Saturday, January 31, 2015

Alan Grayson embarrasses, Michelle Obama succeeds

One of the things I hote most about this site -- in addition to the time consuming nature -- are all the whiny phone calls.

Why didn't I note this, why didn't I include that?

A friend is a big backer of Alan Grayson.

I don't mind the US House Rep.  We've noted him before.  We've called him out when necessary.  We've included him in positive ways.

I like Alan personally.

And while we have noted Alan's campaign mailings, we don't note all of them.

He has a new one that was e-mailed to the public site a little over an hour ago (1 hour and five minutes, as I type this).

We're on the mailing list, as my friend knows.

Apparently, I was supposed to drop everything -- I'm at a party right now, we'll get back to that -- and re-post the e-mail.

The one that I didn't even know had come in -- until the angry phone call of why was I ignoring Alan!

Most friends who do stuff like that at least wait 24 hours before they call.

We're not posting Alan's piece.

Not because my friend yelled at me -- I'm more than capable of yelling back.

But because I'm a feminist and it's not my job to promote sexist trash.

That is Bill Maher.

And, as I said on the phone to my friend, I also question the value in Alan promoting Maher when Marher is seen -- rightly or wrongly, make up your own mind -- as anti-Arab and anti-Muslim.

I'm not really sure what tiny tent Bill Maher brings with him in terms of support.

To which I got crap about 'It's all about feminism with you  --"

Well, I am a feminist.

But anti-Muslim and anti-Arab?

You're just going to ignore those issues?

So I got off the phone and excused myself to use my host's laptop to read the Alan e-mail (which I hadn't read before announcing it would not go up here  -- Bill Maher praise is enough to mean it won't go up here).

And there I found more problems.

And had to stream a documentary online.

First off, Alan: Tell your staff to stop using CRAPAPEDIA!

It's run by idiots and liars (and, yes, sexists).

And you and your office are idiots for putting in lies (that you got from Crapapedia).:

This is the same Sinclair that ran a libelmercial in 2010 claiming that President Obama had urged African-Americans to "kill some crackers."

Crappedia certainly says that was in the documentary:

  Obama said in a speech, "You want freedom? You’re gonna have to kill some crackers! You gonna have to kill some of those babies."

That's an outright lie.

It goes to the lack of standards at 'Wikipedia' (it's Crapapedia, we've told you that for years).

Crapapedia posts the lie, Alan Grayson's office runs with it.

The line was stated by a group of Barack supporters who attempted voter intimidation.

It was controversial (a) because it was caught on camera and (b) because threats made to prevent people from voting are illegal and Eric Holder refused to prosecute.

Now you can think whatever you want about that.

But the special did not claim that Barack said it.

The special featured the man who said it saying those words on camera.

So Crapapedia needs to stop lying and Alan Grayson's staff needs to learn how to actually do some work.

After streaming the documentary and seeing that was not what was said, I wondered how did this lie take root?

As with most lies, Democratic Underground.

That's where the lie is first populated -- long after the special aired.

In real time?

Even Think Progress, disputing the documentary (which is bad propaganda), got it right.  From Brad Johnson's November 1, 2010 article (the documentary aired in November 2010):

“Obama’s science czar, John Holdren, has publicly advocated that trees be allowed to sue us in court, that we should engage in drastic population control by implementing forced abortions and sterilization, and that we should design a global regime to redistribute wealth.”
“During the 2008 campaign, President Obama pretended to turn his back on some extremists from his past. ‘You want freedom? You’re gonna have to kill some crackers! You gonna have to kill some of those babies!'”


End of excerpt.

I'm leaving Johnson's bolding in place.

Think Progress appears to be questioning John Holdren supporting forced abortions and sterilizations based on the fact that Brad Johnson has those in bold.

I have a life, I don't have time to check that out.  Johnson's piece is a strong one so I will assume he got that right if he's questioning it.

But Crapapedia tells you:

The special also discusses Obama advisers Van Jones and John Holdren, as well as Obama staff Anita DunnKevin JenningsCarol Browner, and Cass Sunstein—all in an unflattering light; in one case, the special claimed that Holdren said that trees should be permitted to sue humans in court. 

Holdren did not say that.

He wrote it.

He co-wrote it in Ecoscience: Population, Resources, Environment.

He was actually quoting -- and, by his wording, endorsing -- Christopher D. Stone from his Should Trees Have Standing?

Holdren did endorse and support Stone's view.

Now maybe he was being controversial -- something Maher always tries to be -- or maybe philosophical or playing devil's advocate or what have you.  But it is quoted in the book he co-wrote and the book endorses Stone's belief.

I don't understand why Crapapedia gets away with this nonsense repeatedly.

But by completely distorting what the documentary actually presents, they give credence to the documentary because when you lie to take down someone you're really just endorsing them because no one's going to believe since you've lied.

Brad Johnson didn't have to lie to take down the documentary.

Having now streamed it, I can't believe anyone would have to lie to take it down.

Crapapedia says:

The infomercial painted Obama as an extremist, and claimed that, during the 2008 presidential campaign, he received some campaign money from the Hamas terrorist group, 

Here's what the special said, via Brad Johnson:

“During his presidential election, he wound up with a record-shattering $750 million in his campaign. To this day he refuses to report from whence it came. One reason might be that some of it originated from the terrorist group Hamas, which also endorsed Obama.”


The wording of that third sentence is weasely. (The passage is from the documentary, it's not Brad Johnson's writing.)

Hamas did endorse Barack.

Make of that what you will or won't.

Did Barack receive money from Hamas?

That's a charge that can't be established.

Questions were rightly raised by news outlets about the online donating process and how it did allow foreigners to donate to the US election -- which is against the law.

The Barack campaign stated they returned funds whenever they were aware the money came from outsiders.

I have no reason to doubt that they did.

They did, however, lack proper screening for online donations.

This was said to have been addressed after the primaries.

Could Hamas have donated?


But there's no proof that they did.

There's no proof that, if they had donated, Barack would have known about it.

It was a weasel charge and the documentary's full of them -- cases in which careful wording implies something happened and/or was proven when that wasn't the case.

And Bill Maher is a weasel as well, he does not tell the truth as Alan Grayson tries to insist.

Hatred of women is not the truth.

Tongue bathing Barack is not the truth.

Bill Maher was a Libertarian but decided he was a Democrat when Barack first ran for the presidency.

He has repeatedly failed to hold Barack accountable in the limited ways that his commentaries and statements held Bully Boy Bush accountable.

Let's move over to First Lady Michelle Obama.

Friday, she made some remarks on American Sniper.

I thought they were wise remarks (a) with regards to the film and (b) with regards to connecting with veterans.

I thought (and continue to hope) this may mean the next two years won't be about Michelle as wife-of or national scold.

The country doesn't need to be told how to eat by anyone.

We all have to eat and anyone telling us how is going to look like a scold.

Nancy Reagan said "Just Say No" and endured jokes as a result.  But at the end of the day, she was referring to drugs and telling children to say "no" so most could support that message.

What we eat is very personal.

Equally true, it also has to do with how much money we make, with where we live and our access to fresh produce.

Anyone positioning themselves as the voice of what America must eat is going to be seen as a scold.

I have no idea why they chose to make that Michelle's issue.

It was sheer stupidity.

And, no, it wasn't her issue.

It was the issue certain 'experts' were sure would win her approval.

Instead, she's still attacked for it and most aren't defending her because it's such a stupid issue.  You are never going to win people over with issues that touch on what you should eat.

Michelle, at one point, had a speech where she noted the benefits of drinking water and a campaign that asked you to drink a glass more of water a day or even eat one more fresh fruit or vegetable a week would have had more luck succeeding.

Instead, to some she came off bossy, to some she came off out of touch, etc.

She is far from perfect (true of me, true of most people on this earth) but she has had a very rough road to walk because some of her biggest 'helpers' are such idiots.  (Valerie Jarrett, to her credit, did warn that the food campaign could hurt Michelle's likability -- but when men are in the room, they just know everything, don't they?).

With the earlier event this week (Saudi Arabia) and with Friday's remarks, it gives me hope that she's going to pursue issues she really cares about.

(Food was pushed off on her because it was 'a woman's issue' and the male advisors felt Michelle came off "too strong" and this would soften her.  Never try to soften a strong woman, celebrate her.  Celebrate her strength and you'll see a lot of Americans joining you in that.)

An actress friend who is tight with Michelle phoned to insist that I was ignoring Michelle and all she'd done this week.

Do I do the "Michelle Obama snapshot" five times a week?


More to the point, where am I right now?

I'm at an industry party advocating for a friend whose nominated for a supporting Academy Award and for a Best Picture that is not American Sniper.

I have friends who produced and directed an amazing film, a film I'm honestly in love with.  Their film is what I am campaigning for.

Now were I the Weinsteins, this would mean I would attack every other film, spread negative lies about the other nominees, etc.

I haven't done that to American Sniper.  And I've written that I truly believe Bradley Cooper's performance is worthy of the Academy Award.

I have twice defended the film here in lengthy pieces.

Ava and I did two pieces at Third defending the film.

Again, I won't be voting for it and I'm not campaigning for it.

It is not my job to promote it.

While being more than fair to American Sniper, I have not once used this site or Third to promote the film -- its name has never appeared here or at Third.

If people are unhappy with what's up here, please start your own website.

I mean that not just in a "Leave me alone!" manner but also because you should have your own.  We need more opinions, we need diversity.  We do not need conformity.

Equally true, our rebel stance of 2004 and 2005 is probably old hat now and fresh blood is more than sorely needed.

In terms of Michelle, let me close this entry out on her.

They tried to put her in a box early in the primary campaign.

By the 2008 DNC convention, she was lost and over managed.

You saw someone scared to express themselves.

(Some will argue it was because of the 'for the first time . . .' remark.  More was made of that remark in the Barack campaign than by the press.  She was offered feedback that I said then and say now was actually bullying -- I'm referring to feedback from Barack's advisors.)

The advisors and press then tried to turn a grown woman into a fashion model.

That was beyond stupid.

Then came the scold.

And in the last years the best term for her would be "adrift."

This week, my opinion, belongs to Michelle Obama.

She got a chance to demonstrate why she does have loyal fans and why she's inspired people.

I'm not talking about as First Lady.

Michelle had many admirers before 2007.

She had those because she has skill, she has strength and she's very smart.

This week, she had a chance to show that side of herself and, except for some carping from Ronan Farrow's idiotic MSNBC show, America was impressed -- as we all should be.

Hopefully, the next two years for Michelle will be about that.  Being herself, showing her comfort in who she is and what she believes.

And rejecting any efforts to silence her own voice which is a pretty amazing voice when she actually gets to use it.

And let me quickly note these four non-community sites because I probably won't be online again tonight:

  •   The e-mail address for this site is



    Iraq snapshot

    Saturday, January 31, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Shi'ite militias have better weapons than the Iraqi military (guess who provided them), killing journalists continues to go unpunished in Iraq, we remember activist, journalist and martyr Hadi al-Mahdi whose assassin still roams free in Iraq, the White House publicly argues that Barack sending combat troops into Iraq is a private issue between Congressional Democrats and Republicans, the State Dept continues to fail at diplomacy in Iraq, and much more.

    Six months into US President Barack Obama's 'plan' for saving Iraq from violence, the violence continues.  Margaret Griffis ( counts 197 dead from violence on Friday with another forty-one left injured.  And already today, Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports Baghdad and surrounding areas have been slammed with bombings resulting in 9 deaths and twenty-five people injured.

    US President Barack Obama: Good afternoon, everybody.  I just met with my national security team to discuss the situation in Iraq.  We’ve been meeting regularly to review the situation since ISIL, a terrorist organization that operates in Iraq and Syria, made advances inside of Iraq.  As I said last week, ISIL poses a threat to the Iraqi people, to the region, and to U.S. interests.  So today I wanted to provide you an update on how we’re responding to the situation.
    First [. . .]
    American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq, but we will help Iraqis as they take the fight to terrorists who threaten the Iraqi people, the region, and American interests as well.
    [. . .]
    I want to emphasize, though, that the best and most effective response to a threat like ISIL will ultimately involve partnerships where local forces, like Iraqis, take the lead. 
    Finally, the United States will lead a diplomatic effort to work with Iraqi leaders and the countries in the region to support stability in Iraq.  At my direction, Secretary Kerry will depart this weekend for meetings in the Middle East and Europe, where he’ll be able to consult with our allies and partners.  And just as all Iraq’s neighbors must respect Iraq’s territorial integrity, all of Iraq’s neighbors have a vital interest in ensuring that Iraq does not descend into civil war or become a safe haven for terrorists.
    Above all, Iraqi leaders must rise above their differences and come together around a political plan for Iraq’s future.  Shia, Sunni, Kurds -- all Iraqis -- must have confidence that they can advance their interests and aspirations through the political process rather than through violence.  National unity meetings have to go forward to build consensus across Iraq’s different communities.  Now that the results of Iraq’s recent election has been certified, a new parliament should convene as soon as possible.  The formation of a new government will be an opportunity to begin a genuine dialogue and forge a government that represents the legitimate interests of all Iraqis.

    Now, it’s not the place for the United States to choose Iraq’s leaders.  It is clear, though, that only leaders that can govern with an inclusive agenda are going to be able to truly bring the Iraqi people together and help them through this crisis.  Meanwhile, the United States will not pursue military options that support one sect inside of Iraq at the expense of another.  There’s no military solution inside of Iraq, certainly not one that is led by the United States.  But there is an urgent need for an inclusive political process, a more capable Iraqi security force, and counterterrorism efforts that deny groups like ISIL a safe haven.

    That's Barack speaking on June 19th.

    First off, please note, there's been no serious updates from Barack in the time since.  Starting in August, US tax payers on the hook for over a billion dollars because of Barack's 'response' to the Islamic State.  Despite spending billions of tax payer dollars, the White House hasn't felt the need to seriously address Iraq -- it was but a brief aside, one sentence, in Barack's State of the Union Address last week -- despite the fact that this Constitutionally mandated speech required Barack to address the issue of Iraq.

    The State Dept's also failing to address it.  I was asked Friday if I'd organized a veterans lobby?  Huh?  This week, the State Dept's online surveys have resulted in one slam after another from self-identified veterans of the Iraq War noting that the daily press briefings have ignored Iraq repeatedly.  No, I had nothing to do with that.  But how out of touch is the State Dept with American citizens -- including veterans -- that when their own surveys reveal the public is appalled that they're refusing to update daily on Iraq, the State Dept's natural assumption is to assume it must be a conspiracy and not, in fact, a true reflection of public attitudes.

    Let's emphasize this from the speech:

    Finally, the United States will lead a diplomatic effort to work with Iraqi leaders and the countries in the region to support stability in Iraq.  At my direction, Secretary Kerry will depart this weekend for meetings in the Middle East and Europe, where he’ll be able to consult with our allies and partners.  And just as all Iraq’s neighbors must respect Iraq’s territorial integrity, all of Iraq’s neighbors have a vital interest in ensuring that Iraq does not descend into civil war or become a safe haven for terrorists.

    Where's that diplomatic effort?

    As noted Friday morning, some feel I should have covered the passage of the Iraqi budget in Thursday's snapshot.

    This morning Alsumaria has published it in PDF format and, at some point today, I will try to read it.  Prior to that, it's a sentence: Iraq passed a budget worth $150 billion US dollars. Saif Hameed (Reuters) has that here.
    Considering the way programs to rebuild Iraq were being slashed when oil was at a high, I can't imagine that the programs didn't suffer even more as the oil prices dropped.
    That's what the story of the budget's about: Where the money is going.
    That is passed is meaningless without knowing that.

    Reuters has published another piece here -- the last part notes some budget issues.  I'm not talking about the budget, I haven't read it.  I haven't had the time.  I also haven't to sleep since I woke up Friday morning.  I do have a life.  (There may be a piece tonight responding to flack from United Nations' friends over Thursday's snapshot, there may not be.  I listened to their whines repeatedly yesterday.  It's whining.  We may do something here tonight on the UN, the CIA, etc.)

    But the budget . . .

    I don't work for the US government (or the UN), I don't take orders from them.

    I don't work for Reuters either.

    Reuters did their job reporting, from Iraq, that the budget had passed and noting that former prime minister (and forever thug) Nouri al-Maliki never was able to pass a 2014 budget.

    The news agency spends a lot of money to cover Iraq, they did their job and justified the money spent.

    But more money is being spent by the American taxpayer on Iraq right now than by Reuters.

    Again, the price tags for just the time since August is over a billion (some of that is Syria-related costs as well).

    The American public, footing the bill, is not seeing a return on their dollar for this huge expenditure.

    Not in terms of information.

    What has been the US government's response to the budget passing?

    There's been no statement released by the White House.  There's been no read out of a phone call the president or Vice President Joe Biden had with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi congratulating him on the budget passing.

    The State Dept?

    They've had three press briefings to address it and have never even noted it.

    They've issued no statement on it.

    In fact, the administration's entire response to the budget passing is right here:

    : Congratulations to Parliament 4 approving 2015 budget. Important in bringing transparency & control over national finances
    38 retweets27 favorites

    The State Dept's Brett McGurk re-Tweeted UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov's Tweet on the budget.

    That's it.

    That's everything.

    Now maybe, like me, they wanted to read the budget before commenting?  Maybe they've also heard that the budget allegedly slashed, for example, the already small amount of aid the Iraqi government provides to the challenged/disabled communities?

    I don't know.

    I do know that it's kind of the State Dept's job to spin.  They're not engaged in honesty, they're engaged in deception and spin and that's not a development that arrived when Barack was first  sworn in  as president (January 2009) but a hallmark of the department for decades.

    So it's yet again very telling that when the State Dept does have something they could spin, they're more interested in ignoring it.  Brett, for example, confuses missiles with his own cock and can't stop drooling over the ability of these bombs to destroy.

    That is what he repeatedly Tweets about.  For example:

    CENTCOM confirms death of experienced chemical weapons engineer Abu Maliki in an airstrike near earlier this week.
    46 retweets29 favorites

    He never has any diplomacy Tweets, does he?

    In fairness to Brett, a recent Tweet did note the German Parliament . . . authorizing troops to be sent into Iraq.

    Like John Kerry, Brett's thinks he's working for the Defense Dept.

    I think the two are suffering from severe cases of Pentagon envy.

    And they're helping to destroy Iraq in the process.

    Alsumaria reports Haider al-Abadi had some curious statements to make.

    In supposedly inclusive Iraq, Haider's declared free speech does not include making comments about the Prophet Muhammad.

    Reality: Free speech does allow everyone and anyone to critique, mock, denigrate any religious symbol or figure they desire.

    But set reality aside because Iraq's not going to have free speech today, tomorrow or in the next five years.

    If Haider wanted to make the comments and wanted to be inclusive, he would have said that was true of comments about religious figures from the Christian faith, the Jewish faith, the Buddhist faith, the Baha'i faith, etc.  And, of those just listed, it would have been including the Baha'i that would have been the most controversial.  For those late to the party, they can reference Ali Mamouri's 2013 report for Al-Monitor which includes:

      Ever since its establishment, the Baha'i religion has been facing pressure and persecution in the Middle East at large, and in Iraq in particular. Many of its followers have been killed and its holy sites destroyed. Baha'is have been subjected to investigations and persecution during different periods. A number of provocative writings have been produced against Baha'is, supporting violence against them. They have been accused of a variety of charges, ranging from undermining religion to preaching atheism, pornography and being the fruit of colonialism and Zionism, and the list goes on.
    There are no official statistics on Baha'is in Iraq, and their exact number remains unknown due to adherents’ fear of revealing their identities. Al-Monitor’s correspondent met with a number of Baha’is in Baghdad and Sulaimaniyah in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region. However, none of those interviewed gave statistics on their numbers, due to their dispersion as a result of the intense fear of being oppressed by both the authorities and ordinary citizens. However, Baha'is in Sulaimaniyah feel safer and have greater stability than their brothers in Baghdad, although they abstain from openly practicing their faith for the above-mentioned reasons.
    During the royal era, however, Baha'is managed to officially declare their identity. The Iraqi Baha'i community was founded in 1931, the first central Baha'i forum was established in 1936 in the al-Sa’doun region and they have possessed a cemetery in the New Baghdad district since 1952 known as the “eternal garden.” The Iraqi government registered the Baha'i religion in the 1957 census.
    Restrictions on Baha’is started to gradually spread following the fall of the monarchy, until the repression reached its peak during the reign of the Baath regime. The regime issued a set of decisions against Baha'is in 1970, and published them in the Official Gazette of Iraq. Under these decisions, the Baha'i religion was officially banned and Baha'is were deprived of all their property and forbidden from registering their religion in civil records. Furthermore, they were ordered to delete references to the Baha’i faith from existing records and replace them with one of the three officially recognized Abrahamic religions. Subsequently, a large number of adherents were imprisoned and many Baha’i political and religious followers were sentenced to death in the late 1970s.
    The above risks led Baha'is to either completely close themselves off or emigrate from Iraq. Despite the openness that followed the fall of deposed president Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003, Baha'is in Iraq are still hiding, living in fear of declaring their social identity and preferring not to practice their religion in public.

    If Barack's June speech had any meaning at all, the diplomatic effort the US government is supposed to be pursuing would include defending the religious minorities.

    Or do the Baha'i have to be trapped on a mountain to get noticed by the US government?

    Let's return to the issue of free speech.

    Haider's presented himself as an advocate of it.

    He's earned applause from segments of the world press (and from segments of the Iraqi press) for a lot of blah-blah, hollow and b.s. statements about freedom of the press.

    As we noted then, it's real easy to offer that sop when you're getting good press.  Whether Haider is a defender of the press or not will only emerge when he faces criticism -- strong criticism -- in the press.

    When that happens, he might turn out to be a bigger enemy of the press than, for example, Adm William Fallon's bitchy attack on the press.

    We covered the hearing in Tuesday's snapshot,   Wally covered it with "The threat from the Islamic State (Wally)," Ava covered it with "Naming the prettiest and the ugliest members of the Senate Armed Services Committee (Ava)" and Kat with "Sequestration."

    A few e-mails have suggested I "fact check" two outlets who ran with "US generals" in their coverage of the hearing.  Fallon is not a general.

    Did the outlets get it wrong?


    Two generals did testify: Gen John Keane and Gen  James Mattis (they and Fallon are all retired, FYI).  It wasn't wrong to say "generals" testified because two did.  Most likely, not including Fallon in their headlines or in their opening paragraph was a response to his trashing of the press -- in response to a question that had nothing to do with the press.

    Act like a bitch and the press will respond in kind.

    Thursday, Human Rights Watch issued their [PDF format warning] 25th annual World Report which, as usual, is a wealth of information about the world.  We'll be noting the report repeatedly in the next week or so -- not just Thursday and not just today.  This is an important report and should not be reduced -- as it already has been by the press -- to a one day news cycle.

    On the issue of the press, the report notes:

    The Committee to Protect Journalists named Iraq the “worst nation” on its 2014 Impunity Index of unsolved journalist murders, noting that a resurgence of armed groups “propelled a spike” in journalist killings.
    The government-run Communications and Media Commission issued “mandatory” guidelines on June 18 to regulate media “during the war on terror.” Article 1 forbids media from broadcasting or publishing material that “may be interpreted as being against the security forces” and instead requires that they “focus on the security achievements of the armed forces, by repetition throughout the day.” This includes “praising the heroic acts of security personnel.”
    On June 21, the commission wrote to a media outlet that reported critically about the government, warning that “if this kind of broadcasting is repeated” the commission would revoke their license. On June 24, Egypt’s broadcast regulator barred two privately owned Iraqi television stations based in Cairo from access to Egypt’s main satellite system, after Egyptian officials received complaints from Baghdad about the stations’ content. According to a staff member of one of the channels, Al-Baghdadiyya, 16 police officers came to the station’s Baghdad office around June 20, beat two guards so badly that they required hospitalization, and confiscated some of the station’s equipment.

    On June 13, the central and Kurdish regional governments separately blocked social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Skype, and YouTube, and in some places tried to block the Internet completely. The government lifted the ban intermittently throughout the rest of the year.      

    Not everyone feels Haider's statements have been hollow.  That's fine and their entitled to express that.  We're about to note one person who does.  Dirk Adriaensens has an important article on the issue entitled "Iraq: Media professionals assassinated in 2014." (BRussells Tribunal) and this is the opening:

    On January 7, 2015, the  Xinhua press Agence reported  that 14 journalists were killed in Iraq in 2014, citing the Iraqi Journalists’ Syndicate:
    “A total of 14 journalists were killed in the violence-ridden Iraq last year, an Iraqi journalists' body said on Tuesday.
    The latest body count brings the death toll of journalists in the Middle East country to 406 since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
    "Some media organizations and houses of journalists were not safe from some abuses, whether by security forces or by unidentified parties," said a report made by the Iraqi Journalists' Syndicate.
    According to the report, more than 23 offenses had been registered against the journalists during the year, ranging from assassination attempts, detaining, beating and raids on their headquarters and houses to prevent them from reporting.
    Such killings and other offenses came despite some positive indicators in general, like growing openness shown by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's new Iraqi government toward the freedom of the journalistic work, including his decision to drop all pending government lawsuits against journalists and media outlets.
    The prevailing atmosphere of democracy, which greatly enhanced the freedom of expression, in addition to the official and popular support to the journalists, were not enough to prevent the series of violence against the journalists, making the journalistic work in Iraq fraught with risks, the report added.“
    The Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) lists only 6 of these victims in its database. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) lists only 4 killed media profesionals.

    Question: Why do these organizations not contact their partners of the Journalists’ syndicate? Year after year after year both CPJ and RSF persevere in their evil course of downgrading the number of assassinated colleagues. Read: 2013: Another year of slaughter in Iraq claims the lives of at least 21 media professionals

    Again, that's the opening.

    My own personal observation on this topic?  Reporters Without Borders will, if pressured, respond.  The Committee to Protect Journalists just doesn't give a damn.  That's reality, that's based on when I used to spend hours screaming on the phone to friends at both -- and noted that here as we covered this issue seriously.  CPJ just doesn't care.  If you can yell loud enough and build a strong enough case, you can move -- or shame -- Reporters Without Borders into adding an Iraqi journalist to the list of those killed.

    And since we don't cover the topic regularly now -- good in that two Fridays mornings ago, we would have run with 3 journalists killed in Diyala which was later that day corrected to have been one journalist -- I should probably restate our position: You are an Iraqi journalist if you are working in journalism.  'Media driver' or 'media assistant' or anything else is meaningless.  The western press, for example, depended on these 'media assistants' for the reports.  Most of the western reporters rarely left the Green Zone. (Or, if they did, they were like Nancy A. Youssef -- only leaving the Green Zone with  US military transportation as they went to a US military base.  As Baghdad was facing extensive ethnic cleansing in 2007, Nancy 'reported' on it without being present.  She's far from the only one.  But her reports were so one-sided, we called them out in real time and we'll note her now.)  Iraqis put themselves at risk for western outlets, they deserve to be called reporters and journalists.  Iraqis working for Iraqi outlets are even more at risk.  "Media professionals" is a fair title.  But I prefer "journalists" or "reporters" because that's what they're doing even if they're not getting bylines for it.

    Now if Haider really cares about journalism, it would be easy for him to prove it.

    He could ensure that those who killed journalists were punished for their crimes.

    He could start with a serious investigation into the assassination of Hadi al-Mahdi.

    The Iraq journalist and activist was a part of the Baghdad protests.

    He and other journalists were kidnapped by Nouri's forces after they had covered a protest -- they were a restaurant, eating on the outdoor patio, when they were hauled off in broad daylight.  They were then physically beaten and threatened with worse if they continued to cover the protests.

    Hadi continued to cover the protests and months later was assassinated in his own home,

    Dropping back to the September 8, 2011 snapshot:

    In Iraq, a journalist has been murdered.  In addition to being a journalist, he was also a leader of change and part of the movement to create an Iraq that was responsive to Iraqis. 
    Al Mada reports Iraqi journalist Hadi al-Mahdi is dead according to an Interior Ministry source who says police discovered him murdered in his Baghdad home.  Along with being a journalist, Al Mada notes he was one of the chief organizers of the demonstrations demanding change and service reform that began on February 25th -- the day he was arrested by Iraqi security forces and beaten in broad daylight as he and others, after the February 25th protest, were eating in a restaurant. The New York Times didn't want to tell you about, the Washington Post did.  And now the man is dead. Gee, which paper has the archives that matter to any real degree.  Maybe it's time to act like a newspaper and not a "news magazine" with pithy little human interest stories?  (That is not a dig at Tim Arango but at the paper's diva male 'reporter' who went on NPR to talk of an Iraqi college this week.)  So while the Times missed the story (actaully, they misled on the story -- cowtowing to Nouri as usual),  Stephanie McCrummen (Washington Post) reported:

    Four journalists who had been released described being rounded up well after they had left a protest at Baghdad's Tahrir Square. They said they were handcuffed, blindfolded, beaten and threatened with execution by soldiers from an army intelligence unit.
    "It was like they were dealing with a bunch of al-Qaeda operatives, not a group of journalists," said Hussam al-Ssairi, a journalist and poet, who was among a group and described seeing hundreds of protesters in black hoods at the detention facility. "Yesterday was like a test, like a picture of the new democracy in Iraq."

    All this time later, there's no one that's been arrested.

    It was a hit, it was an assassination and it was carried out with the cooperation of the Baghdad police force and could have only been done on the orders of Nouri al-Maliki (my opinion, feel free to disagree).

    It should be easy, even now, to determine who killed Hadi because his apartment complex had street cameras recording everything.

    So just pull up the footage and --

    Oh, wait, you can't.

    On the day he was assassinated, the cameras were killed.

    Working the day prior.

    Working the day after.

    Just not on the day he was assassinated.

    As I've noted before, Hadi was kind enough to gently correct me on an issue I had wrong here on the protests.  (No one has to correct me gently -- if I'm wrong, e-mail me and show me where it is -- there are thousands of entries at this site, specify which one -- but that's the kind of person that Hadi was.)  And we exchanged e-mails occasionally after that.  As the protest movement was gearing back up, he was warned by friends that were stepping away from it for safety reasons that he could be targeted again by the government and that, as the threats were stated months prior, they wouldn't be beaten, they'd be killed.

    In the e-mails, he made light of that which might have been how he took it or it might have been his trying not to be intimidated, I don't know.  But he was very clear that if Nouri was going to kill him it would be for covering something -- the protests, the government corruption, etc.  He didn't feel there was safety in silence and, more importantly, he felt a democratic Iraq was worth fighting for.

    And that's why he was assassinated.

    And those who participated in the protest movement remember him.  His name was evoked when it restarted in December 2013.  And his spirit lives on.

    But no one has been arrested to this day for the assassination.

    If Haider al-Abadi gave a damn about a free press, he could prove in a minute by actually pursuing justice on behalf of those journalists who were killed.

    In the case of Hadi, the bloody trail leads back to Nouri.

    Haider would be smart to follow that trail.

    I doubt Nouri, should he pull off his conspiracy to return as prime minister before the end of 2015, will be as kind to his 'friend' Haider.

    This morning, Alsumaria reports that Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani declared today that Hiader's biggest problem is Nouri al-Maliki, noting that Nouri divided the country and set the stage for the Islamic State

    On Monday, Ahmed Rasheed, Stephen Kalin and Robin Pomeroy (Reuters) reported:

    Sunni politicians and tribal chiefs from Iraq's eastern Diyala province accused Shi'ite militias on Monday of killing more than 70 unarmed civilians who had fled clashes with Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) militants.

    And Ahmed Rasheed, Ned Parker and Stephen Kalin (Reuters) report of what survivors of the slaughter say should also be read.  Supposedly, there's going to be a serious investigation. Supposedly.  Mustafa Habib reports on the militias for Niqash in an article that went online Thursday:

    Most of the new members of these militias are volunteers from the regular population who joined up after the highest religious leader for Iraq’s Shiite Muslims, the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, called upon ordinary Iraqis to defend the country against the Islamic State, or IS, group in June last year. Al-Sistani later clarified his statement, recommending that anyone who wanted to defend the country do so in an official way, by, for example, joining the regular army.

    “The popular crowd has better and more sophisticated weapons, an Iraqi army captain serving in the Salahaddin province, told NIQASH. They are also paid around US$600 a month, a salary that is equal to that paid to regular soldiers, he noted.

    “In the battles fought by the army and the Shiite militias against the IS group in Salahaddin, there were always borders separating the army from the Shiite militias," Captain Muhammad al-Saadi told NIQASH. “In some cases there were joint battles fought though. And it was during these that we were able to see that the Shiite militias have new weapons.”

    These included Iranian-made 106 mm anti-tank guns as well as 120mm, 82mm and 60mm mortars.

    "They also have some US-made weapons, which they have from the government,” the captain noted. “The most prominent among these is the Steiner-scoped sniper rifle and the M16 rifle.”

    The militias don’t usually have Hummer military vehicles or tanks such as those owned by the Iraqi army. They mostly use medium-sized pickup trucks to carry their weapons and men around. But these may well be more useful than tanks because a lot of the fighting between them and the IS group takes place, street by street, between buildings in residential areas.

    “Everyone thinks that the Iraqi army is the main force fighting the IS group and that the Shiite militias support the army,” al-Saadi explained. “But the reality on the ground would suggest that the army doesn’t actually have any authority over these militias and that the militias make their own decisions.”

    Earlier in the snapshot, we noted Barack's June speech which included this:

    American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq, but we will help Iraqis as they take the fight to terrorists who threaten the Iraqi people, the region, and American interests as well.

    That was the promise in June.  That changed and, December 9th, Secretary of State John Kerry appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to argue the White House's new opinion that any legal authorization of Barack's current actions in Iraq must include Congress explicitly stating that Barack can put combat forces on the ground in Iraq.

    Wednesday's snapshot included:

    Meanwhile, US House Rep Adam Schiff is again introducing a bill providing authorization for Barack Obama's actions in Iraq and Syria.  AP notes, "Schiff's bill would authorize the use of force against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria for three years, but prohibit the use of ground forces in a combat mission in either of the two nations."  Tewhid Bastrurk (World Bulletin) reminds, "U.S. President Barack Obama was able to begin Operation Inherent Resolve without consulting congress due to the Democratic majority in the  [Senate] Armed Services Committee (ASC) controlling, responsible for control over the Pentagon's activity, in a move which pushed the limits of his presidential power and drew unfavorable responses from both Democrat and Republican camps."
    Of course, US forces already are in combat in Iraq.  We've known it since the end of 2011 thanks to then-US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey's NBC interview with Ted Koppel but did the Pentagon really mean to let it slip out as well?
    They did so today:

    Special operations forces are very busy today, but they must also plan to confront future threats, Michael J. Dumont, the principle deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations/low-intensity conflict said here yesterday.
    Dumont spoke during the National Defense Industrial Association’s Special Operations/Low-intensity Conflict Symposium here.
    There is no shortage of threats, the deputy assistant secretary said. Special operations personnel are confronting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terror group in Iraq and are planning to train Syrian moderate forces opposed to ISIL, he said.

    Repeating:  "There is no shortage of threats, the deputy assistant secretary said. Special operations personnel are confronting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terror group in Iraq and are planning to train Syrian moderate forces opposed to ISIL, he said."

    On the topic of Congressional approval, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest was asked about it in Thursday's White House press briefing:

    Q    Josh, thanks.  I want to go back to Congressman Schiff’s AUMF legislation.  It includes language that would prohibit the use of ground troops.  I know that Secretary Kerry a while back, he said that that shouldn’t be part of the AUMF language.  Does the administration still stand by that?  Are you still opposed to legislation that would prohibit the use of ground troops?

    MR. EARNEST:  Well, Kristen, I’m not going to be in a position to negotiate the language from here.  We are having private negotiations with Democrats and Republicans on the Hill about what should be included in the agreement.  But --

    Q    But that seems like a very basic tenet of any piece of legislation.  I mean, the President has said multiple times that he’s not going to send U.S. troops -- put U.S. troops on the ground.  So is that something that you would be opposed to?

    MR. EARNEST:  Well, again, this is something that we’ll have to work out with Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill.  But I appreciate your raising what is a principle that the President has established from the very first day he started talking about ISIL, which is that he does not believe that it’s in the best interest of the United States for us to commit a significant contingent of American ground troops in a combat role to fight ISIL.  He believes that the best way for us to do this is to put American troops in a situation where they can use their skills and expertise to train up local forces that can take the fight to ISIL on the ground in their own country.

    Will you have to work it out, Josh?

    Seems like this is something to work out with the American people.

    Especially since Barack's breaking his word.

    Seems like this is something a democracy works out in the open.

    Seems like this is something that Barack needs to announce to the American people he's pursuing.

    Or is the White House no longer pretending the United States is a democracy?


    Friday, January 30, 2015

    Things we overlooked?

    A few concerned e-mailers are attempting to provide oversight.

    The budget! The budget!  

    There are three e-mails noting the passing of the Iraqi budget yesterday and that I forgot it in the snapshot.  It wasn't forgotten, our focus was on the UN.

    This is also the budget that, back in August, would be passed in a matter of weeks.  I didn't see the need to weigh in.  I still don't.

    This morning Alsumaria has published it in PDF format and, at some point today, I will try to read it.  Prior to that, it's a sentence: Iraq passed a budget worth $150 billion US dollars. Saif Hameed (Reuters) has that here.

    Considering the way programs to rebuild Iraq were being slashed when oil was at a high, I can't imagine that the programs didn't suffer even more as the oil prices dropped.

    That's what the story of the budget's about: Where the money is going.

    That is passed is meaningless without knowing that.

    No one published the budget yesterday -- none of the Iraqi government sites, no one.

    Alsumaria has published it now.

    Time permitting, I'll read over it at some point today.  If I can find that time and there's nothing more pressing in the news, then we may discuss it in the next snapshot.

    Without the details, it's just a meaningless headline.

    Then there's the guy e-mailing the public account about how I'm ignoring "the whistle-blower."

    Thinking it's an e-mail referring to Ed Snowden, I quickly open to discover it's the always useless Larry Wilkerson.

    And, yes, e-mailer, Vice magazine does call him a whistle-blower.

    I have no doubt that Larry knows how to put his lips together and blow.

    And I wouldn't be the least surprised to learn he has demonstrated the technique, on more than one occasion, to Colin Powell.

    But Larry and Vice are idiots.

    Wilkerson is not a whistle-blower.

    A whistle-blower steps forward and exposes corruption or abuse.

    All Wilkerson does is wait until it's exposed and then show up to insist Colin Powell stood tall and firm and, apparently gazing up at Powell as he stood on his own knees, Wilkerson was moved -- very, very moved.

    Wilkerson is a weak critic.  He is not a whistle-blower.

    And five e-mails insist I've missed the countdown on the hostages the Islamic State has.

    If they're released or if they're killed, we may cover it.  Otherwise, we won't.  We don't do the death watch and I can only take so much lying in one day from Jen Psaki and the State Dept.

    On that topic, we may have to tackle it because it goes to the lies and deception of the United States government.

    (The killers of US soldiers were released by Barack so that the British could get four corpses and one living computer tech.  Though it was largely ignored, it did take place.  The killers are Shi'ite thugs whose release impacted the current turmoil so we may have to -- again -- cover it.)

    But I'm not doing breathless passages of: "Are they dead?  Are they dead?"

    If you need that sort of tabloid coverage, I believe you can get it on CNN, every hour on the hour.

    The following community sites -- plus Black Agenda Report, and Jody Watley -- updated:

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