public reaction yet but I would only assume it's going to be a negative one because, of course, the 2008 vote to extend US troops through this year was incredibly difficult in Iraq's Parliament and it only came with the promise of this grand national referendum on the US occupation which never came. And it seems like the vote's only going to have gotten more difficult since then.

Scott Horton: Well you know, I guess I don't really know and people say otherwise, but I kind of get the idea that Maliki doesn't want the occupation to continue. Now maybe his army guys like having American help and that kind of thing, some of his general and all of that. But I kind of getting the feeling that he's playing the same game that he did in 2008 which is, 'Gee, I'm trying to get them to go along with it but they just don't seem to want to' when his heart really isn't in it. Am I wrong? What do you think?

Jason Ditz: It's really hard to say but it seems like a few months ago he was saying "Absolutely not, there's no need for troop extensions." And now he's saying, 'Well it depend what Parliament's saying and, oh, by the way, military personnel that are classified as trainers don't count and we don't reall need to ask Parliament about that.' So it seems like he's buckling under the pressure and is giving a lot ground to the US demand to be asked to stay.

Scott Horton: Well is there a difference between numbers at all? Obviously, they're going to call combat troops whatever they want to. But trainer seems to imply a very limited number, much less than they wanted. They wanted to leave 10,000 [or] 20,000 troops, right?

Jason Ditz: Right and it's not really clear how many trainers we're talking here. But certainly they could use any excuse to claim that these guys are trainers

Scott Horton: Sure.

Why can Scott Horton and Jason Ditz do that but others can't? What could it be? Maybe the answer's in the next excerpt?

Martha Montelongo: I've heard you refer to Cindy Sheehan and how she was -- she was legitimately, authentically opposed to the war and the left loved rallying around her when she was opposing George Bush or President Bush but as soon as Obama comes into office, nobody pays any attention to her. They just completely ignore her. So it makes you wonder how much of a movement is there and where are all the leftists who were so engaged in the anti-war movement during President Bush's tenure?

Angela Keaton: To be fair and to be really precise, we're talking about moderate liberals, we're talking about the mainstream, not the hard left. The hard left, of course, is still against the war and, you know, they've-they've stayed the course. But moderate liberals, particularly those organizing around the Democratic Party abandoned Sheehan immediately of course because they can no longer turn it against -- They -- Partisanship, in this country the partisanship is so strong and people are so attached and they're very identified with their party as well as, in this case, people are terribly identified with Barack Obama. There's a Cult of Presonality. that I couldn't really imagine about a US president, I find them rather odd and creatures on their best days. But this weird cult that coalesced around him, clearly -- one -- there's a couple of things. Obama is a very, very shrewd politician. He knows very well. His PR people did a wonderful job convincing someone that he was anti-war. In fact, all four times [in the Senate] Barack Obama could've voted against the war, he voted for the war spending, all four times. And he only made one anti-war speech. And that was a speech on Iraq in 2007*. Barack Obama was never an anti-war president, never intended to be, and was very, very explicit when he said he would fight the good war in Afghanistan. His words. And go deeper into Pakistan. I guess talking about the secret -- or not so secret war -- in Pakistan. And he has of course now killed more people with drones in Pakistan than George Bush has -- which is something I'm sure he should be proud of. And these are the people that moderate liberals have chosen to identify with. I mean, you notice that MoveOn and Daily Kos and others are absent from the anti-war movement. There were some very good numbers that happened right around the time that Barack Obama looked like he was going to be the [Democratic Party presidential] nominee and you started seeing all the money, resources draining toward the Obama campaign and CODEPINK chapters went from 200 down to about 90. And CODEPINK itself has very much stayed the course as well but people -- it wasn't the priority anymore and the excitement was around Barack Obama and somehow the gay rights movement has convinced themselves of this too. That like Barack Obama was a gay rights president and that's never been the case. The same thing with the anti-war movement, they convince themselves. It's all wishful thinking, it's a bit of projection on this shiny new model-like-actor type who is now in office. I say that because he's like very good looking and people really respond to that. They responded to that more than they'd respond to the fact that for years they've known about things like depleted uranium, for example, and all the deaths of children in Iraq. This is the direction they chose, as my colleague Scott Horton says, "Tall and handsome over justice." So the more that I think about it, now that I've just said it, damn the moderate left for what they've done because really this time more than ever we needed an antiwar movement and one that was serious and consistent and one that couldn't be picked apart by nationalists and conservatives. The nationalists and the conservatives were right. It wasn't an anti-war movement, it was an anti-Bush movement.

That's's Angela Keaton speaking with Martha Montelongo on Gadfly Radio (here for Angela's segment, here for full episode). And those who don't feel the need to lie, disguise or pretty up the truth don't feel that a War Hawk gets a pass for waging wars. As Sherwood Ross (OpEdNews) observed recently about this war insanity, "That's because presidents and Pentagon chiefs start new wars even before they finish fighting the old ones! Who can recall a time in our history when the U.S. initiated aggressive wars against five nations (Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen)?"

Angela was discussing Come Home America which attempts to be an organization that can represent people opposed to war from all ends of the political spectrum. We've noted it before when, for example, John Halle has promoted it. In 2006, we would have noted it much more than we have in the last two years. Why is that?

There are trust issues. Not with Angela Keaton, not with Adam Kokesh, not with Karen or any of the others on the right. They have been consistent. They bring the same vocal outrage today that they brought when Bush ran the wars. The same cannot be said of people on my side -- including people who signed Come Home America's letter.

Jeff Cohen recently wrote a critique of Barack that was as blistering as any of the valentines he once penned to Barack. So I'm not talking about Jeff. But people need to take some accountability and not just because it's good for the soul. The Cult of St. Barack passed an advertising machine off as a movement. One of the advertising tools they used was testimonials. "I thought I was happy with Pepsi until one day I tried new Barack Obama . . ." That same tool, testimonails, can be used to awaken others. If you were taken in, you can share that you were and how reality peeled the scales away from your eyes.

As Kat observed in an Iraq roundtable Feb. 13, 2009:

I dont think anyone's going to disagree with which side is more committed at this point. And it's pathetic because, as we've noted before, if Hillary had been elected, the same left that plays the quiet game currently would be demanding action. A lot of it is people being scared to criticize Barack, a lot of it is them believing the hype, a lot of it is the desire to worship a man. But it's pathetic and it's pathetic that they believed his lies about Iraq and it's pathetic that they played Sophie's Choice with Iraq and Afghanistan -- that knowing that while he was saying he'd pull 'combat' troops from Iraq, he was saying he'd send more to Afghanistan, these same so-called lefties endorsed him and lied for him and covered for him.

Yeah, a lot of people played Sophie's Choice and judged Afghans to be less important than Iraqis. That needs accountability. And if you can come forward and own what you did, you can encourage others with your actions to also consider how they went from "END THE WAR NOW!" to "Whatever Barack wants!" and how they get their souls back?

Ed O'Keefe and Alice Fordham (Washington Post) report, "Iraqi and U.S. officials cautioned Wednesday that Iraq's precarious political and security situation could yet derail efforts to resolve the issue before the roughly 46,000 U.S. troops in Iraq leave as scheduled by Dec. 31." And as the Post has noted before, the administration doesn't think it's at all unlikely that this issue could still be unresolved on December 31st. That's not at all unlikely when you consider that the March 7, 2010 elections were supposed to result in office holders but instead were followed by Political Stalemate I for nine long months.

The end of Political Stalemate I in November of 2010 was supposed to result, by the end of 2010, in a full Cabinet; however, Iraq is now in Political Stalemate II and no one has been appointed Minister of Defense, no one has been appointed Minister of National Security, no one has been appointed Minister of Interior. Eight months after these posts were supposed to have been filled, they remain empty. So who knows how long the issue of an extension or not could drag out? Micah Zenko (Council on Foreign Relations) feels there are three things that need to be remembered as the clock ticks down:

First, an agreement by the Iraqi government to begin negotiating a role for U.S. military forces in the coming years is just that, the start of talks. Discussions could be further delayed or bogged down over highly-sensitive issues, such as an assurance of legal immunity from prosecution for U.S. soldiers and the eventual ratification of any future SOFA by the Iraqi Parliament. As Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari noted yesterday evening, "There aren't any foregone conclusions."

Second, while U.S. military officials have hinted that Iraq could serve as a launching pad for special operations raids against Iranian-backed Shia militias, Iraq's leaders envision that if U.S. troops remain they will be permitted to engage only in training and advising missions. An important question to be resolved is whether U.S. troops will partner with their Iraqi counterparts for joint missions, like the Iraqi-U.S. night raid in Al Rufait last weekend, which reportedly failed to capture the targeted Al Qaeda in Iraq suspect but accidentally killed three men and wounded five, among them two young girls.

Third, it is apparent that any U.S. troops in Iraq after 2011 will not be tasked with trying to limit the flow of Iranian-supplied rockets or improvised explosive devices. This mission is best suited for the Ministry of Interior's police and border forces. Furthermore, trying to stop cross-border smuggling was never a mission that the U.S. military welcomed or accomplished. As Lt. Gen. Mike Oates (ret.), the former commander of U.S. forces in southern Iraq stated last week: "There have been no reported incidents in which American forces have actually interdicted Iranian munitions while in transit. That should tell you something about just how hard this is to stop."

Leave something to the Ministry or Interior? Which still has no head? CFR sure is optimistic.

Dar Addustour notes names being considered for Ministry of the Defense. Might the post finall be filled? It's possible. However, it needs to be remembered that this 'move' comes following the agreement reached Tuesda at the meet-up at Jalal Talabani's home. The meet-up of political blocs is not all that different from the meet-up in November in Erbil. That resulted in the Erbil Agreement which outlines a variety of things including the creation of national security council which would be headed by Ayad Allawi. These and other agreements allowed Nouri to remain prime minister even though his political slate came in second in the elections. Once he was named prime-minister designate, the agreement fell apart. (And that's once he was 'unofifically' named it.) Nouri got what he wanted and then tossed aside the agreement.

How does that apply to the current situation?

Nouri al-Maliki well knows it is very likely that he cannot maintain his position without the US military presence. He wants the US military to remain in Iraq. Tuesday's meet-up outlined how that could happen (participants stress that immunity for US troops wasn't discussed, only how to keep them in Iraq) and Nouri offered to create that security council. In doing so and making other concessions, he got the support of Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya. Should he get what he wants (US troops remaining in Iraq) before the security council is created, would he still pursue the creation? Or is this a repeat of the Erbil Agreement where Nouri promises everthing, gets his side of the bargain and then walks out on the agreement?

Barack Obama's walking out on agreement with his supporters to end the Iraq War. Jessica Rettig (US News and World Report) observes, "The Obama administration seems to be singing two different tunes when it comes to Iraq. It applauds the end of combat efforts and the imminent full withdrawal, not to mention the baseline savings that will come from decreasing the number of troops there. But on the other hand, there seems to be some desire, and even some persuasive efforts on behalf of the Pentagon, for some U.S. soldiers to stay put." And this needs to be registering. It's not. People are avoiding writing about this issue, avoiding addressing this issue and avoiding addresing reality.

I really, really wish the Iraqi people had the option of refusing to address reality. When that reality comes in the form of a sticky bombing or a rocket attack, I wish the Iraqi people had the option of refusing to address reality. They don't have that option. They didn't have your luxury of feeling full of themselves because they voted for a War Hawk with darker skin than usual. They didn't have three more years to suffer.

But that is what's happened.

And the lucky ones just might be the Iraqis who passed away. Imagine it was your injured in a sticky bombing in Baghdad. Imagine you lose partial mobility as a result. And you're still in Iraq. And bombs still go off. And you have to drag yourself through the city with bombs going off regularly. Think it wouldn't be even more scary after you've lost the use of limbs? Who has it worse? The young Iraqi mother who dies in the violence or her child who's left behind? Maybe that child becomes one of the many orphans who have to beg on the streets of Baghdad?

From "End the War Now!" to "Hey Barack End It Whenever you Want, Baby!" is what so many of us on the left did. The people of Iraq did not have three years of their lives to give away while, from the safety of the US, you tried to sort out what your comfort level was in calling out a Democratic president who carried out illegal wars.

Reuters notes 1 police officer was shot dead in Baghdad, a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed 1 life and left two people injured, and a Mosul car bombing claimed the life of 1 "6-year-old child" while leaving twelve people wounded.

If the peace movement, if those of us on the left had kept our word, the dead and wounded today might be living in a different Iraq right now. A six-year-old kid died today in the war Barack Obama promised to end when he wanted your votes. Now he's extending it. Iraqis cannot afford for Americans to look the other way.

There are many stories in Iraq especially with Nouri the new Little Saddam. We've noted his war on the independent Electoral Commission. Last Thursday, he took the battle to Parliament and lost. Nizar Latif (The National) offers an analysis:

A bitter row over Iraq's election watchdog has strained the ruling coalition government of the prime minister, Nouri Al Maliki, underlining an acrimonious struggle to control the country.
In the aftermath of a parliamentary vote last week over dissolving the Independent High Electoral Commission (Ihec), critics and supporters of Mr Al Maliki have rounded on each other with allegations of deceit, corruption and sectarianism.
The argument centres on a proposal by the State of Law alliance, the group headed by the prime minister, to pass a vote of no confidence in Ihec over fraud claims. If approved, the measure would have effectively sacked the United Nations supported watchdog - the body in charge of ensuring fair and transparent elections in the country.
In the run up to the vote, which took place last week, various blocs from across the political spectrum had indicated they would support the motion.