Friday, July 17, 2009

Analyzing the circus

There's been a lot of Web and TV chatter about the continuing importance of Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominees—given the relative non-newsworthy hearings for Judge Sonia Sotomayor and her two predecessors, now-Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito. It's a legitimate question, given the fact candidates are so thoroughly prepared by surrogate questioners and communications persons not to make news.

Lauren e-mailed Bonnie Erbe's "Sotomayor's a Bore -- What Ever Happened to the Days of Bork and Thomas?" (US News & World Reports). I should have thought to check for Bonnie's writing but I'm just so used to seeing her on TV that I forget about that. So thank you to Lauren. Bonnie Erbe had something worth saying.

Lauren's a community member and so is KeShawn who e-mailed to note this from Jennifer Koons (New York Times):

Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor addressed major issues of concern to the environmental community during Senate Judiciary Committee hearings that ended yesterday, shedding some light on how she would approach cases concerning regulatory takings, the Constitution's Commerce Clause, as well as her views on upholding congressional action regarding protective measures such as the Clean Water Act.

So that's that. I got some other e-mails and I guess I wasn't clear on what sort of thing I will and will not highlight. Sorry. Right-wing opions? I was comfortable with highlighting them. They didn't need to love her or support her. But I'm not going to go along with her being mocked for being Latina because (a) there's nothing wrong with being Latino or Latina and (b) maybe you missed the "about" section on me to the right, I'm Black. I'm not going to make fun of someone for their race or ethnicity.

I want to be clear that I'm not screaming "Racism!" about things that came in. It would be easy to, but I'm not sure how fair that would be. Trashy shows like South Park have lowered people's standards and made them think certain 'jokes' are okay and they aren't. I think that show has really damaged this country.

So I will just say here to the 9 visitors who e-mailed right-wing things,, I appreciate the effort you went to and I don't think you're racists because you e-mailed them and I don't think people who wrote them are necessarily racists. I could hear that on any episode of South Park and the people writing, right wingers like the creators of South Park, might think that's what cuts it as funny.

And I'm actually glad you sent those things because race is one of the topics tonight.

What was the Republican plan for the Sonia Sotomayor hearings?

If you listen to idiots like Amy Goodman or that Ron Elvin on NPR, you're told that it's racism and it's the last gap and they're sitting there trying to appeal to a White race that really doesn't exist to that degree anymore.

First, Latinas and Latinos in most cases fall under White as a race. Don't confuse ethnicity with race.

Second, I'm really getting sick of the so-called left commentariet in this country.

I'm a pro-choice, pro-labor, pro-universal marriage rights, anti-war Black single mother. I am in no way right-wing. So why does my supposed own side disgust me so these days?

Because they're stupid and they think we're even more stupid than they are.

No, the GOP did not decide to play the Klan and think that would get them more White voters.

I'm sure there are racists in the Republican Party. I'm sure there are some in the Democratic Party (hopefully that's a small number). And I'm sure not all the racists are White. (In fact, if you're Black, think about some of the jokes in our community about Asian-Americans and others. While it may be us reclaiming to make jokes about ourselves, when we're pushing stereotypes of Asian-Americans are others, we're not reclaiming, we're embracing bigotry.)

Is race involved in what went down in the hearings?

Yes. But that doesn't make people racists.

In America, we should talk about race, we shouldn't run from it.

I'm willing to allow that some White people are genuinely concerned about issues and confused about them that fall into the category of race. So if we allow that there could be genuine concern and confusion than a senator asking about Sotomayor's "wise Latino" comment, we might want to listen to what's being said.

Senator X might be sincerely bothered by that comment. He might hear it and think, "Racism." Stan did a great job, I don't know the exact post, sorry, of taking on the "Now they care about racism! They're just pretending!" pompous spin. Stan pointed out that most of us grasp racism from our own experiences.

Now idiots like Amy Goodman aren't going to grasp that. Amy Goodman's never been discriminated against due to her race. She's always decrying racism because of her Red roots and she has a very superficial knowledge base when it comes to racism. (She also tends to lie.)

My children know what racism is. I didn't teach them it. Life taught them. Like me, they are Black. And they learn about it from the way they are treated. That's how I learned about it, that's how we all learn about it if we're non-White.

And what I loved about Stan's post was that he was able to step out of his own situation and really examine it and point out that if someone who's never grasped racism before suddenly does because of something that happened to them, that's how we all discover it.

So it's not a bad thing and it's something that if we were mature we could have a conversation about.

I'd much rather have a serious conversation than all the snark that the left's been offering.

And if Senator X is truly, for the first time, thinking how he might be discriminated against, great. That means he can get a little of feeling what I go through on a daily basis and I get a feeling of what's going on inside him.

We could have conversations about the hearings, commentary, that did just that. But we didn't get that, we got a bunch of snark and a bunch of holier than thou.

It was ridiculous.

So I'm not going to call any of the senators on the Republican side a racist. There was one, as I've noted this week, whose comments did raise some red flags but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Is wanting to overturn affirmative action racism?

It can be. It can also be a desire based on the belief that we can have true equality in this country or it can be the result of not grasping why it's still needed. (Obviously, I believe it's still needed.)

But there can be a "I just hate them all and don't want them on equal footing!" racism. That's possible.

But I didn't hear affirmative action addressed in that manner. If I had, I would agree with the commentary that the GOP was trying to appeal to Whites with racism.

What I think they were doing was going up against affirmative action and up against Barack. Up against him as president and a member of the other main political party. I don't believe they were being 'racist' in going after Barack.

Here's what I saw happening.

Republicans raised questions about Sotomayor. Over and over. They repeated themselves constantly. Why was that? They were trying to drill the message home.

Sotomayor is not going to please a lot of people as a judge. There are some on the left who believe the lies and think she's their lefty hope! They're wrong. She didn't go to public schools, kids. She didn't have a simple life as an adult. She's corporate through and through and she will side with them over and over.

So conservatives will love her! No. They're going to have other things to disagree with her on.

And because her hearings were so nothing -- so bland and so non-informative -- everyone of her early moves will be noted in a way that others won't be scrutinized.

So Sonia Sotomayor gets on the bench in August or September (or maybe this month) and starts in on the bench in October (that's when they resume). So you've got a year and one month of Sotomayor before the mid-term elections.

Every time you're upset with her decision, whether you're White, Black, Asian-American, Latino, whatever, the GOP is hoping that you're thinking, "Bad decision. And she wasn't qualified." That's what the race talk, in large part, seemed to be about to me.

Them planting the seeds to end affirmative action (always on their checklist) and to tie Sotomayor to it. If they can do that, then they win the mid-terms because Sotomayor is bound to tick off a number of groups with her rulings.

Now pretend we're children and not adults. (If you can't picture yourself as a child, pretend you're Amy Goodman. It's the same thing after all.) You wanted to get rock candy at the mall but you were told no and that kid in your class, that kid was eating rock candy. That's not fair! That's not right! And when we're kids and we're angry, we start looking for excuses to explain why someone else got something we didn't.

So if they can tap into anger at her decisions, they hope they can get that sort of response but from adults and that they'll say, "Well, she wasn't qualified and she only got on the bench because she's Latina."

(I think she'll get on the bench. I don't think that's because she's Latina. I think it's because she's a Corporatists. And the two sides of America's one Corporate Party can support that.)

They're trying to set that up and it's about Sotomayor and it's about more than the 2010 elections.

And it really bothers me that we get snark and bad jokes and you've got people thinking the GOP is over. The GOP isn't over. If a party disengrates in the next few years, if, it'll be the Democrats. They're the ones in power. They control the White House, both house of Congress. They've got a lot more to live up to right now.

Back when it was the other way, they just had to talk a good game. Which they did.

Now someone's going to say, "But overturning Affirmative Action is something racists want!"

I don't think so. I think a number of racists want it overturned. But I don't think they're the only ones. And I certainly no Black people who argue it should be overturned for various reasons -- including a woman at my church who is offended when she thinks anyone might see her and think she got where she was "because of her race."

I support Affirmative Action and I've got three young children and I want them to have the even playing field. So it really offends me that instead of discussing what the GOP was doing -- using Sotomayor as a way to increase support of overturning Affirmative-Action -- we're playing stupid and snarky.

Now people can be snarky and still cover the needed topics, but that's not what's happened.

And when I see and hear all these White people on TV and radio offering snark, I think, "You're not doing a damn thing to cover what matters and if my children suffer because Affirmative-Action is overturned, I'm sure you'll find something new to snark over and you're White life will go on just the same as it always have. You won't be the one to suffer."

So those are my thoughts.

I hope I was clear that I'm not calling any Republican senator a racist. And I hope I've been clear all week that if Sotomayor had come out with remarks indicating how she's rule, and i could see that she'd be a supporter of abortion, I'd support her.

But she didn't and she's not said anything about it so I'm not supporting her.

I'm not campaigning against her. I'm not calling my senators and saying, "Don't vote for her!" But I'm not supporting her.

Abortion's a very important issue and I didn't hear anything from her that reassured me she felt the same way.

She's a Corporatist. She'll be seated. My life is too valuable to me for me to waste time defending a Corporatist who can't even support abortion rights publicly.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, July 17, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces multiple deaths, at least 40 pilgrims are wounded in Baghdad bombings, US war resister Robin Long speaks, increasing tensions between the north and the central government, and more.

This morning the
US military announced: "BAGHDAD -- Three Multi-National Division-South Soldiers were killed when Contingency Operating Base Basra was attacked by indirect fire at approximately 9:15 p.m. on July 16. The names of the deceased are being withheld pending notification of next of kin. The incident is under investigation." The announcement brings the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4326. Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reports, "Shortly after the attack, the Iraqi army gave the U.S. military permission to carry out aerial searches northwest of the airport, the area from where the rockets are thought to have been launched, U.S officials said. Troops chased a car to a house, which they searched. A joint U.S.-Iraqi patrol raided another home. Three Iraqi men were briefly detained, the military said."

Violence rocked Iraq as usual today but a lot of it targeted pilgrims.
Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) explains the pilgrimage "is expected to fill the streets of Baghdad on Saturday in the first major security challenge for Iraqi military forces" with "a limited curfew" being imposed and "thousands of additional Iraqi soldiers and police officers . . . on the streets". Alsumaria reports, "While thousands of pilgrims have poured in to Al Kazimiya to mark Imam Kazem Anniversary (AS), citizens are complaining about closing main roads which is usually caused by religious occasion." Muhanad Mohammed (Reuters) observes, "Despite intensive security, some bombers made it through." Turning to the reported violence today . . .


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded thirteen pilgrims, a Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded eight pilgrims, a Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded five pilgrims, another Baghdad roadside bombing which injured five pilgirms, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured three pilgrims, a Baghdad roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 pilgrim and wounded six more, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured two men, a Falluja roadside bombing which injured nine males who were playing football and a roadside bombing attack on the home of police chief Abdulsalam Khawarm in Anbar Province resulting in the deaths of two of his children and leaving eight more people injured. Reuters notes 1 dead in the Falluja bombing on the football players, a Mosul roadside bombing left two Iraqi soldiers injured and a Shirqat sticky bombing injured one police officer.


Reuters notes 1 person wounded in a Kirkuk shooting today and, dropping back to yesterday, one wounded in a Kirkuk shooting as well.

Today on the second hour of NPR's
The Diane Rehm Show, Diane and the Wall St. Journal's Youchi Dreazen, the Washington Post's David Ignatius and Foreign Policy's Moises Naim discussed Iraq.

Diane Rehm: Alright and let's turn now to Iraq and the latest on violence there, David? You had three American soldiers killed Thursday after insurgents fired mortar rounds into a US base in southern Iraq. You've also got problems with the Kurds. You've got lots of issues still going on even as the US is planning its pull-out.

David Ignatius: This was a week, Diane, that reminded us of the underlying fragility of Iraq. We've gotten in the habit of not paying much attention to it. Our troops are pulling back from the cities under the timetable we agreed to with the Iraqis. And-and, these last weeks we saw in these-these bombings and the political conflicts just how easily Iraq could spin back into a very chaotic situation. Take the bombings that happened on Wednesday. By my count, there were about eleven people killed, something like fifty or sixty wounded. But what was striking was that one of the bombs was in Ramadi -- in the Sunni heartland, the area we thought had been stabilized by our counter-insurgency work. Another bomb was in Sadr City. Another was right in the heart of Baghdad, in Sadhun Street. Those latter two were really going after Shi'ites, the first, in Ramadi, was going after Sunnis. More of these bombings are going to again make Iraqis frightened that they can't be secure without militias and then you're back in the sectarian killing game and you're going to start finding fifty bodies -- dead bodies -- every morning in the morgue.

Diane Rehm: At twenty-seven [after] the hour you're listening to The Diane Rehm Show. And what's going on with the Kurds, Youchi?

Youchi Dreazen: In many ways, this is the most dangerous aspect of Iraq right now. You've had recently [June 28th] a standoff between Kurdish fighters and Iraqi national army fighters. Last year there was an incident that did not get much attention here in which US drones that were monitoring a similar standoff saw columns of armed Iraqi army soldiers and columns of Kurdish peshmerga racing towards each other. By the account of everyone who was watching it, bruising for a fight, and they stood down only amidst much mediation by US embassy and military -- as was the case here where there was US mediation. And what you have is this very thorny issue about what will be the boundaries between Kurdistan, what will be the boundaries between Arab-Iraq? How will they divide oil? How will they divide Kirkuk? These issues have been kicked down the road again and again and again. And now they're at the end of the road. They have to at some point be resolved. I think what you've seen is, when the US invaded, there was a status quo that existed under Saddam that was toppled, there was a Sunni-led status quo. Then there was a new status quo that was not sustainable where you had fighting between Sunni and Shia Arabs and the Kurds were kind of left off to their own devices in the north. Now you have a new status quo where the Shia-Sunni tensions are much reduced -- the Arab tensions -- and now their focusing much more again on the Arab-Kurdish tensions that were there under Saddam decades ago.

Moises Naim: And the Kurdish prime minister yesterday said that the Kurdish autonomous region was closer to going to war with the central government than ever before, since 2003, since the US invasion. And that points, as Youchi said, to the tensions about the divisions -- federalism, they're trying to find out what is the divisions of authority, power between a centralized government and a regional government. And this is a region that is quite different in its governance, in its function, in its economy, in its politics, than the rest of the country.

Diane Rehm: And the United States population is certainly concerned as is the Iraqi that what if the violence continues to uptick, gets worse? Do troops reinvigorate, US troops? What do you do?

David Ignatius: Well for the administration, I think there's a recognition that, as we reduce our military presence there, it is inevitable that violence will increase. That's accepted. And it's just a price of our getting out. The Iraqis want us out, we want to get out. So some increase in violence, it's understood, will happen. And the question is: Will the Iraqi forces be strong enough to contain it within acceptable levels? And what's-what's-what's your choke point? If you're President Obama and you're seeing ten people die a day, well, what do you say? Suppose it gets up to fifty, what do you - what do you do then? And that's -- it's-it's grisly. But that's the kind of decision I fear that the-the Obama administration going to have to make about Iraq over the coming year.

Moises Naim: It's very hard to imagine that there's a political environment in the United States that will support a massive increase of troops -- of US troops -- in Iraq. The-the line their will be crossed if Iran becomes very influential country in Iraq. If Iranian influence there which it hasn't seemed to be the case but that will be then the-the political base for it.

[. . .]

Diane Rehm: To Charlie in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Good morning, you're on the air.

Charlie: Good morning. I'd like to go back to the MidEast a little bit in terms of I think that Iraq is a lost cause. I think Sadr, Ayatollah Sadr's militia has only stood down under orders from Iran and under realization that the US military would destroy Sadr City. They will res -- they will resurge and they will take over the south and if -- have this very informal reunion with Iran. The Sunnis were bought off with US money and viagra pills for their ancient sheiks -- and that's the truth, not a joke. And the Kurds, our most loyal allies, are the largest tribe, as far as I know, on earth without a homeland. And I'm afraid that they -- especially with the oil money -- do not intend to be left behind this time. I think also I'd like one more comment, on the Gaza situation again. [. . .]

What about Gaza? This isn't the Gaza snapshot. And by bringing that up, Gaza, it's what everyone quickly glommed on after David's initial remarks on Iraq.

David Ignatius: Well, I think the -- it's too early for me at least to say that Iraq is a lost cause. One interesting fact about Iraq is that our greatest potential problem -- which is Iranian influence, Iranian support for extremist militias, like Moqtada Sadr who the caller was referring to, Iran politically is imploding. That threat, the ability of Iran to destabilize Iraq, is, I think, somewhat reduced, I want to say signifianctly reduced -- becuase of the chaose following the election. And I think you can generalize that to potential Iranian clients all ove. Political parties in Iraq that are supported by Iran must be worrying, "Holy smokes our paymaster are in trouble."

As noted in Diane's discussion, things are very tense between the central government in Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional Government.
Anthony Shadid (Washington Post) reports, "In separate interviews, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and the region's president, Massoud Barzani, described a stalemate in attempts to resolve long-standing disputes with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's emboldened government. Had it not been for the presence of the U.S. military in northern Iraq, Nechirvan Barzani said, fighting might have started in the most volatile regions." Quil Lawrence (NPR's All Things Considered) reported this afternoon on the tensions quoting Barzani, "Whoever wants to get ahead in Iraqi politics does so by criticizing the Kurds." On territorial disputes and what may have been an attempt by al-Maliki's government to enroach on Kurdish territories June 28th, Lawrence quotes Barzani stating, "Our problem is that we do not believe there is any political will in Baghdad to solve this problem." Gordon Duff (Salem-News) addresses the June 28th confrontation and offers his opinions:

News stories reporting on this conflict conveniently omit Kurdish history. Our NATO partner, Turkey, that refused to allow US troops access to Northern Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom, has long been an enemy of our Kurdish allies. If Turkey had joined with the US, the military disaster that led to years of conflict might have been averted. Instead, the US depended on Kurdish armies to defeat Saddam in Northern Iraq.
Reports of Kurdish incursions in and around Kirkuk fail to mention that the Arabs in the region are remnants of Saddam's occupation forces, not residents. The efforts by the Baghdad government to continue control of this Kurdish region is driven by need to control the regions oil revenues and continue to fuel Iraq's massive corruption.

January 31st, 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces held provincial elections. The Kurdish region did not take place in those elections. Their elections take place next week on Saturday. The Economist editorializes on the elections
here. UPI notes of the elections, "A quota established by the KRG sets aside 30 percent of the seats for female candidates." In reporting last week, the New York Times offered a very bad dispatch featuring all the US talking points and nothing resembling journalism -- just a concept of "bad Kurds!" which might make a few people feel better but doesn't really inform anyone. And that was their 'big' piece. Jay Garner called it out in a letter to the paper. Garner is interviewed by The Kurdish Globe today and he notes of the KRG that "

Elizabeth Dickinson: With [US Vice President Joe] Biden as the U.S. envoy for reconciliation in Iraq, what priorities should he be pushing for? Jay Garner: No. 1, a referendum on disputed lands, because I don't think you can ever have a stable Iraq as long as you have an unstable Arab-Kurdish border. No. 2, a resolution on the oil law because it's a thorn in everybody's side. No. 3, continue to exert whatever leverage we have on the Iraqi government to get these things done. Anything that happens here, whether it is Kurds versus Arabs or Shiite versus Sunni -- and those are huge flash points -- is not an Iraqi problem; it's a regional problem. It's huge. It's much greater than Iraq, because if it's Shiite-Sunni you are going to have Iranians on the side of the Shiites and you are going to have the Gulf region on the side of the Sunnis. If it's Arab-Kurdish, you are going to have an ethnic war, and lives will be gone and other countries will get involved because they are going to want to shape how it comes out. I don't think the [U.S.] administration wants to pull out in 2011, run for the presidency in 2012, and have this whole damned thing blow up on them, you know? So it is good that [U.S. President Barack Obama has] appointed Biden; it's good that he's made a special envoy; and it's good that Biden is drilling in on this. Biden is a guy that has studied a long time. He is more thoughtful about this than the other people, and I think that's a good first step. But you've got to have some leverage to execute that. So whatever leverage we have left, we need to make sure that those flash points are solved before we leave.

Garner mentioned the oil law (aka the theft of Iraqi law) and Nouri's sending messages on that today.
Missy Ryan (Reuters) reports that the Oil Ministry's spokesperson Asim Jihad declared today of talk that unions might stop the British Petroleum and China National Petroleum Corporation oil deal (jointly, they were awarded a contract from the puppet government in the oil auction -- that was the only awarded contract from that auction), "The government will protect the companies." 'At all costs' was left implied.

Yesterday's snapshot noted the House Veterans Affairs Disability and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee's joint-hearing with the Subcomittee on Health. Kat covered the hearing last night and noted the discussion on rape victims. That was the first panel, Service Women's Action Network's Anuradha Bhagwati, Wounded Warrior Project's Dawn Halfaker and National Association of State Women Veterans Coordinators, Inc and the Texas Veterans Commission's Delilah Washburn. Grace After Fire's Kayla Williams raised an issue during questioning about suicide rates. Asked of the number of females, she explained she didn't know that number and then explained that the military is only tracking the suicides for those on active duty and not the number of suicides among veterans. (Or, at least only releasing the data for those on active duty.) Something to keep in mind as the Los Angeles Times reports: "About 37% of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have mental health problems, a nearly 50% increase from the last time the prevalence was calculated, according to a new study published today analyzing national Department of Veterans Affairs data. The study, which examined the records of about 289,000 veterans who sought care at the VA between 2002 and 2008, also found higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression."

Turning to war resistance, last week Robin Long was released from the brig. Today he spoke on
KPFA's The Morning Show "Not for a second do I regret or wish I'd done something different."

Philip Malderi: You're listening to
The Morning Show on KPFA, I'm Philip Malderi. I'm joined in the studio by Robin Long. Robin was in the US army. He enlisted shortly after the Iraq War got under way in June of '03. He was guaranteed by his recruiter that he wouldn't be sent to Iraq but of course those promises were not exactly fulfilled. In 2005, realizing he had made a mistake, he went to Canada and decided to resist serving in Iraq. Canada ultimately sent him back and he went to a navy brig down in San Diego to serve a year in prison. And now he's out. He joins me in the studio. Robin Long, welcome to KPFA.

Robin Long: Good morning.

Philip Malderi: Uh, again why did you decide to join in the first place? Why don't we start there.

Robin Long: You said initially I'd joined in June. I'd actually signed up for the delayed entry program in about February. You know, I'd always grown up thinking I want to join the army and, you know, a lot of people in my family are in the military and I just thought it was something I would do my whole life and so I signed up for the delayed entry program. And shortly after we went and invaded Iraq. And at the time I actually thought, you know, this is the right thing to be doing, you know there's connections with al Q-al Qaeda and there's weapons of mass destruction there but by the time June came when I was actually, I was getting ready to go to basic training in October, but around June, I was talking to my recruiter and said, "Hey, I have-have some moral qualms with what's going on over there." And he, uh, at that time, he assured me that I wouldn't go to Iraq, I'd be sent to a nondeployable post and --

Philip Malderi: And you believed it.

Robin Long: Oh, yeah, I believed it. They-they kept true to their word. I was stationed at Fort Knox for two years but speaking out while I was there, saying stuff, that's when they decided to give me orders to go to Iraq -- the only person in my unit. I don't know if it was punishment or what it was but they, uh, they ended up sending me to a unit that was already in Iraq .

Philip Malderi: They pulled you out of your unit in Kentucky and only you and sent you to a unit that was already in Iraq?

Robin Long: I was --

Philip Malderi: But was going to send you actually?

Robin Long: Yeah, they were - they were going to send me. They were sending me to Fort Carson, Colorado to join up with Second Brigade, Second Infantry and they were already in Iraq at the time so I was just supposed to report there and meet up with them in Iraq. They'd already been there for like four months.

Philip Malderi: So what did you decide to do?

Robin Long: Well I told them when they told me where I was going that, "No, I'm not going to go there. You know, if you're going to give me these orders, I'm going to - I'm going to refuse them. I'm not going to show up at Fort Carson." They said, "Yeah, you are. You're going to show up." Eventually, you know when the time came to hop on the plane, I-I didn't, I didn't get on the plane to go to Fort Carson and it took me about two months to actually decide to go up to Canada. I lived underground in a friend's basement for-for a good two months.

Philip Malderi: So what happened in Canada? Was there a system of support for war resisters?

Robin Long: I initially went up there by myself. I didn't now anyone. I was up there for six months before I even found a group called the War Resisters Support Campaign. There based out of Toronto but they have chapters in cities all across Canada and they help with financial needs, finding you a place to stay. They raise money to-to pay for lawyers and stuff up there so there's like a legal avenue people are trying to do up there by applying for political refugee status and they just kind of help out with everything with that. So.

Philip Malderi: So where did you settle down?

Robin Long: Initially, I settled down in a little town called Marathon, Ontario on the most northern tip of Lake Superior. You don't know cold until you've lived there, negative forty for months at a time.

Philip Malderi: (Laughing) This was -- this was your punishment.

Robin Long: Yeah, you know, nice in summer time but the winter? It's definitely cold.

Philip Malderi: Uh, now, during the Vietnam war, those that can remember it, people who resisted going to Vietnam and went to Canada, the Canadian government of that time protected them and did not send them back to the States to be prosecuted. What changed? What happened this time?

Robin Long: Well, the -- the Canadian people and the majority even of Parliament still want the war resisters, actually all conscientious objectors from any war to be able to stay in Canada. Parliament voted -- has voted twice in the last two years to allow war resisters and their families to stay. But the Conservative government that is in charge -- you know, that Parliament votes on laws and everything, but the government that's in charge has to actually implement the laws. They're just ignoring the votes. And they're ignoring their constituents and what most people want. [C.I. note: No law has been passed. We'll go over that point at the end of the transcript.] So they're just acting like this vote never even happened. So it's really just the Conservatives, a Bush-supporting Conservative government led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper that's changed.

Philip Malderi: And how did they capture you?

Robin Long: The RNC, the Mounties, came to where I was staying and said I had a nation-wide immigration warrant, picked me up and I didn't get hand cuffed or anything, they just put me in the cop car, brought me to the Nelson city cell. I was staying in Nelson, British Columbia at the time. And took about seven days and I was handed over to the US authorities in Blaine, Washington.

Philip Malderi: And then the Army prosecuted you?

Robin Long: Yeah, they, about forty days later, they prosecuted me for desertion with intent to remain away permanently which, uh, has a maximum sentence of three years but, uh, I -- there was no refuting it. I-I had deserted. It's all paper work so to get a lesser sentence, I pled guilty to it and only received fifteen months. The judge -- because there's a pretrial agreement -- the judge what she actually does is she gives you a sentence and whichever's less, what your pretrial or what she gives you, is what you get. So she gave me thirty months and a dishonorable discharge but the pretrial gave me fifteen.

Philip Malderi: So where did you serve this time?

Robin Long: I served it down in San Diego.

To be clear, Parliament didn't pass a law. Both votes were non-binding. That's why Stephen Harper can ignore them. Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada, would be forced -- as would any future Prime Minister -- to follow the two motions passed already if either had been legislation and not a non-binding motion. Why the political parties haven't pushed for a real vote on real legislation may be due to the Senate or higher up. The only one passing anything -- another reason it couldn't be a law -- is the House. Both times that the non-binding motion was brought before a body, it was brought before the House.

Canada has a bi-cameral Parliament with an upper and lower house. The Senate is the upper house and it has never voted on it. In practice, usually the Senate goes along with what the House does becuase the House is directly elected by the Canadian people. The Senate is staffed, not elected. They are rubber stamped by the Governor General of Canada . . . on the say so of . . . the Prime Minister. Meaning, Stephen Harper's recommended people since he was in power. Once recommended, they serve until they retire (with a mandatory retirement age) or die while in office. The bulk of the Senate shouldn't be Harper supporters or even Conservative Party supporters because the last decades -- as far back as the sixties have seen the Liberal Party the primary party in power. So where's the problem in the Senate?

Noel Kinsella. Who is he? He's the Speaker of the Senate. How does someone become the Speaker? In the House, they're elected. In the Senate, they're appointed. In his position, he could refuse to allow a vote or do any number of things. But it's also true that you've got barriers above him. Say the Senate went along with the House (either out of tradition or conviction), you don't have a law yet. It has to be signed off on.

The first who could sign it into law would be Michaelle Jean. She's Queen Elizabeth II's representative. Her posts is Governor General of Canada and the queen appoints her. If a bill passed both houses, Michaelle Jean could allow it to become a law, nix it or leave the issue up to the Queen. Nixing it -- no reason needs to be given -- means no law. Passing it onto the Queen who can say yea or nay. (The Queen also has two years after the Governor General to decide, no, it's not a law. It would be a law throughout that time but the Queen can reverse it.) So if we follow all of that, the ultimate reason why the House does non-binding measures may be due to the fact that they grasp the pressure from the Bush administration and now the Obama administration (which makes their opinions known through an acting ambassador, Terry Breese, because they've not filled the post of Ambassador to Canada) on Canadian officials would also be conveyed to the Queen of England who, having refused to stop the illegal war in 2003 (she could have), wouldn't allow this to become law. While the British are largely out of Iraq (approximately 400 British troops remain), they are still in Afghanistan and have had war resisters. Queen Elizabeth II is not about to go along with that (or give Canadian troops an argument for not serving in Afghansitan). Repeating because England has kept their monarchy (Canada didn't "keep it" -- they remain endentured to England because they never had a revolution which is why Queen Elizabeth is their head of state), Queen Elizabeth could have prevented England from entering the Iraq War. She didn't. It's another reason why you have rumbles of doing away with the monarchy in England.

But Canada has no real independence. If England declares war, Canada has as well, whether they delcare it themselves or not. Which means that while Canada chose not to send soldiers to Iraq, as part of England, they officially are in support of that war. (That illegal war.) And that's the difference that Philip Malderi was asking about: England didn't take part in a war on Vietnam. Not the Indochina War or the later American conflict. That's one reason why Canada could take the stand they did during Vietnam. Also true, a strong prime minister, like Pierre Trudeau, could take that stand right now. The Queen is head of state but Harper is head of government and, in a face off on a popular issue, the Queen might go along. Harper being Harper, such a face off isnt likely to take place.

The above is a very complicated process and one that's very different from the US -- which fought a war to have their independence from England and fought the 1812 war when Canada was being a proxy for England. What's not complicated is that the Iraq War is not ending. There are over 130,000 US troops in Iraq presently. So it was amazing, on allegedly left radio, Philip Malderi tried to declare that the Iraq War was winding down. Well, as a colleague of his on campus said during 2008, "
Phil's no longer just drinking the Kool-Aid, he's drinking the urine." We wished that Phil could have been in Harlem Tuesday night so Carl Dix could have set him straight on the Iraq War (Dix was in a dialogue with Cornel West at Aaron Davis Hall). But Robin Long was present and tried to walk Philip through, "What's going on in Iraq, they say all combat troops are leaving but, if you look at it, they're just changing the name. They're being called the same thing they were being called in Vietnam. They're being called 'advisers' now. And we have 30 permanent bases in Iraq. Just because they're not being called combat troops, there's still a lot of people there."

Turning to TV notes. Tony Blair's appearance at The Hague may be delayed for a bit; however, the War Criminal can be found this week on your TV screen via
NOW on PBS:Once one of the most dangerous and violent cities in the West Bank, Jenin was the scene of frequent battles between the Israeli military and Palestinian fighters, and the hometown of more than two dozen suicide bombers.Today, however, there's been a huge turnaround. Jenin is now the center of an international effort to build a safe and economically prosperous Palestinian state from the ground up. On Jenin's streets today, there's a brand new professional security force loyal to the Palestinian Authority and funded in part by the United States. But can the modest success in Jenin be replicated throughout the West Bank, or will the effort collapse under the intense political pressure from all sides?This week, NOW talks directly with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the international community's envoy to the region and an architect of the plan. We also speak with a former commander of the infamous Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in Jenin about his decision to stop using violent tactics, and to residents of Jenin about their daily struggles and their hopes for the future.To Blair, the Jenin experiment can be pivotal in finally bringing peace to the Middle East. He tells NOW, "This is the single most important issue for creating a more stable and secure world."A war criminal, an architect of the illegal war on Iraq, wants to tell the world what our "single most important issue" is and expects to be trusted? Tony Blair belongs behind bars, not on your TV screen. On PBS' Washington Week, Gwen sits around the table with USA Today's Joan Biskupic, the New York Times' Mark Mazzetti (aka The Little Asset Who Could), and Time magazine's Karen Tumulty and Hedda Hopper Lives!' Jeanne Cummings who will continue her efforts to be seen as the tabloids' new Jeane Dixon. Bonnie Erbe sits down with Bay Buchanan, Avis Jones-DeWeever, Tara Setmayer and Amy Siskind on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, all three PBS shows begin airing tonight on many PBS stations. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
Gun Rush Americans are snapping up guns and ammunition at an increasingly higher rate despite the economic downturn. But as Lesley Stahl reports, the economic downturn, as well as the election of Barack Obama, may be the reason for the run on guns. Watch Video
Poisoned The African lion, already down as much as 85 percent in numbers from just 20 years ago, is now in danger of becoming extinct because people are poisoning them with a cheap American pesticide to protect their cattle herds. Bob Simon reports. Watch Video
Steve Wynn The casino mogul most responsible for taking Las Vegas to new heights of gaming and glitter talks to Charlie Rose about his spectacular success and the eye disease that's slowly robbing him of his ability to see the fruits of his labor. Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, July 19, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

nprthe diane rehm show
kpfathe morning showphilip maldari
the los angeles times
liz sly
mcclatchy newspapersmohammed al dulaimythe washington postanthony shadidalsumaria
all things considered
60 minutescbs news
pbsto the contrarybonnie erbenow on pbs

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sotomayor Circus Day 4

Sonia Sotomayor has a set of views that could not offend or even interest anybody. Or Sonia Sotomayor has had the intensive standard course of media training. Or Sonia Sotomayor has been skillfully medicated.
Why oh why do we persist in having these hearings? Or why do we persist in believing—or hoping against hope—that these hearings will be revelatory (or at least great theater and politics)?
“Still, for all of the buildup, the second day of her confirmation hearings produced few of the anticipated fireworks…” says the Times.Exactly who anticipated fireworks?

That's Michael Wolff asking in "I’m Against Sonia Sotomayor " (The Newser). If you, or Wolff, think he stumbled upon some amazing insight, please note he tripped over it after C.I. casually tossed it aside on Tuesday:

The Sotomayor Circus continues today and, make no mistake, the chief clown responsible for this nonsense is Sonia Sotomayor. It's past time the American people knew where she stood on abortion. This is not a minor issue. She did nothing yesterday but gas bag. You realize how bad her performance was by Amy Goodman's trash this morning on Democracy Now! where we're exploring Sotomayor's "historic" blah-blah. That's a feature story, you f**king idiot. That's a feature story, that's not news. Her confirmation hearing started yesterday. Yesterday. That means you have a news report today. You either have that or you explain why you don't. And the reason you don't is because the circus accomplished nothing.

It's a shame that a "Newser" took so long to find the guts to say what C.I. was saying after day one. Well he 'writes' for Van Fair -- you know, the 'pictorial' magazine. Today was day four of the Sotomayor Circus and Kate Phillips (New York Times) continued her live blogging. They need to give her two weeks paid vacation just for enduring that nonsense.

I said I'd note right-wing takes as well (and center's if you found them) and a reader I'd never heard from found one that's by Michael Gerson (Washington Post) which lays out his own argument very clearly:

What are the implications of Sotomayor’s retreat from liberal judicial theory?
First, it makes for an uninteresting confirmation process. No prospective Supreme Court justice, liberal or conservative, is going to comment directly on abortion or gay rights during his or her nomination hearing. But a serious discussion of the principles of judicial interpretation would have been instructive. Because Sotomayor generally adopted conservative language on these matters, that discussion was short circuited. A hearing with the vivid Professor Seidman would have been more intellectually satisfying.
Second, Sotomayor’s retreat involved a kind of confession that conservative legal theory is on the ascendant. To gain an easy confirmation, Sotomayor had to sound, at key moments, like John Roberts. Even facing an overwhelmingly Democratic committee and Senate, it would have been controversial for Sotomayor to sound like Thurgood Marshall or William Brennan. The political and intellectual center of gravity seems to lie with the Federalist Society -- at least when it comes to the theory of judicial interpretation.
Third, if Sotomayor eventually judges on the high court like Marshall or Brennan, it will mean that her testimony was deceptive. A blogger over at the liberal American Prospect, Adam Serwer,
assumes such cynicism: “Seidman is accusing Sotomayor of dishonesty, and I think he's right: Sotomayor has been saying what she needs to say, backtracking on her previous insights, in order to get confirmed.” I hope this is not the case. But if it is, it will be the worst kind of precedent.

Andrew Cohen (CBS News) offers a nonpartisan take here (he's trying to be funny). Warren Richey (Christian Science Monitor) covers this aspect of today:

Firefighters from New Haven, Conn., told senators Thursday that they felt they had been deprived of their day in court by the cursory way they were treated in a decision by Sonia Sotomayor and two other appeals court judges.
“We did not ask for sympathy or empathy,” said Lt. Ben Vargas. “We asked only for even-handed enforcement of the law.”
The firefighters made their comments a few hours after Supreme Court nominee Sotomayor completed 2-1/2 days of questioning by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. She appeared well on her way to confirmation.

I'm not finding a lot of women tonight. But in looking, and remember some strong work at LA Times by a woman, I found that they have the transcripts. Click here for today's transcript and, along with text, they offer up audio. And the paper's Carol J. Williams rounds up some legal experts to share their impressions of day four.

Now my take.

Four days.

Four days?

Four days!!!!

I endured four days of that crap and I still don't know where Sotomayor stands on abortion?

That's ridiculous.

If you're late to the party, I'm strongly pro-abortion rights.

I couldn't support Sonia Sotomayor going into the hearings because I didn't know her position. I expected four days of hearings to produce some indication but that didn't happen. I have no idea how she'd rule.

I was listening for abortion, but I have no idea how she'd rule on anything.

She seemed like an eager to please student who'd do anything for the highest marks.

Maybe all we can put on the Court are brown nosers and suck ups?

I'm going to break with the online left pack here. Let me first note that I'm a Democrat and, until last November, always voted Dem top of the ticket (I voted Ralph in November) and have always voted Dem for every other office -- in every election.

So I'm sad to say that I found the Democratic Senators completely useless.

I frequently groaned during questions from Republicans over phrasing (and I believe one senator was insulting Sotomayor's ethnicity, by the way) but in terms of the issues, I was glad the Republicans were there. If she was ever going to answer about abortion, it would be under the chalkboard fingernail questioning of Lindsey Graham or John Cornyn.

If I were a Republican, I'd probably be cheering them on right now for the phrasing and their positions. I'm not. So I'll just say thank you to them for asking questions whose answers mattered to me. The answer I was hoping for was always different than what they were hoping for -- and Sotomayor managed to please neither of us -- but at least they asked.

Most embarrassing senator and most embarrassing moment?

That took place yesterday. Day three saw newly sworn in Senator Al Franken 'question.'

If you're a bad comic and want people to take you seriously, don't turn a hearing into a joke.

Anyone thinks Graham or Cornyn wasted time (I don't) obviously missed Al Franken's little soft shoe where he decided to grill Sonotmayor about Perry Mason, the TV character, and what case he lost.

Al should grasp that some people thought he was serious.

He should also grasp that the hijinks belong on an SNL set, not in the US Senate. He lowered the dignity of the room and did so more than any Republican -- even Sessions or Cockburn, which is really saying something.

I'll do a wrap up tomorrow night and if you've got a right-wing view you want me to highlight, e-mail it. But do me a favor, if you see women covering this, especially e-mail that. One reason I'm ending much sooner than I planned to is because I'm just not finding women reporting or opinionating on this. It may be my using the wrong search criteria or just being tired.

But tomorrow, I'll offer post analysis and hopefully some more links only these to women weighing in. Counting C.I., I managed three in this post and I wanted a lot more.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Thursday, July 16, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the tensions over Kirkuk continue and garner a little attention, US House Rep John Hall notes the disparity in the treatment of veterans based upon gender and declares "Congress cannot allow that to happen to this nation's daughters who have served her" and more.

"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen," declared US House Rep John Hall today, "the Veterans Affairs Disability and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee and the Subcommittee On Health joint-hearing on Eliminating the Gaps: Examining Women Veterans' Issues will now come to order." Hall is the Chair of the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance Memorial Affairs and he chaired the joint-committee hearing this morning. This hearing follows Tuesday's Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing on women veterans' issues (here for
Tuesday snapshot, here for Kat Tuesday, here for Wednesday's snapshot, here for Kat Wednesday). The hearing was divided into three panels with a length break (over an hour) between the second and the third panel. The first panel was composed of women veterans: Grace After Fire's Kayla Williams, Disabled American Veterans' Joy J. Ilem, Service Women's Action Network's Anuradha Bhagwati, Wounded Warrior Project's Dawn Halfaker and National Association of State Women Veterans Coordinators, Inc and the Texas Veterans Commission's Delilah Washburn. The second panel was composed of GAO's Randall Williamson, Society's for Women's Health Research and Georgetown University Medical Center's Janice L. Krupnick. Panel three was made up of VA's Bradley Mayes, Patrica Hayes, Lawrence Deyton and Irene Trowell-Harris. We'll focus on the first panel.

In his opening remarks, Subcommittee Chair Hall addressed some of the recent Congressional hearings:

I am particularly eager to recognize the women veterans in this room today and to be enlightened by their experiences with the Dept of Veterans Affairs. VA owes them the proper benefits and care -- just like their male counterparts. However, they are a unique population, since they comprise only 1.8 million of the 23.4 million veterans nationwide and deserve special attention. So VA's mission to care for them must not only be achieved but monitored and supported as well. Sadly, that is not always the case. In response to reports of disparities, during the 110th Congress the Disability Assitance and Memorial Affairs and Health Subcommittees held a joint hearing on women and minority veterans. This Congress too has been very active in its oversight activities to assist women veterans and a record number of them have testified at various hearings. Additionally, on May 20th, Chairman [Bob] Filner of the full [House] VA Committee hosted a special roundtable discussion with women veterans from all eras who were able to paint a picture of military life as a female in uniform and then as a disabled veteran entering the VA system. In many cases, they have served alongside their male counterparts but have not had the same recognition or treatment. Chairman Filner also hosted a viewing and discussion session with Team Lioness members who were on search operations and engaged in firefights but, since there is no citation or medal for this combat service, their claims are not always recognized by VA as valid, so they are denied compensation.

Hall would also note, after the first panel's opening statements, that
HR 3155, the Caregiver Assistance and Resource Enhancement Act, had been voted out of committee and referred to the House. Michael Michaud is the Chair of the Subcommittee On Health and we'll note this from his opening remarks:

Another example of this Committee's commitment to women veterans is our work on HR 1211, the Women Veterans Health Care Improvement Act, which was introduced by Ms. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. My Subcommittee favorably reported this bill to the full Committee in early June and this important legislation passed the House recently on June 23, 2009. Specifically, HR 1211 requires key studies assessing the VA health care services provided to women veterans -- including an assessment of barriers. The bill also provides seven days of medical care for newborn children of women veterans receiving maternity care, authorizes a child care pilot program, requires mental health professionals to receive training on caring for veterans to serve on the VA's Advisory Committee On Wommen Veterans and the Advisory Committee On Minority Veterans. While we have made some progress on the issues facing women veterans, it is clear that more needs to be done. Just earlier this week, there was an article in MSNBC about the VA inadequately serving women veterans. This article described the key findings of a GAO report which reveald that no VA hospital or outpatient clinic is complying fully with federal privacy requirements. In other words, many VA facilities had gynecological tables that faced the door, including one door that opened to a waiting room. Beyond these privacy concers, VA facilities were built to serve male veterans and, therefore, do not accomodate the presence of children. This means that some women veterans have had to resort to changing babies' diapers on the floors of VA hospitals due to the absence of changing tables in the women's bathrooms. In light of these challenges which continue to face women veterans, it is important that we do more to address these issues.

US House Rep Harry Teague noted briefly, "I think that everybody has had enough of us talking about this issue and we need to hear from the experts and let them tell us what the problems are and what we need to do to ensure that all female veterans get a chance to get the help that they deserve and the benefits that they have earned." Which is a good lead in to the following exchanges.

Chair John Hall: I would start with Ms. Ilem and ask when the VA trains it's service officers does it provide special sensitivity training on issues pertinent to female veterans, for instance MST [Military Sexual Trauma}?

Joy Ilem: Yes, as far as I'm aware within our service program -- I mean, there's definitely discussion of MST claims. We have a number of women NSOs but it's provided to all our NSOs -- information about VA's, you know, manuals and regulations, looking for different evidence to help them support their claims and different ways that they can help.

Chair John Hall: How many of your service officers are female? Can they assist in developing claims even if a veteran is from another state?
Joy Ilem: Yes, our NSOs can provide services to anyone. I think in our NSO corps of about 260, I would have to look at the exact number, but I think there's a range of about 30 now. There's been a number of recent new hires of women veterans especially from OEF-OIF populations.

Chair John Hall: And the time that DAV has been working with these issues relating to women veterans, what is your observation on how well VA has responded to the concerns you've raised and how successfuly are they addressing those issues?

Joy Ilem: I think I mentioned in my testimony, one of the concerns I've had, I've been reaching out to the VA for some time and we would appreciate the subcommittee's assistance just to verify especially on the SAPRO, the DoD Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Office -- looking at their confidentiality policy issues, it appears that there's some problem they may have in being able to release those records even with the -- for restricted reports of military sexual assault -- even with the consent of the veteran and so trying to work with VA staff just to try and see if they're collaborating with them to work through some of these barriers and to make sure that their claim developers are aware of the SAPRO policies and where in each of the military services these records are kept and for how long? And can VA, with the consent of the veteran, get access to those reports which can include a physical examination as well as mental health and counseling treatment. So we think those records are critical and we would ask that the Subcommittee try to work to see if VA does in fact collaborate with SAPRO on those policies.

Chair John Hall: Thank you. And Ms. Bhagwati, is the lack of legal representation more determental to women when their claims are the result of a crime?

Anuradha Bhagwati: I'm sorry, sir, the lack of legal work?

Chair John Hall: Legal represenation.

Anuradha Bhagwati: Absolutely, sir. I'm finding that, without the assistance of an attorney, many of those legal claims would be left behind. It takes a lot of courage, stamina, finacial assistance for a veteran -- either male or female -- to pursue an appeal or reconsideration of a claim. A lot of pride and a lot of issues wrapped around a veteran's identity go into the claim process and when a claim is rejected by the VA -- even when the claim is deemed to be sort of sufficient to get an awarding of compensation -- when that denial happens, it can be life shattering. And many veterans, both male and female, just fall off the map.

Chair John Hall: I understand more all the time as we have these hearings about the issues surrounding reproting problems with MST, but what about domestic violence that takes place while the wife is on active duty? How are those instances of PTSD or other disabilities resulting from those injuries adjucated by the VA?

Anuradha Bhagwati: Sir, that remains to be seen. I think a lot of data as both the congressman and Ms. Halfaker pointed out has not been collected on domestic violence in particular. Right now, I can tell you anecdotally, we're working on a case in the marine corps with a -- an NCO who's going through through a commissioning program whose partner spent five days in jail for attempting to kill her and that partner who spent five days in jail is now at Officer Candidate School. So that shock factor -- it's almost unbelieveable that that can happen but there are ways around the system. And DoD needs to explore that.

Chair John Hall: Unfortunately, there are ways around the system not just for men who assault women but also for men who assault men. I know one case particulary that I'm familiar with in my district but it's more egregious and harder to rectify when it's an attack on a female soldier. Ms. Halfaker, for the more seriously injured female veteran is there an outreach effort made directly too them? Are there OEF-OIF coordinators trained to specifically interact with them regarding their needs?

Dawn Halfaker: Sir, I think there is much needed outreach programs. I don't think there is anything specifically targeted for women veterans and I think that's where you get a lot of women initially slipping through the cracks -- especially with the Guard Reserve component. I-I also believe that, you know, peer support is probably a good way to start advocating. It's been Wounded Warriors Project's experience that women -- and particularly this generation of veterans -- are much more responsive and receptive to kind of learning about programs and things like that through their peer network. So I think that the VA needs to explore ways to promote outreach using peer neatworks and things like that. As far as the OEF - OIF coordinators at the hospitals? I mean, it was my experience that there's a lot of inconsisitency and variablity. The VA facility that I go to, the model just to have any kind of coordinatior was stood up incredibly late and its my sense that the coordinators could use a lot more education on the specific programs and -and clinical care that women need and how women can best access thtat care.

Chair John Hall: Thank you. And Ms. Washburn, your suggestion to track MST data has been made by the Center for Women Veterans and its advisory committee but has not yet been implemetned by the VBA. How effective do you think the Center and the committee are in promoting these issue and acting as change agents on behalf of the women they represent?

Delilah Washburn: I believe those things that are imposed by Congress get done, I believe those recommendations sometimes do not.

Chair John Hall: Can you provide us with any more information on the training protocol that the state women veterans coordinator receive in order to assist veterans in filing claims? And secondly what outreach activites to your women's veterans coordinators or do your women's veterans coordinators already perform?

Delilah Washburn: Most of our women's veterans coordinators are also state service officers and are also acredited with other service organizations such as the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Military Order of the Purple Heart. So we hold more than just one military organization credential. So whenever we have the opportunity to counsel with our veterans, whether it's male or female, we have to maintain the accreditation that the Dept of Veterans Affairs mandates for service officers. So we have annual training, we have testing and we are proficient at doing those jobs as service officers. And in most cases with the new training force that we see in the regional offices with all the new employees that have bene hired, most of our service organizations and veteran coordinators are more knowledgable than the new VA employees. So we are doing the very best job that we can do to help train some of the new VA employees by pointing out things that they have missed in the letter of the law that says that they can grant benefits. So we're doing our very best job as service officers to continue to not only help them through the maze -- the bureacratic maze -- of getting their claims processed.

Chair John Hall: Thank you. And Ms. Williams, I'm going to ask you this question and then ask each of the other panelists so quickly, because my time is long expired here, quickly give me an answer if VA and the DoD could do one thing to better assist women veterans what would that be?

Kayla Williams: I believe that electronic medical records are absolutely imperative to prevent problems with lost paperwork and missing files and missing records. And that that would really help smooth the transition from the DoD to the VA.

Chair John Hall: Ms. Washburn?

Delilah Washburn: Yes, sir.

Chair John Hall: Ms. Halfaker? I'm just asking for an answer to that same question, just quick if you could.

Delilah Washburn: The one thing that I think that they could do immediately that will make a difference, and not just for gender specific issues, we're talking about we no longer have to worry about providing the stressor for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. If you're in combat its conceeded. And let's press on with getting a diagnosis and write those claims and get them off the table because the near million claims that are pending is just something that we cannot continue to live with. It's a barrier to veterans getting their benefits.

Chair John Hall: Thank you for the wonderful endorsement of my bill
HR 952.

Dawn Halfaker: Outreach.

Chair John Hall: Outreach. Ms. Bhagwati? Microphone please.

Anaradha Bhagwati: Sorry, sir. One thing on the DoD side would be enforcement of VO policy and sexual assault policy. On the VA side, it would be education and training of claims officers about what it's like to be a woman in uniform.

Joy Ilem: I think just true collaboration on all levels within VA, VHA and VVA would be really extremely important. There's just so many areas where they can benefit working together to really solve the problem. It just can't be done piece meal. It helps to work on the preventative side with DoD and during that transition period for women coming to VA.

Chair John Hall: Thank you. And if our members from the Disability Assistance Committe would not object, I would go to our only member of the Health Committee who's here, Ms. Brown.

US House Rep Corrine Brown: Thank you, Mr. Chairmen. And thank you for holding this hearing. I'm going to be real brief. You know, in the early 90s, I called for the first women veterans hearings and then we had a roundtable discsuon a couple of months ago and it seems as if things have not improved. And part of it is the culture. What, if you were making recommendations to the VA or to the Congress, what would you recommend that we do to change the culture and that's for all the panelists? We can start with Ms. Williams?

Kayla Williams: That's a great question and I think one that both the Dept of Defense and the VA are struggling with every day.I truly believe that this conflict is going to change the way that women are treated within the military and the VA because young leaders, young soldiers and service members, they serve alongside women in combat. As they grow in their leadership positions through time, they're used to serving alongside women they're beginning to recognize that women are service members too -- that they aren't just females that happened to show up sometimes. And that change in attitude will slowly trickle through the rest of the system but that's going to take a very long time. I do think that cultural change can also come from systemic changes. When I first got out of the military I went to the VA facility in Washington, DC, which I must admit was an atrocious experience for me. The facility was not clean, I was not given coordinated care and I had a truly unpleaseant experience that scared me away from the VA for many years. Just last month, I went to the VA facility in Martinsburg, West Virgingia and had a profoundly different experience at their OEF - OIF integrated care clinic. I saw several providers, I was led from one appointment to the other to make sure that I knew where I was going. I was sensitively asked about MST, about my combat experiences. And this model is one that I think is worthy of emulation though it may not be perfect in every facility. They also have a women's care clinic. So I know that by putting these facilites in place, staffing them with the right people, that proper care can be given.

US House Rep Corrine Brown: When you first went to the facilities that was in when? When you first?

Kayla Williams: I went to the DC VA in 2006 and then I went to the Martinsburg VA just last month.

US House Rep Corrine Brown: Yes, ma'am?

Delilah Washburn: That's an excellent question. There are several points that I would like to share with you. In today's culture, I could see just from the veterans that talk with us that some of the problems that they face is that now we have appointments that come in the mail to us and we're notified of five or six different appointments. They're not on the same day and these are people that are trying to hold a job down. And they just cannot go to all of these appointments. So -- and then we have child care on top of that. So we have we can't take off from work, so the hours that they're being seen is an issue. We have children that we have to provide care for and -- because we can't take them to the VA, we already know that -- and those are concerns. And why can't we do a better job at scheduling? Why can't we provide it during hours that they're available? If its once a month on a Saturday, why can't we do a women's clinic once a month on a Saturday? If we're doing women's health on Wednesday, why can't we do that from noon to six p.m. to give them an opprotunity to go after work? And where that there would be someone else to help with children? So those are some things that we need to look at that I think culturally we have to change. When we're talking about Military Sexual Trauma, there are so many of the cases that are identified by DoD and where DoD is taking action under the Uniform Military Code of Justice and we already see that these women are having medial problems -- physical as well as mental health issues -- and why don't we get them through the medical evaluation process because that is a disability. And it would help us if DoD would step up and if they have an opportunity to be awarded a military evaluation board or a PEB board, lets get it done because we are finding all too often, after we do finally get them through the VA syste, we're going back to do correction on military record. So DoD could do a better job. If it's an opportunity where they can meet the requirements of medical evaluation, lets get it done.

US House Rep Corrine Brown: Those are some very good suggestions and I don't know why we can't do that Saturday or Sunday afternoon and have someone there to take care of the kids. I mean, I don't see why we can't. Because you were talking about the waiting list and what did you say was the waiting list for women?

Delilah Washburn: We do have appointments that come out through the VA computer system that will often times not consolildate to get you there on one day and often times we have folks that are coming in from a rural area, that's traveling 100 or 200 miles to the large VA medical center. So that's a hardship, transportation is a hardship.

US House Rep Corrine Brown: Right, transportation is a hardship. Question do we have any, and I've been thinking about it, do we give any kind of a gas voucher or anything like that?

Delilah Washburn: There are some organizations, whether it's Disabled American Veterans where they have a transportation program, there are some organizations, Veterans of Foreign Wars they give vouchers, and often times the VA medical centers have monies for that as well but it's not the norm and not everyone knows that they can get help. We're just not advertising it.

US House Rep Corrine Brown: Okay. Thank you. Next. I don't have much time. Next? Yes, ma'am?

Dawn Halfaker: Yeah, I think that, you know, perception and culture can change through action and I think, you know, some of the recommendations that Wounded Warriors Project is prepared to make are actions such as outreach, peer support, consistency in the way VA delivers care and services to women veterans. And it's interesting, I've had the exact same experiences as Ms. Williams. First went to Walter Reed Army Medical Center to the VA facility in Washington, DC. and just had horrible experience after experience there. And again, they are -- they've made some strides in trying to coordinate a OEF - OIF care model where they have, you know, the case managers and things lik that but again it's not -- I don't think that the women veterans who are continuing to recevie care have actually felt any of the changes and certainly there's been no change in culture at that particulra VA.

US House Rep Corrine Brown: And this is the one in DC?

Dawn Halfaker: Yes, ma'am.

US House Rep Corrine Brown: Is it just bad for women or is it bad for everybody?

Dawn Halfaker: I think that would be a good question. I mean, I think that it was initially bad for me just because, you know, when you do just walk through the doors to the VA, it's very -- it's not a pleasant environment. And it's not a safe environment. You know, often times you may encounter somebody yelling, cat calling at you, making a crude remark and it's just, I think, a true culture shock going from the military where that would never be tolerated to a VA facility where you're trying to get care and, you know, you're uncomfortable.

US House Rep Corrine Brown: You know this is the second or third time I've heard about the cat calls and I just don't know how you deal with it because they're not in the military any longer, they're civilains. And you know we face this probelm if we're walking down the street and we see a work crew or something.

Dawn Halfaker: Yes, ma'am, I think that-that it's a leadership issue and, you know, if I was the director of that hospital, I would do whatever I had to do to ensure that that environment couldn't happen so I think it's a leaderhsip issue.

Kayla Williams: And, if I may, ma'am, I do believe that that facility inadequately serves both male and female veterans. My husband's care at that VA was so bad. He was sent back and forth between multiple clinics, told he was in the wrong place, his paper work was lost, he felt that the doctors didn't care about him. His experience there was so bad that he has since refused to go back to the VA at all and relies exclusively on civilian providers even though they are less familiar with blast injuries and post-traumatic stress that results form combat.

US House Rep Corrine Brown: Just quickly.

Anuradha Bhagwati: Ma'am, my personal exprinces with the VA hospital in New York City have been personally devestating and I pay out of pocket for as much care as I need. I use the VA right now for emergency care. You know, I've experienced MST and I had a very bad expereince with a claim. It doesn't take much to disappoint me right now with VA care. I-I every time I walk in there I go with open arms, a generous spirit, I hope to be received well. And there are some fantastic health care providers there, but there are, by and large, both male and female staff members and medical staff do not understand what its like to be a woman in uniform.

US House Rep Corrine Brown: You know and I've had, when I've said part of the problem is the VA and the number and when I've suggested that perhaps we may need to do vouchers so people can go outside, I got real push back from the women. So I mean, if the service is not there, what can we do to change the system? And when I talk to women veterans well they want to go to the VA but the service isn't what they want.

Anuradha Bhagwati: Well ma'am, I think we need to push the VA to provide equal services for women. That needs to be done comprehenslivly. We can't give up on the VA but I need to stress that, especially for women who have been traumatized, now that can be through sexual trauma, post-traumatic stress from combat, whatever the case may be, if they're expereinceing negative epsidoses at the Va hosptials they may just turn away and never come back and so fee-based care needs to be an option. If you talk to women who've been working around MST for awhile, they will -- I would say by and large they agree that fee-based care needs to be accesible for surivors of MST whether that's --

US House Rep Corrine Brown: It should be an option?

Anuradha Bhagwati: Aboslutely.

US House Rep Corrine Brown: Okay, that's what I'm thinking. Yes, ma'am?

Ideally, we'll come back to the hearing tomorrow. There's more on the first panel. In a perfect world, there'd be time tomorrow to go over some other things from it and from the second panel. Remember that
Kat will cover the hearing tonight at her site as well. Hopefully, this hearing will get plenty of coverage from the press and if that happens, tomorrow we can just provide some links to that coverge.

Turning to Iraq where
Farah Stockman (Boston Globe) reports that "UMass Boston professor Padraig O'Malley laid a wreath today at the site of a bombing in Iraq that killed at least 72 people last month which appeared to be aimed at foment ethnic tensions in the volatile Kirkuk region. Kirkuk is one of five 'divided' cities participating in a peace forum established in Boston by O'Malley this past April. Elected representatives from Kirkuk visited Massachusetts this past April to learn about how Boston had overcome violence and division during the busing crisis of the 1970s." Parliamentary and presidential elections take place in the Kurdistan region July 25th. Mohammed A. Saliah (Asia Times) observes that the US efforts in Iraq are said to include the postponement of the vote the KRG intended to hold on their new constitution: "The Kurdish draft constitution had heightened tensions between Kurds and other ethnicities in the country such as Arabs and Turkomans, as well as the Iraqi government." The referendrum on the proposed KRG constitution is not the only one currently on hold. Article 140 of Iraq's Constitution calls for an election to be held to resolve the issue of oil-rich Kirkuk. The disputed territory is claimed by both the central government out of Baghdad and the KRG. Jonathan Steele (Guardian) writes, "Although the referendum has been delayed, the pause may only last a few months. Obama's team will have to work hard to resolve a crisis that has simmered since Saddam Hussein's overthrow in 2003. At that time the Kurds took the opportunity to rush out of their autonomous enclave and establish their forces in the disputed territories, creating a new de factor internal boundary in Iraq that diplomats now describe as 'the trigger line'." AFP quotes an unnamed "senior Western diplomat" stating, "I think we are in a situation that neither side wants a war but, where there are serious tensions and people are extremely well armed, then something could easily happen." AFP also notes "a growing numver of incidents between the Iraqi army and the Kurdish peshmerga". The Kurdish Globe reports that KRG President Massoud Barzani is calling for the constitution to be followed on the disputed issue of Kirkuk and "Barzani rejected the proposal that Kirkuk should be divided on 4 sectors, 32% for each of the Kurdish, Arab and Turkoman communities and 4% for the Christians, as a solution. 'Why should the elections be held then' Barzani said criticizing the solution." In the spring of 2004, the Iraqi Governing Council's Law of Administration for the State of Iraq for the Transitional Period (known as the Transitional Administrative Law) went into effect. It specifically notes Kirkuk: "The Iraqi Transitional Government, and especially the Iraqi Property Claims Commission and other relevant bodies, shall act expeditiously to take measures to remedy the injustice caused by the previous regime's practices in altering the demographic character of certain regions, including Kirkuk, by deporting and expelling individuals from their places of residence, forcing migration in and out of the region, settling individuals alien to the region, depriving the inhabitants of work, and correcting nationality. [. . .] The previous regime also maniputlated and changed administration boundaries for political ends. [. . .] The permanent resolution of disputed territories, including Kirkuk, shall be deferred until after these measures are completed, a fair and transparent census has been conducted and the permanent constitution has been ratified. This resolution shall be consistent with the principle of justice, taking into account the will of the people of those territories." Iraq's Constitution was adopted by referendum October 15, 2005. [PDF format warning, click here for the Constitution.] Article 140 is the section which applies to Kirkuk:

First: The executive authority shall undertake the necessary steps to complete the implementation of the requirements of all subparagraphs of Article 58 of the Transitional Administrative Law.
Second: The responsibility placed upon the executive branch of the Iraqi Transitional Government stipulated in Article 58 of the Transitional Administrative Law shall extend and continue to the executive authority elected in accordance with this Constitution, provided that it accomplishes completely (normalization and census and concludes with a referendum in Kirkuk and other disputed territories to determine the will of their citizens), by a date not to exceed the 31st of December 2007.

That's what the Constitution states, the one
Chibli Mallat (The Daily Star) notes Iraqi leaders quote from. December 2007 came and went. It has still not been followed. It's not difficult to comprehend what Article 140 is stating, it's straight forward; however, there's an effort of late to take a situation and render the Kurdish side invisible -- see Sam Dagher's article last Friday (click here for critique). A letter on A20 (national edition) of Tuesday's New York Times addressed the one-side nature of the article:
To the Editor: Re "
Defiant Kurds Claim Oil, Gas and Territory" (front page, July 10):The Iraqi Constitution, specifically Article 140, requires a vote by referendum to resolve Iraq's disputed territories. To cast this as a "threat" is unfair. The Iraqi Kurds are simply trying to carry out the constitutionally mandated referendum.Furthermore, the Iraqi Kurds are not defying Baghdad in formulating a regional constitution; they are embracing their right to create such a document, which is allowed in the Iraqi Constitution. The Kurds, who represent the most stable and progressive element of Iraq, have made it clear that they desire to be a part of a united Iraqi nation. To allow for a responsible and phased withdrawal of American forces from Iraq, which is the stated policy of the Obama administration, several issues must first be resolved, the most important of which is that of the disputed territories. Only then will a stable and united Iraq be able to thrive. Jay Garner Erbil, Iraq, July 10, 2009 The writer, a retired lieutenant general in the Army, was director of the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance for Iraq in 2003.

While that's predicted to be a shaky line that violence could break out along, violence today and last night was largely aimed at pilgrims.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured eight pilgrims. Reuters notes that six pilgirms were wounded in a Baghdad roadside bombing last night and that today a Mosul car bombing injured three police officers.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 police officer shot dead by "Iraqi Emergency Force" and notes a suspected bomber was shot dead by Iraqi security forces in Falluja.

On the pilgrimage,
Sam Dagher (New York Times) explains, "On Saturday, Iraq's majority Shiite population will commemorate the death of Imam Musa al-Kadhim, a revered religious figure buried in Kadhimiya in northern Baghdad. Pilgrims have already started trekking to his shrine from all over the country. The event usually attracts hundreds of thousands of people despite the potential danger."

On the ongoing illegal war,
Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal (Kashmir Watch) shares his thoughts which include:

US troops' withdrawal from Iraq's cities and towns to their military bases has been loudly acknowledged by the Iraqi regime and its agents, but they underplay the role of the remaining troops. As pro-West Iraqis celebrated the US withdrawal, a car bomb in the northern city of Kirkuk killed at least 27 people. The Americans, loud and overbearing after their speedy victory six years ago, fell quiet and thoughtful that day because of fear of retaliation by the suppressed and terrorized people. USA stressed that there would still be a lot of US combat capabilities in Iraq for months to come" and "still have a very robust number of US troops in Iraq and, in fact, those troops will not begin to withdraw from Iraq until probably several months from now. Signs were draped on some of Baghdad's concrete blast walls reading " Iraq : my nation, my glory, my honor" made to order by the ruling regime. That in simple language only means western terror war in Iraq has not ended! Though there are many ifs and buts yet many believe that it is beginning of the end of war in that unfortunate country.. Some 131,000 US troops remain in Iraq until at least September, including 12 combat brigades encircling cities if not saturating them, and the total is not expected to drop below 128,000 until after the Iraqi national election in January. Pentagon says roughly 150 American bases have been dismantled or handed over to the Iraqis across the country, but in some cases, especially in Baghdad, city limits have been redrawn to allow American bases to remain to control Iraq effectivley through the neo-Iraqi regime. Nor will the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq decline overall. USA determines the entire course of Iraqi life hereafter as well.

Turning to the US, as always Cedric's "
Worst Drama Queen in the World" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! WORST DRAMA QUEEN IN THE WORLD!" was a must read. They're calling out a tele-bully who's having a hissy fit over a conscientious objector, Major Stefan Frederick Cook. We're not going to attack Cook. If he speaks publicly somewhere, we will note him the way we note other war resisters. There have been some whose reasoning I've agreed with 100%, some a little less. Doesn't matter. We are not and will not be a place where we join a dog pile on a CO. That others need to says a great deal about them -- some do it for respectability (which I could care less about as anyone who knows me . . .) and some do it to serve their modern day Christ-child. Neither option interests us. I haven't read any legal opinion and I know nothing about his attorney so we're not quoting anything here. He's not spoken publicly. If and when he does, we'll make a point to include him. Evan Knappenberger is someone who's seen a pile on from time to time for speaking out -- and sometimes those participating in it were especially shocking (the inside-enemy is always the most disappointing). He made it through the attacks on him and continues to speak out. At CounterPunch he writes about a CO, his friend Amy:

In 2007 while in Iraq, Amy started reading feminist literature. As a woman steeped in a male-dominated world of violence and oppression, feminism must have struck a chord. As Amy read, she started noticing the way she was changing emotionally and intellectually.
Amy decided to apply for Conscientious Objector status. She spent a week in between shifts, mortar attacks and guard duties trying to put into words exactly how, why, and when she had become opposed to violence. Never having loaded, much less having fired her M-4 rifle, it never occurred to her to turn the weapon in to her commander along with the CO packet when she was finished. In fact, a soldier without a weapon in Iraq is trouble waiting to happen: you can't even get in to the mess-hall without one.
Because of this oversight, her commander turned down Amy's request for CO status. Amy couldn't really be opposed to violence if she carried a rifle slung on her back, could she? The army was not willing to give up a good linguist for some conscientious abstraction when they needed bodies so badly. So Amy was punished and berated by her comrades. She was mocked and ridiculed by the men in her unit. Her moral standing had come full-circle; the freedom she had joined to protect was now being denied to her. The day her unit returned from Baghdad to Fort Hood, Texas, she left. She deserted. She went AWOL.
"They told me that my unit was scheduled to go back before my time was up," she explained. "It was either re-up for a different station, or spend another 15 months in Iraq."

He goes on to advocate for santury cities in a strong column worth reading. We mentioned Cedric a second ago and his wife Ann is filling in for
Mike and has been since last Friday. This is the first time I've noted it here. "Katyln Tracy," "Sonali Kolhatkar forgot the forgotten war," "Legal abuses by Bush and Barack" and "Ron Jacobs, Margaret Kimberley" are her entries so far. In one of them, the first, she's again speaking openly about her rape and abortion and all are worth reading. My apologies to Ann for not making the time until now to note here that she's filling in for Mike.

We opened with women in the US and we'll close with the focus on Iraqi women, this is from Dawn Calabi's "
Iraq: Don't Forget Displaced Women" (Refugees International):As a humanitarian talking with displaced Iraqis be prepared for a lot of anger. "You destroyed my country," said one woman. "Those ruling have no place for us. What will you do?" Millions of people have been displaced inside and outside the country. Small numbers have returned home. For others, insecurity, plus the absence of the rule of law, infrastructure, employment prospects, or basic services like water, sanitation, education or health care prevent them from returning home. Individuals or members of groups targeted for religion, ethnicity or politics are unlikely to return. These families, often headed by women, live in extremely poor, overcrowded conditions, subject to extreme heat and cold. Many are skeptical Iraq will invest the political and financial resources needed for safe sustainable returns. In Erbil, a displaced woman living in a tent wanted the world to understand. "We need security in Iraq…tell the politicians to make an agreement. Poor people are the victims of the struggle. Kurd, Arab, Sunni, Shia, Christian, we are all one people, Iraqis, and we need a secure country! Ask our government, the Government of Iraq and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) to pay attention to our needs, to see how we are living and suffering." Unlike last year, Iraq has not contributed to the UN or neighboring countries aiding its citizens. The KRG complained of receiving insufficient funds to pay grants to people registered as internally displaced and insufficient medicines for those with chronic illnesses. But displaced people inside Northern Iraq are grateful to the KRG.

the boston globefarah stockman
mohammed a. salihrefugees internationaldawn calabimcclatchy newspapersthe new york timessam dagher