Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Producers, Grimm, Guantanamo

First, this is from Norman Pollack(CounterPunch):

Mel Brooks, please don’t go there. It’s dangerous; artistic license only extends so far. Oh, alright, I can’t stop you. Not “The Producers,” you say, but its sequel, “The Despoilers,” about pillagers of American democracy, and starring, not Zero Mostel, but an equally gifted actor, whose warm smile can melt the edges of any war crime, Barack Obama, with extensive theatrical training at Harvard Law, and coaching by Wall Street’s finest, skilled in the art of duplicity. Mel, a sure winner, congratulations; central casting will never be the same. From now on, all roles featuring militarism, global conquest, the promotion of wealth concentration, cannot seek refuge in fictional treatments or the sci-fi genre (the Strangelovian scenario once and for all spoiled for amusement, and now confirmed as REAL) and necessarily must be identified, as to leadership, with a Democratic president.
Curtain. Chorus girls on an inclined stage–so audience can appreciate dance routine—riding on the top of miniature Predator drones (far more effective than the Swastika number of the earlier production); orchestra, recently augmented by members from Svoboda and Right Sector marching bands, in addition, NATO drum line; staging, with diverse groups–FBI, CIA, JSOC—scurrying about, mixing together in a blur of animated discussion (words popping from the din, “assassination,” “regime change,” along with free improvisation), and in the background somewhat muffled as diffuse noise, the sound—proudly stated in the Program Notes—of an authentic recording of “shock and awe” operations, courtesy of the Pentagon (the same team that brings you Stealth flyovers at football games). Thank you, Mel, for assigning the script to Ben Rhodes. (You knew you could not do it justice, such sight gags as Moses descending Mount Sinai with the Twenty—oops, Ten—Commandments, simply couldn’t hack it.) As with the leading man, we need star quality throughout, here one fresh from the Goebbels School of Creative Writing, whose credits include the Cairo Speech pledging friendship to the Arab and Muslim world, and whose speech patterns are specially suited to the teleprompter. Wise choice, as is that of the accountant—no longer Gene Wilder, but in homage to corporatism, the firm of Brennan, Rice, and Clapper, whose schema for itemized deductions is finely tuned to take advantage of contributions to the newly formalized National Security State. The time is the present.

All together, "Springtime for Hitler and Germany . . ."

I love The Producers -- the original film.  I can't stand Matthew Brodrick so I skipped his bad remake.

Grimm wrapped up its third season last night.  It was Monroe and Rosalee's wedding.

The good news is that the action didn't stop the wedding. 

Captain Sean Renard may be dead.

Adeline did another of her spells.  She turned into a Juliette lookalike and stole some things from Juliette then used them to make a spell.

She then went to Nick and Juliette's and posed as Juliette and screwed Nick.

Renard was at Adeline's place and found her spell and the green liquid of her potion.  He took a sample and rushed to get Nick to drink it.

But Juliette and Nick were already off for the wedding with her asking who he cheated on her with since she found her nightgown on the bedroom floor and there bed was all messed up.

Slowly, they realized it was Adeline.

Renard banged on the door and Trouble let him.  She gave him the address to the wedding when he explained Nick had to drink the potion.

He started to leave and the fake FBI guy was at the door and shot him repeatedly.  He then went after Trouble/Torture and she killed him.

She called 9-11 and left to take the potion to Nick.

Rosalee and Monroe's guests were shocked she was a Grimm and all hell nearly broke out.

They get away but Nick doesn't have his Grimm powers anymore.

And NPR reports:

In the first ruling of its kind, District Judge Gladys Kessler has halted the force-feeding of a Syrian man being detained at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
, Kessler said the U.S. should not force feed Jihad Ahmed Mujstafa Dhiab until after a hearing set for May 21. Kessler also asked the U.S. to keep any videotapes showing Dhiab's force-feeding.

That's good news.  Great news would be the US shutting down the gulag.

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

Friday, May 16, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, another VA scandal emerges (this one in Dallas), Shinseki tries to sell a retirement announced last September as 'accountability,' he suffers pushback, Joe Biden talks to Nouri, and much more.

Starting with veterans issues, US House Rep Eddie Bernice Johnson told her local Fox4 News today that she has been receiving complaints from veterans in her district about problems getting medical appointments in a timely fashion.  She explained this is not just one or two veterans and the problem appears persuasive.  She contacted Veterans Affairs' Office of Inspector General to report the allegations and they have already sent a representative to the Dallas VA earlier this week to investigate the allegations.

She tells Fox4, "Just the other day, we received additional calls that [they] were ordered to shred records and I reported that right away to the Inspector General."

The Congress woman's region is only the latest across the nation to experience this problem.

Yesterday, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee heard from VA Secretary Eric Shinseki as the Committee explored the information VA whistle-blowers have revealed: The VA has two lists for medical appointments.

The first list is entered in computers and is the official list VA officials point to for bonuses and raises -- and Shinseki and other high ranking officials cite when painting rosy pictures for Congress. It suggests that the VA is responsive and pro-active, actively working to ensure that veterans get medical attention within 14 days of requesting an appointment.

It's a happy little fairy tale that goes like this, "Once upon a time, the VA was plagued with problems and scandals but along came Sir Eric Shinseki, the brave knight, to vanquish the problems and scandals."

In the real world, however, there is a second list, a secret list kept 'off book' where veterans wait weeks, months and years for the medical help they need.  It is said that 40 veterans died due to the VA medical center in Phoenix, Arizona's use of these secret lists.

Yesterday, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee attempted to get answers or even a course of immediate action and they only thing they received from Shinseki was an endless series of non-answers and non-responses.  We covered the hearing in yesterday's snapshot, Ruth covered it in "Senator Richard Blumenthal says call in the F.B.I.," Kat covered it in "Shinseki needs to be fired," Ava covered it in "Shineski (Ava)" and Wally covered it in "More talk, no action (Wally)."

Thursday, Shinseki appeared to dodge questions and today he appears to have attempted to trick and deceive the American people.  Bryant Jones ( wrote early today, "The head of Veteran Affairs Health Care resigned Friday following allegations that scheduling delays had led to 40 deaths at an Arizona VA hospital."  Jones was referring to the VA's Dr. Robert Petzel, Undersecretary for Health Care.  Jones we give the benefit of the doubt.  We don't extend that courtesy to MSNBC's Amanda Sakuma.  Not because she writes for MSNBC but because she writes poorly.. Not only does she repeat the lie that Petzel resigned due to the scandal, she gets a number of other key details wrong.  Someone introduce her to CBS News since she either is mistaken or lying by claiming that Phoenix is the only facility accused of running a real list and a fake list. Tuesday, for example, Wyatt Andrews (CBS News -- link is text and video) reported on the whistle-blower coming forward to make similar claims regarding an Illinois VA center.  Similar to the wait lists at the Phoenix VA -- two sets, the real one and the cover one to make it look like vets are getting timely treatment -- Chicago steps into the spotlight.  Whistle-blower Germaine Clarno has stepped forward.

As the day wore on, people began to feel lied to as it was noted Shinseki turned in his notice last September (he's retiring) and Barack had already nominated Dr. Jeffrey Murawsky to be the new Undersecretary for Health Care.

Pete Kasperowicz (The Blaze) quotes three people on Shinseki's attempted con.  The Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee Jeff Miller states, "Today's announcement from VA regarding Undersecretary Robert Petzel's 'resignation' is the pinnacle of disingenuous political doublespeak.  Petzel was already scheduled to retire in 2014 and President Obama has already announced his intention to nominate Petzel's replacement, so characterizing this as a 'resignation' just doesn’t pass the smell test."  Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America's Tom Tarantino is quoted stating, "To be clear, Dr. Petzel's resignation is not the step toward accountability that our members need to see from VA leaders.  Anyone who has been following this situation knows that Dr. Petzel had already announced his retirement earlier this year."  The American Legion's Daniel Dellinger is quoted declaring, "This move by VA is not a corrective action, but a continuation of business as usual. Dr. Petzel was already scheduled to retire this year, so his resignation now really won’t make that much of a difference."

A veteran with a veterans VSO discussed Shinseki's appearance before the Committee at length with me today.  He is also grossly offended by Senator Bernie Sanders.  As Wally pointed out in his report, after the hearing Sanders went on CNN and was so craven in toadying up to the VA that host Chris Cuomo even pointed it out.  My friend does not feel Sanders stuck up for veterans in the hearing either.

He feels Sanders made a strong statement in the opening ("when all the press was present") and then "faded quickly."  He's not alone in feeling that way.  I spoke to four other veterans present to get their take on Bernie Sanders' performance as Chair on Thursday and no one's impressed.

I noted that everyone -- in the snapshot yesterday, I noted -- on the Committee spoke at length to express outrage.  They did.  But as my friend points out, Bernie Sanders faded quickly.

Reviewing my notes and evaluating the points made by five veterans present for the hearing, I will state that my opinion was wrong -- or whatever term you want to apply (opinions aren't 'wrong,' they're opinions but I will state mine was wrong) -- the points made by those offering input today were valid.  I painted with broadstrokes and probably with relief (after press predictions that a huge split was going to take place on the Committee).  That was wrong, my apologies for that.

I can be wrong and often am.

Reviewing the notes, I'd say this stands out the most, "One of the concerns that I have to be very honest is that there has been a little bit of a rush to judgment."

The most repeated criticism of Sanders was that he was deferential to the VA and swept veterans under the rug.  If you're going to make that criticism, I'd argue that line from Sanders ("One of the concerns that I have to be very honest is that there has been a little bit of a rush to judgment.") captures it.

40 veterans may be dead because of the VA's actions.  And Bernie's big concern is "a rush to judgment"?

Equally true, the biggest outrage expressed about veterans being denied timely health care should come from the Chair.  In the conversations with the five veterans, it was noted that Ranking Member Richard Burr demonstrated real passion on the topic.  It was noted that Senator Patty Murray doesn't raise her voice but gets chilly when extremely bothered "and she went freezer on Petzel."  Senators Mark Begich and Dean Heller were also noted as conveying how unacceptable the crisis was.  Senator Richard Blumenthal's call for the FBI was noted by three as needed.  But no one bought that Sanders was putting veterans first.

"Great opening statement that then went nowhere."

I am fine with disagreeing with any of the five or all of them.  And they know that.  But as they made their case, I didn't find myself disagreeing.  I was wrong, they are correct.

One pointed out, and this is a very important point on this topic, that Sanders has promised "hearings."

"When," the veteran asked, "has Sanders ever held hearings?  We're lucky to get a hearing on one topic with him.  Hearings?  Do you really see him devoting any real time to this?  We'll be lucky to get one more hearing on this topic.  And you can talk about his acupuncture and yoga issues for the hearing last month [April 30th] but the reality is his pet causes don't trump dead veterans.  When this became the topic in the news, his pet causes should have been put on hold.  In that hearing, he promised there would be a serious hearing on the wait lists but I don't feel he offered anything serious in yesterday's hearing."

Excusing the VA in the CNN interview did not help Sanders but the veterans can all point to moments in the hearing where they felt Sanders was placing VA officials over the health and lives of veterans.

On Thursday's hearing, US House Rep Jeff Miller's office issued the following:

May 15, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Following VA’s testimony at today’s Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Hearing and the temporary assignment of White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors to VA to oversee the department’s review of patient safety and appointment scheduling policies, Chairman Jeff Miller released the following statement:
“After Sec. Shinseki’s out-of-touch performance today, it’s no wonder President Obama felt compelled to assign someone from the White House to help clean up the mess at the department. Had the president heeded our calls last year to help address the growing pattern of preventable deaths and patient safety incidents at VA medical centers across the country, perhaps VA would not find itself mired in the scandal it is today. While I appreciate the fact that the president has assigned a crisis manager to help deal with what is indeed a crisis, I have no confidence whatsoever an internal VA review will yield results that are either accurate or useful. VA officials in Washington have known about problems with medical care access for at least six years and have failed to fix them. That’s why the only way we can begin to fix VA’s delays in care problem is via an independent bipartisan commission. Anything less is unacceptable.   – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
Chairman Miller letter to President Obama Requesting Bipartisan VA Medical Care Access Commission
May 13, 2014
Chairman Miller letter to President Obama
May 21, 2013

The White House issued the following today:

The White House

Office of the Vice President

Readout of the Vice President's Call with Iraqi Prime Minister of Nouri al-Maliki

Vice President Biden spoke this morning with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.  The Vice President congratulated the Iraqi people on their participation in the parliamentary elections, and emphasized the importance of a new parliament acting to pull the country together given the many challenges confronting Iraq.  The two leaders spoke about the security situation in Anbar province.  The Vice President stressed the importance of pursuing a holistic approach that includes political outreach as well as security measures consistent with the goal of gaining local support and cooperation.   He welcomed initiatives that are now underway to mobilize the population against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and strongly urged the Government of Iraq to ensure that their difficult fight against terrorism is conducted in a manner that protects the civilian population and adheres to the rule of law.  The Vice President and the Prime Minister reaffirmed the long-term partnership between Iraq and the United States pursuant to the Strategic Framework Agreement, including their commitment to coordination in the fight against ISIL, which represents a threat to the entire region.

Before we go further, there's a Biden issue.  Ann's noted it at her site:

  • The New Dick Cheneys
  • The one where the Joe Bidens become the Dick Cheneys

  • Adam Taylor (Washington Post) explains, "Vice President Biden's son, Hunter Biden, has accepted a position on the board at Ukraine's largest private gas firm. According to a news release posted Tuesday, the vice president's son would join the board of Burisma Holdings."  Meanwhile the idiots of the useless CREW can't find anything wrong with this.  It leaves a bad impression.  Hunter doesn't need this work and should walk away.  If he doesn't, he's responsible for the impression left.  (And CREW's responsible for again looking like an idiot.)

    Patrick Martin (WSWS) notes:

    Hunter Biden, in addition to being an investment banker, is active in think tanks that develop the strategy being pursued by US imperialism in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. He is on the board of directors of the Center for National Policy, a national security think tank aligned with the Democratic Party, including such prominent figures as Madeleine Albright, secretary of state in the Clinton administration, and Leon Panetta, CIA director and secretary of defense in the Obama administration.
    According to a press release from Burisma, Biden is also on the chairman’s advisory board of the National Democratic Institute, an arm of the National Endowment for Democracy, a federal agency. The NED plays an active role in political subversion against governments targeted by Washington for overthrow, and the NDI is sending a high-level delegation to Ukraine to monitor the upcoming presidential elections, headed by Madeleine Albright.

    Back to Biden's call to Nouri.  Did Biden "strongly urged the Government of Iraq to ensure that their difficult fight against terrorism is conducted in a manner that protects the civilian population and adheres to the rule of law"?

    If so, did Nouri laugh at that?

    Because Nouri's been carrying out War Crimes for months now and the US government has aided and abetted these War Crimes.  Collective punishment is when a War Criminal targets civilians in their supposed efforts to get at crooks, criminals, terrorists whatever.  Nouri's just burning the village to save the village, you understand.  His bombing of residential neighborhoods in Falluja?  War Crimes.

    Margaret Griffis ( observes, "At least 6,000 people have fled Falluja this month due to 'indiscriminate' shelling by the Iraqi military. Although the Iraq government has denied using barrel bombs, residents keep describing what appears to be usage of such devices."  Ned Parker, Isra' al-Rubei'i and Raheem Salman (Reuters) note 55 deaths since May 6th and the denail from Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Moussawi ("There are strict orders to stay away from residential areas.") and, most importantly, they report:

    However, a mid-level security officer in Anbar province confirmed that barrel bombs had in fact been dropped in Falluja.  “It’s the scorched-earth policy – the destruction of a whole area. The army is less experienced in house-to-house fighting, which the rebels have mastered. That’s why they’ve resorted to this,” said the officer who has been involved in planning to retake the city, speaking on condition of anonymity.

    And the US government is supplying Nouri with weapons (and 'intelligence') which means they are co-conspirators in War Crimes.

    National Iraqi News Agency reports Nouri's shelling of Falluja's residential neighborhoods today killed 1 civilian and left four more injured.

    In other violence today, National Iraqi News Agency reports a Mosul suicide bomber took his own life and left two bystanders and one Iraqi soldier injured, the Iraqi military killed 9 suspects outside of Ramadi, a Hit roadside bombing left 1 police officer dead, security forces killed 3 suspects in Alsigar, a husband and wife were shot dead in Alsadah and their child was left injured, an al-Hermat battle left 1 police member killed and another injured, Judge Zuhair Abdul Razzaq was assassinated today east of Mosul, and a Diwaniyah roadside bombing left one person injured.  All Iraq News adds 3 Sahwa were shot dead in Tikrit and one more was left injured.

    Let's turn to the topic of Camp Ashraf.  As of September, Camp Ashraf in Iraq is empty.  All remaining members of the community have been moved to Camp Hurriya (also known as Camp Liberty).  Camp Ashraf housed a group of Iranian dissidents who were  welcomed to Iraq by Saddam Hussein in 1986 and he gave them Camp Ashraf and six other parcels that they could utilize. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq.The US government had the US military lead negotiations with the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US government wanted the residents to disarm and the US promised protections to the point that US actions turned the residents of Camp Ashraf into protected person under the Geneva Conventions. This is key and demands the US defend the Ashraf community in Iraq from attacks.  The Bully Boy Bush administration grasped that -- they were ignorant of every other law on the books but they grasped that one.  As 2008 drew to a close, the Bush administration was given assurances from the Iraqi government that they would protect the residents. Yet Nouri al-Maliki ordered the camp repeatedly attacked after Barack Obama was sworn in as US President. July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out."  Those weren't the last attacks.  They were the last attacks while the residents were labeled as terrorists by the US State Dept.  (September 28, 2012, the designation was changed.)   In spite of this labeling, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."  So the US has an obligation to protect the residents.  3,300 are no longer at Camp Ashraf.  They have moved to Camp Hurriyah for the most part.  A tiny number has received asylum in other countries. Approximately 100 were still at Camp Ashraf when it was attacked Sunday.   That was the second attack this year alone.   February 9, 2013, the Ashraf residents were again attacked, this time the ones who had been relocated to Camp Hurriyah.  Trend News Agency counted 10 dead and over one hundred injured.  Prensa Latina reported, " A rain of self-propelled Katyusha missiles hit a provisional camp of Iraqi opposition Mujahedin-e Khalk, an organization Tehran calls terrorists, causing seven fatalities plus 50 wounded, according to an Iraqi official release."  They were attacked again September 1, 2013.   Adam Schreck (AP) reported that the United Nations was able to confirm the deaths of 52 Ashraf residents.  In addition, 7 Ashraf residents were taken in the assault.  Last November, in response to questions from US House Rep Sheila Jackson Lee, the  State Dept's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Brett McGurk, stated, "The seven are not in Iraq."  McGurk's sworn testimony wasn't taken seriously.  Once a liar and a cheater . . .
    At the start of the year, the US Embassy in Baghdad issued the following on McGurk's January 11th visit to Camp Liberty:
    Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk visited Camp Hurriya in Baghdad on January 10, accompanied by Gyorgy Busztin, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and officials from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). DAS McGurk met with senior representatives from the Mujahedine-e-Khalq (MEK) as well as survivors of the attack on Camp Ashraf and reiterated the importance the U.S. Government places on the safety and security of Camp Hurriya.  He noted that in meetings with senior Iraqi officials the U.S. will continue to press the Government of Iraq (GOI) to buttress security inside the camp, and welcomed the commitment to install additional t-walls following the next Camp Management meeting among camp residents, UNAMI and the GOI. DAS McGurk stressed the urgency of relocating the residents of Camp Hurriya to third countries as soon as possible and noted the full-time efforts of Jonathan Winer, Senior Advisor for MeK Resettlement, towards that objective. Given the special challenges involved in addressing these issues, DAS McGurk expressed deep appreciation to UNAMI and UNHCR for their work and ensured ongoing U.S. Government support of their efforts.

    Ron Nabors is supposed to fix the VA problems.  Just like Jonathan Winer was supposed to fix the Ashraf issue.  How's that working out?  He's had nine months, is the community out of Iraq yet?  No.

    He can point to a few who've left Iraq.  There's a woman, for example, who recently made it to Albania.  And then died.

    The National Council of Resistance of Iran explains:

    Ms Razieh Kermanshahei, an official of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) and a member of the National Council of Resistance (NCRI) that due to the six-year anti-human medical siege against camps Ashraf and Liberty was in dire physical condition, passed away on Tuesday, May 13, a few weeks after her transfer to Albania and undergoing a difficult surgery in a hospital in Tirana.
    Ms Kermanshahei, 57, had spent her life since the age of 19 in the struggle against the dictatorships of the Shah and mullahs in Iran. She had been arrested, imprisoned and tortured at the time of the Shah.
    Her brother, PMOI  member Gholamreza Kermanshahei, was arrested in 1975 and martyred under torture by the SAVAK (Shah’s secret police).
    While in critical condition due to the criminal medical siege imposed by the Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki on Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty that denied her of free access to medical services, Ms Razieh Kermanshahei was transferred to Albania in mid-March 2014 and placed under medical treatment. After a few weeks, she underwent a major surgery, but despite physicians’ endeavors passed away in the evening on May 13.
    A few days prior to her passing away, Mr Struan Stevenson, the President of the Delegation for Relations with Iraq at the European Parliament, had visited her in the hospital in Tirana. Mr. Stevenson strongly condemned the six-year-siege on Ashraf and Camp Liberty by Maliki’s government.
    Ms Kermanshahei is the fourth PMOI member that has passed away shortly after transfer to Albania due to the anti-human medical siege.
    Since the onset of transfer of Camp Ashraf residents to Camp Liberty in February 2012, the residents have repeatedly requested from the Iraqi government, the United States, and the United Nations to force the Iraqi government to transfer the medical equipment belonging to the residents to the Camp, but as part of the anti-human medical siege the Iraqi government has obstructed.

    The Iranian Resistance warns of the increasing and irreversible human damages of the medical siege on Camp Liberty, and reminds the U.S. government and the United Nations of their commitments concerning the safety and security of Liberty residents, and calls for an urgent action by the international community to end the tyrannical siege, secure free access of residents to medical services, and to transfer residents’ medical equipment from Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty.

    Lastly, David Bacon's latest book is The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration  is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press). We'll close with this from Bacon's  "WHAT 'CESAR CHAVEZ' MISSED - THE DIVERSITY OF THE FARM WORKERS MOVEMENT" (In These Times):

    The new movie, Cesar Chavez - History is Made One Step at a Time, directed by Diego Luna, tells the story of the Grape Strike of 1965.  This epic 5-year labor battle led to the organization of the United Farm Workers, and made Cesar Chavez a social movement hero.  The movie has provoked controversy over its depiction of his role, and the accuracy of the history it recounts of those events.  In this roundtable, labor journalist David Bacon, a former organizer for the UFW and other unions, explores these themes with four guests.  Eliseo Medina was a farm worker when the strike started, and became a noted labor organizer, first in the UFW and later in the Service Employees Union.  Doug Adair was an activist in the 1965 strike, and then worked the rest of his life as a farm laborer in the grapes in the Coachella Valley.  Dawn Mabalon is a professor of history at San Francisco State University, and an authority of the history of Filipinos in California.  Rosalinda Guillen comes from a farm worker family in Washington State, worked as a UFW organizer, and today organizes farm labor in Skagit and Whatcom Counties, north of Seattle, with Community2Community.

    David:  How did the movie square with your memories of the grape strike as a participant?

    Eliseo:  It's a good time for this movie to come out and show not only the challenges immigrants face, but also the fact that they're willing to struggle and that when they do they can win, regardless of the power structure. It could've done a much better job of telling the full story, but it's impossible to tell 10 years worth of history in 2 hours. It's a movie, not a documentary, and its aim is not to tell the story of the whole movement.  To do that would take a lot more than just one movie. 

    David:  The film presents the UFW as a movement mostly of Chicanos and Mexicanos, but it was also a multinational union, including African-Americans, Arab, and even white people.  That doesn't come through as much.

    Eliseo:  When I was a farm worker, before the strike began, we lived in different worlds -- the Latino world, the Filipino world, the African-American world and the Caucasian world. We co-existed but never understood who we were or what each other thought and dreamed about. It wasn't until the union began that we finally began to work together, to know each other and to begin to fight together. I do wish that that had been more explicit because certainly the contribution that was made by the Filipino workers to the strike and the movement was an incredible part of the success of the union. The fact that we also had Caucasians and African-Americans participating in the strike never even gets brought up. It was always multi-racial. I do wish it had focused more on showing what can happen when people work together and fight together and make changes, not only for one group, but for everybody. 

    Friday, May 16, 2014

    24 destroys any good will it had

    Monday's 24 let Jack Bauer shoots some 'hippies' -- I'm sure a certain part of the audience applauded.

    Jack needs to get into the US Embassy in England to speak to the US president.

    He's given a fake i.d. by Chloe's friends but it's meant to get him caught.

    He needs to find an alternative way in.

    So he beats up a security guard, takes a gun and shoots at a group of people protesting The Drone War, hitting at least two of them.  He then yells, "They're shooting at us!" to create confusion and allow him to run in.

    The actor ended the show because he was bothered by what it was argued the show was doing -- demonizing people, promoting violence, etc.

    He came back with two seasons of Touch which was less violent (and honestly more suspenseful).  Touch didn't take.

    Now he's back as Jack.

    And he's worse than ever, truly, worse.

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

    Thursday, May 15, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue,  the White House wants to deal more weapons to Nouri al-Maliki, they're also a little ticked off that he may take weapons from Iran as well, the Secretary of the VA appears before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and faces tough questions, a journalist who helped sell the war loses her job and we don't shed a tear here, and much more.

    "Very serious allegations have been made about VA personnel and they're doing this in Phoenix and in other locations," declared Senator Bernie Sanders at this morning's Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing. Sanders is the Chair of the Committee.

    Chair Bernie Sanders:  I take these allegations very seriously as I know every member of this Committee does which is why I have supported an independent investigation by the VA Inspector General.  As we speak right now, the Inspector General's office is in Phoenix doing a thorough examination of the allegations.  My hope is that their report to us will be done as soon as possible.  And what I have stated and repeat right now is that as soon as that report is done, this Committee will hold hearings to see what we learned from that report and how we go forward.

    These accusations that he takes seriously?  That veterans are being denied needed and timely care and that the VA has systematically covered this up by working two lists of patients -- one public and in the computers and one kept by hand.  Falsifying these records, it's alleged by whistle-blowers, has allowed various honchos to collect bonuses and receive praise in performance appraisals (which would also indicate that they received raises).  While this lying has been going on, veterans have suffered.

    The April 9th snapshot covers that day's House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.  At the start, Chair Jeff Miller stated the following regarding those who had suffered.

    US House Rep Jeff Miller:  I had hoped that during this hearing, we would be discussing the concrete changes VA had made -- changes that would show beyond a doubt that VA had placed the care our veterans receive first and that VA's commitment to holding any employee who did not completely embody a commitment to excellence through actions appropriate to the employee's failure accountable. Instead, today we are faced with even with more questions and ever mounting evidence that despite the myriad of patient safety incidents that have occurred at VA medical facilities in recent memory, the status quo is still firmly entrenched at VA.  On Monday -- shortly before this public hearing --  VA provided evidence that a total of twenty-three veterans have died due to delays in care at VA medical facilities.  Even with this latest disclosure as to where the deaths occurred, our Committee still don't know when they may have happened beyond VA's stated "most likely between 2010 and 2012."  These particular deaths resulted primarily from delays in gastrointestinal care.  Information on other preventable deaths due to consult delays remains unavailable.   Outside of the VA's consult review, this committee has reviewed at least eighteen preventable deaths that occurred because of mismanagement, improper infection control practices and a whole host -- a whole host --  of other maladies plaguing the VA health care system nationwide.  Yet, the department's stonewall has only grown higher and non-responsive. There is no excuse for these incidents to have ever occurred.  Congress has met every resource request that VA has made and I guarantee that if the department would have approached this committee at any time to tell us that help was needed to ensure that veterans received the care they required, every possible action would have been taken to ensure that VA could adequately care for our veterans.  This is the third full committee hearing that I have held on patient safety  and I am going to save our VA witnesses a little bit of time this morning by telling them what I don't want to hear.  I don't want to hear the rote repetition of  -- and I quote --  "the department is committed to providing the highest quality care, which our veterans have earned and that they deserve.  When incidents occur, we identify, mitigate, and prevent additional risks.  Prompt reviews prevent similar events in the future and hold those persons accountable."  Another thing I don’t want to hear is -- and, again, I quote from numerous VA statements, including a recent press statement --  "while any adverse incident for a veteran within our care is one too many," preventable deaths represent a small fraction of the veterans who seek care from VA every year.  What our veterans have truly "earned and deserve" is not more platitudes and, yes, one adverse incident is indeed one too many.  Look, we all recognize that no medical system is infallible no matter how high the quality standards might be.  But I think we all also recognize that the VA health care system is unique because it has a unique, special obligation not only to its patients -- the men and women who honorably serve our nation in uniform -- but also to  the hard-working taxpayers of the United States of America.

    As many as 40 veterans may have died while waiting for treatment from the Phoenix center.  In addition, veteran Barry Coates testified about what he went through.

    He's owed an apology.  Not just from the VA but from that stupid idiot US House Rep Corrine Brown.  How dare that stupid idiot tell someone with stage four cancer that it's not so bad and, hey, she's got a friend who a doctor said would die in a few months and he's still alive, you just never know.

    The only thing you never know is how embarrassing Corrine Brown will be.  It is time for Democrats to remove Brown from the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

    Yes, realizing the idiot couldn't be Ranking Member was wonderful and I applaud Democratic leadership for that.  I also applaud them for naming US House Rep Mike Michaud Ranking Member.  He's very effective and he comes across as someone who cares.

    If you saw Barry Coates face (or his wife's face) when Corrine decided to be peppy as she rushed to rescue the VA and offer her useless crap, you know Brown has to go.  She has to go.

    Minimizing stage four cancer?  To someone suffering from it?

    To someone who is a veteran and who wouldn't be in stage four if he could have gotten the appointments he needed in a timely fashion?

    Corrine Brown is not fit to serve on the House Veterans Affairs Committee.  She and her vast wig collection need to move over to a Committee that's far less important so that her idiotic and insulting remarks will not be aimed at people who suffer because the VA failed them.

    The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee has no Corrine Brown fortunately.

    So today's hearing included no lectures that stage-four cancer really wasn't that bad or insults of universities (another stunt Corrine Brown pulled -- that was in 2009 -- she was completely wrong on her facts as she attacked America's universities for, you know this is coming, a failure that was in fact the VA's).

    The hearing was divided into three panels.  The first was Secretary of Veterans Affairs accompanied by the shifty Dr. Robert Petzel.  The second panel was the American Legion's Daniel Dellinger, Disabled American Veterans' Joseph A. Violante, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America's Tom Tarantino, Paralyzed Veterans of America's Carl Blake, Student Veterans of America's D. Wayne Robinson, Veterans of Foreign Wars' Ryan Gallucci and Vietnam Veterans of America's Rick Weidman.  The third panel was the VA's Acting Inspector General Richard Griffin and --

    And we're stopping right there.

    There is no transparency in this administration.  Hillary Clinton doesn't like accountability which is why she ran through four years as Secretary of State with no IG to monitor her.  It's also why State can't account for vast sums today.  John Kerry came into the post wanting a real and active Inspector General (and State now has one).

    With all the VA scandals since Barack became president, why hasn't he found an Inspector General and not an acting one.  And we all know Griffin's tainted, right?  He's a Deputy IG really and he was nominated by Bully Boy Bush . . . after his own Blackwater issues.

    In fact, the shooting from 2007 that's again been in the news? Did we forget that?  Let's drop back to the Monday, September 17, 2007 snapshot:

    Turning to the issue of violence, Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reported Sunday that  a Baghdad shooting (by private contractors) killed 9 Iraqi civilians and left fifteen more wounded. Later on Sunday, CNN reported, "In the Baghdad gun battle, which was between security forces and unidentified gunmen, eight people were killed and 14 wounded, most of them civilians, an Interior Ministry official said. Details were sketchy, but the official said witnesses told police that the security forces involved appeared to be Westerners driving sport utility vehicles, which are usually used by Western companies. The clash occurred near Nisoor square, in western Baghdad.  CBS and AP report that Abdul-Karim Khalaf, spokesperson for the Interior Ministry, announced "it was pulling the license of an American security firm allegedly involved in the fatal shooting of civilians during an attack on a U.S. State Department motorcade in Baghdad," that "it would prosecute any foreign contractors found to have used excessive force" in the slaughter (eight dead, 13 wounded) and they "have canceled the liscense of Blcakwater and prevented them from working all over Iraqi territory." 

    Was anyone punished for those deaths?

     Griffin lost his State Dept job over that.

    So why the hell is he an 'acting' anything in this administration?

    It is a failure of leadership and accountability.

    October 25, 2007, Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) reported:

     The State Department's security chief was forced to resign yesterday after a critical review found that his office had failed to adequately supervise private contractors protecting U.S. diplomats in Iraq.
    Richard J. Griffin, a former Secret Service agent who was once in charge of presidential protection, was told by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's deputy, John D. Negroponte, to leave office by Nov. 1. Griffin's chief deputy, Gregory B. Starr, will become acting assistant secretary for diplomatic security.
    Griffin is the first senior official to lose his job over the widening private-contractor scandal. Under fire from Congress, the U.S. military and the Iraqi government after the Sept. 16 contractor killing of 17 Iraqi civilians, Rice on Tuesday ordered extensive changes in diplomatic security arrangements in Iraq and pledged stronger oversight.

    Some job loss, he's remained in the administration under Bully Boy Bush and now under Barack.

    And  Barack doesn't just keep him on, he makes him 'acting' IG.  What an insult to the Iraqi people.  Next time US Vice President Joe Biden wants to pretend in a phone call that he really, really wants to see the criminals in the incident pay, Nouri al-Maliki should ask him why the official charged with failure (a) hasn't been tried and (b) gets rewarded by Barack naming him "acting Inspector General" for the VA.

    Ranking Member Richard Burr; [. . .] but we are here to take a look at the investigations that have already taken place and addressed certain deficiencies in the veterans system that no action was taken on or at least corrective action.  In Fiscal Year 2013, VA reported that 93% of specialty and primary care appointments and 95% of mental health appointments were made in 14 days of the patient or provider's date.  At first glance, these numbers seem to demonstrate that veterans are receiving the care they want when they want it. However, we know this is not the case.  I think if VA had asked hard questions regarding these statistics, we would not be here today discussing recent allegations surrounding many -- and I stress "many" -- VA facilities.  More importantly, we're here today to discuss when senior leadership in the Dept became aware that local VA employees were manipulating wait times to show that veterans do not wait at all for care.  It seems that every day there are new allegations regarding inappropriate scheduling practices ranging from zeroing out patient wait times to scheduling patients in clinics that don't even exist -- and even to booking multiple patients for a single appointment. The recent allegations were not only reported by the media but have even been substantiated by the General Accounting office, the Inspector General's Office and the Office of Medical Inspector. 

    As usual, Kat will cover Ranking Member Burr at her site (we'll cover him in a moment from the first panel). Ruth has a Senator on the Committee, Senator Richard Blumenthal, and she'll cover him at her site.  Wally will grab Senator Heller for Rebecca's site.  At Trina's site, Ava will cover Senator Mazie Hirono.

    We'll move to Senator Patty Murray's opening statement.



    Like most Americans, I believe that when it comes for caring for our nation's heroes, we cannot accept anything less than excellence.  The government made a promise to the men and women who answered the call of duty.  And one of the most important ways we uphold that is by making sure our veterans can access the health care they need and deserve. So while the Department generally offers very high quality health care and does many things as well as, or better than, the private sector -- I am very frustrated to be here, once again, talking about some deeply disturbing issues and allegations. It's extremely disappointing that the Department has repeatedly failed to address wait times for health care.   So I was encouraged when you announced a nation-wide review of access to care.  And I am very pleased that the President is sending one of his key advisors, Rob Nabors, to assist in overseeing and evaluating that review.  His perspective, from outside the Department, will make this review more credible and more effective. But announcing this review is just the first step.  These recent allegations are not new issues --   they are deep, system-wide problems.  And they grow more concerning every day. When the Inspector General's report is issued -- and when the access review's report is given -- I expect the Department to take them very seriously and to take all appropriate steps to implement their recommendations. But there are also cases where the facts are in right now. There are problems we know exist.  And there is no reason for the Department to wait until the Phoenix report comes back before acting on the larger problem. The GAO reported on VA's failures with wait times at least as far back as the year 2000.  Last Congress we did a great deal of work around wait times, particularly for mental health care.  The Inspector General looked at these problems in 2005, 2007, and again in 2012.  Each time they found schedulers around the country were not following VA policy. They also found in 2012 that VA has no reliable or accurate way of knowing if they are providing timely access to mental health care.  But now the IG recommendations are still open. And the Department still has not implemented legislation I authored to improve the situation. Clearly this problem has gone on for far too long.   It is unfortunate that these leadership failures have dramatically shaken many veterans' confidence in the system. Secretary Shinseki, I continue to believe that you take this seriously and want to do the right thing.  But we have come to the point where we need more than good intentions.  What we need from you now is decisive action to: restore veterans' confidence in VA, create a culture of transparency and accountability, and to change these system-wide, years long problems.  This needs to be the wakeup call for the Department.  The lack of transparency and the lack of accountability is inexcusable and cannot be allowed to continue.  The practices of intimidation and of cover-ups must change – starting today.   Giving bonuses to hospital directors for running a system that places priority on gaming the system and keeping their numbers down, rather than provide care to veterans -- must come to an end.    But, Mr. Secretary it can’t end with just dealing with a few bad actors or putting a handful of your employees on leave. It has to go much further and lead to system-wide change.  You must lead the Department to a place where we prioritize the care of our veterans above everything else.  The culture at VA must allow people to admit where there are problems and ask for help from hospital leadership, VISN leadership, or from you.  This is the time for the Department to make real, major changes.  Because business as usual is unacceptable.

    We'll focus on the first panel today with plans to pick up more of the hearing in Friday's snapshot.  Let's note two key exchanges.  What the Committee is addressing is is not a new issue.  It's new to the public because CNN broke the story in April.  But it's not new to the VA.

    Ranking Member Richard Burr provided a walk through on just this when questioning VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

    Ranking Member Richard Burr:  Mr. Secretary, were you aware that on October 25, 2013, the Office of Special Counsel requested that the VA conduct an investigation into the allegations of inappropriate scheduling at the Fort Collins Community Outpatient clinic?  And that since then, the media has reported about Mr. Freeman's e-mail of June 19, 2013 that explains how to game the system to avoid being on the bad boy list.  Were you aware of those?

    Secretary Eric Shinseki:  Uh, Senator, I became aware of that-that, uh, that screen shot -- I believe that's what it was -- screen shot of an employee who was suggesting that there are ways to game.  I put that employee on administrative leave, uh, 

    Ranking Member Richard Burr:  When was that?

    Secretary Eric Shinseki:  That was last Friday.

    Ranking Member Richard Burr:  Mr. Secretary, it's my understanding that on June 21, 2013, VA received a report from the Office of Medical Inspector  regarding chronic understaffing issues at the Jacksonville VA Medical Center and that report described multiple patient scheduling problems including scheduling two patients for the same appointment slot and scheduling patients for a clinic that does not have any assigned  providers -- often referred to as ghost clinics.  And that on September 17, 2013, the Office of Special Counsel submitted a letter to the President of the United States on which the VA was courtesy copied the findings of that June 21st Office of Medical Inspector on the Fort Jackson Medical Center including the practice of double-booking patients and the use of ghost clinics.  Do you remember reading that report and receiving that copied letter to the president?

    Secretary Eric Shinseki:  Uh, I can't say that I remember it today here.

    Ranking Member Richard Burr:  Okay.  There was a December 23, 2013 report by the Office of -- by the Office of Medical Inspector  regarding the Cheyenne Medical Center in Fort Collins Clinic that found that several medical support assistants reported that, and I quote, "Medical Center's business office training included teaching them to make the desired date the actual appointment and, if the Clinic needed to cancel appointments, they were instructed to change the desired date to within 14 days of the new appointment."  Did you read that report? 

    Secretary Eric Shinseki:  That, uh, report has come to my-my attention here recently.

    Ranking Member Richard Burr:  Okay, on February 25, 2014, your Chief of Staff, Mr. [Jose D.] Riojas, submitted a response to the Office of Special Counsel which included the December 23 , 2013 Office of the Medical Inspector report on Fort Collins.  And in that letter, Mr. Riojas states, and I quote, "However as OMI" Office of Medical Inspector "was not provided any specific veterans cases effected by these practices, it cannot substantiate that the failure to properly train staff resulted in danger to public health or safety."  Were you aware of what your Chief of Staff wrote?

    Secretary Eric Shinseki: I was.

    Ranking Member Richard Burr:  Okay.  Mr. Secretary, were you aware that the GAO report entitled "VA Health Care: Reliability of Reported Out Patient Medical Appointment Wait Times Scheduling Oversight Need Improvement" which was publicly released in January 2013 and then on December 11, 2012, to that same report, your former Chief of Staff, John Gingrich, sent a letter to the GAO which stated, and I quote, "VA generally agrees with the GAO's conclusions and concurs with GAO's recommendations to the Dept"?  Do you remember that letter?   That report and your Chief of Staff's response?

    Secretary Eric Shinseki:  In-in general, I do remember that report.

    Ranking Member Richard Burr:  Mr. Secretary, you knew that there were specific issues relating to scheduling and wait times as early as June 21, 2013 at Jackson, December 23, 2013 at Fort Collins, as well as numerous IG reports related to excessive wait times in January '012 in Temple, Texas, September '012 in Spokane, Washington, October 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio, September 2013 in Columbia, South Carolina.  December '012, a GAO report questions the validity and the reliability of the reported wait time performance measures.  Which brings us to today in Phoenix.  On May 1, you publicly stated that you had removed Ms. Hellman as the medical director.  And you  stated then that that was to ensure the integrity of the IG's current ongoing investigation.  On May 5th, Dr. Petzel conducted a conference call with all medical directors, all VISN directors and the chiefs of staff -- a rather large group -- to discuss the ongoing face-to-face audits of all VA centers and large community outpatient clinics.  I have been told by sources that were on that call that during that call, Dr. Petzel made the statement that the removal of Ms. Hellman was, I quote, "political and that she's done nothing wrong."  If you're asking us to wait until the investigation is over, doesn't the same apply to people who work for you?  And, Mr. Secretary, from all I've described to you and the current investigation, why should this Committee or any veteran believe that change is going to happen as a result of what we're going though? 

    Secretary Eric Shinseki:  I-I was not aware of, uh, the phone call you referred to and I will look into it.  Uhm, I would just tell you that, uh, my removal of the director, uh, placing her on administrative leave was at the request of the IG.  He is the lead in this, uh-uh, comprehensive review.  Uhm, I don't get out ahead of him.  Uh, he requested it.  And I, uh, put Director Hellman and two other individuals on administrative leave.

    Let's start with Petzel.  Did Dr. Robert Petzel do what he's accused of?  No one knows at this point.  But what we do know -- because we reported on it here -- is that Dr. Petzel doesn't seem to feel compelled to shut his damn mouth in the midst of an ongoing investigation.  In the May 1st snapshot, we reported on the April 30th Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing and noted:

    The big disgrace that is the VA's Dr. Robert Petzel told the Committee, "I need to say that to date, we found no evidence of a secret list.  And we have found no patients who have died because they were on a wait list."
    Did you grasp what just happened because the press didn't?
    I've heard Jen Psaki, Marie Harf, Victoria Nuland, Jay Carney, Robert Gibbs, Dana Perino and many more explain, when asked, that they couldn't what?
    Pick any controversial and embarrassing topic and what do they say, "I'm sorry.  I can't comment on an ongoing investigation."
    But Petzel didn't say that -- despite it being an ongoing investigation.
    So, in fact, we now know that they can comment on an ongoing investigation, they just don't want to.
    After denying any guilt, Petzel then declared, "We think it's very important that the Inspector General be allowed to finish their investigation before we rush to judgment as to what has actually happened."  But he rushed to judgment when he denied it.

    The May 2nd snapshot included this:

     Scott Bronstein, Drew Griffin and Neili Black (CNN) report today:

    He's the leader of the Department of Veterans Affairs, which runs the VA hospitals where dozens of U.S. veterans died waiting for simple medical screenings.

    Yet in the six months that CNN has been reporting on these delays, Eric Shinseki has been silent. And he hasn't spoken out on the matter to any other news organization, either.
    Early Friday evening -- after this story appeared on -- the VA gave a response, via spokesman Drew Brookie. He explained that the VA's inspector general's office (referred to as OIG), which is probing the matter, "advised VA against providing information that could potentially compromise their ongoing investigation at the Phoenix VA Health Care system."

    Petzel doesn't seem to grasp these concepts.  If, after shooting his big mouth off in the April 30th hearing, he then shot it off again May 5th in a conference call, it's not a write-up, it's a goodbye.

    As Burr made clear, this is not a newly emerging issue.  And the VA has been given multiple heads ups as far back as 2012.  What kind of leadership is Shinseki providing?

    Senator Murray wanted to note past claims the VA had made to the Committee.

    VIDEO of Senator Murray questioning Secretary Shinseki

    Senator Patty Murray: Secretary Shinseki, Deputy Under Secretary for Health Bill Schoenhard told me at a hearing in 2012 that gaming is so prevalent, as soon as new directives are put out, they are torn apart to find out how to get around the requirements. Testimony from a VA mental health employee said the exact same thing. At the same hearing Linda Halliday from the IG's office told us, 'If we have seen scheduling practices that resulted in gaming the system to make performance metrics look better at the end of the day, over the past seven years, they need a culture change. To get that culture change, I think they really need to hold the facility directors accountable for how well the data is actually being captured.' That was more than two years ago. The standard practice at the VA seems to be to hide the truth in order to look good.  That has got to change once and for all. And I want to know how you're going to get your medical directors and your network leaders to tell you -- whether it's through this survey or in the future -- when they have a problem and will work with you to address it -- rather than pursuing these secret lists and playing games with these wait times?

    Secretary Eric Shinseki: Senator, if there's anything that gets me angrier than just hearing allegations, is to hear you tell me that we have folks that can't be truthful because they think the system doesn't allow it. (See Secretary Shinseki’s full response here.) 

    Two media reports on Wednesday predicted -- actually, they presented as fact, not a prediction -- that the Democrats on the panel would rush to rescue the VA and Shinseki seeing both as a proxy for the White House while the Republicans would hammer.

    That really didn't happen.  Burr always hammers on accountability (Burr is a Republican Senator).  He conducted himself as he always does.  There was a Republican who didn't seem prepared for the hearing but grinned a lot.  I won't mention his name.  Otherwise, the Republicans were focused.

    So were the Democrats including Chair Bernie Sanders who expressed outrage.  We'll try to quote from him tomorrow.

    But the Committee -- even the grinning Republican -- made the hearing about veterans' needs.

    We've noted repeatedly that the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee sets the gold standard for Congress.  They work together regardless of personal or political differences.

    Here, we credit that to the members and to the community they serve but also to the tone that former Chair and former Senator Daniel Akaka set.  When Senator Patty Murray became Chair, she also demonstrated support and respect for the Committee members -- not just the ones on her side of the aisle.  And Ranking Member Richard Burr offered the same as leader of the Committee's minority.

    Today, the members and Chair Sanders again put the veterans first and made it about whether or not the veterans were being served.  They should all be applauded for that (even the grinning Republican).

    In the US, this is Iraq related, Jill Abramson has been fired as executive editor of the New York Times.  (You can read Rebecca's second-hand account of my alleged involvement -- I have no comment and, as Rebecca notes, I have not discussed the alleged events with her.)  Kia Makarechi (Vanity Fair) notes: "She 'got fired with less dignity than Judith Miller, who practically started the Iraq War,' Buzzfeed’s Kate Aurthur."  Huff, Kate, huff!  Throw in a pout too.

    Kate Aurthur is aware that restyled Jill was a War Whore?

    When it mattered, she was a War Whore.  She sold the illegal war.

    Jill's tried to rewrite history and, due to her ascent at the paper as well as a general hatred for Judith Miller, Jill's been semi-successful at fooling the ignorant and the uninformed.

    Jill worked out this whole novel where, despite being the DC bureau chief of the paper, she couldn't stop Judith, she just couldn't stop her, it was beyond her skill set!

    Because that didn't play except with the stupid -- any real media critic knew better -- Jill then spread rumors that Miller  had some sort of relationship with Arthur Sulzberger.  And that became part of folklore as well despite being false.

    Jill, of course, waited until after Miller was the target of everyone to join in.

    When it all exploded she started claiming Judith Miller was out of control.  She went around pimping that lie and a lot of idiots in the press lapped it up.  Judith Miller was not 'controlling' Jill, she was not 'circumventing' her.

    David Weigel, probably because he was fired from the Washington Post for his own questionable ethics, rushes to defend Jilly.  He wants us to know, Jilly didn't like video.

    No, David, Jilly didn't like it when she wasn't the star of a video.  She went on all the shows she could promoting herself -- harming the paper but promoting herself.  And that's one of the chief reasons she got fired.

    And, David, if you're going to promote a lie about her salary, you might want to explore said salary.  Jill's real good at playing the victim.  Her perks from the job (benefits) need to be factored in -- especially the cost that kept increasing.

    Shhh, nobody wake David, he needs his fantasies.

    Jill's creative in her recall of events from the early '00s.  She spread war, she didn't sound alarms about Judith Miller's reporting. She gladly took credit for Miller's stories in 2002 and 2003.

    When the war went bad, Jill suddenly began weaving a tapestry of deception.

    Her downfall was never in question -- the only issue was when she would be toppled.

    The media had refused to hold their own accountable.

    Judith Miller provided a lot of cover allowing many War Cheerleaders, War Hawks and War Whores to pretend they weren't taking part in the selling of an illegal war.

    This week, the scored evened out a little with War Whore Down Jill.

    Maxim Lott (Fox News) reports that the US State Dept is in a tizzy over the possibility that Iran is supplying Iraq with weapons:

    Officially, both Iraq and Iran deny the arms deal. But documents obtained by Reuters indicate that a deal was struck, and photos discovered by the military blog War is Boring show that Iranian sniper rifles are now turning up on the battlefield.

    State Department officials said that the U.S. is doing everything it can reasonably do to support Iraq in its fight against ISIL extremists – which should lessen the need for Iranian weapons.

    First off, it's as though the administration didn't change at all following the 2008 elections.  Second of all, is this really fear that Iraq might find a new supplier?

    Al Bawaba explains, "The U.S. plans to seal a $1 billion arms deal with Iraq, AFP reports. The deal includes warplanes, armored vehicles, and surveillance aerostats and is valued at $790 million."  Chris Popcock (AIN Defense) notes:

    The U.S. has approved an Iraqi request for 24 Beechcraft AT-6C Texan II turboprop strike aircraft. Together with associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support, the sale would be worth an estimated $790 million. Iraq is the first announced customer for the AT-6, which lost the controversial U.S. Air Force contest for a Light Air Support (LAS) aircraft to the Embraer A-29 Super Tucano.

    Gareth Jennings (Jane's Defence Weekly) reminds, "The requests must first be approved by Congress before contracts can be finalised. No timelines were disclosed."  The US government is little more than a gun runner these days, a weapons dealer.

    And what does Nouri do we these weapons the US government hands him?

    Kills civilians.  He's a War Criminal.  For months, he has targeted the residential areas of Falluja, bombed them, killing and wounded civilians.  War Crimes, legally defined War Crimes.

    National Iraqi News Agency reports Falluja's hospital (I'm assuming Falluja General) received the corpses of 8 civilians and treated ten injured civilians.  Nouri keeps bombing.  Every day the civilian death toll rises.  And in addition to that, Falluja Teaching Hospital received 4 corpses of civilians and treated six more who were injured from Nouri's bombings.

    More weapons for Nouri announced today because he's used them so well, right?  Killing Iraqi civilians is suddenly something the US government wants to support and aid him in doing more of.

    In other violence . . .

    National Iraqi News Agency reports a Baghdad car bombing left 2 people dead and seven more injured, a central Baghdad suicide bomber took his own life "at the entrance gate of the Karrada Court" killing 1 other person and leaving five more people injured, Baghdad Operations Command states there were 2 suicide bombers targeting the Karrada Court and that six bystanders died with forty injured, the count then increased to 10 dead and forty-six injured (plus 2 dead suicide bombers), the Ministry of Defense stated they killed 11 suspects in Hilla, Joint Special Operations Command announced they killed 5 suspects in Falluja, Joint Special Operations Command also stated they killed 35 suspects outside of Falluja, security forces state they killed 6 suspects in Algelam, a Ramadi battle left 2 Iraqi soldiers dead and two police officers injured, an Albu-Dhyab battle left 9 rebels dead,  Sahwa leader Aziz Mohammed Khalaf and a friend was traveling with were both shot dead in al-Zab, a Hammam al-Aleel roadside bombing left four police members injured, a Sadr City car bombing killed 2 people and left ten more injured, a Mosul car bombing left 2 Iraqi soldiers and 1 civilian dead (two more civilians injured), a Qawsiat bombing left two Iraqi soldiers and two civilians injured,  and a Qayyarah bombing claimed the life of 1 police member and left two more injured.

    Through Wednesday, Iraq Body Count counts 456 violent deaths so far this month.

    We will include the Ashraf community next snapshot.  There's just not room in this one.

    Thursday, May 15, 2014

    He turned down what?????????????

    This seems pretty stupid to me.  Neil Patrick Harris turned down a job.

    I remember Neil as Doogy.

    Don't you.  In the '00s, he couldn't get any work until finally he did a Will & Grace playing an ex-gay that Jack's attracted to.

    For a long time, that was all he had.  Then came How I Met Your Mother.

    That show's over.

    CBS offered him the job replacing David Letterman.

    And he turned it down.

    What's he going to do in three years when it hits him he should have grabbed the job?

    Bob Denver was a much bigger star than Neil Patick Harris.

    But after Gilligan's Island, the jobs didn't just come rolling in.

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

    Wednesday, May 14, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee gears up to question VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, prior to that a new VA scandal breaks today, some Iraqi parliamentarians continue to pursue the war on Iraqi women and girls, we examine WMC's inability to cover this and their other problems (which are many), and much more.

    Starting in the US with veterans issues, Senator Patty Murray's office issued the following today:

    FOR PLANNING PURPOSES                                 CONTACT: Murray Press Office
    Wednesday, May 14th, 2014                                                            (202) 224-2834
    VETERANS: TOMORROW: Murray to Question Sec. Shinseki on VA Health Care, Disturbing Allegations
    (Washington, D.C.)  – TOMMORROW, Thursday, May 15th, 2014, at 10:00 AM ET/ 7:00 AM PST, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) a senior member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, will attend a hearing to examine the State of VA Health Care with Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. At the hearing, Murray will question Secretary Shinseki on recent allegations that patients died while waiting for treatment at VA hospitals, and ask him what immediate changes will be made to finally restore long-overdue accountability, transparency, and confidence in the VA system. 
    WHO:             U.S. Senator Patty Murray
    WHAT:          Sen. Murray will attend Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing on the State of VA Health Care
    WHEN:          TODAY: Thursday, May 15th, 2014
    Hearing begins at 10:00 AM ET/7:00 AM PST
    WHERE:        106 Dirksen Senate Office Building
    Meghan Roh
    Press Secretary | New Media Director
    Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
    Mobile: (202) 365-1235
    Office: (202) 224-2834

    Two of the articles we're about to highlight on this issue try to put this in terms of Democrats and Republicans, they see that as how the hearing tomorrow will play out with Democrats supporting/rescuing Shinseki and Republicans being harsh.

    First off, Ranking Member Richard Burr is always 'harsh.'  He demands accountability of Shinseki.  He did the same thing when Bully Boy Bush was in the White House.

    Second, if Democrats do that, then they're creating problems for themselves in an election year.

    If Democrats on the Comittee -- that includes Senator Murray -- and Socialist Bernie Sanders who Chairs the Committee and votes with the Democrats -- are seen as soft, they're hurting themselves in an election year.

    Since January 2007, Democrats have controlled the Senate.

    And if they're rescuing Shinseki tomorrow and not holding him accountable, it's going to be noticed and it's going to lead to a suspicion/charge/accusation that they're not holding Shinseki accountable right now because, while in power the entire time he has been VA Secretary, they haven't provided proper oversight so they're trying to mitigate the scandal.

    I don't expect Patty Murray to go soft.  She's not done gone soft in the past with Shinseki or with the VA.

    Chair Sanders?

    A lot of veterans are complaining that he already went soft in an April 30th hearing (see the May 1st snapshot for that hearing).  I have countered that the topic of the hearing -- alternative treatments -- is his key issue as Chair and that he was focused on that.  But I could be wrong and I often am so I guess we'll find out tomorrow where he stands on this issue because we will be covering the hearing and if the Democrats on the Senate embarrass themselves by forgetting they're on that Committee to serve the veterans and not to provide cover for the VA, we'll be noting it.  And if that means we're calling out like we do with the ridiculous US House Rep Corrine Brown, then that's what it means.

    And on Corrine and her wacky wigs, someone noted Women's Media Center and it's crappy charge that Fishbowl was sexist for asking if Corrine wore a wig.  Now I know the issue of wigs is sensitive for the elderly women of Women's Media Center.  When you're elderly and still try to pass yourself off as a sex kitten it can be a little embarrassing.  Equally true when you show up for hearings with your wig not on proper, people will talk.  Corrine has had it half way around her head in a hearing and not even noticed.  Equally true, when you hair changes colors and length daily, it's a pretty good tip off that it's a wig.  Equally true, cheap is cheap.  When I had chemo, I bought a wig expecting my hair to fall out.  I got lucky, it didn't.  But I wasn't going to put a cheap wig on my head.  Robert Redford wears a cheap rug.  I've noted that before too.  It's not sexist.  But it's great to know WMC wastes everyone's time -- including their own limited time  -- but can't say a word to defend the women of Iraq.  We will be coming back to that in the snapshot.

    On the latest VA scandal, Lisa Mascaro (Los Angeles Times) reports:

    Shinseki's leadership has come under fire after claims that up to 40 veterans' deaths have been linked to excessive wait times for service at a Phoenix VA facility, where officials may have kept separate record books to hide the problem.
    Whistle-blowers in other states have raised similar concerns of long waits and other problems with VA care, including in Mississippi, Missouri and Texas.

    Charles S. Clark (National Journal) offers, "The tales of delays, 40 perhaps unnecessary deaths and alleged secret waiting lists in Phoenix -- announced in late April by Miller -- were first publicized in a CNN interview with Dr. Samuel Foote, now retired after 25 years in VA clinical work. Foote had also contacted the VA inspector general. The nonprofit Project on Government Oversight just before Shinseki’s Thursday appearance is joining with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America in a press conference on how to protect whistleblowers who expose wrongdoing at the VA." Rob Hunter (KTAR) notes, "Phoenix isn't the only place affected. Whistleblowers, following Phoenix VA Dr. Sam Foote's example, are coming forward in many other cities and states detailing health care problems and cover-ups. Clearly it's a nationwide problem. This isn't a secret. The care has been horrible for years and nothing is ever done to fix it. See, providing veterans health care is a social contract, an obligation."

    Is US President Barack Obama taking the issue seriously?  Julie Pace (AP) reports that Barack has "temporarily assigned" his Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors "to oversee a review" of the VA.  Let's hope Rob Nabors does a better job than Jonathan Winer.  We'll come back to Winer tomorrow.

    Mark Thompson has a very strong article on the issue for Time and, in it, he notes there were warning signs:

    • The VA’s “method of calculating the waiting times of new patients understates the actual waiting times,” the agency’s inspector general said in a 2007 report on outpatient visits. “Because of past problems associated with schedulers not entering the correct desired date when creating appointments, [the VA] uses the appointment creation date as the starting point for measuring the waiting times for new appointments.”
    • In 2012, the IG said that when it came to getting a mental-health appointment within the VA goal of 14 days, the agency claimed it met that target 95% of the time. But after drilling deeper into VA data, the IG concluded only 49% got their appointments within two weeks.
    • That same year, the IG reported that patients at a VA facility in Temple, Texas, had “prolonged wait times for GI [gastroenterology] care [that] lead to delays in diagnosis of colorectal and other cancers…staff indicated that appointments were routinely made incorrectly by using the next available appointment date instead of the patient’s desired date.”
    • Not surprisingly, the longer the wait for care, the worse the result. “Long-term outcomes, such as death and preventable hospitalizations, are more common for veterans who seek care at facilities that have longer wait times than for veterans at facilities that have shorter wait times,” the federal Institute of Medicine said last year.

    I hope the two reports (we link to them above but don't quote from that part of it) are wrong about Thursday's hearing splitting into Democrats and Republicans.  The two reports are wrong to treat the current scandal as isolated when, in fact, it's part of a broad vista of never-ending VA scandals.

    Aaron Glantz (Center for Investigative Reporting) reports today:

    The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has systematically failed to follow its own rules governing the prescription of addictive narcotic painkillers, contributing to overdoses and deaths, according to 68-page report released today by the agency’s inspector general.
    The audit comes a day before Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki is to testify before a Senate committee to answer allegations that dozens of veterans in Phoenix died waiting for care.

    “They don’t know what they’re doing. They don’t care,” said Steven Harvey, a 57-year-old Army veteran who was sent home with morphine even after he fell into a coma when he was given 10 times the recommended dose of the painkiller fentanyl during a routine procedure to remove a kidney stone at a Los Angeles VA in August 2012.

    Every time you take a breath it seems, a new VA scandal emerges.

    And if it's not a corruption scandal -- where people lie about wait times to get bonuses -- then it's incompetence scandal.  Eric Shinseki has shown no leadership.  Jordain Carney and Stacy Kaper offer "Obama Has Ever Reason To Fix The VA.  Why Hasn't He?" (National Journal) and we'll note this from the article:

    The backlog list was cut to more than 300,000 as of May 10. If the VA maintains the current average monthly rate, the backlog could be cut by mid-2015. That would meet Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki's 2010 pledge to eliminate the backlog by the end of next year.
    Critics, however, say the shrinking backlog is something of a farce, the result of an administrative maneuver that has not delivered results for the veterans in the backlog, but has instead moved them into a different waiting line. When taking into consideration all VA claims, including those were the veterans died waiting for a decision, those stuck in appeals, and award adjustments—often adding a spouse or child—the VA's inventory of claims is much higher still hovering just under a whopping 1.3 million. (By comparison when Obama took office in January 2009, the inventory of claims was about half that amount: 631,000.)
    As of May 10, the VA's number of appealed claims stood at 274,660, almost 100,000 more than the 174,891 appeals in late 2009. Between 2012 and 2013 the number of claims that ended up in appeal grew 5 percent, and between the end of 2013 and March 31 the number of appeals kept rising 2.7 percent. Once in the appeals process, veterans can wait in limbo for an average of two and a half years.

    Critics contend that list is growing because, as the agency endeavored to quickly work through the claims, it has made more errors.

    We've covered that issue extensively here.  We've done that because I called out when the VA presented to Congress as the answer.  It's not an answer, it's a shell game.  We called it that then, we call it that now.  It's taken nearly two years but at least the press acknowledges the possibility that this is what's happening.

    Let's move to the topic of Iraq.  At the conservative Commentary, Michael Rubin takes issue with the International Crisis Group's report at the end of April, "Iraq: Falluja’s Faustian Bargain."  We noted the report when it was released but only briefly.  Everything that wasn't elections (Iraq held parliamentary elections April 30th) had to be brief or put on hold.  I meant to get back to that report and two others and haven't thus far.  I'm not a fan of the ICG and, in better times, we didn't even note them.

    Better times?  That's when the whole left was concerned about Iraq.  Of course, now I realize they really weren't, the bulk was just concerned with electing Democrats and they pretended to care about Iraq so they could tap into the outrage and use it as motivation tool.

    So in late 2005, ICG got an e-mail from me explaining just what I thought of them and asking them to stop sending links to their Iraq reports, talking points, et al to the public e-mail account for this site.

    Now days, they, RAND, Brookings and other sites we would never note can get links because we don't have a lot to work with since so many walked away from Iraq.  We also now link to conservatives -- like Rubin -- on Iraq (a) to note their arguments and (b) with the hope that the left may grow the hell up and realize their silence on Iraq is handing the topic to the right-wing.

    Rubin writes:

    This is a pretty problematic recasting of a narrative of what happened. While I fault Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for letting electoral calculations color the timing of military action against al-Qaeda in al-Anbar (and while I find reason to criticize Maliki for other aspects of his administration as well), it is inane to suggest that the protest camps did not include al-Qaeda elements. Indeed, there is quite a lot of video evidence to suggest they did. The ICG, for its part, confuses chronology when they declare, “The crisis has rescued Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s chances in the parliamentary elections, which, until ISIL entered the picture, appeared grim.” As the Syrian conflict has metathesized, ISIL had been a growing threat in Iraq, responsible for dozens of attacks that killed hundreds of Iraqi civilians. And while Maliki’s third term was and is far from certain, the idea that his chances were ever “grim” is simply wrong. Elections should determine destiny. Alas, rather than simply let elections determine al-Anbar’s fate, the ICG appears to castigate the many Sunnis from local parties who have joined in coalition against the terrorists in al-Anbar. Encouraging cross-sectarian (and cross-ethnic) political groupings is something the ICG should encourage. Shame on them and anyone else who does not do so.

    Actually, the ICG is correct in everything Rubin says they're wrong in above.  Nouri did use the attack on Anbar for "electoral calculations" -- even Rubin agrees with that.  But he then insists that using the attack on Anbar was not about 'rescuing' Nouri's "chances in the parliamentary elections."  Then why did he use it for electoral calculations -- which, again, Rubin admits happened.

    Does Michael Rubin not grasp his inconsistency?

    He's right that a third term is far from certain but it was a lot less certain in the closing months of 2013.

    He's failed to prove that Syria is responsible for attacks.

    In fact, basic logic would be that Syria is a drain on terrorism in Iraq.  That if it's as out of control as Rubin agrees it is in Syria, then that's pulling actors who could be blowing things up in Iraq.

    Michael's claim of "video evidence" is laughable.

    It'll convince some uninformed idiots, I'm sure -- his link to his earlier piece.

    But unlike Commentary, we covered the Iraqi protests here every Friday while they took place.

    Did people dubbed al Qaeda join in?

    Yes, at various points they did.  One of the most successful aspects of the protests was blocking the main highway.  And when Nouri threatened the lives of those protesters, men with dark scarves over their lower face came to the protests -- which wasn't a surprise because a Sunni genocide was taking place and the fighters had long said if Nouri crossed X-line with the protesters, they would be out with their guns.

    And that is what happened.

    And the protests weren't just in Anbar.  How stupid does Michael think we all are?  They were in Baghdad, they were in Kirkuk Province, they were in Nineveh Province and elsewhere.

    Rubin doesn't know what he's talking about.

    This is why I address only a certain number of topics and am never embarrassed to say, "I don't know."

    Rubin is like Phyllis Bennis.  By 2006, Phyl lost in Iraq.  So when it would become a hot topic, she'd try to 'brush' up before her media appearence and she'd get everything wrong.  For example, months after Nancy A. Youssef had published (on the last day of Knight-Ridder) that the US military was keeping a count of the Iraqi dead, there was Phyllis on the Pacifica airwaves insisting that the US probably was keeping a body count even though they said they weren't.  Months after Youssef had reported this, Phyllis was still unaware.  She's so bad these days that she doesn't even bother to back herself up, offering one commentary that contradicts another.

    Rubin didn't care about the protests.

    He's still not interested in the violence Nouri's thugs carried out -- in the murders they carried out.  He never bothered to address the protesters demands -- I'm talking about Michael Rubin never bothered.  He feels the need to whine a little like the useless voice he is and it's all for naught.

    A Republican Senator asked me last month why the conservative media -- National Review, Commentary, etc. -- doesn't hit on The Erbil Agreement?

    I said I was no expert on conservative media but if I had to guess it would be because they're uninformed and stupid -- like the bulk of the media in the middle, on the left, wherever.

    Again note this:

    Alas, rather than simply let elections determine al-Anbar’s fate, the ICG appears to castigate the many Sunnis from local parties who have joined in coalition against the terrorists in al-Anbar. Encouraging cross-sectarian (and cross-ethnic) political groupings is something the ICG should encourage. 

    Not all areas of Anbar were allowed to vote and we should note that.

    But why's he slamming ICG?  He doesn't think they respect elections.  But the ICG didn't broker The Erbil Agreement.  The US government did and did so, in fall 2010, to give a Nouri a second term after he'd lost it at the ballot box in the March 2010 elections.  And a cross-sectarian grouping needs to be encouraged?

    That's what was put into The Erbil Agreement.  And Nouri, after he was named prime minister, refused to honor the contract.

    So why isn't Michael Rubin writing about that?

    Again, my best guess is because uninformed.

    Not unlike Mitt Romney who decided to campaign on a falsehood of Barack withdrawing from Iraq.

    What an idiot.

    Not only did Barack send special-ops back into Iraq in the fall of 2012, but Tim Arango reported on it for the New York Times mere days before the first debate between Barack and Mitt.

    Not only was it not factual, the argument Mitt wanted to make, it was also just plain stupid.

    If Barack had done a withdrawal from Iraq?

    He would have gotten my vote in 2012.  He really would have.  (I voted in the 2012 election, I did not vote for the office of president -- no one earned my vote in that race.)

    And portraying Barack as having pulled out of Iraq was not going to cost him voters.  Even Republicans were against the war at the end.  Over 60% of Americans wanted the Iraq War to end.  In fact, they wanted it so badly that some lie to themselves today and pretend that it did end.

    It was stupid.

    It's like accusing Barack of having given candy to children -- who's going to be mad about that (other than parents of diabetic children)?

    The criticism that need to be leveled at Barack on Iraq included (a) you say you withdrew troops so why don't you get honest in this debate and tell the American people that you sent a brigade of special-ops back into Iraq mere weeks ago?  Why don't you tell the American people tonight what Tim Arango reported days ago, "At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence"?

    Now it's not a surprise Barack did that.  In sotto voice, he said he would.  He said it to the New York Times while he was running for president.  But the New York Times always protects Barack so they didn't print in their story.  You had to read the transcript of the interview which they posted to discover that Barack was saying if violence increased after 'combat forces' left, he'd send US troops back in.

    But Mitt should have hit him with that and then hit him with (b) your administration has mismanaged Iraq as evidenced by the increased violence, as evidenced by the fact you can't keep an ambassador to Iraq for more than a year, that you go through ambassadors like Murphy Brown went through assistants, and that you refused to back the Iraqi people when they gave the win in the 2010 elections to Ayad Allawi.  Not only that, but you promised Allawi things.  You got on the phone with him in November 2010 to talk him into sending Iraqiya back into Parliament (they walked when Nouri refused to implement The Erbil Agreement on the spot -- he insisted he needed time, time never came for Nouri and he never honored it).

    That was how Mitt should have addressed Iraq: "You said troops out and then you sent them back in while you played musical chairs with the post of Ambassador to Iraq and refused to fight for The Erbil Agreement that you swore had the full backing of the US government."

    Mitt's an idiot.

    So is Michael Rubin unless he just wants to talk to himself.

    On the left, we've gotten really good about doing that.  That's why we make jokes about the dead in Benghazi (Tyrone Woods, Glen Doherty, Sean Smith and Ambassador Chris Stevens -- and, no, I don't make jokes about them) because we only talk to ourselves and we think it's cute and funny.

    It's disgusting and it makes us look disgusting.

    But clearly Michael Rubin on the right is only interested in talking to the right so he will invent this fantasy of Iraq failing because Barack pulled all troops out and walked away.

    I wish that had happened -- if it had, again, Barack would have gotten my vote in 2012.

    We make come back to Rubin's article because it's dishonest on another point.  For now, we need to move on to Iraqi girls and women.

    April 16th, on KPFA's Voices of the Middle East and North Africa, the controversial bill which passed Iraq's Cabinet of Ministers and that chief thug and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki  has forwarded to the Parliament was discussed. 

    Shahram Aghamir: Last month the Iraqi Cabinet approved a new personal status legislation called the Ja'fari law which is named after the sixth Shi'ite Imam, Ja'far al-Sadiq who established a school of jurisprudence in Medina in the 8th century.  This legislation has created an uproar among Iraqi women's rights and the civil rights community.  If approved, the Ja'fari law will abolish the current Personal Status Law 188 which is considered one of the most progressive in the Arab world.  The new law will roll back the rights of women in marriage, divorce and child custody as well as inheritance.  It will lower the age of marriage for girls from 18 to 9 and boys to 15.  Who has initially proposed the law and what are the implications of this law for Iraqi women?  Malihe spoke with Iraqi women's rights activist Basma al-Khateeb who volunteers with Iraq's 1st Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women Shadow Report Coalition as an expert and a trainer.

    Basma al-Khateeb:  Actually, the Minister of Justice by the end of October declared that they have a committee -- expert committee -- and they have finished drafting the Ja'fari law.  It consists of 256 articles and he's going to present it to the Cabinet by the next session.  He says that they've been working on for the past two years.

    Malihe Razazan:  Back in 2004, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim who died in 2009, he was in exile in Iran for 20 years before the invasion, and after the occupation of Iraq, he worked very closely with the Americans.  His party worked to pass Decision 137 issue by interim governing council to abolish the Personal Status Law Number 188 which was passed  in 1959 --

    Basma al-Kahteeb:  That was actually the first thing that he -- that he issued, this Resolution 137 -- as if Iraq had no problems.  This was the only rule that he came up with.  And we had demonstrations and we managed to defeat that.  They withdrew it.

    Malihe Razazan:   Yeah, because there was a huge backlash against it.

    Basma al-Khateeb:  But this is historical.  His father, Muhsin al-Hakim, back in 1959, when the civil Personal Status Law was issued, the religious institutes led by Muhsin al-Hakim back then, his father, refused this Personal Status Law because it will take all the authority from the cleric.

    Malihe Razazan:  In matters regarding women's divorce, child custody, inheritance it will be left to civil courts.

    Basma al-Khateeb:  Yes.  And this is how our judicial system and lawyers and colleges and scholars all -- I mean, we're talking about sixty years that all our institutions -- judicial, court, everything -- is built on it.  This -- going back just to abolish all of this -- this law --the formal law, the Personal Status Law that's still active now. It doesn't go to clerics, only the judge rules.  This current law puts another council that is in control of judges of courts.  It just turns everything into chaos.  Every lawyer has to study all these religious and cleric institution and legal issues.  It doesn't mean that we have one court.  It means that we have more than 20 courts because each Ayatollah is different in examination with the other.  Havilah?  Even though they're Sh'itie, they're different from the Sadr group, they're different from Sistani interpretation which means multi courts.

    Women's Media Center couldn't be bothered with that.  They could fret over Corrine Brown's wig.  She puts it on every day -- puts one of them on every day -- I don't think Corrine's suffering.  Nor is it sexism to note that a woman wears an obvious wig or a man wears an obvious toupee.  Those are what's known as "observations."
    At the WMC blog, they haven't blogged since January. They managed four features in April and not one was on the bill above.
    April 22nd, they 'joined' up with F-Bomb which also hasn't written about Iraqi girls and women but has managed to urge high school girls and women to reject the trappings of prom -- make up, blah, blah, blah.  Can you find a real issue?  Not really, they also took on (and I hope Max K is a woman or the article's even more insulting) women who play "geek girl" but really, according to the article, don't know about video games or whatever, they're just faking!  That is a sexist article and it's even more sexist if Max K turns out to be a man.
    Well wait, they have, WMC, their Name It Change It nonsense, right?  Oh, wait.  They haven't done a damn thing with that since last year.
    We keep getting e-mails about Robin Morgan's radio show.  And I keep telling Shirley and Martha, "It's still airing.  Ask them why they think it's not."  And the reply is that it's at the website.  I didn't have time until today -- and I'm also not Robin Morgan's assistant or WMC's p.r. person -- but while looking to see if our Ladies Columbus have yet to discover Iraq, I saw this:

    Women's Media Center Live with Robin Morgan RSS

    October 5, 2013 | Pre-Women’s Media Center Awards Gala show. Robin on World Bank ranking of women’s status. Awardee guests: Christiane Amanpour on her greatest pride and greatest regret; Maria Teresa Kumar (MSNBC & Voto Latino); Sheila Johnson (producer of “The Butler”); and Carol Jenkins and Pat Mitchell. More »
    That's on the main page.
    Are you that incompetent Gloria, Jane, Robin, et al?
    How stupid are you?  It's May and your main page promotes a radio show of Robin's from October.
    No wonder people think the radio show is no more.  It's May and the main page promotes an October show after Robin shut the program down for a month in August.  You need to promote the show.  You also need to get a substitute host for Robin when she takes her vacation this year so that new episodes can be broadcast because repeats aren't going to cut it. I would suggest Jemu Greene as the substitute host because she can do the job, she's lively and smart, perfect for radio and didn't she prove that on WBAI?
    Go to this WMC subpage and you'll see Robin's show continues -- in fact Jimmy Carter's been one of her guests this month.
    Women's Media Center?
    Jane and Gloria, you're making Greenstone Media look like a success.
    Get your acts together, it's embarrassing.
    And, yes, pointing out all the above does mean Iraqi women and girls just got a lot more attention than they normally would.  And they need it.  Yesterday, Alice Fordham (All Things Considered, NPR -- link is audio and text) reported the bill is still alive.  Excerpt.

    BABAKHAN: (Through translator) There is regression in terms of women's personal freedom, in terms of women's rights.

    FORDHAM: The law she's talking about was proposed by the justice minister and passed by the cabinet. If voted by parliament into law, it would be voluntary - people can choose to use its rules to set marriage contracts or write wills. But the lawyer says it could be forced on young girls and boys. And, it would only apply to Iraq's Shiite Muslims, not its Sunnis or other minorities

    BABAKHAN: (Through translator) This, of course, nurtures sectarianism and divisions in society.

    FORDHAM: Many analysts say that the law is unlikely to be passed, but that it is a political pitch to shore up support with conservative Shiites. In Iraq's hinterlands, tribal traditions sometimes allow violence against women and early marriage.

    AHLAM AL OBEIDI: (Through translator) We are a society plagued by patriarchal attitudes and outdated tribal laws which are all conducive to violence against women.

    FORDHAM: That's Ahlam al Obeidi, who hosts a radio show about women's rights in Baghdad. She says years of war left Iraq with a surplus of women and lots of poverty. Some people marry off young girls for the dowry.

    OBEIDI: (Through translator) This is not marriage though, but rather, the selling and buying of young women.
    This matters.  As does Nouri's War Crimes.  He is using collective punishment in Falluja (collective punishment is a legally defined War Crime).  Saying that terrorists are in Falluja, Nouri uses this to bomb residential neighborhoods -- again, a War Crime.  National Iraqi News Agency notes that five civilians -- all from the same family -- were injured in  today's bombing of civilian neighborhoods. 

    In other violence today,  National Iraqi News Agency reports 1 person was shot dead in Ghazaliya, 1 police member was shot dead in Shiekh Hamad Village, a Mosul roadside bombing left four people injured (two were police members), another roadside bombing south of Mosul left two people injured, an Abu Ghraib bombing left four people injured, 3 members of a police patrol were shot dead in Tikrit, a Jurfis-Sakhar roadside bombing left four Iraqi soldiers injured, a second Jurfis-Sakhar roadside bombing left 1 Iraqi soldier dead and two more injured,  an Alrifai roadside bombing left 2 Iraqi soldiers dead, a Mosul roadside bombing killed 1 police member and left three more injured, a Hit suicide bomber took his own life and the life of 1 police member with four more left injured, a Baquba attack left 4 police members dead and four more injured, 1 intellignece officer was shot dead in Balad, a Badush roadside bombing left three people injured, a mosque guard in Mehajeran was shot dead, and 1 corpse was discovered dumped in the streets of Abu Ghraib. In her much more complete rundown of today's violence (much more complete than mine) Margaret Griffis ( counts 40 dead and forty-seven injured.