Saturday, April 25, 2015

O'Malley might be the answer

Anne Gearan and John Wagner (Washington Post) report:

Martin O’Malley is using Clinton’s closely watched and long-anticipated 2016 launch to raise his profile ahead of his own likely entry into the race next month. He has seized on specific economic and social policy issues, including same-sex marriage and an international trade deal, in a bid to raise questions about Clinton’s liberal bona fides.

The attacks — some more thinly veiled than others — have forced Clinton to explain herself on a number of difficult topics, which was not part of her plan for a gradual roll-out with an emphasis on middle-class economic issues. 
It is a remarkable feat for an undeclared candidate who still lingers at the bottom of polls in a thin Democratic field. 

It is a remarkable feat.

And that's why people should be paying attention to O'Malley.

He does surprising things.

He's not conventional.

He can be a break out.

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

Saturday, April 25, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the Islamic State continues to claim victories, the US Veterans Affairs Dept will not be able to meet their pledge to end veterans homelessness by the end of 2015 -- a detail ignored this week even when it was obvious in an open Congressional hearing, and much more.

Today Al Jazeera reports:

Fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group have taken partial control of a water dam and the military barracks guarding it in western Anbar province, security sources and witnesses said.
The armed group launched an offensive on the dam late on Friday with explosive-laden vehicles, and engaged in gun battles with Iraqi soldiers that continued through to Saturday.

In addition, Reuters notes, "Three suicide car bombs exploded at a border crossing between Iraq and Jordan on Saturday, killing four soldiers, a witness and an Iraqi border police source said, in an attack claimed shortly afterwards by Islamic State."  In addition, Sinan Salaheddin and Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) add, "Residents of Fallujah said that Islamic State militants paraded an officer and three soldiers allegedly captured in the fighting through the streets in a pickup truck on Saturday. They spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals."


Doesn't seem like all of Barack's claims that the Islamic State is on the run are panning out.  Seems like a very small group of fighters continue to rule in Iraq.

Why might that be?

Possibly due to all the broken promises of Haider al-Abadi and all his failures.

Since August, he's had lot of words.  But in all those months he's been prime minister of Iraq, he's done nothing to improve the lives of Sunnis or even to stop the targeting of them.

That was eight months ago.

And nothing.

Margaret Griffis ( counts 44 violent deaths on Friday.

Next Friday will be May.

And that means June's staring down at Barack Obama.

It was last June when Barack declared the only way to end the political crises in Iraq was a political solution.

Barack's bombed Iraq, gotten other countries to join in the bombing, sent US troops into Iraq and got other countries to send troops into Iraq.

But while he's focused relentlessly on that?

He's ignored working towards a political solution.

People may ignore it right now.

When the one year anniversary of his statement comes and there is still no solution in Iraq, he might find the press to be a lot less generous to his failures.

Barack's also failed on veterans.

If you care about veterans issues, you care about a myriad of issues.  Valid and important issues that have to compete with other issues -- including with non-veteran issues as well as with veterans issues.  In the Senate, Senator Patty Murray's long been a leader on this issue.  The House hasn't had a leader on this since US House Rep John Hall left Congress in January 2011.

There's been no member of the House -- male or female -- who could be counted on to consistently put focus on and demand attention to the issues of women veterans.

That's reality and anyone who attends House VA hearings should be willing to be honest about that.

That statement is not meant as an attack on any member of the House.

If you want an attack, here's one: Ranking Member Corinne Brown should try bringing up real issues and not what she sees on basic cable TV between the hours of one and three in the morning.

Other than Brown, most members who focus on veterans issues are focusing on serious ones.  Many focus on issues that have effected them or their families.

And many important issues such as Post-Traumatic Stress and homelessness are issues that effect male and female veterans.

But there are issues that effect women veterans and only veterans who are women.

Such as?


Those are doctors in the field of obstetrics and gynaecology.  Not only do they deal with those issues but they can also be a woman's PCP -- primary care physician.  (Like any man can, a woman can also choose a general practitioner or a family medicine doctor to be their PCP but they also have the option of skipping those generalists and going with an ob-gyn as a PCP.)

"What is your estimate as to the number [of ob-gyns] that are needed now and in the future compared to the number that are available?" Senator Richard Blumenthal asked this week.

He was asking a basic and important question.

But the Veterans Health Administration's Chief Consultant on Women's Health Services, Dr. Patricia Hayes, had no answer.

Make no mistake, she had a lot of words.  She attempted to say nothing in a huge amount of words -- apparently to run out the time clock.

Senator Richard Blumenthal wasn't having it and cut her off.

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  Here's what I would suggest and I don't mean to interrupt you but for planning and management within the VA with regard to this specific speciality,  to be regarded as effective and competent, I would think that you could give us numbers of doctors in this speciality that are available now to meet the need, what the unmet need would require in additional numbers, and what it will be in the future?  Because you can't really tell if you're meeting the need unless you have that estimate of numbers.

There was no excuse for her non-answer.

There was no excuse for not being able to provide a hard answer, an actual figure.

She attended Tuesday's hearing knowing the sole topic was women's health.

And yet the most basic question for women's health, the practice solely devoted to women's health -- obstetrics and gynecology -- was a topic she hadn't considered.

Women veterans have been lucky to have Senator Patty Murray as a champion.  Murray treated their issues seriously before she became Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and she's considered to treat these issues seriously (she continues to serve on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee but she has gone on to leadership on other committees).

I think Senator Bernie Sanders, who replaced Murray as Chair, was a hideous leader of the Committee.

For example, when it broke that the veterans were being denied treatment, put on a secret wait list to hide this treatment, the official figures fudged, that veterans were getting sicker as they waited and that some died as a result -- when that emerged and was the dominant story in the news cycle, Bernie not only went on with his previously planned hearing on holistic (alternative) medicine but he stated at the start that he didn't want anyone to ask about this scandal because that was for another time.

Yes, Bernie, acupuncture is far more important than people dying.

That was sarcasm.

Bernie was a failure.

He refused to demand accountability from then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.  Shinseki suffered one disgrace and one scandal after another until even US President Barack Obama could see Shinseki had to go.  But up to that point, Bernie was still defending him.  (In the House, idiot Corinne was defending him the same way.)  Bernie repeatedly placed Eric Shinseki's comfort over that of veterans.

He was a failure.

Senator Johnny Isakson is now the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

Already, he's done a better job than Bernie.

Tuesday's hearing was entitled "Fulfilling The Promise To Women Veterans."

Isakson just became Chair in January.

Do you know how many hearings Bernie's Committee held?

Counting reports from VSOs (Veterans Service Organizations), the answer is 35.

And how many of those hearings focuses solely on women?


Retired US Army CPT Christina L. Mouradjian:  As a patient at the VA, I have received some of the best care, from some of the best doctors, however that experience is tempered by the fact that I have also received some of the worst care not only by doctors and care providers but by the system itself. For years I complained to my doctors at the VA of numerous symptoms that were summarily dismissed; I was told I was too young to have any issues, I was told the basic blood work came back normal, and the ultimate betrayal, I was told I was not really being honest. These symptoms worsened and worsened, until finally I was forced to pursue medical advice out of the VA on my own. Once my bloodwork and MRIs proved positive for Cushing’s disease and the brain tumor that caused it, the VA started to take me seriously, it’s hard to argue when you’re staring at an MRI with a big white mass in the middle of someone’s head. But the years of suffering both physically, mentally and emotionally that I had to endure in order to get someone to listen is not something I would wish on anyone, and something that should not be happening to any veteran. The road to recovery for Cushing’s patients is not easy, there are countless tests and months of observation and then the inevitable brain surgery. There are the frequent visits to Endocrinology, neurology, the ENT, the list is long. But what complicates this, is that at the VA you may never see the same doctor twice. So not only do you have to repeat your story to every specialist under the sun, you have to repeat it to a revolving door of white coats who are hearing it for the first time. Or even worse, the specialist you may need to see may have left and it may be months before a new one is found and you can get an appointment. I know this because I have lived it. While I was stationed in NYC, I had to travel to three separate VA facilities in three separate boroughs because no one facility had all the specialists I needed. For allergy treatment alone I had to travel from Brooklyn to the Bronx, sit through what could easily be over an hour in traffic and $30 in tolls, for a fifteen minute appointment. Coordination of care is essential in any system that aims to treat the whole person, and at the VA the system is counterproductive to enabling this process. Prior to my brain surgery, which the VA only did on the second Tuesday of every month, my surgery date was cancelled three separate times. So three separate times I prepped, I had family come down and take off work as I could not be left alone for the first few days of recovery, and three separate times I was told another case was more important or that they could not get all the required doctors in the same room together, or that the doctors did not have a chance to review my case yet. They would have cancelled the fourth date also had I and my family not called the patient advocate and voiced our complaints. After brain surgery there were other nightmares. The was the MRI in which the attendant, rushing because I was the last patient before she could leave for the day, did not remove the metal nodes from my body, and too weak to squeeze the panic button, because my arm was sewn to a stabilizer in order to keep the pic line in, I could do nothing but weep silently while the metal burned welts into my skin. There was the resident doctor who had not researched my disease before mourning rounds and not knowing the main symptom of Cushing’s is weight gain said he could not tell if I was presenting because I was so heavy. It’s hard to have faith in a system when you have read more on your condition then the doctors who are supposed to be treating you. Navigating the VA can be daunting, and even more so as a female veteran. The women's clinic is often well segregated from the rest of the facility. Often times you have to traverse to the basement of the hospital next to the lab to find it, and once you get there it is obvious that it is an afterthought. Perception is part of the issue. For women veterans to feel like they belong, they need to know that their care is just as important as their male counterparts. They need to trust their care providers and they need to know that their care is a priority.

Mouradjian shared her experience (which didn't end with that excerpt) to the Committee -- a Committee tha under Bernie Sanders' leadership couldn't be bothered with women's issues.

In four months of leadership, Isakson has already done more than Bernie did in two years.

So applause for that to Isakson.

And applause to Senator Richard Blumenthal who is Ranking Member on the Committee and who has emerged as another senator who, like Patty Murray, can focus on women veterans as he demonstrated in hearing already this year.

As Blumenthal observed in his opening remarks, "There are too many homeless women veterans.  There are too many women veterans in need of medical care" -- his brief opening remarks.  He entered his full opening (written statement) into the record but noted he'd rather hear from the witnesses than hear himself speak.

There were two panels and Hayes was part of the first panel.  She was accompanied by Dr. Susan McCutcheon and Royse Cloud.  The second panel was Nevada Women Veterans Advisory Committee's Dr. Anne Davis, Disabled American Veterans' Joy J. Ilem and and army veteran Christina Mouradjian.

If you're new to our coverage of VA hearings, we're generally more interested in the second panel where witnesses are honest.  The first panel is always government flunkies who seem to get promotions and raises based upon how well they refuse to answer to Congress or even how well they flat out lie to Congress -- Allison Hickey, we mean you.

While we have little desire to embrace (or endure) the Allison Hickeys of the world, we do embrace truth tellers.  While the first panel struggled to answer direct questions or provide even basic figures, the second panel was composed of three women prepared to address topics and explore possible solutions.

For perspective, we'll include this from Disabled American Veterans Joy J. Ilem opening statement:

As a service-disabled veteran, I know first-hand the challenges women face during military service and when they return home. I, like many women who served, did not understand on leaving military service the benefits and services to which I was entitled, despite the fact that I suffered an injury during my service as an Army medic while stationed at the Army 67th evacuation hospital in Wurzburg, Germany. It was not until nearly a decade after I had discharged from the military that a fellow veteran contacted me and told me about DAV. He urged me to file a VA disability claim and seek VA treatment. I resisted for months and remember asking him, "are you sure I can use the VA health care system?" I didn't think of myself as a veteran, and knew next to nothing about filing a disability claim or for which benefits I might be eligible. Today, many women who have served still do not readily self-identity as veterans. The good news is a concerted effort is being made to change this trend and ensure that women veterans are recognized for their military service and gain information about their earned benefits. The number of women serving in the military, their roles, and their exposure to combat has dramatically changed during our war years in Iraq and Afghanistan. Likewise, over the past decade we have seen a dramatic rise in the number of women seeking health care and other benefits from VA with expectations that this trend will continue. According to VA, the number of women veterans using Veterans Health Administration (VHA) services increased by 80 percent between fiscal year (FY) 2003 and FY 2012.  Currently, over 635,000 women veterans
Along with this significantly increased demand, VA experienced a shifting age demographic and inclusion of younger women veterans enrolling in VA health care, which required significant changes in both policies and clinical practice. According to VA, the number of women veteran patients under 35 years of age has increased by 120 percent between FY 2003 and FY 2013.
New providers with expertise in women’s health were needed; clinical space in many locations was insufficient to meet rising demand; and privacy and safety concerns were prevalent. VA providers suddenly needed to be knowledgeable about reproductive health services, conducting breast and gynecological examinations and becoming aware of the possibility of pregnancy when treating younger women of child-bearing age to ensure medications and recommended treatments did not pose a risk of birth defects. Many VA providers were not seeing enough women patients to be proficient in women’s health, necessitating VA to institute a mini-residency program to help clinicians refresh their knowledge and skills. All prenatal and obstetric care is referred to private providers, and mammography services are provided by non-VA providers for about 75 percent of enrolled patients through VA’s fee basis medical care program, complicating coordination of care for women veterans.
Other trends in this population that impact health policy and planning became evident as well. According to VA, more than half (57 percent) of women veterans under VA care are service disabled, some of whom are very young. These women will be eligible for lifelong VA care for their service-connected conditions. Women veterans were also presenting with unique post-deployment health care and mental health needs. More than half (57 percent) of the women who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (OEF/OIF/OND) have sought VA care following military service and have targeted health care needs, including chronic musculoskeletal pain; mental health conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and substance-use disorders (SUD); genitourinary system, endocrine and metabolic disorders; and respiratory conditions. Given the greater exposure of service women to combat, the specific medical profile of this group, and women who have sustained traumatic war-related injuries, it became clear there was a need for adjustments to not only primary care services but specialized care, transition services including supportive counseling, and psychological services.

We'll note this exchange from the second panel.

Chair Johnny Isakson: You said you were not an isolated case and you referred to many other women that had similar experiences -- obviously not with Cushing's but with other complications.  Would you elaborate on that for just a moment?

Retired US Army CPT Christina L. Mouradjian: That is correct.  I know myself and several of my friends in the service have had a hard time just either accessing care or getting doctors to listen to the particular issues that are unique to them.  Particularly with mental health issues, there is often times lack of a response to women.  So just, one of the big issues is getting a female provider.  I know that a lot of the female veterans that I have served with do not necessarily feel comfortable telling their story to a male who might not be able to sympathize with what they've gone through as a woman in general.  The physical issues aside, some of the very delicate that we face as women, we're just not comfortable sharing those with a male.  So one of the biggest hurdles is just being able to get access to a provider, feeling comfortable enough to get the help they need. 

Chair Johnny Isakson:  Well that actually is the point I was going to lead up to.  One of the things we are looking at in the Veterans Choice Bill, we had two issues -- one was the forty mile rule which we have dealt with but the other was the care -- nearest the care of the veteran's needs.  And in your particular case, you had a very specialized need.  Cushing's is not a -- it is a very rare condition, is that not correct?

Retired US Army CPT Christina L. Mouradjian:  It is very rare.

Chair Johnny Isakson:  And obviously the VA wasn't prepared initially either to diagnose or to recognize it.  Is that correct?

Retired US Army CPT Christina L. Mouradjian:  That is correct. 

Chair Johnny Isakson:  But you had enough symptoms to know that something was wrong and that you needed care.  Is that correct?

Retired US Army CPT Christina L. Mouradjian:  Yes.

Chair Johnny Isakson:  Did you ever consider going for a second opinion outside of the VA or were you limited and not able to do that on your own?

Retired US Army CPT Christina L. Mouradjian:  No, I'm fortunate enough that my mother is in the medical field so I did have an advocate in my corner who had enough background to guide me so I had personal resources in my life that could verify that the treatment I was getting at the VA was actually -- after I was diagnosed -- sufficient to deal with it.  

Chair Johnny Isakson:  But without the advocate you may never have gotten that care.  Is that correct?

Retired US Army CPT Christina L. Mouradjian:  Absolutely.

Chair Johnny Isakson:  Well that is my point and I know the VA folks are staying for the rest of the hearing -- and I appreciate you'll staying.  This is a -- there's a message in this story to us. Obviously, there are things we can do to make sure that you go from lack of diagnosis or misdiagnosis to appropriate diagnosis and that there's an ombudsperson to help you along the way.  You were fortunate enough to have a mother to help you do that but a lot of our women veterans don't and I think it's important that we recognize that there ought to be some way for communication or ombudsmanship to be available to the veteran who thinks they need the service and the care.  Ms. Ilem?

Joy Ilem: I would just like to follow up.  I think that's a great idea.  I think with the cultural transformation that Secretary McDonald's trying to implement throughout the system there needs to be a specific line for women veterans to take on this role.  I know VA has lost some of their lead women veteran program managers throughout the system.  I mean, they've been critical over the years.  When I have a problem, when a woman veteran calls, and I call the women veteran health service, they're right on it.  They want to know.  They want to help.  But they have to have the staff out there of somebody leading that understands these particular issues. 

From the second panel, we'll note this as well.

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal: And I just want to clarify that you actually had to seek help outside the VA simply to get a diagnosis of a problem that was bothering you for some time.  Is that correct?

Retired US Army CPT Christina L. Mouradjian: That is correct. I went to a doctor that I knew back home and described the symptoms to him and he did some blood work and it really only took one test so it was pretty immediate after the blood work was ordered.

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:   So if I were your mom or your parent or if you were one of my two sons who have served in our military -- one in the Marine Corps Reserve, the other in the Navy -- my opinion would be -- and I'd be angry about it -- that the VA failed you. 

Retired US Army CPT Christina L. Mouradjian: My mother was very irate, yes.

Someone pick Corinne Brown off the floor.  Don't worry about that mass next to her, it's not a tarantula, just one of her cheap wigs that fell off when she fainted as Ranking Member Blumenthal stated "the VA failed you."

Yes, she made similar remarks on the House Veterans Committee . . . when Bully Boy Bush occupied the White House.  Since Barack Obama was sworn in as US President, she's used Committee hearings to defend the VA and attack veterans.  Every scandal, Corinne would insist (informed by her 'research' of watching basic cable in the hours prior to dawn) was the fault of the veteran and not the VA.

Let's move to the first panel.

Chair Johnny Isakson: Dr. McClutcheon, given your medical expertise and your title, I'm going to direct this question to you: What perecentage of the mental health issues that you think women have are directly related to military sexual trauma? Or to what extent is that a problem?

Dr. Susan McCutcheon:  Well, uh, certainly in your opening statements you mentioned military sexual trauma and when we look at this year's results we find that it's closer to 25% of the women who utilize the VA healthcare system have experienced military sexual trauma.  Military sexual trauma is not itself a military diagnosis and the most common mental health diagnosis associated with military sexual trauma is PTSD, second by depression.  So certainly with the numbers of 25% it's a significant issue for many of our women.  The majority of care -- those that do screen positive -- 76% of those women end up receiving either physical health or mental health treatment -- who've been screened positive -- and a smaller amount do just mental health treathment.  So you do see, actually there is a small percent of those individuals -- women who've experienced military sexual trauma -- also have physical healthcare needs.  So at 25%, to get to your point, yes, it's a significant number.

Chair Johnny Isakson:  I know that this would be -- probably be a DoD question more than a Veterans Administration question, but I have toured a number of  warrior transition units where the war fighters come home, they're getting ready to sever from DoD and they go through a battery of questionaires that they do -- generally, by computer -- where they ask whether or not they've ever been traumatized, have they ever had nightmares, you know, all kinds of things that could lead towards mental health.  What specific -- or do you know if the DoD does anything specific to try to early identify women who may have had military sexual trauma before they leave the military to go into VA?

Dr. Susan McCutcheon: Well, sir, you're correct.  I can't speak to what goes on in DoD but certainly in transitioning, we make sure that that is an item and in the separation health exam, there's also an item on MST.  And you probably know that at every VA medical center, we screen every veteran who comes to us for experiences in military sexual trauma.  And it's just two simple questions -- one that addresses sexual assault and the other that addresses sexual harassment.  And if by answering yes to either one of those questions that veteran is entitled to free health care: mental health care, physical health care and pharmaceuticals.  So there's no need to have proof that this experience happened to them.

Chair Johnny Isakson:  Dr. Hayes, I was at Fort Hood about six months ago and the warrior transition unit there, talking to some members of the 3rd ID who were female members who were in the transition unit and asked them what was the single biggest problem that they thought they faced medically versus a man and almost to the person they said that it was musculoskeletal recovery after coming back from combat.  Is that true?

Dr. Patricia Hayes: Absolutely, sir.  We find that for both men and women, that musculoskeletal injuries are the number one reason that they seek health care either from VA or while they're still in the transition.  I think that when we think about the roles that women serve today, it's quite natural that they would have the same kind of injuries from jumping off of a truck or from carrying heavy packs and that chronic pain and musculoskeletal issues are number one.

Okay, stop.

I'm confused.

Hayes is the Veterans Health Administration's Chief Consultant on Women's Health Services,

So why is the idiot so uninformed?

I was in grad school.

I know exactly what she's doing.

She doesn't have an answer as to women veterans so she tries to pretend she can answer by bringing in male veterans.

The hearing was about women veterans.

Time and again, Hayes had no specifics on women veterans, was unable to speak to their issues.

And yet she's billed as the Veterans Health Administration's Chief Consultant on Women's Health Services?

She's clearly unqualified for the job.

And on job qualifications, what were they?

As we reported Sunday at Third in "No wonder the military has so many problems with health care," this month the US Air Force posted a job opening, they need a Public Health Officer.

And you can be a successful candidate if you meet one of the three qualifications.

A Master of Science in Public Health?

Yeah, that's a needed qualification for a Public Health Officer.

Or a Master of Public Health?

Again, needed.

But a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine?

No offense to pet doctors.

They're needed.

They do great work.

But since when is the best qualified person to treat human beings a veterinarian?

It really makes you wonder about all the health qualifications various officials in the US government met -- and how low those qualifications actually were.

Back to the hearing:

Senator Joe Manchin: The VA's committed to ending veteran homelessness by 2015, we've all talked about that.  While the nation wide veterans homeless rate has dropped by 33% since 2010, we still have nearly 50,000 veterans without a home.  Of that number, 13,000 are women. There rate of homelessness is twice as high as men's and, worse than that, they are -- most of them dependent children are with them.  45% suffer from mental health issues.  70% are effected by substance abuse.  And 40% report sexual assault in the military.  How do you -- or how do we -- best attack the problem and do you believe you will achieve the VA's goal of ending homelessness for these women and their children?  Have you been able to identify -- were you able to really get a handle on this -- so elusive for so long?  So if you can give me where you might be on that issue.

Dr. Patricia Hayes:  Thank you very much.  Sir, the issues for the homelessness of women are intense and they're multi-factorial as you just pointed out.  We want our women veterans to be successful and we certainly want to have in place the programs that we need to meet each of those types of needs, so depending upon where she comes into our system -- in terms of whether it's needing counseling, whether it's poverty and she needs a job, whether it's, uhm, additional just basic housing for her and her child -- our homelessness programs are set up -- particularly, the ones that are seeing the most use by women are the supportive services for veterans and their families which is about 15% of their services go to women and children are high vast program that's about 14%.  And that's in contrast to the fact that 7% of VA users are women.  So you see about double that proportion are being seen in our homeless program.

No, they're not.

I really don't like liars.

First off, she continued to babble on, we're cutting her off there.

As with her response to Ranking Member Blumenthal, she refused to answer the question.

He was asking her about how many ob-gyns the VA had.

A basic question and one that even an idiot showing up to testify to a Committee on the topic of women's health should have known would be asked.

Senator Manchin was bringing up the VA's promise that homelessness would be ended by 2015. I remember that promise when it was first made and it was "by 2015."  Now it's apparently been extended to the end of 2015.

Regardless of the extension, Hayes didn't answer the question.

She and the VA have about 8 months to achieve their (now extended) promise.

Is it going to happen?

And, again, she was lying.

She knew she was lying.

She combined two figures -- women and children.

While many women veterans -- not all -- seeking VA help have children it's also true that the programs she cited included men (solo or part of a couple) with children whose children benefit from those programs.

She lied.

She used an inflated figure to make it appear the VA was helping more homeless women veterans than they actually were.

"How," Dr. Anne Davis asked while offering testimony on the second panel, "can we eliminate homelssness if we are not properly identifying our women veterans?"


There are 15,000 -- as Senator Manchin pointed out.  Even if Hayes' ridiculous numbers were correct, to not even be at 20% in the year that veterans homelessness will supposedly be ended?  That's the answer she wouldn't provide, they're not going to end homelessness.  They've failed to reach out to women's veterans and they won't address that or even acknowledge it.

They're not going to fulfill their promise.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Jill Stein

A number of e-mails have come in telling me that if Jill Stein is the Green Party's presidential candidate in 2016, I have to support her.

No, I don't.

She was a lousy candidate in 2012.

She's done nothing in the years since.

She's a joke.

She refused to run a real campaign.

She acted like she was Barack's kid sister, not someone running against him.

I feel she set the Green Party back.

I will not now or ever vote for her.

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

Thursday, March 23, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, David Petraeus leaks classified information and receives no jail time, others aren't so lucky, the refugee crisis continues in Iraq, the State Dept's Marie Harf chooses the second anniversary of a slaughter to act smug and stupid, and much more.

"The problem is not that David Petraeus is getting lenient treatment,  The problem is that lenient treatment is only available to people in high places."

That's the ACLU's Ben Wizner quoted in Tasnim today on the issue of disgraced David Petraues, once know as General Betrayus.  (Wally and Cedric came up with that name for their joint humor posts and then MoveOn later ran with it in a serious manner and shocked and offended many.)

Petraues was once the top US commander in Iraq and later the director of the CIA.

We met Petraeus via non-stop e-mails early on,  one missive after another objecting to the portrayl of him here in verbal narrative I'd written or in a comic feature Isaiah had drawn.  As whine after whine, objection over objection arrived at the public e-mail account, you had to marvel over the man's self-obsession, over his never-ending devotion to how he was seen.

Well you're where you should be all the time
And when you're not you're with
Some underworld spy or the wife of a close friend
Wife of a close friend and 
You're so vain
You probably think this song is about you
You're so vain
I bet you think this song is about you
Don't you, don't you, don't you
-- "You're So Vain," written by Carly Simon, first appears on her No Secrets album

In the end, that vanity was his undoing.

 Brad Knickerbocker (Christian Science Monitor) notes that "retired four-star US Army general and former CIA director David Petraeus appeared in a federal court in North Carolina Thursday to learn his punishment for having provided highly classified documents to his biographer, with whom he was having an adulterous affair."

If he acted out of love, it was self-love.

An attempt to ensure his mistress painted him in the most flattering light.

Jim Bradley and Jenna Deery (WSCO TV -- link is text and video) note "he was sentenced to two years probation and the judge instituted a $100,000 fine,"

His ego fat and full, Petraues showed no remorse after the judge sentenced him.  Theodore Schleifer (CNN) quotes him declaring outside the courthouse, "Today marks the end of a two-and-a-half year ordeal.  I now look forward to moving on with the next phase of my life."

Oh, the melodrama.

As journalist Dorothy Kilgallen once observed of Joan Crawford's Flamingo Road character, "A wrong girl for the right side of the tracks and the question never arose that she would cross over those tracks but how she would do it."

And you picture David slinging  his mink stole over one shoulder, head tossed back as he stalks into a national security briefing on the arm of his dashing escort US President Barack Obama.

Because that's what he more or less does.

Disgraced or not, he's still briefing Barack.

He still has access to classified information.

Zachary Cohen (CNN) reported at the end of last month:

Former CIA director and retired Gen. David Petraeus remains a trusted adviser to the White House on its strategy in Iraq, despite being convicted of leaking classified information to his mistress and biographer, then lying to the FBI.
The National Security Council and Obama administration have been consulting with Petraeus on matters related to Iraq and ISIS, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest confirmed on Monday. 

Kid gloves treatment and entrusted by the White House?

Whistle-blowers Chelsea Manning and Ed Snowden aren't rewarded with similar treatment.

The US government, it turns out, is very understanding and forgiving of classified information being leaked when its done in service of your own stature and star power, the way Petraeus did.

But when you leak to inform the public of illegal crimes in the US, the way Ed Snowden did, or of crimes carried out in Iraq, the way Chelsea Manning did, when you leak to perform a public service, the US government rages and fumes and shows no mercy.

 Monday April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released  military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Chelsea  Manning who stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." In March, 2011, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. The Article 32 hearing took place in December. At the start of this year, there was an Article 32 hearing and, February 3rd, it was announced that the government would be moving forward with a court-martial. The court-martial was supposed to begin before the November 2012 election but it was postponed until after the election so that Barack wouldn't have to run on a record of his actual actions. adds, "A court martial is set to be held in June at Ford Meade in Maryland, with supporters treating him as a hero, but opponents describing him as a traitor."  February 28th, Manning admitted leaking to WikiLeaks.  And why.

Bradley Manning:   In attempting to conduct counter-terrorism or CT and counter-insurgency COIN operations we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists and not being suspicious of and avoiding cooperation with our Host Nation partners, and ignoring the second and third order effects of accomplishing short-term goals and missions. I believe that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information contained within the CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A tables this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as [missed word] as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.
I also believed the detailed analysis of the data over a long period of time by different sectors of society might cause society to reevaluate the need or even the desire to even to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore the complex dynamics of the people living in the effected environment everyday.

If only Chelsea had leaked to be portrayed better in a self-serving biography, maybe she too could walk free?

Instead, she's been sentenced to 35 years.

And Ed Snowden, who exposed the US government's continued (and illegal) spying on American citizens?  Ed remains in Russia and continues to be threatened with prosecution should he return to the United States.

Break the law to feed your monumental ego and the US government will look the other way, do it to inform the people of what's really going on and the US government will attempt to destroy you.

The unequal 'justice' handed out did not go unnoticed:

  • Chelsea Manning, hero, 35 yrs for exposing human rights violations; Gen. Petraeus liar, no time for sharing US Top Secrets with girlfriend.

  • Petraeus gets a 2-year probation for leaking national security secrets to a lover, but Chelsea Manning is still in prison?

  • Why isn't David Petraeus sharing a jail cell with Chelsea Manning?

  • : BREAKING: Ex-CIA chief Petraeus gets 2 years' probation, fine for sharing military secrets with mistress.”

  • Again, as Ben Wizner observed, "The problem is not that David Petraeus is getting lenient treatment,  The problem is that lenient treatment is only available to people in high places."

    Another problem is the refusal to aid those in need.  Last week, when Ramadi was falling to the Islamic State, Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi did what?

    Dropping back to Wednesday, April 15th:

    This morning, Arwa Damon (CNN -- link is video and text) reported on the situation in Anbar Province's Ramadi noting that deputy provincial council head Falih Essawi is issuing "a dire, dire warning" as the Islamic State advances.

    Arwa Damon:  ISIS forces, it seems, early this morning managing to enter the outskirts of the city of Ramadi from the east.  This now means that ISIS is fighting on the east.  ISIS advanced from the north -- taking over three towns from the outskirts there over the weekend.  The routes to the south already blocked off.  The city basically under siege except for the western portion that is still controlled by forces, by government forces, but that is wavering as well.

    Sky News notes the three areas taken, "The militant group took the villages of Sjariyah, Albu-Ghanim and Soufiya, in Anbar province, which had been under government control, residents said." Nancy A. Youssef (Daily Beast) observed:

    Pentagon officials stopped short of saying the city was on the brink of falling. But they didn’t sound confident it would hold, either.
    “The situation in Ramadi remains fluid and, as with earlier assessments, the security situation in the city is contested. The ISF [Iraqi Security Forces] continue to conduct clearing operations against ISIL-held areas in the city and in the surrounding areas of Al Anbar province,” U.S. Central Command spokesman Army Maj. Curt Kellogg, a said in a statement, using the government’s preferred acronym for ISIS. The Coalition continues to coordinate with ISF forces and provide operational support as requested.”

    AFP's Jean Marc Mojon and Karim Abou Merhil sound out various Middle East experts about the prospects for victory in Anbar.  We'll note this section:

    “Anbar, and especially Fallujah, is like Asterix’s village,” said Victoria Fontan, a professor at American University Duhok Kurdistan, referring to an unconquerable town in the French comic book series.
    The province is packed with experienced fighters and while some Sunni tribes have allied with the government, others are fighting alongside ISIS or sitting on the fence.
    Local knowledge is seen as key to retaking territory along the fertile strip lining the Euphrates, where ISIS has inflicted severe military setbacks to the police and army since June.

    Iraqi Spring MC notes this takes place as calls for reinforcements of government troops to be sent to . . . Baiji.

    That's in northern Iraq, Salahuddin Province.  These reinforcements are being sent in to protect . . .  Well, not people.  There are people in Ramadi who need protection.  But the government forces going to Baiji are going to protect an oil refinery. 

    It would take two additional days before Haider would order additional troops to Ramadi.

     As he dithered, the refugee crisis only worsened.

    Today, the crisis can't be ignored.

    These boys are among 115k people who fled violence in ’s Anbar Governorate in the last 2 weeks. Via

    These boys are among 115k people who fled violence in ’s Anbar Governorate in the last 2 weeks. Via

    Jamal Hashim (Xinhua) reports on those forced to flee:

    The homeless people must pass the harder part of their trip on Bzaibiz Bridge, because authorities require many migrants to provide a guarantor inside the capital as part of security measures to prevent infiltration by militants to Baghdad.
    "Crossing the bridge is a dream for each one of us on the western side of the river. It is like a new life and a new hope for our desperate people," Jumaily said.
    "I can't describe the sufferings that we have seen whether during the trip or during the crossing of the bridge which took long hours for my family, and days for many others," he said.

    "Many crossed but many others remained for days because either they didn't carry their identities or their papers were not convincing to the security men on the bridge," he added.

    Haider's good about expanding the already large number of refugees in Iraq, he's just not too good at assisting them.  Earlier this month at International Rescuee Committee's website, Melanie Teff and Sameer Saran offered a photo essay on Iraqi refugees who'd moved to northern Iraq for asylum.  Last month, Haifa Zangana addressed the issue of the ongoing crises and raised some important points:

    Beyond extensive media coverage of the Islamic State group's crimes and the US-led alliance bombing of Iraqi sites claimed to be under IS control, lurks a massive ticking time bomb, named internally displaced persons.
    According to the latest Iraq report from the United Nations' Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 57,000 children reside in camps.
    "Of the 2.47 million IDPs across Iraq, an estimated 720,000 are school-age children between the ages of six to 17 years, and an estimated 123,000 children between the ages of four to five years."
    You can easily get lost in figures, even when they are produced by a reliable source or a UN body. Most of the reports on IDPs cover the period starting from January 2014, which immediately raises an important question - what about the huge number of the IDPs forced from their homes in the 11 years between the 2003 invasion and the violent liquidation of mass protests in the four central provinces at the end of 2013?
    The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) reported that in 2010 there were 2.8 million people displaced within Iraq?

    One in four of Iraq's 33 million population have become either IDPs or refugees.

    There are the internally displaced and there are the externally displaced.  It's not escaping the world's attention that the two governments most responsible for the illegal war are also the ones shirking responsibilities for the refugees:

  • Europe's poorest countries taking in refugees, while UK, directly involved in Iraq/Syria/ Libya, conflicts, won't step up. Afraid of UKIP.

  • So the UK burned down Iraq, the fire spread to Syria and beyond, and then burned down Libya - but hey, refugees? Not our problem

  • So, messes up , and bears the burden of refugees and asylum seekers. Not fair.

  • Shirking responsibility is becoming the hallmark of the current US administration.

    Betty noted this Tweet by CNN's Arwa Damon:

    CNN: Obama won't call it Armenian 'genocide' on 100th anniversary of atrocity
    12 retweets 6 favorites

    It's a silence that disgusts and appalls.

    Here's US State Dept press spokesperson Marie Harf yucking it up at today's press briefing:

    QUESTION: Iraq?

    MS HARF: Mm-hmm.

    QUESTION: Any update on President Barzani’s upcoming visit to Washington?

    MS HARF: I don’t have any updates for you.

    QUESTION: Okay. Do you have any – have you got any concerns or anything from the Sunni Arabs over the President Barzani statement that the Peshmerga will stay in the disputed area even they taken from ISIS?

    MS HARF: I haven’t heard anything related to that.

    QUESTION: Okay. One more, sorry. On the oil export, have you had any – the Kurdish oil export increased. Do you have any update, anything on that?

    MS HARF: I don’t.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS HARF: Okay?

    QUESTION: You don’t have anything on Iraq.

    MS HARF: Go give all the kids who are waiting all of your questions you didn’t ask so I can answer them.

    No, she had nothing.

    That's Nouri's slaughter -- or one of his most infamous ones.

    Nouri's slaughter.  The April 23, 2013 massacre of a sit-in in Hawija which resulted from  Nouri's federal forces storming in.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported the death toll eventually (as some wounded died) rose to 53 dead.   UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

    Today, Marie Harf and the US State Dept -- on the anniversary of this massacre -- yucked it up.

    And they -- yet again -- avoided the topic.

    They've been doing that for years.

    It was almost two years ago -- one day short -- April 24, 2013, when US State Dept spokesperson Patrick Ventrell publicly insisted on the massacre, "I don't have an update from yesterday, other than to say you heard us --  well, the only update is I believe that the Iraqi Government has called for an investigation. So we do want a fair, transparent, timely investigation that has broad participation."

    Did you want that, Pat?

    Did the State Dept?

    Because unless I slipped into a coma and no one bothered to tell me, there was no report from Nouri's government.

    And the State Dept, like a cheap whore in bed with a john with a loud and unpleasant gas problem, pretended not to notice.

    Two years later, Marie Harf and the US State Dept still don't care about the massacre.

    It was always a big  joke to them.

     BRussells Tribunal carried a translation of one activist who was an eye-witness to what went down:


    I am Thamer Hussein Mousa from the village of Mansuriya in the district of Hawija. I am disabled. My left arm was amputated from the shoulder and my left leg amputated from the hip, my right leg is paralyzed due to a sciatic nerve injury, and I have lost sight in my left eye.
    I have five daughters and one son. My son’s name is Mohammed Thamer. I am no different to any other Iraqi citizen. I love what is good for my people and would like to see an end to the injustice in my country.

    When we heard about the peaceful protests in Al-Hawija, taking place at ‘dignity and honor square’, I began attending with my son to reclaim our usurped rights. We attended the protests every day, but last Friday the area of protest was besieged before my son and I could leave; just like all the other protestors there.

    Food and drink were forbidden to be brought into the area….

    On the day of the massacre (Tuesday 23 April 2013) we were caught by surprise when Al-Maliki forces started to raid the area. They began by spraying boiling water on the protestors, followed by heavy helicopter shelling. My little son stood beside me. We were both injured due to the shelling.

    My son, who stood next to my wheelchair, refused to leave me alone. He told me that he was afraid and that we needed to get out of the area. We tried to leave. My son pushed my wheelchair and all around us, people were falling to the ground.

    Shortly after that, two men dressed in military uniforms approached us. One of them spoke to us in Persian; therefore we didn’t understand what he said. His partner then translated. It was nothing but insults and curses. He then asked me “Handicapped, what do you want?” I did not reply. Finally I said to him, “Kill me, but please spare my son”. My son interrupted me and said, “No, kill me but spare my father”. Again I told him “Please, spare my son. His mother is waiting for him and I am just a tired, disabled man. Kill me, but please leave my son”. The man replied “No, I will kill your son first and then you. This will serve you as a lesson.” He then took my son and killed him right in front of my eyes. He fired bullets into his chest and then fired more rounds. I can’t recall anything after that. I lost consciousness and only woke up in the hospital, where I underwent surgery as my intestines were hanging out of my body as a result of the shot.

    After all of what has happened to me and my little son – my only son, the son who I was waiting for to grow up so he could help me – after all that, I was surprised to hear Ali Ghaidan (Lieutenant General, Commander of all Iraqi Army Ground Forces) saying on television, “We killed terrorists” and displaying a list of names, among them my name: Thamer Hussein Mousa.

    I ask you by the name of God, I appeal to everyone who has a shred of humanity. Is it reasonable to label me a terrorist while I am in this situation, with this arm, and with this paralyzed leg and a blind eye?

    I ask you by the name of God, is it reasonable to label me a terrorist? I appeal to all civil society and human rights organizations, the League of Arab States and the Conference of Islamic States to consider my situation; all alone with my five baby daughters, with no one to support us but God. I was waiting for my son to grow up and he was killed in this horrifying way.
    I hold Obama responsible for this act because he is the one who gave them these weapons. The weapons and aircrafts they used and fired upon us were American weapons. I also hold the United States of America responsible for this criminal act, above all, Obama.


     And he should hold Barack Obama responsible.  Not only did Barack give Nouri a second term as prime minister, but Barack also ignored the protesters. Even when they carried signs proclaiming "Obama, if you Cannot Hear Us Can you Not See Us?Sunday, April 21, 2013, a State Dept friend called me and said the US was monitoring Hawija closely and considered it a hot spot.  So how did the massacre happen two days later?

    And since they were monitoring it, they clearly knew, at least after it happened, that what took place were War Crimes.

    And yet Barack stood with Nouri, continued to stand with him.

    Iraq did not arrive at its current and many crises overnight.

    Margaret Griffis ( counts 52 violent deaths across Iraq today.

    arwa damon