Friday, February 08, 2013


Okay, having a young child when the weather goes wild is an experience.  I'd forgotten about that.  But we're all calm and ready for bed now.  I'm going to do a quick post and I hope it's okay that I'm just doing gossip.

If you missed it, Christina Applegate is saying she's quit Up All Night.

That's not really true, but that's what she's saying.

She's got a contract.  Remember when Farrah walked on Charlie's Angels?  Or Suzanne Sommers on Three's Company?  The network sued them.

NBC's not suing Applegate.  Which means she's been bumped out of the cast.

Is it because they think they can get Lisa Kudrow to replace her?


Maybe they just don't like her?

(I have no problems with Christina Applegate although I know she'll never be able to take back that 'dance' when River Phoenix died and there are people who hold it against her.)

But she did not make the decision herself.

If she had, NBC would be announcing a lawsuit.

She may have been 'trouble' and I don't mean she was a bitch or that she made trouble.  But the show is in flux and it sucks currently.  It was good the first season.  Since then, her character has been reduced in terms of time and in terms of prestige.  So she may have been let go but told she could say she made the choice.

The woman who created the show is already gone.

Will Arnet is a dick.  That's not in dispute.  He's an ass and has always been one.  He was a supporting actor on Arrested Development and his shot at a leading role (the Fox sitcom with Kerri Russell) imploded.  The first season, he was an ingredient.  He's clearly demanded a bigger role (as evidenced by changes made for season two).

So Will may have forced her out.  He did not get along with Kerri Russell and that set was a nightmare.

So what do you think happened?

It'll probably be some time before we know.  

Sorry for the gossip post but it was a long day and ended up being a long night.  I made it clear with the title that this was gossip.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, February 8, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, protests continue in Iraq, protesters call for an end to tyranny, bombings are condemned, War Criminal Colin Powell remains in focus, and more.

All week long we've been noting the 10th anniversary of War Criminal Colin Powell presenting lies to the United Nation (February 5, 2003) to justify the war on Iraq.  Simon Black (Sovereign Man) remembers he was stationed in Kuwait when Powell lied:

It all came crashing down ten years ago today. On February 5, 2003 Colin Powell, four-star general turned US Secretary of State, made a case to the United Nations that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
Now, I won’t bother delving into the inaccuracies of the intelligence he presented. In Powell’s own words, making that presentation to the UN was “the lowest point in [his] life” and a “lasting blot on his record.”
For me, it was pivotal. At that instant, I knew without doubt that my government had reprehensibly lied through its teeth. And if they were lying about this… what else were they lying about?
Everything, it turned out.

Norman Solomon has been addressing Powell's lies all week (including this column).  He is a guest on FAIR's CounterSpin which began airing today.

Norman Solomon:  I would contend that Powell's speech at the UN was perhaps the most mendacious speech by a UN diplomat in the last several decades.  And its power was only manifested because, with very few exceptions, the corporate US mass media fell all over themselves to praise it as a brilliant tour de force

Janine Jackson:  Well a couple of days ago, you debated the man who prepared that UN speech, Colin Powell's former aid Lawrence Wilkerson, on Democracy Now! and it was fascinating.  Even now --  Wilkerson has, I know, renounced or walked back his feelings on that speech -- but even now, he still insists, you know, that it's terribly lamentable but we were all wrong.  And when you said, 'No, everyone wasn't wrong. You know, the Institute for Public Accuracy, Scott Ritter, other folks including FAIR weren't wrong," Wilkerson's argument in his defense was to say, "When I said 'we,' I meant those in government -- not people like him" -- meaning you -- "or Scott Ritter or anybody else who were protesting that Iraq didn't have WMD at the time."  That sounds to me like he's saying only people in government have standing to think about policy or be heard on policy. 

Norman Solomon: The reality was that not only did the Bush administration and many of their go-to-war allies among Democrats in Congress ignore the information and critique from Scott Ritter and Hans von Sponeck and other UN weapons inspectors as well as many independent progressive media outlets and protesters in the United States.  And they trashed us to be honest and cast all sorts of aspersions and said that we were ignorant and disloyal and all the rest of it.  So when, ten years later, we have the Chief of Staff for Colin Powell during the lead up to the war and when it was going on now telling me on live national television on Democracy Now! that I had failed to call him and inform him that there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq?  I mean, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. It's just I felt that I had been pulled down Alice In Wonderland's rabbit hole.

Janine Jackson:  Yes, exactly.  He wouldn't have listened to you and yet somehow you were meant to alert him to the realities of the -- of the holes in that evidence.  It was a kind of bizarre line of argument.  And it seems as though there's really no sanction.  Not only has being right about Iraq's lack of WMDs not encouraged journalists to grant legitimacy  to those groups that were right -- they've stayed on the margins --  there really also seems to be no sanction in journalism for being so wrong about something that was so devastating and so horrific.  And we see that because the same way of approaching official claims seems to be in place, intact.

International Law and Human Rights expert, professor Francis A. Boyle addressed Powell's lies on this week's Global Research News Hour (link is audio).

Francis A. Boyle:  These were all lies.  Everyone knew it at the time.  Powell knew it.  Right now, Powell is just shedding some imperial crocodile tears over his report.  Powell aided and abetted a Nuremberg crime against against peace, against Iraq, for which we unanimously convicted [former Supreme Court appointee to the US Oval Office Bully Boy] Bush and [former UK Prime Minister Tony] Blair at the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal.  The two of them are international criminals -- Bush, Blair and I would say Powell too for aiding and abetting.  And they should be apprehended and prosecuted by any state that gets a hold of the three of them.

Michael Welch:  Yes.  And it's interesting because the major media, they held at the time, Mr. Powell -- and I suppose continue to hold these individuals in high reverence and seem to be just allowing that meme of "well it was just a mistake" to continue.  So is there --

Francis A. Boyle:  Well this is a joke too.  This is a joke too in that it's well known that when he was a Major in Vietnam in the army, Powell helped cover up the My Lai Massacre.  So there's nothing, I mean this guy was a bootlicker from the beginning -- which is  how he got his position.  I think he wanted to work for Al Hague and then bootlicked his way up the bureaucracy  there.  So he's been a sycophant and a boot licker and now a War Criminal. 

Iraq has been slammed today with multiple car bombings resulting in what Sinan Salaheddin (AP) calls "the bloodiest day in more than two months" while Duraid Adnan (New York Times) emphasizes that Iraq has "witnessed bombings now on seven consecutive Fridays."   CBS and AP count at least 30 dead.  BBC News notes over 80 injured, two bombings in Baghdad and two in Hilla.  Press TV explains of the Baghdad assualt, "Iraqi security and medical sources reported that bombings targeted a crowded bird market in the Kadhimiyah neighborhood of the capital, Baghdad, just after 9:00 a.m. local time (0600 GMT) on Friday."  In another filing, Press TV notes, "Security sources say the first bomb exploded at the main entrance to the market, and as panicked crowds tried to flee the area, the second device went off. " On the Baghdad assault, AFP reports, "Glass and shrapnel was scattered across the scene, an AFP journalist said, while pools of blood had formed on the ground and a chain-link fence was badly mangled. Several nearby cars were completely destroyed, and while passers-by scanned the wreckage, security forces tried to bar journalists from interviewing people in the area or taking pictures or videos."  Before they were stopped from filming, AFP's Ali al-Saadi and Khalil al-Murshidi filmed this video of the aftermath.   Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) explains, "That type of market tends to be very busy on Fridays, part of the weekend in Iraq, and have been targeted in the past by attackers."  Hou Qiang (Xinhua) notes, "An official with the local police station told Xinhua on condition of anonymity that the area is a Shiite Muslim community and has seen many attacks launched by the Sunni insurgents."

Turning to the Hilla assault,  RTE notes, "A further 13 people were killed in two car bomb explosions at a vegetable market in the Shia city of Hilla, 100km south of Baghdad."  Kareem Raheem, Ali al-Rubaie, Suadad al-Salhy, Isabel Coles and Jon Hemming (Reuters) quote eye witness Habib al-Murshidi stating, "I was shopping when I heard the first explosion.  I was scared and tried to reach my car to run away but before I got in the second explosion went off.  I saw many people, women and old men lying on the ground which was covered with blood and scattered fruit and vegetables."  All Iraq News reports of the two car bombs that one car was paked in a garage and the other near the market

Al Jazeera, the Christian Science Monitor and PRI's Jane Arraf Tweets on another bombing:

  1. Blast near Karbala near Dawa headquarters, PM Maliki's party, kills 2, police say. At least 31 dead in three Friday attacks.

Another car bomb - near Karbala. At least 2 dead, 6 wounded in latest bombing of Shias. Demos in Sunni areas rail against PM Maliki.

Of the Karbala bombing, Alsumaria notes it took place at noon local time and also damaged cars and buildings.

Foreign Office Minister : 'Deeply saddened' to learn of today’s terrorist attacks in

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq issued the following:
Baghdad, 8 February 2013Following the series of bombings that today hit popular and crowded places in Baghdad’s Khadimiya neighbourhood and in Shomali in Babel province, killing and injuring dozens of innocent victims, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG) Martin Kobler said that “perpetrators of these heinous and horrible acts are ruthless criminals whose sole goal is to push the country back to sectarian violence”.
  The SRSG appealed to the Iraqi leaders to unite and work together in order to stop once and for all the language of violence from spreading. “It is their duty and responsibility to sit together to see what can be put in place to stop this heinous, horrible violence,” he added. “It is the duty of the Iraqi leaders to find a solution to the current political stalemate in the country.”

Ken Hanly (Digital Journal) quotes Omar al-Faruq stating, "I have been here for 45 days waiting for my dream to become a reality.  I dream that Maliki will be tried, the same way as Saddam."  He was protesting in Ramadi and he is only one of the many protesters taking to the streets of late.   Iraqi Spring shares photos of the Ramadi protest.

  1. Khalisi School in Ramadi المدرسة الخالصية في الانبار
  2. Khalisi School in Ramadi المدرسة الخالصية في الانبار
  3. Khalisi School in Ramadi المدرسة الخالصية في الانبار

 Alsumaria notes that Anbar Province demonstrators have condemned the bombing and are calling for the government to implement their demands or resign.  Al-Shorfa adds that the spokesperson for the Mosul protesters, Ghanem al-Abd, also condemned the attacks.  World Bulletin explains,  "Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, is facing mass protests by disenchanted Sunni Muslims and is at loggerheads with ethnic Kurds who run their northern region autonomously from Baghdad."  For the seventh week, protests continue in Iraq with today being dubbed "NO to the Tyrannical Ruler."  Morning Star quotes Samarra's Sheik Mohammed Jumaa declaring, "Stop tyranny and oppression.  We want our rights.  You will witness what other tyrants have witnessed before you."    Kitabat reports protests today in Anbar, Mosul, Salahuddin, Kirkuk, Diyala and Baghdad and that protesters are calling Nouri the Pharaoh of Iraq (it's not a compliment) and noting that his State of Law didn't win the 2010 parliamentary elections but he used the Erbil Agreement to grab the post of prime minister then disregarded the partnership agreement.  Najaf demonstrators called this morning for Article IV of the Constitution to be gutted ('terrorists' arrests -- if you can't find your suspect, arrest a relative).  Alsumaria notes "hundreds" demonstrating in Kirkuk and demanding that Nouri's government resign if they are unable to meet the demands of the protesters.  Sinan Salaheddin (AP) notes protesters in Falluja and Ramadi again "blocked the main highway to Jordan."   On the Ramadi protests, Omar al-Shaher (Al-Monitor) reports:

Amid the clamor caused by the ongoing protests in Anbar province in western Iraq, which are nearing their 50th day, demonstrators have pitched huge tents and blocked traffic on the highway linking Iraq to Jordan and Syria. The protest organizers said that the main square was attracting a million people each Friday, including many participants from thousands of miles away, who require food and a place to sleep.
On one such Friday, 200 sheep were slaughtered to provide demonstrators with food. On another Friday, ​​the city of Hit, located 50 miles west of Ramadi, served demonstrators 2,000 dishes of meat and rice for lunch. The demonstration’s organizers said that Friday lunch meals can cost upwards of $60,000.
Qusay Zain, a spokesman for the protest, said that tribal leaders in Ramadi compete to serve lunch to protesters, despite the exorbitant costs. "This time, many tribal leaders in Anbar have taken honorable stances,” he said.

Liz Sly (Washington Post) observes, "With their huge turnouts, these largely peaceful demonstrations have the potential to present a far bigger challenge to Maliki’s hold on power than the violent and still stubbornly persistent insurgency, which continues to claim scores of lives every month without any discernible impact on the political process."   Neoconservatives Kimberly and Frederick W. Kagan have written an opinion piece on the protests for the Washington Post:

Eighteen days of protests in Egypt in 2011 electrified the world. But more than twice that many days of protest in Iraq have gone almost unnoticed in the United States. Iraqi army troops killed five Sunni protesters in Fallujah on Jan. 25, after a month of anti-government protests in Anbar, Nineveh and Salahuddin provinces and elsewhere for which thousands turned out. Al-Qaeda in Iraq and Iranian-backed Shiite militias are re-mobilizing. Iraq teeters on the brink of renewed insurgency and, potentially, civil war.
This crisis matters for America. U.S. vital interests that have been undermined over the past year include preventing Iraq from becoming a haven for al-Qaeda and destabilizing the region by becoming a security vacuum or a dictatorship that inflames sectarian civil war; containing Iranian influence in the region; and ensuring the free flow of oil to the global market.
While tensions have risen over the past two years, the triggers for recent eruptions are clear. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, had the bodyguards of Finance Minister Rafie al-Issawi, who is Sunni, arrested for alleged terrorist activities on Dec. 20 — almost exactly one year after he ordered the arrest of Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi’ssecurity detail. Hashimi fled to Turkey and is unlikely to return soon to Iraq, where he was sentenced to death after Maliki demanded his trial in absentia for murder and financing terrorism.
The threat to Issawi, a moderate technocrat from Anbar, galvanized Iraqi Sunnis, who rightly saw Maliki’s move as sectarian and an assault on government participation by Sunnis not under the prime minister’s thumb. Three days after the arrests, demonstrations broke out in Ramadi, Fallujah and Samarra. Three days after that, a large protest closed the highwayfrom Baghdad to Syria and Jordan. The popular resistance spread to Mosul on Dec. 27.

Meanwhile Iraqi President Jalal Talabani remains out of the country.  Late on December 17th (see the December 18th snapshot), Jalal Talabani had a stroke and was admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20th, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently. [Saad Abedine (CNN) reported talk that it was a stroke the day the news broke (December 18th) and January 9th, the Office of President Talabani confirmed it had been a stroke.]  The January 30th snapshot noted that Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani visited Talabani in the Germany -- Barzani was enroute to Davos -- with Barzani stating that Jalal's health was improving.  Talabani's website explains the the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq, Martin Kobler, conveyed congratulations on Tuesday, noting Jalal's progress and that his health had stabilized.

Turning to the United States, yesterday saw John Brennnen appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee in his pursuit of the post to be Director of the CIA.  It was covered in "Iraq snapshot," "Thoughts on today's Senate Intell hearing (C.I.),"  Ava's  "The disgraceful Dianne Feinstein (Ava)," Wally's "Brennan likes torture (Wally)" AND Kat's "Brennan tries to weasel."  On that hearing, Jon Schwarz Tweets:

As you listen to the Brennan hearing, remember 6 years ago Jay Rockefeller explained senators have no power vs the CIA:

 In addition, Ruth reported on a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in "If Leon Panetta told the truth . . .."  And, still on the Senate, Senator Patty Murray's office notes the following on veterans' spouses:

Friday, February 8th, 2013
CONTACT: Murray Press Office

Murray Discusses Challenges for Military Spouses at Symposium in Tacoma
(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) discussed employment challenges and opportunities for military spouses at the 2013 Military Officers Association of America's Military Spouse Symposium in Tacoma.  The event, titled "Keeping a Career on the Move," brought service members, veterans, and military spouses together with local business experts and employers.  Senator Murray's remarks focused on the challenges that military spouses face to support their loved ones and her personal experiences from growing up in a military family.  As the former Chair of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Senator Murray is a leader in Washington on issues to service members, veterans and their families. 
The full text of Senator Murray's speech follows:
Thank you Admiral Ryan for that kind introduction.
“I’m so pleased to be here today as part of this important event, and I have to say that it is so great to see that so many of you came out today to access the resources, advice, and experts that MOAA has made available to help you all in what I know can be trying times.
“So of course I want to thank MOAA and all the people who have volunteered their time and energy to make this event possible.
“But first and foremost, I want to thank all of you.
“Now, often times when I thank the spouses of service members I get the same modest answers back.
“I hear – “oh don’t thank me, thank my husband or thank my wife” - or I hear “it’s not that big of a deal.”
“But the truth is - it is a big deal.
“So I do want to start by thanking all of you for the unprecedented sacrifices that you – and all military spouses – have made over the last decade.
“Thank you for picking up and moving your family – time and time again – in every corner of the country in order to be with your loved one.
“Thank you for braving the uncertainty that every new day brings when a spouse is in harm’s way.
“Thank you for not only being Mom or Dad - but for sometimes being either, or both, when the situation calls for it.
“Thank you for juggling schedules, and practices, and homework when there is so little time in the day, and for making ends meet when money is tight.
“And finally thank you for being courageous enough, and self-assured enough to ask for help when you need it.
“For coming to an event like this to figure out how the country that your family is sacrificing for can help provide you with the skills and training to find work or to get into school.
“I know it’s not easy.
“But I also know from my own life that reaching out can really pay off in the long run.
“As some of you may know, I grew up in a military family.
“My father fought in World War II, was one of the first on the beaches of Okinawa, received a Purple Heart, and came home from war to start a big family in Bothell.
“Growing up, I was not only a twin, but I was one of seven children…..
“So as you can imagine, personal space among us kids was a concept we didn’t quite grasp.
“But we were a close family - not only because we slept and ate elbow-to-elbow - but also because we were a loving family that had food on the table and lived a relatively secure life.
“But when I was 15, things for my family changed.
“My father, who had up until that point run a five and dime store on Main Street in Bothell, fell ill, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and within a few short years he could no longer work.
“Suddenly everything fell to my mother.
“My mother who now found herself with 7 children, a husband whose medical bills were mounting, and very few of the skills she needed to go out and find a job that would actually pay her well enough to support our family.
“For a little while we relied on food stamps.
“For even longer my siblings and I thought there was no way we would be able to leave our family and go off to college.
“But my mother was brave enough to reach out for help – and thankfully the country her husband had sacrificed for was there to answer her calls.
“Through a program established by the federal government my mom was able to enroll in courses at Lake Washington Vocational School where she got a two year degree in accounting that helped her find work that would support our family.
“It allowed us get back on our feet.
“It got us through a very difficult time.
“And because that support was there for my mom and for our family, today those seven kids have grown up to be a school teacher, a lawyer, a homemaker, a computer programmer, a sports writer, a firefighter, and a US Senator.
“So these days, whenever I talk to military spouses - who not only faces similar difficulties, but who also must constantly worry about the safety of their loved one.
“It forces me to ask – are we as a nation there for today’s families the way we were there for mine?
“What are we doing to keep today’s military spouses and their children above water?
“The answer is that we are doing some, but not nearly enough.
“I’m happy that in recent years we have expanded many of our employment efforts so that they don’t just focus on veterans and active-duty military members, but also on military spouses.
“In some instances this has worked well.
“We have seen many spouses take advantage of the Military Spouse Employment Partnership, an Army program that works with Fortune 500 companies that pledge to hire our military spouses.
“And now that we have expanded it to the spouses of servicemembers in the Air Force, Navy, and Marines - it is having an even greater impact.
“We have also seen spouses utilize the Military Spouse Career Center which has centralized many important resources online.
“But for other programs, like the Transition Assistance Program that I helped expand, we still have to get the word out that military spouses can also take advantage of the training program.
“And for other federal programs like MyCAA we have been able to attract many military spouses, only to see the government cut back benefits because of limited resources.
“So the truth is that our response to the hardships and the unique situation that you all find yourselves in has been uneven at best.
“And there are still many things that can be done.
“For one, I believe that we need to do a better job of reaching out to corporate America on the benefits of hiring military spouses.
“We talk a lot about, and I authored legislation on, how to help employers understand the skills your spouses gained through their military service.
“But we also have to do more to help them understand what you bring to the table.
“Like your spouses, you are all used to the sacrifices and compromises that come with being a team player, you understand hard work and the day-to-day discipline it takes to succeed both at home and on the job, and importantly, you are resilient and resourceful in ways that I’m sure few other job candidates are.
“These are qualities we have to get across to companies large and small.
“Second, we need to do more to provide opportunities and support for the children of military families.
“One area that I have been working on is in helping military families with children who have disabilities.
“Believe it or not, today many of the behavioral therapies for children with autism, Down syndrome, and other disabilities are not covered by TRICARE. I’m fighting to change that.
“I’m also working to ensure that school districts like the ones here in the Tacoma area that are at a disadvantage because they are on or near federal land – and don’t have the tax base that other schools have – get the support they need.
“Over the years, I have worked to get millions for the Clover Park school district here which has faced these challenges and has been affected by steep declines in enrollment due to parents moving and long-deployments.
“These school districts are in every part of the country – and they need federal support.
“And finally, we need to offer more opportunities like this one today.
“Opportunities for you to join with your peers to swap stories about everything from help wanted ads to help finding a babysitter.
“And to meet with experts on how you can translate your diverse and sometimes even disorganized work history into a resume that will get noticed.
“To learn more about interview techniques and tips.
“To hear about workforce training programs and the skills needed to find a job in the in-demand careers in your communities.
“And to come together the way only our nation’s military community can to ensure that everyone has someone to lean on.
“I applaud you all again for your determination to keep your families and your careers going in what are often difficult days.
“And I promise all of you that I will continue to fight for federal programs that help military spouses, that create opportunities for you to succeed, and that ensure that we as a nation are there for you and your family, just like it was there for my own family.
“Thank you for having me today.”

Sean Coit
Press Secretary
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Smash goes crash

Smash returned last night.  The ratings were bad -- which doesn't surprise me.

If you missed it, at the end of season one, they fired the show runner and brought on some man who does teen soap for The CW. 

Why would you drop a show runner and then do just what she was doing? 

The show is a mess.  It may not be able to be fixed.

Megan Hilty should have been fired.  She has nothing to offer the show.

Keeping her on keeps the whole competition with Karen going.  Audiences don't like that.  You can see that if you study the ratings from season one.

If Karen's job is in a state of flux, it plays into larger job anxieties in our culture and that's not helping the ratings. 

If they were going to keep Hilty, the thing to do was to give her a job in some show and stop it being about who is Marilyn this week?

Instead, they stayed with the storyline that turned off viewers -- Karen and Hilty competing for a job week after week.

Other bad things?  It was a two hour premiere.  Debra Messing should have lost the glums in the first hour.  Instead, she was a sad sack at a time that no one can put up with it.

Karen's discovered two bartenders who are writing their own musical.  That was it in terms of new stories.

They had two hours and that's all they had to offer.

Otherwise, it was the same Karen versus Hilty, the same Derek likes Ivy but . . ., the same Eileen struggles to pull the show together, the same Julia is letting Tom down, etc., etc.

They fired the show runner at the end of season one and yet the new show runner is repeating all the same mistakes and can't find any new storylines. 

Equally true, they did a number that was just awful.  "Would I Lie To You" by the Eurythmics.  They restaged it to be Derek's fantasy of the women he'd used.  Only he wasn't asking the musical question -- which might have made sense, women were.  They were all wearing the same dress, wearing their hair pulled back and the same make up.  It indicated that they were all the same.  Was that the message?

No.  There was no message.  Somebody just remembered Robert Palmer's videos (like "Addicted to Love") and wanted to recreate that regardless of whether or not there was a point to it.

That pretty much sums up the show.  That and "two hours of boring."

If they knew what they were doing, they would have kept Ellis.  Annoying or not, he was a needed character.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, February 6, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, another suicide bombing in Iraq, the UN calls for an end to female genital mutilation, Iraqiya returns to the Cabinet meetings, DoD and VA fail to meet their assigned tasks, and more.

Starting with Cindy Sheehan who notes political prisoner Lynne Stewart explaining that her cancer has returned.  We'll note Lynne in the snapshot tomorrow -- today, we've got Congress, DoD, VA, Toby Dodge, and more already.   You can refer to Third's "Lynne Stewart's cancer has returned, release her" for now.

Turning to War Criminal Colin Powell who, ten years ago, appeared before the United Nations (February 5, 2003) to 'make the case' for war on Iraq by lying.  Lawrence Wilkerson may never be able to become the second Mrs. Colin Powell, but Wilkerson can and does 'stand by your man' right now.  And sadly, a lot of people assist Wilkerson in whitewashing Colin Powell -- but the blood never fades, all that blood of the innocents on Colin Powell's hands.  Today Norman Solomon appeared on Democracy Now! to debate Wilkerson .  Excerpt.

NORMAN SOLOMON: Well, we just heard Colonel Wilkerson say that "we were all wrong." I’m quoting him here from a few minutes ago. In fact, we were not all wrong. As a matter of fact, many experts and activists and researchers, from the get-go, in 2002, were saying that the administration case for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was full of holes, and many guests on Democracy Now! demolished those claims from the Bush administration in real time. The organization where I work, the Institute for Public Accuracy, put out many news releases documenting the falsities coming from Colin Powell’s office and the entire administration, including the week that he gave his now-infamous speech at the United Nations. We had U.N. weapons inspectors like Scott Ritter and Hans von Sponeck demolishing many of those claims being made, again, in real time.
So, what we’ve heard again today -- and I think it’s very disappointing -- from the former chief of staff here of Colin Powell is the reiteration of these supposedly exculpatory, actually, excuses for just following orders. And I could condense what Colonel Wilkerson just said about Colin Powell’s role in the lead up to the war in Iraq: "We were just following orders, and Dick Cheney made us do it." No, Dick Cheney didn't make you do it. There's something called resignation. There’s something called speaking up and the First Amendment. There are a lot of dead Americans and many more Iraqis because of the silence and the following of orders when we look at what actually took place.
Now, one of the most important facts is that, 10 years later, an ongoing legacy of Colin Powell’s behavior -- and, unfortunately, of our guest, as well, and the entire upper echelons of the Bush administration -- is a pattern of impunity -- impunity to lie, impunity to deceive and distort, impunity that is personal, that is professional and is governmental. And that kind of impunity, which has caused so much death and misery in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere, is being fast-forwarded, is prefigurative for where we are now. And so, even today, although what’s done is done, we might say, the failure of people like Colin Powell to step up and say, "Look, not only was I wrong, but in planning and implementing aggressive war, I violated the Nuremberg Principles" -- if we could get those kind of forthright statements from these former top officials, we could look at the agenda building for war on Iran in a more understanding light.

Very well said by Norman Solomon who is asking people to go to this Roots Action page and let your senators know your concern over the nomination of John Brennan to be the next CIA Director.  Also calling out Brennan and Powell is David Swanson who has come up with The Colin Powell Memorial B.S. Award.

Today the United Nations issued a press release on the topic of female genital mutilation:

Fewer girls are subjected to the life-threatening practice of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) according to new data from the United Nations, released on 6 February, the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation. The data show that FGM/C is becoming less prevalent overall and the younger generation is less vulnerable to the practice.
In the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East, where the practice of FGM/C is concentrated, on average, 36 per cent of girls aged 15-19 have been cut compared to an estimated 53 per cent of women aged 45-49. The decline is particularly sharp in some countries: in Kenya, for example, women aged 45-49 are three times more likely to have been cut than girls aged 15-19.
“This progress shows it is possible to end FGM/C” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “FGM/C is not only deeply wrong, we can and must end it to help millions of girls and women lead healthier lives.”
These recent estimates produced by UNICEF show that at least 120 million girls and women have experienced FGM/C in these 29 countries. Given present trends, as many as 30 million girls under the age of 15 may still be at risk. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and UNICEF Joint Programme on FGM/C is currently making progress in preventing these girls and future generations from being exposed to FGM/C.
The new estimates follow the unanimous adoption of a UN General Assembly resolution in December 2012, calling on Member States to intensify efforts towards the complete elimination of FGM/C.
Since 2008, when the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on FGM/C was established, nearly 10,000 communities in 15 countries, representing about 8 million people, have renounced the practice. Last year, a total of 1,775 communities across Africa publicly declared their commitment to end FGM/C.

All Iraq News reports the UN called on the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government to eliminate the practice of female genital mutilation and finds that 8% of Iraqi women ages 15 to 49 have had some form of FGM -- the bulk of the 8% reside in Erbil, Kirkuk and Sulaimaniya.

For the fourth day in a row, Iraq sees a suicide bombing. Bi Mingxin (Xinhua) reports a suicide car bombing at an Abu Ghraib military base resulting in the deaths of 5 soldiers with another nine injured.  Alsumaria notes that the attack took place at noon local time.   All Iraq News reports an attack on Mosul checkpoint left 2 police officers dead.  Alsumaria adds that the corpse of a 22-year-old female was found in Kirkuk -- signs of torture and gunshot wounds -- and that a Baghdad assasination attempt (by sticky bombing) on the Minister of the Enivornment's Sargon Lazar Salioh left his driver injuredPress TV notes a Mussayib attack which left 3 police officers dead and three more injured. And Alsumaria is reporting that a Salahuddin Province bombing (outside of Tikrit) claimed the life of 1 military officer and left two soldiers injured (all three were part of the Tigris Operation Command) and they note 1 man shot dead in Mosul by unknown assailants.

Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 76 people killed this month by violence in Iraq.  76 in the first five days of the month alone.

As security is needed in Iraq, Alsumaria reports that Sahwa ("Awakenings," "Sons/Daughters Of Iraq") announced today that at least 80% of their weapons are out of date.  Kitabat reports that the Ministry of Justice announced yesterday that since December 21, 2010, 200 prisoners have died in Iraqi prisons.  Consider that another reason for the attempted prison breaks.

Tuesday saw a win for the Iraqi press.  Al Rafidayn reports that the despised 'cybercrime bill' has been dropped.  Iraq's Journalistic Freedoms Observatory issued a statement praising the Parliament and the Chair of the Committee on Culture and Information for abolishing the bill noting that it had met with harsh opposition since the bill became public -- many journalists -- in and out of Iraq -- condemned the bill and over 40 international organizations also came out against it.  Among the over 40 speaking out?  Human Rights Watch which noted last July:

The 16-page report, “Iraq’s Information Crimes Law: Badly Written Provisionsand Draconian Punishments Violate Due Processand Free Speech,” is a legal analysis of the draft law. It finds that the draft law is part of a broad effort by authorities to suppress peaceful dissent by criminalizing legitimate information sharing and networking activities. The proposed law had its first reading before Iraq’s Council of Representatives on July 27, 2011; a second reading is expected as early as July 2012.
“This bill would give Iraqi authorities yet another tool to suppress dissent, especially on the Internet, whichIraqi journalists and activists increasingly turn to for information and open debate,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The Council of Representatives should reject lawsthat would undermine the freedoms enshrined in Iraq’s2005 constitution.”

Jillian C. York and Maira Sutton (Electronic Frontier Foundation) observe, "Fortunately, it looks as if this bill will not become law. A document released on January 22, 2013 and shared by Social Media Exchange (SMEX) shows that a request was made by the parliamentary Culture and Media Committee and approved by the Speaker of the House to revoke the egregious law."  Also dropped is a boycott.  All Iraq News reports that Iraqiya members in Nouri's Cabinet have returned to Cabinet hearings saying that they feel protesters are being listened to.  (They boycotted hearings last month saying the protesters were not being listened to.)  The paper notes Ayada Allawi declared that a replacement needed to be named for Nouri because Nouri is unable to manage the state's affairs.  There have been calls for early parliamentary elections.  Whether that happens or not, Iraq is supposed to hold provincial elections in April. 

When the Independent High Electoral Commission was truly independent, Nouri tried to take it over.  Unable to do so, he would imprison the Committee Chair and a Commissioner.  Why isn't that still happening with the new Committee Chair?  Because Muqdad al-Sharifi is in Nouri's pockect.    AFP reports: that Nouri's little puppet declared that "anti-governmnet rallies" are causing security issues which could harm the April provincial elections. 

The problem is the "anti-government rallies"?

The only people who have died at the rallies were 7 Iraqis who were demonstrating.  (False attempts to tie the deaths of 2 Iraqi soldiers to the protests failed some time ago.)  But 76 people died through yesterday from violence.  The protesters are exercising their democratic rights guaranteed to them by their country's Constitution.  One would assume someone in charge of elections would applaud that.

Toby Dodge is the author of the new book Iraq: From  War To A New Authoritarianism.   Dodge is a British political scientist and a member of the International Institute for Strategic StudiesLast month he spoke about Iraq at the London School of Economics and Political Thought.  Excerpt.

Toby Dodge:   Now the national elections of March 2010 saw something quite remarkable, I think.  It saw a sustained challenge to that exclusive elite command.  Iraqiya  -- a coalition of political parties led by Ayad Allawi capitalizing on a rising nationalism in Iraq as violence decreased -- ran, I think, an incredibly effective grassroots campaign and mobilized enough folks to get 91 -- 91 seats compared to Maliki's 89.  However, that challenge to the exclusive elite pact created a counter-challenge by the politicians who'd benefited from the exclusive elite pact and what you saw from March to November was a period of extended and acrimonious negotiations.  In the end, I would argue, and there are probably people in the audience who disagree, that what happened was with the Erbil Agreement of November 2010, Iraqiya was brought back into another government of national unity on the basis of the exclusive elite pact.  Iraq's Islamic party had long failed to exist as meaningful electoral forces was pushed out, Iraqiya was brought in  -- "No, no, you can represent the Sunni population.  We'll give the Ministry of Finance -- a bit problematic at the moment -- we'll give you the vice president -- also problematic -- and that'll be enough."  Now think about the 2,849,000 people who voted for Iraqiya in March, they've seen the influence of their votes on the government systematically minimized ever since.  And their parliamentary representatives brought into government only to be persecuted and driven into exile in the case of [Vice President Tareq al-] Hashemi.   The continuation of this exclusive elite pact cannot but alienate increasing numbers of Iraq's population, exacerbating the already powerful, popular sentiment that the government is failing to deliver on their needs because of corruption.  So in 2013, ten years after the invasion, Iraq is a state whose prime minister is increasingly concentrating political and coercive power in his own hands.   He and the rest of the ruling elite are kept in power by a million man security force which is restricted by little or no democratic or parliamentary oversight.   In February 2011, the Arab Spring arrived in Iraq with mass public demonstrations breaking out, certainly in Baghdad but also in Basra and intriguingly up in the Kurdish Regional Government areas of north Iraq. These demonstrations -- these popular expressions of alienation and anger at the corrupt ruling elite were suppressed by extended violence.  This is the outcome of regime change a decade after invasion: An increasingly authoritarian government unable to deliver services to its population, increasingly reliant on an over-developed armed force.

Dropping back to yesterday afternoon, the US House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs held a hearing on the use of temporary disability ratings.

Subcommittee Chair Jon Runyan:  Our hearing topic today will focus on temporary total disability ratings.  Temporary total disability ratings serve a very important function in the benefits scheme.  This type of rating is assigned when it is established by medical evidence that surgery or certain treatment was performed, necessitating a period of recovery during which the veteran cannot work. However, according to a January 2011 report by the VA Office of the Inspector General, VBA has not been correctly processing and monitoring such claims.  As a result, the OIG stated that since January 1993, VBA has overpaid veterans a net amount of $943 million.  The OIG also stated that without timely action, VBA would overpay veterans a projected $1.1 billion over the next five years.  These numbers are troubling, to say the least.  As all of us here today are aware, our nation’s fiscal health is one of this Congress’s top priorities.  Part of this process includes trimming government spending and eliminating government waste.  It is my hope that by bringing attention to this topic, we can ensure that every dollar appropriated to VA is being spent properly on care and benefits for our veterans.  We heard from VA in June of last year during sworn testimony, that these errors were due to a computer glitch.  VA advised that the glitch would be fixed by July 2012.  Nonetheless, two new Regional Office audits issued by the OIG last month found that 50 percent of the temporary 100 percent disability evaluations reviewed were incorrect. The explanations given in the OIG audits stated that the 50 percent accuracy rate occurred because staff did not establish controls to monitor the proposed reductions initially, nor did they schedule future medical examinations as required. So -- something doesn’t add up here.  If the computer glitch was fixed in July 2012 but over 50 percent of temporary total rating claims are still being processed incorrectly as of January 2013, then that leads me to believe that these are human errors, not computer errors.

100% Temporary Disability Rating?  "A total 100% temporary disability rating will be assigned, without regard to the rating schedule, when a service connected disability has required hospitalization treatment by the Department of Veterans Affairs, for a period in excess of 21 days."   Paralyzed Veterans of America's Carl Blake submitted a written statement for the record.  He noted that temporary disability ratings rarely affected members of his organization:

That being said, temporary total disability ratings serve an important and practical purpose for many veterans.  The determination for temporary total disability ratings are governed by the provisions of 38 C.F.R. § 4.29, Ratings for service-connected disabilities requiring hospital treatment or observation, and 38 C.F.R. § 4.30, Convalescent ratings.  Temporary increases to VA disability ratings in accordance with the provisions of Paragraphs 29 and 30 are simple adjustments to running compensation awards that can be accomplished by employees with a minimum of training.  Temporary increases to compensation Paragraph 29 are determined by the verified dates of hospitalization.  Meanwhile, adjustments under the provisions of Paragraph 30 are established by rating action based on available medical information.  In each case, the dates of entitlement are clearly indicated, and with only a small amount of attention to detail, there should be no significant errors.

Runyan continues as Subcommittee Chair.  The new Ranking Member of the Subcommittee is Dina Titus.  There were two panels.  The first panel was Vietnam Veterans of America's Rick Weidman and VA's Assistant Inspector General for Audits and Evaluations Linda Halliday (accompanied by Larry Reinkemeyer and Brent Arronte).  The second panel was the VA's Diane Rubens.  While the issue of overpayment causes alarm in the current fiscal climate, overpayment isn't the only problem.

Ranking Member Dina Titus:  As the Chair mentioned, and it bears repeating, a billion dollars is something to be worried about.  But this doesn't just go one way in terms of overpayments.  At the Reno VA Regional Office, which serves my Congressional district in southern Nevada, the Inspector General found that over half of the 100% disability evaluations were incorrectly processed.  And while a number of these involved overpayments, there were also some underpayments.  And we certainly don't want our veterans to be underpaid.  For example, we found one veteran with service connected bone cancer and prostate cancer who was underpaid nearly $10,000 over a period of three years. 

We'll note one one exchange from the hearing.

Subcommittee Chair Jon Runyan:  Ms. Halliday, in your opinion, why is it the VBA failed to take adequate and timely measures to address the -- the systematic problems?

Linda Halliday:  Reliance that they needed an IT fix.  And that took some coordination between the VBA office and out office of OINT.  We kept telling them it is not just the IT fix.  What we were finding were people -- the VARO [Veterans Affairs Regional Office] staff were not making proper input to put these diaries in place.  Regardless of whether you had an IT fix in place, that action had to occur.  So it's been awhile that I don't believe VBA has been aggressive enough in addressing that -- that piece of it.  I know recently, Ms. Rubens had laid out some corrective action that included training which is consistently recommend in the benefits inspection reviews to try and reduce the human error associated with processing some of these claims.

Subcommittee Chair Jon Runyan:  And -- and going back -- and you mentioned it in your testimony there about the targeted completion date which was moved several times -- to September 30, [20]11, to December 30, [20]11, to June 30, [20]12 and then to December 31st, [20]12.  Do you know if the December 31st, '12 deadline was ever met?  Or has it been pushed back even further?

Linda Halliday: We haven't tested for it, but the evidence would be right now the benefits inspection are still identifying substantial errors.

Subcommittee Chair Jon Runyan:  And then finally, uhm, an alarming statistic in your written testimony says that only 53 regional offices have been inspected since your national audit -- have been fully followed by VBA policy and processing temporary disability claims evaluations.  Can you further elaborate on the extent that these problems are due to human error as opposed to the computer glitch?  And do you agree that -- with VBA's insistence that -- system glitches are the reason for these errors?

Linda Halliday:  Yeah, I'd like to ask Brent Arronte -- since he has spent so much time in our VA regional offices doing the inspections -- to filed that.

Brent Arronte:  What our inspections have-have shown is about 46% of the errors that we've seen with suspense date is what VBA is saying was the result of a systems glitch.  We never found a system's glitch.  To us a glitch means the system was not working as intended.  We spoke with some of the architecture behind this, I think in 2010, and they told us that the system was never developed to put these -- to ensure that these diary dates were populated into the system.  With that, we-we -- Two of the fixes that VBA has indicated that they have implemented, one in 2011 and one in 2012, we have not tested that yet.  We haven't obtained the data to see if those fixes are working systematically.  But what we have seen is about 25% of the errors are related purely to human error -- where staff is not putting in the -- or cancelling reminder notifications inadvertently, not understanding how to process reminder notifications and that results in the same effect of the benefit being paid when there's no evidence showing entitlement.

The Veterans Administration should be embarrassed that a hearing took place where the Inspector General explained that they refused to listen and that they repeatedly moved the date back.  The Secretary of the VA, Eric Shinseki, should be asked to explain how that happened?  He is supposed to be the head of the department, he is supposed to provide leadership.  This is just like, after the scandal of veterans not receiving their education checks, he mentions to Congress that he was informed of this impending problem right after he took over as Secretary of the VA.  He should have been called to the carpet for that but instead everyone apparently agreed to look the other way.  From the October 14, 2009 snapshot covering the House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing that day:

Erick Shinseki: A plan was written, very quickly put together, uh, very short timelines, I'm looking at the certificates of eligibility uh being processed on 1 May and  enrollments 6 July, checks having to flow through August.  A very compressed timeframe. And in order to do that, we essentially began as I arrived in January, uh, putting together the  plan -- reviewing the plan that was there and trying to validate it. I'll be frank, when I arrived, uh, there were a number of people telling me this was simply not executable. It wasn't going to happen. Three August was going to be here before we could have everything in place.

But he didn't bother to let Congress know.  He didn't bother to warn the veterans who might be counting on those checks.  And this all got ignored.  Now we learn that the issue of 100% temporary disability pay has not been fixed and part of the reason for that failure is that they don't want to listen to the Inspector General's office.  Where is the accountability?

Halliday said at yesterday's hearing, "We had expected VBA to keep their commitment to work this national requirement and we just watched slippage upon slippage.  I think you have to ask the Department, VBA, why it took so long."  She might as well have been talking about the electronic record that VA and DoD were tasked with developing.  Mary Mosquera (Federal Computer Week) reported April 9, 2009:
Obama said it was time “to give our veterans a 21st-century VA," adding that there is no comprehensive system that enables a smooth transition of health care records between DOD and VA.
“That results in extraordinary hardship for an awful lot of veterans, who end up finding their records lost, unable to get their benefits processed in a timely fashion,” Obama said. Access to electronic records is essential to modern health care delivery and the paperless administration of benefits, he added.
“That’s why I’m asking both departments to work together to define and build a seamless system of integration with a simple goal: When a member of the armed forces separates from the military, he or she will no longer have to walk paperwork from a DOD duty station to a local VA health center; their electronic records will transition along with them and remain with them forever,” he said.

A seamless system of integration.  It would, Barack said, "give our veterans a 21st-century VA."  He wasn't pulling notions out of thin air.  In 2007, Commissioners Bob Dole and Donna Shalala were named to head The President's Commission On Care For America's Returning Wounded Warriors.  The commission came up with this idea and, in their final report, warned, "Meanwhile, congressional or departmental reform efforts should resist imposing new requirements that may result in duplicative or uncoordinated electronic systems and, instead, encourage the streamlining of today's systems and facilitate communication across them."

Does Shinseki think he can just blow off the tasks he's assigned?  Does he not get how this impacts veterans?  November 11, 2009, the VA's Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergrovernmental Affairs Tammy Duckworth appeared on The Diane Rehm Show (NPR).

Tammy Duckworth: Well what didn't work so well -- this is one of the first things I brought up to [VA] Secretary [Eric] Shinseki when he interviewed me -- was the fact that we did not have a seamless transition of our military records from DoD to VA. When I left Walter Reed with my full medical records and I went to my VA hospital for the first time, I had to strip down to prove that I was an amputee. Even though he could see that I was an amputee and he had the medical records from the surgeon who amputated my legs. And we're immediately fixing that.  Back in May of this year, [Defense] Secretary [Robert] Gates and Secretary Shinseki agreed to a program where we're going to develop virtual, lifetime, electronic records. So that from the day you raise your hand to enlist in the army to the day that you're laid to rest in one of our national shrines, your records follow you. And this will be a monumental change in how VA and DoD hand off and care for our veterans.

So in 2009, Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth told him in very concrete terms how this could effect a person transitioning from service member to veteran.  Did he not listen?  Duckworth is now a member of the US Congress, House Rep Tammy Duckworth.  I called out Shinseki this morning and Shirley and Martha advise e-mails felt I was giving Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta a pass because I know him.  I know Leon, I like Leon.  I've held him accountable when needed and haven't worried about 'tone.'  This isn't Leon's issue.  He's out the door, for one thing.  For another, he won't even have 18 months as Secretary of Defense (unless Chuck Hagel's nomination gets tanked).  If Hagel had been confirmed last week and had made the announcement Tuesday with Shinseki, I wouldn't have called out Hagel.  It's not Hagel's issue. 

Shinseki has been the consistent under Barack.  Dropping back to the July 25th snapshot to note that day's House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing:

This morning, US House Rep Jeff Miller noted that "in 1961 John F. Kennedy said we'd put a man on the moon, eight years later, we were there.  We're talking about an integrated electronic health records by 2017.  Why could we put a man on the moon in eight years and we're not starting from ground zero on the electronic health record -- why is it taking so long?" He was asking that of the Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki who were appearing before a joint-hearing of the House Armed Services and House Veterans Affairs Committee.  

Of course no real answer was given.  A grinning -- apparently amused -- Shinseki began his non-answer by declaring that "I can't account for the previous ten years."  Though he didn't say it, he also apparently couldn't account for the three years that he's been Secretary of the VA.  Three years and seven months.  You'd think Shinseki would be able to speak to the issue.  He couldn't.  He could offer that he met with Panetta four times this year with plans for a fifth meeting.  This was the same amount he met with former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates but, apparently, in a few months less time.   I have no idea what that or his ridiculous grin was about. 

But I do think Shinseki may have inadvertently provided an answer for the delay when he went on to declare,  "It's taken us seventeen months to get to an agreement that both Secretary Panetta and I signed that describes the way forward."  There's the problem right there. 

Back in March 2011 what was Shinseki bragging about?  As Bob Brewin ( reported, "Veteran Affairs Sectretary Eric Shinseki said Thursday he and Defense Secretary Robert Gates agreed on March 17 that their departments would develop a common electronic health record system."  So that was agreed to in March 2011.  But it took Shinseki and and Gates 17 months to figure out how?  There's your time waster right there.  And it was not needed.  Shinseki and Panette did not need to 'invent' a damn thing.  This is not a new issue.  VA has long ago addressed what they need with regards to records and DoD has identified the same.  And after this had been done (and redone), Robert Dole and Donna Shalala served on the Dole -Shalala Commission coming up with many of the same things.  The Dole -Shalala Commission was established in 2007 and formally known as the President's Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors.   Appearing before the House Veterans Affairs Committee February 7, 2008, VA's Dr. James Peake testified that this electronic record was "a critical recommendation in the Dole-Shalala Commission report."

So he and Gates agreed what their departments needed to do in March 2011.  Then, in June 2011, Panetta becomes Secretary of Defense and Shinseki decides to start all over and spend 17 months coming to an agreement with Leon?  This falls on Shinseki.  He has not delivered on the task.  Yet again.

At what point is there accountability?  At yesterday's joint-press conference, Shinseki bragged that he and Panetta had just held the ninth meeting ("in 18 months") and they stressed the "commitment of both of our departments to a single, common, joint integrated electronic health record, the IEHR."  The ninth meeting, Shinskei explained "was about how to get there."  Really?  Panetta's got one foot out the door and you're meeting with him "about how to get there"?  Barack Obama tasked you with this duty back in April of 2009 and, in February of 2013, you're having a meeting "about how to get there"?

There's a lot of confusion as to what's going on.  Patricia Kime (Army Times) does a great job covering where things stand.  The same can't be said for others.  What's taking place is that the actual task is being tossed aside.  Instead, some low rent version of what was asked for is going to be assembled.   Let's quote Senator Patty Murray from yesterday's press release.

“I’m disappointed that the VA and the Pentagon are now backing away from a truly seamless medical records system. While this is a very complex problem, we must provide the best care for our servicemembers and veterans. That means the departments must meet this challenge by working together. What they are now proposing is not the fully integrated, end-to-end IT solution that this problem demands. VA and DOD have been at this for years and have sunk over $1 billion into making this the cornerstone of a nationwide electronic medical records initiative. I intend to follow-up with both Secretaries to find out why this decision was made.”

Senator Murray is the outgoing Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  She's right that, after wasting $1 billion in taxpayer dollars, they're now refusing to live up to what was promised.  

It's not going to be the full medical records -- as people were promised.  Instead, as the Defense Dept revealed through various flunkies on a press call yesterday, "information on prescriptions or information on lab results that will be exchanged on all patients, and most critically, in a standard data format at the point in 2014, so the data looks exactly the same between the two systems."  That is a huge come down from an electronic record that would carry all the patient information and follow the service member on over to the VA.  This was an expensive proposal.  But it was thought that veterans' health was worth it and it was thought that this would also help lower some health costs (both by being paperless and by being a complete record which would mean tests wouldn't be accidentally duplicated since you had a complete record). 

Leon Panetta said at yesterday's joint-press conference, "Achieving the goal has taken a tremendous amount of collaboration at all levels.  But I'm proud to say that our department are now working together more closely than ever before.  We recognized that bringing together two large bureaucracies, trying to make those bureaucracies work together to form a seamless support system for all service members and veterans is not an easy challenge.  It's tough."   You need Leon criticism?  Every word just quoted was ignorant and uninformed.  Your proud that the two departments are working more closely than before?  Well that's been the assigned task since 2007.  Two different administrations have called for that.  It's not "an easy challenge"?  You're right, Leon, it's not "an easy challenge."  Because a challenge would be Barack saying to you, "Let's all work harder on meeting the needs of our veterans and service members."  That's a goal, a challenge.  "You and VA create . . ."  That's an assignment. Both departments were tasked with that assignment back in 2009.  It's tough?  Well, it's an assignment.  It's a job assignment.  If you're not up to it, you're not up to the job (or you're saying that President Barack Obama was unrealistic when he handed out the assignment).  It's amazing how everyone shirks responsibility.  A task was assigned in 2009.  The task has not been achieved.  That means you failed.  In the real world, that means you get fired.  This lack of accountability is exactly why there will be little concern over government layoffs if sequestration takes effect.  The American people are tired of seeing nothing get accomplished over and over.  They wants scalps at this point.  It's a shame it will most likely be the scalps of the overworked civil service employees and not those in management who are supposed to be getting results (but repeatedly fail to do so).

The House Veterans Affairs Committee leadership and the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee leadership issued a joint-press release today:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The chairmen and ranking members of the Senate and House Committees on Veterans’ Affairs today faulted the Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs for backing off plans to create a single computer system to integrate electronic medical records for troops and veterans.
Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said: “I am deeply disappointed by the VA and Defense Department decision to back away from a commitment to develop and implement a truly integrated, single, electronic health record. President Obama charged the departments with creating a seamless system of integration so that service members transitioning from active duty to civilian life don’t have to worry about whether their health records will be lost or their claims delayed.  An integrated record would allow for a streamlined and timely claims process, faster decisions on benefits, less duplication in medical testing and more efficient, cost-effective treatment for both physical and mental health needs. Now more than ever we need greater cooperation between the departments to solve the serious challenges that continue to confront our service members and veterans.  I will continue to work to achieve better coordination by the departments and to ensure that the needs of veterans are met.”
House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) said: “The decision by DOD and VA to turn their backs on a truly integrated electronic health record system is deeply troubling. The need for a record system integrated across all DOD and VA components has been universally accepted for years, and until yesterday, both agencies have given us nothing but assurances they were working toward that goal. Previous attempts by DOD and VA to use disparate computer systems to produce universal electronic health records have failed, and unfortunately it appears they are repeating past mistakes. When DOD and VA take shortcuts, the veterans and service members under their care will be shortchanged.”      
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C), the ranking member of the Senate committee, said: “The fact that VA and DoD would reverse course on a plan they have been working towards for years that would create a coordinated electronic health record system between the two agencies is concerning and disappointing.  I am concerned about what this means for our nation’s service members and veterans, particularly those who will be transitioning from active duty service to civilian life in the near future.  We owe it to our nation’s defenders to do all we can to care for them and provide the most effective, efficient service we can, and coordination and communication between these two agencies is absolutely vital.” 
Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine), ranking member of the House committee, said: “This is a huge setback and completely unacceptable. For years we have been told by both agencies that progress was made and that things were on track.  I’m disappointed that our nation’s two largest government agencies – one of which is the world’s foremost developer of high-tech machines and cyber-systems – could not come together on something that would have been so beneficial to those that served. We have just witnessed hundreds of millions of dollars go down the drain.”
Additional Contacts:
Michael Briggs (Sanders) 202 224-5141
David Ward (Burr) 202 228-2971
Ed Gilman (Michaud) 202 225-6306