As oozing oil fouls Louisiana’s marshes, Obama has committed to maintaining the semblance of a regular schedule, adhering to his walk-and-chew-gum style of crisis management even as criticism of his administration mounts.
That includes a sit-down to talk hoops with Marv Albert, events touting the stimulus and Duke’s basketball team, a Memorial Day appearance in Illinois and a pair of fundraisers in California that roughly overlapped with a memorial service for 11 workers killed in the April 20th explosion on the Deepwater Horizon platform.
That's from Glenn Thrush, Josh Gerstein and Manu Raju's "President Obama under fire for BP spill response" (Politico). Of course people are outraged, Barack's not doing his job. He was elected to do a job. He's done nothing. He parties too much, poses too often and needs to get to work. All he did his first year was travel. He set a record, according to NPR, for travel outside the country for a first term president. The US economy was falling apart but Barack was traveling.
And, speaking of NPR, yesterday on Morning Edition, Ari Shapiro had an interesting report:
But even if every agency had been fully staffed months ago, people in and outside of the administration say this is a controlling White House by its nature.
Projects that the Bush and Clinton administrations might have entrusted to the departments of Justice, State or Defense are now centered at the White House instead. That's true of national security policies, legislative initiatives and more.
Outside groups working on the Kagan confirmation complain that the White House is overbearing.
Advocates say they felt pressure to endorse Kagan before they were ready, and they complain that the White House tries to micromanage interview requests for outside groups.
There's a daily conference call and a weekly meeting in person, to make sure the outside groups are singing from the White House's hymnal.
That's on top of the regular memos establishing talking points for each day.
One recent example read, "By making public Elena Kagan's college thesis, Elena Kagan and the Obama White House are raising the bar on transparency."
I would hope the dishonesty and the manipulation would displease -- if not outrage -- most Americans but I think, for my side anyway, there's a sense for some of, "Yeah! We're playing like Republicans now!" Like that's ever been the answer for Democrats. There's a world of difference between truth telling and an echo chamber.
This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Wednesday:
Wednesday, May 26, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri 'suffers' for his public, Barack proves his presidential cry is "MEOW!", to avoid debt payments Iraq breaks up an airplane company, and more.
Last night, catty Barack Obama teamed up with catty Barbara Boxer who appears to be begging California to vote her out of office. Barry was droning on in his stop-stop, Sandy Dennis manner -- so many vocal tics you expect him to ask for a Coke. With. Crushed ice. Come Back To The Speech Therapist, Barry O, Barry O. He ended up heckled. And between his vanity and his well known bitchery, you knew Barry wasn't going to stand for it. As he scowled, Barbara Boxer snarls that "it's the same guy" who heckled Barry last time. The guy was Kip Williams and Barbara only likes it when closeted lesbians heckle Karl Rove. That she'll get behind and cheer.
Rafael Corral (KFRC) posts video of the exchange.
Barry: I have to say. You know. I saw. ThisguydowninLA. At a Barbara Boxer event.
Bitchy Barbara: That's right!
Barry: At. A. Barbaraboxerevent. About a month and a half ago. And -- uhhhh- I would -- two points I'd like to make. Number one. Uhhh. I hate to say this but he should -- I hate to say this but he really should like buy a ticket to -- Uhhhh. If-if he wants to demonstrate, buy a ticket to a guy who doesn't support his point of view and then you can yell as much as you want there. The other point is maybe he didn't read the newspapers.
That's enough of Barack's bitchy tirade against an American citizen. Forever low class, that's Barry O. And the holler monkeys assembled -- sounding like the same wet dreamers for George W. Bush in 2003 -- lap it up. Like many other things, Barack isn't good at math. A month and a half ago? Go to the April 20th snapshot to read about the last California heckling on April 19th.
On the joke of 'repealing' Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Carolyn Lochhead (San Francisco Chronicle) notes GetEQUAL's Lt Dan Choi:But Iraq veteran Lt. Dan Choi, who is facing dismissal for publicly stating that he is gay and who twice chained himself to the White House gates in protest, argued that there should be no compromise on ending discrimination and said the White House could stop dismissals now."If any groups are saying this is a reason to rejoice, they need to wake up to the reality of soldiers on the ground," Choi said. The policy "is still in place and (gay and lesbian personnel) are still going to get fired for telling the truth."At Newsweek, Dan explains:
I'm not going to lie. This compromise isn't what I, or any of my fellow advocates, wanted or expected. The compromise does not end the firings. Nor does it restore our integrity. It is the result of a White House that has been AWOL on "don't ask, don't tell" repeal for the last year and a half, and now is desperately trying to find a solution -- any solution, regardless of how unworkable -- to a problem and a promise it would rather just go away. Our "fierce advocate," as the president promised the gay community he would be, has presented us with a last-minute Hobson's choice, and it is no cause for celebration. As the clock continues ticking toward a Thursday vote in Congress, the president is asking the lesbian and gay community to praise this compromise because it's the best we could possibly get. My question for the president that I ask in this video is simple: under your compromise, when will the discharges end? How long can we ask gay service members to live a lie? How long can we deny existence to their families? How long do we need to study the injustice in order to understand that discrimination is un-American? Poll after poll shows that the American people don't need another study in order to know what's right. Nearly 80 percent of Americans, from all walks of life, already understand what the president and the Congress still find so hard to grasp. The people support a full repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" now. When will their leaders do the same?
At Blue Oregon, Iraq War veteran Eric Zimmerman explains:
The last sections of the amendment by Sen. Lieberman strike all concern for a timeline, implementation, and any actual substantive qualities of the effort to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Unfortunately there is no meat to this amendment and it quickly becomes a talking point rather than a policy change and a piece of anti-discrimination legislation. Would we have settled for such weak legislation, lack of timelines, and lack of implementation for any of the civil rights legislation of generations past? Absolutely not!
Contrast this amendment with racial civil rights legislation. Race would have remained a point of discrimination legally until the President of the United States, and members of his cabinet decided it was time to change. They would have received a report about implications; the report would have sat on their desk for weeks, months, years? Perhaps an entire term of the Presidency. Nothing in this bill holds decision-makers' feet to the fire. Congress, who enacted the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policies of the early nineties, washes their hands of the issue. No longer are the individual representatives and senators who represent us responsive to us on this issue because this amendment puts power in the hands of the President, his Secretary of Defense, and his Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The President could of course replace the other two positions until he found people who would put their name to this policy change- but I don't have that kind of confidence in the President's agenda, nor should I. Politically, this issue does not warrant that kind of maneuvering. This is the right thing to do; it's a matter of just doing it. The SECDEF and the CJCS are good at what they do, they shouldn't be replaced for their lack of movement on the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. It shouldn't be their decision at all. Congress needs to repeal the ban and the President needs to sign the repeal into law. Bottom line.
What's really amazing, looking at this issue, is thinking of all the people who came of age after the March On Washington and other landmark events. They always like to say, coming of age after the battle, that they would have been on the right side. Reality is far different. They wouldn't have the guts then because they don't have it now. Instead of applauding Dan and Eric and everyone else fighting for a more equal America, they slam them. They say, as an idiot does at Blue Oregon, that you need "comrpomise. This is a compromise that will work". And they sneer "purity" at those striving for full equality.
People like that? That attitude? They were the same ones who felt that a few morsels tossed out justified continuing racial discrimination. Social change does not come about easily and look and see who today is on the side of equality and who is too busy carrying water for a president who will be out of office in two or six years. See who believes in equality and who believes in worshipping false gods. There is a very real battle going on for equal rights today. And it's not the within We The People. We The People have decided we want Don't Ask, Don't Tell ended. The battle is between We The People and our alleged representatives in the federal government. History doesn't come with do-overs. The present quickly becomes the historical record. People better be keeping that in mind when they decide whether they stand for equality or whether they're lustful teenage groupies making fools of themselves.
Meanwhile Joan Crawford in all her 'working girl' films never faced as much drama as Nouri al-Maliki attempts to create for himself. Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) reports the desperate-to-remain prime minister is claiming numerous assassination attempts have taken place and, here's the kicker, he didn't order them, he was the target. At one point, he insists that, in 2009, an airplane he was on was targeted: "A missile was fired against the plane but thermal decoys diverted it." He's seen far too many movies. AFP quotes the drama queen claiming, "There have been several attempts like this but they have all failed." Is he attempting to paint himself as indestructable or goading his alleged assassins on?
Each day brings us more laughable Nouri 'news' and it's getting so bad you expect to discover shortly that his agents trying to plant items in Liz Smith's latest column. Elections took place March 7th. The Iraqiya political slate won the most seats in Parliament (91). Nouri al-Maliki has repeatedly attempted to circumvent his slate's second place showing (State Of Law won 89 seats). Yesterday, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative to Iraq, Ad Melkert, gave a report to the UN Security Council. The UN News Centre quotes him stating to the Council, "At this juncture, Iraq would probably be better served by a broadly inclusive Government as a radical alternative to exclusion and disenfranchisement that many communities have experienced in the past. [. . .] Failure by the next government to address the needs and aspirations of the population will predictably be a source of increasing instability and undermind the gains of the democratic process so far." So tight with the US government that you can't tell them apart, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace weighs in with a post-election analysis by Marina Ottaway and Danial Kaysi:
Fissures are also appearing among the Kurdish parties, although they had announced after the elections that they would participate in national politics as a unified bloc. According to some reports, the agreement reached by State of Law and the INA when they formed the National Alliance assumed the Kurds would back the Alliance, and that they would keep the presidency in return for their support. Statements made recently by various Kurdish leaders call that idea into question. There is no doubt that current President Jalal Talabani and his Patriotic Union of Kurdistan Party want to retain the presidency and will back the INA-State of Law alliance as a result. But the leaders of Gorran, the party that broke off from the PUK and remains its main rival, is now suggesting that the Kurds should not demand the presidency, but the speakership of the Council of Representatives. Ostensibly, this is because the latter position is more powerful. Not incidentally, if the Kurdish parties accepted Gorran's position and opted for the speakership rather than the presidency, Talabani would be deprived of the position he covets. Even more revealing of dissension among the Kurds is that fact that Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan region and the leader of the Democratic Party of Kurdistan, appears to be distancing himself from Maliki. Barzani has stated that Iraqi politicians must respect the constitution and the people's will, and thus Allawi, whose Iraqiya coalition won the largest number of seats, should receive the mandate to form the government.
It is impossible to determine at this point whether Barzani's position is just an opening gambit to win more concessions from the Shi'i parties or whether there is a possibility that at least some Kurdish parties will break ranks and back Allawi. Two conclusions are clear, however. First, State of Law is both angry and worried about Barzani's position, because it needs Kurdish support to form a government. Speaking for the State of Law, Ali Dabbagh angrily declared that the Kurds were welcome to side with Iraqiya if they wanted, but then thought better of it and denied having made such a statement. Second, the Kurds are trying to exact a high price for their support. Reports indicate that they are demanding the implementation of Article 140 of the constitution, which calls for a referendum in Kirkuk; control of the presidency plus at least one of the sovereign ministries; an oil law that defends their interests; and a commitment by the government to provide funding for the peshmerga forces even though the peshmerga have a degree of autonomy from the Iraqi security apparatus. Baha'a Aaraji of State of Law has declared that the Kurds will have to reconsider their exorbitant demands if they plan to negotiate seriously.
Meanwhile Press TV reports the government or 'government' out of Baghdad continues to insist that the UN sanctions be lifted. This as Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports, "The Iraqi council of ministers decided to dissolve Iraqi Airways and liquidate its assets after the airline dropped flights to England and Sweden in a row with Kuwait over war reparations." Nayla Razzouk (Bloomberg News) adds, "Kuwait Airways Corp. is seeking $1.2 billion in compensation for 10 planes taken by Iraq, under the rule of Saddam Hussein when his forces invaded Kuwait in August 1990." Left unstated in both reports is that Nouri and his council really shouldn't be doing this because they really aren't in power. It's amazing what Nouri is pushing through in this post-election period and amazing how news outlets seem to work overtime to ignore that its taking place. Representing Kuwait Airways is Chris Gooding of Fasken Martineau LLP who tells BBC News:
This is not an action that's being pursued by the government of Kuwait. It's being pursued by Kuwait Airways company against Iraqi Airways company. So attempts to portray it as a political witchhunt are sadly misplaced. [. . .] It relates to the incorporation of airpcraft and spare parts taken from Kuwait International Airport by Iraqi Airways as part of an attempt to encorporate Kuwait Airways into Iraqi Airways. [. . .] These are not reparations, these are commercial court judgments totaling $1.2 billion. As I say, Iraq has defended itself throughout this action as far as the courts are concerned, these are commercial court judgments.
Hassan Hafidh and Daniel Michaels (Wall St. Journal) add, "Kuwait Airways, also state owned, has in recent years been awarded some $1.2 billion by British courts in compensation from the Iraqi carrier for the theft of 10 airplanes and millions of dollars worth of spare parts during Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Iraqi Air hasn't paid the award, so Kuwait Air recently sought to freeze the company's assets world-wide."
In other bad news for Nouri, Hassan Hafidh (Wall St. Journal) reports the one time head of South Oil Co (state-owned Iraqi oil company) is criticizing the oil deals Nouri's cabinet awarded and is calling for them to be re-examined. Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) and Mohammed al-Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) report Nouri's running another secret prison, this one on Muthanna Iraqi Army Base, according to an Iraqi security forces member. This one appears to target Sunnis (based on the way the prisoners are described -- for example, Shi'ites aren't usually accused of being part of al Qaeda in Iraq) as did the last one but it also includes children, such as "an infant and a 3-year-old named Tiba." Along with children, wives are also being held:
In some cases, the women were being interrogated as possible suspects, but in others they were being used to try to extract confessions from their husbands. Using threats against women to elicit confessions from male relatives is a practice well-documented by rights groups.
"Four days ago when one of the men wouldn't confess they said, 'Bring in his wife.' They put her in a separate room nearby and beat her so he could hear her screaming," says the witness. "They went back to the man and said, 'We will rape her if you don't confess.' "
As part of another report, on prisoner abuse, Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) notes, "As the US prepares to withdraw from Iraq, serious concerns are surfacing about systematic torture by Iraqi forces in a country where ending human rights abuses was one of the main American goals."
Today Reuters reports a Tuesday Mosul clash in which 2 police officers were shot dead, a Tuesday Kirkuk attack in which an old man was shot dead and his corpse then hung and a 1 "agricultural crops guard" killed in Daquq Tuesday. Yesterday Baghdad saw the big gold robberies. Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "A nearby four-man police patrol responded to the sound of the grenades and got into a shootout with the attackers. All four officers were wounded, one attacker was killed and the other robbers fled with the loot, according to the Baghdad command center." Liz Sly and Usama Redha (Los Angeles Times) add, "On a street dotted with pools of blood and piles of broken glass, residents wondered how the gang had managed to launch such a well-organized attack in an area surrounded by blast walls and many checkpoints."
And as if Iraq hasn't suffered enough, Dan Healing (Calgary Herald) reports Canada's WesternZagros Resources were drilling a well in noterhn Iraq's Kurdamir and the village had to be evacuated -- everyone it -- and will apparently be homeless for "about 30 days" and everyone's supposed to rejoice that the company's chief executive has announced that "a temporary camp for the people" was built.
In the US RTT News reports the unethical Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (aka "Gimmie freebie tickets to all events!") joined with Democratic Party boi toi Jon Soltz of the front group VoteVets to accuse Republicans opposed to the war supplemental of not providing service members with what they need for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Special shame on Senator Jack Reed who actually does know right from wrong and shouldn't have participated in that garbage. (Reid and Soltz are apparently amoral judging from their past actions.) The best way to protect US troops is to stop funding the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. I really don't care why some Republicans aren't for the measure. It doesn't matter. What's needed is a large number of "no" votes. (Republican objection, by their designated spokespersons public remarks, is to the supplemental war bill being stuffed with domestic agenda items.) And for those rubbing their eyes, yes, we are talking about a war supplemental and, no, you are not dreaming. Despite claiming in spring 2009 that he was doing his one and only war supplemental and despite offering a campaign promise of no war supplemental funding measures, Barack's back at the trough.
Also in the US, Bryan Mims (WRAL -- link has text and video) reported on a video apparently shot in Iraq -- by someone with the US military -- which was posted on Facebook May 14th by Robert Rodriguez and has the voice of a US male questioning two small children, apparently Iraqis, who do not understand English and making derogatory comments about sexuality and calling them terrorists. Sarah Netter (ABC News) quotes US Army Maj Bill Coppernoll stating, "The content in the video is disgraceful. [. . .] The vast majority of soldiers are doing the right thing, and I think the public knows that." Netter goes on to offer some pros and cons of a random sample of videos posted online by service members.
Weighing in on the Iraq War and how things are headed within the US, Andrew J. Bacevich (American Conservative) observes: Whether out of self-delusion or pure, unvarnished cynicism, those who promoted the invasion of Iraq as an appropriate response to 9/11 are now declaring the entire enterprise a great triumph. Celebrating the putative achievements of the surge, they evince little interest in recalling either the several years during which the war was grotesquely mismanaged or the very reasons conjured up to justify the invasion in the first place. "Bush's War," in their telling, has now been rechristened "Petraeus's War." Barack Obama has made himself party to this calculated revisionism. Keen to focus on their own agenda (to include their own war in AfPak), ostensibly liberal Democrats -- the ones who promised to change the way Washington works -- collaborate with neoconservatives and other right-wing militarists to put Iraq in the nation's rearview mirror. Will Washington succeed in perpetrating this fraud? The answer is almost certainly yes. No doubt the Congress will soon take up the business of commissioning an Iraq War memorial to be erected somewhere on the Mall amidst all the other memorials commemorating past American wars. What Congress will not do, however, is demand a full accounting of all that our long misadventure in Iraq has wrought. Nor will the American people insist on such an accounting. Truth will remain unwelcome. Our preference for sanitized history will persist.
Santized history may already be hear courtesty of Broadcasting & Cable and John Eggerton. Eggerton writes: "CNN has launched a Web subsite devoted to a list and various stats about the 1,761 U.S. and coalition casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan." Were this accurate, CNN would be a dumb ass. We all know, for example, that the number of US service members killed in Iraq currently stands at 4400. CNN doesn't say that but Eggerton hasn't learned to navigate the web yet. Someone get him a laptop with training wheels. When you go to the page, you do see "1,761" when the page finishes loading. But you are clearly on the Afghanistan tab. You have to hit the "IRAQ" tab to get "Showing 4,7171 US and Coalition casualties." CNN's John King USA on Memorial Day will devote the program to the fallen. Someone needs to explain how Broadcasting & Cable -- an industry news journal -- could be so out of it that they would actually print "1,761" as the number of fallen for US and ALL coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan? It's not that they got the number wrong. Getting the number wrong would be their being off by twenty or, if you want to be generous, by a hundred. But they are off by thousands and the writer didn't know that? And no one caught the mistake? Do they even register that the US is involved in two wars? Did they spend the last seven to nine years snoozing?
We'll close with an excerpt of Elaine Brower's "Philly: Army Experience Center Protesters Acquitted" (World Can't Wait):
On Monday, May 24th six co-defendants (Elaine Brower, Debra Sweet, Richie Marini, Joan Pleune, Beverly Rice and Sarah Wellington, appeared in a Philadelphia courtroom in front of Judge DeLeon to stand trial for arrests dating back to September 12, 2009.
On that date, hundreds of protesters converged on the "Army Experience Center", a place that literally takes small children and turns them into video thrill-seeking killers, on the taxpayer's dime. If you are not familiar with the place, it was built after the Pentagon decided to shut down five other recruitment centers in the Philadelphia area, and combine them into a high-tech, $14 million facility, complete with 19 gaming stations all equipped with the latest versions of murder software.
The DoD filled the place with nice looking recruiters, which they say are not recruiters, but mentors for the "children" who just want to "understand" today's Army. Really, a "PsyOps" program.
On that date last year, seven protesters were plucked out of the crowd of hundreds which was escorted into the mall by the local Philly PD, and civil affairs personnel, and selectively arrested. All were charged with "Conspiracy and Failure to Disperse". One was a journalist, who battled with the Philly DA and got her case dismissed, but the remaining six waited 8 months for our day in court. Our attorney, Paul Hetznecker, a Philadelphia civil rights attorney, did an amazing job of protecting our freedom of speech, and First Amendment rights.
Considering that we had been escorted into the privately owned mall, but were protesting a federally owned recruitment center, many issues came into play. Mr. Hetznecker spent months preparing his trial, actually serving a subpoena on the AEC to deliver the photos and video tapes of inside the center from that day.
the san francisco chroniclecarolyn lochhead
bloomberg newscaroline alexander
the calgary heralddan healingcnnmohammed tawfeeqnayla razzouk
the christian science monitor
mcclatchy newspapersmohammed al dulaimi
the los angeles timesliz slyusama redha
american conservativeandrew j. bacevichbroadcasting and cablejohn eggerton
the world cant waitelaine brower