Thursday, May 27, 2010
That's "Bully Boy George" from October 1, 1006.
What was I thinking?
I have no idea.
I didn't like Culture Club (not into the poppy) and didn't know the song so it must have been playing. Probably in a movie. Probably in an Adam Sandler movie, to be honest.
And then I thought, George W.! Boy George!
"I'm a man without conviction, I'm a man who doesn't know, My blood lust is an addiction, You come and go, You come and go, Comma, comma, comma, comma, comma quagmire. They come and go, They come and go."
When you have to do multiple comics a week (I also do comics for the community newsletters), you don't always get to go for the sharpest political comic. Sometimes you just got to try for a laugh. And those are the better ones anyway.
Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Thursday, May 27, 2010. Chaos and violence, post-election madness continues, Amnesty releases a new report on human rights abuses, Cindy Sheehan continues demanding peace, and more.
Starting with post-election madness. March 7th, Iraq finished Parliamentary elections. In the time since, Nouri al-Maliki has made clear he will have to be forced out of the prime minister post. This despite the fact that his slate (State Of The Law) came in second, behind Iraqiya (Ayad Allawi's political slate). In the many weeks -- nearly three months worth -- since, al-Maliki has thrown up one roadblock after another while attempting to discredit Iraqiya's win. He's demanded recounts and was granted a Baghdad recount. The recount found the original count to be accurate. Two Iraqiya candidates have been assassinated -- one immediately prior to the election, one earlier this week. Other Iraqiya candidates have been targeted by Nouri's government and had to go into hiding. Yesterday, Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) observed, "Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission today submitted the final results of the March 7 election to the nation's Supreme Court, raising the possibility that the new parliament could be seated very soon, after two and a half months of legal challenges." But it's never that easy. Muhanad Mohammed, Waleed Ibrahim, Serena Chaudhryqa and Charles Dick (Reuters) report that the country's Supreme Court has issued a statement saying "that there are some legal issues that need clarification from IHEC" and "Amel al-Birqdar, deputy head of IHEC, said the matter concerned Furat Muhsin Saeed, a candidate in Basra province for the Iraqi National Alliance, a Shi'ite bloc with close ties to Iran." Alsumaria TV reports reports that the Kurdistan Alliance plans to head to Baghdad as soon as the results are ratified and that KA's Roz Nuri "Shawes stressed the necessity to implement Constitution article 140." Tariq Alhomayed (Asharq Alawsat Newspaper) notes:Sayyed Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, said that the alliance between the State of Law coalition and the National Iraqi Alliance is like a "permanent Muslim marriage." However Muslims can also divorce, which is the most abhorred halal [religiously permissible] act to God, and Muslims are also permitted to marry more than one wife, therefore the question is what kind of marriage are we seeing in Iraq? And is what Sayyed Ammar al-Hakim said realistic?Firstly, what the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq said about a permanent relationship between the two Shiite allies does not seem realistic. This is based upon what Sayyed Ammar al-Hakim himself said during an interview that was published in our newspaper yesterday when answering a question on the Iranian pressure on the two major Shiite powers in Iraq to form an alliance. He said "it is no secret that the Islamic Republic, in its view of the scene and its complications, was perhaps in favor of these powers joining or converging, and this is an issue that cannot be denied, that there is a desire of this kind." Therefore what is happening in Iraq today is a strictly sectarian operation, and not a democratic operation or state-building. This is something that represents an exclusion, and not just of the Sunnis, but of all Iraqi components, and unfortunately all of this is taking place as a result of clear Iranian planning, and is being justified by some Iraqis. And click here for the interview with Ammar al-Hakim (Ma'ad Fayad interviews him).
As Iraq continues "stumbling into false starts, fumbling around with false hopes, tumbling into false hearts, mainly mine" ("Make Me Feel Something," written by Carly Simon, originally appears on her Spoiled Girl album), the US doesn't have a whole lot to brag about. On the Senate floor to a 'debate' -- if debates can last mere minutes -- took place as Barack Obama's war funding supplemental -- he swore no more supplementals in April of 2009 but he's not real good at keeping promises. Senator Russ Feingold introduced an amendment -- co-sponsored by Senators Barbara Boxer, Dick Durbin, Jeff Merkley, Sherrod Brown, Bernard Sanders, Robert Byrd and Tom Harkin -- calling for President Obama to "plan for safe, orderly, and expeditious redeployment of the United States Armed Forces from Afghanistan. On the Senate floor, he declared:
This is not a timetable, a binding timetable. It really asks the president to give us a flexible vision, a timetable of when he would intend for this to be over. And the senator from Michigan [Senator Carl Levin] tries to reassure us that the president has announced a start date for us to get out of Afghanistan. Well that doesn't really work because how do you feel the people in that area of the world would be reassured if we're only going to start withdrawing the troops in July of 2011? You can take one troop out. That starts it. That's not a vision of when we intend to complete it. The senator suggests that somehow this sends the wrong message in the region. Well actually the wrong message is that we intend to be there forever. We don't intend to be there forever. But you know what? After nine years, people start wondering. Nine years. Nine years. With no vision of when we might depart. In fact, I think the absolute worst message in the region is an open-ended committment. The worst thing we can do is not give some sense to the people of that region, to the American people and to our troops that there is some end to this thing. And all we ask in this amendment is some vision from the president about when he thinks we might complete this task. So when this admendment is properly characterized. It is actually a way to help us make sure that the Taliban and al Qaeda and others do not win the hearts and the minds of the Afghan people -- because they need to be reassured that we intend to make sure that their country comes back to them and that we will not occupy it indefinitely.
Feingold also noted his disappointment that "a bill providing tens of billions of dollars to keep this war going" was being proposed "with so little public debate about whether this approach makes any sense." Senator Carl Levin responded by characterizing the amendment as one that "would reinforce fear" and stated that there is "already a deep seated fear in Afghanistan" that it would be abandoned by the US. It was not a good moment for Levin and you half expected Russ Feingold to respond by breaking out into Annie Lennox's "Little Bird" ("They always said that you knew best, but this little bird's falling out of that nest . . .") Instead, Feingold offered a response which included, "The senator suggests that somehow this sends the wrong message in the region. Well actually, the wrong message is that we intend to be there forever."
We're going to fall back to Tuesday for the following on numbers. Journalists like to hide behind numbers and claim that numbers are objective and they don't lie. They may not lie but journalists damn well do decide what to emphasize and what to ignore. If you want an example of how that works, note this CBS News story by David Martin, this ABC news story by Jake Tapper, and we could go on and on but those are two of the better reporters and if that's what the best are doing . . . . Are they lying about the number of troops in Afghanistan? No, they're hiding behind that number (fed to them by the Pentagon, no reporter did the actual work on the numbers) and avoiding telling you about other numbers.
The most important number this week, as noted in yesterday's snapshot, is 171. That's the number of US service members who have died in the Iraq War since Barack was sworn in as President of the United States. "We want to end the war! And we want to end it now!" He hollered that often as tent revivals causing damp panties for many men and women. Now? End the illegal war now? He's been in office 16 months and the Iraq War drags on. The 'peace' candidate took office 16 months ago and has not ended the Iraq War, has continued it and is responsible for those 171 deaths.
Now the Pentagon didn't supply that number. But they supplied the number Tapper and Martin are quoting. Why are we back to the numbers? It's worth noting the death toll. It's worth noting the numbers Tapper and Martin dealt with Monday for another reason. Here's Martin: "The Pentagon says there are now more U.S. troops in Afghanistan (94,000) than in Iraq (92,000), reports CBS News national security correspondent David Martin."
Keep the 92,000 in mind. Two years ago Alysha G wrote Yahoo! Answers: "How many people are in a combat brigade? I need to know for a presentation, for the persuasion of Obama." Best anser was: "They vary depending on what kind of brigade it is. Infantry brigades generally have around 3,500 soldiers and are commanded by Colonels. Armor brigades would have less soldiers." We'll be generous and go with 4,000 per brigade. The Pentagon just announced this week that there were 92,000 US troops in Iraq. Yes, math is involved in this but we'll go slowly. Scott Wilson (Washington Post) reports, "The sensitive departure is being managed by Vice President Biden, who says the U.S. military will reduce troop levels to 50,000 this summer, even if no new Iraqi government takes shape."
Let's do the math slowly. 92,000 minus 50,000 is: 42,000. Using 4,000 per brigade, that means there are 10.5 brigades to withdraw. That might seem doable . . . if it weren't May 27th. That leaves three months. For Barack's promise to be met and the US forces to drop to 50,000 by the end of August, that means June will need to see 14,000 troops pulled from Iraq, July will need 14,000 and August will need 14,000.
Candidate Barack and his advisers insisted that one brigade a month was the magic number because it was doable without causing any strain (on the deploying functions within the military or on Iraq). So from 4,000 a month to 14,000 a month?
As we saw when Georgia's forces (the country, not the US state) departed, it is doable. But so is an immediate departure of all US troops. If Barack manages to keep this promise, the real win will be that it will underscore what so many -- including former Senator Mike Gravel and Governor Bill Richardson -- noted which was that the withdrawal could take place much more quickly than Barack was insisting it could.
Monday MP Bashar Mohammed Hamid al-Aqidi (with the Iraqiya slate) was assassinated and Tuesday he was buried. Amnesty International has issued the following:
Amnesty International has called on the Iraqi authorities to investigate the killing of a politician in the northern city of Mosul on Monday. Bashar Mohammad Hamid al-'Agaidi, who was recently elected to the Iraqi parliament, was shot in the chest outside his home by armed men. His driver is also said to have been injured. "The Iraqi authorities must investigate this killing and bring those responsible to justice in conformity with international law and without recourse to the death penalty," said Malcolm Smart, director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa programme. "More must be done to protect the hundreds of civilians who are being killed or injured in increasing attacks by armed groups, as the ongoing uncertainty over when a new Iraqi government will be formed continues." According to reports, one of the attackers has been arrested by the police. No group has so far said it carried out the attack. Bashar Mohammad Hamid al-'Agaidi was elected to the Iraqi Parliament in the national elections held on 7 March 2010. He was a candidate for al-'Iraqiyya List, led by former prime minister Iyad 'Allawi, which won, narrowly, the largest number of seats but not an overall majority. The elections did not produce any clear winner and the leading political parties have so far failed to agree on who should be forming the next government. This political and security vacuum is being exploited by armed groups fighting against Iraqi and US forces who have intensified their suicide bombing campaign. In the run-up to the elections and after, hundreds of civilians, including political activists, journalists, women and members of ethnic and religious minorities, have been killed by armed groups. On 27 April 2010 Amnesty International issued Iraq: Civilians Under Fire, a detailed report focusing on the plight of civilians in Iraq.
Iraq must protect civilians at risk of deadly violence (News, 27 April 2010)
Today Amnesty issues "The State of the World's Human Rights" which is a survey of 159 countries on human rights whose overview notes of Iraq:
Government forces and armed political groups continued to commit gross human rights abuses, although the overall level of violence was lower than in previous years. Thousands of civilians were killed or seriously injured in suicide and other bomb attacks by armed political groups. The government and the US-led Multinational Force (MNF) continued to hold thousands of uncharged detaineees on security grounds, some after several years, but released thousands of others. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees by Iraqi forces, including prison guards, remained rife and were carried out with impunity. At least
1,100 prisoners were reported to be under sentence of death, many following unfair trials. The government disclosed no information about executions, but at least 120 were reported and it appeared that some were carried out in secret. At least 1.5 million people were still internally displaced within Iraq and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were refugees abroad. New human rights violations were reported in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region where conditions generally were much better than in the rest of Iraq.
And we'll include this section on armed militias and detentions/imprisonments:
Armed political groups committed gross human rights abuses, including kidnapping, torture and murder. Suicide bombings and other attacks targeted public places, apparently aiming to inflict civilian casualties. Many attacks were mounted by al-Wa'ida in Iraq and by Sunni armed groups. Shi'a militia also committed abuses, including kidnapping, torture and murder. The victims included members of ethnic and religious minorities, journalists, women, gay men and other civilians.
At least 25 boys and men were killed in the first quarter of the year in Baghdad, apparently because they were or were perceived to be gay, after religious leaders in Baghdad's predominantly Shi'a district of al-Sadr City urged their followers to eradicate homosexuality. The perpetrators were believed to be armed Shi'a militia or members of the victims' own families or tribes. Many of the victims were kidnapped and tortured before they were murdered. Some had their bodies mutilated.
On 12 July, five Christian churches in Baghdad were bombed, killing four civilians and injuring at least 21 others.
On 13 August, at least 20 people were killed in a double suicide bombing in the town of Sinjar, a stronghold of followers of the Yazidi religion.
On 25 October, two suicide bombings killed at least 155 people in central Baghdad and injured more than 700. A truck bomb was detonated near the Ministries of Justice and Municipalities; minutes later a car bomb exploded outside the Baghdad Governorate building.
On 1 January, the MNF was holding over 15,000 mostly uncharged detainess at Camp Cropper and other prisons. This total was reduced to 6,466 by early December in accordance with the SOFA, which required that the MNF either release detainees or transfer them to Iraqi custody. Some 7,499 detainees were released after a committee comprising representatives of several Iraqi ministries reviewed their cases and they had been interrogated by security officials. At least 1,1441 others, including some foreign nationals, were issued with arrest warrants or detention orders by Iraqi judicial authorities and transferred to Iraqi detention.
In September, the large MNF-run Camp Bucca prison near Um Qasr in southern Iraq was closed. Its inmates were released, transferred to Iraqi cutody or moved to the two remaining MNF prisons -- Camp Cropper, where most of the detained former high-ranking Ba'ath party members remained held; and Camp Taji, north of Baghdad.
On 8 April, a court in Baghdad's al-Karkh district ruled that there was insufficient evidence against Kadhum Ridha al-Sarraj and ordered his release. However, he was not freed by the MNF until 7 October. He had been arrested on 15 September 2008 at Erbil international airport, handed to the MNF and detained without charge at Camp Cropper, apparently because his medical research led him to be suspected of bomb-making.
Violence continues in Iraq. Will always continue throughout the illegal war and occupation. May continue after the US leaves (and the US will leave at some point, maybe in a year, maybe in two, maybe in ten). That's really an issue for the Iraqi people to sort out and they won't be able to do that while the US military props up 'leaders' who do not represent Iraq. Among today's reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspaper) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which left six people wounded, another which left three wounded, a third which left four injured and a fourth which left two injured while a Mosul roadside bombing which wounded two Iraqi soldiers and a Mosul home bombing which left Saleh al-Hadeedi's wife wounded. Reuters notes a Mosul mortar rounds injured eleven people
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Khattab Awni (Ministry of the Interior's Inspector General office) was assassinated yesterday and that 2 guards were shot in Mosul Tuesday. Reuters adds 1 "police captain" was shot dead yesterday in Mosul. Reuters also notes 1 person shot dead in Mosul and that professor Abdul-Kareem Mohammed was shot dead in his Sharia College office in Baghdad.
Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan hosts Cindy's Soapbox (radio program) and is also a founder of Peace of the Action. This week, she is Matthew Rothschild's guest on Progressive Radio:
Matthew Rothschild: These books -- I don't know much about your books, so I wanted to ask you and I'm embarrassed to say that I haven't read them because I usually try to read the books before the guest comes on.
Cindy Sheehan: Right, right.
Matthew Rothschild: Myth of America: The Ten Greatest Myths of the Robber Class or the 20 greatest myths. What's the biggest myth? Or what's one of the biggest myths?
Cindy Sheehan: Well I wrote 10 Greatest Myths last -- the beginning of last year after Obama was inaugurated and I saw the policies of the Bush administration continuing without much of an outcry from the so-called left. And so I started to think, "What makes us do that? What makes us -- every four to eight years -- believe in a system that is so corrupt and-and really cancerous no matter who's in charge of the system. And so I wrote that. I went on a forty book -- I mean a forty city book tour and I realized through the discussions I had in these towns that I really didn't hit the myths enough. And so then I came back last summer and wrote The 20 Greatest Myths of the Robber Class. And the myth I started out with is the foundational myth, I think, and that's that America's the greatest nation in the universe. Not on the planet, not in history, but in the universe. And so that makes us believe all the other myths because we, most good people, no matter if they're on the so-called right or the so-called left, we really believe that if our country does something wrong, it must have good intentions. And so that's not the case. And so I wrote the 20 myths. We have to expose the myths and dispell them and then I think we could have true change for the better in this country -- whether it's through, you know -- I call for a grassroots, very localized revolutions, you know -- and, of course, they're non-violent revolutions. But taking back our economy, taking back our government, taking back even our food systems. We have to do that if we truly want to have a more healthy -- not only a more healthy United States of America but a healthier world.
Matthew Rothschild: Cindy Sheehan, this foundational myth -- as you call this -- is really profound. It's this myth of what I call "The American Superiority Complex."
Cindy Sheehan: Yes, exactly.
Matthew Rothschild: And the idea, as you say, is that we don't -- everything we do, as you say, is because of good intentions or if we do something that isn't working out, it's because it's an accident.
Cindy Sheehan: Right, right.
Matthew Rothschild: Or it didn't work out the way that we expected.
Cindy Sheehan: It's an aberration.
Matthew Rothschild: Or a rouge operation!
Cindy Sheehan: Right.
Matthew Rothschild: Or something. Not that it's elemental to the way that US foreign policy operates.
Cindy Sheehan: Right.
Matthew Rothschild: How is that myth propagated? How has it become so ingrained?
Cindy Sheehan: Oh my gosh, it's propagated through our schools, through our media, through our -- even, I talk about in my books, how Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations have turned militaristic. You know, where they roll tanks down the streets in the parade and they fly the Blue Angel planes overhead. And I tell a story about when I was second grade and my second grade teacher asked us a question -- and this was back in, let me see, 1964. They asked a question -- she asked us a question: "If a Communist came up to you and put a gun to your head and told you not to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, what would you do?" So, of course, I raised my hand and I said I wouldn't recite it and I had to stand in the corner. So even when I was seven-years-old, I was being called unpatriotic, a traitor to this country. So, yeah, I mean it's done through fear mongering, through Madison Avenue. Distraction is a really good way to keep us not thinking about if -- that our country is doing these crimes, these crimes against humanity. So there's just a lot of ways that this myth is propagated. And the number one way it starts, it starts in the family.
Cindy's Soapbox is a weekly radio program and her scheduled guest on the show that begins airing Sunday is former US Congress member and 2008 Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney. We'll note another excerpt from Matthew Rothschild's interview with Cindy:
Matthew Rothschild: Why is Obama escalating the war in Afghanistan?
Cindy Sheehan: Well -- you know, that's a -- that's a very good question. And he said he was going to do it when he was running for president. I mean, that was one of his promises. And so he's just fulfilling a campaign promise. And you saw many anti-war, progressive activists that supported Obama saying: "Well that's one promise we hope he doesn't keep." But he has kept that promise.
Matthew Rothschild: Were they just deluding themselves? Or did they think, "Well it's worth it, no matter what."?
Cindy Sheehan: Uhm, I think it was -- And that's another question that I've been really investigating asking myself and trying to come to grips with: For eight years, did we have an anti-war movement or did we just have an anti-Bush movement?
Matthew Rothschild: What's your answer to that?
Cindy Sheehan: I think we had an anti-Bush movement. I've been, like you said, still working really hard in the movement, in the peace movement, in the anti-war movement and in the alternative political movement, even when we have a new president. And it is really, really hard to organize. It's really hard to get people out in the streets anymore. There's such a lack of -- uhm -- intellectual honesty, I think, when it comes to this. A lack of integrity. And so my whole -- my whole focus since Obama's come to power is to get us back to the realities of US policies and not personality. And I started to actually try that when George Bush was still president because I ran for Congress against Nancy Pelosi. She's supposedly the most liberal member of Congress from the most liberal district -- which, of course, are also two myths. She's not -- well it depends upon how you define liberal. But you know, she's a politician, she's a centrist and the Democrats in San Francisco are centrists too. So I started to try and pull people away from partisan politics to humanistic politics and it's just been very difficult. And so now these same people who fifteen, sixteen, eighteen months ago were saying "Well we have to support Obama because he's the peace candidate and he's better than McCain" are starting to say, "Oh, geez, I guess we better start organizing something because he really is fulfilling his promises." And not only is he increasing in Afghanistan, he hasn't fulfilled his promises for the withdrawal from Iraq and we have a nuclear option on the table still for Iran.
And for those who are not able to stream, Cindy then goes into ideas outlined in her article "Our Complex." And while we're noting Cindy, we'll note this from Peace of the Action:
On July 4th, Peace of the Action will be beginning our Sizzlin' Summer Protests in Washington DC with a protest in front of the White House in Lafayette Square.
Starting at one o'clock in the afternoon, we will protest British Petroleum and its politicians and other friends in our government that led to the conditions that are causing perhaps the worst (and apparently unstoppable) environmental disaster in World History in the Gulf of Mexico.
On July 4th, Peace of the Action will be demanding that the Obama Administration penalize British Petroleum in proportion to the devastation that it is causing.
The money could go for:
Reparations to the people who are losing their livelihoods, homes, and natural beauty.
Wildlife rescue and refuge.
Investing in renewable, recyclable and sustainable forms of energy.
Considering the highly unlikely probability of the U.S. government holding any corporation accountable, let alone an oil company -- Peace of the Action believes that the answer for environmental sustainability and economic stability are in the hands of the people.
If you can't come to DC on the 4th of July to help us protest BP, please consider holding a protest in front of your local BP gas station.
This is just the first step, though. We need to become better citizens of this planet -- and instead of following the establishment's lines about reducing our dependence on "foreign" oil -- we must do everything to Declare Independence from all oil -- as evidenced by the Gusher in the Gulf -- all oil, foreign and domestic is harmful to the planet -- and foreign oil is the reason for this country's addiction to war.
Coming soon: Peace of the Action will have a Declaration of Oil Independence to sign, along with our demands, and these signatures will be delivered to the White House on the 6th of July -- the more the better.
In the meantime: do not purchase gas from BP gas stations, or ARCO AM/PM, which also sells BP gas.
Also, try to do whatever is in your power to cut back on gas purchases -- if you never purchase gas, already -- then CONGRATULATIONS.
These are actions that cost us very little -- but if enough of us participate, we will have a profound affect on the future of life on this planet.
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Thursday, May 20, 2010
That's "Mission Fear" from September 17, 2006.
Four years ago and the crazy was saying we were safer but not safe. And I thought things could never get crazier.
And was I ever wrong.
The big difference today is that we don't only have an idiot in the White House, we also have a huge number in the press.
Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Thursday, May 20, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, post-election madness does as well, the military 'suddenly' discovers DNA and a finger print on a weapon thought to have been used in a November death, a House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee phones it in, and more.
Helen Benedict is someone we've noted many times before. She wrote The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq and she is a professor at Columbia University. She appeared before Congress today and her opening remarks included:
Too often they told me that when they tried to report an assault, the military and VA treated them as liars and malingerers. They also told me that their Sexual Assault Response Coordinators, assigned to them by the military, often treated them with such suspicion that they felt re-traumatized and intimidated out of pursing justice. Indeed, the usual approach to a report of sexual assault within the military is to investigate the victim, not the perpetrator, and to dismiss the case altogether if alcohol is involved. Counselors have told me of seeing case after case where a battered and abused victim has been told, "It's your word against his." It is therefore essential that the counselors used by the military and the VA be trained in civilian rape crisis centers, away from a military culture that habitually blames the victim and that is too often concerned with protecting the image of a platoon or commander by covering up wrongdoing. These counselors -- and indeed anyone within the military charged with investigating sexual assault -- should be trained to understand the causes, effects and costs of sexual abuse to both the victim and to society. Within the VA, reform is also needed. The process for evaluating disability caused by military sexual assault needs to be automatically upgraded. And victims who were too intimidated to report an assault while on active duty should never be denied treatment once they come home, as they so often are now. The VA needs to recognize the fact that some 90 percent of victims never report assaults within the military because its culture is so hostile to them. The VA must also recognize and address the fact that it can take years to recover from sexual assault and that untreated trauma caused by sexual assault can result in depression, homelessness, self-destructive behavior and suicide. No victim of military sexual assault should ever be denied benefits and help.
She was but one qualified witness appearing before the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, chaired by US House Rep John Hall, and the Subcommittee on Health, chaired by Michael Michaud. There were also two who shouldn't have been present. Kaye Whitley, for example, will always get eye rolls when talking about how 'happy' she is to speak to the Congress (it will never be forgotten that she refused to appear before the Congress under Bully Boy Bush). And then there was Scott Berkowitz and I'm not donating to RAINN anymore. Scott's an idiot and he's always been an idiot but, more importantly, he spoke on behalf of an organization. Every other oganization sent women: Anuradha K. Bhagwati (Service Women's Action Network), Jennifer Hunt (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America) and Joy J. Ilem (Disabled American Veterans). But even with Whitley and Berkowitz, it should have made for a strong hearing.
It should have.
How many times did we hear a variety of this: "Your complete written statements are a part of the record, Chairman Michaud and I uh spoke about the time situation before and if ther'es no objection from members of the submccomties we would like to submit our questions in writing and for the record and move on to the second panel so that we can try and hear from as many witnesses as possible."
That's US House Rep John Hall. Guess what? Unacceptable.
What a load of s**t. 'Mexico's president is in the country!!!!!!' Can we not wet ourselves.
And we can talk decorum? I don't care what the Arizona law is (I haven't read it -- like the White House, I haven't actually read it), you do not applaud someone from another country -- you certainly don't stand up and applaud -- coming into the halls of Congress and delivering a speech calling out one of the fifty states. I believe the Dixie Chicks -- who did not hold any public office -- were banned, had their CDs burned and more for much, much less. That was shameful and disgusting. Joe Biden had the sense to remain seated, Nancy Pelosi was standing.
That was a shameful moment. It's a very thin line and the Congress needs to learn how to walk it. They are the public servants of the United States of America. Arizona is a part of those fifty states. To applaud and cheer Calderon's remarks against Arizona? That was disgusting. As they demonstrated at State of the Union address, the Congress has made WHORES out of themselves and no one should ever take them seriously. Apparently, when not in session, they can be found providing laugh tracks and applause for various sitcoms. They are not private citizens (the Dixie Chicks are), they are public servants and they were in the US Congress making monkeys of themselves.
At some point, someone might want to ask why Calderon of I-stole-the-election fame (or infamy) was even allowed to speak? He's unhappy with Arizona? Well I think the world's unhappy with the murders in Oaxaca. What the hell is he doing on that? And if it objecting to a law in the US is keeping him from addressing that issue, by all means take your ass back to your own country, don't feel you have to stay any longer.
So there was a serious topic today and it wasn't addressed seriously.
What was the hearing. We all had to stand for the Pledge. Why was that? If time was of essence, guess what, that's the first thing that could have been chucked. (Hall always starts his hearings with the pledge.) Then Hall made his statement then Doug Lamborn spoke from Land of Crazy -- you know all these false rapes and false claims and blah, blah, blah. But he was going to listen and hoped to learn something. The first thing he should have learned? When to stay silent. When not to flaunt the ignorance.
So here's how the 'hearing' went, there were three panels. Each witness read their prepared statement outloud. As one finished the next started. When panel one finished, panel two was called, then panel three.
Where were the questions?
There were none.
Don't worry -- we were told -- they'd be part of the record. They'd be done in writing. No, that's not good enough. That's outrageous.
What is that? Hearing by correspondence?
That is an embarrassment and it's an insult to those suffering from MST and those working in that field. You can give many sentences -- as Hall and Michaud did at the end of the 'hearing' -- claiming that this isn't an insult to the issue or the people or blah, blah F**KING blah. That's exactly what it is.
Calderon never should have been invited to address Congress to begin with. He had nothing of value to say and he's done nothing of value in his own country. But his chance to insult Arizona was deemed more important than the US government doing their business -- the business they are paid by the tax payers to do.
But they're only following lazy-ass-in-chief for whom every day is a snow day. Which is why the Gulf disaster continues. But hey, Barry got a chance to preen and pose today and isn't that what democracy is all about.
This hearing needed to take place and it needed to take place publicly.
There is no excuse for this.
In Iraq, bombings from the skies. Hurriyet Daily News states Turkey's military aircraft "hit PKK camps in northern Iraq." Counting 20 planes, Al Jazeera reports, "Turkish fighter jets have bombed dozens of Kurdish separatist targets in northern Iraq, local television has reported." The network's Anita Mcnaught declares, "This is one of the biggest strikes in the last two years. This was a very much larger strike than usual -- almost 50 locations. And a day long attack involving all these fighter jets." Ivan Watson and Yesim Comert (CNN) report, "A Turkish military source told CNN Turk, CNN's sister network, that the military scrambled jets to carry out the attack after a group of suspected fighters were detected on Iraqi territory, approaching Turkey's mountainous border with Iraq." And AFP adds, "Thursday's strikes followed a series of daring attacks in recent weeks by PKK rebels on Turkish military targets in the country's southeast, which left several soldiers dead." RTT notes, "At least 37,000 people have died in the two-decade-long violence unleashed by the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by most of the international community including the United States and the EU."
March 7th was when elections were held. If the last time Nouri was crowned is any indication, there are still two months to go before anyone is 'selected' for prime minister. Back then, elections were held in December 2005. Nouri was 'crowned' in April 2006. Should the schedule be similar this go round, it would be July. However, this go round brought new stresses and Nouri and his toys did everything they could to tarnish Iraqiya's victory. They screamed that the results weren't accurate and that there was massive fraud -- so much so, they just knew (they claimed 'proof') that in Baghdad alone they could pick up to 20 extra seats via a recount. They screamed that elected candidates were Ba'athists and would not be seated in the new Parliament. They targeted Iraqiya with harassment and arrests. And, in the process, not only upped the stress levels for Iraqis, they put a cloud and question mark over Iraqiya's win which was the whole point. While Iraqiya was defending their win, Nouri was working on coalition building -- something he would have been rebuked on had he not made Iraqiya's win murky. (The winning slate is guaranteed first shot at forming a coalition.) While this may have been a 'winning' 'strategy' for his State Of Law slate, it has created stress among Iraq's middle class. Borzou Daragahi (Los Angeles Times) reports fundamentalists militias invading Ibtisam Hamoody's neighborhood didn't send her packing, "turning it into a killing field" didn't send her packing and her husband being shot dead didn't send her packing. But now she and her youngest daughter or leaving Iraq with plans to live in either Jordan or Syria. Why? The continued uncertainty and return to violence in the madness of post-election Iraq. Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) notes, "More than two months after the vote, Maliki and former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi -- leaders of two political blocs considered essential to a coalition government -- have still not met." Arraf notes that he was out of the country today as many leaders attended a scheduled lunch with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Alsumaria TV explained that the meeting today with Talabanai would be attended by Iraqiya's Tareq al-Hashemi (Iraq's Sunni vice president), Mohammed Allawi, Hussein Shaalan and Hasan al-Ulwi but "Kurdistan Alliance senior official Abdul Bari Zebari demeaned the importance of the meeting at Talabani's headquarters." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) reports on the meet up and notes that with all the leaders attending, there was "not a single woman among them" and he quotes Tariq al-Hashemi stating of the drawn out post-election period, "It's a shame on Iraq. The United Kingdom formed a government in five days. Despite the political conflicts in Sudan, they were able to form a government quicker than us."
29-year-old Amy Seyboth Tirador died serving in Iraq last November, she was on her second tour of duty in Iraq. The 1998 Colonie Central High School graduate joined the military soon after high school and served for ten years. March's news included that the military had ruled Amy had taken her own life . . . because most who do shoot themselves in the back of the head, right? WRGB notes, "Tirador's mother, Colleen Murphy, has long maintained her daughter was murdered in Iraq last November despite a ruling from the armed forces that it was suicide. South Colonie High School is going to honor Tirador with a Memorial Day ceremony May 28th." Murphy tells Nicol Lally (WTEN) that the military has informed her that they found fingerprints and DNA on the gun assumed to have been used in the shooting. Dennis Yusko (Albany Times Union) adds, "But word of the possible evidence did not excite or assuage Murphy, who refuses to accept that her 29-year-old daughter committed suicide. Murphy, 53, believes her daughter was killed, and the military is covering up what really happened. She called the latest information 'stall tactics.' That's because she wants to launch a private investigation into Tirador's death with Michael Baden, a nationally known forensic pathologist, but can't get access to additional photos, interviews and other materials from the Army until the Criminal Investigative Division closes its case." Allawi had planned a trip out of the country and done so, he says, before the lunch was announced. Nouri had his own plans for today. Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) reports that on this day of 'breaking bread' and public smiles, "Maliki crticised his rival in an interview published on Thursday in the al-Mada newspaper, saying Allawi was 'preaching for a civil war'." Viola Gienger (Bloomberg News) notes that Iraq's Ambassador to the US, Samir Sumaida'ie, declared today, "The outline of the endgame is becoming clear. It will be very difficult for any government to survive unless they include everybody or they satisfy the four leading blocs." Related, I've never called Gen Ray Odierno out for word games. And Gienger's report is the perfect example of why I don't: If the press doesn't have enough sense to know what a statement means, that's on them. For example, Gienger, you quoted Odierno giving you a non-answer. The SOFA does not include an end of August drawdown. That's Barack Obama's promise, it's not part of a SOFA. So when Odierno states that the post-election period is not effecting the SOFA, if you're not smart enough to follow up with: "Well, what about with Obama's promise to drawdown to 50,000 by the end of this August," that's on you. Gienger can take comfort in the fact that at least she didn't offer a 'detailed' 'analysis' of the SOFA the way Ryan Harvey did and embarrass himself and Iraq Veterans Against the War and everyone else that's reposting that crap. Is reading really that difficult?
Does no one know how to read? The SOFA is the SOFA. It was negotiated, it was signed off on. In fact, it passed the Iraqi Parliament Thanksgiving Day 2008 and the signing ceremony for it became a world event because that's where Bully Boy Bush got the shoes tossed at him. That's what he and Nouri were doing at that ceremony, signing the documents. So this garbage that Ryan Harvey's offering? If it's something not in the SOFA, it's not in the SOFA. Learn to read before you offer an analysis. That, especially being posted at IVAW, is the best example of stupid and Gienger need not worry that she's the global idiot today, not when we have Ryan Harvey. And for anyone wondering, he is not a member of IVAW, he did not serve in the military. He does serve in the Doofus Forces where he attacks right-wingers non-stop. Usually in bad song.
Iraq today saw waves of violence.
Reuters notes a Mosul suicide bombing which claimed the life of the bomber, 2 police officers and 1 bystander (either more people were wounded), a Mahmudiya roadside bombing which injured four people, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured six people, a second one which injured two, a third which injured three, a fourth Baghdad roadside bombing which injured five people, a Yusufiya home bombing which injured three people a Mahmudiya roadside bombing which injured three people and, dropping back to yesterday, a Baiji roadside bombing which injured six militia members.
Reuters notes 2 police officers shot dead in Mosul, 1 civlian shot dead in Mosul, two civilians wounded in yet another Mosul shooting, a Balad Ruz armed clash which claimed 5 lives, and, dropping back to yesterday, an apparent kidnapping attempt in Kirkuk in which 1 person was killed and two more injured.
Jeremy Kuzmarov's book review "U.S. Terrorism in Vietnam" (Monthly Review):In late 1970, prompted by the debate over the exposure of U.S. atrocities in the village of Mỹ Lai, an anonymous GI wrote a letter to Army Chief of Staff William Westmoreland, claiming to have witnessed hundreds of acts of terrorism by U.S. soldiers during Operation Speedy Express. The campaign, intended to reclaim portions of the Mekong Delta, purportedly killed over ten thousand enemy but seized only seven hundred weapons."In the ambushes we killed anything or anybody and a lot of these weren't VC. We used claymores on any people, on any boat that passed even if sometimes it would be loaded with bananas and a couple of women, or a papasan [male Vietnamese] with a hoe. No big thing, they were VC as soon as we killed them." The GI went on to state that there was random shooting from helicopters at anything that moved on the ground and that the "snipers were the worst killers who were responsible for at least 600 murders per month [during the Operation]." The Battalion commander [Lieutenant Colonel David Hackworth, among the most decorated soldiers in U.S. history], told his company commander that "pretty soon there wouldn't be any rice farmers left because his snipers would kill them all. And he laughed."Such revelations provide a pivotal component of Bernd Greiner's compelling new book, War Without Fronts: The USA in Vietnam, which vividly details the genocidal nature of the warfare carried out by the U.S. Army in Vietnam, based on evidence drawn from Army criminal investigation division reports into alleged war crimes. These records were declassified in 1994 but largely ignored by scholars until recently. Greiner's findings and analysis are especially pertinent, given the historical revisionism and cultural amnesia that have taken root in U.S. society about the Vietnam War, paving the way for the current military aggression in the Middle East. The above might remind many of video released last month. Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of an assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Iraq War veteran Josh Stieber was a member of the military company depicted in the video. Paul Jay (Real News Network) did a four-part interview with Josh. We noted a portion of part- three last week and we'll note this from part-four.
Paul Jay: So talk about that day or the few days or whatever leading up to that application for conscientious objector status. This must've been quite dramatic.
Josh Steiber: Yeah. Well, I actually didn't know what conscientious objection was until I got back from Iraq and I knew I had to act.
Paul Jay: So you finished your tour of duty.
Josh Steiber: Right, I finished my tour with all these questions going on in my mind and knew I had to start changing things but wasn't sure how extreme I would do with this until we got back and I got to spend a month back home with my family. And that process for me literally brought everything back home as I started to imagine all the different things that we have done to other people's families for the last 14 months going on to my family, and not just these big headline catchers like, you know, what you see in the WikiLeaks video. Obviously, that stuff goes on, but sometimes even the smaller things of what we were doing on a day-to-day basis.
Paul Jay: Like what?
Josh Stieber: Of searching through people's homes and people would often be disrespectful and that, and just, you know, you're told to search for weapons, so you go in a house and you tear it apart looking for weapons or anything suspicious. And I know, you know, people in my neighborhood growing up who, if that happened to their home, they would have some probably pretty passionate responses to that and other little thinks like, you know, if we were driving down the strett, somebody might think it was funny to swerve into a mud puddle and splash an old lady with mud, or when we were going into a house to pull the head off a baby doll that a kid was holding and hand it back to the kid. And, again, it's like that's not going to make, you know, the front page of the newspaper but you start to think, "Well what if that was my mom that got splashed with mud?" or "What if that was my little sister whose baby doll got ripped apart? How would I feel about that?" And so I got down to this very simple idea of doing unto others and I knew I wouldn't want other people to do to me.
Paul Jay: Now in this kind of culture that, you know, it's relatively acceptable to shoot civilians. We've been told of stories that, during these house searches, there's been quite a few killings, that people thought there were weapons -- or maybe they didn't -- and they shot anwyay. Did you experience any of that?
Josh Stieber: Not that I can remember offhand of something specifically in a house search but, again, it was sometimes even smaller things that would affect me -- like just how we treated the locals when we went into their house and knew that, if that kind of thing went on back here, that, you know, most people would be up in arms about that. You know, even some of the relatively minor things would set people off.
On veterans issues, we'll note this from the Senate Democratic Policy Committee:
Senate Democrats have a long record of working to ensure that our nation's veterans receive the care and benefits they have earned through their service. Over the past several years, congressional Democrats led the effort to fill in critical funding shortfalls at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) created by the previous Administration and championed the passage of the largest investment in veterans' education since World War II. In addition, working with President Obama, Senate Democrats have taken significant action to improve and expand access to VA health care services, better meet the needs of returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, enhance access to benefits for all veterans, and ensure more timely claims processing and efficient management at the VA. As we near the Memorial Day holiday, we honor the service of the men and women who have sacrificed for our country and pledge to continue our commitment to the heroes that have served and continue to serve each day.
This Fact Sheet outlines the relevant legislative initiatives Senate Democrats have advanced since the start of the 111th Congress.
Senate Democrats have worked to provide historic funding increases to ensure first-rate care and services to our nation's veterans.
Senate Democrats led the passage of the Fiscal Year 2010 budget, putting in place a blueprint for record increases for veterans' health care and services. The Budget Resolution for Fiscal Year 2010 included a funding increase of more than 11 percent for veterans' programs above the Fiscal Year 2009 level. According to veterans' service organizations, the discretionary budget authority exceeded the recommendations they provided in their policy and budget plan for the year, known as the Independent Budget – for the first time in the 24-year history of the Independent Budget. The Budget Resolution also included a provision to end the previous Administration's ban on enrolling modest income, non-service connected (part of the so-called "Priority Group 8") veterans in the VA health care system, which, according to the VA, will effectively bring more than 500,000 additional veterans into the VA system by 2013. Additionally, it authorized advanced funding for the VA medical care program to ensure stable management of VA medical services from year to year.
Under Democratic leadership, the Senate passed the Fiscal Year 2010 funding legislation to implement this historic budget increase. In December, the Senate passed the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010 (as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010), which, in line with the Budget Resolution, provided for a record increase in funding this year – $2.5 billion above the Fiscal Year 2009 level – for critical veterans programs and services. The legislation included $53 billion in discretionary funding – the largest appropriation for veterans' programs in the VA's history – as well as $56.6 billion in mandatory funds. For the first time, the bill provided for advance appropriations ($48.3 billion) to fund VA medical programs for Fiscal Year 2011, a measure designed to ensure a stable and uninterrupted source of funding for medical care for veterans. The bill included other key priorities that:
· Expanded the Rural Health Initiative and the Rural Clinic Initiative, effectively improving access to medical care for veterans in underserved rural areas;
· Ensured the VA has the resources to meet the health care needs of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan ;
· Increased medical and prosthetic research in key areas, including mental health, traumatic brain injury (TBI), spinal cord injury, burn injury, polytrauma injuries, and sensory loss;
· Funded vital long term care programs for aging veterans as well as severely wounded combat veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan;
· Provided increased funding for health care and support services to assist homeless veterans, and established a new initiative to combat homelessness among our nation's veterans;
· Expanded access to VA health care to disabled veterans earning modest incomes;
· Addressed critical maintenance and repair needs as well as new construction priorities at VA hospitals and clinics; and
· Allowed the VA to hire 1,200 new claims processors to improve the timeliness of claims processing.
These increases build upon years of Democratic leadership that have ensured robust funding for the VA. Democrats have consistently worked to provide all veterans the health care and services they need and deserve. Throughout the previous Administration, Democrats in Congress fought against proposed fee increases for veterans' health care; pushed for bolstered investments in VA medical services; led the effort to enact a post-9/11 GI bill to provide enhanced educational benefits to today's veterans; and supported initiatives to expand services to rural veterans, better meet the needs of returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, and increase housing assistance and other support services and benefits to veterans and their families. In 2007, the first year after Democratic leadership had been restored, Congress appropriated the biggest increase to veterans' programs in the history of the Department. Congress went even further the following year, providing a $4 billion dollar increase, or $2.8 billion above President Bush's budget, for the VA in Fiscal Year 2009.
Democrats strongly support President Obama's Fiscal Year 2011 budget proposal. Senate Democrats have endorsed the President's proposal, which would provide for a 7.6 percent funding increase to support critical programs; expand VA services to veterans in need, including rural veterans; authorize advanced funding for the VA medical care program for Fiscal Year 2012; bolster efforts to end veterans' homelessness; invest in initiatives to build a 21st century VA; and provide enhanced education benefits under the new GI bill.
Democrats worked to secure passage of landmark legislation to improve the support services and the quality of care for veterans. Last month, the Senate unanimously passed the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010, a bill that combines several legislative initiatives to extend benefits to the caregivers of injured veterans and to enhance vital veterans' health care services. The bill was signed into law by the President on May 5.
Support for the caregivers of wounded veterans. The legislation establishes a new, permanent program that will provide the caregivers of wounded warriors with training, counseling, mental health care and key support services. It also provides a living stipend and health care to the family caregivers of injured veterans under the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA) program. This legislation is critical to alleviating the many hardships that have faced caregivers and recognizing their many sacrifices in caring for our nation's wounded veterans.
Breaking down barriers for veterans in rural America . The legislation breaks down many obstacles that make it difficult for veterans in rural area to receive the health care they have earned. Specifically, the bill provides reimbursement for travel to VA facilities, establishes grants for veterans service organizations transporting veterans from highly rural areas, and expands VA's telehealth program and its ability to collaborate with community organizations in rural areas.
Expanding health care service for women veterans. The legislation helps VA adapt to the needs of the growing number of women veterans. As provided for in the bill, qualifying women veterans can count on health care for their newborn children for one week. VA is also required to train its mental health providers in the treatment of military sexual trauma, provide readjustment services for women veterans, implement a pilot program to provide women veterans with child care, and report to Congress on a comprehensive assessment of the barriers in providing health care to women veterans.
Improvements in veterans care and services. The legislation also includes a number of provisions for enhancing veterans care, including measures that will enhance mental health care; remove barriers to care for catastrophically disabled veterans; strengthen the VA's workforce; and expand and improve services for homeless veterans.
Senate Democrats championed a bill to ensure timely and predictable funding for the veterans' health care system. The Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act, passed by the Senate in August, ensures that funding levels for veterans' health care will be determined one year in advance of the regular appropriations process. By reforming the current year-by-year funding process, the bill will put an end to funding delays for medical care programs for veterans and facilitate more effective budget planning at VA hospitals, allowing them to better meet veterans' needs. Additionally, it will ensure transparency in VA funding by requiring public reports and Government Accountability Office (GAO) audits on the VA's funding projections. In the words of President Obama, "For the VA, this means timely, sufficient and predictable funding from year to year. For VA hospitals and clinics, it means more time to budget, to recruit high-quality professionals, and to invest in new health care equipment. And most of all, for our veterans it will mean better access to the doctors and nurses and the medical care that they need: specialized care for our wounded warriors with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries, and the staffing to welcome back to the VA those half-million 'Priority 8' vets." The President signed the bill into law on October 22, 2009.
Democrats led Senate passage of legislation to enhance benefits for veterans and their families. On October 7, 2009, the Senate unanimously adopted the Veterans' Benefits Enhancement Act of 2009, to provide expanded compensation, housing, employment, education, burial, and insurance benefits to veterans and their families. Specifically, the bill included provisions to strengthen life insurance and mortgage insurance programs for disabled veterans; remove the enrollment cap on the number of veterans allowed in VA's Independent Living Program; and ease the burden of proof on veterans seeking to establish that their disabilities are related to their service. Further, the legislation provided for retroactive payment to service members who suffered from traumatic injury while on active duty on or between October 7, 2001 and November 30, 2005 – a benefit that previously was available only to those service members who were injured while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom during that time.
Democrats worked to provide $1.4 billion in reinvestment and recovery funding for VA hospital and medical facility construction and improvements. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 included $1.4 billion for the VA, with funding directed primarily for infrastructure repairs at existing Veterans Health Administration (VHA) hospitals and capital infrastructure needs at state VA long-term care facilities. Specifically, the bill provided: $1 billion for nonrecurring maintenance for VA medical facilities; $150 million in funding for grants and construction of state extended care facilities; $50 million for information technology systems for the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA); $150 million for VBA to decrease waiting times for claims surge processors; and $50 million for the National Cemetery Administration for monument and memorial repairs. In addition to creating jobs, these investments helped the VA address critical facility maintenance and upgrade needs, improving care for veterans across the country.
Under Democratic leadership, the Senate passed a bill to ensure the value of compensation for veterans and their survivors is protected from potential inflation. The Senate passed the Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2009 to ensure that inflation does not erode veterans' benefits. The bill stipulated that, if the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates an increase in inflation based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI), the Secretary of VA would be required to increase veteran and survivor compensation by that rate. It also stated that if the CPI decreases, veteran and survivor compensation would remain at the previous year's rate. Effective December 1, 2009, the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) would be applicable to veterans' disability compensation, dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children, and additional related benefits. The President signed the bill into law on June 30, 2009.
the los angeles timesborzou daragahialsumaria tv
the christian science monitor
the new york timessteven lee myers
monthly reviewjeremy kuzmarov
Read on ...
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Well that was a surprise. I had two weeks off in August/September 2006. Maybe three. I was looking for the next comic after the one I posted and I had to keep going week by week until I found the September 10, 2006 "Bully Boy's tired little number."
He trotted out 9-11 again around that time and, to me, 9-11 became Bully Boy's favorite dress he pulled on whenever he wanted a little attention.
He obviously didn't truly take it seriously. He said "Dead or Alive" on bin Laden, for example. Then he forgot all about him. Osama bin Forgotten.
I honestly don't see any improvement now that Bush's is out of the White House. I think we're worse off because we don't even have an active left at this point.
Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Thursday, May 13, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Allawi has a pow-wow (where's the US media?), what's going on with the drawdown, old words may haunt, and more.
Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of an assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists -- Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. One of the people speaking on the topic is Iraq War veteran Josh Stieber. Paul Jay (Real News Network) has a multi-part interview with Stieber and we'll note this from the second part of the interview.
Paul Jay: We are talking to Josh Stieber. He was a member of the army company in Baghdad that day that everyone has now seen. This is the video where Apache helicopters attacks a group of Iraqis on the ground. Josh was a member of that company. Not there that day. But now we're talking about how Josh came from joining the army to, a couple of years later, applying for conscientious objector status. Thanks again for joining us, Josh.
Josh Stieber: Sure. Thanks for having me.
Paul Jay: So let's just pick up the story where we left off. So you've more or less finished boot camp, what comes next?
Josh Stieber: A couple of more months training with the company I eventually deployed with.
Paul Jay: And in terms of this arc of how you get from joining to conscientious objector status. What took place before you go to Iraq? Is there another kind of moment there for you?
Josh Stieber: I guess another big moment in training that really started making me ask questions -- and a good excuse not to ask too many -- but what initially disturbed me was our leaders would take us to us into a room one at a time, take the new soldiers, and they would ask us a series of questions leading up to this big question that if somebody were to pull a weapon in a marketplace full of completely unarmed civilians and there was only one person with a weapon, would you return fire towards that person? And not only did you have to say "yes" but in this exercise if you even hesitated in your answer then you got yelled out for not being a good soldier and not being prepared to do what it took to keep your fellow soldiers safe?
Paul Jay: So when they asked you, what did you say? Did you hesitate?
Josh Stieber: I hesistated. And after a second or two, they really ripped into me.
Paul Jay: Saying what?
Josh Stieber: Again, I needed to be prepared to fire whenever I was told and I had to keep it -- always be aware of these threats and any hesitation could potentially mean the lives of the other soldiers.
Paul Jay: So the idea of killing women and children is an actual part of the training that you have to internalize that this is acceptable under the right circumstances?
Josh Stieber: Yeah, it's not specifically said that we're going to go out today and kill women and children but if it should happen in the process of doing what we're supposed to --
Paul Jay: But when you put that with what you told us in the first segment of the interview that one of the marching chants was killing women and spewing bullets on children, it seems to be something they know you're going to get into -- these situations with civilians -- and so part of the training is accepting the killing of civilians as part of your job.
Josh Stieber: Yeah, again, it's all very psychological. And I even take that beyond just military training and say there's aspects of our society -- going back and looking at my history class, when I learned about the atomic bombings or bombings in other wars that either intentionally targeted civilians or there were a lot of civilian casualties in the process. Just that same mindset: "This was unfortunate, we don't intentionally do this most of the time but if it should so happen that it happens as we're accomplishing our greater goals, then so be it.
We'll try to note more from the multi-part interview. The plan was to pair the above with something a friend wanted to noted. Can't note the latter. Radio program. Not in the mood for uninformed hosts. Don't talk about past war coverage by broadcast networks if you don't know what you're talking about. I don't care if says a kernal of truth somewhere in that nonsense. He's uneducated and he doesn't know what he's talking about. During Vietnam, you had reporters who were not embedded. The moron seems to believe that the only way reporters have ever covered a war is by being embedded. I'm not noting his program. We'll instead move over to US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: I was just in Iraq last week to visit the troops, in preparation for Memorial Day, to see them and they're so great. There's nothing that's happening there that-that would justify continuation of the policy. In order to bring stability to the region, more security to the American people and restore our reputation, we must redeploy those troops out of Iraq safely, honorably, responsibly and soon. We've lost -- what is it, 4075 -- something like that now. Every one of them precious to us. Tens of thousands wounded, many of them permanently. And I was just at the hospital -- and I'll go to the VA hospital again after I leave here. The loss of repuation in the world. The cost in dollars to our -- taking us into debt, into recession, into a-a -- where the relationship between the war and the economy are becoming more apparent. And if you didn't care about -- well I'm sure you care about all of that -- but if you're just thinking militarily, the undermining of our capability to protect the American people, undermining our military strength is staggering. We don't have one combat ready unit in the United States to go to protect our interests where ever they are threatened or those of our friends. So it has to end. And soon. We just passed another bill. The House keeps passing with deadlines or to accomodate the Senate's sometimes goals We just sent them another one. They sent it back without-without the redeployment language. We'll send something back to them. But it is essential and it will happen. And it will happen, in my view, with a Democratic president and that will begin in a matter of months and that is the optimism that I --
San Francisco Chronicle: Why not put withdrawal dates in this bill to the Senate and stand up to them and just say, "It's got to be this way, we're not going to give in"?
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: Well they -- See there is a bipartisan majority for that in the Senate -- Democrats and Republicans alike -- but there aren't sixty votes. So nothing would ever get to the president's desk. And there just isn't a -- That just won't happen.
Not much happened, Nance. Not much at all. The above -- Nancy claiming a withdrawal of all US troops will take place "soon" -- took place in May of 2008, when Nancy sat down with the San Francisco Chronicle's editorial board and reporters. " And it will happen, in my view, with a Democratic president . . ." You got that Democratic president, Nancy, so why is it your remarks are now two years old and yet US troops remain in Iraq? Why is that? And did I miss something? Between now and then did the US economy recover and begin thriving? I don't believe it did. But somehow the fact that the economy is even worse than it was during your interview doesn't demand that the Iraq War end if only for economic reasons?
Wall St. Journal editorial board member and columnist Kimberley A. Strassel notes:
Barack Obama allowed the left to believe he was one of them. Some of his campaign promises certainly fed its hopes: He'd close Guantanamo, pass union "card check," renegotiate Nafta, leave Iraq. Adding to the left's exuberance was the party's filibuster-proof Senate majority.
But Guantanamo is still open, card check is still dead, Nafta is still functioning, and troops remain in Iraq.
Yesterday's snapshot noted Martin Chulov (Guardian) reporting, "The White House is likely to delay the withdrawal of the first large phase of combat troops from Iraq for at least a month after escalating bloodshed and political instability in the country." Today on Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman explained, "The Guardian newspaper reports the White House is likely to delay the withdrawal of the first large phase of combat troops from Iraq for at least a month after escalating bloodshed and political instability in the country. The US commander, General Ray Odierno, had originally expected to give the order within sixty days of the general election held in Iraq on March 7. In a message to Congress yesterday, President Obama said the situation in Iraq continues to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States." David Martin (CBS News) notes the talk of the pace of the drawdown and provides this walk through, "There are currently 94,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, meaning Odierno will have to send 44,000 home over the next three and a half months to meet the deadline. Right now, it is still possible to move that many troops - but just barely. Any further delay in the drawdown will cause him to miss the deadline." Peter Kenyon reports on the drawdown for NPR's Morning Edition here.
Iraqi journalist Sardasht Osman was kidnapped from his college campus and murdered. His corpse was discovered last Thursday. Demonstrations have been held to protest the murder and Mihemed Eli Zalla (Hawler Tribune) reports that protests were staged yesterday as well in Sulaimania with demonstrators chanting, "We all are other Sardashts. We are not afraid of dath. Dr. Kamal Kirkuki, who killed Sardasht!" Kamal Kirkuki is the Speaker of the Krudistan Parliament. Yahya Barzani (AP) adds, "There have been nearly a dozen demonstrations over the past week in Iraq's Kurdish autonomous region calling for his killers to be brought to justice." Ranj Alaaldin (Guardian) notes, "Osman, writing anonymously but later revealing his identity, had been critical of the authorities and the patronage and corruption that plague Kurdistan. He pushed the boundaries of freedom in the region by publishing a number of inflammatory articles, insulting senior officials of the ruling Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic party (KDP); and crossed the red line of local taboo by writing of his desire to marry President Massoud Barzani's daughter: a no-go area for any sane Kurd." AFP reports protests continued today and quotes Hawlati editor Kamal Rauf stating, "We are continuing to demonstrate to demand an inquiry to discover the murderers."
Monday May 3rd's snapshot noted the Sunday attack on Christian college students just outside Mosul. At that point, there was one death with approximately seventy wounded. The death toll went on to climb to at least 4. Saif Tawfiq (Reuters) reports today, "Wailing with grief and rage, Iraqi Christians this week buried the teenage victim of a bombing and lamented again their vulnerability in the complex stew of Iraq's sectarian warfare and Arab-Kurd disputes. Thousands turned out for the funeral of Sandy Shibib, 19, a first-year biology student at Mosul University, who died on Tuesday from head wounds caused by shrapnel when bombers struck buses carrying Christian students in northern Iraq on May 2." Spero News notes that the Council of the Christian Church Leaders of Iraq issued a statement which includes:
We, the heads of Christian churches gathered at the College of St. Ephraim in Qaraqosh, express our deep pain in facing this tragedy that has affected our children the Christian students at Mosul University, and we express our full solidarity with them. This attack is one painful episode in a series targeting Christians, especially painful since these students were defenseless. They are the hope for the future of Iraq, and as a group they have nothing to do with politics.
These sad events, affecting the everyday lives of peaceful citizens in all components of the Iraqi people, require a serious review and the concerted efforts of all government officials and political parties in order to give priority to the public interest and the security of citizens. Thus we urgently reiterate our call to expedite the formation of a government of national unity that will work to ensure law, security and safety; any delay will have a negative impact reflecting negatively on the lives of citizens and the task of nation-building. We also call upon the concerned authorities in the province of Nineveh, and especially the members of the parliament from the Hadbaa and Nineveh coalitions, to embrace dialogue and consensus for the benefit of their province and its inhabitants.
The statement is signed by Archbishop Avak Assadourian, Head of the Armenian Orthodox Church in Iraq; Archbishop George Qas-Moussa, the Archbishop of Mosul; Archbishop Louis Sake, Archbishop of Kirkuk for the Chaldean Church; Bishop Athanasius Matta Mtoka, Archbishop of Baghdad for the Syrian Catholic Church; Archbishop Mor Gregorios Saliba Shamoun, Archbishop of Mosul for the Syrian Orthodox Church; Bishop Thomas Georgis, representative of the Patriarchate of the Ancient Church of the East; Bishop Isaac Kames, representative of the Patriarchate of the Assyrian Church of the East; and Father Najib Moussa, Dominican representative of the Latin Church in Iraq. Yesterday the US Army's press office quoted that the team leader for the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Ninawa (W. Patrick Murphy) stating, "We condemn all violence here. The targeting of minorities and Christians in particular is unacceptable. We are coordinating with Iraq authorities to improve security, so that all citizens here, including Christians and minorities can conduct their lives. These are for the most part young students going to the university trying to improve their lives."
In some of today's reported violence . . .
Reuters notes a Kirkuk roadside bombing injured two Iraqi soldiers, a Tuz Khurmato roadside bombing injured a bodyguard for a Turkmen leader, a Mosul sticky bombing injured six people, a Mosul suicide car bombing injured three people (plus the bomber who was killed), a Baghdad roadside bombing injured seven people and a Mahmudiya roadside bombing claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers and injured seven people.
Today in the US, Qubad Talabani spoke at the Nixon Center. Paul Richter (Los Angeles Times) reports that the KRG spokesperson had harsh words for the White House and its 'laid back' attitude towards Iraq. He is quoted stating, "There has got to be serious thought given to how the United States applies its leverage. They've got to help us get our act together." Iraq held elections March 7th. Parliament has still not been seated and, of course, no prime minister has been selected. Alsumaria TV reports that Ayad Allawi (Iraqiya slate) met with Ammar al-Hakim (Iraqi National Alliance) and "After the meeting Allawi said that any alliance between the blocs shall not be perceived as aimed against other parties. Futhermore, Former Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari and Al Iraqia Senior Official Hassan al-Alawi talked over means to overcome the current crisis." Meanwhile Alsumaria TV reports that Nouri al-Maliki met "with security ministers and senior field officials" to declare that security plans need to be revised.
Senator Byron Dorgan chairs the Senate Democratic Policy Committee which continues to address the econmy. Yesterday they issued "Whose Side Are They On: Republican Carve-Out For Special Interest Would Hurt Consumers" and we'll note this section of it:
Military families have been a target of unscrupulous lenders. With their first steady paycheck in hand, recently enlisted service members often face their first chance to be lured into easy credit offers. Many experienced military families have also fallen victim to these unfair practices, while struggling with daily expenses such as child care and medical bills in the face of deployments and frequent moves.
In a recent letter to the Treasury Department, Undersecretary of Defense Clifford Stanley outlined the severity of the issue: "personal financial readiness of our troops and families equates to mission readiness." He reported that 72 percent of financial counselors surveyed had counseled service members on auto abuses in the past six months.
Military families deserve a consumer agency that will crack down on abusive auto lending practices. While Republicans would like to preserve the status quo, the Restoring American Financial Stability Act would address:
· Wrong incentives: Like mortgage brokers, auto dealer-lenders are paid more to sell loans with higher rates and fees than borrowers qualify for. This gives dealers a perverse incentive to charge higher rates.
· Bait and switch financing: Sometimes a dealer-lender sends the buyer home with a "purchased" car and calls a few days or weeks later to say that the financing "fell through." The borrower then is trapped into paying a higher interest rate.
· "Packing" loans: Dealers also receive commissions to sell expensive add-ons to the loans, such as extended warranties. Dealer-lenders frequently obscure the cost of add-ons, which can be thousands of dollars, by emphasizing that they only moderately increase the monthly loan payment.
· Discriminatory lending: Among consumers who obtain dealer financing, African Americans are almost twice as likely as whites to pay dealer mark-ups (54.6% of blacks versus 30.6% of whites), and African Americans are 70% more likely than white men to finance at the dealer rather than a bank or a credit union.
From Debra Sweet's "Assassination First? Due Process Never? NO!" (World Can't Wait), we'll note this:
"In the past few weeks, it has become common knowledge that Barack Obama has openly ordered the assassination of an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, because he is suspected of participating in plots by Al Qaeda.
Al-Awlaki denies these charges. No matter. Without trial or other judicial proceeding, the administration has simply put him on the to-be-killed list."
read press relase
So begins the text of a paid ad in The New York Review of Books May 27 issue which arrives on newsstands Thursday. The statement, under the headline "Crimes Are Crimes - No Matter Who Does Them" poses the challenges:
What would we have done if President George Bush had publicly ordered the assassination of a citizen? And what should we do now as a fever pitch of media calls for the drones to "take out" Al Awlaki?
ObamaCare doesn't help women. Assaults on reproductive rights do not help women. That's reality and there's not a member of this community who is unaware of that. I have to remphasize that because we're noting this from Ms. magazine:
In the about-to-be-released new Spring issue of Ms., our publisher Ellie Smeal highlights 25 key benefits for women in the new health reform law-some you've heard of, and some you haven't.
Smeal also heralds the far-reaching gender-equity language in the bill. Could this be a Title IX for women's health?
Join Ms. TODAY to get the full story the moment the Spring issue hits mailboxes.
And here's a sneak peek at the rest of the Spring Ms.:
-- Was the murderer of abortion provider Dr. Tiller really a "lone wolf"?
-- What life is like for Haitian women in refugee camps
-- The lawyer who is taking on the U.S. military's disturbing sexual assault problem
-- What can we do about shockingly high global maternal mortality rates?
-- Donna Brazile thanks Nancy Pelosi for health-care reform and mourns Dorothy Height
-- Gloria Steinem remembers long-time friend Wilma Mankiller
Join now to get the next issue of Ms. delivered straight to your mailbox. And you'll be doing your part to support fearless, feminist journalism that you can't get anywhere else.
Ms. hopefully does more than cheerlead a law crafted for and of men. After all, they're still recovering from the embarrassment of putting Barack on their cover and say he was what feminism looks like. But we're noting the above and will note Ms. from time to time. Of course, once upon a time, when they dealt with reality and things that actually mattered, we were able to note them more often. No offense, but we don't need "Bulletins from a funeral home." Translation, when you're focusing more on passings than the present, there's a problem.
the guardianmartin chulov
the guardianranj alaaldinthe hawler tribunemihemed eli zallathe associated pressyahya barzanji
the los angeles times
Read on ...