Friday, May 7, 2010

Skip Terry, check out Cash

I'm really not in the mood for Terry Gross tonight. Fresh Air Wednesday featured Burt Bacharach and Hal David. The two wrote the bulk of hits you associate with Dionne Warwicks. Songs she recorded but didn't issue as singles became hits for others.

Their songs include "Here I Am," "Do You Know The Way To San Jose?," "Alfie," "Don't Make Me Over," "Walk On By," "I Say A Little Prayer," "Close To You," "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head," "The Look Of Love" and many, many more.

She followed that with two authors of a book on hoarding -- a man and a woman.

Thursday? Two men.

You know what you should do instead. Click here for All Things Considered with a performance. By whom?

Last week, singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash joined NPR for a special night of stories and music at Seattle's Moore Theatre. Part concert and part interview with All Things Considered host Michele Norris, the performance sheds light on Cash's life, her family and the music that ties it all together.
Cash has been telling stories that are both heartbreaking and uplifting for more than 30 years. She is
Johnny Cash's first child — the daughter of his first wife, Vivian Liberto — and has fully embraced the family business: music. At 18, she began performing as a backup singer for her father and her stepmother June Carter Cash, and shortly thereafter launched her own solo career.

It'll be more productive, you'll enjoy it more and you won't have to hear Terry Gross trying to come across as sexual. (She really has to work hard at that, doesn't she?)

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, May 7, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, is it over for Allawi, Amnesty calls out the killers of Sardasht Osman, the VA can't meet deadlines -- even Congressionally mandated ones -- even ones signed off on by the President -- and thinks seven months late with a report (that was finished in September) is no big deal, and more.

Yesterday Iraqi journalist Sardasht Osman's corpse was discovered. Today Sam Dagher covers it in "Abducted Kurdish Journalist in Iraq Is Found Dead" (New York Times). He is only one of many journalists kidnapped and/or killed all over the world. So people need to think when they speak. Critics? No, the press or the pompous who consider themselves the press. Take the stammering idiot James Kitfield of National Journal who makes an ass out of himself every time he opens his mouth to offer another series of incomplete, unfinished sentences. Today he appeared on The Diane Rehm Show (NPR) and uttered a series of phrases and run on thoughts including, "Also -- These guys -- The drone program as we all know has been increased dramatically, we've been killing a lot of these guys." If you didn't just get offended, let's let him continue. "We killed . . ." "We thought we got . . ." Jimmy Kit, you're in the US military? Now it's offensive that a journalist wouldn't know the large number of civilians killed in Pakistan by Barack's drones. That's offensive. But James is stupid -- listen to flop that mouth around -- and that's a given. But does the world really need his 'enlisting' right now? Are, for example, US reporters in many countries not seen as CIA or working for the government?

Is James Kitfield not aware that the National Movement for the Resortation of Pakistani Sovereignty made that (false) claim against Daniel Pearl, used that as their 'justification' for kidnapping him and killing him? The world really can't afford James Kitfield's stupidity but we'll all adjust some way. Journalism cannot afford Kitfield's stupidity. When Jimmy Kit opens his stupid mouth and starts blathering on about "we killed" or "we did," he perpetuates the myth that the press is not free and that it operates under the direction of the US government and spies for the US government. James Kitfield needs to keep his mouth shut if he can't stop damaging the profession. This is not about a media critique this is about US reporters being in hostile environments around the world. Kitfield needs to learn to present objectively and needs to stop speaking of "we." Every time he pulls that nonsense, he throws gasoline on already smouldering fire.

USA Today's Susan Page guest-hosted
The Diane Rehm Show today and Iraq was raised in the second hour with the panel which consisted of Kitfield, Michele Kelemen (NPR) and David Sanger (New York Times).

Susan Page: We talked about the effort to build a government in Great Britian, let's talk about what's happening in Iraq. The two largest Shi'ite parties, the two largest Shi'ites blocs are trying to get together and form a new government. The US does not see this as necessarily a good thing. David, why?

David E. Sanger: They don't because their biggest concern here is that the Sunni minority is going to feel even more frozen out and you would end up in the kind of violence that we saw happen in 2006, 2007, until the surge began to tamp that down. So the idea was build an inclusive government. And if the Shi'ites actually stopped fighting each other and start once again thinking of how they would keep the Sunni out of the government, uh, then you've got basically all of the ingredients for an eruption. Now the next question we ask then is how does that effect the withdrawal schedule for the US? And the answer we get back is: "Not at all. At this point, the Iraqis have to sort this one out themselves and a US presence isn't going to speed this up or slow that down."

Susan Page: So even if there were signs of civil -- the kind of civil unrest that we've seen less of in Iraq, this would not prompt the US to say, "Well we better stay there for awhile and provide some stability."

James Kitfield: They say it would not. I think the pressure to do so would be too great.

Susan Page: What do you think?

James Kitfield: I was just recently in Iraq and talked to-to the military on this. There's two jumping off points since April's already passed where they could put the brakes on this because it's a very complicated rotation scheme. You have to have forces trained if you're going to keep people on the ground longer than anticipated it effects the entire rotation cycle -- in-in basically June. So they have to make their minds up pretty quick or else this withdrawal is going to, you know, go apace as we've seen and its 50,000 troops out of there by August 30th. I will say what they're trying -- You know -- I think they would clearly -- The Americans would clearly rather have Allawi who had the most number -- And he's backed by the Sunnis --The Iraqiya Party -- He's backed by the Sunnis -- They would like to see him part of a coalition. But they're making the point to the Sunnis -- Is that -- "Look, you're going to be a very powerful party in opposition that that's the way it ends up. You're going to have a lot of seats. And that's going to force them to probably give you some ministries. So it's not like they're going to totally freeze out the Sunnis. They won a lot of the -- They won 91 seats in the Parliament. So that's the message the Americans are trying to send the Sunnis. But clearly, if Allawi is frozen out of the coalition there will be hard feelings on the part of the Sunnis.

The post-election madness.
Rania El Gamal and Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) report that the "alliance between Iraq's two main Shi'ite political coalitions to form the next government is far from concluded, with potentially divisive issues such as the nomination of a prime minister still unresolved." Oliver August (Times of London) observes, "Before the election, and even after it, there were hopes that a cross-sectarian alliance might bridge the divide. But a successful intervention by the Iranian Government prevented that. Many Shia leaders owe allegiance, and in some cases their position, to Tehran." Last Saturday, Lara Jakes (AP) reported that Hoshiyar Zebari (Iraq's Foreign Minister) has said the US should not be standing by observing but instead urging a solution to the post-election dispute in Iraq. He accused the Barack Obama administration of being more focused on drawdown deadlines than on the state of Iraq. Zebari was calling for help and doing so publicly. You can't get much more clear than that. Despite calls for US involvement from Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari, the US did nothing as Michael Young (Lebanon's Daily Star): Instead, US officials took great pride in saying that they had not interfered in the election process. What, precisely, was the thinking here? That America would be rewarded by some cosmic moral supreme court? That Iran and Syria would gasp at American uprightness and refrain from exploiting Iraq for their own purposes? Does the administration imagine that international politics unfolds like a Frank Capra film, so that like Mr. Smith in Washington the world would dissolve into tears of affection for Mr. Obama in Iraq? Once the Iraqi elections ended, it was plain what the US should have done, or tried to do. A coalition government between Maliki and the front-runner Ayad Allawi was the right way to go. It would have helped return the Sunnis to Iraqi political life, while profiting from the Shiite split, to Iran's disadvantage. The priority should have been to keep Maliki away from the Iranians, whom the prime minister was never very close to anyway. A shotgun wedding between Maliki and Allawi might have failed, their conflicting ambitions making this difficult. Yet both could have eventually seen an interest in following through, since they would have thus marginalized their communal rivals. Here was a moment when Barack Obama's personal involvement was essential. But what did the US do? Nothing.

And the US did nothing. It offered no leadership. It just sat on the sidelines. Barack Obama is not in Iraq. Christopher Hill is. He is supposed to be the US Ambassador to Iraq. He's done a lousy job and the administration wishes they'd moved to replace him sooner (he's going bye-bye in a few months). But that's really too damn bad.Republican objections about Hill were valid when they were based on the fact that he said one thing to your face and then did another behind your back. His personnel file goes on and on about just that. It's Barack's fault and it's the Senate Democrats fault. They should have known what he was. He's done a lousy job. And Iraq was already fragile. He's only made it worse with his dithering and his stupidity and his inability to grasp even the basic issues such as Kirkuk. He couldn't even grasp Kirkuk in his Senate confirmation hearing -- despite the fact that he'd been tutored on it [The March 25, 2009 confirmation hearing was covered in
that day's snapshot and the March 26, 2009 snapshots ].

Some missed the point in real time. Such as Tom Ricks' sidekick
Spencer Akerman (Washington Independent) who whined the following before the confirmation hearing, "But this is one of the most important U.S. diplomatic postings in the world. It should have an ambassador filling it already." Poor Spency, fired from The New Republic and still a fool. It "is one of the most important U.S. diplomatic postings in the world" but that didn't mean that it should have someone "filling it already" -- it meant that it should have someone qualified filling the position.

Ryan Crocker had already said he would stay on a bit longer (and he did). There was no big rush. And there was no issue of "I can't get along with Crocker!" Ryan Crocker was against the Iraq invasion. He and Barack should have gotten along just fine. There was a qualified person in the position ready to stay on for as long as needed because he realized how important the post was. Chris Hill was the best Barack could do? Unfamiliar with the region, unfamiliar with the culture, unfamiliar with the history, unfamiliar with the culture and prone to morning peaks and afternoon spirals, Hill was the best choice? Were that actually true, it would be very frightening.
Iraq was not a success when Hill (finally) got to Baghdad. But he's leaving it worse than it was when he got there and the decay happened on his watch because he didn't know what he was doing. When the fool occasionally asked basic questions about protocol, he'd blow off the advice he was given. There's no way to spin it for Barack. Chris Hill is a disaster.

And Allawi? Ayad Allawi's slate won the most seat in the Parliament. Now Iraqiya finds itself shut out of the process. Kitfield's idea that some ministries might be awarded is ridiculous. Not that they might be. It could happen. But with few exceptions, the ministries are a joke. They're actually pretty much all a joke but some come with their own militias. Nouri al-Maliki's cabinet -- like his brain -- was never full. The Ministries aren't that important and they don't have a great deal of independence. Add in that if you're truly independent, you usually end up fast tracked into the US because you've got death threats and accusations against you. There is no independence. So what of Allawi?
Muhammad Ashour (Niqash) believes Allawi will now have to "settle for a lower-ranking ministerial portfoilo". Paul Schemm (AP) reports that Ayad Allawi has returned to Iraq and is stating the Iraqiya Party has first shot at forming the government due to the number of seats it won in the March 7th election. Schemm notes that the Kurds state they are going with al-Maliki. The Kurds state that. It's not reality. Allawi could get the block by promising to deliver to the KRG what they've long wanted -- as anyone observing the last few years should be aware.

In addition, once the Baghdad recounts are over, MPs are sworn in. Once sworn in, they're in. Meaning?

There are 325 seats, 163 needed to form the government. After an MP is sworn in, they're in. If the new prime minister has not yet been named at that point, any MP can switch to whatever party they want for whatever reward (or bribe) they want. It's in the MPs interest to delay the process because that allows them to make demands for the people they represent and/or themselves. Should an MP switch before they're sworn into the Parliament, they could be stripped of their seat and replaced with someone else from their party. After they've taken office, they're in.

As the Iraqi National Alliance and State Of Law attempt to figure out what to do next, it is likely that the naming of the prime minister may not take place quickly.

In some of today's reported violence,
Reuters notes a Tikrit car bombing which injured eleven people, an Abu Ghraib car bombing which claimed 1 life and left two people injured, an armed attack in Rashad resulted in 3 dead and four injured and, dropping back to last night, 1 'suspect' was killed in Ramadi.

Tuesday's snapshot noted the plans to turn Baghdad into a walled-in-city -- apparently Nouri is The Last Emperor and the Green Zone is being redubbed The Forbidden City. Al Jazeera reports today that the fence "will be made of concrete and topped by security cameras" and -- Nouri's not given up on that moat! -- in areas where The Grand Wall Of Maliki will interfere with farming, they will resort to trenches instead. Construction of the fence is said to take at least a year.

Returning to the kidnapping and murder of 23-year-old Iraqi journalist Sardasht Osman whose body was discovered yesterday,
Amnesty International issued the following:

The Kurdistan Regional Government must take immediate steps to investigate the abduction and murder earlier this week of Sardasht Osman, 23, a university student who worked as a journalist for the Ashtiname newspaper in Erbil, capital of the Kurdistan region of Iraq. His abduction and murder follows a spate of other attacks on journalists and other critics of the KRG's two main political parties in recent years for which no-one has been brought to justice. Sardasht Osman, a final-year student at Erbil's University of Salaheddin, was abducted outside the university on 4 May by a group of unidentified armed men. They forced him into a car and drove away. He was not seen alive again. His body was found in Mosul yesterday morning. He had been murdered. Prior to his death, Mr Osman wrote articles for Ashtiname newspaper in Erbil, and other publications. According to Kurdish media websites, he had recently published an article in Ashtiname critical of a senior Kurdish political figure following which, according to his brother, Bashdar, he received anonymous threats to his mobile phone. It appears that his abduction and murder may be the latest in a series of attacks carried out against independent journalists and other critics of the KRG authorities in recent years. There is an emerging pattern of attacks on those who have criticised leading members and officials of the two main political parties in the Kurdistan Region - the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), headed by Mas'oud Barzani, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), headed by Jalal Talabani - which jointly form the KRG. The attacks, mostly physical assaults but including some killings, have generally been carried out by unidentified men in plain clothes who are widely suspected of being agents of or connected to the Parastin and Zanyari, the party security and intelligence organs of, respectively, the KDP and the PUK. Amnesty is calling on the KRG authorities to institute immediately a thorough, independent investigation into the abduction and murder of Sardasht Osman and other attacks on journalists and others in the Kurdistan Region and areas under the effective control of the KRG, and for those responsible to be brought to justice in full conformity with international law

Turning to the US where a subcommittee of the House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing entitled "Quality v. Quantity: Examining the Veterans Benefits Administration's Employee Work Credit and Management Systems." As Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Chair John Hall noted, "One of our longer titles of a hearing." The Subcommittee heard from three panels. The first panel was composed of CNA's Eric Christensen. Why?

Chair John Hall: We also intended for today's hearing to provide an opportunity to examine a Congressionally-mandated report on the VBA's work credit and management system outlined in legislation that I developed and sponsored during the 110th Congress, the Veterans Disability Benefits Claims Modernization Act of 2008, HR 5892, codified in Public Law 110-389. The goal of this legislation, among other things, was to provide VBA with a valuable roadmap to assess and improve its work credit and management systems to produce better claims outcomes for our veterans. The deadline for this report was October 31, 2009 and I note that we have yet to receive it. However, VA has authorized its independent research contractor that was retained to complete this report, the Center for Naval Analyses to testify before us today concerning a summary of the report's findings and recommendations. VA advised the Subcommittee that the report is still under review by the agency and OMB and that it should be transmitted to Congress soon. We look forward to hearing today when this report will be ready and submitted to Congress, and getting a better understanding of why it has not yet been delivered.

The above was in his opening remarks. We'll note this exchange that took place during questioning.

Subcommittee Chair John Hall: Thank you and can you give us any insight into why the VA has been unable to release the study that was made by CNA which I believe you said was completed in September?

Eric Christensen: That's correct. We completed it in September and delivered it to VBA per our contract. I cannot speak for VA in terms of why they have not provided it to you.

CNA completed the report in September 2009. Congress was ordered to report on that study and the report was due October 31, 2009. It is now May 2010 and the report has not been made to Congress. Representing the VA was Diana M. Rubens (on the third panel), the Associate Deputy Under Secretary for Field Operations. This is what she stated in her opening remarks:

As the Subcommittee is fully aware, Public Law 110-389 required the Secretary [of the VA] to initiate a stufy of the effectiveness of the VBA's employee work credit to evaluate a more effective means of improving disability claims processing performance. I apologize for the late delivery as we experienced delays in both the initiation of that study and the completion of that concurrence process. I do anticipate that that will be delivered shortly and I'm happy to be available for any questions you have upon review of that study.

She went on to claim that CNA and VBA were similar in their analysis. Were that correct, why would it take so long to release a report on the study? It will be "delivered shortly" -- she anticipates. In the written version of her opening statment (what will make it into the record over her verbal response quoted above), she's stating "we expect to deliver [the report] in the near future."

It all sounds like "Check's in the mail." And what is it with the VA that they can get anything right these days? They can't make fall 2009 payments on time (they just finished -- or supposedly 'finished' -- there may be some veterans still waiting) and they can't turn in a report that was due October 31, 2009. Is Eric Shinseki unable to provide leadership and oversight to the department? If so, then a new VA Secretary may be needed. How does a department head not notice that a report legally due to Congress no later than October 31st still hasn't been delivered 7 months later?

We'll note this exchange from the hearing:

Subcommittee Chair John Hall: Thank you Ms. Rubens, could you please explain, first of all, what has delayed the transmission of the report outlined in PL 110-389? And when you said "shortly," what does that mean? When will we receive that report?

Diana M. Rubens: Yes, sir. I, uh, I will tell you that, uh, this study was one of eleven in 110-389. As we worked to get the studies all engaged, it took us longer than it should have. It was an unexcusable delay. Uhm. That was enacted in October. It took us until March -- you heard Mr. Christensen say we engaged them in March [2009] and so that was an inexcusable delay. Uh, as I understand it and I spent the last couple of days trying to ascertain just where it is. The concurrence process through VA, VBA and working with OMB is closer to the end of that process than the beginning. And we've engaged in some ongoing discussions to ensure that everybody that's looking at it, if you will, outside of VBS recognize that we are late.

Subcommittee Chair John Hall: Well if the report was done in September [2009], are you changing the report? Is it being modified or are you just reading it before we get to read it?

Diana Rubens: I will tell you that I think we were reading it before you get to read it and the concurrence process over the course of October, November and December was painfully protracted. It wasn't so much that we're editing or changing, I think it's making sure that we understand. And unfortunately not staying on top of the concurrence process to move it along.

Subcommittee Chair John Hall: Well I would appreciate receiving it within what I would consider to be a reasonable time -- like the next week. I see no reason why a report that was paid for by the tax payer, that was required by this Congress and by this Committee and that was completed last September by an outside contractor should be sitting somewhere at VA -- and for no good reason that I've been told -- other than, it being reviewed and 'concurred' upon -- whatever that may mean -- has not been shared with us. And I think it's time.

Diana Rubens: Yes, sir.

That was far from VA's only problem. Another example arose in the hearing.

Subcommittee Chair John Hall: As of May 1st of this year, there are over 87,000 compensation claims pending before the New York RO [Regional Office], nearly half of which have been waiting for over 125 days. What can you tell my New York area veterans and those in other Congressional districts about the work that's being done to reform the systems so that the staff -- both line staff and managers alike -- focus on improving quality and still get the benefits to the veterans in a timely manner?

Diana Rubens: Yes, sir. Specifically, the New York -- As you know, we've got a new management team in the New York Regional Office. I'm very excited about their innovation approach, their collaboration approach that they've taken on on their own already with the local medical centers to ensure that we get, uh, timely, accurate exams upon which to make decisions. And so the efforts there with a new management team I think will begin to, if you will, bear fruit as they help the employees better manage the work in innovative ways that they've developed locally. At the national level, you know, I've mentioned some of the things that we've done to generate ideas whether it's internally, whether it's through the roundtable that [House Veterans Affairs Committee] Chairman [Bob] Filner hosted, whether it's our national innovation initiative. And we are working to put together an overarching approach to how do we improve nationwide? Uh, some of the things that I think heard concern about here as well. Interim ratings is one of the things that I've heard discussed in terms of if there are 3 or 4 issues on a claim and we can process one and need to develop further information on the other that we are reinforcing the use of interim ratings. It starts getting money flowing to the veteran, it starts getting them access to health care, uhm, it ensures that they're uh in our system and getting work done. We're also looking at how do we segment claims? I heard some discussion from some of the panel members about those one issue claims that might move more quickly -- whether it's that hearing loss claim or just one single-issue -- and are currently piloting in several offices. How will that work? About 26% of our work is a single-issue claim and if we can move those along more quickly, will we allow ourselves a better focus, if you will, on those more complex claims -- whether it's a complex issue or whether it's a number of issues. Uhm, I talked a little about the pro-active phone development. We've heard some concerns about whether or not we're incentivizing or rewarding employees. I will tell you that as we reward employees, quality is always a part of the requirement for a reward to be given. But it's also about that -- I'll call it "less tangible monetary award" and it's that recognition of who your performers are and making sure that we're recognizing them for that effort. One of the initiatives that we're developing and the Secretary's interested in supporting, if you will, a Who's Who in VBA for VSRs and rating specialists that will allow us to recognize quarterly uh the top 25 in each of those categories and, at the annual level, with recognition from the Secretary in an effort to have people continue to stay jazzed and focused on we've got to get this job done. I would be remiss if I didn't mention some of the efforts that we're making in both technology, if you will, the VBMS -- the Veterans Benefits Management System. We are standing up an organization that brings VBA and uses, if you will, field users and the organization together to be focused on this work that will grow from the virtual regional office pilot that was just completed in Baltimore allowing us to change and pursue accurately the electronic claims processing system.

Subcommittee Chair John Hall: Well thank you for all of that. I'm especially happy to hear that you're -- that you're moving toward streamlined granting of claims or approval of claims in clear cut cases like hearing loss. Although I'm a little bit disappointed that, in 2008, Congress passed a law unanimously that was signed by President Bush that said "The Secretary shall issue this partial claims rating," changed the language from "may" to "shall" indicating the clear intent of Congress that when there's an undisputed severe disabling injury -- which I think hearing loss might fall under or a loss of a limb or paralysis or blindness or any number of other things that are clearly service connected and are not in dispute although there may be many other facets of the claim that are either not developed yet, they're needing longer ajudication -- but that "the Secretary shall award an immediate partial rating so that the money starts flowing to the veteran" that was passed unanimously and signed by the previous president and, two years later, I'm surprised that we're talking about being part way on the road to getting that done. I would hope that we would have been there already.

We could go on and on with other examples. That's due to the fact that John Hall prepares. He's paying attention in the other hearings and he's referencing Inspector General reports. It's nothing like the Senate VA Committee. And Hall is among the stars of the House VA Committee (others on the Democrat side would include Bob Filner, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, Harry Teague and Debbie Halvorson -- on the Republican side, it would include Steve Buyer, Jerry Moran and John Boozman -- and I'm basing that on Committee performance, being able to question the witnesses and usually knowing a great deal more than the witnesses). Is there a star at the Veterans Affairs Dept? If so, they've yet to emerge and Barack Obama needs to figure out what exactly is going on and whether Shinseki is up to the job he's been appointed to.

The second panel was made up of advocates. There's not space for them in this snapshot; however, the American Legion's Ian DePlanque offered testimony and the American Legion has written about that and the hearing
here. If I hear from friends with other organizations that they wrote about their advocate's testimony, we'll link to those in Monday's snapshot.

"We've been here even in the worst possible weather, in pouring rain and exhuasting heat,"
Joan Wile tells Clyde Haberman (New York Times) for his report on the weekly protest against the wars still held every Wednesday "on Fifth Avenue at the eastern entrance to Rockefeller Center" by the Grandmothers Against the War. Haberman reports this week saw the Grannies "330th consecutive Wednesday" protest. Heberman reports:Anne Moy went there by bus from the Lower East Side. It was important to her, she said, to register her opposition to the wars. At 92, she was the oldest on the protest line. She beat Lillian Lifflander by two years. Jenny Heinz, 65, was another regular, even though she was in the midst of treatment for breast cancer. Bert Aubrey, 76, had to lean on a cane, his knees not what they used to be. As so many rushed to walk -- no, run -- to run away from calling out the ongoing wars because a Democrat now occupies the White House, the Grandmothers Against the War have remained firm -- even with some of them having endorsed Barack. 330 Wednesdays (one Wednesday the police prevented the protest) speaks to commitment and so does protesting against what you know is wrong regardless of who is running the war. Joan Wile is also the author of Grandmothers Against the War: Getting Off Our Fannies and Standing Up for Peace.

TV notes,
Washington Week begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and joining Gwen around the table this week are Peter Baker (New York Times), Dan Balz (Washington Post), Elizabeth Shogren (NPR) and Pierre Thomas (ABC News). And Gwen's column this week is "The Politics of Panic." Remember that the show podcasts in video and audio format -- and a number of people sign up for each (audio is thought to be so popular due to the fact that it downloads so much quicker). If you podcast the show, remember there is the Web Extra where Gwen and the guests weigh in on topics viewers e-mail about. And also remember that usually by Monday afternoon you can go to the show's website and stream it there (including Web Extra) as well as read the transcripts and more. Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Cari Dominguez, Ilana Goldman, Irene Natividad and Sabrina Schaeffer on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And at the website each week, there's an extra just for the web from the previous week's show and this week's it's immigration reform. For the broadcast program, check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes:
Homegrown TerrorSteve Kroft reports on American citizens - like the recent would-be Times Square bomber - who have traveled abroad for terrorist training in order to attack America or its allies.
The Secretary of StateScott Pelley follows Hillary Rodham Clinton as she performs her duties as secretary of state and questions her on the latest developments in foreign policy and the recent terror scare in New York's Times Square.
Walking AwayIt's estimated that one million Americans walked away from homes "underwater" or worth less than their mortgages even though they could afford the payments. Morley Safer reports on this trend, called strategic default, that threatens the economic recovery.
Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, May 9, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

iraqthe new york timessam dagher
nprthe diane rehm show
60 minutescbs newsto the contrarybonnie erbe
washington week

Thursday, May 6, 2010

One Tree Hill

Yahoo News reports on potential cancelations, "One Tree Hill (Mondays at 8/7c, CW) Issues: After losing a chunk of its cast this season, the series is showing serious signs of age. However, its average audience of 2.3 million viewers is more devoted than those of other CW shows (including Melrose Place and 90210.)" I can't believe it.

That CW is thinking of killing the show. That it's still on. I can't believe any of it.

I used to watch the show when they were kids in high school. I don't remember what show I used to watch after but it was a block and I'd stay with this bad show while cursing it out with any friends present or on the phone. I hated this show and thought it was a K-Mart version of The OC.

But it made some contributions. Specifically, I first became aware of Ava and C.I. because of this show. When they wrote "TV Review: Body Washing the Stump: One Tree Hill," a friend from high school debate club forwarded me the article and I was in love with Ava and C.I. forever more after reading that.

I loved it all. Especially calling this crap "body wash operetta" because it was way too weak to be a soap opera. I will never forget reading the next section at work and spewing my coffee all over my computer monitor:

A lot of our e-mails have praised (and praised) Chad Michael Murray's "chewy nipples." We actually found them "creamy" and not "chewy" and might make a strong case for that were it not for the fact that we're confused as to whether we call him "Murray" or "Michael Murray" -- three first names leave reviewers in doubt. With Lafferty, the phrase that came up most often was "the pits." Now we don't mean that our e-mailers can't spell and that they intended to convey he was the pitts (of acting, perhaps), we mean that some of our readers have written in to praise, repeatedly, his arm pits. We weren't sure what to expect. Cher's been praised for her armpits by some designers, so we "sniffed" around to see what all the fuss over Lafferty's pits was. And we were lucky because Lafferty and the creative team behind the cameras obviously are quite proud of his pits as well since we were given ample time to examine them during the body wax that wasn't.

Honestly, it was as though the WB were trying to promote scratch & sniff TV. No one handed us our cards, so we were left with just our eyes and, honestly, weren't all that impressed.

He does have armpits. Two of them, in fact. And they are there, on camera. They don't really do anything which convinces us that they were truly Lafferty's arm pits and not some body double's. Does Lafferty add anything to the show or is does he just fill up space?

Ava and C.I. was the gift One Tree Hill gave me. This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, May 6, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, a reporter is kidnapped and murdered, the US Congress hears about economic programs for injured service members, what did England ask the International Red Cross to investigate, and more.

Sardasht is a city in Iran with a largely Kurdish population. It's in the northwest region of Iran which put it close enough to Iraq that Saddam Hussein would attack it with a fly over that dropped chemical weapons back in 1987. Sardasht Osman was an Iraqi journalist who disappeared earlier this week while reporting with the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. He was kidnapped.
AFP reports his corpse was discovered this morning and his family has buried him. He was 23-years-old, a college student (kidnapped from Salaheddin University) and he reported for Ashtiname magazine. Kurdish Media notes that Kamal Rauf, Ahmad Mira, Asos Hardi and other Kurdish journalists have issued a statement which includes:

To kidnap a journalist in the regional capital; taking him outside the Kurdistan region; and killing him, raises serious questions. This act cannot be done by one person or small group of people. That is why we believe in the first instance that the Kurdistan Regional Government and the security forces should take the responsibility. We must take maximum step to find this perpetrators responsible. [. . .] We, as a group of Kurdistan's writers and journailsts, believe that kidnapping and threatening of journalists have increased rapidly, and cannot be accepted anymore.

Reporters Without Borders condemns the murder:

Reporters Without Borders voiced concern about the decline in the press freedom in Iraqi Kurdistan in a release yesterday, noting that the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the two parties that control the region, seemed to have reached an agreement to muzzle the press and restrict the freedom of journalists as much as possible.
"Many reports and op-ed pieces have been published in which Kurdish journalists and intellectuals are unanimous in voicing their concern about the current situation and their determination to defend press freedom," yesterday's press release said (,37382.html).
The city of Erbil, where Osman was kidnapped, is mostly controlled by the KDP, whose leader, Massoud Barzani, is Kurdistan's President. His son, Masrur Barzani, heads the KDP's security services.
Osman is the first journalist to be murdered in Iraqi Kurdistan since Soran Mama Hama, who was gunned down outside his home in Kirkuk on 21 July 2008. Aged 23 (like Osman), he wrote articles critical of local politicians and security officials for the magazine Leven. He had repeatedly been threatened and warned to stop his investigative reporting but his courage and professionalism pushed him to continue (,27900.html).

Journalistic Freedoms Observatory calls for the KRG to conduct an investigation into the kidnapping and murder of Osman. The Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement which includes:

Authorities in both cities must conduct a thorough investigation into the murder of Sardasht Osman and bring those responsible to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Unidentified gunmen approached Osman on the campus of the University of Salahadin in Arbil, where he was a final-year English student, beat him and dragged him into a white passenger car, said Rahman Gharib, a representative of the Metro Center, a local press freedom group. Police in nearby Mosul found his body with his university ID shortly after midnight today, Gharib added.

We'll come back to Iraq later in the snapshot but right now we'll head over to DC.
"During the 110th Congress," Subcommittee Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin declared this morning, "we held a series of hearings that focused on employment opportunites for veterans. These hearings included the VR&E programs that seek to assist our injured service members and help veterans obtain employment after their military service. As a result of those productive hearings, we were able to expand the VR&E programs by authorizing the VA Secretary to provide waivers for severaly injured veterans seeking to participat in the Independent Living Program, increasing the cap for participation in the Independent Living Program, requiring the VA to report to Congress on the measure to assist veterans participating in VR&E and authorizing a multi-year longitudinal study on VR&E. Today's hearing will allow us to learn more about what the Administration is doing to implement these new changes and to address the concerns raised over the past year."

She was bringing to order a hearing of the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. She is the chair and US House Rep John Boozman is the Ranking Member and he used his opening statements to share a concern, "In short I'm very concerned about the time it takes to enter rehab. According to VA data, it takes an average of about 54 days to determine eligibility, 118 days to develop a rehab plan and 200 days to find a job following completion of the customized rehab program. That's 372 days. That does not include the average of 615 days spent completing the rehab program which brings the total average time in rehab to employment to 987 days."

VR&E is the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program and each veteran (or qualifying active duty service member about to be honorably discharged) receives their own plan which focuse on either/or/both employment and life goals. Both the veteran and the Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor sign off on the plan which can be updated. Ruth Fanning, of the VA, was the first panel and she explained, "VR&E's primary mission is to assist veterans with disabilities that are service related to prepare for and obtain sustainable employment. Robust services are individually tailored to each veteran's needs. Services begin with a comprehensive evaluation to help Veterans with understanding their interests, aptitudes and transferable skills. Next, vocational exploration focuses veterans' potential career goals with labor market demands, available training, and individual needs and preferences."

Fanning also noted in her opening remarks that the first job many veterans -- true whether they return with a disability or not -- accept will be a "transitional job" that they take while making plans for the future. Or for making ends meet.

She expanded on that in response to questions from US House Rep Thomas Perriello, "Often times, the first job, as well all know, isn't the right job or the best job. And we do know that veterans want to -- they tell us that they want to get a job immediately after discharge just to normalize themselves back into civilian life."

Last night,
Betty wrote about NPR's The Story which featured Iraq War veteran Javorn Drummond as the guest for the first half-hour. Host Dick Gordon explained that "20% of those who come back from war are coming back to no work." Drummond shared his story which included a rough re-adjustment to civilian life, a lack of interest about the Iraq War from people he encountered and a rotten job market. His transition job, while he devised his long-range gaols, was at a pig slaughter house in North Carolina. He is now in college on the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

We'll note this portion of today's hearing.

Subcommittee Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: I guess the question is there does seem to be some concern among veterans about the average time it takes once they submit an application to start receiving services and I'm wondering if that tracks with the uptick you've seen

Ruth Fanning: We've seen a slight uptick in terms of our goal for making an entitlement decision. We're within 10% of the goal. We're not currently at the goal, we're about 10% over. The same is the case with the phase to develop a rehabilitation plan and there is overlap with those two cycles. They're not linear in that the entilement ends and then the evauation portion starts. There's some overlap in those - those two cycles. But there is a slight uptick. We're still -- within 10% is not bad. It's something we can get down. And we're actively working with the Office of Field Operations and with our staff to try to reduce that timeliness. And I can tell you that's part of my reason behind launching into the BPR and looking for ways to streamline. I think that some of the paperwork could be reduced and that could make the timeliness a little more effective. I would like to also mention that the time to develop a rehabilation plan which currently we're allowing 105 days is -- so just three and a half months approximately -- that there is always going to be a need for some time on average for that process. We're working with veterans to look at the labor market, to understand their skills and aptitudes, to understand their interests, to understand the transferable skills that they bring to the table and how they can build on those, to understand all the options that they have for their futures and then to make some decisions. That is a process. And so we don't want to be prescriptive and tell a veteran when he comes in the door what job he or she should seek. We want them to go through that process and make informed decisions that is best for them. So there always will be some time in that process because it's a counseling process. Now, saying that, do I think it could be shortened? I do. And that's somethng that I'm very committed to finding every way possible that we can make it shorter because if a veteran comes to us who's not employed and needs work, I don't want him to wait three months. I don't want him to wait three weeks if we can avoid it. We want to get services started as quickly as we can.

Subcommittee Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: Well I appreciate that and, you know, you had responded to a question from Mr. Perriello about the transitional jobs. And your response was, you know, very impressive in terms of the recognizing that that often times is not a good fit, that transitional job, and the importance of keeping the veteran sort of looped back into your program. Do you track that somehow? I mean is the transitional job separate from the rehabiliation plan and the career development stage? Is this just what they go through TAP, maybe your office, your program helps identify that transitional job. Are they in the transitional job during the time that they're working to develop a rehabilitation plan?

Ruth Fannning: Uhm, a good majority of veterans in voc rehab are in transitional jobs. Most of them -- even if they're only supporting themselves -- and a good majority of them have families -- they need to work even if they're pursuing voc rehab. As generous as the VR&E program is, the stipend that we have is not sufficient to pay rent and buy food and pay all the expenses of daily life. So most veterans are working -- at least part-time -- some in work study programs, some in transitional full time jobs. Obviously, obviously from a rehab counselor perspective, some kind of work that's continuing to build their resume is a good thing. But we don't want -- ideally we don't want to see someone having to work full time while they're in college. It extends the period of time before they can really get into that right career.

Subcommittee Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: Okay.

Ruth Fanning: So a happy medium would be good but we recognize and understand that veterans need transitional jobs. If we're helping them find them, or we're working with DoL [Department of Labor] in that process, what we're focused on is: Let's make sure it's a job that's aligned with the ultimate career goal so that it's a job that will make them more marketable when they are ready to enter that career.

Subcommittee Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: And I guess, let me ask one more question before recognizing Mr. Bilirakis, when and how does the VR&E program determine or declare as such that a veteran's been rehabiliated?

Ruth Fanning: We track suitable employment first of all. So many veterans actually enter suitable employment while they're still in training and that's the ideal scenario. They are hired as a co-op and they're completing college and also in the job leading toward the job that they really want. A lot of veterans get jobs in their last semester of college, when they're ready to graduate. So as soon as they enter suitable employment, we start tracking it in our data system. We don't declare a veteran rehabilitated until they've completed the goals of their program and we can determine that they are suitably employed and that the employment is stable. And for at least a sixty day period. So a veteran may graduate on May 1st, get a job on June 1st. Maybe they have some initial bumps in the road and we learn that they need some adaptation or some kind of accomidation on the job. We assist with that. Once that stability has been gained, then sixty days beyond that point, we can close the case as rehabiliated.

The US Senate Veterans Affairs Committee is chaired by Senator Daniel Akaka and his office notes:
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, held an oversight hearing yesterday on the state of care for troops and veterans suffering from traumatic brain injury. Akaka praised VA and DOD for making significant progress since a hearing on this issue in 2007, but cautioned that serious obstacles remain in providing the seamless, quality care that is needed by those suffering from what has become the signature wound of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Just a few years ago, the government knew very little about how to treat troops and veterans suffering from TBI. Since then, TBI care has improved dramatically, but we must continue to improve timeliness and enhance partnerships between the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense and the private sector. As long as we have any veterans with undiagnosed TBI, any partnerships with community providers left untapped, or any research left undone, there is still work to do," said Akaka.
The hearing brought together officials from VA and DOD and experts from academia and the private sector to discuss recent progress and highlight areas where improvement is needed. Chairman Akaka also invited Jonathan Barrs, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom working to overcome TBI, and Karen Bohlinger, wife of Montana's Lieutenant Governor and mother of a former Army Special Forces soldier suffering from the injury, for their first-hand accounts.

More information about the hearing including statements, testimony and the webcast is available here:

You can also refer to
yesterday's snapshot which covered some of Senator Jon Tester's remarks in the hearing and Chair Akaka's exchange with DoD's Dr. Michael Jaffee.

Returning to Iraq, let's pick up on some of today's reported violence.


Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 2 lives and left four people injured, a Kirkuk grenade attack which injured two people and a Tuzkhurmato roadside bombing attack on "a Kurdish security official" which left one of his bodyguards injured and also wounded two bystanders.

Reuters notes the corpse of Abdul-Salaam Hassan was discovered in the trunk of a Baghdad car yesterday.

Noting Abdul-Salaam Hassan,
Borzou Daragahi (Los Angeles Times) wonders if the violence of the 'civil war' period is returning to Iraq: "It was the latest in a mysterious string of assassinations and attempted killings of prominent Iraqis that hark back to the bad days of Iraq's sectarian and political violence." Daragahi notes that some sort of intelligence network appears to have been set up for the targeting to be as successful as it appears to be. An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers notes the political cartoons on various violent targetings.

Serage Malik (The National Newspaper) observes, "In Iraq there is now a palpable feeling that the clock has, in some sense, been turned back and that the country may have finally slipped into the kind of sectarianism it appeared to be on course to escape just one year ago." Now? Malik's referring to this week's big post-election news of the power-sharing coalition between the Shi'ite political parties State of Law and Iraqi National Alliance. Michael Hastings (The Hastings Report, True/Slant) offers a similar thought, "I doubt, too, if there will be much incentive for the Shiite government to start sharing more power with their Sunni rivals once the Americans leave. In fact, I expect the opposite–Maliki(or whoever else takes over) will likely continue to eliminate any political opposition, by both political(banning alleged Baathists etc) and martial(arresting, exiling, killing) means." Babk Dehghanpisheh (Newsweek) feels the coalition-sharing move means the three vying for prime minister now are: Ibrahim Jafari, Jafar al-Sadr and Nouri al-Maliki. Many wags consider Nouri now effectively shut out. Would that Iraq could be so lucky. (Betty shared her thoughts on Iraq's p.m. Tuesday night.) Tariq Allhomayed (Asharq Alawsat Newspaper) sees traces of Iran's fingertips in the merger and writes of "a Western official" who declares that the US has "handed over Iraq to Iran" which Allhomayed notes was first stated openly by "the Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al Faisal when, in the presence of then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, he said that America had handed Iraq to Iran on a golden platter. A well-informed Saudi told me that the Americans, Rice in particular, were very angry that day, however today Prince Saud al Faisal's words have been confirmed decisively." Robert Dreyfuss (The Nation via Middle East Online) offers:The announcement on Tuesday that Prime Minister Maliki of Iraq has joined with the pro-Iranian coalition, the Iraqi National Alliance, to seek to form Iraq's next government is the direct result of an intervention in Iraqi politics by Iran's ambassador in Baghdad, Hassan Kazemi-Qomi. "The Iranian ambassador met with the Shiite parties a week ago, and he told them that Iran considers it a matter of its national security that the Shiites put aside their differences to form a government," Aiham Alsammarae, a former Iraqi minister of electricity, told The Nation. "He told them, 'Whatever you have to do, do it.'" The Iran-backed agreement creates an enormous political problem for President Obama and his administration. Not only do the events in Iraq underscore the importance of getting talks with Iran back on track, but they raise the chances that civil war could once again break out in Iraq.

Meanwhile, though both the US and UK government continue to disavow any responsibility or culpability for the huge rise in birth defects in Iraq,
Robert Verkaik (Belfast Telegraph) reports that, in 2009, the British government approached the International Red Cross and asked them to examine the issue:

The legal case, which is being prepared for the High Court by Public Interest Lawyers, raises questions about the UK's role in the US-led offensive against the City of Fallujah in 2004 in which hundreds of Iraqis died.
After the battle, in which it is alleged that a range of illegal weaponry was used against the civilian and insurgent population, evidence has emerged of large numbers of children being born with severe birth defects.
This follows up
Verkaik's Tuesday report for the Independent of London on the Iraqi families who are suing the UK because their children were born with birth defects and "accuse the UK Government of breaching international law, war crimes and failing to intervene to prevent a war crime."

Monday's snapshot included: "While we're mentioning Al Jazeera, please note that Annie Lennox was Riz Khan's guest on the latest Riz Khan's One on One which began airing Friday. She wears the HIV Positive t-shirt in the interview and CBS News explains the story behind that. With one minor detail everyone's missed. Trivia question to be answered in tomorrow's snapshot: What music peer of Annie's (in the eighties when she was with Eurythmics) declared publicly that he was going to do something similar to raise awareness but then let it slide? Answer in tomorrow's snapshot." I forgot it on Tuesday. I did remember it yesterday but we ended up having to pull it when other issues had to be added and I had to redictate a portion of yesterday's snapshot. My apologies. The other person who was going to raise awareness with a similar shirt but didn't follow up? Boy George. And those needing a source, look up a 1987 article Kris Kirk wrote on Boy George. (It could be any variety of British publications -- Kris wrote for many -- including Melody Maker or Gay Times. I heard the story from Kris himself many years ago.) (Kris Kirk was a highly influential music critic and he passed away in 1993 from HIV complications.) In the article, Boy George is trashing a variety of people (I'm sure Kris included Boy George's non-stop trashing of George Michael because it included printables and unprintables). (I know and like George Michael and he gets a link. Boy George? As I said, George Michael gets a link.)

In other news, Blood Money makers KBR has more problems. The
Justice Dept issued the following yesterday:Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Wednesday, May 5, 2010 U.S. Intervenes in Suit Against KBR and Panalpina Alleging Kickbacks Under the False Claims Act Allegations of Kickbacks and Overbilling Related to Logistical Support in Iraq WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department has intervened in a whistleblower lawsuit against Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), Panalpina Inc. and others that alleges that employees of two freight forwarders doing business with the companies provided unlawful kickbacks to KBR transportation department employees. KBR is the prime contractor under the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP III) contract for logistical support of U.S. military operations in Iraq. The whistleblowers also allege overbilling by a KBR subcontractor in the Balkans, Wesco, under a military contract. The United States is pursuing allegations that the two freight forwarders, Eagle Global Logistics (which has since merged with TNT Logistics and become CEVA) and Panalpina provided unlawful kickbacks in the form of meals, drinks, tickets to sports events and golf outings to KBR employees. The government will seek damages and penalties under the False Claims Act and common law, as well as penalties under the Anti-Kickback Act. The United States has declined to intervene in the remaining allegations of the relators' suit. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas under the qui tam or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act by David Vavra and Jerry Hyatt who have been active in the air cargo business–the industry relevant to the case. Under the qui tam or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, a private citizen, known as a "relator," can sue on behalf of the United States. If the suit is successful, the relator may share in the recovery. "Defense contractors cannot take advantage of the ongoing war effort by accepting unlawful kickbacks," said Tony West, Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Division of the Department of Justice. "We are committed to maintaining the integrity of the Department of Defense's procurement process." The United States previously intervened in and settled the relators' allegations that EGL included non-existent charges for war risk insurance in invoices to KBR for air shipments to Iraq, costs that KBR passed on to the Army. Two EGL employees pleaded guilty to related criminal charges. EGL paid the United States $4 million in the civil settlement. The government also intervened in and settled the relators' allegations that EGL's local agent in Kuwait, a company known as Al-Rashed, overcharged it for the rental (or demurrage) of shipping containers. The United States resolved potential claims arising from that matter against EGL for $300,000. Finally, EGL paid the government $750,000 to settle the relators' allegations that the company provided kickbacks to employees in KBR's transportation department. Former EGL employee Kevin Smoot and former KBR employee Bob Bennett pleaded guilty to related criminal charges in federal court in Rock Island. This case is being prosecuted as part of a National Procurement Fraud Initiative. In October 2006, the Deputy Attorney General announced the formation of a National Procurement Fraud Task Force designed to promote the early detection, identification, prevention and prosecution of procurement fraud associated with the increase in government contracting activity for national security and other government programs. The Procurement Fraud Task Force is chaired by the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division and includes the Civil Division, United States Attorneys' Offices, the FBI, the U.S. Inspectors General community and a number of other federal law enforcement agencies. The Defense Criminal Investigative Service and Federal Bureau of Investigation participated in the investigation of this matter. This case, as well as others brought by members of the task force, demonstrates the Department of Justice's commitment to ensure the integrity of the government procurement process. The case is United States of America ex rel. Vavra, et al. v. Kellogg Brown & Root, Inc., et al., C.A. No. 1:04-CV-00042 (E.D. Tex.). Tony Capaccio (Bloomberg News) reports that shortly after the Justice Dept announced the above, the US Army announced they were awarding KBR "a no-bid contract worth as much as $568 million through 2011 for military support services in Iraq".

Back to veterans issues,
Hike for our Heroes is a non-profit started by Iraq War veteran Troy Yocum who is hiking across the country to raise awareness and money for veterans issues. Katherine Gustafson (Tonic) reports on Troy Yocum and his journey:

When Iraq War veteran Troy Yocum heard that a fellow vet had lost his house in this down economy, he decided to quite literally drum up support for struggling military families around the US.
Last month he began a 7,000 hike across the country while continuously beating on a small drum. The "Hike for our Heroes" aims to raise $5 million to help military families in need, says Yocum's "Drum Hike"
The project, sponsored by nonprofit
Soldiers' Angels, aims to "spread the word that our American Heroes are fighting just as hard at home as they do overseas."

We'll close with this from Cindy Sheehan's "
Here Come Those Chickens Again" (Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox):Then tonight, as I was driving, I heard on the radio news that Shahzad claimed that he did that because he was upset over the CIA drone-bombing program in Northern Pakistan. So, my initial suspicion was confirmed. Let's, for the time being, take Shahzad's "confessions" at face value. We really don't know what torture, lying, or other pressure was put on Shahzad, or why our government is so readily admitting that he was upset about drone bombings. However, this incident also puts President Obama's recent remarks about threatening the Jonas Brothers with a Predator drone if they went near his two daughters in a different light, doesn't it? So many people on the "left" are defending Obama's joke -- rationalizing it as vigorously as they condemned and attacked Bush over his WMD joke at a White House Correspondent's dinner in 2004. What if the bomb in Times Square went off and killed dozens of people, like happens frequently in Pakistan/Afghanistan/Iraq? Would Obama's joke still seem funny? I never thought joking about bombs that kill babies from the Joker that orders these bombings funny, anyway. But we all know that if Americans were killed, the shoe would be on an entirely different foot.

the los angeles times
borzou daragahi
asharaq alawsat newspaperrobert dreyfussthe national newspaperserage maliknewsweekbabak dehghanpishehtrue/slantmichael hastings
tonickatherine gustafson
cindy sheehan
bloomberg newstony capaccio

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Terry loves her men

On yesterday's Fresh Air, Gretchen Morgenson (NYT) got to be an expert. That's not an insult to her, see "Terry Gross Hates Women (Ava, C.I. and Ann)" and notice that women don't get to be experts except for once a month. Men get to be experts all the time for Terry. Women only once a month. Let's see if she can beat that record this month.

Here's something else to notice, she's an expert on the economy. But she didn't get the full show. She didn't get forty minutes plus. That happens to 'important' people (men) like Stephen Sondheim and Dexter Filkins and Richard Clarke and Peter Wolf. (Yes, I'm joking on that last one being important -- but Terry gave him over 42 minutes to Gretchen's 34 minutes.)

She didn't get the full show nor did the two women yesterday (who got 38 minutes). Will Terry ever give a woman the full show? Or is that just a gift for men?

You might think the economy would be at least as important as "Man, I recorded 'My Angel Is A Centerfold' and went out and got stoned." But apparently that's not correct.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snasphot:"

Wednesday, May 5, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the coalition sharing alliance in Iraq holds for one more day, US President Barack Obama signs a historic law; however, Don't Ask, Don't Tell remains unrepealed, let's call out the silent on that issue, and more.

"Much is made how Traumatic Brain Injury is the signature wound of Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts," declared Senator Jon Tester at today's Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee hearing. "By now, many of us know the statistics and the challenges facing the doctors and nurses in the DoD facilities and VA hospitals who have been tasked with treating hundreds of thousands of men and women. These are gut wrenching, life changing challenges and it is critical that the spouses and the parents are a meaningful voice in patient care and treatment. But all too often, I hear about folks who have a loved one that comes into a DoD health system or the VA with serious TBI, the parents and the spouses of these service members then have to wage battle against the bureaucracy when someone that they care about is not getting the treatment that they deserve. I met with a number of folks from Montana who have come through Walter Reed and Bethesda. Most of them are fortunate enough to have a spouse or a parent who has been able to drop everything and fight full time for their soldier or marine. One of the things I've heard frequently was that the individual care from doctors and nurses was outstanding but fighting with the bureaucracy to schedule an appointment with a doctor or have medications changed is nothing short of a full time job. What happens to a soldier or a veteran when he does not have a full time advocate? What happens when a young person from rural Montana is brought to Seattle or Minneapolis with serious TBI? Who's looking out for that young woman or man? This is the area where we need to do better."

The hearing, chaired by Senator Daniel Akaka, heard from two panels, the first was made up of officials -- Dr. Lucille Beck of the VA and Dr. Michael Jaffee of DoD -- and the second by veterans advocates.

Committee Chair Daniel Akaka: Colonel, one Marine who returned from Afghanistan in December 2009 was in a lightly armored vehicle that struck an IED. The incident was fatal for other occupants of the vehicle and amputated the legs of the turret gunner. The marine in question was knocked unconscious. After seeking treatment from his Corpsman, having the incident documented in his medical records and making the proper indication on his PDHA. He has since received no follow up care, he has not been contacted by anyone about his PDHA. He has even sought care from several different medical military sites and has been turned away. Can you comment on what the Department is doing to ensure that service members actually receive the treatment that is outlined in the policy?

Dr. Michael Jaffee: Uh, thank you, Mr. Chairman. There's a couple of ways that we are trying to uhuh increase the penetration and ensure that people get the appropriate treatments. One of which is we are in the process of transitioning our system for evaluations from a subjective volunteer approach --where a service member would have to raise their hand and say that they had a problem in access care -- to one in theater which is more of a mandatory. If you've been involved in an incident associated with the blast, even if you are being stoic and denying that you have symptoms, you would still receive a mandatory evaluation. And the current protocol for that also includes that that gets appropriately documented in theater which can help facilitate further follow up. And your particular case meant ensuring more robust care and follow up in the post-deployment aspects throughout all of the facilities. And one of the things that's very important to the Department of Defense is providing the appropriate education and resources to all of our primary care providers in military health care system, on the system and resources and guidelines that are in place to deal with this very important population. To that end we have been investing a lot of resources in providing appropriate education to all members of our military health care system. This includes having instituted for the past three years annual training events which have trained more than 800 DoD and VA providers to make them aware of these newer developments and guidelines. We've put in a system -- a network of education coordinators throughout the country. We have 14 of these people through the country whose job is to outreach to make sure that they are providing appropriate education and resources to our primary care providers at all of our military facilities.. And we recently were very pleased by the collaboration with our line commanders so that the medical community does not feel like we're doing this alone in the military -- we have the unqualif -- unmitigated support of our line commanders who want to assure that we -- and help us get the appropriate education out to all of our service members and part of that education campaign includes not just education to patients, not just the providers and the family members but actually involves the commanders in the line so that they are aware that one of their service men or women under their command is not getting the appropriate services. They'll have an awareness of the types of resources available and can also assure that they will get the appropriate referrals and treatments. The other aspect that we have is often times when people come back, we have that immediate screening, that post deployment health assessment. But we are aware that some people may not have problems that develop until several months after they return home. To address that challenge, we've implemented the post-deployment re-assessment which occurs 90 to 100 days after they return home. And we have found that that system can sometimes identify individual problems that were not identified initially which also helps expedite getting them transitioned to the appropriate care network.

Senator Daniel Akaka: In the case of this particular case, where this person has claimed that he's been turned away, what alternative does this person have?

Dr. Michael Jaffee: There's a numbe -- we have a network of those regional care coordinators who can certainly reach out and help facilitate getting -- assuring that that individual can get to a facility that can provide the appropriate resources -- be it a federal facility or a local facility within the TriCare network and that's the purpose of that program to try and reach out to individuals like that because the goal is to keep anyone from falling through the cracks.

Committee Chair Daniel Akaka: Thank you. Dr. Beck, as you know Congress recently passed legislation I introduced that would create a comprehensive program of care giver support services. If you could make any changes you wanted, how would you implement this program for veterans with TBI?

Dr. Lucille Beck: Thank you. We at the VA are very pleased that Congress has recognized the significant sacrifices that are made by caregivers and that there is support and legislation for the expansion of veteran services to meet their needs. The additional benefits outlined in the legislation have great value to families and to veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury who require a primary care giver in the home. VA looks forward to working with Congress and other key stakeholders on the implementation of the plan. We think the legislation is comprehensive and will address the needs that our caregivers have.

Senator Akaka was at the White House today for the signing of the legislation he initiated, the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Service Act. Along with Akaka and President Barack Obama, others present included Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden.
Click here for video, here for transcript.

US President Barack Obama: As Michelle and Dr. Biden have reminded us in all their visits to military bases and communities, our obligations must include a national commitment to inspiring military families -- the spouses and children who sacrifice as well. We have a responsibility to veterans like Ted Wade, who joins us here today with his wonderful wife Sarah. We are so proud of both of them. Six years ago, Sergeant Wade was serving in the 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq when his Humvee was struck by an IED, an improvised explosive device. He lost much of his right arm and suffered multiple injuries, including severe traumatic brain injury. He was in a coma for more than two months, and doctors said it was doubtful that he would survive. But he did survive -- thanks to the care he received over many months and years, thanks to Ted's indomitable spirit, and thanks to the incredible support from Sarah, who has been at his side during every step of a long and very difficult recovery. As I've said many times, our nation's commitment to our veterans and their families -- to patriots like Ted and Sarah -- is a sacred trust, and upholding that trust is a moral obligation.

Barack used eight pens to sign the legislation (the pens are handed out as keepsakes so he would sign a letter a letter or two and then grab another pen). Senator Akaka's office issued the following today:

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) joined President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, and others at the White House today for the signing of S. 1963, the
Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act.

This landmark bill authored by Chairman Akaka will establish an unprecedented permanent program to support the caregivers of wounded warriors, improve health care for veterans in rural areas, help VA adapt to the needs of women veterans, and expand supportive services for homeless veterans. S. 1963 passed the House and
Senate unanimously last month.

"With his signature, President Obama has taken the last step in what has been a long struggle for wounded warriors, their caregivers, and others who have called for a law to strengthen the partnership between VA and veterans' families. Today belongs to the family caregivers who sacrificed so much with too little support, and never gave up on their wounded loved ones. VA, veterans' families, and disabled veterans will all be better off thanks to this important law. I am also pleased about provisions in the new law to help disabled veterans, women veterans, homeless veterans, those who live in rural and remote areas, and others," said Akaka.
Akaka held a series of hearings as Chairman, bringing in the families of seriously injured servicemembers to discuss how VA might better help those caring for severely disabled veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Akaka then developed legislation to establish a program to certify, train, and financially support veterans' caregivers. When this bipartisan bill was blocked in the Senate, Akaka led a successful
floor fight to secure floor passage. A longtime supporter of veterans' caregivers, Akaka also introduced legislation in 2006, later enacted as part of an omnibus bill (Public Law 109-461), establishing a pilot program to assist caregivers.

The bill's caregiver support provisions will:

Fulfill VA's obligation to care for the nation's wounded veterans by providing their caregivers with training, counseling, supportive services, and a living stipend
Provide health care to the family caregivers of injured veterans under CHAMPVA
Require independent oversight of the caregiver program

The bill will also provide numerous other improvements for veterans, by:

Expanding health care services for women veterans
Reaching out to veterans living in rural areas
Improving VA's mental health care programs
Removing barriers to care for catastrophically disabled veterans
Enhancing a variety of VA medical services
Strengthening VA's ability to recruit and retain a first-class health-care workforce
Improving and increasing services to homeless veterans

For an in-depth summary of the bill as passed by Congress, click here:

CNN Wire notes, "Among other things, the new law expands resources available for veterans' mental health counseling, provides expanded access to hospitals and clinics outside of the traditional Veterans Affairs system and provides stronger transportation and housing assistance for veterans living in rural areas." "The bill will begin a pilot child-care program for veterans receiving intensive medical care and expand support for homeless veterans," adds Scott Wilson (Washington Post). In various ways, the multitude of reports filed all note the same. One exception to the pack is Laura Fitzpatrick (Time magazine) who zooms in on what the bill is supposed to do for female service members:

The bill also authorizes research on the effects of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on women's physical, mental and reproductive health. U.S. soldiers have to carry a lot of heavy gear -- duffel bags, bulletproof vests, thick boots -- through Iraq's dry, 120-degree heat. A reluctance to add to the load by hauling water may lead more female soldiers to become dehydrated in the desert, according to Dr. Samina Iqbal, a member of the VA's national Women Veterans Health Strategic Health Care Group, who notes that some 34% of women return home with genitourinary issues -- reproductive system disorders, urinary tract infections, and the like -- compared to just 8% of men.
The legislation also requires a comprehensive assessment of the unique barriers to care that women face. Veterans' advocates speculate that limited access to childcare and the perception that VA hospitals are geared toward old men are among the reasons that female veterans are less likely than males to use veterans' hospitals, even for such gender-neutral care as colon cancer screenings and flu shots.

The House Committee on Veterans' Affairs issued the following today:

Washington, D.C. -- House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner (D-CA) released the following statement in response to President Obama signing S. 1963 into law: "Today I join the many proud veterans and their families in celebrating the enactment of a new law to provide much needed support for the care network of America's wounded warriors. Our Nation stands together to honor those who sacrifice by ensuring critical support as they recover from combat injuries. The new law creates an unprecedented support program for veteran caregivers that will provide training, financial assistance, and improved respite service. The new law also improves health care services for America's women veterans, expands the mental health services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and expands supportive services for homeless veterans. "President Obama promised a new direction for veterans -- and once again lived up to that promise by signing a significant bill into law today. Congress will continue to ensure that the cost of war includes the cost of the warrior by listening to veterans and better understanding the concerns of their families, communities, and advocates. Only together as a Nation are we able to show veterans that we appreciate their courageous sacrifice." ###Details of the legislation can be found here:
Speaker's bill summary Speaker's blogHVAC Committee release

March 7th Iraq held parliamentary elections. Ayad Allawi's slate emerged the winner with 91 seats, Nouri al-Maliki's slate closely trailed with 89 seats. Nouri's demanded a recount in Baghdad (which is currently ongoing).
Yesterday a press conference in Baghdad was held to announce that State of Law (Nouri's party) and the Iraqi National Alliance were forming a coalition. Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reports:The agreement was widely seen as tenuous, however, because the factions have not settled on candidates for the premiership or other top jobs -- sticking points that prevented the groups from running together in the March 7 parliamentary elections."We formed an alliance to form the biggest bloc in the next parliament," Ali al-Allaq, a leader in Maliki's State of Law coalition, said in an interview. "We agreed to postpone talking about the position of the prime minister until the next phase." Caroline Alexander and Daniel Williams (Bloomberg News) add, "State of Law insists that al-Maliki should stay on for another four years, though the INA is against this. Former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, an INA member who was present during the announcement, has been identified as a compromise candidate, as has Jaafar al-Sadr, a cousin of the cleric al- Sadr." Arthur MacMillan (AFP) informs, "There was no immediate reaction from the United States, which in the past week urged Baghdad's politicians to set aside their differences and form a coalition that allows them to get back to the business of running the country." Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) reports that "a small group of clerics led by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani" will be the ones deciding any disputes. Andrew England (Financial Times of London) observes, "This would mean the return to a Shia Islamist-dominated government similar to that which took office after the 2005 elections, and would be likely to trigger an angry reaction from Sunni Arabs who overwhelmingly threw their support behind Mr Allawi." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) and Mohammed al-Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) notice "the religious underpinnings of the new group".

As for the issue of a prime minister?
Joman Karadsheh (CNN) reports, "In a statement on its official website, the State of Law Coalition said that the two blocs agreed to merge after negotiating for more than a month but that the issue of selecting a prime minister has been postponed." Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review reports, "It is widely believed the price of the agreement between Maliki's State of Law bloc and the INA was a commitment that he would not continue in his post." They also note that at yesterday's press conference, the person speaking was Ibrahim Jaafari's spokesperson (Abdul Razzaq al-Kadhami) which may be "a symoblic move that hinted Jaafari could return to power." After the start of the Iraq War, the first prime minister was Ayad Allawi, the second was Ibrahim Jaafari and the third was Nouri al-Maliki. And Allawi's Iraqiya? Alsumaria TV reports the party's spokesperson "Mayssoun Al Damlouji argued that the two coalitions alliance bears within a sectarian connotation." Richard Spencer (Telegraph of London) quotes al-Damlouji stating, "The Iraqiya list and the national project have been targeted and we feel that this merger was designed by regional powers." Ben Lando (Wall Street Journal) reports that despite statements that the new coalition could cause further sectarianism, Iraqiya has stated it would weigh any offers to join the coalition. Iraqiya's Haidar al-Mulla is quoted by Al Jazeera stating, "Iranian finger prints are obvious in the way the alliance was formed and announced." Andrew Lee Butters (Time magazine) quotes Sunni and former MP Azhar al-Samarraee stating, "We are slowly noticing that the sectarian atmosphere is returning in the city [Bagdhad], and this is before a government has even been formed. This means there is legitimate worry that the violence will return if the two alliances [State of Law and Iraqi National Alliance] unite."

And in potentially related news,
Aseel Kami, Michael Christie and Mark Heinrich (Reuters) break the news that Abdul-Jalil al-Fehdawi has been shot dead in Baghdad. He had been part of the Council of Iraqi Scholars and was a Sunni Iman. In the attack, three other people were also killed. Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) and Mohammed al-Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) report, "A statement issued by the political wing of several insurgent groups blamed the Iraqi government for the assassinations." In other violence, Reuters notes a Kirkuk roadside bombing injured one person and 1 police officer was shot dead in MOsul while two other people were injured.The coalition may or may not hold. What is known is that nothing is ever as simple in Iraq as the press would like. Proven today by Turkey's continued conflicts with northern Iraq. UPI reports that PKK attacks continue to be launched on Turkey from northern Iraq and that this "is renewing concerns about the sincerity of Kurdish leaders in Iraq". Melik Duvakli (Today's Zaman) reports, "The terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has resumed its violent attacks against security forces every time Turkey has started to consolidate its democracy or normalize relations with the Kurdish administration in northern Iraq."

Not that Iraq only ever has just one problem to deal with.
Nizar Latif (UAE's The National Newspaper) reports, "Abu Zarah, a Sadrist and commander in the Mahdi army before it was disbanded, said the military faction had been reformed at Mr al Sadr's request, although with major differences compared with previous incarnations, when it had battled US and Iraqi government troops."

Back to the US military. Yesterday the
National Organization for Women (NOW) called for the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell:

The DADT compromise was instituted in 1993, when President Bill Clinton's attempt to lift the ban on gay men and lesbians serving in the military failed. Under the current law, gay service members are still prohibited from being honest about their sexuality and risk discharge if the truth is discovered. As a result, more than 13,500 service members have been fired from the military since 1993.
These unnecessary discharges not only cost military highly qualified personnel but also cost millions in taxpayer dollars. Since its enactment, DADT is estimated to have lost the military between $290 million to more than half a billion dollars. It takes time and money to find and train new personnel -- estimated replacement costs can range between $22,000 to $43,000 per person.
Such measures are wasteful and contradict the views of a majority of the public. A recent Washington Post poll shows that 75 percent of Americans believe that lesbians and gay men should be allowed to openly serve in the military. Fears about troop readiness have also been proven unsubstantiated, since a number of industrialized nations successfully integrated openly gay and lesbian service members in their ranks with little to no effect on unit cohesion.

Using the link allows you to e-mail your reps in Congress. Why the call? Because the work of Lt Dan Choi and others has underscored that there is no movement on this issue despite spin otherwise. Then, at the end of last week, Robert Gates revealed himself. Despite press lies, Gates did not start the year with wonderful statements to Congress about repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell -- and of the three broadcast networks, only NBC got it right in their evening news. (He sat next to Adm Mike Mullen, Joint Chiefs of Staff and Mullen did speak to the issue and offer his own opinions.) Feminist Wire Daily explains, "US Defense Secretary Robert Gates sent a letter to Congress asking that they not move forward with a repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' (DADT) until the Pentagon completes a review of the policy. The White House also released a statement Friday supporting Secretary Gates' Letter. DADT was instituted by former President Bill Clinton in 1993 and prohibits the military from inquiring about a service member's sexual orientation, but also calls for the discharge of anyone who acknowledges being lesbian or gay. Thus far, the policy has led to the expulsion of about 13,000 troops."

"You might not know this, but all hell broke loose between the gay community and the Obama administration on Friday,"
notes Jonathan Capehart (Washington Post). "The reaction was swift and angry. And I can't say that I blame folks on the front lines of the repeal effort. President Obama said in his State of the Union address that he wanted to get this thing done 'this year.' During congressional testimony in February, Gates said, 'We have received our orders from the commander in chief and we are moving out accordingly.' But there have been signs of late that Obama might be willing to let that self-imposed deadline slip. Most recently, there has been a push to get an Oval Office assist in putting the elimination of the ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military into the Defense Department's authorization bill. The Gates letter appears to snuff that effort out."
Mike's been noting KPFT's Queer Voices radio program at his site. One of the features of the program is This Way Out's newswrap which is archived in text form here. This week, Sheri Lunn and Michele Pleasant noted:

Queer advocacy groups have recently stepped up their pressure on the Obama administration to fulfill the president's repeated promises to repeal the policy, most recently in his January State of the Union address. there is a particular sense of urgency because Democrats could lose a significant number of seats in both houes of Congress in the November mid-term elections. But the White House distributed a media statement that read, in part, "the implementation of any congressional repeal will be delayed until the DOD study of how best to implement that repeal is completed."
The LGBT military advocacy group
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network sharply criticized that statement. "We have the votes in the House and we're close to having the votes in the Senate Armed Services Committee," their statement said. "The commander in chief sounds like he is deferring to his Defense Secretary [and] to a House Chairman [Ike Skelton] who opposes him on repeal. With all due respect to Secretary Gates, it is Congress that determines the legislative schedule, not the Secretary of Defense." Servicemembers United, a group of LGBT veterans, called the Gates letter "significant cause for concern," writing that "Several points in this letter are patently offensive and false."

The office of the Speaker of the US House Nancy Pelosi issued the following Friday:

Washington, D.C. -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi released the following statement in response to a letter sent this afternoon by Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Defense Secretary Robert Gates concerning the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy:
"We all look forward to the report on the review of the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy by the Defense Department. In the meantime, the Administration should immediately place a moratorium on dismissals under this policy until the review has been completed and Congress has acted."

This is an important issue to this community and I was asked to make a statement by several community members who are gay and lesbian. Here's the position of this community (including me), Jonathan Tasini, CURB YOUR DOG. You know the little piece of ___ at Corrente who thinks s/he can recyle sexist attacks on Hillary and aim them at Kirsten Gillibrand? And shame on Corrente for posting that garbage. Shame on them. It's not only tired and old, it's Maureen Dowd level -- in fact, Maureen compared Hillary to the same movie. But Tasini, you run every time and you never get anywhere. No one in this community trust you, nor will they. You're a joke. You make yourself one by kissing Barack's ass while striking an 'anti-war' pose. Go Dick Cheney yourself. We don't want your announcements anymore. You're attacking Gillibrand who is one of two senators who have led in 2009 and 2010 on repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell. This community knows her work on that issue. Gay or straight, we appreciate her standing up when others refused to do so. (We also appreciate Senator Roland Burris' refusal to be silent on the issue and his strong advocacy.) When you began attacking her last week, we noted you latest "I'm on ___ chekc me out!" And I noted then that you needed to come forward with a position on Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Your website has nothing prominent and the consensus of the community is that you're destroying Gillibrand. No one's telling you to drop out of the race -- we don't do that here -- no one's telling you that you have to fight fair. We are telling you we don't give a damn about you and don't bother us with your 'news' alerts or anything else. Good luck with yet another failed campaign. This community (Gina and Krista polled on it -- full results in Friday's gina & krista round-robin) stands with Gillibrand and any other members of Congress who work to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

Related, I'll be voting for a senator come November. Will I vote for Barbara Boxer? Why should I? Goodness didn't she
grand stand with Barack and pretend she's some kind of a leader. Barbara, where have you been on Don't Ask, Don't Tell? I don't need Barack's lies, I need to hear from you. You've done nothing. And that's why California's so sick of you right now. You were re-elected in 2004, and goodness we loved you. But you've done nothing except (co)write those bad, bad books and reveal an ever growing knowledge gap when it comes to Iraq (to put it very mildly). You want to turn out voters in our state? Start leading on the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell -- an issue not at your website. Did you not know that? You got Barack standing next to you claiming you're a leader on the issue. Where's the leadership? Nancy Pelosi issued a statement, where is your statement, Barbara?

I'm talking about your Senate website. Where's the leadership? Where's even the tag along? And your campaign website?
You think this s**t counts for anything:

Senator Boxer believes that gay men and lesbians should be able to serve their country openly in the military. In 1993, she authored the amendment in the Senate that would have stopped "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" from being written into law, and she continues to support efforts to overturn this discriminatory policy.

Does she? Does she support those efforts? She certainly doesn't lead on them -- Gillibrand and Burris have done more in the last year on this issue than Boxer's done in the last 17. You want votes, Barbara, get off your ass and work for them. My days of voting straight ticket Democrat ended in 2008 and that's true -- look at the polling data -- of a huge number of your former supporters. You want our votes, you better start working on them and you damn well better start showing some leadership on the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

Duane Roberts it the Green Party candidate for US Senator in the state of California. The Republican candidate has yet to be determined. Voters can easily for Roberts or the GOP or just not vote at all for that office. Not vote at all? Gee, that would be kind of like Boxer's current 'work' on the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Barbara, if you want people's votes you better start working for them. All the 'house parties' in the world will not deliver your votes no matter how many dollars you raise at them.

And for those late to the party, we focused on the Senate. In the House, you have a ton of leaders. You have US House Reps Susan Davis and Loretta Sanchez, you have Jared Polis and Tammy Baldwin, you have so many and they are the ones providing leadership. In the Senate it has been Senators Gillibrand and Burris since 2009 -- publicly vocal on the issue and pushing it and working it over and over. They deserve credit for their hard work.

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