Thursday! One day to the weekend! I am loving South Dakota! It's really a great place. It looks (physically) so different from Kentucky. (Both are good looking states!) All I really knew a few years back was Big Mass (my state) and New York. Not much more. (I'd been to Chicago for some Cubs' games and some Bulls' games.) Since I started this blog, I've been to California, Texas, Florida and so many other great states.
I wish I could go back and take geography again! It's so much clearer now. :D And I've been out of the country too! We all went to Mexico for Rebecca's wedding. So it's been pretty cool. And everywhere I go I learn something so that's been pretty cool.
What I'm learning in South Dakota, in terms of the campaign, is that Hillary's doing pretty good with voters. One woman wanted to know today why the press ("I know they lie") won't really report that Hillary now leads in the popular vote? She's right because it should be reported. It's reality. But the press has been all about their crush on Barack and not at all about reality.
Sen. Hillary Clinton brought her campaign to Florida, where she publicly pressed for the Democratic Party to seat the state's delegation according to the ballots cast in its January primary.
Speaking to hundreds of people jammed into the clubhouse of a Boca Raton retirement community Wednesday afternoon, Clinton offered a sometimes lofty speech that invoked the Voting Rights Act, the Seneca Falls Convention, the Bridge at Selma and even a Florida Canasta club, as she sought to frame the unresolved state Democratic delegations as a civil rights issue.
"The generations here in this room have seen change. The men and women who knew their constitutional right to vote meant little when poll taxes and literacy tests, violence and intimidation made it impossible to exercise their right," she said.
I'm going to assume that played well in Florida because it was all over South Dakota today. "Count every vote!" :D
This is from the Boston Globe:
For a campaign struggling against the inexorable tide of numbers, some new poll numbers out today could provide a lifeline.
Quinnipiac University surveys of key fall swing states shows Hillary Clinton with sizable leads over Republican John McCain in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, while Barack Obama, who is on the verge of clinching the Democratic nomination, trails McCain in two of the three.
And it's only going to get worse for Barack. The media worked overtime to promote and hype him. That's no longer a novelty. In fact, it's so expected that when's he's actually questioned (like in the last debate), his cult turns on a network. There is no fresh spin for Barack. He was a flavor of the month and the month passed. He's just another politician now and he doesn't inspire. He's tired and people are noticing that he has nothing to offer.
This from NPR on Barack & working class voters:
Bill Galston, a political scientist at the Brookings Institution, said that voters who have had hard times don't buy Obama's rhetoric of change.
"They receive it as abstract rather than concrete, as visionary rather than realistic and as naïve rather than shrewd," he said.
Oh wow. What a smart guy that Bill Galston is! How great he is to see something so important at the end of May! Hey, remember when C.I. was explaining all of this back on January 27th? Me too! Here's a sample of it and "they" is the media and "them" is working class voters in the first sentence:
They've told them that they are idiots for supporting Hillary (and if they support John, they see him ignored over and over). They are told that they need to follow a craze (one that indymedia created and still works over time to prop up). Did they ever consider the fact that when you're struggling just to put food on the table, you're not going to be taken in by a con artist offering a lot of hot air? Did it ever enter 'independent' leaders' minds that workers know better than most that hot air never translates to their benefit? They hear the 'family' talk at work and then see the layoffs and the non-raises. So Bambi's 'inspirational' speeches don't reach them. It's a lot of fluttery words and they've heard that over and over as they punch in and out on time clocks. Maybe it's past time for 'independent' media to get its head out of the clouds (or out of its ass) and stop disrespecting the working class?
Maybe all the insults they hurl at the Clintons, when Bill is the most popular living president, don't play well with a class that's been conned and lied to repeatedly?
How 'smart' Billster is to note today what C.I. pinpointed in January! C.I. really has called this throughout. If you go back to the stuff C.I. wrote at The Common Ills or with Ava and Third, you see that over and over. While everyone else was napping, C.I. was on the job. :D
This Chuck Raasch's "In '08, place, as well as race, is a divide" and pay attention:
Race and gender bias have been an undertone of the Democrats' presidential campaign, but so has the stereotyping of people based on where they live.
What might be labeled "place-ism" surfaced this spring as Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton campaigned in Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Much has been made of Obama's inability to attract working-class voters, especially rural and small-town whites, in these states, which Clinton won by wide margins. Some commentary and coverage has inferred or blatantly ascribed racial bias as the primary reason. Amy Poehler's Hilllary Rodham Clinton character on "Saturday Night Live," which has had some of the most biting commentary of the campaign, recently declared, "My supporters are racist."
But this is about place as well as race. And that's where Obama's words and actions might have hurt him in ways that have little to do with the color of his skin. His stereotype of "bitter" small town and rural residents who "cling" to religion and guns and his 20-year association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, might have done him more damage than is generally recognized. Politically, the two flaps revived a familiar refrain that national Democrats are elitists who look down on, or disdain, Middle America. And the two controversies erupted as the Obama-Clinton contest was moving into the old Rust Belt and border states, where a lot of small-town, rural Americans live.
Remember when C.I. said the Wright thing was being made worse by the media because the media kept saying it wasn't important. C.I. said something like, "When people are offended and you tell them they are wrong, you create the backlash." And don't the polls show that now.
It probably has to do with (a) being on the road every week and talking to actual people and (b) having been involved in so many campaigns (C.I.'s not affiliated with Hillary's campaign, none of us are).
Here's Howard Wolfson's "HUBdate: Count Every Vote:"
Count Every Vote: During a campaign stop at Century Village Retirement Community in Boca Raton, FL, Hillary told a crowd of 700 Floridians: "We believe that casting your vote is the truest expression of your will. Here in Florida, you learned the hard way what happens when your votes aren't counted. If any votes aren't counted, the will of the people isn't realized and our democracy is diminished." Read more. Read Hillary’s remarks here.
Automatic Delegate Watch: Guam Democratic Party Chair and automatic delegate Pilar Lujan today announced her support for Hillary.
Hillary Strongest in Swing States: A new Quinnipiac University poll out today shows Hillary's continued strength in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania…She leads Sen. McCain by 7 in both Florida and Ohio and by 13 in Pennsylvania. Read more.
Tomorrow On The Trail: Hillary will campaign in South Dakota, and will host "Solutions For Securing South Dakota's Future" events in Brandon and Brookings.
"Major General Paul Eaton Goes to Bat for Hillary" In Missoula, Montana, Major General Paul Eaton, Ret., told residents that Hillary is the best prepared to be commander in chief and bring the war in Iraq to a safe end. "We’ve got to get a competent leader into the White House," Eaton said. "Hillary Clinton is hands down electable because she is smart and she is tough." Read more.
Dalton’s Donation: "Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has her own poster boy: Dalton Hatfield, who, as she reminded us during her victory speeches in both West Virginia and Kentucky, sold his bike and video games to donate more than $400 to her campaign." Read more.
Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Thursday, May 22, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, war resister Corey Glass remains in the news, the Senate holds a hearing on veterans benefits and more.
Starting with war resistance. As noted yesterday, US war resister Corey Glass has been informed he needs to leave Canada by June 12th or be deported. The Canadian Press explains, "Glass, of Fairmount, Ind., was a sergeant in military intelligence who spent five months in Iraq." Emanuella Grinberg (CNN reports that Glass "fled to Toronoto in 2006 after serving in Iraq because he did not want to fight in a war he did not support" and quotes him explaining yesterday, "What I saw in Iraq convinced me that the war is illegal and immoral. I could not in good conscience continue to take part in it. I don't think it's fair that I should be punished for doing what I felt morally obligated to do." Reuters quotes him stating of his military intelligence work in Iraq, "Through this job I had access to lots of information about what was happening on the ground in Iraq. Through what I saw, I realized innocent people were being killed unjustly." Canwest News Service quotes him stating, "I don't think it's fair that I should be returned to the U.S. to face unjust punishment for doing what I thought I was morally obligated to do." The Victoria Times Colonist runs a longer version of the wire story: "Michelle Robidoux, a spokeswoman for the War Resisters Support Campaign, said Glass could be deported by June 12." AFP notes: "'This goes against Canada's tradition of welcoming Americans who disagree with policies like slavery and the Vietnam War,' said Lee Zaslofsky, a War Resisters Support Campaign coordinator."
Nick Kyonka (Toronto Star) reports, "A dejected Corey Glass, 25, stared blankly at the floor of a tiny room in Trinity-St. Paul's United Church as members of the War Resisters Support Campaign informed media and other U.S. war resisters of his failed bid to remain in the country and the consequences he now faces." Liam Lahey (Inside Toronto) observes, "If deported, the Parkdale resident would be the first American war resister to be sent back to the U.S. since the late 1960s when Canadian border officials physically carried a man attempting to dodge the Vietnam draft back over the Peace Bridge and deposited him at the feet of U.S. officials. That event caused an uproar in Canada, and led to then prime minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau declaring immigration officials would no longer ask any American about their military status." AP explains that Corey Glass was "on leave in the U.S." when he checked out, that he went underground for seven months and then went to Canada in "August 2006, one of an estimated 200 American soldiers who have come to Canada" and notes "Joshua Key, another deserter whose refugee claim is still winding its way through Canadian appeals courts, said the Glass decision was worrisome for those hoping to stay in Canada." Grinberg also quotes Key -- who lives in Canada with wife Brandi Key and their children -- explaining, "This has been our home for three years now. It's a lot like the U.S., and it's as close to the U.S. as you can be." Lahye quotes Key recalling, "I joined (the U.S. Army) in 2002 primarily for health care and steady pay. I was raising my family (Key has three young sons) in Oklahoma City at the time and I couldn't cut the bills. . . . I was told I wouldn't be sent overseas . . . I should have gotten a magnifying glass and read the fine print (of his enlistment contract) and told them to 'Hold on'." Lahye also quotes war resisters Kimberly Rivera and Steve Yoczick. Rivera explains, "I wasn't truly sorry for joining (the army) until witnessing some of the things I did in Iraq. The way families were destroyed . . . and what it did to children there impacted me. . . . I felt helpless. . . . I'm a mom and that's your basic instinct: to protect children." Yoczick offers, "My dad thinks I'm a coward and a traitor and my mother simply doesn't understand."
War resisters in Canada need support as they wait to see if the motion for safe harbor is going to come to the Parliament floor. You can utilize the following e-mails to show your support: Prime Minister Stephen Harper (http://us.f366.mail.yahoo.com/ym/Compose?Tofirstname.lastname@example.org -- that's pm at gc.ca) who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion (http://us.f366.mail.yahoo.com/ym/Compose?To=Dion.S@parl.gc.ca -- that's Dion.S at parl.gc.ca) who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua (http://us.f366.mail.yahoo.com/ym/Compose?To=Bevilacqua.M@parl.gc.ca -- that's Bevilacqua.M at parl.gc.ca) who is the Liberal Party's Critic for Citizenship and Immigration. In addition Jack Layton, NDP leader, has a contact form and they would like to hear from people as well. A few more addresses can be found here at War Resisters Support Campaign. For those in the US, Courage to Resist has an online form that's very easy to use. Lahey quotes NDP's Oliva Chow, who steered the motion, explaining, "If (Liberal leader) Stephane Dion were to say tomorrow that he supports this motion . . . we will then debate it. So we need people to call Mr. Dion . . . 'whose side you on Mr. Dion'?" The number to call is (613) 996-5789.
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Matthis Chiroux, Richard Droste, Michael Barnes, Matt Mishler, Josh Randall, Robby Keller, Justiniano Rodrigues, Chuck Wiley, James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb, Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Jose Vasquez, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Clara Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Logan Laituri, Jason Marek, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.
Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).
Turning to the US where the Senate's Committee on Veterans Affairs held a hearing yesterday to discuss the following:
S. 2273 (Akaka, by request) Enhanced Opportunities for Formerly Homeless Veterans Residing in Permanent Housing Act of 2007
S. 2377 (Durbin) A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the quality of care provided to veterans in Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities, to encourage highly qualified doctors to serve in hard-to-fill positions in such medical facilities, and for other purposes. Veterans Health Care Quality Improvement Act.
S. 2383 (Klobuchar) A bill to require a pilot program on the mobile provision of care and services for veterans in rural areas by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.
S. 2573 (Burr) Veterans Mental Health Treatment First Act
S. 2639 (Johnson) Assured Funding for Veterans Health Care Act
S. 2796 (Akaka) Community-Based Organization Pilot Programs
S. 2797 (Akaka, by request) Construction Authorization
S. 2799 (Murray) Women Veterans Health Care Improvement Act of 2008
S. 2824 (Rockefeller) A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the collective bargaining rights and procedures for review of adverse actions of certain employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs
S. 2889 (Akaka, by request) Veterans Health Care Act of 2008, Sections 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6
S. 2899 (Harkin-Feingold) A bill to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to conduct a study on suicides among veterans
S. 2921 (Clinton) Caring for Wounded Warriors Act of 2008
S. 2926 (Akaka) Veterans Nonprofit Research and Education Corporations Enhancement Act of 2008
S. 2937 (Tester) A bill to provide permanent treatment authority for participants in Department of Defense chemical and biological testing conducted by Deseret Test Center and an expanded study of the health impact of Project Shipboard Hazard and Defense, and for other purposes.
S. 2963 (Bond) A bill to improve and enhance the mental health care benefits available to members of the Armed Forces and veterans, to enhance counseling and other benefits available to survivors of members of the Armed Forces and veterans, and for other purposes
S. 2969 (Akaka) Veterans' Medical Personnel Recruitment and Retention Act of 2008
S. 2984 (Akaka, by request) Veterans' Benefits Enhancement Act of 2008, Title III
Representing the obstructionist point of view was Dr. Gerald M. Cross the principal deputy Under Secretary for Health, Department of Veterans Affairs. US Senator Patty Murray called the meeting to order under the advice of Chair Daniel Akaka who was running late. Murray noted the upcoming Memorial Day (Monday) as "a time of rememberance".
Senator Patty Murray: Women have always played a role in our military going back to the founding of of our nation. However, as we all know, in today's conflicts women are playing a far different and far greater role. Women now make up 14% of our current active duty guard and reserve forces. Some units, including military police, are using an increased number of females to fill jobs that were traditionally held by male personnel. And because of the conflicts of today, we have no clear frontlines and women, like all of our service members, are always on the frontline -- riding on dangerous patrols, guarding pivotal check points and witnessing the horrors of war first hand. However, while women's numbers are rising on the battle field, up until now women have remained a small minority at the VA. According to the VA, there are more than 1.7 million women veterans but only 255,000 of those women actually use the VA health care services. For too long the reasons for this discrepancy have been elusive but today we are getting a clear picture. In fact, when I first started holding roundtables around my home state of Washington to talk to veterans about their experiences with the VA, I heard almost exclusively from men. They would sit at the table with me, they would stand up, they would tell their stories and talk about their issues. But inevitably, as I was leaving the room, a woman would come up to me and whisper to me her experiences. Some told me they had been intimidated by the VA and viewed the VA as a male only facility. Others simply told me that they couldn't find someone to watch their kids so they could attend a counseling session or find time for other care. But as some members of this committee and those who will testify today know the voices of women veterans are no longer whispers. Today they are full throated calls for equal access to care at the VA. And I believe that now, as we sit on the brink of seeing more returning veterans than ever before, it is time that we heed those calls. We simply cannot allow the attitudes of the past or the VA's lack of preparation for the influx of new women veterans to linger a moment longer. As The Independent Budget has noted [PDF format warning, here], the number of women using VA health care services will double in less than 5 years if women veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan continue to enroll at the current enrollment rate. We need to make sure now that the VA is prepared to care for the needs of these honorable veterans today. And that is exactly why Senator [Kay Baily] Hutchinson and I introduced The Women's Health Care and Improvement Act of 2008. This important legislation will increase the number of women accessing care at the VA by increasing the VA's understanding of the needs of women vets and the practices that will best help them. It will do so by requiring the VA to study the health care needs of women who are serving or who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, study the effectiveness of current services being provided to women veterans, study barriers to care for women veterans who are not accessing the VA health care system and it will also help provide child care for new born children of a woman veteran who is receiving maternity care at the VA. It will implement a program to train, educate and certify VA mental health professionals to care for women with Military Sexual Trauma [MST] and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD]. It will begin a pilot program that provides child care to women veterans that seek mental health care or other intensive health care services at the VA. It will begin a pilot program that provides readjustment counseling to women veterans in group retreat settings. It will make the position of Women Veterans Program Manger at all VA medical centers a full time position. And finally, it will include women that are recently separated from service on VA advisory boards. Now I know that the VA recognizes that they need to improve services for our women veterans and the department has taken several steps to do that. But a lot more needs to be done if we're going to ensure that women get access to equal care at the VA for health care benefits and services and that the VA health care system is tailored to meet the unique needs of our women veterans. Planning for the wave of new women veterans is going to be a difficult and complex task but the effort has to start today and it has to start with this bill.
When Cross finally spoke, he went on and on (in spite of the fact that his 39 typed pages of prepared statement was submitted to the record, PDF format warning here). Akaka joined the hearing at this point and later in the hearing would note that the record would be open for two weeks to allow the VA to respond to what their positions were on various proposals. For those who have forgotten, the VA wasn't ready to comment earlier this month. At some point, the committee needs to get firm and make it clear that the dragging of the feet (which is intentional on the VA's part) ends or the record closes. Ranking Republican member Richard Burr brought up the e-mail from the Temple, Texas VA facility. This is the e-mail that only came to light due to CREW obtaining and publishing [PDF format warning] the e-mail the VA sent out:
Given that we are having more and more compensation seeking veterans, I'd like to suggest that you refrain from giving a diagnosis of PTSD straight out. Consider a diagnosis of Adjustment Diorder, R/O PTSD. Additionally, we really don't or have time to do the extensive testing that should be done to determine PTSD. Also, there have been some incidence where the veteran has a C & P, is not given a diagnosis of PTSD, then the veteran comes here and we give the diagnosis, and the veteran appeals his case based on our assessment. This is just a suggestion for the reasons listed above.
On Monday, Norma Perez ("team leader and psychologist at the Temple, Texas Olin E. Teague Veterans' Center") was identified by Bonnie Goldstein (Slate) as the author of the e-mail. "How do we know that?" Murray would ask Cross when he claimed the e-mail was "an isolated case". Cross would insist that the e-mail was "contrary to VA policy" and that "the individual in question was not a senior VA employee but a new employee, relatively new". So is there a problem explaining policy throughout the VA system? And shouldn't a new employee have gone through some sort of training as part of the hiring? Murray wanted to know, "What mechanism do you have in place to ensure that the policies you do implement are practiced in the field?" Classes? Training? Periodic assessments? "Yes, senator," insisted Cross "we absolutely do." A vauge answer and all the more so when you realize that if he was telling the truth, the oversight failed. There was no concrete answer and the idea that supervision is being practiced at the VA completely contradicts the James-Peake-Defense offered repeatedly since the end of April.
The VA appointees strongly oppose any money being spent on veterans health care. They also strongly oppose spending money on Senator Murray's bill. Murray pointed out to Cross that his own testimony "indicated that" a barrier to child care "is a problem" for women veterans being able to access the VA "for mental health or other intesive services, so you identified the lack of child care as a barrier . . . but you're unwilling to do anything about it?" Murray wondered what, then, was the point of identifying barriers? Why study them if you're not going to address them?
Cross objected with the claim that addressing this barrier for many female veterans "would divert funds from direct patient care."
Murray: It would divert funds from?
Cross: It would divert funds from direct patient care?
Murray: Well if [crosstalk] I find that troubling that it would divert, that that's the way you look at it because what we're finding is that women are not getting care, particularly for mental health care, because they can't get child care. So if we want to encourage these women to get in and to get the mental health care they need and not sit at home reducing that barrier is a critical part of their care.
"We agree that we want to reduce barriers," Cross replied. "I think the only objection we had was that it would come out of direct patient care." Murray noted that the bill was to encourage access to care, not to divert it "so I disagree on the premise." The VA's position with regards to female veterans is to ignore them, that's obvious by Cross' testimony. There's always an excuse to exclude them. It was there in his ludicrous claims that child care to allow a woman to be at the VA for treatment was a 'diversion' of funds. It was there in his refusal to include women in a longitudal study including women. In his written testimony, he states that including women would tack on one million a year for the current study with a maxium of three million after ten years. No, that really doesn't add up. But the VA's error was in not including women in studies, not including them in samples, and it needs to be fixed. If the mistake was costly, it should be paid for and considered a lesson for all.
Murray referred to that by noting a study Cross claimed was "underweigh". As Murray noted, the study he was referring to included women but was "not particular to women." He then wanted credit for 46,000 articles being published by VA providers (this could include articles published by private practioners who have been outsourced to -- though in some cases, never paid -- by the VA) and that "many" of them dealt with women veterans. Murray wanted to know why he was "opposed to including active duty women as part of the longitudinal study on health consequences, I would think the VA would want to know" the statistics "on current as well as future patients, so if you excluded current active duty women are you not going to lose some of the information that you need?" He didn't answer her question. "Our focus is on the veterans," was part of the blah, blah, blah he offered. There has been no planning. As early as March 14, 2005, Linda Wertheimer (NPR's All Things Considered) was reporting 261 US female service members had been injured in Iraq and 35 female soldiers had died. Where was the VA? It's over three years later and Senator Murray's having to fight to try and get them included in studies? To get them included in VA access? As Les Blumenthal (McClatchy Newspapers) observed, "Department of Veterans Affairs officials said Wednesday that they oppose much of a Senate bill to improve care for female veterans even as the number of women seeking VA medical services is expected to double with the next five years."
Murray noted Cross also objects to the assessing of the existing health care programs for women and reporting those findings to Congress. Cross insisted that women were welcome. Murray explained, "Well making them welcome and making sure that they have the services avaialble are two different ways of looking at it." Murray moved on to the subject of MST and noted that Cross states he's opposed to her bill's proposals on that. He showed no interest in the subject and Murray asked him what he meant by "appropriate time". He never answered the question except to claim he was against cookie-cutters. Murray stated she felt it was "imperative that we focus like a laser on this issue . . . because just hoping that it's going to happen and saying it's there today is not making it happen."
Other news was the VA's reluctance to require that physicians working at VA facilities be board certified ("requiring it . . . becomes a problem at times," Cross insisted to Akaka).
Craziest moment of the hearing's first panel (Cross testifying) would have to be when US Senator Larry Craig declared that offering disability payments to veterans suffering from PTSD would encourage those suffering to 'not recover' ("It makes it all the more difficult to get to the state of mind that is, at least in my opinion necessary to tackle the mental health problems that they may be experiencing.") Apparently he researched that theory in an airport lavoratory. It's right up there with the May 6th House Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing ("The Truth About Veterans' Sucides") where his party's Steve Buyer tried to clamp down on the media offering "I want to caution my friends in the fourth branch of government who may be covering this hearing: Please do not refer to suicide as an 'epidemic' without saying that treatment is available." Along with thinking the media was a part of the government, Buyer thought that veterans are waiting for the latest craze to jump on to. "Oh, look! Suicides! Let's all do it!" Craig may have topped Buyer in nonsense though, it should be noted, Craig was also motivated by cheapness. On the subject of health care, Amanda Garnder (Washington Post) reported today:
U.S. soldiers exposed to a blazing sulfur mine fire near Mosul, Iraq, in 2003 returned home with a debilitating breathing disorder that affects the small airways of the lung. But doctors were only able to diagnose the condition, bronchiolitis, with a lung biopsy. Conventional, non-invasive tests weren't able to reliably identify the problem, said the authors of a study expected to be presented Wednesday at the American Thoracic Society's International Conference, in Toronto.
While the VA plays cheap on health care, they outsource contracts. Tuesday, Senator Murray (link has audio and text) questioned US Sec of Defense Robert Gates about developments such as the $35 billion contract given to the "foreign-owned and subsidized" Airbus company and received 'answers' such as "I'm no expert" leading Murray to state after the hearing: "Secretary Gates is known in Congress as a straight shooter. However, today he conspicuously avoided answering the many glaring questions surrounding this contract decision. His testimony today will only raise more questions and red flags for Congress, our country's aerospace workers, and the many Americans who believe this is no time to outsource a $35 billion military contract."
File it under, "All the money to spend when they want to." Barbara Barrett (McClatchy Newspapers) notes Senators Richard Burr and Lindsey Graham holding a press conference in an attempt to derail Senator Jim Webb's G.I. Bill. They object over the 'transferbility' of education benefits. That is a nonsense objection. A) You're creating community and family property. The government does not provide education benefits to those who serve so that they can lose them in divorce and custody battles. B) The Sec of Defense has had Congressional authorization to implement pilot programs on the issue of tranferring education benefits. They have only done one and, from a pool of 17,000, only 300 went for it (that was the Army's pilot program in 2006). The May 8th snapshot covered all of his. Webb walked the Committee on Veterans Affairs through all of this at length. He and Graham had lengthy exchanges over this issue during the hearing. It is nothing but a roadblock to the bill and one of the reasons they're throwing it up is because Burr and Graham believe if the benefit can be transferred, active duty will be less likely to use it and, therefore, remain in the military. It defeats the entire purpose of the GI Bill. They should be ashamed.
This comes as Julian E. Barnes (Los Angeles Times) reports on a speech Sec Gates gave yesterday where he stated that "hunt and kill" teams of "special operation units" will remain in Iraq, that approximately 5,000 are already in Iraq and implied that a withdrawal isn't likely because there will be no rush to transfer "responsiblity to Iraqis" as there was in the past when (Gates' words) "overly rosy predictions that didn't necessarily line up with reality" caused an attempted rush to transfer. Meanwhile Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Gen David Petraues informed Congress today that drawdowns are possible in the fall but conditional. CBS and AP add that "more details" will have to wait, according to the general, "until September." (Well, it might as well rain until September, as Carole King once sang.) Approximately 155,000 to 158,000 US troops are currently in Iraq. In August of 2006, then Sec of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was telling Congress that there were 133,000 US troops in Iraq. Petraeus also informed Congress that the planned October elections in Iraq would probably instead take place in November recalling the constant push back on this issue which, for the record, is a "benchmark" as defined by the White House. Richad Cowan (Reuters) reports that in a 70 to 26 vote, the US Senate voted $165 billion more for the illegal war today.
Turning to Iraq, Raviya H. Ismail (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that journalist Wisam Ali Ouda ("32, a cameraman with the Afaq broadcast channel") was identified by Journalistic Freedoms Observatory "blamed a U.S. military sniper for Ouda's death" and Haider Hisahm al Hasseni ("36, was kidnapped Tuesday and his bullet riddled body was found Wednesday"). Reporters Without Borders issued a statement noting that they are "saddened by the murders of two more journalists, Wissam Ali Ouda and Haidar Hashem Al-Husseini, in separate incidents in Baghdad and the central province of Diyala. They bring the number of journalists killed in Iraq since the start of the year to seven, and the overall media death toll since the start of the war in March 2003 to 215."
In some of today's reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing wounded 5 security guards of the Algerian Embassy and Iraqi police stated that US forces killed 8 people (including two children) in a bombing yesterday. Reuters notes a Mosul bombing (when corpses were discovered) that left seven Iraqi soldiers and two police officers injured.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 6 corpses were discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes 5 corpses (Iraqi soldiers) were discovered ("shot dead'") in Mosul.
Turning to US political news. CBS and AP report that Senator John McCain (the presumed GOP nominee for their presidential ticket) has disowned/rejected John Hagee's endorsement after tapes surfaced of Hagee stating "God sent Adolf Hitler to help Jews reach the promised land." Suprisingly, McCain did not go into hiding, emerge days later in Philadelphia and attempt to explain that Hagee was a crazy uncle and he could no more disown Hagee than he could his own White grandmother. Nor did he wait until Hagee attacked him to get offended as Barack Obama did with Jeremiah Wright. Taylor Marsh notes: "This was a colossal error in judgment on Senator McCain's part. He should never have saddled up with Rev. Hagee. Now he's dumped him. Oh, and vice versa, by the way." Meanwhile, Susan (Random Thoughts) observes, "Bill Clinton simply tells it like it is about this campaign: "
Clinton said the allegation that he and Sen. Clinton played the race card was a 'cold-blooded, calculated, manipulated, and a revolting strategy,' and that his only campaign season regret was speaking 'late at night when I was tired, 'cause if you are tired or angry, you shouldn't be talking'." Bill is of course a former president and husband of the winner in the popular vote of this Democratic primary season Hillary Clinton. Allison Stevens (Women's eNews) reports:
Some groups working to send New York Sen. Hillary Clinton to the White House are preparing to sit out the rest of the presidential election if she drops out of the race; others are giving only grudging support to Illinois Sen. Barack Obama as he comes closer to clinching the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.
If Obama is the nominee, there won't be the "same level of enthusiasm since we endorsed Hillary Clinton," said Mai Shiozaki, spokesperson for the National Organization for Women in Washington, D.C.
Other ardent Clinton supporters in the women's rights movement may hesitate before jumping on Obama's bandwagon, predicted Vicki Lovell, director of employment and work-life programs at the Institute for Women's Policy Research, a Washington think tank. "That level of passion may not transfer wholesale," she said.
The race isn't over and Clinton remains the winner of the popular vote thus far. The Clinton campaign and others are launching an effort to have the delegates from Florida and Michigan seated at the convention: "Get involved -- click here to send a message to the DNC telling them to count the votes in Florida and Michigan." In Florida yesterday, Hillary declared:
I believe the Democratic Party must count these votes. They should count them exactly as they were cast. Democracy demands no less.
I am here today because I believe that the decision our party faces is not just about the fate of these votes and the outcome of these primaries. It is about whether we will uphold our most fundamental values as Democrats and Americans. It is about whether we will move forward, united, to win this state and take back the White House this November. That has to be the prize that we keep in mind.
The race isn't over but Hillary's winning the popular vote. The primary race will end in a tie in terms of delegates awarded and, by DNC guidelines and rules, the issue then goes to the convention unless either Hillary or Barack drop out of the race. (Drop out, not 'suspend.')
Hillary's still in the race (which is a tie and which leads in the popular vote), don't believe the hype saying otherwise. Ed King doesn't and that's why he's campaigning for Hillary in South Dakota:
My name is Ed King. I am a family dairy farmer from upstate New York and I have had so much fun traveling across South Dakota, talking about the many ways in which Senator Clinton has helped us with our rural and agriculture needs. While in South Dakota I visited the Corn Palace, the world's largest pheasant in Huron, the South Dakota Farmers Union, the Sharpe farm in Bath, the Terry Redlin Art Center, South Dakota State University, and a number of delicious eateries. I couldn't have been more impressed. You have a beautiful state and I truly enjoyed talking to voters from many different regions.
My great sons are working the farm, giving me time to talk about what Sen. Clinton has meant to agriculture in New York and what a good rural president she would make overall. Specifically, my passion is ensuring that we have family farms for future generations and that American agriculture is strong. I know Hillary understands and supports that! One of her most important actions as Senator has been her "Farm to Fork" initiative, which aids producers in rural New York through direct-to-consumer marketing. In addition to "Farm to Fork," Hillary is a 'rippin-good' Senator, pushing things like country-of-origin labeling, assistance in response to weather related disasters, expanded renewable energy production, and increasing competition to address vertical integration in agriculture. She has also addressed rural quality of life issues like health care, better education for our children, expanding rural broadband and addressing the housing crisis.
From this work Sen. Clinton has increased her support in New York, having won now 58 of 62 counties in her 2006 Senate race. Many of these counties in upstate are heavily republican, and she got 85% of the counties that didn't support her in 2000, to support her for re-election. How's that for change? Hillary can work with Republicans and Independents. She has shown us that over 8 years.
Like South Dakota, New York is home to family farms (about 34,000), and I KNOW she will make the best president for producers and rural South Dakotans alike.