Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Amazon runs off customers

I'm passing again on "The Good Wife" because of a loyal reader.  James is a longtime reader and he asked if I would look at Amazon's website.  He found it confusing.

I was surprised.

Until I went there.

Not everyone visiting Amazon is doing so to shop for Christmas.  And I realize that Amazon is trying to squeeze out as many pennies as they can.  But if you're logging in to check out renting a video (streaming), you shouldn't have to go through all the crap they're throwing your way.

I saw what he was talking about when I tried to browse through 'instant video' (streaming).

If I wasn't being hit up to join Amazon Prime, I was getting all this crap about cybermonday (all week!) sales. 

You know, you can stream videos at Best Buy now.  I think at Wal-Mart as well.  My point being that Best Buy's not the only show in town and they might want to work a little more on serving their streaming customers and a little less on hawking holiday wares.

It was an awful experience -- and the whole site is way too cluttered right now.

The only thing of value I can share is that Judy Garland's Easter Parade can be purchased (to own as a stream, not to rent) for $6.99.  That is a discount for Amazon.  (If you want to rent stream it -- 24 hours, I think -- it's $2.99 like most classic movie rentals at Amazon.)

Here's another thing.  Their 'deals.'  Not impressed.  The ones they think are so wonderful?

I didn't care about them.

And I don't know why I kept getting nonsense about men's pants, women's sleepware, etc. while I was just trying to check out Instant Video.

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

Tuesday, December 3, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri briefly discovers women (and we explain why), the KRG prime minister addresses the big oil event taking place in Erbil, Nouri preps to rush to Iran, US Senator Patty Murray speaks about one of  "our nation's greatest tasks at hand"  and more.

Sunday,  World Bulletin observed, "Turkey's courtship of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region has infuriated the central government Baghdad, which says it has sole authority to manage Iraqi energy resources."  Yes, Nouri spent the continuing to throw tantrums looking like a fool on the world stage in the process.  Iraq's Prime Minister of too many years, Nouri al-Maliki, is an international joke -- and apparently determined to make himself even more of one.

UPI explains, "The Kurdish government in northern Iraq reached a deal with Turkey to supply oil through a cross-border pipeline. The government said in a statement Tuesday the pipeline would run from the Taq Taq oil field in the Kurdish north to the Turkish port of Ceyhan and be able to export 1 million barrels of oil per day by 2015."  Today, Sevil Erkus (Hurriyet Daily News) reports, "Iraqi Kurdish officials are set to visit Baghdad in the coming days to discuss oil revenue sharing and metering, a move precipitated by Turkey’s urging of the autonomous region to enter into talks with the central government on the issue of hydrocarbon resources."  Today also saw Iraq's Minister of Oil Abdul Kareem al-Luaibi make a series of vague statements.  However, as Nayla Razzouk (Bloomberg News) reports, "Even so, Luaibi’s comments shed little light on how the agreement conforms with what may be a separate deal between the KRG and Turkey."

As if the empty statements weren't embarrassing enough for the Baghdad-based government, the one million barrels a day factoid was noted elsewhere today as well.  Judit Neurink (Rudaw) reports:

The oil pipeline from Iraqi Kurdistan to Turkey is ready to transport 300,000 barrels a day, and as much as a million barrels by 2015. Kurdistan will soon become a net contributor to the national income of Iraq.
This was the happy message broadcasted by Kurdish officials at the Kurdistan-Iraq Oil & Gas Conference held in the Kurdistan capital of Erbil. Some eight hundred professionals involved in the oil and gas industry attended the third conference in its kind in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Central in the speeches during the opening session were the fast growth of Kurdistan’s oil industry – from nothing in 2003 to 300.000 barrels a day - and the message this sends to the Iraqi government in Baghdad.

Yes, while Nouri al-Maliki continued to look inept and ridiculous, an international event was taking place in the Kurdistan Region -- as the Kurdistan Regional Government noted in a press release today which includes:

Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq - ( – Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, speaking at a conference in Erbil today, highlighted Kurdistan Region’s contribution to the global energy market and reiterated Kurdistan’s commitment to the Iraqi constitution in the Region’s dealings with Turkey.
The Prime Minister referred to the discussions over the past two years between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Turkey on cooperation in oil and gas, which includes oil exports, and said that the framework agreement between Erbil and Ankara adheres to the Iraqi constitution.
He said, ‘I have insisted at all times of these negotiations on the transparency and accountability of the export process and revenues from the Kurdistan Region. And here I would like to announce that we will invite officials from the federal government and independent third parties to observe all stages of the process.’

  The Prime Minister was speaking at the third Kurdistan Iraq Oil and Gas Conference which has attracted almost 1,000 executives from the energy industry as well as senior diplomats from across the world. Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister Rowsch Shaways, the KRG’s Natural Resources Minister Ashti Hawrami and Turkey’s Energy Minister Taner Yildiz also spoke at the opening of the conference.

For more on the conference, to note the scope of it, will include this Earthstaff press release issued today:

Earthstaff, are delighted to be a sponsor at the 2013 Kurdistan-Iraq Oil & Gas Conference at the beginning of December. The conference, now in its third year, is supported by The Kurdistan Regional Government  and will be held at The Saad Palace Convention Centre in Erbil, the capital city of the semi-autonomous region of Iraq.
The event takes place over four days and will feature 45 speakers, 850 delegates and 41 sponsors, one of which is Earthstaff. We will have our own display stand at the conference giving us the opportunity to network with the attendees, delegates and major Oil and Gas firms like Chevron, Exxon Mobil and Gazprom who will also be at the event. Attendees to the conference will be hearing from H.E Nerchirvan Barzani, Prime Minister of Kurdistan, H.E Dr Ashti Hawrami, Kurdistan Minister of Natural Resources and Ian MacDonald, one of the VP’s at Chevron who will all be speaking at the event.
Over the past few years, Earthstaff has enjoyed great success supplying professionals to numerous companies operating within Kurdistan. This success has lead to the Earthstaff establishing its own presence within the region by opening an office close the centre of the capital of Erbil in September. The Oil & Gas Conference therefore provides the perfect platform for Earthstaff to showcase its talents and explain to companies how we can assist them get the best out of their operations in Kurdistan as well as allowing us to expand and develop our own operations in the rapidly growing market of the Middle East.

It must be hard for such an unbalanced paranoid like Nouri to look at the KRG and see one success after another while his own two terms as Prime Minister of Iraq have delivered so little, accomplished near nothing.

Nouri is a member of the political party Dawa, he is the leader of the State of Law political slate.  An e-mail from a State of Law MP expressed outrage that I didn't note a little even Nouri held yesterday so let's get out of the way right now.

Yesterday, Alsumaria noted, Nouri gave some of his empty remarks he's so famous for and posed at a meeting with over 16 women -- only one of whom didn't wear a veil or hijab.  Nouri insisted, in front of this group of women who were a delegation from the Council of Iraqi Businesswomen, that women make real contributions and strengthen and advance nations.  Here's a photo from the photo op that was posted to Nouri's official website.


That's beyond stupid, that State of Law and Nouri think that meaningless photo-op amounts to anything is beyond stupid.

Nouri sitting around a table with women will only remind Iraqi women that Nouri's second Cabinet included no women to start with.  In fact, the Minister of Women?  That was (male) Hoshyar Zebari for months before Nouri found a woman who was willing to stand up in public and insist that women's rights would lead to victimization of women and that a woman should just do what some man told her.

Let's talk money because money is one of the things that prompted the photo op.

What brings in big money to Iraq besides oil?

Right now, outside of the KRG, big money's really only comes in as international aid.

And most of that money requires basic human rights be observed in Iraq.  A government -- not the US -- explained to Nouri that some of his aid from their western country was in jeopardy due to the way Iraqi women are being systematically stripped of their rights.

It was thought that he needed to make some sort of a 'statement' in order for Iraq to continue to receive various grants.

It was also thought that Nouri should speak out against violence.

That was too much for Nouri even when the government official pointed out that others already had.

Let's drop back to last week for this from the November 26th snapshot:

Back in March, Rania Khalek (Muftah) noted it wasn't always women under attack in Iraq:

Contrary to popular imagination, Iraqi women enjoyed far more freedom under Saddam Hussein’s secular Ba’athist government than women in other Middle Eastern countries. In fact, equal rights for women were enshrined in Iraq’s Constitution in 1970, including the right to vote, run for political office, access education and own property. Today, these rights are all but absent under the U.S.-backed government of Nouri al-Maliki.
Prior to the devastating economic sanctions of the 1990s, Iraq’s education system was top notch and female literacy rates were the highest in the region, reaching 87 percent in 1985. Education was a major priority for Saddam Hussein’s regime, so much so that in 1982 Iraq received the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) award for eradicating illiteracy. But the education system crumbled from financial decay under the weight of the sanctions pushing over 20 percent of Iraqi children out of school by 2000 and reversing decades of literacy gains. Today, a quarter of Iraqi women are illiterate, more than double the rate for Iraqi men (11 percent). Female illiteracy in rural areas alone is as high as 50 percent.
Women were integral to Iraq’s economy and held high positions in both the private and public sectors, thanks in large part to labor and employment laws that guaranteed equal pay, six months fully paid maternity leave and protection from sexual harassment. In fact, it can be argued that some of the conditions enjoyed by working women in Iraq before the war rivaled those of working women in the United States.

BBC News has a photo essay entitled 'In Pictures: Women At Risk In Iraq."  Umed Sami (Kirkuk Now) reported Sunday that it is Domestic Violence Awareness Week which actually lasts two weeks and that there are many different actions because there are "20 women's rights organizations in Kirkuk."  From the article:

No to Violence against Women is a women’s rights organization founded by a group of women’s rights activists back in 2010.  It is one of the organizations planning to organize a protest rally on November 25 in front of the governor’s office as they protest against the poor conditions of women’s rights and their struggles.
In the meantime, the Kurdistan Women’s Union, a women’s organization affiliated with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the party of Kirkuk Governor Najmadin Karim, is a member of the political bureau boycotting the activities of No to Violence against Women and who view their rally as an “opposition against the governor and not demanding the women’s rights.”
Women’s activist Naska Muhammad told Kirkuk Now “The majority of the women’s rights organizations have boycotted the rally as we feel it is more targeted against the governor and it is politically driven.”

The Kurdistan Regional Government noted the kick off on Monday and that Monday was International Day Against Violence Against Women (that's a United Nations day around the world).  KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani addressed a large group of men and women -- including ministers of government, MPs in the Iraqi Parliament and the Kurdish Parliament, regional official and diplomats --  in Erbil.  Barzani noted that violence against women is violence against human rights and the issue is not a 'women's issue' but one for the entire community to work on.  He called for justice which means changing the laws in the KRG so that the light penalities for husbands killing wives are eliminated (he noted the KRG law currently mirrors the law for the rest of Iraq).  He noted that they need to address the issue of child brides and the practice of female genital mutilation.  He cited figures finding that reported violence against women had fallen in 2012 but he stated that the gains were not enough and the community needed to work harder to address the issue.

Iraq's Human Rights Ministry also had an event.  Compare the photos.  Even if you can't read Arabic, you'll note many things.  For example, the Baghdad turnout?  Not that impressive in terms of numbers. The KRG photo displays ten packed rows of attendees (and the photo cuts off with the impression that there are rows not displayed in the photo).  In Baghdad, they take up about six rows -- with a lot of empty spaces.  In the KRG, you see shiny, healthy hair on the heads of men and women.  In Baghdad, most women have their hair covered.  (Four brave women on the second row do not cover their hair.) Nouri's Prime Minister of Iraq.  Did he address the gathering?


He couldn't be bothered with the topic.  

Ibithal al-Zaidi was present.  Declaring she (now) believes in equality between the sexes -- based on the law and religions.   Whatever.  

How important was the event?  

They don't even bother to finish the press release -- it cuts off before the end of the release.

Nouri should have been present.  By refusing to show up for the Baghdad event, let alone speak at it, he made clear that violence against women does not qualify as a serious issue to him.

We're not done with the KRG yet.  Al Mada reports that KRG President Massoud Barzani issued a statement decrying violence against women saying it was inhumane and against the basic principals of humanity.  He noted the sacrifices and actions Iraqi women had taken part in to create a better Iraq and called for rights to live safely and free from oppression, discrimination and violence.

He is supposedly the leader of Iraq.  The two-week "week of violence against women" is continuing.  Yet the leader of the country has never denounced violence against women.

He's never called it out.

And under pressure from a foreign government, the best he could do was assemble a group of women for a photo op in his attempt to ensure that no foreign aid gets cut off.

The e-mail from the State of Law MP accused me of being part of a conspiracy to destroy Nouri al-Maliki.  I'd argue Nouri's doing such a good job destroying himself that nobody else needs to take part, we just need to step back and enjoy it.

Al Mada reports women activists gathered Sunday at a cemetery in Sulaymaniyah province to note that 130 graves in the cemetery are of women who were killed in so-called 'honor' killings.  These 130 graves do not even contain the names of the women because 'honor' killings weren't enough apparently, the women had to be disappeared.   Hannah Xuan, one of the organizers, told Al Mada that the women were killed by family and that few people are ever prosecuted for these brutal crimes.

Yet Nouri stays silent about violence against women.

Yesterday, his office announced he "will conduct an official visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran at the endo f the week, to discuss bilateral relations between the two countries and the issues of the addition to congratulating the Iranian President Mr. Hassan Rohani on taking office as President of Iran."

A sudden visit to Iran?

Over the weekend,  All Iraq News reported cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr declared today that Iran refuses to back Nouri for a third term.   Today, NINA reports that MP Amir Kanani, with Sadr's bloc, states Nouri's sudden visit is an attempt "to get support for a third term" as prime minister.  KUNA notes reactions to Nouri's announced trip (to take place tomorrow):

Speaking to KUNA, Ali Mosawi, the Prime Minister's media advisor, said Al-Maliki aims to congratulate Iran on its recent deal with the P5+1 group by virtue of which several sanctions on Iran will be terminated.
"The Prime Minister will also discuss the bilateral relations, notability the navigation in Shatt Al-Arab waterway, and regional issues such as the conflict in Syria," he revealed.
"It is ridiculous to think that Prime Minister Al-Miliki is after Iran's approval for his bid to a third term in office. The Iraqis are solely the ones who select their prime ministers, presidents and representatives in the parliament through ballot boxes," Mosawi affirmed.
[. . .]

On the other hand, Al-Maliki's political rivals affirm that the visit has ulterior purposes relating to the upcoming parliamentary elections.
[. . ]
Similarly, Haider Al-Mulla, MP from the Iraqi National Dialogue Front, said the visit will materialize Iran's growing influence on the political scene in Iraq.
"Al-Maliki seeks to get Iran's blessing to his bid for reelection. How can we rule out the ulterior motives behind the visit at a time when the photos of (Iran's supreme leader Sayyed Ali) Khamenei are raised in streets across Baghdad?" Al-Mulla wondered.

Today, NINA reports that MP Amir Kanani, with Sadr's bloc, states Nouri's sudden visit is an attempt "to get support for a third term" as prime minister.

Elections are supposed to take place April 30th.  Not surprising, some Iraqis don't feel elections matter.  That's what happens when Barack Obama pisses on democracy.  The 2010 elections saw Nouri's State of Law come in second place.  He lost.  He refused to step down.

The White House backed him.

They brokered a contract (The Erbil Agreement) to go around the votes, the will of the people, the Iraqi Constitution.

All to give Nouri a second term the Iraqi people didn't want him to have.

Mustafa al-Kadhimi (Al-Monitor) reports today that few Iraqis have bothered to update their records for voting:

The low number of voters who showed up to update their records in preparation for the legislative elections in April 2014 is worrisome and raises questions about the will for change. The figures leaked from the Electoral Commission indicate that fewer than 500,000 people updated their records days before the expiration of the statutory period.
Even though leaders such as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and religious leader Muqtada al-Sadr called on voters to update their records, this failed to raise the participation rates to numbers significant enough to make an impact.
This raises concerns of political leaders such as Ethel Nujaifi, the governor of Mosul, who said that only 4% of Mosul’s Arabs showed up to update their records.

That's because of US President Barack Obama who, in 2010, pissed on democracy and pissed on Iraqis.

The winner of the 2010 parliamentary elections was Iraqiya meaning the head of that coalition, Ayad Allawi, should have become prime minister.  NINA reports:

In a statement to the press on Sunday, Dec. 1, Allawi said that continued attacks and assassination of the countries figures and personalities make us worry for the future of Iraq from a plan drawn to instigate fear and sectarian commotion aims to fragment the nation and turn it into quarreling cults.
He added that by continue losing such personalities, reflects the state of destabilization our homeland is in.
Allawi accused the Government of being responsible for the assassination of tribal chief, dignitaries and innocent citizens; especially that it proved its inability to protect citizens. He demanded Parliament to question security commanders about such security breaches and assassination of tribal chiefs and dignitaries.

Aswat al-Iraq adds:

Mutahidoun Alliance MP Khalid al-Alwani called the security forces to "protect the citizens from the terrorist militias", pointing that the "massacres" committed daily against the Sunni sect in Baghdad and other provinces is the product of "inaccurate security plans". In a press statement, he added that the areas around the capital are living in "panic" due to the return of the militias and their killing activities with the knowledge of the central government.

The violence continues.  NINA notes a southwest Baghdad car bombing left 2 people dead and nine more injured, an Abu Ghraib market bombing left 2 people dead and eight injured, a Baghdad bombing (west Baghdad, Amiriya district) left five people injured, a bombing on the University of Mosul campus (targeting university president Abe al-Dowachi) left one campus employee injured, an Okashat roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 person and left another injured, a Falluja bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left two more injured, 1 "police intelligence agent" was shot dead in Mosul, 2 suicide bombers in Tarmiya apparently attempted to target the mayor who was unharmed but the 2 did kill 7 people and left fifteen more injured, 1 police officer was shot dead in Mosul, and a Baladruz suicide car bombing claimed the lives of 2 police officers and left four more injured. All Iraq News adds that 4 suicide bombers stormed Tikrit's social welfare building resulting in 22 deaths and thirty people being injured.  Alsumaria notes that 1 college of Dentistry student at the University of Mosul was shot dead today and that, late yesterday, the corpse of Qahtan Mahdawi was found dumped outside Baquba (he had been a teacher).

From yesterday's snapshot:

Let's stay with political news out of Iraq.  All Iraq News reports today that arrest warrants have been issued against two members of Moqtada al-Sadr's parliamentary bloc -- MP Jawad al-Shihaili and Baha al-Araji.  al-Araji is charged with "damaging general properties" and al-Shihaili is charged with "stealing state's revenues."  These warrants come only after Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports MPs are accusing Nouri al-Maliki of misuse of state resources on his recent trip to Basra -- including, Moqtada's bloc pointed out, Nouri offering up land plots.  MPs see the visit as typical Nouri trying to bribe for votes but the difference this time is that a law's been passed to make this illegal.

Today, NINA reports:

A member of the Parliamentary Committee on Integrity, MP for the Ahrar bloc Jawad al-Shayli accused the Dawa Party behind the arrest warrant issued against him.
He said, at a news conference in the House of Representatives today that the judiciary issued an arrest warrant against him and MP Jawad Hasnawi and a memorandum of bringing against the head’sbloc Bahaa al-Araji , accusing the Dawa Party of being behind it , with the aim of political targeting, comparing the work of the Dawa Party, now with Baath Party.
He added : "The warrant relating to charges in accordance with Article 316 of embezzlement of state funds , which means the money of the medical treatment, which he took from the House of Representatives ."
He said : "The MP, of the State of law, Khalid al-Attiyah took four times this expense ," wondering : "Why did not issue an arrest warrant against Al-Attiyah, and many MPs of state of law ," adding : "The aim of these warrants is political targeting ."

Moving over to the US, Senator Patty Murray serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and is the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee.  Her office issued the following yesterday:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Monday, December 2nd, 2013                                                 (202) 224-2834
JBLM: Murray Keynotes Ceremony for Military Grads of Microsoft Training Program
First graduating class of military graduates of Microsoft IT training program inspired by Murray’s ‘VOW to Hire Heroes Act’

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, delivered the keynote speech at a graduation ceremony to honor the first graduating class of military students from Microsoft’s Software & Systems Academy pilot program at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey, WA.  The 22 graduates, currently active duty service members from JBLM, will be hired into entry-level roles as software testers at Microsoft or Launch Consulting.  The Microsoft Academy was inspired by Senator Murray’s “VOW to Hire Heroes Act.”

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s speech:

“As we stand here today unemployment among recent veterans is way down - on par with the rest of the country, post-9/11 veterans are being hired at a faster rate than non-veterans, and at JBLM, where 45% of service members once participated in transition assistance programs - 90% of the men and women transitioning to civilian life are getting the help they deserve.”

“Now, these programs have been a huge success - but they’re only part of the puzzle. Because no matter how much we do to prepare our veterans for the workplace - we can’t succeed in fully transitioning them to civilian life without strong, lasting partnerships with businesses, labor organizations,  colleges, and universities.

“And that’s why this program and this ceremony today are so special - because right here, we have top-ranking military leaders from JBLM, executives from Microsoft - one of our nation’s most successful businesses, and educators from Saint Martin’s University all working together to create a seamless, successful transition for men and women who’ve worn the uniform. I can tell you - when I wrote the VOW Act, this is exactly what I hoped and envisioned for all our nation’s veterans...and let’s also give credit where it’s due: because the transition program at JBLM is setting the standard for military bases around the country. That’s something for Col. Hodges to be proud of, but it’s also something that Saint Martin’s, Microsoft, and all of us in the Puget Sound can be proud of.”

“Let’s take a good look at the accomplishments of the men and women here today and replicate it, not only for every transitioning service member at JBLM, but for all of those in Kitsap, Everett, Spokane, and across the country.”

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks below:

“Thank you so much, Dr. Heynderickx, for that introduction, and thank you for hosting us here at Saint Martin’s.

“I’d like to first thank Colonel Hodges, the Base Commander at JBLM - he has been so instrumental in making today a reality.

“I’d also like to thank our partners from Microsoft and Launch Consulting who are here today.

“And most importantly, I’d like to thank the friends, family, and colleagues who are all here to support the service men and women we’re honoring today.

“All of us - whether we’re business owners, educators, or elected officials - are working hard to support your sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and moms and dads who serve in the military, but there is no greater support structure for veterans and members of the military than their families and loved ones….so before we honor these graduates - I also want to thank all of you: for supporting them  and for the sacrifices you’ve made, too, to make today possible.

“And you know, speaking with all of you here today is really a special moment for me. I’ve been in the US Senate for more than 20 years now. I’ve lived around military families here in Washington state for my entire life, and I’m the daughter of a World War II veteran, so, speaking with veterans, service members, and their families is something I’m used to.

“But throughout my career, and really, throughout my entire life...I’ve mostly seen what veterans and their families go through when they don’t have access to the care they need after serving, when they don’t have support and opportunities to start new lives as a civilians, and when they don’t have support from the communities and institutions that make up the places they call home.

“So today - really - is one of the very few opportunities I’ve had to stand with members of our military, veterans, and their families, to celebrate something we’re doing right.

“Now - everyone here knows well - probably many of you know firsthand - that military service is tough. It’s not for the faint of heart…but transitioning from military to civilian life isn’t easy, either.

“And I really believe that right now, we’re living in a defining moment when it comes to the treatment of our nation’s veterans and helping current service members transition out. It’s a time when our older veterans population – including so many of our Vietnam veterans – are increasingly relying on VA care.

“But we’re also at a pivotal point - an opportunity we cannot afford to miss -  to properly care for an entire generation of post-9/11 veterans, who have endured a decade of repeated deployments, unbelievable stress on their families,  and the visible and invisible wounds of war

“That challenge - to meet the needs of these brave men and women not decades down the road, but from the moment they begin the process of transitioning to civilian life - is truly one of our nation’s great tasks at hand.

“And right here, in the backyard of our country’s most important military bases - all of you know that better than most.

“Since 9/11, nearly 3 million Americans have served in the military, and every year 6,000 men and women from JBLM transition to civilian life, and combined with others from across the country, 13,000 veterans begin their civilian lives here in Washington state each year...and each one them faces a job market that is uncertain and highly-competitive.

“It’s a problem that they face along with millions of other Americans...but for veterans, many of the barriers to employment are unique.

“Most of these men and women have spent the last decade being shuttled back and forth to war-zones half a world away…

“And when it’s time to make big changes and start new careers the road home isn’t always smooth, the red tape is often long, and the transition from the battlefield to the workplace is never easy.

“So for too long, veterans have often been left behind by their peers who didn’t make the same sacrifices for their nation at a critical time in their lives.

“For too long, many veterans haven’t realized the skills they possess and their value in the workplace.

“And for too long, they’ve been discouraged by a job market that is unfamiliar to them after their service.

“But all of us here know that’s not right.


“We know the men and women here today and all our veterans have the leadership ability, discipline, and technical skills to not only find work, but excel in growing industries and jobs of the future.

“You know, a few years ago, I became the Chair of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and one of the first things I did was criss-cross Washington state to different worker retraining programs, VA facilities, and veterans halls to hear first hand from veterans what challenges they were facing.

“And over a few months, I had some heartbreaking and frustrating conversations.

“I heard from veterans who said they no longer wrote that they’re a veteran on their resume because of the stigma they believed employers attach to the invisible wounds of war.

“I heard from medics who returned home from treating battlefield wounds and couldn’t get certifications to be an EMT or to drive an ambulance.

“I talked to veterans who told me that the military spent countless hours getting them the skills to do their job in the field, but little time teaching them how to translate those skills into the workplace.
“Sometimes - the problems were very complicated. Other times - they were simple issues.
“But what struck me the most was that more often than not - these issues were preventable.
“We were patting our veterans on the back to thank them for their service, but then we just sent them out into the job market alone - without the basic help they needed.
“And it showed.
“Double-digit unemployment for veterans was the norm, the status quo. In 2011, the average unemployment rate for returning veterans was over 12 percent. And one out of every four veterans between the ages of 20 and 24 was without a job.
“So I got started working with members of both parties - Republicans and Democrats - to write the VOW to Hire Heroes Act - which, I’m proud to say, became the law of the land just a few months later.
“The VOW Act, as we call it, created ways to ease the transition from the battlefield to the working world.
“For the first time, it required broad job skills training for every service member as they leave the military as part of the military’s Transition Assistance Program.
“It allowed service members to begin the federal employment process prior to separation and have a truly seamless transition from the military to jobs in government.
“And it required the Department of Labor to take a hard look at what military skills and training should be translatable into the civilian sector in order to make it simpler for our veterans to get the licenses and certifications they need.
“Most importantly - it helped military bases across the country, like JBLM, start their own programs to help service men and women transition.
“And as we stand here today unemployment among recent veterans is way down - on par with the rest of the country, post-9/11 veterans are being hired at a faster rate than non-veterans, and at JBLM, where 45% of service members once participated in transition assistance programs - 90% of the men and women transitioning to civilian life are getting the help they deserve.
“Now, these programs have been a huge success - but they’re only part of the puzzle.
“Because no matter how much we do to prepare our veterans for the workplace - we can’t succeed in fully transitioning them to civilian life without strong, lasting partnerships with businesses, labor organizations,  colleges, and universities.
“And that’s why this program and this ceremony today are so special - because right here, we have top-ranking military leaders from JBLM, executives from Microsoft - one of our nation’s most successful businesses, and educators from Saint Martin’s University all working together to create a seamless, successful transition for men and women who’ve worn the uniform.
“I can tell you - when I wrote the VOW Act, this is exactly what I hoped and envisioned for all our nation’s veterans...
...and let’s also give credit where it’s due: because the transition program at JBLM is setting the standard for military bases around the country.

“That’s something for Col. Hodges to be proud of, but it’s also something that Saint Martin’s, Microsoft, and all of us in the Puget Sound  can be proud of
“Trust me - I’m going to brag about this to my colleagues back in Washington, DC.
“So, to the twenty-two graduates here today and to your families - congratulations - you deserve all the opportunities and successes that lay ahead of you.
“And for the rest of us - let’s take a good look at the accomplishments of the men and women here today and replicate it , not only for every transitioning service member at JBLM, but for all of those in Kitsap, Everett,  Spokane,  and across the country.
“So thank you again - I’m thrilled to be here as the first class graduates from this program, but I’m even more thrilled that this is only the beginning.
“Thank you.”
Kathryn Robertson
Deputy Press Secretary 
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
154 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington D.C. 20510

RSS Feed for Senator Murray's office


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