Friday, July 02, 2010

Mom blogging

"Helpless, Busted, Shattered - Are You Feeling Obamaed On The Fourth Of July?" (Hillary Is 44):

This is a Barack Obama goal: the destruction of Social Security. Senior voters know Obama’s ultimate goal is to gut Social Security. That’s why elderly voters have abandoned the Obama Dimocratic Party and will do so again in the 2010 elections. Starting in 2007 we wrote that Obama was out to destroy Social Security.

Big Media supported and supports Barack Obama in his goal to destroy Social Security. During the primaries of 2008, Gail Collins was upset with Hillary Clinton because Hillary Clinton refused to join Barack Obama and Tim Russert and attack Social Security. Hillary, at one debate, when baited about Social Security “solutions” by Tim Russert replied “Well, I take everything off the table until we move toward fiscal responsibility…” Hillary refused to play Russert’s filthy game:

“The more substantive battle between Hillary and supposed non-candidate Russert was on the question of Social Security. Russert repeatedly demanded that Hillary and the other Democrats accept his formulations on Social Security which lead to “accepted” Social Security “solutions” by the wealthy elite of elites of Big Media.

Hillary, wise woman that she is, firmly focused on her wiser policy of ‘first things first’. First, you adopt fiscal responsibility – then you see the results of fiscal responsibility. Only after that post-fiscal responsibility accessment do you begin to devise solutions to the situation. Russert was a glum plum.

Russert and the elites of Big Media do not understand the need for the universality of Social Security. Presumably, Russert would rather raise the retirement age than raise taxes on all income – most of Russert’s income is not taxed for Social Security.

Russert, because he has a cushy job performed on padded chairs and in front of computer monitors, has no fear of retirement at the age of 80. For elite Big Media types the fear is forced retirement. Early retirement to Big Media elites is inconceivable. For a mine worker or a laborer, retirement is welcome relief from a life of punishing the body with hard work. When Russert discusses raising the retirement age he sees it as an actuarial shuffling. Hillary sees raising the retirement age in all its vast complexity in this diverse nation.”

Russert of course, got a sort of early retirement and Big Media stooge Barack Obama in the White House. Russert and his thugs attacked Hillary when she took “everything off the table”. Barack Obama, 100% contrary to Hillary Clinton – put everything on the table.

Thank you, Hopium Addicts. You brought us to this point. Put down the bong, step away from the voting booth.

I can't believe how awful Barack is. I see Janeane Garofalo has wised up. If others would, I'd be thrilled. But most of the biggest Hopium Addicts remain that.


My children do not go to year-round school. I hit DC to cover the last day of the Kagan hearings (for the gina & krista round-robin -- and Kat and I covered it together that day). I've got three concerned readers I didn't know I had picked up.

They write variations on a shame piece about how I, the mother of three children, either (a) pulled my kids out of school and dragged them off to DC with me or (b) left them alone here.

First, if my children had been left here (at C.I.'s home), they wouldn't have been alone. She has a live-in housekeeper (who lives on the property with her sister who also works for C.I.). She also has the Third gang living with her (as well as my kids and me).

Second of all, I did not take my kids to DC.

Third of all, they are not enrolled in year-round school.

Fourth of all, my kids aren't in California.

I've been childless all week -- when I was in California at the start, when I went to DC and now back in California. Why?

It's Fourth of July weekend. My kids love California but my boys remember fire works and they can set them off at my dad's. In fact, my second oldest is now old enough -- by my father's rules -- to handle fireworks. So the boys wanted to go. Then they got so excited that my daughter (my youngest) just had to go. I called my folks (knowing they'd be thrilled) to see what they thought?

My children were due there next Friday to spend a week. Instead, they're spending two weeks. Jess flew with them to Georgia then, after transferring them over to my parents, flew on to see his folks and then made it to DC Thursday night for what turned out to be party-party. Then we all came back from DC today.

But my children were not alone. They were never left alone.

They are with my parents, their grandparents, for two weeks this summer. My parents will fly back with them and spend two weeks here so they'll grab four weeks total. They see them for Thanksgiving and Christmas and spring break. That's really not enough.

I moved out here because of my job. I got a huge promotion -- well an offer. I turned it down. My father heard about it and hit the roof. He said it was a great opportunity and that just because I'd have to move didn't mean I shouldn't take it.

He stayed on me to consider it. And, on his own, he hunted down the place in California. He called C.I. (as he does near daily) and asked her if it was okay for me and the kids to stay at her house and C.I. said absolutely. So by the time I was thinking about how this job could mean saving enough for all three kids' college, I was surprised to find out that Dad had mapped out all the details.

At first, it was going to be for one year only. That changed with the economy. And, in fact, my job no longer exists (my current one or my old one) back home. So if I hadn't taken the promotion, I would have been laid off.

I have no idea when we'll be able to go back. Not a complaint, I love it here, the kids do too. You better believe when it's time to move back to our home, it's going to be, "Oh, I wish we had a pool! Oh, I wish we had a tennis court! Oh, I wish we had horses!" I mean, it's great out here, they love it.

All three take tennis lessons and horseback riding lessons. C.I. usually knows someone who's doing those and she'll say, "You think they'd like to try it?" Absolutely. Every thing builds experiences and understanding. My daughter gets all ready for her tennis lessons (the racket's bigger than she is) by insisting she's a Williams sister (Serena and Venus). Which makes me laugh because she's such a little doll and not at all the sporty girl I was growing up.

But I love it. I love that they know how to swim and ride horses and play tennis. I love that they're getting all these experiences that, when they're off in college, will make it more difficult for them to feel intimidated. I always felt that way myself. So I'm all for exposing them to as much as possible. The boys both play musical instruments (my oldest can now play the guitar -- his favorite, the bass, the piano and the drums). I want them to be exposed to as much as possible so that when they're off in college, someone says, "Hey, let's go watch the soccer match," or whatever, and they're like, "Oh, yeah, I know about soccer."

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, July 2, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces deaths, Turkey drops bombs on northrn Iraq, the Pope calls for Iraqi Christians to be protected, new documents released by the Iraq Inquiry do not translate as 'good news' for Tony Blair, Amy Goodman whores for Harvard and counter-insurgency, and more.
Today the US military announced: "BAGHDAD – Two U.S. Soldiers have died in unrelated non-combat incidents. The names of the deceased are being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website at The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The incidents are under investigation." If that's not the most s**t poor announcement USF/MNF has ever made, I don't know what is. When did the two die? Where did the two die? Why are those details not being supplied? Does anyone supervise these press releases? The announcement brings the total number of US service members killed in the Iraq War to
MICHELE NEFF HERNANDEZ: One of the things that they have in common is that moment when they heard the words that changed their lives, "We regret to inform you."
CLARK: That's Michele Neff Hernandez. She's President and Executive Director of the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation. It's a national support network for anyone grieving the loss of someone they love. The group holds its second "Camp Widow" next month in San Diego. Hernandez says the age of many military widows can make their plight more difficult.
HERNANDEZ: So many of them are very young and they also share the experience of having their grief set aside by people who assume that their age means they couldn't possibly be that affected by the loss of this love because certainly there's time for another. And there's nothing like being dismissed when you're grieving because it makes it seem as if what you're feeling doesn't matter. And if you want to take that one step further then does that mean that the death of this soldier doesn't matter because there is a family left behind grieving that loss no matter what age he was when he died.
CLARK: I'd like to introduce Taryn Davis. Her husband Michael was a combat engineer in the Army. He was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in May 2007. Taryn, how long had you and Michael been together and were you sort of this typical military wife we're talking about?
TARYN DAVIS: I wasn't the typical military wife while we were together for about 7 years, married for less than a year and a half when he was killed in Baghdag, Iraq. Besides the way that our husbands lose their lives which are very sudden and tragic ways. IEDs, rocket-propelled grenades, I mean, the age is a huge aspect of it. I believe that the average age of a soldier killed right now in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars is around 26 or 27 and half of those serving are married. We're looking at a very young age as far as these widows go. I was 21 when Michael was killed and we had lived on a military base while he was stationed in Alaska, but I moved back home to finish school while he was deployed in Iraq and so I didn't really have that military community around me. Michael was signed on for three years in the military and honestly I was one of those people that thought he would die of old age. He would come back and if anything maybe it would be a freak accident like a car accident. I didn't think that his 22 years of life, that his vehicle would be hit by improvised explosive devices, killing himself and two other soldiers that day.
CLARK: For you, how did other military wives react to your news? Those wives whose husbands were still serving. You know, perhaps their worst nightmare you were living out.
DAVIS: You get different reactions. Those that are really supportive and want to be there and like with time kind of fade away. There's those that, you know, kind of feel like you're cursed and they don't want to be around you and fear that that might be their future. And so I mean the reactions are different.
Of interest to US audiences should be this section.
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Something that has been described, I think, elsewhere, as the "engine having to run on hot for a long period" and also with negative impact on training as well as on rest, recuperation and indeed family life.
Trevor Woolley: Absolutely.
Tom McKane: I think the training point is certainly right. There was a real concern that the extent of the commitment would have meant that other forms of collective training, which would have been normally undertaken to prepare for other operations, weren't being done to the extent that they would otherwise have been.
Stretched too thin -- as were US forces. A large amount of the hearing -- especially questions by Committee Member Lawrence Freedman -- addressed economics and planning budgets. It was arcane and largely uninteresting. Hearings resume on Monday. Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) ignores today's testimony to zoom in on released documents, "The Inquiry has published two new declassified documents today, relating to this morning's session on MoD resources. One is a small section of a letter sent jointly from Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon to Tony Blair on 19 March 2003 (a day before the invasion) on the issue of "Iraq: UK military Contribution to post-conflict Iraq". James Kirkup (Telegraph of London) explains:
In the letter, the ministers told Mr Blair that the British deployment would have to be scaled down quickly.
"It will be necessary to draw down our current commitment to nearer a third by no later than autumn in order to avoid long-term damage to the armed forces," the letter said. "Keeping more forces in Iraq would be outside our current defence planning assumptions.
Iraq yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from its cities. By the end of this summer, only 50,000 U.S. troops will be left in the entire country a country that now finds itself at a crossroads. While violence is down from the levels of 2006 and 2007, many Iraqis say the U.S. is leaving behind a nation that is at best a work in progress," declared Michele Norris on Thursday's All Things Considered (link has text and audio) in the lead in to a report by Lourdes Garcia-Navarro.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: But Iraq is a country with little to show for the billions of dollars spent and the lives lost, says Iraqi politician Mahmoud Othman. Four months after parliamentary elections, Iraq's fractious political parties are still negotiating over the formation of a government. It's an acrimonious and sectarian process. And Othman says the players seem to have little sense of anything other than their own narrow interests.
Mr. MAHMOUD OTHMAN (Politician, Iraq): They are not in touch with the people, these people. You look at them, where they are living. They are isolated from people. That's why I don't think they are moving. They don't feel the responsibility.
What has changed in all the years of the Iraq War? What's been improved? Not a damn thing.
The northern border of Iraq continues to be a hot zone of/magnet for violence. Reuters reports that Turkish military aircraft has again bombed northern Iraq with the target being the PKK and that today's bombings follow a clash in which 17 people died. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "Six fighter aircraft violated Kurdistan region airspace early Friday, and bombarded three villages in Pishdar district, causing great material damages to homes, farms and livestock, without claiming human lives, said security authorities. The villages that were targeted lie on the shoulders of Mount Qindeel, where the members of the militant Kurd Labour Party, the PKK, take refuge."
The PKK is a rebel faction which fights (sometimes with similar groups of Kurdish rebels) for a Kurdish movement whose ultimate goal is a Kurdish homeland. The Kurdish issue in Turkey has always been problematic to put it mildly. Not only does the government not wish to turn over sovereignty to a region of Turkey primarily composed of Kurds, they do not wish to see any other country create an autonomous Kurdish region. The KRG in Iraq was thought to be more than the Turkish government would tolerate; however, they learned to. This 'adjustment' has not stopped them from conveying to the US that they would not tolerate a breaking up of Iraq that created a Kurdish country (i.e. made the KRG an independent country and not part of Iraq). Some MidEast observers believe that if and when the Palestinian homeland issue is resolved, the Kurdish question would/will be the driving issue for the region.

The Bush administration made statements that a peace was being brokered, being worked on, blah blah blah. Months would pass, the statements forgotten, then violence would break out again. Suddenly the Bush administration would insist they were planning a new way to address the issue. The Obama adminstration has not done a better job on the issue. Which is why a columnist for Hurriyet is already questioning the 'value' of the recent face-to-face meeting between US President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Kadri Gursel (Hurriyet) wonders if NATO needs to be brought in? The US government shares 'intelligence' with the Turkish government which includes surveillance video of the mountains in northern Iraq (where the PKK has set up base camps). Though bombings from above have gone on for years now, last month saw the Turkish military repeatedly enter Iraq in violation of the country's sovereignty. If Nouri al-Maliki, acting prime minister, gave permission for the invasion, he's been silent on that fact -- no doubt realizing that such an admission would destroy any chance he had at continuing as Iraq's prime minister. Ibon Villelabeitia (Reuters) reports, "Families in the dusty mountain border town of Cukurca have grown used to waking every night to the booming sound of artillery shelling and mortar fire echoing in the surrounding hills as troops and separatist guerrillas trade fire."

Nouri's efforts to remain prime minister coincide with further targeting of various groups in Iraq and that includes Sahwa -- also known as the "Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq." Yesterday on Morning Edition (NPR), Isra Alubei'i reported (link has text and audio) on the targeting of Sahwa: "Across this Iraqi province, officials, religious leaders and ordinary Iraqis say they are furious over what they say are signs that Iraq's Shiite-led government has been targeting Sunnis. The most recent incident: At least six Sunni detainees died while in custody in Baghdad. The government's version is that they suffocated while being transferred in a poorly ventilated bus. But the families of the victims say the men were clearly subject to torture and abuse. At the wake in Fallujah, Valliv Jamabi(ph) clutches the prisoner ID of his son, Mushtak(ph). Valliv says on the very day he was told his son would be released, a second message arrived informing him that his 35-year-old son, a father of two kids, had died in custody. Valliv says marks on his body clearly showed that the government's contention that he died of suffocation was a lie."
Among the many other at risk populations in Iraq? Iraqi Christians. Today Iraq dispatched their Ambassador to the Vatican, Mohammed Hadi Ali al-Sadr, to see the Pope Benedict XVI. Vatican Radio reports:
Speaking specifically to the plight of Christians in Iraq, Pope Benedict noted that, although they are a small minority of the country's population, they have a valuable contribution to make to its reconstruction and economic recovery through their educational and healthcare apostolates, while their engagement in humanitarian projects provides much-needed assistance in building up society. If they are to play their full part, however, Iraqi Christians need to know that it is safe for them to remain in or return to their homes, and they need assurances that their properties will be restored to them and their rights upheld."
In conclusion, Pope Benedict said it is his earnest hope that Iraq will emerge from the difficult experiences of the past decade as a model of tolerance and cooperation among Muslims, Christians and others in the service of those most in need.

Catholic News Agency quotes the Pope stating that "All Iraqis have a part to play in building a just, moral and peaceable environment." Catholic Culture adds, "In closing his remarks, the Pontiff reminded the Iraqi envoy that the October meeting of the Synod of Bishops will be devoted to the situation in the Middle East, and the prospects for peaceful cooperation among the religious groups of the region."
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded three people, a Baghdad sticky bombing targeting new MP Abdulkereem Muhammed (of Iraqiya) which left him wounded, Reuters notes that Sunni cleric Imam Abdul Aleem al-Saadi was shot dead in Ramadi today.
Meanwhile Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) interviews the top US commander in Iraq, Gen Ray Odierno. Odierno's talking points have all been heard before. They're also incredibly facile and show a total lack of understanding with regards to terrorism. You kill one terrorist, you make many more. You don't combat terrorism with violence. You may be able to use violence as a stalling tactic, but in a longterm picture, violence and only violence just fuels further terrorism.

Which is why Odierno's pronouncements and the similar ones that Petraeus made before him ever year, never turn out to be true.

Odierno wants the world to know that al Qaeda in Mesopotamia faces financing hardships -- apparently, they'll be holding a telethon shortly? No, they don't face anything. You kill off one backer or arrest another, more sprout in their place. The reasons for terrorism are not addressed via violence. The reasons terrorism breeds are not addressed in violence.

Whether Odierno grasps that or not, I have no idea. But his statements are not encouraging to anyone thinking the US government might know how to 'combat' terrorism. Nor does this DoD press release.
Turning to Rolling Stone. How much of a dumb ass is Amy Goodman? Dumb ass or tool, let's face it, the little whore's not going to take on Harvard. She doesn't have any real guts as she repeatedly demonstrated when publicly lapping up CounterTerrorism guru Samantha Power and then raving and panting -- as though she was masturbating on air -- after the interview during a never ending fundraiser for WBAI about how Power would be and should be the next Secretary of State. As Goody found out, jerk-off fantasies make bring jollies but they rarely pan out in the real world. Yesterday she had Michael Hastings on her increasinly pathetic program that soaks up way too much Pacifica money for what is a cheaply made show. (Most of the money hits Goody's bank account.) We're not linking to the trash. You can Google Democracy Now! and find Thursdays show. The little whore Goody isn't going to take on anything that matters. This is the whore who trashed NPR for refusing to carry the commentaries of a death row prisoner and then . . . stopped carrying the commentaries because she was going to be pulled from NPR stations.
So the little whore offered a gossip session: 'Mikey, what do you really think of Lara Logan? You know she's pretty and I'm ugly so I hate her.' Barack dumped Stanley McCrystal (then top US commander in Afghanistan) as a result of Michael Hastings' article. There are two ways you can go with that. Barack -- as he did with Jeremiah Wright -- dumped McCrystal because he will accept nothing less than unquestioning devotion. An argument can be made for that. It may be why McCrystal was fired. But it's also true the big story of the article included something else:
From the start, McChrystal was determined to place his personal stamp on Afghanistan, to use it as a laboratory for a controversial military strategy known as counterinsurgency. COIN, as the theory is known, is the new gospel of the Pentagon brass, a doctrine that attempts to square the military's preference for high-tech violence with the demands of fighting protracted wars in failed states. COIN calls for sending huge number of ground troops to not only destroy the enemy, but to live among the civilian population and slowly rebuild, or build from scratch, another nation's government -- a process that even its staunchest advocates admit requires years, if not decades, to achieve. The theory essentially rebrands the military, expanding its authority (and its funding) to encompass the diplomatic and political sides of warfare: Think the Green Berets as an armed Peace Corps. In 2006, after Gen. David Petraeus beta-tested the theory [C.I. note, Hastrings is wrong,it's a "hypothesis" -- when you don't get science right you aid in the creationinst battle, I didn't enlist to fight against science, Petraeus had a hypothesis, he did not have a theory. Evolution is a theory, it's is not a hypothesis. It has been repeatedly tested. People need to learn the difference between theory and hypothesis and chose the words carefully] during his "surge" in Iraq, it quickly gained a hardcover following of think-tankers, journalists, military officers and civilian officials. Nicknamed "COINdinists" for their cultish zeal, this influential cadre believed the doctrine would be the perfect solution for Afghanistan. All they needed was a general with enough charisma and political savy to implement it.
Enter Petraeus. Now the above excerpt is not buried in the long article, nor is that the only mention of counter-insurgency. It's been spelled "counter-insurgency" for a long, long time. Check the history books. The latest Nazi War Criminals promoting it thought they'd make it one word without the hyphen. It was used to attack the Vietnamese, it was used to attack the Native Americans in what is now the US. In Avatar, James Cameron exposed the hypocrisy and foolishness of the destructive strategy.
He exposed it and that's why Thomas E. Ricks pissed his panties in public and then stuffed down his own mouth. Thomas E. Ricks couldn't take the reality of what his whoring (he's no longer a journalist) and the whoring of others is doing. As they whore and promote counter-insurgency, they promote death and destruction. It's always been that way and it's why each generation has condemned counter-insurgency in the US. However, it's been able to get by with very little criticism for the last years. Partly because whores like Amy Goodman won't question it. The Iraq War passed the seven year mark in March and Whore Amy Goodman has never, EVER, done a report on counter-insurgency.
You think that's an accident. Hell no. The whore won't take on Harvard. Harvard -- specifically the Carr Center -- is where the destruction comes from. It's where Samantha Power and Sarah Sewall and all the other little whores of counter-insurgency tend to spring from. To those who embrace counter-insurgency and those who look the other way, I have no pity for you, I have no sympathy for you. I know that your actions are making the personal hell that you will be confined to and I am very happy about that because, throughout the ages, counter-insurgency has always been found to be unethical. You can pretty it up, you can tart it up, it's still a crime against a people and it always will be.
Goody likes to cover her Guantanamo psychologists, doesn't she? But whore won't go after COIN. In the case, of the Guantanamo doctors, there's no question that crimes took place; however, what really matters is that Goody knows she doesn't have to go up against any powerful institution. Harvard, however, scares Amy Goodman. So the whores who plot the murders and deaths of civilians and cultures get away without their crimes without any tut-tuting from Amy Goodman. The little whore spent twenty minutes -- TWENTY MINUTES -- with Michael Hastings and never asked about counter-insurgency. She did have time to ask about Lara Logan. What a whore. Last week, Timothy Hsia's "Rolling Stone Article's True Focus: Counterinsurgency" was up at the New York Times website:
The Rolling Stone profile on Gen. Stanley A. McChyrstal has made civil-military relations a national debate. But an equally important question raised by the article is the limitations of counterinsurgency, or COIN. The article by Michael Hastings article should not be read simply as a profile of a general but also as an indictment on counterinsurgency and the growing dissatisfaction inside the military with COIN theory and its practice in war (though General McChrystal's replacement on Wednesday, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the leading proponent of counterinsurgency, seemed to indicate there would be no immediate shift away from the strategy).
Those in favor of continued resolve in Afghanistan argue that counterinsurgency is a manpower intensive strategy which requires broadened time horizons, and that it is the approach that will finally correct previous missteps made in Afghanistan. Hastings writes, "COIN … is the new gospel of the Pentagon brass, a doctrine that attempts to square the military's preference for high-tech violence with the demands of fighting protracted wars in failed states."
And Revolution magazine (via World Can't Wait) tackled the real issues in "The Firing of a War Criminal.... And the Criminal War in Afghanistan :"

COIN is meant to address these problems. This strategy, modeled on the genocidal U.S. war in Vietnam, relies more on massive ground troops, in conjunction with air strikes. It involves taking and occupying large swaths of territory, killing insurgents, and then trying to form alliances with reactionary local forces in order to establish pro-U.S. governance. It aims to "win the hearts and minds" of civilians -- hoping they will not aid, abet and join the forces fighting the United States. It is billed as a "kinder, gentler" occupation, but in reality it is no less brutal and murderous -- and NOT in the interests of the people.
COIN is supposed to minimize civilian casualties. But in reality this has hardly been the case. In fact, in 2009, civilian casualties in Afghanistan climbed to their highest number since the start of the war. (UN Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, 2009)
A basic contradiction here is that the U.S. military is an occupying army -- its mission by definition is brutal and murderous and the more it bombs, murders, tortures, etc., the more it alienates the people. A central goal of the U.S. war in Afghanistan is subduing -- by any means necessary -- a population in which most don't want to be under foreign domination. Thousands of people in Afghanistan have experienced the brutality and murder of the U.S. troops and they distrust if not hate the American occupiers and the Afghani flunkies the U.S. put in the government. Night raids, special operations, covert assassinations, extrajudicial killings, drone strikes, the use of military contractors, massive detentions and torture, and all-around terror are embedded in the nature of this imperialist occupation. And every U.S. bombing of a wedding, every massacre of civilians, only fuels anti-U.S. sentiment -- no matter how hard the U.S. tries to "win hearts and minds" by building a few schools.
Last Friday, brought the good news of the possible replacement for US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill. Laura Rozen (Politico) reports today that Hill will be going to Denver and be the Dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at Denver University. It's the perfect post for Hill, he's a mere figurehead and it allows him to continue the tradition Mad Maddie Albright's father started of infecting everyone with Blood Lust. It's a lust, it must be noted, that has taken over the US Congress. In the 2006 campaigning, they said, "Give us one house of Congress, we'll stop the Iraq War." They got both houses, control of both houses and the wars continue to drag on. Andrew Aylward (San Francsico Chronicle) reports the US House of Representatives just voted on YET ANOTHER SUPPLEMENTAL, this one pouring $33 billion more into the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. War Hawk and War Whore David Obey spread for $16.7 billion in domestic spending -- that's what his vote cost. Though we all know David Sirota we'll thump his sunken chest in defense of his mentor and whatever else they were to one another. Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan is no War Hawk and she's gearing up for more peace action:
Last week, when I was preparing to go to New Orleans for the Emergency Meeting for the disaster in the Gulf, my youngest daughter, and mother of my two precious grandbabies, said:
"Mom, why do you all keep doing this stuff when it doesn't work?"
All I had to do was look at my innocent and darling grandbabies -- as darling as this little Afghan baby -- to know why I keep "doing this stuff."
Life is so precious and tenuous and it seems like US foreign policy is becoming more demented as the Gulf of Mexico is being destroyed by greed, incompetence and criminal negligence. And, like the president said at a recent press conference in Toronto, Canada–I am "obsessed" with ending the wars, and I might even add that I have a compulsion to do everything I can to make that happen.
Now, I am getting ready to head back across the country for 16 days of protest in the capital of the Empire.
JUST ADDED: July 3th (Saturday): END THE FED! DC Federal Reserve Building


No more wars for oil and natural resources! No more polluting our sea, air and landfills! BOYCOTT BP!!!
July 4th (Sunday):
– meet in Lafayette Park (North Side of White House) at 1pm
– group to flyer, bullhorn in Lafayette Park and in front of the White House until dark
– evening to post protest pics, videos and articles to Internet


For this week, Peace of the Action will primarily be targeting the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum's Unmanned Aerial Vehicle display (educating the public about the horrific toll UAVs take) and drone manufacturers and lobbyists. (The Free Gaza/Free Palestine action has been inserted into this week because of the recent announcement of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to the White House.)
July 5th (Monday):
– meet in Lafayette Park (North Side of White House) at 9am
– group to protest at White House against coming pre-emptive American/Israeli attack on Iran
– evening to post protest pics, videos and articles to Internet
July 6th (Tuesday):
– meet in Lafayette Park (North Side of White House) at 9am
– group to move together to (TBA) location for FREE PALESTINE! protest until 3pm
– evening to post protest pics, videos and articles to Internet
July 7th (Wednesday):
– meet in Lafayette Park (North Side of White House) at 9am
– group to move together to Congress and protest until 3pm
– evening to post protest pics, videos and articles to Internet
July 8th (Thursday):
– meet in Lafayette Park (North Side of White House) at 9am
– group to move together to General Atomics and protest until 3pm
– evening to post protest pics, videos and articles to Internet
Actually, we have room to squeeze in one more thing, Joan Wile is the founder of Grandmothers Against the War and has written the book Grandmothers Against the War: Getting Off Our Fannies and Standing Up for Peace. She and others will be taking part in a peace celebration Sunday:

Public Reading of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights,
the Declaration of Independence, and Yoko Ono Statement

by Joan Wile, author, "Grandmothers Against the War: Getting Off Our Fannies and Standing Up for Peace" (Citadel Press '08)

There will always be Independence Day parades, picnics, and fireworks, but there is only one Reading of the Constitution, to be held in Strawberry Fields, Central Park, this coming July 4, starting at noon. For the fourth year in a row, famed civil liberties attorney, Norman Siegel, and his friends will read portions of the U.S. Constitution aloud, interspersed with comments from Siegel and other constitutional authorities on the status of certain amendments today. THE PUBLIC IS INVITED TO ATTEND!!

"The 4th of July is a special day for all Americans and New Yorkers. We look forward to reading out loud and discussing our Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence to demonstrate that these unique principles and values should be remembered at this time," said Siegel.

Americans have seen many of our Constitutional rights trampled upon in recent years, and it is Siegel's hope that a review and analysis of the Bill of Rights and some of the important Constitution amendments will encourage people to fight to protect those rights guaranteed in the document which is the basis of our democracy.

Mr. Siegel will be accompanied, as in the three previous years of the Reading, by the granny contingent -- Grandmothers Against the War, the Raging Grannies, and the Granny Peace Brigade, which he defended in 2005 when they were on trial for attempting to enlist in the military at the Times Square recruiting center. It is no surprise that after a six-day trial in criminal court, they were all acquitted, helped by the expert defense of Mr. Siegel and his co-attorney, Earl Ward.

This unique commemoration began 42 years ago when Mr. Siegel started, alone, to read the Constitution to himself every July 4 wherever he was. In 2007, the grannies promoted the idea to him of making it an annual public event in the beautiful and tranquil oasis, Strawberry Fields, donated to New York City by Yoko Ono in memory of her husband, John Lennon.

Many people turned out for the event all three years, and thus began a beautiful and inspiring tradition, which, it is hoped, will continue on indefinitely as a regular Only in New York feature. It is thought that it may be not only a one-of-a-kind July 4 celebration in New York, but perhaps in the entire United States.

Yoko Ono has always been enthusiastic about the Reading and wrote a statement and poem to be read aloud each year in honor of the occasion. It will be read again this year.

DATE: July 4, 2010
TIME: 12 o'clock noon
PLACE: Strawberry Fields, Central Park -- enter park at W. 72nd St.., follow the sign down
a short path


"Time To Gloat - Obama's Failure Of Leadership Leads to Calls For A Real Leader" (Hillary Is 44):

Um, “all style, no substance”. Anyone remember this?:

“President Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform is meeting today as part of its efforts to craft recommendations by December on how best to address America’s red-ink problem. [snip]

Yet the president’s decision to establish a commission to address a problem he described as potentially catastrophic seems odd in light of his earlier criticism of commissions in general. As Ari Shapiro noted on National Public Radio today, the president mocked the notion of commissions to address problems back when he was a candidate.

Here’s Mr. Obama on September 18, 2008, not long after the economic collapse: “Senator McCain’s first answer to this economic crisis was – get ready for it – a commission. That’s Washington-speak for ‘we’ll get back to you later.’”

“Folks, we don’t need a commission to spend a few years and a lot of taxpayer money to tell us what’s going on in our economy,” he continued. “We don’t need a commission to tell us gas prices are high or that you can’t pay your bills. We don’t need a commission to tell us you’re losing your jobs. We don’t need a commission to study this crisis, we need a President who will solve it – and that’s the kind of President I intend to be.”

Um, by Obama’s own flowery words he stands condemned – a failure of leadership. “We’ll get back to you later”.

“Still, as Shapiro notes, most commissions end up having little real world impact – much as then-candidate Obama suggested. (One notable exception is the Sept. 11 commission.) The deficit commission is just one of at least four commissions set up by the Obama White House: there are also commissions on the BP oil leak, nuclear power and potentially creating a museum of the American Latino.”

Hillary Hater Dick Morris does not miss the clues strewn about right in front of everyone, while Big Media wastes time fixated on Obama verbiage. Morris makes several points which we have made earlier and repeatedly: (1) Hillary and Bill coordinate; (2) 2010 will write the tale for 2012:

Thank you and we'll carry that over to Third in some form. C.I. and I were talking about how that was a great catch.

Russians Slough Off U.S. Allegations Of Spying

” (David Greene, Morning Edition, NPR)
During Soviet times, one of the most popular fictional characters was a World War II spy named Stirlitz who infiltrated Hitler's inner circle. Stirlitz was a household name, a character in books, movies and on television.

What's more, Russia's most popular politician — Putin — was a KGB agent posted in East Germany in the 1980s. Putin was known to revere Stirlitz's character, and some Russians see Putin as a real-life version of the suave character.

Earlier this week, listening to NPR as I blogged, I noted the arrest story. I would love to tell you that David Greene’s ‘report’ illuminated it for me but we still know nothing.

Except maybe that Greene finds Russians ‘odd.’ How strange, apparently, that Russians would be captivated by a spy character from the forties well through the eighties. Certainly the West never did that, right?

It’s not like My Favorite Blonde teamed Bob Hope up with a British female spy, right? And it’s not like anyone ever heard of James Bond, right?

Both cultures were fascinated by spies and David Greene could have noted that. A better reporter would have. A better reporter would have stressed the commonalities between the two countries. David Greene, on the other hand, was just interested in making the Russians appear strange and different.

For the record, I have found spies fascinating. Like most Americans, I have. Growing up, a glut of sixties shows surfaced at the end of the 80s or start of the 90s -- surfaced on cable, TV Land, et al -- and I watched them all. They were brand new to me, but I enjoyed them. I was pissed that I Spy (co-starring Bill Cosby) usually started up and then quickly stopped four weeks later as they replaced it with something else. But I watched that, The Man From Uncle, Get Smart and, I’m sure, many others. I can’t wait to see Angelina Jolie’s new film where she plays a spy.

Spies have a long history of popularity in most cultures. They’re hidden, they’re undercover and that is always fascinating to read about or watch.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Thursday, July 1, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, everyone's a target in Iraq, but China sees economic opportunities, the US Congress explores who is in what military grave, and more.
Starting with Iraq's economy. The Economist weighs in with an opinion:
On tightly packed shelves in Iraqi shops it is usually surrounded by rows of imports: Iranian noodles, Turkish milk, German detergent, and so on. With violence receding a bit (but by no means entirely) in the past two years, traders are finding a growing number of customers eager for foreign-made wares, especially without real competition from local ones. Hopes of a spurt in industrial growth rose a year ago when Americans stopped patrolling Iraqi streets, but the much-touted peace dividend has failed to materialise. Most Iraqi factories that functioned before the American invasion, albeit often badly, are still closed. The road to a durable peace and rising prosperity is still blocked.
Adnan al-Reqabi, Hello's general manager, complains he is pumping out only slightly more sauce now than last year and his staff of 90 has not grown. Production slowed but never stopped in the bad old days when looters and militias lurked outside the metal front gate, he says, "and we're still stuck."
Meanwhile Leila Fadel and Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) report that China is taking the Iraqi investment plunge "[. . .] China and a handful of other countries that weren't part of the so-called coalition of the willing are poised to cash in. These countries are expanding their foothold beyond Iraq's oil reserves -- the world's third largest -- to areas such as construction, government services and even tourism, while American companies show little interest in investing here."
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports two Baghdad roadside bombings claimed 1 life and left seven people wounded, another Baghdad roadside bombing left three people injured, another Baghdad roadside bombing claimed one life and wounded twelve people -- the target was Albu Aitha a Nineveh Province sticky bombing wounded a 12-year-old girl and, dropping back to yesterday, an armed clash in Kirkuk led to police Capt Muhammed Ahmed being killed.
Albu Aitha is a Sahwa leader -- also known as "Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq." Today Timothy Williams and Zaid Thaker (New York Times) report on the continued targeting in Iraq, focusing on those attacked for their paid positions: "Some 150 politicians, civil servants, tribal chiefs, police officers, Sunni clerics and members of Awakening Councils have been assassinated throughout Iraq since the election -- bloodshed apparently aimed at heightening turmoil in the power vacuum created by more than three months without a national government." The political stalemate.
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. Yesterday Zahraa Alkhalisi, Caroline Alexander and Kadhim Ajrash (Bloomberg News) reported that the State Of Law and Iraqi National Alliance are stating they have decided on a candidate for prime minister . . . they just aren't sharing with anyone who they've selected. Previous similar statements have been made since March and they haven't panned out. This one may or may not but, at present, there's nothing further than the announcement Alkhalisi, Alexander and Ajrash reported on.
In the elections, Iraqi Christians won five seats. UPI reported Tuesday on a Christian conference held in Mosul hoping "to strengthen the rights of the minority religious community" and those attending "issued an eight-point referendum calling for constitutional amendments in Iraq to strengthen minority rights and for peaceful dialogue between religious and ethnic groups." Al Bawaba lists the eight points:
1) Constitutional amendments to stregthen minority rights and legislation for the implementation of constitutional guarantees;
2) Adequately financed and rationally conceived programs designed to facilitate the voluntary return of the country's refguees;
3) National Commission for Minority Affairs to promote peaceful dialogue between religious and ethnice groups;
4) A University in Nineveh Province;
5) Security for vulnerable minority communities;
6) Fulfillment of Iraq's obligation to respect international human rights instruments;
7) Increased representation of Christians in the federal and state parliaments; and
8) Increased investment in the infrastructure of previously marginalized areas populated mainly by minorities.
The conference took place Saturday, a press release sent to the public e-mail account notes, and was entitled the 2nd All-Iraqi Christian Leadership Conference. From the press release:
Dr. John Eibner, CEO of CSI's U.S. affiliate warned that the prospect of extinction still faces Iraq's ancient Christian community, and would do so until violent persecution ceases and basic human rights are guaranteed in word and deed.
In an interview with Iraq's Mosuli TV, Eibner noted that the considerable progress providing security in Mosul and surrounding Nineveh Province during the past year is reversible.
Since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, nearly half of Iraq's approximately one million Christians have been forced by violence to flee the country, while many other remain in Iraq as destitute Internally Displaced People.
The Governor of Nineveh Province, Athil Al-Najifi, in his role as Conference Patron, announced that outside interference and instrumentalization of minorities in Nineveh is coming to an end, and expressed willingness to establish a mechanism, including all elements of civil society, to defend minority rights.
William Warda, President of the Hammurabi Human Rights Organization (HHRO) claimed that neither the Iraqi nor the American governments are acting with sufficient energy and foresight to end the violent persecution of Iraq's Christians and to create conditions for the return of refugees.
The Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Kirkuk, Louis Sako, urged Christians not to leave Iraq, emphasizing the need for an enduring Christian witness in the country.
The Conference was co-sponsored by CSI and by HHRO.
Meanwhile Catholic Culture notes, "The Iraqi government is asking Western governments not to grant asylum to Christians seeking to leave the country. While the government hopes to discourage emigration in order to "preserve the ethnic and religious diversity of the country," Church leaders argue that the government could better serve that policy by providing security for the Christian minority." Bassel Oudat (Al-Ahram) notes that Syria has "the third largest number of refugees in the world" and that 1948 was when Syria received "the first wave of refugees [. . .] after the creation of of the State of Israel." In terms of Iraq, Syria began hosting Iraqi refugees during the rule of Saddam Hussein and this, of course, increased as a result of the current and ongoing war. Today's wave can "own property and invest in the economy, but they are not given permanent residency and they are required to renew their stay every three months and in some exceptional cases once a year. Iraqi students can attended Syrian schools for free, and are eligible for free healthcare in government hospitals. However, they need work permits for employment. The UNHCR has opened special offices to assist them in all aspects of life. In fact, the UNHCR opened the largest refugee camp in the world in Duma in eastern Damascus." Syria, Lebanon and Jordan have taken in the bulk of Iraqi refugees. Western nations have been especially poor (to put it mildly) in responding to the refugee crisis. Thea Garland (Global Post) reports, "Amid growing controversy over the treatment of refugees, the British government plans to begin forcibly returning child asylum seekers to Afghanistan, possibly as early as August, according to government officials." And if you're thinking, "That's appalling -- but what does she mean about 'growing controversy'" -- what she's referencing is England's decision to 'celebrate' World Refugee Day by forcibly returning Iraqi refugees to Iraq -- between 90 and 120 by some estimates. Not only were they forced to return, but their interviews conducted in England? An Iraqi government official sat in on the questioning. Last month on on Inside Story (Al Jazeera), Iraqi refugee Arevan Mohammed explained what his experience at the United Kingdom Border Agency (Arevan remains in England at present). Excerpt:
Mike Hanna: Let me go back to Arevan Mohammed and we understand that when you had your interview about deportation, there were Iraqi members present during that interview. Is that correct?
Arevan Mohammed: Is that correct? Yes. Basically when I had an interview, an immigration officer denied me access to my representative -- legal representative. I pleaded with him to just let me bring my legal representative with me because you are forcing me to be interviewed with some peoples which you are putting my life in danger with. But basically he denied that. After when I went to the interview I basically told them I live in the UK and I would prefer the interview has to run with an English language. The [Iraqi] Interior Minister diplomat, he became annoyed in some point in the interview and he shouted at me [. . .] "I know what I'm going to do with you by the time you're returning back home and I will put you -- I know where I will put you and how I will treat you." So don't you think that's a threat? In the middle of a democracy, like the country of UK, Iraqi diplomats threatening me by the time I will return back to Iraq, he's simply telling me, I will put you in hidden prison or secret prison and I will kill you later on."
That's appalling and England got away with it. Very few bothered to call out. The UNHCR did call it out. Many others stayed silent. It's not at all surprising that having gotten away with that, England's not wanting to dump -- that is the term -- refugee children into war zones. NPR's Deborah Amos is the author of Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East which addresses the refugee crisis. She's written a new piece on another issue, "Iraq's TV Screens Reflect Sectarian Divide" (Vermont Public Radio):
Television has become essential to reaching Iraqi audiences. More than half the population, nearly 16 million viewers, turns to TV for information, more than any other medium, including newspapers, radio or the Internet.
Iraqis watch television at home, while smoking hubbly-bubbly in Baghdad cafes, while gazing up from plates of lamb and blackened tomatoes over lunch, and on small screens behind the grocery shop cashier.
Which channels are they watching? The choice is often an indication of sectarian identity.
The sectarian divide that drove the country to devastating violence from 2005 to 2007 has evolved into a political struggle, with satellite television ownership representing the power players.
There are Sunni TV, Shiite TV and Kurdish TV, with editorial policies that reflect the biases of each group. Even state television, modeled after the U.S. Public Broadcasting Service, has evolved into a news outlet that reflects the views of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and is known in Iraq as "Maliki TV."
"I'm angry. Period," declared US House Rep Ike Skelton yesterday. "Anger is usually not a useful emotion -- particularly here on Capitol Hill; however, in light of the recent revelations about the management of Arlington National Cemetery, I am just downright angry. Arlington Cemetery is our nation's most hallowed ground. It is reserved as the final resting place of our heroic warriors. Management ineptitude and neglect have resulted in a web of errors. How in the world could this tragedy be allowed to happen?"
Skelton was bringing to order the US House Armed Services Committee, which he chairs, for a full hearing into the problems at Arlington. What problems? We'll drop back to the June 11th snapshot:
In the United States, the Arlington National Cemetery scandal continues to garner (deserved) attention. Richard Sisk (New York Daily News) sums it up very well in two sentences, "They didn't arrive at Arlington National Cemetery as unknown soldiers. The Army just treated them that way." Julian E. Barnes (Los Angeles Times) offers this overview, "The inspector general, Lt. Gen. R. Steven Whitcomb, found one case involving personnel killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. In that instance, two grave markers had been switched. Other cases involved areas of the cemetery used to inter personnel from earlier conflicts. [. . .] The extent of the problems at one of the nation's most venerated memorials was not entirely clear. In some cases, grave markers had been knocked over and not properly replaced, the report said. Other reported cases involved poor record-keeping. Whitcomb said there was no indication of mistakes at the point of burial." Michael E. Ruane (Washington Post) adds, "The investigators found that these and other blunders were the result of a 'dysfunctional' and chaotic management system at the cemetery, which was poisoned by bitterness among top supervisors and hobbled by antiquated record-keeping." Those looking for a strong audio report on the story should refer to The Takeaway where Salon's Mark Benjamin is one of the guests and Dorothy Nolte (her sister is buried into Arlington Cemetery).
That's the most recent problem. And apparently we're supposed to pretend this is the first problem of that kind in recent times. It's not. Dropping back to the September 24, 2009 snapshot for that day's US House Veterans Committee's Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs hearing chaired by US House Rep John Hall. That hearing, US House Rep Steve Buyer provided a visual display of various national cemeteries and noted the good and the very, very bad such as dingy, dirty headestones of which he commented, "This should not matter that this is the marker of someone who died in the Civil War. It shouldn't matter. It shouldn't matter if it was someone who died in the Revolution or someone who died that's interned in Mexico City." The weeds, the lack of appropriate care to the grounds, the appalling conditions were all in the visuals projected for all to see by Buyer in that hearing. This is from his exchanged with the Dept of Interior's Katherine Stevenson.
US House Rep Steve Buyer: Let me ask you something, Ms. Stevenson, tell the committee here, what are your needs? What do you believe your needs are to raise the standard within the Dept of Interior?
Katherine Stevenson: The report that I just mentioned [in opening statement] will have some recommendations for funding and it will have recommendations for increased treatment of, uh, cleaning and so on.
US House Rep Steve Buyer: What are your goals?
Katherine Stevenson: Our goals are the same as the goals set by the National Cemetery Administration. We have the same three standards, height and alignment, clean stones and level grave sides as they do.
US House Rep Steve Buyer: How many cemeteries did you go to in the review?
Katherine Stevenson: Four.
US House Rep Steve Buyer: How many do you have in your system?
Katherine Stevenson: Fourteen.
US House Rep Steve Buyer: Why wouldn't you go to all fourteen cemeteries?
Katherine Stevenson: We wanted to do it as quickly as we could and get some sense of uh what was going on -- in the ones that you mentioned, for example, Andersonville was one of them. So we took ones that were fairly close to Andersonville.
US House Rep Steve Buyer: Did you go to -- what are the four that you went to?
Katherine Stevenson: Andersonville, Andrew Johnson, Fort Donaldson and Stones River.
US House Rep Steve Buyer: Andrew Johnson? Is that the -- that's the one in Tennessee? That's the one in Tennessee? [Stevenson nods.] Have you sent inquiries out to the other ten?
Katherine Stevenson: No, sir. No more than usual. I mean, we-we talk to them a fair amount.
US House Rep Steve Buyer: Alright. You've got fourteen. Alright, there's a disconnect here. I'm not going -- I'm not in a fight with you here, okay? I want us to raise the standards, so when this review -- this report -- comes out, I'm going through it.
Katherine Stevenson: Good.
US House Rep Steve Buyer: The light's on you, okay? So what I -- what I -- My immediate sense here is is when I think the Secretary tells me he's going to do a review, that it's going to be of all 14 cemeteries. I don't want something done quick and easy. Alright? I want this to be done correctly. And if your sense is and your counsel to us is that four is going to be sufficient well [shrugs] that's fine but is what you're asking me is, "Steve, just pause here. When you get the report, you're going to be satisfied?"
Katherine Stevenson: [speaking very slowly] You know, you can choose a photograph in any of these cemeteries and [picking up speed] any, I bet, of the veteran cemeteries that are managed by other people and we will have some scenes that are perfect and some scenes that are not. And I know that that's true in the cemeteries that we manage. We are trying to do our very best for the veterans and for their burial places.
US House Rep Steve Buyer: Alright. Well your standard of very best doesn't meet the standards established by others. So we're going to take your standard of very best and we're going to raise it. We're going to raise your very best even higher. Okay? And, uh, I didn't go out and selectively choose to find what I think would be the worst photograph. It's easy to go out there and take that photo. And I was extremely upset the day I saw a veteran being buried in a cemetery like I saw. It's one thing -- it's one thing, you know, we've all been to cemeteries and we've seen the conditions of some of them but to think that this was an active cemetery under the stewardship of the federal government was extremely disheartening. I-I-I'm going to pause here, Mr. Chairman, give it back to you under the time.
That the committee yesterday was angry was not doubtful. But the Committee was never going to go to rough. Secretary of the Army John McHugh was the main witness. McHugh is not only a former member of Congress, he's only been on the job since September. So less than a year later he's appearing before the Congress that knows where he was before he was the Secretary and that he stepped forward with the information on the problem very early on and did not attempt to bury it. This exchange was fairly typical in terms of the cordial relations between the Committee and the witness but it did also bring up some larger issues.
US House Rep Solomon Ortiz: Secretary McHugh, so good to see you again and I want to welcome you to your old committee. And with you at the helm there, I know that things are going to work out. [Lt] General [Steven] Whitcomb, it's always a pleasure to have you back here. And thank you for your honest and frank dialogue. You know with a significant number of mismarked and unmarked graves, what is the Army doing to reach out to the families of these deceased warriors, service members? And what is the Army doing to properly account for this unmarked or mismarked graves to accurately mark the sites? And the report only focuses on portions of the Arlington National Cemetery. Do you think that this problem exists in other areas of the cemetery? And, you know, I know we focus on Arlington. But you know we have cemeteries many places: Moroco, Africa, Belgium and I'm just wondering. I hope this is not a widespread problem that we have but, if it does, I know that you're going to look at it and take care of it. So maybe you can respond to my question. Thank you, thank you so much.
Sec of the Army John McHugh: Thank you, Congressman. As I -- As I tried to lay out beforehand, I appreciate the chance to expand upon it a bit. Our first objective is the 211 graves that are identified with map discrepancies. And we are currently working through those, as I believe I mentioned earlier, we have resolved 27 of those. Those will continue and they have to this point of errors and mismarking on the so-called "master map." We will each and every day match records through parent record system -- the map, the burial cards that record the funeral and the soldier, sailor, marine, coast guard or family member involved against headstones where they exist. And where, for example, the map shows a grave and yet there's no record or headstone. What we have done is actually unearthed, through a set procedure and determined in each one of those thus far that indeed the map was in error, that there were no remains in those graves and those graves will be reclaimed and used for appropriate purposes and a fallen hero sometime in the future. After that, we intend to proceed in all likelihood chronologically most recent [to] back. I think those who have lost loved ones in recent years are more concerned and aware of this. But at the end of the day, I should tell you, that it is our intent upon implementation of a truly viable computer and IT system to run matches on all 330,000 of those graves, and where we find similar discrepancies, begin the process of validating or finding out what the issues are with each-each one of those discrepancies. As to reaching out to the loved ones, on the first day we established -- first day of the announcement, when I released the Inspector General's report, we established a call center, we announced the number for that call center and, as of the last count I had available, we've had 867 calls into that center -- of those we have resolved 169 of those cases. And as we go forward, we are contacting each and every one of those -- of those persons who called and expressed concern to update them. And we'll continue to do that until we can work through the entire -- the entire list. We are not at this time calling people who have not expressed concern to revalidate that, indeed, they don't have an issue. For the vast majority of family members, they feel -- our conjecture is -- that they feel confident. But where we do have expressions of concern, we work with those people directly and we will continue to do that until we've answered every concerned loved one's question.
US House Rep Solomon Ortizi: My time is up now, but my other question was going to be: As soon as you finish with this, you don't think that the other cemeteries that we have in other foreign countries have any such problems like we encountered here at Arlington?
Secretary of the Army John McHugh: Well I can't possibly know that. I can tell you this, they'd be -- those graves and cemeteries are operated by and large by the Veterans Administration's National Battle Monuments Commission. I can guarantee you they will take lessons learned from our experiences and also apply them. The Chairman of the Battle Monuments Commission Max Cleland has agreed to support us -- as I mentioned in my opening statement -- in creating an advisory and oversight committee. So he will be actually part of our procees. Being the great leader that he is I know that he will take our experiences and utilize them to whatever end is necessary within their purview.
US House Rep Mac Thornberry asked a question that's popped up in several e-mails to this site since the scandal broke. Thornberry wanted to know about an unearthing. How did you identify the remains? McHugh testified that the outside of the coffins are marked with the names of the fallen. And, in addition, this can be tested with DNA. "We have not ruled out the possibilty of opening caskets."
Stying with the topic of the US Congress, US House Rep Biill Delahunt's office released the following Tuesday:

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Rep. Bill Delahunt announced today that he would oppose further funding for military operations in Afghanistan.
Delahunt, who serves as the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, said the following:
I believe that the time has come for a new approach in Afghanistan. Rather than the massive military and nation-building endeavor currently underway -- that continues to produce dubious results, according to the latest report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction -- the United States and its allies should focus our energy on combating al Qaeda and its ideology. Most importantly, emphasis should be placed on refuting al Qaeda's twisted perversion of Islam through public diplomacy, development, and other changes in policy that encourage ordinary Muslims to reject the fanatics who are trying to hijack their religion.
Until there is such a shift in strategy, I cannot support any further funding for the war in Afghanistan.
I have not come to this decision easily. For years, I supported the effort in Afghanistan. It was one of my reasons for opposing the Iraq war. That conflict undeniably distracted from Afghanistan, as I predicted at the time. The previous Administration took its eye off the ball, prioritizing its obsession with Saddam Hussein over the pursuit of al Qaeda. The invasion of Iraq actually strengthened al Qaeda by convincing many in the Muslim world that the U.S. is – as Osama bin Laden falsely claims – at war with Islam. That further undermined our efforts to defend America and bring to justice those who actually attacked us on 9/11.
Furthermore, there is the painful reality that our economy is still in serious trouble, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq come at an enormous cost to the American taxpayer – close to $1 trillion, according to some estimates. And of course, we have already lost over 1,000 Americans in the war in Afghanistan. Thousands more have been injured, many so badly that they will require care for the rest of their lives. There will never be an appropriate price tag for the suffering they and their families have had to go through. But if we are to be serious about fiscal discipline, we must reconsider the costs of this war and whether this is the best way to use our military in the defense of our nation.
I want to be clear: I am not proposing that the United States abandon the Afghan people. We have a moral obligation to help them. I am particularly concerned about the fate of women in Afghanistan, and believe that we cannot allow them to suffer as they did underneath the Taliban. But the fact of the matter is that our current policy is not succeeding in bettering their lives.
Likewise, I am not na├»ve about the dire threat to the United States posed by al Qaeda. Unlike Saddam Hussein, al Qaeda really are out to kill us, and simply withdrawing from Afghanistan will not appease their hatred. Osama bin Laden and his cohorts must be brought to justice – or destroyed. But we have to be smarter in how we combat them. Our highest priority must be convincing the Muslim world that al Qaeda is a cancer that Muslims themselves need to eradicate. We should redouble our efforts to that end.
As I said, I have not come to this decision lightly. I continue to support President Obama's overall foreign policy approach, because I am convinced that he is succeeding in changing global perceptions of America in ways that will ultimately make our country safer and more prosperous. But I no longer believe that his current strategy in Afghanistan will be successful. President Obama must use the opportunity presented by the change of commanders in Afghanistan – a move that I support wholeheartedly – to adjust course. Until that happens, I will oppose further funding for the war in Afghanistan.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Get rid of Harry

It is time for Harry Reid to go. The Senate needs new leadership. He's managed nothing as Senate Majority Leader. He's a complete failure.

We get that he never managed to even herd his cats to the degree that Nancy Pelosi did, right?

She got some movement on Iraq. Much more than he did. The Senate doesn't do a damn thing. And that goes to the fact that they're leaderless.

Reid doesn't represent core Democratic values and never should have been made the leader.

That's it. Kat and I are writing about the Kagan hearings for the gina & krista round-robin. Wally offered to fill in for me here (he's filling in for Kat) and I probably should have taken him up on it.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, June 30, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the political stalemate may be ending, the Iraq Inquiry releases a number of previously classified documents, the US Congress hears about the ethically challenged Office of General Counsel for the VA, and more.

Iraq Inquiry continued today in London. Today's big news wasn't the witnesses offering testimony before the Inquiry chaired by John Chilcot, it was documents the Inquiry released. Sarah Gordon (Sky News) explains that the Inquiry released "classified documents" which included England's then-Attorney General Peter Goldsmith offering his legal advice with regards to a proposed war with Iraq including, "I remain of the view that the correct legal interpretation of resolution 1441 is that it does not authorise the use of military force without a further determination by the Security Council." Paul Waugh (London Evening Standard) adds, "The Cabinet Office published Lord Goldsmith's first draft of his legal advice and confirmed that he had serious doubts about the legality of the conflict without a fresh UN mandate." If it's getting complicated, the Inquiry wanted to release the document, it was classified and they needed approval from the Cabinet Office. Civil Service head Gus O'Donnell, in a June 25th letter to the Inquiry, explained why the papers could be released:

Nonetheless, the Iraq Inquiry was established with the purpose of learning lessons from how decidions were made and which actions were taken in the run-up to conflict, during the conflict and in its aftermath. The question of the legal base for military action and how the advice that led to the Government's view on this developed is consequently a central part of the Inquiry's work. In this light, I have noted the extent to which the form Attorney General covered these issues in detail during this evidence to the Inquiry on 27 January.

Peter Biles (BBC News) explains, "The 27 pages, each one with the words 'secret' or 'confidential' struck out, were distributed without ceremony." These are the previously classified documents which the Inquiry made public today:

30.07.02 Goldsmith advice to Prime Minister re: Iraq
18.10.02 AGO note of the Goldsmith/Straw telecom
18.10.02 FCO note of the Goldsmith/Straw telecom
11.11.02 AGO note of the Goldsmith/Powell telecom
19.12.02 AGO note of meeting at No.10
14.01.03 Attorney General's draft advice to Prime Minister
30.01.03 Goldsmith note to Prime Minister
12.02.03 Goldsmith draft advice
26 March 2003 - Minute from Goldsmith to the PM entitled "Iraq authorisation for an interim administration"

Appearing before the Inquiry
January 27th, Goldsmith agreed that in the days right before the invasion, he flipped his legal advice but he denied that he did so as a result of pressure from Blair and others. His denial may have been the weakest thing to be paraded before the Inquiry since it began. It was in that hearing that Chair John Chilcot publicly expressed "frustration" over the refusal of the government (then led by Gordon Brown) to allow the Inquiry to release documents which were classified. Now that the documents are released and Goldsmith's testimony appears even shakier when examining those documents, that "frustration" may have been a subtle warning to Goldsmith i.e., "Be careful what you say because we have the documents and are currently unable to release them but that may change." Change? Goldsmith based his objection on war without a second resolution on the law. When he flipped days before the invasion, he didn't look to the law. He declared that his decision was based upon a game starting and his need to choose whose side he wanted to be on. Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) observes, "At first sight, the most significant document is a memo from Goldsmith to Blair dated 30 January 2003 making this point. The next day, it has been revealed, Blair told George Bush that Britain was committed to the war." Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) works through the new documents and the old one and focuses mainly on Blair's January 31, 2003 trip to DC where he met with Bush and Bush informed him that there would be no second resolution. Blair raised no objections and did not even mention Goldsmith's legal opinion which was that without a second United Nations resolution, the war would be illegal. He instead, according to documents, "said he was solidly with the president." Rosa Prince (Telegraph of London) adds that "Lord Goldsmith was repeatedly told that his formal advice about the legality of an invasion was not welcome" and that " Lord Goldsmith repeatedly made clear that he had concerns about the legality of an invasion." Tony Blair was the Prime Minister of England when the illegal war began. Minutes to a December 2002 meeting were released (the Iraq War begins in March 2003 with the invasion) and they quote Blair's Chief of Staff Jonathan Powell. Gordon Brown, Mohammed Abbas and Michael Roddy (Reuters) quote Powell stating, "At the other extreme, the U.S. becomes(s) frustrated with the UN process and decide(s) to take military action regardless, i.e. without UN support. There would be no question of the UK supporting military action in the event of (this) scenario."

Today the Inquiry heard from
Michael Hastings Jay who was the Permanent Under Secretary, the UK's Mission to the UN legal counsellor Ian MacLeod and the Legal Counsellor, Legal Secretariat to the Law offices from 2002 to 2005 Cathy Adams (link goes to transcript and video options -- unless otherwise noted, all quotes come from the transcript).

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: You became Permanent Secretary in January 2002 and that was a moment with regard to Iraq where it was becoming clear that the approach of the United States Government to the issue was changing. At the end of January, President Bush gave his Axis of Evil speech, for example, and other indications were coming through different channels that the Americans were beginning to think very seriously about possible actions against Iraq. At this time, when you came in, say around February 2002, what was the impression that you and your colleagues had in the Foreign Office of American policy, the American approach to Iraq?

Michael Hastings Jay: We though that there was clearly serious concern about Iraq. There was clearly, in the United States, a growing sense that there was an opportunity to deal with Iraq and I think those of us in the Foreign Office thinking about these things were concerened that this was going to be a very difficult issues for us to handle. I don't think at that stage we were on the same line really, as the United States were.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: What do you recall as being the reactions of the then Prime Minister [Blair] and the then Foreign Secretary [Jack Straw] to these indications, that Washington was moving Iraq up to the top of the priority list and maybe really seeing Iraq as the target for action?

Michael Hastings Jay: I can speak more of the Foreign Secretary than I can for the Prime Minister. The Foreign Secretary's view as -- I think the Foreign Secretary's reaction to the Axis of Evil speech, which was criticised, as far as I remember, by President Bush, was that this was for domestic political reasons as much as for foreign policy reasons. I don't think at that stage the prospect of a conflict, as it later turned out, was very much at the top of our minds. I should say that, at the beginning of 2002, I was myself getting myself into the job. Iraq was one of a large number of issues I was dealing with. It was not at the top of my own agenda at the beginning of 2002. I was travelling a lot, I was meeting everybody, I was getting to know what the job involved, and Iraq at that stage was a difficult issue but no more difficult than many of the issues that we were dealing with.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: By the middle of that year, after you had been in the job for half a year, where would Iraq have stood on the Foreign Office's list of priority issues?

Michael Hastings Jay: I think it rose up during the first half of 2002. It rose up the agenda, but it would be wrong to think it was always at the top of the agenda.

Asked about Blair and Bush, Michael Hastings Jay declared, "I had the impression that he [Blair] had his own views on how he should deal with his relationship with President Bush. It was not how I would have dealt with President Bush, but I was not Prime Minister and there were things said and things done and maybe commitments half-given which I would not myself has given, but that was a part of his relationhip with President Bush. That was how he felt, as I understood it, he was best able to influence President Bush."

Committee Member Martin Gilbert brought up Jeremy Greenstock who told the Inquiry that he had talked to Michael Hastings Jay about the possibility that England might go to war without any UN resolution at all -- not even 1441 which the UN did pass (and it allowed weapons inspectors back into Iraq). MHJ stated he did not remember such a conversation and that the possibility wasn't being addressed. After the UN Security Council passed 1441, Greenstock told the Committee that there was strong debate as to whether a second resolution might weaken 1441 and whether or not a second resolution should be pursued. Michael Hatings Jay agreed there was debate over whether or not to seek a second resolution. He also stated that talk of a timetable -- particularly by the US -- influenced the decision to go to war.

Michael Hastings Jay: It created a deadline in the sense that we kept hearing that it would get too hot around March/Aprli and tanks wouldn't work and therefore, we had to have a decision on the diplomatic process, whether it would continue or not by then. I never fully understood that argument. It seemed to me that tanks operate in whatever condition in whatever part of the world and that they have done over the years, but it was clearly a view strongly felt and strongly put and did act, without any question at all, as a constraint on the negotiating process.

Shortly after that MHJ would declare that decisions were also made based on the belief or possibility that Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons -- and he stopped, noted the look on Committee Member Lawrence Freedman's face, stated "I withdraw that" and corrected himself with "chemical biological weapons." Why the slip? There were no nuclear weapons. (Though Bully Boy Bush did love to refer to "a mushroom cloud.") Why the slip? Did his department sit around fantasizing? This was a key player in the leadup to the Iraq War and it's rather distressing that, had Freedman not had an expression of disbelief ("A little too far," he told MHJ) than MHJ might have continued down that fanciful -- if fact-free -- line.

Committee Member Usha Prashar pursued his statement that his department needed "a clear statement from the Attorney General on the legality of the war" and she wanted to know when that statement was conveyed. Michael Hastings Jay appeared to stumble for an answer and began falling back on meetings -- listing them -- informal that he had already gone over which really had nothing to do with when they got the legal verdict from the AG. His verbal gymanstics ended with, "I could not see how the staff we had in the region could be -- how they could be acting, if they were not doing so on the basis of a legal -- legal advice which said that what they were doing, the support they were giving the troops was in accordance with international law." In other words, though Michael Hastings Jay testified that he and his department needed a statement from the AG, in fact, no statement was conveyed as to the legality of the war and MHJ surmised it was legal by the fact that British staff remained in the region. Pressed on this topic of legality by Committee Member Lynne, MHJ insisted, "I'm not a lawyer. I didn't see it as my job to question the advice that lawyers were giving."

MHJ then went into Drama Queen mode as Committee Member Gilbert turned to the post-war. They wanted to influence, MHJ whined, but "there was a pretty incoherent state of mind in the United States administration at that point." If you dozed off in the midst of the Drama, he returned to the point, "But it was a rather incoherent state in Washington at that time, and it was not -- and we were, of course, in any way the junior partner." It's so rarely any British official's fault. This one today wanted to whine about the "incoherent state" -- seriously? Because if a government is in an incoherent state -- here's the obvious question -- why did you partner up with them for war?

There was nothing more, Michael Hastings Jay wanted the Committee to know, that he and others could have done. Through several rounds, he babbled about that apparently embracing victimhood status as if it were a full length mink, tugging it around his shoulders. Around the point that Committee Member Roderic Lyne was explaining to him that "we" would be the British government and he was replying back that "-- it was not, after all, the United Kingdom that was running the show. It was the Americans basically running it," that you knew he wasn't much for accountability. Like so many, he blamed Paul Bremer. Who knew Paul Bremer was so all powerful? Bremer screwed up -- on his own and on the orders of the White House. We don't defend Bremer here. Except when foreign governments want to act as if they had to take orders from him. The US and the UK were the lead partners in the illegal war. But to hear the UK officials tell it, they'd rather have been painting their nails but the boys drove by in the jalopy and said "Let's go get burgers!" and there wasn't anything else to do, so they just went along.
Andrew Sparrow is live blogged the Inquiry for the Guardian.

Yesterday's witnesses included former British Ambassador to France John Holmes.
Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) reports:Tony Blair repeatedly blamed Jacques Chirac, the then French president, for the failure to get a second security council resolution -- something most senior government lawyers, including at first the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, agreed was needed if the invasion was to be lawful. The claim was repeated in evidence to the Chilcot inquiry, notably by Jack Straw, foreign secretary at the time of the invasion. Straw pointed to a television interview Chirac gave on 10 March 2003, less than two weeks before the invasion.Straw claimed Chirac had made it clear France would not back a fresh UN resolution "whatever the circumstances". Straw added: "I don't think there was any ambiguity." Asked what his view was of Chirac's intervention, Sir John Holmes, British ambassador to France at the time, replied: "The words are clearly ambiguous." Holmes and his refuting of previous claims and testimony is the big story for the British media from yesterday's public testimony; however, Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) observes, "Today's papers have quite limited coverage of yesterday's resumption of public hearings, which is no doubt an indicator that media interest has waned since the election." Chris' report on yesterday's hearing includes this:On the issue of why attorney general Lord Goldsmith could not, as he claimed, have asked the French directly about the history of negotiating UN resolution 1441, Holmes said: "I don't see why he couldn't have done." This direct answer exposes Goldsmith more clearly than ever to the charge that his trip to Washington in early 2003 was not an objective fact finding mission but a one-sided process of having his arm twisted in a particular direction. Holmes made very clear what has always been obvious, that the French were unwilling to sign up to a second UN resolution in early 2003 because it was clear that the US was going to go to war imminently come what may and that they and Britain were simply looking for legal cover. He made clear that if Britain had been able to offer a different timetable, the French could well have supported a new resolution, albeit one that did not authorise war without a further assessment of Iraq's compliance. The other news of yesterday's hearing includes a written statement the Inquiry was given. The Telegraph of London reports, "Paul Kernaghan, Association of Chief Police Officers lead on international affairs from 2000 to 2008, revealed today that he prohibited British police seconded to train their Iraqi counterparts from using the Land Rovers." Ruth Barnett (Sky News -- link has text and video) reports on yesterday's other witness offering oral testimony before the Inquiry, "Douglas Brand, former deputy chief constable of South Yorkshire Police, criticised the lack of support he received, including the Foreign Office's failure to give him bodyguards for his first three weeks in Iraq. He also highlighted a missed opportunity to model Iraqi intelligence on British lines because the UK would not send out an experienced Special Branch manager."

Turning to Iraq,
Zahraa Alkhalisi, Caroline Alexander and Kadhim Ajrash (Bloomberg News) report that the State Of Law and Iraqi National Alliance are stating they have decided on a candidate for prime minister . . . they just aren't sharing with anyone who they've selected. Other things not shared are Iraq's history with students. Tim Arango (New York Times) reports the schools and the colleges don't teach about Saddam Hussein and they officially avoid the Iraq War but:When the war is mentioned in class, some teachers change the subject quickly. But others see a need to encourage discussion, even if it is beyond the bounds of what they are told to teach. "Sometimes we need to have a discussion about it," said Wasan Mahmod, a teacher at Al Ahrar, a secondary school for girls in Baghdad. "When I mention the American invasion, I say occupation, not liberation." Hutham Hussein, who teaches modern European history, said, "Where there is a discussion of colonization, I bring up the American invasion." "We speak about French colonization, British colonization," she said. "Why not talk about the American colonization?"

Violence always gets 'shared' (with those not living in the Green Zone).


Reuters reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which left two people injured, a Mosul car bombing which claimed the life of 1 police officer and injured another and a Mosul roadside bombing which injured a prisoner being transported by the police. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing targeting Tha'ir al Zubaidi ("senior media officer at the Parliament") who was not wounded,


Reuters reports a Baghdad armed clash in which 2 police officers were killed and a third wounded. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an armed attack on a Falluja medical compound 1 police officer and his two brothers were killed while his wife was injured, one assailant was shot and -- once in the hospital -- he detonated a bomb and wounded four people.

Reuters reports 1 corpse (female, "signs of torture") discovered in Kirkuk. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Sabri Abu Adnan's corpse was discovered in Basra (he was kidnapped Sunday).

Moving over to the United States.

Chair Harry Mitchell: You mentioned at the very beginning, all the great satisfaction reports you've received from your clients. Who are your clients? They're not veterans are they?

Will Gunn: Sir, we do not directly serve veterans, you're correct.

Chair Harry Mitchell: Who are your clients?

Will Gunn: Ultimately my client is the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. And so as the department's top lawyer, my job is to make sure that the Secretary is well armed.

How every nice for Gunn. Chair Mitchell had to provide that walk through for clarity and it may have been necessary (my opinion is that it was necessary) because Gunn's opening remarks appeared to portray his work as "service" and "continued service" to veterans when, no, that is not who he serves. Along with confusing that aspect -- apparently deliberately -- Gunn wanted to declare that their "customers" had rated them 4.75 on a scale (with 5.0) being the highest in customer feedback. But those customers, as Chair Mitchell established, were not veterans.

Chair Mitchell was holding a Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing to provide some sort of evaluation of the Office of General Counsel -- of which Gunn is a part. The hearing was made up of two panels. On the first panel was attorney Matthew B. Tully (
Tully Rinckey PPLC) who painted a disturbing picture. Disturbing but at least two Subcommittee members (not the Chair) grabbed onto the safety line of a 'few bad apples.'

Tully allowed that the problems did appear to be from a few bad apples but cautioned that these apples have been in the OGC for some time. Tully outlined how the law was broken (that's my judgment, not his, he was very cautious and calibrated in his testimony). For example, altering the date on an official government document. That is breaking the law -- altering an official government document is breaking the law and that's before you get into the intent which was to 'protect' the VA. Ranking Member David Roe pointed out that in a court case, altering a medical document would automatically get the case kicked out.Tully agreed and pointed out that there was no ethics check, that there was no place within the OGC for people to report problems. He painted a portrait of a legal arm with no oversight and no accountability.

From Tully's opening remarks:

For example, a fellow attorney had witnesses privately badgered by a VA lawyer prior to a hearing. A VA lawyer threatened disciplinary action against VA employee witnesses if their testimony did not conform to the agency's desires. In my firm's dealing with the VA's Office of General Counsel, VA lawyers had utilized numerous litigation tactics that would have been -- or would have made the lawyers for BP, AIG or Enron proud. In one case earlier this year, our client was demoted based on charges of misconduct and our firm appealed to the -- appealed the VA decision to the Merit Systems Protection Board The VA lawyer in this case failed to respond to our discovery request and even our motion to compel discovery. This unprofessional conduct translated into greater financial cost for our client due to the VA's tactics.

Gunn was wrong about who his client was. As Tully would explain on the first panel (possibly Gunn was snoozing or texting?), the OGC serves the tax payers, its responsibility is to fairness and to the tax payers. It's refusal to grasp that is why it gets into so much trouble (this is me not Tully) by taking sides in battles they shouldn't take sides in and changing official records which just cannot do.

Matthew Tully: The VA attorneys have an obligation not to the manager that is involved in the employment dispute but to the tax payers and to the government as a whole. I am a legal mercenary. I go to the highest bidder and I do my best to protect the people that retain me. The VA attorneys do very similar things but that's not their job. Their job is to protect the tax payers. Their job is to make sure justice is done. And routinely in these EEOC cases, in particular, they spend a great deal of time trying to protect the manager that allegedly -- and has often been proven -- to have engaged in unlawful conduct versus doing what was right for the person who was subjected to injustice.

Mitchell asked about financial penalities for this behavior and Tully explained that there was none but if this were a federal court manner -- not an OGC -- he could face fines and disbarment.

Tully was panel one. Panel two was the OGC's General Counsel Will Gunn. If the above didn't disturb you, this might. The discussions? Completely knew to Gunn who told Mitchell he found out about these problems just an hour before the hearing. Apparently, the OGC told him he'd be testifying but forgot to tell him what about? Is that the story he's gong for? If so it makes him look even more out of touch of an out of control agency. For someone who only learned of the problems an hour before the hearing, he must have spent at least 40 minutes writing that opening statement. Or, are we to believe, he just has 'customer feedback scores' and other data memorized? (Why did he need to look at the paper in front of him repeatedly if that is the case?) More importantly, you're not allowed to make an opening statement if you haven't submitted it ahead of time. You can't show up day of the hearing and say, "Here's my prepared remarks.'' You have to submit them to the committee or subcomittee ahead of time. Is no one supposed to notice that either?

We'll note this exchange.

Chair Harry Mitchell: You know there have been times in the past where the VA frequently declines to produce a witness either requested to testify at hearings or brief Subcommittees. And the OGC's guidance often gets cited as the reason for not producing witnesses at either hearings or briefings. Two questions. What role does OGC play in the VA deciding who either testifies or briefs the Subcommittee and does the OGC provide an opinion when the VA refuses to produce certain information as requested by Congress or through the public?

Will Gunn: Sir, with respect to the first issue in terms of, uh, whether or not OGC plays a role in who will testify, I will say "no." We do not see ourselves as having a role with respect to that. In terms of the second issue, we do play a role in terms of providing to requests for documents and our advice is focused on two things. What can we, uh, provide, what is permissable? And secondly, what are we required to provide?

So he opens as the big veteran and big veteran defender, citing military code and how he has to be his best and he's going to make those civilians under him be their best and blah blah blah but it really all comes down to "what are we required to provide?" Not the bluster he was shining on in his opening remarks.

The Republican side of the House Veterans Affairs Committee issued the following this month (it was e-mailed today to the public account, we would have noted it June 15th if we'd had it then):

For more information, contact: Brian Lawrence (202) 2225-3527
Washington, D.C. -- In recognition of his longstanding dedication and commitment to serving veterans, the
Blinded American Veterans Foundation (BAVF) today presented its prestigious George 'Buck' Gillispie Congressional Award to Congressman Steve Buyer.
The Gillispie is awarded to Senators and Representatives who, in the opinion of the BAVF, have made significant contributions toward furthering the foundation's efforts on behalf of sensory disabled American veterans. Buyer, who serves as Ranking Member on the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, received BAVF's award during the foundation's annual Flag Week celebration.
"I am deeply honored and humbled to receive recognition from this esteemed group of veterans who have sacrificed so much in the name of liberty," Buyer said. "It has been my privilege to serve the men and women who have defended our nation and freedom we cherish. For me, there is no higher calling."
In 2006, when he served as Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Buyer secured support to direct funds to conduct a series of tests and evaluations on combat helmets to improve protections against blasts from improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) associated with IEDs are among the leading cause of impaired vision due to damage to the occipital area of the brain. More than half of all TBI patients treated at Walter Reed Army Hospital and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center in Palo Alto, California have vision dysfunction.

Buyer, himself a veteran, is a 1980 distinguished military graduate of The Citadel and a career Army Reserve officer who continues to serve with the Judge Advocate General Corps as a colonel. He has received numerous military honors, including the Bronze Star.
Buyer also worked with Congressman John Boozman in the 110th Congress to help pass the Blinded Veterans Paired Organ Act and to authorize $5 million to create military vision centers of excellence.
For more news from House Committee on Veterans' Affairs Republicans, please go to:

Closing with independent journalist
David Bacon whose latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. Bacon can be heard on KPFA's The Morning Show (over the airwaves in the Bay Area, streaming online) each Wednesday morning (begins airing at 7:00 am PST). "Dying for an iPad?" (Political Affairs) is a photo essay:

Chinese immigrants and Chinese-Americans in San Francisco protest the long hours and bad conditions at the Foxconn factory in southern China, where the Apple iPad is manufactured. They lined up in front of Apple's flagship store in San Francisco, holding signs with the names of workers at the factory who have committed suicide because of the conditions. Those conditions include 80 hours of overtime a month, according to the Chinese media. Chinese law limits overtime to 36 hours per month. No one is allowed to talk on the production line, and workers complain of constant high line speed and speedup. Most workers live in huge dormitories, where often 12 people share a room.

the telegraph of london
rosa prince
bbc newspeter biles
iraq inquiry
the guardianrichard norton-tayloriraq inquiry digestchris ames
sky news
andrew sparrow
david bacon
ruth barnett
bloomberg newscaroline alexander
zahraa alkhalisikadhim ajrash
the new york timestim arango