Friday, February 15, 2013

I still smell pork

Remember "Ralph Nader, why do I smell pork?" earlier this week?  About how Ralph can really go to town . . . when he's calling out Hillary.

How he's too chicken to call out Barack but, damn, the bastard can go after a woman with zeel.

If you thought I was too hard on him, read his latest from today:

Back in 2008, Obama campaigned to have a $9.50 per hour minimum wage by 2011. Now he’s settling for $9.00 by 2015! Going backward into the future is the price that poverty groups and labor unions are paying by giving Mr. Obama a free ride last year on this moral imperative. How can leaders of poverty groups and unions accept this back-of-the-hand response to the plight of thirty million workers who make less today than what workers made 45 years ago in 1968, inflation adjusted?
But, of course, the poverty groups and labor unions chose not to mobilize some of the thirty million workers who grow our food, serve, clean up and fix things for us to push for a meaningful increase in the minimum wage before Election Day.
It gets worse. The Obama White House demanded “message discipline” by all Democratic candidates. That meant if Obama wasn’t talking about raising the minimum wage to catch up with 1968, none of the other federal candidates for Congress should embarrass the President by speaking out, including Elizabeth Warren, of all people, who was running for the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts.



And that's the hardest he ever hits Barack.

Damn but he can go after Hillary.  He just too much of a chicken to go after Barack.  Even when Barack's just been caught lying.

I still smell pork!


These are our Whitney posts:


I keep forgetting to note them so let me do it right after they go up.

Also, read Trina's "Things to remember about NPR and PBS" which has some solid points worth remembering.
This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"


Friday, February 15, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, protests take place in Iraq (including Baghdad), one American media outlet explores Iraq, today was the 10th anniversary of the global protests, and more.

Your Call airs on the Bay Area's public radio station KALW Monday through Friday (ten to eleven in the morning Pacific Time).  Today host Rose Aguilar and the program offered something you rarely hear on American radio today: a discussion of Iraq.  The guests were Kael Alford and Thorne Anderson.

Rose Aguilar:  It's been almost ten years since the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. In fact today marks the 10th anniversary of the historic global protests against the war that took place all over the world.  In 2003, today's guests photo journalist Kael Alford and Thorne Anderson took photos of Iraqi citizens outside of the confines of the US military's embedded journalist program.  Their goal was to find out how the war was effecting ordinary people.  Their photos are on display at the de Young Museum in San Francisco.  The description on a photo taken in Baghdad at a hospital on April 9, 2003 says, "A pool of blood is left on the floor of the lobby of the Saddam Medical Center after a man died on a makeshift operating table.  Located near the front lines, the hospital was overlowing with patients."  Another photo taken in Najaf on August 21, 2004 shows a man holding his crying son.  The description reads, "On the wrecked outskirts of the old city, a father tries to cross the front lines with his terrified child signaling to snipers to hold their fire.  Father and son crossed safely."   Thorne Anderson began his work in Iraq in October 2002 photographing the impact of UN sanctions on Iraqis.  He spent ten months of the last two years -- actually, that's not right.  He was last in Iraq in 2004.  While covering the war from Baghdad, he was arrested by Iraqi intelligence and expelled from the country.  He returned from Iraq as soon as the borders opened at the end of the war and has covered the occupation resistance movements.  He's also worked in the Balkans, Afghanistan, Israel and Palestine.  He's taught photo journalism at the American University in Bulgaria and his photographs regularly appear in major American and international newspapers and magazines.  And Thorne joins us here in the studio.  [. . .] We're also joined by Kael Alfred, a freelance photo journalist who was based in Baghdad during the US invasion in 2003.  She was last in Iraq in 2011.  Her work focuses on the growing culture of resistance, religion and the grassroots movements developing since the invasion.  She has worked extensively covering southeast Europe and the Middle East for many major US and European magazines.  She's currently working on a longterm project about the environmental degradation of the landscape and culture of the Gulf Coast.
At the top of each Friday show, Your Call always asks their guests to note reporting that they found valuable and noteworthy that week. 


Kael Alfred:  Well this isn't specifically -- It's not journalism but it's reporting done by Human Rights Watch.  They just -- every year they publish this world report based on what happened in the last year.  And as I was researching and preparing to speak to audiences about Iraq, I came across their report which goes into some depth about what's happened in Iraq in the last year.  And, although I was there in 2011, it's nice to see -- or,  it's not sort of nice, but it's confirmed in this report what I saw in Iraq in 2011 which is that the leadership of Iraq is, and I'm quoting the report here, sort of the intro to the report, "is using draconian measures against opposition politicians, detainees, demonstrators and journalists -- effectively squeezing the space for independent civil society and political freedoms in Iraq."  Human Rights Watch said this today in their world report -- this was just published at the end of January.  And so it's -- There just isn't a huge amount of reporting coming out of Iraq these days by western media because budgets are shrinking.  There are a lot of conflicts happening all over the world and our attention shifts elsewhere. And, you know, we were just speaking about this before the show, how tens years on, the anniversary of this war, we don't really know what's happening in Iraq, we don't know what it looks like.

Rose Aguilar:  Right. I remember on MSNBC, one of the hosts said, "President Obama has announced that the war is over, the troops are leaving."  Sort of 'end of story.' 

Kael Alford: Right.

Rose Aguilar:  So you went there last year.  Just talk about when you go, where do you go and what do you set out to do?  What did you find this time around?

Kael Alford:  Well I-I had a short period of time to work there.  I only had a few weeks.  And actually my time was even shortened by my having to get my visa through.  So I had this window to work and I decided that what I would -- The best way to catch up with what had happened since I was there last would be to take the photographs I had made and revisit as many of the people as I could in these photograph -- people I had met in the past and reported on in the past.  So I searched systematically, went searching for these people, and it was like detective work because the country was so up-ended in the last years that I didn't know where to find anyone, they weren't living in the same neighborhoods, they certainly didn't have the same phone numbers --

Rose Aguilar:  And these are the people you have gotten to know over the years?

Kael Alford:  Right.  The people who I met in 2003 and 2004.  And, you know, I hadn't really kept in close contact with them, it was really difficult, many of them don't speak English or don't write English and I don't speak or read Arabic.  So when I went back, I found these people and just sort of asked them what's happened in the last eight years since I was here last?  How is your life?  What are your concerns?  And almost universally, people's lives had gotten much, much harder.  The situation was violent.  It was very divided.  People couldn't live safely in the places they'd lived before. The Sunni people I'd met, many of them felt confined to specific neighborhoods.  There really was this ethnic divide, this ethnic cleansing, that targeted mostly Sunnis -- who are in the minority now -- were the subject of that.  So Sunni people were really living in much more cloistered circumstances than they'd lived before -- if I could even find them at all.   And-and there's one woman.  Her name is Karimah.  She and her family, I'd spent time at their house a lot in 2003 and 2004 and she's a widow and her husband was killed in the Iran - Iraq War.  She has a large number of kids.  And I went to visit her and her son, her oldest son, Aalee had been picked up at a cafe in a raid.  And there were these Iraqi security forces who were looking for members of the Sadr militia.  They picked him up, detained him, didn't charge him with anything really and interrogated him, extracting a confession from him and then proceeded to sort of keep him in prison until the family sold everything they had and could buy him out of prison basically.  And that speaks to the state of the Iraqi judicial system today.  It's a confession-based sort of system and people are frequently detained and not charged with anything until people can just buy them out.  And that's included in this Human Rights Watch report.  So it's really, the biggest concerns for the people who are coming up from this new very sort of corrupt  and ineffective Iraqi government, in their words, in the way they described it and also the infrastructure was just a mess.

Rose Aguilar:  Tell us more about that because we've done -- over the years we've done a lot of shows about the infrastructure.  And I remember when we used to have a series Open Line To Iraq and we'd bring Iraqis on on a regular basis and the first question was do you have electricity, do you have water and it was so sporadic.

Kael Alford:  So sporadic.  I mean, the grid supplies maybe six hours of power a day -- the national grid.  And otherwise, there are these neighborhood generators that are either privately owned by one wealthy person in the neighborhood that sells energy to everybody else -- produces it and sells it to everybody else at whatever price they decide to set.  At least when I was there, they were talking about regulating this generator system but it wasn't happening yet when I was there.  And then sometimes a neighborhood would go in together and buy a generator and they can be more of a grassroots, sort of democratic use of the generator.  And these are the very large generators, like the size of shipping containers that would sit every few blocks and were constantly running and spewing fumes -- they run on petroleum and they smell terrible and they're loud.  And then people would have a little generator at their house if they were wealthy enough to have their own generator that they would run when both those other systems weren't working.

Thorne Anderson:  You know, it's important to note, we're not talking about an earthquake or some kind of natural disaster.  What we're talking about here is just a disaster of massive corruption because there have been billions and billions of dollars that have been poured in for the rebuilding of Iraq's infrastructure and that has not been realized.  That money has gone into Iraq but it hasn't gone into the infrastructure.

Kael Alford:  That's a good point.

Thorne Anderson:  So we're not talking about a national disaster here.  We're talking about a really poorly managed transition of huge amounts of money.


The exhibit is entitled to "Eye Level in Iraq" and the exhibit continues to June 16, 2013 at the de Young Museum.  Kenneth Baker (San Francisco Chronicle) reviews the exhibit today observing:

Looking at these images, visitors who opposed the man-made human catastrophe of Operation Iraqi Freedom before or after it began will experience again some of the nauseating helplessness they felt a decade ago at government deceit, lawlessness and ideology-driven aggression.
The exhibition leaves it to viewers to connect the discredited neocon foreign policy with draconian provisions of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act and with the killer drones now fatally realizing abroad the nightmare concept of the world as a battlefield. A picture such as one Alford took in Zafrania a month after the invasion suggests the peril she must have faced daily from enraged Iraqis certain of her foreignness but not of her relationship to the calamity engulfing them.
No less chilling is a shot she took from behind on the same day of an insurgent peering from an alley, a loaded rocket launcher on his shoulder. Was he aware of her presence? What preceded and followed from the image we see?

The Your Call discussion is a great one and hopefully we'll return to it next week.  I'll also note that Thorne Anderson is an associate professor at the University of North Texas (Denton, Texas).  And quickly, on the topic of photography, AFP's Prashant Rao Tweeted:

REMINDER - has begun publishing its 'Iraq War - 10 Years On' series of photographs. Have a look:
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Moving to Iraq.  Last Friday saw the largest turnout in the ongoing protests which now span three months (December, January and February).   Each week, the numbers grow, but last week was a huge leap forward in participation.  (I'm basing that call on media coverage, on social media photos, on reports from Iraqi community members by e-mail and two that I spoke with on the phone as well.) Nouri's forces infamously attacked the protesters in Falluja on January 26th., killing at least nine (Human Rights Watch noted that 2 more of the wounded had died) with dozens left injured.  And this resulted in public condemnation -- though not from the US government where the pathetic response from the State Dept was to have Icky Vicky Neocon Nuland, Dick Cheney's former Deputy Advisor on National Security, insist that both sides should not resort to violence.  (Number of protesters killed by Nouri's forces: at least 9.  Number of forces killed at protests: Zero.)  But while Victoria and the administration coddled, stroked and fondled their puppet Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister and chief thug of Iraq, others were appalled.  The United Nations and the British government were among the most publicly vocal.  Nouri knows the world is watching and that's, for now, prevented another assault on the protesters.

With the huge increase in participants and with Nouri refusing to meet the demands -- which have been the same demands for months now and which are also pretty much the exact same demands that the protesters were making in February 2011 (demands Nouri swore he would meet if given 100 days -- he didn't meet them, he didn't care, he lied to stall for time and to try to stop the protests) -- the protesters decided maybe a stronger presence was needed in the capital.   From Saturday:

Kitabat reports that yesterday some protesters in Anbar Province announced their intent to march to Baghdad next Friday.  All Iraq News notes National Alliance MP Qasim al-Araji is calling out the plan to stage a sit-in in Baghdad.  The Ministry of Interior (run by Nouri al-Maliki since he never nominated anyone to head it) had its own announcement.  Alsumaria reports that today it was declared their intent to crack down on any protest -- anywhere in the country -- that they felt was a threat or lacked a permit.  Al Mada notes that the spokesperson for the Anbar protests, Sayad Lafi, states that the protesters have written Baghdad seeking permission to pray in the city on Friday and return the same day. 


And Nouri's response?  From Tuesday's snapshot:

In the failed state of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki is refusing to allow Iraqis from the west to enter their own country's capital.  We noted this development yesterday morning and in yesterday's snapshot.  The non-Iraqi press continues to ignore it with only one except[ion]: Jane Arraf (see yesterday's snapshots for her Tweets) who reports for Al Jazeera, the Christian Science Monitor and PRI.  Today, she Tweets.


  1. Back in this evening, anti-aircraft batteries along the river, roadblocks, rumors of a Thursday curfew. That is some scary protest.


Alsumaria reports that there will be a ban on 'roaming' in Baghdad starting Thursday and that "security reasons" are being cited for the curfew that kicks off at midnight tonight and for the refusal to allow 'outsiders' into Baghdad. Dar Addustour adds that security forces have been put on "high alert" and that there is pressure on various mosques in Baghdad not to call for demonstrations on Friday while i.d.s continue to be checked and people from western Iraq are being refused access to Baghdad.  The Iraq Times notes that two military brigades are being used to stop cars attempting to enter Baghdad.



Why is he allowed to use the military to prevent Iraqis from entering the capital?  Whether you agree with his call or not -- I don't -- why is he repeatedly allowed to use the military on the Iraqi people?  The military is supposed to protect from external threats.  Nouri also controls the police.  Why does he keep using the military?  Juntas use militaries to control the people.  Thugs and dictators use militaries to control the people.   It it any surprise that the Los Angeles Times' Ned Parker made this discovery:


Most striking thing in Anbar last week was how many young Sunni males are afraid to come to Baghdad because they fear the security forces.
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Following the Falluja massacre last month, Nouri was forced to pull the military out of Falluja by the provincial council which demanded he stop using the military to police the people.  Baghdad's not in Anbar so the Anbar council has no power.  But why is he allowed repeatedly to use the military on the Iraqi people?  The Associated Press' Adam Schreck Tweeted this morning:


  1. Sunnis stage big protests again, but stop short of traveling to . Govt shut roads just in case:


Nouri may have prevented western Iraqis from entering Baghdad but he didn't prevent protests. Not even in Baghdad, where, All Iraq News notes protests took place and that banners were unfurled demanding the government respond to the demands and do so promptly.  Al Mada reports his preventing Iraqis from entering their own capital was criticized in multiple provinces on Friday.  Mosul's Sheikh Badr al-Din al-Hayali is quoted declaring, "Baghdad is not the property of the of rulers of armed forces gathered in the city and around it."  Baghdad belongs to the Iraqi people.  Anbar spokesperson Said Lafi told Al Mada that the protesters would scream loud to awaken Iraq from its slumber.  NPR's Kelly McEvers Tweets on the Baghdad protest:

  1. Demo underway at Abu Hanifa. Pretty chill and small so far.
  2. Inside Abu Hanifa. Prayers underway. Very quiet up til now. Adhamiya on lock-freaking-down



Abu Hafina is a Sunni mosque in Bahgdad.  AFP reports, "Thousands of people in Sunni-majority areas of Iraq called on Friday for the government's fall amid a spike in violence that has accompanied a political stalemate two months before provincial polls."  Shafaq News pointed out yesterday, "Demonstrations and sit-ins still continue in Iraq in protest against Maliki's policies, as the sit-in in Ramadi had entered its 56 day.  Maliki's government is witnessing recently protests in several areas, including Anbar, Fallujah, Kirkuk, Samarra, Mosul and a number of neighborhoods in Baghdad to demand reforms and cancel laws that prohibit some from participating in the political process, as well as cancelling Article 4 of Anti-Terrorism Act and release detainees especially women detainees and achieve balance in the institutions of the state."

Yesterday Kitabat reported that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has stated that the choice for the government is to reform or resign.  That's rather basic.  Alsumaria notes "tens of thousands"  turned out today in Ramadi calling for the detainees to be released and for an end to marginalization and exclusion.  Alsumaria notes that thousands continue protesting in Kirkuk.  The protesters are making their demands and criticizng Nouri's for show commission that has so far accomplished nothing.   Hawija Mohammed al-Jubouri tells Alsumaria that over 20,000 protesters showed up in Haija and that the calls included for Iraqis to be able to go into Baghdad -- a reference to Nouri's refusal all week to allow western Iraqis into Baghdad -- using the military to prevent them from entering their own capital.  AP explains it this way, "Protestors had hoped to move their demonstrations from predominantly Sunni provinces to Baghdad on Friday, but they backed off that plan after the government rejected their request and imposed tough security measures. Government security forces blocked roads leading from Sunni-dominated provinces and sealed off all Sunni neighborhoods."

Al Jazeera, the Christian Science Monitor and PRI's Jane Arraf Tweeted on the protests:



In protest central , cleric makes clear these are Sunni protests, says Iranians have more freedom in Baghdad than they do.
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sheikh to more than 100,000 protestors - we are exiles in our own country. Other protests in warn they will come to Baghdad.
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True or false, I have no idea, but there is a rumor in Iraqi social media this evening that there will be a raid in Ramadi early Saturday morning -- this alleged raid is an effort to end the protests.  Again, that's the big talk on Iraqi social media right now, I have no idea whether it's true or false.
But I do know that Nouri's refusal to listen to the protesters is why the protests continue.  Nouri's refusal to govern -- let alone govern fairly -- is why the violence continues today.  Alsumaria reports one person was injured in a Baquba arm,ed attack, a Baquba car bombing has left four people injured (one an Iraqi solider), and an Al Zeera roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left another injured (Al Zeera is a village to the south of Mosul)All Iraq News adds that 1 police officer was shot dead in Baghdad and a Muqdadiyah suicide car bomber has left at least eleven people injured.


Today is the tenth anniversary of a historic day around the world.  At the Guardian, Patrick Barkham reports:

For some, 15 February 2003 will go down in history as the final moment that Britons demonstrated a touching faith in parliamentary democracy.
Henna Malik, a sixth-former at the time, painted her face with the Stop the War logo and took the train to Waterloo with her friends. She believed the millions chanting "George Bush, terrorist" would persuade their MPs to vote against the war. "It was incredibly empowering at the time," she says. When most MPs and the government ignored this will of the people, Malik became a revolutionary socialist; now she does not support any political party but is training to be a human rights lawyer. "In retrospect we didn't stop the war so I became quite disillusioned but it did shape my political beliefs and how I felt I fit within society," she says.
It was an epic day of protest by people who didn't usually do that sort of thing. "There were nuns. Toddlers. Women barristers. The Eton George Orwell Society. Archaeologists Against War. Walthamstow Catholic Church, the Swaffham Women's Choir and Notts County Supporters Say Make Love Not War (And a Home Win against Bristol would be Nice). They won 2-0, by the way," as Euan Ferguson memorably noted in the Observer the next day. As night fell, Jesse Jackson and Charles Kennedy made rousing speeches and Ms Dynamite sung in Hyde Park.



Channel 4 News provides a video report which includes the reflections of four protesters.  We'll do an excerpt noting Sarah Jewell and Henna Malik:

Sarah Jewell (Occupy Activist) : There was a genuine feeling of unease in the west and certainly in Britain and in London.  Communities that I were a part of, we had a sense for a long time that something was going to happen.

Henna Malik (Trainee Lawyer):  I mean Iraq was a humongous issue.  It was everywhere.  It permeated every aspect of society. You couldn't walk down the street without seeing an Iraq War poster -- an anti-Iraq War poster.

[. . .]

Henna Malik (Trainee Lawyer):   I remember standing behind the student banner surrounded by tens of thousands of students all chanting in unison.  It was incredible.  It was absolutely incredible.  I had my face painted with the Stop the War logo on it.  I was surrounded by a lot of my friends and a lot of other students.

Sarah Jewell (Occupy Activist) :   [. . .] because we were stuck at Gallow Street for so long, we started singing.  And we were singing quite traditional, quite 1960s protest songs that people could join in on.  We were singing, "Step-by-step the longest march, can be won, single stones will form an arch [the American Miner's Association Song].  Rich, poor, old, young, right-wing, left-wing, no wing, everybody was on that march.



We noted Laurie Penny's  "Ten years ago we marched against the Iraq War and I learned a lesson in betrayal" (New Statesman) earlier this week.  For some reason, former Marxist Tim Stanley (Telegraph of London) feels the need to hurl insults at Penny but he really comes off looking like a fool:

Never mind that school children should be in school (that includes a 16-year old Laurie Penny). [. . .]  “What changed in 2003 was that millions of ordinary citizens around the world finally understood that the game was rigged, because only a few weeks after that march Nato went to war anyway.” No, Laurie, Nato didn’t lead in the invasion of Iraq and 2003 wasn’t the first time that a protest failed. The Peasant’s Revolt? The Vietnam War? Perhaps it was a history lesson that Penny missed the day she went to London.

Laurie Penny went to London on February 15, 2003.  If I was a pompous ass like Tim Stanley, I don't believe I'd be lecturing Laurie Penny.  But maybe a pompous ass gets off on the world laughing at him?  Tim, if that's what gives you an orgasm, prepare to moan.  Your idiotic assault on Laurie and how she missed school that day?  February 15th was chosen precisely because it was a Saturday and most people would not be at work or at school. Do you get that, Tim Stanley?  You've mocked Laurie and chided her but you're the big idiot because the sarcastic point of your bad column is that she should have been in school that day learning and the reality is there was no school that day. 


Other coverage of the world protests ten years ago?  Ishaan Tharoor (Time magazine), Philip Maughan (New Statesman), Ned Simons (Huffington Post UK), these letters to the Guardian newspaper, Philip Kane (Socialist Resistance), Symon Hill (Ekklesia), Ben Quinn (Christian Science Monitor)Dan Hodges (Telegraph of London), Rabble's "F15: Assessing the legacy of the largest protest in world history," Press TV's "Why was the biggest protest in world history ignored?," and "The Feb. 15 Call for Global Protests for Democracy, Solidarity and Justice" (War Is A Crime).

We're nearly out of space. 

Michael Dakduk: Well, Mr. Chairman, I want to acknowledge that since the system has been rolled out that there has been an increase in the processing of GI Bill claims so that should be acknowledged.  But I would also say that at the beginning of the semesters, that's when we see an influx of delays. and that's when we receive most of our complaints at Student Veterans of America. So we have a concern when we talk about troops returning home from Afghanistan and the Dept of Defense estimate over the next five years one million troops will remove the uniform and make the transition into civilian society.  Many of them are going to use this Post-9-11 GI Bill.  So we want to make sure that the Dept of Veterans Affairs is ready to handle that influx of military veterans on college campuses.  At the beginning of semesters is when we see a high number of delays.
That's Student Veterans of America's Michael Dakduk testifying to Congress yesterday.  We'll cover it next week, there's no space tonight to do it justice.  We'll close with this on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee:




Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
United States Senate
113th Congress, First Session
Hearing Schedule
Tuesday, February 26, 2013 2:00 p.m. 345 Cannon HOB (House Side)
Joint Hearing on the legislative presentation of Disabled American Veterans (DAV)
Thursday, February 28, 2013 10:00 a.m. SD-G50
Joint Hearing on the legislative presentation of Military Officers Association of America, Retired Enlisted Association, Non Commissioned Officers Association, Blinded Veterans Association, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Wounded Warrior Project, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, American Ex-Prisoners of War
Heather L Vachon
Chief Clerk
Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs
SR-412 Russell Senate Office Building
202-224-3923


























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