my husband is a weirdo.  you know how i love 'revenge,' right?  i've got season 1 on dvd and will get season 2 (even though it was crappy) when it comes out.  so my husband decides to start watching season 1 this week.  i walk by and i'm like, 'oh, i love this episode!' and i sit down to watch the 1 where lydia finds the photograph of emily - lydia and victoria are smiling at the party and emily's a server in the background.  right before lydia and frank fight and she ends up falling off the roof and landing on the car?

so i plop on the couch and watch with him and then the episode's over and i notice something weird.

he's watching on netflix.

'hon, you know i have season 1 on dvd?'  yeah he did.  he said he just wanted to watch it on netflix.

i think he was just too lazy to get up and put in the dvds.

at any rate, he's now watching season 2.

i couldn't believe it.  i said 'did this come out on dvd?'


hulu plus has all of season 2 up.

so we watched the 1st few episodes.

the season started out with so much promise.

victoria was 'dead' (hiding in that cabin in the woods, remember). jennifer jason leigh was on the show as emily's mother.

but suddenly aiden (barry sloane) went from minor character to lead and then the show sucked.

i keep reading these stupid 'defenses' of mike kelley.

let's deal with mike kelley.  he had a sexual attraction to barry sloane and elevated this brand new character to a lead at the expense of established characters including actual leads.

in fact, we noted that at 3rd last sunday in 'TV's 10 most embarrassing moments this season:'

7) The Not So Entertaining Mr. Sloane.  Barry Sloane joined the cast of Revenge in the second season and quickly his Aiden became the main storyline.  Emily VanCamp's Emily Thorne had been the lead and now she was lost in the episodes. If Emily's storylines were lost, Madeleine Stowe's Victoria pretty much just disappeared.  As Sloane moved further and further into the forefront and as the former hit show watched its ratings slip week after week,  ABC decided they'd had enough of the ratings wreckage and dismissed show runner Mike Kelley from his own show.

i find it hilarious that sexual urges and desires for barry sloane destroyed mike kelley.  why?

he refused to air same-sex kisses in season 1.  no homophobe like a closet case.

mike kelley's fan base has been whining how unfair his firing was.  he's claimed that the problem is that the show can't do 22 episodes a season.  and his fan base is echoing that.

thing is, it wasn't a problem for season 1. 

thing is also, interviewed before season 2 started, kelley was all full of hope and promise.

of course revenge can do 22 episodes a season.

it's just mike kelley wasn't up to it.

that cliffhanger?  that's what should have been going on all along.

it's just a tv show, but am i the only 1 seriously worried for nolan now that the feds have wrongly arrested him for terrorism?  (conrad grayson set up that bombing.)

it's like a repeat of what was done to emily's father david clarke.

and it resonates.

that could have been done at any point in season 2 and driven the entire season.

instead even when interesting storylines came along, the show failed.

victoria's got a son she gave up for adoption?  that should have resulted in major scenes in season 2.

instead it barely registered because mike kelley wasn't interested in victoria.  he was only slightly more interested in emily.  that's why abc fired him.

he took a hit show that fans loved and left them grumbling because he lost interest in everything but his sexual heart throb barry sloane.

if you're not getting how bad it was, he got jennifer jason leigh for a role in season 2 and then proceeded to do nothing with her.

he's the 1 who ruined the season.

you had victoria posing as dead, conrad keeping charlotte locked away to get control of her inheritance and so much more going on.

and all of that was wrapped up quickly so this new kid barry sloane could emerge as the main character and we could be bored with his sister - a prostitute and drug addict held by the initiative. 

oh, look, an episode devoted to will barry shoot a gun and kill some 1?  oh,look more scenes with barry sloane.

the smartest thing the show could have done was killed aiden at the end of season 2.  he's the scrappy do, he destroyed season 2.

let's close with c.i.'s 'Iraq snapshot:'

Friday, June7, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, protests continue in Iraq, a sheikh reminds Nouri al-Maliki that Allah is watching, we look at confusing commentary about Iraq in the US, the spying on Americans by the federal government continues to lead to outrage, US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks about "equality and dignity," and more.

Let's start with those offering  confusing commentary about Iraq.  Crazy Reider Vissar's buddy Joel Wing feels the need to post a video today.  It's entitled "A Decade in Iraq: Lessons and the Landscapes Ahead."  It's a bit of propaganda, to be sure.  I have no idea why you'd post an April event -- a bad April event -- in June?  But I have no idea why you'd pimp the War Hawk Mentality of Harvard and the John F. Kennedy School of Government to begin with?

If there was any value to including it, it would be to comment on how awful it is.  Or how ashamed Harvard should be for letting some of the criminals responsible for the destruction of Iraq -- Stephen J. Hadley (National Security Advisor from 2004 to 2008) and Meghan O'Sullivan -- pontificate on stage.

Meghan O'Sullivan has, from time to time, grasped one of the large themes in Iraq.  She's never been able to do specifics.  Which is how she comes to rave about Abdul Latif al-Rashid, in this event from last April, being the assistant to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

There are some who will shrug at that.  But there are some who follow Iraq that will grasp the problem immediately.  Last December,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17th (see the December 18th snapshot) and resulted in Jalal being admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20th, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.

There are rumors that he's unable to move, there are rumors that he's near death, there are rumors that he'll be back in Iraq this month and is fine, but there aren't a lot of rumors -- in fact, there aren't any -- that he's meeting with his assistants.

Meghan O'Sullivan has often seemed to miss the finer details.

We could go through and explain bit by bit how wrong the American speakers are and how awful it is that those who pushed the illegal war -- those psychopaths -- are being given a stage to pontificate from. But I didn't post the video.  I wouldn't.  If you do, I think it's incumbent upon you to provide some sort of a commentary -- if only a brief paragraph noting how far from facts the presentation is.

"The police always come late, if they come at all," as Tracy Chapman so aptly noted in "Behind The Wall" (first appears on her self-titled debut album). True of the police, true of the media 'watchdog' FAIR.  Rebecca Hellmich has discovered "a new poll" about public perception in England on how many Iraqis have died in the Iraq War.  Rebecca seems unaware that the Iraq War continues but we'll set that to the side.  

Last Friday's snapshot noted Alex Thomson (Channel 4) summarizing a new poll on the British asking them about deaths in Iraq:

  • Two-thirds (66 per cent) of the public estimate that 20,000 or fewer civilians and combatants have died as a consequence of the war in Iraq since 2003.
  • One in 10 (10 per cent) think that between 100,000 and 500,000 have died and one in 20 (6 per cent) think that more than 500,000 have died.
  • According to public estimates, the mean number of deaths in Iraq since the invasion is 189,530.
  • Women in Britain are more likely to underestimate the number of deaths in Iraq since the invasion than men. Half (53 per cent) of women think 5,000 or fewer deaths have occurred since the invasion compared to one-third (35 per cent) of men.
Perhaps that last figure is the most startling – a majority of women and more than a third of men polled say fewer than 5,000 deaths have occurred.

Guess what?  That's the same poll Rebecca and FAIR have discovered today.  AFP's Prashant Rao discovered it on Saturday, you may remember.   And, pay attention Rebecca and FAIR, we made that the topic of Third's "Editorial: Piss Ant Rao's Propaganda" last Sunday.  Former Bully Boy Bush official Fran Townsend was noting The Lancet study on the number of Iraqis killed in the war.  And 'independent' and 'objective' journalist Prashant showed up on Twitter to insist that The Lancet was bogus.  Right there, FAIR, that's where you show up as a media watchdog.  But of course, FAIR always forgets to bark.  Here's France's little War Monger Prashant bickering with a Bush official who trusts The Lancet study:

  1. Incredible that despite how violent Iraq has been for a decade, Syria has nearly caught up, in terms of death toll, in less than 2.5 years.
  2. Are you sure? 2.5 yrs into the Iraq war the British Lancet was claiming over 600K Iraqis dead
Yes, but Lancet figures have been called into question repeatedly. Widely accepted figures are closer to 110-120k.
Hide conversation

Prashant doesn't let it go.  He'll come back shortly with 'proof' that The Lancet study was wrong.  What's his proof?  Links to two pieces by, yes, nutty Joel Wing dismissing The Lancet Study.  See, it's a Circle Jerk of Death for these freaks.

We're not done yet.  Ground Report maintains today,  "Even though the American involvement in the war is over, news on Iraq continues to engage American audiences and the recent Memorial Day holiday prompted many Americans to reflect on the impact of recent wars. "

American involvement in the war is over?  Yesterday,  Mark Thompson (Time magazine) reported today on the $2 billion contract that the State Dept has with PAE Government Services, Inc., "That’s a million dollars a day over a five-year period, if the contract hits its ceiling. The down payment is $347,883,498 (don’t you just love such precision? It’s almost a prime number, for Pete’s sake)."   A million dollars doesn't sound 'over' to me.  There's also the Congressional Research Service's report issued June 3rd [PDF format warning] "Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights:"

Heightened AQ-I and other insurgent activity has shaken the Iraqi leadership’s confidence in the ISF somewhat and apparently prompted the Iraqi government to reemphasize security cooperation with the United States. On August 19, 2012, en route to a visit to Iraq, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey said that “I think [Iraqi leaders] recognize their capabilities may require yet more additional development and I think they’re reaching out to us to see if we can help them with that.”39 Iraq reportedly has expressed interest in expanded U.S. training of the ISF, joint exercises, and accelerated delivery of U.S. arms to be sold, including radar, air defense systems, and border security equipment.40 Some refurbished air defense guns are being provided gratis as excess defense articles (EDA), but Iraq was said to lament that the guns would not arrive until June 2013. Iraq reportedly argued that the equipment was needed to help it enforce insistence that Iranian overflights to Syria land in Iraq for inspection.
After the Dempsey visit, reflecting the Iraqi decision to reengage intensively with the United States on security, it was reported that, at the request of Iraq, a unit of Army Special Operations forces had deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence, presumably against AQ-I.41 (These forces presumably are operating under a limited SOFA or related understanding crafted for this purpose.) Other reports suggest that Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) paramilitary forces have, as of late 2012, largely taken over some of the DOD mission of helping Iraqi counter-terrorism forces (Counter-Terrorism Service, CTS) against AQ-I in western Iraq.42 Part of the reported CIA mission is to also work against the AQ-I affiliate in Syria, the Al Nusrah Front, discussed above.
Reflecting an acceleration of the Iraqi move to reengage militarily with the United States, during December 5-6, 2012, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy James Miller and acting Under Secretary of State for International Security Rose Gottemoeller visited Iraq and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed with acting Defense Minister Sadoun Dulaymi. The five year MOU provides for:

• high level U.S.-Iraq military exchanges 
• professional military education cooperation 
• counter-terrorism cooperation 
• the development of defense intelligence capabilities 
• joint exercises 

The MOU appears to address many of the issues that have hampered OSC-I from performing the its mission to its full potential. The MOU also reflects some of the more recent ideas put forward, such as joint exercises.

American involvement in the war is over?  Have you read the MoU?

December 6, 2012, the Memorandum of Understanding For Defense Cooperation Between the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Iraq and the Department Defense of the United States of America was signed.  We covered it in the December 10th and December 11th snapshots -- lots of luck finding coverage elsewhere including in media outlets -- apparently there was some unstated agreement that everyone would look the other way.  It was similar to the silence that greeted Tim Arango's September 25th New York Times report which noted, "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 [US] General [Robert L.] Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence."

Read the MoU and then try to insist, with a straight face, that "American involvement in the war is over."

Friday in Iraq and the protests continue as they have since December 21st.   Iraqi Spring MC shares a photo of the Falluja protest todayNINA reports, "Thousands of people flocked since the early hours of the day to the sit-ins yards in Fallujah, Ramadi especially from the outskirts and areas near to the two cities to participate in Friday unified prayers."  They turned out in Tikrit, in Baghdad and in BaijiAl Mada notes that Sheikh Mishan al-Issawi declared today that the protesters are stating their goals and they must be listened to.  However, even when the government fails to respond, it is an accomplishment that the protesters made their voices heard and told the wrongdoer that he is unjust while the whole world saw the protesters demanding that the humiliation stops and that the government stop the rape of women in Iraqi prisons and that they stop abusing the male prisoners.   The Sheikh declared this is Allah's issue and the protests took place before the eyes of Allah.

Kitabat reports that protesters in Nasiriyah demanded better public services including electricity.  70-year-old Shiekh Abdul-Zahra Vest explains that Dhi Qar has been suffering from a lack of dependable public services since 2003.  He called on all citizens to participate in the protest and demand their rights, to wear the shroud during the protests so that the message is visible to the government. He also spoke of the need for the government to provide adequate rations in the ration card system and to provide jobs for the unemployed and housing for the poor.  This was the sixth day of a sit-in on this issue.  In another report, Kitabat notes the cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr has expressed his support for the protesters and has called for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to reconcile the political blocs before it's too late.

Wednesday was the UN's World Food Day.  The UN prepared this [PDF format warning] online booklet for the occasion.   The Iraq Times notes the UN has found that 6 million Iraqis are exposed to food insecurity and vulnerability.  That's a large number and no one should suffer from that in a world where there is so much food grown.  However, it's especially appalling in Iraq.

It's appalling because Iraq's population is estimated by the CIA to be around 30 million.  Which would mean 1/5 of Iraqis are now living with food insecurity and vulnerability.

That's appalling.

It's even more so when you grasp Iraq's budget.  As Seerwan Jafar (Niqash) reported last December, Iraq's 2013 budget is $118 billion.  People struggle to figure out what is going on and what it means.   Kanan Makiya (World Peace Foundation) has written a two-part essay on Iraq -- first part here, second part here.  From the second part:

Now you may have noticed I have not once used the word sectarianism or sectarian politics. This is the new bogeyman, so often introduced to explain the new forms of violence and abuse that have afflicted Iraqi politics since 2003. In actual fact, the term is rarely if ever an explanation; more often than not it is a word touted by politicians, lazy journalists, and some academics, that gives the false impression of an explanation for what is in fact a hard and very difficult thing to come to terms with. Use of the term is convenient for many because it evades the question of responsibility. I mean if these Sunnis and these Shiite Iraqis have been doing terrible things to one another since time immemorial, why hold me or anyone else responsible? In effect, this is what Iraq’s rulers and the Bush and Obama administrations say to their respective publics. And is it not my first duty to protect my own, say the Shiite leaders of the state as they send their soldiers to butcher around 100 innocent Sunni Iraqis in Hawija only a few short weeks ago. Perhaps there were Bathi remnants, and al-Qaeda terrorists, among them. Frankly, even I would be surprised if there weren’t.
The story of abuse in Iraq is about an extremely weak state with an even more bloated repressive apparatus than Saddam boasted at the height of the Iraq- Iran war; it is about settling of accounts; it is about treating the state that has so abused them as nothing more than a ghanima, a place to steal from as fast as one can because who knows what tomorrow may bring.

Tom Rogan (The Atlantic) offered his take on Iraq:

In the 2010 parliamentary elections, (the Sunni supported) Iraqi National Movement of Iyad Allawi won a plurality of seats. But Iraq's current Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, didn't accept the outcome. Following in a troubling tradition of authoritarianism, he was unwilling to give up power. Instead, Maliki promised to form a unity government with Allawi. The idea was that this co-operation would cool tensions and build trust. It hasn't happened. In fact, the opposite has occurred; we've seen renewed arguments over oil sharing, serious disagreements over regional sovereignty, and allegations of high level political harassment. For Maliki it seems, after years of oppression under Saddam Hussein, the incentive for reconciliation isn't an abiding concern.
Then, in April, the crisis literally exploded. First, the Iraqi Government launched a bloody attack against a Sunni protest camp. Next, in a move that reeked of sectarian persecution, Maliki suspended the licenses of a number of media outlets, including Al Jazeera. On May 17, more than 75 Sunnis were killed in various terrorist massacres. Collectively, these actions have fed into a growing groundswell of sectarian anger. Trust is perishing and in the fear, extremists have found new roots of sympathy. With unrelenting ISI attacks, growing government crackdowns and resurgent Shia hardliners, the storm clouds of civil war are gathering.

We noted Rogan in Wednesday's snapshot.  We're noting Rogan again today because Al Mada's picked up his report.

In violence, Press TV reports a Baquba bombing has killed 16 pilgrims and left forty-five more injured.  AP notes the death toll has risen to 19.   Spain's EFE explains, "The blast occurred as the bus, which was part of a convoy, sat at a police checkpoint in Al Maqdadiya, 45 kilometers (28 miles) northeast of Baquba, the provincial capital." National Iraqi News Agency notes Rasheed Mayor Issa Kareem was assassinated today (car bombing), a Mosul bombing claimed 1 life and left two injured, a Shirqat roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left another injured, a Khanaqin sticky bombing injured the Director of Saadiya and his son, and 2 suicide car bombers launched an attack on the International Highway (northeast of Ramadi on it) leaving 4 police officers and 4 civilians dead and injuring nine more people (six were police officers)All Iraq News reports 1 taxi driver was kidnapped in Tikrit.   Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 64 violent deaths so far this month.

World Tribune notes that western oil companies are bypassing the bulk of Iraq to head for the northern, semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government's provinces.   On Iraqi oil, Zachary Keck (The Diplomat) attempts to straighten out the issue of China:

But this misconstrues how global energy markets actually operate. Although China itself does actually seek to own some of partner nations’ oil resources, these deviations are not enough to change the fact that global oil markets operate according to the free-market principles of supply and demand. Therefore, a net increase in the global supplies of oil, no matter where it is exported, will result in a lower price of oil everywhere (all things being equal).

In Tuesday's snapshot, we addressed the xenophobia in the New York Times' "China Is Reaping Biggest Benefits of Iraq Oil Boom" and the xenophobia among those screeching about the story.   Wednesday Ivan Eland (Antiwar.com) took on the nonsense:

In any event, such Chinese commercial penetration is little threat to the United States and may actually be of some help. Because a worldwide oil market exists and any new petroleum being produced anywhere lowers the price for everyone, Chinese state-owned companies may be indirectly subsidizing U.S. oil consumers by bringing to market oil deposits that would be uneconomical for private firms to find and pump.
Of course, implicitly, a worldwide oil market would also obviate the need for the military forces of the United States, China, or any other nation to “secure” oil. In my award-winning book No War for Oil: U.S. Dependency and the Middle East, I explain why it is cheaper to just pay higher prices caused by any disruption of Middle Eastern oil than to pay for forward-deployed military forces to attempt to prevent this rare occurrence.
In conclusion, the Chinese “threat” is being dragged out and hyped to attempt to forestall cuts in U.S. security budgets, not because it severely undermines American security.

Turning to the United States where new revelations keep coming on the government's spying on American citizens, the topic was addressed on the first hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR) this morning by Diane and her guests Susan Page (USA Today), Major Garrett (CBS News) and Karen Tumulty (Washington Post).

Diane Rehm:  Good to see you all. Karen Tumulty, we've had 24 hours of dramatic disclosures starting with The Guardian and then The Washington Post picked it up. 

Karen Tumulty:  Yeah. This is the story, the extent of surveillance, that is, it's a real paradox because in some ways, it's shocking and some ways, it's totally unsurprising. You know, we have known that in the post-9/11 world that the government had been given a lot more authority to go after what is private information about people. We saw a couple of controversies in 2006, first over domestic warrantless eavesdropping, and then secondly, over the same thing which is getting phone -- people's phone records. But a couple of -- first of all, what is surprising about this story is the extent to which the Obama administration is doing this, and I do think that with -- particularly with the Internet, with the, you know, Google, Facebook, Apple being part of this, we now see the government is also looking not just at patterns of contacts, which is what they say they were doing with the phone records, but they are actually searching through the actual material. They are looking at emails. They are looking at, you know, Skype chats. They are looking at actual content. 

Diane Rehm:   And, Major, what are they looking for? 

Major Garrett:   They're looking for what counterterrorism experts describe as data that bumps into each other and suggest patterns that might be reflective of an emerging or an ongoing terrorist plot. The expert I spent time talking to the last two days about this say much of this data that is analytically sifted falls out, doesn't raise flags, doesn't go anywhere. To be clear, in the case of the phone tracking, it is not the listening-into-phone conversations that is going on.  The names attached to the numbers are not recorded, the numbers are. The location of the calls and the duration of the calls are collected. In the case of Internet traffic, its blogs, videos, chats, emails, all these sorts of things, much that data falls away. But the data that is flagged is then put through algorithms to see if it does bump ever closer to known, let us say, URLs, known email addresses, drop boxes that have been previously flagged as related to or held by terrorist suspects. [Deleting Garrett's claim that has been made by the government but not backed up, we're not trafficking in lies here]  all done through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, authorities created in the Patriot Act after 9/11, reauthorized in 2006 with different and more precise civil liberties, protections and guidelines which the Obama administration, which would have preferred all this to remain secret, says are being followed. 

Diane Rehm:  Susan. 

Susan Page:  Well, we should make it clear that there are two separate programs here. There's the PRISM program that involves email, Skype, those -- that's a program that targets foreigners. Now, it does, they say inadvertently or incidentally, pick up information about Americans, but that's really targeting foreign interest. The one that I think is more controversial, was gonna raise more eyebrows among Americans is this telephone surveillance.  This massive database of what sounds like almost every phone call you make in the United States is -- becomes part of a big government database that can be searched after the fact. If there's -- if you have a Boston bombing and you identify a suspect and he's got a phone, it enables them to go back and look at who he called, who called him, one step back from that, who called or was called by people with contact with him, second degree of separation. And that is, I think, a level of surveillance of Americans who have done nothing wrong, who are suspected of no wrongdoing that raises concerns, both among civil libertarians, kind of traditional liberals and also among conservative -- libertarians conservatives. 

Monday, The Diane Rehm Show will devote an hour to this topic.  And regarding my editing of Major Garrett, the government got caught and they made an assertion, a claim, to justify their actions.  They haven't backed up that claim.  Had Garrett presented it as a claim, his comments would have stayed in.  Instead, he took a government claim and presented it as fact.  That's not journalism.  Stephen Braun (AP) points out, "Top officials of the Bush and Obama administrations have repeatedly denied in recent years that the National Security Agency collected massive caches of phone and Internet data taken from millions of Americans." And then the American people repeatedly found out otherwise.  Which is why you can note a government claim -- but you note it's a claim.  You don't present it as fact if you can't verify it.  If that's still confusing to Major Garrett, he can refer to the New York Times' editorial board in today's paper:

Within hours of the disclosure that federal authorities routinely collect data on phone calls Americans make, regardless of whether they have any bearing on a counterterrorism investigation, the Obama administration issued the same platitude it has offered every time President Obama has been caught overreaching in the use of his powers: Terrorists are a real menace and you should just trust us to deal with them because we have internal mechanisms (that we are not going to tell you about) to make sure we do not violate your rights. 
Those reassurances have never been persuasive -- whether on secret warrants to scoop up a news agency’s phone records or secret orders to kill an American suspected of terrorism -- especially coming from a president who once promised transparency and accountability.
The administration has now lost all credibility on this issue. Mr. Obama is proving the truism that the executive branch will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it.

Josh Richman (San Jose Mercury News) reports that Barack was pressed in San Jose today about the spying and he replied, "When I came into this office, I made two commitments that are more important than any commitment I make: number one to keep the American people safe, and number two to uphold the Constitution."  I'm sorry, there was no 'commitment.'  An oath was taken to uphold the Constitution.  A commitment is not the same as an oath.  You swear or affirm an oath when testifying in court.  You don't offer a commitment to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  Barack understands the difference between a "commitment" and an "oath" and his effort to downgrade his oath to uphold the Constitution is worrisome.   To become President of the United States, you have to take the oath. When JFK was assassinated, before LBJ could be President, LBJ had to take the oath.  Here's the oath required by the Constitution (Article II, Section 1):

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

This isn't a personal promise or a goal, it is an oath.  The lies are becoming so thick, the administration is choking on them.  Anita Kumar (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "Obama described the uproar this week over the programs as “hype” and sought to ensure Americans that Big Brother is not watching their every move."  When you have to deny that you are Big Brother, you've got a huge image problem even if it turns out you're not an Orwellian Big Brother.  Lauren Fox (US News and World Reports) notes reactions to the news of the spying:

After the U.K.-based Guardian newspaper revealed that the National Security Agency had been gobbling up millions of Verizon customers' phone records, the left-leaning Huffington Post, linked to a punchy splash page featuring "George W. Obama," – a composite photo of President Barack Obama and George W. Bush – invoking a time when many on the left were critical of the Bush Administration's national security practices.
Hours later, when news broke that Obama had signed off on a program that allowed the FBI and NSA to review emails, videos and social networks of foreign users, the conservative Drudge Report posted a link to the story under the headline "The Internet From Hell."
While conservatives have been quick to criticize their political opposition, the recent scandal puts liberals on Capitol Hill, some in the media, and even liberal advocates in an conflicted position.
During the Bush administration, many key Democrats were critical of the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program, but are now having a hard time criticizing a president in their own party who's seemingly doing the same thing.

BBC News notes that he said "no one is listening to your calls."  They fail to point out this is a lie.  Millions of calls are being listened to right now as part of investigations.  When Barack combines lies with other claims, it doesn't cheapen all of his pretty words, it makes them all appear to be lies.   Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) reports:

The most telling statements came from James Clapper, however, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). Clapper confirmed the presentation’s authenticity, condemning the leak as “reprehensible,” and then insisting the program was important to “protect our nation.”
Clapper followed up a de facto admission of the authenticity of the Powerpoint document with lies of his own that totally contradict the presentation itself, insisting that the PRISM scheme is “subject to oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court,” when the NSA file made it clear the whole point of PRISM was to allow broad surveillance of everybody without FISA getting in the way.

Philip Rucker and Juliet Eilperin (Washington Post) note Barack's devolution:

Laura Murphy, who directs the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington legislative office, recalled meeting with Obama in 2005, shortly after he became a senator. She said Obama invited her and representatives from a half-dozen other civil liberties organizations to discuss how to scale back the USA Patriot Act, a sweeping security law passed in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. “He thought it went too far,” Murphy said.
Obama ended up co-sponsoring legislation that would have constrained the ability of intelligence officials to get a court order to obtain records from U.S. companies in terrorism investigations. The bill failed.
Then in 2006, as he began weighing a run for the White House, Obama backed reauthorizing the Patriot Act with minor modifications. By 2009, occupying the Oval Office, Obama asked Congress for a clean reauthorization of the law.
“The president’s a political animal first and foremost,” Murphy said. “He has principles, but he doesn’t always stick with them.”

Glenn Greenwald broke the spying story.  Nancy Cordes (CBS News -- link is video and text) has an interview with him on the topic.     Monday, we'll include The Drone War, there's not room for it today.  Yesterday's snapshot noted some of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Justice Dept hearing (which I wrongly called a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, my mistake, my apologies for the error).  In addition, last night Kat covered the hearing with "Richard Shelby loves Caprice," Wally with "50 million reasons to reduce the federal prison population," Ava with "Known terrorists can fly on US commercial planes" and I filled in for Ann and noted it with "Yet another reason to set Lynne Stewart free."  I wasn't sure what everyone was grabbing other than Wally (before they started writing).  One thing that didn't get noted was the Ranking Member Richard Shelby asked Attorney General Eric Holder about investigating himself.  He wanted to know what sort of wrong doing he would have to find to cause him to step down as AG.  Holder gave a lengthy speech about how he is proud of his work and blah, blah, blah.  He avoided the question completely and then switched to the topic of "fatigue."  He noted that fatigue might make him step down as AG.

Added ten minutes after this went up.  A State Dept friend just called and asked why I didn't note Secretary of State John Kerry's comments on Pride Month?  Because that phone call was the first I'd heard of them.  I said send them and give me a link and I'll add them.  Here's the link -- use it to stream the remarks below.  It is important that these remarks are reported -- it's especially important in countries like Iraq where LGBT communities are regularly targeted.


John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
June 7, 2013

Hello!  I wanted to take a moment to join people around the world in celebrating Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride month.  This month is about the assertion of equality and dignity.  It is about the affirmation of fundamental freedoms and human rights.  It is about people taking pride in who they are, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity.  Protecting universal human rights is at the very heart of our diplomacy, and we remain committed to advancing human rights for all, including LGBT individuals.  We are committed to advancing these rights not just in the month of June, but year-round. 
As Secretary, I join with my colleagues at our embassies, consulates, and USAID missions around the world in saying, no matter where you are, and no matter who you love, we stand with you.
Across the globe – in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas – our diplomats are assisting local LGBT organizations and supporting local human rights advocates working to promote equality, create dialogue, and ensure protections for LGBT individuals.
Through the Global Equality Fund, the State Department has already provided critical emergency and long-term assistance to promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons in over twenty-five countries.  And our support will continue to grow, in cooperation with other equality-minded governments, foundations and corporations.
Forty-four years after Stonewall, we see incredible progress in the fight to advance the human rights and fundamental freedoms of LGBT people, both here in the United States and globally.  Unfortunately, our work is not done.  Recent events underscore that despite progress, we still have a long way to go.  There are LGBT people of all ages, all races, and all faiths – citizens of every country on Earth.  And in too many places, LGBT people and their supporters are being attacked and harassed for simply being who they are and for standing up for their rights.
The United States condemns all such violence, harassment, and discrimination.  As President Obama said, “the struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States’ commitment to promoting human rights.”  LGBT persons must be free to exercise their human rights – including freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and freedom of assembly and association – without fear of reprisal. 

It is my honor to reaffirm the State Department’s commitment to promoting the human rights of LGBT persons, and indeed all human beings, worldwide.
To those celebrating Pride in the United States and around the world, I wish you all a Happy Pride month.



the new york times
 bbc news


50 million reasons to reduce the federal prison population

Wally here filling in for Rebecca tonight.  This morning, we were at the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Justice Dept and I want to emphasize something from the second panel when Dept of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz testified.

Committee Chair Barbara Mikulski:  I think you've raised in your reports the compassionate leave program and the aging population.  That's a very intriguing thing.  But, on, you don't think it's well managed.  But, second, that you think that these are possibilities where, if done properly, we could reduce the number and not increase the risk which is an obsession of the Committee.  Could you share with us what you think the reform should be?

Michael Horowitz:  Yes, I think as we indicated in our compassionate release work, as the GAO indicated in some of the reviews they've done on residential re-entry and elderly populations -- We indicated on our international prisoner Transfer Treaty Report, there are ways to manage the prison population that allows individuals who have very low recividism rates -- which you're never going to reduce to zero -- but as we found in compassionate release, the recividism rate was about 3%.  Those are very low risk individuals.  They are elderly.  The prisoners who are released -- If you carefully select who's eligible, you can find, I believe ways to address the issue with a very low potential for recidivism.  There are several programs dealing with current inmates that can be done.  The International Prisoner Transfer issue, for example, that's a program that there are tens of thousands of inmates who are, in theory, eligible for.  We found the Department had used it with 299 inmates for one of the years.  If that number was -- instead of less than 1% of the elegible inmates

Chair Barbara Mikulski:  Yeah, we're not talking about the terrorists here --

Michael Horowitz:  Correct.

Chair Barbara Mikulski:  -- like the GITMO prisoners --

Michael Horowitz:   Right.  We're talking about low level offenders who are non-US nationals who are now --

Chair Barbara Mikulski:  Who are sitting in our prisons.

Michael Horowitz:  -- about 27%.  27% of our prisoners are non-US nationals.

Chair Barbara Mikulski:  27%?

Michael Horowitz:  27% approximately.  46% last year of defendants were non-US nationals.  So this is a number that is likely --

Chair Barbara Mikulski:  Could you repeat those numbers again?

Michael Horowitz:  27% approximately of current federal inmates are non-US nationals  and last year 84,000 defendents prosecuted by the Justice Dept  -- approximately 46% -- were non-US nationals. That number is obviously very significant.  Those individuals?  We have treaties with countries around the world.  Our report found, again, a 3% receividisim rate -- people coming back to this country and threatening individuals here.  Because, again, this isn't a mandatory program.  If you carefully manage a program like this, you look at non-violent offenders, first-time offenders, individuals who have acted appropriately in prison, who have stable, potential  home lives.  There are a variety of factors you would want to look at before making that decision.  So you don't -- We're not looking at sending tens of thousands of  people overseas but as we found in our report, if you just did 3% of the eligible inmates for example that would save about 50 million dollars.

Chair Barbara Mikulski:  50 million?

Michael Horowitz:  So there are possibilities out there that I think need to be addressed.  There's a wide ranging issue obviously.  It effects who's coming in the door, what happens in residential re-entry centers -- a very important issue that we've done a lot of reviews on and found out how RRCs -- Residential Re-entry Centers -- halfway houses are managed.  They have to be managed better because they are an important transit point for inmates to leave the prison and get back to the community and have that transition period in the Residential Re-Entry Centers.

50 million dollars could be saved a year if only 3% of  the 27% of foreign inmates in federal prisons were transferred back to their home countries.

Why isn't that happening?

We're supposedly mired in debt.  Are prisons are overcrowded (no supposedly about that).  So why aren't we doing that and saving money?

It makes sense.  In fact, you could argue that 3% if too low of a number and that something like 10% should be returned.

There are concerns, yes.  We release a convicted killer!  He returns and goes on a killing spree!

A convicted killer is not going to qualify for this program.  This would not be about violent crimes.  That's already been covered in the exchange.

So do we want to save money or not?

I can think of a million other reasons why we need to reduce our prison population; however, in today's hearing, 50 million reasons were provided and I don't think we should ignore that.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, June 6, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, rumbles about election issues in the KRG, the UN condemns one attack yesterday (yes, only one), WHO continues to sit on a report about birth defects in Iraq,  the  US government spies on the phone calls and internet use, Eric Holder appears before Congress and refuses to answer whether or not Congress is being spied upon by the executive branch, and more.

Starting in the US with The War on the First Amendment.  Last month, The War on the First Amendment's big revelations were, first, that the Justice Dept had secretly seized the phone records of a 167-year-old news institution, the Associated Press. Then came the revelation  that the Justice Dept targeted Fox News reporter James Rosen. Clark S. Judge (US News and World Reports) observed, "It has been a bad few weeks for the First Amendment.  The sinister commonality to the Internal Revenue Service and AP scandals and the James Rosen affair is that each appears to have been (strike "appears ": each was) an attempt to suppress a core American right."  The distressing news of government assaults on the First Amendment continue.  US Senator Bernie Sander's website explained the latest revelation:

The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of U.S. customers of Verizon, one of America's largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April. The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an "ongoing, daily basis" to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the United States and between the U.S. and other countries. The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of U.S. citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.

(Cedric and Wally noted that summary this morning.)   Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) notes Senator Sanders spoke out on the issue today:

“The United States should not be accumulating phone records on tens of millions of innocent Americans,” Sanders said. “That is not what democracy is about. That is not what freedom is about. Congress must address this issue and protect the constitutional rights of the American people.”
Sanders added: “While we must aggressively pursue international terrorists and all of those who would do us harm, we must do it in a way that protects the Constitution and the civil liberties which make us proud to be Americans.”

Writing for the Guardian Glenn Greenwald scooped everyone last night.  It was a major scoop and a major accomplishment.  At Ann's site yesterday, I noted:  "All the other news outlets are following in his wake, Washington Post, CNN, New York Daily News, Reuters, Bloomberg News, etc.  Trained reporters who've made a career out of journalism would kill for this moment so let's hope Greenwald enjoys it.  He's got reason to be proud of himself. And from a civil liberties point of view, all Americans have a reason to be scared.  The government has truly overstepped its bounds."  And there's more.  As AP reports today, "Separately, The Washington Post and The Guardian reported Thursday the existence of another program used by the NSA and FBI that scours the nation's main Internet companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, emails, documents and connection logs to help analysts track a person's movements and contacts. It was not clear whether the program, called PRISM, targets known suspects or broadly collects data from other Americans."

Of the FISA order, the ACLU notes, "ACLU attorneys have been monitoring the U.S. government's use of the Patriot Act for years, and this document confirms our biggest fears."  They have a clickable presentation on the order at the link.  The Center for Constitutional Rights released the following statement:

As far as we know this order from the FISA court is the broadest surveillance order to ever have been issued: it requires no level of suspicion and applies to all Verizon subscribers anywhere in the U.S. It also contains a gag order prohibiting Verizon from disclosing information about the order to anyone other than their counsel.

The Patriot Act’s incredibly broad surveillance provision purportedly authorizes an order of this sort, though its constitutionality is in question and several senators have complained about it. The Patriot Act provision requires the FBI to notify Congress about the number of such warrants, but this single order covering millions of people is a deceptive end-run around that disclosure requirement. 

The presumed incoming FBI director, James Comey, will be the one in charge of and responsible for deciding whether to seek renewals of this order and any future orders like it, which is interesting in light of his complicated history with NSA surveillance. It certainly suggests some questions he should answer in his confirmation hearings.  

We will continue to challenge the surveillance of Americans in our case currently pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Center for Constitutional Rights v. Obama.

Dan Roberts and Spencer Ackerman (Guardian) report today:

After the revelation by the Guardian of a sweeping secret court order that authorised the FBI to seize all call records from a subsidiary of Verizon, the Obama administration sought to defuse mounting anger over what critics described as the broadest surveillance ruling ever issued.
A White House spokesman said that laws governing such orders "are something that have been in place for a number of years now" and were vital for protecting national security. Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, said the Verizon court order had been in place for seven years. "People want the homeland kept safe," Feinstein said.
But as the implications of the blanket approval for obtaining phone data reverberated around Washington and beyond, anger grew among other politicians.
 Intelligence committee member Mark Udall, who has previously warned in broad terms about the scale of government snooping, said: "This sort of widescale surveillance should concern all of us and is the kind of government overreach I've said Americans would find shocking." Former vice-president Al Gore described the "secret blanket surveillance" as "obscenely outrageous".

Senator Ron Wyden's office issued the following today:

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), released this statement following news reports alleging that the U.S. Government has collected the phone records of millions of Verizon customers. Wyden is a senior member of the Senate Intelligence committee.
“The program Senators Feinstein and Chambliss publicly referred to today is one that I have been concerned about for years.  I am barred by Senate rules from commenting on some of the details at this time.  However, I believe that when law-abiding Americans call their friends, who they call, when they call, and where they call from is private information.  Collecting this data about every single phone call that every American makes every day would be a massive invasion of Americans’ privacy.  
The administration has an obligation to give a substantive and timely response to the American people and I hope this story will force a real debate about the government’s domestic surveillance authorities. The American people have a right to know whether their government thinks that the sweeping, dragnet surveillance that has been alleged in this story is allowed under the law and whether it is actually being conducted.  Furthermore, they have a right to know whether the program that has been described is actually of value in preventing attacks.  Based on several years of oversight, I believe that its value and effectiveness remain unclear.”  

Senator Bernie Sanders' office issued the following (and if you use the link, you also have the option of streaming video of Sanders discussing the issue):

June 6, 2013
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today criticized a secret domestic surveillance program that swept up millions of telephone records on calls by Americans who were not suspected of any wrongdoing.
A court order demanding the records be turned over was obtained under a controversial interpretation of a provision in the so-called Patriot Act, which Sanders voted against when it was first enacted in 2001 and when it was reauthorized in 2006 and 2011.
“As one of the few members of Congress who consistently voted against the Patriot Act, I expressed concern at the time of passage that it gave the government far too much power to spy on innocent United State citizens and provided for very little oversight or disclosure.  Unfortunately, what I said turned out to be exactly true.
“The United States should not be accumulating phone records on tens of millions of innocent Americans. That is not what democracy is about. That is not what freedom is about. Congress must address this issue and protect the constitutional rights of the American people,” Sanders added.
“While we must aggressively pursue international terrorists and all of those who would do us harm, we must do it in a way that protects the Constitution and the civil liberties which make us proud to be Americans,” Sanders said.
The Obama administration did not dispute a report, first published yesterday by the Guardian, that a classified court order required Verizon to turn over massive phone records to the National Security Agency.

Senator Rand Paul's office issued a statement condemning the spying and calling for a restoration of the Fourth Amendment:

Jun 6, 2013
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Sen. Rand Paul today announced he will introduce the Fourth Amendment Restoration Act of 2013, which ensures the Constitutional protections of the Fourth Amendment are not violated by any government entity.

 "The revelation that the NSA has secretly seized the call records of millions of Americans, without probable cause, represents an outrageous abuse of power and a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. I have long argued that Congress must do more to restrict the Executive's expansive law enforcement powers to seize private records of law-abiding Americans that are held by a third-party," Sen. Paul said. "When the Senate rushed through a last-minute extension of the FISA Amendments Act late last year, I insisted on a vote on my amendment (SA 3436) to require stronger protections on business records and prohibiting the kind of data-mining this case has revealed. Just last month, I introduced S.1037, the Fourth Amendment Preservation and Protection Act, which would provide exactly the kind of protections that, if enacted, could have prevented these abuses and stopped these increasingly frequent violations of every American's constitutional rights.

"The bill restores our Constitutional rights and declares that the Fourth Amendment shall not be construed to allow any agency of the United States government to search the phone records of Americans without a warrant based on probable cause."
 Click HERE to view the text of this legislation, which will be introduced when the Senate returns to session on Friday, June 7.

To address the issues involved in the latest news cycle revelations, Marco Werman (PRI's The World) spoke with journalist James Bamford who noted, "The difference is in the Bush administration it was illegal.  Since then, they've created this Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act and revamped the PATRIOT Act to some degree so what was illegal a few years ago is probably now legal in some secret back corner of the Justice Dept and NSA." At today's Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, Senator Mark Kirk estimated that this spying would have involved as many as 120 million phone calls.  (A key point Bamford made to Marco Werman was that raw data can be overwhelming and counter-productive to spying efforts.)  Kirk had one issue -- which was were members of Congress spied on.

Senator Mark Kirk:  I want to just ask, could you assure to us that no phones inside the Capitol were monitored -- of members of Congress.  That would give a future executive branch, if they started pulling this stuff, kind of a -- would give them unique leverage over the legislature?

Attorney General Eric Holder:   Uh, with all due respect, Senator, I don't think this is an appropriate setting for me to discuss, uhm,  that issue.  I'd be more than glad to come back in a -- in a appropriate setting to discuss, uh, the issues that you have raised but I -- in this open forum, I don't -- I do not

Senator Mark Kirk:  I would interrupt you and say that the correct answer would be:  "No, we stayed within our lane and I am assuring you that we did not spy on members of Congress."

Committee Chair Barbara Mikulski:  You know I'd like to suggest something here.  When I read the New York Times this morning, it was like, "Oh God, not one more thing."  And not one more thing where we're trying to protect America and it looks like we're spying on America.  I think the full Senate needs to get a briefing on this.

Kirk, Mikulski and Senator Richard Shelby all agreed it was an important question.  And it's important because it's them.  It's too bad that they don't feel it's important for non-members of Congress.  It's too bad that Mikulski's 'answer' is to call for a closed hearing.  It's too damn bad that she doesn't think the American people are owed answers.  Remember, in American now, "democracy" translates as something that belongs only to elected members of Congress.

Attorney General Eric Holder:  While the Department of Justice must not waiver in its determination to protect our national security, we must be just as vigilant in our defense of the sacred rights and freedoms we are equally obligated to protect, including the freedom of the press. In order to ensure the appropriate balance in these efforts, at President Obama's direction, I have launched a review of existing Justice Department guidelines governing investigations that involve reporters. Last week, I convened the first in a series of meetings -- with representatives of news organizations, government agencies, and other groups -- to discuss the need to strike this important balance, ensure robust First Amendment protections, and foster constructive dialogue. I appreciate the opportunity to engage members of the media and national security professionals in this effort to improve our guidelines, policies and processes -- and to renew the important conversation, that is as old as our Republic, about how to balance our security with our dearest civil liberties. As part of that conversation, let me make several things clear. First, the Department's goal in investigating leak cases is to identify and prosecute government officials who jeopardize national security by violating their oaths, not to target members of the press or discourage them from carrying out their vital work. Second, the Department has not prosecuted, and as long as I'm Attorney General, will not prosecute any reporter for doing his or her job. With these guiding principles in mind, we are updating our internal guidelines to ensure that in every case the Department’s actions are clear and consistent with our most sacred values.

Eric Holder is the Attorney General of the United States and, in that position, heads the Dept of Justice.  His remarks might have more meaning if (a) he wasn't investigating himself and his own agency (see CBS News' Bob Shcieffer's Face The Nation commentary on this point ), (b) his remarks were not so easily read as 'Let me say we're targeting American citizens not the press itself so the press can't stop worrying, we're just targeting Americans!'  American citizens who are not members of the press have First Amendment rights as well -- though Holder and the DoJ seem unaware of that these days.  Government officials also have First Amendment rights.  Lois Lerner's made clear that they even have Fifth Amendment rights.  And they also have an obligation to inform the public of what's going on.  When the government isn't honest with the people -- who are citizens, not its children -- then officials may step forward as whistleblowers.  Whistleblowers have protections as well even if the Justice Dept chooses not to recognize that fact.  The DoJ targeted journalist James Rosen.  Holder appeared in front of Congress days before that scandal broke and appeared to give a full portrayal of DoJ's interaction with the press.  And then we learn of the targeting of James Rosen.  So his words don't carry a lot of weight.  (C) What a ridiculous statement to make on the day when everyone's talking about the federal government monitoring the phone calls of private citizens.  No, there is no respect for the First Amendment on the part of DoJ.

This morning, Holder made the remarks in bold while appearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee to testify about the DoJ's budget request for Fiscal Year 2014.  Richard Shelby is the Ranking Member of the Committee and he stated this morning:

Madam Chair, I would be remiss if I did not mention the controversy that has engulfed the Department and the Attorney General in recent weeks.  These issues have overwhelmed the Department and cast a shadow of doubt upon the Attorney General.   The Attorney General is the chief law enforcement officer of the Federal Government and as the head of the Department of Justice, it is his responsibility to ensure that laws are enforced and the interests of the United States are defended.  The controversy that has embroiled the Department has called into question its ability to fairly administer the law and justice.  Further, the questionable actions of this Attorney General have tarnished the integrity, impartiality and efficacy of the position.
It is the responsibility of this Committee to provide the resources necessary to ensure that the Department of Justice can efficiently and effectively enforce the laws, protect our citizens, and administer justice.  Similarly, it is the responsibility of the Department to ensure that it carries out its duties; that it is responsible and responsive to the citizens of the United States; and that it operates with and tolerates no less than the highest degree of honesty and integrity.  Unfortunately, I believe that until these issues are resolved and the controversy laid to rest, a hue of distrust will hover over the Department of Justice.   Mr. Attorney General, it is my hope that you will move swiftly to address these issues -- to put this controversy to rest in a full and open manner so that the Department can get back to focusing on the issues central to its mission.

On the scandals, a new NBC News - Wall St. Journal poll has been released.  Chuck Todd was on NBC's Today show this morning discussing it with Savannah Guthrie (here for video).  Todd noted "major erosion over independents -- political independents -- over a three month period.  The President's support among independents has gone from 41% to a very paltry 29%.  That is an ominous sign."  Last week, Rebecca noted the erosion of independents and last night she noted Jake Miller (CBS News) reporting on the new Bloomberg News poll which finds 47% of Americans surveyed do not believe Barack is being truthful with the American public.

Chuck Todd:  But then if you look at certain presidential characteristics, you sort of see how this trio of controversies in Washington -- IRS, Benghazi -- have impacted the president.  His ability to handle a crisis -- confidence in this, all down.  Strong leadership qualities -- down.  Being honest and straight forward -- public down.  All of these areas not looking good as far as the public is concerned.  And this is the way you can see the public is just not happy with the way the President is running the country.

Here are the numbers displayed onscreen about the three most prominent scandals:


                                              RAISES DOUBT         NO DOUBT
BENGHAZI                                         58%                     27%
DOJ MEDIA SUBPOENA                 58%                     23%
IRS                                                        55%                     26%

Chuck Todd noted,  "It is large majorities that say that these scandals raise doubts about the Obama administration.  But what's interesting here, so we had 58% on Benghazi, 58% on the Justice Dept and the probe on media leaks and the IRS."

Yesterday on Morning Edition (NPR -- link is audio and text), Linda Wertheimer spoke with the International Crisis Group's Joost Hiltermann about the ongoing crises in Iraq.  Excerpt.

Joost Hiltermann:  Well, the government is still there. Now, on paper, it is a power-sharing government. In reality, the various groups in Iraq are indeed in the government. But effectively, it's the prime minister who rules, and the other parties are essentially opponents to the prime minister and trying to oust him. And they've tried so on several occasions through a no-confidence vote in parliament, and they failed. There have been numerous rumors of plots to oust him. I think none of them would have any real basis, but whatever. They didn't succeed, either, if they existed. And the only real way for Maliki's opponents to get rid of him is going to be the elections next year, the national elections. And the real question is going to be: Are these going to be free and fair elections? Meanwhile, there is huge frustration about the lack of services, you know, the poor governance, the very deep divisions that exist between Maliki and the people he represents and the Kurds, and between Maliki and the Shia on the one hand, and then the insurgents and the political representatives of the Sunni community on the other hand. And so it is a very unhappy situation, which could continue for some time, except for the Syria crisis, which is looming.

All Iraq News
reports a Mosul home invasion has left a woman and her son injured, a Mosul armed attack killed 1 Iraqi soldier and left three more injured, and a Baghdad car bombing has claimed 2 lives and left ten injuredNational Iraqi News Agency reports 1 man was shot dead in Sulaymaniyah. a Baghdad car bombing claimed the lives of 3 police officers and left six more injured, 1 person was shot dead outside his Falluja home, and 2 Nahrawan bombing left 5 people dead and thirty more injuredHou Qiang (Xinhua) adds, "In northern Iraq, gunmen broke into a house in al-Zanijily district in central the city of Mosul, some 400 km north of Baghdad, and shot dead two women before they fled the scene, a local police source anonymously told Xinhua."  Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 52 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month.

 From deaths to birth defects, Dr. Mozhgan Savabieasfahani asks today "What's delaying the WHO report on Iraqi birth defects?" (Al Jazeera):

  Iraq is poisoned. Thirty-five million Iraqis wake up every morning to a living nightmare of childhood cancers, adult cancers and birth defects. Familial cancers, cluster cancers and multiple cancers in the same individual have become frequent in Iraq.
Sterility, repeated miscarriages, stillbirths and severe birth defects - some never described in any medical books - are all around, in increasing numbers. Trapped in this hellish nightmare, millions of Iraqis struggle to survive, and they call for help.
At long last, public pressure and media attention to this public health catastrophe prompted a joint study by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Iraqi Ministry of Health to determine the prevalence of birth defects in Iraq. This study began in May-June 2012 and was completed in early October 2012.
The WHO website says that this large-scale study was conducted in Baghdad (Karkh and Rasafa), Diyala, Anbar, Sulaymaniyah, Babel, Basrah, Mosul and Thi-Qar, with 10,800 households from 18 districts and a sample size of 600 households per district.
The Independent (UK) reported that this study was due to be released in November 2012. But the report has not yet come out.

Alsumaria reports today that congential malformations and rates of cancer are extremely high as a result of the uranium munitions the US military used.  It's no longer unusual for a child to be born with two heads or with just one eye, the report explains, and the health statistics are much worse than in Japan in the aftermath of the US using the atomic bombs.  In Falluja, children born with deformities account for 14.7% of all births.   The report notes that although Iraq has a population estimated at 31 million, there are only 20,000 medical doctors and just over 100 psychotherapists in the country.

While WHO remains silent, UNAMI had something to say today. Hou Qiang (Xinhua) reports:

The top UN envoy in Iraq on Thursday condemned the killing of at least 14 people in an desert area in the country's western province of Anbar and called it a " cold-blooded murder," said Martin Nesirky, spokesperson for UN secretary-general, at a daily briefing.
Martin Kobler, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Iraq, urged the Iraqi security authorities to take swift and decisive action to arrest the perpetrators of this crime and to bring them to justice, the spokesman said.
The UN envoy also extended his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims as well as to the Iraqi police.

Kobler was condemning an attack that took place yesterday.  Tuesday, Aswat al-Iraq reported, "Turkmen Alliance MP Mohammed Mehdi al-Bayati called the religious authority in Iraq and the United Nations to directly intervene to stop Turkmen displacement in Touz area for 'known political ends,' following the Kurdish regions's replacement [of] the Kurdish police forces by military ones."

Today a governor was elected.  NINA reports Ali Dawaiy Lazim was re-elected to a second term as Governor of Maysan as voted on by "members of the new Provincial Council."  April 20th, Iraq saw provincial elections take place in 12 of Iraq's 18 provinces.  As Kirk H. Sowell (Foreign Policy) rightly observed, "Iraq's April 20 provincial elections were like two elections in one country.  They included all  provinces outside the Kurdistan region except Kirkuk, due to a long-standing dispute over election law, and the predominately Sunni provinces of Anbar and Ninawa, where the cabinet postponed elections under the pretext of security following a series of candidate assassinations."  The United Nations continues to press for Kirkuk to vote this year.  Anbar and Nineveh were first scheduled for voting on July 4th but that's now been moved to June 20th.  The KRG will hold elections in their three provinces on September 21stJuwanro Muhammad (Niqash) speaks with Goran (Change) spokesperson Mohammed Tawfiq Rahim about election issues for the KRG.  Goran is a minor third party in Iraq that has received funding from, among others, the US Central Intelligence Agency.  Excerpt.

NIQASH: Why is the Change Movement so opposed to this draft of the Iraqi Kurdish Constitution?

Mohammed Tawfiq Rahim: The region's draft constitution – and the KDP is particularly enthusiastic about it – is full of holes and it doesn’t satisfy the demands of all of the different political actors in Iraqi Kurdistan. It gives the region’s president more powers and marginalizes the parliament. This also makes it inconsistent with Iraq’s own national Constitution, which has a parliamentary system rather than a presidential one.

So we want the Constitution reviewed before any public referendum is held. And we believe that that review should result in amendments that limit the region’s president’s powers – he should be elected by the parliament and not directly by the people so that he is responsible to parliament directly.

NIQASH: Why don’t you think it’s logical to just hold a referendum on the Constitution and let the people decide?  

Tawfiq Rahim: We are confident that if a referendum is held on the Constitution, the Iraqi Kurdish people will not accept it.  When the first draft of the Constitution was passed, there was no real political opposition. Now there is. And it is important that all parties approve of the draft so that everyone feels a sense of ownership of the Constitution. It must then also be acceptable to more than 85 percent of the people of Iraqi Kurdistan. But there’s no doubt that if a referendum was held now, on the current draft of the Constitution, that we would urge people not to vote for it.

NIQASH: Recently the KDP and the PUK tried to nominate Iraq’s current President, Massoud Barzani, for a third term. But your party was against this step.

Tawfiq Rahim: According to Iraqi Kurdistan’s laws on the presidency and also according to the draft Constitution, the region’s president may only nominate themselves for two terms. According to that, Barzani doesn’t have the right to another term.

NIQASH: So you’re against Barzani re-nominating himself. Do you have any alternate candidates in mind?

Tawfiq Rahim: We believe that the main reason the KDP is so keen on getting the Constitution passed is to give Barzani the right to nominate himself for a third term in office. If that happens we will try to find someone who could compete against Barzani for the president’s post. But no decision has yet been taken in this regard. And we don’t know if we would nominate our own candidate from within the Change Movement or whether we would cooperate with other opposition parties to come up with a suitable candidate.

NIQASH: Barzani also recently announced that Iraqi Kurdistan’s next elections would be held in September this year. How do you think all of these unresolved issues are going to play out, if everyone goes to the polls?

Tawfiq Rahim: We hope that the elections will be held on time and that they won’t be postponed because of any unresolved issues. We’re very optimistic that votes for the opposition will increase in Iraqi Kurdistan – especially if new measures are introduced to reduce voter fraud.

Salah Nasrawi (Al-Ahram) reports on the matter as well:

On 23 May, Barzani announced that he would call for the referendum and accused the opposition of turning the issue into a political war. “If it’s a bad constitution, people are free not to approve it,” he declared to a huge, cheering crowd in Erbil, the Kurdistan provincial capital.
Opposition groups, however, were swift to blast Barzani’s suggestion.
The rising Change Movement, or Goran, and several Islamist parties demanded that the constitution be sent back to parliament for amendment before any referendum was held. Barzani’s long-term political ally, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) led by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, also did not agree with the call for the referendum.
The Kurds have been enmeshed in internal wrangling over the elections after Barzani announced plans last month for balloting in provincial, parliamentary and presidential races in September.
The dispute centres around the right of Barzani himself to stand for election for a third term in office, despite the Kurdistan region’s draft constitution which stipulates in article 64 that the president of the Kurdistan region “may be re-elected for a second term as of the date this constitution enters into force”.
Barzani has not declared his candidacy, but his supporters argue that term limits are not retrospective, so Barzani, initially appointed by the Kurdish parliament in 2005, and re-elected by in a public vote four years later, is eligible for re-election. Barzani will complete his two terms in July.

US tax dollars continue to flow into Iraq.  Mark Thompson (Time magazine) reports today on the $2 billion contract that the State Dept has with PAE Government Services, Inc., "That’s a million dollars a day over a five-year period, if the contract hits its ceiling. The down payment is $347,883,498 (don’t you just love such precision? It’s almost a prime number, for Pete’s sake)."  On the topic of money and motive, Kerry-anne Mendoza (New Interventionist) observes:

The war has also been of great financial cost to the US and British taxpayer. A recent Harvard Study found that Iraq and Afghanistan have added $2 trillion to the US national debt, 20 per cent of the debt incurred between 2001 and 2012.
So if not the ordinary people of Iraq, Britain or the US – who exactly did profit from the invasion of Iraq? Big business.
Corporations received $138 billion (10 per cent of US GDP) of US taxpayer money for government contracts in Iraq. Ten companies took 52 per cent of this sum. Included in their number was Halliburton, a company linked to both the then US Vice President Dick Cheney andthe President George W Bush. Halliburton received $39.5 billionn of contracts in Iraq, without needing to compete against bids from other firms.
Be it Pol Pot, Augusto Pinochet, Saddam Hussein, or even The Taliban – the US and UK governments have supported countless undemocratic organizations to take over nations, so long as they sign contracts which profit our companies and support our foreign policy agenda.
To acknowledge that ‘we’ are not the good guys is not easy, and it does require searching for alternative ways of intervening where we feel compelled to act.

 With the grotesque Problem From Hell Samantha Power set to become US Ambassador to the United Nations, CounterPunch re-runs Chase Madar's "Samantha Power and the Weaponization of Human Rights:"

Power has recently admitted, perhaps a little ruefully, that “the Kosovo war helped build support for the invasion of Iraq by contributing to the false impression that the US military was invincible.” But no intellectual has worked harder than Samantha Power to propagate this impression.
A Problem From Hell won a Pulitzer in early 2003. America’s book reviewers, eager to be team players, were relieved to be reminded of the upbeat side of military force during the build-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Surely Saddam Hussein, who had perpetrated acts of genocide against the Kurds, needed to be smashed by military force. Didn’t we owe it to the Iraqis to invade? Hasn’t America played spectator for too long? Power, to her credit, did not support the war, but she has been mighty careful not to raise her voice against it. After all, is speaking out at an antiwar demonstration or joining a peace group like Code Pink really “constructive”? It is certainly no way to get a seat on the National Security Council.
The failed marriage of warfare and humanitarian work is also the subject of Power’s most recent book, Chasing the Flame, a biography of Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN humanitarian worker who was killed, with 21 others, by a suicide bomber in Baghdad just months after the U.S. invasion. Most of the book is a sensitive and rather gripping account of Vieira’s partial successes and heroic efforts in refugee resettlement in Thailand, Lebanon, and the Balkans. He eventually rose to become the UN’s high commissioner on human rights—a position he left when asked by George W. Bush to lead a UN “presence” in Iraq. That the UN’s top human-rights official would rush to help with the clean-up after an American invasion that contravened international law may strike some observers as strange. (One can imagine the puzzlement and outrage if the UN’s high commissioner on human rights had trailed the Soviets into Afghanistan in 1979 to help build civil society.) But for Vieira, and for Samantha Power, there is nothing unseemly about human-rights professionals serving as adjuncts to a conquering army, especially when the prestige of the UN—scorned and flouted during the run-up to the war—is on the line. Besides, Vieira had the personal assurances of the U.S. administrator, L. Paul Bremer—a simply charming American: he even speaks a foreign language—that the UN taskforce would have a great deal of sway in how a new Iraq was built.
In June 2003, Vieira arrived in Baghdad and was surprised to find himself completely powerless. That Vieira and company believed the UN insignia would be more than a hood ornament on Blackwater’s Humvees bespeaks not tough-minded idealism but wishful thinking. Power herself claims that Kofi Annan’s main reason for sending Vieira off to Baghdad was to remind the world of the UN’s “relevance” by getting a piece of the action. But for him and his colleagues, this confusion of means and ends proved deadly, one of tens of thousands of blood-soaked tragedies that this war has wrought. The clear lesson is that humanitarian work is always fatally compromised if it’s part of a militarized pacification campaign: NGO workers wield no real power and serve mostly as window dressing for the conquering army.
But this isn’t the moral that Power draws. She is still looking for Mr. Good War. Today, her preferred human-rights adventure is an escalation of the war in Afghanistan.

Sammy Power is considered a 'lock' on that position.  That has to do with a lot of people on the left who think speaking into microphones makes them smart.  Oh, remember Devey D full of bluster -- and everything else -- taking to the KPFA airwaves to lament poor little "Samantha Powers" (no, he couldn't even get her name right and this was in the summer of 2008) was pushed aside by the Barack campaign!

No, she wasn't.  Nor was she pushed aside for her 'monster' remark.  But idiots like Davey D really did a great job with the distraction.

Samantha Power stepped down, she was not fired, her resignation was not requested.  She stepped down because "monster" wasn't the problem, Iraq was.

March 7, 2008, Sammy Power was suddenly out of Barack's campaign.  The BBC was airing an interview.   Here's what she told the BBC:
Stephen Sackur: You said that he'll revisit it [the decision to pull troops] when he goes to the White House.  So what the American public thinks is a commitment to get combat forces out within sixteen months, isn't a commitment is it?
Samantha Power: You can't make a commitment in whatever month we're in now, in March of 2008 about what circumstances are going to be like in January 2009.  We can'te ven tell what Bush is up to in terms of troops pauses and so forth.  He will of course not rely upon some plan that he's crafted as a presidential candidate or as a US Senator.
We covered it in real time.  Hours before that interview started airing, Power was in trouble with the press for it.  It had leaked out and she suddenly realized the damage.  She decided to resign.  From the March 7, 2008 snapshot:
Power was not a campaigner, she was a high level, longterm foreign policy advisor being groomed to be the next Secretary of State.  As Krissah Williams (Washington Post) notes, Senator Clinton's response to Power's BBC interview was to note Power's agreement that Obama's pledge to have "combat" troops out in 16 months was never more than a "best-case scenario".  Hillary Clinton: "Senator Obama has made his speech opposing Iraq in 2002 and the war in Iraq the core of his campaign, which makes these comments especially troubling.  While Senator Obama campaigns on his [pledge] to end the war, his top advisers tell people abroad that he will not rely on his own plan should he become president.  This is the latest example of promising the American people one thing on the campaign trail and telling people in other countries another.  You saw this with NAFTA as well." 
We covered it in real time.  The same can't be said of  Panhandle Media -- the US' alleged "alternative" media?  Silence.  March 9, 2008, we editorialized on this at Third Estate Sunday Review in  "Editorial: The Whores of Indymedia."  And we returned to the topic in July, after Tom Hayden 'suddenly' noticed Samantha Power's March BBC interview, "Letters to An Old Sell Out: Iraq."  And you can check Third's editorial ("Letters to An Old Sell Out: Iraq") to find examples of the Real Media outlets that covered it while  all the beggars of Panhandle Media played dumb -- it's playing right?  No one can really be that dumb, can they?  What is known is that the watch doggies didn't bark in March 2009.  Not Tom-Tom, not Jeremy Scahill, not the forever climbing on the soap box Naomi Klein, not Laura Flanders, not The Nation, not Amy Goodman, not Matthew Rothschild, not one damn radio show on KPFA, WBAI, KPFK, go down the list.  (David Corn did cover it in real time for Mother Jones -- in order to insist it wasn't important.  That everyone knew -- everyone, he insisted -- that Barack didn't mean any promise he made on the campaign trail.)

That's why she left.  She's a known liar and now she's be the US Ambassador to the UN.  Known liar appears to be seen as an asset in the Obama administration, hence the nomination of Victoria Nuland to be Assistant Secretary of State for Europe.  Nuland, wife of neocon and Iraq War architect Robert Kagan, got exposed for altering talking points on Benghazi.  The press has thus far noted that she eliminated terrorist threats from the warnings.  They've failed to note that her e-mails published reveal that she was in communication with others -- including not just her superiors in the State Dept but also going over the heads of the various people that were crafting the talking points.   Josh Rogin (Daily Beast) notes her nomination may encounter some bumps:

Sen. Richard Burr (R–North Carolina) told The Daily Beast in an interview Tuesday he doesn’t think the Nuland nomination should move forward at all until Republican concerns are fully addressed.
“I don’t think Victoria Nuland should even have a confirmation hearing until we have a full understanding of what happened in Benghazi as it relates to her participation in the talking points, who instructed her to do that, who were the folks she referenced to in her office that would be unhappy. I think all of that has to be vetted before any consideration is given to that nomination,” said Burr.
He even threatened to put a hold on her nomination if his questions aren’t answered to his satisfaction.
“I wouldn’t let her go without a full understanding of her participation,” Burr said.
Sen. John Barrasso (R–Wyoming) told The Daily Beast Tuesday that he also has several concerns about the Nuland nomination related to Benghazi. “Her role in this has been a concern and this will come up as part of her confirmation process,” he said.
 Victoria Nuland's support from Republicans will most likely split along the lines of: traditional Republicans opposing her and neocons favoring her.
Returning to today's Senate Appropriations Committee hearing.

Senator Susan Collins:  Mr. Attorney General, it troubles me that the President has virtually unreviewable, unfettered authority to order the killing of any American citizen overseas who is suspected of terrorist activity -- without any kind of charge or trial or judicial review.  We've all read this morning of the controversy over the NSA having access to phone records of American citizens.  It seems to me that an American currently receives a greater degree of due process from the judicial branch if the government is seeking to listen in on his phone conversations or get information about his phone conversations than if the President is seeking to take his life.  That just doesn't make sense to me. Why hasn't the administration proposed to Congress a process that would require some degree of independent judicial review for a targeted lethal strike against a US person overseas -- something, either an expansion of the FISA court or a different kind of classified proceeding before a court to ensure that there's some kind of judicial review rather than vesting that authority to take a life -- an American life, I'm talking about, overseas -- only in the President. 

Attorney General Eric Holder:   Well -- it -- With all due respect, I-I would say that, uhm, it's incorrect to say that it's only in the, uhm, -- it's in the un- the President has unlimited authority in this regard -- with regard to the use of drones.  And we're talking about being more transparent.

Oh, are you talking about that?  Well good.  Good to know you're talking about being transparent, discussing whether or not to be.  The above exchange raises many points and we'll discuss them hopefully in tomorrow's snapshot but we'll use it tonight to note Richard Engel's NBC News report (link is text and video) on The Drone War:

Brandon Bryant says he was sitting in a chair at a Nevada Air Force base operating the camera when his team fired two missiles from their drone at three men walking down a road halfway around the world in Afghanistan. The missiles hit all three targets, and Bryant says he could see the aftermath on his computer screen – including thermal images of a growing puddle of hot blood.
"The guy that was running forward, he’s missing his right leg," he recalled. "And I watch this guy bleed out and, I mean, the blood is hot." As the man died his body grew cold, said Bryant, and his thermal image changed until he became the same color as the ground.
"I can see every little pixel," said Bryant, who has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, "if I just close my eyes."
Bryant, now 27, served as a drone sensor operator from 2006 to 2011, at bases in Nevada, New Mexico and in Iraq, guiding unmanned drones over Iraq and Afghanistan. Though he didn't fire missiles himself he took part in missions that he was told led to the deaths of an estimated 1,626 individuals.

the progressive
matthew rothschild