Friday, April 19, 2013

Reuters lies about Iraq -- corporate media, what do you expect?

Reuters offers this nonsense on Iraq:


The vote will measure the political muscle of Maliki's Shi'ite coalition and his Sunni rivals who are jockeying for position before the 2014 parliamentary vote where the prime minister may seek a third term.

How will it do that? 

You can't tell us, you can't define that, because it's not true.

It's provincial elections, not parliamentary.  People are electing local councils and on up.  This isn't a national election.

Local ties will mean everything.  It's like saying that an election of a Mayor in Fresno will tell us who will likely win the 2016 US presidential election.

They just lie and lie.

That's before we get into "the prime minister may seek a third term."

May he?

Maybe you should provide the background which includes that in February 2011, Nouri promised he wouldn't seek a third term.  Or that the Parliament's passed a law limiting him to two terms. 

Maybe those are details to include.

But they're not really reporting, are they?

I think I'm taking on the Iraq liars here and doing so more often.

Why?

Mike did these two posts this week:


Which left me thinking a few things.

A) How hard it is for one person to be left doing everything.  That person is C.I. and she does a wonderful job, an excellent one. 

B) It shouldn't be just her.  In 2003, we had a whole web full of people who took on the corporate media's Iraq 'reporting.'  They're gone now.  It's just C.I. and maybe Media Lens.  That's it.

So the press lies and skirts the truth because they know they can get away with it.

So I'm going to be calling out bad reporting on Iraq at least once a week.  I should do it more but I only blog four times a week and one of those is on Smash. 




"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills): 

Friday, April 19, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, protests continue in Iraq, Nouri's thugs attack the protesters (again),  a helicopter crashes in Anbar Province, Saturday elections mean curfews and border closings, we pick up on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing where Shinseki spins, Lynne Stewart remains a political prisoner in the United States, and more.



Protests continued today in Iraq.   They have been taking place now for over 118 days (April 1st, they reached the 100 day mark).  Key developments today?

They include harsh restrictions and targeting of the protesters.   Iraqi Spring MC notes that travel into Baghdad was cut off by government forces, the same was true in Hawija and in Samarra (where forces also shot at people trying to enter and they confiscated banners) and that protesters in Falluja are demanding the release of those Nouri's forces arrested for trying to enter the city. In Baiji, Nouri's forces lied about a bombing to clear the area.  Iraqi Spring MC reports that Sheikh Saad ami al-Assi has been arrested by security forces.  Iraqi Spring MC also reports that activists at the Hawija sit-in were targeted by Nouri's forces and three were injured.  National Iraqi News Agency adds that in addition to the three injured, 1 of the protestors was shot dead.


As the protesters were attacked and harassed by protesters violence took place.  Alsumaria notes 1 of Nouri's Tigris Operation Forces is dead in Hawija.  The forces attacked the protesters and some man (who may or may not have been part of the protests) darted into a home under construction, emerged with a gun and shot dead one of Nouri's forces as the protesters staging the sit-in were being attacked.  Again, the person may or may not have been part of the protests.  He may not have been and may have been a bystander, a criminal or a plant by the forces to create violence. 



 Iraqi Spring MC reports that Sheikh Adnan al-Hasanian spoke today to protesters in Amiriyah and was very critical of the government because of its hostility to the Iraqi people.  What's he talking about?  You'd need a functioning press in the west to know that and we don't have that.  Dropping back to yesterday's snapshot:


  Kitabat reports that tribal leaders in Dhi Qar have signed a letter apologizing to activists.  For what?  For Nouri's "abusive verbal attack" on them.  Nouri gave a little speech where he called the peaceful activists lawless rebels and threatened to use force against them.  Peaceful protests have been going on across Iraq, peaceful protests against Nouri, since December.
They aren't the only ones condemning Nouri for those remarks.  NINA notes that Osama al-Nujaifi's party has condemned the remarks and called for Nouri to stop verbally attacking demonstrators and return to Baghdad to oversea security issues.  Osama al-Nujaifi is part of the Iraqiya political slate but this was his Motahedoon Coalition issuing the condemnation.  Iraqiya also condemned the remarks.  Maysoun al-Damlouji, Iraqiya spokesperson, is quoted by NINA stating, "Describing our honorable people who peacefully demonstrate across Iraq demanding their legitimate rights as conspirators is the ugliest words you can use against the oppressed people." Iraqiya MP Ahmed al-Alwani added that Nouri's attacks on demonstrators "incite sectarian strife."

Even Nouri's new bride Saleh al-Mutlaq is calling out the remarks leading Kitabat to wonder if the honeymoon is over for Nouri and Saleh or if this is just more propaganda from Saleh in an attempt to boost the votes for the National Dialogue Front?



See, Iraqi outlets can report what's going on.  For some reason the BBC, AP, AFP, et al can't or just won't.  It's probably the latter.  I would assume if Barack Obama gave a speech and the audience began chanting "Liar! Liar!" -- that



That's demonstrators in Adhamiya today where the Minister of Justice was called out for his public statements that he will continue to carry out death sentences.   Reuters and AFP note that mortars claimed 7 lives and left twelve people injured in Khales.



 2012 saw Nouri al-Maliki's government in Iraq execute at least 129 peopleTuesday saw 3 men and 1 woman sentenced to death as well as 21 executions carried out.  Today United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has called out the executions:




GENEVA (19 April 2013) – The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Friday condemned the execution of 21 individuals in Iraq earlier in the week, which brought the total to 33 in the past month, and said she was appalled by reports that the Ministry of Justice has announced that a further 150 people may be executed in the coming days.
She stressed that the justice system in the country was “too seriously flawed to warrant even a limited application of the death penalty, let alone dozens of executions at a time.”
“Executing people in batches like this is obscene,” Pillay said. “It is like processing animals in a slaughterhouse. The criminal justice system in Iraq is still not functioning adequately, with numerous convictions based on confessions obtained under torture and ill-treatment, a weak judiciary and trial proceedings that fall short of international standards. The application of the death penalty in these circumstances is unconscionable, as any miscarriage of justice as a result of capital punishment cannot be undone.”
A total of 1,400 people are believed to be currently on death row in Iraq, and 129 people were executed in 2012 alone.
The Government of Iraq maintains that it only executes individuals who have committed terrorist acts or other serious crimes against civilians, and have been convicted under the Anti-Terrorism Law No. 13 of 2005.
The High Commissioner said she is concerned at the broad scope and wide application of article 4 of the Anti-Terrorism Law, which envisages the death penalty for a wide range of terrorism-related acts, not all of which can be considered to meet the threshold of “most serious crimes” allowing for the imposition of the death penalty under international law.
Pillay said she is also deeply concerned at Iraq’s lack of compliance with its international human rights obligations in relation to the imposition of the death penalty, in particular under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iraq has been a State Party for more than 40 years.
The High Commissioner emphasized the need for transparency and stringent respect of due process. She called on the Government “to halt executions, conduct a credible and independent review of all death row cases and disclose information on the number and identity of death row prisoners, the charges and judicial proceedings brought against them, and the outcome of the review of their cases.”
The High Commissioner also expressed concern at the apparent inability of prisoners convicted on terrorism-related charges to exercise the right to seek pardon or commutation of their sentences, as prescribed in article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and questioned why the presidential authority to pardon or commute death sentences (granted by article 286 of the Criminal Procedure Code) is hardly ever exercised.
Pillay said she was pleased to note that one part of Iraq – the Kurdistan Region – is already upholding an unofficial moratorium on the death penalty, and urged the central Government to follow suit and heed the repeated calls by the international community to establish a moratorium on all executions with a view to the abolition of the death penalty in accordance with repeated UN General Assembly Resolutions.* She pointed out that around 150 countries have now either abolished the death penalty in law or in practice, or introduced a moratorium.
“I am the first to argue there must never be impunity for serious crimes. But at least if someone is jailed for life, and it is subsequently discovered there was a miscarriage of justice, he or she can be released and compensated,” Pillay said.
*See GA resolutions 62/149 (2007), 63/168 (2009), 65/205 (2010) and 67/176 (2012).
ENDS
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KUNA covers the remarks at length here, AP offers a brief write up hereSky News noted yesterday that there had been 50 executions in Iraq so far this year.   Pravda also notes 50 executions so far this year.



Staying on the topic of violence, yesterday a Baghdad internet cafe with pool tables was attacked with a bomb.  Today AP notes the death toll has risen to 32 (sixty-five are injured).  Meanwhile National Iraqi News Agency reports an Iraqi military helicopter has crashed in Anbar Province leaving four people injured.  In addition, NINA notes a Hilla car bombing claimed 8 lives, a Kirkuk bombing claimed 1 life and left seventeen injured, a Baquba bombing claimed 6 lives and left seven people injured, security forces in Falluja shot dead a civilian "for unknown reasons,"


 Tomorrow, 12 of Iraq's 18 provinces are scheduled to vote in provincial elections.  Security forces voted last Saturday.  Nouri has refused to allow residents of Anbar Province and Nineveh Province to vote (he's hugely unpopular in those provinces where the protests against his government are the strongest).  His incompetence and inability to do his job means Kirkuk can't vote.   In 2006, the Bully Boy Bush administration refused the Iraqi Parliament's choice of Ibrahim al-Jaafari for prime minister and backed Nouri al-Maliki instead. By the spring of 2006, Nouri was prime minister.  He took an oath to uphold the Constitution.  That would include Article 140 which calls for a way to resolve the dispute over oil-rich Kirkuk (is it part of the Kurdistan Regional Government or part of the Iraqi central government out of Baghdad) -- a census and a referendum which must take place "by a date not to exceed the 31st of December 2007."  Clearly that never took place.  After voters failed to give Nouri a second term in the March 2010 elections (his State of Law came in second to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya), the US-brokered an agreement to give their puppet (now Barack Obama's puppet) a second term as prime minister via an extra-Constitutional legal contract.  To get the Kurds to sign off on the contract, Nouri scheduled a census for the start of December 2010.  After the contract was signed, Nouri quickly cancelled that census.  There has been no attempt since then.

Deutsche Welle explores Kirkuk in "Iraq's Kirkuk remains in legal limbo"

Over the years as deadlines to meet these obligations come and go, both sides have dug in. Kurdish troops are deployed in the north of Kirkuk, while Baghdad has stationed a military contingent of exclusively Shiite Arabs in the south. "We have no other choice because Baghdad does not respect the constitutional agreements," says Khaled Shwani, an MP with the Kurdish Alliance that represents the main coalition of Kurdish parties.
 "Arab families are being given US$20,000 to move back to their native regions but they are still here," says Shwani. He also accuses Baghdad of "deliberately delaying" the constitutional requirement of addressing the demographic issues in Kirkuk. The Kurdish MP can hardly hide his dismay about the complex status quo. "Kirkuk is the black well in which Iraq finds its reflection. There is no political agreement, no dialogue and no confidence between the different communities."


The other three provinces not voting tomorrow?  They're in the semi-autonomous north where Nouri has no control.  The KRG's three provinces will vote September 21st. Those three provinces are Dohuk, Erbil and Suleimaniyah.  Had the Constitution been followed by the end of 2007 as it was supposed to be, the KRG might or might not include Kirkuk.  That's northern Iraq which shares a border with Turkey.

Eastern Iraq shares a border with Iran.  Southern Iraq shares a border with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.  Saudi Arabia also borders Iraq from the west -- as do Jordan and Syria.  Petra reports, "Iraq has informed Jordan that it will close the 'Turaibeil' (Karama) border crossing for 24 hours to hold election."  KUNA continues, "They added in a statement that the borders would be closed against people and goods for 24 hours."  John Hannah (Foreign Policy) notes of tomorrow's elections:


[. . .]  in a highly controversial move, Maliki's cabinet decreed in March that balloting would be delayed by up to six months in Iraq's two most influential Sunni-majority provinces, Anbar and Nineveh -- both of which border Syria and have for months been the locus of large-scale (but mostly peaceful) anti-Maliki protests. Maliki claimed -- not entirely without justification, especially in Anbar -- that he was simply responding to the petition of local leaders worried that voters could not be adequately protected from growing collaboration between al Qaeda affiliates on either sides of the Iraq-Syria border. 
His opponents charge that the prime minister's real agenda is avoiding a massive anti-Maliki turnout that would further escalate opposition to his government. They correctly note that previous elections were conducted under far more threatening conditions. Both the U.S. and U.N. urged Maliki to reverse course, worried about the appearance of disenfranchising millions of Sunnis already agitated by claims that Maliki has been systematically moving to marginalize their community in the interests of establishing an Iranian-backed Shiite dictatorship. Maliki turned aside these criticisms, while suggesting the delayed elections might occur as early as May.


Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) offers:


Although overall attacks are at roughly similar levels as they were for the last provincial elections in 2009, at least 13 candidates and two political party officers have been killed in targeted attacks in the past few weeks – a record number.  Almost 150 candidates have so far been struck off the list of candidates, most of them for alleged ties to the banned Baath Party of Saddam Hussein.
“It’s a showdown,” says Iraqi political analyst Saad Eskander. “They use 'legal' methods – expelling the ones they don’t want or by force – physical liquidation. This is an extension of politics, not an extension of terrorism.”


It's 15.  That's what the Iraqi press has been reporting and that's what Tim Arango (New York Times) reported earlier this week.  The Times is notorious for erring on the side for figures being too small, not too large.  It's 15.  Tim Arango, "At least 15 candidates, all members of the minority Sunni community, have been assassinated -- some apparently by political opponents, others by radical Sunni militants."  And that's just the assassinated -- that doesn't include the attempted assassinations.  Nor does it include non-provincial candidates who are killed -- such as officials working the elections.  National Iraqi News Agency reports, "Police told NINA on Friday, Apr. 19, that gunmen opened fire from guns with silencers at Moshtaq Talib, the Deputy Director of Karkh II Education Department, while driving his car in Amil neighborhood, killing him instantly." 

Mayada al-Askari (Gulf News) reports on the efforts to have candidates listed on the ballot -- as per usual, the Justice and Accountability Commission has been gaming the election (which includes who they allow back on the ballot):

The ace card is with Al Maliki, who is also calling for a majority government -- something that will not please the majority of the political blocs in the country’s lame political process. However, it is something that will make Iraqis happy as they will know who exactly is responsible for all the corruption and failures in the country. Both Saleh Al Mutlag -- who returned to the government after calling Al Maliki a dictator -- and Osama Al Nujaifi have been more successful with their election pitch than Allawi’s Al Iraqiya list. The reinstatement of the top candidate of the Mutlag list in Baghdad and of the number three candidate of Al Nujayfi in Nineveh is positive news for the two men. Al Maliki only has problems with a single candidate (in Basra) who was reinstated.


 Niqash offers strong election coverage with Mustafa Habib's "voters look for something else: are iraq’s sectarian politics over?," Daoud al-Ali's "hot or not: epidemic of puppy love for female politicians strikes karbala," Mohammed Hamid al-Sawaf and Naba al-Dawalibi's "power, influence, money, god: which will iraqi voters choose?," and Christine van den Toorn's "special ballot: were iraqi military forced to vote for al-maliki?"--they have done the strongest reporting on the elections of any non-Iraqi newspaper or channel. 


Monday there was a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.  We attended the hearing that morning.  That afternoon, the attack in Boston took place and, like everyone else, we were trying to find out what was going on there.  Yesterday's snapshot covered the hearing and noted that we'd pick up on it today with regards to Senator Jay Rockefeller.  In addition, Ava offered "Sanders makes impression early in tenure as Committee Chair" on the hearing last night and Kat offered "I can always count on Senator Richard Burr."  The topic of the hearing was the VA's budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2014.  Appearing before the Committee was VA Secretary Eric Shinseki -- with Allison Hickey, Dr. Robert Petzel, Steve Muro, Stephen Warren and W. Todd Grams tagging along.

Senator Jay Rockefeller apparently is too old to grasp the term "multi-task."  He wasted everyone's time with nonsense such as this, "It's homelessness on the one side, suicides on the other, how do you pick the tragedy?"

Does he think he's Barbara Walters and this was an interview?  Those are the problems.  The VA Secretary, whomever it is, will have to address them and a lot more.

Also, Eric Shinseki's title is "Secretary."  It is not "General."  We applauded Michael Hayden for using the title "Director" when he was made "Director" of the CIA.  Eric Shinseki is the Secretary of the VA.  That is his current title.  If it's beneath him and he needs by some other title, then he needs to resign.  Watching Jay lick his lips and call him "General" repeatedly was sickening.  And we need to review that title because it's not "Doctor."

So this crap from Jay Rockefeller was also a waste of time and had nothing to do with the VA budget -- which was the topic of the hearing,  "How do you take someone who's on a suicide watch list, how do you try to break through?"  If he really gave a damn about that question, he should have directed it to the only doctor present, Dr. Robert Petzel. 

Of course, Shinseki couldn't answer that question but he used it to eat up time, run down the clock and be a glory hog.  "You know four years ago," he declared, "we weren't receiving suicide information, veteran suicide information from the states.  So we wrote, and the states have been very responsive."  And he went on and on and on.  And Rockefeller let him.

Wow, Eric Shinseki, you're quite the man aren't you.  You're just accomplishing so much and that's why you can't backlog, right?  Reality, Eric Shinseki did nothing on that.

That was the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee that repeatedly raised that issue and that was then-Chair of the Committee Patty Murray that did the heavy lifting.  August 2011, Adam Ashton reported on it for McClatchy's News Tribune and that article doesn't say a word about Eric's efforts -- because there were none.  It does however open with, "Washington Sen. Patty Murray on Wednesday encouraged state government to start tallying veteran suicides, as [the state of] Washington already does.  Her goal is to quantify an under-reported number that could help health agencies improve their outreach to service members who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Senator Jay Rockefeller:   I remember a couple of years ago the excitement when DoD and the Veterans Administration were planning to work together, I went to a number of common facilities, joint-facilities and everything was full of optimism and now all of the sudden, evidently, unless I'm wrong there's been a pull-back from electronic records, all things that flow from this cooperation, there's been a pull-back from DoD.  I'm curious about that.


Secretary Eric Shinseki:  We are both still committed to a seamless transition of service members into VA.  That has not changed.  We are also both committed to an electronic health record that we share in common and in the lnaguage that we have come to use in the past four years of growing the concept, it is a single, joint-common, integrated electronic health record -- open in architecture, non-proprietary in design.  And all of those terms are code to keep us focused on what we want in an electronic health record -- one that we share together and one that will be as good five years from now as it is on the day we first invest and purchase it as opposed to being faced -- over and over again -- with an aging electronic health record that we somehow have to refinance years down the road. So this is the concept that we have commit ourselves to and, uh, and I would say that, uh, my sense is that we have not backed away from that although Secretary Hagel who has just arrived is in the midst of, uh, getting into this issue and, uh, uh, I've agreed that, uh, he ought to have time to do that and -- 

Senator Jay Rockefeller: But you don't know of any back away? 


I noted in yesterday's snapshot that Jay's been saying he'd be leaving the Senate for years and that he never does.  A few e-mailed to note that he has declared he won't seek re-election in 2014.  I am aware of that.  I was also in DC all week so I'm also aware of certain individuals high in the Democratic Party structure entertaining at dinners -- including two I attended -- with tales of Jay's recent 'concern' that he might be really hard to replace and, if the numbers just aren't there, let him know, there's still time for him to run.  The laughter that greets those tales should have been greeting Jay's nonsense at the Senate hearing.


Shinseki should have been pressed hard on what he declared above.  He was not.  Last week, Shinseki appeared before the House Veterans Affairs Committee.  We covered it here with last Thursday's "Iraq snapshot" and "Seamless transition? Shinseki wasted the last four years," while Ava reported on it with "Shinseki tries to present 134% increase as a gift for women," Wally with  "How the VA and DoD waste your tax dollars (Wally)" and Kat with "DAV calls for Congress to reject 'chained CPI'."  In addition, Dona moderated a discussion of the hearing at Third "Congress and Veterans."



The shocker of that hearing was learning that nothing had been done on the electronic record.  Not one damn thing.  Let's be clear -- and let's be quick -- since 2005, Congress has been funding this and holding hearings on this.  Shineski became VA Secretary at the start of 2009.  He and the VA (under him) have reported progress to Congress repeatedly over the last four years.  The first step of progress is deciding who's operating system will be used -- because DoD and VA computers systems are not currently compatible.  In last week's hearing, Shinseki revealed that this hadn't been decided but he favored VA's system.  This is the first step.  You can't design a record until you know what system is going to be using it.  So for four years nothing has happened.  That was shocking news.

Now let's deal with his nonsense before the Senate.  Let's go slowly over what he told Rockefeller (already quoted above) about the electronic record.

Secretary Eric Shinseki:  We are both still committed to a seamless transition of service members into VA.  That has not changed.  We are also both committed to an electronic health record that we share in common and in the language that we have come to use in the past four years of growing the concept, it is a single, joint-common, integrated electronic health record -- open in architecture, non-proprietary in design. 


Repeating, to design that record, you need to know what system will be using it.  That's the first step.  If that's not been decided, nothing has. 

Secretary Eric Shinseki:  And all of those terms are code to keep us focused on what we want in an electronic health record -- one that we share together and one that will be as good five years from now as it is on the day we first invest and purchase it as opposed to being faced -- over and over again -- with an aging electronic health record that we somehow have to refinance years down the road. 

 Is he an idiot?  Or is he a liar?  I don't know but he's not qualified for his job.  I called and visited various records offices in DC and surrounding areas this week to ask about this.  Specifically, how often do you update?  How often do you switch?  One of my favorite and most helpful sources explained that she was about to retire after decades of service.  They have records on microfilm (rolls of film).  That predated her joining the office.  She could remember when they filmed records on micofiche.  They still had those.  Then she could remember the big push at the end of the seventies and start of the 80s for computers.  And they got this great computer system that they were never going to have to worry about again.  Everything would be entered and kept forever.  And then, in 1999, they got a new computer system which would communicate with the previous one saving the records.  That didn't in fact happen.  But then, in 2005, they got another new one and this one would pull from the 80s computer programs and the ones implemented in 1999.  Only it didn't.  See the old clunky terminal, she asked pointing to one lone terminal next to up to date computers?  They have to keep that in the office for those records from the 80s computer (records that span that decade through 1998).  The microfilm and microfiche are supposed to be digitized and converted over and maybe in five years that will be complete, the woman offered.

She and everyone else who works with records laughed at the notion that you can create something today and it will need no modifications to be used in the future.  If someone's having trouble grasping technology, then just think about music and how we've moved from vinyl, to cassette tape, to CDs and now MP3s.


Shinseki should be focused on providing an electronic record that works today.  He's not a pyschic, he's not a time traveler.  Focus on what's needed today and accept that the future will hold twists and turns that will surprise us all.

Secretary Eric Shinseki:  So this is the concept that we have commit ourselves to and, uh, and I would say that, uh, my sense is that we have not backed away from that although Secretary Hagel who has just arrived is in the midst of, uh, getting into this issue and, uh, uh, I've agreed that, uh, he ought to have time to do that and --


Forgetting that he told the House last week that he had already had discussions with Hagel (two, and possibly three, he thought -- see the snapshot from last week, it's in there, he's quoted in full on that), we're still left with the idea that Hagel needs time.  That's idiotic.  In fact, it's so idiotic we should say, "That's so Jay Rockefeller."

In 2012, I'm using the Washington Post here, Barack Obama received 62,611,250 votes for president, securing a second term.   Mitt Romney, the GOP challenger, received 59,134,475 votes.  "Others" was 1,968,682.  About 3.5 million votes decided that election.  The percentages?  Barack got 50.6% of the vote, Romney got 47.8%.  That's less than 3% difference.

As I noted before, Eric Shinseki is neither a psychic not a time traveler.  It was a close election in 2012 (except by the electoral map), it could have gone the other way.

What's my point here?

He has had four years as Secretary of the VA.  He was supposed to implement this.  He had no idea whether Barack would win re-election or not and no idea whether he (Shinseki) would be alive in 2013 or in the position of VA Secretary.  So let's pretend Mitt Romney won for just a minute and that he appointed someone else to be VA Secretary.

What would Shinseki excuse be then?  He had a full term, a full four years to work on this.  He failed to.  He didn't know he'd get a second term as VA.  He is inept and he lacks focus.

A ton of money has been spent on this, a ton of time by Congress.  He's supposed to have kick started this long ago.  Now he wants to use Hagel as his excuse.  Chuck Hagel is Secretary of the Defense.  In Barack's first term, Robert Gates served as Secretary of Defense and was then replaced with Leon Panetta.  Chuck Hagel may end up replaced, Shinseki may end up replaced.

This program was supposed to have been started four years ago.  It is exactly where it was when Shineski was sworn in.  That is unacceptable.  As I stated last week, Barack Obama needs to sit down with Hagel and Shinseki and say, "This (VA/DoD) is the system we will use.  That discussion is now over, you need to begin working on implementing this immediately."

Only Senator Richard Blumenthal appeared to grasp the significance of what Shinseki was telling the Senate this week.   "So you have no assurance right now from the Department of Defense as to when or whether it will go forward?"

I wish we had time and space to include Blumenthal's careful probing on this.  We don't.  But he nailed Shinseki (and did so politely, he's a very polite person) and established just how little has been done.  Applause for freshman Senator Blumenthal for doing the job veteran Senator Rockefeller should have done himself.




Tuesday, there was a Senate Budget Committee hearing on the VA budget.  Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of that Committee.  Her office issued the following:





FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Friday, April 19, 2013
(202) 224-2834


Murray will question VA Secretary on implementation of plan to cut down claims backlog at Budget Committee hearing next Tuesday
(Washington, D.C.) - Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, released the following statement on the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) plan to expedite processing of benefit claims that have been pending for a year or more, in order to reduce the claims backlog. Senator Murray plans to question VA Secretary Eric Shinseki on implementation of the program this Tuesday, April 23rd at a Senate Budget Committee hearing that she will chair.
“This is a problem that continues to confound the VA and frustrate veterans of all eras. I’m pleased that the VA is taking action to get benefits into the hands of veterans quickly, but this has never been a problem that lends itself to easy fixes and I have a number of questions about how this program will be implemented.”
###
Matt McAlvanah
Communications Director
U.S. Senator Patty Murray
202-224-2834 - press office
202--224-0228 - direct
Twitter: @mmcalvanah






I didn't attend that hearing.  I wish I had, I really wish I had.  Dona's planning to do one of the "Congress and Veterans" roundtables with us at Third Sunday.  I will try to watch the hearing on the plane ride home tomorrow so we can include some comments on it in Dona's roundtable.  Try.  Ava and I still don't know what we're covering TV wise at Third and we usually use the plane ride home to review scripts and discs.  We've got several discs of episodes we've already been sent by network friends.  Including CBS who needs a correction.  Ava and I wrote "TV: The Sewer Rises" Sunday.  We spoke with three people at NBC -- execs -- for that article.  In that article, we note that the hideous Hannibal came in second on a night when all the shows were repeats except CBS' Elementary.  A CBS friend corrected that this morning.  Elementary was a repeat.  Even as a repeat, it badly beat Hannibal.  We'll note that in the piece within 24 hours but I'm including it here because there just hasn't been time to do a correction.  That was our mistake and our bad.  We did not check it.  NBC told us it was a new episode (which may have been a simple mistake on their part or an attempt to make their Thursday night bomb seem like a hit) and we didn't check it.  A correction will go up on that piece within 24 hours and my apologies for the error.


The friend was a little upset because he'd gone through the public account on Wednesday to note the error.  And no change.  No correction.  He saw my note this morning about the problems there and called.  The problems there included a Yahoo outage on Wednesday ("scheduled maintenance" is what people displayed) and people e-mailing over and over and over to the public account.  We don't have time for those e-mails.  Martha and Shirley have been trying to cut back on those e-mails by replying to some.  The woman who wants gun control noted, for example, was informed that our primary focus here is Iraq.  There's no reason for gun control to be covered here.  I have no plans to ever cover it here.  We didn't cover Terry Schiavo here years ago.  There are a hundred-and-one 'hot button issues' that will never be covered here.  Martha and Shirley tried to cut back on these type of e-mails by informing those writing of our focus.  That has led some to send 20 and 30 and 40 e-mails in one day filled with arguments of why their 'hot button issue' must be included in the Iraq snapshot.


We're not doing that anymore.  If you're sending something and it doesn't belong here, it's trashed then.  If you start spamming us, we report you as spam.  I am furious -- not with Martha and Shirley or anyone else who works the e-mail accounts -- that I missed the Tuesday hearing.  I'm furious that we had an alert come in on it but we were drowning in nonsense in the inbox.  I'm also furious that we didn't know of the next thing I'm about to highlight until today and it came in yesterday afternoon:



Over 9,000 and counting!
“I shall refuse all solid food,” Dick Gregory declared on April 4, the date of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., “until Lynne Stewart is freed and receives medical treatment in the care of her family and with physicians of her choice without which she will die.”
Gregory, known for his social activism as much as his for comedic wit and political commentary, took this step to reinforce the worldwide petition in support of Stewart’s application for compassionate release.
Ed Asner, as committed to the struggle for social justice as he is to his acting career, issued a call to action on April 13, days before the April 19 anniversary of the 1776 battles of Concord and Lexington: “The fight to free Lynne Stewart is a front-line battle for basic rights secured through the American Revolution and is a measure of our will to reclaim a land of the free in the home of the brave.”
We can see the difference that your efforts make: as the Center for Constitutional Rights features the petition on its Facebook page, as individuals contact people they know, as journalists publish articles and conduct radio interviews, as organizations sponsor and reach out to their members. Now, let us ramp up our efforts – contact five more people this week and ask them to contact another five. The Bureau of Prisons and the Department of Justice are on notice: people of conscience worldwide are concerned and will continue to press on until Lynne Stewart is freed.
Visit the Justice for Lynne Stewart website www.lynnestewart.org for the full text of the declarations from Ed Asner and Dick Gregory and for the list of signers up to April 10.
View the petition  |  Reply to this message via Change.org



I can already hear the whines, 'Lynne's not Iraq!'   Lynne's someone I've known for years.  She's also a very brave woman and a very caring woman.  So she'll get an exception.  Equally true, she is Iraq related.  The Bully Boy Bush administration used 9-11 to scare the country into war with Iraq and did so by falsely linking Iraq to the 9-11 attacks.  The same administration scared up a conviction against Lynne -- who broke no law, there is no law that she broke -- by using 9-11 as a scare tactic, by falsely linking her (and her client) to 9-11.  There's no connection there.  There was never a connection.  But they played the same game with a bunch of jurors that they did with the American people.  They fooled a jury the same way they fooled a large number of Americans.


Lynne shouldn't have served one day in prison.  Barack Obama became president and I heard people swear to me that meant Lynne would be free.  I heard, "She's an activist, like his mother was!  She's a White woman who made a life with an African-American man!  Barack can relate!  She's a cancer survivor, his mother had cancer!"  I heard so many statements of nonsense.

And they were nonsense.  Under Barack, what happened was Lynne, who'd been receiving treatments for her cancer, was suddenly thrown in prison even though her appeal hadn't been decided.  As bad as Bush, Ashcroft and Gonzalez were, they didn't throw Lynne in prison while she was appealing.  And it's under Barack that her sentence goes from 28 months to 10 years.

Lynne is a lawyer.  She took on the clients who needed her and she fought to give them the best defense she could.  Anyone who faults that doesn't understand the American judicial system.  Which is why I have never been surprised to encounter conservative attorneys or judges who get that Lynne was made an example of by the government in an attempt to scare defense attorneys.  Even people on the right grasp that.  The attack on Lynne was an attack on the principles of defense that are part of the America legal system -- and that attack came from the government that acts as prosecutor.  They wanted to intimidate and they wanted to tip the scales.

Lynne's cancer has returned.  She's over seventy-years-old.  She's never been accused of being violent to anyone.  She's never been accused of breaking any law.  (She released a press release to Reuters in violation of an agreement the Justice Dept had her sign.  She did that when Bill Clinton was President.  Bill and Attorney General Janet Reno were aware of it.  They didn't consider it a crime.  They didn't let her see her client until they had her sign another agreement, but that was it.  And, it should be argued that when the Clinton administration had her sign another agreement, that was the 'judgment' on the press release.  Meaning what Ashcroft and Bush put her through was double jeopardy.)

Lynne's nowhere near completing ten years.  Most of us believe that if the government tries to make her continue to serve, she dies in prison.  She might have a chance at some good years, if she can get out of prison to return to her own doctor in New York (the government has sent her to a military prison in Fort Worth, Texas).  No offense to medical facilities in Fort Worth.  They have fine doctors there.  But -- as someone who went through her own cancer scare -- I know that it makes a big difference what your outlook is.  Lynne will be much happier and her treatment more effective if she can be home in New York with her family, her children and her husband Ralph.  I also remember the chemo and throwing up for hours in the toilet and crawling on the floor to the bed  because I was in so much pain from the treatment and my whole body ached.  I can't imagine trying to do that treatment while being put in and out of shackles or while being tossed into a prison cell where the bed's not soft, where the toilet's right there in the middle of the cell so I'm going to smelling my own vomit even after I've stopped vomiting?

I cannot believe what Lynne is being forced to endure.  And it doesn't have to be that way.  The petition calls for Lynne to receive a compassionate release.  That is doable.  That does happen.  And she deserves it.


On last week's Law and Disorder Radio,  an hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) topics addressed include political prisoner Lynne Stewart.  We noted it last week and it's worth noting again -- plus it has all the information on the petition and on contacting the Bureau of Prisons.




Michael S. Smith:  Michael, we sorely miss our friend Lynne Stewart who's in prison serving a really unjust ten year sentence.  And, of course, as we've reminded our listeners over the last few weeks, Lynne has taken ill again.  And there's a petition for her and I know you want to talk about it and get as many active because we want to get Lynne out of prison on a compassionate release.  So tell our listeners how they can help and what the situation is now for Lynne.

 


Michael Ratner: Well we're going to link to how you can sign the petition.  Lynne's got Stage IV Cancer as a lot of you know.  That is, her initial cancer which was in remission when they put her in prison three years ago is now in full bloom.  It's spread to her bones.  It's spread to her legs. It's spread to her lungs.  It's spread to her lymph nodes.  And it really is fatal.  We all want to get her out and get her some better medical care that she can get.  She's in a seven person cell down in Fort Worth, Texas.  Get her up to New York, better medical care and be surrounded by her family and friends.  And in order to do that, the Bureau of Prisons, the people with the key have to make a motion to Judge Kotel to ask that she be given a compassionate release.  It's possible.  You can get that.  They don't do it very often.  But with all the friends and supporters that Lynne has, we're hopeful that we can accomplish that.  6,000 people have signed the petition so far.  And I want to read you what Lynne said in thank you to these people -- two of them were Dick Gregory and Desmond Tutu and I'll read you something that Tutu said also. But here's this from Lynne:  "I want you individually to know how grateful and happy it makes me to have your support.  It's uplifting to say the least.  And after a lifetime of organizing, it proves once again that the People can rise.  The acknowledgment of the life-political and solutions brought about by group unity and support, is important to all of us.  Equally, so is the courage to sign on to a demand for a person whom the Government has branded with the "T" word -- Terrorism.  Understanding that the attack on me is a subterfuge for an attack on all lawyers who advocate without fear of Government displeasure, with intellectual honesty guided by their knowledge and their client's desire for his or her case, I hope our effort can be a crack in the American bastion.  Thank you, Lynne."  Pete Seeger wrote her back and said, "Lynne Stewart should be out of jail."  And he signed the postcard "Old Pete Seeger" accompanied by a drawing of a banjo.  Bishop Desmond Tutu, this was his esprit de corps.  He said, "It is devastating.  Totally unbelievable.  In this democracy, the only superpower?  I am sad.  I will sign praying God's blessing on your reference. Desmond Tutu."  Let's hope Lynne gets out on compassionate release while she's still able to at least be part of her community.  And if you'll go to Law and Disorder.org, we'll put the link where you can sign the petition.  And if you'll grab a pencil, I'll give you the name and address of the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons  because a well-aimed letter at him is not going to hurt.  His name is:

Charles E. Samuels Jr.
Federal Bureau of Prisons
320 First Street, NW
Washington, DC 20534

Please send a letter.  Go to Law and Disorder.org -- our website -- sign the petition. We'll be updating you every week on how Lynne is doing.
















 

 the associated press
 

 
 
 

 

 wbai
law and disorder radio
michael s. smith
heidi boghosian
michael ratner