Friday, September 24, 2010

Terry Gross spends a week with men

Thursday on Fresh Air (NPR), Terry Gross had two guests. How many were women?

Want to try zero.

And she had no women on all week, did she?

Why is Alicia Shephard (NPR's ombudsperson) too cowardly to call Fresh Air out?

Why?

Don't give me that s**t about "It's not a NPR show." It's on the NPR website, it plays on NPR stations, it's made at a local NPR.

So why doesn't she have the damn guts to call it out?

I'll go ahead and spoil Friday for you: One guest. Male.

All damn week, Terry Gross had guests on her crappy show. Never once was one of the guests a woman.

What is the point of an ombudsperson if they can't (WON'T) police the shows?


This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, September 24, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, another member of the US Congress says the Iraq War needs to end right now, the FBI raids activists home, the National Lawyers Guild issues an 88-page report about the attacks on political speech and action, Iraq becomes a topic at the United Nations, and more.
Yesterday, Maya Schenwar (Truthout) spoke with US House Rep Dennis Kucinich who wanted a complete withdrawal of the US military from Iraq now:
That's what we have to do. We should have done it a long time ago. Is it likely that there will be conflict when we leave? Yes. We set in motion forces that are irrevocable. You cannot simply launch a war against a country where there were already factions - Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds who were at odds with each other - and think that you can leave there without difficulties. That's going to happen no matter what. But the fact that the conflict that we helped to create is still quite alive does not justify staying there. War becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of continued war, unless you break the headlong momentum by getting out.
Today immediate and total withdrawal would be at the very least a table for two. Ryan Grim (Huffington Post) reports US House Rep Barney Frank
"What are they there for, if it's not combat? To monitor elections? To mediate religious disputes? Let's get them home," Frank said at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. "What the hell are they there for?"
Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said that designating the troops "non-combat" does not persuade insurgents not to shoot at them.
So that's two members of Congress on the record about the need for a real and immediate withdrawal. If, as most (including Joe Biden who is public and on the record about this) current and former US officials expect and//or suspect, US renegotiates an agreement/contract/treaty with Iraq to extend the US military presence beyond 2011, will the two of them object? Will other members of Congress join them?
Today UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared that it was highly important that Iraq form a government "for stability and prosperity." Yesterday, Iraq's President Jalal Talabani spoke to the United Nations and, along with spin, he served up the talking point that all Iraqi officials appearing before the UN in the last few years repeat:

The most important issue his country is facing is ridding itself of the "burden" of Security Council resolutions adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, he said, calling for an end to the remaining restrictions in the field of disarmament, wrapping up outstanding contracts of the Oil-for-Food programme, and finding the appropriate mechanism to protect Iraqi money to replace the Development Fund for Iraq and the International Advisory and Monitoring Board for Iraq.
Iraq's most pressing issue? That's the talking point the UN Assembly and Security Council here every year from the Iraqi officials. It's never true but they do love to repeat it. (The tag sale on Iraq's assests cannot really take place until the UN allows the puppet government complete autonomy.) Last December, the UN Security Council extended the Chapter VII arrangments through December of this year. This was first adopted by the UN Security Council in May of 2003. That's not Iraq's most pressing problem. The rise in violence is among Iraq's most pressing problems and many observers tie the rise into the continued political stalemate. Jalal doesn't. Many in the press WRONGLY call Nouri's continued occupation of the prime minister a "caretaker government." That is not factual. There is no basis for that. A caretake government would be one appointed by the United Nations. Chapter VII, as Ayad Allawi has been pointing out for nearly two months now, gives the UN Security Council the right to appoint a caretaker government. None has been appointed. Nour's term has expired. He is not a part of a caretake government.
Back to Talabani and his spin before the UN General Assembly [click, PDF format warning, here for his speech in full]:
This year has also witnessed the success of legislative elections held on 7 March 2010, with considerable Arab, regional and international interest. The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq as well as the observers of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the League of Arab States, the international community and civil society organizations all expressed their convictions that the elections had been transparent and fair. The principal political parties have been in continuous communication in order to hold a fruitful session of the Iraqi Council of Representatives, which will vote to elect a Speaker for the new Council of Representatives which will vote to elect a Speaker for the new Council of Representatives and President of the Republic of Iraq, after which, according to the Iraqi Constitution, the elected President will request the new Prime Minister to form the government. It is our hope that this new government will be formed as soon as possible, as any delay in its formation will negatively affect the security situation, reconstruction and prosperity.
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted last month, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's six months and seventeen days with no government formed.
Alsumaria TV reports, "US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Iraqi leaders to form a new government after six months of stalling." Last night, State Dept spokesperson Philip J. Crowley spoke on the topic:

Hey, thanks everybody. Good evening. I know it's late. Many of you are calling from suites, perhaps other establishments, so let me run through a couple of things real quick. The Secretary did have her two bilaterals this evening, one with Foreign Minister Zebari of Iraq and the other with Foreign Minister Rassoul of Afghanistan. Let me briefly run through the topics of discussion. With Foreign Minister Zebari and Iraq, as you might imagine, the major topic of discussion was where Iraq stands on the formation -- government formation. The Secretary and minister agreed that this is becoming of critical importance and that we don't want to see Iraq drift and have a security vacuum result. They talked about the importance of Iraq's leaders stepping up and making decisions and forming a government. Ambassador Jim Jeffrey is significantly engaged in Baghdad in this effort. As you may recall, Assistant Secretary Jeff Feltman has been to the region for multiple meetings, as has the Vice President. But the Secretary solicited some ideas from the foreign minister about how the United States will be helpful while making clear that ultimately, this has to be Iraq's decision to come to an agreement on forming a new government. They went through a handful of bilateral issues, but also finished the meeting by briefly touching on the peace process. The foreign minister commended the Secretary on the U.S. engagement on the Middle East process and hoped that a solution can be found so the parties will continue to pursue the direct negotiations that we started three weeks ago.
How effective her words were? Not at all. Hoshyar Zebari's been making the same statements himself. For months. I believe it's called preaching to the choir. May 1st, Lara Jakes (AP) reported, "Iraq's foreign minister chided the U.S. and Britain for not taking an active role in resolving his country's bitter election dispute, and accused Washington of being more concerned with sending home U.S. soldiers." In July, AFP and Lebanon's Daily Star reported that Zebari termed the stalemate "embarrassing." Those are just two examples. There are many, many more that can be provided. Equally true is that Hillary and Hoshyar Zebari have already had this conversation -- and issued a joint-statement and took questions from Elise Labbot (CNN) and Nihad Ali (Al Iraqiya Channel), see the July 13th snapshot.
Today Dina al-Shibeeb and Mustapha Ajbaili (Al Arabiya News Channel) report that Nouri is attempting to curry favor with Moqtada al-Sadr by making an offer to release prisoners if al-Sadr would support him as prime minister -- this according to Bahaa al-Araji, of al-Sadr's political bloc, who states that Moqtada al-Sadr rejected the bribe and that the al-Sadr bloc continues to support Adel Abdul Mehdi (Iraq's Shi'ite vice president) for the post of prime minister.
The violence also continued today in Iraq.
Bombings?
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports three rocket attacks in Baghdad (including one on the Green Zone) in which one person was injured, a Mosul suicide bomber who took his own life and the life of 1 police officer and injuring two people and, dropping back to last night for the rest, mortar attacks on a Baghdad bridge (remember a few years back and the efforts to knock out bridges?) and a Baghdad roadside bombing which claimed the lives of two of the children of Anmar Taha and her husband Muhammed al Qassim and the lives of their two nephews while leaving both adults wounded. Reuters notes a Baghdad hand grenade attack which left three police officers injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing on a police car which left two police officers injured and, dropping back to last night, a Hawija rocket attack which left five people injured.
Shootings?
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that last night there was a Baghdad attack on Lt Col Hazim Salih which resulted in his being shot dead and his wife being left injured.
Thursday US President Barack Obama wasted everyone's time with another speech that repeatedly referenced himself, He also found time to (falsely) link Iraq to 9-11. What a War Whore he's turned out to be. The one-time media star couldn't even dominate this morning's headlines with his performance. Instead the news media was chasing after rumors about a politician from across the Atlantic Ocean: England's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. Gerri Peev (Daily Mail) reports "Clegg will voice a thinly veiled condemnation of the Iraq war" in his speech. Ian Dunt (Politics) quotes from the expected speech: "But our approach will also be hard-headed and realistic. In recent years, we have learned - sometimes the hard way - that democracy cannot be created by diktat. Freedom cannot be commanded into existence." Jon Swaine (Telegraph of London) adds, "While he will not use the word "sorry", Mr Clegg will come close to apologising on the world stage for the war, which he believes was in breach international law, in a speech to the UN General Assembly." The Edmonton Journal looks at that quote and states, "The passage clearly suggest regret over Britain's role in the war against Iraq, which was not explicitly backed by the UN Security Council." Instantly forgettable, Barack's speech is already upstaged in the news cycle and England's second-in-charge is geared to show leadership as the world watches. Tom Peterkin (Scotsman) reports that, in his speech today, Clegg declared that democracy is not something which can be imposed.
Yesterday the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing where, see yesterday's snapshot, Senators Jim Webb and Jon Tester launched an attack on Vietnam veterans. And to those who e-mailed insisting Jim Webb is a Vietnam veteran, so? He attacked John Kerry in a 2004 column (he didn't like John speaking against the war) and he's written the most racist and vile caricatures of the Vietnamese (yes, he's currently married to a Vietnamese-American -- South Vietnamese and, yes, that does make a difference in his mind). Jim Webb's disgraced himself. Kat reported on the hearing at her site in "Jim Webb: The new Bob Dole," Wally reported on it at Rebecca's site in "Senate Veterans Affairs hearing (Wally)" and Ava reported on it at Trina's site in "Senator Roland Burris (Ava)." Michael Leon (Veterans Today) reports on it in "Shinseki Fights off Veterans' Enemy Sen. James Webb, Defends Agent Orange Benefits." Leon's strong report opens with:
This morning, while posturing as the earnest student of empirical investigation, Webb prefaced his hostile line of questioning of witness Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki saying Webb is concerned about protecting the "credibility of our [VA] programs."
I was hoping Shinseki would pull out a can of aerosol composed of dioxin [tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (TCDD)] and offer to spray it around the Committee room and see if anyone of the august senators had a presumptive problem with it.
Chuck Palazzo (Veterans Today) notes that Senators Bernie Sanders and Jay Rockefeller stood up for veterans in the hearing. Having attended the hearing yesterday, I am noting Committee Chair Daniel Akaka also needs to be noted -- he is a soft spoken person and has to maintain a role as Chair but even with both of those things, he still made very clear in his opening where he stood. Senator Patty Murray made clear that she supported veterans, Mark Begich appeared to be coming out in support ("appeared" because I really don't know him, his words indicated support but I don't know his record and I don't know him). The strongest voice in the hearing was Senator Roland Burris. You can see Ava's report or you can watch the hearing which is at Palazzo's link and which is also online here at the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs website. David Rogers (Politico) notes:
In comments later, Webb told POLITICO that he would like to return more decision-making power to Congress itself, rather than leave so much discretion to a single Cabinet secretary. And Webb said he was also attracted to a proposal by Principi to take a more incremental approach in the case of common diseases -- and put emphasis on medical care before disability payments.
Now we're going to talk numbers so that we all get just what a s**t Jim Webb is. The Bush tax cuts were set to expire. Webb supports extending all of them -- not just the middle class and working class and working poor but also the top earners in the country. Paul Krugman (New York Times) explained why that was such a bad idea last month:
What's at stake here? According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, making all of the Bush tax cuts permanent, as opposed to following the Obama proposal, would cost the federal government $680 billion in revenue over the next 10 years. For the sake of comparison, it took months of hard negotiations to get Congressional approval for a mere $26 billion in desperately needed aid to state and local governments.
And where would this $680 billion go? Nearly all of it would go to the richest 1 percent of Americans, people with incomes of more than $500,000 a year. But that's the least of it: the policy center's estimates say that the majority of the tax cuts would go to the richest one-tenth of 1 percent. Take a group of 1,000 randomly selected Americans, and pick the one with the highest income; he's going to get the majority of that group's tax break. And the average tax break for those lucky few -- the poorest members of the group have annual incomes of more than $2 million, and the average member makes more than $7 million a year -- would be $3 million over the course of the next decade.
Now it's tacky and appalling to put a dollar amount on the issue of care -- especially needed care resulting from the government playing reckless with human lives -- but Leo Shane III (Stars & Stripes) reports, "According to VA estimates, the move could cost more than $13 billion in compensation payouts in the next 18 months." $680 billion. Wow. Kind of dwarfs the $13 billion figure, doesn't it? Webb has his priorities and they just don't appear to include veterans.

Meanwhile Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) reports, "The FBI is confirming that this morning they began a number of 'raids' against the homes of antiwar activists, claiming that they are 'seeking evidence relating to activities concerning the material support of terrorism'." Karmically, the news breaks on the same day that the National Lawyers Guild issues a new report, Heidi Boghosian's [PDF format warning] "The Policing of Political Speech: Constraints on Mass Dissent in the US." .In her intro, Boghosian notes, "To know that the United States is undergoing a highly orchestrated curtailment of personal and political liberties, one need not look further than police treatment of protesters in the streets. Those who speak out against government policies increasingly face many of the same types of weaponry used by the U.S. governmen tin its military operations." Still from the introduction:
Police preparation for mass assemblies routinely involves infiltration and spying on activist groups, sometimes years in advance, including the use of agents provocateurs. Time and time again, millions of dollars have been obtained by police departments for personnel and equipment at large events justified by confidential informant testimony that large numbers of 'anarchists' are planning to attend and engage in violence. Closer examination of the facts often reveals the falsity of such allegations: numerous police infrormants, many with criminal backgrounds, admit when later questioned that activist groups they infiltrated never planned any violent activities. Indeed millions more have been spent paying damages to the demonstrators victimized by these tactics.
New anti-terrorism legislation and prosecution practices have resulted in individuals being charged with conspiracy to riot merely by virtue of having helped organize a protest at which other individuals unknown to them were arrested. As evidence of conspiracy to riot, the government cites such First Amendment protected activities as attending meetings, writing about protests, organizing protests, and engaging in rhetorical or politically charged speech.
Faulty intelligence gathering and grossly attenuated criminal charges are accompanied by additional strategies to quell dissent. Asserting the need to defend against terrorism and protect national security, the government targets leaders of social and political movements, employs grand juries to search for evidence of political affiliation, stigmatizes groups of activists, and uses the mass media to denigrate demonstrators, reinforce negative stereotypes or publicize high-profile arrests on charges which are frequently later dropped for lack of evidence.
We will note the report in more detail next week. Heidi co-hosts WBAI's Law and Disorder Radio (10:00 a.m. EST Mondays -- also plays on other stations around the country throughout the week) with fellow attorneys Michael Ratner and Michael Smith. The report may be discussed on one of the shows in the next weeks and, if so, we will note it then as well. On today's raids, Jacob Wheeler (The UpTake -- link has video) speaks with Mick Kelly who was among the activists whose homes were raided today.
Mick Kelly: The FBI has raided my home. Right now there's about ten, twelve FBI agents rummaging through my papers, documents. They've confiscated computers, they've taken my passport, etc.
Jacob Wheeler: And we're in the Hard Times Cafe in Cedar-Riverside and your apartment is just upstairs from the cafe, right?
Mick Kelly: That's correct.
Jacob Wheeler: So there are agents upstairs right now?
Mick Kelly: That's correct.
Jacob Wheeler: How many?
Mick Kelly: Ten to twelve.
Jacob Wheeler: When did they arrive?
Mick Kelly: Several hours ago.
Jacob Wheeler: And what did they say -- Approximately what time? Any guess?
Mick Kelly: I'm going to say 7:30.
Jacob Wheeler: Okay. What did they tell you? What interaction did you have with them?
Mick Kelly: Well I wasn't there. I was at work.
Jacob Wheeler: Okay.
Mick Kelly: And I received a call that they were there. They came in -- my understanding is they came in guns drawn, kicked the door open, smashed a fish tank and proceeded to execute a search warrant.
Mick notes he is an antiwar activists and that " I see this as harassment of anti-war activists and those who stand in solidarity with those who are fighting for freedom and justice around the world." Mick was one of the organizers of the protests at the 2008 GOP convention. Ahndi Fridell (Reuters) reports the FBI is admitting to searching "eight homes in Chicago and Minnesota" today and claiming it is "terrorism" related -- or adjacent. Or maybe just a sleepy suburb of. They're not really sure as is evidenced by the fact that eight homes were raided (or the FBI admits to raiding at least eight homes) and not one arrest was made. Not one arrest was made. That's a key point. Along with Mick Kelly, one of the eight homes known to be raided belongs to Jess Sundin. Sarah Laskow (Washington Independent) reports: "Sundin was 'a principal leader of the mass antiwar march of 10,000 on the opening day of the Republican National Convention two years ago,' and Kelly has said he would march on the Democratic National Convention if it were held in Minneapolis this year, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune."
Yesterday's snapshot noted the Cat Food Commission and how Ruth credited Lambert (Corrente) with coining and/or popularizing that phrase but there were no links to either Ruth or Lambert. To read one of Lambert's most recent posts on the efforts by the White House to attack Social Security, click here. This morning, I noted David Swanson's "Changing and Facilitating" (War Is A Crime) but I screwed up the link. My apologies. Click here to read the piece.: Excerpt from Swanson's article (based on a speech he gave):
Our representatives strive to represent three groups of people: the ones who give them money, the ones who produce cable television news shows, radio shows, and newspapers, and the ones in charge of their political parties including especially the president when he is the leader of their party. In George Mason's view the president was to execute the will of the Congress, and no power of the Congress was more important than that of impeachment. Now Republicans will only impeach Democratic presidents, and Democrats will only impeach Democratic judges. And the executive is largely freed to tell the legislature how to do its job, rather than the reverse.
When Congress is too craven and cowardly to impeach someone or isn't sure what they've done wrong, do you know what it used to do? It used to subpoena people. And it used to take that Capitol Police force that now does such a fine job of beating up peace activists in hallways, and it used to send the police to pick up witnesses who'd been subpoenaed. And when people testified but refused to respectfully answer questions, or acted like our recent attorney general Alberto Gonzales who said "I do not recall" four times a minute during his testimony, do you know what congressional committees would do? They would hold that person in contempt? And do you know where they would hold them in contempt? In a jail cell. During 2007 and 2008 Democratic committees subpoenaed dozens of top members of a Republican administration, including the vice president and the secretary of state, all of whom told Congress to go Dick Cheney itself.
So Congress asked the Justice Department to enforce its subpoenas, and the Justice Department said no. So Congress took it to court and later won. But with one weird and partial exception, not a single one of those subpoenas has been reissued and enforced by either the new Justice Department or by the committees themselves. In fact, the House Committee on Oversight has been basically put out of its misery, and the judiciary and other committees have crawled out of sight beneath the emperor's throne. Congress just impeached and tried a judge for getting lap dances and frozen shrimp, and earlier this year impeached a judge for groping people, but it leaves a judge in a lifetime seat who wrote secret laws authorizing aggressive war and torture. Impeachment has been reserved for sex and Democrats, and the subpoena has gone the way of the dodo bird -- at least unless Republicans get Congress back.
Why don't we ever talk about the problem of Congress handing all power over to presidents? Because both political parties are happy about it, and anything they both want left alone is not news. We have a substantial right to free speech in this country, but a free press is another story altogether. A small cartel of mega media corporations has been given our public airwaves without compensation, and the more information we get from them the dumber we are. When Americans believed lies about the urgent need to attack Iraq, they believed them more depending which media outlet they got most of their news from. I'm not naming any names.

Another David, David DeGraw, has a new book, The Road To World War III and you can read part one by using the link "The Road to World War III - The Global Banking Cartel Has One Card Left to Play. "
TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, Naftali Bendavid (Wall St. Journal), Jackie Calmes (New York Times), Tom Gjleten (NPR) and Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) join Gwen around the table while Dan Balz (Washington Post) files a report from Des Moines on the speech Sarah Palin makes to Iowa's GOP. Gwen now has a weekly column at Washington Week and the current one is still "Who Exactly Are the Bums?" This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Debra Carnahan, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Leslie Sanchez and Tara Setmayer on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And this week's To The Contrary online extra is on college tuition -- its cost and its worth is debated. Need To Know is PBS' new program covering current events. This week's hour long broadcast airs Fridays on most PBS stations -- but check local listings -- and in some markets it may explore US combat in Afghanistan, the US role in institutionalizing Afghan corruption; abuse and mistreatment of US seniors at home-based senior centers, Jon Meacham discussing "superlativism" and more. If you saw that last week (pledge drives and special programming meant not all PBS stations that air the show did last week), then you can look for Nial Ferguson talking about the budget, the Tea Party, the jobless recovery and Human Rights Watch's Anneke van Woudenberg discussing the Congo. Turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

A Relentless Enemy
Lara Logan's report takes viewers to the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan, where she and her crew came under enemy fire from fighters who the U.S. military says keep coming from their sanctuary in Pakistan.

Islamic Center
Scott Pelley looks at the national debate that has flared up around Ground Zero in New York City over opposition to building an Islamic center and prayer room nearby.

Cool Brees
Steve Kroft profiles Drew Brees, the MVP quarterback who led the New Orleans Saints to their first-ever Super Bowl victory, just a few years after the city was nearly destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

60 Minutes, Sunday, Sept. 26, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Only Men Need Apply

Wednesday, Terry Gross (Fresh Air) made clear that Liz Sly, Leila Fadel, Jane Arraf and other women currently reporting on Iraq just aren't good enough. Their crime? Lacking a penis. So Terry did what she always does: Chats up a man.

Here's an excerpt of Anthony Shadid speaking:


Mr. SHADID: You know, Terry, I tried you know, one of the things that's really haunted me, I think, over the past, you know, seven years in Iraq is this notion of how anonymous death is in Iraq, you know, how many people have I mean, we're talking about 100,000 people, perhaps far more who have died, millions who have been forced to leave the country and like I said earlier, you know, a society that is traumatized, absolutely traumatized.

And I wanted to somehow capture, you know, kind of write against that notion of the anonymity of death. And so I went to the morgue. And, you know, we spent a couple days there at the morgue as families came in looking at these pictures that were put on screens on the wall of corpses, basically.

And, you know, it was just this, you know, remarkably disturbing collage of death. Each of these faces seemed almost like they were kind of right out of Pompeii, you know, frozen in the moment that they had died.

And one the second day, a family had come in. They had lost their son back in 2005. They didn't know what had happened to him, and they had heard from a relative, or actually a friend - I take that back - a friend, that an acquaintance of this person, of their son who had died, had been found in the pictures. And so they came hoping to find his picture.

You know, within a few moments, they had. And this started a journey, in way, to find his body. They saw the picture in the morgue, and then they had to go through this incredibly again, I keep using this word, but an incredibly brutal experience of navigating Iraqi bureaucracy, of dealing with a government that just does not really care about its people.





This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, September 23, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, some senators (including Democrats) are bent out of shape that the Agent Orange Act results in payments for illnesses and it gets uglier than anything outside of a Jon Tester and Jim Webb nude pictorial for Playgirl magazine, more contractors are now dying in Iraq than US service members, sometimes it snows in September, and more.
"Today," declared US Senator Daniel Akaka this morning, "much of our focus will be on Vietnam veterans and Agent Orange. However, it is important to note that the same process is already in place with respect to presumptions related to the first Gulf War. And, as many know, we are just beginning to hear about the consequences of exposures to potential toxins in connection with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and exposures at miitary installations -- such as Camp Lejeune and the Astugi Naval Air Facility." Much, much earlier this morning, Mother Jones published Kate Sheppard's "Does KBR Have a Secret Get-out-of-Court-Free Card?" which opens:
After a group of Oregon National Guard troops sued KBR in 2009, claiming they'd been exposed to toxic chemicals at Iraq's Qarmat Ali Water Treatment Facility, an unusual deal between the military contractor and the Army came to light. Tucked inside its multibillion-dollar contract to rebuild the facility was a clause, the contents of which remain classified, that could shield the contractor from legal liability -- in essence, what could amount to a get-out-of-court-free card.
The deal raises questions about why the Army agreed to insulate KBR -- and how many other contractors might have similar agreements in place -- and for months, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) has pressed the Pentagon for answers. On Thursday, he plans to introduce legislation that would require the Pentagon to inform Congress whenever indemnity agreements are made, which he hopes will effectively put an end to the kind of secret deal that KBR appears to have secured. "Our war contracting process does too little to ensure that contractors act with the best interests of our troops and taxpayers in mind, and we're going to change that," he says.
Today's hearing was on an important topic and it's one that never is out of the news for long. Senator Akaka is the Chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee and his office notes of today's hearing:

COMMITTEE EXAMINES PROCESS FOR CREATING PRESUMPTIVE DISABILITIES

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, held an oversight hearing today on the existing VA process for presuming service-connection for veterans' disabilities. Looking beyond the recent expansion of Agent Orange-related presumptions, witnesses and committee members discussed potential improvements to the process to be used in connection with possible exposures to future generations.

"By granting 'presumptions,' VA creates a blanket assumption of service-connection for a group of veterans, bypassing the standard process for disability claims. The process Congress set in place for Agent Orange presumptions serves as a precedent for Gulf War Illness. We have a responsibility to set up an appropriate process for potential toxic exposures from Iraq, Afghanistan, and on military bases where there may be environmental hazards. It is critical that the process for establishing presumptive disabilities is sound, science-based, and transparent," said Akaka.

The Committee's witnesses included Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and former-Secretary Anthony Principi, as well as medical and scientific experts.

More information about the hearing including statements, testimony and the webcast is available here: veterans.senate.gov

-END-

Kawika Riley

Communications Director and Legislative Assistant

U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs

Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman

http://veterans.senate.gov

In opening remarks, Senator Patty Murray explained that she supported DoD and VA coming up with a registry to track and document the effects that various exposures cause. We're pointing that out because next month it will be one year since Senator Evan Bayh testified at a mark up hearing advocating for a registry to aid Iraq and Afghanistan wars. That proposal has not left the Comittee. It needs to, it needs to go to a floor vote although, honestly, as this late date and with money being what it is in elections, it's doubtful it could pass the full Senate.
Senatator Bernie Sanders: What we are talking about today is the ongoing costs of war. This is what war is about. And war is about more than bullets and guns and airplanes. War is about making sure that we care of the last veteran who served in that war and that we do that person justice. And if we don't want to do that, don't send them off to war. But if you make that decision that's the moral responsibility that we have.
Nice words and I don't doubt that Sanders means them. I also don't doubt that benefits are on the chopping block. Jordan Fabian (The Hill) reported at the start of the month, "Alan Simpson, the GOP co-chairman of President Obama's fiscal commission, on Tuesday questioned some disability benefits paid to veterans, saying they are 'not helping' the nation's debt crisis." That's the Catfood Commission (Ruth has credited Corrente's Lambert with coming up with that phrase). The Committee that Congress refused (rightly) to create so Barack did it without them. It plans to attack Social Security -- not at all surprising considering the make up of that Commission -- and it does aim to go after military benefits. May 19, 2010 the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing where a bit of reality started to show and Senator Scott Brown suddenly changed the topic and no one brought it back up. From that day's snapshot:
Senator Scott Brown: I'm wondering if you could just tell me what benefits might be at risk at this point and time? Any specific issues that we need to focus on that we're missing or falling through the cracks?

Thomas Pamperin: Benefits that are currently being delivered that might be taken away?


Senator Scott Brown: Right. Things that we -- that you're saying, "You know what? We got to keep our eye on this."


Thomas Pamperin: Uh - uh, we'd be glad to - to give you a more extensive response in - in the future. Uh . . . My - my concern is that the nation clearly --


Senator Scott Brown: Can I interrupt just for a second?
If you're thinking Brown wanted to explore the cuts Pamperin appeared to be anticipating, you're wrong. Here's what happened:
Senator Scott Brown: Can I interrupt just for a second? I may have kind of thrown that out there. I guess what I'm concerned with is making better use of current law, the things that we have in place that we may not be exhausting properly, we may not be getting the full benefit of.

In addition to the snapshot, Wally reported on it at Rebecca's site and you can also see Third Estate Sunday Review's "Scott Brown's so pretty."
The potential 'cost-cutting' measures were not discussed then although the witness appeared prepared and willing to do so. Today we heard US Senator Jim Webb babble on and, when he's insincere, his voice cracks. It was like the episode of The Brady Bunch where the kids are set to record a song but Peter's voice begins changing and won't stop cracking. As he used opening remarks to recount his entire resume at length -- everything but working the counter one night and giving a veteran a free milk shake -- that voice cracked and cracked. Why was that such a hard thing for him. "We have a duty," Webb insisted as he added coughs to his bag of tricks. And "this is not simply a cost item." Oh, now you may be getting why Webb was freaking out.
If not, join us as we drop back to the June 15, 2010 snapshot:
WAVY reports (link has text and video) that victims of Agent Orange (specifically Vietnam era veterans) could recieve addition beneifts for B-Cell Leukemia, Parkinson's disease and coronary heart disease. Could? A US Senator is objecting to the proposed changes by VA. Jim Webb has written VA Secretary Eric Shinseki that ". . . this single executive decision is estimated to cost a minimum of $42.2 billion over the next ten years. A regulatory action of this magnitude requires proper Congressional review and oversight." Besides, Webb wrote, "Heart disease is a common phenomenon regardless of potential exposure to Agent Orange." That is really embarrasing and especially embarrassing for the Democratic Party (Webb is a Democrat today, having converted from a Reagan Republican). It also goes a long way towards explaining Webb's refusal to get on board with Senator Evan Bayh's bill to create a national registry that would allow those Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans to be able to receive treatment for their exposures without having to jump through hoops repeatedly.
And if you doubted that Webb was about to try to pull out the axe on Vietnam veterans benefits, you had to only give him a few more seconds as he began bemoaning that the law was written one way (yes, he is a 'framers' intent' and 'original construction' type politician) and then expanded (to "dual presumptioms both based on very broad categorizations"). What are the expansions? It's been expanded to allow payments to Vietnam Veterans suffering from Parkinson's disease, ischemic heart disease and hairy cell leukemia. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki is not someone we praise blindly here (to put it mildly) but the hearing was really about Shinseki's 'performance,' specifically with regards to expanding the categories -- based on medical and science evidence -- qualifying for payments.
There's a whole dance going on beneath the hearing that few will ever notice. If there was anything sadder than Webb's remarks it was Senator Jon Tester who felt the need to praise Webb "for asking some very tough questions." To watch some of the senators today was to be aware they appeared to think leukemia, heart disease and Parknson's is little more troubling than adult acne.
Senator Roland Burris was one of the most straightforward and it's too bad that the Democratic Party establishment loathed him because, as usual, when veterans needed an advocate on the Committee, Senator Burris could be counted on. "There's no price that we could put on what we can do with those veterans suffering from those chemicals that were sprayed throughout that country." "Budget shortfalls," Burris noted, were no excuse for not providing for veterans. Was it telling that Jon Tester walked out while Burris was making that statement? Maybe he was just needed elsewhere. Although that certainly doesn't explain the ugly glare visible on his face as he left, now does it?
In his opening remarks, Shinseki made it clear that it was "my decision" to expand the presumptions. (He varied from his written remarks -- starting with his first sentence which, as written, thanked Ranking Member Richard Burr who was not present and instead Shinseki thanked Johnny Isakson -- who wasn't present in the room at that time but did take part in the hearing.) Shinseki noted that VA was directed by the Agent Orange Act of 1991 to expand presumptions when any "positive association" could be determined.
Senator Mike Johanns wanted to know "how much of it [Agent Orange] was used in Vietnam?" Shinseki stated that "19 million gallons of Agent Orange was dispersed over Vietnam" ("according to our best records") and it was done via spraying from planes. (Jim Webb does not believe that much was used. He is pretty sure at least some was used, apparently approximately one heaping tablespoon but other than that . . .) Senator Sanders noted that the Vietnamese and their exposure was intentionally ignored and his belief was that a thorough study on the impact of Agent Orange on the Vietnamese was not done by the US government because the government wanted to have the default position of "We don't know" when confronted with veterans suffering from exposure to Agent Orange. (For those too young to have lived through it, the 1991 act on Agent Orange is the best example of how the US government repeatedly and consistently ignored the needs of veterans. And prior to the act being passed, there were years and years of veterans being told it was all in their head or they were faking or they really weren't sick.)
"I looked at these nine studies that you referred to in your testimony," Webb stated and then pretended to be qualified as to evaluate them. I wasn't aware that Webb had an MD. Maybe he's a WebMD?
Shinseki pointed out that "Congress had an opportunity to review my decision and decide to do its part" and obviously agreed. So what was the hearing for? It was a waste of time because Webb wanted to have a hissy. Please note, we never got a hearing by the Committee in trying to determine why fall 2009 tuition payments to veterans under the Post 9/11 GI Bill arrived as late as March and April 2010. That effected people's lives. That effected veterans' children. And there was no oversight, there was no hearing. But Webb and Tester wanted to pitch a fit. Tester being convinced that 'bad' veterans are hidden away somewhere who "pounds a couple of packs of cigarettes a day and a like amount of alcohol" to get extra monies from the government claiming heart disease. I'm not really sure what "a like amount of alcohol" is to a "couple of packs of cigarettes" -- one is liquid. Is Tester that stupid, really? And could he next hop on a scale since we're paying his medical bills as well since he serves in the US Congress and since, when he was in profile returning to his seat, he so closely resembled William Conrad. What are you pounding, Tester? And why are we paying for it? If you want to talk risk factors on veterans and claim that its your playground to do so because of tax payer monies, let me repeat, we the tax payers pay for your health care Jon Tester -- for the rest of your life. Maybe it's time we started imposing penalities on Congressional members with "risk factors"? Especially those who know they can't win an argument against Agent Orange exposure so they try to create this little side dialogue that's both meaningless and insulting.
Turning to the weather . . . It's not yet winter but some of Donald Rumsfeld's snowflakes are falling. The NSA explains:
Washington, D.C., September 22, 2010Following instructions from President George W. Bush to develop an updated war plan for Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ordered CENTCOM Commander Gen. Tommy Franks in November 2001 to initiate planning for the "decapitation" of the Iraqi government and the empowerment of a "Provisional Government" to take its place.
Talking points for the Rumsfeld-Franks meeting on November 27, 2001, released through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), confirm that policy makers were already looking for ways to justify invading Iraq – as indicated by Rumsfeld's first point, "Focus on WMD."
This document shows that Pentagon policy makers cited early U.S. experience in Afghanistan to justify planning for Iraq's post-invasion governance in order to achieve their strategic objectives: "Unlike in Afghanistan, important to have ideas in advance about who would rule afterwards."
Rumsfeld's notes were prepared in close consultation with senior DOD officials Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith. Among other insights, the materials posted today by the National Security Archive shed light on the intense focus on Iraq by high-level Bush administration officials long before the attacks of 9/11, and Washington's confidence in perception management as a successful strategy for overcoming public and allied resistance to its plans.
This compilation further shows:
  • The preliminary strategy Rumsfeld imparted to Franks while directing him to develop a new war plan for Iraq
  • Secretary of State Powell's awareness, three days into a new administration, that Iraq "regime change" would be a principal focus of the Bush presidency
  • Administration determination to exploit the perceived propaganda value of intercepted aluminum tubes -- falsely identified as nuclear related -- before completion of even a preliminary determination of their end use
  • The difficulty of winning European support for attacking Iraq (except that of British Prime Minister Tony Blair) without real evidence that Baghdad was implicated in 9/11
  • The State Department's analytical unit observing that a decision by Tony Blair to join a U.S. war on Iraq "could bring a radicalization of British Muslims, the great majority of whom opposed the September 11 attacks but are increasingly restive about what they see as an anti-Islamic campaign"
  • Pentagon interest in the perception of an Iraq invasion as a "just war" and State Department insights into the improbability of that outcome
Rumsfeld's instructions to Franks included the establishment and funding of a provisional government as a significant element of U.S. invasion strategy. In the end the Pentagon changed course and instead ruled post-invasion Iraq directly, first through the short-lived Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance and then through Paul Bremer and the Coalition Provisional Authority.
Jack Rice: The Obama administration -- and even the Pentgon to some degree as well -- has basically looked at the political side of this. They can't continue this indefinatly. They can't. And so they've looked at what the American people want. Everybody wants this war to be done in the United States. The problem is it's not done. I mean, a lot of the problems that we faced and a lot of the problems that the Iraqis themselves faced in the past, they're still there. And the schisms that you're finding within the country still exist. The problems within their legislature still exist. Violence still exists. Just because it's under the surface, doesn't men it's disappeared -- just that we desparately want it to disappear. So we relable it, shine it up and say,you know,: 'MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.' Unfortunately, a lot of the things that we thought were going to be major shifts in the Obama administration simply turned out to be more of the same. Specifically I recall the argument of transparancy of this war and both wars and how we deal with the war on terror. And I was in the room, in the White House, in the Situation Room as they were talking about this. And what they talked about at the time was that there was going to be more transparency and then his people came out and said, 'Well, we've decided to continue with the Bush administration on those same policies. So the more it changes, the more it stays the same.
On the topic of the ongoing Iraq War, Maya Schenwar (Truthout) speaks with US House Rep Dennis Kucinich:
Maya Schenwar: Since the end of formal combat operations in Iraq, you've been speaking out against the continuing presence of US troops and increasing presence of American mercenaries there. How do you respond to those who say the continued presence is necessary for security reasons?
Dennis Kucinich: America's invasion of Iraq has made us less secure. Before the entire world we invaded a country that did not attack us - that had no intention or capability of attacking us - and that, famously, did not have weapons of mass destruction. The subsequent occupation has fueled an insurgency, and as long as we have troops there, the insurgency will remain quite alive. The very idea that somehow the war is in a new phase needs to be challenged. Insurgents don't differentiate between combat troops and noncombat troops; any of our troops who are out there are subject to attack. And the insurgencies will continue to build, with the continued American presence, resulting in the death of more innocent civilians. Every mythology about our presence in Iraq is being stripped away. The idea that we can afford it? We can't. That Iraq will pay for it? It shouldn't and couldn't. That somehow we'd be welcomed there? By whom? That there's some kind of security to be gained in the region? We have destabilized the region. That it would help us gain support from moderates in the Muslim world? We are undermined throughout the Muslim world. Every single assertion of this war, and every reason for this war, has been knocked down. And yet it keeps going.
MS: Then, is a complete, immediate withdrawal in order - right now?
DK: That's what we have to do. We should have done it a long time ago. Is it likely that there will be conflict when we leave? Yes. We set in motion forces that are irrevocable. You cannot simply launch a war against a country where there were already factions - Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds who were at odds with each other - and think that you can leave there without difficulties. That's going to happen no matter what. But the fact that the conflict that we helped to create is still quite alive does not justify staying there. War becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of continued war, unless you break the headlong momentum by getting out.
The Iraq War continues. Lauren King (Virginian-Pilot) reports, "About 400 soldiers have received a mobilization order for active duty in Iraq, according to a statement from the Virginia National Guard." They'll go to Fort Hood in Texas next year (February) for training before deploying to Iraq. Julie Sullivan (Oregonian) reports, "Just weeks after President Obama declared an end to combat, the 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry headquartered in La Grande mobilized Tuesday for Iraq. Their mission has a new name: Operation New Dawn, but an old and dangerous undertaking: guarding convoys and U.S. bases, supporting the Iraqi army and police. More than 500 Oregon Army National Guard soldiers heading to Iraq have a clear mission, so does the governor."
The Iraq War continues and moves towards outsourcing to do off-the-books-combat with, Barack hopes, the end-result being that Americans will no longer care and instead happily embrace the myth that the war is over. Federal News Radio reports new estimates show a 40% jump "from 2008 to the second quarter of 2010" in the deaths of contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan with more dying in both countries this year than US service members. The numbers can be found in the [PDF format warning] report entitled "Contractors and the Ultimate Sacrifice" written by George Washington University Law School's Steven L. Schooner and Collin D. Swan. From the start of the Iraq War through June 2010, 4,400 US service members died while serving and, during this same period, 1,487 contractors were killed in Iraq. (There are also Afghanistan figure, we're focusing on Iraq.) During that same period, the authors of the study count 12,766 US troops injured compared to 36,023 contractors wounded in Iraq. As Figure 4 on page 17 of the report charts, each year has seen an increase in the number of contractors killed except for one year. 2010 is slighly less than 2009; however, the study only documents deaths for six months (January through June) of 2010. The last three months (this is me, not the report) already saw the 2010 number pass the 2009. As noted in yesterday's snapshot, the most recent identified contractor death was that of Iraq War veteran Karl Bowen, the UK soldier who returned to Iraq as a contractor and died September 14th. Rogene Fisher Jacquette (New York Times) notes:
There were 207,600 private contractors employed by the Department of Defense, 19 percent more than the 175,000 uniformed personnel members employed by the department, according to a July report by the Congressional Research Service. In Iraq and Afghanistan, contractors make up 54 percent of the Defense Department's workforce, according to the report.
And, let's repeat, the findings today come from the two at the law school. We have to be clear because some people aren't. I'm thinking of one person in particular who credits the findings to ProPublica. Related: Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported on children from forced marriages (and rape?), whose fathers were al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and forced their way into Iraqi women's lives. Lacking the official paperwork required, the children don't exist, don't even have Iraqi citizenship. Ahmed Jassim warns, "It's dangerous because in the future they might hurt the society that hurt them." She did that this week. How is it related? F-A-D-E-L. That's how you spell her name. The same NPR (yes, the outlet) reporter/blogger/producer who doesn't know who did the study today also earlier this week praised Leila's reporting, or rather, praised "Leila Fadhil of the Washington Post, one of the best people covering Iraq at the moment." That was Tuesday. Considering the thin-skinned nature of some at NPR (some of whom are friends) with regards to what goes up here, might I point out that NPR is a news outlet and this is now the second big error of the week (none of the errors have been corrected).
Maybe it's a correction stalemate? Day Press reports, "In a speech at the opening of the seventh Conference of the Interior Ministers of Iraq's neighboring Countries on Wednesday, Syrian Interior Minister Said Sammour said that Syria supports Arabism and territorial integrity of Iraq and forming a national unity government representing all spectrums of Iraqi society. Syria also reaffirms its support of the efforts exerted to achieve stability and security of Iraq." Middle East Online adds, "The interior ministers of the countries neighbouring Iraq have called on Baghdad to form a government as soon as possible and pledged increased cooperation in fighting terrorism." Alsumaria TV reports, "Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad Al Boulani believes that time is not in the interest of Iraqi parties, urging political powers in Iraq to accelerate the formation of a new Iraqi government. Government formation delay is a main reason for surge of recent terrorist attacks, Al Boulani said." While Iraq's neighbors met to discuss the issue of forming a government, the stalemate continued.
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted last month, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's six months and sixteen days with no government formed.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombng claimed 1 life (police officer) and left three people injured, the offices for the Dujail Scientific Research Dept were blowng up and a mortar attack on the Green Zone. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports, "It was the latest in a series of attacks on the Green Zone this week. Mortar rounds fell in the heavily fortified area on Sunday and Monday." Reuters notes that 1 woman was stabbed to death outside her home in Mosul, a Mosul home invasion resulted in one death, Lt Col Hazim Salith of the Council of Ministers was shot dead in Taji and his wife was left injured and, dropping back to yesterday, a Baghdad sticky bombing which injured "an employee at the Industry Ministry" and claimed the life of 1 passenger.
Tunring to War Hawk Tony Blair whose still attempting to hawk his bad book. Last week, he appeared on ABC's The View and the 'ladies' made sure the world got just what little War Whores they were. Not only did they have a hodge podge of countries they wanted attacked (yes, even Whoopi and faux 'liberal' Joy), they refused to fact check Tony. They let him lie. They're useless. Ava and I called them out at Third and noted all of his lies including his claim that he showed 'respect' to all who disagreed with him. No, he called them conspiracy theorists to give just one example. Former UN humanitarian Coordinator Hans Von Sponeck (at The New Statesman) offers another example of how Tony Blair never achieved that 'actualization' he pretends he has:
You suggest that you and your supporters - the "people of good will", as you call them - are the owners of the facts. Your disparaging observations about Clare Short, a woman with courage who resigned as international development secretary in 2003, make it clear you have her on a different list. You appeal to those who do not agree to pause and reflect. I ask you to do the same. Those of us who lived in Iraq experienced the grief and misery that your policies caused. UN officials on the ground were not "taken in" by a dictator's regime. We were "taken in" by the challenge to tackle human suffering created by the gravely faulty policies of two governments - yours and that of the United States - and by the gutlessness of those in the Middle East, Europe and elsewhere who could have made a difference but chose otherwise. The facts are on our side, not on yours.
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