Wednesday, February 29, 2012

10 worst songs?

I only knew 3 of the picks.

Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On."

I know it's 'cool' to hate on Celine. I'm not saying NME is doing that. They may truly hate the song. But she does have a lovely voice and is one of the few big voiced women who knows how to use the voice.

I like Celine. Her music's too laid back for me to add to my collection but if she comes on the radio, I hum along.

The second one I knew was "Praise You" by Fatboy Slim.

I like that song. At least the pounding piano part. I don't mind the rest of it.

The third one I knew was "Living La Vida Loco."

Okay, include that one.

I don't like it when songwriters steal from themselves. (Ricky Martin didn't write this song.) Desmond Child gave us "Love In An Elevator" and if you get the rhythm down, you'll see how easy it is to sing that song to "La Vida Loco."

I hated this song because MTV still played videos late night. And I'd wait for my videos. And every time I had to suffer through this one.

Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

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

Elsewhere in the hearing, the issue of sequestration was raised. It's expected to that the federal government's buget will result in sequestration -- that cuts to reach X amount were not made and as a result automatic cuts will be imposed on many departments (and programs) across the board. Is the VA exempt or not? That's been an issue that several members of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees have been trying to get answered (with no success). Chair Jeff Miller noted, "We believe that VA is exempt." He stated that it should be but if it is not, "we have to we'll make those statutory changes." Chair Patty Murray declared she was "confident" that sequestering would not effect VA but that she wants "clarity" on the matter. CORRECTION: Senator Murray questioned Eric Shinseki on Wednesday.

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

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

Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) observes that Adnan al-Assadi, the Deputy Interior Minister, states that "six prominent Sunni armed groups say they will fight on to drive the last Americans from Iraqi soil and topple 'the occupation government'." Pay attention to this from al-Salhy, "The groups include al-Qaeda's Iraq wing, the Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi Order, the Islamic Army, the Mujahedeen Army, the Rashideen Army and Ansar al-Sunnah, Asadi said." Did you catch that? No, not all physically fighting the occupation and/or Nouri's puppet government are "al Qaeda in Iraq."
Violence is among many topics that Dirk Adriaensens of the BRussels Tribunal Executive Committee explores in a new piece at Truthout that that suffers at the beginning. It has many important points to it but the beginning isn't just 'weak.'
Adriansens notes the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pilay's public dismay over the executions in Iraq. He then attempts to tie that into a US trial. That's nonsense and it's offensive. You don't have to like the verdict, you may feel that someone guilty went free but there's a world of difference between feeling someone 'beat the system' and executing people from forced confessions. I haven't commented on that case, I have no public opinion on that case. You can and you can feel the US Marine got a fair trial, got away with murder, or whatever. But don't compare a verdict you don't like that you think set someone guilty free with putting to death innocent people.
There are people around the world who have made it their life's work to overturn death penalties and they grasp the difference (some of whom will find the comparison being made offensive). You've taken disimilar objects and pretended you compared them when you did no such thing. I know the law and like some people (I would hope most people), I would prefer a guilty person walk to an innocent person being punished (and I oppose the death penalty). That is why the US has the legal system it does, because of that belief. A verdict you disagree with where someone walks on charges is not the same thing as someone wrongfully put to death.
This is not a quibble. This is a major point. As the piece progresses, it has many wonderful passages. One of the most interesting sections of the essay is this:

"The wave of attacks, carried out mainly by Sunni extremists from Al-Qaeda in Iraq against Shia communities, has alarmed many who fear the country could descend into chaos once more, with the government itself acknowledging it is not capable of ensuring security on its own."(82) This is the story that we constantly hear in the media, blaming the "Sunni" terrorist group al-Qaeda, which carries out attacks against the "Shiite" population. What is most saddening is that this particular sentence was written by IRIN, a news service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Why are the media so sure that it is "Sunni" al-Qaeda killing innocent Shiites?

Let me put the record straight: in recent weeks there have been several bomb attacks in Ramadi, Adamiya in Baghdad, Mosul, Haditha, Diyala, Tikrit, Fallujah etc., all Sunni areas. The wave of attacks is nationwide. The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights should check out the Iraqi press accounts of the previous weeks.

Then why do the Western media and IRIN focus on al-Qaeda and declare the Shiite population the main victims?

It is relevant to remind the public of the ruthless killings perpetrated by Shiites against Shiites. For example, on 27 February 2009, The New York Times reported that 28 members of a Shiite messianic cult responsible for brutal attacks on Shiite pilgrims in Iraq were sentenced to death in the federal court in Dhi Qar Province. The condemned were members of the Followers of the Mahdi, itself a part of the Soldiers of Heaven or Jund As-Samaa, a destructive cult that believes that sowing chaos will pave the way for the coming of the Mahdi, the 12th Imam, who disappeared in the ninth century and who - Shiites believe - will return as a savior of humanity. Nineteen other members of the group were sentenced to life imprisonment, and six were acquitted, said the court official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.(83)

And why is there no mention of the thousands of Sunnis who were recently arrested and detained by the government? Why don't the mainstream media write about the virulent sectarian politics of Maliki, who recently declared that his primary identity is "Shia"?

Why is there no mention of recent "suspicious incidents" that have been reported in the Iraqi press? For example:

On January 25, a senior source at the Iraqi Ministry of Transport confirmed to Al-Mada daily newspaper that the British security company assigned to security control at Bagdad airport caught a Czech security team from the Czech Embassy in Baghdad with a number of silencers and explosives in the beginning of January. The silencers had the smell of gunpowder according to the source whose name the newspaper refrained from mentioning. The security of Baghdad airport held the Czech security team for a number of hours; yet they were released following the intervention of the Czech Ambassador who had visited Iraqi Transport Minister Hady Al-Amery's office, according to the same source. The source told the newspaper that the security officers at Baghdad airport found it very strange such silencer guns were in the possession of foreign diplomats since these weapons are used by 'special elements' for specific acts, which are assassinations. Why were they released so quickly? Here's one clue: It is well known that Al-Amery is the head of the Badr Brigades, the armed wing of the Supreme Council of Iraqi Islamic Revolution. The Badr Brigades have changed their name into the Badr Organisation and joined the so-called "political process."

Gov. of Baghdad Said Salah Abdul-Razzaq said in an interview in Al sumaria News: "A unit of the security forces near my house ordered a grey BMW to stop. In the car were four Americans, two men and two women, in the possession of handguns with silencers and machine guns and they wore bullet proof vests." Salah Abdul-Razzaq said that the four Americans were driving near his house and urged the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs to take diplomatic action and ask the US to clarify the reason for this "violation," and warned of the possibility that his police forces would fire to kill in the event of repeated violations, regardless of the nationality of the offenders. They were released soon after the American Embassy intervened.

We conclude from all these events something that is being repeated over and over again by many Iraqi witnesses, namely that the recent strings of bomb attacks and assassinations are part of the counterinsurgency strategies of the US in conjunction with Maliki's government and probably Iran and other neighboring countries, false flag operations in order to create chaos and sectarian strife with the ultimate goal of discrediting national reconciliation efforts so that the country can be partitioned without too much popular protest and political opposition.

There is a continuous flow of disinformation and one must be willing to dig deeper into the secret, dark underworld of dirty war, media manipulation and corruption to learn the truth. The terrible humanitarian situation in Iraq is the ultimate responsibility of the Anglo-American forces that invaded, occupied and keep occupying Iraq, together with the US-installed Iraqi government. And they should be held accountable.

Those are some very important points and ones that I'm more than willing to consider. I like the BRussels Tribunal. But people who don't know it or may not like it only have to start with those opening paragraphs to have a reason to stop reading. 'Beating the system' is not the same as losing your life because you were tortured into giving a 'confession.' The two can't be equated.
Last Thursday, as bombs swept Iraq, the Iraqi Parliament voted on the 2012 budget and to spend at least $50 million on the purchase of 350 armored vehicles for themselves. It was controversial last Thursday and remains so. Sinan Salaheddin (AP) notes objections are coming "from government officials to revered clerics to newspaper editors." AFP reports the plan was for "one armored car per MP and an additional 25 vehicles to be dispersed at the discretion of parliament's speaker." Al Sabaah adds that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi issued a memo noting that the vehicles would belong to the Parliament and not be the MPs personal cars to keep when the current legislature completes its session. As Sheikh (Dar Addustour) weighs in with a column on public opinion and appearance, how Iraqis are seeing that Parliament will take steps -- and spend money -- to protect themselves. Al Mada notes that supposedly the vehicles being purchased are basically good for two years and then require repurchasing and that the issue will be dealt with . . . after the Arab Summit.
Back to the US, briefly. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared before Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's House Committee on Foreign Affairs this afternoon. It was one of two appearances before Congress today to argue for State Dept funding for Fiscal Year 2013. I didn't catch her morning appearance (I was at the veterans hearing). Clinton told the Committee that the US effort was now civilian-led in Iraq. She stated that in 2011, the US government budgeted $48 billion for Iraq. What the State Dept needed, she explained, was "only one-tenth of" that number, that the State Dept was asking for "$40 billion less than" what the US government wanted "just two years ago." The Defense Dept had over 50,000 troops in Iraq and the administration keeps swearing that the Iraq War is over. If someone tells me the meal's over, I ask for the check and I pay it. If they come up to me with another check, swearing it's a civilian-led check, my point would be, "Is the meal over or not?" Billions are billions. The State Dept wants $8 billion. The State Dept that refused to properly explain their budget to the Special Inspector General for Reconstruction in Iraq. Even after he took the issue to Congress (repeatedly) in 2011.
Camp Ashraf. She was before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, so Camp Ashraf was going to come up. She spoke of the recent move of approximately 400 Iranian dissidents from Camp Ashraf. The dissidents were allowed in decades ago under Saddam Hussein; after the US invasion in 2003, the US government entered into talks and negotiations with them which resulted in their becoming "protected persons" under international law and the Geneva Conventions. Nouri al-Maliki is close to Iran and Iran doesn't want the residents in Iraq. Nouri and others have had to be restrained by the United Nations repeatedly on this issue. Hillary stated of the move this month of 400 Iranian dissidents from Camp Ashraf to the former US Camp Liberty, "There were complications but it was peaceful."
That's really not true. They suffered through an invasive search -- body search -- before they left Camp Ashraf. Despite that search, they were then forcibly searched before being allowed in Camp Liberty. What should have taken no more than three hours, took over ten. It was not peaceful for the residents. If "peaceful" means "no shots were fired," then it was "peaceful." If peaceful means what the rest of the world understands it as, no, it wasn't peaceful.
The US government (during Bill Clinton's presidency) put the residents on the terrorists watch list. Being on that list is a problem. Hillary denied that to be the case. She stated that it wasn't preventing anyone from taking the residents any -- any country. That's not true. She further rejected the assertion that being on the US terrorist list allowed Iraqis to treat the residents poorly and justify it. That's just an outright untruth. Either she's not following the region or she wasn't telling the truth. There is not a month that goes by when Nouri or one of his underlings doesn't tell Press TV or some other Iranian outlet that the US has the group on the terrorist list and so they're terrorist and Iraq cannot house terrorists (unless of course they have the title of Iraqi Prime Minister).
What she should have faced was an intense grilling as to why the State Dept hasn't moved on this issue as they were ordered by the US courts to review the status in 2010 (the court faulted the decision and felt it had deprived the group of due process)? She was Secretarty of State when the court ruled. She is still Secretary of State. She should have conducted the review long ago and an announcement about the status should have been made. It is depressing to see Hillary Clinton's behavior on this issue. Is the State Dept allowed to ignore the US courts? Is the State Dept now above the judicial branch? Is there no check on the State Dept?
Hillary told the Committee that the dissidents "successful and peaceful closure of Camp Ashraf" and relocation to Camp Liberty would be "a key factor" on the status.
That's not what the court instructed. Is the State Dept bound by the law or not?
I like Hillary but were I Hillary and had I Hillary's reputation, I wouldn't want to be doing this. If it's not clear, right now she's one of the most admired women in the country. If she keeps this up and there's a push back, we're back to the days when Bill was in his first term and Hillary wouldn't turn over healthcare information and some might even want to go to the Whitewater well again. It's not smart for her, it's not smart for the image of the department.
The move did not factor into the court's decision. What factored in was the refusal of the Clinton administration to guarantee due process when they pinned "terrorist" on the dissidents.
So legally, her reasoning is not sound. Now let's get to another issue quickly. Unarmed dissidents are being moved by Nouri's thugs who -- as Amnesty International and others have documented -- have twice produced multiple deaths in their attacks on the dissidents. To now say that how these dissidents behave as they're forcibly relocated will determine something is nonsense and blatantly offensive.
It's offensive to everyone aware of forcible rel-locations in history. Be it the Armenians, the Jewish people, you name it, those who are forced to relocate -- at gunpoint no less -- do not have the power and it is offensive to suggest that they do.
It is also highly illogical to claim that you will determine whether or not a group of people are terrorists and we're out of space.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


I covered the Oscars yesterday -- ha ha -- but for real coverage, check out David Walsh's piece at WSWS:

It may not be saying all that much, but the ceremony proceeded without either patriotic posturing or, fortunately, an “Obama moment” of any kind. One suspects that the Occupy movement has had something of an impact on this social layer, at least to the extent Sunday night of restraining some of their most celebratory and self-congratulatory impulses. Most of those on stage managed to keep their narcissism under control.

Streep and Plummer were gracious as winners, as were Colin Firth, Sandra Bullock and Christian Bale as presenters, while Emma Stone was delightful. A mock 1939 focus group responding to The Wizard of Oz, with Christopher Guest, Fred Willard, Catherine O’Hara, Bob Balaban and Eugene Levy, was amusing.

Of course, no one, other than Farhadi, had a word to say about the situation in the US or the world, including the great question of social inequality. This central problem puts everything else in perspective.

There are many skilled individuals in the film industry, and many appealing personalities. As we’ve suggested many times before, that is not where the problem lies. The performers, technicians and crew members are generally more talented and remarkable than the material they are given to work with. Each year the choices in the best picture, best director and best screenplay categories tend to be the bleakest.

So there you go. And that's a better bit of coverage than what I offered. Again, I didn't watch. Life's too short for three hours of handing out awards for me. Sorry. And no one says anything of importance because they always get cut off. I did watch as a kid and they got to talk a little more and had some strong performances. But these days, the best songs don't even get nominated.

For example if Bruce Springsteen has a song in some movie, it'll get nominated. That includes that crappy song he had for "The Wrestler." It's not about talent.

I remember being really happy when Carly Simon won for "Let The River Run." That was a song I heard first not on radio but in church. Our choir director (I was in the youth choir) brought it in and it became one of our biggest crowd pleasers.

And it was this amazing song with these great lyrics and this marvelous melody. It was like nothing anyone else wrote. And it was a real thrill to see Carly win for it. And then I watched as Carly went up to get the award. I don't think I'd seen her before that. She had her hair short. And I think she wore a black and white striped outfit. And she thanked her then-husband and said something funny. I don't remember what but I thought she was really amazing.

Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

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

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

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

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

Contact: Murray Press Office

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

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

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

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

WHAT: Hearing to discuss FY 2013 budget

WHEN: Wednesday, February 29, 2012

10:00 AM ET

WHERE: Russell Senate Office Building
Room 418

Washington, D.C.



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

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

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

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

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

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

Jim Douglas: Now they will.

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

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

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Oscars (Meryl is Audrey Hepburn)

Barack Palin

Above is Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Barack Palin" from yesterday.

Yesterday, "The Good Wife" didn't air. Because no one wanted to compete against the Oscars.

Lou e-mailed and said he couldn't wait to get my blow-blow of the Oscars.

Okay, here goes.

I rubbed my eyes, looked at the alarm clock, went to the bathroom to brush my teeth, shower, shave and take care of business. Got dressed. Went to the kitchen to fix breakfast. Booted up the computer while I waited for my pancakes (frozen) to finish in the toaster.

Looked to see who won what.

I don't watch the Oscars.

If I've got a group of people coming over, I will. I'll have it on and catch a lot of it. But I don't like sitting in front of the TV for hours.

It's just easier for me to read up on it the next day.

So I can't tell you who wore what.

(I was wearing a Haynes t-shirt and sweat pants probably around the time that the awards started. And, on my feet, some black, SurfPolo sneakers.)

What did I think of the awards?

I think Meryl became Audrey Hepburn.

I love Meryl, I love Audrey.

But that's not a compliment.

I mean Meryl's win is like Audrey getting the lead in "My Fair Lady." People felt sorry for Julie Andrews. (Who played the role on Broadway.) And Audrey was eventually highly disliked for this win.

I think something similar is going to happen with Meryl.

She didn't need another Oscar. Two should have been enough.

But it wasn't. And Viola Davis, Michelle Williams and Glenn Close were all providing stronger performances. It was stunt acting by Meryl.

Watch me do an accent!

No, no

She'll regret the win.

Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Monday, February 27, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, a song-and-dance is performed before a bewildered House Subcommitee, Nouri and Moqtada al-Sadr are at odds again, Michael Ratner talks about the Bradley Manning arraignment last week, US Senator Patty Murray wants answers about whether or not the Defenseand more.
This afternoon the House Veterans Subcommittee on Health held a hearing that covered the issue of bridges between the VA and Community Organizations. Near the end of the hearing, Subcomittee Chair Ann Marie Buerkle declared, "I must say I'm a bit chagrinned and, more than that, concerned. I think we have a real big disconnect here in knowing what's avaialbe and what's out there."
More than anything, that summed up the hearing. Listening to panel two offer testimony was highly distressing. Chaplain John Morris, Reverend E. Terri LaVelle and Chaplain Michael McCoy Sr. were the primary witnesses on that panel and you really had to wonder about not just where the money goes but also who's watching it?
US House Rep Michael Michaud had a very basic question for Rev LaVelle and she explained that she'd have to speak to someone else about that, she was primarily focused on what went on in DC (she's with the VA Director Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships) but she would speak to the filed about this.
The obvious question would be: Why didn't you before you showed up for this hearing?
The obvious question wasn't asked. Instead, she noted she'd only spoken to the district once in her time in her current position. Michaud asked her how long she'd been on the board and she responded "two and a half years." That should have been a red flag.
There were many red flags throughout the hearing.
Michaud wanted to know if veterans were being charged by faith-based organizations for services? He never got a clear answer on that. LaVelle, for example, was happy to talk at length in response to what should have been a "yes" or a "no" question. Going on and on, at a fast clip, about how you're "more than willing to say that so many days a week, so many hours, we'll use our current transportation" might have seemed like a response to her but I'm not sure many others would feel the same.
Her comments also raised serious issues about qualifications. For example, I think many of us (I know I feel this way, you don't have to) feel that if a veteran seeks out a faith-based organization, he or she will be speaking about issues to do with religion and spirituality. And that doesn't bother me (I'm not happy that it's funded with tax payer dollars because I believe it chips away at the wall that's supposed to exist between church and state). But when you're selling your program to Congress on something other than that, we may have a problem.
So, for example, when LaValle wants the Subcomittee to know that they employ Phds and licensensed clinical social workers, it does matter to me if these people are trained in assisting veterans. LaVelle's people she brags about, these people with so much education and training, have never been trained in helping veterans. But, she insists, they will learn on the job.
Will learn. Haven't yet. What do they do all day? We're not talking about fresh recruits, we're not talking about a new program that just received start-up funding.
Sitting through that hearing was a non-stop exercise in frustration and, after awhile, it really appeared that most members of the Subcommittee just gave up. (Two appeared to walk out in frustration. And those two were Republicans and Republicans who support the idea of faith-based programs being funded by the government.)
US House Rep Silvestre Reyes is a very laid back and calm person. He doesn't lose his cool in hearings and generally has a smile and some comforting exchange at the start to set the witnesses at ease. Though he did not lose his good manners, even he seemed puzzled by what was taking place before the Subcomittee.
He noted what so many noted which was, why aren't veterans hearing anything about these programs? (I will add, why aren't veterans hearing anything about these programs that US taxpayers are forking over a small fortune for?) This was picking up directly on US House Rep Michael Michaud's questioning but also on just about every Subcommittee member's line of questioning.
And the song and dance was always, 'We try. We're contacting someone.'
Reyes noted that in his area (El Paso), Joan Ricard would be the best one to contact. She's the Director of the El Paso VA Health Care System. He wondered, "Why can't your programs be part of the services?" No real answer.
They're putting on events. They're spending money. But it doesn't seem like veterans are going to these events and that seems to be because they aren't getting the word out on these events.
In addition, rural veterans are being completey disregarded by these programs. They aren't doing any in, for example, West Texas. As Reyes pointed out, except for El Paso pretty much all of West Texas is rural. The witnesses rushed to tell him that his veterans could go to Waco, Texas where they're putting on programs and he explained to them that Albuquerque was closer to El Paso than Waco (El Paso to Waco, he said, was 386 miles -- still a huge journey, especially for a disabled veteran and especially for a veteran in need of services; while El Paso to Waco is over 670 miles). Chaplain McCoy wanted to insist, "We are cooperating with the Office of Rural Health and we are cooperating with the Office of Mental Health and others." The programs they represented to the Subcomittee did not appear to be serving rural veterans, regardless of whom they were "cooperating with."
In Texas, Reyes was told, the closest chaplain to his city of El Paso is Waco. (Again, that's over 670 miles -- at 60 mph the whole way, someone's going to have drive over 11 hours for an event that's for 'rural' veterans. That's ridiculous.)
Reyes was also very concerned about this issue where the events aren't known, where even the faith-based organizations providing some kind of services weren't known of by the veterans.
He noted that his office holds a veterans clearing house meeting every month. He attends when he's in his district but, even when he's not there, the meeting takes place. And it's where information can be passed on. He noted Joan Ricard attends every month's meeting. But he's never once seen anyone from these groups or heard any information about their programs, He again stressed that the faith-based programs were not getting the information out, "We've never heard the information about your programs. So is there a reason you can't designate the VA Directors in our respective areas to provide information?"
LaVelle insisted that if someone could tell her the faith-based liason to Congress, they could get information to them about services in their district.
You're taking taxpayer money to provide a service for veterans. Your events are poorly attended. The reason for that is you're not getting the word out on them. And your answer to that is to wait until you're at a Congressional hearing and treat a Subcommittee as if you just dialed 411?
Winding down the hearing, Subcommittee Chair Ann Marie Buerkle said, "In closing here today, I think that Chaplain [John] Morris said it best, that we really do need a community effort to make sure that our veterans have what they need."
Tomorrow should be a big hearing -- joint-hearing by the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committee. That's a problem for one reason, I'm not really able to go into to today's hearing. It's one of those that I would prefer to have a night's sleep between covering just because I'm so upset by it. But with tomorrow's hearing, it won't be possible to pick up this Subcommittee tomorrow. So we've done the above, a thumb nail, and that may end be it for the Subcommittee hearing. I think it was an important one, I think we've provided a bit more than overview but that's all we can do today. Short of my issuing a non-stop string of curse words, that's all we can cover. What the Subcommittee learned was that the faith-based organizations being represented by the witnesses happily take money from the taxpayer to provide services but they hire people who are unqualified to provide the services and then they somehow repeatedly forget to get the word out on the services which explains the low turnout. On top of all of that -- and the lack of oversight of the way the taxpayers' money is being spent -- rural veterans aren't benefitting from the present system. A specific issue family courts have raised to House members is where are the clergy to provide family counseling to veterans whose families and/or marriages are struggling? And the answer, like every other 'answer' to a direct question in this hearing, was a long string of words that wandered around but never arrived at a point.
Let's stay on veterans issue and Congress for a bit more. Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Her office issued the following today:
Monday, Februay 27, 2012
CONTACT: Murray Press Office
(202) 224-2834
TOMORROW: Murray to Push Deense Secretary Panetta on Pentagon Oversight in PTSD Diagnoses
Murray will also question Panetta on proposed FY 2013 cuts and their impact on DOD
(Washington, D.C.) -- Tomorrow, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), senior member of the Senate Budget Committee, will attend a hearing on President Obama's Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Request for the Department of Defense. The Committee will hear testimony from Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey. Sen. Murray will question Secretary Panetta about the Pentagon's handling of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) diagnoses, specifically as it relates to the recent controversy surrounding the Madigan Army Medical Center in Washington state.
WHO: Senator Patty Murray (D-WA)
U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey
WHAT: Examination of President's FY 2013 Budget Request for Dept. of Defense
Focus on PTSD Diagnoses Oversight, FY 2013 Cuts
WHERE: Dirksen Senate Office Building -- Room 608
When: Tomorrow -- Tuesday, February 28, 2012
9:30 AM EST/ 6:30 AM PST
Megan Roh
Deputy Press Secretary
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
So what's going on? The press release refers to Madigan Healthcare System. As we've noted before, the US Army Medical Command has investigated complaints from soldiers who say that their PTSD diagnoses have been reversed and that there have been comments that these were administrative decisons made to save money. If you're late to the story, you can check out Hal Bernton's piece for the Seattle Times. That is tomorrow. As the press release noted, if you can't be present but are interested, you can stream it online. For those who are saying, "I'm on dial up" or "My platform's too out of date for streaming" or something similar -- CSPAN Radio will broadcast the hearing live (and most who can't stream video due to being dial up or an older platform, can stream audio with few problems). I was under the impression (apparently wrong) that CSPAN (1,2,3) broadcast all the Senate hearings. If so, that's not going to happen tomorrow unless CSPAN2 is carrying the hearing. (CSPAN1 and CSPAN3 are both going to be covering the House and not the joint-hearing of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.)
Dropping back to the February 21st snapshot:
If you call the VA's suicide hotline, you have a right to believe your call is confidential. Christian Daventport (Washington Post) reported yesterday on Gulf War veteran Sean Duvall's troubles caused by seeking help. He called the hotline and now he's facing criminal charges and, if convicted of them, could spend as many as 40 years in jail. Sean Duvall called because he wanted to take his own life. The homeless man had a gun he'd made himself. He called for help and got that to a degree immediately (or that's how the story is being told). What happened after that is that he found himself charged for the homemade gun. That's what he could face up to 40 years in prison for.
Today, Christian Davenport provides an update noting that "in a hearing Monday, the prosecution changed course and recommended that Duvall be admitted to counseling overseen by a new Veterans Treatment Court. If the counseling is completed, the charges, which carried a 40-year prison sentence, would be dropped." The US Attorney for the Western Distric of Virginia, Timothy Heaphy, stated the change stemmed from them re-examing the case.
Turning to Iraq where Aswat al-Iraq reports that in the last months over 34 women in the city of Karbala attempted to take their own lives via "pills or medicine and some of them use rodenticides." (If you're not sure but thinking, "That 'rodenticide' looks like rodent posion," you are correct.) Women trying to take their own lives in Iraq since the start of the Iraq War usually do so out of some 'honor' issue. For example, they may have something recently take place that would be deemed an "honour" issue. They may fear it coming out or it may already be out and a close relative may be threatening to kill the woman if she does not take her own life. In 2007, for example, women and girls were showing up in Sulaimaniyah emergency room with burns caused by cooking fuel and blame the burns on an accident while cooking. Now it appears that women are once again attempting to take their own lives and the Iraqi system (thus far) hasn't demonstrated that it can address these sort of issues.
I've also seen quite a few women who've burned themselves. They're of a type: young, married and very poor. Their families, fearing disgrace, always deny that the women have tried to commit suicide. But as we press them, the story gradually changes. Burns, which often cover most of their bobides, are one of the toughest aspects of my E.R. work -- along with blast victims. I never really get over these things.
But what angers me most is that, if they survive, these women almost never get any counseling or psychiatric help -- though they are often abused, deeply angry and severely damaged even before they come to the emergency room.
These women are especially at risk in a health care system in which overworked doctors like me focus only on saving lives; healing their invisible wounds is another story. Even though Iraqis have been living in a violent, unstable environment for years, there is still no culture of mental health care here. It has little to no support from the state or haalth authorities, and people who do seek psychiatric help are stigmatized by their families and society: these two truths reinforce each other. Even blast victims, if they recover, don't get counseling.
That's distressing for women (and there's much more in her piece, please read it), but grasp that the Iraqi population is a young population. It's a country of widows and orphans. And the median age is 19.7 years old. In a country where that's the median age, there are a lot of people struggling already.
Last week, Parliament voted to spend over 50 million dollar buying 350 vehicles -- armored vehicles -- for themselves. There was an immediate uproar among many Iraqis over this move. The uproar has not yet died down (and may not). Aswat al-Iraq notes that the head of the Iraqiya bloc in Parliament, MP Salman al-Jumaili, declared today that the money insted should be used to compensate Iraqis who are the victims of terrorism. Kitabat reports that cleric Moqtada al Sadr (who controls approximately 40 seats in the Parliament and whose bloc is part of the ruling National Alliance) decried the move and has branded it a "disgrace." He states the money should instead be going to the Iraqi poor who are without water, food, I home, security and safety. He stated anyone who rides in them is betraying the Iraqi people. Al Rafidyan has al-Sadr calling it a stain and those riding in them are traitors to the Iraqi people, to Iraq and disobeying Allah.

Over the weekend, the big news from the Sadr camp was Moqtada al-Sadr likening Nouri to a dictator (and glory hog). Pakistan's The News noted that Moqtada al-Sadr issued a statement last night which declared of Nouri al-Maliki, "The dictator of the government is trying to make all the accomplishments as though they were his accomplishments, and if he cannot he will try to hinder these accomplishments and erase them." The paper notes that his bloc is a member of the National Alliance, as is Nouri's, and that this may "indicate a new round of political conflict" for Iraq. Now Aswat al-Iraq reports that two State of Law stooges are insisting that relations are just fine, thank you very much, between Nouri and Moqtada and they doubt Moqtada even said what he's quoted as saying. They're like two children seeing Mommy and Daddy fight. Meanwhile Al Mada reports that Ibrahim al-Jaafari is attempting to heal the rift between Dawa (Dawa is Nouri's political party; State of Law is his political slate) and the Sadrists. The former prime minister (al-Jaafari) is attempting to smooth over the differences which erupted after Moqtada declared Iraq had a new dictatorship. Some feel the statements are part of a negotiation strategy on the part of the al-Sadr bloc regarding the upcoming Amnesty Law which could allow many members of Moqtada's militia that were arrested nearly three years ago to be released.

Nouri really can't afford to have many more rifts these days. He already has the Kurdish Alliance, Iraqiya and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq calling for him to return to the Erbil Agreement which ended Political Stalemate I. Nouri started Political Stalemate II (the current crisis) when he discarded the Erbil Agreement. He's also demanded the Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq be stripped of his post and that Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi be arrested on terrorism -- al-Mutlaq and al-Hashemi are both members of Iraqiya which came in first in the March 2010 elections (his State of Law came in second). Dar Addustour notes Nouri's again huffing that the Baghdad judiciary must be listened to (Nouri controls the Baghdad judiciary, they are not independent). In another report, they note that Nouri's insisting (via surrogates) that Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi is trying to inflame tensions between Nouri and Saudi Arabia by declaring that Nouri is targeting Tareq al-Hashemi because he is a Sunni. The government of Saudi Arabia is well aware that Tareq al-Hashemi and Saleh al-Mutlaq are Sunnis. They're also well aware of the fact that Nouri is Shi'ite. They don't trust Nouri because they see him as too close with the Tehran government (which is also Shi'ite). Ayad Allawi tends to stress the Iraqiya issue and not the Sunni aspect. (Allawi is Shi'ite.) And, as leader of Iraqiya, it would make sense for him to stress the Iraqiya aspect first and foremost.

Al Mada also notes Nouri's remarks and these come when various parties in Parliament thought they would be addressing the al-Hashemi issue and members of the prep committee for the national conference to resolve the political crisis thought the three presidencies (President Jalal Talabani, Nouri and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi) would be resolving it. Saturday Aswat al-Iraq reported that MP Ahmed al-Massari, who serves on the prep committee, is declaring that al-Mutlaq's case will be decided by the "the three presidencies" (that's Talabani, Nouri and Osama al-Nujaifi). There's no unified opinion on al-Hashemi's case, the MP stated, but he noted "that the two working papers of Iraqiya and National Allaince blocs were unified, containing most of Arbil agreement items." Al Mada reported that the issue of al-Mutlaq will be resolved by Parliament.

Nouri's paranoid. We've noted his intense paranoia since 2006. US State Dept cables note it beginning in 2008. There's really no denying it. Iraq's set to finally host the Arab Summit. It was postponed twice in 2011. (And may get postponed this year due to Iraqi violence.) Right now it looks like a go. But Nouri's paranoia swells and travels. So instead of encouraging the Arab Summit and talking it up, Alsumaria TV reports Nouri declared today that Iraq is stillt argeted and that all sorts of external actors are trying to destroy it.
Al Mada notes the paranoid whispers that Qatar is plotting to take over the Arab Summit, to steal it from Baghdad.
Today's violence included a Falluja bombing which left 1 Sahwa leader injured. Sahwa, also known as "Awakenings" and "Sons of Iraq" are resistance fighters who stopped fighting when put on the US payroll. Nouri was supposed to integrate them into the security forces and other government jobs but has not.

Many fled from Baghdad starting in 2006 due to the violence, at least 300,000 according to the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy Martin Kobler. Aswat al-Iraq notes that he declared in a Green Zone press conference yesterday that 1.3 million Iraqis remain internally displaced. The Boston Globe notes UN diplomat Claire Bourgeois states that the Baghdad government has not done enough to assist the homeless in Iraq. The United Nations News Center quotes Kobler stating:

Our collective responsibility is to ensure that the displaced are adequately cared for as long as they live in displacement, while measures are being taken to plan for their sustainable return, resettlement and local integration, the three key pillars of a durable solutions strategy. No durable solution can be achieved without the express consent of those on whose behalf it [the strategy] is being implemented.
By ensuring that those who fled the cruelty of violence that befell this country in the past years can safely return to their homes -- or, where return is not possible, that they are given a free choice of resettling or integrating in a place of their choosing -- we help restore their rights. We recognize them as citizens of this country, who are entitled to a life in dignity, like all other Iraqis.

Dignity is what the Iraqi youth called for on Saturday. Al Mada reported Iraqis turned out in Baghdad's Tahrir Square today demanding reform on the anniversary of the wave of youth protests that began last year on February 25th. (If your new to last year's protests, click here for a CNN iReport with links to various videos.) Banners carried had slogans on them such as "OIL FOR THE PEOPLE, NOT THE THIEVES" and "MALIKI'S GOVERNMENT HAS FAILED." Siham al-Zubaidi explained her view and that of her peers who were protesting: Nouri al-Maliki has had a year since Iraqi youths began making their demands and he has changed nothing, he has met none of the demands on safety, electricity or job creation.

An unidentified male protester states that crowd is smaller now because a number of people have sold their peers and conscience out for government money. He also noted that Nouri's security forces were present not to protect the peaceful demonstrators but to protect the Green Zone. Al Mada notes that Najaf also saw Iraqis protesting today. Dar Addustour added that the demonstrators called for Nouri's government to resign and that banners denounced the decision of the Parliament to spend at least $50 million on the purchase of 350 armored vehicles for members of Parliament. Dar Addustour offers some idiotic statements by an idiot named Mohammed Chihod whom they wrongly identify with the National Alliance.

Yes, Chihod is with the National Alliance. But he's State of Law. And when he blathers on with lies to defend Nouri, it's the State of Law that needs to be disclosed to readers. So Liar Mohammed says that the protesters are wrong in their call for a resignation, that there can be no resignations because these leaders were elected by the people. Calling for Nouri and his cabinet to resign is perfectly acceptable and not one of them was elected to a Cabinet post or prime minister by the people. The people voted for members of Parliament. (And their will was ignored.) And even though they voted for MPs, they still have the right to call for their resignation. The one who's "wrong" isn't the Iraqi people, it's liars like Mohammed Chihod who apparently are also illiterate since he can't read and comprehend his country's Constitution. He's such a sweetheart for Nouri, you'd almost think the two men were engaged and planning a wedding.

Aswat al-Iraq noted, "Laith M. Redha, member of a youth group told Aswat al-Iraq that another group of demonstrators will hold their activities in Culture Street of Mutanabi. He added that the demonstrators will commemorate this occasion and demand the reforms which were promised by the government a year ago, eradicating corruption, availability of services and electricity."

Turning to the United States where the Academy Awards were just handed out last night so apparently it's now time to work ourselves into yet another tizzy over awards. Jarreau Joseph Weber (Death And Taxes) reports that there are 231 people nominated for this year's Nobel Peace Prize. It's not a prize we take seriously but one of the nominees is Bradley Manning. Weber notes that Bradley "was arrested in May 2010 after allegedly leaking more than 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables, 400,000 U.S. Army reports about Iraq and another 90,000 about Afghanistan -- the biggest leak of classified documents in U.S. history. Manning was in solitary confienment for nine months before formal charges were brought against him last week. "
On Bradley, in addition to this week's regular hour long Law and Disorder Radio - the three attorneys who host the show -- Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) -- also did two hours live this morning on WBAI (an hour and fifty-five minutes, excuse me) as part of WBAI's fundraising efforts.
Michael Ratner: I went down to Fort Meade on Wednesday -- on Thursday for Bradley Manning's arraignment and, of course, getting into Fort Meade, it gives me the willies just going near the place because basically it's one of a thousand bases the US has all over the world -- a thousand bases that the US has all over the world. And I went to Bradley Manning's arraignment. You have to go through -- your car gets inspected, you have to have license, insurance, and you go into this really antiseptic courtroom where there were only 20 of us in the entire courtroom. There were ten press and ten spectators including some resister people, Bradley Manning Defense Committee. And Manning walked in wearing his dress uniform, very moving scene to see Bradley Manning, the alleged leaker, of the collateral helicopter -- Collateral Murder videotape, of the diplomatic cables and of hundreds of thousands of pieces of information from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Heidi Boghosian: How did he look, Michael?
Michael Ratner: He didn't look that bad. I mean, he looked quiet and everything. He only said a few words which was "Your honor." Arraignment is when you're supposed to plead guilty or not guilty. They deferred the plea till another time, they talked about motions. But, you know, I'll give you -- and then we'll go back to some hard pitching -- and I can talk more about this. But I'm sitting in that courtroom and it's a very antiseptic courtroom. It's like hospital room. It has a Celotex ceiling. It has sort of newish carpet, but, you know, sort of the thin, industrial carpet, some wooden benches. And we're sitting there and there's three of the guys with brass all over them at the prosecution table and then there's Manning's formerly military counsel but now he's a civilian so he doesn't wear a uniform and a couple of people next to him and there's Bradley Manning sitting there. And, you know, you sit in that courtroom and you say, "Here's the person who revealed probably more about US War Crimes -- if it's true what they allege -- than any single person in US history." And what I thought was present in that courtroom, was not the brass, was not the spectators, but what was really present and what was looking on was really the Reuters journalists who were murdered from the US helicopter, were the children who were killed, were the thousands of civilians watching who'd been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, those are the real people in that courtroom watching that trial. And the people who should be on trial are not Bradley Manning, are the United States government who authorized an utterly illegal war including every member of Congress who voted for it -- that's who should be there. Bradley Manning is a whistle blower and the real witnesses to that are the spirits of the dead who the US has murdered all over the world.
Lynne Stewart is political prisoner. She's an attorney, the people's attorney, willing to take the cases that weren't pretty or didn't have a big pay off. Because of the 'crime' of issuing a press release, she was put on trial -- a show trial in Manhattan which attempted to link Lynne and 9-11 -- under the Bush administration. Under the Barack administration, things got even worse. The judge sentences her to about two years. Not good enough decides the Barack administration, who made the judge 'review' the sentence. Lynne was then slammed with a ten year sentence. She's a breast cancer survivor and a grandma, she's over 70-years-old. She's been moved to a Texas prison (on a military base) far, far from her husband and partner Ralph Poynter. Tomorrow people gather at Tom Paine Park in NYC to show their support at sundown. Wednesday, supporters will be taking part at Occupy The Courts at 500 Pearl Street begining at nine in the morning. Heidi Boghosian and Michael S. Smith addressed the targeting of Lynne on today's live broadcast.
Heidi Boghosian: Lynne, if you don't know, was made to be a poster child for the government's so-called War On Terror. They gave her a harsh sentence merely for issuing a press release for one of her clients who was held in maximum security.
Michael S. Smith: Well, they didn't even -- when she did it, nothing happened to her.
Heidi Boghosian: Exactly.
Michael S. Smith: Because nothing ever happened to anybody because of that.
Heidi Boghosian: [Then Attorney General] Janet Reno gave her a slap on the wrist but it wasn't until --
Michael S. Smith: The Clinton administration let it slide. When Bush --
Heidi Boghosian: Right, when Bush came in.
Michael S. Smith: They thought, "Well we're going to make an example out of her." And they turned around and they prosecuted her on some b.s. charges for something she had done years before. And they wanted to make sure that they scared attorneys so they wouldn't represent people accused by the United States of terrorism.
And that's why the government went after Lynne. To intimidate others. They're trying to turn her into the modern day equivalent of a severed head impaled upon a pike, to warn other attorneys not to take the difficult cases and challenge the government. The locking up of Lynne is an attack on democracy and an attack on our judicial system and all that we're supposed to stand for in the United States. Lynne needs to be set free. (And if Barack Obama had the character to do that, not only would I vote for him, I'd donate the maximum amount to his campaign and then donate more to his superpac. But he has no character and can't even feel for a woman who gave to her community, who gave to the law and who now sits behind bars for something as insane as issuing a press release.)
the world today just nuts
alsumaria tv