Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Here comes the cliff

Bloomberg News reports:

The U.S. Treasury Department reiterated today it expects to reach the federal debt limit “near the end of 2012,” and said that it plans to sell $72 billion in notes and bonds in next week’s refunding.

The Treasury said in a statement today that it can use “extraordinary measures” that would “provide sufficient ‘headroom’ under the debt limit to allow the government to continue to meet its obligations until early in 2013.” The Treasury also said an auction under its planned floating-rate note program is “estimated to be at least one year away.”

The Los Angeles Times adds:

The nation's debt ceiling once again looms as the spark to congressional brinkmanship that could threaten the slowly recovering economy.
The Treasury Department said Wednesday that the U.S. probably will hit its $16.4-trillion borrowing limit by the end of the year, at the same time that Congress will be grappling with the automatic tax hikes and large government spending cuts scheduled to kick in Jan. 1.

Wouldn't it be great if we had a functioning government?  One that actually addressed these issues in real time and didn't wait for a 'fiscal cliff' to do something?

I remember Barack whining that Bush had driven the car (our country) into a ditch.  And now Barack's driving us up to the edge of a cliff?

Could any of them pass a driving test?

We are so seriously screwed, it is not funny.

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

Wednesday, October 31, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, kebabs are out, al Qaeda is back, corruption never left Iraq, nor did US troops (despite Beecroft's claims otherwise), we look at Benghazi, terror and more.
Save us all from the sexism.  Last night, Ann, Marcia, Ava and I weighed in on a sexist get-out-the-vote ad and I would have hoped that lengthy piece could be it on the topic for a bit.  But sexism never ends, instead it seems to roll in with the tide. 
Yesterday's snapshot noted Nussaibah Younis' "Time to Get Tough on Iraq" (New York Times) which is an important column.  And one of many important pieces of writing Nussaibah's contributed over the years -- such as at England's Guardian newspaper.  But today Jacob Hornberger (Media With Conscience News) decides to 'tackle' the article in the way only certain men can -- by completely misunderstanding everything about the article and about Nussaibah.  So when Hornberger writes of Nussaibah, "He wants the U.S. government to get tough . . ."? 
I'm sorry Hornberger, I would assume if you were someone who regularly writes about the Middle East -- and Libertarian Hornberger frequently does -- that you'd know a few things.  One thing you might know, for example, is that Nussaibah -- which has a variety of spellings -- is one of the oldest female names in Arabic culture.  Yeah, Nussaibah Younis, the "he" Hornberger is raging against is actually a she.
If you doubt it, you can check out her profile at the Guardian or her Twitter feed.  She is not a man and it's telling that when Hornberger encounters a name that he clearly doesn't recognize, his factory setting is to automatically assume it's a man.
I'm sorry Jacob Hornberger is so uninformed.  I'm sorry that he's unaware that Nouri is not the near Ghandi Hornberger wants him to be.  (Ghandi didn't run secret torture chambers.) Most of all, I'm sorry he's so foolish.  Throughout his column, he yammers away about how this is 'democracy' and now the Americans object.  No, democracy is not Nouri.  Nouri was not the choice of the Iraqi voter.  Iraqiya beat Nouri's State of Law.  There should have been no second term for Nouri.  But the White House wanted Nouri to have a second term.
John Barry observes in "'The Engame' Is A Well Researched, Highly Critical Look at U.S. Policy in Iraq" (Daily Beast):

Washington has little political and no military influence over these developments [in Iraq]. As Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor charge in their ambitious new history of the Iraq war, The Endgame, Obama's administration sacrificed political influence by failing in 2010 to insist that the results of Iraq's first proper election be honored: "When the Obama administration acquiesced in the questionable judicial opinion that prevented Ayad Allawi's bloc, after it had won the most seats in 2010, from the first attempt at forming a new government, it undermined the prospects, however slim, for a compromise that might have led to a genuinely inclusive and cross-sectarian government."
Hornberger's never heard of that, never heard of Nussaibah Younis, never heard of Nouri's secret prisons apparently (well documented for many years now) and, again, assumed for some reason that the journalist had to be a man.  Don't mean to give Jacob Hornberger a shock here, but women have been journalists for many years now.  Anne Newport Royall dates back to the 1800s as a journalist, for example, and may be the first woman to interview a sitting president (John Quincy Adams) and, of course, the Dorothy Dix columns Elizabeth Meriweather Gilmer began writing in 1896; Dorothy Thomas who wrote the "On the Record" column for the New York Herald Tribune beginning in 1936 and many more. Since Nussaibah Younis wrote a column for the New York Times, let's note Pulitzer winner Anne O'Hare McCormick who moved to the Times in 1921 and to the paper's editorial pages in 1936.  She won the Pulitzer for foreign correspondence in 1937 for the columns she wrote.  In the New York Times obituary on O'Hare McCormick (May 30, 1954), the paper noted:
Although partisan spokesmen disagreed with the views she set down thrice weekly in her editorial-page column "Abroad," and in her editorials on the two other days of her work week, none ever failed to pay her tribute for sharp reporting and "coolheaded analysis of the news."
In the course of her brilliant newspaper career she became the expert the experts looked up to. Although she had no formal, professional training for newspaper work, she schooled herself for years before filing her first cable. The stature of her work was such that only a year after she joined the editorial page staff of The Times in 1936 she won the Pulitzer Prize for foreign correspondence. She was the second woman to receive a Pulitzer Prize in journalism.
In 2012, it should not be shocking that a woman would write a column.  As Stevie Nicks sings in "Two Kinds of Love" (written by Stevie, Rick Nowels and Rupert Hine, first appears on The Other Side of the Mirror), "Who in the world do you think that you are fooling? Well I've already done everything that you are doing."
The sexism involved is not a minor thing.  The same wing of Libertarians who insist upon seeing Nouri as the great man (emphasis on man) who will stand up to the US government tend to be the most sexist in their assumptions and in their remarks.  There's a certain radio host, for example, "ya'll," who twangs his undying love for Nouri based on something other than reality.  It may be sexual frustration or some desire to act out power-struggles in the bedroom, I have no idea.  But this is not an isolated case, this happens over and over with this sub-set of Libertarians.  And they give the larger group a bad name because many people think this is the Libertarian line on women.
In Iraq, Muhammed Abdulla (UPI) reports that kebab shops are being shut down in the Kurdistan Regional Government due to "uncleanliness and selling expired food."  People report not feeling it was safe to eat at the shops and one woman explained she found mice feces in a kibab. 
While the kibab shops are temporarily closed, polling stations will be opening in a few months.  Al Mada reports a date for provincial elections has been set: April 20, 2013.  KUNA reports that the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq, Martin Kobler, declared the news was welcome and "urged that civili society organizations [. . .] encourage and highlight the participation of all Iraqis, particularly women, in the coming elections."
Martin Kobler's the UN's Vanna White.  He can be found daily applauding anyone who steps up to the wheel for a spin.  He's got no real opinions to express on other issues like the rampant corruption in Iraq. 
UPI notes a new report says "al Qaeda is mounting a comeback in Iraq."  It's the latest quarterly report from the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.  We covered it in yesterday's snapshot so today we'll note some reporting on it.  Sam Dagher and Ali A. Nabhan (Wall St. Journal) emphasize the corruption the report found "with almost $800 million flowing out of the country illegal each week."  All Headline News notes the millions "are being laundered abroad," according to the report.  David Isenberg (Huffington Post) adds, "Since 2004, the work of SIGIR's Investigations Directorate has resulted in 97 indictments, 75 convictions, and more than $180 million in court-ordered fines, forfeitures, and other monetary penalties."
From corruption to corrupted trust, US Ambassador to Iraq Robert S. Beecroft has only just started his job and already he's managed to destroy the trust of Iraqis.  As the ambassador, Beecroft is the face of America in Iraq.  In such a role, he needs to conduct himself in a manner that instills trust.  He made a fool of himself in today's news cycle as a result of telling Alsumaria yesterday that claims that there are US troops in Iraq are just unfounded, false rumors?  Al Mada also covers his statements.

Not only was Moqtada al-Sadr calling last week for US forces to leave Iraq, but Iraqis -- unlike Americans -- have read in their press in recent weeks about US troops going to Baghdad International Airport over the Syrian flights.  They've read about US troops going to the border Iraq shares with Syria.  In addition, earlier this year, a CIA or State Dept helicopter crashed in downtown Baghdad.  Yet again, the American press didn't care.  The Iraqi press was all over it and especially over the uniformed military -- that they identified as American troops -- that came along in a second helicopter and resecued the people in the first.  Not only was this covered by the Iraqi media but so were the subsequent statements by various MPs about American forces remaining in Iraq.

In addition to the 200 or so that guard US embassy staff, you have serveral hundred there as 'trainers' and assisting on weapons purchases. 

In December of last year, Ted Koppel reported on how all US forces would not be leaving Iraq in  a report he filed for Rock Center with Brian Williams (NBC):

MR. KOPPEL: I realize you can't go into it in any detail, but I would assume that there is a healthy CIA mission here. I would assume that JSOC may still be active in this country, the joint special operations. You've got FBI here. You've got DEA here. Can, can you give me sort of a, a menu of, of who all falls under your control?

AMB. JAMES JEFFREY: You're actually doing pretty well, were I authorized to talk about half of this stuff.

That report was all but ignored by the media in the US outside of NPR (Ted discussed it on Talk of the Nation).  But it got serious attention in Iraq.

September 26th, Tim Arango (New York Times) reported:

Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions. At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence.

With the exception of Tom Hayden's brief piece for The Nation, this was ignored in the US press.  But guess what press didn't ignore the article?

That's right, the Iraqi press.
In addition, Micah Zenko (Council on Foreign Relations) observed this month, "The United States currently has 225 troops, 530 security assistance team members, and over 4,000 contractors to equip and train Iraqi security forces via the Office of Security Cooperation Iraq."
So Beecroft did a really stupid thing insisting there were no US troops in Iraq.  Iraqis know better.  He now looks like a liar.
And it really wasn't the day for an American to look like a liar in Iraq.   All Iraq News reports Iraqis state they have found Israeli recording devices on the F-16s the US has supplied so far.  The Iraqi Air Force leadership has sent a letter objecting to the device to Lockheed Martin, manufacturers of the F-16s.  Fars News Agency adds, "Iraq's air force has found out Israeli company RADA has planted information recording systems in its F-16 fighters recently purchased from the American Lockheed Martin Company."
As it heats up and the US government strives to be seen as an honest broker, they have to do so as Beecroft made a statement that will strike many Iraqis as ridiculous including some who will feel that the lies continue even when the faces of the officials change.
Iraq Body Count counts 1 police officer killed yesterday in a Hit bombing.  AP reports 2 Ministry of Industry employees were shot dead today in Baghdad and 2 road construction workers were shot dead outside Mosul.
Turning to US television, Andrew Kirell (Mediaite -- link is text and video) notes on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno last night, Leno's opening monologue included, "'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is back.  Not for gays in the military.  It's President Obama's new policy for questions about Libya: don't ask, don't tell!"  What happened in Libya?
Committee Chair Darrell Issa:  On September 11, 2012, four brave Americans serving their country were murdered by terrorists in Benghazi, Libya.  Tyrone Woods spent two decades as a Navy Seal serving multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Since 2010, he protected the American diplomatic personnel.  Tyrone leaves behind a widow and three children.   Glen Doherty, also a former Seal and an experienced paramedic, had served his country in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  His family and colleagues grieve today for his death.  Sean Smith, a communications specialist, joined the State Dept after six years in the United States Air Force.  Sean leaves behind a widow and two young children.  Ambassador Chris Stevens, a man I had known personally during his tours, US Ambassador to Libya, ventured into a volatile and dangerous situation as Libyans revolted against the long time Gaddafi regime.  He did so because he believed the people of Libya wanted and deserved the same things we have: freedom from tyranny. 
That's US House Rep Darrell Issa speaking at the House Oversight Committee (he is the Chair of the Committee) on October 10th.  We covered the hearing in the October 10th and October 11th snapshots -- a lot of people seem to 'know' what was said in that hearing but they weren't present and their 'facts' don't fit what unfolded in the hearing.  Issa's a Republican.  A lot of people want to reduce it to Republican or Democrat.  That's because a lot of people -- not the only ones -- asking questions are Republicans and a lot of people -- not the only ones -- screaming "LOOK THE OTHER WAY!" are Democrats.
Someone e-mailed to attack what I've written and insist that I'm wrong about what the State Dept knew and that I'm a Republican.  I'm a Democrat.  I know a great deal more about what the State Dept knows than what I've written here.  What I've written here has largely been what was put before Congress.  (In the days ahead of the hearing, I probably dropped hints.  I know Elaine did a post based on our discussion about what was going to come out in that hearing and she wrote it the night before the hearing. I assume that I probably dropped hints in entries here about what was coming out.)  Because you don't know something, that doesn't mean you scream, "Liar!"  I could care less what anyone thinks about me (I'm not campaigning for office and, as noted before, I function best in situations where I'm not loved).  But you've had ample time to find out what was said in the hearing.  The hearing should be archived and up at the House Oversight Committee's webpage so you should be able to stream it.  You may not like what the State Dept witnesses said but that doesn't mean that they said it.
As for my position being 'Republican' or something surprising, go back to July 26th.  I wrote "The threat against the US and the failure of 'trusted voices'."  The Islamic State of Iraq issued a threat to the American people and most US outlets didn't even report it.  Those who alluded to it later on called it "al Qaeda in Iraq."  Strange that a group linked to al Qaeda in Iraq can be called "al Qaeda" but the Benghazi suspects who are linked to al Qaeda?  Scotty Shane and other 'reporters' want to draw a line there. to insist, 'Don't call them al Qaeda!' -- while their own outlets refuse to use the term "Islamic State of Iraq" and instead call that "al Qaeda"?  Oh, yeah, let's pretend not to notice the hypocrisy there.  In the July 26th entry, I wrote the following:
Look at how the US press is failing.  There may be a threat to the US on domestic shores coming out of Iraq.  (There may not be.)  And the tape was released Sunday.  Where's the network television coverge.  At least Bennett and the Los Angeles Times covered the hearing. (And the Tribune is syndicating the story so you'll read it in various newspapers across the country.)   But where are the other news outlets doing their own coverage?
And where is their inernational news coverage?
Not the crap ass, Carrie Nations, rush to the scene of natural disaster and shed a few crocodile tears and wail "Oh, the humanity!" b.s. that the press specializes in but the real reporting that they were supposed to be doing, that they were supposed to return to, after 9/11.  Remember the 'never again' nonsense?  Remember how they were going to return to their roots?
Maybe they did, after all the roots of American journalism are tabloid journalism.
If there's another attack on US shores, the 'winners' are the conservatives in Iraq because, in their periodicals, they never forget the potential of another terrorist threat.  Should one be executed on US soil, they will have 'bragging rights' and be on the ground ready to discuss what happened, to explain how they had already been covering it and everyone else will largely be scrambling.  So who controls the narrative in that situation?
The right-wing.  And that is disgusting because it demonstrates that the left has not learned one damn thing from 9-11.  Who do we have that can speak as an authority if an attack happened at noon today?  Who at the opinion journals cover this?  No one.  The Nation can offer one useless piece of crap every two weeks but can't do a piece on safety and, as everyone should avhe realized after 9-11, a sense of safety is as important in the US as it is anywhere else.
The wallowing in fear after 9-11 allowed so much that is currently wrong with our country to take place.  That especially includes the PATRIOT Act and the rounding up of Muslims.  But there has been so much more.  And yet, on the left, we'd rather waste our space -- our limited space -- on some nonsense like lies about the death of a dog on a family vacation (I'm referring to the nonsense about Mitt Romney's dog -- nonsense that invaded the Senate yesterday) than address what matters.
The left really needs to grow the hell up and grasp that if terrorist attack in the US, the vast majority of Americans -- who don't fall into the left or right holding tanks -- are going to be in front of their TVs attempting to find out what's going on and they're not going to take seriously the musings of a 'Mad Professor' (to name one of many worthless Nation magazine columns) or the pith of the MSNBC no-stars.  In fact, they're going to remember all the stupid jokes the MSNBC 'anchors' (talk show hosts) have wasted everyone's time on when they could have been addressing reality.  I'm referring to the evening and prime time MSNBC shows.  I'm not talking about, for example,
Andrea Mitchell's show.  Andrea is a news reporter and usually knows what's actually news as opposed to what's the hype of the week.  But the rest?
You discredit yourself daily by being unable or unwilling to do anything other than pose as the latest Comedy Central hire.
That was two months before Benghazi.  I think my position was very clear.  And I'm not an authority on the topic but by default I have become one of the main left voices.  Ruth's another.  I don't think Larry Johnson identifies as left (No Quarter).  If he does, he's certainly more knowledgable on the topic than I am.  But these are serious issues and for all the money wasted on non-think tanks for the left, we don't have people stepping up and addressing the serious issues.  I cannot be the left voice against terrorism.  We're all in trouble if that comes to pass.  But I can and have pointed out it is past time that voices step up in this area.
Exactly what I said was going to happen has.  We've got smarmy little MSNBC hosts offering snark and being pompous.  And Americans wants answers.  They see the right wing asking questions.  They see the left dimissing it.  It's time for left leadership on this issue, there is none currently.  Dismissing it and attacking the right for asking questions or leveling charges is not addressing the topic.  It is a serious topic, it goes to all of our safety.  We can be snarky and bitchy and useless.  But you damn well better get it through your head just once, if we were better prepared on the left on September 10, 2001, the fear mongering wouldn't have worked, the PATRIOT Act wouldn't have been pushed through (by Democrats and Republicans) because we would learn to talk seriously about terrorism and its dangers in a manner that offered perspective and information, not fear and fright.  Fear and fright is what drove the country into the mess that it has still not emerged from.  So all you idiots who think snark and hypocrisy is going give you 'pull' with viewers if and when there's another 9-11 on US soil, you better think again because all you're doing is saying to the American people -- over and over -- "I'm too stupid to discuss serious, weighty issues like this.  But let me offer some snark and let's giggle."
I've covered Benghazi seriously.  If I can do it, anyone should be able to.
Eternal failed candidate for public office James P. Thurber Jr. (Mercury News) wants everyone lining up behind Barack.  He leaves out that he's a Democrat who's run for public office (repeatedly -- always a failed campaign, one of the biggest jokes coming out of California from either major party).  Thank you, Thurber, for that totalarian message.  I'm sure that Republicans will pull out this nonsense at some point in the future to justify whatever Republican president wants.  In the meantime, on the left, we're not supposed to be marching behind anyone.  We're supposed to be citizens in a democracy who demand sunlight and transparency.  Think Progress likes to pretend it's left, but it's just a schill for the Democratic Party.  Always remember, Congressional Democrats were exploring impeaching Bully Boy Bush ahead of the invasion of Iraq. Think Progress is part of the Center for American Progress whose first President and CEO was John Podesta.  Podesta's the one who threw the fit when Ramsey Clark and others were explaining how to go about impeachment if Bush insisted upon invading Iraq.  Podesta went nuts and started screaming that impeachment could not happen, it would hurt election efforts! Podesta went nuts when asked if Iraqi lives mattered at all and declared that his concern was getting Democrats into public office.  In other words, there are no ethics for the Center for American Progress or for Think Progress.  They are whores.  Complete whores.  And they have blood on their hands, the blood of the Iraqi people.
With that in mind, Hayes Brown posts video of and offers praise for Condi Rice.  She thinks people need to wait and see what investigations find out.  It's a "reasoned response," Hayes Brown wants you to know. 
It's no such thing.  And shame on Brown.  One of the few illuminating moments of the public testimony that the 9-11 Commission recieved was when Condi Rice appeared before them and played her "No one could have guessed" card yet again.  No one could have guessed that terrorists would hijack jets and fly them into a building.  No one could have known, Condi insisted covering her own ass (she was National Security Adviser at the time of the attacks).  After she had sung that tired song several times too many, Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste asked her if she recalled the title of the August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing. Condi infamously responded, "I believe the title was 'Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States'."
No surprise, she was wrong even on that: Title was "Bin Laden Determined to Strike Inside the US."  Condi is the last one anyone should cite on topics of terrorism and the public's right to know.   Think Progress cites her because they're playing politics.  To them, this is just about making sure Barack doesn't face any tough questions.
Leaving partisans (Thurber) and a partisan site (Think Progress) for a real media site by a journalist who stirves to be objective, Rachel Manteuffel of the Washington Post, your little tirade does no one any good.  It didn't reach comical.  It certainly wasn't factual.  No one who regularly reads the Washington Post can claim that the paper has ignored Benghazi or refused to call it a terrorist attack.  That 'honor' would go to PBS' The NewsHour (refer to Ruth's many posts on that, she monitored it repeatedly).  But are people asking what you imply they are as you try to be funny?  Or are they saying, "Yes, there's been Benghazi coverage but it's been dismissive and unquestioning."  If it's the latter, I know the circulation figures and the Post can't afford to run off any readers -- online or in print.  So if it's the latter, you might try leaving stand up to comedians and actually addressing what criticisms the e-mails and phone messages are making. For the record, my opinion, the Post has done a better job of covering this issue than any daily newspaper.  Manteuffel should have been able to have made that case with examples but she was too busy writing a column that was beneath her and attempting to be humorous when she should have been doing the job she was hired for.  And if that assessment hurts feelings at the newspapers, sorry but I didn't get out of bed this morning to kiss boo-boos and make everything all better.
As I end my comments I have some suggestions for those who seek to exploit the ambassador's death for political purposes. First of all they should heed the admonitions of Stevens' parents: The attempts to "place blame are unproductive" and the blatant attempts to exploit the ambassadors death are "abhorrent." We all would be better off if we returned to the bygone ethic of past leaders who sought to unite our nation on issues of foreign policy, not divide it. I hope, if nothing else, these tragic events make those exploitative voices reconsider their efforts to diminish the amount of resources our country commits to its foreign service.
Well justice is blind. Which is how an idiot writes 19 paragraphs on Chris Stevens and the tragedy.  You know what, it was a tragedy for Glen Doherty as well -- but the dumb ass judge doesn't mention Glen.  It was a tragedy for Tyrone Woods -- again, someone the judge never makes time to mention.  It was a tragedy for Sean Smith -- yes, he's another ignored by the judge.
Betty addressed this issue last night with another idiot.  Don't think Americans don't see what happens before their eyes.  You show up with bad columns filled with Chris Stevens.  You use him as a club to silence others while pretending you care about what happened last month.
But if you cared, it takes only a few seconds to type the names: Glen Doherty, Sean Smith and Tyrone Woods.  Those three man died in the attacks.  It wasn't just Chris Stevens.  And America knows that and when they watch you render invisible those three men, they know you're full of s**t and that you're the one playing politics because if you honestly gave a damn, no one would ever be pointing out that you refuse to name all four of the victims.
The Dumb Ass in the Robe wants you to listen to the parent of the fallen.  As long as the parent is Chris Stevens.  Don't listen to Charles Woods who feels the government is lying to him about what happened to his son Tyrone.  Don't listen to Pat Smith who feels the White House has refused to give her an honest answer about what happened to her son Sean.  And certainly don't listen to Sean's father Ryan Smith who becomes the latest parent to speak out today.  Tara Dodrill (Inquisitr) reports:
The grieving father is also a former US Marine. He wants the Obama administration to explain what happened at Benghazi and why multiple calls for help were denied, according to WTSP News. Ryan Smith had this to say during an interview with the news station:
"They haven't done anything. My son and them dialed 911 for help and they wouldn't help them. I want whoever did this, whoever didn't answer their phone, I want them brought to justice too. He was murdered. He was murdered. I want them to get the people who did this."
Smith contacted Florida Representative C.W. Bill Young and asked for help getting answers to his questions. Young reportedly became a willing ally in the father's struggle to garner more information.
But, of course, Ryan Smith doesn't matter.  Pat Smith doesn't matter.  Charles Woods doesn't matter.  Because their sons are rendered "three other people" when the press writes yet another piece about Chris Stevens.  Don't think the American people don't notice the way Tyrone Woods, Sean Smith and Glen Doherty are ignored -- not even mentioned by name -- in article after article pretending to be about the Benghazi attaack.
Four Americans died in the September 11, 2012 attack.  Chris Stevens' death is no more tragic and no more upsetting than the deaths of Glen Doherty, Sean Smith and Tyrone Woods.  And all four were killed because they were Americans.  This was a terrorist attack.  It has national security implications.  There is no need for Americans to sit silently on the sidelines and pretend that -- for the first time ever -- the government is going to function just fine without any citizen oversight.  Questions are being asked because they need to be. 


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Food stamps on the news

On American Media's MarketPlace,  Sherreen Marisol Merafi had a excellent report (transcript and audio).

SNAP makes up two percent of the federal budget today, and government spending on poverty programs has grown in recent years from 14 percent of the federal budget to 19 percent. But federal spending on SNAP comes in well below Medicaid spending and tax credits for the working poor, like the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit. And the Congressional Budget Office projects federal spending on foods stamps will fall to 1.2 percent of federal spending by 2022 without policy changes.
[. . .]

In the parking lot of the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, Scott Wilderman packs up his vehicle with food for his church pantry. Wilderman says he comes every week to the food bank to stock up. "More people out of work, more food given out, more people on food stamps," says Wilderman. "At our church, they have a lady that sits in there and signs people up for food stamps. So now they're like promoting food stamps to people," he says. Wilderman adds that it's the job of churches and charities to help the poor, not the government -- especially when the government can't afford it.
But Andrea Waterstreet, the disabled food stamp recipient, says she's been in line at a food pantry and the entire ordeal was beyond depressing. And the food was processed and unhealthy. "When I get to use my EBT card," says Waterstreet, "I get to feel like a normal person. I don't feel like, 'hey you're poor and everybody else knows it.' "
Waterstreet says there's nothing wrong with the government providing for people in need. She says poor people should be able to live with dignity, and food stamps help with that.

I caught the report this morning during Morning Edition (NPR) and my mouth just dropped.  Know why?

This is an important report.  How many stories have you seen or heard in the last month about people on assistance?  Probably none.  And here it was and it damn sure wasn't coming from Morning Edition.  But we got it from the business show MarketPlace.

A lot of us are very fortunate not to be on food stamps currently.  And it is very easy not to grasp what that's like.  We need to be reminded.

[To be clear, my husband is a union member.  We raised 8 kids.  He went on strike when the union went on strike.  Which means, yes, many times we were on food stamps while we raising our kids.  I wasn't as lucky to have a card to swipe that would appear to be a debit or credit card to a causal onlooker.  I had to use the actual food stamps.  And you got looks.  You got looks from people paying around you and you got looks from the checker.  Oh well.  We had eight kids.  We had to eat.  You do what you have to.  And breaking a strike is not something that either my husband or I believe in.]

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

Tuesday, October 30, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, corruption continues, the State Dept wants nearly $150 million next year for Iraqi police training, the same media that served up Chris Stevens' mother as a voice for all refuses to acknowledge Tyrone Woods' father, and more.
On October 16, 2012, the Council of Ministers dismissed Central Bank of Iraq (CBI) Governor Sinan al-Shabibi, amid allegations of corruption leveled against him. This peremptory and constitutionally questionalbe move occured as an audit of the DBI's foreign currency auctions surfaced. The audit purportedly found that perhaps 80% of the $1 billion purchased at weekly CBI-managed auctions was tied to illegal transactions, with the funds subject to those transactions potentially lost abroad to money laundering. This development is symptomatic of a troubled year in Iraq, evidenced by increased corruption, resurgent violence, deepening ethnosectarian strains, growing apprehensions about the conflict in Syria, and widening divides within the coalition government.
So notes the latest quarterly report from the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction which was released today. It's findings will largely be ignored by the US press that focuses on the disaster and aftermath from Hurricane Sandy and the race of president. Since we mentioned al-Shabibi, let's go back to the report:
The former CBI Governor is credited by many analysts for maintaining the stability of the Iraqi dinar and for keeping inflation and interest rates low -- all viewed as crucially important prerequisites for the kind of well-managed economic growth Iraq hopes to achieve with its enormous oil wealth.
Political opponents of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, along with many banking and financial experts expressed immediate concern that the dismissal of Dr. al-Shabibi -- who is widely viewed as personally honest and professionally effective -- was an attempt to bring the CBI and its $63 billion in reserves under executive branch control. They pointed to the CoM's action as just one of among several steps the Prime Minister has taken to concentrate power within his office. For example, in 2010, al-Maliki won a legal case that effectively shifted control of independent agencies, such as the CBI, from the Council of Representatives (CoR) to the CoM. In an advisory opinion issued in February 2012, the Higher Judicial Council affirmed the earlier ruling, this time naming the CBI. The ruling drew criticsm at the time as a violation of the CBI's independence as guaranteed under the 2005 Iraqi Constitution.
September 19th, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on Robert S. Beecroft's nomination to be the next US Ambassador to Iraq. He was confirmed the Saturday after the hearing. We covered the hearing in the September 19th and 20th snapshots. Senator John Kerry is the Committee Chair, Senator Richard Lugar is the Ranking Member. From the hearing:
Ranking Member Richard Lugar: Now you mentioned the relative security of our embassy and what have you. In the past, there's been considerable discussion, not only among diplomats but among the American public about the size in Iraq. There was discussion when this was first built -- a monumental structure, to say the least. I remember at one conference, I suggested in fact that this structure is so big that it might really serve as a unifying purpose for Middle Eastern countries -- a sort of united forum in which they would all come together -- or like the Hague or what have you. And some people found some interest in this even if the Iraqis did not necessarily nor could our government since its our embassy. But what is the future, simply of all of the real estate, all of the responsibilites? They're huge and this is going to be an ongoing debate, I'm certain, in the Congress as we come to budget problems in this country.
Charge d'Affaires Robert S. Beecroft: Uhm, thank you very much. We-we recognize that this is an issue we started with an embassy that was staffed to address all possible contingencies, to follow up on the wonderful work that the US military had done in Iraq. Since that time, and again starting with Ambassador [James] Jeffrey, and it's something that I personally am continuing and have been very closely involved in and we will pursue -- We're calling it a "glide path exercise" where we're looking at what our objectives are and how we are resourced and staffed to meet those objectives. And what we've found is that we can prioritize and can focus our mission and will continue to do that on what we really need to accomplish. And as we do that, we're able to reduce personnel. Since the beginning of the year, we have reduced personnel by more than 2,000. We're now somewhere between 13,000 and 14,000 personnel in Iraq -- down from over 16. Facilities? We have given back in the last couple of days, facilites we had in Kirkuk, had an airbase up there, and facilities we had in Baghdad for police training center. And we have another facility in the next few days which we'll give back also in Baghdad. So we're reducing not just the number of personnel but we're reducing the number of pieces of property we occupy and use and we are very mindeful of the cost that it takes to support the mission in Iraq and I personally am dedicated to reducing those costs by again focusing on the mission on what we really need to achieve.
"Since the beginning of the year, we have reduced personnel by more than 2,000. We're now somewhere between 13,000 and 14,000 personnel in Iraq -- down from over 16." That's what he said. Turns out it wasnt true. From the report:

Although Ambassador Beecroft told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on September 19 that the size of the U.S. Mission in Iraq continued to decline this quarter, reporting to SIGIR on the personnel totals indicated some ambiguity about actual numbers. U.S. Embassy-Baghdad reported that 16,035 persons supported the U.S. Mission in Iraq at the end of the quarter, including 1,075 U.S. government civilian employees and 14,960 contractor personnel. The Embassy said the discrepancy was due to earlier underreporting of certain staff categories.
Numbers are important, accurate ones even more so -- especially when the US government continues to spend vast sums in Iraq. For example, the report notes that the State Dept wants $149.6 million to 'train' the Iraqi police in Fiscal Year 2013. $149.6 million for one of the most trained and re-trained forces? For a force that the 'acting' Minister of the Interior stated does not need US training?
The US government has that money to waste when sequestration is supposedly looming, a 'financial cliff'?
Do people realize how many years the US has spent training the Iraqi police force? How much money?
We covered the November 30th House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the MiddleEast and South Asia in the December 1st snapshot and noted that Ranking Member Gary Ackerman had several questions. He declared, "Number one, does the government of Iraq -- whose personnel we intend to train -- support the [police training] program? Interviews with senior Iaqi officials by the Special Inspector General show utter didain for the program. When the Iraqis sugest that we take our money and do things instead that are good for the United States. I think that might be a clue." The State Dept's Brooke Darby faced that Subcommittee. Ranking Member Gary Ackerman noted that the US had already spent 8 years training the Iraq police force and wanted Darby to answer as to whether it would take another 8 years before that training was complete? Her reply was, "I'm not prepared to put a time limit on it." She could and did talk up Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Interior Adnan al-Asadi as a great friend to the US government. But Ackerman and Subcommittee Chair Steve Chabot had already noted Adnan al-Asadi, but not by name. That's the Iraqi official, for example, Ackerman was referring to who made the suggestion "that we take our money and do things instead that are good for the United States." He made that remark to SIGIR Stuart Bowen.
8 years. 8 years of training last November. And for Fiscal Year 2013, the State Dept wants $149.6 million dollars to train yet another year?
From that hearing:
Ranking Member Gary Ackerman: When will they be willing to stand up without us?
Brooke Darby: I wish I could answer that question.
Ranking Member Gary Ackerman: Then why are we spending money if we don't have the answer?
[long pause]
Ranking Member Gary Ackerman: You know, this is turning into what happens after a bar mitzvah or a Jewish wedding. It's called "a Jewish goodbye." Everybody keeps saying goodbye but nobody leaves.
The State Dept still can't answer Ackerman's question: "When will they be willing to stand up without us?" They can't even answer his second question: "Then why are we spending money if we don't have the answer?"
If sequestration kicks in and Americans see the safety net further gutted, you damn well better believe that $149.6 million dollars going to yet another year of 'training' the Iraqi police is going to be an issue.
Now let's talk about the 'acting' Minister of the Interior. That's Deputy Minister Adnan al-Asadi. He is one of the Iraqis Ranking Member Ackerman referred to in the November 30th hearing, "Interviews with senior Iraqi officials by the Special Inspector Generals how utter disdain for the program. When the Iraqis suggest that we take our money and do things instead that are good for the United States, I think that might be a clue."
Ackerman's right and Adnan al-Asadi is who stated, to SIGIR, that the US government should spend the money in the US. In addition, in July, the Office of the Special Inspector General For Iraq Reconstruction issued [PDF format warning] "Iraq Police Development Program: Lack Of Iraqi Support And Security Problems Raise Questions About The Continued Viability Of The Program."
What did that report find?
That the US State Dept had wasted ("de facto waste") approximately $206 million in training the Iraqi police since they took over October 1, 2011. How so? They spent $98 million on a Bsara training facility and $108 million on a Baghdad training facility.
What happened to those US-owned facilities?
The US turned it over -- at no charge -- to Nouri's government. Why?
The June 29th snapshot covered the most recent hearing on this topic (the June 28th House Oversight and Government Reform's Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations hearing). Jason Chaffetz is the Subcommittee Chair but he'd stepped out of the hearing and US House Rep Black Farenthold was Acting Chair. As he established in his line of questions (to the State Dept's Patrick Kennedy and Peter Verga and the State Dept's Acting IG Harold Geisel, DoD's Special Deputy IG for Southwest Asia Mickey McDermott, US GAO's Michael Courts and SIGIR's Stuart Bowen Jr.), the US government did not secure a lease for the land. Here's that exchange.
Acting Chair Blake Farenthold: Mr. Courts, Ambassador Kennedy and I got into a
discussion about the absence of or presence of land use agreements for the facilities
we have in Iraq do you have the current status for that information from your latest
report as to what facilities we do and do not have land use agreements for?
Michael Courts: What Ambassador Kennedy may have been referring to that for 13 of
the 14 facilities the Iraqis have acknowledged a presence through diplomatic notes.
But there's still only 5 of the 14 for which we actually have explicit title land use
agreements or leases.

Acting Chair Blake Farenthold: Alright so I'm not -- I'm not a diplomat. So what does
that mean? They say, "Oh, you can use it until we change our minds" -- is that
basically what those are? Or is there some force of law to those notes?

Michael Courts: Well the notes are definitely not the same thing as having an explicit agreement. And as a matter of fact, there's already been one case where the Iraqis
required us to reconfigure, downsize one of our sites. And that was at one of the
sites where we did not have a land use agreement and so obviously we're in a much
more vulnerable position when there's not an explicit agreement.
As Farenthold noted of the Baghdad Police College Annex, "It was intended to house the police department program -- a multi-billion dollar effort that's currently being downsized. And as a result of the State Dept's failure to secure land use rights, the entire facility is being turned over to the Iraqis at no cost. The GAO reports Mission Iraq has land use agreements or leases for only 5 out of all of the sites that it operates." That number has increased by only one since that hearing.
This is tax payer money being wasted at a time when the US government is supposedly in the midst of a fiscal crisis. These two facilities, worth approximately $206 million were turned over -- free of charge -- because the State Dept failed to secure land-lease agreements.
In other words, you could say: The US government built it, but it didn't own it.
Having wasted that amount of money, you might think the State Dept would stop trying to spend hundreds of millions in Iraq. And yet they want $149.6 million to spend in the next fiscal year just on Iraqi police.
And not a penny should be spent on this program. The Ministry of the Interior is over the police. But the Ministry has no minister. Adnan al-Asadi is the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Interior. An actual minister would have certain rights and powers and that would give him or her independence. Adnan al-Asadi is an 'acting minister' -- a qualification that doesn't exist in the Iraqi Constitution.
The Constitution requires Ministers be nominated and that the Parliament vote in favor of confirming them. Once that happens, a person has their position until the term expires, they resign or the Parliament removes them. Nouri can't remove them.
So if al-Asadi were Minister of the Interior, that's who the US would be interacting with on this program. Instead, they're interacting with the 'acting' minister who has no job protection and is kicked to the curb the second he displeases Nouri al-Maliki. al-Asadi is a puppet allowing Nouri to control the Ministry of the Interior.
Back in July, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support." He's refused to name nominees and have them go before Parliament. This is a power grab. By January 2011, Iraqiya (the political slate that came in first in the March 2010 parliamentary elections, ahead of Nouri's State of Law) was calling it a power grab but the (US and European) press was insisting that it was only a matter of weeks before Nouri named nominees. We're closing in 2013 and he's still never named nominees. It was a power grab. It is a continuing power grab. The Parliament declared last week that they would take up this new 'classification' of 'acting' ministers.
The State Dept wants to waste more US tax dollars training people who work for a ministry that Nouri refuses to find a head for. That is not a recipe for success. It has not been a recipe for success.
The State Dept needs to be called before the Senate to answer for exactly what they're doing. As the SIGIR has repeatedly noted, they refuse to inform the Inspector General what they are doing in Iraq. This is on Hillary. She's Secretary of State. No, she doesn't have any power over Iraq and if she wants to go public with that information I will gladly back her up on that point. But as long as she's keeping her mouth shut and serving as Secretary of State, this is on her. And when she departs, it needs to be noted that while she was Secretary of State, hundreds of millions were wasted in Iraq and the State Dept refused to submit to Congressionally mandated oversight. Congress created the SIGIR.
Not only has the State Dept ignored the SIGIR, they have refused to answer questions from the Congress -- in writing or in hearings -- and they've provided false information to Congress (also known as lying). That's under Hillary Clinton's leadership unless she wants to talk about how Barack assigned Iraq elsewhere. Unless she wants to get honest about that, she needs to face a storm of criticism over the lost hundreds of millions by the State Dept while she was serving as Secretary of State. I like Hillary but my liking her doesn't bring back that money or prevent the loss of further millions.
While US infrastructure crumbles and citizens are threatened with sequestration kicking in automatcially, grasp that page 6 of the report notes the US government has "obligated $27.19 billion" on security training, equipment and buildings.
We'll cover other aspects of the report throughout the week. But the money issue does matter. This isn't a hundred dollars wasted. This is hundreds of millions wasted. And the State Dept still refuses to submit to oversight but continues to argue that they deserve control of hundreds of millions of more tax payer dollars to do something with in Iraq -- something which they can't clearly define and something that, for some reason, can't stand up to transperancy and sunlight. If you're new to sequestration and the 'fiscal cliff," Diane Rehm devoted this hour of Monday's program -- The Diane Rehm Show (NPR) to explaining the issues and discussing them with guests Ruth Marcus (Washington Post), Alice Rivlin (Brookings) and David Wessel (Wall Street Journal) as well as taking calls from her audience. The link is audio but I'm told there is a transcript that will be going up.
The report doesn't paint a good picture of Nouri's Iraq.  Nor do other articles today.
At The Huffington Post, Wael al-Sallami offers his take on Iraq which includes:

The fact of the matter is that the militias were using the US troops as an excuse to perform acts of terrorism and have targeted Iraqi civilians instead on so many occasions. Therefore, the departure of the US troops didn't even reduce those acts, in fact, it has increased them simply for the lack of a strong military presence in the country. No, the Iraqi army does not qualify as "strong military presence."
By concentrating evermore power into his own hands, and reserving positions of responsibility in Baghdad exclusively for his loyalists, the prime minister is building up fierce resentments, and the results cannot be good.
The bitter truth is that such policies fail to even benefit Mr Al Maliki's own constituencies. The rash of shootings and bombings over the Eid weekend predominantly targeted Shia communities. Al Qaeda in Iraq, and other radical Sunni groups, appear to be resurgent. But the security forces that are now dominated by Shia loyalists cannot take the fight to the militants without turning it into a sectarian war - "justice" in such a struggle is a subjective value.
But the security forces non-stop arrests of Sunnis are already fueling another sectarian war. Alsumaria notes 17 were arrested for 'terrorism' just south of Baghdad.
Nussaibah Younis' "Time to Get Tough on Iraq" (New York Times) offers a number of important observations including:

Even apart from the Syrian crisis, the United States should be getting tough on the Maliki regime to prevent Iraq's descent into authoritarianism. Although Prime Minister Maliki's first term had its successes, including the "Charge of the Knights" attack against Shiite militias in Basra in 2008, Prime Minister Maliki has become increasingly consumed by his own dictatorial ambitions. And a number of his actions have heightened sectarian tensions in Iraq. He cut a deal with the extremist Shiite party led by Moktada al-Sadr. He reneged on a promise to meaningfully include the Sunni-dominated Iraqiya list in government. He presided over what's being seen as a witch hunt against leading Sunni politicians, culminating in the sentencing to death in absentia of Iraq's vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi.
In addition, Mr. Maliki's government is plagued by incompetence, corruption and a contempt for human rights; ordinary citizens are fast losing confidence in the power of the democratic system. Mr. Maliki has further undermined Iraq's independent institutions, such as the electoral commission and the Iraqi central bank, by bringing them under his direct custodianship. And, most dangerously of all, he is concentrating power over Iraq's entire security apparatus in his hands by refusing to appoint permanent ministers to lead the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of the Interior and National Security Council.
And power grabs are no longer enough for Nouri, apparently. As we noted yesterday, he wants a majority government -- just as US General Ray Odierno warned in 2010 but was dismissed and ignored because the White House thought they were better off listening to US Ambassador to Iraq and professional and willful idiot Chris Hill. A majority government is one that shuts out the other segments of Iraq. "White" Iraqiya -- I doubt they ever grapsed how racist that is -- made some stupid statements yesterday that some idiots repeated as though they were statements demanding Iraq be seen as an independent country.
If you're stupid and you love it, stay stupid. But stop inflicting it on the rest of us. White Iraqiya is a splinter group that did not get their way and specifically holds grudges against Saleh al-Mutlaq and Ayad Allawi who remain with Iraqiya. White Iraq is a tiny splinter group that makes a lot of noise but hasn't accomplished anything in two years of tantrums.  They have gotten closer to Nouri and they may be among the ones getting close to Nouri.   Ouday Hatem (Al-Monitor) reports:
Political sources told Al-Hayat that Maliki's coalition had reached a preliminary agreement with a number of blocs — some of which are included in the Iraqiya List — to form a majority government.
The sources revealed that "among these blocs is the Unity Alliance of Iraq, led by Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha, and some members of parliament from the Kirkuk, Mosul, Anbar and Saladin provinces."
The sources explained that "the blocs within the National Alliance — except for the Al-Ahrar bloc, which represents the Sadrist Movement in parliament — are supporting this political step."
The sources confirmed that "the prime minister seeks to divide the Iraqiya List and the Sunnis by including tribal leaders and former Baathists, and by re-enrolling all former army officers."

Let's move over to the US where Bob Munson disagrees with the Ventura County Star's decision to endorse Barack Obama's re-election bid:
Saying President Obama got us out of Iraq is like saying it stopped raining after superstorm Sandy moved on.
The death and destruction in Iraq for three years under Obama was unnecessary. The Iraqis hated us. Our last troops snuck out under the cover of darkness no different than the Nazis leaving Paris.
Obama could have quit Iraq the day after inauguration, and Iraq would have been no different today.
And that is so very true. Had he done that, he wouldn't have sent the message to the Iraqi people that democracy and voting don't matter. When you back Nouri, as the White House did in 2010, over the one who got the most votes, you're telling the Iraqi people -- who are experiencing what's being called "democracy" for the first time -- that voting and democracy don't matter and that elections can be overturned on a whim. That's not a message that any US service member should have died for. Shame on the White House.
Investor's Business Daily's editorial board has issues with Barack's actions regarding the September 11, 2012 attack on the Benghazi Consulate and on what happened after as well as questions for the media:

As the father of a former Navy SEAL slain at Benghazi wonders why our secretary of state lied to him, we wonder why our CIA director abetted a lie that contradicted counterterrorism officials and the FBI.
During the 2004 presidential campaign, a media eager to deny George W. Bush a second term made Cindy Sheehan, who lost a son in Iraq, a national heroine and reported virtually her every word and move.
"Cindy Sheehan," gushed NBC News, "is single-handedly bringing the Iraq debate to Mr. Bush's doorstep."
But nobody in a mainstream media eager to see President Obama get a second term is bringing the Benghazi debate to the White House doorstep.

First, we applauded Cindy then and we applaud her today. The media and, sadly, a large number of the left don't want to hear the words "Cindy Sheehan" because they can't stand the fact that this woman who is allergic to war (to put it mildly) won't fall silent so Barack can pursue his bloody wars in an environment where no one calls him out. Second, take up with the likes of Jude Nagurney Camwell and other 'enforcers' who lied online back then. We didn't lie here and we called out Jude and the other liars who kept saying 'she's not opposed to war, she just wants answers.' Those were lies. And we walked away from those liars.
But Cindy was falsely portrayed by the media -- not by herself -- as someone who didn't really want to speak on the war or anything like that, she was just a sad mother who wanted answers. That's not who Cindy was or who she is. And she never pretended that this media lie was her. But that is why she got the media attention. 'She's non-political!'
Tyrone Wood's was one of the four Americans killed in Benghazi Septemeber 11th (the other three were Glen Doherty, Sean Smith and Chris Stevens). The argument IBD's editorial board should be making is why does Chris Stevens' mother get to be everywhere and presented as a spokesperson for all four. She clearly does not represent Pat Smith (Sean's mother). She also doesn't represent Charles Woods (Tyrone's father). That's your argument if you want to be effective: You, the media, have allowed one woman to be the face of four Americans. Her views are not the only view and you have silenced and refused to hear the other parents involved. We do not have a class based society in the US and revolted against the British empire for many reasons including to reject a caste system. So why is the media pretending that Chris Stevens is somehow more important than the other three Americans because he was an ambassador?
Tyrone and Glen were veterans. They apparently were veterans who didn't just risk their lives to try to save lives on September 11th, they gave their lives to try to save lives on September 11th. How dare the media refuse to allow all the parents to speak and instead subject us to the pratteling -- yeah, I'm going there again -- ramblings of Chris Stevens' apethetic and uninformed mother and father.
Even when no other parents were speaking out publicly -- check our archives -- I made clear that the Stevens did not speak for all the parents. I also made clear that their call for this topic not to be discussed this way or that was b.s. because it was a terrorist attack. If Chris Stevens had taken his own life and his family said, "We just want him to be in peace"? Fine. That's a private matter.
This was a terrorist attack on Americans -- not people who happened to be Americans but on people because they were Americans. That makes it a national issue -- an international one. And the Stevens need to take their hurt and pain somewhere private if they don't like the way the deaths are discussed.
And the media needs to stop being so damn biased.
They are biased on this issue. There's no denying it. In fact, let me go to Ruth last night:
In addition to ignoring the details, the media has 2 other tricks they are playing right now.
1) Ridicule those asking questions.

2) Imply that only conservatives are demanding answers.

The second one bothers me the most.
And not just because I am too far left to be a centrist, let alone a conservative. The main reason it bothers me is that the media knows if they play that false card, half the readers will stop reading right away. They will have no interest in the topic. They will tell themselves, "Oh, this is just what conservatives are saying. This is a conservative talking point."
It is really amazing how those of us on the left who are asking questions are ignored in the media's attempt to clamp down on consumer interest in this story.
Ruth is 100% right.
That's part of the attempt to bury the story: To assert falsely that only the right-wing cares about it. That signals to people who aren't right-wing that they shouldn't care.
They should care. Four Americans are dead. Ruth's left-wing. I am left-wing.
This isn't about right or left -- although those who want to silence the discussion keep insisting otherwise. This is about an attack on four Americans. This is about an administration which refuses to answer questions.
Pretend for a moment that it's October 30, 2001 and it's the Bush administration refusing to call September 11, 2001 a terrorist attack.
We've dealt with what Barack said in the Rose Garden. He said in passing and it may not have referred to that day. Why was it in there? To cover his own ass. Which would indicate that a cover up is taking place. You don't do cover-your-own-ass from September 12th forward unless you have something to hide.
Questions are being asked and they need to be asked. Charles Wood has called out Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. Charles Wood has every right to be heard and shame on anyone in the supposed news industry who won't report what Wood is saying. It doesn't require 'belief' or 'support.' It only requires that you are in the news business. If you are, the parent of an American killed in a terrorist attack now calling out the President of the United States is what is known as "news."
NewsBusters is a media watchdog from the right. They occassionally send things to the public account. If it has to do with what we're talking about, we will note them. Tom Blumer wrote about what Charles Wood was saying over the weekend:
"When he finally came over to where we were, I could tell that he was rather conflicted, a person who was not at peace with himself," Woods said. "Shaking hands with him, quite frankly, was like shaking hands with a dead fish. His face was pointed towards me but he would not look me in the eye, his eyes were over my shoulder."
"I could tell that he was not sorry," he added. "He had no remorse."
Beck said he wanted to give the president "the benefit of the doubt," and asked Woods how he could be sure that Obama wasn't just uncomfortable or nervous during their conversation. Woods said it was Obama's "demeanor."

The right-wing that's objecting to differing treatment for Cindy Sheehan and Charles Wood is missing the point that Cindy was presented as just a blank,not too smart, hurting mother who wanted answers and didn't know a thing about politics or have a thought about war. That's not Cindy, she's very smart. But that's what the media presented and why they kept going to her before they couldn't take the fact that she was anti-war and was not going to be silent about that fact. If anyone wants Charles Wood to get the media attention he deserves, the answer is to point out that the parents of Chris Stevens were presented by the media as the voice of the four. And that's not fair nor is it accurate. The media needs to fix their narrative and the way to do that is to include the other parents involved.
On other national issues, there is the US presidential election. Samantha Goldman (World Can't Wait) offers some hard truths in the midst of campaign spin season:
In reality however there is no option within the electoral process for women. Our basic rights to control our bodies, or not to be blamed and shamed is not up for a vote. Despite what Obama supporters would like us to believe, these past four years have been a horror and have shown a dangerous trajectory. It is only through this overall context of the War on Women that the impact of these comments becomes starkly clear. State legislation aimed at limiting birth control and abortion has been proposed and enacted at unprecedented rates. The legislation that has passed includes but is not limited to: state sanctioned rape through vaginal ultrasounds, anti-science mandatory counseling prior to abortion, increased waiting periods for abortion, and gestational limitations. An analysis by the Guttmacher Institute found that 2011 saw the most restrictions on abortions passed through state legislatures ever: 135 anti-women laws were enacted.