Thursday, June 28, 2012

Little Dicky (and Orphan Annie)

 Little Dicky Breaks It Down
From February 8, 2009, that's "Little Dicky Breaks It Down."

Little Dicky (and his unnamed dog -- it is a boy dog, I have a joke on that when I do the last Little Dicky) was introduced in 2009 to have a regular character to rely on.  He is a charter member of the Cult of St. Barack.  He drools over Barry O.

He's pathetic and wimpy.

Many people thought it was supposed to be based on "Kos."

Many people were correct.

That's who Little Dicky is based on, in looks and in attitude.

He's worthless because he won't stand up for anything, he just runs around with his dog mooning over Barack.  To call him a cheerleader is to give him too much credit because cheerleaders work much harder than he does.

Again Little Dicky is a character who pops up every now and then.  You haven't seen the last of him yet.

Little Whore Dicky gets to meet Little Orphan Annie?

Kind of.  We're doing theme posts where we pick out a section of film criticism and include it.  It can be because we agree or disagree or whatever.  I'm picking out this from Pauline Kael's review of Annie because it's wickedly funny:

The comic strip Little Orphan Annie was once the most popular strip in American funny papers.  The child-Cinderella story of the orphan who in 1933, during the Depression, is taken for a week into the home of the billionaire Daddy Warbucks and proceeds to spread sunshine and to inspire President Roosevelt to create the New Deal cries out for a cockeyed fairy-tale tone.  But the movie has the feel of a manufactured romp, and Annie (Aileen Quinn), a ten-year-old with a heart-shaped face and brass lungs, bawls out "Tomorrow" regularly, on schedule.  The child is almost frighteningly assured; she's a little freckled, red-haired engine, designed to be cheerful, inspirational, and spunky -- a fearless toughie who uses her fists on any boys who mistreat animals.  Aileen Quinn has a pleasant enough voice when she does a more subdued reprise of "Tomorrow" at the White House, yet even in her restrained song, "Maybe," when her voice is at its softest and most musical, she's too professional a Broadway babe, there's nothing spontaneous or touching about her.  All the little orphans seem to have been trained by Ethel Merman; they belt in unison.  And when they dance it's showy leaping about, and the editing breaks it up, making it more hectic.  Annie arrives at Daddy Warbucks' mansion, and his household staff dances; the cutting is so choppy that the pump-and-tumble dancing -- arms like pistons and stomping feet -- turns into commotion.

You can find the full review in Kael's Taking It All In.  Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, June 28, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue,  some wonder who will eventually replace Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, attacks on the press in Iraq continue, we note the attacks on Al Mada, Nouri offers name calling of his rivals, the return of the VA's dreaded Madhulika Agarwal, and much more.
In an new article published by the Navy Times today, Patricia Kime reports on a study for the US military's Trauma Combat Casualty Care Committee which found "that nearly a quarter of the 4,596 combat deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2001 and 2011 were 'potentially survivable'."
There's not been a comprehnsive evaluation of deaths in Iraq but that's probably partly due to the fact that the violence has never stopped.  This morning kicked off with Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reporting 3 Taji car bombings have left at least two people dead and another fifteen injured.  AP noted those numbers increased to 5 dead and eighteen injured.  In addition, AFP noted a Baghdad car bombing has claimed 8 lives and left thirty injured.  Kareem Raheem (Reuters) quotes Baghdad police officer Ahmed Nouri stating, "There were bodies scattered everywhere.  Glass and vegetables covered the whole place.  I feel lik my clothes are completely covered in blood and the smell of it is in my nose.  In some places you cannot tell the blood from the (pulverized) vegetables."  On the Baghdad bombing, AP quotes Hadil Maytham who was with her children when the explosions took place, "It shook the doors and the windows of the house.  Then we heard shooting, probably by police who usually shoot randomly after explosions."   AFP also noted a Baquba bombing claimed 2 lives and left four people injured and a Ramadi car bombing left five people injured.  Reuters added, "A roadside bomb targeting a police patrol killed one and wounded five in Abu Dsheer, a Shi'ite area in southern Baghdad, police said."  In addition, KUNA reports, "In Diyala Governorate southewest of Baghdad, unknown armed men killed four security elements at a checkpoint in Baqubah city."  AFP added this evening that 2 Shawa were killed in Samarra with an additional two left injured.  As the day ended in the US, AP was counting 22 deaths and over fifty injured.  It has been a very violent month in Iraq with Iraq Body Count counting 404 deaths by violence this month (June 1st through yesterday).
Meanwhile many speculate about Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's health and his eventual death, specifically who would take over.  Hayder al-Khoei (Niqash) argues it's very unlikely that Grand Ayatollah Mahmoud Shahroudi (born in Iraq, adult life spent in Iran) would be named the replacement as some hope and some fear:
Shahroudi is a well-regarded scholar but his political position in Iran hinders, rather than helps, his prospects in Iraq. In fact, any political position a cleric holds actually has direct – and negative – implications on his religious credentials in Najaf. In Iran, religion and politics may be symbiotic. But in Iraq they do not go hand in hand.
The Shiite schools in Najaf, headed by al-Sistani have been practicing what is known as a tradition of quietism here for centuries: that is, a policy of religious leaders not interfering in political affairs. Clerics in Iraq do get involved in politics and the Grand Ayatollah does intervene in political affairs, but unlike in Iran, only on rare occasions.
Additionally, the process by which a successor to the religious movement is selected must be considered.  As Iraqi government spokesperson, Ali al-Dabbagh, put it: "there will be a transition period for a few years after the leading cleric dies but there are set mechanisms in place [for choosing a successor] and anyone who attempts to fill this gap using financial and political power from outside Iraq will fail".
Al-Dabbagh is referring to the gradual process of selection, involving other senior clerics in Najaf who will have a role in persuading the masses toward one, or several, clerics suitable to eventually take al-Sistani's place. It will not be clear cut at first and it may take some years for one strong, leading cleric to emerge.
As political and financial independence is crucial, it seems unlikely that senior clerics in Najaf will persuade the masses to start following someone like Shahroudi, with such an overt political role in Iran.
But the likelihood of Shahroudi replacing al-Sistani does not just depend on theological differences between clerics in Iraq and Iran. It also depends on the attitude of the masses. By following al-Sistani, Shiite Muslims indicate their reluctance to tie their religious and spiritual identity to a modern political system.
In 2009, Hashemi-Shahroudi ordered 'measures' to be taken to curb the press which frightened him -- specifically websites and satellite TV.  Whether he could replace Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani or not, he would certainly fit in with Nouri's never-ending attacks on the media. 
Today, AFP reports, "Baghdad: Iraq's interior ministry has given dozens of media outlets 45 days to comply with Communications and Media Commission (CMC) regulations over licences, or they will face 'legal procedures'."  Reporters Without Borders issues a statement which includes:
Tension between authorities and media have peaked this month with a decision by the Communications and Media Commission (CMC) – still pending implementation – to close 47 radio and TV stations on the grounds they lack official permits, and with demonstrations by journalists calling for the repeal of the Law on Journalists' Rights, which parliament adopted in August 2011 and which is widely regarded as violating the rights it claims to defend.

Disturbing decision by panel of questionable independence

Reporters Without Borders is alarmed by the CMC's decision, which triggered such an outcry that the interior ministry has given the radio and TV stations concerned 45 days from 25 June to comply with regulations.
The CMC took its decision more than a month ago but it was only revealed on 23 June by the Journalism Freedoms Observatory (JFO), which obtained documentary evidence of the plan. It concerns both local and foreign TV stations such as the BBC, Voice of America, Radio Monte Carlo, Radio Sawa, Al-Baghdadia TV and Al-Sharqiya News.
Many journalists and some politicians have criticized the decision as an attempt to gag the media, pointing out that the head of the CMC is appointed by Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki and that many of the targeted media are noted either for the non-partisan nature of their Iraqi coverage or, in some cases such as Al-Baghdadia and Al-Sharqiya, for their frequent criticism of the Iraqi government.
Iraq is currently experiencing a major political crisis with the prime minister facing mounting opposition. He is often accused of authoritarianism, nepotism and corruption.

Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO) head Ziyad al-Aajey told the Associated Press in a telephone interview that he believes the latest action against international news outlets is a direct warning from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
"It is a government message to the media outlets that if you are not with us, then you are against us," he said.
Nouri has a long history of attacking the press.  We noted some of that Sunday:
But Nouri began his crackdown on the press in July of 2006, he was freshly named prime minister.  He continued it.  At one point, his attacks translated into a reporter for the New York Times having an Iraqi soldier aim a gun at him, pull the trigger and then laugh because there was no chamber in the round.  This is what Nouri's encouraged and fostered in Iraq.  He's sued the Guardian, he's sued everyone.  Saleh al-Mutlaq tells CNN in December that Nouri's acting like a dictator and Nouri spends months trying to get al-Mutlaq stripped of his Deputy Prime Minister post.

In 2012, Nouri's favorite thing is to storm Iraqi news websites with hits to try to get them denied service.  No one comments on that because there's hardly any foreign press in Iraq anymore.  But there's too much still for Nouri.  Little Saddam can't do what he wants to do if there's a chance that the world's watching.
This led some to insist that there are no web attacks in Iraq.  Yes, there are.  It's pretty much destroying Al Mada which, today, is temporarily back online.  You won't find new content.  The daily has been hard by these attacks and hasn't published since the end of May.  However, May 25th they did report that their website was exposed to daily attacks that were causing it to crash.  They apologized to their readers and noted that tehcnical staff was attempting to prevent the hacks and the disruption of service.
Al Mada is one of Iraq's finest newspapers -- a newspaper that repeatedly puts US coverage to shame.  It could be a leader in the Middle East.  Instead, it's repeatedly attacked and the US press can't even be bothered with noting that fact.  Is it professional jealousy or just the US press forever being self-absorbed.
In Iraq, the political crisis continues.  Kitabat reports that Ibrahim al-Jaafair hosted a meeting at his home last night and that various factions of the National Alliance met in what is seen as an effort to save Nouri al-Maliki.  Whether the Sadr bloc supports the effort or not, Bahaa al-Araji did attend.  Alsumaria reports that Nouri is insisting that a no-confidence vote is over and that it's either a dialogue or early elections.

 Nouri wasn't the one calling for a no-confidence vote in himself so he's really not the one with the power to decide when such an effort is over.  Dar Addustour notes the Kurdish Alliance sees Nouri's threat of early elections as his effort to avoid being questioned by the Parliament.  Alsumaria reports Nouri is stating today that a campaign to sew confusion is being waged in Iraq and, while that would make a good confession from Nouri, he is yet again pointing the finger at others.  Al Rafidayn quotes Nouri stating that the answer to the problems is not rushing to the Constitution.  Well he would say that. When has he ever respected the Iraqi Constitution?  Just one example, he's been prime minister since 2006.  The Iraqi Constitituion's Article 140 insists a referendum and census on Kirkuk will be held.  It insists it is not to take place any later than the end of 2007.  Despite taking an oath to uphold the Constitution, Nouri has repeatedly refused to implement Article 140 and offered one excuse after another of why it's not a good time.  Nouri has no respect for the Constitution and, over Article 140 alone, should be impeached and removed from office.  Despite his inability to follow his oath, Nouri managed to insist that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi is not netural and is not professional

Kitabat notes the call remains for Nouri to appear before Parliament for questioning.  One thing they might question him on is the topic Dar Addustour's reporting: Parliament's Human Rights Commission has found proof of torture in Iraq prisons -- something Nouri has repeatedly denied takes place.  While ignoring that finding, Nouri has insisted today that there are no journalists in prison.  Which probably means there are many.
Turning to the United States . . .
Senator Barbara Boxer:  I want to say I came here to talk to you about the epidemic of veteran homelessness and to offer up an idea that doesn't cost any money that I think would be terrific in involving the American people in this -- fighting this epidemic. You know, I would say probably all of us in this room -- I certainly hope all of us in this room -- have safe, comfortable homes to live in and we take it for granted.  But every night, 67,500 of our nation's veterans are homeless.  67,500 of our veterans are homeless. This is inexcusable because no veteran should ever have to spend a night on the streets and I know we all agree with that.  Ensuring that our veterans have safe, stable housing is also a smart thing to do because research has shown that a home is the very foundation that a veteran can build and sustain a successful life.  In my home state of California, I met a veteran, Holbert Lee.  And when Mr. Lee returned home from Vietnam, he ended up addicted to drugs and homeless on the streets of San Francisco.  We have an organization there called Swords to Plowshares and they helped him turn his life around, Madam Chairwoman, with the help of a housing voucher and VA support services, Mr. Lee now has a home to call his own.  And today as a vocational specialist at the San Francisco VA, he is working to assist other veterans.  Holbert Lee is a success story and proof of what can happen when we end the cycle of homelessness.  But there are too many more men and women who we have not reached. Now our government announced a goal to end veterans homelessness by 2015.  And I like to think that when we announce a goal like that, we mean it.  This isn't just something we throw out.   But yet [VA] Secretary [Eric] Shinseki admitted, "While we're not where we need to be just yet, we have movement but it's too early to begin high-fiving one another." And it is clear from those words that we have a long way to go.  So I introduced S. 1806, the Check the Box for Homeless Veterans Act of 2011.  Very straightforward.  It creates a check off box on the annual federal tax return. Tax payers can decide to make a voluntary contribution of one-dollar or more to support programs that prevent and combat veterans homelessness.  The donations are deposited in a new homeless veterans assistance fund established at the treasury that can only be used to supplement Congressionally appropriated funds for these various programs to help veterans.  Now let me be very clear, the funds in the check off box will not be allowed by law to replace any budgeted dollars -- there needs to be a maintenance of effort -- but they would be used to supplement those dollars.  So colleagues, I want to say -- Well, before I do my real close, I want to place in the record with your permission, Madam Chair, letters of support from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, from the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, from TEAM AMVETS, from the Center for American Homeless Veterans Inc. and from the California Association of County Veterans Services Officers and Swords to Plowshares.  I think -- If I might put those in the record, if that is alright?
Chair Patty Murray:  We will do that.
Senator Barbara Boxer:  And I think that they -- If you read these letters, there's -- They strongly support this approach.  So in conclusion I would say that our veterans have given so much. You're dealing with this every day and a lot of them suffer, they suffer mightily.  And having a home is the least we can do and I think that all of Americans want a chance to help.  They -- they feel sometimes helpless.  But with a dollar on a check-off, if every American paying their taxes did that, we could do something special.  I hope you will consider this.  I will work with you to make it happen.  I thank you for your dedication.
Boxer was speaking at yesterday's Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on proposed legislation.  Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Committee.  Yesterday, we noted her bills S. 3340 The Mental Health ACCESS Act of 2012 and S. 3313, The Women Veterans and Other Health Care Improvement Act of 2012.  On the latter, we also noted some of the testimony of Tracy Keil.  Tracy and her husband Iraq War veteran Matt Keil faced obstacles to having a child following Matt Keil being shot on February 24, 2007 while on patrol in Ramadi.  If Matt Keil had a basic insurance policy with any corporation, fertility and conception issues and care would not have been an issue.  As a veteran, Matt Keil's 'insurance' -- and that of his family -- comes via the VA.  And Murray's bill brings the VA up to 2012 and puts veterans and their families on equal footing when it comes to reproductive health.  Tracy Keil probably said it best yesterday, "War time changes a family, it shouldn't take away the ability to have one."
This is a basic issue that shouldn't be surrounded with any controversy or resistance.  It's not 1980, we're not just learning of Baby Louise (Louise Joy Brown, born in 1978, the first child conceived via in vitro fertilization).  Though the VA has dragged its feet for decades, these are not new issues.   Tracy Keil was part of the second panel along with VetsFirst's Heather Ansley, Disabled American Veterans' Joy Ilem and the American Urological Association's Dr. Mark Thomas Edney.  The first panel was VA's Dr. Madhulika Agarwal, William Schoenhard, Thomas Murphy and Robert Hipolit.  Excerpt of the first panel on this issue.
Chair Patty Murray:  Well the VA can't offer much in the way of care for spouses.  What does that mean for couples who need extra assistance conceiving a child because of a war injury?
Dr. Madhulika Agarwal:  Thank you again, for this question, Madam Chair.  Uh, Congress has generally restricted eligibility of health care services in VA to spouses.  There are some rare exceptions such as in [one word here -- no idea what she said, speak into the microphone] VA.  S. 3313 is aimed at expanding that authority to include infertility management for spouses under some circumstances when the veteran's injury has precluded their ability to procreate naturally.  Uh, we do not have a position on this yet but are reviewing it.  And, again, look forward to working with you and the Committee.
Agarwal?  We last encountered her in the June 4, 2009 House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health.  That performance led to the next day's entry here of "The VA's Madhulika Agarwal: Lying or grossly uninformed?"  In the three years, she's clearly not improved.  For example, I think Chair Murray knows S. 3313 and doesn't need anyone from the VA to tell her what it would do -- Murray is the sponsor of the bill.  We all caught that, right? Murray asked what services VA provided.  The answer is really none.  But to eat up time and give a false impression or who knows what, Agarwal starts babbling about what Murray's bill will do.  And, in her opening statement, Agarwal had already declared that the VA had no position on Murray's bill.  (Which I think is both offensive and a medical dereliction of duty.)
In addition to the snapshot, coverage came last night with Kat's "Justice for Camp Lejeune families?" offering the latest on the issue Ranking Member Richard Burr has long championed;   Ava's "Scott Brown backs two veterans bills" noted Brown's S. 3324 Housing for Families of Ill and Injured Veterans and S. 3308 The Women's Homeless Veterans Act; and  Wally offered "Veterans' cemeteries" on Senator Kelly Ayotte's S. 2320 Remembering America's Forgotten Veterans Cemetery Act of 2012 about the untended graves at Clakr Veterans Cemetery in the Philippines.  With those items covered, we'll note a Bill of Rights issue.  Specifically the Second Amendment. 
Ranking Member Richard Burr:  Mr. Murphy, you addressed the Second Amendment issue. If individuals -- Let me ask you this, how many veterans names have been turned over to NICIS?  How many are currently on that list?
Thomas Murphy: I don't have the details on the number of names that are currently on that list.  I can tell you the details around the number of requests for relief or removal from that list.
Ranking Member Richard Burr:  How many names have been requested to be relieved?
Thomas Murphy: 185, Senator.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: And how many have been granted?
Thomas Murphy: A total of 19.
Ranking Member Richard Burr:  And that's out of 127,000 names that have been turned over on the NICIS list.
Thomas Murphy:  Correct.  I'm assuming your numbers are correct. I don't have those in front of me.
Ranking Member Richard Burr:  Trust me, they are. 
Thomas Murphy:  Okay.
Ranking Member Richard Burr:  If individuals seek releif from the NICIS list,reporting requirements, does the VA assist them in coming up with the evidence needed to show whether they're dangerous?
Thomas Murphy: Yes, Senator, we do.
Ranking Member Richard Burr:  What do you do?
Thomas Murphy:  The Duty to Assist Act requires us to fully develop the case.  This is not a light matter in the Veterans Administration.  This is a fully adjudicated, full developed claim with a-a full decision letter with an explanation of how the decision was arrived to with a lot of supporting evidence and documentation provided.
Ranking Member Richard Burr:  Are there any veterans that are determined incapable to handle their own personal finances that's name is not put on the NICIS list?
Thomas Murphy:  Let me make sure I understand the question.  Are there veterans who --
Ranking Member Richard Burr:  Do you -- You have sombody who's determined that a veteran cannot write a check so they cannot handle their finances.  They have now assigned a spouse to be in charge of the finances. Is there anybody that that's happened to that that veteran was not then listed on the NICIS list?
Thomas Murphy:  I can say that there are not supposed to be.  I'm not saying that through an administrative process of errors that it hasn't occurred.
Ranking Member Richard Burr:  My understanding -- and I'll get you to go back and clarify this if I'm wrong -- every veteran who is relieved of their financial -- or deemed that they can't handle their own finances is automatically put on the list?
Thomas Murphy: They're placed on the list by the Veterans Administration, yes.
Ranking Member Richard Burr:  So what are the qualifications of the VA employees who make the decisions about whether veterans and their families should be stripped of their Second Amendment? What training do these people go through? 
Thomas Murphy:  I-I don't believe we have an option in this, Senator.  We're directed --
Ranking Member Richard Burr:  Well you've got VA -- You've got VA employees that are making a decision about whether somebody is capable of doing their own personal finances.  That determination that they're not capable of doing that strips them of their Second Amendment right.  It's very simple.  What training does that VA employee go through to be qualified to make a determination that would strip someone of their Constitutional rights?
Thomas Murphy:  Our employees -- Our adjudicators are trained in determining whether or not that veteran is capable of making the financial determinations they have with the funds that Veterans Administration provides that individual.  As a result of that decision, they are placed on the NICIS list.  It's not a determination of whether the individual is capable of handling firearms or not, it's can they manage their personal finances.
Ranking Member Richard Burr:  I know.  But when they go on the NICIS list, they are now deprived of firearm ownership. 
Thomas Murphy:  That's correct.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: Okay.  So a determination that they can't handle their personal finances strips them of their Second Amendment right and also, the way that it's written, it forbids any firearm to be handled by anyone in the household.  So you, in essence, strip the spouse of the Second Amendment right, you strip children of the Second Amendment right because you've determined that a veteran can't handle their own personal finances.  Are we in agreement?
Thomas Murphy:  We are.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: Okay.  Now I don't want to make this too simplistic.  If a veteran can't sign their name to a check and the VA determines that their spouse should be assigned the financial responsibilities because you're transferring money into an account, do we agree that that would trigger their listing on the NICIS list and that would lose their Second Amendment right and everyone else in the household.
Thomas Murphy: That's one I need to ask Mr. Hipolit to verify for me.  I'm not -- I'm unaware of the requirements for other people in the household on the restriction to own firearms.
Richard Hipolit:  Yeah, that's correct as well.  I was also not personally aware of the household restriction.  I know that if VA determines the person is incapable of handling their financial affairs that does get them on the NICIS list but
Ranking Member Richard Burr:  But you would agree, Mr. Hipolit, that a determination that they can't handle their finances has a wide definition to it.
Richard Hipolit:   I would say that if VA determines that they're unable to handle their finances that does qualify them to get on the NICIS list and their names are referred for the list.
Ranking Member Richard Burr:  That's not necessarily a mental determination.  It could be a physical determination, correct?
Richard Hipolit:  Uh --
Ranking Member Richard Burr:  -- that they're not capable of handling their finances.
Richard Hipolit: If they had a physical disability that impaired their ability to handle they're financial affairs, yes.
Ranking Member Richard Burr:  So they're automatically classified as dangerous?
Richard Hipolit:  Our determination is just whether they can handle their financial affairs and then that automatically triggers the requirement to refer their names.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: So would you agree that the purpose of the NICIC list which was to take guns away from dangerous people and the threshold that VA currently uses to determine who goes on the NICIS list are potentially two very different things?
Richard Hipolit:  I think that the law enforcement forces determined who should be put on the NICIS list and they determine that person --
Ranking Member Richard Burr:  But they don't in the case of veterans.  In the case of veterans, the only person that determines whether they get on the NICIC list is the VA and it's determined based upon are they capable of handling their own finances.
Richard Hipolit:  Well the law that requires us to make a referral is --
Ranking Member Richard Burr:  And you're the only agency in the federal government that across the board sends every person that's not qualified to handle their personal finances to the NICIC list?
Richard Hipolit:  That's not my understanding -- 
Ranking Member Richard Burr:  Are you ware of that?
Richard Hipolit:  It's my understanding that other agencies refer people as well.
Ranking Member Richard Burr:  Other agencies refer people but they have a different threshold for the ones that they  refer.  I think they might use the definition of dangerous and what I've heard you say is dangerous does not come into play. Mental capacity does not come into play.  Capability of handling your own personal finances is the only threshold and when they hit that, they're automatically put on the NICIS list.
Richard Hipolit:  From VA's standpoint, if they're determined to be unable to handle their financial affairs, we have to refer them.
Ranking Member Richard Burr:  I hate to dig in on this. I just want to point out to you that the threshold is very, very different at VA.  There are many veterans, spouses, and family members who are deprived of their Second Amendment right to own firearms based upon an arbitary decision by somebody at VA that they can't handle their own personal finances.  These people are all of the sudden labeled as dangerous when in fact the decision may have been a physical disability that didn't permit them to handle their own finances.  I hope this is something the Committee will look at.  I -- I'm actually shocked that the Veterans Affairs Committee is not outraged at the way this is being implemented.  127,000 of our country's veterans are stripped of a Constitutional right.  Some probably should.  Many of those 127,000 never have had that right take away. I thank you.
Read on ...

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Greedy Little Pig

The Greedy Pig

That's "Greedy Little Pig" from February 1, 2009.  I love that comic.  It may or may not be any good but I really can't stand Tom Daschle.  In my opinion, he is the poster of the weak-kneed, spineless Democrat who caves and caves and draws the whole party down while demoralizing the left.

There are few politicians in the country -- right or left -- that I find more damaging than Daschle. 

I blame him for the PATRIOT Act and so much more.  He had no spine.  He backed down over and over.  And he still lost his Senate seat so ha ha ha!  

And he profitted from the suffering via his wife.  

So I considered it a personal gift to me from Barack Obama when he nominated Tom Daschle because it let me do a comic on one of the most disgusting politicians in the country.

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

Thursday, June 21, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Jalal supposedly swearing he'll resign (and Iraqis yawn in response), the political crisis continues, an Iraqi is detained by French police, another Iraqi is refused by the European Union, in the US the Congress hears about Guard and Reserve members being fired from their civilian jobs, non-feminist Anne-Marie Slaughter takes a break from declaring war on foreign countries to declare war on feminism, and much more.
Alsumaria reports that KRG President Massoud Barzani states Nouri al-Maliki -- prime minister of Iraq and chief thug of the operation -- is sewing sedition in several ways and that his supporters are pushing a false rumor: That a Barzani, in exchange for Nouri's consent on an oil deal [the ExxonMobil deal], Barzani will bury his complaints and grievances over Nouri's pattern of rule.  Barzani calls the rumor a lie.
Many feel Nouri's charges against Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi are a lie as well.  To review, let's fall back to drop back to the April 30th snapshot:

The political crisis was already well in effect when December 2011 rolled around.  The press rarely gets that fact correct.  When December 2011 rolls around you see Iraqiya announce a  boycott of the council and the Parliament, that's in the December 16th snapshot and again in a December 17th entry .  Tareq al-Hashemi is a member of Iraqiya but he's not in the news at that point.  Later, we'll learn that Nouri -- just returned from DC where he met with Barack Obama -- has ordered tanks to surround the homes of high ranking members of Iraqiya.  December 18th is when al-Hashemi and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq are pulled from a Baghdad flight to the KRG but then allowed to reboard the plane. December 19th is when the arrest warrant is issued for Tareq al-Hashemi by Nouri al-Maliki who claims the vice president is a 'terrorist.' .
And al-Hashemi has been in Turkey while a Baghdad court, controlled by Nouri, pretends to be offering an impartial trial.  This despite the Baghdad judges declared him guilty in February at their press conference and while one judge was stating that he had been threatened by al-Hashemi, before the trial even started, they declared al-Hashemi guilty.  That press conference demonstrated that al-Hashemi was correct, he would not get a fiar trial in the Baghdad courts (he had asked that the trial be moved to the KRG or to Kirkuk).  In May, the trial began.  His attorneys have walked out at least once in protest of the judges' behavior.  The judges have also refused to allow Vice President al-Hashemi to call President Jalal Talabani to the stand as a character witness. 
Tareq al-Hashemi remains Vice President.  That should mean the trial shouldn't even be taking place.  His term would need to have expired or he would need to resign or he would need to be voted out of office to stand trial.  As Vice President of Iraq, Tareq al-Hashemi is now in Saudi Arabi where, Alsumaria reports, he is conveying condolences over Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz's death.  That's a trip that Nouri couldn't make successfully.  Tariq al-Hashemi is Sunni Arab.  Nouri's not and Nouri's constant verbal attacks on Saudi Arabia -- as well as Saudi Arabia's snub of his Arab League Summit in March -- go to the fact that they don't trust him.  For good reason.  Last Friday,  Alsumaria reported he was publicly accusing Saudi Arabi and Qatar of trying to destroy Iraq and Syria.  President Jalal Talabani probably could have handled the trip and the diplomacy aspect but he's fled Iraq for Germany.
Commenting on al-Hashemi's trial, Press TV gloms on Alia Nsayef of White Iraqiya -- a splinter group that broke off from the larger Iraqiya and has carried water for Nouri repeatedly since doing so.  Nsayef insists to Press TV that the trial is fair.  We'll be kind and assume the next section contains an editing error which leads to confusion and appears to indicate Iraqiya's Hamed al-Mutlaq was vouching for the court.  He was doing no such thing.   Mohamad Ali Harissi (AFP) quotes al-Mutlaq stating, "All evidence during the past months indicate that the judiciary was not successful in many things, and the effect on it of politicisation is clear.  We need a separation of powers and to define responsibilities and stop the interference in the work of the judiciary, which is not up to the standard of the Iraqis, though Iraqis were one of the first people to adopt laws."
A large number of Iraqis took to Baghdad's Firdous Square this week to protest Nouri.  Dar Addustour (check out the photo of the turnout, this was a huge turnout) reports Moqtada al-Sadr supporters showed up demanding that the media be free, that people speak freely and that no one muzzle the voice of democracy.  Kitabat notes that Nouri's effort to shut down satellite chanel Baghdadi resulted in the large turnout and that the crowd chanted Moqtada's name.  Dar Addustour reports that Nouri attempted to limit -- if not halt -- the protests by butting off raods to the square, stationing security guards throughout and more.  Nouri dismissed the protest and their objections to him while insisting that his critics can say anything about him but he's gagged/prevented from speaking about them.  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani had no comment because he's fled to Germany.
He don't show much these days
It gets so f**king cold
I loved his secret places
But I can't go anymore
"You change like sugar cane"
Says my northern lad
I guess you go too far
When pianos try to be guitars
I feel the west in you
And I feel it falling apart too
-- "Northern Lad," written by Tori Amos, first appears on her From The Choirgirl Hotel
It hasn't been a good time for Northern Lad Jalal.  For awhile there, he could hang with Moqtada, Iraqiya's Ayad Allawi and KRG President Massoud Barzani.  Then he refused to follow the Constitution and forward a petition to Parliament.  Jalal decided he had a 'right' to verify signatures and verify meant something other than: Did you sign this?  "I signed it two weeks ago but I've changed my mind" meant Jalal struck your name and he then turned around and insisted that the petition didn't have enough signatures.  He was gripping any excuse he could as quickly became obvious.  And now he finds himself alone hence the trip to Germany.

Kitabat reported last week on Talabani's June 9th declaration that he wouldn't forward the signatures for a no-confidence vote, thereby ending that process for the Parliament to vote Nouri al-Maliki out as prime minister.  Of Jalal's change of heart, Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) noted, "Talabani has close ties to Iran, which has been using its leverage in Iraq to keep al-Maliki in place. Divisions among the prime minister's opponents may also be undercutting the no confidence push."  Dar Addustour also focused on the messages that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been sending Jalal Talabani.  And it wasn't just Iran putting the pressure on Jalal.  By mid-week,  Dar Addustor was reporting that eye witnesses claim Jalal was visited by a convoy of US officials (ten vehicles) who explained to him what he was going to do.  (Both the US White House and the Iranian government backed Nouri al-Maliki in 2010.)  While Jalal danced for his masters, Alsumaria reported Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi stated that he refused US Vice President Joe Biden's request that he meet with Nouri al-Maliki.  He states that Tony Blinken (Biden's National Security Advisor) made the request on Biden's behalf and urged that the opposition to Nouri back down.  Kitabat noted that the US publicly insists it is not biased towards either side of the debate but that it worked repeatedly to undercut the opposition and to save Nouri from a no-confidence vote.
His former allied pals didn't just roll over the way Jalal so often does.  Instead, Alsumaria reported they met-up in Erbil on June 10th and discussed how to mobilize Parliament to take on the issue of the power grab and Nouri's monopoly of power.  Moqtada al-Sadr would insist after the meeting that the process continues.  Later in the week,  Al Rafidayn reported that Massoud Barzani also declared that efforts continue to replace Nouri and to "repel the dictatorship" as the Iraqi people want to happen.
And then Alsumaria reported Iraqiya head Ayad Allawi explained that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was the one reassuring everyone April 28th that a withdrawal of confidence could be done and Nouri al-Maliki easily replaced.  Allawi states that Talabani stated no Constitutional mechanism was required, Talabani merely had to withdraw confidence.  The next day Alsumaria reported that the Kurdistan Alliance has declared they do not support the Iraqi president traveling out of the country (he had planned a trip to the US for health issues caused by his gross obesity) and that the Kurdistan Alliance was calling on him to respect the no-confidence petition which has 176 signatures (and which they expect to gather more signatures -- the figure they give is 190).  Alliance MP Mahma Khalil  repeated that in April in Erbil (that would be the April 28th meet-up), Jalal stated he could replace Nouri with a no-confidence vote that would leave the rest of the elements of government in place.  Yes, the exact charge that Allawi had made the day before.  The next day it was time for Jalal to talk to Alsumaria and he insisted that Ayad Allawi was wrong (he avoided calling out or mentioning Mahma Khalil who'd made the same charges).
The waters were simmering and looked likely to boil.   Al Rafidayn noted so many were upset with Jalal that he's had to prepare a public letter for the PUK to distribute to its members.  But the big drama would wait for Saturday.  With less than 24 hours before a meet-up of Iraqiya's Allawi, KRG President Barzani and Moqtada al-Sadr, news emerged via Alsumaria that Jalal had resorted to a strongly worded letter  to Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi, Iraqiya head Ayad Allawi and KRG President Massoud Barazni in which he belittled Moqtada al-Sadr and in which he insisted he'd rather resign than change his opinion and forward the petition with 176 signatures to Parliament.  A strongly worded letter left him so weakened that he had to immediately flee Iraq and head to Germany.
From his hospital sick bed, Jalal's issued near daily thoughts and affirmations via the press.  Yesterday, he resorted to a spokesperson.  Dar Addustour reports that the spokesperson declared Jalal had surgery but would not disclose what type of surgery or even a general reason for the surgery.  There was time, however, to float a rumor that, as soon as he returned to Iraq, Jalal planned to announce his resignation as president.
If that was meant to lead to cries of "Heavens no!," poor Jalal, no one appears to care.
Today, AP reports that Speaker al-Nujaifi has declared Nouri must face the Parliament for questions. Alsumaria adds that Ayad Allawi declared today that there are committees forming for the questioning of Nouri before Parliament.  Fang Yang (Xinhua) reports on it and manages to do what the US press repeatedly refuses to do: Explain what the political crisis stems from: Nouri's failure to honor the Erbil Agreement.  Yang:
They also accused the prime minister of evading his commitments to implementing the terms of a power-sharing deal that he signed with rival political parties.
The deal, also known as the Arbil agreement, was signed in November 2010 in Kurdistan in northern Iraq. It paved the way for Maliki's fragile partnership government after Iraq's political rivals ended their differences that lasted eight months following the parliamentary elections in March 2010.
Alsumaria reports that the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq Martin Kobler met today with al-Sistani.  What did Kobler speak to al-Sistani about?  The political crisis, the lack of basic public services, the stalled oil and gas law.  In another article, Alsumaria notes Kobler last visited al-Sistani November 21st of last year.  Meanwhile Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Brian Murphy (AP) report, "Tehran is calling in favors among its allied factions in Iraq and exerting its significant religious and commercial influence to try to block Mr. al-Maliki's opponents from getting a no-confidence motion."
One neighbor that Nouri gets along with currently is the government of Iran.  Yesterday, Reporters Without Borders noted the disappearance of a journalist:
Reporters Without Borders is very concerned about Mouloud Anfand, the editor of the magazine Kurd-Israel, who has been missing for the past 11 days in Iraq's northern Kurdistan region. According to his family and various media sources, he set off from Erbil on 9 June with aim of going to Sulaymaniyah and has not been seen since.
"We fear the worst and we urge the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government's authorities to do everything possible to find Mouloud Anfand," Reporters Without Borders said. "And we therefore call for an immediate investigation into this journalist's disappearance."
Armand, who is of Iranian origin, has been living in Iraqi Kurdistan for several years. Kurd-Israel is published by the Kurd-Israel Association, which promotes better relations between Israelis and Kurds and encourages Kurdish Jews who emigrated to Israel to return to Kurdistan.
Israel Nation News notes Israel Army Radio is reporting "he was abducted by Iranian intelligence."  Alsumaria notes Mouloud Armand's colleagues believe Iranian intelligence has abducted him.
It's doubtful the government out of Tehran would kidnap Iraqi Colonel Sadiq Mohammad Kazim, Nouri's military officer who oversaw the 2009 and 2011 assaults on Camp Ashraf.  But not everyone's as enamored of him as Nouri and Tehran.  AP reports the European Union refused to admit him this week when he was sent as part of a delgation.  Camp Ashraf contained approximately 3500 Iranian dissidents whose presence in Iraq dates back to the 1980s.  They were welcomed into the country back then.  Since Nouri was installed by the US as prime minister in 2006, there's been a non-stop effort to evict the residents from the country.  Currently the UN has relocated approximately 2,000 to Camp Liberty.  The remaining members have thus far refused to move because they want the US to conduct a search of Camp Ashraf while they're present.  Since the State Dept has -- for some idiotic reason -- made the status of the MEK (terrorist or not terrorist) dependent upon how this transfer goes and on whether they find weapons after Camp Ashraf is empty, it's not an unreasonable request.  They've been attacked by Nouri's forces.  They've been targeted.  They have good cause to fear and, if it's just paranoia on their part, no harm is done by the US doing a search prior to the departure of the last residents.  (Their fear is that, after they're gone, Nouri's goons will plant things in the camp and when the US State Dept finally gets off its ass -- remember a US federal court ordered the State Dept to review the classification two years ago -- all these things will have been planted in and around the camp.) 
Camp Liberty?  Nouri's put Sadeq Kazem in charge of it.  And now he gets to be in the news.  AFP reports that the French police hauled him in for questioning today as a result of a complaint filed by a resident of Camp Ashraf who states he or she was tortured and that he or she was tortured on the orders of Sadeq Kazem.  Alsumaria reports Nouri's spokesperson insists that Kazem will be released shortly and that the real abuse is the French and their detaining Kazem.  That's good, Nouri, start attacking the European states now.  You've got no friends among the Arab states and now it's time to clear the deck of Europe as well?
Today in the US, the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity held a hearing, chaired by US House Rep Marlin Stutzman, on proposed bills.  One of the bills discussed was the H.R. 3860 is the Help Veterans Return to Work Act.  US House Rep John Garamendi is the bill's sponsor and it has 21 co-sponsors. 
The second panel was composed of VFW's Ryan Gallucci, American Legion's Steve Gonzalez, Reserve Officers Association MG Andrew Davis and attorney John S. Odom.  Gonzalez spoke of the Legion supporting H.R. 3860 with one exception: they'd allow the undue hardship protections to apply only to small businesses.  Davis conveyed that the Reserve Officers Association supports the bill and feels that undue hardship isn't an issue because it "only applies to a small minority of reemployment claims.  This mainly applies to those service members who have disabilites that were incurred or aggravated during uniformed service, and after reasonable efforts by the employer to accoomodate the disability, is not qualified due to such disability to be employed in the position of employment."   Gallucci noted the VFW opposes the bill and fears it may result in less veterans and service members being hired by big companies.   Odom had no comments on it (his practice helps service members and veterans who have problems with banks and other lending institutions and his remarks focused on bills that covered those institutions).  Gallucci was asked to speak further to H.R. 3860 and we're going to note that part.
Chair Marlin Stutzman:  I've got two questions and the first one is for Mr. Gallucci.  You go into detail on the potential impact of H.R. 3860.  What would it have -- What kind of impact would it have on service members's abilities to be employed by large employers?
Ryan Gallucci: Absolutely, I'm glad you asked that question, Chairman.  The concern that we have really has to do with the veterans ability to get through the door.  When we look at the unemployment statistics for veterans -- even in the age group 18 to 24 -- it's our belief that we are not even talking about veterans who are asking for re-employment.  These are veterans who are looking for first-time employment. And what we saw in the report from the Center for a New American Security was that one of the top concerns for potential employers considering hiring a reserve-component service member or a veteran was the perpetual threat of a military obligation.  Now one of our big concerns beyond this -- beyond reserve-component service members is that within the civilian-military disconnect, there's a general misunderstanding of the difference between a reserve-component service member and a veteran.  Myself, I have been asked on job interviews when discussing my military service whether or not I would have to go back?  I left the military in 2007.  That is absolutely not a concern that I would be recalled to active duty.  So our concern is that when we're talking about these daunting unemployment figures for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans that we run the risk of making them even more unattractive to large employers if we do away with the due process through which an employer could demonstrate that there may have been a hardship, there may have been a reduction in force and it may be necessary to let a certain employee go.  Now what we do support is stronger enforcement of  USSERRA [Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act of 1994] policy.  This is where we see the major gap -- when state attorney generals are only prosecuting 8% of the USSERRA complaints that come through their offices, when we hear from Dept of Labor that they're running up against major defenses from the legal defenses of these major corporations, that's not necessarily because of the undue hardship clause.    That'll continue. They'll continue to fight for why they don't need to live up to their USSERRA obligations.  But we're concerned with this on the front-end would impact veterans in their ability to land a job to begin with.
We may come back to this hearing or grab a Wednesday hearing (also on proposed bills) in tomorrow's snapshot.  I'm not taking a position on the bill.  We're including that because I was surprised there was such a sharp break between the VFW and the other service organizations on the bill and because Galluci talked about how common the issue of the returning finding out that there jobs are not there.  This is a serious problem and it is illegal to fire someone who is called up for duty because they were called up.  We've noted this and we've noted how common it is and how little the press reports on it.  Probably because Guard and Reserve members don't take out ads in newspapers or on television but big corporations do.  That's certainly an easy explanation for the lack of coverage.  As Gallucci notes, it's a fairly widespread problem and you don't get that from the press. 
Iraq War Hawk Anne-Marie Slaughter joined the Barack Obama administration and left two years later.  She's written a stupid article at The Atlantic -- one that only a non-feminist would write.  She thinks she can present the personal as political.  The personal as political works on universal experiences.  We weren't all plotting war, Anne-Marie, cheering on the deaths of Iraqis and, later, Libyans.
Slaughter had problems with her teenage son.  She makes that part of the article.  How sad for her teenage son.  But maybe if Mommy hadn't been a blood thirsty War Hawk, he wouldn't have been a troubled child.  Sorry, Anne-Marie, but a feminist wouldn't have written that article.  A feminist would have known better.
Feminism lied and betrayed Slaughter because you can't have it all!!!!
Okay, even the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution don't promise that you can have it all.  I'm confused as to which 'feminist' Slaughter heard say, "You can have it all!"  I've never said that and I've never heard any other feminist say that.  I remember a bad commercial from the 70s for Enjoli perfume with a song that promised that while a woman shook her ass for the camera.  Is Slaughter so stupid she thought Enjoli was the voice of feminism?  It was a corporate product voiced by Madison Avenue.  Grow the hell up.
Second-wave feminism was about the politics of homework, it was about very real issues.  I'm not remembering the Ms. magazine cover story proclaiming, "Gals, it's all been solved! Now we get to have it all!"  Because that cover doesn't exist.  Gloria Steinem, Flo Kennedy, Maxine Hong Kingston, Robin Morgan, Madonna Thunder HawkBernice Johnson Reagon, Gloria AnzalduaJo Freeman, Dolores Huerta, May ChenMartha P. Cotera, Lorelei DeCora,  Toni Cade Bambara, and assorted other second-wavers never said, "You can have it all!" They didn't make that promise in word and they didn't make that promise in action.  Feminism wouldn't be an ongoing struggle for equality if we could have it all currently.  And I believe it was Marlo Thomas who rightly pointed out in those early second-wave days that she needed a wife.  The point she was making at that time was that with all she had to do, she could sure use someone to do all the things that married women were expected to do for their husbands at that time.  Marlo's entire point refutes Anne-Marie's lie that feminism promised her she could have it all.  I've never read a more stupid article.
And I'm going to go there.  Having outed your son as troubled child two years ago, I hope to hell that's not still true because I had to groan when I read this sentence, "I have not exactly left the ranks of full-time career woman; I teach a full course load; write regular print and online columns on foreign policy; give 40 to 50 speeches a year; appear regularly on TV and radio; and am working on a new academic book."  Again, Anne-Marie, I hope to hell that your child is still not troubled because clearly your plate is full.
Feminists, please note, don't go around writing things like "full-time career woman."  I've never once -- and I've known her for years -- heard Gloria Steinem identify herself as "a career woman."  That's the sort of phrase that's used in bad backlash TV programs (read Susan Faludi's still wonderful and still pertinent Backlash: The Undeclared War On American Women as well her equally brilliant but less well received by 'critics'  The Terror Dream.  The same is true of "high potential women" -- an  phrase that's meant to imply "professionals" (professional murderers?) like Anne-Marie but's really just another elitist phrase by a Queen Bee who wants to be bitchy and pretend she's so much better than the average woman.  (Of course she wants to pretend that, a Queen Bee doesn't value womanhood, that's why she wants to be told she 'thinks like a man' and other exception-to-the-rule phrases.)
Anne-Marie Slaughter wanted to have a 'buzz' article to gear up for a bad book and the best way to do that is to blame feminism.  The media loves to distort feminism and they love the writers that do that work for them.
I don't care that she offers some potential solutions, I don't give a damn.  First off, there's no 'solution' she's proposed that a feminst hasn't made before -- even though she's unable to credit them.  She can write a piece slamming feminism, please note, but she can't give credit to the women who've long been proposing what she's just stumbled upon.   I am so tired of these women who beat up on feminism to make a name for themselves.  I'm not talking about critical thinking, I'm not saying feminism if off-limits.  We especially need to be critiquing the second-wave now (for various reasons including what was achieved, what worked and also to allow those who were a part of the second-wave to have a chance to respond).  And I certainly don't believe that you can only critique in polite tones with qualifiers and sweetness. 
But Anne-Marie's not offering a critique -- harsh, kind or otherwise.  What she's done is attacked feminism and done so in a way that will have many readers who don't know any better (because the media always distorts feminism) nodding along.  There's no factual basis to her claim.  Feminism didn't -- and hasn't -- promised any one -- woman, man or child -- that they could have it all.  Feminism is an ongoing struggle for equality.
Is Anne-Marie brain dead or did she just forget 2008?  I will never forget 2008 which reminds us of just how right the late second-wave feminist Ellen Willis was about the sexism in so many of our 'brothers' on the left.  Hillary was attacked in the press and by left males (and some females) for the way she looked, for the way she laughed, for her age, for her marriage (remember when both Michelle Obama and Elizabeth Edwards attacked Hillary's marriage -- weren't those 'uplifiting' moments for us all).  She was called the most disgusting things.  The Progressive linked to a piece at The Weekly Standard -- a piece Matthew Rothschild enjoyed -- about the whole 'call her a c-word' group.  It took her being called a "bitch" on CNN  for FAIR to finally note the sexism of 2008 in their weekly radio show CounterSpin.  Ava and I covered this May 25, 2008 -- refer to that if you're late to the party on the one and only time the weekly half-hour media criticism show could find an example of sexism in campaign 2008.
Throughout the primaries, Hillary survived one sexist attack after another.  The media watchdog's weekly radio program CounterSpin ignored and ignored it.  It took all the complaints about their silence and Hillary being called a "bitch" by a commentator on CNN for FAIR to finally give us a brief second on their radio program where they noted sexism.  Again, what world has Anne-Marie been living in?
There are women -- including feminists -- who will try to put a sweet spin on it and emphasize Anne-Marie's suggestions.  I'm not playing that game.  You cannot take to the public square and outright lie about feminism and get away with it.  And "career woman," again, not a phrase feminists use.  Just as you'll never hear Jo Freeman call Bill Gates a "career man."  Anne-Marie writes like Queen Bee, squawks like a Queen Bee, I think she's a Queen Bee.  And, no, Queen Bee's are not feminists.  They are all about being the one of the few -- if not the sole -- woman in the room. 
Anne-Marie had jobs inside the home and outside the home.  She can thank feminism for that.  And feminism certainly is about choices.  And a feminist can choose to work solely inside the home or solely outside the home or to do both.  A feminist can raise a child or raise 50 kids or none at all.  A feminist can marry once or marry many men and many women or never marry at all.  These are choices that exist because feminism exists for and fought for the right of a woman to have self-deterimination in her own life.  Feminism gives women the right to vote, the right to own property, the right to leave a marriage (due to abuse or just because you're not happy) and so much more. 
Anne-Marie, the struggle for equality never ended because we're still not there.  I've been in a ton of marches for pro-choice, for equal pay for equal work, for what have you.  Never once did we march carrying a banner which read, "SUCCESS AT LAST!  STOP DEMANDING EQUALITY!  WE HAVE ACHIEVED IT!" 
the cook, he told me
children not exactly well
I said, well, you can't have it all
and really, who cares
when the magic plum wine
is dancing on the paper walls?
-- "Japanese Restaurant," written by Laura Nyro, first appears on her Laura: Live at the Bottom Line
Laura Nyro passed away in the 90s.  She put that song out in 1989.  Laura grasped that "you can't have it all" but that was news to Anne-Marie today? 
Feminism didn't mislead Anne-Marie.
Anne-Marie lied to herself.  Her problem has nothing to do with feminism.  It doesn't even have to do with work, actually.  She's one of those people that's going to try to ride life like a wild stallion, break it in and it's going to do just what she says.
That's not life, that's a control freak's wet dream.  Life is messy, life is hard, life is fun, life is glorious.  It changes like the weather.  It is chaos, it is calm. You learn to take life for what it offers as opposed to trying to push it up a hill and you can be a lot happier.  Anne-Marie's biggest problem is her plan in her head didn't match what she now sees before her eyes.  That is life, get used to it.  She's such a patriarch, thinking she's going to dominate the wild nature of life, dominate nature itself.  What a sad, sad, wanna-be-man of a woman.
And remember, Anne-Marie, confessional writing is when you write about yourself.  And you can include many adults in your narrative.  But confessional writing really isn't tagging your now 16-year-old son as a troubled child with behavioral problems.  That's really not feminism either.  I don't know what it is.  Maybe an attempt to make yourself look noble?  It just makes you look like your so desperate for attention that you'll take the problems of a child and make them public for your own financial gain.  Again, that's not feminism.
Read on ...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Who Could Have Guessed?

 Click on the title of the post if you're not able to see words under the cartoon.


That's from January 25, 2009 and it's "Who Could Have Guessed?"  That's supposed to be Timothy Geither.  It's a bad drawing.  I've done bad before but this was really bad.  I used to get embarrassed.  Now I just roll with it.  Every week is another comic more or less so you can't get too hung up.  But if they're bad, I'll tell you and that was badly drawn.

Content?  I'm predicting in this comic.  Going three years ahead.  I don't know if it was any good then but it certainly hasn't held up.  It requires too much thought.  A comic should have a point but it should amuse.  It shouldn't perplex.

I'll rank that as my worst comic of the Obama administration thus far.  It may be my worst comic period. 

 A number of you have e-mailed about why I'm not writing about comics lately here.

I am.  If you just see a comic and the snapshot, click on the post's title (Here that would be "Who Could Have Guessed?").  Then you'll see the writing.

I didn't know what people were talking about.  Then at work, I pulled my site up Tuesday (first time in months -- that shows you how little I pay attention to my site) and thought, "Where's the writing?"

If that happens to you, click on the post's title and you'll get the words.  I don't know why that is.
Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, June 14, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, War Criminal Colin Powell said his 2003 UN speech was about inspections but today let's slip the decision to go to war was already made, CJR self-embarrasses with a novel concept on journalistic ethics (If you marry, it wipes the slate clean -- quick, someone tell Stephen Glass, Janet Cooke and so many others!), the political crisis continues in Iraq, Senator Patty Murray has some tough questions for Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and more.
Collie The Blot Powell continues to plug his bad and co-written (Tony Koltz) book It Worked For Me: Killing and Lying.  It's really amazing the way the liar keeps saying more than he means to.  But a War Criminal, like any other criminal, has a compulsion to confess (as Freud and Theodor Reik both argued).  You can't turn a trick without a john and a whore.  Presumably Colin played the role of the john for Kira Zalan (US News and World Reports).  We learn that Powell sees meaning when an elderly man is unable to pay attention to a discussion both due to age and to illness but to Collie it's a life lesson about division of labor.  As usual, he discusses the blot and for those fearing Colin's suddenly become part of the Neville family, it's not a facial blot.  It's the fecal smear on his public image that won't wipe off.  It's the lies he told the United Nations in an attempt at kick starting the war on Iraq.  Collie first floated the blot on TV in an interview he gave to Barbara Walters for ABC News.  After it aired, September 2005, Ava and I wrote about it:
Walters says, unable to look at him while she does -- oh the drama!, "However, you gave the world false, groundless reasons for going to war. You've said, and I quote, 'I will forever be known as the one who made the case for war.' Do you think this blot on your record will stay with you for the rest of your life?"
Powell: Well it's a, it's a, of course it will. It's a blot. I'm the one who presented it on behalf of the United Nations, uh, United States, to the world. And it will always be uh, part of my, uh, my record.

Walters: How painful is it?

Powell: (shrugs) It was -- it *was* painful. (shifts, shrugs) It's painful now.

Has a less convincing scene ever been performed?

Possibly. Such as when Powell informs Walters that the fault lies with the intelligence community -- with those who knew but didn't come forward. Unfortunately for Powell,
FAIR's advisory steered everyone to a Los Angeles Times' article from July 15, 2004:

Days before Secretary of State Colin L. Powell was to present the case for war with Iraq to the United Nations, State Department analysts found dozens of factual problems in drafts of his speech, according to new documents contained in the Senate report on intelligence failures released last week.
Two memos included with the Senate report listed objections that State Department experts lodged as they reviewed successive drafts of the Powell speech. Although many of the claims considered inflated or unsupported were removed through painstaking debate by Powell and intelligence officials, the speech he ultimately presented contained material that was in dispute among State Department experts.
That's the blot.  His lies that he denies were lies.  A year after his speech, Martha Raddatz (ABC News) observed:
But instead of discussing Iraq's weapons in terms of "possibilities" or "estimates," Powell spoke before the United Nations last February with certainty.
"These are not assertions," Powell told the Security Council. "What we are giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence."
Powell qualified only one of his remarks during the 75-minute presentation, saying there was some "controversy" over the intended use of high-strength aluminum tubes. On all other issues, Powell left no room for debate. He used the phrase "we know" 32 times.
Jonathan Schwarz (Mother Jones) fact checked the lies here.
The lies that you tell
will leave you alone
they'll catch you and trip you up,
Keep you hangin' around
-- "Love You By Heart," written by Carly Simon Jacob Brackman and Libby Titus, first appears on Carly's Spy album
Yes, liars usually will trip themselves up.  Like today when Powell tells Kira Zalan:
And when I gave it, people stopped and listened. And the president by that time had already decided that combat would be necessary, he decided that sometime in January. And now it's 5 February and I'm simply telling people why it may be necessary.
Does Collie realize what he just let slip?  It's no surprise to the peace community.  But still he just admitted that the decision by Bully Boy Bush to go to war was made in January -- two months before the Iraq War started.  That wasn't a part of Colin The War Criminal Powell's speech to the UN.  Click here for the full speech at the Washington Post (warning, not everyone has the full speech even when they claim to -- for example, the Guardian's lost the last third of Powell's speech -- specifically the 'human rights' portion -- but insists that it's the 'full text').  Lot of words, none of which revealed that a decision had already been made to go to war.
These, these, these are the words
The words that maketh murder.
These, these, these are the words
The words that maketh murder.
-- "The Words That Maketh Murder," written by PJ Harvey, first appears on PJ's Let England Shake 
Today Colin Powell tells US News and World Reports that the decision to go to war on Iraq was made a month before his UN speech.  Strange because the day of his speech, CNN reported (February 5, 2003):
At a lunch that followed Powell's presentation, diplomats said he responded to the French foreign minister's concerns about the impact war with Iraq would have on the region by saying, "I wasn't talking about war, but about strengthening inspections."
The diplomats said Powell also made clear to Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin that the United States is not ready to go to war immediately, and is interested in hearing France's proposals to strengthen inspections with the added value of the evidence Powell presented.
So Colin didn't just lie to the citizens of the world in his UN speech, he continued to lie immediately after and lied to diplomats and France's Foreign Minister.  Colin Powell is a liar.  He can pretend all he wants but the record bears out the reality that he has repeatedly misled over and over.  That is lying.
And it's really sad that someone known for doing so little on a national level (other than War Crimes) gets so much press attention for a co-written clip job while former US Senator Russ Feingold put real thought and real work into While America Sleeps: A Wake-Up Call for the Post-9/11 Era and the press is far less likely to offer coverage (or swoon).  Randy Hanson (Hudston Star-Observer) provides coverage on a recent book discussion Feingold gave:
His chapter on the Iraq War is titled "The Iraq Deception."
"What I tried to do in the book is explain what happened because of our general strategy in Iraq,"  Feingold said. "Everything we did was defined on the basis of Iraq. And it was crazy, because Bush actually said in his speeches over and over again that there were 60 or 65 countries where al-Qaeda was operating. His list included Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, the Slavic republics, Ireland, England -- but not Iraq."
He said that while the United States was concentrating on holding Iraq, terrorist groups were expanding in other countries.
"What I thought 9/11 showed us is what happens when we're not alert. We learned what it felt like to be taken completely by surprise," he said, recalling how the big news story during the summer of 2001 had been shark attacks in the country's coastal waters.
One book is mature and thoughtful, the other pure piffle.  The one with nothing to offer gets the bulk of the media attention. 
It's the immaturity that the press repeatedly embraces while pretending to be 'high brow' in order to justify their refusal to cover actual news stories.  One example, refusing to explore serious ethical violations by using matrimony as an excuse:  "But that was in 2008, and they're married now."  Is that Margaret Carlson?  No.  No, it's much worse than columnist Carlson.  That's Erika Fry forced into covering the story for CJR.  I was on the phone earlier today with a CJR friend for a half-hour, it was a pre-emptive call asking me to please understand . . .  No, it doesn't work that way.
I will allow that Erika Fry got stuck with the assignment (that's what I was told, I do not know her and didn't speak to her).  But she's an assistant editor and it's Columbia Journalism Review.  I'm real damn sorry that your panties and boxers go dry when you have to critique someone your wet dream Barack loves -- Brett McGurk.  But I'm genuinely sorry that you're such whores that you rush to minimize what took place. 
Brett McGurk is Barack Obama's nominee for US Ambassador to Iraq.  He's gotten into a lot of trouble for numerous things but Fry ended up stuck writing about the e-mails.  E-mails became public last week (see the June 5th snapshot) that he had exchanged with Gina Chon in 2008 when both were in Baghdad -- he was working for the US government, she was working for the Wall St. Journal.  The Wall St. Journal let Chon go on Tuesday due to the fact that she had concealed the affair in 2008 when McGurk was not only a US government official but the primary source for her stories and she was let go because she had shared stories she was working on with McGurk to let him alter them (she stated in her defense that she was using him as a sounding board for input). 
Columbia JOURNALISM Review.  And they rush to dismiss it.  And they rush to treat it as no big deal.    "But that was in 2008, and they're married now."
Who gives a damn?
That doesn't change a thing.  You either start having standards or you don't.  Right now, CJR has no standards at all.  Judith Miller could go back to work for the New York Times tomorrow and any argument CJR might make would be pointless.  Because right now, they're telling us, that if you marry the source for whom you cater coverage too, it doesn't matter that you misled readers and your editor and it doesn't matter that your lover got copy approval of anything you turned in.
If that's the position CJR wants to take, then they are nothing but a joke. 
"We get that sex sells," Fry lies.  It's not about sex, it's about ethics.  If it were about sex, we'd talk about the doggie style encounter in a hallway.  We can do that.  Brett McGurk was very 'popular' in Iraq.  Gina Chon wasn't the first woman he cheated on his wife with.  (That may or may not be news to Chon.)  If Fry wants to make it about sex, we can do that.
But don't dimiss sleeping with a source, letting your lover vet your copy and misleading the public and your editor as it being about sex or as ethical lapses that expire because they two got married.
This is embarrassing and shame on CJR for this nonsense.  Again, I had to listen to  half hour of excuses today.  I hadn't even read the piece.  I return a voice mail and suddenly it's "Well we . . . and we . . and we . . ."  Wee wee?  That about sums it up.  CJR has just pissed on journalism ethics.  That's not a proud moment.
Nor is Erika Fry's inability to be factual.  Fry writes, "For what it's worth, The Wall Street Journal has said that Chon's relationship did not affect her reporting." That's not what they said.  They said, "At this time the Journal has found no evidence that her coverage was tainted by her relationship with Mr. McGurk."   That's your first clue that Fry knows what happens is much worse than she let on -- the fact that she has to distort what the Wall St. Journal actually said.
 Lisa Dru (Business Insider) reported on the news Tuesday and included the Wall St. Journal's statement:
Wall Street Journal reporter Gina Chon agreed to resign this afternoon after acknowledging that while based in Iraq she violated the Dow Jones Code of Conduct by sharing certain unpublished news articles with Brett McGurk, then a member of the U.S. National Security Council in Iraq.
In 2008 Ms. Chon entered into a personal relationship with Mr. McGurk, which she failed to disclose to her editor. At this time the Journal has found no evidence that her coverage was tainted by her relationship with Mr. McGurk.
Ms. Chon joined the Journal in 2005 in Detroit, followed by an assignment as Iraq correspondent in Baghdad from 2007 to 2009. She also reported for the Journal from Haiti in 2010 in the aftermath of the earthquake and has served as a M&A reporter for Money & Investing in New York since April 2010.
Erika Fry maybe shouldn't be writing about journalism ethics for CJR when obviously she has ethical problems of her own as evidenced by taking an "at this time" and turning it into something else.  (For the record, the paper only learned of what took place in Baghdad after the e-mails surfaced.  I was told the paper became aware of the problem on  Wednesday of last week.  And that a number of journalists feel burned by Chon's actions and the general consensus is that she didn't give the paper a heads up and let them be completely blindsided.)
For the responsibilities that CJR shirked, let's note this from Paul Farhi (Washington Post):
The idea is to avoid relationships that could compromise a reporter's judgment or give the appearance of playing favorites, said John K. Hartman, a professor of journalism at Central Michigan University. "Serious journalists know that it is imperative to avoid any conflict of interest and any situation that might taint their reporting perspective," he said. Sometimes, however, reporters "can take cozying up to sources too far."
Similarly, journalists aren't supposed to disclose unpublished stories, lest it compromise the gathering of information.
See, Erika Fry, serious journalists know that.  How serious do you think CJR looks right now?They're married now, huffs Erika Fry.  So if Bully Boy Bush marries Tony Blair, that excuses the Iraq War?  Matrimony has nothing to do with the ethical violations.  But let's play like we're as stupid as Erika Fry hopes we are.  So if Gina Chon and Brett McGurk stay married another year, it matters even less.  If they make it to ten years then there was no ethical violation at all?  It's funny because Fry should be familiar with the code of ethics for journalism and I see no 'matrimony card' that excuses any violation.
I learned of the e-mails (overheard in the office of a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) Tuesday June 5th before the hearing.  As I left the office, I was searching on my iPhone for the e-mails and found them at Cryptome. Eli Lake (Daily Beast) offers some background on Cryptome:
But what's received less attention is the website that published those emails, and the man who runs it. John Young founded Cryptome, a clearinghouse for leaked documents from the military and intelligence community, in 1996, roughly a decade before WikiLeaks existed. It has since become a must-read for some people who track the intelligence community and the military. "Cryptome has become part of the national security information landscape," says Steven Aftergood, the director of the project on government secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, a nonprofit think tank. "I check it every day," he adds.
Yesterday, some Senators weighed in on McGurk.  Sunlen Miller (ABC News) reports, Senators John Barrasso, Jim DeMint, James Inhofe, Mike Lee, James Risch and Marco Rubio wrote a letter to the White House explaining, "As members of the committee, with the responsibility of providing advice and consent, we write to respectfully urge you to reconsider this nomination.  There are strong concerns about Mr. McGurk's qualifications, his ability to work with Iraqi officials, and now his judgment."  The six are Republicans.  Matthew Lee (AP) reports, "Earlier, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the chairman of the committee, hinted that the nomination could be reconsidered. He said he had spoken with Vice President Joe Biden about McGurk."  Lee quotes Kerry stating, "I think there are some very fair questions being asked and they need to be answered."  Ted Barrett and Paul Courson (CNN) report that Kerry is considering delaying the planned Tuesday Committee vote on McGurk and quote him stating, "I need to talk to senators and evaluate where we are.  People have become aware of things they weren't, so we have to evaluate."   Al Kamen (Washington Post) adds, "Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the panel's second-ranking Democrat, is said to have deep reservations about him as well."
Yesterday Baghdad was slammed with bombings and 72 people were known to be dead.  This morning Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports that the death toll has risen "to 93 and 312 people wounded" according to the Ministry of the Interior.  The Voice of Russia reports, "EU High Represenative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton has condemned the series of terrorist attacks in several Iraqi provinces that claimed dozens of lives."  The State Dept had nothing to say yesterday or today in their press briefings.  The White House spokesperson Jay Carney did acknowledge the bombings on Wednesday:
Jay Carney:  With regard to the violence, we strongly condemn the recent attacks in Iraq. The targeting of innocent civilians and security forces is cowardly and reprehensible. We offer our condolences to the families of the victims, and support the continued efforts of Iraqi government forces to bring those responsible to justice. I  would simply say that it's important to remember that while we have seen that extremist groups in Iraq are still able to use violence and cause harm, we believe their capabilities have been diminished in recent years. Also, Iraqis continue to reject extremist tactics in support of peaceful methods of resolving their disputes. There have been occasional periods where there have been increases in violence, but overall violence is greatly decreased from the time period that you referenced in particular. Also I think worth noting is that Iraq hosted -- Baghdad hosted an important series of negotiations not that long ago, and their ability to do that in a secure way demonstrates the progress that they've made in that country and in their capacity to provide security in a place like Baghdad.
Moqtada al-Sadr has declared that the government must protect all the citizens and notes that the violence took place as the political differences continuedAlsumaria reports Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi -- still in Turkey while he's tried in abstentia in Baghdad -- also condemned the attacks.  The report also notes that the judges refused the request of the defense to call President Jalal Talabani to the stand.  al-Hasehmi is being tried for terrorism or 'terrorism' in what many see as a political attack on either Iraqiya or Sunnis.  Tareq al-Hashemi is the highest ranking office holder from Iraqiya -- the political slate that defeated Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law in the 2010 parliamentary elections.  al-Hashemi is also Sunni. 
The 2010 elections found Iraqiya winning and Nouri digging in his heels and refusing to surrender the post of prime minister despite coming in second.  Because Tehran and DC backed him, Nouri was able to have a public tantrum for 8 months and then get rewarded with a second term.  The US brokered an agreement, The Erbil Agreement, which gave Nouri a second term in return for Nouri making concessions.  The US government told the political blocs this contract would be honored.  Nouri used it to grab a second term as prime minister and immediately tossed it aside.  Since the summer of 2011, the Kurds, Moqtada al-Sadr and Iraqiya have called on Nouri to return to the Erbil Agreement.  He has refused to do so.
Since the government was formed at the end of 2010, all efforts of power sharing among Prime Minister Maliki and the main Sunni political bloc, Iraqiya, the Kurds, and even some of his Shiite partners has faltered. As a result, the three security ministries that were supposed to be shared among all of the political blocs remain under the prime minister's control.
The cabinet as it functions now allows the prime minister to rule by decree. Those bylaws were supposed to be revised. That has never happened. An oil law was also supposed to be passed, and that hasn't happened. As a result, mistrust has grown on all sides.
Since late April, the primary Sunni bloc--Iraqiya--the main Kurdish bloc, and Sadr's Shiite lawmakers have all come out in favor of a vote of no confidence against Maliki. This effort climaxed last weekend when the president of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, was asked to call for a vote of no confidence in the parliament. But Talabani, who is a Kurd but has very close ties with Maliki, at the end of the day said that there were not enough signatures to call for such a vote. So now Maliki's main competitors--the Iraqiya block, the Sadrists and the Kurds--are trying to gain more signatures to force Talabani to call a vote of no confidence. But if not, they are saying they're still going to call Maliki to the parliament--which technically they can do--for hearings, for questioning, and then after that, they want to call for a vote for no confidence. All of that shows the trust has broken down in Iraqi politics.

Jalal?  An angry Jalal is seen at Alsumaria denying reports about him in recent days.  Jalal's upset with the fall out over his actions.  He's pissed that Kurds in the Kurdish Alliance and Ayad Allawi have come forward with how he (Jalal) said he could take out Nouri al-Maliki.  He's ticked off that his stock is falling.  He's upset about rumors that the PUK is exploring new public faces.  (He's 78-years-old, they should have a different public face.)  As Al Rafidayn notes, so many are upset with Jalal that he's had to prepare a public letter for the PUK to distribute to its members.

Alsumaria reports a bombing in Falluja today targeting police -- eight people were harmed (dead and wounded -- there are no numbers for either category).  It was a car bombing and abumlances arrived on the scene, police said.  In other security news today, Alsumaria reports the Ministry of the Interior is telling the media that a small spy plane was shot down today in Baghdad by the First Brigade (Iraqi police).  Since there is  no mention of a pilot being dead, wounded or captured, this was most likely an unmanned drone.  Which means, it was most likely a US drone.
Today, the White House issued the following statement:
The White House
Office of the Vice President
For Immediate Release
June 14, 2012

Statement on National Security Advisor to the Vice President Tony Blinken's Travel

National Security Advisor to the Vice President Tony Blinken visited Iraq on June 13-14 and met with a range of senior Iraqi leaders, including Prime Minister Maliki, Deputy Prime Minister Shahristani, and KRG President Barzani.  He also spoke by telephone with President Talabani, Foreign Minister Zebari, and Council of Representatives Speaker Nujaifi.  NSA Blinken made clear to all his interlocutors that the United States takes no side in the current political situation, but favors any solution that is reached by the Iraqis themselves, in accordance with Iraqi law and the constitution, and is achieved in a clear and transparent manner that does not promote or lead to violence.  He urged Iraqi leaders to move quickly to alleviate current tensions in order to refocus energy on critical state-building challenges, including preparations for provincial and local elections next year.  He underscored that the United States calls on Iraq's neighbors to support Iraq's sovereign right to choose its own government.   He also stressed that the Iraqi and American people have sacrificed greatly for Iraq's constitutional and democratic system, which continues to have our unwavering support.
No mention of the fact that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has personally invited and/or urged Nouri and KRG President Massoud Barzani to come to DC for what State doesn't want to be called "peace talks."  (But that's what they would be.)
In yesterday's snapshot, we noted Wednesday's Senate Veterans Affairs Committee with regards to employment rights and with regards to burn pits.  Last night at her site, Kat covered Ranking Member Richard Burr's proposed bill.  The plan was to continue coverage of the hearing today.  We'll do that tomorrow.  Among the reasons for that is that we included a portion of a news release from Senator Patty Murray's office in yesterday's snapshot and we need to include it in full.  Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Her office issued the following yesterday:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012 
CONTACT: Murray Press Office
(202) 224-2834
Under Pressure from Sen. Murray, Panetta Announces Military-Wide Review of Behavioral and Mental Health Diagnoses Since 2001
Panetta to Murray: "I am not satisfied either"; "still huge gaps" in how departments diagnose PTSD and other conditions; announces that all branches of military will undergo major review of diagnoses

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, under questioning from Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that he has ordered the heads of every branch of the U.S. military to review diagnoses for the invisible wounds of war going back to 2001. The Secretary's announcement comes after Murray worked to spur a similar review by the Army which arose from hundreds of soldiers being misdiagnosed and in many cases accused of faking the symptoms of PTSD at Madigan Army Medical Center in Washington state.
"The Pentagon and the VA are losing the battle on mental and behavioral health conditions," Murray told the Secretary at today's hearing. Murray also noted that the Army has already begun a system-wide review saying "This is not just an Army disability evaluation system. This is a joint DOD and VA program covering all of the services. Why has the Department not taken the lead in evaluating and making improvements to this system?"
"What I've asked is the other service chiefs to implement the same approach that the Army's taken" Secretary Panetta responded. "…I'm not satisfied either. We're doing everything we can to try to build a better system between the Pentagon, the Department of Defense and VA. But there are still huge gaps in terms of the differences in terms of how they approach these cases and how they diagnose the cases and how they deal with them, and frankly, that's a whole area we have to do much better on."
Secretary Panetta indicated that the Pentagon-wide review will be led by the Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness. At the hearing Senator Murray also highlighted the impact that mental health care shortcomings are having pointing to statistics that show that military suicides are outpacing combat deaths.
A full transcript of the exchange between Senator Murray and Secretary Panetta at today's hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee follows:
MURRAY: Mr. Secretary, I want to continue the thought process of Senator Murkowski. I, too, am very alarmed by the suicide rate of our service members and our veterans. New analysis is showing us that every day in 2012 one of our service members committed suicide and you just commented on outpacing combat deaths. In our veteran population, we know a veteran commits suicide every 80 minutes. Every 80 minutes.
Now, I think we can agree on two things. First of all, our service members and their families have risen to the challenge. They've done everything that their countries asked of them throughout the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we're all eternally grateful.
Secondly, the Pentagon and the V.A. are losing the battle on mental and behavioral health conditions that are confronting a lot of our service members, loved ones, and as we just talked about is resulting on such extreme things as suicide.
Secretary Panetta our service members and veterans can't get needed treatment access to needed resource without correct diagnosis. This has been a problem for soldiers in my home state of Washington. At Madigan to date, over 100 soldiers and counting have had their correct PTSD diagnosis restored after being told they were exaggerating their symptoms, lying, and accused of shirking their duties.
So understandably, a lot of our service members trust and confidence in the disability evaluation system has been seriously shaken in the wake of these events. As you know, I have continually raised concerns about the consistency and accuracy of behavioral health evaluations and diagnosis within the entire disability evaluation system, and have offered my recommendations on how to improve the system. And as you also know the Army has taken some critically important steps forward and beginning to address these concerns.
Secretary McHugh has announced a sweeping, comprehensive Army wide review of behavioral diagnosis back to 2001 to correct the errors of the past and to make sure the service members get the care and services that they need and that they deserve.
But I wanted to ask you today, but this is not just an Army disability evaluation system. This is a joint Department of Defense and V.A. program covers all of the services.
So I wanted to ask you why the department has not taken the lead in evaluating in taking the lead to the entire system?

PANETTA: Senator, we are. What I've asked is the other service chiefs to implement the same approach that the Army's taken here...
MURRAY: To go back and go back to 2001 and review all cases?
PANETTA: That's correct.
MURRAY: Throughout the entire system?
PANETTA: That's correct.
MURRAY: OK, so they are all following the Army's lead and we are told the evaluation and the progress of that. Who is heading that up?
PANETTA: Our undersecretary for personnel and for health care. That's the individual that you need to...
MURRAY: I would very much like to be kept inform as all of our members of Congress would. I think this needs to be transparent and clear. We need to make sure that people are accessing the system, getting back if they need it and the only way to get that is to be clear, open and honest with everyone.
So I didn't know we were looking at all of the other services and I would like more information and to be informed on that as soon as possible about how that's taking place and what the timetable is and how that's going to occur.
PANETTA: I appreciate your leadership on this, Senator. I'm not satisfied either. I think the misdiagnosis that took place, what's happening in this area between -- we're doing everything we can to try to build a better system between the Pentagon, the Department of Defense and V.A. But there are still huge gaps in terms of the differences in terms of how they approach these cases and how they diagnose the cases and how they deal with them, and frankly, that's a whole area we have to do much better on.
MURRAY: You can't imagine what it's like to talk to a soldier who was told he had PTSD, his family was working with him, and then when he went to the disability evaluation system, was told he was a liar or malingerer. He was taken out of it and he went out in the civilian world not being treated. That's a horrendous offense.
You know, I chair -- I am chair of the veterans affairs committee and I held a hearing on the joint disability evaluation system, and I just have to tell you I am really troubled by what with I'm hearing.
Enrollment is continuing to climb, the number of service members cases meeting timeliness goals is unacceptably low, the amount of time it takes to provide benefits to the service member who is transitioning through the system has risen each year since we began this.
In response to these problems we heard from the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs together about how five years after -- five years after the Walter Reed scandal, they are just now beginning to map out business processes to find room for improvement. You know, that's just unacceptable.
The public, all of this really believed this was being taken head-on, that we were dealing with it and five years out. Unacceptable numbers we're seeing.
So I wanted to ask you what you are doing at your level to deal with this, five years into this program and we're still hearing statements from Army leaders about how the disability system is fundamentally flawed, adversarial, and, tell me what I'm going to do.
PANETTA: Let me do this. Secretary Shinseki and I have been meeting on a regular basis to try to do what we can to implement improvements and frankly, we're not satisfied either by the progress being made here. Part of it is bureaucratic. Part of it is systems and part of it is the complicated...
MURRAY: You can't imagine what it sounds like to hear that.
PANETTA: Pardon me?
MURRAY: It's bureaucratic. I mean that -- if you're in the system, that's not the word you want to hear.
PANETTA: You know, I see it every day. I'm in charge of a very big bureaucracy. And the fact is that sometimes just the bureaucratic nature of a large departments prevents it from being agile enough to respond and do what needs to be done. And so a large part of this is making sure people are willing to operate out of the box and do what needs to be done in order to improve these systems. What I would offer to you is let Secretary Shinseki and I sit down with you and walk through the steps we're taking to try to see if we can try to shake the system...
MURRAY: I really appreciate that commitment. I know you have not been there the entire five years, but I will tell you this, we've been told for five years that the DOD and V.A. are sitting down on a regular basis addressing this.
And I'm talking to soldiers that are stuck in the disability evaluation system. There are bureaucratic delays. The people that are supposed to be helping them they're training them because they've been in the system longer than the trainers that are supposed to work with them. Their families are facing you know horrendous challenges as they try to figure out what the future brings months on end.
You know people at the top are saying that this is fundamentally fudged, you want to hear who the people at the bottom who are in it are saying.
MURRAY: I totally appreciate your saying that to me today, but sitting down and talking with Secretary Shinseki is something we've been hearing for a long time. We need some recommendations and we need to move forward and we need to be a top priority out of the Pentagon as we transition now out of Afghanistan, this is not going to get more simple.
Add to that the complexities of now going back and reviewing all of these PTSD and behavioral health cases, you have people who are in the IDES (ph) system right now who are saying what's going to happen to me while you go back and review all these people? Are we putting personnel into deal with this? Or now am I going to take another back seat while we deal with that?
This is complex, it's hard. It's problematic, but it needs every single effort from top to bottom.
PANETTA: Listen, I share all of your frustrations, and my job is to make sure that we don't come here with more excuses and that we come here with action.
MURRAY: I truly appreciate that comment. I want to work with you. All my efforts are at your disposal. We do a fantastic job of training on you are men and women to go into the service. We still today have not gotten this right in making sure that we transition back home.
We have families and soldiers and Airmen and -- throughout the service who are really stuck in a process they shouldn't be stuck in. We've got to get this right and we've got it get it right now and we need every effort at it and I will sit down with you the minute we tell you you're available, but I want more than a meeting.
PANETTA: OK, I agree.
Matt McAlvanah
Communications Director
U.S. Senator Patty Murray
202-224-2834 - press office
202--224-0228 - direct
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