Saturday, May 28, 2011

Patriot Act and Barack's weak wrist

It's the weekend at last! Yea! :D And it's a long one. I will try to blog something on Memorial Day, by the way. It may not be much but I usually try to do that.

Josh Gerstein (POLITICO) usually has something interesting to read and today was no exception. This is from his "Laywer who fought same-sex-marriage wrote legal opinion OKing robosigning:"

The legal opinion the White House is relying upon to justify using an autopen to affix President Barack Obama's signature to legislation was written by an attorney who played a front-line role in the legal fight against same-sex marriage in California.

The 2005 opinion from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel was authored by Howard C. Nielson Jr., a Utah native who was part of the courtroom team that defended Proposition 8, the initiative California voters passed in 2008 banning same-sex marriage in that state.

Nielson, a partner at the Washington law firm of Cooper & Kirk, is a former law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.

At least one lawmaker has already questioned the legality of the robosignature aides applied to a Patriot Act extension bill Thursday night at Obama's instruction.

I disagree with the judge's decision. If you're able to sign the bill, you do so. If you're able to do so and you use a robo-pen then you didn't really sign it.

We've already turned over all of Barack's remarks to the teleprompter. Are we now to turn over his signature to a machine as well?

And Jonathan Allen (POLITICO) reports, "In a letter sent Friday, Rep. Tom Graves, who voted against the bill, asked Obama to confirmthat the bill was 'presented to you prior to the autopen signing' and to provide 'a detailed written explanation of your constitutional authority to assign a surrogate the responsibility of signing bills passed by Congress into law'." I agree. I mean, we know Barack's a little princess but who knew the little girl couldn't even sign into the law the legislation she supposedly wanted?

It's the weekend and Hiram Lee (WSWS) offers a review of the film Thor:

In an already dubious film genre, Thor is surely among the silliest comic book films yet produced. It’s virtually impossible to take any of this seriously. As the film progresses, one begins to feel a certain sympathy for the young actors tasked with making such material appear convincing. That they fail to do so is not entirely their fault. With regards to the more veteran actors—including Hopkins and Stellan SkarsgĂ„rd—one only wants to ask them what on earth they’re doing in this film.

In the director’s chair is Kenneth Branagh, the actor and director best known for his adaptations of Shakespeare. In the past, Branagh has produced memorable film versions of Henry V (1989), Much Ado About Nothing (1993) and Hamlet (1996), works animated by a passion and confidence that Shakespeare should and could reach and enrich a mass audience. It is unfortunate that Branagh, perhaps given a limited choice in the matter by the film industry, has now devoted his time and energy to such an insubstantial work.

Without the richness of Shakespeare on which to base himself, and his own feeling for the material that comes with it, Branagh’s weaknesses as a director come to the fore, perhaps more than in any other of his films. His visual sensibility has never been his strength, and that continues to reveal itself here (although much of the film was created with computer animation). Branagh pursues the “drama” of Thor with the same self-consciousness that limits even his most interesting work. On the whole, Thor is taken far too seriously by Branagh and his collaborators, as though it were Shakespeare, and one tends to cringe as the actors, made up like futuristic Vikings, intone in deeply theatrical voices before galloping down the “Rainbow Bridge.”

The “serious” undertone in this comic strip is war, and the consequences resulting from the actions of those who would too eagerly rush into it. But, as with all the other superhero films, in Thor, the world is filtered through, and reduced to, the primary colors of comic books. The entire film is so thin, one can almost see through it.

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

Friday, May 27, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Memorial Day leads an outlet to hop a high horse (a high horse that maybe needs to be shot), Bradley Manning is back in the news, protests take place in Baghdad, the canonization of Ali al-Lami continues, and more.
Today Michele Martin hops a high horse at NPR -- Memorial Day must be approaching. Although she writes of "two wars our nation is fighting right now," she herself has trouble mentioning the Iraq War and it doesn't pop up until a quote from Capt Vernice Armour and then again from journalist Brian Palmer. It takes nine paragraphs before Martin can mention the Iraq War herself -- typical NPR nonsense of late. (Writes? Audio won't be available until Memorial Day -- her written column is up now.) NPR can't find Iraq and hasn't been able to in some time. The Diane Rehm Show used to carve out seven or so minutes each Friday, during the second hour of the program, for the topic. Not anymore. Not since January, in fact. The Iraq War ended -- at least Diane Rehm's interest in it did. What is Kelly McEvers? Why she's NPR's Baghdad bureau chief. And NPR's moved her to where? Syria. Syria. Where US troops aren't on the ground. Syria. And you wonder why you get no reports on Iraq these days from your NPR station -- your NPR station that just got done using Iraq in its fundraiser, insisting during its pledge drive that it provided coverage of Iraq, coverage you couldn't get elsehwere. Apparently they meant on their blog The Two-Way? (Click here.)
Memorial Day is Monday, a day when the sacrifices of those in uniform are supposed to be acknowledged but NPR can't even make time to acknowledge an ongoing war. 'Oh, but it's so hard, after 8 years, to find a new way to talk about it.' That whine -- and I'm burning a bridge here -- came from a friend with Diane Rehm's show. I note that today that they had time to discuss Israel and Palestine. That conversation predates The Diane Rehm Show -- and since no one's really serious about solving the issue, it will likely still be discussed constantly on NPR (constantly, if unfairly) long after Diane Rehm and I am both dead and gone. It's not that they can't find new ways to discuss it, it's that the war doesn't get enough press attention for Diane and her gaggle of gas bags to breeze through a quick brush up to get informed on the topic in less than ten minutes. (That is what they do. Select the topics and all go online before they go to live to find their talking points. Woops, am I spilling trade secrets?) NPR's Michele Martin might not be standing on quick sand if her peers did their job. Instead, Michele's hopped a high horse with a lame leg and it's not going anywhere.
Memorial Day will come again this year, the US will still have troops stationed on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq, troops still in combat -- despite the lies of the White House as evidenced by the continued attacks on US troops in Iraq and the continued deaths. May 30, 2010 -- the day before Memorial Day -- the US military death toll in Iraq stood at 4400. Last night the count stood at 4457. That's 57 deaths that really haven't registered. That's [PDF format warning] 36 deaths, according to the Defense Dept, since the 'end' of combat operations announced by Barack Obama on August 31, 2010. Michele Martin's not aware of those facts. She's not aware of a lot. She should be aware that her own NPR program -- Tell Me More -- can't find Iraq. That war that takes her nine paragraphs to mention herself doesn't show up on her show. That would be the same show that 'informs' us of such important and life shattering stories as "O Magazine Staff Excited About Oprah Winfrey's Future," "O Magazine To Evolve, Collaborate With Oprah Winfrey Network" and "The Ups, Downs Between Iyania Vanzant And Oprah Winfrey" -- all of those 'reports' aired on Tell Me More's Wednesday broadcast. We'll be kind and call those "advertorials" -- they certainly weren't reporting. Prior to that 'reporting,' this week saw Suze Orman singing Oprah's praises for six of Tell me More's minutes while Dr. Phil was given over 12 minutes by the program to sing Oprah's praises.
I'm sorry, what war did Oprah die in? Battle of the Bulge? Charge of the TVQs? Memorial Day is one day in the year. And Michele Martin thought she could get on high horse for that. After a week of wasting her time and listners time over a faded TV personality (check the ratings, check O's circulation) packing it in before the ratings dropped further. Oprah's departure to cable was treated as more important than the country's ongoing wars and something requiring daily coverage and updates. Michele Martin and NPR owe the listeners a huge apology.
Lance Cpl Tim Horton: I have worked hard to ensure my injuries and other people's perceptions of them do not define my way of life or limit what I am able to accomplish. Receiving timely and quality prosthetics care is instrumental to maintaining my activity level. The quality of care I have received through the Oklahoma City VA Medical Center is outstanding. VA contracts with a number of prosthetic specialists who are familiar with cutting edge prosthetic technology and are able to outfit me with the devices I need to maintain a high level of physical activity. Most importantly, my prosthetics provider has really taken the time to understand who I am as a whole person -- not just a wounded warrior -- and how that shapes my medical needs. So while the quality of care I am receiving is very good, the process of going through the VA to receive those benefits takes far too long. When I need adjustments or replacement equipment, I must schedule an appointment with the medical center to be seen by a member of tehir prosthetics team who will then write the prescription to the provider, further delaying my ability to get an appointment and ultimately receive the adjustments or equipment I need. Why is this the case? I know other veterans who live in close proximity to Walter Reed who are able to walk in and out with the services and equipment they need within the same day, all without ever needing to go through their local VA. It would make sense to me if I were able to see my prosethetics specialist first, who could then communicate with VA about what I need and get the authorization, eliminating the wait time for an appointment. While waiting weeks for an appointment might seem like a minor inconvenicence, for a warrior like myself, spending weeks without the necessary prostehtics equipment, or sometimes even worse equipment that causes extreme discomfort and other medical issues, can be sholly disruptive to our daily lives. The timeliness and consistency of care should not be a function of where warriors happen to live. The most important thing I have learned in navigating my own transition and helping my peers through their own journey is that you must act as your own advocate. There are so many programs and benefits available to assist us, yet often we are never informed of these programs or the information is delivered in a time and place that is not conducive for wounded warriors to absorb it. We receive so much information at the time when we are newly injured. When I was brought to Behtesda, I was completely reliant on my mother as my caregiver. It took me two and a half months to regain the ability to feed myself. My sole focus was on my physical recovery. It was impossible for me to take in the vast amount of information coming at me during that time, I understand that since I have been injured the Federal Recovery Coordination Program has been put into place for severely wounded warriors to assist with this challenge. This is not a program I benefited from, nor did I know of its existence before preparing for my testimony here today. What I do know is that warriors need real help in discovering what benefits exist and how to utilize them so that they can thrive in their lives post-injury. Other veterans are out there spreading the word, but no one from VA is reaching out. That needs to change. I have spent the last several years sharing the knowledge I've gained through my own recovery and plan to continue that work as an outreach worker with the Wounded Warrior Project, but there must be a more systematic VA effort. My hope is that -- by coming before you today and testifying to some of my issues in navigating through the system -- things will continue to improve for the warriors coming behind me.
Iraq War veteran Tim Horton was testifying before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing Wednesday. We noted the hearing yesterday and are doing so today. Horton spoke of the assistance he received not from DoD or VA employees, but from Vietnam veterans who helped him navigate the system. This despite the fact that the US government pays for federal care coordinators, as Ava addressed in "Scott Brown, John Kerry, veterans clearing house" last night at Trina's site. As Ava reported, Senators Bernie Sanders and Johnny Isakson were among those wondering why there wasn't a national hotline, a clearing house, for wounded veterans to call and get help with their care?
May 7, 2008 -- over three years ago -- the VA issued a press release annoucing that their "new Federal Recovery Coordinator Program office is actively at work with dozens of severely injured patients acround the country" -- quoting then VA Secretary James Peake.
The release continued: "In coordination with the Department of Defense and the Department of Health and Human Services, the joint Federal Recovery Coordinator Program is designed to cut across bureaucratic lines and reach into the private sector as necessary to identify services needed for seriously wounded and ill service members, veterans and their families. A key recommendation of a presidential commission chaired by former Sen. Bob Dole and former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, the recovery coordinators do not directly provide care, but coordinates federal health care teams and private community resources to achieve the personal and professional goals of an indvidiualized 'life map' or recovery plan developed with the service members or veterans who qualify for the federal recovery coordinator program."
Yet neither Tim Horton nor Afghanistan War veteran Steven Bohn were provided with federal care coordinator. Ranking Member Richard Burr asked, "Steve, were you ever offered a federal care coordinator?" Bohn replied, "Negative. Me and my family -- I've never even heard of that unitl a couple of days ago." In last night's "Senate Veterans Affairs Committee," Kat reported on Burr's statements regarding DoD's refusal to submit their prepared (written) remarks in a timely manner. In his opening remarks, Burr wondered, "How much is enough time to prepare testimony before this committee?" He noted DoD was informed of this hearing on May 11th, yet 24 hours prior to the hearing, DoD still hadn't submitted -- as required -- their prepared remarks. There seems to be a great deal of problems with providing information. Maybe one answer is to, let's just take the federal care coordinators, for the federal government to post how many there are and how many veterans are utilizing them? In last night's "Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (Wally)," Wally gathers several strands from the hearing to make a strong case that the VA, DoD, etc are very happy to announce programs and get patted on the back but to actually provide these services to the veterans who need them seems to be another story. If, for example, the federal care coordinator program was required to be publicly posted -- how many are there, how many veterans are utilizing them, etc. -- maybe there would be more of a push by department heads to ensure that these programs are utilized? But this information, like so much other information, is difficult even for the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee to get. (VA estimates that they have assisted 1,300 veterans since the program started in 2008 and that there are around 660 veterans currently being assisted by their 22 federal care coordiantors.)
As Kat noted, Burr asked the DoD witness George Taylor (Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense) why his prepared remarks were not submitted to the Committee on time (prepared remarks are supposed to be submitted to the Committee or Subcomittee 48 hours in advance) and Taylor said he'd have to follow up on that. As Senator Bernie Sanders observed, "I think the pity is we spend a fortune and sometimes at the end of the road the care is excellent if people can get to it. And yet I suspect that there are thousands of young men and women who've returned to who don't even know what they're entitled to, what is available to them, how to access it." Again, Sanders went on to recommend that a 24-hour hotline be created for wounded veterans to call and speak to someone who could tell them of the services that are available. From the hearing:
Senator Johnny Isakson: It's my understanding, I know we've got well over 100,000 people deployed in the Middle East right now and we have 22 federal coordinators -- federal care coordinators, is that right? [Lorraine nods] That's 22 coordinators and we've got people coming home every day with the same needs that Tim and Steve have talked about.
Moving to the second panel, VA and DoD staff, the Committee was told that DoD has "approximately 150" federal care coordinators. Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Committee and she asked if there were enough federal care coordinators and the reply was that they've just hired more and "there are 28 in class today". When the Chair asked specifically, "Do we have more soldiers coming home than the infrastructure is prepared for?," DoD replied that they believed the infrastructure was in place. The VA's Deborah Amdur would state she was "extremely disturbed" to hear Horton and Bohn's testimony; however, she offered no apology to either. (Senator Burr made a point to apologize to Bohn for the treatment he experienced, noting that someone should have apologized on behalf to Bohn a long time ago.)
Committee Chair Patty Murray: I want to turn to an issue that I am deeply concerned about and that is the issue of suicide. The number of service members and new veterans we have lost to suicide is now on par with the number of those who've been killed in combat. That should be disturbing to everyone in this room. Last week, at this hearing, we talked about the very high rate of suicides among those participating in the Joint Disability Evaluation process. Those service members are actually under constant supervision of the Department and that occurred. We do know that there is progress being made in suicide prevention and mental health treatement. Dr. Kemp, your program has been outstanding, I've heard a lot of good reviews about that. But there is a lot of work that remains to be done. And I want to ask this Committee what do we need to do to address this problem?
Dr. Janet Kemp: Yeah. Uh, first Chairman Murray, I want to say the numbers are appalling. And we know that and recognize that and no one who serves their country and comes back alive should die by suicide ever. Uhm, and I think that we, uhm, have worked very hard in the past two years to put programs into place One of the things you mentioned earlier was the crisis line which we have opened up now to service members and families and friends of service members and continue to get calls from that population. But we need to continue to communicate its availability, we need to make sure that people know that there is someone there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We need to work more closely with our DoD partners and we are in the process of doing this, to be able to communicate to our suicide prevention coordinators in the VA, sooner and earlier that someone may be released and someone needs services and we need to start that care ahead of time. We also need to do more work, and this is also in progress, in the area of training all providers and the people who do these disability examines to do screenings, to ask the right questions -- that just because someone's being evaluated for physical injury, we have to ask the emotional --
Committee Chair Patty Murray: How long will that take to train all the providers?
Dr. Janet Kemp: We've started the process with the providers who do the examines in the VA and we will start the process --
Committee Chair Patty Murray: At every facility across the country?
Dr. Janet Kemp: Yes. Yes. And we've also started training all of our primary care providers across the country to really work with emotional issues as well as regular mental issues. I anticipate that this is something we can do rather quickly and I will make a promise to you to, uhm, move that process along.
Committee Chair Patty Murray: Okay, we'll be following that and I want to know when those people have been trained.
Dr. Janet Kemp: Exactly.
Committee Chair Patty Murray: I -- You know, the data released at the end of April showed that the number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are now utilizing VA care for mental health needs is more than half of all Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are using the VA care. In a way that's a more positive sign that more veterans are willing to come forward and ask for care. But I want to know if the system's adequately equipped now to handle those rising numbers and meet the criteria that we set out?
Antonette Zeiss: We are resourced to provide that care in mental health. Certainly, I can defer to other staff members here for some of the other physical health concerns that are also very much a part of what they bring to us. But, in terms of mental health, in 2004, VA recognized that there were gaps in staffing and services, developed a comprehensive mental health strategic plan, began to implement that in 2005 and, really, with a stronger pace in 2006. Since then, we have increased our staffing for mental health services to over 21,000 -- it's an increase of over 40% percent in our core mental health staff. As we track the number of veterans who are receiving mental health services, those also have increased during that time period but have not increased to the same proportion as the percent of staff that we have added and we think that's the right balance because, as I said, we had gaps when we started. So we've been able to fill gaps for those patients who were seeking VA care and intensive VA care earlier in this decade and to enhance our status in such that we can continue in a proactive way to meet the needs of returning service members who come to us as veterans while sustaining care for those veterans who are with us throughout their lifetimes. We will continue to track that very closely, of course, because we don't know when there may be significant numbers of additional service members returning. We look forward to working with you and keeping pace in terms of the data on are we adequeately resourced to provide care.
This was the second of a two-part hearing. The first-part of this series of hearings was held May 18th and for more on that you can refer to that day's snapshot as well as Ava's "Scott Brown questions DoD's concept of streamlining," Kat's "DoD embarrasses at Senate hearing" and Wally's "VA can't answer a basic service question." In addition, you can stream the hearing at the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee's hearing page or, if you're having problems with that page, you can stream audio of the hearing from this CSpan page. [For the second panel of Wednesday's hearing, I relied on the stream because I left to attend the House Foreign Affairs Committee -- see Wednesday's snapshot and Ava's report "Ron Paul (Ava)" (at Trina's site).] To stay on veterans issues for two more topics. At the airport today, we were talking about this hearing and a veteran approached. He's a Gulf War veteran and he wanted to note a problem with VA care that isn't covered in hearings. It's when a veteran needs care and is not taken to a VA facility. He had collapsed from the heat earlier in the week, an ambulance was called and instead of being taken to the nearest VA, he was taken to a for-profit hospital. He later learned that the VA hospital was just a mile away. He stated he was talking and able to sit up in the ambulance but they insisted that the VA hospital was too late. The care he received at the for-profit hospital was grossly inadequate. He arrived at noon. They gave him liquids three hours later. (Three hours later.) Prior to that he was sitting and waiting. He repeatedly had to provide an inventory of his medical history and any allergies (at the VA his records would have been on file). After he was given fluids, he was ignored for many hours. Finally at ten p.m. he was told he was being discharged. He complained about thirst and hunger (he'd been there since noon) and was told there were snack machines in the lobby. He won't be footing the bill, the VA will pick it up. But he argues (I think rightly) that the service was inadequate and that, at best, the for-profit hospital should be paid for an hour's care. (He suspects the VA will be charged for the entire duration and considers it an example of fraud and waste.) Second, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Patty Murray will be touring the Portland VA Medical Center this coming Tuesday to hear from veterans and review the process at that VA:

(Washington, D.C.) – On Tuesday, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, will tour the Portland VA Medical Center and discuss her priorities as Chair of that critical committee charged with protecting the health care and benefits of our nation's veterans. The tour comes at a critical time for local veterans as more Iraq and Afghanistan veterans enter the VA in the Portland region. During the tour, press will get the opportunity to see the Portland VA's prosthetic and limb loss facility, including a demonstration of that facility's technology. There will also be a demonstration of adaptive vehicles used for disabled veterans and a tour of the women's veterans facility.

Following the tour, Senator Murray will discuss her priorities as Chair of the Veterans Committee including improving employment opportunities, health care coordination, and secure housing opportunities for homeless veterans.

WHO: U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee

WHAT: Tour of Portland VA Medical Center and Press Availability

WHEN: Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

2:00 PM PST

WHERE: Portland VA Medical Center

3710 SW U.S. Veterans Hospital Rd.
Portland, OR

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Matt McAlvanah

Communications Director

U.S. Senator Patty Murray

202-224-2834 - press office

202--224-0228 - direct

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Monday is Memorial Day. There may not be a snapshot that day. It will depend upon the news coming out of Iraq.
Turning to Iraq, where so much of the US press has rushed to canonize Ali al-Lami. Let's drop back to the January 22, 2010 New York Times' editorial "Sunnis and Iraq's Election"
The accountability commission is the successor to the destructive de-Baathification commission that sought to keep anyone with ties to Mr. Hussein out of government. Its chief, Ali Faisal al-Lami, is hardly an impartial judge. He is a candidate on the slate led by the Shiite leader Ahmed Chalabi, a relentlessly ambitious force in Iraqi politics who lured the Bush administration into the 2003 invasion and wants to be prime minister.
Both the accountability and the election commissions are part of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki's government, and he issued a statement supporting their decisions. But American officials say Mr. Chalabi is the main manipulator. Mr. Chalabi's absurd charge that the United States wants to return the Baath Party to power is typical of his divisive and destructive brand of politics.
Ali al-Lami's destructive decisions cannot be taken away or wiped away. They helped create and foster an undemocratic enviornment going into the elections. There is no excuse for what he did, no justification. He was a petty tyrant abusing an office and hurting Iraq in the process. Please note, the New York Times and McClatchy Newspapers are two US outlets who have refused to white wash Ali al-Lami. That's in stark contrast to Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) carefully asserting, "Lami, who lived in Sadr City, was a symbol of the battle against the former Baath Party." In real time (August 28, 2008), AP noted, "The military says the suspect is believed to be behind a June bombing in Baghdad that killed four Americans and six Iraqis, and that he is believed to be a senior leader of "special groups" — Iranian-backed rogue militiamen in Iraq." He was part of the League of Rightous -- admittedly part of it. When the mini-thug was released from the US prison, Rod Nordland and Sam Dagher (New York Times, August 17, 2009) reported, "Mr. Lami said his release was part of a government deal with the League, though he described himself as a 'supporter' of the group rather than a member." The League used their barganing skills to secure the release of their most important assets only. Lami was among the select few whose release they secured. He was more than a supporter. From the February 16, 2010 snapshot, here'sthe then-top US commander in Iraq, Gen Ray Odierno:

al-Lami is a Sadrist by trade. He was arrested after an operation in Sadr City where both Iraqi security forces, U.S. civilians, and U.S. soldiers were leaving a meeting that they had with the local government in Sadr City, and their vehicles were attacked with IEDs as they left the meeting. There were some accusations. We had some intelligence that said that al-Lami was the one who directed these attacks on these individuals. He was released in August of '09 as part of the drawdown of our detention facilities because we did not have the actual prosecutorial evidence in order to bring him in front of a court of law in Iraq. All we had was intelligence that linked him to this attack. So, as we had some others, we had to release him. He has been involved in very nefarious activities in Iraq for some time. It is disappointing that somebody like him was in fact put in charge or has been able to run this commission inside of Iraq, in my opinion.
He is -- him and Chalabi clearly are influenced by Iran. We have direct intelligence that tells us that. They've had several meetings in Iran, meeting with a man named Mohandas, which is an ex-council representative member -- still is a council representative member -- who was on the terrorist watch list for a bombing in Kuwait in the 1980s. They are tied to him. He sits at the right-hand side of the Quds Force commandant, Qassem Soleimani. And we believe they're absolutely involved in influencing the outcome of the election. And it's concerning that they've been able to do that over time.

Ali al-Lami was released as part of a deal that the White House authorized and, yes, oversaw. Ali al-Lami made it clear in his statements to the New York Times why he was being released. The deal was with the League of Righteous and it was supposed to mean that the five British hostages the League had were released. As part of that "special relationship," with England, Barack entered into negotiations with the League of Righteous to figure out what they wanted in order to release the British citizens they had kidnapped. From the June 9, 2009 snapshot:

This morning the New York Times' Alissa J. Rubin and Michael Gordon offered "U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.'s." Martin Chulov (Guardian) covered the same story, Kim Gamel (AP) reported on it, BBC offered "Kidnap hope after Shia's handover" and Deborah Haynes contributed "Hope for British hostages in Iraq after release of Shia militant" (Times of London). The basics of the story are this. 5 British citizens have been hostages since May 29, 2007. The US military had in their custody Laith al-Khazali. He is a member of Asa'ib al-Haq. He is also accused of murdering five US troops. The US military released him and allegedly did so because his organization was not going to release any of the five British hostages until he was released. This is a big story and the US military is attempting to state this is just diplomacy, has nothing to do with the British hostages and, besides, they just released him to Iraq. Sami al-askari told the New York Times, "This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners. So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned." In other words, a prisoner was traded for hostages and they attempted to not only make the trade but to lie to people about it. At the US State Dept, the tired and bored reporters were unable to even broach the subject. Poor declawed tabbies. Pentagon reporters did press the issue and got the standard line from the department's spokesperson, Bryan Whitman, that the US handed the prisoner to Iraq, the US didn't hand him over to any organization -- terrorist or otherwise. What Iraq did, Whitman wanted the press to know, was what Iraq did. A complete lie that really insults the intelligence of the American people. CNN reminds the five US soldiers killed "were: Capt. Brian S. Freeman, 31, of Temecula, California; 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Nebraska; Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Gonzales, Louisiana; Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Cortland, New York; and Pfc. Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Alabama." Those are the five from January 2007 that al-Khazali and his brother Qais al-Khazali are supposed to be responsible for the deaths of. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert H. Reid (AP) states that Jonathan B. Chism's father Danny Chism is outraged over the release and has declared, "They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it."

These realities are missing from the bulk of the US coverage. Missing is any violence today in Iraq. Reuters couldn't find any. Really? Aswat al-Iraq reports 2 corpses were discovered outside Mosul and, in Kut, a young boy accidentally shot dead his cousin "while playing with his father's pistol".,
It's Friday, protests are taking place in Baghdad. The Great Iraq Revolution reports, "TAHRIR BAGHDAD - 4 activists were arrested this morning while entering Tahrir - Security forces are using ambulances for arrest wagons!!!" Aswat al-Iraq adds, "They were within a 250 demonstrators criticizing the government for not providing suitable service and the deterioration in living standards, despite the near-end 100-day period given by Premier Nouri Al-Maliki to achieve better services." One protest sign read, "8 Years of Maliki's and the Occupation's Accomplishments -- Should you need to use electricity! Go and buy a Generator!" Following the arrest, Aswat al-Iraq notes that some of the protesters took the protest from the square to the Baghdad Provinncial Council where they staged a sit-in and one protester is quoted stating that "the demonstration will continue in the square, at a time other demonstrators are pouring despite security blockade around the area, unlike early morning precaution where the security forces are limited." Great Iraqi Revolution highlights this essay by Layla Anwar which includes the following:
They hang saints in Iraq, they lynch them at an early age, they penetrate their insides with words...and words become swords, daggers, knives...slashing, beheading, tiny anonymous faces with no names...the slaying of Saints...of little Saints...
She was found thrown away in one of the streets of Baghdad...her name is Rita, like Saint Rita, the Saint who answers your prayers...
She was abandoned in the streets of Baghdad, with her name written on a cardboard, attached to her neck like a dog who was once owned. A three years old dog, puppy, girl, blind...Rita is blind. Totally blind. You bastards, call it in your politically correct jargon - visually impaired - because you are so f[***]ing sensitive arent'you ?!
Well Rita is blind, and she is 3. She is not only blind, she has a severely deformed face, a cleft lip that goes up all the way to her nose...split in the middle, a mirror reflection of how you split us in the all ways. A small mirror of your own deformities, your soul deformities...
She was feeling her way around, blind, with a cardboard sign around her neck - my name is Rita.
The local police took her to a hospital, the doctors did not know what to do with Rita...the little Saint Rita...she was left in the corridors of a hospital, a hospital that looks and feels like a public toilet, because your whores stole the money, the money for the little Saints...

We really don't have room for the essay but we have to make room because it's important. As a result we'll pick up other things on Tuesday (or possibly Monday, if there's a snapshot that day). New Sabah reports Iraqiya's Ayad Allawi is calling for the issue of US troops staying in Iraq past 2011 to be discussed openly in an emergency and public meeting of Parliament. Allawi announced his call at a news conference and noted that they didn't know if an agreement had already been made with the US by Nouri. Allawi declared the issue needed to be put under the light. Aswat al-Iraq quotes National Alliance MP Fuad Al-Douraki stating that Allawi's call is "unrealistic." Al Mada reports that there is continued pressure on the political blocs to extend the agreement for US troops to remain in Iraq. They also quote Hussain al-Shahristani, Deputy Prime Minister for Energy, stating that there will be no extension and that Iraqi forces are sufficient to maintain the country's security. Dar Addustour reports that the study on the Iraqi military and its capabilities is due to be released shortly.

Lastly the topic of Bradley Manning. Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements. Manning has been at Quantico in Virginia, under military lock and key, for months. In March, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. David E. Coombs is Bradley's attorney and he provided a walk through on Article 104.
I was asked to note this nonsense from World Can't Wait. I support WCW. I don't support nonsense. They get their link. They also get critiqued.
Bradley Manning is innocent. He is innocent because he has not been found guilty of anything. When a trial does take place -- supposedly a court-martial will take place this summer and a trial in the fall -- the defense will enter a plea. No plea has been entered at present. The defense will not be able to argue he didn't do it but if he did that's okay. They will have to argue one way or the other. He did it or he didn't do it. (They can argue that he did it but argue that what he did was legal.)
The idiots who think they help Bradley have been idiots for some time. In this space, we have screamed and yelled that they needed to stop saying Bradley was guilty. I noted, several times, that in the 70s we didn't say, "Angela Davis did it! Leave her alone!" We argued Angela was innocent. We also didn't jump to a 'she did it' when she had not said she had.
After repeated screaming in this place and elsewhere, the 'supporters' finally grasped that they were hurting Bradley and prejudicing news consumers to believe that he had released materials -- at a time when he has not acknowledged doing that. So they started adding in their 'if he did this' b.s. The link goes to audio that's a joke. There are two speakers who make sense. Only two.
When a speaker says she turned "to my partner" in bed and told him that "We need our Daniel Ellsberg," not only has she given us too much information (we don't need to know your sex habits or possibly sex role play), she's getting at the problem and why she is the problem. Your need for a new Daniel Ellsberg does not trump Bradley Manning's right to have a fair trial. The same woman plans to be a teacher some day and shares that it's her "hope to invoke Bradley Manning" with Daniel Ellsberg some day.
Her hopes don't mean a damn thing. She needs to let go of her comfy life and grasp that Bradley Manning -- whether he pleades innocence or guilt -- is looking at very serious charges.
Kevin Zeese hails Bradley as a hero at one point and then wants to whine that Barack Obama has influenced the case by saying Bradley "broke the law." While Barack has more power and may have sunk any chances of Bradley receiving a fair trial (see Third's "Barack finds a way to cut costs!!!!" for some of our coverage of that in this community), we can object to what others do but we can control what we do. It's really a bit hypocrital for Kat's BFF Kevin Zeese to call out Barack for saying Bradley released materials when Kevin makes the case that Bradley did in every other statement.
The defense of Bradley until or unless he enters a plea of guilty is very basic: Bradley is innocent. He's been held for over a year. The government has not moved quickly. Bradley should be released. He is not a threat to the community. There is no good reason to imprison him prior to trial. The inability to move forward with charges speaks poorly of any potential case or evidence the government has against Bradley. The comments made by Barack Obama prejudice all potential jury pools. Bradley should not only be released, charges against him should be dropped.
It's that basic. Instead, the 'supporters' are now working overtime to portray him as a wounded bird who entered the military. Are we trying to get him placed on suicide watch again? He was a functioning adult. He entered the military. Quit victiimizing, quit infantilizing him, quit proclaiming his guilt while you insist you're trying to help.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Someday I suppose

Thursday. Barack's a moron. But you knew that already, right? Julie Hyland (WSWS) reports on Barry O's trip to England:

Barack Obama’s three-day state visit to the UK was more than an extravagant PR opportunity for an increasingly discredited US president and Britain’s deeply unpopular Conservative-Liberal Democrat government.

It underscored the unity of Washington and London in attempting to push through a social counter-revolution in their own countries, while insisting on similar “medicine” for the peoples of the world and threatening punitive action against any potential challengers.

With the lavish state banquet, 410-gun salute and the rare invitation for Obama to address both houses of parliament, Britain’s ruling elite made clear how critical the “special relationship” is in enabling it to punch above its weight globally—especially as the UK teeters on the brink of another, even worse, recession.

But more striking were the lengths to which Obama went in reciprocation—praising the “English who first spelled out the rights and liberties of man” and the “rule of law”, making pointed references to war-time Prime Minister Winston Churchill and saluting “Queen Elizabeth’s lifetime of extraordinary service to her nation and to the world.”

Shown a letter by George III expressing alarm at the loss of the American colonies, Obama told the queen that it “was only a temporary blip in the relationship.” Similar jokes followed—“a small scrape about tea and taxes”, otherwise, it had been “smooth sailing”.

It's good to know Barack can joke. While on yet another world tour. While the economy continues to crater back home. It's good to know Barack's not working too hard. I think I'd cry if I thought of Barack actually breaking a sweat. Ever.

He's pampered little hands weren't made for hard work. His prep school days did not equip him for long hours.

He is a spoiled brat and that's why he's no different than George W. Bush.

Meanwhile US House Rep. Scott Tipton's daughter has the opposite problem. She's working hard . . . at using her father's government e-mail to "solicit business" according to POLITICO's Marin Cogan.

One day, maybe not in my lifetime, the US will actually have elected officials who represent the voters who put them into office.

Title of post is a Mighty Mighty Bosstones song, FYI.

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

Thursday, May 26, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Patty Murray explores issues of veterans care, Moqtada al-Sadr stages a for-show 'demonstration,' Ali al-Lami is gunned down, and more.
Monday is Memorial Day in the United States. Today Senator Patty Murray took to the Senate floor to speak on the topic and about veterans. Her office notes that the video of her remarks can be found here.

"M. President, I come to the floor today to honor and commemorate the men and women who died fighting for our great country.

"Memorial Day is a day to honor those American heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.

"It's because of their sacrifice that we can safely enjoy the freedoms our great country offers. And it is because of their unmatched commitment that America can remain a beacon for democracy and freedom throughout the world.

"M. President, Memorial Day is a day of remembrance, but also a day for reflection. When our brave men and women volunteered to protect our nation, we promised them that we would take care of them and their families when they return home.

"On this Memorial Day, we need to ask ourselves, are we doing enough for our nation's veterans?

"Making sure our veterans can find jobs when they come home is an area where we could do more.

"For too long, we have been investing billions of dollars training our young men and women to protect our nation, only to ignore them when they come home.

"For too long, we have patted them on the back and pushed them into the job market with no support. This is simply unacceptable, and it doesn't meet the promise we made to our servicemembers.

"M. President, our hands-off approach has left us with an unemployment rate of over 27% among young veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

"That is over one in five of our nation's heroes who can't find a job to support their family, and who don't have an income to provide the stability that is so critical to their transition home.

"That's why earlier this month I introduced the Hiring Heroes Act of 2011, which was cosponsored by 17 senators and garnered bipartisan support.

"This legislation will rethink the way we support our men and women in uniform when they come home looking for jobs.

"I introduced this critical legislation because I've heard first-hand from so many veterans that we haven't done enough to provide them with the support they need to find work.

"I've heard from medics who return home from treating battlefield wounds who can't get certifications to be an EMT or to drive an ambulance. And I've even had veterans tell me that they no longer write that they're a veteran on their resume because they fear the stigma they believe employers attach to the invisible wounds of war.

"These stories are as heartbreaking as they are frustrating. But more than anything they're a reminder that we have to act now.

"M. President, my bill would allow our servicemembers to capitalize on their service.

"For the first time, it would require broad job skills training for everyone leaving the military as part of the military's Transition Assistance Program. Today, nearly one-third of those leaving the Army don't get this training.

"My bill would also require the Department of Labor to take a hard look at what military skills and training should be translatable into the civilian sector, and will work to make it simpler to get the licenses and certification our veterans need.

"All of these are real, substantial steps to put our veterans to work. All of them come at a pivotal time for our economic recovery and our veterans.

"M. President, I grew up with the Vietnam War, and I have dedicated much of my Senate career helping to care for the veterans we left behind at that time.

"The mistakes we made then have cost our nation and our veterans dearly. Today we risk repeating those mistakes.

"We can't let that happen again. Our nation's veterans are disciplined, team players who have proven they can deliver under pressure like no one else.

"M. President, let's not let another year, and another Memorial Day, go by without us delivering for them.

"Thank you. I yield the floor."

Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day and begun near the end of the US Civil War in an attempt at healing the nation. It continues today to honor the sacrifices of those who serve.
Our focus is Iraq and the most recent US military deaths in Iraq were on Sunday when 2 US soldiers were killed. Tuesday, DoD released the following statement: "The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of two soldiers who were supporting Operation New Dawn. They died May 22 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit with an improvised explosive device. They were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 63rd Armor, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infrantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan. Killed werre: Sgt. 1st Class Clifford E. Beattie, 37, of Medical Lake, Wash., and Pfc. Ramon Mora Jr., 19, of Ontario, Calif. For more information, the media may contact the 1st Infantry Division public affairs office at 785-240-6359." The Salina Journal News reports today that Clifford Beattie was on his "third deployment to Iraq" and that his survivors include his wife and their two children. He has been "psothumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal (second award) and the Purple Heart." Ramon Mora, who had been on his first tour of Iraq, "was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart and Combat Infantryman Badge." A photo of Ramon Mora Jr.'s return to Dover Air Force Base this week can be found here [photo by Jose Luis Magana (AP)]. And a photo, also by Jose Luis Magana, of Chaplain Capt Richard Dunbarreads leading a prayer for Ramon Mora Jr at Dover can be found here.
Spc 4 Steven A. Bohn: I was born and raised in Salem, Massachusetts. I grew up poor and worked for everything I have. I dropped out of high school with 3 1/2 credits left to graduate so I could get a full time job and help support my family. I joined the Army in 2007 after learning that a friend of mine had been killed in Iraq by an IED blast. After infantry training, I was assigned to the historic 101st Airborne Division, 1/506th Infantry Regiment. My unit deployed to Afghanistan in March 2008 to a remote base in Wardak province near the Pakistan border. The base was the size of a soccer field and held 28 of us. Conditions were pretty basic; having no running water, for example, we cleaned ourselves with baby wipes, and got to shower once a month at a forward operating base. I enjoyed the challenge of our rugged conditions. We went on hundreds of missions while holding down our outpost. But I was devasted when my best friend, Specialist Paul Conlon, from Somerville, Mass., and our first lieutenant were killed in August 2008. Still I knew I had to stay strong to survive. I was badly injured on November 6, 2008, when a suicide bomber driving a dump truck packed with 2000 lbs of explosives drove up to our outpost and detonated it. The building I was in collapsed on me and I suffered severe internal injuries and spinal injuries. I was hospitalized for a total of 6 months, and underwent two major surgeries that included resection of the small intestine, bladder reconstructive surgery and a spinal surgery. I was also diagnosed at Landsthul, Germany with mild Traumatic Brain Injury. While I know your focus today is on the transition from DoD to VA, I experienced some rough tranistions long before my medical retirement from service. After being initially hospitalized at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and then at Landstuhl Germany, I was flown to Fort Campbell, Kentucky rather than to Walter Reed where I was supposed to be sent for surgery. At Fort Campbell, I was initially assigned to a Warrior Transition Unit (WTU). When I was finally evaluated there by physicians, they realized the mistake and I was transferred to Walter Reed. After undergoing spinal surgery at Walter Reed, I was transferred to the VA Boston Healthcare Systme's West Rosbury Campus' spinal cord injury unit so that I could be closer to my family during that convalescence. Whatever coordination should have taken place between Walter Reed, West Rosbury, and the Forst Campbell WTU to which I've been assigned apparently didn't occur, because Fort Campbell threatened to put me on AWOL if I didn't return. As a result, I was flown back to Fort Campbell. Later I was returned to Walter Reed to undergo bladder surgery.
And that was before he transitioned to from DoD to VA care. Bohn shared his experiences with the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee yesterday. This was the second part of a two-part hearing on the process of transition from DoD health care to VA health care. The first-part of this series of hearings was held May 18th and for more on that you can refer to that day's snapshot as well as Ava's "Scott Brown questions DoD's concept of streamlining," Kat's "DoD embarrasses at Senate hearing" and Wally's "VA can't answer a basic service question." You can also refer to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee's hearing page where a video is posted. If you're reading this in 2011, you'll be able to view it. After that, I have no idea. It currently goes back to 2005. Presumably they would keep these posted. Last week, the Committee heard from VA Deputy Secretary W. Scott Gould and DoD Deputy Secretary William Lynn.
Yesterday the Committee heard from two panels of witnessess. The first panel was composed of Afghanistan War veteran Steven A. Bohn (quoted from earlier), Iraq War veteran Tim Horton and the Wounded War Care Project's James R. Lorraine. The second panel was VA's Acting Deputy Chief Officer, Mental Health Services [. . .] Antonette Zeiss and DoD's Deputy Assistant Secretary Dr. George Taylor. Senator Patty Murray is Committee Chair. From her opening remarks, we'll note the following.

Committee Chair Patty Murray: I know that VA and DoD have big challenges facing them: servicemembers and veterans continue to take their own lives at an alarming rate, wait times for benefits continue to drag on for an average of a year or far more, and the quality of prosthetic care continues to be inconsistent between the Departments. Now, in some instances, DoD and VA have come to the table to make headway on these issues, and they should be commended for that. But we still have work to do. In fact, sometimes it is the simplest fixes that for some reason the two Departments cannot come together on. A good example of this is the Traumatic Extremity Injuries and Amputation Center of Excellence that was mandated to move forward on October 14th, 2008. This new center was supposed to be a place where best practices could be shared and a resitry of these injuries could begin. But here we are two and a half years later -- and we have not seen any substantial movement toward the creation of this center. When I asked Secretary Lynn last week what progress had been made he could not provide an answer. This is unacceptable. But as our witnesses' testimony today will show, this is unfortunately not the only area where we need better medical collaboration. We have a lot of work to do to ensure that each Department knows what the other is providing to our service members and veterans. [. . .] Today, we will also further discuss the efforts to exand and improve mental health care. We do not need the courts to tell us that much more can and should be done to relieve the invisble wouds of war. Although some steps have been taken, the stigma against mental health issues continue within the military and VA care is still often too difficult to access. This had had a tragic impact. Last month, VA's Veternas Crisis Line had the most calls ever recorded in a single month -- more than 14,000. That means that every day last month, more than 400 calls were received. While it is heartening to know that these calls for help are being answered, it is a sad sign of the desperation and difficulties our veterans face that there are so many in need of a lifeline. I look forward to speaking with all of our witnesses about this most pressing issue.
Richard Burr is the Committee's Ranking Member. He had many strong points -- not surprising, he usually does. As usual, Kat will cover Richard Burr at her site, so for his opening statement, his problem with DoD and other things see Kat's report tonight at her site.
Committee Chair Patty Murray: Let me just start by saying it has been four years since the news about Walter Reed broke. In that time, some of it has changed -- some of you have talked about. But I'd like to ask each of you what you think the most important thing the two departments should focus on improving over the next four years. Maybe, Mr. Lorraine, if you would like to start.
James Lorraine: Thank you, Madam Chairman. I think the most important thing is you have to know what you know. If you don't know it, you don't. So finding who the wounded warriors are, who the veterans are, identifying -- If you want to change something you have to know who the person is you need to engage with. Right now, I'm not confident we know where the veterans are, nor do we know where there needs are. I think it's represented by my two colleagues here. That would be the number one action I would take, is finding the --
Committee Chair Patty Murray: Do you think the issue is right now nobody reaches to them or waiting for the veterans to reach out too often?
James Lorraine: Yes, Madam Chairman. What I've found is that when you talk to different government programs and non-government programs, my first question is, "How do you find the veterans in need?" And, 100% of the answers are, 'They come to us.' And I think in today's world, that's not the way we should be reaching to them. We know where they are while they're on active duty. It's that move from active duty to veterans status where we lose them. And that should be tied in a little bit closer because, once you know where the folks are and you can maintain contact with them, then you can start providing services and offer assistance.
Committee Chair Patty Murray: Mr. Horton, Mr. Bohn. What do you think we should focus on? The two departments should focus on?
Lance Cpl Tim Horton: I would say that, Chairman Murray, that we should focus on, just like he was saying, finding the veterans. A lot of veterans get lost in the system when they move back. A lot of men and women are from small country towns and there's no one there that can reach them and that's the huge problem.
Committe Chair Patty Murray: Mr. Bohn?
Spc 4 Steven Bohn: Chairman Murray: My only problem was that they didn't pay for my family to come visit me while I was getting my surgeries. My family had to come down out of their own pocket. The first surgery, my spinal surgery. The second surgery, my family couldn't afford to come down so I went through my second surgery alone.
Committee Chair Patty Murray: How far away was your family?
Spc 4 Steven Bohn: Salem Massachusetts.
His first surgery (once he was back in the US) was his spinal surgery. I believe Bohn's second surgery was his bladder surgery. Both were performed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center -- at dates very far apart and Bohn was moved around repeatedly, including to Boston, between the two surgeries. The distance from Salem, MA to Walter Reed is a (physical) distance of at least 464 to 480 miles (at least) which would take eight to nine hours to drive (at least -- and that's assuming traffic is fastly moving the entire way). It would have been very easy to get the family to Boston Logan International Airport (it's about 20 minutes from Salem to Boston by car). Most Thursdays or Fridays, I fly the opposite way, from the DC area to Boston and it's a 90 minute to almost two hour flight depending upon which airport I depart from. (Generally speaking, Reagan National Airport is the quicker one to depart from.) It would have been so easy for this to have been arranged and it would have meant so much to Bohn or anyone else going through surgery to be able to see someone before surgery and know that they would be there after the surgery. It would be reassuring and it would certainly help with the care because the patient would be in a better mind set. But no one thought to take care of this. Major surgeries for a recently returned veteran and the government plays dumb. And pretends it's normal for an already disabled or physically challenged person to go through a major surgery all by themselves. As Senator Bernie Sanders would later note on this topic, "When people come back, they're in trauma already, we have to be aggressive about reaching out." Back to the exchange.
Committee Chair Patty Murray: I think many of us forget that it's not just the service member but it's their family who's involved when somebody's deployed and specifically when they're injured. And, Mr. Bohn, let me ask you to expand on that a little bit because families and loved ones go through stress at this time as well being family members. You mentioned the travel. Tell me a little bit else about difficulties your family had during treatment and share that with us.
Spc 4 Steven Bohn: Communication was a big thing also. They didn't know. They weren't contacted until about three hours after I woke up in intensive care to see how I was doing. I know they're sitting there back, when I was getting my surgery, just panicking. You know, it's a big communication error which -- that needs to be changed.
Committee Chair Patty Murray: Okay. Anything else that we should be focused on for families that -- Communication, travel, being with the wounded warrior?
Spc 4 Steven Bohn: (nodding) Exactly.
Committee Chair Patty Murray: Mr. Horton, I was particularly concerned to hear about your difficulties with your prosethic care. It sounds like you got high quality care but it wasn't timely or responsive and you shared a little bit about how it impacts your daily life. You said that, Tell me what you mean by that, if you have to wait months or weeks?
Lance Cpl Tim Horton: There's -- The process is you go into the VA -- You actually have to call the VA and set up, there's a certain day they have a prosethic clinic and you have to be seen by them first. And you tell them exactly what you need, whether it's a new socket or a new ankle on your leg or anything like that. And then they write this down. And then they make a script and they send it to your outside provider. And from there it could take a couple of months.
Commitee Chair Patty Murray: What are you experiencing in that time period? Is that pain? Is is difficult?
Lance Cpl Tim Horton: A socket that's not fitting right which, for an amputee, that's horrible. It's like -- A little rubbing spot on the amputee is like someone having their ankle broken like terribly. So it's a big deal to me. So the time in there, that's something that really needs to be addressed.
Committee Chair Patty Murray: And how long were you in this period where you had a problem and it took you to get care?
Lance Cpl Tim Horton: It's usually -- I mean, it's usually a couple of months between every time I go to the VA. Once I get the care, it's great but the time it takes to get a prosethic leg or new prosethic is too long. And I've talked to several veterans about this and they -- they would agree on that. If you have to go through the VA, it takes . . .
Committee Chair Patty Murray: So it's waiting for an appointment, is it waiting for a speciality? Is it waiting for the right person?
Lance Cpl Tim Horton: Waiting for a phone call basically. And a lot of times, I call my prosethics in the VA a couple of times and say, "Where's this script? I need to get in here and get a leg." So I have to advocate for myself a lot That's --
Committee Chair Patty Murray: That's not the way it should be.
Lance Cpl Tim Horton: No.
Commitee Chair Patty Murray: Okay. Mr Bohn, you're experience trying to make ends meet was really troubling to hear. I learned of another veteran recently, he's a Marine officer who's recuperating at Bethesda and is receiving a housing allowance at a Camp Leijune rate so Senator Burr knows what I'm talking about when I say it's $700 less and that's a huge impact for a family. In the case of that Marine, there was a military coordinator who went out and looked for non-profit resources to help make up the differences for that. But we should be very concerned that this system was unresponsive to a military coordinator. At the very least in this case, the military coordinator did take advantage of community resources but I found that story very troubling. I wanted to ask you, Mr. Bohn, if anybody helped assist you in trying to access similar community or non-profit resources?
Spc 4 Steven Bohn: The Wounded Warrior Project directed me to a company Impact Players out of Cincinnati, Ohio which mailed me a check to help pay the differences in my bills I couldn't pay. And the Wounded Warriors, they gave me food cards, gas cards, so I could make my appointments to the VA which is an hour away from where I live in Boston. So having no gas in your car, trying to get to a VA appointment, that's kind of a struggle on its own.
Committee Chair Patty Murray: And your family? What kind of family do you have that you're responsible for?
Spc 4 Steven Bohn: I'm single. But I live myself. But I try to help out my family. Like I said, I grew up poor so I try to help out my niece, my sister, my mom, my dad.
October 6, 2009, Secretary of the Army John McHugh took part in a ceremony to resign the Army Family Covenant that his predecssor, Peter Geren, had already signed. The ceremony got considerable press attention. McHugh served on the House Veterans Affairs Committee prior to becoming Secretary of the Army. On that Committee, he was vocal about his concerns and an advocate for veterans issues. It is doubtful he's suddenly lost interest. But somewhere, something's falling through the cracks. And there was a world of difference between the experiences the Committee heard yesterday and the 'facts' they were told last week. It would appear that both DoD and the VA have a serious problem grasping what is actually happening to veterans. It all the more underscores that Robert Gates, Secretry of Defense, did not have the time he made to advocate on behalf of the State Dept's budget wants. Instead, Gates should have focused on steering his department. Gates is now doing speeches and interviews and various reflections as he does a mini-farewell tour. It would be much smarter for him to just resign and allow the incoming Secretary to take over already. Translation, Cut the farewell tour, you've been celebrated and spit-shined enough and you've done far too little. We'll come back to the hearing tomorrow and not just to note the coverage of the hearing from Kat, Wally and Ava but also to include more from Tim Horton who got less attention in this snapshot. Still on veterans issues, a number of community members from military families have e-mailed to note that some Albertsons grocery stores may be having a 10% discount for military personnel -- ID required and must be active duty, reserve or retired. In Arizona that is the case and Billie states that's the case in Texas as well. So if you have a local Albertson's check with them to see if their store is participating -- not all may be participating -- in the special discount that's going on from today through May 31st. Yesterday's snapshot covered the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing and Ava reported on it last night in "Ron Paul (Ava)" (at Trina's site) focusing on As Ava noted, "US House Rep Ron Paul has declared he's running for the Republican nomination for president. Click here to visit his website. [. . .] We're not supporting Ron Paul or against him, but we will note him because he is currently the only candidate who is against the wars."
The big news out of Iraq today is an assassination that demostrates what Carly Simon sang in "One Man Woman" (Boys In The Trees), "In the place where I come from, the people don't grow on trees (Except some of the boys), and you can't treat people like meat without being brought to your knees." It's a lesson Ali al-Lami's death illustrates today. Ahmed Chalbi's friend or lackey used his position on the Justice and Accountability Commission -- a Commission the Parliament considered closed -- to weed out challengers to Nouri and Nouri's allies in the lead up to the 2010 national elections. He used that position to declare people -- including some who held office at the time -- Ba'athists and therefore not able to run for office. As intended, he clearly influenced the elections with his actions. At one point, US Vice President Joe Biden got involved to try to get the charges resolved before the election. That worked for about 48 hours before the candidates were again barred. From AFP's Prashant Rao's Tweets on the death:
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That's a lot of Tweets, especially when you consider all that was left out or is Ali al-Lami being white washed in his death? Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) also presents a pretty rose picture. Let's drop back to February 17, 2010 for a State Dept press briefing (link has text and video) presided over by then-US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill.
JOSH ROGIN (Foreign Policy): Good to see you in person. Yesterday, General Odierno accused two Iraqi officials – let me read the names – Ali Faisal al-Lami and Ahmed Chalabi, who were both key members of the Accountability and Justice Commission, of being clearly influenced by Iran. I'm wondering if you agree with General Odierno's comments, and are you concerned with Iran's influence over this process concerning the candidates and the election in general?
AMBASSADOR HILL: Yeah, I absolutely agree with General Odierno on this. And absolutely, these gentlemen are affected by – are certainly under the influence of Iran. These were people, or in the case of Chalabi, he was named by the CPA administrator, Ambassador Bremer, back in '03 as the head of the de-Baathification Committee. It was a committee that went out of existence two years ago, replaced by the Accountability and Justice Committee. Everyone else understood that they – that that would – that their terms expired with the expiration of the committee, except for Mr. Chalabi, who assumed by himself the role of maintaining his – a position in a new committee to which he was never named.
From the Congressional Research Office's Kenneth Katzman's March 1st report entitled [PDF format warning] "Iraq: Politics, Elections, and Benchmarks," "The Justice and Accountability Commission is headed by Ali al-Lami, a Shiite who had been in U.S. military custody during 2005 - 2006 for alleged assistance to Iranian agents active in Iraq. He is perceived as answerable to or heavily influenced by Ahmad Chalabi, who had headed the De-Baathification Commission. Both are part of the Iraqi National Alliance slate and both are Shiites, leading many to believe that the disqualifications represented an attempt to exclude prominent Sunnis from the vote."
Roy Gutman and Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) break from the pack to note some reality. Jack Healy (New York Times) also manages to offer some reality and notes this on the reaction to the death, "Reactions to Mr. Lami's death were split along political lines. Iraqis with ties to the Baath Party offered bitter remarks. The state-run TV channel Al Iraqiya called Mr. Lami a martyr."
Violence swept Iraq today. Reuters notes Col Khalid Mohammad of the Ministry of Interior was shot dead in Baghdad, an attack on a Baghdad police checkpoint left two police officers injured, a Samarra roadside bombing claimed the lives of 3 police officers with another injured, 2 corpses were discovered in Mousl, 2 police officers were shot dead in the vehicle in Baghdad and the car was then torched, a Baghdad roadside bombing injured two pople, another Baghdad roadside bombing injured a police officer, 12 corpses were discovered in Basra, a Baghdad suicide bomber took his own life and that of 2 Iraqi soldiers (seven more soldiers injured) and, dropping back to last night, a Garma roadside bombing claimed the lives of 2 police officers.
The violence is real news. Fake news dominated the morning: The 'big' 'protest' staged by Moqtada al-Sadr. Reading reports by Tim Craig (Washington Post) and Mohammed Tawfeeq and Chelsea J. Carter (CNN) you could have been left with the impression that "tens of thousands" participated in the march. Sadr City, a slum of Baghdad that's remained a slum despite all of Moqtada al-Sadr's promises to the people there, is supposed to have 2.5 million residents. The march confined itself to Sadr City. Tens of thousands would not have been a good turn out in a city region with 2.5 million inhabitants. But tens of thousands did not turn out to protest. What happened was the Mahdi militia marched through Sadr City. This is Moqtada's goon squad that killed people, that ethnically cleansed and that stole property (homes and land) as well as raped and targeted gay males and males they thought were gay with kidnapping and murder. Nizar Latif (The National) quotes Izzat al Shabander ("a parliamentarian with the ruling National Alliance") stating, "It's an open challenge to the Iraqi armed forces, the Iraqi government and Iraqi democracy [. . .] What I saw at the parade brought Hizbollah immediately to mind. This is a serious challenge to the authorities. It was like there is no government."

The protest tells us that the US intelligence community, the British and the French (as well as two Arab states) were correct when they concluded that Moqtada al-Sadr's power in Iraq was slipping. At some point, Moqtada realized he wouldn't be able to turn out the necessary numbers to continue to fool his lovers and fans among the press corps so instead he sent his militia marching through Baghdad. It was a staged event that failed to impress (outside the press corps) leading Moqtada to grant an interview with BBC News ("rare interview") in an attempt to dominate the news cycle and, most likely, to shut out the rumors that he promised Nouri al-Maliki that he would stage no protests to note the end of the 100 days (June 7th).

"Tens of thousands" did not participate. They watched. Tim Craig serves up, "The Associated Press estimated at least 70,000 marchers and well-wishers crammed Sadr City, a predominately Shiite slum that was once a hotbed of violence against U.S troops." There is a huge difference between observer and participant. The march through Sadr City (confined to Sadr City) resulted in many inhabitants stepping outside their door to see the goon squad go by. AP's Qassim Abdul-Zahra reports that approximately 70,000 people came out of their homes to shout some form of "No to America!" Wow. That would be impressive if that was even half of the Sadr City population. 250,000 would be 10% of 2.5 million. 70,000 (a generous estimate and AP isn't qualified to estimate that crowd size, just FYI -- in Iraq, they're capable of estimating up to 3,000 fairly accurately -- after that it's just guessing or supplied to them by some official) is unimpressive. Again, the parade went right past their homes. All they had to do was step out on the front yard. About two-thirds chose not to step outside their front door. Moqtada also had a dismal showing last go round. April 23rd, he attempted to stage a protest. Do you remember what happened? "Hundreds" turned out in Baghdad. Sadr City, a slum in Baghdad, has a population of 2.5 million. And only "hundreds" turned out for the protest.

So this go round, as the prospective numbers became clear to him, Moqtada decided to turn it into a march by his goon squad. And to ramp up the numbers, they wouldn't go to Tahrir Square -- he'd already learned that anything requiring even a little mobility would reduce numbers -- they'd just parade around Sadr City so curious onlookers could be counted as "participants" in his staged event. AP quotes Mohammed Moyad stating . . . Well basically what the press quoted Haider al-Bahadili stating at one of Moqtada's other staged events. The AP tries to blur it and forgets to tell you that Moyad is Mehdi militia -- just like al-Bahadili was. Is that part of the training? Does the militia go through mock drills on how to schmooze the press? While the press focused on the faux protest, real ones took place today in Nassirya -- we'll cover that tomorrow and Wil S. Hylton (GQ) reporting on war resister Phil McDowell. This is so late because the snapshot was way too long and after I dictated it, I went to do the roundtable for the gina & krista round-robin. I wasn't aware it wasn't 'hitting' the site until after we finished the roundtable. My apologies.

roy gutman
mohammed tawfeeq
the new york times
jack healy
the washington post
tim craig
chelsea j. carter
the associated press
qassim abdul-zahra