Thursday, May 26, 2011

Rudy G wants your vote


That's "Rudy G wants you" from October 28, 2007.

Rudy G was a joke.

Do you remember who inflated him into a player and made him 'cool' and basically who couldn't stop whoring?

Saturday Night Live. Under Tina Fey's 'leadership.'

Tina Fey was raised by Republicans and was herself Republican for a number of years. It's why her show is so conservative. Though people are supposed to think it's funny when she does a joke about how Cagney and Lacey dressed "slutty."

They think it's funny that Liz Lemmon has become the negative, backlash stereotype of a single woman.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, May 26, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Patty Murray explores issues of veterans care, Moqtada al-Sadr stages a for-show 'demonstration,' Ali al-Lami is gunned down, and more.
Monday is Memorial Day in the United States. Today Senator Patty Murray took to the Senate floor to speak on the topic and about veterans. Her office notes that the video of her remarks can be found here.

"M. President, I come to the floor today to honor and commemorate the men and women who died fighting for our great country.

"Memorial Day is a day to honor those American heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.

"It's because of their sacrifice that we can safely enjoy the freedoms our great country offers. And it is because of their unmatched commitment that America can remain a beacon for democracy and freedom throughout the world.

"M. President, Memorial Day is a day of remembrance, but also a day for reflection. When our brave men and women volunteered to protect our nation, we promised them that we would take care of them and their families when they return home.

"On this Memorial Day, we need to ask ourselves, are we doing enough for our nation's veterans?

"Making sure our veterans can find jobs when they come home is an area where we could do more.

"For too long, we have been investing billions of dollars training our young men and women to protect our nation, only to ignore them when they come home.

"For too long, we have patted them on the back and pushed them into the job market with no support. This is simply unacceptable, and it doesn't meet the promise we made to our servicemembers.

"M. President, our hands-off approach has left us with an unemployment rate of over 27% among young veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

"That is over one in five of our nation's heroes who can't find a job to support their family, and who don't have an income to provide the stability that is so critical to their transition home.

"That's why earlier this month I introduced the Hiring Heroes Act of 2011, which was cosponsored by 17 senators and garnered bipartisan support.

"This legislation will rethink the way we support our men and women in uniform when they come home looking for jobs.

"I introduced this critical legislation because I've heard first-hand from so many veterans that we haven't done enough to provide them with the support they need to find work.

"I've heard from medics who return home from treating battlefield wounds who can't get certifications to be an EMT or to drive an ambulance. And I've even had veterans tell me that they no longer write that they're a veteran on their resume because they fear the stigma they believe employers attach to the invisible wounds of war.

"These stories are as heartbreaking as they are frustrating. But more than anything they're a reminder that we have to act now.

"M. President, my bill would allow our servicemembers to capitalize on their service.

"For the first time, it would require broad job skills training for everyone leaving the military as part of the military's Transition Assistance Program. Today, nearly one-third of those leaving the Army don't get this training.

"My bill would also require the Department of Labor to take a hard look at what military skills and training should be translatable into the civilian sector, and will work to make it simpler to get the licenses and certification our veterans need.

"All of these are real, substantial steps to put our veterans to work. All of them come at a pivotal time for our economic recovery and our veterans.

"M. President, I grew up with the Vietnam War, and I have dedicated much of my Senate career helping to care for the veterans we left behind at that time.

"The mistakes we made then have cost our nation and our veterans dearly. Today we risk repeating those mistakes.

"We can't let that happen again. Our nation's veterans are disciplined, team players who have proven they can deliver under pressure like no one else.

"M. President, let's not let another year, and another Memorial Day, go by without us delivering for them.

"Thank you. I yield the floor."

Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day and begun near the end of the US Civil War in an attempt at healing the nation. It continues today to honor the sacrifices of those who serve.
Our focus is Iraq and the most recent US military deaths in Iraq were on Sunday when 2 US soldiers were killed. Tuesday, DoD released the following statement: "The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of two soldiers who were supporting Operation New Dawn. They died May 22 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit with an improvised explosive device. They were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 63rd Armor, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infrantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan. Killed werre: Sgt. 1st Class Clifford E. Beattie, 37, of Medical Lake, Wash., and Pfc. Ramon Mora Jr., 19, of Ontario, Calif. For more information, the media may contact the 1st Infantry Division public affairs office at 785-240-6359." The Salina Journal News reports today that Clifford Beattie was on his "third deployment to Iraq" and that his survivors include his wife and their two children. He has been "psothumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal (second award) and the Purple Heart." Ramon Mora, who had been on his first tour of Iraq, "was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart and Combat Infantryman Badge." A photo of Ramon Mora Jr.'s return to Dover Air Force Base this week can be found here [photo by Jose Luis Magana (AP)]. And a photo, also by Jose Luis Magana, of Chaplain Capt Richard Dunbarreads leading a prayer for Ramon Mora Jr at Dover can be found here.
Spc 4 Steven A. Bohn: I was born and raised in Salem, Massachusetts. I grew up poor and worked for everything I have. I dropped out of high school with 3 1/2 credits left to graduate so I could get a full time job and help support my family. I joined the Army in 2007 after learning that a friend of mine had been killed in Iraq by an IED blast. After infantry training, I was assigned to the historic 101st Airborne Division, 1/506th Infantry Regiment. My unit deployed to Afghanistan in March 2008 to a remote base in Wardak province near the Pakistan border. The base was the size of a soccer field and held 28 of us. Conditions were pretty basic; having no running water, for example, we cleaned ourselves with baby wipes, and got to shower once a month at a forward operating base. I enjoyed the challenge of our rugged conditions. We went on hundreds of missions while holding down our outpost. But I was devasted when my best friend, Specialist Paul Conlon, from Somerville, Mass., and our first lieutenant were killed in August 2008. Still I knew I had to stay strong to survive. I was badly injured on November 6, 2008, when a suicide bomber driving a dump truck packed with 2000 lbs of explosives drove up to our outpost and detonated it. The building I was in collapsed on me and I suffered severe internal injuries and spinal injuries. I was hospitalized for a total of 6 months, and underwent two major surgeries that included resection of the small intestine, bladder reconstructive surgery and a spinal surgery. I was also diagnosed at Landsthul, Germany with mild Traumatic Brain Injury. While I know your focus today is on the transition from DoD to VA, I experienced some rough tranistions long before my medical retirement from service. After being initially hospitalized at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and then at Landstuhl Germany, I was flown to Fort Campbell, Kentucky rather than to Walter Reed where I was supposed to be sent for surgery. At Fort Campbell, I was initially assigned to a Warrior Transition Unit (WTU). When I was finally evaluated there by physicians, they realized the mistake and I was transferred to Walter Reed. After undergoing spinal surgery at Walter Reed, I was transferred to the VA Boston Healthcare Systme's West Rosbury Campus' spinal cord injury unit so that I could be closer to my family during that convalescence. Whatever coordination should have taken place between Walter Reed, West Rosbury, and the Forst Campbell WTU to which I've been assigned apparently didn't occur, because Fort Campbell threatened to put me on AWOL if I didn't return. As a result, I was flown back to Fort Campbell. Later I was returned to Walter Reed to undergo bladder surgery.
And that was before he transitioned to from DoD to VA care. Bohn shared his experiences with the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee yesterday. This was the second part of a two-part hearing on the process of transition from DoD health care to VA health care. The first-part of this series of hearings was held May 18th and for more on that you can refer to that day's snapshot as well as Ava's "Scott Brown questions DoD's concept of streamlining," Kat's "DoD embarrasses at Senate hearing" and Wally's "VA can't answer a basic service question." You can also refer to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee's hearing page where a video is posted. If you're reading this in 2011, you'll be able to view it. After that, I have no idea. It currently goes back to 2005. Presumably they would keep these posted. Last week, the Committee heard from VA Deputy Secretary W. Scott Gould and DoD Deputy Secretary William Lynn.
Yesterday the Committee heard from two panels of witnessess. The first panel was composed of Afghanistan War veteran Steven A. Bohn (quoted from earlier), Iraq War veteran Tim Horton and the Wounded War Care Project's James R. Lorraine. The second panel was VA's Acting Deputy Chief Officer, Mental Health Services [. . .] Antonette Zeiss and DoD's Deputy Assistant Secretary Dr. George Taylor. Senator Patty Murray is Committee Chair. From her opening remarks, we'll note the following.

Committee Chair Patty Murray: I know that VA and DoD have big challenges facing them: servicemembers and veterans continue to take their own lives at an alarming rate, wait times for benefits continue to drag on for an average of a year or far more, and the quality of prosthetic care continues to be inconsistent between the Departments. Now, in some instances, DoD and VA have come to the table to make headway on these issues, and they should be commended for that. But we still have work to do. In fact, sometimes it is the simplest fixes that for some reason the two Departments cannot come together on. A good example of this is the Traumatic Extremity Injuries and Amputation Center of Excellence that was mandated to move forward on October 14th, 2008. This new center was supposed to be a place where best practices could be shared and a resitry of these injuries could begin. But here we are two and a half years later -- and we have not seen any substantial movement toward the creation of this center. When I asked Secretary Lynn last week what progress had been made he could not provide an answer. This is unacceptable. But as our witnesses' testimony today will show, this is unfortunately not the only area where we need better medical collaboration. We have a lot of work to do to ensure that each Department knows what the other is providing to our service members and veterans. [. . .] Today, we will also further discuss the efforts to exand and improve mental health care. We do not need the courts to tell us that much more can and should be done to relieve the invisble wouds of war. Although some steps have been taken, the stigma against mental health issues continue within the military and VA care is still often too difficult to access. This had had a tragic impact. Last month, VA's Veternas Crisis Line had the most calls ever recorded in a single month -- more than 14,000. That means that every day last month, more than 400 calls were received. While it is heartening to know that these calls for help are being answered, it is a sad sign of the desperation and difficulties our veterans face that there are so many in need of a lifeline. I look forward to speaking with all of our witnesses about this most pressing issue.
Richard Burr is the Committee's Ranking Member. He had many strong points -- not surprising, he usually does. As usual, Kat will cover Richard Burr at her site, so for his opening statement, his problem with DoD and other things see Kat's report tonight at her site.
Committee Chair Patty Murray: Let me just start by saying it has been four years since the news about Walter Reed broke. In that time, some of it has changed -- some of you have talked about. But I'd like to ask each of you what you think the most important thing the two departments should focus on improving over the next four years. Maybe, Mr. Lorraine, if you would like to start.
James Lorraine: Thank you, Madam Chairman. I think the most important thing is you have to know what you know. If you don't know it, you don't. So finding who the wounded warriors are, who the veterans are, identifying -- If you want to change something you have to know who the person is you need to engage with. Right now, I'm not confident we know where the veterans are, nor do we know where there needs are. I think it's represented by my two colleagues here. That would be the number one action I would take, is finding the --
Committee Chair Patty Murray: Do you think the issue is right now nobody reaches to them or waiting for the veterans to reach out too often?
James Lorraine: Yes, Madam Chairman. What I've found is that when you talk to different government programs and non-government programs, my first question is, "How do you find the veterans in need?" And, 100% of the answers are, 'They come to us.' And I think in today's world, that's not the way we should be reaching to them. We know where they are while they're on active duty. It's that move from active duty to veterans status where we lose them. And that should be tied in a little bit closer because, once you know where the folks are and you can maintain contact with them, then you can start providing services and offer assistance.
Committee Chair Patty Murray: Mr. Horton, Mr. Bohn. What do you think we should focus on? The two departments should focus on?
Lance Cpl Tim Horton: I would say that, Chairman Murray, that we should focus on, just like he was saying, finding the veterans. A lot of veterans get lost in the system when they move back. A lot of men and women are from small country towns and there's no one there that can reach them and that's the huge problem.
Committe Chair Patty Murray: Mr. Bohn?
Spc 4 Steven Bohn: Chairman Murray: My only problem was that they didn't pay for my family to come visit me while I was getting my surgeries. My family had to come down out of their own pocket. The first surgery, my spinal surgery. The second surgery, my family couldn't afford to come down so I went through my second surgery alone.
Committee Chair Patty Murray: How far away was your family?
Spc 4 Steven Bohn: Salem Massachusetts.
His first surgery (once he was back in the US) was his spinal surgery. I believe Bohn's second surgery was his bladder surgery. Both were performed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center -- at dates very far apart and Bohn was moved around repeatedly, including to Boston, between the two surgeries. The distance from Salem, MA to Walter Reed is a (physical) distance of at least 464 to 480 miles (at least) which would take eight to nine hours to drive (at least -- and that's assuming traffic is fastly moving the entire way). It would have been very easy to get the family to Boston Logan International Airport (it's about 20 minutes from Salem to Boston by car). Most Thursdays or Fridays, I fly the opposite way, from the DC area to Boston and it's a 90 minute to almost two hour flight depending upon which airport I depart from. (Generally speaking, Reagan National Airport is the quicker one to depart from.) It would have been so easy for this to have been arranged and it would have meant so much to Bohn or anyone else going through surgery to be able to see someone before surgery and know that they would be there after the surgery. It would be reassuring and it would certainly help with the care because the patient would be in a better mind set. But no one thought to take care of this. Major surgeries for a recently returned veteran and the government plays dumb. And pretends it's normal for an already disabled or physically challenged person to go through a major surgery all by themselves. As Senator Bernie Sanders would later note on this topic, "When people come back, they're in trauma already, we have to be aggressive about reaching out." Back to the exchange.
Committee Chair Patty Murray: I think many of us forget that it's not just the service member but it's their family who's involved when somebody's deployed and specifically when they're injured. And, Mr. Bohn, let me ask you to expand on that a little bit because families and loved ones go through stress at this time as well being family members. You mentioned the travel. Tell me a little bit else about difficulties your family had during treatment and share that with us.
Spc 4 Steven Bohn: Communication was a big thing also. They didn't know. They weren't contacted until about three hours after I woke up in intensive care to see how I was doing. I know they're sitting there back, when I was getting my surgery, just panicking. You know, it's a big communication error which -- that needs to be changed.
Committee Chair Patty Murray: Okay. Anything else that we should be focused on for families that -- Communication, travel, being with the wounded warrior?
Spc 4 Steven Bohn: (nodding) Exactly.
Committee Chair Patty Murray: Mr. Horton, I was particularly concerned to hear about your difficulties with your prosethic care. It sounds like you got high quality care but it wasn't timely or responsive and you shared a little bit about how it impacts your daily life. You said that, Tell me what you mean by that, if you have to wait months or weeks?
Lance Cpl Tim Horton: There's -- The process is you go into the VA -- You actually have to call the VA and set up, there's a certain day they have a prosethic clinic and you have to be seen by them first. And you tell them exactly what you need, whether it's a new socket or a new ankle on your leg or anything like that. And then they write this down. And then they make a script and they send it to your outside provider. And from there it could take a couple of months.
Commitee Chair Patty Murray: What are you experiencing in that time period? Is that pain? Is is difficult?
Lance Cpl Tim Horton: A socket that's not fitting right which, for an amputee, that's horrible. It's like -- A little rubbing spot on the amputee is like someone having their ankle broken like terribly. So it's a big deal to me. So the time in there, that's something that really needs to be addressed.
Committee Chair Patty Murray: And how long were you in this period where you had a problem and it took you to get care?
Lance Cpl Tim Horton: It's usually -- I mean, it's usually a couple of months between every time I go to the VA. Once I get the care, it's great but the time it takes to get a prosethic leg or new prosethic is too long. And I've talked to several veterans about this and they -- they would agree on that. If you have to go through the VA, it takes . . .
Committee Chair Patty Murray: So it's waiting for an appointment, is it waiting for a speciality? Is it waiting for the right person?
Lance Cpl Tim Horton: Waiting for a phone call basically. And a lot of times, I call my prosethics in the VA a couple of times and say, "Where's this script? I need to get in here and get a leg." So I have to advocate for myself a lot That's --
Committee Chair Patty Murray: That's not the way it should be.
Lance Cpl Tim Horton: No.
Commitee Chair Patty Murray: Okay. Mr Bohn, you're experience trying to make ends meet was really troubling to hear. I learned of another veteran recently, he's a Marine officer who's recuperating at Bethesda and is receiving a housing allowance at a Camp Leijune rate so Senator Burr knows what I'm talking about when I say it's $700 less and that's a huge impact for a family. In the case of that Marine, there was a military coordinator who went out and looked for non-profit resources to help make up the differences for that. But we should be very concerned that this system was unresponsive to a military coordinator. At the very least in this case, the military coordinator did take advantage of community resources but I found that story very troubling. I wanted to ask you, Mr. Bohn, if anybody helped assist you in trying to access similar community or non-profit resources?
Spc 4 Steven Bohn: The Wounded Warrior Project directed me to a company Impact Players out of Cincinnati, Ohio which mailed me a check to help pay the differences in my bills I couldn't pay. And the Wounded Warriors, they gave me food cards, gas cards, so I could make my appointments to the VA which is an hour away from where I live in Boston. So having no gas in your car, trying to get to a VA appointment, that's kind of a struggle on its own.
Committee Chair Patty Murray: And your family? What kind of family do you have that you're responsible for?
Spc 4 Steven Bohn: I'm single. But I live myself. But I try to help out my family. Like I said, I grew up poor so I try to help out my niece, my sister, my mom, my dad.
October 6, 2009, Secretary of the Army John McHugh took part in a ceremony to resign the Army Family Covenant that his predecssor, Peter Geren, had already signed. The ceremony got considerable press attention. McHugh served on the House Veterans Affairs Committee prior to becoming Secretary of the Army. On that Committee, he was vocal about his concerns and an advocate for veterans issues. It is doubtful he's suddenly lost interest. But somewhere, something's falling through the cracks. And there was a world of difference between the experiences the Committee heard yesterday and the 'facts' they were told last week. It would appear that both DoD and the VA have a serious problem grasping what is actually happening to veterans. It all the more underscores that Robert Gates, Secretry of Defense, did not have the time he made to advocate on behalf of the State Dept's budget wants. Instead, Gates should have focused on steering his department. Gates is now doing speeches and interviews and various reflections as he does a mini-farewell tour. It would be much smarter for him to just resign and allow the incoming Secretary to take over already. Translation, Cut the farewell tour, you've been celebrated and spit-shined enough and you've done far too little. We'll come back to the hearing tomorrow and not just to note the coverage of the hearing from Kat, Wally and Ava but also to include more from Tim Horton who got less attention in this snapshot. Still on veterans issues, a number of community members from military families have e-mailed to note that some Albertsons grocery stores may be having a 10% discount for military personnel -- ID required and must be active duty, reserve or retired. In Arizona that is the case and Billie states that's the case in Texas as well. So if you have a local Albertson's check with them to see if their store is participating -- not all may be participating -- in the special discount that's going on from today through May 31st. Yesterday's snapshot covered the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing and Ava reported on it last night in "Ron Paul (Ava)" (at Trina's site) focusing on As Ava noted, "US House Rep Ron Paul has declared he's running for the Republican nomination for president. Click here to visit his website. [. . .] We're not supporting Ron Paul or against him, but we will note him because he is currently the only candidate who is against the wars."
The big news out of Iraq today is an assassination that demostrates what Carly Simon sang in "One Man Woman" (Boys In The Trees), "In the place where I come from, the people don't grow on trees (Except some of the boys), and you can't treat people like meat without being brought to your knees." It's a lesson Ali al-Lami's death illustrates today. Ahmed Chalbi's friend or lackey used his position on the Justice and Accountability Commission -- a Commission the Parliament considered closed -- to weed out challengers to Nouri and Nouri's allies in the lead up to the 2010 national elections. He used that position to declare people -- including some who held office at the time -- Ba'athists and therefore not able to run for office. As intended, he clearly influenced the elections with his actions. At one point, US Vice President Joe Biden got involved to try to get the charges resolved before the election. That worked for about 48 hours before the candidates were again barred. From AFP's Prashant Rao's Tweets on the death:
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That's a lot of Tweets, especially when you consider all that was left out or is Ali al-Lami being white washed in his death? Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) also presents a pretty rose picture. Let's drop back to February 17, 2010 for a State Dept press briefing (link has text and video) presided over by then-US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill.
JOSH ROGIN (Foreign Policy): Good to see you in person. Yesterday, General Odierno accused two Iraqi officials – let me read the names – Ali Faisal al-Lami and Ahmed Chalabi, who were both key members of the Accountability and Justice Commission, of being clearly influenced by Iran. I'm wondering if you agree with General Odierno's comments, and are you concerned with Iran's influence over this process concerning the candidates and the election in general?
AMBASSADOR HILL: Yeah, I absolutely agree with General Odierno on this. And absolutely, these gentlemen are affected by – are certainly under the influence of Iran. These were people, or in the case of Chalabi, he was named by the CPA administrator, Ambassador Bremer, back in '03 as the head of the de-Baathification Committee. It was a committee that went out of existence two years ago, replaced by the Accountability and Justice Committee. Everyone else understood that they – that that would – that their terms expired with the expiration of the committee, except for Mr. Chalabi, who assumed by himself the role of maintaining his – a position in a new committee to which he was never named.
From the Congressional Research Office's Kenneth Katzman's March 1st report entitled [PDF format warning] "Iraq: Politics, Elections, and Benchmarks," "The Justice and Accountability Commission is headed by Ali al-Lami, a Shiite who had been in U.S. military custody during 2005 - 2006 for alleged assistance to Iranian agents active in Iraq. He is perceived as answerable to or heavily influenced by Ahmad Chalabi, who had headed the De-Baathification Commission. Both are part of the Iraqi National Alliance slate and both are Shiites, leading many to believe that the disqualifications represented an attempt to exclude prominent Sunnis from the vote."
Roy Gutman and Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) break from the pack to note some reality. Jack Healy (New York Times) also manages to offer some reality and notes this on the reaction to the death, "Reactions to Mr. Lami's death were split along political lines. Iraqis with ties to the Baath Party offered bitter remarks. The state-run TV channel Al Iraqiya called Mr. Lami a martyr."
Violence swept Iraq today. Reuters notes Col Khalid Mohammad of the Ministry of Interior was shot dead in Baghdad, an attack on a Baghdad police checkpoint left two police officers injured, a Samarra roadside bombing claimed the lives of 3 police officers with another injured, 2 corpses were discovered in Mousl, 2 police officers were shot dead in the vehicle in Baghdad and the car was then torched, a Baghdad roadside bombing injured two pople, another Baghdad roadside bombing injured a police officer, 12 corpses were discovered in Basra, a Baghdad suicide bomber took his own life and that of 2 Iraqi soldiers (seven more soldiers injured) and, dropping back to last night, a Garma roadside bombing claimed the lives of 2 police officers.
The violence is real news. Fake news dominated the morning: The 'big' 'protest' staged by Moqtada al-Sadr. Reading reports by Tim Craig (Washington Post) and Mohammed Tawfeeq and Chelsea J. Carter (CNN) you could have been left with the impression that "tens of thousands" participated in the march. Sadr City, a slum of Baghdad that's remained a slum despite all of Moqtada al-Sadr's promises to the people there, is supposed to have 2.5 million residents. The march confined itself to Sadr City. Tens of thousands would not have been a good turn out in a city region with 2.5 million inhabitants. But tens of thousands did not turn out to protest. What happened was the Mahdi militia marched through Sadr City. This is Moqtada's goon squad that killed people, that ethnically cleansed and that stole property (homes and land) as well as raped and targeted gay males and males they thought were gay with kidnapping and murder. Nizar Latif (The National) quotes Izzat al Shabander ("a parliamentarian with the ruling National Alliance") stating, "It's an open challenge to the Iraqi armed forces, the Iraqi government and Iraqi democracy [. . .] What I saw at the parade brought Hizbollah immediately to mind. This is a serious challenge to the authorities. It was like there is no government."

The protest tells us that the US intelligence community, the British and the French (as well as two Arab states) were correct when they concluded that Moqtada al-Sadr's power in Iraq was slipping. At some point, Moqtada realized he wouldn't be able to turn out the necessary numbers to continue to fool his lovers and fans among the press corps so instead he sent his militia marching through Baghdad. It was a staged event that failed to impress (outside the press corps) leading Moqtada to grant an interview with BBC News ("rare interview") in an attempt to dominate the news cycle and, most likely, to shut out the rumors that he promised Nouri al-Maliki that he would stage no protests to note the end of the 100 days (June 7th).

"Tens of thousands" did not participate. They watched. Tim Craig serves up, "The Associated Press estimated at least 70,000 marchers and well-wishers crammed Sadr City, a predominately Shiite slum that was once a hotbed of violence against U.S troops." There is a huge difference between observer and participant. The march through Sadr City (confined to Sadr City) resulted in many inhabitants stepping outside their door to see the goon squad go by. AP's Qassim Abdul-Zahra reports that approximately 70,000 people came out of their homes to shout some form of "No to America!" Wow. That would be impressive if that was even half of the Sadr City population. 250,000 would be 10% of 2.5 million. 70,000 (a generous estimate and AP isn't qualified to estimate that crowd size, just FYI -- in Iraq, they're capable of estimating up to 3,000 fairly accurately -- after that it's just guessing or supplied to them by some official) is unimpressive. Again, the parade went right past their homes. All they had to do was step out on the front yard. About two-thirds chose not to step outside their front door. Moqtada also had a dismal showing last go round. April 23rd, he attempted to stage a protest. Do you remember what happened? "Hundreds" turned out in Baghdad. Sadr City, a slum in Baghdad, has a population of 2.5 million. And only "hundreds" turned out for the protest.

So this go round, as the prospective numbers became clear to him, Moqtada decided to turn it into a march by his goon squad. And to ramp up the numbers, they wouldn't go to Tahrir Square -- he'd already learned that anything requiring even a little mobility would reduce numbers -- they'd just parade around Sadr City so curious onlookers could be counted as "participants" in his staged event. AP quotes Mohammed Moyad stating . . . Well basically what the press quoted Haider al-Bahadili stating at one of Moqtada's other staged events. The AP tries to blur it and forgets to tell you that Moyad is Mehdi militia -- just like al-Bahadili was. Is that part of the training? Does the militia go through mock drills on how to schmooze the press? While the press focused on the faux protest, real ones took place today in Nassirya -- we'll cover that tomorrow and Wil S. Hylton (GQ) reporting on war resister Phil McDowell. This is so late because the snapshot was way too long and after I dictated it, I went to do the roundtable for the gina & krista round-robin. I wasn't aware it wasn't 'hitting' the site until after we finished the roundtable. My apologies.

roy gutman
mohammed tawfeeq
the new york times
jack healy
the washington post
tim craig
chelsea j. carter
the associated press
qassim abdul-zahra Read on ...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Bully Poppa's True Sons


From October 14, 2007, "Bully Poppa's True Sons." I'm a psychic.

Seriously, I just lucked into observing what was going on. Barack the liar teamed up with John the liar.

John Edwards is a disgusting piece of crap. What he did to his wife may have been bad (before she was clued in and then took part) but what he did to voters was far worse.

He's a liar, he's a sleeze. I hope they lock him up.

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

Thursday, May 19, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Kirkuk is slammed with bombings, Barack expands the 'reasons' why the US will now go to (illegal) war, and more.
"I saw a lot of dead bodies, burned dead bodies." Yahya Barzanji (AP) quotes eye witness Adnan Karim stating. Asso Ahmed and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) quote police officer Fadl Ahmed stating, "I saw one of my officers. I had said good morning to him by the lot and when I came back, he was dead." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports Kirkuk was slammed with bombings today which resulted in at least 27 deaths with sixty-nine more left injured. Sahar Issa (McClatchy News) breaks it down, "Two coordinated explosions targeted the police headquarters in Kirkuk, 140 miles north of Baghdad, killing 25 people and wounding at least 65, security officials said. A third blast struck the motorcade of the city's chief counterterrorism official, killing four security guards and seriously wounding nine others." Fang Yang (Xinhua) adds, "The attack took place in the morning rush hours when a sticky bomb attached to a car detonated at a parking lot in front of a police headquarters in central the city of Kirkuk, some 250 km north of Baghdad, the source said. Afterwards, a booby-trapped car parked at the scene went off as Iraqi security forces and dozens of onlookers gathered at the site of the first blast, the source added." Mustafa Mahmoud (Reuters) quotes police officer Talib Jabar, "I was on my way into police headquarters and suddenly I fell to the ground, but did not feel anything because I lost consciousness. When I woke up I found myself in the hospital with doctors around me and I was bleeding everywhere."
KUNA cites Kirkuk's Health Director Seddiq Abdulrasoul for the death toll of 30 and the for "no less than 90 others injured." The BBC notes that those harmed included many police officers. Vatican Radio observes, "One of the bombs targeted the head of the city's anti-terrorism unit. He survived unharmed, but four of his body guards were killed." ITN adds, "Television video has shown the twisted, burned wreckage of several cars in the street as police officers picked through the debris." Jack Healy (New York Times) recaps, "The attackers used a now-familiar tactic, detonating a small improvised explosive device attached to a sedan in a parking lot outside the local police headquarters. After police rushed to the scene, a larger car bomb went off, killing 17 officers and 11 civilians." Tim Craig and Aziz Alwan (Washington Post) provide this context, "The attack came a day after Iraqi security officials announced they had captured several local leaders with suspected ties to al Qaeda. It was one of several in Iraq Thursday, most of which appeared aimed at police officers."
The UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Iraq, Ad Melkert, issued a statement condemning the Kirkuk attack and calling for "all parties concerned to work together to expedite settlement of all pending issues that will show collective determination to promote stability and security throughout Iraq."

The oil-rich region of Kirkuk is disputed with the KRG and the central 'government' out of Baghdad both insisting they have dibs on the region. Under Saddam Hussein, Kurds were expelled from the region and, since the start of the Iraq War, the KRG has made efforts to ship Kurds into the region. Richard Spencer (Telegraph of London) explains, "Kirkuk is a historically Kurdish city which was excluded by Saddam Hussein from the self-governing Kurdish autonomous region, leading to the departure of many of its inhabitants. But since the fall of Saddam many Kurds have returned and are agitating for its inclusion in the autonomous [KRG] region." Jane Arraf (Al Jazeera) provides this walk through, "Kirkuk is quintessentially the disputed city: the Kurds see it as their internal homeland, they believe it has always belonged to them even though it is under Iraqi goernment control. The city is claimed by Arabs as well, of course, as well as Turkmen who are a substantial population there. On top of all that it is the centre of the oilfields -- it has enormous oil reserves and it has been fought over for decades." Iraq's Constitution (passed and ratified in 2005) explained how the issue would be settled.
Article 140
First: The executive authority shall undertake the necessary steps to complete the implementation of the requirements of all subparagraphs of Article 58 of the Transitional Administrative Law.
Second: The responsibility placed upon the executive branch of the Iraqi Transitional Government stipulated in Article 58 of the Transitional Administrative Law shall extend and continue to the executive authority elected in accordance with this Constitution, provided that it accomplishes completely (normalization and census and concludes with a referendum in Kirkuk and other disputed territories to determine the will of their citizens), by a date not to exceed the 31st of December 2007.
The Iraqi Constitution can be found [PDF format warning] here at the UN webpages.
By 2007, a census and referendum would have taken place -- leaving the issue up to the inhabits of the region. But, check the calendars, it's 2011, four years after the referendum was supposed to take place and it never has. Nouri al-Maliki was supposed to have overseen it but he was either unable or unwilling to do so. He continually pushed the date back. It was most recently supposed to have taken place in December of 2010. He made that promise while seeking to continue as prime minister. In November, he became prime minister-designate. Almost immediately, he then cancelled the scheduled census.
So the tensions continue to thrive and build in Kirkuk. As a result, certain 'team-building' exercises take place. Marwan Ibrahim (AFP) observes, "Currently, US forces participate in confidence-building tripartite patrols and checkpoints with central government forces and Kurdish security foficers in Kirkuk and across northern Iraq." Asso Ahmed and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) add, "Despite eight years of American-backed efforts to mediate a solution, the sides remain at loggerheads." But it was seven years, not eight. See Chris Hill blew off the issue. He did so at his Senate confirmation hearing, he did so as US Ambassador to Iraq and he did so after he was finally replaced. (Did anyone ever get shown the door as quickly as Hill?) While ambassador, he showed up on PRI and NPR radio programs insisting that the Kirkuk issue was minor (echoing his words at his confirmation hearing). Even earlier this month, in Denver, in a public 'conversation' (Hill can't debate -- big surprise) with Bruce Hoffman, Hill was still down playing the issue of Kirkuk. (This is in direct contrast to the US Ambassador to Iraq who preceeded him, Ryan Crocker, and the one who followed him, James Jeffrey. Jeffrey is the current ambassador.) Sky News states, "US officials have persistently said that the unresolved row [over Kirkuk] is one of the biggest threats to Iraq's future stability." And they're correct if you leave out Chris Hill. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) sums up, "Violence and ethnic tensions are on the rise there. In recent months, after protests over problems with electricity and other public services, the governor and the head of the provincial council resigned and were replaced by a Kurd and a Turkomen, whiich Kirkuk's Arabs considered a slight."
In other violence today, Reuters notes a Qaiyara roadside bombing claimed the lives of 4 Iraqi soldiers, a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed the life of 1 cleric and left two other people injured and a Baquba car bombing which claimed two lives and left ten people injured.
Earlier this month, Gordon Evans (WMUK) interviewed Ben Lando and his colleague Ali with Iraq Oil Report. I meant to include this in a snapshot last week and said I would. I didn't, my apologies. Excerpt:
Ben Lando: Iraq Oil Report is a news site that I started to cover the story of Iraq by looking at one of the major factors of Iraq's history and current possible funds for progress as well as fuel for problems which is the oil sector. And we let that tell the story of the society and politics and economy and security.
Gordon Evans: Through oil?
Ben Lando: Through -- through the story of developing and the fight over the prosperity of the oil sector.
Gordon Evans: Ali, is that a valuable lesson, do you believe, for people in this country and maybe some other countries not familiar with Iraq to kind of see the country through that lens?
Ali: Which lens do you mean? Through which one?
Gordon Evans: The lesson of oil, energy, those sorts of things. What Ben just talked about.
Ali: Well I think it is a very encouraging. It is very important because now Iraq is taking another course. It's a different course from what used to before 2003. The oil ministry, Iraq now, with these bidding rounds and oil development now within the country, I think the people need a thing like this in order to know what's going on. The people -- not just the businessman and the companies and the others -- but the people themselves need to know what's going on. The details about their oil. So I think it is a very good project.
[. . .]
Ben Lando: I think that the understanding of Iraq, the history of Iraq and even the social make up of Iraq was missing and that's evident in the-the planning for and the execution of the occupation of the country. It was clear that the US government didn't understand the tribal make up and all these very different factors that make up a complex and extremely historical society. That you could go in there and say, "Well forget about, you know, history in your country, you know, that goes back to -- legend has it -- the Garden of Eden and we're going to, here's this democratic model and you're going to be successful and peaceful in the middle of the Middle East. So I think it's clear that our country has a lack of understanding of the country. The US has a lack of understanding of Iraq. We as journalists, I think, we try our best, sometimes we succeed, sometimes we don't, in explaining what's happening in the country and the plight of the people in the country. But there's always room for further understanding. I mean, I learn more about the country every day so you can't expect somebody living and working in the US to understand it very well. But there definitely is a knowledge gap and this is why these statements by politicians or want-to-be politicians like this [referring to Donald Trump and his claim that the US should take Iraqi oil].
Gordon Evans: How long have you been in Baghdad now?
Ben Lando: I first -- My first trip there was in the beginning of 2008 and I've been living there for two years or just about two years.
Gordon Evans: So when you come back to the US and you talk to people about what's happening in Iraq, what are the things that you hear just talking to friends or family or strangers that you believe are perhaps the biggest misconceptions about what's happening?
Ben Lando: I think the biggest misconception is that it's some sort of peace that's taken hold and that democracy's taken hold. And those are the two biggest misconceptions. Now I think that there's -- at least for "democracy" -- in these air quotation marks I'll put it in -- is that there's opportunity for that. As Ali can attest to, it's definitely not peaceful. I mean, we were in the coffee shop today and looked at the news and saw that there was a bomber that killed 27 at a police recruiting station, injured 72. And this is -- smaller events like this happen every day. I mean it's still a violent place. And it's not -- It's not a place that one feels comfortable. Even somebody who's lived there your entire life, right?
Gordon Evans: Ali, would you agree that that is probably the biggest misconception that we Americans have about Iraq?
Ali: I do agree with my colleague. The plans started to become wrong, to be honest, from 2003. From the very beginning. From the very beginning that theAmbassador [L. Paul] Bremer the civil administrator when he was taken -- brought to Iraq. So I think the mistakes, when you look at the house, the most important is how to make the basement. So the basement, the bricks in the basement were wrong.
Gordon Evans: The foundation?
Ali: Foundation. So there was mistakes in the foundation. So how you can build on a wrong foundation? This -- This is all, you know, the army, you know people brought to join the political process. So many things went wrong, I think, from the beginning.
Gordon Evans: So what are some ideas for moving forward? And I guess maybe no necessarily your's but what do you hear from Iraqis when you talk to them -- their leadership or just people on the street? What are their ideas about how do you get Iraq from where it is now to perhpas a better place, if you will?
Ben Lando: I think that the -- So far and up until now, the direction of the country hasn't been chosen by the people of Iraq-- in general or as individuals. It's been chosen by a series of violent actors, foreign armies, foreign funded militias, things like that, terrorist groups and by people who were born in Iraq and most of which haven't lived in Iraq for a lot of their years prior to 2003 so who are very disconnected from what it's like as an average Iraqi, what the average struggle is or what has been the average struggle for 30, 40 years in the country. So I think that it is -- The mass amount of people, the 29 million people who are Iraqis, have had their lives, since 2003, ruled by and decision made by and the government organized by people who don't really represent them and their interests. And so I would say, as an American, let the Iraqis figure out how they want their country.

Gordon Evans: But I can hear somebody objecting right now saying, wait a minute, they've held elections.
Ben Lando: Yeah. See -- and we've talked about this. Elections are one thing. The elections in 2010, the most recent national election where they had some monitors and there were some issues but overall it was considered a very credible election by observers, by journalists who had access to the polling stations which we went to. And even -- We went to this polling station which is right behind the Abu Hanifa Mosque which is the last place Saddam [Hussein] was seen free, he gave his kind of farewell speech, 'we'll return,' that type of thing and this is the heart of Saddam-held Baghdad. And we went there, we saw the election. The election was good. But what happened after that? The election gave, basically legitimized fighting between politicians to continue. And thus because the US has basically said "democracy" without defining it and then said "Do it." The leaders say, "Okay, well we were elected, so since we were elected, this is a democracy, the elected officials can do what we want. We don't have to follow the Constitution, we can kind of detain people, we can torture, we can have secret prisons where we torture people. We can beat up journalists as they're covering protests and we can beat up the protesters and detain them indefinitely. And it's legitimate because we had an election." That's the definition of "democracy" transplanted into a country that model doesn't necessarily fit with.
And in these times of trouble, Barry-Barry breezes by, speaking words of blather, sit it down, sit it down. US President Barack Obama decided to remember Iraq today in his speech. Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor, Al Jazeera) Tweeted:
jane arraf
janearraf jane arraf
AFP's Prashant Rao Tweeted:
Prashant Rao
prashantrao Prashant Rao
Prashant Rao
prashantrao Prashant Rao
And what a speech it was. CBS has text and video here. If people pay attention, Mr. Pretty Words failed. On every level. For example, to claim that a half a century after the end of colonialism (the end? really?) that people need to stop pointing to that as an ill responsible for their current problems? ("The West was blamed as the source of all ills, a half-century after the end of colonialism.") Words have consequences, as Barack knows. What's he saying? A half a century is the time limit? Because there are people who will apply that in the US to other "ills." (Slavery, for example.) Will people call it out? Or will the Cult of St. Barack just continue madly clapping as they wet themselves?
Probably just continue to wet themselves. The speech was nothing but a neoliberal argument for more war. (Samantha Power was among those providing input for the speech, FYI.)
Here's Barack telling the world what the US will now go to war for -- no longer just nukes and borders, mind you:

And that's why, two years ago in Cairo, I began to broaden our engagement based upon mutual interests and mutual respect. I believed then -- and I believe now -- that we have a stake not just in the stability of nations, but in the self-determination of individuals. The status quo is not sustainable. Societies held together by fear and repression may offer the illusion of stability for a time, but they are built upon fault lines that will eventually tear asunder.

So we face a historic opportunity. We have the chance to show that America values the dignity of the street vendor in Tunisia more than the raw power of the dictator. There must be no doubt that the United States of America welcomes change that advances self-determination and opportunity. Yes, there will be perils that accompany this moment of promise. But after decades of accepting the world as it is in the region, we have a chance to pursue the world as it should be.

Of course, as we do, we must proceed with a sense of humility. It's not America that put people into the streets of Tunis or Cairo -- it was the people themselves who launched these movements, and it's the people themselves that must ultimately determine their outcome.

Not every country will follow our particular form of representative democracy, and there will be times when our short-term interests don't align perfectly with our long-term vision for the region. But we can, and we will, speak out for a set of core principles -- principles that have guided our response to the events over the past six months:

The United States opposes the use of violence and repression against the people of the region.

The United States supports a set of universal rights. And these rights include free speech, the freedom of peaceful assembly, the freedom of religion, equality for men and women under the rule of law, and the right to choose your own leaders -- whether you live in Baghdad or Damascus, Sanaa or Tehran.

That's truly frightening. And the fact that they're marketing war on catch phrases and abstractions should appall any sentient being. One example, freedom of speech in one place is different from freedom of speech in another, as Barack damn well knows. Declaring that war is on the table if you don't live up to the rights as the US lists them and as the US sees them is a very scary notion and far, far from the principle of just war which allowed you to go to war when your country was physically attacked by another country not when your sensibilities were offended.
There is no universal measure for "freedom of speech" or "freedom of religion." Some would argue that France, which strives to be extremely secular, is the ultimate for freedom of religion, others would disagree. What Barack wants to insist are universal principles are not, in fact, universally defined. More importantly, in many (all?) countries (certainly in the US), the people are always in the midst of an ongoing debate about rights. So now the US government is claiming the right to pick sides in foreign countries? In prior times, the US government respected (or pretended to) the rights of people in another country to define themselves. Now there will be a set of guidelines that the US came up with and that the US will define? And these guidelines will carry the country into more wars.
This is nothing but another attempt to bully. It is not about justice. It will not be applied equally. It has not been in the last months under Barack.
While he spins and lies, the reality is he didn't do a damn thing to stop the attacks in Iraq. Journalists weren't just attacked while covering protests. On February 25th -- to cite only one specific date -- journalists in Baghdad, after the protests, were having lunch and they were attacked while they were seated at their table by Iraqi forces under the command of Nouri al-Maliki. They were beaten, right there in front of every other diner, with the butts of rifles and then they were dragged off to a security vehicle, dragged off to a cell, threatened, beaten, forced to sign papers stating they were not tortured and finally released. Did you hear one word for Barack? No, you didn't. Not one damn word. And just last week, Justin Raimondo ( was pointing that reality out:
In Iraq, "Arab Spring" protests continue, as they have across the Middle East, but – unlike the demonstrations in Egypt, the civil war in Libya, and the violently-repressed upsurge in Syria – the Western news media has decided not to cover them. When thousands jammed the streets of Suleimaniya, the supposedly pro-occupation, pro-American capital city of the Kurdish autonomous region – Maliki and his Kurdish equivalents sent the Iraqi army in to crush the incipient rebellion no less violently than Syria's Assad is now doing in Syria. Yet we hear nothing from the White House, nothing from the media, and nothing from the former leaders of the "antiwar" movement – yes, I'm talking to you, Leslie Kagan, you fraud – after they folded up their tents and went off to work for Obama's election (and re-election).
Meanwhile the US is attempting to extend the military's stay in Iraq and England is gearing up for this Sunday, their kind-of-sort-of-we're-out-and-it's-for-real-this-time-we-promise 'departure' (see yesterday's snapshot or this Washington Post report by Tim Craig) which brings us to Australia where Kevin Rudd replaced John Howard as Prime Minister and the move came in part due to Rudd and his party's opposition to the Iraq War and Rudd's promise that he would pull Australia troops out of Iraq. Rudd was kicked to the curb in about the same time it took for Gordon Brown to win and lose the post of prime minister in England.

But Rudd claimed he'd pulled all the troops out. For those who've forgotten, June 1, 2008 is the date when Australian forces 'departed' Iraq. In that kind-of-sort-of way.

Security Detachment Home from Iraq

Australian Defence Force (ADF) members of Security Detachment Seventeen, known as SECDET XVII, returned home to Australia today after a successful eight-month deployment to Iraq .

The 33-member team was deployed as part of Operation KRUGER, the ADF's contribution to the provision of security and support for the Australian Embassy and its staff in Baghdad .

A parade was held at the Australian Baghdad Embassy on 14 May 11 to transfer responsibility to the new rotation, SECDET Eighteen (XVIII), from the Brisbane-based 1st Military Police Battalion.

Commander of Australian Forces in the Middle East , Major General Angus Campbell, said that the members of SECDET XVII had accomplished their mission of supporting Australian diplomats.

"Although security in Baghdad is improving, it's essential our Embassy staff are protected while undertaking their important duties," Major General Campbell said.

"Your contribution in providing security has been invaluable to the successful Australian diplomatic mission in Iraq ."

The ADF has been providing security to the Australian Embassy in Bagdad for eight years.

During the deployment, SECDET XVII supported more than 1127 security activities for Embassy staff, averaging five separate tasks per day.

The detachment was raised by the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Darwin and comprised personnel drawn from seven units across the Army and Air Force.

Officer Commanding SECDET XVII, Major Shaun Richards, said his unit had continued the achievements of previous deployments and built on Defence's reputation for professional service in support of its Foreign Affairs partners.

"Our efforts in providing security to the Australian Embassy in a difficult environment have allowed the diplomatic effort to succeed in its mission to promote Australia 's national interests." Major Richards said.

SECDET XVII arrive home in Australia on Thursday, 19 May 11.

Media note:

Imagery can be found at:

Media contact:

Defence Media Operations (02) 6127 1999 or 0408 498 664

Oh, the word games of the misleaders.

Moving over to Iraqi Refugees, Raber Y. Aziz (Zawya) reports:

The Swedish ambassador to Iraq denied claims of a behind-the-curtains deal between the two countries to deport Iraqis in return for loans being dropped.
Refugee groups have alleged that deals were signed between Iraq and certain EU countries by which Iraq would receive deported Iraqi refugees and in exchange, debts owed to these countries would be cancelled.

Why would people think that? Forget that there actually is a signed agreement -- as has been well reported over the last months -- between Sweden and Iraq. It might have something to do with the continual deportation of Iraqis from Sweden. Back in June of last year, Sweden kicked 56 Iraqis out and did so with no regard to the warning from the United Nations that it was not safe for refugees to return. That was not the first time they'd forcibly deported Iraqis. Nor was it the last time. I believe the most recent was in January of this year (see this CNN report).
Yesterday's snapshot included coverage of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committe hearing.
Last night, at Trina's site, Ava offered "Scott Brown questions DoD's concept of streamlining," Kat provided an overview with "DoD embarrasses at Senate hearing" and Wally, at Rebecca's site, noted "VA can't answer a basic service question."
We'll close with this from Justin Raimondo's "What We're Up Against" (
Today, however, as Rall's example dramatizes, things are worse: much worse. The intellectual and political atmosphere of lockstep conformity – especially, I would argue, in the realm of foreign policy – is just as strictly enforced as ever, as Rall has found out.
As for us here at our nominal allies, the "progressive" antiwar movement of yesteryear, have deserted us in droves. As long as it's not a Republican President slaughtering innocent civilians, as long as it's "our first African-American president" invading the Muslim world, as long as their team is in power – well, then, it's okay, everything's hunky-dory, and please don't rock the boat.
I imagine my politics are quite different from Rall's, but we both face the same conundrum: how to speak truth to power when the powerful control the media, the money, and the "mainstream."
Oh, so you want us to get out of Afghanistan – well, that's just not "mainstream," don'tcha know?!
You say you're sick of endless war, and America's emerging police state? What are you – some kind of rabid "extremist"?
The smear campaign against me I don't mind so much: it's too absurd to be taken seriously, and, besides that, I never sought to become a "mainstream" media "star." I have to say, however, when I was purged as a blogger from the Huffington Post, the reasons given to me by cult-follower Arianna Huffington were quite explicit: I'm too hard on Israel. A letter-writing campaign to get me off the site was apparently quite successful.
I can live without being one of Arianna's unpaid blog-slaves: the point is that, in Arianna's world, the arbiters of political correctness and good taste have divined that I'm a purveyor of "conspiracy theories," to use her phrase. That's code for any opinion that holds our elites responsible for the present state of the world. If Arianna wanted to stay a member in good standing of that elite – she once boasted about having the President's personal phone number ensconced in her legendary Blackberry – I had to go, and go I did. has never gotten a blessed dime from any big foundation, left or right. A recent attempt by someone affiliated with a major libertarian foundation that sponsors interns to work with us was vetoed by "headquarters" – no names here, but you get the idea. One would think that a web site of this type, with an entire stable of articulate and readily available writers, would garner lots of face time in the cable news universe, where foreign policy matters are now all the rage: and you would be wrong. There's only one side of the "debate" that's allowed to appear in television, for the most part, and that's the War Party's side.
Aside from the media blackout, however, there's another side to the dominance of the Obama cult in "progressive" circles that is having a significant effect on's fortunes: fund-raising. Our current fund-raising campaign is, so far, an absolute disaster. On the morning of the second day of the campaign, we had less than $3000 raised. If this goes on, we will be forced to close down in the very near future – it's as simple as that.
The intellectual atmosphere of this country, especially when it comes to the question of war and peace, is absurdly narrow: we are faced with a "choice" between partisan brands of interventionism, between the unilateral belligerency of the neoconservative right and the self-righteous "multi-lateral" interventionism of the Obama crowd. The two factions, however, are variations on a single theme of American (or Western) global hegemony, a "world order" ruled from Washington, London, and Paris. A multinational "elite" which owes loyalty to nothing but its own power and privileged existence has detached itself from the common herd: while the rest of us struggle to survive at the bottom. The aristocrats of the global order, who live in state-supported- and-subsidized luxury, are concentrated in the Imperial City of Washington, D.C., where they hand the media their "talking points." These pundits and "journalists" are little more than servitors of the royal court.

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