Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Do I hate Batman?

Two e-mails (did you get together and plan this?) came in noting my Marvel comics remarks and wondering if I hated Batman?

I wasn't a big fan of the comics growing up.  Sorry.

But I did love the TV show.  I loved Burt Ward and Yvonne Craig and Adam West as Robin, Batgirl and Batman.  I still love the TV show and would buy it on DVD.  (It's not released on DVD and may never be.  There are all these apparent conflicting contractual issues or something.)  I would especially buy the third season which is when Yvonne Craig comes on and also when Eartha Kitt begins playing Catwoman. 

For most of the time growing up, Eartha was my favorite Catwoman.

I do not care for Christopher Nolan's b.s.  He's a reactionary conservative and your first clue there was his attack on the Occupy movement.  But that reactionary b.s. is also in his three Batman films.

The only good thing about Nolan's nonsense was that my local grocery store carried a cheap DVD set of Batman from 1943.  It's a 15-part serial entitled "Batman" and it stars Lewis Wilson in the the title role.   I've really enjoyed this more and more with each repeat viewing. 

The Joel Schumacher films?  I can take "Batman Forever."  Val Kilmer's effective.  But I can't stand "Batman & Robin."  George Clooney is a joke.  Alicia Silverstone has no part in the film but keeps showing up (I like her, I just wish they'd given her a real role).  Uma Thurman's given a Catwoman rip-off storyline. 

But I love Tim Burton's films.  "Batman" and "Batman Returns" are my two favorite Batman movies.

The first one features the one and only Jack Nicholson as the Joker and he is amazing.  Both films star Michael Keaton and he's a great Batman.

"Batman Returns" features a great performance by Michelle Pfeiffer.  In that film, she becomes the best Catwoman ever. 

Better than Eartha, better than Julie Nemar, best ever.

Halle Barry tried hard but they weakened the character and that script was bad.  (I can watch and enjoy the Halle film but I don't think it is what it should have been.)

I love Anne Hathaway but she was awful as Catwoman in Nolan's third Batman film.

Did she even know what character she was playing?

Did she even know they were filming?

She never seems to even be trying to be in character. 

Michelle Pfeiffer remains the one and only Catwoman and Tim Burton is a genius.

Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Tuesday, July 30, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, the violence increases stress levels in Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki's called out for his contribution to the worsening security, Bradley Manning's court-martial verdict is pronounced, US Senator Patty Murray addresses assault and rape in the military, and more.

Starting in the United States where a verdict has been declared in the court-martial of an Iraq War veteran.  Military judge Colonel Denise Lind has declared Barack guilty of all but two of the 21 charges but, Tom Vanden Brook (USA Today) notes, the charge of aiding the enemy wasn't one of the 19 charges Lind found him guilty of.  Michael Sherer (Time magazine) points out, "A military judge, Col. Denise Lind, rebuked the prosecutors claims Tuesday by ruling that Manning was not guilty of the government’s most serious charge against him, aiding the enemy, in a decision that amounts to a victory for Manning and his supporters by sparing him an immediate life sentence without the possibility of parole." Jes Burns (Free Speech Radio News) adds that Brad still  "faces lengthy jail time.Dorian Merina (also Free Speech Radio News) observed that Brad "could now face more than 100 years in prison."

Aiding the enemy?  Who was the enemy?  Apparently WikiLeaks.     Monday April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released  military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." In March, 2011, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. The Article 32 hearing took place in December. At the start of this year, there was an Article 32 hearing and, February 3rd, it was announced that the government would be moving forward with a court-martial. Bradley has yet to enter a plea. The court-martial was supposed to begin before the November 2012 election but it was postponed until after the election so that Barack wouldn't have to run on a record of his actual actions.  Independent.ie adds, "A court martial is set to be held in June at Ford Meade in Maryland, with supporters treating him as a hero, but opponents describing him as a traitor."  February 28th, Bradley admitted he leaked to WikiLeaks.  And why.

Bradley Manning:   In attempting to conduct counter-terrorism or CT and counter-insurgency COIN operations we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists and not being suspicious of and avoiding cooperation with our Host Nation partners, and ignoring the second and third order effects of accomplishing short-term goals and missions. I believe that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information contained within the CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A tables this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as [missed word] as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.
I also believed the detailed analysis of the data over a long period of time by different sectors of society might cause society to reevaluate the need or even the desire to even to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore the complex dynamics of the people living in the effected environment everyday.

For truth telling, Brad's being punished by the man who fears truth: Barack Obama.  A fraud, a fake, a 'brand,' anything but genuine, Barack is all marketing, all facade and, for that reason, must attack each and every whistle-blower.  David Delmar (Digital Journal) points out, "President Obama, while ostensibly a liberal advocate of transparency and openness in government, and of the 'courage' and 'patriotism' of whistleblowers who engage in conscientious leaks of classified information, is in reality something very different: a vindictive opponent of the free press willing to target journalists for doing their job and exposing government secrets to the public."

Bradley Manning had a laughable defense provided by David Coombs.  Early on, in pre-court-martial appearances, he argued that Bradley was transgendered and then largely ignored that defense until the prosecution used a photo of Bradley taken shortly after he leaked to WikiLeaks -- in the photo, Brad was smiling and in drag.  The prosecution argued that the photo meant that Brad was not troubled by leaking and glad to have leaked while Coombs countered that the photo just suggested Brad was -- in drag -- at last comfortable with who he was.  Other than that, the transgender issue was largely ignored and you had to wonder why Coombs raised it and ticked off a number of Brad's defenders who were uncomfortable with the transgendered?  The assertion was also disputed by some in the LGBT community.  Lou Chibbaro Jr. (Washington Blade) notes:


Transgender advocates have also expressed skepticism of a claim by one of Manning’s defense attorneys that his action was due, in part, to his personal struggle over his gender identity. The attorney and others who know Manning noted that he referred to himself for a short period of time with a female name and downloaded information over the internet about gender identity disorder.
“I don’t see that his identity has anything to do with what he did,” said Maryland transgender advocate Dana Beyer. “His sexual identity, however you want to define it, is completely irrelevant.”

There was never method to Coombs madness and Brad's guilt was determined when the decision was made to forgo a military jury and allow a judge to determine guilt or innocence.

As we've long noted, when you go with a judge (especially in a military court), you're not making a hearts and flowers appeal.  A military judge will blow off such a defense (and a female military judge might find it offensive and assume that the defense is making that argument due to some stereotypical notion they have of women).  With a judge determining guilt or innocence, you lead them into the maze that is the legal system -- where this law conflicts with that law.  You present them with a mess and an attitude of: "Please, Judge, in all your training and wisdom, figure this out."  This appeals to the judge's vanity.  In closing arguments, Coombs appeared to grasp that notion.

Coombs failed Brad with witnesses as well.  Every witness in the chain of command that was called to testify should have been asked -- by Coombs -- what their punishment was.  If this was truly the biggest and most shocking crime that the prosecution repeatedly argued it was, then why is Brad the only one punished?  In the military, there is responsibility up the chain of command.  That means Brad's superiors share guilt if Brad is guilty.  By pointing out (repeatedly) who was not punished, Coombs would have underscored that this was not a case of the military seeking justice but of the US government lashing out at Brad.

The verdict was announced at 1:00 pm EST and Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! did a special broadcast on this (this is in addition to Democracy Now!'s regular broadcast this morning).  The Nation's Greg Mitchell told Amy during the broadcast that the decision that Brad was not aiding the enemy  was very important.

Greg Mitchell:  Well it's extremely significant, both for Manning and for journalists and whistle-blowers and people who really care about this everywhere.  But, of course, it probably gets him off the hook for the most serious sentencing -- which the process does begin tomorrow -- which was life in prison.  The other charges and the 19 charges -- whatever the final total is -- of course, will mean he will spend many years in prison, no doubt.  But the aiding the enemy was the most serious for him.  And, in terms of others, it -- if he'd been convicted of that -- it certainly threatened journalists everywhere and, of course, whistle-blowers.  Amy, as many of your listeners know, this kind of charge was unusual in this case and it would put in danger people who disseminate, publish, leak or make public important information for the public that could be or ended up in the hands or was cited by some unknown enemy abroad which would mean that, you know, any kind of information that you could charge that someone, somewhere -- one of our alleged enemies -- made us of, you could then be brought up on this charge to face, you know, to face life in prison or whatever.

Amy Goodman:  Now Greg, we're reading the Tweets as we talk to you.  This is a live broadcast on the day of the verdict.  The most serious charge -- aiding the enemy -- Bradley Manning has been aquitted of.  Alexa o'Brien now writes:

  1. Spec 9, Charge II GTMO File 793(e) Espionage GUILTY (10 Years MAX)

Amy Goodman (Con't): Kevin Gosztola writes:

  1. Manning was found GUILTY of wantonly causing to be published intelligence on the Internet

Amy Goodman (Con't):  Explain.

Greg Mitchell:  Well these are the long list of charges -- many of which, or some of which -- he had pleaded guilty to quite some time ago.  The judge today had to affirm them so they're included as if he hadn't really pleaded to them but they're part of the charges he is now found guilty of and, you know, the array of charges against him, you know, was espionage, was use of a computer to leak information, leaking the videos.  I haven't quite -- I haven't seen the verdict on the Granai video -- this is not the Collateral Murder video which I believe he did admit to but the other video which was a mass slaying abroad.

Mitchell is referring to the May 4, 2009 US airstrike on Granai in Afghanistan in which close to 150 innocent civilians were killed.  Brad stated he had leaked that video to WikiLeaks as well.  (WikiLeaks has since lost the video.)

Mitchell (and others) are right that Lind not finding Brad guilty of aiding the enemy is important but there's also a self-serving manner in the coverage. I'm not referring to Mitchell or anyone highlighted above or below.  I am referring to cable TV coverage which left at least two people convinced Brad was acquitted of the charges against him.  We were discussing the verdict with a group of students -- fairly well informed ones taking summer semester classes -- and two who had caught cable TV coverage were convinced Brad had been acquitted of all charges.

The press is thrilled that aiding the enemy was tossed.  But that really isn't about Brad -- their excitement. It's about what it would have possibly meant for them if Brad had been found guilty of it.  Brad did a great thing when he exposed what was taking place and had taken place.  And while he had entered a plea on many of the other charges, that doesn't change the fact that Brad was found guilty and that this wasn't a good thing.  He first raised the issue of War Crimes with a superior who blew him off.  He then leaked evidence of War Crimes.  He should be applauded for that.  The US government is supposedly against War Crimes so Brad's actions should be seen as a good thing and his conviction on any charges -- let alone ones that potentially add up to a lengthy prison sentence -- is nothing to be thrilled about.  Alexa O'Brien has posted the document listing the charges Brad was convicted of.   An exception in the MSM coverage may have been Jim Miklaszewski's report for NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams who observed legal experts predict Manning's convictions will have a chilling effect on future leakers." Newsday's editorial notes:

President Barack Obama has gone overboard in his crackdown on leakers. The administration has brought seven cases under the Espionage Act against CIA and FBI employees and contractors accused of leaking national security information -- more than all previous administrations combined.
And Obama's Justice Department has clumsily entangled journalists in its net. Federal prosecutors, investigating a leak that intelligence officials had warned Obama about North Korea's plan to conduct a nuclear test, labeled James Rosen of Fox News a "co-conspirator" after he reported the story in 2009. And prosecutors are still demanding that New York Times reporter James Risen testify at the espionage trial of a former CIA official accused of leaking information in 2003 about the U.S. effort to disrupt Iran's nuclear weapons program.

On The NewsHour (PBS -- link is audio, text and video) this evening,  Jeffrey Brown moderated a debate on the convictions -- the Center for Constitutional Rights' Michael Ratner debated form CIA official Jeffrey Smith.  Excerpt.

MICHAEL RATNER, Center for Constitutional Rights: I think it's probably one of the greatest injustices of our decade.
Here you have man who who's revealed very important information about war crimes, whose information actually sparked the Arab spring, and you have him being convicted of 20 charges that can carry 134 years. And you have to people who were engaged in the criminality he revealed not being investigated at all.
Bradley Manning is a whistle-blower. He shouldn't be prosecuted. The people who committed the crimes ought to be prosecuted.

Other NewsHour coverage includes:

Mike McKee is with the Bradley Manning Support Network and he told Free Speech Radio News that he and others gathered at Fort Meade to show their support, "We had about between 50 or 60 people here today as well as a rather revved up media presence as well, both representatives of American media and foreign as well. We’ve held a vigil on the first day of each week of court proceedings, attendance fluctuates, this was certainly one of the larger ones although the numbers weren’t totally uncommon. You saw a good variety of home-made signs as well as banners that people have made for various events and demonstrations that have been had for Bradley over the past year."

In England, Julian Assange held a press conference at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.  Assange is the founder of WikiLeaks.  AFP reports that he stated, "Bradley Manning's alleged disclosures have exposed war crimes, sparked revolutions and induced democratic reforms.  He is the most important journalistic source the world has ever seen."  Assange also noted the prosecution and verdict demonstrated the "national security extremism" of Barack's administration.  Ed Pilkington (Guardian) adds:

In a statement, Manning's family said they were disappointed by so many guilty findings – he was deemed to be guilty of 17 of the 22 counts against him in their entirety and three others in an amended form. But the statement, written by a US-based relative, said the family was "happy that Judge Lind agreed with us that Brad never intended to help America's enemies in any way."

The editorial board of the San Jose Mercury Times offers their take on the verdict which praises Lind for the guilty rulings she made as well as the one she didn't:  "But she found him not guilty of aiding U.S. enemies -- the Obama administration's nuclear option to stop persistent government leaks. Manning will serve jail time, but a conviction on aiding enemies would have meant life in prison with no possibility of parole. That would have been unjust."   Douglas Rushkoff (CNN) offers his take on the verdict:

The verdict comes on the 235th anniversary of the passage of America's first whistle-blower protection law, approved by the Continental Congress after two Navy officers were arrested and harassed for having reported the torture of British prisoners.
How have we gotten to the place where the revelation of torture is no longer laudable whistle-blowing, but now counts as espionage?
The answer is that government has not yet come to terms with the persistence and transparency of the digital age. Information moves so fast and to so many places that controlling it is no longer an option. Every datapoint, whether a perverted tweet by an aspiring mayor or a classified video of Reuters news staffers being gunned down by an Apache helicopter, will somehow find the light of day. It's enough to make any administration tremble, but it's particularly traumatic for one with things to hide.

The Center for Constitutional Rights issued the following statements on Lind's rulings:

July 30, 2013, New York – Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) released the following statement in response to the verdict in the trial of Bradley Manning:

While the "aiding the enemy" charges (on which Manning was rightly acquitted) received the most attention from the mainstream media, the Espionage Act itself is a discredited relic of the WWI era, created as a tool to suppress political dissent and antiwar activism, and it is outrageous that the government chose to invoke it in the first place against Manning. Government employees who blow the whistle on war crimes, other abuses and government incompetence should be protected under the First Amendment.
We now live in a country where someone who exposes war crimes can be sentenced to life even if not found guilty of aiding the enemy, while those responsible for the war crimes remain free. If the government equates being a whistleblower with espionage or aiding the enemy, what is the future of journalism in this country?  What is the future of the First Amendment?
Manning’s treatment, prosecution, and sentencing have one purpose: to silence potential whistleblowers and the media as well. One of the main targets has been our clients, WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, for publishing the leaks. Given the U.S. government’s treatment of Manning, Assange should be granted asylum in his home country of Australia and given the protections all journalists and publishers deserve.
We stand in solidarity with Bradley Manning and call for the government to take heed and end its assault on the First Amendment.

The Center for Constitutional Rights represents WikiLeaks and Julian Assange in the U.S. and filed a case challenging the lack of transparency around the Manning trial on behalf of itself and a diverse group of media figures: Glenn Greenwald, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, The Nation and its national security correspondent Jeremy Scahill, and Wikileaks and its publisher, Julian Assange. Also included are Kevin Gosztola, co-author of Truth and Consequences: The U.S. vs. Bradley Manning and a civil liberties blogger covering the Manning court martial, and Chase Madar, author of The Passion of Bradley Manning and a contributing editor to The American Conservative. Jonathan Hafetz of Seton Hall Law School is co-counsel with CCR in that case, along with Bill Murphy and John J. Connolly of Zuckerman Spaeder LLP’s Baltimore office.

To read the judge's verdict, click here. The court has not provided transcripts at any point in the trial: what transcripts there are have been privately organized by the Freedom of the Press Foundation and others with crowd-sourced funding.

The Center for Constitutional Rights and Douglas Rushkoff are among the few noting the fact that the verdict is wrong.  Again, others are more interested -- self-interest, self-preservation -- in breathing sighs of relief over Lind not finding Brad guilty of aiding the enemy -- and sighing in relief because it means that their own lives are unaffected . . . for now.

The authorities of United States have a long history of spying on those who actively participate in the nation's democracy through free speech and other civic and community activities.  Over the years, citizens and the judiciary have tried to rein in state surveillance by asserting First Amendment protections of free speech and Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.  From the Palmer Raids through COINTELPRO, periods of perceived national emergency have typically eroded these protections.  Today, a sprawling industry has mushroomed, financed by taxpayer money, ostensibly to protect the nation from terrorism and other threats.  As this industry consolidates and grows, sophisticated surveillance technologies pose new threats to privacy and the right of association.

That's Heidi Boghosian (National Lawyers Guild Executive Director and co-host of Law and Disorder Radio) from her new book Spying on Democracy: Government Surveillance, Corporate Power and Public Resistance -- officially released next Tuesday.  And she's right and this applies to the sighs going off today.  It's a momentary -- only a momentary -- reprieve unless the press finds the guts to stick up for themselves which means actual reporting.  They can start by covering the item Amy Goodman noted this morning:

New Zealand’s government is rebuffing a report that U.S. intelligence agencies helped its military monitor the communications of a freelance journalist reporting for McClatchy in Afghanistan. A report in New Zealand’s Sunday Star-Times says "U.S. spy agencies" assisted the New Zealand military in collecting metadata on the phone calls of Jon Stephenson and his "associates" while he was reporting on the U.S.-led occupation of Afghanistan last year. New Zealand’s defense minister said a review of the claims is underway. If confirmed, the report could show spying techniques used by the National Security Agency and recently revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden have been used against journalists.

The AP reported on this yesterday -- to note that the US government denies the allegations.  That's a press release (from the government), that's not reporting.  As for Brad, what happens now?  Amy Goodman explained, "After the verdict, the trial enters the sentencing phase where both the prosecution and defense will present more evidence and arguments."

Brad was trying to save the Iraqi people and others harmed by War Crimes.  As Peter Walker (Guardian) notes today:

• The first revelation came in 2010, from a video showing a US helicopter crew laughing as they launched an air strike killing a dozen people in Baghdad in July 2007, including a photographer and driver working for the Reuters news agency. The footage was recorded on one of two Apache helicopters which were hunting for suspected insurgents. They encounter a group of men on the ground, who do not immediately appear armed, and there is no sign of gunshots. But one helicopter crew opens fire, with shouts of "Hahaha. I hit 'em," and "Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards". As the wounded are helped, one of the helicopters opens fire again, with armour-piercing shells.
• The next tranche of revelations came in July 2010, from documents dating from 2004 to 2009 about the Afghan war. One set raised concerns in the US by suggesting alleged support for the Taliban from Pakistan, particularly that the country's spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), had been collaborating with the Taliban.
• The Afghanistan files also included details of an incident from 2007 in which US marines escaping an attack outside the city of Jalalabad fired their guns indiscriminately, killing 19 unarmed civilians and wounding 50 more. While the aftermath of the attack was plain to military authorities, the files suggested, the incident was referred to in an official report only as this: "The patrol returned to JAF [Jalalabad air field]."
• In October 2010 came a series of revelations about events in Iraq. Chief among these was that US authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and even murder by Iraqi police and soldiers. The reports of abuse, often supported by medical evidence, describe prisoners shackled, blindfolded and hung by wrists or ankles, and subjected to whipping, punching, kicking or electric shocks.
• Another Iraq-related revelation was that the US collated details of more than 100,000 people killed in Iraq following the invasion of the country, including more than 15,000 deaths that were previously unrecorded. The tally goes against previous protestations by the UK and US that there were any official statistics on the death toll connected to the war.

Meanwhile, at the US State Dept press briefing today, AP's Matt Lee attempted to get a response from the Dept about the verdict in Brad's court-martial.

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. I know there’s lots of news happening around here today, but --

QUESTION: Really? Where? (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, we were just up on the eighth floor. I didn’t see you there, but --

QUESTION: Oh, I thought you were talking about Fort Meade.

MS. PSAKI: -- it was an exciting statement by the Secretary, but let’s start with what’s on your 

QUESTION: It was an exciting statement. I’d love to start with the Middle East --

MS. PSAKI: Great.

QUESTION: -- but since I know that you’re not going to be able to answer any of my questions, I’ll start with another topic that you won’t be able to answer my question on, which is: What is the State Department’s reaction to the verdict of the Manning trial?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, we have seen the verdict, which I know just came out right before I stepped out here. I would – beyond that, I would refer you to the Department of Defense --

QUESTION: Look, for the --

MS. PSAKI: -- with no further comment from here.

QUESTION: For the entire trial, this building had said that it wouldn’t comment because it was pending – it was a pending case. Now that it’s over, you say – you’re still not going to comment?

MS. PSAKI: That’s correct. I would refer you to the Department of Defense.

QUESTION: Can I – okay. Can I just ask why?

MS. PSAKI: Because the Department of Defense has been the point agency through this process.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: These were State Department cables, exactly. They were your property.

QUESTION: State Department employees were (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI: We don’t – we just don’t have any further comment. I know the verdict just came out. I don’t have anything more for you.

QUESTION: Well, does that mean – are you working on a comment?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t --

QUESTION: Are you gratified that this theft of your material was --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t expect so, Matt, but if we have anything more to say, I promise everybody in this room and then some will have it.

QUESTION: Okay. I’m a little bit surprised that you don’t have any comment, considering the amount of energy and time this building expended on assisting the prosecution, but also when they were – when the cables were first put out, your former predecessor, Mr. Crowley, spent a huge amount of time on it and I – it would be --

MS. PSAKI: I’m aware of that --


MS. PSAKI: -- and if there’s more to say at any point today, I’m sure we’ll make that available to all of you.
Did you want to move on to another topic?

QUESTION: I’ll let other people go on to their topic, because I’m sure I will be as unsatisfied with your responses to other questions as I was to --

MS. PSAKI: We’ll see, Matt. You never know.

Where he had grave concerns for the people, the White House has none -- which is why violence continues in Iraq.  National Iraqi News Agency reports 3 civilians shot dead in Kut, a Kirkuk roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left another injured, a Kirkuk sticky bombing claimed the life of 1 civilian and left two more injured, and a Tikrit car bombing left seven security forces injured.  Alsumaria adds that a police officer was shot dead outside his Mosul home, an attack on a Mosul checkpoint left 2 police officers dead,  and a Tikrit suicide bomber attacked the Salahuddin Province Council leaving five people injured.   All Iraq News notes a Baghdad perfume shop bombing which claimed 2 lives and left seven people injured.  Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) notes a Baquba shop bombing which claimed 5 lives and left sixteen injured, a Tuz-Khurmato bombing ("at Siyd Mahdi Shiite mosque") which left 3 dead and twelve more injured and -- in separate incidents -- 2 shop owners were shot dead in Falluja.

Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 891 violent deaths for the month thus far. Yesterday, a wave of bombings struck Iraq. Bob Schieffer noted on Monday's CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley (link is video), "And this was another deadly day in Iraq.  At least 58 people died as car bombs ripped through markets, parking lots and a cafe.  In all, 18 bombs went off today.  There has been a surge of violence throughout Iraq by some accounts close to 700 people have died just this month alone."  Over at ABC 'News,' George Stephanopoulos filled in for Diane Sawyer on World News in order to waste everyone's time with a segment (the same non-news and non-issue that Bob Somerby called out Erin Burnett for wasting time on).  He had no time for Iraq but he was full of "practical tips to save time" which just goes to the fact that George isn't a trained journalist but a hack for politicians.  In the future, put Bob Woodward behind the anchor desk and leave George to fluff.
AFP notes that the rising violence is impacting stress levels in Iraq:
"Some Iraqis, he says, are “just permanently stressed” and will jump at the honk of a car horn or get into arguments at the drop of a hat.  
"It’s really hard. I’m always on edge, always tired,” says Qaisar, a 26-year-old traffic policeman, standing in the midday heat on a busy Baghdad thoroughfare"
 In other news of violence,  NINA notes al Qaeda in Iraq has claimed responsibility for yesterday's bombings.  "For Iraqis it's a grim reminder of a past they had hoped was over.  Once again, multiple bomb attacks are sewing havoc," BBC's Bridget Kendall observes (link is video).

Bridget Kendall: So what's fueling the violence? Well, one problem is worsening Sunni - Shia tensions in Iraq exacerbated by the Shia-led government of Nouri al-Maliki who Sunni politicians say is behaving like a dictator.  That resentment has helped al Qaeda in Iraq recruit Sunni militants.  And the conflict in Syria next door has played its part too.  al Qaeda extremists operate in both countries.

All Iraq News notes that a member of the Security and Defense Committee in Parliament is strongly calling out Nouri for his failure to visit any of the wounded from yesterday's attacks while the Sadr bloc MP Jawed al-Shiheli has criticized Nouri for failing to visit the injured and for failing to visit the sites of the bombings.  Meanwhile Sadr bloc MP Jawed al-Hasnawi declared that Nouri has "full responsibility for this situation. There should be an inclusive change to the security leaders."

Last week's prison break appears to still be drawing attention to Iraq (or maybe the media's finally realized it was a mistake to drop Iraq from the news radar).  In terms of al Qaeda in Iraq, Robin Simcox (Huffington Post UK) offers:

Much of the media narrative suggests that the group was irrevocably destroyed by the Anbar Awakening and American surge of late 2006/early 2007. While it is true that these events hugely damaged ISIL, it is not as if the group packed up its operations and accepted defeat. AQ is nothing if not resilient, and the departure of all American troops in 2011 provided it with the perfect fillip to bounce back with a vengeance.
Even prior to the 2011 withdrawal, ISIL was able to carry out co-ordinated attacks every four to six weeks, killing on a mass scale. They have picked up their pace further now, with approximately 2500 dying in Iraq as the result of terrorism in the last two months.

Among the analysis currently being offered by the Brookings Institute.  Kenneth M. Pollack offers (PDF format warning) "The Fall and Rise and Fall of Iraq."   Excerpt.

The problems reemerged after Iraq’s 2010 national elections. Ayad Allawi’s mostly - Sunni Iraqiyya garnered slightly more votes than Maliki’s overwhelmingly Shi’a State of Law coalition. But Maliki refused to believe that he had lost, and refused to allow Allawi to take the first shot at forming a government. He pressured Iraq’s high court to rule that he could get the first chance to form a government.
Rather than insist that Allawi be given the first chance, as is customary in most democracies and was clearly what was best for Iraqi democracy, the United States (and the United Nations) did nothing. Ten months of bickering, backstabbing and political deadlock followed. In the end, the Iranians forced Muqtada as - Sadr to back Maliki, uniting the Shi’a behind him. At that point, the Kurds fell into place, believing that the prime minister had to be a Shi’a, and Iraqiyya’s goose was cooked. But so too was Iraqi democracy.
The message that it sent to Iraq’s people and politicians alike was that the United States under the new Obama Administration was no longer going to enforce the rules of the democratic road. We were not going to insist that the will of the people win out. We were willing to step aside and allow Iraq’s bad, old political culture of pay - offs, log - rolling, threats and violence to re - emerge to determine who would rule the country -- the same political culture that the U.S. had worked so hard to bury.
It undermined the reform of Iraqi politics and resurrected the specter of the failed state and the civil war. Having backed Maliki for prime minister if only to end the embarrassing political stalemate, the Administration compounded its mistake by lashing itself uncritically to his government. Whether out of fear of being criticized for allowing him to remain in office in the first place, or sheer lack of interest and a desire to do what required the least effort on the part of the United States, the Administration backed Maliki no matter what he did -- good, bad or indifferent.

We'll cover the report more this week.  Today, Bradley is the story and we focused on him.

This year, Senator Patty Murray became Chair of the Senate Budget Committee.  Prior to that, she was Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  She remains on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (now Chaired by Senator Bernie Sanders) and she remains committed to addressing issues effecting service members and veterans.  Her office issued the following today:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                            CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Tuesday, July 30, 2013                                                                                          (202) 224-2834
MILITARY SEXUAL ASSAULT: Murray Meets With Top Air Force Official

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) met with Air Force Major General Margaret H. Woodward to discuss the epidemic of sexual assault in our nation’s armed forces. In June, Maj. Gen. Woodward was named the Director of the Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Office. In May, Senators Murray and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) introduced the bipartisan Combating Military Sexual Assault Act to provide trained military lawyers, also known as Special Victims Counsels (SVCs), to victims of sexual assault in all service branches. This legislation has been included in the pending National Defense Authorization Act, which is expected to be considered by the full Senate in the coming months. The SVC program is based on a successful pilot program currently implemented in the Air Force.
“Our legislation to provide victims with a dedicated legal counsel absolutely gets to the heart of effectively addressing the tragic epidemic of sexual assault in our military,” said Senator Murray. “When our best and our brightest put on a uniform and join the United States Armed Forces, they do so with the understanding that they will sacrifice much in the name of defending our country and its people. However, it’s unconscionable to think that entertaining unwanted sexual contact from within the ranks is now part of that equation. Special Victims’ Counsels are a major step forward in reversing this awful trend and establish the necessary means for victims to take action against their attackers. It’s inexcusable for us to wait any longer to address this issue and I’m glad we have a willing partner in Major General Woodward to start taking meaningful action to do right by our nation’s heroes.”
In a statement endorsing the Murray-Ayotte SVC legislation, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey said, “The Air Force Special Victims’ Counsel (SVC) pilot program, while very new, has shown positive results and provides a robust support program for victims of sexual assault.  Hundreds of victims have availed themselves of SVC services in the Air Force in just the past several months since it was implemented.  Many of those victims who initially filed restricted reports of sexual assault decided to change their report to unrestricted, allowing full investigation of the offenses committed by their assailant.  As the early reports have been so promising, I expressed in my May 20, 2013, letters to Senators Levin and Inhofe that the proposed SVC legislation had merit. I support providing victims of sexual assault this important resource.”
Meghan Roh
Press Secretary | New Media Director
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Mobile: (202) 365-1235
Office: (202) 224-2834

RSS Feed for Senator Murray's office



 nbc nightly news
jim miklaszewski
 the guardian

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Wolverine (Part II)

jobs and the economy

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Jobs" and Kat's "Kat's Korner: Ebony Bones' Sonic, Nocturnal Mystery Tour" both went up yesterday.  I hope you caught them already.

A few of you caught something in my post Friday -- I wasn't counting Wolverine's brief appearance in the "X-Men First Class" movie.  Some of you felt that was because it was a cameo.

Nope.  I honestly just forgot he was in it.  So Hugh Jackman has played the role six times now.  Thank you to Ben, Suzie, Melissa, DeLisa and Carlton who e-mailed about it.

"The Wolverine" sold $55 million in tickets over the weekend.  Some are saying that's a disappointment.  But the weekend before that, the top film ("The Conjuring") only made $41 million in ticket sales.  The weekend before that, the number one film "Despicable Me 2" only made $43 million in ticket sales.  The weekend before that was July 4th weekend -- a very long 'weekend' -- so toss that out.  The weekend before that, Monsters University made $45 million in ticket sales.  With the emergence of "White House Down," ticket sales have been down.

So I don't get how a $55 million opening is bad.

("The Heat" is at $141 million by the way.  I loved that movie and would love to see it again.  Maybe this weekend.)

Brendan e-mailed about the last scene in "The Wolverine" and why I didn't note it?

I don't do spoilers.  But, yes, after the credits start, we get a scene where we're teased about the next X-Men film and I will note that two actors show up to talk to Wolverine.  I won't say any more.

But Brendan says this is a grown up action film and encourages everyone to see it.  I couldn't agree more.

Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Monday, July 29, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, one 'expert' covers for Nouri, others note it's time for him to leave (he's been prime minster since 2006), July is set to have the record death toll in recent years, Iraq War veteran Bradley Manning awaits the verdict in his court-martial, Lynne Stewart remains a political prisoner (despite her husband Ralph Poynter's efforts and his noting that Lynne is dying), we tough on the Bob Filner scandal, and more.

Starting with Bob Filner.  The former US House Representative didn't seek re-election in 2012, choosing instead to run in San Diego's mayoral race.  He won.  He is currently Mayor Bob Filner.  How likely that is to last is probably best left to a betting pool.

I know Bob Filner.  I like Bob Filner.  Bob did many great things in Congress.  He has done many strong things as Mayor.  He may or may not be able to continue in that role.  He stands accused of sexual harassment and misconduct for actions since he has been mayor.

Is he guilty of what he's currently accused?  I have no idea.  He's never been anything but friendly to me and I've never seen him harass anyone.  That doesn't mean he's innocent, that does mean that's all I can speak to personally on the allegations.

I wouldn't be discussing this today were it not for Lila Garrett.  On today's Connect the Dots with Lila Garrett (KPFK) she gave a sermon -- she's gotten so fond of those -- that was full of 'facts,' (She falsely claimed that Monica Lewinsky has never been able to get a job since the exposure of her sexual relationship with Bill Clinton -- there has been her tacky handbags, her time as a spokesperson for Jenny Craig, etc -- Lila wanted to slime Bill Clinton so facts got replaced with 'facts').

Bob Filner, she insisted, was "politically correct" (her term) because he's installed solar panels.  And he was taking on big oil, she insisted.  The allegations, which she accepted as true, were not about him as a politician, they were about his "personal behavior," she maintained.

To be really clear to Lila, a man or woman who harasses those working under him/her is not displaying "personal behavior."  It is a crime (which Lila at least realized) but it's not "personal behavior" (which she did not realize).

She also saw harassment in some novel ways.  It was, she explained, stemmed from an individual (man, she used repeatedly) feeling powerful and proud and so you want to celebrate and have the applause, she insisted, but it's not there and so you look to a woman, any woman, Lila insisted, and want to celebrate with her.

That's certainly a novel way to look at it.  But the reality is that sexual harassment in the work place is generally about control and the inner psyche of the harasser is not 'I am so wonderful! Give me  applause!'  There are two major arguments regarding the profile of sexual harassers and Garrett's managed to avoid both while presenting an entirely new argument.  (The psyche and feminist argument is that it's about power; the conservative argument -- which tries to use examples of early humans -- is that it's about selection and desire.  Those have been the two dominant arguments society has had on the profile of the harasser.)

Lila goes on to conclude that Bob Filner must resign as mayor.

Lila Garrett broadcasts on KPFK.  Where does she live?

Not in San Diego.

Nor do I.  It is not my choice whether or not Filner resigns, I have no say in the matter.  Only the people of San Diego can make that call.  It's the same as with the NYC mayor's race.  From the eighth Congressional district of California, I have no business endorsing any candidate in a race I can't vote in or calling for someone in a race I can't vote in to step down.

There have been e-mails noting the Filner scandal and insisting I have said nothing on it.  There's no reason to say anything.  An Iraq War veteran raped his daughter.  That's a news story.  It's not one I'm interested in covering.  We cover feminist issues here and have covered rape and have covered sexual harassment and abuse.  We will continue to do so.  But we do not cover every single story.

As for ignoring it, July 12th, Rebecca posted "What the hell?" where she includes Bob's statement acknowledging something (what is being acknowledged in that statement is not clear to me).  She then asks a series of questions and I provide my take in response.  I note, as I have above, that this is matter (a) for the voters of San Diego and (if harassment occurred) for law enforcement (sexual harassment is a crime).

I like Bob.  I will always praise his work on the House Veterans Affairs Committee.  He deserves praise for that.  I have never seen him exhibit the behavior he is currently accused of.  I would hope that means it is not true, however, I am aware it may very well be true.  As much as I like -- no, as much as I love Bob, it is not my job to run interference for him or to insist that he's innocent.  I hope he is.  I do not know he is.  These are serious charges.  Women who are making them have a right to be heard.   I am certainly not interested in attacking these women or in smearing them.

Again, I hope Bob Filner is innocent and that this is an awful misunderstanding. But neither my hopes for Bob nor my love for him trump any suffering of someone he caused.  If the accusations are true, he must suffer the consequences.  If the accusations are true, it will be a horrible mark on his public record; however, it will not be his own legacy.  His work for veterans will remain outstanding.  That work will not make it 'okay' that he harassed women (if the charges are true).  But they go to the fact that people can do very great things and also do very unethical and/or very criminal things.  Heroes largely exist in children's comic books and on IMAX screens in the summer.  Sometimes those that we make larger than life have the worst feet of clay.  That's not to justify harassment, abuse or rape.  It is to note that -- thinking of the sliming of two women that so many on the left (men and Naomi Wolf) took part in -- someone who has done something good can also be someone who's done something wrong or criminal. 

Iraq is bleeding.  Nathan Morely (Vatican Radio) notes, "A relentless campaign of bombings and shootings has killed nearly 4,000 people in Iraq since the start of this year -- that's according to the violence monitoring group Iraq Body Count.  The violence has raised fears of a return to full-blown conflict in the country where Kurds, Shia and Sunni Muslims have yet to find a stable way of sharing power."   Salam Faraj and Ahmed al-Rubaye (AFP) note, "More than 800 people have now been killed in violence so far this month, according to AFP figures based on security and medical sources - an average of upwards of 27 a day."   Iraq Body Count counts  831 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month through Sunday and  violence continues to slam Iraq.  Today's violence led acting head of UNAMI Gyorgy Busztin to declare, "I am deeply concerned about the heightened level of violence which carries the danger that the country falls back into sectarian strife.  Iraq is bleeding from randmo violence, which sadly reached record heights during the Holy month of Ramadan."

 This morning,  Duraid Adnan (New York Times) counted 15 car bombings throughout the country with a death toll of 46 and over a hundred left wounded.. Kareem Raheem (Reuters) reports the death toll from the car bombings has already reached 60. Sofia News Agency offers, "The Baghdad bombs, hidden in parked cars, hit markets and car parks in several areas of the city, police say. The deadliest was said to have hit the eastern Shia district of Sadr City."  The car bombings in Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, Kut, Samawa and elsewhere were not the only acts of violence in Iraq today -- nor were they the only acts of violence that resulted in loss of life.  For example, the National Iraqi News Agency reports 1 person was shot dead in Baquba.  As if often the case when Iraqi violence gets significant press attention, the press tends to focus on areas with a high volume of deaths.  That's why 28 deaths spread out around the country with 2 here, 3 there, etc -- especially with the bulk outside of Baghdad -- rarely results in intense press coverage and why the rising death toll tends to creep up on (and surprise) many press outlets.

Yang Yi (Xinhua) notes, "Monday's bombing spree came after 14 people were killed in attacks across the country on Sunday.  Last week, dozens of gunmen stormed Taji and Abu Ghraib prisons, respectively north and west of Baghdad, in an attempt to free prisoners."  For the BBC, Rami Rhuayem addressed the violence today (link is video).  Excerpt.

Rami Ruhayem:  It's been going on for a long time but, as you said, this is a marked increase in violence.  And this time it appears it might be on the verge of causing political problems.  You might think it should have caused political problems a long time ago, but actually the government has been able -- with a very complex range of tactics -- to deflect blame and to escape the kind of public anger directed against it  which such violence would cause in other places.  However, now -- and after the prison break just over a week ago in which hundreds of prisoners -- high value, dangerous prisoners -- escaped -- there were cracks within the government and people were asking "Why?"  Which is your question and which I cannot answer but which the government is now under increasing pressure to answer: Why can you not stop all these car bombs from entering Baghdad when you know that people are trying to do this?   How come you cannot guard high-value prisons when you know that people are trying to get the prisoners out? 

Deutsche Welle observes that tensions have been mounting for some time in Iraq as evidenced by the ongoing protests, "Protests broke out in Sunni-majority areas at the end of 2012 and are still ongoing. Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority has argued that the Shiite-led government was failing to address its concerns, instead marginalizing and targeting their community with unwarranted arrests and terrorism charges."   Arthur Bright (Christian Science Monitor) points out:

The string of car bombs is just the latest event in Iraq's ongoing sectarian conflict, which has flared in recent months. The BBC reports that April, May, and June of this year each saw more than 700 people, mostly civilians, killed in Iraq, with a high of some 1,045 dead in May, according to United Nations figures. July has already surpassed the 700-dead mark, with Reuters putting the tally at 810 so far. Iraq Body Count, an independent watchdog tallying the conflict's death toll, put July's total at 831 before today's attacks.

A statement issued today by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon observed, "Iraq is at another crossroads.  Its political leaders have a clear responsibility to bring the country back from the brink, and to leave no space to those who seek to exploit the political stalemate through violence and terror."

All Iraqi News notes the Sunni Endowment has condemned the attacks as has the European UnionKUNA notes that the United Kingdom also condemned today's attacks.  And credit to US Ambassador Robert Beecroft and the US Embassy in Iraq for immediately releasing a statement condemning the violence:

The United States condemns in the strongest terms the brutal terrorist attacks that killed and injured dozens of innocent Iraqis across the nation today. We deplore the senseless loss of life caused by these attacks and offer our sincere condolences to the families of the victims, and hope for the quick recovery of those injured. The United States stands firmly with Iraq in its fight against terrorism.
Not long ago, a self-righteous prig in the media was mocking the statements such as the above.  'What good do they do?' huffed the idiot.  Well they don't do you much good, but they're not aimed at you.  They acknowledge an attack, they express condemnation and this is aimed at the Iraqi people the same way, for example, statements immediately following 9-11 were aimed at the American people to let them know that they were not alone.  The statements do matter.  They especially matter when there are repeat attacks and people, such as the Iraqis, see France and England repeatedly condemn the attacks while the US is silent.  That has been the case for some time.   It sends a message to the Iraqi people and its a message in conflict with the 'aid' (military and diplomatic) that the US continues to send supposedly to improve Iraq.
This morning, we asked: Will Iraq come up in the State Dept press briefing today?  And we noted: It generally does not.  When it does, the press tends to be asking about Iran or Syria.  Despite the huge death tolls in Iraq of the last months, Iraq really hasn't been seen as a topic to explore in the briefings -- despite the billions of US tax dollars the State Dept is now given each year to spend in Iraq.

The State Dept has had its press briefing today.  Neither spokesperson Jen Psaki nor the reporters present bothered to raise the issue of Iraq.  How very telling. Iraq was also ignored at the White House press briefing by Josh Earnest today.  Please note, Ernest felt the need to touch on such 'pressing issues' as "some grilled chicken, some pasta jambalaya" and other nonsense but neither he nor the reporters present felt the need to mention Iraq.  Not everyone was silent on Iraq today.  One journalist had a conversation with himself on the topic.    Dan Murphy (Christian Science Monitor) played Socrates as he provided answers to a series of questions he asked himself:  We'll note this one.

Q: What are the political implications of the attacks for Iraq?

Maliki doesn't even lead a unified Shiite bloc in government. The political movement of the Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr frequently opposes Maliki's initiatives, and Maliki appeared to blame the Sadrists for assisting the Al Qaeda jailbreak in a television address. He said the guards who collaborated with the attackers were directed to do so by a militia linked to Mr. Sadr.
That claim is evidence of deep political tensions inside Iraq that have been threatening to boil over for months.

 While Dan Murphy aims high with the Socratic method, Alexander Besant takes Global Post into the gutter by seeking out the 'thoughts' of "Middle East analyst' Jared Levy. Levy's showboated stupidity can be seen in the following exchange:

What was the protest encampment in Hawija about and why did the government crack down so hard?

JL: I think the government made the decision to clear the protest camp for two reasons. First, it was a response to a recent incident of individuals connected to the protest movement in Hawija attacking security forces in the area. Second, at that phase of the protest movement, I think the central government wanted to take a stand that they weren’t going to allow sustained financially disruptive activity, such as permanent encampments, or protracted blocking of major highways.

 It should be noted that Besant is a big dumb ass for reprinting that garbage.  First off, Liar Levy (or maybe just stupid, he does seem to think that recent bachelor degree made him an expert on something) is referring to the April 23rd massacre  --  when Nouri's federal forces stormed a sit-in and killed adults and children.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault. UNICEF informed the world that 8 of the dead were children and twelve more children were left injured.  The world largely shrugged.

Let's deal with his claims and I'm not in the mood to spoon feed today.  He claims the massacre was a response to "individuals connected to the protest movement in Hawija attacking security forces in the area."  That is a claim.  It's not a convincing one.  The Friday before the Tuesday massacre, there was violence in Hawija.  Check that day's snapshot if you're late to the party.  One protester was killed.  By security forces.  Away from the protests, a figure seen darting through the street, would attack security forces (killing one).  That took place after the fact and away from the protest area.  The claim that it was a protester has never been established.

Second, Hawija, April 23rd, had to be stopped so Nouri could say they "weren't going to allow sustained financially disruptive activity, such as permanent encampments, or protected blockings of major highways"?  But they had already allowed just that.  Is Levy so ignorant that he's unware of that?  Has he never heard of Anbar Province?  Has he missed the blocking of the international highway in the seven months of protests?  A blocking that started months before the April 23rd massacre?

Nothing Levy says makes sense because he doesn't know the facts.  It's embarrassing.  It's also outrages that Global Post allows a massacre of a sit-in to be talked about in such terms.  Shame on them.  They have blood on their hands -- including the blood of children.  They allow idiot Levy to pontificate on how Sadr might respond -- "" -- which is only more problematic since Sadr called for protests against Nouri's handling of the security situation (mishandling) Sunday, July 21st -- not Sunday yesterday, two Sundays ago:

 All Iraq News notes cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr is calling for the people to protest the government's lack of response to the violence and sttes, "The silence of the people concerning the terrorist bombings, the people of other countries would revolt and call for toppling the government if their countries witnessed such bombings.  We witness strange silence over these bombings and we cannot grant the government another chance to improve the situation."

 The next day, World Bulletin interpreted Moqtada's statements as calling for the overthrow of Nouri al-Maliki.  A week later, 'expert' Levy shows up to tell the world that the worsening security situation might lead Moqtada to criticize Nouri.  What an idiot.  'Predicting' the past for too many years to count, Jared Levy.

As he provides cover for Nouri al-Maliki, Levy becomes an increasingly sidelined observer.  Today, the editorial board of the Guardian points out:

 But the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has proved to be a disastrous leader, subverting the constitution to concentrate power in his own hands, to exclude the Sunni minority and potentially to threaten the so far peaceful Kurdish north. The resulting Sunni backlash, exploited by al-Qaeda, is the background to the latest violence. The situation has been made worse by recent breakouts from the Abu Ghraib and Taji prisons, which returned veteran extremists to the fray and which suggest that the government may be as incompetent as it is dictatorial. Security, after all, is supposed to be Maliki's forte.

Over the weekend,  the Washington Post editorial board weighed in on Iraq noting:

But Iraq’s troubles are also due to the narrowly sectarian and quasi-authoritarian policies of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who prosecuted Sunni leaders in his own government and sent troops to attack a Sunni protest encampment.
[. . .]
The Obama administration has for too long offered nearly unqualified support to Mr. Maliki. 

The board goes on to note that Nouri should be informed that future weapons and military assistance is dependent upon his ability to get along with political rivals (they are more specific).These are suggestions that many have offered (including neocon Kimberly Kagan -- she was actually right on that and we gave her credit for being right on that).  The Minneapolis Star Tribune reposts the Post editorial today.

Meanwhile Laura Raymond and Leah Todd (Truthout) report on the possibility that Iraq might get a human rights hearing:

As toxins from US munitions and the burn pits the US military used to dispose of waste linger in Iraqi cities and villages, doctors and human rights advocates are reporting unprecedented and widespread medical problems in the population. In Fallujah, a doctor found that rising rates of birth defects were 14 times higher than the rates in Hiroshima and Nagasaki following the US nuclear bombings in 1945. Cancer rates in Iraq have doubled since 1995 and are 40 times what they were in 1991 before the first Gulf War.
 "We sent women from my organization to [the Iraqi town of Haweeja]. We were surprised to see hundreds of children that had birth disabilities. We see things in Iraq that we've never seen in our lives," Yanar Mohammed, president of the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq, told Democracy Now in March 2013. Yanar, whose organization works on a broad range of human rights issues in Iraq, has been documenting the sharp rise in serious birth defects and incidents of cancer in the aftermath of the Iraq War along with the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq (FWCUI), the country's second-largest labor network.

  Dar Addustour reports that an Iraqi military officer (Lt Gen Hamid) is being sent to Russia and the Ukraine to negotiate weapons . . . and goats.  That doesn't negate the editorial board's point (and Iraq would prefer weapons from the US -- goats, I'm not so sure of).

The violence has raised fears of a return to the full blown conflict in the country where

Turning to the US and the issue of the military and veterans.  First, Online Degrees.org has an article entitled "An Online College Guide for Veterans" -- that is not my endorsement of online degrees.  I can neither endorse nor condemn them, I know nothing about online colleges.  But that is a new resource and Ruth was asked to note it (in an e-mail to her).  She asked me if I knew anything about it and I don't but I told her I'd include it in the military and veterans section of the snapshot.  Still on the military, as early as tomorrow, Bradley Manning make get an answer regarding the outcome of his court-martial.  Court-martial for what?

Monday April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released  military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." In March, 2011, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. The Article 32 hearing took place in December. At the start of this year, there was an Article 32 hearing and, February 3rd, it was announced that the government would be moving forward with a court-martial. Bradley has yet to enter a plea. The court-martial was supposed to begin before the November 2012 election but it was postponed until after the election so that Barack wouldn't have to run on a record of his actual actions.  Independent.ie adds, "A court martial is set to be held in June at Ford Meade in Maryland, with supporters treating him as a hero, but opponents describing him as a traitor."  February 28th, Bradley admitted he leaked to WikiLeaks.  And why.

Bradley Manning:   In attempting to conduct counter-terrorism or CT and counter-insurgency COIN operations we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists and not being suspicious of and avoiding cooperation with our Host Nation partners, and ignoring the second and third order effects of accomplishing short-term goals and missions. I believe that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information contained within the CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A tables this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as [missed word] as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.
I also believed the detailed analysis of the data over a long period of time by different sectors of society might cause society to reevaluate the need or even the desire to even to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore the complex dynamics of the people living in the effected environment everyday.

For truth telling, Brad's being punished by the man who fears truth: Barack Obama.  A fraud, a fake, a 'brand,' anything but genuine, Barack is all marketing, all facade and, for that reason, must attack each and every whistle-blower.  David Delmar (Digital Journal) points out, "President Obama, while ostensibly a liberal advocate of transparency and openness in government, and of the 'courage' and 'patriotism' of whistleblowers who engage in conscientious leaks of classified information, is in reality something very different: a vindictive opponent of the free press willing to target journalists for doing their job and exposing government secrets to the public."

Chelsea J. Carter (CNN) offered this morning that Colonel Denise Lind, the military judge presiding over the court-martial, is expected to announce a verdict that will determine whether he's a disillusioned "idealist" or a "traitor" -- whistle-blowing doesn't enter into CNN's limited scope.  Lind refused to toss out the aiding the enemy charge (despite Amnesty International publicly calling the charge a "travesty" and urging that it be tossed).  If convicted only of that charge, Brad could spend his life in prison.   David Dishneau (AP) notes there are 20 other charges against Brad but that this is "the most serious."

This afternoon, Jake Miller (CBS News) reported that Col Denise Lind stated today that her verdict would likely be announced tomorrow.  9 News World adds, "The phase of Manning's court martial dedicated to determining his sentence could begin as early as Wednesday."

Amy Goodman (Democracy Now! -- link is text, audio and video) spoke with Michael Ratner (attorney and we'll have more on him in a moment) and journalist Alexa O'Brien.  One of the key moments (and there were many in the segment) was this:

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain—I was reading Charlie Savage’s piece in The New York Times, who described what was happening in the media center, talking about how the—let me see if I can find the words. "While Major Fein made his arguments, reporters watched the trial on a closed-circuit feed at the media center. Two military police officers in camouflage fatigues and armed [with holstered] handguns paced behind each row there, looking over the journalists’ shoulders, [which had not] happened during the trial. No explanation was given."
ALEXA O’BRIEN: You know, it’s interesting because I was here yesterday while the judge deliberated, and the commander came up to me—and I’m not allowed to name her, actually, or I could lose my press credentials. I can’t name any staff by their surname, etc. She told me that she was actually the media person responsible for all the images of Saddam Hussein’s capture and that those photographs were taken with her digital camera. So, she clearly understands how to manage the message. And that’s really central to this trial, is how Fort Meade has managed the message by the lack of public access to court documents, the subject matter expert, by the Military District of Washington, which is responsible for convening a fair and impartial trial for the accused, Bradley Manning. The first subject matter expert we had was a member of the prosecution. Nobody in the press pool knew that. It’s really what Mr. Ratner just spoke about, the fact that the prosecution wants to make sure that it makes the headlines, so it takes up a whole day of court and essentially squeezes any kind of press attention away from the defense. The fact of the matter is, is that if this trial were to be televised, if people could actually see Bradley Manning, see how earnest he is and how sincere a character and sympathetic a character he is, public opinion about this trial would change dramatically.
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, the fact that you’re at the headquarters of the National Security Agency, right—it’s right there at Fort Meade—and a military base, and talk about just the trouble you have with the Internet. And what is your ability to work? Describe what happens in the courtroom, in the media center. And can you go online at all there?
ALEXA O’BRIEN: We can no longer go online. The military—sorry, the Public Affairs Office here says it’s because of commercial Internet issues with Comcast. However, the fact of the matter is, is that we’re—we have to go outside in order to file. Let’s say something dramatic happens in the courtroom. We can’t tweet or publish anything, even send an email. We have to leave the media operations center, stand on the steps, open up our phone, which we’ve gotten out of our car, and then tweet something or, you know, email something or file something.
You know, we have to also look back. There was a period of almost eight months when it was just simply a small cadre of independent journalists, where we didn’t have a media operations center, where transcripts were pen and paper, and where we were trying to get out as much information as possible about a trial and motions related to aiding the enemy, whether or not the government was trying to craft an Official Secrets Act in this trial. It has been a completely surreal experience.

Lynne Stewart is a US political prisoner -- sentenced for the 'crime' of issuing a press release.  This Thursday, there will be a rally in San Francisco for Lynne:

Free Lynne Stewart Now!
Rally in Support of Activist lawyer and Guild Member Lynne Stewart
Thursday, August 1, Noon
Federal Building
7th & Mission in San Francisco
Send a message to Bureau of Prisons Director Charles E. Samuels Jr. that he must reverse his decision.
Link for this event on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/150549631807513/
Long-time National Lawyers Guild member and activist lawyer Lynne Stewart needs our help and she needs it now! The Federal Bureau of Prisons has denied Lynne Stewart’s application for compassionate release, despite recommendations in favor from the warden at her facility, the Regional Office Director, and vetting of Stewart’s release plans by the Federal Probation Office in New York.
Lynne Stewart’s condition is deteriorating rapidly. Medical treatment to arrest the cancer that is metastasizing in her body has been halted because she is too weak to receive it. She remains in isolation, as her white blood cell count is so low that she is at risk for generalized infection.
For over 30 years, Lynne Stewart devoted her life to the oppressed – a constant advocate for the countless many deprived in the United States of their freedom and their rights. She, herself, was targeted and prosecuted because she defended vigorously her unpopular clients – people the U.S. government sought to execute, disappear, and demonize. Read the rest of this entry »

On this week's Law and Disorder Radio,  an hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) topics addressed include Detroit, the late Henri Alleg and Lynne.  Lynne's husband Ralph Poynter joins the program to provide an update "Her spirits are great but her body is dying. [. . .] We're trying to get her home so that she can die around people who care about her.".  Since June 17th -- minus a few days for media interviews -- Ralph has been protesting outside the White House calling for his wife's release.  Lynne is 73-years-old, a grandmother, an attorney and a woman dealing with the return of cancer.  She was convicted of her 'crime' in her hometown of New York, New York

Heidi Boghosian:  Ralph, what's the status with Judge [John] Koeltl?  Has he been approached about this given the   --

Ralph Poynter:  Motions will go befor Judge Koeltl Friday to ask him to get involved.  We don't know what the results of this will be But it is the medical records.  We had to fight the Bureau of Prisons to get all of Lynne's medical records.  They insisted that -- They first told the lawyers that they had to go before the Freedom of Information Act to get Lynne's medical records.  Lynne wrote a personal letter saying that they should give up all of her medical records.

This is part of the petty games the prison system is playing with Lynne -- who is dying.  They've lied about the severity of her condition  -- Ralph notes one of the doctors treating her is fighting back and has written a letter about Lynne's health because, the doctor says, she is bound to  by ethics to tell the truth.  Heidi raised the issue of Koeltl because when he originally sentenced her, he noted that he did not want to give Lynne a death sentence.

Koeltl originally sentenced Lynne to 28 months.  That wasn't good enough for the Barack Obama Justice Department.  Lynne was re-sentenced to 10  years (July 15, 2010).  Under Bully Boy Bush, Lynne was allowed to remain at her home (and receive treatment for cancer) while she appealed the conviction.  Under Barack Obama, Lynne was forced into custody (November 19, 2009) and hauled off to prison.  That's where she remains today, the cancer is back, not a minor case, and she has limited time left.

 Lynne's 'crime' spans three administrations.  Her 'crime' took place during President Bill Clinton's second term.  Janet Reno was Attorney General.  Janet Reno looked into the matter, gave Lynne a slap on the wrist because Janet Reno had the brains to grasp that administrative measure is not a law and that breaking it by issuing a press release is not a crime.  So that was that.

And then the Supreme Court put Bully Boy Bush into the White House and he made John Ashcroft Attorney General.  Ashcroft's most important act was going after Lynne.  Maybe that's why 9-11 happened?  Maybe if Ashcroft had paid attention to actual issues, 9-11 wouldn't have happened?  Who knows?  But he made it his life's work to go after Lynne because Lynne is the people's attorney who spent her career taking the defendants no one else wanted.  Maybe they couldn't pay the big bill or maybe they were too 'controversial' -- but Lynne took them on and fought for them and gave them the strong defense that the US legal system demands.

For that she was punished.  One of the lies about Barack that the Cult of St. Barack whispered in 2008, trying to drum up support for the corporatist War Hawk, was that, as the son of a Black male and White female, and as a Constitutional law 'professor,' Barack would rush to free Lynne. (Lynne is White. Her husband Ralph is African-American.)

Back then, I said Barack wouldn't do anything for Lynne.

I was right.  But I was wrong in that I didn't anticipate that he would do everything against Lynne that he could.  While he wouldn't help her, he and his administration went out of their way to penalize her -- again, she is taken into custody not under Bully Boy Bush.  She was convicted in February 2005.  Bully Boy Bush, for all his many faults and crimes, did not insist Lynne be taken into custody.  She was not a security threat to anyone and she was being treated for cancer and she was appealing the conviction.  So Bush let her remain at her residence in 2005, in 2006, in 2007 and in 2008.  It's only after January 2009, when Barack is sworn in, that Lynne's ordered to surrender.  And it is only after Barack is sworn in that Lynne gets resentenced (from 28 months to ten years).

Lynne could be out now.  But as Stephen Lendman (People's Voice) noted months ago, "Obama Wants Lynne Stewart Dead:"

Lynne's 73.  She's gravely ill.
Obama killed Chavez.  He wants Lynne dead.  Unjustifiable longterm imprisonment assures it.
She's a breast cancer survivor.  It reemerged.  It's spreading.
She's dying.  Vital life-saving treatment is delayed or denied.  Expert private care can save her.  She needs it now.

In the February 7, 2013 snapshot, we became the first to float compassionate release:

Lynne's now served over 38 months in prison.  Her original sentence was 28 months.  Stephen Lendman (San Franciso Bay View) explains, "She requested transfer to a New York hospital. She's been successfully treated there before.  She was denied."  Brenda Ryan (Workers World) reports, "The re-emergence of Stewart's cancer was first detected in a PET scan.  [Lynn and Ralph's daughter Dr. Zenobia] Brown noted that it took two months from the time of the scan until Stewart was able to see a doctor.  Stewart's hands and feet are shackled every time she goes to the hospital.  While there she is cruelly shackled to a bedpost by her ankle and wrist."  This is ridiculous.  She's served the original sentence.  She's now dealing with cancer again.  She needs to focus on her treatment.  She cannot do that behind bars.  She is a 73-year-old woman who has never been a threat to herself or others, she needs a medical release right now.  The US Justice Dept allows what is known as a "compassionate release" and it includes criteria such as "extraordinary or compelling circumstances which could not reasonably have been foreseen by the court at the time of sentencing."  That would include the return of Lynne's cancer.  There is no risk to the public in Lynne being released under a "compassionate release."  It is in Lynne's best interest for her to be released, it is in the government's best interest to release her.  On the latter, as University of California San Francisco's Dr. Brie Williams pointed out, "Current compassionate release guidelines are failing to identify seriously ill prisoners who no longer pose a threat to society, placing huge financial burdens on state budgets and contributing to the national crisis of prison overcrowding."

The idea came up because, earlier that day, I had been debating Lynne with a friend in the administration and, as he insisted that there was nothing that they could do if they wanted to do something, I flashed on compassionate release.  Guess what?

The pressure has to be on Barack.  The friend (who heads a Cabinet) agreed that with the cancer Lynne could get that release if -- IF -- there was pressure on the White House.

So please stop making excuses for Barack.  Stop being Michael Smith whining about Bush and Bush's family.  When you talk about Lynne, talk about Barack.  If he feels pressure or shame, he may demand Lynne's release.  Again, before there was a petition for Lynne to get a compassionate release, before there was a movement, the idea came up because of a conversation with a Cabinet head about what was happening to Lynne and how she was suffering.  A compassionate release, the Cabinet head agreed, was possible but only if Barack felt pressure.  The movement behind Lynne has not done enough in the months since to put the pressure on Barack.  If they had, I wouldn't have to be going over the February conversation (which will probably tick off my friend but Lynne's days are limited so I'm putting it out there).

The pressure needs to be on Barack.  This is a 73-year-old woman who owns no gun, used no gun in any crime, has no history of violence and made her life's work about being The People's Attorney.  Her cancer has returned.  She can't be treated adequately in prison.  And it breaks my heart to say this, but she's probably got 12 months if that left to live.  Lynne needs to be home with her family and that's not going to happen with the same tactics of "call for her release but blame Bush!"

Bush isn't in the White House (thank heaven).  Barack is.  That's who can act and that's who needs to be forced into acting and who can be forced into acting.

The hosts of Law and Disorder provide three phone numbers to call to advocate for a compassionate prison release for Lynne.

Please call to push for Lynne’s release from prison.
  • U.S. Bureau of Prisons Director Charles E. Samuels – 202-307-3198  Ext. 3
  • U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder – 202-514-2001
  • President Barack Obama – 202-456-1111