Friday, June 07, 2013

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 ( 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 ( 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.



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