Friday, September 25, 2009

Bob Somerby, New Adventures of Old Christine

"PATRICK’S FULLER STORY! Barnicle asked Governor Patrick about opposition and race" (Bob Somerby, Daily Howler):
But then, race can bring out the dumb in us all. We Irish can be very dumb in this area—and we white pseudo-liberals can be even worse. We love our pleasingly narrow constructs—and to drive them, we tell pleasing stories. In the past few days, we’ve even been telling stories as dumb—and disrespectful—as the one which follows, concerning Bill Sparkman’s recent death. Allison Kilkenny posted this garbage at—where else?—the Huffington Post:
KILKENNY (9/24/09): As details continue to emerge, investigators claim they are trying to determine whether the death was a killing or a suicide, and if a killing, whether the motive was related to his government job or to anti-government sentiment. Lucindia Scurry-Johnson, assistant director of the Census Bureau’s southern office in Charlotte, N.C. said law enforcement officers have told the agency the matter is “an apparent homicide” but nothing else.
Setting aside the fact that this would be the mother of all bizarre suicides, Johnson seems oddly confident that this was not a political killing considering the word “Fed”—short for “Federal”—is a loaded label that usually indicates anti-government sentiment. “Federal” means “Big Government,” and the word has taken on a derogatory meaning in right-wing circles where fear and paranoia reign supreme. I agree with Johnson that this seems like an apparent homicide, but it’s not “nothing else.” By utilizing the branding “Fed,” the killers were clearly trying to make a political statement, namely “Obama: Stay Out.”
The word definitely packs an ideological punch, but not only is it anti-government, it’s anti-Obama.
The “killers” were clearly trying to do that! That’s so dumb it hurts. It’s also deeply disrespectful of the nightmares of race—and of the life of Sparkman, which is just the latest narrative toy in the hands of people like this. In our view, Rachel Maddow has been working almost this hard in the past two nights, trying to make this unfortunate story fit the pre-approved form we pseudos would vastly prefer.
Why did Bill Sparkman die? At this point, no one seems to know, except his presumed “killers.” (Or killer. If he was killed.) Many possibilities obtain, not just the one for which Kilkenny prays. But then, why did Wilson yell, “You lie?” That’s hard to determine too. But silly hacks like Eagan/Matthews/ Kilkenny/Maddow will happily hand you the novelized tales which make thrills run up liberal legs. In the process, they work to dumb the liberal world down. Most likely, they hurt progressive interests:
Their type frequently do.

People like Kilkenny and Maddow do dumb the world down. I saw something somewhere today, online, where Rachel Maddow was quoted and I laughed so hard. She has no idea about anything. She really is a fool. As soon as I can remember where I saw it, I'm pushing it at Third as "Dumbest Statement of the Week." It is so jaw-droppingly stupid and so insightful into how stupid she truly is.

That said, I'm kind of ticked at Bob Somerby. Not over today's installment which is well worth reading. But Ava and C.I. will probably yet again be the only ones tackling a topic on Sunday. They have consistently been the only ones to call it out. And I saw it on TV last night and thought, "Oh, maybe Bob Somerby will call it out!"

He was apparently watching Chris Matthews and missed it.

But to this day, it is the subject that Ava and C.I. carved out. It is the one they nailed down and have covered for two years now. And it fits directly into what Bob's been covering all week. Last night, if you were watching, you saw the gutter they'd crawl into to trash Bill Clinton and you saw them refuse to trash Barack.

There's no gutter they won't go into on Bill Clinton. And it's a dam shame that only Ava and C.I. call it out. I'll talk about next week (and link to Ava and C.I.'s piece).

Tonight? Did you see The New Adventures of Old Christine? Wednesday was the season debut. We watched it three times. My daughter just loves Barb (Wanda Sykes -- and has cut one of her doll's hair to look like Barb -- it doesn't look a thing like Wanda's hair). "She's funny!" She has to tell me that repeatedly when we watch the show. And if I don't laugh at something Barb's said (sometimes Barb isn't being funny, sometimes she's serious), she'll slap me on the leg and say, "Mommy, she's funny!" To remind me to laugh.

The boys like it to but Wanda Sykes will never know how much she makes my daughter's week and how thrilled she is to see "the funny girl like me" on TV. (And I'm thrilled that she's all into jokes now. My daughter is gorgeous and will be a heart breaker. She's got my mother's looks. Obviously, she doesn't have mine. And I'm just thrilled she's doing something besides posing or what I used to call her "pretty lessons" as she'd stare at the mirror.) (For hours.) But Wanda Sykes will never know how much she has meant to one little Black girl who didn't get to grow up with a new Cosby show on at nights or with The Jeffersons or Good Times or Tootie on Facts of Life or Diff'rent Strokes or What's Happening or Gimmie' A Break. This has not been a good TV decade for women and it has especially not been a good decade for Black women.

If you doubt it, think about how each decade has had some major characters in sitcoms played by Black women . . . except this one. Until Barb got added to The New Adventures of Old Christine. And that's just about the most perfect show on TV.

I love Julia as Old Christine. She's the funniest woman on TV.

Recap for those who missed it. Season premiere had New Christine walking out of her wedding to Richard. Old Christine was still pissed at Papa Jack (her old boyfriend and New Christine's father) because they'd kissed before the wedding and then she finds out he's engaged. Matthew was sleeping with New Christine's sister who broke it off (it was a fling for her) and Barb met a guy she liked and spilled everything, about how she and Old Christine got married so Barb could stay in the country. The guy was INS.

So Barb's 'detained.' Christine goes to visit her and Barb is explaining how awful it is to be in jail and Christine agrees it is awful and she had an awful day too, did Barb know that Papa Jack was engaged?

Barb was priceless as she told Christine she felt bad that her fifteen minute relationship ended badly. I love that Christine always wants to make it about her no matter what is going on. So there's a guy named Bongo in Jamaica. Christine needs to see him, Barb tells her, and he can get her some fake papers to buy her some time (he used to work for the State Department, Barb explains but now he sells fake papers and pot).

Christine and Matthew hop a flight to Jamaica.

What's the one thing in life Christine always has to have?

Did you guess wine?

They're on the plane and she's asking the flight attendent for wine. Begging her for wine. The flight attendent explains they don't serve anything while the cabin doors are still open. As soon as they're in the air, Christine's on the buzzer for the flight attendant. She gets some headphones to watch a Jeremy Piven movie and then tries to order some wine but she doens't have enough money. (It's six dollars a glass.) She tells the flight attendant that she's rude. She explains she's having a bad day and what if it was the flight attendant's wife they were trying to deport. She then says she doesn't think she's going out on a limb with that due to the "Achey Breaky" hair do and the boxers the woman's wearing which leave panty lines. The flight attendant storms off as Christine wonders why people are so rude?

I'm laughing just remembering it.

So they get to Jamaica (leaving out a lot on the flght) and Christine's left her passport on the plane and they won't let her get it. So she's being detained. Matthew shows up and she thinks he's fixed everything. He's gone to the beach, gotten his hair braided and gotten stoned.

Christine decides to use her breasts to try to get out of it.

The guy who busted Barb likes her (probably loves her) and comes by to flirt with her. Barb was funny. (She kept yelling that he had VD.) At the end of the --


Richard and New Christine had some moments.

He waited outside her home for her. She showed up the next morning. He gave her a speech and she told him that was nice but she was over him and it was all in the past. "The past? It was 12 hours ago!" Richard exclaims. She says that when she's over with something, it's over. She says (apparently referring to Old Christine) that she never talks about her old boyfriends because when it's over, it's over and she feels nothing. Not even, she explains, when she watches a Colin Farrel movie. Richard is surprised she dated him. But it's over.

At the end, Christine and Matthew walk into her home and Barb and Richard are there on the couch. Christine's thrilled and tells Matthew they did it, she and Matthew saved Barb! She starts telling them that she had to do things she's ashamed of and Matthew corrects her and she says, yeah, she's a little proud of them. Then it turns out Barb got out thanks to Richard who's agreed to marry her so she can stay in the country.

It was a brilliant opening and probably one of the best shows of the series which is really saying a lot.

And whenever I mention this show, someone writes in and will say, "Isn't that show advanced for your kids?" I've said it before, 1) violence bothers me, sex doesn't (and it's one-liners, it's not like they're doing steamy sex scenes like on The Young & The Restless) and 2) the show was already my favorite and once my kids found out Wanda was on, they were watching. Outside of pimps and hookers on the crime shows, this hasn't been a decade where it was easy to find African-Americans on TV.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, September 25, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Talabani buries a prized request in his UN speech to emphasize a momentary one (already addressed as it turns out), the VA has a really, really bad week and ends the week on a bad note, Nouri's forming his own coalition and right now it's . . . well Nouri, and more.

Yesterday (6:18 pm EST), Jalal Talabani, Iraqi President, addressed the United Nations General Assemnbley. He tapped the microphone four times before he began reading his prepared speech for the next 17 minutes and four seconds

The most important challenges we face in the near future is the legislative elections due to be held in January 2010 for which the political parties have already started preparations. The success of these elections will put the current political regime based on democracy, pluralism and the peaceful transfer of power on the right path. The success of the elections will transfer the political process from the establishment stage to one of permanence and stability and will promote stability and security in Ira. The elections will strengthen our capabilities in building national institutions qualified to fulfill the requistes of a strong state based on law, living peacefully with its own people and neighbors and to be a key factor in the security and stability in the region. This will reflect postively on Iraq's Arab, regional and international relations and its active return to the international community.
The real danger currently facing Iraq is outside interference in its internal affairs which has committed the worst crimes against innocent Iraqis from various segments of society, men, women, children and the elderly. In an attempt to destabilize security and stability achieved in Iraq during 2008 and 2009, Iraq has witnessed recently a series of bombings and terrorist attacks, the last of which was the Bloody Wednesday explosions that targeted the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Finance which targeted the country's sovereign institutions on 19 August 2009. This led to many innocent victims, including many employees of the government, diplomats and administrators. These criminal acts and large number of victims have reached the level of genocide and crimes against humainty subject to punishment under international law. We believe these acts at this level of organization, complexity and magnitude cannot be planned, funded and implemented without support of external forces and parties and primary investigations indicate the involvement of external parties in the process.
Therefore, the government of the Republic of Iraq puts this important matter on the table of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and requests its submission to the Security Council for the purpose of forming an independent international investigation outside the jurisdiction of Iraq and bring those found guilty to a special international criminal court.
The Iraqi government finds itself obliged to resor to the United Nations to protect its people and stop the bleeding of innocent Iraqis and we are looking to the assistance of the international community and its support ot the Iraqi positions in the formation of an independent international commission to investigate the crimes of terrorism against the Iraqi people we request the United Nations Secretary General to name a senior offficial to evaluate the extent of foreign intervention that threatens the security and integrity of Iraq and to consider terrorist crimes as genocide. We also look for better cooperation and coordination with the neighboring countries and other concerned states to control Iraq's boraders, exchange information, coordinate efforts and prevent the groups that support terrorism and work against Iraq under any cover.

It was a far cry from his speech to the United Nations September 25, 2008 when he was speaking of the importance of ensuring that women were able to participate in "all spheres of influence". This year, almost 12 months to the day, he stood before the United Nations and wanted to open with what can be seen as an attack on Syria. Bloody Wednesday, Black Wednesday, August 19th, whatever you call it, no one knows who was responsible. Nouri al-Maliki had been in Damascus and met with Bashar al-Assad, president of Syria, to demand that Syria turn over 179 Iraqis residing in Syria to Iraqi authorities. This demand wasn't new. When Nouri was hiding out for 18 years in Syria, there were many calls from Saddam for Syria to turn Nouri and others over to Iraqi authorities. Syria refused then to turn over anyone without proof and Syria stands by that policy today. The demand for the 179 to be turned over came before the August 19th attacks.

Like George W. Bush, Nouri used an attack to push through things he already wanted. Nouri and others thought Turkey would be the one to lean on because Turkey does conduct raids in (and assaults on) northern Iraq. Their 'right' to do so was just renewed and the hope of Nouri and his allies was that the desire to renew would mean Turkey would automatically side with Iraq against Syria. That's why Iraqi officials made idiotic statements in the last few weeks on Arabic TV claiming that Turkey agreed with Iraq and said the 'proof' offered by Iraq that Iraqis in Syria were responsible for the August 19th bombings was irrefutable. Turkish officials didn't say that, nor did they feel that. Their role was to get the two sides to come together. That's how they saw it. It's doubtful that Turkey's desire for continued raids could have been leveraged by Nouri to begin with but the fact that Iraq suffers from a drought and needs Turkey for water further undercut any hopes that Iraq could strong-arm Turkey.

So yesterday Jalal Talabani took the matter to the United Nations. Not to the Arab League. They don't want to take it to the Arab League because a Cairo meeting this month did not go well for Iraq and indicated that other governments saw Iraq's 'evidence' to be as weak as did Syria. Despite attempting to bypass the Arab League, Talabani claimed to the United Nations yesterday that "we seek to establish better relations with the Arab and Islamic countries and we are committed to the decisions of the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Conference."

How much can one person beg for? Traditionally, you beg for one thing. Jalal was begging non-stop. After demanding an international inquiry, he then went into how Iraq should be spared of its debts and obligations. Is Iraq a new country? No. And the 20 million-plus Iraqis that lived there before the start of the illegal war (approximately 26 million was the CIA estimate in 2002; they estimate 28 million today which apparently includes external refugees and corpses in the count) are still in Iraq. So what's going on?
Under a United Nations mandate authorizing the foreign occupation of Iraq -- issued after the illegal war started (no UN mandate was issued on the illegal war) -- Iraq was seen as a ward that needed protection -- not only from foreign forces but also from the international community. The treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement was wanted by the White House and by Nouri. Nouri wanted it so that Iraq was no longer a 'ward of the state'. As such, Jalal Talabani pressed the UN to lift Iraq's debts, "Therefore, we request a clear resolution issued by the Security Council to terminate all resolutions issued under chapter VII which affected the sovereignty of Iraq and led to financial obligations which are still binding on Iraq because the situation which necessitated the adoption of those resolutions no longer exists. We and the Iraqi people look forward to the day when Iraq is released from chapter VII sanctions."

To some degree, Talabani's second round of begging will most likely be met. However, he will forever be criticized historically for making that his second request and not his first and only request. Nouri's petty-grudge war resulted in the Iraq basically being taken out of receivership on the internaional stage becoming request number two and not the primary one. This request was the one the non-representative government in Baghdad had worked the last three years on and suddenly it became a secondary issue in Talabani's speech.
With news from Alsumaria that Foreign Minister Hosheyar Zebari has declared Syria, Turkey and Iraq have agreed "to form a Turkish-Syrian-Iraqi investigtation committee," Talabani's decision to emphasize August 19th over the economic issues looks like an even bigger mistake.

Yesterday, there was a prison break in Tikrit with sixteen prisoners escaping -- one of whom was later caught, five of whom had been sentenced to death. Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) notes the curfew and that "American search dogs and aircraft" are being used to hunt for the escapees. Ned Parker and Saif Hameed (Los Angeles Times) reported this morning that two of the sixteen have now been captured and that 4 "prison guards were under investigation on suspicion of helping the detainees escape. The prison director was dismissed and detained while under investigation, officials said." BBC News reports 5 of the escapees have now been caught and that the "police detain 100 staff for questioning about the breakout." Nada Bakri (Washington Post) adds, "Authorities said Friday that at least 100 prison officials and guards, including 10 officers, have been arrested and three special committees formed to investigate the prison breakout in Tikrit." Bakri also notes that with 5 of thte 15 escapees back in custody, the curfew in Tikrit has been lifted. Iran's Press TV notes that posters of the escapees "have been distributed across Tikrit and other cities in Salaheddin province to ensure that the 10 remaining jail breakers will not remain long at large." Reuters notes Iraqi officilas are now saying 6 of the 15 escapees have been captured.

In other prison news,
Anne Tang (Xinhua) reports Nouri al-Maliki, thug of the occupation, stated of allegedly violent prisoners in Iraqi prisons, "Those people, who had been involved in killing Iraqis must be punished. [. . .] We hear voices calling for release of criminals under claim that they have been defending rights of minorities and (religious) sects, forgetting that those criminals had been behind catastrophes." Nouri's words are laughable since he's so tight with the League of Righteous (responsible for an assualt on a US base in which 5 US service members were killed, responsible for the kidnapping of 5 British citizens in Baghdad -- four of whom are known to be dead -- those are the crimes they've claimed credit for). He's so tight with them that he got their leader (and the leader's brother) released from a US prison earlier this year and has met with them repeatedly. Despite the fact that a fight British citizen is either still held hostage or dead. Thug Nouri runs with his own. And his pretense to care for Iraqi lives is laughable when he sits on billions and Iraqis struggle for something as simple as potable water.

In Iraq today 15 Iraqi soldiers were killed in Baashiqa.
Xinhua reports that the 15 were in northern Iraq attempting "to blow up a large arms and ammunition depot" but things went horribly wrong. In addition to the 15 dead, another is reported injured. BBC has the bombing taking place while the soldiers were transporting "confiscated bombings to a disposal area". However, Nada Bakri (Washington Post) reports, "The explosion took place in a lot where security forces store and detonate explosives and ammunition confiscated from insurgents." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) explains, "Officials described the blast as an accident but provided few other details." Gulf News adds, "Witnesses said American soldiers had cordoned off the area. The US military did not immediately respond to queries for additional details."

In other reported violence today . . .

Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing injured two police officers. Reuters notes two other Baghdad roadside bombings from yesterday which injured four people and an attack on a Mosul military checkpoint which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left another injured.

Moving to political news.
September 11th on Al Jazeera's Inside Iraq (a transcript excerpt is in this snapshot), Kassim Daoud repeatedly insisted to host Jasim Azzawi that there was still the possibility that Nouri al-Maliki might join the Shi'ite alliance.

Jasim Azzawi: al-Maliki has refused to join the new bloc that has been created and you are a member of that bloc, the Iraqi National Alliance primarily because of the presence of Ibrahim al-Jaafari and perhaps because of Moqtada al-Sadr. Can Maliki win without your bloc?

Kassim Daoud: Well that's a very difficult question. I mean it's premature to answer the question like this to comment that the Alliance, actually, is still open to everybody. We announced it as a bloc which has to be the foundation for the national mandate or the national enterprise. We cannot say that Maliki didn't join us so far, the negotiation is still going on.

Jasim Azzawi: Kassim Daoud, it seems to me that his answer is final. He wanted to be the sole candidate to run for the premiership as well as he wanted a limitation on to Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Moqtada al-Sadr blocked. That has become amply clear.

Kassim Daoud: Well the problem before you is clear but for me since I'm an insider, actually, I'm not looking at the situation as it is. The guy having sort of a political mandate, he would like to pursue with his mandate. The Alliance would like to -- their own mandate so I cannot say the negotiation terminated. I think still we have room although the room is probably slim but I think that we cannot give such a sharp answer till we have to wait for probably too more weeks.

Jasim Azzawi: Slim indeed it is.

Slim indeed.
Alsumaria reports that Nouri has revealed he's creating his own coalition and "will announce" it in the next week. The coalition will be Dawlat al-Qanun (State of Law) and will be a mixed coalition as Nouri attempts to paint himself more secularist due to the January 2009 elections in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces indicating that fundamentalists were not popular with the people. Caesar Ahmed and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) report on the plans by the politicaly party SIIC (Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council) which include recruitment and appearing open (possibly being open, but time will tell on that) and to point out the current government's broken promises: "The cleric critiqued the government's management of electricity and vowed his list would improve basic services. He heaped scorn on the country's current electricity minister, Kareem Wahab, for failing to improve power." Alsumaria also reports that the Kurds are calling for elections to take place in Kirkuk and not be postponed "under the pretext of voters' register incomplete scrutinizing." The upcoming elections are scheduled for January 2010 and the fate of Kirkuk will not be, according to Nouri, addressed then. Despite the Iraqi Constitution long ago calling for a referendum on Kirkuk (disputed territory claimed by both the KRG and the centeral government in Baghdad).

On the topic of the elections, they're often presented as the saving moment for Iraq that will change everything. Last week
Marc Lynch (Foreign Policy) offered another take after recounting the US government's distaste for the recent elections in Lebanon, Iran and Afghanistan:

The similarity in American thinking about the role assigned to elections in the Iraqi and Afghan case bears particular attention. In each case, the elections are supposed to do very specific things for American strategy: legitimate the political order, bring excluded challengers into the political process, resolve enduring political conflicts, create a political foundation for the counter-insurgency campaign. In Afghanistan, the opposite appears to have happened. Should this worry those assigning the same hopes to Iraq?
This is not to say that the scheduled Iraqi elections don't matter (even if it were an American decision to hold them, which it most assuredly is not). The looming elections have very clearly profoundly shaped Iraqi politics. The jockeying over electoral coalitions, questions about Maliki's power or vulnerability, and reshaping of both intra-communal and inter-communal politics have dominated the Iraqi political arena for months. The outcomes will matter in important ways-- Shia politics could fragment or reunite, Maliki could emerge as the power broker many hope for or fear, Sunni groups might find a better entree into the ruling coalition, particular groups may rise or fall --- and in contrast to most Arab elections, the outcomes are not pre-ordained.
But things could go in bad directions as easily as in good directions -- or, even more likely, could shuffle the deck without producing any miraculous breakthroughs in national reconciliation. Certainly the 2005 elections produced their fair share of negative results -- worsening the spiral towards civil war, locking in communal representation, and paralyzing the government for months over the inability to agree on a Prime Minister. The January 2009 provincial elections were seen, by contrast, as a great success. But as the Times pointed out the other day,
disillusionment with the results of the provincial elections -- which carried similar weight in U.S. thinking -- has grown in Anbar as new leaders fall into old habits.

F. Gregory Gause (Abu Dhabi's The National Newspaper) also questions whether too much emphasis is put on the elections:

But neither immediate security concerns nor short-term electoral politics will determine the future of Iraq. Ultimately, political stability in Iraq will depend on how Iraqis (and, for the near future, the American government) define the kind of state they want to have. Do they want a strong centralised government? Or do they want to empower regional governments and carefully divide and circumscribe power in Baghdad? Neither quantifications of terrorist violence nor the 2010 parliamentary elections will answer that question.
[. . .]
There is certainly an argument to be made that what Iraq needs now is strong leadership. State-building is rarely done effectively by committee, and Iraq is still in the midst of rebuilding the institutions that were hollowed out by Saddam Hussein and then upended by the American occupation. The core of al Maliki's appeal, and his argument for a new term as prime minister, is that only a strong leader can build the institutions necessary to maintain security, promote economic development and prevent the political fragmentation of Iraq. Of course, a strong leader is no guarantee of such progress. Plenty of kleptocratic states are headed by strongmen; Zimbabwe is no model for state development. But it is hard to see how al Maliki's rivals in the Kurdish leadership or in the sectarian Shia Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), which in the past has advocated a Shia regional government on the model of the KRG, could rally Iraqis across ethnic and sectarian lines to support the rebuilding of the state.
But after the disastrous experience of Saddam's rule, perhaps Iraqis would prefer a central government that is both weaker, in terms of its authority over the provinces, and more divided, with a separation of powers in Baghdad – so that no single figure can consolidate power, even if that means relatively inefficient governance. The risk of a new dictatorship, in this view, trumps arguments about security and efficiency and the logic of centralised state power. The political groups forming coalitions against al Maliki will make that argument in the upcoming elections. The major Kurdish parties, invested in their own autonomy in the KRG, certainly see things this way. Even Arab parties that in the past have advocated strengthening the centre are reluctant to ally with al Maliki, at least right now.

Turning to the US where
Gregg Zoroya and Mary Beth Markelein (USA Today) report, "Nearly a month into the fall college semester, the Department of Veterans Affairs has paid benefits for fewer than half the former Iraq and Afghanistan veterans requesting under the new post-9/11 G.I. Bill, according to a VA estimate." And they quote the director of the VA Education Service, Keith Wilson, stating, "We realize we're not meeting everybody's expectations." David Zucchino (Los Angeles Times) notes Amber Oberg's expectations. The army veteran has been attending UC Davis for a month. And the promised funding? Hasn't arrived. Oberg states, "I didn't expect to get out of the military and then have to wait and wait for the education money that was promised me. Now she and her kids are in danger of being homeless as she waits for the promised monthly housing payment of $1,736. Across the country, veterans check the mail looking for the promised funding. Audrey Hudson (Washington Times) reports John Kamin has been waiting and thought he had good news yesterday only to open the envelope and discover he was being notified that he might "be called back into active duty." He tells Hudson, "It felt like salt in the wound. That was really disheartening." Jessica Calefati (US News & World Reports) explains that "some 70,000 eleigible veterans who filed claims for this school year are still waiting for their first checks." After a very bad week for the VA, they knew it was time to spin into action. Kimberly Hefling (AP) reports that the department stated late today "that checks will be issued starting Oct. 2." That link, by the way, also includes an earlier report by Hefling on VA Secretary Eric Shinseki making statements. I am saying this, he is either ignorant of what he is speaking on or he is lying through his teeth. He pushes the problem off on the colleges. The VA program is no different than the US Pell Grant program. There is no delay in the Pell Grants so for him to claim it's the colleges screw up reveals extreme stupidity on the subject matter or a gross eagerness to lie. He also tries to hide behind drop and add periods. What an idiot. Drop and add periods. Anyone who has gone to college and received assistance is damn well aware that the assistance starts at the start of the semester. They're also damn well aware that students have many, many more weeks to drop classes. We'll go with stupidity because it wasn't just college tuition, it was book allowances, living allowances and more. Shinseki embarrasses himself and that's also part of the reason for the late announcement that checks will be out starting October 2nd. They don't want people digging to deep into his spin. When the entire department already looks incompetent, it's not a good idea to go into the weekend with the focus on the director's stupidity. If you're late to the party on the VA's bad week, you can refer to Wednesday's "Iraq snapshot" covering a hearing which Kat covers in "Crooks in the VA" and there was more on Congress addressing veterans issues in Thursday's "Iraq snapshot" and Kat's "House Veterans Affairs Committee."

The homeless problem continues to grow while the VA offers excuses and, no doubt, promises of a toll free number on the way that will be the 'answer' to everything.
Thom Patterson (CNN, link has text and video) reports on the homeless veterans and notes the numbers for Iraq War and Afghanistan War veterans could be over 7,000 with the VA estimating "about 10 percent of all homeless veterans are women." Iraq War veteran Angela Peacock shares her story with Patterson which includes raped while serving, PTSD, self-medicating leading to a drug addiction, loss of spouse, eviction from apartment. For more on the issue, we'll drop back to the June 3rd snapshot, when US House Rep Bob Finer chaired the House Committee on Veterans Affairs committee for the hearing entitled "A National Commitment to End Veterans' Homelessness:" The number of women veterans who are homeless is rising. [Vietnam Veterans of America's Marsha] Four observed, "There certainly is a question of course on the actual number of homeless veterans -- it's been flucuating dramatically in the last few years. When it was reported at 250,000 level, two percent were considered females. This was rougly about 5,000. Today, even if we use the very low number VA is supplying us with -- 131,000 -- the number, the percentage, of women in that population has risen up to four to five percent, and in some areas, it's larger. So that even a conservative method of determinng this has left the number as high as [6,550]. And the VA actually is reporting that they are seeing that this is as high as eleven percent for the new homeless women veterans. This is a very vulnerable population, high incidents of past sexual trauma, rape and domestic violence. They have been used, abused and raped. They trust no one. Some of these women have sold themselves for money, been sold for sex as children, they have given away their own children. And they are encased in this total humiliation and guilt the rest of their lives." About half of her testimony was reading and about half just speaking to the committee directly. Click here for her prepared remarks. We'll come back to the issue of homeless women veterans in a moment. [. . .] Marsha Four: I believe, sir, that there are very few programs in the country that are set up and designed specifically for homeless women veterans that are seperate. One of the problems that we're run into in a mixed gender setting is sort of two-fold. One the women veterans do not have the opportunity to actually be in a seperate group therapy environment because there are many issues that they simply will not divulge in mixed gender populations so those issues are never attended to. The other is that we believe, in a program, you need to focus on yourself and this is the time and place to do your issue, your deal. In a mixed gender setting, let's say, interfering factors. Relationships are one of them. Many of the veterans too come from the streets so there's a lot of street behavior going on. Some of the women -- and men -- but some of the women have participated in prostitution and so there's a difficult setting for any of them to actually focus on themselves without having all these other stressors come into play. So we feel that's an important issue.

While some veterans go homeless, efforts are made to deport the spouses of some deceased veterans. Most recently, the
September 17th snapshot, we noted Kristin M. Hall (AP) report Hotaru Ferschke, a military widow. Her husband, Sgt. Michael Ferschke, died serving in Iraq August 10, 2008. They had tried to have children for some time and when they learned she was pregnant, he was already in Iraq so they got married by proxy and the US military recognizes the marriage but the US Immigration and Naturalization Service plays dumb. She and their son Michael "Mikey" Ferschke III, are now facing deportation. INS is stating that the proxy marriage could be a fake because it wasn't consumated. Consumated? He remained in Iraq and they're not counting their long relationship prior to the proxy marriage. Her mother-in-law, Robin Ferschke told Hall, "She's like my daughter. I know my child chose the perfect wife and mother of his child."Bob Yarbrough (Volunteer observes, "Too bad we can't legislate common sense. If we could, Hotaru Ferschke would be raising her son in Maryville without fear of being kicked out of America." Tim Morgan (National Ledger) adds, "What should become of her and her son - should they not get to stay in the US for her husband's ultimate sacrifice? Right now Hotaru Ferschke, and the baby are living in Tennessee with his parents." Matthew Stewart (Daily Times Staff) reports that Second Battle, a documentary about Hotaru's struggle and those of another military widow, was shown at Maryville College and Stewart notes, "Ferschke and his bride had been together in Japan for more than a year, and she was pregnant when he deployed. They married by signing their names on separate continents and did not have a chance to meet again in person after the wedding" and he quotes immigration attorney Brent Renison stating, "She is being denied because they are saying her marriage is not valid because it was no consummated -- despite the fact that they have a child together."

Winding down, we'll note the opening of Sherwood Ross' "
PENTAGON TAKING OVER U.S. FOREIGN POLICY" (Veterans Today):The Pentagon has virtually replaced the State Department in making U.S. foreign policy, The Nation magazine charges. "Quietly, gradually---and inevitably, given the weight of its colossal budget and imperial writ---the Pentagon has all but eclipsed the State Department at the center of US foreign policy-making," reporter Stephen Glain writes in the Sept. 28 issue. In addition to new weapons and war fighters, the Pentagon's budget "now underwrites a cluster of special funds from which it can train and equip foreign armies---often in the service of repressive regimes---as well as engage in aid development projects in pursuit of its own tactical ends." Although these programs technically require State Department approval and are subject to Congressional review, Glain writes, "legislative oversight and interagency coordination is spotty at best." Meanwhile, the Pentagon "is pushing for full discretionary control" over large sums that Glain points out "would render meaningless the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act, which concentrated responsibility for civilian and military aid programs within the State Department."

This is the opening to "
'We Made them Millions, and they Complain About Insurance,' Lupe Chavez, a housekeeper at the San Francisco Hilton, tells her story to David Bacon" (ColorsNW):I was born in Santa Tecla, near San Salvador. My father was a big rig driver and my mother was a stay at home mom. We had a big family -- four brothers and two sisters. When I was old enough, I worked in the Armando Araujo coffee and soap factory. We Salvadorenos are hard working people. From the time I was twelve my aunts took me with them whenever they had a demonstration. They were teachers, and taught me that we have to fight for what we need, because that's the only way to achieve anything. Even before the war, it was dangerous to be involved with a union. After the war started, many died protesting.I was nineteen years old when I came to the U.S. to care for an elderly woman. My family was very poor and when the opportunity came I didn't hesitate. The woman eventually returned to El Salvador, but I stayed on with her family. I thought I was going to earn money and help my family, but they didn't pay me for an entire year. They told me I had to repay the transportation fee and all the money they'd spent on me. A friend of my grandmother told me I was being treated as a slave. She said she'd rescue me, so I found my passport where they'd hidden it, grabbed my bag and left. But my rescuer took me to another home, to care of another elderly woman. They hardly paid me anything -- just $100 a month. When I said I wanted to go to school, they told me immigration officers would get me.David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which just won the CLR James Award. Bacon can be heard on KPFA's The Morning Show (over the airwaves in the Bay Area, streaming online) each Wednesday morning (begins airing at 7:00 am PST).

TV notes.
Washington Week begins airing tonight on many PBS stations and joining Gwen around the table are John Harris (Politico) Doyle McManus (Los Angeles Times), Karen Tumulty (Time) and Nancy Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers). Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Linda Chavez, Melissa Harris Lieface, Irene Natividad and Genevieve Wood to discuss the week's events on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
McChrystal As the news from Afghanistan moves to the front pages of Americans' newspapers, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, tasked with turning things around there, tells 60 Minutes that the spread of the violence in Afghanistan was more than he expected. David Martin reports. Watch Video
The Liquidator The man in charge of recovering assets from Ponzi scheme king Bernard Madoff says there is about 18 billion still out there that he hopes to recover for victims of the scam. But it won't be easy. Morley Safer reports.
A Living For The Dead Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and Elvis are dead and now, so is Michael Jackson. But as Steve Kroft reports, they are very much alive when it comes to earning money for their estates.
The season premiere of 60 Minutes, this Sunday, Sept. 27, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

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