Saturday, June 02, 2012



The Jobs Report





Like a nightmare version of Charlie's Angels, Ammar al-Hakim, Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Nouri al-Maliki stood side by side to announce their solidarity.  Alsumaria reports that the head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, the head of the National Alliance and the Prime minister of Iraq met to discuss the latest political developments in Iraq and how to address them.  Al Rafidayn has an article where Ammar's dropping terms like "sin" and "big sin" and talking about "the street" and it all sounds like a lover in the grip of passion.
So let flow the hydrants
And we'll dance in the spray
And we'll wash out all our dirty laundry
In the alleyway
Put your love out in the street
Put your love out in the street
Put your love out in the street
Put your love
Out in the street tonight
-- "Love Out In The Street," written by Carly Simon, first appears on her Playing Possum
While Ammar de amour works himself into a frenzy, Kitabat reports that Moqtada al-Sadr's followers have rejected the notion that chaos follows a no-confidence vote in Nouri.
KENYON: On paper it looks like a serious threat to Maliki's rule. But if you ask the prime minister's supporters about a no confidence motion, they tend to laugh and say bring it on.
SAAD MUTTALIBI: Oh, definitely. Just go ahead. You know, we will sit there and laugh at the puny numbers that you will gain in the parliament.
KENYON: Businessman and Maliki backer Saad Muttalibi says those who have actually tried to add up the votes say the opposition is well short at the moment. He says pro-Maliki forces are mounting a counterattack, collecting votes for a no confidence motion against the anti-Maliki speaker of the parliament. And Muttalibi says Sadr is jeopardizing his future in the governing National Alliance by cozying up to the Kurds and Sunnis.
It's great that NPR had time for bitchy but exactly when did they intend to explain the political crisis to listeners?
They are aware that they never did that, right?
That never once in the report did they mention the Erbil Agreement or the 2010 elections or anything of real substance.  But, hey, we got a bitchy supporter of Nouri's and didn't that make everything worthwhile?
Earlier this year,   Marina Ottaway and Danial Kaysi's [PDF format warning] "The State Of Iraq"  (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace) reviewed events and noted:

Within days of the official ceremonies marking the end of the U.S. mission in Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki moved to indict Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi on terrorism charges and sought to remove Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq from his position, triggering a major political crisis that fully revealed Iraq as an unstable, undemocractic country governed by raw competition for power and barely affected by institutional arrangements.  Large-scale violence immediately flared up again, with a series of terrorist attacks against mostly Shi'i targets reminiscent of the worst days of 2006.
But there is more to the crisis than an escalation of violence.  The tenuous political agreement among parties and factions reached at the end of 2010 has collapsed.  The government of national unity has stopped functioning, and provinces that want to become regions with autonomous power comparable to Kurdistan's are putting increasing pressure on the central government.  Unless a new political agreement is reached soon, Iraq may plunge into civil war or split apart.

The agreement was the Erbil Agreement.  March 7, 2010, Iraq held parliamentary elections.  Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya came in first ahead of Nouri's State of Law.  Nouri refused to give up the post of prime minister.  What followed were eight months of political stalemate.  The White House and the Iranian government were backing Nouri so he knew he could dig in his heels and did just that.  Finally, in November, the US-brokered Erbil Agreement was reached.  Nouri could have a second term as prime minister provided he made concessions on other issues.

Nouri used the agreement to get his second term and then trashed the agreement refusing to honor it.  Until last week, he and his supporters had taken to (wrongly) calling the agreement unconstitutional.  And though the KRG, Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr have been calling for the Erbil Agreement to be fully implemented since summer 2011, it took last month for State of Law to finally discover that themselves loved the Erbil Agreement.  Needless to say, the sudden attraction to the deal is seen as mere lip service especially when Nouri refused to implement it.
In violence Al Rafidayn notes that 1 traffice police officer was shot dead in Mosul as was his driver.  In addition, Alsumaria notes a captain in the Ministry of Interior's intelligence division was shot dead in Falluja today.  AFP adds a Baghdad roadside bombing targeting a market claimed 1 life and left three more people injured and 1 police colonel was shot dead in Baghdad.
This week the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) released "Report on Human Rights in Iraq: 2011."   In Wednesday's snapshot we noted the highly superficial section on Iraq's LGBTs.  The report does a better job with the issue of the rights of Iraqi women.  That section opens with:
UNAMI continues to monitor the status and rights of women in Iraq, including gender based violence such as so-called 'honour' crimes, trafficking and domestic violence.  Due to the security situation, UNAMI is uanble to collect first hand data on the situation of women in some parts of Iraq outside of the Kurdistan Region.
Grasp that.  'Violence is down!!!!'  We hear that stupidity over and over from the press.  No, it's not really down.  2006 and 2007 were years of ethnic cleansing -- encouraged and (I would say) aided by the US government.  Those death figures are huge.  I'm not really sure why the years of ethnic cleansing are treated as natural or normal figures with which to compare everything to?  Iraq remains violent.  And UNAMI tells us that it's so violent that they can't even collect basic data. 
But the press moved on, didn't they?  They press that largely mocked, ridiculed or ignored war resisters fled Iraq.  There's the US wire service AP.  There's the New York Times staff.  There's Jane Arraf. There's the Wall St. Journal (led by Sam Dagher).  There's CNN. That's it.  Imagine if that was it in 2002 and 2003?  If that were it in those years, only those outlets and the others ignored Iraq, it would have been so much more difficult to sell the illegal war to the American public (a public with a significant amount of resistance even at the start).
Valerie Gauriat:  We're in Iraq this month to meet women in Baghdad, Najaf and Iraqi Kurdistan who are fighting their own kind of war.  A human rights activist, two war widwos and a female soldier to regain the rights Iraqi women have lost.  Every month in Women and War we bring you the stories of women who are fighting across the world.
And Iraqi women have lost so much due to the Iraq War.  They've lost husbands and fathers and sons and brothers and uncles and mothers and daughters and sisters and aunts.  They've lost friends.  Most of all, they've gone from  living in one of the most advanced Middle East nation-states for women to a country where they have to regularly fight for basic dignities.  And fight they do.  They know what's at stake and they know the US government isn't helping them, has never helped them.  The  US State Dept's Anne C. Richard writes with all the enthusiasm that historical ignorance and optimism can provide.  We'll note this from her post today at the State Dept blog about her new job working with Iraqis:

Estimates of the numbers of widows in Iraq range from 750,000 to 1.5 million, or between 2.4 percent and 5 percent of the population -- no one knows for sure as there has not been a recent census. In Iraqi society, women traditionally do not work outside of the home. However, the women at this site emphasized that they needed jobs to provide for their children.
Iraq remains a dangerous place and our visit was not announced in advance but the visit was eye opening and well worth the effort it takes to get out and meet ordinary Iraqis.
Later, I raised the plight of the widows with senior Iraqi officials. They were determined to make progress on housing issues and acknowledged problems with registrations -- although they also expressed concerns about the squatters occupying government land.
We'll continue to follow Anne C. Richard's posts.  She's got energy and optimism and her ability to either ignore or not learn what came before may allow her to pull off some small miracles.  I wish her the best because Iraqi women could use a miracle or two.  But the issue of the widows, their plight, that's been raised with the Iraqi government for years now.  There's been no significant improvement or real plans from the government.  At one point they were suggesting that the answer was for the widows to remarry. 
The illegal war did not help Iraqi women nor has their government made any real strides on their own to help Iraqi women.  Last month the Interfaith Council for Peace & Justice explained:
But for Iraqi citizens, especially women, the ongoing violence caused by the U.S. invasion is not the only consequence that has become part of the everyday struggle to rebuild their country. Before the U.S. invasion, 75% of Iraqi women had college degrees, and 31% of Iraqi women had graduate degrees (compared to 35% of European and U.S. women). Only 10% of women in Iraq now continue to work in their professions, and they have to contend with the thousands of more experience and better-educated Iraqi women who fled Iraq at the onset of the war and are now returning. However most women stay away from their work, schools, and universities due to extreme safety concerns: Since the beginning of the war, rates of abductions and kidnappings targeting women and girls, most often related to sex trafficking, female suicides and honor killings have increased.
It was beneficial to the US government's aims to scare the Iraqi people into submission.  It would be easier to push through various policies and programs on a people too scared to fight back.  So the US backed thugs, turned their heads the other way not just to looting but to rape and so much more.  And Iraqi women could have thrown in the towel and said, "Forget it, my safety is what's most important."  Instead, these brave women regularly take to the streets and protest for their rights.  Even since Nouri's squad of thugs began beating protesters and arresting them and torturing them in custody, Iraqi women refuse to hide and refuse to give up on their country or let Iraq be turned into something that they're no longer a part of.  The US shut the women out of the process from the start.  They had to take to the streets when the US was writing their rights out of Iraq's new Constitution (in 2005) and they've done that during the continued violence and during the periods of the most violence.  Last month, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Iraq noted:
The rights of women in post war Iraq is clear following reports that they are victims of human trafficking to and fro Iraq and even within the outskirts of the cities with cases of forced prostitution. Women are trafficked from Southern Iraq and transported to the Gulf States by rich cartels who promise to marry them and give them a good life only to use the as servants and sex workers in their well-managed deals.
Most of the 'unveiled' women in Iraq have had their rights violated. There are groups that are making it hard for this woman to have freedom in and around Iraq and creating an atmosphere where they are intimidated. For instance, Fatwas encourages the crowd to throw rotten eggs and tomatoes to any woman around the streets who passes by without a veil. This has made it hard for the professional Iraqi woman to work or get education unless they wear the hijab.
It has to be noted that Islamic leaders from the Shi'ite and the Sunni have strong condemnation against women in Iraq without the hijab, this means trouble for the rights of women in Iraq. Since the war started, the Iraqi women have been attacked, kidnapped and even intimidated in a way that bars them from participating in any role with the society.

Friday, June 01, 2012







"We just spent last weekend, and in particular Monday, honoring our nation's defenders that are no longer with us.  Now it's time for us to renew our focus on those who still need our help in securing a good job," declared US House Rep Jeff Miller drawing this morning's House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing to order.    The hearing explored the VOW To Hire Heroes Act which Chair Miller hailed as  "an excellent example of what we can do when we all work together."
The Committee heard from VA's Under Secretary for Benefits Allison Hickey who was accomanied by VA's Curtis Coy and they heard from the Labor Dept's Acting Assistant Secretary of Veterans Employment and Training Ishmael Ortiz who was accompanied by Kathy Tran.  Why the hearing?
Chair Jeff Miller:  While I am impressed by the level of effort being made by program level staff at both departments, I am concerned that not enough is being done by either cabinet secretaries [VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis] or the President [Barack Obama] himself to promote this benefit.  Getting the message out about this opportunity is critically important to putting unemployed veterans on a path to a job in a high-demand field.  Clearly, aggressive promotion by the nearly three thousand One Stop Employment Centers are the key to filling the 99,000 training slots that have been authorized by the VOW Act.  I want to give you just one example -- one example of why I am concerned that despite VA's significant outreach efforts -- for which I commend them -- problems are still arising.  Staff was contacted by a community-based organization in Georgia about what appears to be a lack of effort to get the program started.  Shortly after the passage of the VOW Act, the organization contacted the Augusta One Stop Employment Center about how to enroll unemployed vets in the program.  They asked again in mid-March and the DVOPS and LVERs were still not aware of the program.  Two weeks later, Augusta told them the Georgia Department of Labor was not aware of VRAP.  In early April, both the Georgia and South Carolina Departments of Labor stated they were waiting for policy from DC.  In late April, there still appeared to be little understanding of how the program would work.  It appears that finally, on May 11th, 2012, a mass e-mail from VA was released detailing how the program would be implemented, only 4 days later on May 15th.  Obviously, if that is typical of the level of awareness at the One Stop Centers, I think we all agree we've got big problems with the potential launch coming up shortly.
On the subject of veterans hiring, the Dept of Labor is holding a Veterans Hiring Fair next week on Wednesday, June 6th.  It will be at the Great Hall of the Frances Perkins US Dept of Labor Building on 200 Constitution Ave. starting at ten in the morning and ending at one in the afternoon.  So that's just three hours and they're hoping for a large turnout.  After this morning's hearing, I went to talk to a friend at the Labor Dept to make sure I understood some of the issues from the hearing.  When I brought up Miller's solid issue of getting the word out, I was told that even in DC it can be a struggle to get the word out and that job fair was used as an example.  So I'm including it here at the top.  You will need veteran i.d. to enter the job fair.  And it is open to all adult veterans.   Repeating, that's next week on Wednesday. 
Also for FYI purposes, we'll note Allison Hickey's opening remarks regarding Veterans Retraining Assistance Program applications:
VA and the Department of Labor collaboratively developed the VRAP application process and the requirements for the information technology system changes to support this process.  To efficiently leverage existing systems, VA modifided its application for VA education benefits for use by the VRAP applicatns.  The VRAP application is available online at, a web site developed specifically for portions of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act.  This site can be accessed through eBenefits, the GI Bill web site, DoL web sites and numerous other web sites.  Additionally, Veterans can visit their local DoL One-Stop Career Center locations for application assistance.  Applications can be submitted through VA's Veterans Online Application web site.  To be eliglbe for participation, DoL must determine that the applicant is unemployed, not enrolled in any federal or state job-training program and is between the ages of 35 aand 60.  VA verifies the applicant's veteran status and type of discharge, and confirms that the applicant has no other VA education benefits available for use, and is not in receipt of compensation for a service-connected disability rated totally disabling by reason of unemployability.  After eligibility has been established, the applicant identifies his or her intended high-demand occupation category and applicable training institution.  Information about the high-demand occupations, identified by DoL, is availabe on VA's VOW to Hire Heroes web site as well as DoL's web site.
In his opening remarks, Ortiz noted that the Labor Dept had "repurposed approximately $5.4 million of our 2012 Project Year Budget in order to implement the provisions of the VOW Act."  This statement in passing led to the first question.
Chair Jeff Miller:  I was just asking staff a question.  You talk about repurposing five-plus million dollars to assist.  Was it not funded properly in the legislation?  Where's the money that the legislation appropriated?  Just trying to figure out why would you need additional -- to repurpose additional money?
Kathy Tran:  There were several provisions that did not have -- that appropriated funds were not included in.  So for example, the section 222 study on equivalency is one example.
Ortiz had indicated Kathy Tran should speak to the question.  She did.  But it wasn't really clear.  The Chair would say he was still trying to figure out this money issue and that this was paid for in the legislation but then he would note that people behind Tran were shaking their heads "no" on that last part.
So let's delve into that.  Tran's referring to the fact that the legislation required the Dept of Labor to identify skill equivlance between military and civilian employment.  Was this fully funded?  That's one of the questions I asked when I went to the Dept of Labor today.  No, it wasn't funded at all, I was told, and the Labor Dept had to take from their budget for it.    In addition to the five million budgeted, more money will likely be spent on this because the study is not yet completed -- and, again, the legislation requires this study take place.  The Labor Dept is hoping to piggybag on a DoD study.  If they're able to, that would reduce the cost.
In addition to wanting to know if the study was funded, Chair Miller also wanted to know what happened in this program -- limited to 99,000 -- if someone signed up, was accepted and ended up having to drop out due to some reason.
Chair Jeff Miller: What happens if a veteran enters the program and he drops out?  Is that counted a "used slot"?  Or, if there's still funding left, can that be reallocated to another veteran?
Allison Hickey:  Chairman Miller, we have been -- We have been instructed that, uh, that it works similar to the other Mongtogmery GI Bill and other GI bills and when that veteran drops then that authority drops in the 99,000 that are available. 
Chair Jeff Miller: Drops in or?
Allison Hickey:  So if the veteran -- I apologize, Mr. Chairman, let me be a little more clear about that. If the veteran applies and then doesn't fulfill the whole year's worth of training and let's say they stop mid-pointm  then that is one of the 99,000 and we cannot recycle the rest of that benefit on to a different veteran.
Chair Jeff Miller:  Is that right?
Allison Hickey:  Sir, I think that's the provision of the law that has been laid out for us so that's the way we're working it.
Chair Jeff Miller: Sounds like the provision needs to be corrected, doesn't it?  Would you recommend that that slot be re-allocated?
Allison Hickey:  Chairman Miller, from my perspective, from the advocacy that we have in VA for all veterans, we would certainly like to see every dollar that you all have put towards this be used to train veterans so if you are inclined to do something different in the legislation, we would be happy to consider that.
Chair Jeff Miller: That's a great political answer. [Laughter.]  I appreciate that.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill is one of the pieces of legislation that was passed during the current wars.  The first fall semester checks for that legislation, in fact, didn't go out until the fall of 2009 (and many waited much longer than that to receive their checks, but that's another story).  The retraining opportunities offered by the VOW to Hire Heroes Act was an issue Representative Mike Michaud wanted to explore and he wanted to delve into job training, not just academic training. 
US House Rep Mike Michaud:  I have a couple of questions.  The first is I've heard from a couple of small towns and cities  and county government, the fact that they're looking for fire fighters as well as police officers and when you look at the unemployed in the military -- particularly for the military police --  they'd like to hire veterans.  Under the VOW Act, what are you doing to help encourage municipal towns for police officers and what's available to them?  And that's my first question.  My second question is, having done several manufacturing tours throughout my district over the past year, one of the things I hear a lot from businesses is that they would like to hire more employees but they found that they're not trained.  When you look at the extension patnership program, the MOST Program, I don't know if you're familiar with it?  It stands for Mobile Outreach Skill Training, it made it's MEP, they go into these businesses and actually are willing to train and they guarantee a job after training or else they do not get paid for the training.  Are you working with extension partnership programs throughout the country in that regard since they do guarantee jobs?  And do you have the resources needed?  So i guess both of you or who wants to answer both of those questions?
Ismael Ortiz: Congressman, first of all -- Let's -- I want to hit your first question first, sir.  Fire fighters and police officers are on a high demand list so as far as VRAP is concerned, this is an opportunity for them to be able to go in there if they meet the elegiblity requirements, sir.  On the second part of that, sir, if they don't, we also have local veterans employment representatives in each one of the One-Stop Centers our LVERs [Local Veterans Employment Representatives] who go outreach and make sure  and talk to different employers and places to help them find the skilled person that they're looking for.  So our One-Stops are a very important piece of getting that outreach part and also local communities, that is the biggest piece of what we are talking about, working with the communities as much as possible to get that information to us so that way we can find the proper individuals to help them fill their needs.
US House Rep Mike Michaud:  And what type of a benefit will a local community receive since they are tax exempt?  Is there any specific training piece or is there any other benefit under the VOW Act that will be beneficial for the communities?
Ismael Ortiz:  Actually sir -- You know what, I'm not really sure on the specifics on that, sir.  But I'll be more than happy to find out.
US House Rep Mike Michaud:  Okay.
Allison Hickey:  Congress Michaud, let me just tell you how we have generally worked with the education programs in relation to this -- especially the non-degree programs which we started thanks to this Committee and the Senate Veterans Committee's support from the first of October of last year when we were allowed to use GI Bill benefits towards non-degree efforts.  We still require your state approving agency to certify the training.  And if you have on in everyone of the states, I would highly recommend that the counties contact the state approving agencies and submit their training program to them and let them go through their normal process, certify it and then I can -- I can cover them under GI Bill or VRAP for either one.
Ismael Ortiz:   As far as the MOST, sir, the MOST Program, I'm going to turn it over to Ms. Kathy Tran.  She works specifically on those issues.
Kathy Tran:  Sir, regarding our partnership.  We have a federal partnership with the US Dept of Commerce and the MEP Program and we have been encouraging local partnerships in communities and regions across the country to partner between the workforce system and MEPs in order to support employment in the manufacturing arena.  And we actually issued a training guidance letter  or notice -- I can't remember which one, we can get back to you on that -- recently to encourage those partnerships and that letter included examples of existing successful partnerships at various different levels whether it be working with MEPs  on layoff aversion strategies or working with MEPs to help fulfill, you know, job openings and training.  But also just to add to the question earlier, One Stop Career Centers are available to help local muncipalities in their hiring so they can work to help do recruitment, to do job screening, to do post job openings and so that is a good relationship between the One Stop Career Centers and those muncipalities.  Many local webs have good representation from their city and county councils and such.
These are highlights from the hearing that I'm choosing because they go to issues that may require further attention.  US House Rep Jerry McNerney raised a very important issue in his questioning.  It needed to be explored further but was instead dismissed.
US House Rep Jerry McNerney:  I don't think the VA is doing enough to outreach, I don't think just for this program, there seems to be a reluctance to go to the media, to advertise on TV, to put up billboards.  I'd like to see the VA do more of that, in general.  Especially in this case.
Allison Hickey:  Congressman, I appreciate your comments and your questions.  I will say that we have been to the media quite extensively, in the print media and have gotten it out that way, quite extensively. The -- I don't know about billboards except to say that we have a lot of veterans in many, many communities and it would be difficult to figure out the expense associated with a billboard in a single community.  We would start to, I think,
create some discussion around funding that would be a little bit untenable.  We have been online.  I have literally done, as has the Secretary done on camera interviews about veteran employment issues and about the opportunity for education to help those employment opportunities. And I know that Secretary Ortiz' Secretary [Hilda Solis] has done that as well so I will let him comment further on that but we have reached out quite extensively through lots of media different environments including 75 newspapers nationwide for those communities where veterans -- the unemployment rate for veterans is the most -- is the highest.  We're not stopping.
US House Rep Jerry McNerney:   So what kind of budget does the VA have for media outreach.
Allison Hickey:  Well Congressman McNerney, we are -- We are actually trying to be good stewards here.  So we are leveraging our current network operation, we are leveraging the good will of communities and newspapers and others to get this word out as well including all the military alumni groups, all the -- the Military Times are carrying this for free, many of the local newspapers are carrying this for free --
US House Rep Jerry McNerney:  So in other words, you don't have a budget specifically for outreach?
Allison Hickey:  Congresmman McNerney, I've not found the need at this point in time especially when, in very short order, we have over 12,000 applicants and they're growing every single day.  Yesterday, it was 11,000 as the Chairman well noted, today it's twelve.  If in fact we do require, I will be happy to come and share that need with you.
First, "Military Times" -- that's a publication.  Elsewhere, she noted them as well as Air Force Times, Federal Times, Marine Corps Times, Army Times and Navy Times.  I want to be sure they get their credit.  The Philadelphia Inquirer was mentioned elsewhere in the hearing as was USA Today, the Fayetteville Observer, the San Antonio Express News and the  Wall St. Journal.  Those newspapers had all run the VA's notice and run it for free.  They deserve credit and praise for their public service. 
But McNerney is correct, there should be a budget.  If he had more time, it would have been interesting if Hickey could have answered how many turned them down?  Or how many people they had to speak to at the Wall St. Journal?  And how much time was used on this?
My point here is that just because the VA did not spend money paying for advertisement, money was still spent in that staff had to call around.  And I'm sure they got rejections.  I'm also sure they got, "This is great but you need to speak to ___."  So how much time was used?
There should be a budget and I don't think the VA has staff that can afford additional duties.  The backlog at the VA is so huge -- backlog on claims processing (but really backlog on anything) -- that I don't understand how they're able to work on this and claim money was saved.

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Thursday, May 31, 2012









The Honorable Jonathan Sumption is not only a judge (Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom), he's also a historian.  Earlier this month, he delivered a [PDF format warning] speech to the London School of Economics' Department of Government
The extreme case is of course the choice between peace and war.  In reviewing the military interventions of the English government, the courts have arrived at a position practically indistinguisable from the old non-justiciability rule, although justified on a different basis.  The legality of the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003 was, to put it mildly, a matter of some controversy everywhere outside the United States.  The great majority of international lawyers of repute considered it to be contrary to international law, in the absence of the United Nations authority and did not accept that any of the relevant resolutions conferred that authority.  The United States was inclined to respond to this difficulty in the way that the British had done at the time of the Suez crisis of 1956, by simply ignoring it.  In 1956, the Attorney-General, Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller and the Solicitor-General Sir Harry Hilton-Foster, both supported the invasion politically although both believed and told the Prime Minister that it was illegal.  The Chief of Imperial General Staff, Sir Gerald Templer, issued the deployment orders without troubling himself with the legal issue.  These are attitudes characteristic of an imperial power, and we should not be particularly surprised to find them adopted by the United States.  It is a sign of how far the climate of British opinion had changed by 2003 that the Chiefs of Staff  required an assurance from the Attorney-General that operations in Iraq were lawful.  They famously received one that had been prepared on a basis not wholly consistent with his previously expressed views and supported by reasoning which provoked the resignation of one of the Foreign Office legal advisers and was rejected by every serious authority on international law. 
David Swanson: You have left the fold of the Democratic Party and gone to the Green Party and after having been a candidate for Congress in Democratic primaries and done remarkably well against a well funded incumbent as a peace candidate.  Why the -- Why the decision to go to the Green Party?
Marcy Winograd: David, it wasn't an easy decision and it was one I wrestled with for probably quite some time.  But at the end of the day, the short answer is that I really didn't want to be aligned with a War Party any longer.  Even if you're an insurgent in that war party, you're still in it.  And as an insurgent,  I challenged Jane Harman she was a big Hawk, supporter of the military industrial complex,  I was on the floor of the Democratic Party convention in California introducing resolutions to end the war, the assault on Iraq.  I was shut down, quoroms were called, quorom called, I introduced resolutions to censure senators like Dianne Feinstein when she waffled on whether water boarding was torture. There are many struggles to engage in as an insurgent within a party and I'm not saying that they're not worthy and that they're not of great value but at this point in my life, I really want to live inside my skin.  I want to be authentic. And I also want to look towards the future.  Face it, the American Empire is declining.  This is it.  We are collpasing.  And we are watching the collapse of the US Empire. How long did it take other countries?  Well ou know for some it took a century.  For others it took just a few years.  Look at the Soviet Union.  Two years for the Soviet Union to collapse.  A year for Portugal, 8 years for France.  17 years for Great Britain.  There are historians. I interviewed one on [KPFK] Connect the Dots, Dr. Alfred McCoy who wrote in The Nation magazine who predicts that by 2025 it's over.  Just 15 years from now, the empire will be over. So given that, the US Empire, with its military bases in 3/4 of the countries in the world is just not sustainable.  It's imperative that we look to our future and embrace something positive. We know what we don't want. What do we want?  And that's what attracted me to the Green Party. 
David Swanson:  Well clearly the US Empire could end in a variety of ways -- some softer and easier than others.  Do you think that the Democratic Party and, in particular, President Obama are better or worse or about the same in relationship to the Republican Party and George W. Bush in terms of the manner in which the empire is over-extending itself and moving towards its collapse? In other words, would we be better off in these final years of empire to have the Democrats doing it or the Republicans?
Marcy Winograd: That's a very tough question, isn't it?  I know that I will not be voting for Barack Obama for president. And I did support him when he ran previously.  But this time I am going to be voting for the Green Party nominee because I really do want a different vision for our country and now's the time for us to speak out and say this is the alternative vision:  a party of non-violence, a party that opposes weapon sales  to other countries, a party that wants to build sustainable communities and invest in our communities, not extract wealth and send jobs to other countries. I think, at the end of the day, that it's very dangerous to have somebody in the White House who people don't necessarily who people don't necessarily know or understand and who may project an image of concilation and partnership but in reality is escalating what began under former President George Bush.  I'm talking about this "war on terror."  Right after Obama took office, he escalated the drone attacks on Pakistan.  We now have an increase in Joint-Special Operations Command Forces in other countries -- from 60 countries under Bush to 75 countries.  We have codified indefiniate detention, extraordinary rendetion and targeted assassination.  We have moved beyond what was considered under the Bush administration as an order for hot pursuit.  In other words, if somebody attacked us or an ally, we could cross a border in hot pursuit.  Now the whole world is a war theater under Barack Obama. So I'm afraid that under the Democratic leadership -- both in Congress and in the White House -- we are not seeing what we think we want to see or what we think we are seeing.  Instead, we're seeing increased militarism.  So I think it's very dangerous to think that this is an alternative path.  In fact, I think under President Obama, we've seen the Democrats able to advance a Republican agenda, at least on the foreign policy side, at least better than the Republicans could.
"Download or get embed code from or AudioPort or LetsTryDemocracy or RadioProject."  I really am surprised by Marcy's news and will assume others are as well.  Who's running in the Green Party for the presidential nomination?  A press release from the Green Party of Michigan answers that question:
For Immediate Release:
Green Party of Michigan Presidential Nominating Convention Saturday
Mt. Pleasant) - This Saturday marks the beginning of the Green Party's nominating convention at the university's campus in Mt. Pleasant which will last through Sunday afternoon. Excitement for the event has been building for months as the presidential candidates have been particularly exciting among members this year.
Dr. Jill Stein of Massachusetts has been travelling throughout the country to stand in
solidarity with Occupy movements, to speak at Green conventions and events and has most recently walked with those protesting the PGA in Benton Harbor. A long-time activist and dedicated member of the Green Party, Dr. Stein is currently the forerunner in the nomination pool.
Comedienne and activist Roseanne Barr of California has likewise been a long-time
supporter of grassroots movements. Her rallies in California have drawn hundreds of
supporters. Although she was the last candidate to announce her running, she has made a
strong showing in state polls.
Dr. Kent Mesplay of California was the first to announce his candidacy and has
remained a strong contender as a long-time Green. Having also vied for the presidential
nomination in 2008, he is the candidate with the most experience. As the son of missionaries, he grew up alongside native peoples in a nature-centered environment. This has shaped the focus of his message.
The three contenders for the presidential nomination will be speaking remotely at the
convention on Saturday afternoon. Candidates for state and some local offices will also be
nominated this weekend. The straw poll for the presidential nomination will take place on
Saturday with the results being announced on Sunday. The decision of the straw poll will guide the choice the delegates will make at the National Convention in Baltimore, MD on July 12-15.
Highlights of the convention will also include entertainment Saturday evening by musical
acts Stephen Colarelli, a singer/songwriter, Rope and the Rulers, and Poor Player.
The Members of the Green Party of Michigan have been active in petition drives to have
several critical issues placed on the November ballot including the Emergency Manager repeal which was thrown out on a questionable technical objection and the current ban on fracking petition gaining strength and support throughout the state.
If you are interested in becoming a member of the Green Party or want to learn more
about our key values, see our webpage:
For more information, please contact
Convention organizer and Green Party Co-chair Fred Vitale:

or Green Party Elections Coordinator John A La Pietra:
Your vote is your vote.  Use it as you want.  Like Marcy, I cannot vote for Barack Obama.  I don't reward War Hawks.  As I've stated before, I think I'll just sit out the voting for that office.  That's what I'm doing, you do what you want, if you're voting you're an adult so you should be able to figure out who speaks to you (if anyone does) and vote (or vote by not voting) accordingly.  (And for more on the Green Party race, you can refer to this post by Ian Wilder at On The Wilder Side.)
Today the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) released "Report on Human Rights in Iraq: 2011."  As with the Iraq section of the US State Dept's 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices released last week, UNAMI's findings weren't pretty.
But it's difficult to tell who's the bigger joke: Nouri al-Maliki or the UN.  Martin Kolber is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Envoy to Iraq.   Having sat through Martin Kobler's presentation to the UN Security Council April 10th and seeing the single sentence that couldn't use the term "gay" but hinted that the targeting of Emo and LGBT youth (and those perceived as such) would be addressed in the report (the one released today), this report's an embarrassment.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012




AP EXPLAINS, "Poles are expressing outrage at President Barack Obama for referring to 'Polish death camps' during a ceremony honoring a World War II hero."  AND THIS ISN'T THE FIRST TIME HE'S OUTRAGED THE PEOPLE OF POLAND WITH ONE OF HIS SLIGHTS AND INSULTS:

President Obama has a long track record of insulting the Poles. In 2010 he chose to play golf on the day of the funeral of the Polish President Lech Kaczynski, the Polish First Lady, and 94 senior officials who perished in the Smolensk air disaster. Eight months earlier he humiliated Warsaw by pulling out of the agreement over Third Site missile defence installations in Poland and the Czech Republic. And last night Barack Obama caused huge offence in Poland by referring to a Nazi death camp in Poland as “a Polish death camp” while awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to a Polish resistance fighter.





Starting in the US where Bradley Manning's court-martial is scheduled to begin September 21st.  Monday April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released US 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 and has neither affirmed that he is the leaker nor denied it.
Bradley's case was discussed 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).  Excerpt.
Heidi Boghosian: Michael, you told us a bit about the trial of Bradley Manning and I understand that CCR is going to be involved on a different level with the case.
Michael Ratner: Well CCR has been involved in some ways with Bradley Manning for a long time. We represent WikiLeaks and Julian Assange and I and other CCR attorneys have been going to the Bradley Manning hearings down at Fort Meade as I've reported on this radio show.  One of the outrageous things about the hearing is that even documents that are not classified are not given to the public, are not given to the media.  There's no way to get any of the court orders that the judge actually makes.  You know, such things as pre-trial publicity.  There's no way to get any of the motions.  Although, now, some defense motions are up.  But government motions are not there, government responses are not there. There's no transcript of the proceeding that we can get.  There's one made but no one has access to it of the media or public.  You sit in the court and you can't understand what's going on because you can't read any of the papers. So we now at the Center have for a number of months been trying to insist to the court that these are public filings, Bradley Mannings been denied his right to a public trial and the media and the citizenry is being denied their right to a public trial which is a key part of ensuring that justice is done fairly.
Heidi Boghosian: Michael, are the documents being withheld in the name of national security?  And also, is there precedent for this?
Michael Ratner: This is a court-martial.  They apparently have different rules that they like to apply about letting the public know about what's going on.  Every court-martial is essentially an ad-hoc tribunal.  They're set up for the specific purpose of whomever they're going to try.  They don't even have a clerk's office or a docket. And the judge has not said she's withholding because of national security.  She's simply not giving the documents.  No court orders. No motions -- particularly of the government's. None of the replies or briefs.  And no transcripts. And there's also a lot of off-the-record hearings that we have no access to.  So this, unfortunately, seems to be a matter of course.  But here you are, in the most important court-martial probably in the century, conceivably, and the public and the media are not getting the materials.
Heidi Boghosian: There's an irony in this given that Manning is on trial for the very reason that he made documents public and, in his hearings, things are being withheld.
Michael Ratner:  Yes.  In fact, you could argue that the entire proceeding is a justification for what Bradley Manning allegedly did, that this entire country is going down some huge secrecy drain even with documents that the judge doesn't even claim are national security documents and they're not giving them to us.  So what we did a few weeks ago is we filed some letters with the judge saying we want access.  The Reporters Committee on Free Press filed a letter with 47 major newspapers saying we want access. Everything has been denied. So now we are going to the next level of the military appeals, it's called the Court of Military Appeals, and then we go to the Court of the Armed Forces and then, presumably, into federal court. I expect to win the case. 
Though he's never been found guilty of anything, he remains behind bars and the Constitutional guarantee of a speedy and fair trial becomes even more of a joke. 
Today marks two years of imprisonment of Private Bradley Manning.  Two years ouf of his 24 years is a long time in military prison.  His treatment has been highly controversial, every step of the way.
Following every bit of information available during the first few months of his ordeal made it clear that the US government was going to use Manning as a warning to anyone else who might feel compelled to report on war crimes, or any other crimes they witness from withing the system.  Blow the whistle, goes the warning, and you will be buried alive by the state, shredded by the same secrecy machine a whistleblower would try to expose.
Two years now.  And this is under Barack Obama.  He had no respect for the Constitution.  People deluded themselves.  The Voice of Russia sees little hope of Bradley getting a fair shake:
All of the facts so far do not point to the possibility that Manning will be given the opportunity to receive a fair trial. He was the chosen scapegoat for what the US characterized as a historic intelligence failure, something conspiracy theorists say was an orchestrated release to tie up the intelligence agencies of the world with disinformation and to serve as the spark to ignite the color revolutions of the Arab spring. According to experts these two things were the only real tangible effects of the release of the information that was attributed to Manning.
[. . .]
The answer is clear, it is not in the interests of the government to assist in the Manning's defense, if he is found innocent and the huge house of cards that has been built up around him comes crashing down many officials at all levels will have to face the piper and while the foxes are guarding the chicken coop assisting someone they accuse is not something that can ever be expected, no matter how much lip service is paid to innocence before guilty.
Meanwhile in England, the Iraq War is back in the news after Tony Blair got confronted for his War Crimes yesterday.  Samira Shackle (New Statesman) reported that while Tony Blair gave testimony a the Royal Courts of Justice, he was shouted down with a cry of, "This man should be arrested for War Crimes!"  Tom Chivers (Telegraph of London) identifies the truth-teller as David Lawley-Wakelin who made the documentary Alternative Iraq Enquiry. Sam Lister, Rosa Silverman and Brian Farmer (Independent of London) report that Lawley-Wakelin shouted, "This man should be arrested for War Crimes.  JP Morgan paid him off for the Iraq War.  Three months after he invaded Iraq they held upt he Iraq bank for 20 billion.  He was then paid six million dollars every year and still is from JP Morgan six month after he left office.  This man is a War Criminal!" As Connor Simpson's piece for The Atlantic noted, "Tony Blair Can't Escape the Iraq War."
Suzannah Hills (Daily Mail) reports that Lawley-Wakelin appeared on James O'Brien's LBC radio program today You go through the metal detectors, any member of the public can actually go in, and I tried to get in through the front entrance of the Leveson inquiry but was evicted as I don't have any press accreditation. But I figured out there must be a back way in as Lord Leveson himself must have one.  When I got there I was surprised to find out that there was no security at all and in fact the door to the court was wide open in the same way that Lord Leveson himself would have got in there."  The Telgraph of London quotes Leveson telling the inquiry today, "Yesterday morning a man by the name of David Lawley-Wakelin interrupted and disrupted the proceedings of this Inquiry for purposes of his own.  I directed that an inquiry should take place and it has now been completed.  Appropriate measures to prevent any risk of repetition have been taken."  Lawley-Wakelin appeared on Press TV (link is video and transcript) today and was asked if War Criminal Blair would ever appear before the Hague?
Lawley-Wakelin: You know, whether he ever gets to court that's another thing.  Taking on the American government, Bush and Blair and the British government it's just an enormous thing.  There are lots of websites where you can join petitions to get Blair indicated for war crimes and perhaps one day we can hope that he will be taken down to the Hague but it's a long road and we can only hope that it will happen.  There is plenty of evidence to point towards it.  The sad thing is that the Chilcot Inquiry [so named after its chairman Sir John Chilcot] over here in England which is known as the Iraq Inquiry won't be looking into any criminal activity, they'll only be making inquiry into what went wrong in the decision-making by the politicians and the government and putting guidelines towards that but they won't be looking at all the money that washed around at the time and that Blair is still making.


 "Barack doesn't win the vet vote"
"Memorial Day,"