Friday, March 02, 2012

The never-catch-your-breath empire

Brian Becker is with the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition.  In the video below, he's talking about the possible war on Iran.

Among other things, he's explaining how sanctions are an act of war.

My own personal belief is that Syria is on the war list ahead of Iran but that's my opinion.

I really can't believe that we can't breathe.

In 2006 and 2007, I was among those who took comfort in the fact that Bully Boy Bush left shortly.

I did not expect that America would finally find the most wonderful person to be president -- they hadn't prior -- but I thought we could breathe.

I thought all the killing and torture could be moved on from.  Unlike David Swanson, I never thought that there would be any punishment for Bush & Co.  The only way that would have happened is if Mike Gravel had won the nomination and the White House.  (I supported Mike Gravel in the primaries.  I also know him from 'back in the day.')

So I figured there would be a rush to put the Bush years firmly in the past.  I wasn't thrilled about that, I believe in accountability; however, I could live with it.

Instead, I never get that day to relax and not live in fear that the country I live in, the government my taxes support, is about to declare war on yet more already suffering people, making their lives far worse.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mark Crispin Miller's own 'identity politics'

Laurie Penny (New Statesman) rightly calls out the idiot and sexist Mark Cripsin Miller who decided to declare feminism a "CIA plot."  He decries "identity politics." Like most who do, he puts together a group of speakers and there are no women and no men or women of color.

He's a pig.  One that runs with other pigs.

He declares feminism a "CIA plot" but, notice, he's smart enough not to do the same with the Civil Rights Movement.  There's enough sexism (sadly) left in this society to allow MCM to get away with his crap but only up to a point.

Hatred of women being what it is, the comments on the article may be crazier than MCM's own thoughts:

Spud Middleton
29 February 2012 at 21:17
Makes absolutely perfect sense to me. Identity politics has done more to damage the left than anything else...more than globalisation even.-(btw, when I say 'left' I'm referring to what was once the political arm of the Labour movement-devoted to working for economic equality-rather than the shoddy self-obsessed alliance of middle-class liberals who've worked obsessively to 'affirm identities' and promote individualism over solidarity and commonality)

Sorry Laurie...he's right. Identity and middle-class liberals ruined the Left. The CIA bit might be a f**ed-up conspiracy theory but at least the 'theory' has a plausible motive...most don't even have that.

Mind, you, scrap that last's about time I had a conspiracy theory...I'm buying it. F**k might not be true but it suits me anyway.

Bourgeois liberals...not just useful idiots, but CIA stooges to boot. How'd ya feel now?

Mark Crispin Miller is now my official favourite Media Studies professor.

'Spud' seems to miss the point.  Everyone deserves equality and if you want to end so-called "identity politics" then support equality.

It's also cute how these White men whine "identity politics" anytime the issue is that no one other than old White men get to speak.  Who's playing 'identity politics'?

Seems to me it's Mark Crispin Miller and his crowd.  They're the ones in a circle jerk with a bunch of men just like themselves.

So we they do it, it's okay but when men of color or any woman objects, it's "identity politics"?

They're so good at projecting, they're so awful at taking accountability.

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Smash airs Monday on NBC.  Ivy's gotten on my last damn nerve.  She's too fat to play Marilyn.  She's got lousy hair (which is too thick to hide beneath a Marilyn Monroe wig and too long and brassy to pass for Monroe without a wig).  Her singing is not all of that.  In fact, she doesn't appear to be able to sing lead on a number and be heard in the theater.  She's great in a close up but there's no close up for the stage so her breathy little whisper?  Are they going to mike her?

I suppose they could but generally when a female is miked in a musical she doesn't become Patti LuPone.

On top of all those problems, there's the fact that Karen is perfect for the part and can actually sing -- powerhouse which is needed in a musical.

Ivy -- and this may be the actress playing the part of Ivy choosing to underscore Ivy's lack of talent by playing it this way -- has trouble with most notes.

On top of all of that, she's gotten Karen moved to the back and then kicked out of the number and then kicked out of another number.

She's being a real bitch.

Anjelica Huston finally got some meaty scenes.  She found out that all she can touch is $8,000.  Her soon to be ex-husband found out about another account.  She asked Julie (Debra Messing) to look at her Degas (Julie was an art major) and she then tried to sell it but the deed is in her husband's name so the guy wouldn't touch it.

She ended up at a party for a TV teen rolling in dough (she, Julie, Lyle and Tom gave him his first break when he was 8).  They performed a number for the party (and the teen) and he's investing Monday. So it was a good episode for Eileen (Huston's character).

Messing is trying to pretend she's not attracted to the actor playing Joltin' Joe.  Question, why didn't her husband come to the party with her?  It was on a Saturday.  Tom had a date.  His mother set him up with Tom.  I hope Tom likes him because he's cute, interesting and interested in Tom.

However, Tom appears to suffer from 1980s Gay TV Disease which means you're always more interested in everyone else in the room other than the guy who loves you.

They really need to fix that.  It's the only false note in the show.

Karen was treated like crap by the dancers but then stood her ground and now three of them are friends with her.

It's a really involving show and next week is really going to get things going.  That's when all Ivy's false starts start adding up and they start rethinking Karen being in the chorus and Ivy the lead.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, February 28, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, at least 8 people are killed and eleven left injured in Baghdad, Iraq wants out of Chapter VII, the US Senate Budget Committee launches an attack on Social Security (Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta joins in on the attack), the US Defense Dept is spending $50 billion a day on health care, Troy Gilbert's family learns the search is back on, and more.
Leon Panetta is the US Secretary of Defense. Today he declared that the Defense Department -- not the VA -- was spending $50 billion a day on health care. If that number seems questionable, well after Panetta had mentioned it, he was asked again about the figure to be sure he hadn't been misunderstood.
Senator Rob Portman: You talked about health care earlier. Let me give you a statistic that I have. I hope it's not right because it's scary. $17.4 billion is what you spent on health care in 2000 and you said earlier that we're spending $50 billion a day. Is that correct?
Secretary Leon Panetta: That's right.
The Defense Dept spending fifty billion dollars a day might lead some to be tempted to cut corners. Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.
Senator Patty Murray: Secretary Panetta, you know I spent a lot of time last year on the Joint- Select Committee on Defecit Reduction working with Democrats and Republicans to tackle some of the issues that you're talking about today. All of us went into the Committee knowing that sequestration would be a terrible outcome and we understood that, across the board, cuts to these programs middle class families and most Americans depend on would be bad policy. That was really the point of the bi-partisan triggers that Senator [Harry] Reid and Speaker [of the House John] Boehner agreed to -- they were supposed to be painful to push us towards a compromise. So I was really disappointed that despite the fact that we put a lot on our side, some pretty painful cuts out, we couldn't get to an agreement because we couldn't come to that shared sacrfice moment. I'm still willing to make those compromises needed to get to that. I hope everyone on both sides are because I think we're all really concerned about where that's going to go. But I -- I didn't want to focus on that today on my time, I wanted to ask you a question about an issue that has become very important and recently come to light at Madigan Army Medical Center in my home state of Washington. A number of soldiers had their behavioral health diagnoses changed from PTSD to other behavioral health disorders that didn't come with the same level of benefits. However, following, as you may know, an independent review at Walter Reed, a number of those diagnoses was changed back to PTSD. Obviously, this is really troubling. But what's even more troubling to me and to many service members and their family members in my home state and to a lot of people I've been talking to allegation that the decision to strip those soldiers of a PTSD diagnoses came from a unit at Madigan that seems to be taking the cost of a PTSD diagnosis into account when they were making their decision. Now there's an investigation going on into this but really, to me, one of the things that's clear is that oversight within the army and at the departmental level allowed this break from standard diagnoses process to go unchecked. So I'm really concerned about how the services handle non-PTSD behavioral health conditions like adjustment disorder where service members are administratively separated instead of going through the physical disablity process and I wanted to ask you given that an adjustment disorder is compensable, VA and DoD is required to use the VA's rating schedule, what is the reason for DoD treating adjustment disorder differently?
Secretary Leon Panetta: Well I was, uh, I was very concerned when I got the report about what happened at Madigan. And I think, uh, it-it reflects the fact that frankly we have not learned how to effectively deal with that and we have to. We-we-we need to make sure that, uh, that we have the psychiatrists, the psychologists and the medical people who can make these evaluations because these are real problems. I've met with men and women who have suffered this problem. Just met with a couple last night and they had to go through hell in order to be able to get the diagnosis that was required here. And that should not happen. So we are investigating obviously what took place but I've directed our Personnel Undersecretary to look at this issue and to correct it because it's unacceptable now to have the process we have in place.
Senator Patty Murray: Well I appreciate the attention given to this. It's going to take a lot of work. And I'm deeply concerned when someone comes home from war that they have to go through a diagnosis like this. It's hard enough after you've been told to "man up" during your time of service to then face the fact that you have PTSD -- and then to have that reversed and changed back and told there's nothing wrong with you is just devastating to these men and women and their families. So this is something I'm going to be following very closely. I want your personal attention on it. And I think that the issue raised at Madigan really shows us that we need to have a more clear, consistent guideline for clinical practices for diagnosing and treating PTSD.
Secretary Leon Panetta: I agree with that. I agree with that. Abosluetly. You're absolutely right.
Senator Patty Murray: I never want to hear anybody in any service say we're not going to give you a diagnosis of PTSD because we have a budget problem.
Secretary Leon Panetta: That's for sure.
Senator Patty Murray: Okay. Thank you very much.
The exchanges took place this morning at the Senate Budget Committee hearing with the Committee hearing from Secretary Panetta and Gen Martin Dempsey (Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff). Senator Kent Conrad is the Chair and he's a pretty lousy chair. The House is limited to five minutes for their exchanges. The Senate has a longer time limit for each senator to ask questions. Except when Kent Conrad's in charge. To be sure Panetta could leave by noon, Conrad limited everyone -- but himself -- to five minutes.
Senator John Kerry is the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And like a strong chair, when time is tight -- due to voting or a witness needing to leave by a certain time -- Kerry is more than happy to table his opening statement. To give a sentence or two off the cuff to start the hearing and just let his prepared remarks be entered into the record. Not so with Kent Conrad who seems to believe that his every repeated bromide is of value (they're not) and should be heard (they shouldn't). He was curt to the point of outright rude to two Senators on the Committee (Senator Kelly AYotte and Senator Bernie Sanders). But if you were one of his pets -- Senator Porter -- he would give you the times up look (and Porter acknowledged it by noting his time was up) but still let you babble on.
Senator Carl Levin is the Chair of the Armed Services Committee. And he's always able to keep things moving without being rude. He maintains his cool and usually a warm smile. Chair Levin also doesn't take his glasses off after he's done with his own questions and stare blankly into space for long periods of time.
Conrad wasn't fair and he didn't impose the time limit on himself. He'd note he was over the limit (such as during the first round) and continue prattling on and then allow -- on 'his' time -- one of the witneses to speak at length. But let Ayotte or Sanders attempt to clarify a response and he walked right over them in the rudest manner I've ever seen in a Senate Committee hearing.
Leon Panetta fed right into it and had his little drama moment as he decided to set professional aside so that he could lecture a Committee, his voice breaking and rising, that "Look, uh, this Congress proposed, as part of the Budget Control Act, a trillion dollars in savings off the discretionary budget."
He took a long pause there while shaking his head no frantically and waving a pointed finger at the Committee before continuing:
You can't meet the challenge that you're facing in this country by continuing to go back at discretionary spending. That's less than a third of federal spending. Now, if you don't -- if you're not dealing with the two-thirds -- that's entitlement spending -- if you're not dealing with revenues and you keep going back to the same place, frankly, you're not going to make it. You're going to hurt this country! You're going to hurt this country's security not only by cutting defense but very frankly by cutting discretionary spending that deals with the quality of life in this country.
Conrad, of course, is a well known opponent of Social Security, one who wants to destroy it. One who can get so carried away with his desire to destroy it that facts get lost along the way (see this PolitiFact check on his claims about what percent Social Security was of the budget -- he was LYING and PoliFact's fact check demonstrates that but they're too scared to call him a liar -- I will: LIAR!!) He's called it broke and worse publicly. Kent Conrad is an enemy of Social Security. And though the topic was supposedly the Defense Dept budget, Conrad made plenty of time to stick knives into Social Security.
As for Panetta, he is one of the Cabinet Secretaries who forgets his place repeatedly. Repeatedly and publicly. Considering all the scandals DoD has, you'd think he'd be focusing on them and not trying to figure out how to 'solve' problems beyond his jurisdiction. Dropping back to February 16th:

Josh Rogin (Foreign Policy) reports on US military maneuvers, specifically the movement of cash. The 2013 budget finds the Defense Department hiding $3 billion. To ensure that DoD has $3 billion in discretionary spending, the White House budget hides that figure under war spending. Rogin quotes Gordon Adams from the Clinton Administration stating this happens all the time and, for Rogin, that's that. Actually, it's not. War spending will not be subject to any automatic caps should sequestering be triggered. That's why it's being hidden. Who determined the caps that trigger sequestering? Who implemented it? Congress. So what you actually have is an attempt to get around the laws passed by Congress. Getting around the laws -- when you don't have a high priced defense team -- is also known as breaking the laws.
A case could be made that the White House is engaging in accounting fraud and doing so willfully since the intent to mislead and circumvent the Congress is so clear. This lust for fraudulent budgetary techniques may go a long way towards explaining why the Barack administration has refused to prosecute Wall Street corruption to the full extent of the law. That's not even factoring in how this attempt at smoke & mirrors with the budget goes against Barack's public pledge of transparency.

I think if your department attempted to lie to Congress and to the American people about $3 billion dollars, you really don't have the ethical force to finger-wag.
When Panetta finished his speech, instead of reminding Panetta that he was no longer in Congress and that his concern now should be the Defense Dept and that Social Security is not something that Panetta's opinions are needed on, Conrad had to babble on for over another minute insisting that "entitlements" needed to be cut, blathering on despite the fact that he'd already noted he was over the five minute mark, he'd already noted he was a minute over the five minute mark he imposed on others, and yet, his exchange would take up two more minutes and 32 seconds. But Ayotte and Sanders weren't allowed to clarify their issues. Bernie's mistake was in not grasping that if you wanted to attack Social Security, Chair Kent Conrad would give you and Panetta all the time in the world. Later on in the hearing, Panetta would call for an increase in tri-care fees and more. (More? He thinks conpensation will be reduced -- "I believe" -- that's compensation for veterans. People should be very offended by the little dance Conrad and Panetta did.)
Maybe Conrad had to shut down Bernie Sanders because Bernie was getting to the heart of the matter, addressing where money is wasted.
Senator Bernie Sanders: I'm going to pick up on a slightly different tangent than my friend from Alabama and suggest to you that everybody understands that our country faces huge economic challenges, our middle class is collapsing, we have more people living in poverty than probably anytime in the modern history of this country which is one of the reasons that MediCaid is up, one of the reasons that food stamps are up. We've got 50 million people who have no health insurance and millions of families are struggling to send their kids to college or to pay for child care. So how we deal with every aspect of the budget including the military impacts on every other. Now the reality is -- as I understand it, and somebody correct me if I'm wrong -- military spending has tripled since 1997. Tripled. Not exactly ignoring the military. And we now spend more on defense -- as I understand it -- then the rest of the world combined. So I want to start off by asking you, Mr. Secretary, my understanding is that the United States still operates 268 military installations in Germany and 124 in Japan. Now in Germany, people all have health care. In Germany, their kids go to college without having to pay for it, as a matter of fact. So I'm kind of interested to know why we have 268 military bases defending Germany when I thought that war [WWII] was won a few years ago. Somebody help me out on that one.
Secretary Leon Panetta: I'll also yield to General Dempsey on this one. First of all, that 268 number sounds very high. We've cut almost 140 bases out of Europe over the last few years and, uh, as a result of bringing down two additional brigades out of Europe, we will -- we will bring down that infrastructure even more.
Senator Bernie Sanders: Mr. Secretary, I may be wrong but that's the best information we have.
Secretary Leon Panetta: Okay.

Senator Bernie Sanders: By the way, why are we -- WWII's been over for a few years. Why are we -- Who are we defending? The Soviet Union doesn't exist. Why do we have that kind of presence in Germany when we have 50 million people in this country who have no health insurance?
Gen Martin Dempsey: I can't answer the, uh, the latter part of your question, Senator. But I will say that I'm advocate of maintaining our relationship with NATO. NATO gets maligned on occasion. They've done some great work around the world. They've got a $300 billion budget in the aggregate. If we go to war tomorrow, who's going to be the first people we're going to ask?
Senator Bernie Sanders: But who are we going to war with in Europe, do you think?
Gen Martin Dempsey: No, no. That's not the point, Senator. If we go to war tomorrow, the first people we'll ask to go with us are the Europeans.
Senator Bernie Sanders: But does that answer the question why we have that type of -- 268 military installations ?
Gen Martin Dempsey: Well, Senator, I'll have to -- I'll get you the data. I've spent 12 years in Germany, I can't imagine -- I've never counted up anywhere near 268 installations, but we'll take that one for the record.
Well then Dempsey isn't very observant or he's not very honest. Last year, Senator Jon Tester was discussing the "military installations" with then-Secretary Robert Gates. In fact, it's documented in this press release from December 15th of last year (two months ago) entitled "Senators join forces to save money and strenghten U.S. military" which clearly states "that the United States still operates 268 military installations in Germany and 124 in Japan."
So Dempsey either has serious observation issues -- a very serious liability for the Chair of the Joint-Chiefs -- or else he's lying. Panetta's not off either. Gates was Secretary of Defense through July. Senator Tester and Senator Kay Baily Hutchison were discussing the bases with Gates. When Gates left in July of last year, the number still stood at 268. So to claim that the number's been dropping for years -- no, it hasn't. Again, lack of knowledge or lying.
Bernie Sanders was correct.
Senator Bernie Sanders: I want to pick up on another question -- a question that the Chairman asked about defense contractors. My understanding is that in the past that the DoD has estimated that we have some 500,00 to 600,000 people who are military contractors. Is-is -- And that the GAO has estimated that number at 900,000.
Under Secretary of Defense Robert Hale: You know, I think I'd have to see the definitions of what we're including. Are we including private sector contractors who are supporting others? That multiplying effect?
Senator Bernie Sanders: I suspect we are.
Under Secretary of Defense Robert Hale: The numbers I'm giving you -- and I agree they are rough in number -- are the portion, the full time equivalents that we're paying and I believe it's around 300,000.
Senator Bernie Sanders: I had an interesting experience. I was in Afghanistan maybe a year and a half ago. And we were being taken around by two fellows in an armored car. One was with US military, one was a private contractor. They were both doing basically the same work. The guy who was the contractor was making substantially more than the fellow who was in the army. Does that make sense? Can you talk about that?
Secretary Leon Panetta: Uh -- what -- Uh, let me just say, Senator, that the area you've pointed out is an area that frankly needs attention at the Defense Dept. One of the reasons we are looking at $60 billion in trying to make the place more efficient is going after contractors and trying to reduce those numbrs. So I just wanted to assure you that I'm aware of the problem. Senator Gates -- Secretary Gates, at one point, basically said he didn't know how many contractors he had at the Defense Dept. It is a large number. Frankly, it's too large and we need to do what we can to reduce it.
Senator Bernie Sanders: I appreciate that answer. Last question I would ask, Mr. Chairman, my office has gotten involved a little bit in terms of fraud. You've got a huge budget, you're dealing with thousands and thousands of defense contractors, etc. My understanding is that the top three defense contractors, that's Boeing, Lockheed and Northrop Grumman paid over a billion in fines over this ten year period to settle fraud allegations. That's just the top three. There's massive amounts of fraud going on in terms of defense contractors dealing with the DoD. Are we moving aggressively to try to address that issue?
Secretary Leon Panetta: That is part of our effort to, uh, -- Two ways. One, to be able to go after those kinds of fraudulent activities in the various contracts that we have to try to achieve savings there, but, in addition to that, the auditing -- I mean, we're a department that still cannot audit all of our books. That's crazy.
Senator Bernie Sanders: It is crazy.
Secretary Leon Panetta: We need to do that and --
Senator Bernie Sanders: I would just say, and I thank you (Chair Conrad) for raising that point. We hear, you know, people talking about 'we need more money,' and what you have just told us is we don't even know what we're spending and how we're spending it.
Secretary Leon Panetta: Well, we don't have audit ability and that's something, frankly, we owe the taxpayers.
Senator Bernie Sanders: I would think so. My last --
Chair Conrad: No. We've got to stop there because we're a minute over and [. . .]
Conrad blathered on some more while claiming time was short. Let's wrap up the US Congress by noting this from Senator Murray's office:
ose with this from Senator Patty Murray's office -- Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee:

Contact: Murray Press Office

Tuesday, February 28, 2012
(202) 224-2834

TOMORROW: VETERANS: Murray to Hold Hearing to Discuss FY 2013 Budget for Veterans' Programs

(Washington, D.C.) – On Wednesday, February 29th, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, will hold a hearing on the fiscal year 2013 budget for veterans' programs. The Committee will hear from the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki and representatives of several veterans service organizations. The Senator will ask Secretary Shinseki about the impact of sequestration on VA services, funding for construction and maintenance of VA facilities, and efforts to combat the claims backlog. She will also address VA's ongoing challenges in combating long wait times for mental health care as the number of veterans seeking that care continues to rise.

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

WHAT: Hearing to discuss FY 2013 budget

WHEN: Wednesday, February 29, 2012

10:00 AM ET

WHERE: Russell Senate Office Building
Room 418

Washington, D.C.
Turning to Iraq, Alsumaria TV reports that the Daughters of Iraq are threatening to stage a sit-in with their 300 plus membership over having not received payment for at least two months. DOI is the female counterpart to the Sons Of Iraq ("Awakenings," Sahwa). Their need become more apparent with the emergence of female suicide bombers. On the subject of Sahwa, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports Sahwa leader Rasool Khalaf Halbousi was killed by a Falluja roadside bombing which also left one of his bodyguards injured and that 4 members of the same family ("young men") were all shot dead in Baghdad's Sadr City section, that 1 "juvenile detention center worker" was shot dead in Baghdad and 2 Baghdad roadside bombings claimed 1 life and left eight more people injured. In addition, Aswat al-Iraq reports that a Mosul bombing targeting prison guards patrol of Badosh prison claimed the life of 1 guard and left three more injured. 8 and 11
No one bought them armored vehicles. As we noted yesterday and over the weekend, the Iraqi Parliament's decision to spend over $50 million on 350 armored vehicles for members of Parliament has become a huge issue in Iraq. (We noted that, of course the New York Times hasn't had time to note that. They're too busy glorifying dictators.) Al Mada reports that despite a 222 vote in favor of the purchase (Iraq has 325 members of Parliament -- many of whom don't attend sessions), the Parliament is now furiously attempting to walk it back as a result of Iraqi anger. As the Cabinet discussed the 2012 budget yesterday, Hussain al-Shahristani, the Deputy Prime Minister for Energy, declared that they should veto the armored cars aspect of the bduget and return it to the Parliament. Aswat al-Iraq quotes MP Najiba Najeeb stating that the presidency might be able to axe the armored vehicle proposal. Al Sabaah cites an unnamed legal expert who says the Cabinet can vote for the budget or against it but cannot modify it as State of Law is claiming. Despite that analysis, Aswat al-Iraq notes, "The Iraqi Cabinet will make some amendments to the 2012 general budget, which was adopted by the Parliament, to preserve constitutional procedures, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh announced today." Alsumaria TV notes that Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi states that all the blocs in Parliament voted in favor of the armored cars. Sam Dagher and Ali A. Nabhan (Wall St. Journal) explain:

Anger over what Iraqis are referring to as the scandal of the musafahat—"the armored objects" -- is building up in teahouses, newspaper columns, blogs and social-media websites.
Even the country's most revered religious authority has weighed in on the matter. In a sermon on Friday, a senior representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the country's most senior Shiite cleric, lambasted what he described as politicians' lopsided priorities.
The representative, Ahmed al-Safi, suggested parliamentarians consider donating the $50 million allocated for armored vehicles toward provision of clean drinking water for some of the hundreds of villages currently lacking it. The sermons usually reflect the views of the reclusive Mr. Sistani.

AFP provides a cross section of Iraqi voices decrying the proposed purchase such as journalist Wassan al-Shimmari ("They live in secure areas inside, or even outside, the Green Zone. Each one of them has a full team of bodyguards so there is no need to have other privileges.") and commentator Tariq al-Mammuri ("The subject of buying armoured cars was approved quickly, while other laws are taking a long time, which shows that MPs prioritise their own benefits over the needs of the people.").
The political crisis continues in Iraq and things continue to worsen. Sunday, Joel Brinkley explored many of the emerging realities -- as well as possible outcomes -- in "Iraq outlook looks dim after pullout" ( POLITICO). Excerpt.

After Bush negotiated an end to the U.S. military presence in Iraq near the end of his term in 2008, his politicians and generals began warning of three large potential problems: growing Iranian influence in the Iraqi state, increasing sectarian violence and the possibility that Al Qaeda in Iraq "will continue to grow in capacity," as Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, who commanded U.S. forces there, put it during a news conference last fall.
In interviews, several former officials and experts acknowledged that most, if not all, of that has already happened, in just the few weeks since the last American troops left. Last week, for example, Iran agreed to increase the electric power it supplies to Iraq by as much as 30 percent.
Some Sunni leaders, under sometimes lethal pressure from the Shiite-controlled government, have begun talking about breaking away from Baghdad and creating their own state. That has started talk of a possible civil war. And in the past week alone, about 70 people have died in bombings and other attacks.
But no one seemed to anticipate what is arguably the biggest problem: The nation seems to be relapsing rapidly into brutal dictatorship.
"There's an incredible consolidation of power in the executive," said Jason Gluck of the United States Institute of Peace. During the war, he worked in Iraq for the National Democratic Institute, among other agencies. "The parliament has been rendered extremely feeble, with little ability to stand up to the executive."
Brinkley covered the inability of US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey to be able to meet face-to-face with Nouri al-Maliki (he's more often rebuffed) and other issues including the deliberate attempts by Nouri's underlings to keep the US Embassy from receiving their food supplies. Brinkley covered all of this and it was alarming. Today, Tim Arango (New York Times) wrote a silly and embarrassing 'memo' treating this trend as "It's great for Nouri!" Nouri al-Maliki is not Iraq. He's the current leader. Someday the paper will be doing an obit on him -- maybe sooner than he expects considering the path he's chosen -- because Nouri will go. The Iraqi people will remain. And it's the Iraqi people that Tim Arango disregards (yet again) in his rush to glorify the latest (authoritarian) moves by Nouri.
One thing people rarely bring up when discussing US soft power with regards to Iraq is Chapter VII. Possibly because it's a forbidden topic in the US media to judge by the repeated efforts to ignore it. Iraq wants out of Chapter VII. The US could keep it there for some time. Aswat al-Iraq reports, "The Iraqi Parliamentary Foreign Relations Commission today called the international community to play greater role in removing Iraq from UN Security Council's Chapter VII and adopting a clear stand to support its legitimate issues, according to a statement."
Lastly, dropping back to the US, KCBD reports the family of Major Troy Gilbert has learned that the Pentagon will "resume" their search for Gilbert who died in Iraq while using his plane to provide cover for US soldiers on the ground who were under attack. When his plane crashed, fighters took Gilbert's body from the plane and a year later, in 2007, his body showed up as a prop in a propaganda video. Ariel Walden (KFYO) reports that his parents received the news last Friday. Jim Douglas (WFAA) offers a video report on the news, speaking with the parents, widow Ginger Gilbert Ravella and government officials. Excerpt.

Jim Douglas: The last time we saw Kaye Gilbert she was crying because the government told her that her son's case was closed, that no one would look for the remains of Major Troy Gilbert in Iraq.

Kaye Gilbert: Please, please help us get him home.

Jim Douglas: Now they will.

Kaye Gilbert: You cry when you're sad and you cry when you're happy. But today is a happy, happy day.

Jim Douglas: Air Force and MIA officials told the Gilbert's their son's case is so extraordinary that an Undersecretary of Defense to give it special consideration. The first time that's ever been done.