Friday, March 2, 2012


Whitney airs each Wednesday on NBC.  The latest development is that Neal and Lily are off.  I know they have to get back together.  But I really thought last week that Neal and Lily would patch things up by this episode.  Instead, he's not just sleeping elsewhere for the night, he's breaking up with her and she with him.

I really didn't see that coming.

And I honestly think Neal's being a titty baby.  All because he suddenly thinks he doesn't know her (because she didn't tell him about credit card debt mainly). 

At least Lily had Roxy.  Roxanne -- who got dumped, remember -- ended up being her roll dog as they both tried to escape their relationship tragedies by partying and drinking.

A hung over Roxanne may have had the best line of the episode.  Waking up in tremendous pain, she declares, "I think Jack Daniels is a racist because he does not get along with Jose Cuervo."

Lily tries to deny that she's avoiding dealing with reality ("I'm just keeping busy.") but she finally sees the point.  And Roxanne and Lily agree to move in together and help each other.

Which I did like.  But I just can't believe how cold Neal is. 

When it's over, it's over, apparently.  He can just turn it off.

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

March 2, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, protesters continue to be attacked in Iraq, protesters continue to protest in Iraq, monthly totals for February's violence are out, the White House hosts a veterans dinner, and more.
Yesterday snapshot noted Wednesday's Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing where the VA appeared as witnesses. Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Committee, Richard Burr is the Ranking Member. The topic was the White House's budget request for VA in Fiscal Year 2013. Many topics were raised in relation to the budget. We'll note this exchange initiated by the former Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Commitee, Senator Daniel Akaka.
Senator Daniel Akaka: General Shinseki, as you know, we often face challenges in treating our veterans who live in many rural and remote areas. This is especially true in places like Alaska and Hawaii where you just can't get to some places by jumping in a car and driving there. I know you're working on an MOU [Memorandum Of Understanding] with the Indians to find solutions to help provide services to our Native American veterans and I commend you and all of you involved in these efforts. Mr. Secretary can I get your commitment to possible ways of working with the Native Hawaiian health care systems and the Native American veterans systems that provide services for Native Hawaiian veterans who live in many of the rural parts of the state of Hawaii.
Secretary Eric Shinseki: Senator, you have my assurance that, uh, we will do our utmost to provide for any of our veterans wherever they live -- the most rural and remote areas, the same access and quality to health care and services as we provide to someone living in a more urban area. There is a challenge to that but we are not insensitive to that challenge and we're working hard to provide VA provided services and where we can't to make arrangements -- if quality services exist in those areas marking arrangements for veterans to be able to participate in those local opportunities. We are, I think you know, working and have been for some time on signing an MOU with Indian Health Service so that wherever they have facilities and we have vested interests that a veteran -- an eligible veteran -- going to an Indian Health Service facility will be covered by VA's payments. We're in stages of trying to bring that MOU to conclusion. We intend to do that. And where tribes approach us prior to the signing of the MOU and want to establish, from Tribal Nation with VA, a direct relationship because they have a medical facility and would like us to provide the same coverage, we're willing to do that. But that would be on a case-by-case basis.
Senator Daniel Akaka: Thank you. Secretary Shinseki, staffing shortages continue to be a problem although there's been some progress. But some clinics are seeing staffing levels below 50% causing excessive waiting time for veterans that need care. I understand this is an issue you've been working on. As you know the number of veterans needing services is growing yearly and it shows that you have been making progress. Can you provide an update on the Department's progress to address staffing levels?
Dr. Robert Petzel: Uh, Mr. Secretary, thank you; Senator Akaka, thank you for the question. The -- uh -- We've addressed mental -- We've talked about mental health earlier and the efforts we're making to try and assess whether there's adequate staffing there. I think you're probably talking about primary care, which is our largest out patient clinic operation. We treat 5 -- 4.2 million veterans in our primary care system and it accounts for the lion's share of our budget expenditures. We assessed staffing three years ago when we began to implement a Patient Aligned Care team or PAC program and have done it again recently. And we're finding that we're now able to bring up the support staffing and the physician staffing to reasonable levels associated with the standards around the country. I would like to take off record -- offline -- any information you have about specific places where there's a 50% vacancy rate. I'm not aware that we have this around the country. So I would be delighted to meet and talk with your staff and find out where these areas might be so that we can address them specifically.
Senator Daniel Akaka: My time has expired but, Secretary Shinseki, as we face budget constraints, we must all work to improve our efficiency and redouble efforts to look for ways to get the most from our budgeted resources. My question to you is can you talk about any steps you are taking to improve the acquisition process at VA and any efficiencies you've been able to realize in this area?
Secretary Eric Shinseki: Senator, I would tell you that, uh, we have been working for several years now on restructuring our acquisition business practices. Three years ago, acquisition was spread throughout the organization. Now it's consolidated in two centers. One comes directly under Dr. Petzel and that's where all medical acquistions -- gloves, masks, aprons -- we ought to be able to leverage that into a bulk purchase and get a good price on those kinds of things. For everything we have an Office of Acqusition, Logistics and Construction and we have a director who heads both offices then come up to my level to the deputy secretary as part of our monthly oversight review process.
When I think of veterans in "rural" areas, I think of them in southern states or in Michigan which is densley populated in and around Detroit but much more sparsely populated throughout the rest of the state. I also think of Alaska, Montana and other states. I never consider Hawaii rural but of course it is. "Remote and rural" really drives that home. Senator Akaka's word choice really drove the point home. He also asked about staffing and a community member (Troy) had asked if the empty medical positions at VA were raised by any senator when discussing the budget on Wednesday? Ranking Member Richard Burr raised that issue.

Ranking Member Richard Burr: Since the Chair just asked about mental health, let me just ask if my information is correct. In December, VA polled their facilities and they found that there were 15,000 open mental health positions. Is that accurate? Dr. Petzel?

Secretary Eric Shinseki: Let me turn to Dr. Petzel.

Dr. Robert Petzel: Uh, could you repeat that number, Senator Burr.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: In December of 2011, the VA polled their facilites and found there were 15,000 mental health slots that were unfilled meaning --

Dr. Robert Petzel: Our of 20,500, that's true.
There were many important questions raised in the hearing. On Iraqi violence, Mohammad Akef Jamal (Gulf News) raises an interesting one today about the February 23rd attacks across Iraq, "The spokesman of the Ministry of Interior announced that the ministry possesses grave and important information regarding the blasts. He then proceeded to threaten all those who have carried out the terrorist operations -- but if the ministry was truly in possession of information, why are the culprits still at large? " Don't expect it to get answered anytime soon but it is an important question. AKE's John Drake appeared Wedensday on New Zealand's Radio Live (link is audio) to dicuss the ongoing violence. Excerpt:
James Coleman: John Drake is an Iraq intelligence analyst at AKE Intelligence -- an organization offering research and analysis on security risks around the globe. He joins us from London. John, good evening to you.
John Drake: Good evening and good morning.
James Coleman: So Baghdad is the focus of much of the violence. What has triggered the increase in aggression in the capitol?
John Drake: Well it's the focal point of all the main political organizations in Iraq. It's the seat of government, it's where a lot of the Iraqi and international media are based. So by conducting attacks in Baghdad, it often gives the militant groups additional attention, it raises the profile of their activies. It generates an audience for whatever political agenda they're trying to push. That's one of the main reasons. It's also, wherever you get a large amount of people in a large urban area that is often where you will get the great concentration of violence. Larger cities tend to see more crimes. It's often very similar when it comes to terrorism as well.
James Coleman :Mosul's been unusually quiet. Is there any indications that militants are looking elsewhere?
John Drake: That could be the case. Mosul is normally one of the most violent parts of the country. Over the course of last year, it saw an average of about one to two attacks a day. Over the last few weeks, it's been down to about two or three attacks a week. Now while the Iraqi authorities did indicate this was maybe due to some of their recent counter-insurgency operations in the city, the operations that they've been initiating haven't been more intense than normal and they haven't really been netting more militants than normal either. So there are two concerns. One is that militants may be looking across the border to Syria. They may be crossing the border to sell weaponry or even equipment and medicine or anything that they could put on the black market to raise finances for their operation. They may also be sending fighter across the border into Syria to engage in unrest and revolution there. They may be trying to infilitrate the main opposition organizations to Syrian President Basher Assad. They may be responsible for conducting some of the recent terrorist attacks in the country. However after the attacks -- the series of attacks in central Iraq a few days ago, it's obvious that they haven't all gone across the border. There's still a lot of them still in Iraq and looking to conduct attacks in the center of the country.
Staying with violence, AGI reports 2 Baghdad bombings resulted in 6 deaths and ten people injured today while Mohammed Ameer and Peter Graff (Reuters) report that Iraqi governmental ministries have released the February death toll figures asserting that 151 people died in February. They note these official numbers may be low and that "[o]ther sources, such as Iraq Body Count, a group which compiles data from media reports, give higher figures."
So let's look at how many we noticed the media reporting.
February 1st 2 were reported dead and eleven injured; February 2nd 4 were reported dead and one injured; February 3rd 3 were reported dead and eight injured; February 4th 5 were reported dead and three injured; February 5th 1 was reported dead and 5 injured; February 6th 1 was reported dead and twenty-two injured; February 7th 4 were reported dead and sixteen injured; February 8th no reported deaths; February 9th 2 were reported dead 3 injured; February 10th 1 death was reported (we don't include the border clashes with Turkey when we do these counts); February 11th none reported dead or wounded; February 12th 2 were reported dead and twelve injured; February 13th 3 were reported dead and seven injured; February 14th 9 were reported dead and twenty-seven injured; February 15th 4 were reported death and four injured; February 16th 1 was reported dead and eight injured; February 17th 5 were reported dead and one injured; February 18th no one was reported dead and none injured, February 19th 40 and thirty-three; February 20th zero were reported dead or wounded; February 21st zero were reported dead or wounded; February 22nd zero were reported dead or wounded; February 23rd 70 were reported dead [well over] a hundred wounded [these were the bombs across Iraq and once the wounded reached 100 the press largely stopped counting]; February 24th 1 dead and three injured; February 25th zero were reported dead or wounded; February 26th 2 were reported dead and seven injured; February 27th one person was reported wounded; February 28th 8 were reported dead, twelve injured; and February 29th 11 were reported dead and twenty-six injured. Check my math, that should be 175 dead and 329 injured. That's just the ones we noted and I surely missed many. In addition, not all deaths are covered by the media -- true throughout the war and only more so now.
Okay, let's go to John Drake's figures.
At least 18 people were killed and 48 injured in #Iraq violence last week.
At least 19 people were killed and 55 injured in #Iraq violence last week.
At least 45 people were killed and 74 injured in #Iraq violence last week.
At least 53 people were killed and 245 injured in #Iraq violence last week.
His totals are 135 dead and 422 injured. Iraq Body Count probably keeps the best records of those monitoring deaths covered by the media and they counted 248 civilian deaths in Iraq for the month of February.
Zooming in on violence to violence against protesters. Mahmoud al-Hassani al-Sarkh is a religious leader whose offices were attacked around February 19th when Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani's were being attacked. Nasiriyah News Network reports that approximately 100 Sarkhi supporters protested yesterday in Nasiriyah as they called for his office to be reopened. Hassan Sahlani (Nasiriyah News Network) adds that a delegation from the protesters met with the governor and the province's police chief.Violence also took place today in Nasiriyah. While Thursday's demonstration went well Alsumaria TV reports when the same supporters of religious authority Mahmoud al-Hassani Sarkhi demonstrated in public today, they were run off by riot police using water hoses.
And sadly, if that's all that happened, it may have been the least response to protesters by any portion of the Iraqi government.
February 25, 2011 was when Iraqi youths began their nationwide Friday protests -- joining with other groups to demand basic services (potable water, electricity, etc), jobs, the release of the 'disappeared,' the end of government corruption and more. A year later, the demonstrators attempted to gather again in Baghdad on Friday the 24th (see that day's snapshot) and Saturday the 25th (click here). Yesterday Human Rights Watch released "Iraq: Intimidation at Anniversary Protests; Beatings, Detentions in Kurdistan; Blocked Access in Baghdad."

In the KRG, demonstrators gathered on February 17th and they numbered in excess of 250. They report to Human Rights Watch that they were beaten, threatened and intimidated. Journalist attempting to cover the December 17th action were also attacked: "They confiscated the camera of Rahman Gharib, coordinator for the local press freedom group Metro Center to Defend Journalists, and beat him on the head and leg after he took some photographs, Gharib and witnesses told Human Rights Watch. The Metro Center has documented numerous abuses against Kurdish journalists, including more than 200 cases of attacks and harassment during the protests in Sulaimaniya between February and May, 2011."

In Baghdad, a number of methods were used to suppress turnout. From the report:

Members of several protest groups told Human Rights Watch that they attempted to demonstrate in Tahrir Square on February 25, the anniversary of Baghdad's 2011 "Day of Anger," when thousands gathered in the square to protest widespread corruption and demand greater civil and political rights. During nationwide demonstrations on that day a year earlier, security forces killed at least 12 protesters across the country and injured more than 100. Human Rights Watch also saw Baghdad security forces beat unarmed journalists and protesters, smashing cameras and confiscating memory cards.
On February 25, 2012, security forces in Baghdad again attempted to stop protesters from reaching Tahrir Square, though with different methods. Several demonstrators told Human Rights Watch that security forces blocked many roads approaching Tahrir Square, at times saying the roads were blocked because a car bomb that had gone off in the vicinity, although protesters said local merchants reported hearing no explosions and Iraqi authorities released no specific information to the media.
Security forces told also told protesters walking toward Tahrir Square that they had intelligence indicating that "many terrorists" were in the square and 11 bombs had been placed in the area, and that security forces "could not guarantee the safety of protesters." Human Rights Watch witnessed security forces using similar explanations to prevent journalists and protesters from going to Tahrir Square many times between March and December 2011.
Some of the protesters who reached Tahrir Square said they did not enter the square because the show of force by security forces frightened them. According to observers, the forces numbered between 600 and 1,000 armed personnel in and around Tahrir Square, with more amassed on side streets.
As protesters approached the multiple checkpoints surrounding Tahrir Square set up that morning, security forces informed them that they had a long list of protesters whom they had orders to arrest and that they would check this list against the identification cards of anyone wishing to pass through. A young activist who did not want his name used for fear of government reprisal told Human Rights Watch that one smiling soldier told him and other protesters, "We may have your name. Why don't you step forward and see if you get arrested?"
Another activist said that an officer told protesters that even people with names "similar" to those on the list would be arrested.
"From the way he said it, I thought he might arrest me no matter what my name was, so we left," he said.
One demonstrator, who said he was intimidated and did not try to pass the police checkpoints, said: "I just stood monitoring, outside Tahrir Square. No one at all was allowed to take photos or use their phones. There were so many members of the army; they were standing every half meter in the square with their sticks."

Please note the above took place on Saturday -- days prior to Tim Arango's frothing at the mouth in the New York Times about how groovy Nouri was and beloved and authoritarian measures are so popular! nonsense.

And Tim Arango and the New York Times? They didn't report on any of the above. Iraqi reporters were trying to cover the Baghdad demonstration and Human Rights Watch notes that:

Journalists told Human Rights Watch that security forces prevented them from covering the demonstration by not allowing them to enter the square with photographic equipment, voice recorders, mobile phones, and even pens. One Iraqi news agency reported that security forces briefly detained journalists for "violating the rules of demonstration, entering banned areas and trying to provoke the public." Human Rights Watch has observed security forces interfering with journalists at work at more than 20 demonstrations at Tahrir Square during the past year.
Iraq's constitution guarantees "freedom of assembly and peaceful demonstration."As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Iraq is obligated to protect the rights to life and security of the person, and the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly. In May, the Council of Ministers approved a draft "Law on the Freedom of Expression of Opinion, Assembly, and Peaceful Demonstration," which authorizes officials to restrict freedom of assembly to protect "the public interest" and in the interest of "general order or public morals," vague criteria that the law does not define further. The draft law is awaiting approval by parliament.

Dan Murphy (Christian Science Monitor) reminds:
Iraq's Constitution formally guarantees the rights of free speech and assembly, but in practice it's generally ignored.
The Committee to Protect Journalists rated Iraq the worst country in its "impunity index" for last year, which measures how a national legal system does, or does not, protect reporters. Five reporters were killed across the country in 2011 and 150 have been killed there since 2003. Last year, 26 journalists were detained by the authorities for their work. The CPJ says that there has not yet been a conviction in any of those cases.
In spite of the attacks and threats, Jane Arraf (Al Jazeera, Christian Science Monitor) Tweets that protests took place in Baghdad today:
#Iraq ex civil servants gathering in rain in #Baghdad's Tahrir Square demanding jobs back - far more riot police - what are they afraid of?
From the current occupation to a potential new one, on this week's. Black Agenda Radio, hosted by Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey, (airs each Monday at 4:00 pm EST on the Progressive Radio Network), Glen Ford discussed Syria with international law expert Francis A. Boyle. Excerpt.
Glen Ford: The US and its allies insist that Syria doesn't have the right to protect itself. Now about one-third of the deaths in this internal conflict have already been Syrian soldiers and policemen. Clearly, it is an armed conflict.
Francis A. Boyle: Obviously. My guess is like what happened in Libya there was a spontaneous protest and demonstrations by people living there against the Assad government. That doesn't surprise me at all. But it was quickly hijacked and has been used as a pretext to promote an attempt to overthrow the Assad government and, if that doesn't work, to produce civil was in Syria that would neutralize Syria and its long standing refusal to succumb to Israel's demands and the Zionist demands that they effectively give up the Golan Heights. And also to crack Syria up into its ethnic components, which it does have along the lines of what they've already done to Afghanistan, Iraq, Yugoslavia and Libya as well. So the same thing could very easily happen to Syria and it would simply serve the interests of Israel, the United States, France -- the former colonial power there. It's a joke and a fraud to say that France is the least bit interested in human rights in Syria. And also Turkey -- the other former colonial power in Syria. And, again, it's a joke and a fraud to say that Turkey's the least bit interested in human rights in Syria -- especially after what's it's done to its -- what it's still doing to its own Kurdish people in Turkey itself and also in northern Iraq. So you really can't take these colonial-imperial powers seriously when they shed crocodile tears for human rights.
Glen Ford: France is demanding a humanitarian corridor in Syria. But of course we remember that NATO rejected the idea of a humanitarian corridor in Libya when the African Union proposed one.
Francis A. Boyle: Look at the proposal by the African Union which is the appropriate regional organization, set up under Chapter 8 of the United Nations Charter to deal with Africa. And they had a very comprehensive peace proposal there for Libya and it was completely brushed aside and indeed stymied at the Security Council and in the General Assembly. So the colonial-imperial powers in NATO and the United States paid absolutely no attention to the African Union. This is all eyewash that they're concerned about human rights. Have any of them lifted one finger at all to help the Palestinians? Especially the
1.5 million Palestinians now who are being subjected to slow motion genocide in Gaza? Of course not. So it's just preposterous. This is all propaganda here in the United States that I don't think really deceives anybody over there in the region about what's really going on.
Glen Ford: It seems to many of us that Syria has been forced to battle block by block in certain cities lest the West declare some area, some city, some border area, some sliver of land in Syria to be a kind of liberated territory that must be protected by the West.
Francis A. Boyle: Well they did the same thing in Libya in Benghazi, right? Remember Reagan tried to do the same thing in Nicaragua with the Contras and set up some kind of free zone and a liberated government that could then ask for military intervention? That is correct. So this is pretty much par for the course for these colonial-imperial powers. Right.
Glen Ford: So as an expert on international law, is Syria within its rights to defend its control over all of its territory?
Francis A. Boyle: Well I'm not justifying any human rights violations by Syria -- one way or the other. But certainly it seems to me that what is going on here is an organized attempt to overthrow the legitimate government of Syria that is being coordinated by the United States, France, Turkey, Qatar -- a dictatorship -- and by Saudi Arabia -- another dictatorship. And it appears support coming from Israel and Iraq and other forces under the control of Western intelligence agencies such as al Qaeda. For example, last week the Financial Times reported that all of these al Qaeda fighters -- after they did the dirty work in Libya are now moving over to mobilize against Syria. Also they are mobilizing now in Jordan, as we speak. The government does have a right to keep itself in power. You know, who gives Obama the right to say that the government in Syria should step down? None. But they don't really care. There has been no effort made at all by the United States, any of these imperial powers or by the United Nations or by the League of Arab States to achieve a peaceful resolution of this dispute as required by the terms of the United Nations Charter under Chapter Six -- which is what they should have done before moving to Chapter Seven enforcement measures. No effort at all has been made to produce a peaceful resolution of this matter and that's exactly what happened in Libya -- no effort at all was made. So I think that indicates just an absence of good faith at and, at this point, they have no intention of a peaceful resolution of this dispute. Their objective, their intention is to overthrow the Assad government, put in a stooge puppet if possible that will be under the control of the United States, France and at the end of the day sign some type of bogus peace treaty with Israel that will give them the control of the Golan Heights.
In the US, 2012 is an election year. Your vote is your vote, you own it, no one else does. Who you vote for or whether you vote is your business. (I've noted that I most likely will not be voting in 2012 after my 2008 mishap where I mistook a voting booth for a margarita machine -- just joking about the frozen margarita machine but serious about I will most likely not vote for president in 2012.) Among the many candidates -- hopefully, many candidates, we need more choices, not less -- we'll be the Democratic Party's presidential nominee, the current office holder, President Barack Obama. Last night, he hosted a number of veterans at the White House. This is Colleen Curtis' write up from the White House and I was asked to note it and it does fall under Iraq so we will (Curtis' write up also includes video of Barack's speech if you use the link):
President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr Jill Biden tonight welcomed a group of true American heroes to the White House. "A Nation's Gratitude: Honoring those who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn" was a formal dinner that paid tribute to our Iraq veterans and marked the end of the war.
More than 100 service members and their guests were in attendance, and the invitees included men and women in uniform from all ranks, each U.S. state and territory, and every branch of the Armed Forces. Together, they represented the million American troops who served in Iraq, and they also represented what Vice President Joe Biden called the finest generation of warriors in all of history.
In his remarks, the President welcomed the veterans home, praised their bravery and dedication to their mission, and thanked them on behalf of more than 300 million Americans:
Tonight, what we can do is convey what you've meant to the rest of us. Because through the dust and the din and the fog of war, the glory of your service always shone through. In your noble example, we see the virtues and the values that sustain America, that keep this country great.
You taught us about duty. Blessed to live in the land of the free, you could have opted for an easier path. But you know that freedom is not free. And so you volunteered and you stepped forward, and you raised your hand and you took an oath -- to protect and defend; to serve a cause greater than yourself, knowing, in a time of war, you could be sent into harm's way.
You taught us about resolve. Invasion turned to insurgency and then sectarian strife. But you persevered, tour after tour, year after year. Indeed, we're mindful that even as we gather here, Iraq veterans continue to risk their lives in Afghanistan, and our prayers are with them all tonight.
In one of our nation's longest wars, you wrote one of the most extraordinary chapters in American military history. Now the Iraqi people have a chance to forge their own destiny, and every one of you who served there can take pride in knowing you gave the Iraqis this opportunity; that you succeeded in your mission.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The dreaded Mr. Hanky

Caitlin McDevitt has a write up at POLITICO


It reminds me of C.I.'s declaration that she will only endorse (if she endorses) in races she can vote on.

Why did I think of that?

In an Ohio district, Marcy Kaptur and Dennis Kucinich -- both Democrats -- are competing for the same seat because they were redistricted into the same districts.  So both are in Congress right now but only one will be after the election.

It's not pretty or fair.

I think Marcy's a very smart politician and I think Dennis can be as well.  I'm glad I don't vote in this race.

Tom Hanks doesn't either but he stuck his big nose in to endorse Marcy Kaptur. 

I think C.I.'s correct, that you should only endorse in races you can vote in.

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

Thursday, March 1, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, a US teacher dies in Iraq, Nouri continues his paranoid ravings, the VA Secretary tells the Senate he has no idea if sequestration would apply to the VA, and more.
First off a correction to yesterday's snapshot, There were three hearings we were trying to cover: Tuesday's joint-House and Senate Veterans Affairs Comimttee, Wednesday House Foreign Affairs and Wednesday's Senate Veterans Affairs. The snapshot ends: "It is also highly illogical to claim that you will determine whether or not a group of people are terrorists and we're out of space." I finished dictating right at nine p.m. as I was walking in front of a group Ava and I were speaking to. That left a very dear friend with the issue of editing to get the thing down to a workable size. The House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing was reduced to my commentary with no excerpts (which is fine). It was still large and my friend had to condense and edit and ditched the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee's Wednesday hearing (which we'll cover this snapshot), the Center for Constitutional Rights (which we'll include if there's room today) and other things -- and that's all more than fine. The only problem was that in condensing and several sections,the timeline went screwy. That's not his fault, he wasn't at any of the hearings. I was so it's my fault.and my apologies for that. Thank you to Kat who saw the snapshot when it went up last night and immediately went in to add "yesterday" and make clear that the joint-hearing by the Senate and House Veterans committees was Tuesday. And thank you to ___ for editing and condensing and doing a great job. The mistake falls on me and my apologies for that. I did not check it, I did not help edit it and, let's be honest, it's cause I'm sick of the online life as much as it's because I was pressed for time. Again, my apologies.
Okay, let's dive in. Tuesday's joint-hearing -- House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing -- Senate Committee Chair Patty Murray noted that VA Secretary Eric Shinseki would be before the Committee and she would be attempting to get an aswer regarding sequestering from him. Sequestering refers to automatic cuts that would kick in on various federal departments and programs. Along with Senator Murray, Senator Jon Tester and House Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Jeff Miller have noted that the inability of veterans to get a straight answer on this issue is frustrating and that veterans have a right to know what's going on with the budget of the VA.
Chair Patty Murray: [. . .] let me begin the questions by getting this one off the table. It's on the issue of sequestration and cuts to spending. Like I said in my opening remarks I believe that all VA programs including medical care are exempt from cuts but there is some ambiguity between the budget act and the existing law. And when I asked the acting OMB director to adress this issue in a budget hearing two weeks ago, he said OMB had yet to make a final determination. So I am concerned that by not settling this issue now, we are failing to provide our veterans with the clarity they really deserve to have. And so while you're here, I wanted to ask you: Do you believe that all VA programs -- including medical care -- are exempt from any future cuts?
Secretary Eric Shinseki: I think, Madame Chairman, the answer that the OMB director provided you was the same one that I understand. They are still addressing the issue. For my purposes, I would tell you I'm not planning on sequestration. I'mI addressing my requirements and presenting my budget as you would expect me to do. I think sequestration in part or in whole is not necessarily good policy. And I think the President would argue the best approach here is a balanced deficit reduction and that the budget he has presented does that and I would ask that the Congress look at that budget and favorably consider it.
Chair Patty Murray: I think we all hope that is the outcome but we want to provide clarity to our veterans. They are very concerned about this issue.
Murray asked, she attempted to get an answer as to -- yes/no -- whether the VA is a department immune to sequestering. Not only did she ask, she announced in an open hearing the day prior that she would be asking. Shinseki came into that hearing knowing he would be asked.
The answer? Another non-answer. The person in charge of the VA Department has no idea, if sequestering goes into effect, whether or not his department would be affected. That seems like an answer you would need to know for a hypothetical. With sequestration looking more and more likely, that seems like an answer you would need to know in order to plan for worst case scenarios in the department you oversee.
But he can't answer the question and has no knowledge as to whether or not VA would be effected if these cuts kick in.
On the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair. Richard Burr is the Ranking Member. A number of witnesses accompanied Shinseki to the hearing including Dr. Robert Petzel who is the Under Secretary for Health, Allison Hickey who is the Under Secretary for Benefits, Steve Muro who is the Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs, Roger Baker who is the Assistant Secretary for IT (Information and Technology) and W. Todd Grams (Executive in Charge for the Office of Management and Chief Financial Officer).
With that brain trust, you might think they could answer a basic question but you'd be wrong. As was the case in a recent House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing, the problems started with Allison Hickey (she refused to answer Ranking Member Bob Filner's questions and then there was a rush by the VA witnesses to 'wall her off' from Filner's questions -- see the February 15, 2012 snapshot and pay attention to when Filner tells her, "You're not answering the question."). Claims processing was the issue Ranking Member Richard Burr brought up yesterday in the Senate Committee hearing. He was concerned with the diagnosis (it being incorrect and a veteran suffering as a result) and with the timeliness of it. There is a huge backlog -- when Chair Patty Murray held her Virtual Town Hall with veterans February 9th -- sponsored by Disabled American Veterans, full transcript of the exchange can be found here -- the claims backlog was an issue the veterans repeatedly raised. In fact, it kicked off the discussion and Senator Murray noted, "This is one of the most common complaints I hear. And let me say that w know that the claims system is broken." So Ranking Member Burr was asking about an important issue and just asking for basic information: How can, a year from now, they determine whether or not there's been improvement?
Ranking Member Burr noted that the accuracy with diagnoses was at 84% nationally for the VA but at regional centers it varied from 61% to 94%. What part of the budget is going to go to evaluation of the diagnoses? Shinseki passed it to Hickey. As usual, she began speaking at a hearing without turning on her microphone. "I'm glad you're asking about quality because we're very focused on production and quality . . .," she insisted as she avoided Burr's question but continued talking for over two minutes about nothing of importance and nothing that resembled an answer to his question. Ranking Member Burr interrupted her and wanted to know how far into the year will they go before they'll be able to determine if the plan for improvements is working?
Ranking Member Richard Burr: But at some point, you've got to say, "We're going to look at this and see if it's working."
Allison Hickey: We did, sir, absolutely did.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: So?
Allison Hickey: And we did it in local pilots and we are just this week --
Ranking Member Richard Burr: So a year from now, when we get together for the 2014 budget if the quality is not improved or the timeliness down, it will have failed?
Allison Hickey: No, sir, I don't expect the quality not to have improved. We have some very significant decisions and initiatives --
Ranking Member Richard Burr: My point is, what if it doesn't?
Allison Hickey: Sir, then we will adjust as necessary to find the reasons why, we will tackle that hard, but I don't expect that to be the answer. I expect us to see improvement in both quality and production.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: Thank you. We have --
Secretary Eric Shinseki: Senator, Senator, if I might, quality is the function of trained people with the right tools. And we're working on both items right now.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: My question was, Mr. Secretary, at what point we will determine whether what we've implemented is working?
Secretary Eric Shinseki: Fair. We'll be happy to provide that. We set a target of ending this problem with backlog in 2015.
But they haven't even reduced it. House Ranking Member Bob Filner pointed that out in Tuesday's joint-hearing. More people were hired by the VA to work on claims and the backlog has only increased. Whatever the VA's doing thus far, it's not working. Is it a comprehension issue? Does VA just not listen? Senate Ranking Member Burr repeatedly asked how they would measure this year whether the changes were working or not. He got no answer and it appears the VA thinks they'll decide whether things worked or not to improve quality and speed when 2015 comes to an end. Do they not understand the need for regular evaluations? For checking the process? They didn't appear to yesterday before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.
You're a veteran and you need help with something, let's say PTSD. Is the VA providing timely care? No. And yet in the proposed 2013 Fiscal Year budget, they're asking for only a 5% increase in funding when it comes to health care providers. Is that really enough, Chair Murray wondered?
Chair Patty Murray: Mr. Secretary, last year, we talked a lot about mental health care and I think we together uncovered a lot of serious issues best summed up by a veteran that I heard from recently who uses the Ann Arbor Medical Center and had to wait months and months to get into counseling but then he had glowing things to say about his mental health care once he got in. So in order to address those types of issues, VA has to be certain it has enough resources to not only keep up with the increasing number of veterans seeking mental health care but also bring down that unacceptably long wait time. Over the course of the last fiscal year, the number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are looking for mental health care went up by about 5% and that's about 18,000 every quarter. So I wanted to ask you this morning if you believe the increase in mental health funding in the budget request is sufficient to accomplish the goals and keep up with this increasing demand?
Secretary Eric Shinseki:: I-I believe that the budget, if you look at the 13 budget request, I think it's adequate for us to meet what we understand our requirements are in 13. Are there issues out there now that we will discover between now and executional budget? I would say if we do, Madame Chairman, I would be the first to tell you. Now you asked us to do a survey and we did. It was very hastily done. Senator Burr referred to some of the output conclusions out of that survey. Out of 27,000 of our health care -- mental health providers, 319 were surveyed and the results were as described. My question of VHA was did you go to the places we thought there would be problems? And the answer was yes, because we were asked to go figure this out. So I would say we got a pretty pure response. What I think we need to do is make sure -- we're going to take another broader look -- to make sure we understand across the larger population what our issues are and where there are opportunities for -- reallocation or to hire more people? I would offer to the Chair, I took a look at what we've done in mental health over the last 4 budgets. If we look at '12 to '13, it's rather unimpressive. I mean, it's 5% and it matches the increase in the medical budget but between '9 and '13 our increase is 39%. in mental health. And if you include the 14 advance appropes [2014 advance appropriations requests] it will go up 45% --
Chair Patty Murray: And that is a result of the number of soldiers who are coming home with the invisible wounds of war which is dramatically increasing, correct?
Secretary Eric Shinseki: Uh, true but we are trying to anticipate that there's going to be a larger requirement in the odd years even if we don't have clarity, we're trying to prepare for that. We want to do a larger survey here as I indicated and then see -- and then see what the outcomes are. But let me turn to Dr. Petzel for any details.
Dr. Robert Petzel: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Madame Chairman, as a result of the hearing that we had earlier in the year, we have now done two things that are, I think, important and on point with regards to your question. One is that we've developed a staffing model. It is the only staffing model that I know that is available about mental health. It's in the -- in the beginning stages but it is giving us some information about what the need might be. But I think more importantly, we're site visiting all 152 of our medical centers to look at the access to mental health services -- both the initial appointment and subsquent appointments, be it for PTSD patient program, a group program or individual psychotherapy. And what we're finding is that there is -- We do meet the criteria for the first appointment in most every instance. We're having some difficulties in some parts of the country making the next appointment in a timely fashion, getting them -- as you mentioned earlier -- into the specialty services. This could be the result of three things. One, is do we have enough staff out there? Have we given enough positions and enough resources? Two is: are those positions filled? Are they filling those positions up in a timely fashion. And then the third is are we getting the appropriate level of productivity out of each one of those people? If we do discover, as the Secretary just mentioned, that we do have additional needs that are unment, I can guarantee you that we will be in communication with the Commitee about those needs and in for a discussion.
Chair Patty Murray: Okay, I appreciate that. This is a top priority for us this year.
Secretay Eric Shinseki: I would just share that in FY '11, we hired about 897 additional mental health professionals bringing us up to about 20,500 mental health professionals so the interest is there in trying to determine what the requirement is and we're not hesitant about increasing those numbers.
As usual, Senator Daniel Akaka brought up a point that others miss (about the rural nature of Hawaii -- and "others" includes me and I have a house in Hawaii). I'd like to cover that tomorrow but we tried to cover the big issues today (and tried to cover these yesterday but it had to be cut due to space).
In Iraq today, the dead include an American. Reuters notes Jeremiah Small was shot dead in Sulaimaniya Province by a student named Beyar al-Talabani who then shot himself. AFP adds that the student was 18-years-old. Sam Dagher and Ali A. Nabhan (Wall St. Journal) note that the student was an 11th grader at Classical School of the Medes ("a Christian school run by U.S. evangicals"). Jeremiah Small was 33-years-old and had taught with history and English lit at the school for seven years. There are a number of details in dispute and we're not going to note those. If you're looking for a strong article, Dagher and Nabhan are clear about what happened, what's said to have happened and what's in dispute. Aswat al-Iraq notes a Mousl bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraq solider and left another injured.
Iraq is in an ongoing political crisis which began approximately 15 months ago when Nouri al-Maliki signed off the Erbil Agreement because it guaranteed he would remain prime minister but once that was implemented (right away) he began stalling on the other aspects before walking completely away from it. Since this summer, the Kurds have been puclicly calling for him to return to the Erbil Agreement. Iraiqy and some elements of the National Alliance have joined that call. The New York Times repeatedly ignored the crisis but were forced -- only after other US outlets were already covering it -- to give their half-assed version of 'coverage' in the last third of December when Nouri began demanding that Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq be stripped of his post and that Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi be arrested for terrorism.

The crisis isn't over despite the New York times repeated attempts to whitewash the realities. Al Mada reports unnamed sources are stating that Nouri and al-Hashemi are set to resolve their differences. Not all unnamed sources got the same memo. One of them tells Dar Addustour that Nouri and State of Law (Nouri's political slate) believe that public statements Tareq al-Hashemi made are the equivalent of a fatwa. In addition, supposedly Nouri's weighing sending forces into the KRG to seize al-Hashemi.

Should that happen, Nouri will be declaring war on the KRG and, for a day or two, the New York Times will 'address' it with articles explaining how the violence is an example of diplomacy and wisdom on the part of Nouri.

Other whispers this morning are that Iraqiya -- this from State of Law -- is determined to disrupt the Arab Summit and intends to bring up the political crisis at the national conference. Al Mada notes that and many other charges by State of Law. If there are storms moving in on the Arab Summit, one has to look no further than the rain cloud that is Nouri. Aswat al Iraq reports, "The Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah al-Ahed Al-Jaber al-Sabah expressed keeness to attend the coming Arab summit in person, according to a statement issued by Iraqi foreign ministry." So Kuwait's excited? Al Mada reports that Nouri's looking to 'clarify' border issues when he visit Kuwait shortly. Add that to the millions Iraq still owes Kuwait (why the United Nations has them in Chapter VII). Nouri thinks that's how you set the stage for a successful Arab Summit. In other news of his paranoia, Al Rafidayn reports that the Ministry of the Interior is insisting that there's a coup plot against Nouri in the Maysan Province. It's so difficult to keep Nouri's paranoia coups straight so please don't confuse this with claims that military officers are passing on intel to the United States. Dar Addustour reports that there will be a campaign of arrests on the military officers accused of spying for the US.

Hiwa Osman (Rudaw) explores the prospects for the Arab Summit and the national conference to resolve the political crisis and concludes:

On the other hand, it takes a different stance from the rest of the Arab world on a number of issues that are related to its neighbors like Syria, Iran and even Turkey.
In practice, neither of the two meetings will change anything on the ground. The Iraqi meeting, if held, won't change the relationship between's Iraq's Shia and Sunni leadership and population.
The Arab summit could create more problems for Iraq with its neighbors.
The only strength of the summit would be symbolic: an Arab summit and a Kurdish head. It would be held in the absence of some of the most brutal Arab dictators. The summit would be seen as the summit of the people with more elected representatives. The Kurds could take the opportunity and get a motion out of the summit that supports the Kurdish people in the Middle East.

In the US, 2012 is an election year. Jill Stein is running for the Green Party's presidential nomination. The Green Party of Michigan notes she has two events in Michigan (Ann Arbor and Ferndale) next Monday:
Rick Santorum is a former US Senator who is now running for the presidential nomination of his political party (Republican). On Saturday, he weighed in on the topic of Iraq with the following essay.
President Obama has an amazing ability to make Jimmy Carter's foreign policies look good.

Opposition to imperfect allies and support of radical Islamists has resulted in the almost-extinction of religious freedom for religious minorities -- from the Copts in Egypt to the defenseless women and children who were slaughtered in Homs, Syria -- in the Middle East.

Another example is the devolving situation in Iraq. President Obama was so committed to fulfilling an arbitrary campaign promise to get our troops out of Iraq that he ignored the advice of his senior military officials about the consequences of establishing a firm withdrawal date and about how long it might take before Iraq was ready to manage the situation on their own. As a result, Al-Qa'ida is resurgent, Iran's influence is greater than ever, religious tensions between Sunni and Shi'a are increasing, the existential threat facing Iraq's indigenous minority communities has never been greater, and our ability to affect the situation there is weaker now. Recent coordinated car bomb attacks are just the latest in a string of such events since the start of the new year, and they portend many more violent assaults to come.

The departure of our military forces has once again left a security vacuum that is bound to be filled by someone, and all those with the means to vie for that space will do so, whether Sunni insurgents, terrorists like Al Qa'ida, security forces controlled by the ruling Shi'a political establishment, and in parts of the country even Kurdish Peshmerga. These machinations undermine institutionalizing the rule of law, protecting minority rights, or developing the economy and infrastructure, let alone advancing American interests in that country and the region.

The most vulnerable people in this situation also happen to be the ones most aligned with our values and interests. These are Iraq's besieged Christians -- the Chaldeans, Assyrians, Syriacs and Armenian Orthodox communities. The role their faith has played in developing their worldview is far more in keeping with America's values than any other constituency in the country or the region. Moreover, because these communities have an ethic that places a premium on education, entrepreneurship, and peaceful co-existence and respect for others, they have constituted a disproportionately large part of the upper-middle class, they have historically contributed far more to the country's economy than their numbers would suggest, and they have been the most trusted elements of Iraqi society. They also have a much greater respect for the value of the rule of law, they were the ones who came along side our military, diplomats, and contractors to provide translation services and cultural advice.

With the departure of our forces and the recent announcement of the Obama Administration that we will also be reducing our embassy staff by 50 percent because it is now too dangerous for our diplomats there we are effectively abandoning both Iraq and our investment there as well as the communities who risked the most to help us in that effort. What is more, walking away like this also sends messages to other players in the region. It signals to potential allies in the future that we are not dependable. It signals to terrorists that if they just lay low, they can wait us out. It signals to the world that we no longer have the resolve to see a situation through to the end -- that we can't finish what we started.

We need all the help we can get in that part of the world, and Iraq's Christians are the ones most inclined to provide that help, but not if doing so is only going to increase the prospect of their genocidal annihilation.

Accordingly, we need a comprehensive policy aimed at preserving these communities in Iraq. We need to focus on helping Iraqis create the conditions that incentivize staying in Iraq and making there a better future for themselves. The last thing we want is for them to abandon the land their ancestors have occupied for nearly 7,000 years,forsake the culture they have preserved in that volatile region for all these millennia, and deprive the country, the region, and the world of the positive contributions they could still make if only some space was created for them in Iraqi society. These people -- who are all but canaries in a coal mine -- represent hope for a better future for a pluralistic Iraqi society.

First, they need security. By "security," though, I mean more than just safety from terrorist and insurgent attacks. I mean they need the means to protect themselves and their own communities so they do not have to depend on political actors whose interests are not necessarily aligned with the needs of their own communities. They should not be subjected to political shakedowns and corrupt political machinations.

Second, they need political empowerment. They have the right to some degree of self-determination and to have a say in how their local communities should be governed. It is wrong for them to be treated as a political football, constantly crushed between manipulative forces that surround them.

Third, they need economic development in the region where they now find themselves. Having been forced off their ancestral lands in the last century, they reestablished themselves in the cities such as Baghdad and Basra. In the aftermath of the second Gulf War, though, they have had to seek refuge back in the North again. Yet this region was not developed very well under Saddam's regime, and today's Iraqi Christians are disproportionately of the urban professional class rather than farmers.

It is time that we stand with those who stood with us over the last 8 years. We must not abandon them. I will stand with those who stand for freedom of religion and conscience and against violent jihadism and persecution of religious minorities in Iraq, Egypt, and elsewhere.
As noted on Saturday, I'm not voting for Santorum. Because there are a lot of little babies, I have to note that. "You quoted Santorum! You must be voting for him! You must agree with him!" We usually note serious comments on Iraq by any presidential candidate -- go look in the 2007 and 2008 archives. Oh, and currently, I'm not planning to vote for president in 2012. That would change if someone earned my vote. At present, no one has. If Jill Stein gets the Green Party nomination, I will consider voting for her.
We do note the Green Party here and we'll note this from the Michigan Green Party on Jill Stein's upcoming events (Monday) in Ann Arbor and Ferndale.

Ecological Wisdom • Social Justice • Grassroots Democracy • Non-Violence

Green Party of Michigan

News Release

March 1, 2012

For More Information, Contact:
John A. La Pietra, Elections Co-ordinator / GPMI (269) 781-9478

Jill Stein Brings Campaign for Green Party Nomination to Michigan

(Ann Arbor, Ferndale) — The public is invited to attend one of two meetings with Dr. Jill Stein of Massachusetts who is vying for the Green Party's nomination for president of the United States on Monday, March 5th. Come hear her speak about the Green New Deal and what it would mean for Michigan.

Dr. Jill Stein is a mother, housewife, physician, longtime teacher of internal medicine, and pioneering environmental-health advocate. Presenting herself as a positive option to the main two political parties, Dr. Stein's campaign has centered around the Green New Deal which was created to help America regain its prosperity in four ways: securing jobs with living wages for all Americans able to work, adopting green technologies and production practices, revamping the financial sector and strengthening our democracy so that the people's voice will be heard in Washington.
Dr. Stein will make two stops in Michigan as she makes her way through the Great Lakes region. First, she will be in Ann Arbor from 4pm to 6pm at Amer's Deli on S. State Street.
After Ann Arbor, she will move on to Ferndale where she will be at AJ's cafe on 9 Mile Rd from 7:30pm to 10:30pm.
Dr. Stein will be available to answer questions, talk about her candidacy and what the Green Party can do to make America thrive. To learn more about Jill Stein, visit her website at or look for her on Facebook.
Other candidates seeking the Green Party's nomination include comedienne Roseanne Barr, Kent Mesplay of California and Michigan's own Harley Mikkelson.

For more information about the Green Party of Michigan, its candidates, its positions on issues affecting Michiganders, and upcoming party events, go to:
Also check out the Green Party/Partido Verde of Michigan group on Facebook.

# # #

created/distributed using donated labor
Lastly, we'll close with this from Feminist Majority:
March 1, 2012
Contact: Francesca Tarant, 703-522-2214,
Women Leaders Vow to Fight Back Against Assaults
As the Senate prepared to vote on the Blunt Amendment, a coalition of over 50 women's organizations held a press conference to announce an unprecedented drive to mobilize women voters on the ground and online around Health and Economic Rights—HERvotes—in 2012. Speakers emphasized the power of women voters as a force for change, as well as their collective outrage over the politicization of vital aspects of women's health care, such as birth control and breast cancer services.
"This is a day in and day out fight. Women are not going to be silenced," said Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal. "Women are not a political wedge issue, and we are determined to ensure that women have access to quality health care; to protect the gains women have made in the workplace, health care, education and basic individual rights and to continue moving forward an equality agenda,"
"Women's rights are under attack, with reproductive rights in the center of the bullseye," said Byllye Avery, a founder of Raising Women's Voices and the National Black Women's Health Imperative, who outlined the women's health issues at risk in these elections and noted that the Affordable Care Act will end discriminatory health care practices against women.
National Council of Negro Women Executive Director Avis Jones-DeWeever highlighted economic perils for women and children, and saying that women will stand up for jobs, equal pay and equal opportunities: "Women will not be silent. We will not be bamboozled. We will not be complacent."
Sarah Audelo of Advocates for Youth made it clear that young women are part of this fight: "The right to basic preventive health care, such as contraception. The right to decide if and when to have a child. The right to vote and have our voices heard. These are rights our mothers and grandmothers fought for and won. These are rights I never thought my generation would have to fight for . . . . We will reward those who support and respect our rights, and hold accountable those who do not."
HERvotes announced that the 51 organizations are working together to mobilize voters and to sound the alarm that women's gains are at risk. For example, Lisa Maatz described a $1.5 million campaign being launched by the American Association of University Women to turn out women's votes, particularly Millennial women. Maatz exclaimed: "There is a palpable buzz . . . women are mad. We are fed up. We don't want you to touch our birth control. We're tired of being told what we can do with our bodies. We'll be canvassing, advertising, social media campaigns, and reaching women where they live."
National Women's Political Caucus President Linda Young, responding to a reporter's question about the historic likelihood of women to vote more Democratic than Republican, said "Women will vote for those candidates who support our issues and who are not trying to take away our rights."
HERvotes leaders outlined multiple online drives that will reach over 20 million women. For example, there will be a massive online campaign by MomsRising, which reaches over 3 million women through email, Twitter, Facebook and other means.
"Women are tired of the politicization of birth control, the politicization of breast cancer, and abortion bills that really are just about humiliating women . . . The more they attack women's ability to get along day by day… they are losing our votes," said Terry O'Neill, president of NOW, urging women to go to to find out about the issues at stake. "People are waking up."
The 51 organizations of HERvotes will be on the ground and online, educating voters about the 12 advances for women that are at risk in 2102, as well as potential gains. To read about the 12 Advances at Risk in 2012 and see the list of coalition members, go to

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Oh, Bob Feldman, shut up

Mark Crispin Miller is a f**king idiot and a sexist pig.  Laurie Penny explains it at The New Statesman.  So MCM spreads lies about feminism (CIA PLOT!) and Penny calls him out and Bob Feldman shows up acting the ass.

I can blackball Bob in this community and I just might.

Here's the comments he leaves at the article as "bobf:"

Regarding the U.S. power elite and the CIA's apparent promotion of certain anti-patriarchal left middle-class feminist groups, in 1975 members of the non-foundation-subsidized radical feminist Redstockings held a press conference to disclose to other U.S. feminists Ms. magazine founder Gloria Steinem’s previous involvement with the CIA. Redstockings noted at this time that “It has been widely recognized that one major CIA strategy is to create or support parallel organizations which provide alternatives to radicalism and yet appear progressive enough to appease dissatisfied elements of the society.”

Redstockings didn't disclose this.  They repeated it.  Gloria had already gone public that one of the international conferences that she -- and hundreds of others -- went to in Europe was CIA sponsored.  Bob knows that.  He leaves that detail out -- details.  That Gloria disclosed it prior to Red Stockings and that it was from the 50s.

And there is some evidence that a Random House book on the feminist revolution which was to have contained a chapter on Steinem’s past CIA links also had “restricted” material pulled at Steinem’s request. As Current Biography Yearbook 1988 noted, "a Village Voice columnist, writing in the May 21, 1979 issue, darkly hinted that she [Steinem] might have prevailed upon Random House to delete a chapter entitled `Gloria Steinem and the CIA’ from The Feminist Revolution, a collection of essays by writers affiliated with the Redstockings.” And as Nancy Borman observed in the July 1979 issue of the Lower East Side-based Overthrow Magazine:

“Publication of Feminist Revolution was delayed nearly three years…and when the book was finally released…the chapter on Gloria Steinem and the CIA had been deleted in its entirety…Six weeks after Feminist Revolution was finally published five members of the Redstockings held a press conference to argue that their book would be better described as `censored.’…The near-total blackout on the Steinem/Random House censorship story is reminiscent of the level of enthusiasm Redstockings encountered when they first tried to get coverage for the story of Steinem and the CIA.”

Is Bob Feldman STUPID or LYING again?

Borman's article ran in The Village Voice.  I guess it's better to pretend that it was only in some rag you never heard of.  But it ran in The Village Voice when it had an audience -- and ran in May of 1979.

The chapter was cut because it was seen as a libel.  Even Borman's article makes that clear.

Other politically radical women anti-war activists have attempted in the past to alert a new generation of feminists to the Ms. magazine founder’s past CIA links. Australian anti-war writer-activist Joan Coxsedge’s 1982 book, Rooted In Secrecy: The Clandestine Element In Australian Politics, for instance, contained a section titled “Sisterhood and the CIA,” in which she made the following observation:

“It goes without saying that because of the growing participation and influence of women in the political arena, certain radical sections of the women’s movement are under scrutiny by secret agencies, including the CIA…The CIA attacks in a variety of ways. One method is to defuse the movement by infiltration and diverting its aim into safe reformist channels. Another method is to set up rival conservative organizations…The CIA involved itself in the international women’s movement as early as 1962. At that time, it contributed thousands of dollars a year to the Committee of Correspondence, a New York-based group consisting of 18 American women and 12 associates…The Committee was in contact with at least 5,500 women in 120 countries…The Committee made a big point in its literature that it was `non-government and independent.’ It held conferences in conjunction with the United Nations and was in a prime position to locate and collect information on women leaders around the world…An example of the watering-down of radical demands was provided by the 1975 disclosure of Gloria Steinem’s role in the Women’s Liberation Movement…Feminists have accused Ms. of substituting itself for the genuine movement, blocking knowledge of authentic activists and ideas.”

No, that doesn't mean a damn thing. It means Joan Coxedge was able to repeat what Bob Feldman repeats today.

And in her 1983 book, The Future Of Women, former University of Chicago Professor of Sociology Marlene Dixon wrote:

“Bourgeois feminism…fights only to gain…equality with men under the rule of capital…Bourgeois women can become controllers of bank and finance capital, petty bourgeois women can become their vice presidential lieutenants. For 10 years this has been the obsession of the bourgeois feminist movement, under the hegemony of such CIA types as Gloria Steinem…And yet during those same years…the conditions of life of all women have been under increasing attack.”

Marlene Dixon was a cult leader (click here for a book on that at Google books).  All Bob Feldman did was repeat (over and over): "Gloria Steinem is CIA!"

His entire proof is based on her own self-disclosure.  Made before Red Stockings 'discovered' it.  Red Stockings and Gloria went opposite directions and then Red Stockings felt they were the real one (and maybe they were) so they began attacking Gloria and then seized on the one conference she attended decades prior in college (that she'd already disclosed) to insist "She's CIA!"

And thing is, Marlene Dixon wouldn't approve of the way Bob Feldman's using her to argue against the rights of women.  Bob Feldman is a cheesy ass mother f**ker.

And he can kiss my Black ass.

I love these elderly Honky men who think they can scream "CIA" to deny equality.


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

Wednesday, February 29, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, Iraq's slammed with more violence, continued attention to Parliament wanting to provide themselves armored vehicles, sequestering and other issues are touched on by Congress' Veterans Affairs Committee, Hillary Clinton apparently wants to take a torch to her poll numbers as she makes illogical and unbelievable statements about Camp Ashraf residents, and more.
Ranking Member Bob Filner: We got several hundred thousand claims for Agent Orange in our backlog. How long have they been fighting it? Thirty, forty years. People get sicker fighting the bureaucracy than they did with the Agent Orange. So you know what we ought to do -- aside from greatly expanding eligibility to boots on the ground, to the blue waters, to the blue skies and Thailand and Cambodia and Laos and Guam? We ought to honor those Agent Orange claims today. You know, let's give people the peace that they deserve. Let's give you finally some closure here. And, you know, they're telling us, "It costs too much." I don't know if it's a billion dollars or two billion dollars. I don't care what it is frankly. You don't think we owe it to you? We owe it to you.
US House Rep Bob Filner is the Ranking Member on the House Veterans Affairs Committee which held a hearing yesterday morning. "We're hear today to hear the DAV legislative priorities for the year, : US House Rep Jeff Miller declared at the start of th ehearing. Miller is the Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee which was holding a joint-hearing with the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee which Senator Patty Murray chairs. Appearing before the Committees were representatives with the Disabled American Veterans -- National Commander Donald Samuel, Garry Augustine (National Service Director), Joseph Violante (National Legislative Director), Barry Jesinoski (Executive Director, Washington Headquarters), Arthur Wilson (National Adjutant), Ron Minter (National Director of Voluntary Service) and Patrice Rapsiand (National Commander, Disabled American Veterans Auxillary). DAV, AMVETS, Paralyzed Veterans of America and Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States of America are the authors of the Independent Budget which contains various budget recommendations for VA and the programs that serve veterans. This Independent Budget -- focused on the needs of veterans -- is an independent guideline the Congress can use to contrast with what the White House is asking for to see if the needs of veterans -- outlined in the Independent Budget --- are being met by the administration's proposed budget.
We'll note the following exchange from today's hearing covering a wide range of issues.
Chair Patty Murray: I did want to ask you about health care funding. The VA's budget proposal reflects a very real committment to provides veterans with the care they need VA's budget request for medical care is, however, lower than the amount recommenedd by the Independent Budget. Can you tell us what the DAV's most significant concern with the administration's request for health care is?
National Commander Donald Smith: I think I am going to refer that question to Mr. Violante.
Joseph Violante: Chairman Murray, thank you for that question. You've been a strong advocate for veterans. And our biggest concern is, number one we believe they're about 1.5 billion dollars below where they need to be. I know a GAO report came out yesterday. I have not had the opportunity to review it. However, I understand that once again, they've inidicated that the management efficiences that have been identified by VA over the last several years. They cannot truly say that VA has generated any savings from those. That's a concern. Last year, the Secretary carried over $1.1 billion yet we continue to hear from our members around the country and from VA employees that they were short of funds, that Veterans couldn't get the service that they were eligible for because of the shortfall. So we have concerns. We would certainly love Congress to get VA in here to question them, to find out, again, why they aren't hiring people they need for homeless? Why veterans aren't able to properly access the care and to get what they deserve?
Chair Patty Murray: Okay, I very much appreciate that. Let me ask you about another issue I brought up in my opening statement and that is construction funding. The Presiden't's request for major and minor construction is significantly less than the Independent Budget recommendation. I'm really disappointed in the size of the gap between what they say they need and what we need to bring our facilities up to date. And I wanted to ask you, Mr. Samuels, failing to close that gap, what does that mean for our veterans across the country?
Joseph Violante: Madame Chairman, I'll go ahead and answer that question also. You know, it reminds me a lot of what happened in '04 and '05. And you remember very well in '05 when you and Senator [Daniel] Akaka tried to have an amendment passed in the Senate to increase funding by $1.5 billion for VA and at that time we were hearing horror stories from around the country about maintenance problems, about Togus, Maine where bricks were falling off the building and they had to put scaffolding up to protect veterans as they entered, other faciliites, where the air conditioning went down and the surgical units had to be closed because there wasn't air conditioning and the ability to get that fixed, MRIs that couldn't be repaired. And all of these items as well as building necessary or enhanced leases to provide the services that are needed in certain areas. So as that gap continues to widen, I think we're going to see many more of those same problems where VA is not going to be able to ensure the safety of the men and women coming for services.
Chair Patty Murray: Okay and this is an area I'm going to continue to follow. I care deeply about this and I've seen exactly what you're talking about so this is one that I will follow up and push very hard. And finally, Commander, I wanted to ask you -- and I really want to thank the DAV for working closely with me on the Women's Veterans Bill and I look forward to working with you to continue to make sure that all the women coming into the VA system have the kind of quality care that they need after serving our country. But I want to [applause] as the last women standing up here, I will ask you, what more needs to be done to address the serious shortcomings that women are seeing as they come into our VA facilities?
Barry Jesinoski: Chairman Murray, I'll take that question. First of all, thank you for your extremely staunch advocacy in this area. DAV stands with you in your concern and care for our women veterans. And Secretary Shinseki has stated that women veterans are a priority for VA. And they're going down the right track, we believe, so we're looking for your strong oversight as they continue to train their personnel and to ensure that all the areas of care are open to our women veterans whether that be military sexual trauma, homelessness and post-deployment mental healt. But there is much to be done, for sure, and, quite frankly, we're not finished until or unless all of our women veterans can walk down the halls of our VA medical centers with the same ease and comfort and receive the same level of care and breadth of care as their male counterparts.
Chair Patty Murray: I appreciate that and I would add one more challenge to all of us and it's what I hear from women veterans all the time, it's that they don't indentify themselves as veterans, they don't write it on their resumes when they put it out there, their kids don't call and have their mom's call and have their moms come to school and tell their experiences as a veteran. They don't tell their neighbors. We need to give women the power to say, "I'm a veteran" and be proud of that. And I want to work with all of you to do that. One last question and I will turn it over to Senator [John] Boozman for his questions, last year, we both talked about -- Chairman Miller and I both talked about the Vow to Hire Heroes Act -- a very important first step in ensuring that we are employing our veterans nationwide. I did want to ask you what more can be done to help our service disabled veterans overcome some of their barriers to employment that I'm hearing about and I wondered if you could respond to that?
Joseph Violante: There's a lot more that needs to be done -- particularly for service disabled veterans. And, if I could, Madame Chairman, I'd like to get back to you in writing on that to elaborate as to all of the things that need to be looked at in that particular area.
Chair Patty Murray: Okay, very good. I look forward to your response on that. 

 Elsewhere in the hearing, the issue of sequestration was raised. It's expected to that the federal government's buget will result in sequestration -- that cuts to reach X amount were not made and as a result automatic cuts will be imposed on many departments (and programs) across the board. Is the VA exempt or not? That's been an issue that several members of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees have been trying to get answered (with no success). Chair Jeff Miller noted, "We believe that VA is exempt." He stated that it should be but if it is not, "we have to we'll make those statutory changes." Chair Patty Murray declared she was "confident" that sequestering would not effect VA but that she wants "clarity" on the matter. CORRECTION: Senator Murray questioned Eric Shinseki on Wednesday.

This is an issue that's bothering a number of veterans because where would the money come from if the VA faces automatic across the board cuts. I agree with Chair Jeff Miller's earlier statements prior to today's hearing, that the administration should have addressed this issue publicly some time ago so that it wasn't so up in the air and confusing and, yes, distressing to veterans and their families.
Chair Patty Murray noted during the hearing that she had heard from veterans in her home state of Washington at a town hall she held this month and they listed a number of issue -- including continued problems "with the dysfunction of the claims system," unemployment, and "unacceptable long wait lines for mental health care" which still doesn't result in "getting the type of mental health care they need." Ranking Member Bob Filner noted that the men and women of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars are "becoming homeless faster than you who have come back from Vietnam" and that they were "committing suicide at a higher rate."
Now we're dropping back to the February 15th House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing for just a second.:
Homelessness was touched on by US House Reps Corrine Brown and Dr. Phil Roe. We're ignoring that for two reasons. 1) Roe brought up that once a case worker has X number of clients, the VA isn't issuing vouchers so even though there is space a veterans left sleeping on the street or somewhere else (he or she receives no voucher). Shinseki noted that homeless veterans were decreasing. Are they? Or is this program -- which tracks beds used in shelters -- not factoring in that veterans aren't receiving vouchers if their caseworker is maxed out? That's not addressed and until it is, I'm not interested in going into the figures.
I have an answer on that from a friend at VA and from a reporter who covers the story in Dr. Roe home state: If they're not using the beds, they're not being counted. So if vouchers exist but aren't being handed out -- for whatever reasons -- then those not in the shelter beds are not being tabulated in the VA count.
So we know the answer to that. And now we can pick up with Dr. Phil Roe who spoke briefly but did a really strong walk through on this voucher issue.
US House Rep Phil Roe: Homelessness. I know you're involved in that. And one of the things that's holding up -- and this is something that we've got to stick the VA with -- our case managers. We have 10,000 vouchers for our homeless veterans but they can't get those vouchers unless there's a case manager. And right now, in my own district, we've got vouchers we can't use because the VA, since November, hasn't hired a case manager to manage those. That's ridiculous when you're going through the winter, you've got a veteran sitting outside and the VA hasn't hired one person -- because one takes care of 25 veterans, they have to have one person. So if we're going to have 10,000 more vouchers at 70-something million dollars, it does the veteran no good who's outside unless the VA simultaneously trains and hires 400 case managers. They need to do that. So I guess a real quick question I have for you is what -- as a veterans service officer with obviously decades of experience -- what's the single biggest issue you're running across that we coluld help you with up here?
National Commander Donald Samuels: Well I would say, one, of course, is the backlog, the claims processing backlog. And of course the Secretary and our staff is working with the Secretary on trying to resolve that with a new IT programs coming in, pilot programs that the Secretary's going to introduce. But I would say that is one of the biggest problems that we hear from vetetan. Saying Why does it take two years to get a decision? Why does it take nine months to get a decision? I could ask my staff to respond more on that question but that is -- that is a big issue. If you're a service officer sitting in the bunker in a state, they constantly get calls where veterans are calling to check on the status of their claim because they have not gotten a decision on it.
Baghdad was slammed by a bombing. BBC News notes it was a car bombing and that the tolls are at least 3 dead and nine injured. Al Rafidayn reports that the police quickly closed the scene to traffic. W.G. Dunlop (AFP) reports a Tuk Khurmatu car bombing claimed the lives of 2 police officers, 1 Iraqi soldier and 1 Iraqi military officer while leaving two more soldiers, a police officer and a bystander injured and that Mosul saw a roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 police officer and left three more injured while a car bombing left three civilians injured and "shepherd Abdel Karim Abdel Hamid" died from a landmine which injured two of his brothers in Kirkuk. In addition, Dunlop notes Sahwa was targeted last night with an attack on a Diyala Province checkpoint claiming the life of 1 Sahwa and leaving two more injured. Xinhua adds, "In Iraq's western province of Anbar, a roadside bomb struck a civilian car on a main road near the city of Hit, some 160 km west, killing a civilian and wounding three others aboard, a source from the provincial operations command told Xinhua on condition of anonymity."

On violence, Al Rafidayn notes that approximately 69,000 Iraqis have died from 2004 to last year as a result of violence. These numbers come from the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of National Security. W.G. Dunlop (AFP) notes that these "numbers are significantly lower than previous figures that cover a shorter time span, including from Iraq's own human rights ministry. The human rights ministry said in an October 2009 report that 85,694 people were killed from 2004 to 2008." Dunlop also notes Iraq Body Count's number for 2003 through the end of 2011 (114,584).

Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) observes that Adnan al-Assadi, the Deputy Interior Minister, states that "six prominent Sunni armed groups say they will fight on to drive the last Americans from Iraqi soil and topple 'the occupation government'." Pay attention to this from al-Salhy, "The groups include al-Qaeda's Iraq wing, the Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi Order, the Islamic Army, the Mujahedeen Army, the Rashideen Army and Ansar al-Sunnah, Asadi said." Did you catch that? No, not all physically fighting the occupation and/or Nouri's puppet government are "al Qaeda in Iraq."
Violence is among many topics that Dirk Adriaensens of the BRussels Tribunal Executive Committee explores in a new piece at Truthout that that suffers at the beginning. It has many important points to it but the beginning isn't just 'weak.'
Adriansens notes the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pilay's public dismay over the executions in Iraq. He then attempts to tie that into a US trial. That's nonsense and it's offensive. You don't have to like the verdict, you may feel that someone guilty went free but there's a world of difference between feeling someone 'beat the system' and executing people from forced confessions. I haven't commented on that case, I have no public opinion on that case. You can and you can feel the US Marine got a fair trial, got away with murder, or whatever. But don't compare a verdict you don't like that you think set someone guilty free with putting to death innocent people.
There are people around the world who have made it their life's work to overturn death penalties and they grasp the difference (some of whom will find the comparison being made offensive). You've taken disimilar objects and pretended you compared them when you did no such thing. I know the law and like some people (I would hope most people), I would prefer a guilty person walk to an innocent person being punished (and I oppose the death penalty). That is why the US has the legal system it does, because of that belief. A verdict you disagree with where someone walks on charges is not the same thing as someone wrongfully put to death.
This is not a quibble. This is a major point. As the piece progresses, it has many wonderful passages. One of the most interesting sections of the essay is this:
"The wave of attacks, carried out mainly by Sunni extremists from Al-Qaeda in Iraq against Shia communities, has alarmed many who fear the country could descend into chaos once more, with the government itself acknowledging it is not capable of ensuring security on its own."(82) This is the story that we constantly hear in the media, blaming the "Sunni" terrorist group al-Qaeda, which carries out attacks against the "Shiite" population. What is most saddening is that this particular sentence was written by IRIN, a news service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Why are the media so sure that it is "Sunni" al-Qaeda killing innocent Shiites?
Let me put the record straight: in recent weeks there have been several bomb attacks in Ramadi, Adamiya in Baghdad, Mosul, Haditha, Diyala, Tikrit, Fallujah etc., all Sunni areas. The wave of attacks is nationwide. The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights should check out the Iraqi press accounts of the previous weeks.
Then why do the Western media and IRIN focus on al-Qaeda and declare the Shiite population the main victims?
It is relevant to remind the public of the ruthless killings perpetrated by Shiites against Shiites. For example, on 27 February 2009, The New York Times reported that 28 members of a Shiite messianic cult responsible for brutal attacks on Shiite pilgrims in Iraq were sentenced to death in the federal court in Dhi Qar Province. The condemned were members of the Followers of the Mahdi, itself a part of the Soldiers of Heaven or Jund As-Samaa, a destructive cult that believes that sowing chaos will pave the way for the coming of the Mahdi, the 12th Imam, who disappeared in the ninth century and who - Shiites believe - will return as a savior of humanity. Nineteen other members of the group were sentenced to life imprisonment, and six were acquitted, said the court official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.(83)
And why is there no mention of the thousands of Sunnis who were recently arrested and detained by the government? Why don't the mainstream media write about the virulent sectarian politics of Maliki, who recently declared that his primary identity is "Shia"?
Why is there no mention of recent "suspicious incidents" that have been reported in the Iraqi press? For example:
On January 25, a senior source at the Iraqi Ministry of Transport confirmed to Al-Mada daily newspaper that the British security company assigned to security control at Bagdad airport caught a Czech security team from the Czech Embassy in Baghdad with a number of silencers and explosives in the beginning of January. The silencers had the smell of gunpowder according to the source whose name the newspaper refrained from mentioning. The security of Baghdad airport held the Czech security team for a number of hours; yet they were released following the intervention of the Czech Ambassador who had visited Iraqi Transport Minister Hady Al-Amery's office, according to the same source. The source told the newspaper that the security officers at Baghdad airport found it very strange such silencer guns were in the possession of foreign diplomats since these weapons are used by 'special elements' for specific acts, which are assassinations. Why were they released so quickly? Here's one clue: It is well known that Al-Amery is the head of the Badr Brigades, the armed wing of the Supreme Council of Iraqi Islamic Revolution. The Badr Brigades have changed their name into the Badr Organisation and joined the so-called "political process."
Gov. of Baghdad Said Salah Abdul-Razzaq said in an interview in Al sumaria News: "A unit of the security forces near my house ordered a grey BMW to stop. In the car were four Americans, two men and two women, in the possession of handguns with silencers and machine guns and they wore bullet proof vests." Salah Abdul-Razzaq said that the four Americans were driving near his house and urged the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs to take diplomatic action and ask the US to clarify the reason for this "violation," and warned of the possibility that his police forces would fire to kill in the event of repeated violations, regardless of the nationality of the offenders. They were released soon after the American Embassy intervened.
We conclude from all these events something that is being repeated over and over again by many Iraqi witnesses, namely that the recent strings of bomb attacks and assassinations are part of the counterinsurgency strategies of the US in conjunction with Maliki's government and probably Iran and other neighboring countries, false flag operations in order to create chaos and sectarian strife with the ultimate goal of discrediting national reconciliation efforts so that the country can be partitioned without too much popular protest and political opposition.
There is a continuous flow of disinformation and one must be willing to dig deeper into the secret, dark underworld of dirty war, media manipulation and corruption to learn the truth. The terrible humanitarian situation in Iraq is the ultimate responsibility of the Anglo-American forces that invaded, occupied and keep occupying Iraq, together with the US-installed Iraqi government. And they should be held accountable.
Those are some very important points and ones that I'm more than willing to consider. I like the BRussels Tribunal. But people who don't know it or may not like it only have to start with those opening paragraphs to have a reason to stop reading. 'Beating the system' is not the same as losing your life because you were tortured into giving a 'confession.' The two can't be equated.
Last Thursday, as bombs swept Iraq, the Iraqi Parliament voted on the 2012 budget and to spend at least $50 million on the purchase of 350 armored vehicles for themselves. It was controversial last Thursday and remains so. Sinan Salaheddin (AP) notes objections are coming "from government officials to revered clerics to newspaper editors." AFP reports the plan was for "one armored car per MP and an additional 25 vehicles to be dispersed at the discretion of parliament's speaker." Al Sabaah adds that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi issued a memo noting that the vehicles would belong to the Parliament and not be the MPs personal cars to keep when the current legislature completes its session. As Sheikh (Dar Addustour) weighs in with a column on public opinion and appearance, how Iraqis are seeing that Parliament will take steps -- and spend money -- to protect themselves. Al Mada notes that supposedly the vehicles being purchased are basically good for two years and then require repurchasing and that the issue will be dealt with . . . after the Arab Summit.
Back to the US, briefly. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared before Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's House Committee on Foreign Affairs this afternoon. It was one of two appearances before Congress today to argue for State Dept funding for Fiscal Year 2013. I didn't catch her morning appearance (I was at the veterans hearing). Clinton told the Committee that the US effort was now civilian-led in Iraq. She stated that in 2011, the US government budgeted $48 billion for Iraq. What the State Dept needed, she explained, was "only one-tenth of" that number, that the State Dept was asking for "$40 billion less than" what the US government wanted "just two years ago." The Defense Dept had over 50,000 troops in Iraq and the administration keeps swearing that the Iraq War is over. If someone tells me the meal's over, I ask for the check and I pay it. If they come up to me with another check, swearing it's a civilian-led check, my point would be, "Is the meal over or not?" Billions are billions. The State Dept wants $8 billion. The State Dept that refused to properly explain their budget to the Special Inspector General for Reconstruction in Iraq. Even after he took the issue to Congress (repeatedly) in 2011.
Camp Ashraf. She was before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, so Camp Ashraf was going to come up. She spoke of the recent move of approximately 400 Iranian dissidents from Camp Ashraf. The dissidents were allowed in decades ago under Saddam Hussein; after the US invasion in 2003, the US government entered into talks and negotiations with them which resulted in their becoming "protected persons" under international law and the Geneva Conventions. Nouri al-Maliki is close to Iran and Iran doesn't want the residents in Iraq. Nouri and others have had to be restrained by the United Nations repeatedly on this issue. Hillary stated of the move this month of 400 Iranian dissidents from Camp Ashraf to the former US Camp Liberty, "There were complications but it was peaceful."
That's really not true. They suffered through an invasive search -- body search -- before they left Camp Ashraf. Despite that search, they were then forcibly searched before being allowed in Camp Liberty. What should have taken no more than three hours, took over ten. It was not peaceful for the residents. If "peaceful" means "no shots were fired," then it was "peaceful." If peaceful means what the rest of the world understands it as, no, it wasn't peaceful.
The US government (during Bill Clinton's presidency) put the residents on the terrorists watch list. Being on that list is a problem. Hillary denied that to be the case. She stated that it wasn't preventing anyone from taking the residents any -- any country. That's not true. She further rejected the assertion that being on the US terrorist list allowed Iraqis to treat the residents poorly and justify it. That's just an outright untruth. Either she's not following the region or she wasn't telling the truth. There is not a month that goes by when Nouri or one of his underlings doesn't tell Press TV or some other Iranian outlet that the US has the group on the terrorist list and so they're terrorist and Iraq cannot house terrorists (unless of course they have the title of Iraqi Prime Minister).
What she should have faced was an intense grilling as to why the State Dept hasn't moved on this issue as they were ordered by the US courts to review the status in 2010 (the court faulted the decision and felt it had deprived the group of due process)? She was Secretarty of State when the court ruled. She is still Secretary of State. She should have conducted the review long ago and an announcement about the status should have been made. It is depressing to see Hillary Clinton's behavior on this issue. Is the State Dept allowed to ignore the US courts? Is the State Dept now above the judicial branch? Is there no check on the State Dept?
Hillary told the Committee that the dissidents "successful and peaceful closure of Camp Ashraf" and relocation to Camp Liberty would be "a key factor" on the status.
That's not what the court instructed. Is the State Dept bound by the law or not?
I like Hillary but were I Hillary and had I Hillary's reputation, I wouldn't want to be doing this. If it's not clear, right now she's one of the most admired women in the country. If she keeps this up and there's a push back, we're back to the days when Bill was in his first term and Hillary wouldn't turn over healthcare information and some might even want to go to the Whitewater well again. It's not smart for her, it's not smart for the image of the department.
The move did not factor into the court's decision. What factored in was the refusal of the Clinton administration to guarantee due process when they pinned "terrorist" on the dissidents.
So legally, her reasoning is not sound. Now let's get to another issue quickly. Unarmed dissidents are being moved by Nouri's thugs who -- as Amnesty International and others have documented -- have twice produced multiple deaths in their attacks on the dissidents. To now say that how these dissidents behave as they're forcibly relocated will determine something is nonsense and blatantly offensive.
It's offensive to everyone aware of forcible rel-locations in history. Be it the Armenians, the Jewish people, you name it, those who are forced to relocate -- at gunpoint no less -- do not have the power and it is offensive to suggest that they do.
It is also highly illogical to claim that you will determine whether or not a group of people are terrorists and we're out of space.