Friday, March 09, 2012


Time to blog about the NBC Wednesday night show Whitney -- best show on TV.

The episode was about letting go.  Whitney and Neal kicked it off down in the basement as they found a box of one of Alex's old girlfriend's things.

Neal:  Is this stuff yours?

Whitney:  No, I don't wear scrunchies or short-shorts or tube-tops.  You know what this means? Somewhere Heather Graham is naked.

Mark was hilarious.  Lily was tense and walking on egg shells because she and Roxanne are roommates and she's living in fear of doing something wrong that makes Roxanne stop being her friend.

So when Lily accidentally breaks several things, she calls Mark and asks him, "You really think you can fix all of this?'"  Mark replies, "Lily, I'm a guy.  I will never admit that I can't fix something."

So finally he gets Lily to break one of Roxanne's plates.  Then another.  Then another.  Then Roxanne breaks a plate and Mark gets very turned on.

"I'm not going to lie you guys, this is really working for me.  Who wants to take their shirt off?  He raises his hand as he asks that last question.

But Neal walks in so it doesn't get "amazing between the three of us" as Mark had hoped. But Neal's returning Lily's lotion (not really, it's a trick Whitney gave him so he could go talk to her) and Mark grabs the lotion and says, "I would like to point out that a new bottle of lotion has been thrown into the mix."

Mark really is sexy.  If there was a vote for sexiest guy on TV this year, I'd vote for him.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, March 9, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, Iraqi Emo youths and LGBTs remain targeted, a document said to be from the Interior Ministry explaining how to kill the LGBTs surfaces, the political crisis continues, the US Senate discussed Iraq and more.
"In Iraq," US Senator John McCain declared Tuesday, "Prime Minister Maliki continues to centralize power at the expense of the other political blocs while the threat posed by al Qaeda appears to be growing along with the kinds of horrific, spectacular attacks, like the one we saw yesterday." He was referring to Monday's attack on Haditha security forces which left at least 27 dead with three more injured. Senator Carl Levin is the Chair of the Committee, McCain is the Ranking Member. General James Mattis (Commander of US Centcom) and Admiral William McRaven (Commander of the US Special Operations Command) were the witnesses appearing before the Committee. We had to hold this to cover the Veterans Affairs Committee hearings this week (and there's a House VA hearing we still didn't get to).
The drawdown in Iraq is a drawdown. The military's been clear in their use of "drawdown" and "reposturing" and just as clear in the non use of the term "withdrawal." There are at least 200 US service members guarding the American Embassy in Baghdad and the various consulates. In addition, there are US service members present as "trainers." Nouri al-Maliki has publicly spoken this year -- and repeatedly -- on this issue. The number he supplies publicly is 700. You don't read that in the US newspapers. His number may be too high, it may be too low. Maybe if US newspapers weren't so busy attempting to spin and reported facts, we'd know what the number was. At this point, the only number given is Nouri's number of 700. And there are more, as US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey admitted to Ted Koppel last December on NBC's Rock Center with Brian Williams.
MR. KOPPEL: I realize you can't go into it in any detail, but I would assume that there is a healthy CIA mission here. I would assume that JSOC may still be active in this country, the joint special operations. You've got FBI here. You've got DEA here. Can, can you give me sort of a, a menu of, of who all falls under your control?
AMB. JAMES JEFFREY: You're actually doing pretty well, were I authorized to talk about half of this stuff.
In addition, the US State Dept has its largest mission in Iraq and Iraq is the mission they have militarized. There are 16,000 foreigners working for the US State Dept in Iraq -- that includes a large number of contractors.
Iraq is reported badly if at all by most outlets today. You get the Josh Rogins who want to pretend they're journalists but don't want to be held to the guidelines of journalims if it interferes with them completing another page in their slam book. The US occupation of Iraq continues. It hasn't ceased. Moqtada al-Sadr grasps that. So many in the US press pretend otherwise.
In addition to those US service members still in Iraq, there are the thousands stationed in the region around Iraq. General James Matthis noted to the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday that most US troops had left Iraq.
General James Mattis: The question then becomes: How do we maintain our presence with a light footprint? To accomplish this, the USCENTCOM AOR will assume an increasingly maritime character with special operations forces (SOF) and strong air enablers. Naval forces -- with embarked troops -- provide presence and a cost efficient means of rapidly projecting power in a crisis to execute contingency operations. Sustained naval presence and response forces provide a lighter footprint on the ground and are vital for reassuring our partners, deterring those with malign intent and tempering destructive actors from fermenting trouble in the region. The maritime environment also permits freedom of action unfettered by international boundaries and agreements. However, the stacked Iranian threats in our AOR of ballistic missiles, long range rockets, mines, small boats, cruise missiles and submarines demand stronger naval presence and capability to protect vital sea lines of communication.
The US news industry is a story of budget cuts. So Americans get less and less news from the news industry. Less and less coverage. It's much cheaper for Diane Sawyer, Scott Pelley and Brian Willaims to, for example, waste three or more minutes of airtime 'reporting' on some YouTube sensation where a pet does a trick. Pets can be house broken. News anchors, I'm not so sure. As the news industry goes for the cheap and the banal, Americans are less and less informed about what is going on due to this news failure.
General James Mattis: Our successful military drawdown from Iraq puts the need to develop a new strategic relationship with the Iraqi government at the forefront of our regional policy. The Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq (OSC-I) has been established and testifies to our respect for Iraqi sovereignty. Our relationship going forward will be based on mutual respect between two sovereign nations. USCENTCOM will work to expand security cooperation activities and deepen our military-to-military ties with Iraq while helping to expand its military engagement with key regional partners. Simultaneously, we remain clear-eyed, recognizing Iran's access to and efforts to subordinate Iraq and work to counter that malign influence. OSC-I -- working under Chief of Mission authority and with the full support of USCENCOM -- is the lead proponent for executing the military component of our intent. Thank you for your fast action in support of our special authority for OSC-I and for your continued patience as we work through a successful transition. The danger from al Qaeda in Iraq is still serious and it remains capable of spectacular attacks against the people and the government there even as it takes advantage next door in Syria to mount attacks there.
The Congress, the Pentagon and the State Dept continue to have to address Iraq -- that's staffing, that's budgeting. But the news media tells Americans that the mission (occupation) has ended.
We'll note this exchange from the hearing.
Ranking Member John McCain: General, are their strong indications that al Qaeda is making a comeback in Iraq?
General James Mattis: Yes, sir. Particularly in the western Iraq area but the threat is extending into Baghdad.
I think al Qaeda in Mesopatamia is both a catch-all to blame anything on and, especially for the US government and the US press, a device that allows denial. If al Qaeda in Mesopatamia is responsible, then there's no need for the US government of US press to factor in just how much US actions have resulted in a government that so many Iraqis oppose. You might also think that since the US went into a trillion dollar debt over the Iraq War -- a debt that will weigh on the country for decades to come -- the news media might continue to cover Iraq as a result of the money invested but you would be wrong. Then again, maybe the news media avoids Iraq for that reason -- don't you dare let the taxpayers know just how poorly their money was spent.
Maybe that's why Senator Claire McCaskill's comments at the hearing weren't noted? Specifically when she observed, "I can give you anecdotally disasters in Iraq. In fact, I am trying to compile all the infrastructure we build in Iraq and what the status is of it today. But I think everyone knows, it's not a pretty picture. How much got blown up? How much was never utilized? How much sits crumbling? And -- and that's all an incredible amount of resources of our country that we have invested."
The press is supposed to be a watchdog and provide oversight. Does it really look like that's happening today?
We'll note this exchange from the hearing.
Senator Ben Nelson: I've got a number of concerns about our presence in Iraq at the current time. I don't think that I have a clear understanding of what our mission is there. And it's further complicated by the fact that we've got questions about the new embassy which is a significant -- in terms of size -- building with a significant number of security contractors located there -- perhaps not even functioning in a security role outside of the embassy. And the embassy continues to be expanded. And I understand, perhaps, the State Dept is now in charge of establishing what our mission in Iraq is. Can you -- either of you -- help enlighten me about what our mission truly is in Iraq today? And how that might relate as well to the providing of security by contractors and the continuing expansion of a building that seems to be gargantuan in size already. General Mattis?
General James Mattis: Sir, as far as our mission in Iraq, it's going from a military-led effort in Iraq over the last eight years to a State Dept-led mission under the Ambassador. There I do have a Lt. General with a small footprint on the ground, part of the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq and they are engaged in everything from the sales of certain military equipment, providing contractor-led training, to organizing the Iraqis who want to go to military schools in the United States. We've maintained those relationships, that's what they're doing. As far as the security contractors, sir, who actually protect the embassy, those come under the US embassy, under the State Dept. But having been there recently, they're simply doing the guard duty you would expect in a high threat area. And as far as the size of the building, sir, I'm really not competent to respond on that part of the question.
Senator Ben Nelson: But it is big, isn't it?
General James Mattis: It's big.
Senator Ben Nelson: Thank you. In trying to understand the role of the contractors there in providing security, in other embassies in other countries, are we required -- do we require ourselves to provide security or do we look to the host nation to provide security?
General James Mattis: Sir, the host nation provides the external security outside the grounds. Inside the grounds, it's sovereign territory and we do that. We do that generally with contract guards, many of them are long serving guards there, and inside the building itself, you have Marine security guards.
Senator Ben Nelson: Is that the way it works in Iraq? In Baghdad?
General James Mattis: Yes, sir. It is.
Senator Ben Nelson: The Iraqis provide the external security?
General James Mattis: They do, sir.
Senator Ben Nelson: And if our personnel are moving from one place to another, who provides the security?
General James Mattis: That security is provided by our own -- our own contract guards.
Senator Ben Nelson: What level of security would the Iraqis provide externally to the -- to the Embassy?
General James Mattis: In that zone, when you go there, sir, you see that there are checkpoints set up some blocks away. They have patrols that go by. It's not just for our embassy, it's for other embassies in town as well as they provide the kind of diplomatic security that's expected around the world. Here in Washington, DC, some police men [and police women] can provide it because the threat is very low. In a place like Baghdad, prudent measures require the Iraqi army, the Iraqi police to do the security in a much more visual, obvious way.
If the State Dept is now in charge of the US mission in Iraq, why are they doing reports? When they weren't in charge, through 2011, they did the "Iraq Status Report." (Click here if you never read them.) Not anymore. And why isn't the State Dept regularly briefing on Iraq. They're supposedly in charge. They are answerable to the American people. They should be required to provide regular updates. They are operating in darkness, they are cloaking their actions and it's not surprising that a senator wants questions answered as to what the mission is. (Yes, I am aware that Victoria Nuland made comments Thursday -- only when asked -- on Iraqi women. I've never seen such ill-informed remarks. And that's despite the fact that we're referring to only a few sentences. I'll address them when I can do so a bit more calmly.) (And I've noted many times that I know Robert Kagan -- and often disagree with him. Victoria and Robert are married. I know Victoria as well. Check the archives, she's gotten no special treatment as a result of that.) They're not just spending taxpayer money, they are asking for record levels of taxpayer money and they can't be open about what they're doing? That should be unacceptable to everyone.
We'll note this exchange from the Tuesday hearing.
Senator Scott Brown: Regarding Iraq, I am as concerned as others are about the vacuum that has been created. And, as you know, al Qaeda in Iraq has carried out more attacks this year than it did in the entire second half of last year. Do you think there's a security vacuum there since we've left or what?
General James Mattis: It's not a security vacuum, Senator Brown, but it is a less capable Iraqi security force without our capabilities there. They're scrambling to try and fill in those gaps. We are working with our small footprint there to help them fill in those gaps but it is a concern, I know, for the Iraqi government and it is a concern for [US] Ambassador [James] Jeffreys.
Senator Scott Brown: Alright. You think al Qaeda -- You think al Qaeda's making a comeback in Iraq?
General James Mattis: Yes, sir, they are. It's not significant. It won't threaten the government. It will kill a lot of innocent people.
Senator Scott Brown: And what about the favoritism in the Iraqi government for the majority Shia political party? Do you think that's fueling another insurgency potentially and does this play right into al Qaeda's hands potentially to create that instability?
General James Mattis: It's not playing into al Qaeda's hands yet and I think that there has been some progress back into a political dialogue here in the last couple of weeks that I think is back on the right track. So it's -- I give you a cautious, optimistic view of this -- but it's very, very cautious at this point.
Wow. Mattis offers less spin than the US press. Which is supposed to be independent? That's right the US press. But they've rushed to tell you -- especially the New York Times -- that the political crisis is over. No such thing has happened. Mattis offered his "optimistic view" and it was more fact-based than anything the New York Times has offered on the political crisis. That's great for General Mattis, good for him. But that's damn lousy for the US press.
Brown and Mattis explored the political crisis. If you're the New York Times, you pretend that the political crisis kicks off on or around December 21, 2011. That's not accurate. The political crisis is ongoing and years-old. The easiest way to trace the current problems is to return to March 2010 when parliamentary elections were held and Nouri al-Maliki was unhappy with the results, stomped his feet for a recount and even after that was completed his State of Law still did not come in first. Instead, the Ayad Allawi-led Iraqiya slate came in first. Per the Constitution, President Jalal Talabani should have named Allawi the prime minister-designate and, at that point, Allawi would have had 30 days to put together a Cabinet -- failure to do so, per the Constitution, would mean Allawi's turn was over and a new prime minister-designate would be named. But Nouri used everything to hang on to his post, from the non-independent Supreme Court to the US White House.
For over eight months, Nouri refused to budge. This is Political Stalemate I. It is ended in November 2010 only when the US-brokered Erbil Agreement is signed off on by all parties. The agreement puts a number of things into writing including that Nouri can remain prime minister for a second term. All the political blocs get a little something in the Erbil Agreement -- such as a referendum on Kirkuk will finally take place or Ayad Allawi will head an independent security council. But Nouri gets named prime minister-designate and Nouri immediately calls off the census of Kirkuk that had been announced and due to start in December. Nouri insists that the security council headed by Allawi will need to wait. He gets made prime minister -- moved from prime minister-designate -- on the basis of the Erbil Agreement, not on the basis on the Constitution because the Constitution required him to name a Cabinet -- not a partial one, a Cabinet. Nouri didn't do that in the 30 days, he was in violation of the Constitution and a new prime minister-designate should have been named.
The White House and non-independent lackeys in the US press insisted that Nouri would soon name the empty posts. The most critical empty posts were the Minister of the Interior, the Minister of Defense and the Minister of National Security. Nouri's critics charged that he was intentionally refusing to name them because it was a power-grab on Nouri's part.
Naming them -- nominating them and allowing Parliament to vote on them -- means they have power and independence. Including, but not limited to, the fact that if Nouri wants to get rid of them, he has to go through Parliament. Once they're approved by Parliament, Nouri can't fire them on his own. (As he's found out with Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq who he's been calling for to be stripped of his post since December with no luck thus far.)
So who was right?
The White House and the US press or Nouri's critics?
It's 15 months since Nouri named his 'Cabinet' and still those three security ministries remain with no heads. It was a power grab. The National Allaince spoke candidly in February to the press stating they didn't want Nouri to name anyone to the post (State of Law is one of the components of the National Alliance, others include the Sadr bloc, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and other Shi'ite bodies). When this caused distress among some Iraqis, the National Alliance backed off from and disowned those statements.
But it was a power grab. Nouri controls three ministries that he wouldn't otherwise. These are the security ministries. As Iraq's security worse and worse over the last 15 months, it's time to grasp that this falls on Nouri.
The US press and the White House insisted for months after December 2010 (when Nouri provided a partial cabinet) that Iraq needed time and then all would be well. For awhile even detractors were willing to give it another week, another month . . . Until finally, over the summer of 2011, the Kurdish bloc begins demanding that Nouri return to the Erbil Agreement. That the Erbil Agreement be implemented. This is not confusing, this is not in doubt. KRG President Massoud Barzani -- among others -- has been very vocal publicly on this issue. But the New York Times and ignore that fact. Iraqiya joined the Kurdish call. Others followed.
In October 2011, Nouri's dislike for Sunnis became more pronounced. It was obvious by his treatment of the Sahwa (largely Sunni; forces who were put on the US payroll to stop attacking the US military). He refused to bring them into the process. Not just to bring them into the security forces but to bring them into the government in non-security jobs. October 2011, he began having Sunnis arrested throughout the country and Tikrit was among the areas. He lied and claimed he had intel from Libya. There was going to be an attempted coup, he inisted.
Insisted? Try confessed. If Freud got anything right, it was the criminal's compulsion to confess. Nouri was carrying on a coup against Sunnis. A large portion of the arrested were college professors. Sunni ones. They're now out of jobs. Even the many who've been released (supposedly all are in the process of being released). They haven't just been replaced with Shi'ites, they've been replaced with fundamentalists who now carry out attacks on Iraqi students. (The efforts to control Iraqi youths are typical moves by a despot in any authoritarian regime.)
While Nouri's slate (as well as his political party Dawa) are Shi'ite, Iraqiya was a mixing. It is Sunni, it is Shi'ite (Allawi himself is Shi'ite), it is Turkmen and much, much more. And that's what Iraqis voted into first place in the March 2010 elections. As with the provincial elections the year before, the 2010 elections saw Iraqis rejecting sectarianism and reaching for a national identity instead. The White House, Barack Obama, refused to honor the wishes and will of the Iraqi people and the political crisis is the fault of the White House.
Nouri and Barack posed and preened for the cameras in December 2011, claiming success in the 'new' Iraq. Reality would be visible by the end of the week when Nouri returned to Baghdad, ordered troops to patrol the homes of Iraqiya members -- tanks circled the homes -- he began attacking Iraqiya members publicly.
December 21st, while Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi was in the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government -- three provinces which are semi-autonomous and free from Baghdad's control), Nouri al-Maliki issued an arrest warrant against al-Hashemi claiming the vice president was a terrorist. al-Hashemi has remained in the KRG where he has been a guest of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and KRG President Massoud Barzani. The KRG has refused to hand him over to Baghdad. Tareq al-Hashemi has asked that the trial be moved to Kirkuk noting he did not believe he could get a fair trial in Baghdad. Last month, when 9 members of the Baghdad judiciary held a press confrence to announce he was guilty, they demonstrated al-Hashemi's was correct when he asserted he wouldn't receive a fair trial. (Guilt is determined at the conclusion of a trial, it is not determined by judges before the trial even starts.)
As AP and AFP noted Sunday, Nouri was again demanding al-Hashemi be handed over to him. Tuesday, the Oman Tribune noted that al-Hashemi told Al Hurra he had no plans to leave the KRG and quoted him stating, "I will stay in Kurdistan unless Kurdistan says that the status of Hashemi is causing us embarrassment."
Though the New York Times pretends it's nothing, this political crisis is not a minor thing. As Daniel J. Graeber (Oil Price) obsereves, it's even effecting the oil industry, "Baghdad announced triumphantly this week that oil production increased to more than 3 million barrels per day for the first time in more than 30 years. Exports, the government said, should increase substantially once a new floating oil terminal starts operations later this week. The IEA in December said crude oil production in Iraq could reach an average of 4.36 million bpd by 2016, about half of what Riyadh produces. The agency warned, however, that Iraq's fractured political system might be as much of an obstacle as anything."
How do you resolve the crisis? Starting December 21st, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujfafi and President Jalal Talabani began calling for a national conference. Instead of supporting the call, Nouri dragged his feet. Now he's insisted that the Arab Summit (scheduled to kick off in Baghdad on March 29th) had to be the focus and everything else must be put on hold. It's another delaying tactic on the part of Nouri. Meanwhile Al Mada reports that the Sadr bloc is insisting Iraqiya should not raise the issue of the political crisis at the summit. Apparently the Sadr bloc is under the mistaken impression that the Arab neighbors are ignorant of what's been going on in Iraq for months? Al Mada also reports that Iraqiya's current position is that it will raise the political crisis at the summit.
Today Dan Littauer (Gay Star News) reports this morning, that's one of the ways Iraq's LGBTs, Emos and suspected LGBTs and Emos are being killed -- approximately 100 of them since the start of February is by beaten with concrete blocks. Littauer notes that another popular way of targeting them for death is "pushing [them] off the tops of high buildings." Littauer reports:

The report from the local LGBTQ activist indicates that Jaish Al-Mahdi (Mahdi Army) and Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq (League of the Righteous) are at least partially responsible for the murders.
An anonymous official in Sadr city's municipal council affirmed that some people are recruited by extremist armed militias who carry lists stored in their phones with the names of emo youths and LGBTQ people to be murdered.
It has also emerged that some officials are actually behind the killings.
Colonel Mushtaq Taleb Muhammadawi, director of the community police of the Iraqi Interior Ministry, stated on 6 February that they had observed the so-called Satanists and emos. He added that the police have an official approval to eliminate emo people because of their 'notorious effects' on the community.
The colonel declared to Iraq News Network that: 'Research and reports on the emo phenomenon has been conducted and shared with the Ministry of Interior which officially approves the measures to eliminate them.
'The Ministries of Education and Interior are taking this issue seriously and we have an action plan to "eradicate them". I will be leading the project myself and we have the necessary permits to access all schools in the capital,' added the colonel, thus possibly indicating at the very least Iraqi state complicity with the

It should be noted that Nouri al-Maliki is the one bringing the League of Righteous into the current political process. Margaret Griffis ( adds, "The Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq warns of a surge in anti-gay attacks across Iraq, particularly in Basra and Baghdad. The attacks, which began in early February, have left at least 42 dead, according to the women's rights group. Militia groups have publicly posted threatening messages and even lists of suspected homosexuals to target. Many of the victims were tortured before their deaths. It is unclear if their deaths went unreported in regular news reports."
While many are silent, As Sheikh (Dar Addustour) takes on the issue of the attacks on the Emo youth. He notes a lot of the fear is based upon people not knowing what Emo is and that the media can assist in times like these by not falling back on silence but by clarifying what is taking place. He notes the variety of things Emo youth have been confused with -- including Satanists and vampires -- and how that alarms further. He points out that the hair and clothes are styles and the may be momentary fads or something longer lasting. He points out that you don't kill someone ("some young innocent") because you don't like the way they dress and that there is no blessing granted for murdering someone for those sort of reasons.

Meanwhile Kitabat notes that the Interior Ministry is declaring there have been no deaths and this is all a media creation. That would be the same Ministry of Interior that, please note, was declaring earlier this week that Emo was the number one threat to Iraq. Guess someone got the message about how badly this was making Iraq look to the rest of the world? Now the still headless ministry (Nouri never appointed a minister to head it) wants to insist that it is only a small number of Iraqi youth who are even into Emo. The ministry insists that the only truth on the subject of Emo is that which the government tells. But the Parliament's Security and Defense Commission also spoke to the media on Thursday and they spoke of the discovery of 15 corpses of young Iraqis -- Emos or thought to be -- discovered in one Baghdad neighborhood. Activist Hanaa Edwar also speaks of the large number of Iraqi Emo youths being targeted. Al Mada notes the Parliament committee stated that the security forces have failed to protect the Emo youth. Dar Addustour reports that activists Mohammed al-Kazimi has pointed out that the constitution of Iraq guarantees Iraqis the right to freedom of expression and that Emo youth are not unconstitutional.
Instinct magazine publishes what may be a document from the Ministry of the Interior giving the orders to kill Iraq's LGBTs and they interview Iraqi Ali Hili who now lives in England and remembers a time when he was able to live in Iraq without fear:
When the US and UK invaded Iraq. That ended the secular state of Iraq, and turned it into a very "dark ages", fanatical, religious period for Iraq. They brought us a Shi'ite government whose ideology is imported from Iran, they adopted their lifestyle strategy and cultural habits, and they tried to impose this on Iraq's society.
Turning back to the US, yesterday the Secretary of the Army, John McHugh, appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee. That was an interesting hearing but we're just going to quickly grab some figures McHugh provided. Specifically, he noted that "less than one-half of 1 percent of Americans [currently] serve in the Army [. . .]. Over one million soldiers and Department of the Army Civilians served courageously in Iraq. [. . .] Their heroic actions earned 8,238 awards for valor, including 408 Silver Stars and 16 Distinguished Services Crosses. Two Medals of Honor were awarded posthumously to Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith and Private First Class Ross A. McGinnis."
Scott Weakley tells Denver's 9News (link is text and video), "It isn't like you're in a Humvee where you can name the date, time and route you were on. With these post-deployment lung disorders veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are getting, we don't know [where they are coming from]." The former army Major spent 22 years in the military, he did marathons when not deployed, after his last deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, he returned to home to discover marathons were out and even trying for a half mile was impossible. Tests on his lungs reveal that they "are damaged, constricted and scarred" and that both together now function as if they are "just half of one." Weakley is among many who suffer from exposure to burn pits and he's trying to raise awareness on this issue. National Jewish Health is currently studying the issue and Dr. Cecile Rose is leading the study into exposure to "burn pits, desert dust and extreme humidity."

Rosie Torres: It wasn't the military it was the contractors that were running those burn pits. Everything was burned. I mean, amputated body parts, unused pharmaceuticals, batteries, tanks, you name it. Everything was burned there. Because I asked him, I said, "Well didn't you notice?" He's like, "No, no, I have pictures. I've seen the smoke, it's there, but when we ask questions, it's like, no everything's fine, everything's safe." Because they were told that too. So it never dawned on them. He was like, "We were just there to fulfill our mission. We weren't there to ask about smoke, you know?" It would go through the mess hall like when they were eating. The plume would just sort of hang all over. Like the air conditioner unit, would come in through there. There was like no escaping it, it was everywhere. What people fail to realize is that invisible wounds aren't just PTSD, I mean it's now toxic exposure too.

Rosie Torres is the wife of Iraq War veteran Leroy Torres and, like Scott Weakley, Leroy Torres was deployed fit and healthy and came back to the US with multiple health issue. Kelly Gustafson and Kristen Kellar (Medill Reports, link is text and audio -- Rosie Torres' comments above are from the audio) report:

When Torres lost both of his jobs -- he was a captain in the Army Reserve and a Texas state trooper -- because of his ailments, his wife made the march to Washington. There, she fought to create a national registry that could link long-term health problems with burn pits in the future.
"We need to make every legislator aware of our cause. These soldiers are from every state," Torres said. "I think what people fail to realize is invisible wounds aren't just PTSD, it's toxic exposure, too."
Torres rallied congressional support from Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.). While the bill sits in front of the Committee of Veterans Affairs, Torres has started an online registry that is tracking more than 500 soldiers.

And you can find out more information at Burn Pits 360.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Desperate Housewives

The Hollywood Reporter says James Denton is going to die on "Desperate Housewives."  He plays Mike.  Supposedly he dies this Sunday.  Good.

I've been following the Nicolette Sheridan case.  I don't know anything about her character.  I never watched his crappy show until Vanessa Williams was added to the cast (fall of 2010) to attract viewers but given not much to do because Marc Cherry's just another racist.

So anyway, a number of things came up in the case and I was confused and mentioned it to Ty who hooked me up with a producer who knows all the players.  The producer then said I should talk to ___ who is a good friend of C.I.'s.  So I did.

Here's the story I'm getting (and I believe it).  There's Teri Hatcher and then there's a bunch of bitches.  Vanessa's not included in that mix, this is before she was on the show.

That's hilarious to me because Teri's the only one with a career.  I see that as God watching out for Terri because she, it turns out, is a very nice person.  I love Susan and I'm always talking about how talented I think Teri is. I'm so glad about that now because she apparently is a very sweet person and the only decent one. 

The woman who plays Lynette?  A total piece of work who you'll probably see in Betty Ford at some point. But you won't see her in anything other than a Lifetime movie or two when this shows goes off the air because she's got no career. Ha-ha-ha.

I'm sad to learn that Marcia Cross is a bitch and was a real bitch to Nicolette Sheridan.  But, again, God works in natural ways.  And Marcia won't have another hit either.

Then there's Gabby, the failed movie actress.  Who is too identified with her role to ever be anything else. Ha ha.

Only Terri Hatcher had a career before this show and she's the only who'll walk away with one.  She's genuinely nice which makes people want to work with her, audiences love her which helps her get work and she's so talented that she makes it look so easy.

Nicolette Sheridan, I'm told, was not an angel on the set.  Nor was she a total bitch.  But her problem was that Felicity Huffman hated her and hated the attention Nicolette got.  Felicity was the leader on the push Nicolette off the show.

And basically the entire cast went along with it except for Teri Hatcher and Doug Savant.  (I am so sorry for all the mean things I've said about Doug Savant.)

You would not believe the petty jealousy of Felicity Huffman.  Or her ridiculous idea -- supported at one point by Marc Cherry -- that Lynette could become a femme fatal for the show.

Has Huffman never looked in the mirror?  On a good day, she can pass for "well groomed."  But even on that day, no one would mistake her for pretty.  Add in that she walks like a man and you have to wonder how she ever thought she was going to be the new Edie?

But she thought that.  Stupid idiot.

She has to be filmed very carefully and ideally from the left side.  The right side of her face doesn't film well and she's also got a "Popeye mouth" on the right side. 

Popeye mouth?

I was confused too. 

Remember how he pours spinach in his mouth open on one side?  That's the right side of her face. 

Last night I wrote about the awful Eric Holder declaring Barack to basically be a king.

Glen Ford has a column where he calls it out as well:

It turns out that due process of law is not what we thought it was, these last two centuries. Attorney General Holder defended the president’s authority to summarily execute, without sanction of the courts, or formal charges, or even evidence of crime, persons designated by him as enemies of the United States. You can’t get more king-like than that. Holder acted as if he’d found a previously undetected loophole in the Constitution. “‘Due process’ and ‘judicial process,’” he said, “are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security.” According to Holder, “The Constitution guarantees due process,” but it does not guarantee judicial process. In other words, the U.S. Constitution does not guarantee people access to the courts, even if they are targeted for execution. If that were true, it would be a worthless Constitution, but the U.S. Supreme Court has convincingly ruled, in a 2004 case, that citizens who are detained as enemy combatants have a right to confront the government on the facts of the matter “before a neutral decision maker” – that is, before a court of some kind. Certainly, such rights would apply to someone the president wants killed.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Thursday, March 8, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, Josh Rogin is an embarrassment whore and Foreign Policy is not about journalism, Iraqi women reject the government spin, the US Congress hears about burial issues, was Dennis Kucinich's Tuesday loss a great blow to the left, and more.
In 2009 and 2010, US House Rep John Hall was the Chair of the House Veterans Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and memorial Affairs. With others on the Subcommittee, including former US House Rep Steve Buyer, they raised many important issues. We'll drop back to September 24, 2009 to note one example:
During the first panel, US House Rep Steve Buyer opened with a visual display showing various cemeteries. Normandy American Cemetery, Arlington National Cemetery, Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. These were "beautiful" and up to standard. He then went to a national cemetery run by the Department of the Interior, Andersonville National Cemetery. Pointing to the dingy, dirty headstones, "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." He then "So when you said in your testimony that you gently, finely clean the markers, well that's going to take you a lot of time. This is not a standard for which we should have in America. I think Mr. Cleland, if you saw that in one of yours, you would just freak out." Buyer explained that he complained about the weeds and the result was they pulled out everything, including the grass.
If you can't take the heat and embarrassment from the shoddy work noted above, what do you do? Maybe you do like the National Park Service did too and skip a Congressional hearing. The Subcommittee Chair noted that they were invited but they decided they wouldn't attend today. The first panel was made up of government officials who were willing to attend, the Veteran Affairs Dept's Steven Muro (Under Secretary for the National Cemetery Administration), the Pentagon's Kathryn Condon (Executive Director of Army and National Cemeteries Program) and the American Battle Monuments Commissions' Deputy Secretary Raymond Wollman.
In the 2010 mid-terms, control of the House flipped to the Republicans and some House members chose not to seek re-election and others did not win their re-election races (that applies to Buyer and Hall). US House Rep Jon Runyan is now the Chair of the Subcommittee and Jerry McNerney is the Ranking Member.
Chair Jon Runyan: We are here today to examine the current state of our final resting place for our nation's heroes. These cemeteries and monuments span across our country and the entire world: from my own District in New Jersey with Beverly National Cemetery; to across the Atlantic in Normandy, France; or across the Pacific with Clarke Veterans Cemetery in the Philipines. Some of these cemeteries instantly bring to mind the triumph of courage in conflicts fought around the globe for liberty and freedom. Others hold memories of bravery now known only to God and those who died on the field of battle. Others hold memories of bravery now known only to God and those who died on the field of battle. Yet each one of these national shrines has this in common: They are all honored tributes to our service men and women now resting in peace.
He would go on to explain that audits reveal more than "240 mismarked or unmarked graves and 8 veterans or their loved ones buried in the wrong place. Again, this was not a failing of just one national cemetery, but at 13 NCA cemeteries nationwide. Ladies and gentlemen, there is a pattern here and I find it totally unacceptable."
The following exchange was typical of the responses offered in the hearing.
Chair Jon Runyan: I want to start with Under Secretary Muro. Currently NCA is performing 39 raise and realignment projects. Could you discuss what is being done to make sure the problems related to the prior raise and realignment projects are not repeated?
Steven Muro: Thank you for the question, sir. The first thing we've done is ensure that the headstones are not taken from the grave sight. So they're maintained on the grave sight. The second thing is we're requiring the COR -- which is the Contracting Officer's Representative at the site -- to do a daily check at the end of the day at the site before they leave to ensure that the headstones are on the correct grave sight.
Chair Jon Runyan: Were you able to identify all of the contractors who were involved in all of the previous raise and realignment projects where the errors occurred that actually uncovered and started this national audit.
Steven Muro: Yes, we were able to uncover the contractors that had done the work. Some of them had done multiple cemeteries and we didn't have an issue at other cemeteries but we were able to identify them.
Chair Jon Runyan: That -- And what are you doing to ensure that none of these -- none of these contractors involved during the initial errors are involved in the future raise and realignments? And are you going to reach out to the same ones or do we have to make sure that obviously we have the system of checks and balances and that in there? Because, I mean, rewarding bad behavior sometimes becomes, unfortunately, a bad pattern around here.
Steven Muro: Two things we've done. Some of them didn't rebid other contracts. But the ones that have? We have been watching them at the other cemeteries where they didn't have problems. Plus, if they have a site now, we're making sure that they're doing it --
Chair Jon Runyan: So you're still -- you're still offering them?
Steven Muro: Unfortunately, if they did an error and we didn't catch it, it became our responsibility once they left and we signed off on it. So that's where we're holding our employees accountable for that issue.
Chair Jon Runyan: But you're still offering the same contractors --
Steven Muro: Actually, most of the contractors that did the first rounds aren't in the business anymore. A lot of them couldn't keep up with the standard that we set and have not rebid their contracts.
Chair Jon Runyan: What is the process of accountabily once personnel are identified who directly led to some of the failings uncovered by the national audit?
Steven Muro: Whenever -- Whenever an aerror is found at the national cemeteries, it's reported up through the chain and then we -- we double check to make sure everything they think they found, we do ask differet questions to verify. Then when we are sure that it is an error, we make sure we advise Congress of the error and this committee. And we also work with the families, we contact the families -- where there are families available -- and we talk to the families. If it's just the headstone, once we move it -- We advise them before we move it and after we've moved it that it's been corrected. And then if it's cremated remains or a body that needs to be relocated -- the eight that we did, we contact the family and we have a funeral director there. If the family wishes us to use the original funeral director there -- if they're still in business we do. Otherwise we hire a local one from the area.
Chair Jon Runyan: But to the personal accountability, there's nothing being done there?
Steven Muro: Yes, there is. We're holding those employees there are still employed there accountable for the error and for not catching the error.
Chair Jon Runyan: You have any examples of that?
Steven Muro: We're in the process of doing the investigation to take the appropriate adminstrative action on those employees.
If you're not feeling like accountability is taking place, you're not alone. Runyan's expressions throughout were often of disbelief. And what of Ranking Member Jerry McNerney? He noted that this was a follow up to the September 24, 2009 hearing and he would also note that "the value of the current $300 burial allowance and $300 plot allowance for qualifying veterans has diminished as funeral and burial costs have increased -- negatively affecting the survivors left behind."
He is correct. However, if you go back to our snapshot of that Septemeber 24, 2009 hearing, one of the first things you'll find is this: "Subcommittee Chair Hall also noted that the VA's $300 for a funeral plot and $300 for burial does not begin to cover the costs."
This was known in 2009. It's three years later. Why has this not been addressed?
One new detail that did come up was when the Department of Defense's Kathyrn Condon informed the Subcommittee that the average wait time is 98 days for the burial of a veteran not killed in action. 98 days seems like a very long time.
Back in 2009, then public editor of the New York Times Clark Hoyt weighed in on the issue of anonymous sources. He noted that the paper's "policy says anonymous sources should be used only as 'a last resort when the story is of compelling public interest and the information is not available any other way'." Does Foreign Policy not have a policy on anonymous sourcing?
"This is tough enough without paid advocates making it worse" is what Josh Rogin presents "one official" in the government telling him. Are there any standards at Foreign Policy. Is Josh Rogin just allowed write any damn thing? He's now, yet again, attacking Camp Ashraf and this time he's gong after their public supporters. And the poor little White House and State Dept are just so so so worn down by these awful, awful advocates.
Not only was the quote unneeded, not only did it violate the basic policies (in journalism) on anonymous sourcing, it also part of yet another catty attack on Camp Ashraf from someone who's been allowed to launch many already.
Here's another reality for Josh Rogin: If the United Nations is monitoring Camp Liberty -- where some residents of Camp Ashraf are being relocated -- then you talk to the UN to confirm that.
Unless you're a an idiot, you do not run with this, "While there are some legitimate problems at the camp, the ["Obama administration"] official admitted, the U.N. has been monitoring Camp Liberty's water sewage, and food systems on a daily basis and the condtions are better than the MEK is portraying." How the hell is that sourcing?
Did Josh ever get his work fact checked? Or did the little punk cry and piss his briefs to get his way with every editor he ever had? The White House is not monitoring by that statement; therefore, the White House cannot tell you what is or isn't going on. If you want to talk -- on the record or off -- about what the UN has found, you go to a UN source. This is basic. And what Josh has offered is bulls**t.
If you doubt it, this section of his 'report' is a character attack and you don't allow anonymous officials to launch character attacks:
"The Americans who ought to know better and claim to be on the side of good solutions are really damaging it. Either they are too lazy or too arrogant to actually do their homework. They don't spend the time to learn facts, they just pop off. They accept the MEK line without question and then they posture," the official said. "We have a plan that has a chance to work and the Iraqis want it to work. The MEK ... it's not clear. And in this situation they are being badly advised by the people whose names appear in these ads."
I know Howard Dean, Wesley Clark, Patrick Kennedy, Ed Rendell, John Lewis and Evan Bayh. (I know Lee Hamilton but I loath him.) They're among the public advocates for Camp Ashraf residents to be treated fairly.
It's strange because I spoke to two about this little 'report' from Joshy Posh and, thing is, he didn't try to get a comment from them. He just, like a good little whore, wrote down what the government wanted him to write down -- no questions asked. Whores don't ask questions, they just take your money.
The White House has refused to honor international law. Last week, we called out Hillary for making an idiot of herself and the US terrorist list by stating that whether or not Camp Ashraf residents were taken off that list would depend upon how they 'behaved' as the Iraqi government relocated them -- the same government that's already twice attacked them and -- as the United Nations publicly acknowledges -- the same government that's killed at least 49 Camp Ashraf residents.
No, that's not how you determine terorrism. If Josh Rogin weren't such a little whore, he'd be writing about that, he'd be pursuing that. Instead, he launches another attack on a group of people who are defenseless. And, at some point, the argument's going to be made -- and I could do it right now and do it in terms of the law -- that Camp Ashraf residents aren't on the terrorist list. The MEK is. The MEK is on it for activites that don't involve Camp Ashraf. When that argument gets made, the White House has even less to hide behind.
Somehow the State Dept refusing to comply with a court order from 2010 to conduct and complete a review of the status of the MEK isn't a concern to a whore like Josh Rogin. It's not even worth mentioning to him.
Camp Ashraf residents are protected under international law, that's reality. Josh Rogin doesn't have to like them, doesn't have to support whatever it is they support. All he has to do is recognize the law. Once he does that he can respect or reject the law. But there is nothing in his mental midget ditherings to ever imply, infer or openly suggest that the idiot knows the first thing he's writing about. But he's so very good at working in every point the White House wants made.
Here's what so damn embarrassing about Josh Posh's latest crap-fest, the White House is complaining that citizens -- that's what Howard Dean and company are -- are being active in politics. They're using their First Amendment rights. And that's what has the White House bitching, whining and moaning. They need to grow the hell up. In a democracy, what they're facing right now should happen on every issue and if they hadn't dragged their feet on this issue, maybe they wouldn't be fighting such a strong push now.
It's hard to tell when Josh is lying because he's so damn stupid. But at one point, when he's listing the 'paid advocates' and their activities, he goes off about sitting in on Congressional hearings. Those aren't paid advocates and that didn't start this year, it didn't start last year. It's been going on forever and maybe if Josh Rogin didn't take swallow everything the White House sticks in his mouth, he'd know that. Then again, maybe not. As I said, it's always had to tell when he's lying or when he's just showing how very stupid he is.
I've noted this before, I'll note it again before someone wonders, I have not received any money from Camp Ashraf or MEK or anything to do with them. I don't take money for things like that. I don't take money period. I don't take money for speaking -- I pay my own travel, I pay my own lodging. Nor do I speak on behalf of Camp Ashraf. The law is the law and who knew Foreign Policy would decide that international law wasn't to be respected?
Today was International Women's Day. Salam Faraj (AFP) reports that Iraqi women refused to be silent puppets in their government's attempt to distort the record and use them as props. While the Baghdad-government attempted to spin, Iraqi women gathered together for their own conference. Hanaa Edwar was among the brave women gathered to tell the truth and she tells AFP, "Iraqi women suffer marginalisation and all kinds of violence, including forced marriages, divorces and harassment, as well as restrictions on their liberty, their education, their choice of clothing, and their social life." It's an important article and, if you use any link in this snapshot, please use that link.
We covered International Women's Day this morning. The only thing to add to that is that Iraqi women are very strong and it's shame they have to be so strong yet again. Their countries been attacked so many times, they've had to live through crippling sanctions, the US-picked ruler does nothing to improve the lives of Iraqis (via jobs or basic services) and the US assisted the "brain drain" -- where large portions of Iraq's educated class left the country -- by installing and building up theocratic thugs. Not only that, the US government actively sought to undercut Iraqi women when the country's Constitution was being written. On top of all that, they have to deal with bombings, with shootings, with threats, with the never-ending attacks just for being a woman.
That they get up each day and start the struggle all over is a testatment to their spirit and strength and they are surely (once again) making the country a better place for their children. Hopefully, when their children are adults, the US will not again attack Iraq in an illegal war thereby destroying all the hard earned progress these women are and will be making possible. They are Iraq's heart and soul, its leaders and its dreamers.
Turning to the US, Tuesday in Ohio, US House Reps Dennis Kucinich and Marcy Katpur faced off against one another in a primary. Both incumbent Democrats ended up in the same district due to redistricting. Only one could run for a spot representing the newly designed district in November. Marcy won the primary and will go on to compete for the vote this fall. Dennis cannot represent Ohio now althogh there are rumors he might attempt to run in Washington state. Marcy and Dennis both represented their constitutents. In what follows, we're not discussing Dennis Kucinich as "your Congress member" but as the national politician -- a spot he actively sought.
Theo Anderson (In These Times) wonders who the next Dennis will be and thinks/hopes it will be US House Rep Tammy Badlwin. I would hope not. I was not impressed with National Dennis. National Dennis did vote against the 2002 Iraq Authorization and applause for that. But so what? Did he filibuster to end the war? No. In 2008, former US Senator Mike Gravel would repeatedly explain how you can filibuster to stop the authorization vote for the war spending. Dennis didn't do that. Did he do anything? He spoke. Often and well. Little else.
In 2004, he ran for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. This is, as Rebecca's explained many times, is why I truly do not care for National Dennis. After he failed to make much of a dent in terms of votes, he assured his supporters he would make an impact on the platform and on the convention and blah blah blah. Rebecca and I were at the 2004 DNC convention and dealt with the saddest non-physically injured person at a convention we've ever seen -- a Kucinnich supporter who couldn't believe Dennis would sell them out. Dennis did what was best for Dennis. That's all he ever did. Paul D'Amato (International Socialsit Review) analyzed Kucinich's sell-out of beliefs and principals and, yes, supporters at the 2004 DNC convention and concluded:
This is indeed the role of all left-leaning Democratic candidates. George McGovern in 1968 and Jesse Jackson in 1988, to mention a couple, did the same thing: corraling millions of votes by making a Left or populist appeal, and then handing those votes to the centrist party choice at convention time. The process is predictable. First the Left-Democrat presents his candidacy as one that can push the party to the Left and pressure it to take on issues it otherwise would not. Then, on the fateful convention day, it is revealed that the dynamic is actually the opposite: the party co-opts the Left, drags it to the right, and neuters it. In the end, it has absolutely no influence on the party's platform or trajectory. All the talk about campaigning for the Democrat as being "part of the movement" for labor rights, against war, for women's rights, and so on, is revealed to be a lie. The truth is that backing the Democrat is aimed at defusing the fight for a genuine alternative. Those who realize this become demoralized and depressed, and when the next presidential election roles around, a new crop of enthusiasts are found who can be convinced that this is the "most important election of your lifetime," and the whole process begins again. It is a seamless trap.
This is a textbook case of how to kill any attempt to build a third-party alternative that really represents working-class interests. The Mariah Williamses are right to believe that we have virtually one pro-corporate party. And it is the job of the Dennis Kuciniches to make sure that the Mariah Williamses fail to break from that party by wagging a left tail behind the mainstream dog.
That was 2004. Then came his attempt to run for the 2008 Democratic Party presidential nomination. And we treated him fairly here (check the archives) despite the fact that I can't stand National Dennis. He was the peace candidate, he swore. But right from the start, he proved it wasn't a real campaign. Before the caucus vote in Iowa, well before it, he was telling his supporters to vote for Barack Obama. They would support Dennis in the first round and then go over to Barack. Mike Gravel was a peace candidate. You could make the case that Bill Richardson or John Edwards were. But Barack Obama had voted for every Iraq War measure that came before him. And Dennis knew it. So it was offensive that way. It was also offensive in the "I release you minions" manner. But what it really did was demonstrate that Dennis wasn't a real candidate. You don't do that if you're a real candidate. And Dennis had sworn he was going to fight for every vote. Then he wanted to whine that the networks were excluding him. You competed in Iowa by giving your supporters away to another campaign. You're not a real candidate. The networks were under no obligation to cover him. I love Rosenne Barr. But with her announcing that she wants Jill Stein to win the Green Party nomination, that says to me, "You're not a real candidate." And that's fine. But time is limited as are resources and there's no reason to cover candidates who aren't trying to win the nomination. It short changes those who actually are trying to run.
There have been many key issues since Barack Obama was sworn in as US President in January 2009. One of them was ObamaCare. The US needs to address health care. From the left, many of us believe the only way to control costs is to supply universal, single-payer health care and the easiest way to get that is to lower the age for Medicare. (You can raise the age on CHIPS and other state programs that cover children.) If you do not have the guts or the votes to go to single-payer system immediately, you go incremental with Medicare lowering the age ten years. You up the age for the children's health programs and pretty soon you're dealing with a 15 or 20 year gap and, of course, it is only fair to everyone that those people be covered so you do one more incremental and you've basically got everyone covered. That's simple and you're not selling the American people on a new plan, you're just expanding one that already has a strong record of serving seniors.
That's nothing like what Barack proposed. Though he used the buzzword "universal health care" at the DNC in Denver in 2008, he wasn't going to provide that and he hasn't. What did he do? Prior to ObamaCare, you could purchase insurance or not. Now you have to puchase it. He pushed a law the Congress passed (which hopefully the Supreme Court will toss out) forces all Americans to buy insurance. It turns you into consumers of the insurance companies, it leads you like lambs to slaughter. It is of no help to anyone. Strangely enough, when Mitt Romeny pulled this crap as governor, my own local Pacifica, KPFA, couldn't shut up about how wrong that was. Despite the fact that we're in the Bay Area of California and what Massachusetts does really shouldn't be our biggest concern. But damned if Philip Maldari and the rest couldn't let go of this story and what a fraud and rip-off it was. Strangely enough when Barack pimps it, KPFA will not allow critics of the plan on the air to voice the exact same arguments they did when RomneyCare passed.
What does this have to do with Dennis? National Dennis wanted -- and got -- national news stories when he vowed he would not vote for ObamaCare. And in November 2009, he voted "no" and issued a press release which included the following:
We have been led to believe that we must make our health care choices only within the current structure of a predatory, for-profit insurance system which makes money not providing health care. We cannot fault the insurance companies for being what they are. But we can fault legislation in which the government incentivizes the perpetuation, indeed the strengthening, of the for-profit health insurance industry, the very source of the problem. When health insurance companies deny care or raise premiums, co-pays and deductibles they are simply trying to make a profit. That is our system.

"Clearly, the insurance companies are the problem, not the solution. They are driving up the cost of health care. Because their massive bureaucracy avoids paying bills so effectively, they force hospitals and doctors to hire their own bureaucracy to fight the insurance companies to avoid getting stuck with an unfair share of the bills. The result is that since 1970, the number of physicians has increased by less than 200% while the number of administrators has increased by 3000%. It is no wonder that 31 cents of every health care dollar goes to administrative costs, not toward providing care. Even those with insurance are at risk. The single biggest cause of bankruptcies in the U.S. is health insurance policies that do not cover you when you get sick.

"But instead of working toward the elimination of for-profit insurance, H.R. 3962 would put the government in the role of accelerating the privatization of health care. In H.R. 3962, the government is requiring at least 21 million Americans to buy private health insurance from the very industry that causes costs to be so high, which will result in at least $70 billion in new annual revenue, much of which is coming from taxpayers. This inevitably will lead to even more costs, more subsidies, and higher profits for insurance companies -- a bailout under a blue cross.
And despite that when it was time to vote in March 2010, despite vowing he would stay a firm no, Dennis took a plane ride with Barack and suddenly changed his vote. Jeff Zeleny and Robert Pear (New York Times) noted his Mach 17, 2010 announcement that he would vote "yes" for it and that, "In an interview five days ago, Mr. Kucinich said he could not support the legislation and dismissed suggestions that his vote would derail the Democratic health care agenda."
That is Dennis Kucinich. Dennis talks a big game but in the end he always does what's best for himself. How is it a loss not to have Dennis in the House of Representatives? (Again, he served his constitutents very well. I'm speaking of National Dennis.) Isn't this 'talk big but have no spine' exactly why many of us on the left were upset with a large number of Democrats? Didn't we hate seeing them cave in over and over?
What did Dennis accomplish either them getting national press for himself -- press that often portrayed him as a joke?
When he raised serious issues -- no, not his lawsuit against the Congressional cafe, think the remarks about Barack's Libyan War being in violation of the War Powers Act -- he was kooky Dennis. How much did he undermine the right positions just by supporting them? That's a serious question and someone should seriously explore it.
He voted against the Iraq War. He was a critics of the Iraq War. That's all you can say. He didn't use his office to end the war. Time and again, he caved and, time and again, he provided cover for the most craven acts of the Democratic Party.
I'm sorry that Dennis and Marcy had to go up against each other. But this idea that the US Congress just lost Russ Feingold isn't accurate. Russ did stand up and Russ made serious arguments and conducted himself in a serious manner so that when he took a stand -- like opposing the PATRIOT Act -- it registered as something other than, "Oh, look why the kooky flibbertigibbet did today!" The Department of Peace was ridiculed by many this week. It's something Dennis supported.
However, contrary to what some of those snarking though, that idea did not originate with Dennis Kucinich and has been around forever and a day -- it was popularized in 1793 by a free African-American. It's an important part of Black history and I wonder if knowing that history would have prevented some of the snark? At Third Estate Sunday Review last October, it was addressed by Jim, Cedric and Ann:
Jim: I think it was the fact that The Nation could be leading the way towards something other than making excuses for Barack. And they're not leading. We're all on a treadmill, jogging in place, never getting forward. And that was driven home, to me, with the information -- I didn't know this before -- that a Secretary of Peace had been proposed as far back as 1793. That's 17 years after the start of the American Revolution.

Cedric: Benjamin Banneker. That's the person who proposed it in 1793. And that it was proposed in 1793 was as much a revelation to me as the fact that Banneker was a Black man. I had teachers who made a big deal out of Black History Month and really felt like I had a strong grounding in Black History. Obviously, that's not the case and I need to start supplementing what I was taught in school.

Ann: Well most of Cedric's Black history reading is on people from the Civil Rights Era. Such as Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth whose passing Ava and C.I. recently noted in "
TV: That Bunny Won't Hop." There's a lot of history.

Cedric: There is but I think Banneker's contribution is sort of swept to the side the same way MLK's calls for peace, an end to war and economic justice get swept to the side.
It's a serious idea and it has been for centuries. It's also an idea popularized by a great American, consider him a founding father, certainly so in terms of information -- he published an almanac. And it's not idea that should be ridiculued -- especially considering all the wars that US has been in lately. But the fact that 'kooky' Kucinich is championing it, leaves it open to ridicule.
I realize that those who speak out will always be targeted with ridicule. But you can bring it on yourself. He didn't conduct himself in a serious fashion and he was always eager to grab the spotlight by laughing at himself. Cynthia McKinney speaks out. She is ridiculed for it. She never plays to the press by pulling "Look how stupid I am" the way Dennis did and does. Doing that does not make you look like a "good sport," it makes you look like an idiot because people are calling you one and you're attempting to get their approval by agreeing with them. I don't see his departure from Congress as a great loss for the peace movement. Cynthia McKinney's departure from Congress? That was a huge loss.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Obama the Executioner

"Obama's Kill Doctrine" (Jonathan Turley, IHC):

On Monday, March 5, Northwestern University School of Law was the location of an extraordinary scene for a free nation. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder presented President Barack Obama's claim that he has the authority to kill any U.S. citizen he considers a threat. It served as a retroactive justification for the slaying of American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki last September by a drone strike in northeastern Yemen, as well as the targeted killings of at least two other Americans during Obama's term.
What's even more extraordinary is that this claim, which would be viewed by the Framers of the U.S. Constitution as the very definition of authoritarian power, was met not with outcry but muted applause. Where due process once resided, Holder offered only an assurance that the president would kill citizens with care. While that certainly relieved any concern that Obama, or his successor, would hunt citizens for sport, Holder offered no assurances on how this power would be used in the future beyond the now all-too-familiar "trust us" approach to civil liberties of this administration.
In his speech, Holder was clear and unambiguous on only one point: "The president may use force abroad against a senior operational leader of a foreign terrorist organization with which the United States is at war -- even if that individual happens to be a U.S. citizen." The use of the word "abroad" is interesting because senior administration officials have previously asserted that the president may kill an American anywhere and anytime, including within the United States. Holder's speech does not materially limit that claimed authority, but stressed that "our legal authority is not limited to the battlefields in Afghanistan." He might as well have stopped at "limited" because the administration has refused to accept any limitations on this claimed inherent power.
Holder became highly cryptic in his assurance that caution would be used in exercising this power -- suggesting some limitation that is both indefinable and unreviewable. He promised that the administration would kill Americans only with "the consent of the nation involved or after a determination that the nation is unable or unwilling to deal effectively with a threat to the United States." He did not explain how the nation in question would consent or how a determination would be made that it is "unable or unwilling to deal" with the threat. 

So how do we explain this to our kids?

Cokie Roberts (and others) used to obsess during the 90s over a blow job Bill Clinton received and how this could be explained to our children -- as if parents around the country were sitting at the dinner table saying, "Current events, boys and girls.  Let's talk semen stains!"

But how do we explain Barack's latest nonsense to our kids?

I'm serious.

I'm a mother of three.

How do I explain the American Revolution in light of Barack's claim to have powers lieke  a king in ye olden times?

Didn't we part with England to become a democracy and lose the monarchy?

Well now there is King Barack and he can determine who should live and who should die.  And Eric Holder wants us to know that the king never makes a mistake and certainly needs no review of his actions.

This is is garbage and why we wanted to run Bully Boy Bush out of the White House.

But America's Princess does it and suddenly most on the left no longer give a damn.

The hypocrisy is so thick, I can't believe we're all still breathing.

"Shadow Boxer" just came on.  I was pregnant the first time I heard this song.  I had an accident, slipping on a patch of ice.  And for weeks after, I was so concerned because it was time for the baby to start kicking and nothing.  And I had a friend who was two weeks ahead of me with her pregnancy and her baby had been kicking forever.

So this song came on and my oldest started kicking.

I always think of him when I hear that song and how I wanted to jump up and down (but didn't) because my baby was finally kicking. I could stop worrying and fearing that the slip on the patch of ice had hurt the pregnancy.

I fear for our country.  I fear for my children.  But right now, I'll just groove on Fiona's "Shadow Boxer."

"Iraq snapshot:"
Tuesday, March 7, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, double bombings hit Tal Afar, over 50 Emo kids have been killed in the last weeks, Saddam Hussein's daughter rejects rumors flying around about her, US Senators call for US troops in Afghanistan to come home, the VFW outlines budget concerns to the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees, and more.
We'll always open with a serious call to bring US troops home. There is a bi-partisan effort in the Senate calling for US troops to come home from Afghanistan. Senator Patty Murray's office issued the following:
CONTACT: Murray Press Office
(202) 224-2834
Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Twenty-Four Senators Tell President it's Time to Focus Nation-Building on American Jobs

(Washington, DC) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee and member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, joined a bipartisan group of 24 Senators today in calling on the President to bring American combat forces home from Afghanistan. As the Senate considers the 2012 Highway Bill on the floor this week, the Senators pointed out that the total dollar amount spent in both Iraq and Afghanistan to date would provide enough funding to rebuild the American interstate highway system five times over.

"We simply cannot afford more years of elevated troop levels in Afghanistan. We are spending roughly $10 billion in Afghanistan each month at a time when we're making tough sacrifices at home. Your recent budget calls for $88 billion more for the war in Afghanistan in 2013. If this money is appropriated, we will have spent a total of $650 billion in Afghanistan. A majority of Americans worry that the costs of the war in Afghanistan will make it more difficult for the government to address the problems facing the United States at home. They're right," the Senators wrote.

In June 2011, Sen. Murray
spoke on the Senate floor to discuss her views on the need for a sizable and sustained troop drawdown in Afghanistan, and to outline her concerns over the unseen human costs of war.

Led by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), the letter also included: Patrick Leahy (D-VT); Jeff Bingaman (D-NM); Tom Harkin (D-IA); Barbara Mikulski (D-MD); Herb Kohl (D-WI); Ron Wyden (D-OR); Dick Durbin (D-IL); Chuck Schumer (D-NY); Maria Cantwell (D-WA); Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ); Bob Menendez (D-NJ); Ben Cardin (D-MD); Bernie Sanders (I-VT); Sherrod Brown (D-OH); Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI); Tom Udall (D-NM); Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY); Al Franken (D-MN); Joe Manchin (D-WV); Rand Paul (R-KY); and Mike Lee (R-UT).

Complete text of today's letter follows below:

March 7, 2012

The Honorable Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama:

We write to express our support of a transition of U.S. forces in Afghanistan from a combat role to a training, advising and assistance role next year, as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stated was his intention on February 1st, 2012. Although we would prefer a more rapid reduction of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the statement made by the Secretary is a positive step towards ending the decade long war.

It is time to bring our troops home from Afghanistan. The United States intervened in Afghanistan to destroy al Qaeda's safe haven, remove the Taliban government that sheltered al Qaeda, and pursue those who planned the September 11th attacks on the United States. Thanks to the exceptional service and sacrifice made by the American Armed Forces and our allies, those objectives have largely been met. We should continue to confront America's enemies wherever they are through targeted counterterrorism operations and end the large scale counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan.

We simply cannot afford more years of elevated troop levels in Afghanistan. We are spending roughly $10 billion in Afghanistan each month at a time when we're making tough sacrifices at home. Your recent budget calls for $88 billion more for the war in Afghanistan in 2013. If this money is appropriated, we will have spent a total of $650 billion in Afghanistan. A majority of Americans worry that the costs of the war in Afghanistan will make it more difficult for the government to address the problems facing the United States at home. They're right.

Our troops and their families have made unimaginable sacrifices during the past ten years of war in Afghanistan. Over 1,900 American troops have been killed and over 14,300 have been wounded. Thousands more return home with invisible wounds that will make it difficult to ever again enjoy life the way they did before the war.

There is strong bipartisan support in Congress to change course in Afghanistan. The majority of Americans want a safe and orderly drawdown of forces in Afghanistan. In May, the U.S. House of Representatives nearly passed an amendment to the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act requiring a plan to accelerate the drawdown of troops from Afghanistan. A similar amendment introduced by Senators Merkley, Lee, T. Udall, and Paul was passed by the U. S. Senate on November 30th.

We look forward to reviewing the report required by Section 1221 of the FY2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which will set benchmarks to evaluate progress toward the assumption by the Afghan government of lead responsibility for security in all areas of Afghanistan. In light of the comments made by Secretary Panetta on February 1st, we would also be interested in learning more about how quickly U.S. troops will be coming home, the number and purpose of troops that might remain in Afghanistan and for how long a period, and the costs and savings of accelerating the completion of combat operations. Nonetheless, we welcome his announcement and encourage you to take every possible step to end the large scale combat operations in Afghanistan and transition our effort to a targeted counterterrorism strategy.


Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)

Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI)

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL)

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA)

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ)

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM)

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN)

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)
Meghan Roh
Deputy Press Secretary
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Again, that call is news, big news.
Say a little prayer till they all get home
Say a little prayer till they all get home
I knew when we woke up
You would be leaving
You knew when you left me
It might be too long
That kiss on your shoulder
It's me looking over
Close to your heart
So you're never alone
Say a little prayer till they all get home
Say a little prayer till they all get home
-- "Till They All Get Home," written by Melanie (Safka) and first appears on Melanie's Crazy Love
Today the Veterans of Foreign Wars appeared before Congress in a joint-hearing of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chair is Patty Murray. Let's note this from her opening statements.
Chair Patty Murray: Last month, I set down with veterans from across my home state when we were out at home over recess and I heard from veterans who time and again couldn't get access to VA mental health care in a timely way, who weren't getting the type of treatment they need, talked to women veterans who told me about their ongoing struggles to get specialized care and time and time again from veterans who shared their stories about the claims system that just wasn't working, veterans told me about the obstacles to employment that they continued to face. Some told me that they're even afraid to write the word "veteran" on their job application, for fear that those who have not served will see them as damaged and unstable. We passed last year the Vow to Hire Heroes Act and I want to thank Chairman Miller and everyone for their work on that. It was a great first step in tackling the high rate of veteran unemployment but it was only that, a first step. We have to focus now on building partnerships with private companies -- large and small -- to make sure that they have the information and tools they need to hire and train our veterans. We need to take advantage of the great sea of good will across the country from those who want to do the right thing and hire a veteran and as part of that effort we also need to beat back the myth and disinformation about the invisible wounds of war. No matter the challenges on the battlefield, we owe it to our veterans to give them a fair shot as they look for work when they come home. That's why the litmus test for hiring veterans can't be fear or stigma of PTSD or mental health issues. Instead, it must simply be whether a veteran is qualified for the job at hand. So I will continue to highlight the tremendous skills and leadership and talent our veterans bring to the table and I will continue to work with employers across the country to make sure our veterans can find good paying jobs here at home. And while we focus on jobs we can't lose sight of our veterans who are heading back to school. Before veterans commit their GI Bill benefits, we need to make sure they have the right information to make the best choice about their education and the school they choose. I'm pleased to say that in the next couple of weeks, I'll be introducing a bill that targets how educational institutions are recruiting our veterans and make sure veterans are given a clear picture about an institution's track record with other veterans. But whether is education or jobs or mental health or claims system that isn't working, each of those challenges serves as a constant reminder of the important work ahead to fuffill our obligation to our nation's veterans.
Senator Richard Burr is the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee. The Ranking Member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee is US House Rep Bob Filner. The Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee is US House Rep Jeff Miller and we'll note this from his opening statement.
Chair Jeff Miller: Sequestration is in fact probably one of the top issues out there and it could be dealt with pretty quickly. Unfortunately, I've been trying to work for eight months now to get some type of a resolution from the administration and I can't. I've asked the Secretary and I've written a letter to the president. We've asked for all types of folks to come forward and say whether or not sequestration does in fact apply. And I'm sure you've already heard about it while you're up here but there is a conflict in the law. The newest law that was passed basically says you are in fact exempt from sequestration but unfortunately right now there's some -- some discrephancy. So I filed a bill on the House side that basically says that veterans health care and veterans benefits are exempt from sequestration. It will clarify totally the problem for the future so we won't have to ever contend with this again. And I ask you, as you're making your visits on the Hill, to talk to your senators, talk to your members of Congress and certainly on the House side ask your folks to sponsor this one-and-a-half page piece of legislation. Around here, one-and-a-half pages is pretty rare, most of it is thick stuff. This is pretty easy and it basically says veteran dollars are exempt from sequestration.
The VFW was represented on the panel by Commander-in-Chief Richard DeNoyer, Executive Director Robert Wallace, Director of National Veterans Service William Bradshaw, Director of National Legislative Service Raymond Kelley and the Chair of the National Legislative Committee Louis C. Stifano.
DeNoyer noted in his opening remarks, "Americans will soon forget what these warriors and veterans have done for our great nation." I am of a different opinion: Americans will soon forget what the government has done to these men and women. DeNoyer is absolutely right that there is a time limit on national interest and it's already fading. The VFW is focusing on issues that their membership feels are important. Other veterans organizations should make sure that they are representing the needs their members rank most important.
For the VFW, DeNoyer explained that two of the big issues involve transitioning to civilian life which has to do with education and employment. (Wally's weighing on education tonight at Rebecca's site.) On unemployment, he gave these figures: Iraq and Afghanistan veterans unemployment rate in February 2012 was 13.1% ("compared to 7.7% among all veterans) and that "nearly a third of young veterans are unemployed, more than 20% of women veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are unemployed."
The other two concerns were medical. First, are the veterans getting the treatment they need? The VFW is concerned over the suicide rate and that more work needs to be done on providing assistance and on removing any stigma on asking for assistance. They are also concerned with the stigma that some people may be placing on veterans who suffer from PTSD or other wounds. That's a brief summary, Ava's going to cover those remarks at Trina's site tonight. That was the first part of the medical. The second concern of the medical for the VFW is the facilities themselves which are in need of repairs, in need of expansion and, in some cases, needing to be replaced.
We'll note this exchange between DeNoyer and Chair Patty Murray.
Chair Patty Murray: [. . .Y]ou mentioned about our newest student veterans needing to be able to get accurate information and have realistic expectations about the academic programs they choose so they can make their best choices about how to use their GI Bill benefits. As this Committee looks at this issue in the coming months, I want to ask you what are some of the key points that we should keep in mind as we look at this?
Richard DeNoyer: We need to provide veteran students with a clear understanding of what colleges offer and what their requirements are and what the requirements of the school are? It seems that many are using the GI Bill for the 21st Century and are not aware of their requirements before they get into school. They are not aware of graduation requirements, curriculum requirements and it would be our recommendation to have a centralized office that they could go to to get this information and that would be one of the solutions that we would encourage to do that.
Chair Patty Murray: Okay I appreciate that because I want to make sure --
Richard DeNoyer: That would help the state approving agencies also with their juridiction over colleges and so forth.
Chair Patty Murray: Okay. So they use their GI Benefit well since they can only use it once we want to be sure that they get good information.
Richard DeNoyer: That's right.
Chair Patty Murray: I appreciate that. I want to ask you -- and thank you for the VFW's really great work on the Independent Budget and for highlighting some of the major and minor construction for VA. As we talked about, the President's budget for construction is less than the Independent Budget recommendation. I know that you and I share the same concern about the VA's request. We need to take a hard look at the gap between the funding the VA needs to bring its facilities up to date and the funding that's now actually been requested by the department. In my home state of Washington, this is very important. We want a new pain clinic, a new spinal cord injury ward in Seattle, a new fire structure in Walla Walla. These are all critical infrastructure projects that are not going to get done for a great deal of time and I wanted to ask you if you could kind of share with the members of this Committee what this gap in funding will mean across the country?
Richard DeNoyer: Well access is the key to many of the facilities particularly those that provide speciality care. We're concerned the space, with the quality of the care and we believe that many of these are old and antiquated or maybe need to be renovated or even replaced. Safety is also an issue that we are concerned about to with some of these buildings. The seismic conditions. And, therefore, it nets down to access for specialty care and also safety.
Chair Patty Murray: Okay. Safety and access. Alright, I appreciate that. Commander, I really appreciated your comments about tasking the high rates of unemployment for returning veterans -- and for your leadership and work on this issue. This is something I care deeply about and I know we've got a lot of work ahead of us. As I talk to veterans and to employers, it has been really troubling to me to hear so many veterans who tell me directly that they don't write the word "veteran" on their resume when they apply for a job because of the fear that they have of the stigma attached to PTSD and mental health issues. I know we've got a lot of work ahead of us to address the misinformation about the invisible wounds of war but I wanted to ask today through your work on this, what strategies have you found to be most effective in fighting against the type of misinformation that many of our men and women are facing in terms of the invisible wounds of war.
Richard DeNoyer: Well first and foremost, Madam Chairman, we believe that today's military are the best educated, best qualified, best experienced individuals that America has ever fielded in an army. And they come home and they're completely qualified. They have skills that they could easily integrate into civilian society and the civilian workforce. Unfortunately, there seems to be a gap, a misunderstanding, between the skills that the military provides and the skills that they're looking for in civilian society. We believe that that could be easily resolved. The mental health issue, on the other hand, we propose a screening on mental health before the individual even goes into combat and a screening when they come back and periodic screenings afterwards. We also propose immediate care if needed -- mental health care -- as quickly as possible and only the pharmaceutical drugs used if absolutely necessary so that drug dependence doesn't result in that. And we feel that this would be -- hopefully, resolve these problems.
He was speaking of drug dependency and the need for care in prescribing drugs, a new study on PTSD finds that veterans are being overly medicated. The Universty of California, San Francisco (UCSF)'s Steve Tokar reports on the study conducted by UCSF and the San Francisco VA Medical Center which found that veterans being prescribed opiates for PTSD and/or pain are "more likely to receive higher dose prescriptions, two or more opiate prescriptions and concurrent prescriptions of sedative-hypnotics such as valium." And while that is serious all by itself, the study also found that "all veterans who were prescribed opiates were also at significantly higher risk of serious adverse clinical outcomes, such as drug and alcohol-related overdoses, suicide and violent injury, with the risk being most pronounced for veterans with PTSD." Dr. Karen Seal was the lead author of the study and Tokar notes:

Seal explained that previous studies have shown that patients with PTSD may experience physical pain more intensely because of either lowered pain thresholds or disruption of the production of endorphins – opiates secreted naturally in the brain and body. PTSD, an anxiety disorder, may be a cause, itself, she said. "The more anxious you are, the more likely you are to be attuned to pain symptoms, which in turn, make you more anxious, which makes the pain worse, so it becomes a vicious cycle."
To break that cycle, Seal and her co-authors recommend that the VA continue to extend its current stepped approach to treating patients who have both pain and PTSD. "Fortunately," she said, "the elements of that approach are in place, or can be put in place, throughout the VA health care system."
Seal said that those elements include Patient Aligned Care Teams (PACTs), which align primary care physicians with nurse care managers, mental health providers, pharmacists and social workers. "For patients presenting to primary care with pain, PACTs are important step in the direction of better care," she said. "Patients requiring more intensive treatment can 'step up' to multi-disciplinary specialty pain management and PTSD services that are available at most VA medical centers. And the VA is also a leader in providing evidence-based combined cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD and pain.Finally, she said, the VA is "making strides" to implement pain management guidelines developed by the VA and the Department of Defense that discourage the overuse of opiate medications in favor of anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, exercise, relaxation techniques and complementary alternative medicine such as acupuncture.
Even in remote VA clinics and isolated rural areas, many of these resources can be tapped through the use of video teleconferencing with pain experts at the medical centers, as well as online," said Seal. She recommended that veterans visit the VA site MyHealtheVet at

Nadia Kounang (CNN) adds
, "The authors emphasized that the study didn't find that PTSD or other mental health diagnosis caused increased pain or opioid use. Rather, the study was an alarm to the consequences of pain management through opioids." Kounang quotes Dr. Seal stating, "We now need to start considering alternative solutions to relieving our patient's pain and suffering."
Yesterday's snapshot covered the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing, Kat covered it last night with "US House Veterans Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations," Wally covered it at Rebecca's site with "VA refuses to take accountability" and Ava covered it at Trina's site with "VA wants money but not rules." The House Veterans Affairs Committee released the following yesterday:
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, the Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations (O&I) held an oversight hearing to examine the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) construction contracting practices. The Subcommittee examined the proposed construction of the community based outpatient clinic in Savannah, Georgia as a case study of VA construction contracting practices nationwide.
"We have evidence of similar dubious practices taking place at other locations, and our intent is to have VA fix the problems and conduct necessary oversight at all of its construction sites," stated Rep. Bill Johnson (OH-6), Subcommittee Chairman of O&I.
Rep. Johnson noted that the Subcommittee brought these matters to VA's attention last year, but VA ignored them and continued their flawed process, "This Subcommittee contacted VA last year with several specific concerns about this site in Savannah with the hopes of helping VA conduct better business. The response was disheartening; despite the specific concerns cited, VA dismissed the Subcommittee's efforts to reach out and work together, instead giving a cursory response."
Johnson expressed further dissatisfaction with regard to the way VA worked through the acquisition process. "VA stumbled through [this] process, using an incomplete and careless appraisal process that according to many involved in commercial real estate lacks common sense. To veterans, taxpayers, and Congress, the resulting concern is that VA is failing to get the best value."
VA witnesses failed to adequately answer how their initial estimate of needs in Savannah had been so significantly miscalculated, and admitted to not being forthcoming to Congress about significant changes to the size and scope of construction projects. Based on its interpretation of a long-standing practice, VA has provided notice to Congress of large-scale changes only after new leases had been executed, prompting members of the Subcommittee to suggest changes were needed to improve transparency and oversight.
Construction delays, faulty contracting practices and cost overruns were other major failures discussed by the Subcommittee during today's hearing. Noting that these delays reach beyond contracting, Johnson stated that "veterans in need of services are the ones being harmed by delays, cost overruns, and failure to thoroughly analyze costs and benefits associated with every alternative."
We're pressed for space, I know. But that hearing was important and I don't know that even AP filed a report on it (usually you can count on AP if no one else for veterans hearings in Congress).

Yesterday also brought the news that Iraq's LGBT community was against being targeted. Worker's Liberty carries this joint-statement from the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq and Iraqi LGBT:
"New barbaric attacks started against the Iraqi LGBT in many cities like Baghdad and Basra while using inhumane methods such as hitting the head and body parts of gay victims with building concrete blocks repeatedly till death or by pushing them over high building roof which took place in Basra city. The actions of killings, torture, and dismembering against those who were described as "adulterous" by Islamic Shia militias, besides hanging lists on the walls of several sections in Al-Sadr city and in Al-Habibea region, had all terrorized the society at large and especially the Iraqi LGBT community, knowing that those attacks are directed against anyone suspected with gay practices or appearance.
"The first killings took place on the sixth of February 2012 and continued or rather escalated till the current days. One of the hanged lists in Al-Sadr city included the names and addresses of 33 person, while other lists included other tens of names in other areas. News confirmed that 42 gay men were tortured and killed so far, mostly by concrete blocks, while some by dismembering.
"The Islamic militias in Iraq believe that the religious family should consist of a male husband and a female wife, and is the cornerstone of building a pious Islamic society. Such an institution is handed to the males to rule and control. Under such an institution, they deny the right-to-life, or rather they command a death sentence against all who do not fit under the religious description of a family.
"Based on those rules, the campaigns of honor killings happen against women and LGBT under the same token. Just as women face honour killing as a result of extra marital affairs, the lesbians and the gays face the same destiny because of their sexual practices which do not relate to marriage.
"We call on all freedom-lovers of the world, the women's and human rights organization and governments in the advanced world to put pressure on the Iraqi government to provide protection to the lgbt in Iraq, and establish legislation for defending their right to life, and criminalizing all aggressions against them. We demand also a full enquiry into the groups and criminal behind the killing campaign and that they get full punishment from the legal and correctional system."
We'll note some of the other coverage. Trudy Ring (SheWired) reports:

A recent wave of violence in Iraq has resulted in the kidnapping, torture, and killing of about 40 people perceived to be gay or lesbian, with the murder weapon sometimes being a concrete block to the head.
The killings began in early February after an unidentified group put up posters with death threats against "adulterous individuals" in largely Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad and Basra, reports the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. The threats listed the targets' names and ages, and gave them four days to change their behavior or face divine retribution.
Some of the murders have been carried out by smashing the victims' skulls with concrete blocks or pushing them off roofs of tall buildings, says a report from two other groups, the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq and Iraqi LGBT.

Evan Mulvihill (Queerty) notes, "Hillary Clinton made her landmark speech to the UN on the issue in December, and we have seen some commitment to activity in Ecuador and Honduras. But in the Middle East, we haven't seen any commitment to intervention --yet." Huffington Post covers the story here. No, the New York Times couldn't find the story. Did you really think that they would?
Receiving more attention is today's double bombing. Adn Kronos International notes a car blew up in Tal Afar and, "when a crowd of people gathered at the scene" after, a suicide bomber set off a second bombing. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) observes, "The Tal Afar bombing followed a familiar pattern often associated with al Qaida in Iraq -- an explosion followed by another a few minutes later, after rescuers had arrived to assist the victims of the first bomb." Prensa Latina adds, "No organization attributed responsability for the attacks. The government and the police said the perpetrators were members of Al-Qaeda and said Taafalar is in a strategic area between the border with Syria and Mosul." Mohamad Ali Harissi (AFP) counts 14 dead in the bombings with fifteen more injured according to Tal Afar Mayor Abid al-Al Abbas.Earlier today, Nayla Razzouk and Khalid al-Ansary (Bloomberg News) report, "Iraqi Construction and Housing Minister Mohammad Saheb al-Darraji escaped unharmed when a car bomb exploded near his convoy in Baghdad today, injuring six of his bodyguards, the ministry said." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports 1 person was killed and four were left injured and that al-Darraji "was not part of the motorcade" al-Darraji is a member of the Sadrist movement. Jamal al-Badrani (Reuters) notes a Baghdad minibus bombing claimed 2 lives. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) notes 1 person died in a Haditha bombing and three other people were injured while a Garma roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left two more injured. Many reports speculate that the attacks are intended to negatively impact the planned Arab Summit scheduled to start in Baghdad on Marcch 29th. The big news on the potential summit; however, is Hoshyar Zebari has announced United Nations Seretary-General Ban Ki-moon will attend. Actually, there's other big news but it's only Arabic outlets reporting so we'll assume no one in the US press reads Arabic? Is the alternative that US press is yet again lying to the American people? Al Mada reports on a move by the Baghdad-based government to get US forces to protect Iraqi air space for the Baghdad summit.
Instead of addressing security concerns, Nouri al-Maliki and his forces would rather go in search of mystics and monsters. Last month, for example, there was the 'big bust' in Baghdad of the "sorcerers" for practicing "voodooism" has not increased the safety in Iraq They also waste time chasing vampires. They call Emo kids that. Apparently, they believe Iraqi youth has been overtaken by a vampire outbreak. The oh-so-modern Baghdad brought to you by Nouri al-Maliki. Al Mada reports that Parliament is offended by the attacks on Iraq's Emo youth while at the same time they note that Emo is criminal behavior and goes against human rights. Ahmed Hussein (Al Mada) reports that Emo youth are considered aliens, other-worldly, are targeted for "liquidation" the same as Iraq's LGBT community. And they're confused with Satanists, vampires and more. It sort of reminds you of when the Twilight crowd comes to Southpark Elementary and the Emo kids are outraged to be considered Twighlight wannabes by the uninformed. Dar Addustour reports that 56 of Iraqi's Emo Youth have been killed. And please note, the security forces consider the Emo kids to be a top security priority. Are you starting to understand why the current government can't provide protection to the citizens of Iraq?
When not wasting their time obsessing over Emo kids, the security forces obsess of Raghad Saddam Hussein. Who? Saddam Hussein's daughter. Al Bawaba reports that she's issued a strong denial of the repeated rumors that, from Jordan, she's orchestrating an attempt to overthrow Nouri al-Maliki. Her response to the rumors includes the following:
Some press reports said I was in contact with senior military officers in Iraq and providing them with funding to toplle the current government. That is not true. How can I think of staging a coup against ag overnment supported by the military and protected by the most advanced intelligence and monitoring technologies? The time for coups is long gone and nobody does that nowadays. [. . .] Iraqis have enough on their plate. They are oppressed by a ruthless occupation and a tyrannical government, both supported by the military.
So they fear a woman in Jordan, they fear Emo kids and their own LGBT community. A lot of fear in Nouri al-Maliki's Iraq. The tone's set at the top.