Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Ant Man

David Brashier (Movie Pilot) attempts to figure out why Ant Man is making so little money:

First, we must look at Ant Man's biggest disadvantage, the fact that it's an original Marvel property that hasn't already had one or two stand alone movies and sequels under its belt. Let's face it, if you slap Iron Man, Captain America or Thor's name on it, people will go see it because Marvel has already established a universe for those characters, and they've appeared in Avengers movies which people will pay big bucks to go see, simply because Avengers is in the title.
So one could say that Ant-Man got the low end of the stick because he hasn't already been in an Avengers movie, and people are always skeptical about spending money on territory they haven't already covered yet.


He mentions many things.

He forgets to note that Paul Rudd is old.

He's 46.

What other Marvel film about one superhero has been kicked off with someone that old in the lead?

How did they think they were going to pull in the teens?


"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Tuesday, July 28, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, AP reports on the use of child soldiers in Iraq, Iraq's prime minister objects to Turkey's bombings of northern Iraq, presidential contender Hillary Clinton has no apparent thoughts on what to do about Iraq today, Senator Tammy Baldwin pushes a VA reform bill, and much more.




Let's open with veterans' news.  Senator Tammy Baldwin's office released the following:




For Immediate Release                                                          
Tuesday, July 28, 2015

  (202) 224-6225


Baldwin Announces Growing Support for Major Bipartisan VA Reform Bill


Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act would provide VA with the tools it needs to address the problem of overprescribing practices
Senators Durbin, Franken and Klobuchar join The American Legion, MOAA, AMVETS and others in endorsing legislation


WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin today announced that support continues to grow for her bipartisan legislation aimed at providing safer and more effective pain management services to our nation’s veterans, the Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act.
 
In just a month, Senator Baldwin’s bipartisan legislation has gained support from: Disabled American Veterans Wisconsin, Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), The American Legion, Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), Veterans for Common Sense, Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), Association of the United States Navy (AUSN), National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS), Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), American Veterans (AMVETS), American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), and Trust for America's Health (TFAH).
 
In the U.S. Senate, the legislation is cosponsored by Democrats and Republicans: U.S. Senate Assistant Democratic Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Al Franken (D-MN), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Jon Tester (D-MT).
 
“The sad truth is that the number of veterans taking opioid painkillers is disproportionately high, compared to the general population,” said Senator Durbin. “The VA is exploring different ways to help veterans alleviate their pain. This bill assesses the scope of the issue and recommends ways to help veterans obtain the best and safest care. I commend Senator Baldwin for her leadership on this important issue.”
 
“Unfortunately, our veterans' battles don't always end when they come home,” said Senator Franken. “Too many of our servicemembers return with mental and physical wounds sustained while protecting our freedoms, and I believe we have a special duty to ensure that they get the care and support they need to cope. But we cannot continue overprescribing and over-relying on medications that all too often lead to tragic consequences. This bipartisan bill would help provide our veterans with safer, more effective pain management plans.”
 
“As a former prosecutor, I know the havoc drugs can wreak on families and also that every struggle with drugs is unique—there is no one-size-fits-all strategy in this fight,” said Senator Klobuchar. This bipartisan legislation gives the VA the ability to offer our nation’s veterans a diverse set of proven tools that can help combat addiction.”
 
“Too many of our nation’s veterans have returned from overseas only to fight another battle here at home. Tragically, stories like Jason Simcakoski’s exist all around the country, including in my home state of West Virginia. Far too many young West Virginia veterans have faced the horrors of PTSD and failed to receive the quality of care they deserve. These are heartbreaking examples of the grave magnitude of overmedication, and we must do everything in our power to prevent deadly opioid overmedication in our VA facilities. I am proud to join with Senator Baldwin to strengthen opioid prescribing guidelines and improve pain management services at the VA. This legislation will not only provide our veterans a healthier transition to civilian life, it will save lives,” said Senator Capito.
 
“The American Legion applauds the Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act and Senator Baldwin’s efforts to reform prescribing practices for veterans,” said Ian DePlanque, Director of the Legislative Division for The American Legion. “Medications in and of themselves are tools – not necessarily good, not necessarily bad – you want to make sure you’re using the right tools in the right situation. There are other tools that are available. Some complementary and alternative therapy might work better for particular veterans or for veterans that may have circumstances that are particularly exacerbating.”
 
“The Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act is an extremely important and timely piece of legislation,” said VADM Norb Ryan, USN-ret., President of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA). “MOAA fully supports this bipartisan effort and commends Senator Tammy Baldwin for championing such a critical bill that will keep veterans safe and provide VA with the necessary tools to more effectively manage pain services.”
 
“AMVETS thanks Senator Baldwin for her ongoing support of all American veterans and especially for her leadership in the development and introduction of the Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act,” said Diane M. Zumatto, AMVETS National Legislative Director. “Once enacted, this legislation will go a long way towards reducing veteran addiction to prescription medications, thereby greatly improving their quality of life, their ability to secure and retain appropriate, living-wage jobs and to continue their service to our great nation.”
 
“AFGE strongly supports the Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act and commends Senator Baldwin for her leadership on this critical patient safety issue for our nation’s veterans,” said Beth Moten, American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Legislative and Political Director. “This important legislation establishes lifesaving preventive measures that ensure safe opioid prescribing practices while expanding available treatment options consistent with current best practices and research.” 
 
On August 30, 2014, U.S. Marine Veteran Jason Simcakoski died at the Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center as a result of mixed drug toxicity. The Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act would provide VA with the tools it needs to help prevent this type of tragedy from occurring to other veterans and their families.
 
"This is an opportunity to take all of this and learn from it. We have a chance to create a new path; or we can continue how we currently are and keep making the same mistakes we are today,” said Heather Simcakoski, Jason’s widow. “When I look back at the past, I want to know we made a difference. I want to believe we have leaders in our country who care. I want to inspire others to never give up because change is possible."
 
"This legislation from Senator Baldwin is one of the most important actions we can take to save the lives of our greatest assets, our veterans,” said Marv Simcakoski, Jason’s father.
 
Senator Baldwin’s bipartisan legislation, crafted in close consultation with medical professionals, veterans service organizations, and the Simcakoski family, focuses on strengthening the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) opioid prescribing guidelines and improving pain management services by putting the following reforms in place:
·         Requiring stronger opioid prescribing guidelines and education for VA providers including stricter standards against prescribing dangerous combinations of opioids with other drugs and for prescribing opioids to patients struggling with mental health issues;
·         Increased coordination and communication throughout the VA with medical facilities, providers, patients and their families surrounding pain management, alternative treatments for chronic pain, and appropriate opioid therapy; and
·         Holding the VA system accountable for appropriate care and quality standards through consistent internal audits as well as GAO reviews and reports to Congress.
 
In addition to improving opioid therapy and pain management, the Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act helps strengthen patient advocacy, expand access to complementary and integrative health and wellness, and enhance VA hiring and internal audits.
 
 
View an online version of this release here.

###






Moving from the Congress to those who want to be president, the 2016 Democratic Party presidential nominee will be decided by voters in early to mid 2016.  The declared candidates so far are (in alphabetical order): Lincoln Chafee, Hillary Clinton, Martin O'Malley, Bernie Sanders, Jim Webb, Robby Wells and Willie Wilson.


CNN notes of one, "Chafee has struggled to make much traction in the Democratic presidential race. A recent CNN/ORC Poll showed less than 1 percent of democrats surveyed backed Chafee, compared to 57 percent for Clinton."

Chafee was the only Republican in the Senate to vote against the authorization for the Iraq War in 2002.  He then became an independent and is now a Democrat.  Chafee is stressing his vote with regards to press favorite Hillary Clinton who voted for the Iraq War.  David Cook (Christian Science Monitor) covers a Christian Science Monitor breakfast and neglects to record the menu but does note that Chafee stressed the 2002 Iraq War vote:

"I did my homework, I looked carefully to see if there were weapons of mass destruction. I didn't see it," he said. Clinton has said since that her Iraq War vote was a mistake. 
When asked about polls showing voter concerns about Clinton’s honesty and credibility, Chafee said she had suffered “a lot of self-inflicted wounds, unfortunately.” But, he added, after the primary season is over, he and the other Democratic candidates would “certainly unite as Democrats to win in 2016.”


Jonathan Easley (The Hill) also covers Chafee's breakfast remarks and includes this:

“I have a lot of work to do,” Chafee said. “The reality is that secretary Clinton has a huge head start with endorsements and money and the rest of us are scrambling. But I think I have the vision, ethical standards and ideas. There’s still more to be don on fundraising and organization, but it doesn’t discount what I bring to the table.”



Hillary, of course, refuses to discuss Iraq.

She pretends a brief aside in her ghost written book from 2014 'addressed' and 'ended' the issue.  David Lightman (McClatchy Newspapers) reminds:

Clinton said last year she regretted her vote. “I thought I had acted in good faith and made the best decision I could with the information I had. And I wasn’t alone in getting it wrong. But I still got it wrong. Plain and simple,” she said in her book, “Hard Choices.”



Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/election/article29110669.html#storylink=cpy


And she does that to the idiotic raves of Maggie Haberman, the New York Times reporter or 'reporter' who is making a career this year of minimizing and justifying Hillary's actions.

Haberman's coverage -- including her Tweets -- border on soft core porn -- you picture her as Brian De Palma's camera for the locker room scene in Carrie before Sissy Spacek gets her period -- was of course ignored by David Brock and other partisan hacks and whores last week as they rushed to insist the New York Times was always unfair to their  crush.



Possibly due to the way the Iraq War vote continues to haunt her, Hillary appears unable to take firm positions today.  Akilah Johnson (Boston Globe) reports on the town hall Hillary held today:


Bruce Blodgett, a software developer and conservative from Amherst, asked for a "yes or no" answer to whether Clinton "as president" would support the proposed pipeline -- an $8 billion project abhorred by environmentalists -- that would transport oil from Canada to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.
Clinton sidestepped the question, saying: "This is President Obama's decision. If it’s undecided when I become president, I will answer your question."


Dan Merica and Jeff Zeleny (CNN) report Blodgett's reaction to Hillary's response, "I thought she avoided the question completely. Her excuse was she didn't want to step on President Obama while he was still in office.  I just thought that was a very weak answer. I just wanted to know where she stands on it one way or another."

Nancy Pelosi infamously argued that the Congress had to first pass ObamaCare to then figure out what ObamaCare would do ("We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what's in it").  Hillary's taking that even further.  You have to first vote her president and then, after she's in office, she'll decide where she stands on an issue.

This refusal to press a candidate who goes around repeatedly saying "when I become president" is appalling.

She needs to be asked about Iraq repeatedly.

The Iraq War continues to this day.

She helped kick it off with her 2002 vote and her championing of the illegal war once it started.

She only (semi) turned on it after the public had.

US troops are being sent back into Iraq in a steady drip today.  US pilots fly combat missions over Iraq today.  The Iraqi government, instead of coming up with a political solution to the country's problems, remains in gridlock.

Exactly how does Hillary plan to address any of this if elected president?

Hillary and her cult -- which includes the Times' Maggie Haberman -- are perfectly happy to take the position that Hillary doesn't have to answer to any of that unless "it's undecided when I become president."

Meanwhile, last week Ben Jacobs (Guardian) reported:


In Iowa on Thursday, in response to a question from the Guardian about whether the White House should take further steps towards arming Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq, the former Maryland governor and 2016 Democratic candidate said: “Probably, yes.”
The Obama administration has long hesitated over directly arming Kurdish militias in the north of Iraq, for fear of further aggravating sectarian tensions.
[. . .]

Doug Wilson, a top foreign policy adviser to O’Malley, made clear that the candidate “was not unilaterally proposing that we step up additional arms to the Kurds”. Instead, Wilson said, O’Malley would only do so “if it was determined by the US military that it was appropriate to up the arms to the Kurds”.


Where does Hillary stand on that question?

Oh, that's right, Maggie Haberman thinks Hillary said all she needs to via that ghost-written 2014 book.


Let's note quickly another political party.  Last week, the Green Party held a Presidential Forum:

Friday, July 24, 7:30-9:30 p.m. Presidential Forum with declared candidates for the Green nomination: Darryl Cherney, Bill Kreml, Kent Mesplay, SKCM Curry, and Jill Stein. Co-moderators: David Cobb, 2004 Green presidential nominee, and George Martin of the Green Party's International Committee and Black Caucus. Sponsored by the Green Party's Presidential Campaign Support Committee National Women's Caucus. Location: Provincial House Multi-Purpose Room.


Back to Hillary and Iraq.  What plan -- if any -- does she have for Iraq?

The Daily Sabah notes that Turkish F-16 war planes continue bombing northern Iraq.



In related news, the US State Dept noted today, "There is NO Daily Press Briefing."

Of course not.

No way could they send John Kirby back out to face the press after yesterday's embarrassing performance.

For those who missed it, we noted this in Monday's snapshot, Kirby prattled on and on about the rights of the Turkish government.


Yes, it was embarrassing but, as we noted, what about the rights of the Iraqi government?

Kirby created a 'right' where Turkey can bomb any country in the world.

He just didn't recognize Iraq's sovereignty.



Not everyone plays it so stupid.






  1. Council of Ministers considers Turkish airstrikes on Iraqi territory a dangerous escalation and a violation of Iraq's sovereignty (1/3)






  • The Council stressed commitment not to allow any attack on Turkey from Iraqi territory and called on Turkey to respect good relations (2/3)






  • Council of Ministers also called on Turkey to increase water discharge to Tigris and Euphrates in accordance with bilateral agreements (3/3)




  • Haider al-Abadi is the Prime Minister of Iraq.

    In the US government's rush to embrace the bombings Turkey is carrying out, they forgot (a) that Iraq's supposed to be an ally and (b) that these bombings had previously outraged Iraqis.


    It's a reality we were noting in Saturday's snapshot:

    The Turkish government -- probably like many others -- is using the pretext of the Islamic State to attack Iraq.
    In doing so, it is violating Iraq's sovereignty yet again.
    This didn't work out well before, for any who paid attention.
    The Turkish warplanes, announcements swore, killed 'terrorists.'  Reality, they bombed farming communities and killed civilians.
    This didn't endear them to the Iraqi people.
    There was outrage, naturally.




    The US government is now scrambling to craft a 'position' on the strikes -- hoping to approve of Turkey's bombings while still pretending to respect Iraq's sovereignty.

    And that's why there was no press briefing today.

    But there's a good chance that, had the State Dept held a press briefing today, the press would have ignored the issue of Iraq's sovereignty.


    The press ignored it in Monday's briefing.

    And while we've raised the issue every day (here for Sunday and you can also read Third's "Editorial: Turkey attacks Iraq"), the western press has avoided it.


    Now that the prime minister of Iraq has weighed in publicly, the western press may have to cover this aspect of the story.

    Or maybe not.

    Even Antiwar.com -- apparently too busy sobbing over Rand Paul after months of playing Sheila E singing "Next Time Wipe That Lipstick Off Your Collar" (Justin Raimondo writes a bitter, ex-lover's goodbye to Paul here) -- has failed to note these bombing violate Iraq's sovereignty or that, today, the Prime Minister of Iraq publicly objected to them.

    And, of course, the always worthless Joel Wing has offered 14 posts since Turkey began its re-bombing of northern Iraq and not one even noted the bombings.

    That's because Joel's an idiot who can never take a stand (except to root for despots) and instead waits days and days until a water cooler consensus emerges.

    Laws and treaties never matter to Joel, just the tepid consensus of gasbags and blowhards.

    Until that emerges, he'll remain silent -- except to post about his being 'covered' in media -- because he wants to lead "The Glamorous Life" -- but never will.

    Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts 72 violent deaths across Iraq today.


    Turning to the topic of child soldiers, Human Rights Watch has noted:

    Thousands of children are serving as soldiers in armed conflicts around the world. These boys and girls, some as as young as 8-years-old, serve in government forces and armed opposition groups. They may fight on the front lines, participate in suicide missions, and act as spies, messengers, or lookouts. Girls may be forced into sexual slavery. Many are abducted or recruited by force, while others join out of desperation, believing that armed groups offer their best chance for survival. We are working to prevent the use of child soldiers and to hold accountable the people who send children to fight.


    Andrew Shue's Do Something has a list of facts on the issue of child soldiers which includes:


    1. Children who are poor, displaced from their families, have limited access to education, or live in a combat zone are more likely to be forcibly recruited.


    1. Children who are not forced to be soldiers volunteer themselves because they feel societal pressure and are under the impression that volunteering will provide a form of income, food, or security, and willingly join the group.
    2. In the last 2 years, 20 states have been reported to have child soldiers in government, government-affiliated, and non-state armed groups. Additionally, 40 states still have minimum age recruitment requirements under 18 years.
    3. Girls make up an estimated 10 to 30 percent of child soldiers used for fighting and other purposes. They are especially vulnerable when it comes to sexual violence.
    4. A few of the countries who have reported use of child soldiers since 2011 are Afghanistan, Colombia, India, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Mali, Pakistan, Thailand, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. 



    Amnesty International notes:

    Under international law, the participation of children under 18 in armed conflict is generally prohibited, and the recruitment and use of children under 15 is a war crime. Yet worldwide, hundreds of thousands of children are recruited into government armed forces, paramilitaries, civil militia and a variety of other armed groups. Often they are abducted at school, on the streets or at home. Others enlist "voluntarily", usually because they see few alternatives.
    Such children are robbed of their childhood and exposed to terrible dangers and to psychological and physical suffering. They are placed in combat situations, used as spies, messengers, porters, servants or to lay or clear landmines. Girls in particular are at risk of rape and sexual abuse.

    And the United Nations maintains, "Regardless of how children are recruited and of their roles, child soldiers are victims, whose participation in conflict bears serious implications for their physical and emotional well-being. They are commonly subject to abuse and most of them witness death, killing, and sexual violence. Many are forced to perpetrate these atrocities and some suffer serious long-term psychological consequences. The reintegration of these children into civilian life is a complex process."


    Sometimes the US government expresses dismay or even outrage over the use of child soldiers . . . when they're used by countries the White House is in opposition to.



    Something the US government calls out . . . when used by opponents.

    But something the US government goes along with when it is an ally (permanent or temporary).

    We last noted the use of children soldiers by Iraq's Shi'ite militias on July 23rd when focusing on the United Nations hypocritically condemning the Islamic State for using children soldiers but ignored the use of the children soldiers by the so-called 'Popularization Mobilization Forces;'



     And what would Kubis like to do with regards to the use of children soldiers by the "Popularization Mobilization Foces" (Shi'ite militias)?
    Because they are using children.
    And you can find it all over Arabic media and social media.
    And Haider al-Abadi's remarks about the Islamic State and children soldiers were slammed the minute they were made -- slammed in Arabic media and Arabic social media -- by critics who pointed out the Shi'ite militias use of children soldiers (while on the payroll of the Iraqi government).




    Today, Vivian Salama and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) report:

    This summer, The Associated Press saw over a dozen armed boys on the front line in western Anbar province, including some as young as 10. Of around 200 cadets in a training class visited by the AP this month, about half were under the age of 18, with some as young as 15. Several said they intended to join their fathers and older brothers on the front lines.



    Salama and Abdul-Zahra explain that the certain forms of military aid cannot be provided to countries using child soldiers per The Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 and that US "weapons and funding" given to the Iraqi government does continue onto the so-called 'Popular Mobilization Forces.'  They also note:

    When informed of the AP findings, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad issued a statement saying the U.S. is "very concerned by the allegations on the use of child soldiers in Iraq among some Popular Mobilization forces in the fight against ISIL," using an alternate acronym for the militant group. "We have strongly condemned this practice around the world and will continue to do so."

    Very concerned?

    They're not concerned at all.

    Arabic social media is not hidden away in Superman's Fortress of Solitude or on Wonder Woman's Paradise Island.

    Arabic social media is available to all throughout the world and that does include the US State Dept -- in and out of Iraq.

    It is there that the use of child soldiers has been repeatedly documented.

    It has also been documented in the Iraqi press.

    There's no way the US Embassy in Iraq was hearing of it for the first time when AP contacted them for a statement.

    But because AP has a major report on the subject, the Embassy issued a weak-ass, do-nothing statement.

    And unless other news outlets follow up on the topic, that statement will be it.

    They will lapse back into their silent cooperation or, worse, silent encouragement.

    The Islamic State is a violent group that resorts to terrorism.

    Their use of children soldiers is not shocking.

    But US officials -- including Samantha Power -- have condemned them for this use.

    The Iraqi government is not supposed to be a terrorist organization.

    Yet US officials remain silent over their use of children soldiers.

    Hypocrisy remains the common thread of US foreign policy regardless of which party controls the White House and/or the Congress.


    Lastly, theme post in the community, Mike's "Barack's biggest disappointment," Stan's "Barack's biggest disappointment," Ruth's "Barack's biggest disappointment," Elaine's "Barack's biggest disappointment," Marcia's "Barack's biggest disappointment," Trina's "Barack's biggest disappointment," Ann's "Barack's biggest disappointment," Rebecca's "barack's biggest disappointment," Kat's "Barack's biggest disappointment" and Betty's "Barack's biggest disappointment" attempted to pin point the biggest disappointment of Barack's presidency.







     iraq



    Tuesday, July 28, 2015

    Barack's biggest disappointment

    Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Study in Hypocrisy" went up Sunday.


    studyinhypocrisy


    Barack's biggest disappointment?

    Playing 'Black boy.'

    He's not Black, he's bi-racial.

    But I'm referring to his refusal to do anything for women of color.

    He's always pandering and saying things like, "If I had a son . . ."

    Well you've got 2 daughters.

    Trying doing something to help girls of color.


    "Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

    Monday, July 27, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Iraq objects to Turkey bombing it, the State Dept's John Kirby can't stop defending Turkey, Patrick Cockburn argues that Turkey's US government encouraged efforts may be the "biggest mistake in the Middle East since it invaded Iraq," and much more.



    We devoted Saturday's snapshot to the Turkish government's efforts to use war against the Islamic State as a pretext to bomb northern Iraq in the supposed effort to defeat the PKK -- a group that they had entered into an armistice with.

    The United States government appears to have given a nod of approval on the attacks in exchange for the right to use Turkish air bases.  Tian Shaohui (Xinhua) observes, "Critics, including opposition politicians, have accused President Tayyip Erdogan of trying to use the campaign against the Islamic State as an excuse to crack down on Kurds."




    Patrick Cockburn (the Independent) observes:


    The result is that the US may find it has helped to destabilise Turkey by involving it in the war in both Iraq and Syria, yet without coming much closer to defeating Isis in either country. If so, America will have committed its biggest mistake in the Middle East since it invaded Iraq in 2003, believing it could overthrow Saddam Hussein and replace him with a pro-American government. 



    At today's State Dept press briefing, spokesperson John Kirby attempted to spin what is taking place.




    QUESTION: Can we start with – not the trip, although – you have any questions – about the – what’s going on right now with the Turks? And it seems like a really bizarre situation has unfolded over the course of the past week with them joining the air strikes against ISIS, but at the same time also bombing PKK positions. And there’s been some pushback on the suggestion – I noticed that Brett McGurk tweeted about it – that these are related, and that the United States – he saying that there was no deal done with the Turks, in other words. A lot of people find that really hard to believe. So what exactly is going on here, and doesn’t this just make an even bigger mess out of the situation then you had originally?


    MR KIRBY: I think – so let’s unpack. There’s an awful lot there, so let’s just unpack that. I don’t think that I could say it any better than Ambassador McGurk did. We are grateful for Turkey’s cooperation against ISIL to include now use of some of their bases for coalition aircraft to go against targets – ISIL targets, particularly in Syria. So we’re grateful for that support. The – so separate and distinct from that, Turkey has continued to come under attack by PKK terrorists, and we recognize their right to defend themselves against those attacks. And it was in retaliation for recent attacks by the PKK that Turkey conducted these most recent strikes.
    As for ISIL in Syria, we continue to discuss with Turkey ways at which we can go after this particular threat. Again, we value their cooperation thus far. They have a vested interest, obviously, because of its – it’s their border. And while there’s nothing new to announce with respect to what kind of cooperation may come in the future, we’re going to continue to talk to them about that.
    I understand the coincidence of all of this, but it is just that. The attacks against the PKK were in retaliations for attacks they, the Turks, endured, and what they’re doing against ISIL in Syria I’ll let them speak to. But obviously, we welcome all coalition members’ efforts against ISIL, particularly in Syria.


    QUESTION: All right, well, one: Are you suggesting then that the Turks – the attacks on the PKK are going to – are over now and that the Turks have retaliated enough for the attacks on them? And secondly, are you not concerned that these attacks, while they are directed against a group that you have designated a terrorist organization – the Turks certainly believe are a terrorist organization – and I’m talking about the PKK – are you not concerned that that is going to hinder or hurt the fight against ISIS/ISIL?


    MR KIRBY: I understand the second one. Am I concerned that their attacks against the PKK will detract from the fight against ISIL? Is that --


    QUESTION: Yeah. They’re killing people that are killing ISIL.


    MR KIRBY: The attacks against the PKK.


    QUESTION: Yes.


    MR KIRBY: Okay.


    QUESTION: Right? I mean, am I wrong?


    QUESTION: I mean, the PKK has been very effective against ISIL. They helped rescue Yezidis on Mount Sinjar. They’ve been fighting ISIS in Syria --


    MR KIRBY: Yeah. No. I think I got it.


    QUESTION: So there’s two in there.


    MR KIRBY: Is it over now?


    QUESTION: Have you been assured – or have you been told by the Turks that they’re – that this against the – the strikes against the PKK are limited duration and solely in retaliation for the attacks on them, and are going to stop?


    MR KIRBY: Right.


    QUESTION: And secondly, I mean, how does this not make it a big – it’s – how does this not hurt the fight against ISIS/ISIL?


    MR KIRBY: Okay, so two questions. First of all, is it over now? I don’t know. That’s a question that you have to ask Turkish officials. They retaliated against the PKK for strikes that they received from PKK terrorists. We have long recognized the PKK as a foreign terrorist organization, and we recognize Turkey’s ability – or, I’m sorry, Turkey’s right – to defend itself against this group. So is it over now? I don’t know. And that’s really not a question that we can answer from this podium.
    Two, does it hinder the fight against ISIL? What we’re trying to focus on here is a coalition to go after ISIL, counter ISIL. I recognize that, in some cases, the PKK have fought against ISIL. But they are a foreign terrorist organization. We designated them that, as an FTO. And our fight against ISIL is not in cooperation with, coordination with, or communication with the PKK. Our fight against ISIL is with 62 other nations in this coalition who are helping us go after these guys, and in Syria specifically. And again, DOD is working a train and equip program to get a moderate opposition capable enough to go after ISIL inside Syria.
    So the fight against ISIL will continue. We are grateful for the contributions of Turkey and other coalition members. And the pressure that we are going to put on them, regardless of what Turkey is doing against the PKK or will do in the future, that’s not going to diminish.


    Turkey's right to defend itself?

    Kirby's just another flapping gum US official who has no interest in helping Iraq or what happens to Iraq.

    Turkey is bombing northern Iraq.

    John Kirby can dress that up in all the endless words he wants but that's what's happening.

    And we remember what happened last time -- it outraged the Iraqi people.

    That was then.

    Today?

    Not so different.


    National Iraqi News Agency reports:

    The Vice President of the House of Representatives, Aram Sheikh Mohammed condemned the Turkish indiscriminate shelling on border areas in the Kurdistan region, stressing that the security of Turkey does not take place through the bypassing and breach Iraqi sovereignty and killing innocent civilians and burning and damaging farms without any justification.

    He called on Ankara, in a statement today, not to fail the peace process in Turkey, saying unfortunately the Turkish government again deliberately violated Iraqi sovereignty and bombed Iraqi territory under the pretext of keeping its security and began random and intensified aerial bombardment on the border areas in the Kurdistan region, and as a result of this bombing, a number of innocent citizens were killed and this heinous and provocative act is unacceptable and we condemn that strongly



    And NINA reports:


    MP, of the Iraqi Forces Coalition, Dhafer al-Ani called on Turkey to open a dialogue with the federal government and coordinate with the Ministry of Defence on the subject of bombing PKK's positions.

    Al-Ani said in a statement that there is no doubt that the security of Turkish and its friendly people and its stability concerns us and we are keen on its security and stability as we concern about ours and peace in all countries around us, and it is essential that there should be a regional security effort to hunt down terrorist organizations that infiltrate between the border, but this effort has to be conditional within the official coordination.

    He added that the justifications provided by Turkish officials about their understandings with the Kurdistan Regional Government on the entry of their jets into Iraqi airspace and carry out military strikes to armed groups inside Iraqi territory are not sufficient justifications, as we were waiting for understandings with Baghdad government and coordination with the Ministry of Defense in accordance with the known official formats in order to preserve national sovereignty



    Please note that Kirby could talk endlessly of Turkey's right to do whatever the hell it wanted but he seemed to think Iraq had no right to object to another country bombing it.




    QUESTION: Are you telling the Turks --


    QUESTION: Well, wait, wait. I’ve got just one.


    QUESTION: Are you telling the Turks not to go after PKK in Syria?


    QUESTION: I have – hold on Ros, Ros. Ros, I have one more here. So you’re saying that it doesn’t trouble you at all that the Turks are going after people who have been very – perhaps the most effective on the ground against ISIS/ISIL? You don’t have a problem with that --


    MR KIRBY: First of all, I think I would –


    QUESTION: -- and there’s no coordination, but there – so you’re more comfortable with working alongside Iran in Iraq than you are with the Kurds. And don’t – is that correct?


    MR KIRBY: Matt, we’re not working alongside Iran in Iraq against ISIL. We’ve made it clear there is no coordination on the ground in Iraq with Iran. I would take issue with your characterization that the PKK has been the most effective force against ISIL in Iraq.


    No coordination on the ground in Iraq with Iran?

    That's not true.

    Andrew Tilghman (Military Times) explained today, "The steady growth of Shiite militias in Iraq is making it increasingly difficult for American forces deployed there to determine exactly which Iraqi forces they are supporting, experts say."


    In addition, Iraqi Spring MC notes that the Bard militia grabbed/kidnapped/arrested civilian Hamid al-Samarri in Baquba yesterday and his corpse was discovered today.

    It would benefit Iraq tremendously if the US government could stop supporting the militias terrorizing the Iraqi people.


    Meanwhile John Kirby can take issue all he wants and he can intentionally confuse the issue but the Kurds have been the most effective fighters against the Islamic State.

    It's a point of reality AP's Vivian Salama notes today:

    With the help of U.S. airstrikes, the Kurds have proven to be among the most effective ground forces against the IS group. But their advance across northeastern Syria in recent months has alarmed Ankara, which fears they could revive a decades-long insurgency in pursuit of statehood.




    Again, Kirby can play word games all he wants, reality is reality.




    QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up on the effectiveness of the Turkish participation in the fight against ISIL and so on. It seems that it has been scaled back tremendously today, because they are going after PKK positions and villages and so on inside Turkey. They are devoting a great deal of resources and assets to do that, and consequently they scaled back. Do you have any comment on that?


    MR KIRBY: Well, first of all, this is – we’ve said that Turkey has a right to defend itself against terrorists and we recognize that – as do we, as does any country. And I’ll let the Turks speak to how they’re going to go after terrorists inside their borders. I’m loath to give battlefield assessments even of U.S. military. I’m certainly not going to do that for the Turks.


    QUESTION: So you deny the allegation that Turkey basically used its part in fighting ISIS as a ploy just to go after the Kurds?


    MR KIRBY: I’m not going to characterize Turkish motives. We don’t observe a connection between what they did about going after PKK and what we’re trying to do as a coalition against ISIL.


    QUESTION: Then you remain the only one.


    QUESTION: And finally, today there is --


    MR KIRBY: Okay. I’m comfortable with that.

    [. . .]


    QUESTION: John, you said that Turkey’s response to the – Turkey’s bombardment of the PKK hideouts in northern Iraq --


    MR KIRBY: Yeah.


    QUESTION: -- are retaliatory, are in retaliation to what PKK had done. But now there are two questions. First, ISIS – the PKK attack killed only two Turkish officers, but you’ve seen two major ISIS attacks inside Syria. Why haven’t we seen such a retaliation against ISIS from the Turks? Secondly, and the Turkey had --


    MR KIRBY: Before you get to the second one let me just kill the first one.


    QUESTION: Okay.


    MR KIRBY: You’ve got to talk to the Turks. I cannot speak for another nation --


    QUESTION: Well, but because I’m saying --


    MR KIRBY: -- or the decisions that they’re making.


    QUESTION: Do you agree with the Turkish position that it’s in retaliation? One could ask why would you agree with that, with the Turkish assessment that it’s in retaliation to PKK, while ISIS has been killing many more Turkish citizens and that Turkey has done pretty much nothing to --


    MR KIRBY: I think I would – so I’m not going to characterize Turkish motives. They suffered an attack by the PKK; they retaliated. What comes next? That’s for them to talk to. As for ISIL, one of the reasons why we continue to have discussions with the Turks is to explore ways that we can work together with them through the coalition to go after ISIL. This is a country that has a border they’re concerned about, they’ve got 2 million refugees, they’ve allowed – they’ve agreed to host a train and equip site inside Turkey, and now they’ve allowed us to have access to some of their bases to conduct airstrikes and missions against ISIL inside Syria. It’s not like they’re not doing anything, and your question almost implies that they’re just sitting on the sidelines, and that is not at all our assessment.


    QUESTION: They have certainly poured more bombs over the past 24 hours on the PKK hideouts than on ISIS.


    MR KIRBY: Well, look, every day is different in a war like this. I mean, there are some days where our pilots don’t drop all their bombs either. I mean, every day is different and every member of the coalition contributes what they can, when they can, where they can. It’s a coalition of the willing, we’re not mandating it, and the Turks are cooperating and they’re coordinating and they have agreed to do more. And we’re just going to have to see where this goes in the future. As I said at the outset, we’re going to continue to talk with them. We’re going to continue to try to explore areas where that cooperation can improve. And we’ll get there.



    Kirby cannot speak for another nation -- except when he does.

    He conveys the Turkish government's position of events and then, when pressed with an obvious example of the attacks against the Islamic State versus the attacks against the PKK, suddenly Kirby can't speak for another nation.

    Deutsche Welle speaks with European Parliament member Kati Piri about Turkey's attacks:


    So you believe that Turkey's response has been disproportionate?


    It's not just an attack on an organization [the PKK] with, in this case, camps in another country, northern Iraq. We're also talking here about millions of Kurdish people living in Turkey, with whom there was a peace process, although very fragile, during the last two years. There was a truce, a ceasefire agreement between both the PKK and the government. In my view, if [the Turkish government] wants to keep the peace process with the Kurds alive, this full-size attack on the PKK looks a bit, to be honest, disproportionate. What's been happening over the last three days has once again put the peace process very much into question. Is it dead? I hope not, but it doesn't look very alive either. It's very damaging.


    Did last week's attack in Suruc simply give Turkey an excuse to relaunch its campaign against the PKK?


    Let's not forget: Turkey does have the right to self defense. When its officers are killed by an organization which is also included on the European terrorist list, this is totally unacceptable. No one is saying that Turkey should just leave this alone and pretend that nothing has happened. On the other hand, knowing that there is such a delicate peace process going on, then you need to have a proportionate response as well.

    What is much more dangerous to me now is that some politicians from the [ruling Justice and Development party] AKP, along with some politicians from the more right-wing party, MHP, are framing this pro-Kurdish party HDP [People's Democratic Party] now as being directly linked to the PKK, which it is not. [The HDP] has also decried the violence, and [the government] is actually framing the 6 million people who voted for this party as potential terrorists, or terrorist supporters. And this rhetoric is very dangerous for a country which has gone through such a circle of violence.



    Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts 122 violent deaths across Iraq today.


    Finally, today, United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq Lise Grande issued a press release which includes:



    The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Ms. Lise Grande, confirmed today that 184 front line health services have been suspended because of the paralysing funding shortfall for humanitarian activities in Iraq. More than 80 per cent of general health programmes supported by humanitarian partners are now shut, directly impacting one million people. “At a time when the people of Iraq need us the most, we are letting them down,” Ms. Grande said.
    The impact is immediate and enormous. Partners estimate that one million sick people, who would have sought primary medical care, will not receive help. Over half a million children will not be immunized, spreading the risk of a measles outbreak and the resumption of polio and contributing to morbidity amongst some of the most vulnerable children in the entire region.
    The most recent cut-backs come on top of cascading closures. In May, food rations for over one million people were sharply reduced. Nearly 30 per cent of water, sanitation and hygiene programmes have closed due to lack of funding and more are set to close by the end of July leaving 1.78 million people without access to safe and sufficient water, sanitation and hygiene services. Other critical activities are at risk: specialized assistance programmes for one million women and more than 1.2 million girls, many of whom the survivors of brutality and sexual and gender-based violence, are closing. Half of the programmes providing shelter and household support that were providing life-saving help at the start of June will scale back unless additional funding is received.

    “Less than two months ago, on 4 June, we urgently appealed for funding. Humanitarian partners presented the most highly prioritized, pared-to-the bone appeal ever launched in the region. Although some support is coming in, it’s devastating, inexplicable really, that we are being forced to shut-down programmes in a country where so much is at stake and where the international community is so involved,” said Ms. Grande.








    Sunday, July 26, 2015

    EXtant

    I'm assuming Halle Berry's Molly is supposed to be reproducing and that's why she's attempting to sleep with all these different men -- including her alien son.

    I really wish they'd get to the point because Halle's one of the few women of color who carries a network TV show so this nonsense is starting to get old.

    Like having her sleep with the overweight guy who was clearly working with an elevator that never made it to the top floor on Thursday's episode.

    There's a story point, I get that.

    I also get that at a certain point, it starts to look like she's just, in the words of Spike Lee, got to have it.

    I want people of color in lead roles.  That means they won't always be role models and they may do embarrassing things.

    I'm just getting real tired of Molly's desire to f**k every man this season being treated as a part of her personality and not going into the plot points of it.

    (Again, I get it.  We're going to be told that this is all about her alien son and the reproductions.  But we're not being told that and even JD is looking at her like, "Why are you acting so slutty?")



    "Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):


    Saturday, July 25, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Turkey renews bombing Iraq and the PKK,  the US government looks the other way having gotten what it wanted from Turkey, and much more.








    Holy war
    Genocide
    Suicide
    Hate and cruelty...
    How can this be holy?
    If I had a heart I'd cry.

    These ancient tales...
    The good go to heaven
    And the wicked ones burn in hell...
    Ring the funeral bells!
    If I had a heart I'd cry.
    -- "If I Had A Heart," written by Joni Mitchell first appears on her Shine



    DEBAKA reports:

    The Middle East woke up Friday, July 24, to two new full-fledged wars launched by Jordan and Turkey for cutting down the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant as is forces advanced on their borders. The United States and Israel are involved in both campaigns. Jordanian armored, commando and air forces are already operating deep inside Iraq, while Friday morning, Turkey conducted its first cross-border air strike against ISIS targets in Syria. Clashes between Turkish troops and Islamic fighters erupted at several points along the border. Both governments also conducted mass arrests of suspected Islamists. The Jordanian police picked up ISIS adherents, while 5,000 Turkish police detained 250 Islamist and outlawed Kurdish PKK suspects in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir and Saniurta. Jordan Friday shut down its only border crossing with Iraq.


    But Turkey's not trying to cut down the Islamic State with these attacks.

    It's using the threat or 'threat' of the Islamic State to advance their own interests which is to yet again re-start the war between Turkey and the PKK -- Kurdish fighters who have fought for an independent Kurdish homeland (fought via armed violence) for decades now, since 1984.

    Contanze Letsch (Guardian) points out:


    Turkey launched overnight airstrikes against several positions of the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s party (PKK) in northern Iraq for the first time in four years, the country’s government has said.
    The air raids put an end to a two-year ceasefire between the Turkish government and the PKK, severely endangering the already fragile peace process started in 2012 in an attempt to end a bloody conflict that has killed more than 40,000 people over 30 years.



    ITV adds, "The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has said its 2013 truce with Turkey 'has no meaning anymore'."  AP explains, "The strikes in Iraq targeted the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, whose affiliates have been effective in battling the Islamic State group. The strikes further complicate the U.S.-led war against the extremists, which has relied on Kurdish ground forces making gains in Iraq and Syria."  Zia Weise and Chris Stevenson (Independent) note the shift in their report which includes:



    “With the bombardment, Turkey has ended the ceasefire,” said Zagros Hiwa, a spokesman for the PKK and the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) based in the Qandil mountains, told The Independent on Sunday. “It ended the ceasefire and it ended the peace process unilaterally. From now on, we will continue our struggle against all odds.”


    The action of the Turkish government should be immediately and universally called out.

    This is not helping anything.

    The Turkish government -- probably like many others -- is using the pretext of the Islamic State to attack Iraq.

    In doing so, it is violating Iraq's sovereignty yet again.

    This didn't work out well before, for any who paid attention.

    The Turkish warplanes, announcements swore, killed 'terrorists.'  Reality, they bombed farming communities and killed civilians.

    This didn't endear them to the Iraqi people.

    There was outrage, naturally.

    Now the Turkish government uses the threat or 'threat' of the Islamic State to overturn a peace initiative that they clearly never supported and were only waiting for the first chance to void.

    In terms of Turkey, this means the PKK is now engaged in war with them which will mean on the outskirts of Turkey as well as inside.

    This was a stupid decision by the Turkish government.

    The question right now is whether or not the White House approved this assault.

    Did the White House know about it and is that why there's been no major public condemnation of the assaults on northern Iraq from the White House?


    The best they can offer, as the BBC notes, is a minor player with minor words:

    US White House spokesman Alistair Baskey said Turkey had the right to defend itself against terrorist attacks by Kurdish rebels and urged the PKK to renounce terrorism.
    But he said that Ankara should also avoid violence towards the PKK and seek to de-escalate the conflict.


    Jacques Brinon (AP) notes that meek and weak wasn't the response in France where at least a thousand "Kurds and leftist Turks" took the streets of Paris to register their objections to Turkish warplanes bombing northern Iraq with banners decrying the action and some accusing the Turkish government of assisting the Islamic State.


    The bombing raises many questions -- such as did the White House agree to look the other way as part of a deal with Turkey to use a Turkish base?


    Friday on NPR's Morning Edition (link is audio and text), Steve Inskeep discussed the White House's latest arrangement with Deborah Amos:


    INSKEEP: So why is it a big deal the U.S. can use Turkey as a base?


    AMOS: Steve, this is a real estate question. It's all about location. This airbase, Incirlik, is about 200 miles from Syria and ISIS targets. Now coalition jets are taking off from bases in the Gulf. They're flying more than a thousand miles. So what this means is less refueling, more time in the air. And that's a big change. Turkey signing on is also a game changer. Turkey's been frustrated with Washington policy on fighting ISIS. They say that you have to fight Bashar al-Assad in Syria at the same time, but Turkey has been increasingly threatened by ISIS.


    Xinhua offers "Ankara is concerned that Kurds, emboldened by gains in Iraq and Syria, may have an incentive now to ask for a greater autonomy and even independence that risks the unitary structure of Turkish state."

    AFP notes:

    The leadership of Iraq's Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) has condemned Turkish air strikes against positions of Kurdish fighters in its autonomous region, echoing the remarks of the leadership earlier.
    Masoud Barzani, president of KRG, spoke to Ahmed Dayutoglu, Turkey's prime minister, over telephone on Saturday and "expressed his displeasure with the dangersou level the situation has reached", according to a KRG statement.
    "He requested that the issue not be escataled to that level because peace is the only way to solve problems and years of negotiations are beter than one hour of war," the statement said.



    Liz Sly (Washington Post) explains, "The targeting of Kurdish militants will also complicate the United States’ air war against the Islamic State, which has relied heavily on a PKK-allied group of Syrian Kurds to make advances in northern Syria."


    And it will complicate things within Turkey.  WSWS offers:

    Originally, Ankara, Washington and its Arab allies worked closely together in undermining the Syrian regime and arming Islamist groups opposed to Damascus. But when ISIS expanded into Iraq and endangered the regime in Baghdad, Washington made a political turn. It bombed ISIS and, much to the dismay of Ankara, aligned itself with Iraqi Kurdish groups. The recent agreement between Iran and the US further undermines the rapidly declining influence of Ankara.
    By joining the war against ISIS and simultaneously escalating the confrontation with the Kurdish nationalist groups, Ankara is trying to win back some influence over the course of events. By doing so, it is escalating the ethnic and sectarian tensions in Syria, Turkey and the entire region, posing a deadly danger for the working class.

    A second, no less important, reason for Ankara’s warmongering is escalating social and political tensions at home. The massacre in Suruç has triggered a wave of terrorist attacks for revenge, in which the PKK killed three police officers and a soldier and two alleged ISIS members. A member of the HDP was killed by an “unidentified murderer.” The Turkish Prime Minister’s Office stated that the government would take “any necessary measures to protect public order and national security.”




    In the US, Senator Johnny Isakson is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  His office issued the following on Friday:



    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    Friday, July 24, 2015
    Contact: Amanda Maddox, 202-224-7777


    Isakson: We Owe Our Veterans 'Nothing Less' than to Hold VA Accountable
    Joins colleagues in highlighting committee action on sweeping VA accountability legislation



    WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, spoke on the floor of the Senate regarding the recent committee passage of legislation aimed at increasing accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs. He was joined on the floor by fellow committee members Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Mike Rounds, R-S.D., as well as Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.
     
    At a markup held Wednesday, the committee approved both the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability Act of 2015 (S.1082), which gives the VA Secretary greater firing authority over bad actors in the department, and S.627, a bill that prohibits the VA from granting bonuses to underperforming employees. 
     
                Isakson delivered the following remarks on the floor of the Senate:
     
    “As chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee in the United States Senate, I'm proud to be joined by other members of the committee for a colloquy and a report to the American people on the progress we're making to hold the VA accountable for our veterans and for the taxpayers.
     
    “As all will remember, Phoenix, Ariz., had a terrible tragedy at the VA Hospital in Phoenix last year. Because of missed appointments, erased records and consults that were removed, veterans waiting for services never got them and, in three cases, they died. That was malfeasance in office and brought a great scandal to the VA.
     
    “In January when our committee took hold, we decided to go to the Justice Department and the VA’s Inspector General and say, ‘Go into the VA. Investigate these incidents taking place and if we find criminal wrongdoing or civil wrongdoing we should prosecute these people to make sure it doesn't happen again.’
    “Now I'm never happy when anybody is indicted, but I was satisfied that last Friday the first indictment came down from the Justice Department against a VA employee. Unfortunately in my state of Georgia at the VA hospital in Augusta for 50 counts of falsifying medical records, the results of which ended up benefiting the employee and hurting veterans.
     
    “And I promise the American people and the members of the Senate that’s not going to be the last indictment. We're going to see to it that people are held accountable for their actions. We owe nothing less to our veterans than that type of treatment.
     
    “Wednesday, the VA committee met in the Senate and we approved two great bills on our effort to bring about greater accountability. One of those bills was the Rubio-Johnson bill which allows the firing and the holding accountable of VA employees for malfeasance, misconduct in office, or for cause.
     
    “As many people know the VA oftentimes in disciplining people just moves them to another job at the same pay but they can't move them out of the system, so the accountability system never takes place. There is no sense of accountability and veterans are not well served. Thanks to the Rubio-Johnson bill, people who are terminated for cause will have a brief hearing and a chance to justify their case. And if their case is not justified they will be removed from the veterans’ administration health services agency and they will be fired. That's the type of accountability every American who is employed in their job at home has. We think it's the same accountability every Department of Veterans Affairs employee ought to have.
     
    “After that we passed the Ayotte-Cassidy bill, a bill that I was really proud of because Senator Cassidy and Senator Ayotte said the following: ‘You know, it's just not right for somebody who's not doing their job to get a bonus.’ As many people know, bonuses were paid in the VA last year to employees that were in fact being reprimanded for misconduct and bad behavior. You cannot take away a benefit retroactively and this bill does not do that but it says to the VA prospectively, rewards cannot be earned and bonuses cannot be earned for those not conducting their job in the way they should.
     
    “These are the type of accountability measures the people of the United States expect. As chairman of the committee, I always want to brag about the good things our VA employees do and they do a lot of good things. For every one scandal you hear about, there are hundreds of thousands of benefits veterans are receiving because of good, loyal employees. But the best employees in the world are brought down a notch when those who are not good are allowed to continue to stay on the job even if they’re not performing or get bonuses when they're not performing.
     
    “I'm so proud of the Ayotte-Cassidy bill and the Rubio-Johnson bill which say to the American people we're going to have accountability. We're going to pay bonuses for good behavior, not for bad behavior. And if somebody doesn't do their job, they'll be held accountable and they'll lose their job if they're fired for cause and that cause is justified. That's what the American people expect of the Senate. That's what they expect of our committee and I'm proud to report to the Senate today that started.”
                You can watch Senator Isakson’s remarks here.
     
    The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is chaired by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in the 114th Congress.

    Isakson is a veteran himself – having served in the Georgia Air National Guard from 1966-1972 – and has been a member of the Senate VA Committee since he joined the Senate in 2005. Isakson’s home state of Georgia is home to more than a dozen military installations representing each branch of the military as well as more than 750,000 veterans.
















    the washington post
    liz sly