Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, April 8, 2009.  Chaos and violence continue, Crocker and Petraeus put on a show, Prince Bambi demands to go early and demands more time and does nothing with it, al-Sadr calls off tomorrow's march, the US military announces more deaths, and more.

Staring with war resistance.  Friday's snapshot noted: "War veteran Chad Hetman writes The Daily Targum to explain, 'People should be asking if ROTC instructors are teaching cadets that it is their legal duty under the Uniform Code of Military Justice to refuse and challenge unlawful orders. Since the illegal war began, only one soldier has had the sense and courage to do his duty, Lieutenant Ehren Watada. The military is supposed to be politically neutral, but not legally neutral and almost all troops never read or understand the Constitution that they blindly swear to 'Support and Defend Against ALL Enemies both Foreign And DOMESTIC'.'  Watada is the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq (June 2006).  In February 2007, Watada was court-martialed. [. . .]  Chad Hetman is not a war veteran.   He is a US Army veteran.  He does not claim to be a war veteran.  The Daily Targum billed him as that (and still does today) but he did not claim that because he is not that.  It's not a minor issue and he's attempting to get the paper to correct it.   At this site, it was also noted in "Other Items" on Friday and I've added this to that entry "[CORRECTION ADDED APRIL 7TH: Chad Hetman is not a war veteran and does not present himself as such. The paper made a mistake. Hetman is a US Army Veteran and the paper's headline should have noted that and not that he is a "War vet." Again, Hetman does not claim and has never claimed to be a war veteran. The paper made a mistake. He is attempting to get the paper to correct the error. This correction will be noted in the April 8th snapshot.]"  Hopefully, the paper made an honest mistake and will soon correct it but we'll correct Friday's snapshot in this one, he is a US Army veteran, not a war veteran.  He never claimed to be a war veteran.  Back to war resistance . . .

War resisters in Canada are attempting to be granted safe harbor.  The Canadian Parliament will debate a measure this month on that issue.  You can make your voice heard. Three e-mails addresses to focus on are: Prime Minister Stephen Harper (pm@pm.gc.ca -- that's pm at gc.ca) who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion (Dion.S@parl.gc.ca -- that's Dion.S at parl.gc.ca) who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua (Bevilacqua.M@parl.gc.ca -- that's Bevilacqua.M at parl.gc.ca) who is the Liberal Party's Critic for Citizenship and Immigration. A few more can be found here at War Resisters Support Campaign. For those in the US, Courage to Resist has an online form that's very easy to use.

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Matt Mishler, Josh Randall, Robby Keller, Justiniano Rodrigues, Chuck Wiley, James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb, Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Clara Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Logan Laituri, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum. 

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).  

Today The Petraeus & Crocker Variety Hour took their act on the road.  First stop, the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Gen David Petraeus and US Ambassador Ryan Crocker are supposed to be providing a status report on the Iraq War.  They didn't.  In fact, Petraeus made clear that the status report would come . . . next September.  When the results are this bad, you stall -- which is exactly what Petraeus did. 

The most dramatic moment came as committee chair Carl Levin was questioning Petraeus and a man in the gallery began exclaiming "Bring them home!" repeatedly.  (He did so at least 16 times before he was escored out).  The most hilarious moment was hearing Petraeus explain that it's tough in the school yard and America needs to fork over their lunch money in Iraq to avoid getting beat up.  In his opening remarks, Petraues explained of the "Awakening" Council (aka "Sons of Iraq," et al) that it was a good thing "there are now over 91,000 Sons of Iraq -- Shia as well as Sunni -- under contract to help Coalition and Iraqi Forces protect their neighborhoods and secure infrastructure and roads.  These volunteers have contributed significantly in various areas, and the savings in vehicles not lost because of reduced violence -- not to mention the priceless lives saved -- have far outweighed the cost of their monthly contracts."  Again, the US must fork over their lunch money, apparently, to avoid being beat up. 

How much lunch money is the US forking over?  Members of the "Awakening" Council are paid, by the US, a minimum of $300 a month (US dollars).  By Petraeus' figures that mean the US is paying $27,300,000 a month.  $27 million a month is going to the "Awakening" Councils who, Petraeus brags, have led to "savings in vehicles not lost".  Again, in this morning's hearings, the top commander in Iraq explained that the US strategy is forking over the lunch money to school yard bullies.  What a proud  moment for the country.

Crocker's entire testimony can be boiled down to a statement he made in his opening statements, "What has been achieved is substantial, but it is also reversible."  Which would translate in the real world as nothing has really changed.  During questioning from Senator Jack Reed, Crocker would rush to shore up the "Awakening" Council members as well.  He would say there were about 90,000 of them and, pay attention, the transitioning of them is delayed due to "illliteracy and physical disabilities." 

Levin wanted to know about Basra.  "Is that correct," he asked that the US didn't know about the planned assault on Basra until right before the action started?  Petraeus replied, "It is, Senator.  We had a Friday night heads up" and in a Saturday meeting about how to use the resources, they discussed it futher.  Levin then asked, "It was not something that you recommended?"  Petraeus replied, "No."  Two points were raised in that and Senator Hillary Clinton caught them.

"In response to a question by Senator Levin," Clinton pointed out, "regarding when you knew of Prime Minister Maliki's plans to go into Basra, and I was struck by it so I wrote it down, you said you learned of it in a meeting of planning" to utilize our resources in southern Iraq.  Senator Clinton pointed out that the US is not known for its presence in Iraq, that until the British pulled out, that had been the region the UK was responsible for.  So "what did you mean by the resources you were planning to deploy and over what length of time?"

Petraeus responded that "A plan was being developed" for Basra but this US plan would have been "a fairly deliberate process" and instead al-Maliki was "moving up the time table and compressing . . . the resources" that the US was planning to use over time.  So there was a US plan to assault Basra and, at best, al-Maliki merely jumped the gun on it. 

Basra was a constant reference throughout the hearing.  Senator Susan Collins wonder "why should American combat troops continue to take the lead" after all the money and years spent to train Iraqi forces?  Petraues response was that the "US didn't take the lead in Basra."  Which proves Collins point, though Petraeus seemed not to grasp that.  Collins was pointing to all the years and money spent training the security forces and how it appears to have been wasted and Petraeus' response was to offer that Basra was where Iraqis led.  And the whole world saw how that went but maybe Petraeus is unaware of that?

Senator Bill Nelson pointed out that last year's escalation was sold by the White House with that prediction "that the military surge would stabilize the situation" and allow for political progress and national reconciliation in Iraq.  "Has political reconciliation happened?"  It was a question Petraeus hemmed and hawwed around.  He noted the passage of laws (none have been implemented) and then tossed to Crocker for help.  Crocker could provide none.  He spoke of "cross-bloc horse trading" in the Iraqi Parliament which was supposed to explain or excuse why nothing had taken place throughout the escalation.

Nelson noted the testimonies the Senate Foreign Relations Committee heard last Wednesday (he cited retired Gen William Odom in particular) and, along with Senator Clinton, was one of the few who appeared to be building on something other than the testimony they were being fed. 

Senator Joe Lieberman was probably a suck up in school.  Not just with the principal or the teachers but even with the substitute teachers.  Lieberaman used his time to guest ("incredible service in the course of freedom") and earned the Eddie Haskell Award.  Senator John Cornyn flashed his ignorance (he loves to do that) by conflating the Taliban and al Qaeda and rewriting history.  Senator Roger Wicker embarrassed himself as well.  He wanted to talk about the recruited.  He proposed that most US combat troops in Iraq were made up of 20-year-olds and wanted Petraeus to go along with that which Petraeus did somewhat sheepishly.  (Because Petraeus doesn't have know the average age -- neither did Wicker but that didn't stop him.)  Wicker delcared that these people "made their decision to participate in this war in 2006."  They decided to participate?  So Wicker is arguing that service members make a decision which must mean he would at the very least agree that war resisters have a right to make the decision not to participate?  Wicker felt that "history would view this Congress as very foolish" if they attempted to end the illegal war.  He must have learned his history from John Cornyn. 

But the most embarrassing performance by a Senator would have to be Lindsey Graham. "If you had to pick one example of success," Graham offered up, what would it be?  Petraeus gave two (of which Anbar Province was one).  Graham asked for an example.  He was given two.  It wasn't what Graham wanted to hear.  "Would it be . . ." Graham, he answered your question.  Sell the illegal war on what you're given instead of attempting to coax the witness.

In her time, Senator Clinton opened by noting the smears "that it is irresponsible or demonstrates a lack of leadership" to advocate for withdrawal.  "I fundamentally disagree," she explained and added that it would be irresponsible to continue with the same failed policies.  "We rarely talk abou the opportunity cost, the opportunity lost, because of this continued strategy."  She explored the costs including noting that "the cost to our men and women in uniform is growing" referencing a New York Times article [Thom Shanker's  "Army Is Worried By Rising Stress Of Returns Tours"] which found of those  who had been repeatedly deployed, one in four exhibits anxiety, depression or acute stress.  These costs and other cots are ignored to pursue "continuing the same failed policy." 

"For the past five years," Senator Clinton pointed out, "we have continuously heard from the administration that things are getting better, that we're about to turn a corner."  Still nothing.  It's time "to begin an orderly withdrawal."   With Petraeus, Clinton referenced the Washington Post [Cameron W. Barr's "Petraeus: Iraqi Leaders Not Making 'Sufficient Progress'"] and how the general had told them last month that "'no one feels there has been sufficient progress.' Those are exactly the concerns that my colleagues and I raised when you testified before us in September."  At that time, Clinton pointed out, Petraeus responded that "if we reached that point in a year you'd have to think very hard about it.  We're there now. . . . What conditions would have to exist for you to recommend to the President that the current strategy is not working?"

A fairly straight forward question, so naturally Petraeus ignored it.  "What I said," he said in unmasked irriation, "was no one was satisified with the progress that was made, either Iraqi or American."  Yes, Petraeus, everyone who read the Washington Post article or heard Clinton's summary got that point.  Before you made it in the hearing.  In the afternoon, Senator Chuck Hagel would also bring up the Post and Petraeus' remarks.

With Crocker, she brought up the treaty the White House wants to make with the puppet of the occupation, Nouri al-Maliki, "With respect to our long term challenge, Ambassador Crocker, the administration" is planning to make an agreement with Iraq and "will it be submitted to the Iraqi Parliament for ratification?"  Crocker replied that it had been "indicated that" it would be brought "to the council of representatives." Well then, Clinton wanted to know, "does the administration plan to submit the agreement to our Congress?"  No, Crocker replied, "at this point . . . we don't" because they don't believe it "would require the advice and consent" of the Congress.  That "seems odd to Americans," Clinton noted, that "the Iraqi Parliament may have a chance to consider this aggreement" while "the United States Congress does not."  She noted the legislation she introduced (December 6, 2007) calling for the Bully Boy "to seek Congressional approval for any agreement that would extend the US military commitment to Iraq."  And it is very odd that the White House thinks they can make a treaty without the consent of Congress and that the Iraqi Parliament will be weighing in (their Constitution guarantees them that right -- the US Constitution guarantees that Congress also has that right).

Other points from the hearing would include (as Lara Logan's legwork for the US military brass Sunday conveyed) the White House wants war with Iran.  Ironically, though happy to touch on that and any other country during their testimony, when Senator Evan Bayh made the point that many say the US presence in Iraq is making the US less safe and wondered about the fact that Pakistan is seen as a base for terrorism, Petraeus began insisting that he couldn't comment on any of that, his territory was Iraq.  Again, he was happy to weigh in (as was Crocker) on Iran and other countries . . . until a question he didn't like came up.  Petraeus was very nasty with Bayh and did not even want to acknowledge that people who favor a withdrawal are not unpatriotic or some pejorative (Bayh: "As I acknowledge your honor and patriotism, I hope you would acknowledge the honor and patriotism of those who look at this very complex set of facts and simply have a very different point of view.").  Pressed repeatedly, Petraeus snapped (sounding like Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men), "Senator, we fight for the right of people to have other opinions."  Where is that?  Outside the US?  "Your mission is limited to Iraq.  Congress and the President have a broader responsibility," US Senator Joe Biden would point out in the next hearing.  Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the other big news from the morning hearing which is Petraeus' statement "that the U.S. will need a 45-day assessment period starting in July, after some 20,000 troops withdraw, to determine whether more soldiers can leave." During the morning's hearing, Petraeus wanted to debate with Levin what US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had meant by a pause in withdrawal this summer.  Petraeus likes to play word games.

This afternoon, they took The Petraeus & Crocker Variety Hour to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  Apparently, they had no post-show notes from the first performance because they pretty much repeated the same tired act.  That included Petraeus again bragging that paying off bullies ("Awakening" Council members) allowed US vehicles not to be damaged.  Fork over the lunch money, Petraeus, fork it over.  With Senator Chris Dodd, Petraeus took offense to the idea that they were "arming" the "Awakening" Council members.  Apparently, they provide their own guns.  So the US just supplies the bullets? 

Biden, chair of the committee, used his opening remarks to set out the basics, "The purpose of the surge was to bring violence down so that Iraq's leaders could come together politically.  Violence has come down, but the Iraqis have not come together.  Our military played an important role in the violence.  So did three other developments.  First, the Sunni Awakening, which preceded the surge.  Second, the Sadr cease-fire.  Third, sectarian cleansing that left much of Baghdad segregated, with fewer targets to shoot or bomb.  These tactical gains are relative.  Violence is now where it was in 2005 and spiking up again.  Iraq is still incredibly dangerous and, despite what the President says, very far from normal.  And these gains are fragile.  Awakening members frustrated at the government's refusal to integrate them into the national security forces could turn their guns back on us.  Sadr could end his cease-fire at a moment's notice.  Sectarian chaos could resume with the next bomb.  Most important, the strategic purpose of the surge has not been realized: genuine political power sharing that gives Iraq's factions to pursue their interests peacefully." 

If only those serving under the chair could have maintained the same focus.  Senator Chuck Hagel was probably the best in the first hour.  He noted it appeared that Iraq was "holding our policy hostage" by day-to-day events.  He wanted to know, "What are we doing" in terms of all this talk of a diplomatic surge he keeps hearing talk of but doesn't see any going on?  He noted that he's not seeing US Secretary of State Condi Rice doing anything "Kissinger-esque" so "what are you talking about?"  Crocker acknowledged that more could be done.  When it will is anyone's guess because Crocker didn't seem to have a clue (and we know the administration doesn't).  As Hagel said, quoting Petraeus' own words back to him, "there is no military solution" in Iraq. In the second hour of the afternoon hearing, Senator Barbara Boxer was clearly the strongest voice. 

She wanted to know about the training, all the training, that had gone on and then on again.  "We've done a lot for the Iraqis just in terms of the numbers themselves," Boxer declared.  "I'll tell you what concerns me and most of my constituents, you said -- many times -- the gains in Iraq are fragile and reversable. . . . So my constituents and I believe that" after all the deaths, all the money, "you have to wonder why the best that you can say is that the gains are fragile and reversable."  Noting the lack of military success and Hagel's points, Boxer pointed out that nothing was being done diplomatically "and I listened carefully to Senator Hagel and Ambassador Crocker -- from the answer you gave him, I don't get the" feeling that the White House has given anything, it's still "the status quo.  She then turned to the issue of monies and the militias, "You are asking us for millions more to pay off the militias and, by the way, I have an article here that says Maliki recently told a London paper that he was concerned about half of them" and wouldn't put them into the forces because he doubts their loyalty.  She noted that $182 million a year was being paid, $18 million a month, to these "Awakening" Council members and "why don't you ask the Iraqis to pay the entire cost of that progam" because as Senator Lugar pointed out, "It could be an opportunity" for the Iraqi government "to turn it into something more long term."  This is a point, she declared, that she intends to bring up when it's time to vote on the next spending supplamental. Crocker tried to split hairs.

Boxer: I asked you why they couldn't pay for it. . . . I don't want to argue a point. . . I'm just asking you why we would object to asking them to pay for that entire program giving all that we are giving them in blood and everything else?

Crocker declared that he'd take that point back to Iraq when he returned.  She then focused on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad noting, "The Bush administration told the American people more than five years ago that we would be greeted as liberators in Iraq and supporters of the war said that they would be dancing in the street with American flags."  That didn't happen and not only did that not happen but when Ahmadinejad goes to Iraq, he's greeted warmly while Bully Boy has to sneak "in, in the dead of the night."  She wondered, "Do you agree that after all we have done, after all the sacrifices, and God bless all of our troops . . ., that Iran is stronger and more influential than ever before?"

Crocker wanted to debate that reality.  He stated it was just militias.  Boxer pulled out reports that demonstrated it wasn't, where Ahmadinejad was greeted warmly even by children who gave him flowers, kissed him on both cheeks.  "I'm saying that after all we have done," Boxer declared, "the Iraqi government kissing the Iranian leader and our president has to sneak into the country -- I don't understand it."  Crocker still wanted to argue leading Boxer to respond, "I give up.  It is what it is.  They kissed him on the cheek. . . . He had a red carpet treatment and we are losing our sons and duaghters every day for the Iraqi people to be free. . . . It is disturbing."

Those were the strong performances.  Bill Nelson was methodical but strong in the afternoon hearing (which is still going on as I dictate this.)  As for the others?  In the afternoon, the most embarrassing performance was given by John Kerry who gushed and fawned over Petraeus for over two minutes.  Then he moved slowly and offered little but, when Barack Obama went, you grasped why.  Kerry was Bambi's hand-holder.  Bambi tried hard to make Kerry's points his own by repeating . . . them . . .  oh . . . so . . . slowly.  Someday he may provide leadership.  Thus far, he just plays follow the leader and spoiled brat.  Bill Nelson asked permission to wave the cry baby ahead because Obama was pressed for time.  Biden allowed it.  If Obama was pressed for time maybe he should have stuck to the alloted time?  Or, as he would word it, maybe . . . he should have . . . stuck to . . . the alloted . . . time. (Did he study voice with William Shatner?)  He didn't stick to the time limit and whined that he needed more, "I know I'm out of time, if I could have the indulgence of the committe for one minute."  One minute?  Try seven minutes.  Couldn't wait his turn and then got his allotted time plus seven minutes more.  And offered nothing in all that time.  Babara Boxer could have done something with an extra seven minutes (she did a great deal with her allotted time).  But Bambi wasn't prepared.  He repeated all of John Kerry's points (they're friends, so it's not theft -- ask David Axlerod). ". . . that are . . . doing harm to . . . uh, . . ."  Is he unable to speak if the lines aren't written ahead of time?  If so, can Bully Boy slide the ear piece over to him because he obviously can't speak on his own.  Seven minutes.  Obama went seven minutes over -- after he'd used his allotted time.  After he'd claimed he'd only take one more minute.  The Whiny Boy Prince gets his way . . . and does nothing with it. 

In Iraq, Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that Moqtada al-Sadr "announced a postponement of a march planned for Wednesday in Baghdad to protest the U.S. occupation of Iraq" and quotes him declaring in the statement, "I call those beloved Iraqi people who wish to demonstrate against the occupation to postpone their march, out of my fear for them and my concern to spare their blood.  I fear that Iraqi hands will be lifted against you, although I would be honored if the Americans were to lift their hands against you." Fadel notes the cease-fire/truce as do CBS and AP, al-Sadr is floating the threat that he will end the cease-fire.  The same statement declared that, "I call on the Iraqi government, if it exists, to work for the protection of the Iraqi people, stop the bloodshed and the abuse of its honor. . . .   Let the Iraqi government be informed that the Imam Mahdi Army will stand hand-in-hand with the Iraqi people to ensure that the people have everything they need. If it is required to lift the freeze in order to carry out our goals, objectives, doctrines and religious principles and patriotism, we will do that later and in a separate statement."

Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing that wounded nine people, a Baghdad mortar attack that claimed 2 lives with five other people left injured, a Baghdad bombing that wounded two people, a Kirkuk motorcycle bombing that left fourteen people wounded, a Diyala Province roadside bombing that claimed 6 lives and left five people wounded, a Nineveh bombing at a motorcycle repair shop that claimed 1 life and left two more people injured and a Salahuddin Province mortar attack that claimed the life of 1 woman and left three members of her family injured.  Reuters notes that the US again launched an air attack on the Sadr City section of Baghdad today firing "four US Hellfire missiles" resulting in 12 deaths according to the US military


Reuters notes an armed clash in the Sadr City section of Baghdad claimed 13 lives with one-hundred and forty people injured. 


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 corpses were discovered in Baghdad.

Today the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division -- Baghdad Soldier was killed as the result of an improvised explosive device attack at approximately 12:30 p.m. in northeast Baghdad April 8."  And they announced: "A Multi-Division -- Baghdad Soldier was killed from wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device struck his vehicle at approximately 9:30 p.m. April 7."  Like Tina Susman's "Fighting intensifies in Iraq's capital" (Los Angeles Times), in  the snapshot yesterday 3 deaths are noted but, as CNN points out, there were four deaths on Monday.  There were at least five announced Sunday.  With at least two announced today, that's 11 announced deahts since Sunday.

Turning to US presidential politics, Elaine's "AOL Poll 67% doubt Barack's patriotism" noted an AOL poll.  The question was: "Do you have any doubts about Barack Obama's patriotism?"  Last night when Elaine wrote, there were 145,327 votes.  48,158 (33%) said "none at all."  78,697 (54%) said "Yes, a lot" with 18,472 (13%) saying, "Yes, a little."  Leading to a total of 67% saying they doubted Barack's patriotism.  After she wrote, voting continued and over 100,000 more votes were cast for a total of 249,089 which led to 137,552 (55%) saying "Yes, a lot," 31,676 (13%) saying "Yes, a little" and 79,861 (32%) saying "None at all."  As Elaine noted, "The Democratic Party better get serious and grasp that these doubts are HUGE and that they come after a non-stop media blitz where Barack's speech was universally praised. If that's the best he can do now, what happens if he gets the nomination and faces McCain?  Forget McCain's promise not to question Bambi's patriotism. When elections are close, promises get forgoteen by the best and I doubt anyone visiting this site would assume McCain qualified as 'one of the best.' Regardless of what McCain does or does not do, independent groups will raise the issue repeatedly. And you'll see that 67% climb even higher. I would argue that anything over 7% was too high. This will be a close election, regardless of whom the Democratic nominee is and Dems don't need to destroy their chance to take the White House."  B-b-but, the Wright issue is over, right?  Wrong.  Thomas Sowell (Creators.com) notes, "The same people who have gone ballistic when some prominet figure is found to belong to some all-male social club are full of excuses for why Barack Obama remained a member of a racist and anti-American church for 20 years." Richard Cohen (Washington Post) raises the Wright issue today.  Michigan's Niles Daily Star editorializes on the Wright issue noting, "The controversy involving his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, was more about anti-Americanism than about race.  His wife Michelle's unfortunate comment that the success of his campaign made her proud of America 'for the first time' in her adult life, coupled with an Islamic-sounding name and decisions not to wear a flag lapel pin like all the other politicians are being used to fan below-the-radar doubts about whether he is 'American' enough."  Then there's Stuart Taylor Jr. (National Journal) who explores his own reaction to the Wright issue (he damned America from the front of the church, as a pastor, called on the Lord to damn America), notes "Obama's shifting explanations," and he notes how some Democrats dismiss the issue which seems the sort of willful denial evident as John Kerry's campaign began its non-stop tanking following the DNC convention but Dem and Panhandle Media kept insisting it wasn't happening, things were great, things were groovy.  Nancy Kruh (Dallas Morning News) covers the patriotism issue today and notes the recent columns by Joe Klein and Fred Barnes on the issue.  Meanwhile, an issue Ava and I have repeatedly raised in our TV commentaries (most recently here) is in the news: Barack's successful maternal grandmother.  Yes, the woman was successful, yes, she did break the glass ceiling, yes, she did make money.  It's not the poverty picture Bambi's played it as being.  Dan Nakaso (USA Today) notes that Madelyn Dunham "blazed a feminist trail in Hawaii banking circles in the late 1960s and early 1970s and rose to become one of the Bank of Hawaii's first female vice presidents."  He notes "Obama's campaign declined to make Dunham available for interviews" and that those who know her question his Philadelphia speech  claims about her -- Dennis Ching, "I never heard her say anything like that" and Sam Slom, "I never heard Madelyn say anything disparaging about people of African ancestry."

University of Kentucky student Kyle Mills shares why he's supporting Hillary Clinton's bid for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, "As a college student and first time presidential election voter, it didn't take long to see that there was massive enthusiasm surrounding Senator Hillary Clinton and her run for the presidency. After doing research on her policies, I finally understood the energy behind her campaign and saw that she was best suited to lead our nation. Perhaps the most impressive thing to me was the depth and ingenuity of her plans. From the ending the war in Iraq to providing health care to every American, the differences between Hillary Clinton and the other candidates were easy to see. Many college students now know that Hillary stands for the only truly universal health care plan. Many students also know that Hillary knows how to get us out of Iraq in a safe, prompt manner. Most don't realize, however, that Hillary has a very aggressive plan to help students attend and afford college. Her college access plan calls for a $3,500 college tax credit, an increase in the Pell Grant, and the creation of a graduation fund to help increase the amount of students actually graduating. These points only scratch the surface of her plan to assist college students such as myself.

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