Friday, May 06, 2011

Isaiah's comic and the overrated net 'genius'

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Mouser and Glory Hog"

mouser and glory hog

That's from Thursday. I love that comic.

Regarding Wednesday's post, Sunny saw an e-mail -- Actually she saw two. The other one? Doesn't interest me. I'll never read it and I'll never respond to it. Bob Somerby's sick drunken friend can go f**k himself. That's all I have to say.

The e-mail I am noting asked if it was fair to Bob, my post?

This is a journal. I'm not a reporter. This is a personal journal.

I do not try to pretend detachment.

This is what I feel when I feel it.

Reading Bob Somerby on Wednesday finally making points about Ed Schultz that Ava and C.I. had the guts to tackle April 3rd ["TV: Extreme Makeover (Horror Edition)"] and seeing how he made a point to ignore the Sunday news until Wednesday?

That's not a game Ava and C.I. didn't play. They didn't pretend they had just that day received an 'immediate' jury duty notice to stall for time. They didn't wait for the media to take a position or for public opinion to gell. They didn't care about being safe. Sunday nights, within 15 minutes of Barack finishing that speech, Ava and C.I.'s "TV: Blather" went up.

So I am reading his Wednesday piece and seeing him make observations Ava and C.I. had the guts to make some time ago while Somerby was silent and I'm seeing him use criticisms that C.I.'s pretty much trademarked and I'm not impressed.

As I mentioned in passing, in that post, I'm pretty damn sick of him anyway.

C.I.'s not going to read it and has no interest in it, but Bob Somerby's drunken friend popped back up with another one of his crazed and hateful e-mails.

C.I. didn't read it and doesn't plan to. That's her right. But I have read it (Jim forwarded it to me) and I'm sick of it, I'm sick of Bob Somerby. He should have long ago told his sick f**k friend that these e-mails weren't helpful to him (Somerby) and didn't reflect well on him. He should have told his disgusting friend that six years of this crap is more than enough.

Bob Somerby's a little bitch. That's all he is. That's all he'll ever be.

He's a little coward who waits for others to take the brave stands and then he mimics when it's safe. Ava and C.I. are leaders. Somerby's a camp follower.

I usually keep my (low) opinion of him to myself. But his drunken friend has now spent how many years attacking Rebecca and C.I.? It reflects on him. He and his loser buddy due their little road trips together and that reflects on him as much as the vile and disgusting and sexist e-mails his friend writes.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, May 6, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, the protests continue in Iraq, Nouri makes some nominations, and more.
Protest continue in Iraq. They've been taking place every Friday in Iraq since February. Today is Situation Friday. The Great Iraqi Revolution reports, "Tahrir [Square], Baghdad reflects an amazing community -- one watches and listens to a young man, a member of the Free Youth Movement, who speaks tirelessly about the political ills and the reasons for them that exist -- everyone -- literallly everyone listens to him and is supportive of him and his ideas. The scene then zooms to a mother crying heartbreakingly searching and at the same time mourning her son who had left his home with his cousin and never returned; then to another woman crying 'we are not terrorists - we are not terrorists - you, Maliki, are the terrorist!' People shout and sing 'thieves' 'thieves' 'thieves' . . . and 'liars'. They also chant everything is illegitimate and false. These people have been coming here every Friday since the beginning of February - they represent all walks of life - artists, workers, civil servants, young university students; Facebook users; mothers, fathers; lawyers; retired civil servants as well as children. The songs, the chants and the fervour . . . where is the foreign press, I wonder????"
It's a cry that's been repeatedly made: Where is the media? Why won't they cover the protests? Tim Arango (New York Times) thinks they have. Go to last week's snapshots, I don't want to rehash that because I don't want to pick on him. His view is the paper's view which makes them a great fit but of little interest to those trying to follow the Iraqi people. (The New York Times became the paper of record -- before Tim Arango was even born -- due to its reliance upon officials. That's why it's unable to report on actual movements. They are so rarely led by elected officials.) We've tried to cover the press silence here and also we've covered it at Third (for Third coverage, see "Editorial: The press covers up Iraqi protests" and "Editorial: We Heart Iraqi Protesters" and "Editorial: The Children of Iraq" among other pieces.) Today Joel Wing makes like Christopher Columbus and 'discovers' the issue and he sees things differently which can be fine -- we're all entitled to our own viewpoints -- and it can be wrong. I'll applaud him for finally noting what is one of the most pressing issues even if he completely misses the underlying causes for the lack of coverage. I won't applaud him getting things wrong.
If you're going to include -- in your survey piece -- NPR's coverage of Moqtada al-Sadr's protest, you cannot write "and McClatchy Newspapers never reported on the Iraqi unrest" and be accurate. Laith Hammoudi reported on Moqtada's protest with Jane Arraf. Which is the other thing. McClatchy has no one to head their Baghdad desk and doesn't trust their stringers are reporters. I don't mean that as an insult to Laith, Mohammed, Sahar or anyone else there. I think they're reporters and I think they've demonstrated that repeatedly. The Laith link goes to a piece written with Jane Arraf and anyone can benefit from writing with Jane. But Jane's out of Iraq and is McClatchy going to do nothing? Hannah Allam can't head Baghdad, they've assigned her elsewhere. The smart thing to do would be to realize that McClatchy has strong reporters in Iraq -- the local population -- and set them up with an editor in the US who would go over their copy (the way editors -- in the pre-web days -- were supposed to). But Joel Wing is wrong about what McClatchy did or didn't do and he might want to check some pieces that will have end note credits to McClatchy. I heard about his blog post from a friend at CNN who was irritated that CNN got no credit for their work. CNN had more than the 9 he gave it credit for. Equally strange is the fact that he doesn't include AP. Reuters, AFP, etc aren't US outlets. But AP is and readers of American newspapers in print are more likely to have read about the protests via AP than anything else because AP is a wire service carried by so many outlets. AP has done some strong coverage of the protests. Kelly McEvers has done some for NPR (NPR gets noted by Wing) but the strongest protest coverage was done by the Washington Post and specifically by Stephanie McCrummen. She did the best US coverage of the attacks on protesters and journalists who covered the protests -- attacks after the protest had ended. In addition to filing stories (plural) on that (the New York Times did a strong editorial on the subject but the reporting section of the paper never covered the detention and beating of journalists by Iraqi forces), she also contributed the first and so far only -- THE ONLY -- feature article on the protest leadership that ran in the US. (Le Monde had a nice article but that was only in French, it didn't run in their English language version.)
Joel Wing writes, "Finally, the Los Angeles Times and McClatchy Newspapers never reported on the Iraqi unrest." Really? What is the basis for that claim? We've dealt with McClatchy already, let's move over to the Los Angeles Times. "New Iraq protests smaller, less viollent amid tight security." That March 5th article was written by Aliice Fordham and Raheem Salman for the Los Angels Times. I don't know how Joel Wing does his research but I do know the reaction.
I don't read Wing. I heard about his post via a phone call from a CNN producer who first noted how CNN's coverage was slighted. CNN did much more coverage than Wing gave it credit for. And since he was wrong about that, the reaction is to dismiss all the parts of his essay or post. It's a bit like the people who wrote pieces after the March protest against the illegal war on the 8th anniversary of it. A lot of people showed up making false claims in their 'analysis.' Such as, "NPR never even mentioned the protests!" Actually, not only did it get some coverage after, Mara Liasson noted the protests a day before they took place, noted them on air on NPR. Now we can disagree with one another on the quality of Mara's coverage and that's fine. But we can't ignore that NPdid mention it on air. Not if we're claiming to be honest.
There's no point in including the Los Angeles Times at all. The paper had to step it down because they published stories that made Nouri al-Malik uncomfortable. That's not a criticism of the Los Angeles Times and certainly not one of Ned Parker. Joel Wing will no doubt have the facts down for the future but the people playing catch up now are missing a huge part of the story.
As January wound down, Ned Parker reported on the secret prisons for the Los Angeles Times and Human Rights Watch issued their report on it. Parker's January report on the secret prisons and how they were run by Nouri's security forces, the Baghdad Brigade followed up on his earlier report on how the Brigade was behind the prison that he and the paper exposed in April 2010. All the while Nouri insisted that there were no secret prisons in Iraq -- such as February 6th when Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported, "The Iraqi government on Sunday denied a human rights organization's allegation that it has a secret detention center in Baghdad, run by Prime Minister Nur al-Maliki's security forces." The report then quoted Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Moussawi stating, "We don't know how such a respectable organization like Human Rights Watch is able to report such lies." Camp Honor is a prison that's under Nouri's control, staffed by people working for him. Amnesty International would also call out the use of secret prisons while Nouri continued to deny them. And of course, Nouri was wrong. But, honest, seriously, swear, it was the last time. (That's sarcasm.)
Ned Parker's article kicks off the 2011 round of protests. Outside of Baghdad, the most pressing issue in January and early February for protesters was the issue of their family members being wrongfully detained and a lost in a hidden maze. This continues to be a key component of all the people-protests in Iraq (as opposed to the Moqtada-ordered protests or Ahmed Chalabi silly reigonal protest). And it was the impetus for this year's protests.
Having written and published that strong article -- one that truly proved the power of the press -- the Los Angeles Times followed with a lower profile which is and has been their pattern. I don't question that. Everyone knows Nouri is hostile to journalism and that he and his cronies are litigious (see many, many lawsuits but especially Nouri's defamation suit against England's the Guardian in 2009 which, thankfully, the newspaper won on appeal in January of this year.). A step back, a lower profile, for a bit is in keeping with the pattern the paper long ago set in their coverage of Iraq. April 12th, Amnesty International issued the report [PDF format warning] "DAYS OF RAGE: PROTESTS AND REPRESSION IN IRAQ" and it provides an overview of the protests.
I'm confused by Wing's claim that "Iraq held its first protest on January 30, 2011." That's wrong. It's incorrect. That was not the first protest in 2011 by any means. I have no idea why Joel Wing can't get the facts correct but the easiest way to prove him wrong is to quote this passage from January 20, 2011:
Protests against Iraq's troubled electricity network have spread to the north. In Tamim province there was a street demonstration against the lack of power. The governor also announced that electricity produced locally would be used for the governorate's own use, rather than be sent to Baghdad. Tamim joins seven other provinces that have complained about the troubled power network in the last several months.

Clearly a January 20th protests is prior to January 30th so Joel Wing is wrong. And for those who might say, "C.I., maybe Joel Wing doesn't consider the source of that passage trust worthy?" He may not. There are people who do not trust themselves. Maybe Joel Wing is one of them. But he wrote that passage, it's from his January 20th entry "Electricity Protests Spread To Northern Iraq." Since he wrote it, he must agree with it, right? So I have no idea why he'd write that in January and then ignore it in May. January 16th (still before January 30th), Reidar Visser (Iraq and Gulf Analysis) reported "More Kurdish Protests against the budget.
But that's just one example. The protests -- as we define them -- have featured calls for improvements in basic services from the start. They've also called for an end to the foreign occupation of Iraq. So let's drop further back to January 14th when Jason Ditz ( observed, "Protests against Vice President Joe Biden's visit and the ongoing US military presence in general were reported in a number of cities in Iraq, with supporters of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr getting the credit for organizing many of them." Maybe that should be the date we count the 2011 Iraqi protests as starting from? January 4th there were protests. Namo Abdulla (New York Times) reported, "More than a thousand protesters took to the main street in Erbil, the Kurdish regional capital, to condemn a new law requiring all public demonstrations to have government permits." Should we consider that the start?
On this end, I've called Wing out because (a) he's wrong and undercounted a number of outlets (including CNN) and also because doing this draws attention to media criticism which interests the press (if it weren't for self-love, sometimes the press would have no love at all) and may help draw more attention to the ongoing Iraqi protests in the long run.
One serious slam I will hit Wing with is, "How do you write about the media silence on the protests on a day when protests are taking place and not note that fact?"
Protests also took place in Ramadi. Revolution of Iraq reports on that protest noting "the arrival of the delgation of the families of Jalawla to Tahrir Square," and a "large delegation from Mosul," The Great Iraqi Revolution notes that the Ramadi crowd was "estimated to be 7,000" (and link has video). Among those protesting was a young Iraqi male in a wheelchair as a result of the ongoing occupation. Today, the 8th day of ongoing protests in Ramadi, the Great Iraqi Revolution notes, poet Abdul Wahid Al Badrani arrived to join the Ramadi sit-in. And the Great Iraqi Revolution notes, "A Free Iraqi Woman addressing all men who ware the Iqa'al to join the Squares of Freedom - Tahrir - and if they don't then they should give their Iqa'al to their wives, daughters and sisters so that they come over to the Tahrir in their stead! "
Alsumaria TV notes today, "Mounting violence in Iraq during the last 24 hours has left behind 95 people among killed and wounded mostly members of security forces." Aswat al-Iraq reports that a bodyguard for Khaled al-Lahiebi, chief of the Diyala Sahwa councils, died from a stabbing at a checkpoint today while last night a Kirkuk sticky bombing resulted in two people being injured. Aswat al-Iraq notes that a roadside bombing outside of Baghdad left 5 people, while inside Baghdad a camera man working for the Ministry of the Interior was shot dead, a corpse without a head was discovered in Falluja.

Violence was rising during the long period known as the "stalemate." Elections were held in March 2010. For over nine months, no progress was made. Nouri questioned vote totals, objected to this, objected to that, refused to allow Ayad Allawi have first crack at forming a government, etc. Finally in November a deal was reached that allowed the opportunity for progress.

But Nouri wasted that opportunity. He was named prime minister-designate and given more than 30 days to form a Cabinet. He never could come up with a complete Cabinet. And among the seven positions left empty were the Ministers of Interior, Defense and National Security.

Despite becoming prime minister in December, Nouri still hasn't filled those slots. He does have some nominees. Al Mada notes that he's sent to Parliament a list of nominees for to head the three ministries. Alsumaria notes the nominees -- Minister of Defense: Saadun Al Dulaimi; Minister of Interior: Tawfiq Al Yasiri; and Minister of National Security: Ryad Gharib. They also note that both Iraqiya and the National Alliance are stating proper consultation on the Italicnominees did not take place.

Meanwhile, earlier this week the Parliament heard from the Electoral Commission. What happened? Even New Sabah can't sort it out. They note rumors that somehow the military got involved, rumors that the head of the Commission was told she would have to step down, rumors that none of that took place and it was a standard issue q&a.

Wednesday, Osama al-Nujaifi, Speaker of Parliament, met with trade union representatives. Al Sabaah reports that, following the meeting, al-Nujaifi issued a statement declaring that it is the workers whose fingerprints are key to the rebuilding of Iraq, they are the basis for any and all economic development and a part of the restoration of every day life. He declared that the Parliament "supports all unions and organizations."

Aswat al-Iraq notes that al-Nujaifi is asserting that only Parliament can extend the SOFA (the agreement between the US and Iraq which allows for US troops to be on Iraqi soil) I'm not interested in going into the SOFA today but it needs to be noted that Marc Lynch provides a strong overview of the issue at Foreign Policy..
Aswat al-Iraq reports:

The Legislature of the so-called 'White al-Iraqiya Bloc,' Aliya Nuseif, on Thursday demanded the U.S.
forces to present a clear report on the number of their bases in Iraq, warning against the existence what it described as "underground" bases after the American withdrawal from Iraq.
"The number of American bases in Iraq to this day remains unclear.
U.S. forces are demanded to present a report about the bases they have established, at a time when Iraq had no government, before the finalization of any subject related to the Security Agreement signed between both countries," Nuseif told Aswat al-Iraq news agency
We'll close with this from David Swanson's "Osama Bin Lynched" (War Is A Crime):

I'm going to give this speech tonight to a crowd of drunk young people. If I'm not back by morning, ask around if there have been any "Islamic burials."
About 10 years ago a bunch of psychotic killers crashed planes into buildings. A tall skinny guy who took credit said he was protesting the presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia and US support for Israel's war on Palestinians. That wasn't exactly going to hold up in a court of law as a justification for mass-murder. But the U.S. government had already, before 9-11, turned down offers from the Taliban to put bin Laden on trial in a third country, and it turned those offers down again.
Instead, the U.S. president said he had no interest in bin Laden, but proceeded to encourage Americans to be afraid of their own shadows. He used that fear to help launch a war without end. We've now had nine-and-a-half years of pointless horrific murderous war in Afghanistan and eight years of the same in Iraq, plus a drone war in Pakistan, a new war in Libya, and smaller wars and special military operations in dozens of other countries.
We watched foreign looking people on television dancing in the streets and celebrating the crimes of 9-11 and we thought how evil and barbaric they must be. Knowing nothing about the decades our government had spent exploiting and occupying their countries, toppling their democratic leaders, and kicking in their doors, we assumed that these subhuman monsters were celebrating the killing of Americans because they just happened to dislike us or because their stupid religion told them to.
Of course, we used to have lynch mobs in this country. Ask the freedom riders who left for the deep south 50 years ago today. But we had outgrown that. We were not driven by blind vengeance. We were civilized. The reason we locked up far more people in prison than any other country and killed some of them was a purely rational calculation dealing with prevention, deterrence, and restitution. We weren't monsters. We didn't torture or cut people's heads off.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Who made him?

Bob Somerby had an interesting Daily Howler today. He talked about the blood lust and zoomed in on Ed Schultz.

He argued that Ed is what happens when we let corporations choose our progressive voices. While I do see that point, it's also true that Ed wasn't made by corporations. He was made a left voice by Democrats in Congress.

Randi Rhodes, prior to her big implosion, would always do a mini-one when discussing Ed and note that she was an independent voice whereas his money came from the Democratic Party machine. The Democrat backing is what made Ed Schultz a media name. Here's Somerby:

On Monday night, Schultz got to work with a near-fascistic display. He gloried in the death of bin Laden (and his son) while urging his impressionable viewers to worship their commander in chief. As we watched his long, loud, bumptious, reptilian display, we thought of Jack Oakie’s performance in Chapin’s famous film, The Great Dictator (1940). More specifically, we thought of Oakie’s bumptious portrait of Benzino Napaloni, “dictator of Bacteria.”

Oakie’s portrait of Mussolini was (and is) funny, cutting, insightful. But on Monday night, that wasn’t an actor crafting a portrait of the deeply bumptious Il Duce. Instead, that was the host of a “progressive” TV “news” program—and the great man was soon saying this:

SCHULTZ: Great to have you with us tonight, folks.

This is the story that the globe is paying attention to. There is no question about it. It’s the story that we are all fired up about. I’m fired up about this guy right here: The president of the United States.

You know, I wish I had five hours to talk to you tonight and have fun with this, because we’re going to talk about American exceptionalism tonight.

As Il Duce creamed in his pants about the greatness of his Dear Leader, he said we’d have lots of fun that night talking about rotting corpses and our Italian—sorry, our American exceptionalism. And don’t worry—things quickly got worse! As he continued, Schultz began helping us see that the troops love their Dear Leader too.

Media criticism that calls out some guy and says the guy creamed his pants? I believe C.I. owns that. (As I'm sure Bob Somerby still knows since his idiot friend is forever stalking C.I.)

I'll further add that calling out what Schultz is doing? Pretty easy when others have laid the groundwork. Ava and C.I. did so Sunday night, minutes after Barack finished his speech (see "TV: Blather"). Monday morning's nonsense on NPR led C.I. to activate a phone list and get NPR to dial back the rhetoric and start offering other views -- which they started on Tuesday morning. I know she also worked TV angles but I know about the NPR because I was on that phone list and was brought in to lobby various higher ups about the one-sided message and why it needed to end.

So on Wednesday? It's a breeze to walk in now.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Wednesday, May 4, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Iraq continues to have no heads for the security ministries, the US Congress' Caregivers Act finally gets a real start up, a Senate subcommittee meets to talk about how to slash and gut active duty and military retiree health care, and more.
We're starting with the US Congress because a hearing took place and it does matter. It especially matters because it's part of a move to gut health care for active duty military and retirees. It especially matters because I looked around and couldn't believe the lack of press interest (based on attendance of the hearing).
Today the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel met to figure out how to slash health coverage. That is what they were doing. If veterans had any real pull in Congres, they'd demand Senator Jim Webb be pulled from committee assignments -- especially after his temper tantrum over the VA's efforts to provide benefits for the victims of Agent Orange.
The subcommittee heard from DoD witnesses Clifford Stnaley, Robert Hale, Dennis McCarthy and Jonathan Woodson. Unlike the House, it heard from no representatives for active duty, retirees or veterans. That wasn't an error, Webb didn't forget to include them. They were intentionally shut out.
Webb chairs the Subcommittee. Senator Lindsey Graham is Ranking Member -- as disclosed many times before, I know Lindsey, I like Lindsey and I have no problem calling him out. We're going to ignore Webb's remarks because after his attack on Vietnam veterans (the Agent Orange issue), he didn't just ensure that he couldn't run for re-election (he can't and has already announced he won't), he gave up the right to be considered even remotely trust worthy. Ranking Member Graham joined the hearing late, noting he'd "just met with Gen [David] Petraeus wife [Holly Petraeus] who now is in charge of protecting our men and women in uniform from predatory lending practices." When he did join it, he delivered these opening remarks:
Ranking Member Lindsey Graham: On the health care front, this is really a difficult situation. You're talking about 16 and 1/2% of the DoD's budget by 2028 being health care cost -- and that's doubling in less than 20 years. I know -- [to Webb] Are you retired?
Subcommittee Chair Jim Webb: I am a retired Marine, yes.
Ranking Member Lindsey Graham: Okay, he's a retired Marine. I one day hope to be retired Air Force officer. And I guess what I'm going to say is that I understand what the administration is trying to do. We have to move this debate forward on sustainability. We haven't had a premium increase since 1989. Some of the fees to be increased proposed by the administration, I think, is something we should all consider. I respect the House. But eventually you're going to have to make some very draconian choices between health care and operational needs. And that's not where we want to find ourselves. So, Mr. Hill -- Secretary Hill, your idea of trying to get a better bang for our buck, looking at programs to make them more efficient, improving the quality of care while lowering costs is absolutely essential.
These are serious issues, these are real issues. Instead of functioning journalism in the US, we have a bunch of a partisan hacks. Chief among them David Weigel. Weigel -- who was let go by the Washington Post (forced out) -- landed at Slate. He didn't learn to be a better journalist there either. Instead of covering something of value or use like what Graham is attempting with the health care issue, Weigel only nows how to score partisan points -- he learned so very well from Journo-List. Today he's red faced over a mistake he made. Mistake?

And Now, the Search for the Obama Death Photo

Slate Magazine (blog) - David Weigel - ‎3 hours ago‎
Lindsey Graham, R-SC, who had been conflicted about the quick sea burial of bin Laden because it wouldn't satisfy doubters, put out a statement today criticizing the photo decision. I respectfully disagree with President Obama's decision not to release ...
Slate's now changed the headline to "And Now, the Search for the bin Laden Death Photo" -- Weigel meant "Osama" -- but what he should really be embarrassed about is this bulls**t approach to 'reporting' wherein he looks for gotcha moments of insignificance instead of doing something of substance. He is paid to do a job he's never done.
Hardly anyone from the press showed for today's hearing and this is not a new issue. I believe we last covered it when the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee held their two hearing on the issue in March (see the March 15th and March 16th snapshots). You want to call out Lindsey Graham? By all means do, but how about for something important and not phrase and words? How about for efforts to gut the health care of active duty personnel. What's being proposed is outrageous. And in the House, members were more than willing to note their distress. One example.
US House Rep Chellie Pingree: I just want to say again, I understand how well you are all doing your job and the importance of all of you looking for cost efficiencies in what you do as we face a difficult time with the budget deficit and, uh, also where there's a lot of examination of the military budget and looking for places where we can cut. And maybe my first comment is more to my fellow Committee members then to all of you but I might see more places to cut the fat in the military budget than others of my colleagues but I am deeply concerned that we're going after medical care for both our active duty personnel and our retirees when I think there are other places to make more effective cuts. So I know you have to do your job and look for those cuts but almost everything that's before us today, either myself or one of my colleagues has mentioned a concern about, whether it's the changes to TRICARE, how we're going to deal with some of our Sole Community Hospitals I have two in my district, there are four in our state of only 1.2 million people, in a state where we have almost a fifth of our citizens are either active duty or retired military. So there's a very big dependance on this system in our state and I'm worried about that particular program. So for me, many of the efficiencies that you're talking about are going to reduce the level of medical care to people who have served us to whom we have made a huge promise. And there is going to be a -- I think -- a reduction in the services that they receive so I just -- I know you have to do your job but I don't like it and I don't think it's all necessarily good.
But Lindsey Graham and the outgoing Jim Webb have bi-partisan agreement to slash and burn active duty and retirees health care (Hale declared active duty was safe -- no, it's not as evidenced by the testimony of all the witnesses, their prepared statements and Stanley's admission -- in his prepared remarks, not delivered -- that they have proposals that they are not yet ready to make public but they had help with from the same crew Barack's appointed for the Cat Food Commission). And the sparesly attended hearing (by Subcomittee members) did not include anyone who was outraged by the efforts to slash health care. That's all the more reason that the press needs to be paying attention. And 50 years from now, what Lindsey Graham said about Osama bin Laden one day and what he said two or thee days later won't mean a damn thing. But if they gut the health care, it will still be effecting active duty and retirees. So how you about you grow the hell up, sit at the adult table and start doing some of the heavy lifting?
As we saw during the House hearings, DoD's Clifford Stanely's the (mis)leader on this issue. After the hearing, I grabbed a copy of his prepared statement thinking, before I picked it up, that I would read it through quickly. That notion fell apart the minute I picked it up. Stanley presented the Subcommittee with a prepared statement that is over 70 pages long.
For those unfamiliar with the workings of Congress, the prepared statements generally run five to six pages. For important issues -- such as when then-US Ambassador Ryan Crocker and then-top US commander in Iraq Gen David Petraeus repeately testified to Congress in April 2008 about Iraq -- they may run as long as 12 to 21 pages. But over 70 pages? Many witnesses who appear before Congress merely read their prepared remarks aloud. There's no reason to do so. By it being prepared and presented to Congress (long before the hearing), it becomes part of the Congressional record. So Stanely made part of the Congressional record today something that most people will never see or know about in this news cycle.
On page 19 of his prepared remarks, he begins noting the need to 'review' an alternative (in past testimony, "alternative" translates as "cut" when used by Stanley) "to the current Imminent Danger/Hostile Fire Pay structure." Equally disturbing is that while Hale spoke of the need to consider what the future role of the National Guard and Reserve should be (with regards to overseas deployments), Stanley, on page 26, informs, "Future planning envisions an era of persistent conflict where some type of RC [Reserve Component] activation authority will be required to augment the AC [Active Component] to maximize effectiveness efficiency of the Total Force." According to Stanley's written statement quoted -- and what follows in his prepared remarks -- that decision's been made and the US government "envisions an era of persistent conflict" requiring the US military to be deployed repeatedly. Might that not be something the American people should be consulted on? On page 38, he finally begins addressing the health care issues. We'll go into some of that tomorrow or Friday. We don't have space or time today.
So let's leave his prepared statement and note his reaction to Webb's asking who is in charge of contractors.
Subcommittee Chair Jim Webb: So who hires, fires and pays?
Clifford Stanley: It would be the commanders --
Subcommittee Chair Jim Webb: How many -- how many contractors are we paying
Clifford Stanley: [Snickering] I only laugh because we are much pilloried for lack of full accounting of contractors. We're getting better.
Oh, yeah, that's funny. (That was sarcasm.) He wants to slash the health care for active duty and retirees but he thinks it's funny that his department still can't provide an accounting of contractors. "We're getting better" doesn't cut it. He did allow that there were 300,000 contractors ["contractors funded by Operation and Maintenance account"] they're doing a pretty good job of accounting for; however, "there are others working on other accounts but we haven't got a full count yet." Apparently, there's no real rush. Stanley noted that this full count was "something Congress directed us to do years ago and we're working on it." Maybe a full count would allow for cost overruns to be caught? And maybe if that happened you wouldn't need to gut the health care of active duty forces. And maybe DoD needs to sit down their future witnesses and tell them snickering about your inability to do your job in public doesn't instill trust in your department.
Subcommittee Chair Jim Webb: We hear widely varying numbers of how many contractors are being paid each year by DoD, by whom and how much. Do you know how much of the DoD budget goes into independent contractors?
Clifford Stanely: You know, Mr. Chairman, if you want to look at [. . .] about 40% of our money pays for all of our employees -- that's military and civilian. The rest goes to contractors in some way. That would include all the weapon costs. But most of that is contracted out eventually to private companies. But many people when they think of contractors are thinking more of what you alluded to -- KBR contractors in Afghanistan that are performing those services. That would be more for those funded by Operations and Maintenance, that 300,000. [Laughing] Am I helping? Apparently not.
He was so tickled by it all. 60%, using his figures of DoD money goes out to contractors -- in one form or another -- but the 'cost saving' Stanley wants to focus on will mean attacking the 40% of the budget that goes to active duty. DoD's Woodson wanted the Subcommittee to know that a benefit of hiring contractors was that you didn't have to pay them health benefits in "perpetuity."
Transitioning from Congress to Iraq . . . US House Rep Ron Paul has formed an exploratory committee to consider a 2012 run for the GOP presidential nomination. Yesterday on the first hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), Diane asked him why and he stated he was encouraged to "By thousands and thousands of people who are just really writing to me and talking to me, the many websites, the contiuation of what happened in the last go-around [his 2008 run]. I was rather shocked to find out what kind of reception I got, especially on the universities. And I've continued to speak at the university. The crowds get bigger, more enthusiastic. They don't like the war. They don't like the Patriot Act. They like personal liberties. They like to be left alone. They don't wan the government to be taking care of them from cradle to grave. And they're enthusiastic." Jordan Fabian (The Hill) reports, "Rep. Ron Paul (Texas), a possible Republican candidate for president, said Tuesday that the U.S. should brings its troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan now that Osama bin Laden has been killed." Others in his political party do not necessarily feel the same. Take the Speaker. Yesterday's snapshot noted:

The Speaker of the US House of Representatives doesn't appear to wonder. AP reports that Speaker John Boehner has declared that the US should keep a small (undefined number) of US troops on the ground in Iraq past 2011. Reuters quotes him stating, "I think a small, residual force should remain."

Carl Hulse (New York Times) reports, "Mr. Boehner said he had no recommendation on the size of the contingent that might remain or how long the troops should stay, but the military has been exploring the idea of a force of about 10,000, people briefed on the plan said. At the end of April, there were 47,000 American troops in Iraq."
US troops remain and so does violence. Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing injured one person, a Baghdad trash can bombing injured two people, 2 Kerbala roadside bombings has claimed 3 lives and left four people injured, a Baghdad police officer was shot dead by unknown assailants "in a speeding car, using silenced weapons," which is the same scenario for the Baghdad shooting death of an employee of the Minister of Finance, 2 Mosul truck drivers were shot dead and a Mosul sticky bombing claimed 1 life.
At a time when violence is on the rise, Iraq continues to do without heads of the security ministries: Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Defense and Ministry of National Security. Today Dar Addustour reports that the National Allaince is stating that the "final stages" for naming the security ministers has been reached. That stage was suppoed to have been reached in November when prime minister-designate Nouri al-Maliki was putting togehter his Cabinet. In fact, he was not supposed to move from prime miniser-designate to prime minister without naming a full Cabinet. And the Constitution gives the prime minister-designate exactly 30 days by which to name a Cabinet. SO the Constitution says that these posts will be named in 30 days. Instead, it's six months later and the positions are still vacant.

The lack of concern about filling these ministries -- when, allegedly, all US forces will be leaving Iraq in less than seven months -- is being been seen as a sign by some in the State Dept that Nouri al-Maliki plans to ask for an extension of the SOFA.

Many Iraqis are opposed to that. Demonstrations in Iraq have called for the end of the occupation -- whether the demonstrators were Iraq's youth or they were from Sadr City. New Sabah notes that Moqtada al-Sadr's followers insist that they must resist until the end of the US occupation of Iraq. They are planning a protest May 23rd and you can be sure the US press will go ga-ga over it as usual. Reporting on the same issue, Dar Addustour notes that the followers insist they will follow rule of law . . . after the occupation ends. That should be deeply troubling. Those who say they'll follow rule of law some day are generally revealed to be those who never follow rule of law because all their conditions for respecting the law never come to be. More importantly, the Sadr bloc is not outside of the government, they make up 40 seats in Parliament and are grossly over-represented as Cabinet heads. Revolutionaries or opponents to occupation can and often do take the position the Sadr bloc is attempting to take today. When they take that position, they are generally believable but part of the reason for that is that they offer a true resistance. You can not be part of the government and also part of the resistance. You cannot be the inside outsider.

Along with no heads of the security ministries, Iraq really has no vice presidents. Jalal Talabani, the previous president of Iraq, was re-elected president and he asked Iraq's two vice presidents to stay on until the spots could be filled but one who has stayed on has been criticized for presenting as a vice president. Today New Sabah reports that Nouri's State Of Law is stating they don't need a vice presidency. State Of Law's Khaled al-Asadi states that they see it as unnecessary and that they are pleased with the number of ministries they have been put in charge of. Also reporting on the curious story is Al Rafidayn which states that the Iraqi Supreme Islamic Council is ready to give up the post. Shi'ite Adel Abdul-Mahdi was one of the two vice presidents prior to the March 2010 elections. He is a member of the Supreme Islamic Council. They joined with other groups -- including State of Law -- to form the National Alliance. At one point, Adel Abdul-Mahdi wanted to be prime minister (he wanted that in 2005 as well and was supported by foreign oil factions).

Iraq Tweet of the day is from Prashant Rao (AFP).
prashantrao Prashant Rao
New Arab colleague from #Lebanon just asked if there are any sushi bars in Baghdad. I had to let him down lightly. Poor guy.

And now we go back to the Congress . . .
Yesterday's snapshot noted the House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing. The Committee released released the following statement on the hearing:

VA Admits Problems at Medical Facilities are a Failure of Leadership

For more information, contact: Amy K. Mitchell, (202) 225-3527
WASHINGTON, DC -- Today, the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs held a hearing entitled, "Sacred Obligation: Restoring Veteran Trust and Patient Safety," regarding the failure to act and haphazard notification processes on behalf of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) concerning medical sanitization processes at major VA facilities including those in Miami, Florida, St. Louis, Missouri, and Dayton, Ohio.
"This is unconscionable. Imagine having survived the battlefield to return home, visit a VA hospital, only to receive a letter in the mail years later stating you may be at risk of having contracted an infectious disease because of the improper sterilization of medical equipment. These incidents shatter the very trust we all assume on behalf of our veterans," stated Representative Jeff Miller (FL-01), Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.
The Committee was disconcerted by the apparent lack of leadership VA has demonstrated in handling these issues to date.
Since the issues in Dayton, stemming from actions by a dentist employed by VA from 1982-2010, came to the public's attention, VA has not fully enacted accountability in its systems nationwide with regard to medical practitioners in order to avert such incidents in the future.
"Without the leadership of Chairman Miller and this Committee, veterans in our district would not have known about these egregious violations of basic medical standards. The VA owes us a clear explanation of the events that have occurred and have yet to release to our community, documents which show that they taken every step necessary to notify veterans that may have been infected by the dentist in question," said Representative Mike Turner (OH-03), who represents the Dayton area and joined the Committee for the hearing.
"The time for talk is over. VA must confront these issues head on, deepen the obligation to care for the veterans affected by these incidents, and make the necessary changes within the VA healthcare system to prevent any future incidents that put our veteran patients at risk," said Miller.

Kat covered the hearing at her site and noted Turner, Ranking Member Bob Filner and US House Rep Ann Marie Buerkle. Ava covered the hearing last night at Trina's site and emphasized the exchange between US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Robert Petzel. On that hearing, I noted US House Rep Phil Roe. He is a doctor, a medical doctor. An e-mail came in about his name. I can be wrong, I can think I know something I don't know, I can also make a mistake when I'm dictating the snapshot and juggling cell phones, so if you see a name you think is wrong, e-mail. I won't be offended. But his name is Phil Roe. A visitor e-mailed to say I must mean David P. Roe. No, I meant Ted Roe. The visitor is not "wrong." The visitor thought it was "David P. Roe" because that's how the House Veterans Affairs Committee website wrongly credits him on their members page. If you click on the link for "David P. Roe" you will be taken to Phil Roe's Congressional website. Republicans control the House, the Democrats are the minority party. Bob Filner is the Ranking Member on the House VA Committee and today the Democrats on the Committee issued the following:
Washington, D.C. -- Bob Filner (D-CA), Ranking Democratic Member of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, today at a hearing on patient safety at Department of Veterans Affairs' facilities called on the VA to fix the "culture of secrecy and cover-ups that is far too prevalent" within the VA.
"How many times do we have to go down this road? Let's get beyond the bureaucracy and secrecy and restore veterans' confidence in VA," stated Filner.
Recent patient safety events at the Dayton, Ohio; St. Louis, Missouri; and Miami, Florida VA medical centers have raised serious questions in Congress regarding the ability of the VA to properly respond to these occurrences and address concerns regarding safety, communications, and accountability.
"The findings beg the questions of proper accountability, effective oversight and enforement of clear policies and procedures. Policies and procedures that are sometimes not followed -- or worse -- get completely ignored. The best industry-leading policies and procedures are worthless when no one seems to be responsible to ensure that they are conscientiously followed day in and day out. I would like to know, where is the strong leadership and effective communication that is critical when you are entrusted with the care and well being of our Nation's veterans?"
Staying with veterans issues, the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 (May 5, 2010) was supposed to go into effect January 30, 2011. However, that did not happen as was established in the March 2nd Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing. Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. That day, she questioned Eric Shinseki, Secretary of the VA, about the fact that the law written was not what was being implemented. We'll note this part of the exchange.
Chair Patty Murray: But I wanted to ask you today of the 180 million that the budget submission specifies for caregivers and veterans pact, how much is going to be actually allocated for the implementation of the family caregiver program?
Secretary Eric Shinseki: Uh, in the 2012 budget it's 66 million.
Chair Patty Murray: 66 million for the implementation. Okay. The legislation authorized an average of 308.4 million for this program each year. Can you tell us why the VA uses about 21% of that?
Secretary Eric Shinseki: Madame Chairman, I'd just say that that again is where we established the start point. We expect this program will go -- grow.
Chair Patty Murray: Pardon me?
Secretary Eric Shinseki: We expect that this program will grow. The 66 million was based on our estimate of uh going through the veterans who are in various categories of serious injuries, severe injuries and, uh, the numbers on which, uh, 66 million are based was that initial eligibility start point.Roughly about a thousand.
Chair Patty Murray: Very narrowly defined, though. Not designed as the law was defined.
Secretary Eric Shinseki: That is correct.
Chair Patty Murray: And it was the intent of Congress that that law not be narrowly defined.
There's an update on the Caregivers Act. Yesterday Deborah Amdur, the VA's Chief Consultant for Care Managedment and Social Work Service, posted at the VA's Vantage Point blog and her post included:
VA has long known that having a Family Caregiver in a home environment can enhance the health and well-being of Veterans under VA care. Therefore, we are pleased to add this new program to the wide range of services VA already offers to support Veterans and their Family Caregivers at home. The regulation is available on our Caregiver website and the application process for the new program for post-9/11 Veterans injured in the line of duty is also described in a fact sheet. We're excited to begin accepting applications on May 9th. Look for the application at the morning of the 9th or call our Caregiver Support Line at 1-855-260-3274. We're waiting to assist.
We know that this wait has been long for those dedicating so much to provide for nearly every aspect of their beloved Veteran's well-being. With these resources in place, we mark the beginning of a new era in the delivery of enhanced services for Family Caregivers. Family Caregivers are our partners in providing quality care to our Nations heroes; Caregivers are the heroes on the home front.
Additionally, VA has many other programs and services already in place that support Veterans and their Family Caregivers at home. At you will find a description of more than two dozen programs we offer all Caregivers, training tips and advice on care giving, including the importance of taking time to take care of yourself. All Caregivers are also encouraged to utilize the National Caregiver Support Line, 1-855-260-3274, for counseling and information about resources and services. The trained professionals who staff our Support Line will also connect you to your local VA medical center's Caregiver Support Coordinator who stands ready to offer support and assistance as you navigate this journey of being a Family Caregiver.
George Prentice (Boise Weekly) rightly terms the move "an about-face." Senator Patty Murray's office issued the following:
(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee released the following statement after the White House and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that they would ease restrictions that had been added to a bill passed by Congress that would provide financial and health care support to family members caring for severely wounded Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. The change will allow more caregivers of more veterans to be eligible for the long-overdue benefit.
"This is an important turnaround for family members of severely wounded veterans who have dropped everything to care for their loved ones. The Administration realized their mistake in limiting and delaying this benefit and is taking steps to fix it, and to fix it quickly. In particular, the President has shown real leadership on this issue by listening to our concerns and ensuring the VA made this right.
"Going forward, I will monitor how the VA implements this program, paying particular attention to how caregivers of veterans with the invisible wounds of war are considered for this benefit. But the bottom line is that because we held them accountable, the VA will make a larger investment, will support more caregivers, and will ensure that health care providers, not bureaucrats make decisions about who is eligible.
"This law was passed to help support the thousands of family members of veterans who have left behind careers, lives, and responsibilities to see that their loved one can recover from wounds they suffered defending our country. It's a cost of war that for too long has gone unaccounted for and one we can no longer ignore."
As Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, Murray has led congressional efforts to restore the criteria to the intent of Congress when the bill was passed last year. In fact, since the criteria limiting eligibility for certain caregivers was announced by the VA in early February of this year Senator Murray has taken numerous steps to fight the decision including:
* Personally discussing the issue with President Obama in the Oval Office,
* Questioning VA Secretary Eric Shinseki on the program changes and delays in front of her Committee,
* Sending a bi-partisan letter, cosigned by 17 additional Senators, calling on the Administration to end delays in moving forward with the law, and
* Joining with leaders of the Senate and House Veterans' Affairs Committees to call on President Obama to stop the VA from severely limiting the benefit.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Facing the truth

"Unanswered questions on raid that killed bin Laden" (Patrick Martin, WSWS):

Some 24 hours have elapsed since the raid by US special forces and CIA operatives that killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, but many of the circumstances and details of the attack remain murky, particularly the role of Pakistani security forces, both in protecting bin Laden and in aiding the eventual attack.

The most striking contradiction between the official US propaganda about the “war on terror” and the reality demonstrated in the raid is the location of bin Laden’s hiding place. Far from being holed up in a cave, isolated from the world, the Al Qaeda leader was in a palatial compound in Abbottabad only half a mile from the Pakistan Military Academy, the equivalent of West Point, in a city which is home to many high-ranking retired military officers.

The disparity between the past claims of bin Laden’s location—made by US officials up to and including the president—and his actual residence was widely noted. Time magazine observed, “How bin Laden was able to reside in a posh compound for months, if not years, surrounded by former Pakistani military officers remains unknown.” Reuters news agency added, “The revelation bin Laden was living in style will hugely embarrass Pakistani officials, who will be under pressure to explain how he could have been right under their noses.”

I wonder how people are feeling who bought the official story? Are they feeling played yet? Are they grasping that the human sacrifice was nothing but a re-election stunt -- the same as Bush's "Mission Accomplished"?

Ava and C.I. gave you a heads up about how the story would change when they wrote "TV: Blather" Sunday night.

Do people get the disrespect involved in lying like this?

The disrespect for citizens, for democracy, for truth.

We all expected that behavior from Bully Boy Bush but how many were prepared for it from Barack?

I hope people are willing to learn. I hope they're not going to kid themselves eternally. But you never know.

Some people have a very difficult time facing the truth. Some people never face it.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Tuesday, May 3, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, new housing in Iraq . . . for some, the Parliament gears up for their month long vacation, a US Congressional Committee hears testimony on the VA's infecting patients, US House Rep Bob Filner observes to a government official testifying: "We're both going to review your testimony in St. Louis because it's contrary to what you just said now" and more.
Online at the Washington Post, Aaron C. Davis looks back at the month of April and examines the month's trend of targeting officials, noting that both Shi'ites and Sunnis appear to be taking part in the assassinations and that government vehicles that have government markings are being referred to (by "some police officers") as "caskets" due to the targeting. Davis notes, "Iraq's overall homicide rate is now lower than in most American cities." I may be reading that sentence wrong but as I understand it says, "The country's total homicide rate is now lower than that rate in most American cities." I'm not sure which American cities we're speaking of. Using Davis' figure "of about 251 violent deaths in Iraq last month," what city are we speaking of? Chicago had 435 murders in 2010, NYC had 536 and Los Angeles had 297 (thank you to the mayor's office in each city) -- NYC, Chicago and LA are the most populous cities in the US. So 251? That's a lot. And that's forgetting the population issue. The CIA estimates 30.39 million people live in Iraq (not counting contractors and troops). Iraq hasn't had a census in decades. Speaking to 3 NGOs, it was suggested 28.5 million is a better guess. So we'll use that. 28.5 million people. The US population? According to the 2010 census 308 million. If you take just the top 15 most populated US cities, you've pretty much got Iraq's total population. I may be misunderstanding the sentence or I may be overly sensitive to the claims of US reporters -- the United States being the primary force behind the Iraq War and the United States being the country continuing the Iraq War -- about violence in Iraq, thinking, "Lower? Lower was before the war started, wasn't it?" I think each month should include an analysis and I think Aaron C. Davis has done a strong one -- except for that sentence about US cities. I also think that sentence falls apart when you grasp that if, for example, 50 government officials were killed in one month -- in targeted killings -- in the US, there would not be an outcry, a frenzy and much more in this country. And, again, our population is approximately 10 times that of Iraq's. So make it 500 US officials. 500 US officials are assassinated in one month, you don't think that would be alarming?
And why is Iraq being compared to US cities to begin with? If it's for comparison, I think I've belabored the point above that it's a faulty one. If Iraq's going to be compared, do so on the terms of the Bush and Barack administrations: Iraq is or will be a beacon in the region. Okay, compare it to the countries in that region. That doesn't happen for two very good reasons. First, homicide rate would have Iraq leading the region. Second, reporters and news outlets would have to note that maybe the government of Saudi Arabia (or any other country in the region) wasn't being fully honest about their country's murder rate and noting that possibility might open up questions about the 'official' figures the ministries in Iraq release. However, to measure anything at all, the comparison would have to be to Iraq's regional neighbors.
Yesterday Richard Engel spoke with Brian Williams on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams and it was one of those rare times when Iraq comes up on the broadcast network news (in fairness, Nightly News covers Iraq more than its two broadcast network competitors do). We'll note the section on Iraq.
Richard Engel: It is an incredible -- when you look back at it, ten years, America's war on terrorism, and how costly it has been. A trillion dollars, thousands of American families, American soldiers, who have lost their loved ones in this fight and it has just been a war that has set the tone for American society for the last decade. After 9-11, the United States mobilized for war seeking justice and revenge. Troops invaded Afghanistan almost immediately. Within two months, al Qaeda's hosts, the Taliban, were thrown out of power. Osama bin Laden got away. But regime change in Afghanistan, done with few troops and high technology, seemed so easy the Bush White House tried it again in Iraq. US officials said Saddam Hussein was developing Weapons of Mass Destrucstion and linked Iraq to 9-11 and bin Laden.
Footage of Bully Boy George W. Bush: Well the reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al Qaeda because there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda.
Richard Engel: Afghanistan and Iraq were lumped together in what was called a "Global War On Terrorism." The truth was: There was never a connection between Iraq and Osama bin Laden. There were no weapons of mass destruction either. But when civil war in Iraq broke out, American troops were struck. Deployment after deployment, trying to stop the daily carnage. The cost was enormous -- more than 4,400 American troops dead along with 150,000 Iraqis. And it was a distraction from the United States' original mission to find bin Laden, stop al Qaeda and preent another 9/11. With American troops tied down in Baghdad, al Qaeda and the Taliban slipped back into Afghanistan, a fight the United States is still waging.
So why is the US still in Iraq?
The Speaker of the US House of Representatives doesn't appear to wonder. AP reports that Speaker John Boehner has declared that the US should keep a small (undefined number) of US troops on the ground in Iraq past 2011. Reuters quotes him stating, "I think a small, residual force should remain."
What remains currently in Iraq is the violence which continued today. Most notably a car bombing by a Baghdad market. Reuters counts 9 people dead and twenty-seven injured. Emal Haidary (Los Angeles Times) notes, "The blast occurred in front of a cafe, according to news reports. Many of the dead and injured were young people, police and medical officials said." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observes, "Overall, violence is down in Iraq from high peaks between 2005 and 2007. Yet assassinations, bomb explosions, gunfire and mortar attacks remain regular occurrences across the country." Reuters notes a Baghdad sticky bombing which injured Hassan Ibrahim ("grain board director") and a passenger while killing Ibrahim's driver, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured three people, another Baghdad roadside bombing which injured one person, a second Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed the life of 1 "Baghdad municipality female employee," a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 police officer and left five more injured, and, dropping back to yesterday for both of the following, 1 person shot dead in front of his Mosul home, a Baghdad drive-by (with assailant on a motorcycle) in which 2 people were shot dead. In addition, Aswat al-Iraq notes that 1 Integrity Commission employee was wounded in a Basra bombing.
Dar Addustour reports that Sunday there was an assassination attempt on an Al-Hurra reporter in Baghdad. The assailant used silencers and rode in a taxi. The journalists survived but it's only the latest attack on journalists. Today is World Press Freedom Day. Al Sabaah notes the day was started in 1993 by the United Nations and calls for a free and independent media throughout the world due to the importance of a free press to democracy. Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi issued a statement of congratulations and stated the bedrock of democracy was a free press. Noting the violence they have faced in Iraq, al-Nujaifi praised their dedication in the face of such odds. The Committee to Protect Journalists lists the deaths of journalists in Iraq here. In general terms, Danny O'Brien details "The 10 Tools of Online Oppressors." The US is hosting World Press Freedom Day this year, hosting it in DC, and the theme is 21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers. For more information visit World Press Freedom Day. You can also visit the WPFD's YouTube channel. Aswat al-Iraq notes that the event was celebrated in Baghdad and that Dr. Abdulameer Faisal states, "Iraqi media has become free that gained it a new identity." The outlet also quotes reporter Imad Jassim stating "the Iraqi journalists have the bigger role in making the changes in Iraq on the levels of freedom of opinion and achievment of social justice."
Different topic, Alsumaria TV reports the good news: "Iraq Ministry of Housing said on Monday that the Iraqi government approved its plan to build housing units with low prices in the provinces for the employees of the ministry and the public servants." Well . . . good news if you work for the Cabinet. In a country where the people feel the government is not representing them, it is really smart to be promoting projects that benefit the government? And is this really that different from the earlier scandal where land was being given to government workers? Something that outraged many Iraqis? From the April 27th snapshot, "Al Sabaah reports that the Cabinet has put an end to employees of 'the three presidencies' (Iraq's president and two vice presidents) grabbing up residential land plots. Dar Addustour calls it a 'private ownership scheme'."
Ayas Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reports that State of Law (Nouri al-Maliki's coalition) is very touchy about criticism Iraqiya (political slate headed by Ayad Allawi) has been making regarding Nouri's continued inability to name a Minister of Defense, a Minister of National Security an a Minister of Interior. State of Law insists that the criticism is unfounded. (Nouri was supposed to have named these posts -- per the Constitution -- by the end of December. Staffing a complete Cabinet was how you move from prime minister-designate to prime minister. However, he was waived through without naming a full Cabinet.) State of Law maintains Nouri will make nominations any day; however, Acommok points out that the posts need to be completed this week because the Parliament is about to begin a month long vacation.
Yesterday's snapshot opened with this paragraph:

Starting with rumors. Press TV reports that a "prominent Iraqi cleric [in] Muqtada al-Sadr's group" states he saw "Israeli jet fighters" drilling on a US base in Iraq for the last week at night. The source states the base was al-Asad Airbase. That base is in Al Anbar Province and before the start of the Iraq War was Qadisiyah Airbase. Global Security notes, "Qadisiyah Airbase is named after the great battle of May 636 at Al Qadisiyah, a village south of Baghdad on the Euphrates. The Iranians, who outnumbered the Arabs six to one, were decisively beaten. From Al Qadisiyah the Arabs pushed on to the Sassanid capital at Ctesiphon, enabling Islam under Caliph Umar to spread to the East. During the 1980s, Baathists publicly regularly called the Iran-Iraq War a modern day 'Qadisiyah' exploiting the age-old enmity in its propaganda and publicizing the war as part of the ancient struggle between the Arab and Persian empires." During the first Gulf War in the 90s, the CIA says, housed alcohol bombs and HD bombs. Since the start of the ongoing Iraq War, the base has been used (first) by the Australians and (now) by the US. Global Security notes it is Iraq's "second largest airbase." In 2008, Eric Talmadge (AP) reported the base was "big enough to support 20,000 troops), was also called "Camp Cupcake" and housed "a Burger King, a Pizza Hut, and round-the-clock Internet access." The Jerusalem Post picks up on the story and adds, "Officials in Iraq were not notified of the military drill, which was reportedly conducted in coordination with US armed forces." Reuters notes the Israeli military's denial of the story and also notes, "Washington's ally Israel accuses Tehran of using its declared civilian nuclear reactor programme to conceal a plan to develop atomic bombs that would threaten the Jewish state. Israeli leaders have not ruled out military action against Iran."

Al Rafidyan covers the story here. Dar Addustour adds an on the record denial from Lt Gen Anwar Ahmed, commander of Iraq's airforce, who states the rumors aren't true and that Iraq will not allow its soil to be used as a launching ground for attacks on neighboring countries. And Lt Col Dave Lapan, Pentagon spokesperson, is quoted calling the rumors "ridiculous."
Adam Hochschild is the author most recently of To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 and, in researching the book, he visited the Western Front's cemeteries and memorials -- European grave sites for those who served in World War I leading him to wonder (Tom Dispatch via CBS News):
What if, from the beginning, everyone killed in the Iraq and Afghan wars had been buried in a single large cemetery easily accessible to the American public? Would it bring the fighting to a halt more quickly if we could see hundreds of thousands of tombstones, military and civilian, spreading hill after hill, field after field, across our landscape?
[. . .]
I can't help but wonder: Where are the public places for mourning the mounting toll of today's wars? Where is that feeling of never again?
And so it still goes. Today's high-flown war rhetoric naturally cites only the most noble of goals: stopping terrorists, eliminating weapons of mass destruction, spreading democracy and protecting women from the Taliban. But beneath the flowery words, national self-interest is as powerful as it was almost 100 years ago. Does anyone think that Washington would have gotten quite so righteously worked up in 2003 if, instead of having massive oil reserves, Iraq's principal export was turnips?
Someday, I have no doubt, the dead from today's wars will be seen with a similar sense of sorrow at needless loss and folly as those millions of men who lie in the vast military cemeteries that spread along the old front line in France and Belgium -- and tens of millions of Americans will feel a similar revulsion for the politicians and generals who were so spendthrift with others' lives. But here's the question that haunts me: What will it take to bring us to that point?
Conducting wars with the CIA, wars never end -- over eight years in Iraq and going on 10 years in Afghanistan.
Back home, war doesn't bother people. There is no sacrifice. We've always paid for our wars -- but no longer. I introduced a tax to pay for Iraq, but the White House put out the word my bill was "dead on arrival," and I couldn't get any co-sponsors. We keep the troops happy with short tours, showing the recent movies, and calling home every evening. The Pentagon stays quiet with promotions -- over 100 generals and admirals appointed since 9/11. A retired admiral friend told me that now the Navy has more admirals than ships.
In both Iraq and Afghanistan, we're bogged down trying to change a culture. In Iraq, we're waiting for the Sunnis to like the Shiites, the Shiites to like the Sunnis, and the Kurds to like either one of them.
From a former US senator to the Congress . . .
"I'd like to pretend that I'm looking forward to today's hearing," declared US House Rep Bob Filner this morning as the House Veterans Affairs Committee, "but I'm not. These are not easy questions. And frankly, Mr. Chairman, the issues go beyond just the-the incidents themselves. They go to the communication within the VA. It took a long time for the right people to know what was going on in each of these incidents. It goes to communication with our VA patients. Sending a letter that says basically, 'You may have HIV,' is not the way to deal with these issues." Filner is the Ranking Member on the Committee but what was he talking about? HIV?
The VA's had several problems of contaiminating and infecting patients they were supposed to be treating. In his opening remarks, Filner noted several such incidents.
Ranking Member Bob Filner: In December 2008, we were notified of improper reprocessing of endoscopes which put thousands of veterans in Murfreesboro, Mountain Home Tennessee and Miami, Florida at possible risk of hepatitis and HIV. In February 2009, another 1,000 veterans in Augusta, Georgia received notifcations that they were at risk for hepatitis and HIV because of improper processing of ear, nose and throat endoscopes. In July 2010, this Committee held a field hearing in St. Louis, Missouri, a hearing you attended Mr. Chairman, along with many of our colleagues today after we had learned of lapses in protocol with the cleaning of dental equipment which put at risk 1,800 veterans.
Background, June of 2009, attorney Mike Ferrara (Cherry Hill Injury Board) was stating, "Since April, we've been letting people know about the medical errors at VA hospitals that have caused at least five patients to contract HIV from contaminated endoscopic equipment." Last June, CNN reported, "John Cochran VA Medical Center in St. Louis has recently mailed letters to 1,812 veterans telling them they could contract hepatitis B, hepatitis C and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) after visiting the medical center for dental work, said Rep. Russ Carnahan." A field hearing took place (Congress holds a hearing outside of DC, they call it a field hearing -- think field trip) July 13, 2010 and Betsy Bruce (KTVI-TV) reported, "Petzel promised he would have a rapid response procedure for future medical concerns ready in a month. Chairman Filner interrupted telling him, 'Why not right now?'"
In the 2010 November mid-terms voters gave Republicans the majority in the House and Bob Filner became Ranking Member instead of Chair. At at the start of the hearing today, he would point out, "As far as I know, and maybe the panel can correct me, with all these incidents, we have never been told -- I don't think so, Mr. Chairman -- of any -- of any personnel changes as a result. The only way to send a message is firing or whatever."
Appearing before the Committee were two panels. The first panel was composed of VHS' Dr. Robert Petzel, Dr. John Daigh, Jr. (Assistant Inspector General for Healthcare Inspections, VA) and Randall Williamson, US Government Accountability Office's director of health care). The second panel was HHS's Dr. Michael Bell and HHS' Anthony Watson. Petzel began the hearing (reading his opening statement word for word) appearing combative. From that first panel, we'll note this exchange with Petzel and Committee Chair Jeff Miller and Ranking Member Bob Filner.
Committee Chair Jeff Miller: Let me -- and my time is run out -- but comments in your opening statement: continuous improvement, dozens and dozens of reviews annually, careful assessments, you talked about levels of oversight, I think GAO talked about inability to follow guidelines, the need for unfettered input for employees, they found disturbing deficiencies in systematic problems, you said you've begun a process of certification -- If you do all of those things, and your managers don't follow the rules, what do you do with those people?
Dr. Robert Petzel: We would discipline them.
Committee Chair Jeff Miller: Have you?
Dr. Robert Petzel: We have.
Committee Chair Jeff Miller: Have you fired anybody?
Dr. Robert Petzel: We have proposed removal in a number of instances and almost invariably the individual has resigned or retired as a result of the proposed removal.
Committee Chair Jeff Miller: Can you give us a number, I mean, of individuals that you've proposed removal of?
Dr. Robert Petzel: There are, I believe, 3 physician or dental level people that that's occurred with. Several chiefs of SPD where that's happened. We've also reprimanded individuals, suspensions and letters of counseling.
Committee Chair Jeff Miller: And I think one of the dentists was in his eighties, is that correct?
Dr. Robert Petzel: Close. Yes.
Committee Chair Jeff Miller: Mr. Filner.
Ranking Member Bob Filner: Dr. Petzel, you're here as the representative of the VA. We've gone through this before, sir. It seems to me your job here should have been -- and we have Congress people from all the districts that have been effected -- was to begin to restore some trust and confidence in your institution. I'd hate to take a poll. If I did, and I said, "How many people now have confidence everything is fine in your VA hospital?," I doubt if anyone would raise their hand. You said everything is fine. It's not true. Simply not true. You talk about all of these transparent procedures and these-these Journal --
New England Journal best practices, and yet every time something happens, we have disaster. We don't have a way of communicating. We don't have a way of dealing with the personal concerns. We don't have any knowledge that anybody's been reprimanded. Now you've got three. We've been going over this for years and now we've got three. And we still -- You have never told this committee those figures before as far as I know. But, Dr. Petzel, we've gone through this before. We've raised concerns in our opening statements. You read your opening statement as if we never said anything. So you never addressed issues of accountability, you never addressed issues of communication -- whether within your agency or with veterans or with this Committee.
I-I-I-I've gone through the time lines with almost every one of these [Congress] members here and their hospitals. You say panels get together to decide "should we disclose, what should we disclose, who should we --?" It looks to many of us like they get together to decide "What do we keep secret from our" -- You know, you keep shaking your head "no." But why did it take 8 weeks at St. Louis -- where Mr. Carnahan will raise the issues -- why did it take 8 weeks for that panel to decide, we're going to tell people that we have almost 2,000 people infected -- possibly infected with HIV? It took two months before you guys decided that. I would have -- And the Secretary [of the VA, Eric Shinseki] wasn't notified, as far as I know, in his words to me, in that whole period of time. So it sounds like you're sitting there deciding, "What's the minimal amount of information that we can give out so people don't get upset with us?" Rather than the maximum. I would have -- that first day -- I would have had the Secretary had a press conference that said, you know, "We have a possibly of X-hundred or thousands of people, we're going to get to you right away, we want to make sure this is happening." And put pressure on yourselves to become public. Because there's no pressure for you to do anything. We didn't know anything. The Secretary didn't know anything. I don't know if you knew anything. Because these guys are going, "How do we keep this secret for as long as possible? Maybe we don't have to disclose at all?" Because your question was: "Should we disclose?" Not how to do it. And then, as I said, your whole disclosure process is as if everybody knows all your acronyms and your-your initials for everything, all these SPDs and RMEs, as if the patients know what's going on. They get a letter. I've seen these letters. It says basically -- it's not this bald, but almost -- "You may have HIV." They get a letter. It may have even gone to a wrong address. For 1500 people, as I said to you earlier at a hearing, you should have had 1500 of your 250,000 employees, assigned each one to somebody, call them, call them, go visit them, find out where can they come back, when can they get their blood tests, treat them as if they may have HIV. And they're scared to death they're going to die and you send them a letter. And there's no one there necessarily to answer a phone call when they call back cause you don't have people working this like case managers and one person to five people. I think you should do one-on-one. But what you described as this open, transparent process does not come through. And everyone of these people [points to members of Congress] has constituents which I bet confirm what I just said. And even if it's perception and not reality, that, that's just as bad. That you took forever, you weren't very personal in your notification, you weren't very clear about what it is that they might have, you didn't follow up in a way that was very quick and then we don't know anything about accountability. We know nothing from basically what you said today. And you guys have got to develop a new system. Whether it's talk -- You know, we just killed Osama bin Laden and they notified 8 members of Congress and the Committee and they kept that. Well maybe you should notify all the Chair and Ranking Member of the Veterans Committees about what you're doing about your personnel. But there is no sense that you have done anything. And we don't know -- Nobody in Dayton, nobody in St. Louis, nobody in Miami, nobody in New Jersey, nobody in Tennessee knows anything about that accountability. And I doubt anybody in the system knows anything about it, so they don't think there's any accountability. So I wish you would address these issues. We've gone over them for several years. You and I have gone over these exact issues several times in hearings and you do the exact same thing. You give me a prepared statement. 'Everything's fine.' You move the discussion into these arcane things about SPDs and RMEs and you neglect the basic issues of communications and accountability that are at the heart of the confidence that our people have in your system. You may comment in any way you want.
Dr. Robert Petzel: Uh, thank you, Mr. Filner. The, uhm . . . What I want to do is, uh, first talk about our, uh, notification process. The, uh, the process by which we determine who ought to be notified or who might be at risk, as I said before, is an industry standard. I will stand by that process under any circumstance. It takes some time but it is transparent and it is weighted heavily in the favor of --
Ranking Member Bob Filner: Nobody knew about St. Louis for 8 weeks.
Dr. Robert Petzel: I'm --
Ranking Member Bob Filner: Eight weeks.
Robert Petzel: Sir.
Ranking Member Bob Filner: And I'm if that's industry standard, we shouldn't be following industry standard.
Dr. Robert Petzel: Sir, I'm not talking about the communication, I'm talking about the process that we go through. It is very thorough and it's weighted on the side of being abundantly cautious to be sure that we take into account every possible risk. The process by which we disclose to patients involves letters, phone calls and case managers. Particularly in the instance of St. Louis, every single individual that was effected was called, they were offered a case manager, there was a case manager that involved -- in fact, in some instances, the leadership of the medical center. I will admit that we've learned figuratively since --
Ranking Member Bob Filner: Sir, that conflicts exactly with what you said to me at St. Louis. The Chairman was there, Mr. Carnahan was there, Mr. Lacy -- Clay [US House Rep William Lacy Clay] was there, sorry, sir. Mr.[John] Shimkus was there. You never mentioned the word case manager, you never mentioned mentioned that they were called. Is that right, Russ? [Carnahan nods his head in agreement.] We-we went through this discussion with you. The first word I said to you was case manager. I said to you, "Why don't you have case managers?" You said, "Yeah, we'll look at that." We're both going to review your testimony in St. Louis because it's contrary to what you just said now.
Petzel never grasped it -- or never showed any indication that he did. He came in combative and remained that way throughout leading to the larger question of why VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has not either asked for Petzel's resignation or relieved him of his duties? Even when Committee Member US House Rep Phil Roe -- also Dr. Roe, and that's medical or we wouldn't note the "Dr." -- attempted to walk through reality with Petzel, Petzel refused to budge, refused to see the light. He wanted to bicker and dicker and bluster. "I can assure you that in the private sector, had this occurred," US House Rep Roe noted, "like this just occurred, and a medical legal case had resulted out of it, you just get your pencil out and start writing commas and zeroes, I can tell you, and get the check book out because this private system would not tolerate this." It went beyond Petzel's apparent grasp.
US House Rep Phil Roe: One of the things that we have to sell in medicine is trust. Our patients need to trust us. They need to trust the VA that that's where the quality of care and transparency, Mr. Filner is absolutely 100% correct. I can assure you that when I had a problem go wrong in my shop when I practiced medicine, not the clerk that answered the phone made the call to the patient, I made the call to the patient. I called them up. I explained to them. I had them come in and tell them what was going on. And I can tell you, with 1500 people, that could have been in a large institution with multiple people, I would have had the highest level people contacting someone when they think they have HIV or a potential life threatening condition.
Petzel wanted the Committee to know that they'd learned a lot since 2008. These are not steps you learn late in your career. What Rep Roe was referring to is learned early in your medical career. That Petzel and the VA have to play catch up is an indictment of the lack of leadership and accountability. And let's talk about the three Petzel thinks they 'forced out' -- resigned or retired. Is there anything following them around? Since they weren't fired, it's doubtful. The nearly 80-year-old is presumably retired; however, he may be doing some part-time work. Is there anything following him or the other two around alerting other medical facilities to the problem at the VA that resulted in the person leaving the VA? The answer's no. By allowing them to resign or retire, the answer is no. So not only did they put veterans at risk, but who knows who they're putting at risk currently.
If you're not getting how combative Petzel was, we'll note US House Rep Bill Johnson. Johnson, a Republican from Ohio, is always very low key in the Veterans Affairs Committee hearing. Quoting Petzel's own words to him, to ask a question, Johnson was greeted with Petzel insisting he hadn't said that (he had) and cutting Johnson off repeatedly. When Petzel came up for air, Johnson noted his time was up, that he agreed with Filner and, "If there's anything that it appears the VA is expert in it's talking around these problems and kicking the ball down the stream."
I called out Michael D. Shear in yesterday's snapshot for being too quick to allow his fantasies to run free instead of sticking to the factual record. I stand by that. He's writing about the same topic today at the New York Times blog and is sticking to the facts so we'll include a link -- in part, because a friend with the paper asked for it. The White House has changed their story on a non-Iraq issue (Osama bin Laden's capture). And on that topic, we'll close with this from Phyllis Bennis' "Justice or Vengeance?" (ICH):

There was an unprecedented surge of unity, of human solidarity, in response to the crime of 9/11. In the United States much of that response immediately took on a jingoistic and xenophobic frame (some of which showed up again last night in the aggressive chants of "USA, USA!!" from flag-waving, cheering crowds outside the White House following President Obama's speech). Some of it was overtly militaristic, racist and Islamophobic. But some really did reflect a level of human unity unexpected and rare in U.S. history. Even internationally, solidarity with the U.S. people for a brief moment replaced the well-deserved global anger at U.S. arrogance, wars, and drive towards empire. In France, headlines proclaimed "nous sommes tous Américaines maintenant." We are all Americans now.

But that human solidarity was short-lived. It was destroyed by the illegal wars that shaped the U.S. response to the 9/11 crime. Those wars quickly created numbers of victims far surpassing the 3,000 killed on September 11. The lives of millions more around the world were transformed in the face of U.S. aggression -- in Pakistan alone, where a U.S. military team assassinated bin Laden, thousands of people have been killed and maimed by U.S. drone strikes and the suicide bombs that are part of the continuing legacy of the U.S. war.

These wars have brought too much death and destruction. Too many people have died and too many children have been orphaned for the United States to claim, as President Obama's triumphantly did, that "justice has been done" because one man, however symbolically important, has been killed. However one calculates when and how "this fight" actually began, the U.S. government chose how to respond to 9/11. And that response, from the beginning, was one of war and vengeance -- not of justice.

The president's speech last night could have aimed to put an end to the triumphalism of the "global war on terror" that George W. Bush began and Barack Obama claimed as his own. It could have announced a new U.S. foreign policy based on justice, equality, and respect for other nations. But it did not. It declared instead that the U.S. war in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and beyond will continue.