Saturday, September 24, 2011

4 men, 2 women

Friday the first hour of The Diane Rehm Show saw reporters Michael Hirsh and Karen Tumulty round out a reporters panel with sexist Ron Elving. (If you've forgotten Ron's sexist performance on cable in 2008, NPR is so happy. If you haven't, then, like me, you're wondering why White men expressing sexism openly don't warrant the firing Juan Williams received?)

The second hour, the guests were Moises Naim, Courtney Kube and Richard McGregor.

If you're a Tori Amos fan, be sure to catch her half-hour concert at Hulu. Songs are "Ruby Through The Looking Glass," "Bells For Her," "Girl" and "Concertina" -- I think that's all. If I missed one, add in a comment. In between songs performed for an audience, Tori speaks to the camera about performing. And remember, Kat's reviewing Tori's new album. It'll go up at The Common Ills sometime on Sunday. And my favorite Tori song? That's a tough one. Today I'll say "Pretty Good Year."

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

Friday, September 23, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri's on another power-grab, Jalal Talabani is in the US and making curious statements, a Republican debate demonstrates how DADT may not be over, and more.
We're going to start in the US because something big happened last night and you might think that with so many people writing online and unable to do any real work of any kind, you just might think they could get the point. But, yet again, they miss it completely. It's hard to believe how collectively stupid The New Yorker and all the rest can be. Last night was a GOP debate. The Republican Party is currently watching to see who they want to support for their party's presidential candidate. This is of grave interest to the stutned left as opposed to the real left. The stunted left can't find a real issue even if you taped it to their ass and let them use both hands.
One of the questions submitted via Google was from Stephen Hill, an Iraq War veteran. He was booed. And for homophobes like Amy Davidson, that's the story. And it's shocking and it's appalling and please vote Democrat!!!!!
Amy Davidson is nothing but a homophobe. If you doubt there are homophobes at The New Yorker, you haven't read very closely. A homophobe looks at a very complex threat to the gays and lesbians and instead reduces it to "mean Republicans booed! Vote Democrat!"
Amy has nothing to offer except, "Teacher! Teacher! They booed! They booed!" As a second grade tattle tale, she's almost gifted but as a grown woman she's an embarrassment. For starters, her little tattles were done yesterday and this morning by others. And I could have called them out then but I didn't take it as seriously until this afternoon when Amy Davidson suddenly 'discovered' the topic and aped everyone else already writing about it.
For those who tremble and sob right now, I suggest you grow the hell up. Anthony Mahchek is an Iraq War veteran, a wounded one. And he spoke at Columbia this year. And he was booed and heckled. It was not the end of the world or even of the end of society. We covered this in "On speaking and being booed in a democracy."
The United States is a democracy. I speak all the time, right after the election (2008) to antiwar audiences, I was booed for refusing to lie that the SOFA meant the war ended in 2011. I was booed, I was cursed. It wasn't the first time in my life and surely won't be the last time. Anyone who gets up to speak better be prepared for that. I have a right to speak, you have a right to boo me. You have a right to speak, I have a right to boo you. If the boos become a problem then something may be done. In most settings, including Columbia, booing after comments is not going to get the booer in trouble. An organized boo, a boo-in, if you will, might result in security doing something because a boo-in would prevent anyone from speaking.
But if you get before an audience -- and I have many, many times -- there's a chance you're going to get booed. If you don't want to be booed, don't put yourself out there.
The veteran took a highly unpopular stand. He was allowed to speak, people were allowed to register their objection.
[. . .]
The outrage, I do want to note, that is being churned is being churned by the Daily Mail and the New York Post. The veteran is not quoted boo-hooing that he got booed. He's been in combat, I don't think he's a cry baby. He's seen a lot worse than a negative reaction to his taking what (he must have known) was an unpopular position.
He obviously believes in his position or he wouldn't have taken it. Why did he face an angry crowd? Because he probably hopes that his remarks would lay the groundwork for them to reconsider. And it might. Or it might make it easier for the next person who speaks out in the same manner. The veteran doesn't seem stupid -- the press does -- I doubt he expected a standing ovation. I would guess his hopes were more along the lines of "I'll plant some seeds and maybe they'll sprout in a few weeks or months."
That's what we all do, regardless of the issue and our position, when we speak out on something that's unpopular. He had every right to speak and those that booed had every right to boo. That's what life is in America. Again, he doesn't seem scarred by it (he may be laughing about the whole thing) or surprised by it. There is no caste system in America. We are all equal. Your opinion is something you can share, but you're not able to pull rank on me and silence my dissent because you did this or that or whatever. That's not how free speech works.

That's fairly straightforward. I would assume most adults and teenagers could follow it. If someone disagrees with you, there's a chance that you will be booed if you speak in public. And someone almost always disagrees with you on something. No one is protectedfrom booing, not a president, not a nun, not a soldier, no one. It's part of the social contract.
Is it good that they booed Anthony Mahchek? Yeah, it is. It shows that they have the strength to disagree if nothing else. And maybe that's true of those who booed Stephen Hill as well? And like Mahcehck, I doubt Stephen Hill shed any tears over it or was surprised that some members of the audience wished he'd hide in a closet for all time. Good for him for getting his question out there.
But Amy Davidson doesn't want to tell you about that.
That seems to be a common element among the press since the 2008 election. Remember how the gas bags just couldn't understand the SOFA? Remember how confusing tht was for them? In November 2008, on Thanksgiving Day, when the White House finally released the SOFA, we were able to figure it out. But then our main concern was the Iraq War not how to spin things for partisan politics. Anyone with even a basic understanding of contract law who took the time to readover the SOFA would have quickly realized it was a three year contract replacing the one year one (the UN mandate). Yes, the SOFA said that all US troops would leave Iraq at the end of 2011. And for those completely stupid, that was the end of it. But there were kill clauses that would allow the SOFA to be killed and that provision about 2011? That was only if nothing replaced the SOFA and the SOFA wasn't extended.
The gas bags misled America on the SOFA. Now they're doing the same on LGBT rights. I'm not in the mood to play.
Don't Ask, Don't Tell wasn't repealed, it was vanished. An important decision on Don't Ask, Don't Tell came from Judge Virginia Phillips of the United States District Court for the Central District of California. She found it unconstitutional. That was her ruling. That ruling needs to stand. As Marcia noted earlier this week, the Justice Department is attempting to get the decision tossed. If the decision is vacated, Stephen Hill's question becomes even more important.
Here's what Stephen Hill asked:
In 2010, when I was deployed to Iraq, I had to lie about who I was, because I'm a gay soldier and I didn't want to lose my job. My question is, under one of your Presidencies, do you intend to circumvent the progress that's been made for gay and lesbian soldiers in the military?
There was booing. And that's all the Amy Davidson's care about. I believe Stephen Hill's concern, however, was about equality in the US military. I don't think his concern was hurt feelings over what Republicans might do. Had that been his concern, he probably wouldn't have asked his question.
Why did complain about the way Don't Ask, Don't Tell was handled? Because there's nothing on the books in terms of a law. As pointed out here repeatedly, Barack didn't sign a law guaranteeing equality. No law was passed on that. Don't Ask, Don't Tell was simply removed from the books. Therefore it could come back under a different president. If it does come back, one thing that would help gay soldiers would be Judge Phillips' ruling which is why the Justice Dept needs to stop trying to overturn the judge's decision. It hurts the Justice Dept not one bit for that decision to stand. It's a historic decision and one that needs to be cited in other cases. If the decision is vacated, stare decis doesn't apply, no precedent was set via the decision. That matters tremendously and for those who never got why, last night's debate pointed it out. From the official Fox News transcript, this is the response from Rick Santorum to Stephen Hill's question.

SANTORUM: Yeah, I -- I would say, any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military. And the fact that they're making a point to include it as a provision within the military that we are going to recognize a group of people and give them a special privilege to -- to -- and removing "don't ask/don't tell" I think tries to inject social policy into the military. And the military's job is to do one thing, and that is to defend our country.

We need to give the military, which is all-volunteer, the ability to do so in a way that is most efficient at protecting our men and women in uniform.

(APPLAUSE)

And I believe this undermines that ability.

(APPLAUSE)

KELLY: So what -- what -- what would you do with soldiers like Stephen Hill? I mean, he's -- now he's out. He's -- you know, you saw his face on camera. When he first submitted this video to us, it was without his face on camera. Now he's out. So what would you do as president?

SANTORUM: I think it's -- it's -- it's -- look, what we're doing is playing social experimentation with -- with our military right now. And that's tragic.

I would -- I would just say that, going forward, we would -- we would reinstitute that policy, if Rick Santorum was president, period.

That policy would be reinstituted. And as far as people who are in -- in -- I would not throw them out, because that would be unfair to them because of the policy of this administration, but we would move forward in -- in conformity with what was happening in the past, which was, sex is not an issue. It is -- it should not be an issue. Leave it alone, keep it -- keep it to yourself, whether you're a heterosexual or a homosexual.

I don't want to debate Santorum on this issue. I cleary believe he's wrong and we could play Dumb Ass one step above Amy Davidson and go into all the ways in which Santorum's wrong. But if we're going to be adults and not homophobes, because we're going to pay attention to what he said in relation to what Stephen Hill asked.
Would President Rick Santorum "circumvent the progress that's been made for gays and lesbian soldiers in the military?" And Santorum's answer is: Yes, he would reinstate Don't Ask, Don't Tell. By his own words. (I actually would guess he'd do far worse. Were he president, I think he would go back to the 1982 directive from Reagan which barred gays from serving.)
How is that possible?
No, the answer isn't, "Because Rick Santorum's an idiot." Whether he's smart or not, he's intelligent enough to grasp what the next president can do: Refuse to allow gays and lesbians in the military.
That might make Rick Santorum a mad genius, that he sees what so many refuse to. This is exactly what we pointed out repeatedly on Don't Ask, Don't Tell. You don't vanish it, you overturn it. If you vanish it, if you just wipe it away, there's nothing to prevent it from coming back.
Congress should have gone with an equality law. The White House didn't want that. And currently the White House wants to destroy Judge Virginia Phillips' ruling -- even as we now know that at least one Republican wanting to get into the White House plans to ban gays and lesbians from serving if he becomes president.
Judge Phillips' ruling needs to stand. And it was a huge, huge mistake on the part of the Congress and the White House to act as if they did something amazing. They didn't. And if you're concern is equality and not scoring partisan points for one side or the other, that's what you address. You address the realities that Stephen Hill and so many others could be facing. But The New Yorker and Amy Davidson want to play you and waste your time. I'm sorry, I don't tolerate or embrace homophobia. I call it out. I did so when Barack Obama put homophobes on stage at campaign events. When an 'ex-gay' preached hate at an official campaign event, I didn't play dumb and stupid. Amy Davidson is a homophobe because she only cares about homophobia when she score points against a Republican. Furthermore, she'll deliberately confuse the issue and waste everyone's time while risking the hard earned rights of the LBGT community in order to avoid addressing the real issue, the real question Stephen Hill was asking which is that Don't Ask, Don't Tell got erased but nothing was put in to protect gays and lesbians in the military from future discrimination.

Until you'r ready to deal with that, you don't need to weigh in on the issue. You're just causing problems. The same way those who insisted the SOFA meant US forces all leave Iraq at the end of 2011. That end is approaching but the US is engaged in engaged in negotitations to extend the US military presence. Maybe had a lot of uninformed idiots not lied and whored, those of us who believed in "OUT OF IRAQ NOW!" would have stayed focused on the issue and troops would already be out of Iraq.
December 21, 2010 was an important day. Iraq is currently in Political Stalemate II which began December 21st when Nouri al-Maliki's inability to follow the Constitution and nominate a Cabinet which Parliament signed off on was overlooked and he was illegally moved from prime minister-designate to prime minister. In the nine months, two days and counting since, Nouri's been unable or unwilling to fill the security ministries. Acting ministers are not real ministers. They've never been voted on by Parliament so they have no real powers and can be dismissed by Nouri at any time without any oversight from Parliament. The puppet has puppets.

The Political Stalemate largely results from the failure of Nouri to abide by the Erbil Agreement -- the understanding which ended Political Stalemate I. Nouri got what he wanted out of the agreement (to remain prime minister) and then trashed the agreement. Ayad Allawi and his Iraqiya political slate have been highly critical of Nouri over this. More recently, the Kurdish voice calling for a return to the Erbil Agreement has grown stronger. Currently, Nouri and the Kurds are at logger heads. Earlier this week, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi traveled to the Kurdistan Regional Government to meet with Kurdish officials.

Al Sabaah reports that while al-Nujaifi did carry a few ideas or proposals with him, they were verbal and nothing in writing. Both sides were in agreement that the Constitution needed to be followed and, the paper reports, there are plans for a meet-up between the Kurds, Iraqiya and the National Alliance. New Sabah spoke with the National Alliance's Hassan al-Jubouri earlier this week and he stressed the need for a consensus to be reached.

Al Mada reports that al-Nujaifi will visit Iran and Turkey to raise the issues of their bombing northern Iraq. In addition, al-Nujaifi told the press that the Constitution must be followed and any oil and gas law must result from dialogue and discussions. One of the Kurds chief complaints is Nouri's proposed oil & gas bill. Kurds have strong reasons to complain, Nouri's staged yet another power grab and gone back on an agreement. Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) reports that the 2007 agreement has been pushed aside, "The amended law would give the oil ministry authority to hold bidding rounds for most oil and gas fields, leaving currently producing fields and discovered but undeveloped fields close to them in the hands of a newly created Iraqi National Oil Company (INOC). The 2007 draft version restricted the ministry to auctions for discovered, undeveloped fields. The changes could result in the inclusion of Kurdish fields in future auctions, which the Kurds say they will not accept." Reuters also provides an overview of past oil laws and bills. As Nouri attempts this power grab, maybe it's worth noting how Shell Oil got a pending deal under his 'leadership'? Ben Lando and Ben Van Heuvelen (Iraq Oil Report) utilize WikiLeaks cables to demonstrate that Shell was laughing and mocking Iraqi officials, bragging about how they were so stupid Shell had to teach them basic economics. The reporters notes that "in contrast to the transparent and competitive bidding rounds that the Iraqi Oil Ministry held in 2009 and 2010 for oil and gas contracts, the Shell deal has been brokered behind closed doors. Critics have charged that the noncompetitive and secret process has put Shell's prerogatives -- particularly its desire to export gas -- ahead of Iraq's interests. And although the draft contract that now stands before the Cabinet is substantially different than the agreement that first drew widespread opposition, the deal remains haunted by its shadowy history."
So Nouri's hand-picked team was a laughing stock to Shell? At what point does this start to reflect on Nouri? He's not a newbie. He's been prime minister since 2006. That's five years. In that time he has repeatedly demonstrated little concern for the needs of the Iraqi people and he has refused to listen to other politicians.
Al Mada quotes Ayad Allawi stating that he urges dialogue and that Iraq has entered into a "crisis" period which must be resolved. But it's another Al Mada article today in which Allawi voices his thoughts at length including that the only thing the Erbil Agreement achieved was to inaugurate Nouri as prime minister. The article notes that Iraqiya met yesterday and quotes their spokesperson as she states that Iraqiya has repeatedly provided Nouri an opportunity to return to the Erbil Agreement and that this is the last time they will urge him to do so. Whether or not this means Iraqiya will move for a no-confidence vote is not addressed in the article. Since it's not addressed in the article, either it's not being planned or it's being kept a secret plan. And Al Mada notes the Kurdish bloc is denying that any secret deal has been made between political blocs, that the only deal is the Erbil Agreement.
Meanwhile Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is out of the country. He's in the US and today he spoke to the United Nations. Many things about his visit trouble some observers but maybe what should be most eye brow raising is this series of remarks from his speech to the UN:
Iraq is concerned about the tragic situation of the Palestinian People which is the result of Israeli Practicis which are incompatible with international laws and customs and international humanitarian law. Iraq is doing everything in its capacity to support the struggle of Palestinian People in getting all its inalienable rights, in particular establish its independent state on their homeland, with its capital Jerusalem, and inthis regard, Iraq endorses and supports the direction of the Palestinian Authority to go to to the United Nations to achieve full international recognition of a Palestinian state during the meeting of the current session of the General Assembly, and calls on the international community and all peace-loving forces to stand by the Palestinian people in their legitimate struggle to achieve its goals, and demanding the Israeli government to fully withdraw from all Arab territories occupied in 1967. This would contribute to the settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and to bring comprehensive fair peace in this vital region of the world.
Those are laughable statements coming from Talabani. Not only because of Iraq's own problems with human rights, but also because, golly molly jolly gee who could it have been that had Palestinian refugees trapped on the border for almost seven years? Oh, that's right. Iraq. Yeah. It wasn't until February 2010, when Syria agreed to take them in, that these stranded persons were finally given something other than a desert prison posing as a 'refugee camp.' And, stay with me, it gets worse, which country was it that saw the Palestinian Human Rights worker kidnapped? Oh, right again, Iraq. Wednesday it was reported that "gunmen wearing the attire of the Iraqi Ministry of Interior" kidnapped Qusaia Abdul-Raouf. International Middle East Media Center reports:
The foundation said that, on Wednesday evening, Qusai Abdul-Raouf was on tour documenting the increasing attacks carried out by the Iraqi Forces against the Palestinian refugees in Al Baladiyyat neighborhood in Baghdad.
During his documentation tour, a black tented shevorleh parked near him, and three gunmen wearing the attire of the Iraqi Forces, operating under the Ministry of Interior, violently placed him in their vehicle and drove away. His whereabouts remain unknown until the time of this report.
Palestinian refugees are subject to kidnap and murder in Iraq as some groups accuse them of being supporters of the former Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein.
Dozens of attacks were carried out against the Palestinian refugees since the war on Iraq in 2003 leading to the death, injury, and abduction of hundreds of refugees.

And the president of Iraq wanted to get up before the UN today and claim concern about the plight of Palestinians?
Meanwhile Aswat al-Iraq reports that protesters gathered in Baghdad's Tahrir Square today to protest over the large amount of money being spent so Jalal Talabani can be in the US. Of the protest, the Great Iraqi Revolution reports, "Our correspondent in Tahrir Square:: A number of ambulances are seen near the Square. By every one of these ambulances stood four intelligence officers, curiously enough, the ambulances' engines were running and later it became apparent that they intended to abduct some of the activists and protestors." And ambulance 1038 was used in the abduction of Sanaa Aldulaimi overseen "by an intelligence officer called Abdullah Al Rikabi" -- Sanaa Aldulaimi was later released.
Turning to other reported violence, Reuters notes multiple bombs went off in a single Baghdad leaving 4 injured and nine wounded. Aswat al-Iraq notes a Baquba attack left 1 police officer dead and three more injured, and an armed attack in Mosul left 1 Iraqi soldier dead, a second armed assault left 1 woman dead. Alsumaria News notes 1 female corpse was discovered outside of Kut. Three Chrisians were kidnapped on a Kirkuk hunting trip (see yesterday's snapshot). Alusmaira News reports that the ransom for the three is set at 600,000 dollars. Aswat al-Iraq reports Ary Mohammed Ali was kidnapped in Kirkuk yesterday and the kidnappers have stated their ransom is $50,000.
Back to the US, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee. Her office notes:

(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Patty Murray applauded the passage of H.R. 2646, the Veterans Health Care Facilities Capital Improvement Act of 2011. This bipartisan legislation will allow for new construction projects in five states and Puerto Rico and will allow VA programs to operate uninterrupted, including vital assistance to homeless veterans. The bill also includes approval for upgrades at the VA Medical Center in Seattle.

"VA has worked tirelessly to get veterans off the streets and into housing. Their efforts are commendable, but there is still work to be done," said Senator Murray. "H.R. 2646, as amended, contains critical extensions to many of VA's programs to end homelessness among veterans. Our nation's veterans have sacrificed much in their service to this country, we must make sure they receive the care and benefits they earned."

"I'm also delighted that this bill would allow VA to begin a $51.8 million project to seismically strengthen the nursing tower and community living center at the VA Puget Sound Healthcare System in Seattle, Washington. It is vital that this building be upgraded so that the VA Puget Sound Healthcare System can continue to deliver world-class healthcare to veterans in a safe environment."

Specifically, the Veterans Health Care Facilities Capital Improvement Act of 2011 will:

· Allow for seismic corrections for Building 100 at the VA Medical Center in Seattle, Washington, in an amount not to exceed $51.8 million;

· Authorize job-creating infrastructure improvements to VA's facilities;

· Authorize increased funding for the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program, which provides prevention and rapid rehousing assistance for homeless veterans;

· Authorize increased funding for the Grant and Per Diem program, which provides transitional housing assistance for homeless veterans;

· Reauthorize the special needs set aside in the Grant and Per Diem program which provides transitional housing for the frail, elderly, terminally ill, women, and those with children; and

· Reauthorize the Homeless Veterans' Reintegration Program, which provides employment assistance for homeless veterans.

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